Isaiah 66:21
And I will also take of them for priests and for Levites, said the LORD.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(21) I will also take of them for priests . . .—We are left to determine whether the promise is that even Gentile converts should be enrolled among the priests and Levites of the new Jerusalem, or that Israelites of the non-priestly tribes should be so enrolled. Was the prophet breaking down in thought the middle wall of partition, or clinging to its maintenance? Isaiah 61:6 seems in favour of the latter view, and we are probably right in looking on this thought, that of all Israel being eligible for the priesthood, as that which was in the prophet’s mind. Like other such thoughts, however, it was capable of expansion, so as to include the whole Israel of God, who were by faith the children of Abraham. (Comp. 1Peter 2:5; 1Peter 2:9, with Exodus 19:6.)

Isaiah 66:21. I will also take of them for priests and for Levites — God will find among the converted Gentiles those who, though they are not of the tribe of Levi, yet shall do the true work of the priests and Levites. They shall minister in holy things, preside in the religious assemblies, teach the people, and bless in the name of the Lord. They shall be stewards of the mysteries of God, as the priests and Levites were under the law; angels or messengers of the churches, pastors overseeing and feeding their several flocks, elders, presbyters, or bishops, giving themselves to the word of God and prayer, (Acts 6:2-4,) and wholly occupied in these holy duties. The apostles were all Jews, and so were the seventy disciples; the great apostle of the Gentiles was himself a Hebrew of the Hebrews. But when churches were planted among the Gentiles, they had ministers appointed them who were, of themselves, elders in every church, Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5; which made the ministry to spread the more easily, and to be the more familiar, and, if not the more venerable, yet the more acceptable. God saith, I will take, not all them, though they are all, in a spiritual sense, made to our God kings and priests, but of them, that is, some of them. It is God’s work to choose ministers, by qualifying them for, and inclining them to, the service, as well as to make ministers, by giving them their commission. I will take them — That is, I will admit them, though Gentiles, and will accept of them and their ministrations. This is a great honour and advantage to the Gentile Church, as it was to the Jewish Church, that God raised up of their sons for prophets, and their young men for Nazarites, Amos 2:11.66:19,20, set forth the abundance of means for conversion of sinners. These expressions are figurative, and express the plentiful and gracious helps for bringing God's elect home to Christ. All shall be welcome; and nothing shall be wanting for their assistance and encouragement. A gospel ministry shall be set up in the church; they would have solemn worship before the Lord. In the last verse the nature of the punishment of sinners in the world to come is represented. Then shall the righteous and wicked be separated. Our Saviour applies this to the everlasting misery and torment of impenitent sinners in the future state. To the honour of that free grace which thus distinguishes them, let the redeemed of the Lord, with humility, and not without holy trembling, sing triumphant songs. With this affecting representation of the opposite states of the righteous and wicked, characters which include the whole human race, Isaiah concludes his prophecies. May God grant, for Christ's sake, that our portion may be with those who fear and love his name, who cleave to his truths, and persevere in every good work, looking to receive from the Lord Jesus Christ the gracious invitation, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.And I will also take of them for priests - I will give to them an honorable place in my public service; that is, I will make them ministers of religion as if they were priests and Levites. This cannot be taken literally - because the priests and Levites among the Jews were determined by law, and by regular genealogical descent, and there was no provision for substituting any in their place. But it must mean that under the condition of things described here, those who should be brought from the distant pagan world would perform the same offices in the service of God which had been performed formerly by the priests and Levites that is, they would be ministers of religion. The services of God would no longer be performed by the descendants of Aaron, or be limited to them, but would be performed by others who should be called to this office from the pagan world. 21. of them—the Gentiles.

priests … Levites—for spiritual worship: enjoying the direct access to God which was formerly enjoyed by the ministers of the temple alone (1Pe 2:9; Re 1:6).

Lest the Jews, being assured that the tribe of Levi, which God anciently chose to minister before him, was among them, should say, Alas, if the Gentiles should be brought in, where would they have priests or Levites? God here by his prophet tells them he would provide priests, he would take

of them, of these converted heathens. for priests and Levites, that is, for gospel ministers, to teach and to instruct people, which was the priest’s work of old, Deu 33:10 2 Chronicles 17:7,9 Mal 2:6; for they are mightily mistaken that think the priests among the Jews had nothing to do but to sacrifice and burn incense, which work is ceased. Saith the prophet, God will find amongst the converted Gentiles those who, though they be not of the tribe of Levi, or house of Aaron, yet they shall do the true work of priests and Levites. And I will also take of them for priests,.... That is, of the Gentiles, the brethren brought as an offering to the Lord; and therefore must respect Gospel times, when the Aaronic priesthood would be changed and cease, which admitted not of Gentiles, nor any of any other tribe in Israel, but the tribe of Levi; nor is this to be understood of the spiritual priesthood common to all believers, 1 Peter 2:5 since of those converted Gentiles brought, not all, but only some of them, would be taken for priests; and therefore can only be interpreted of the ministers of the word, who, in Old Testament language, are called priests, though never in the New Testament; but elders, bishops, overseers, pastors, and teachers. The first preachers of the Gospel were Jews, as the twelve apostles, the seventy disciples, Paul and Barnabas, and others; but when the Gospel was preached, and churches planted in the Gentile world, then priests, or pastors, or elders, were taken out from among them, and ordained over the churches everywhere; and which have continued, more or less, ever since; and will be more abundant in the latter day; whose work and office is not to offer up slain beasts, as the priests of old; but to point to the sacrifice of Christ, to the Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of men; and to teach the knowledge of crucified Christ, and the several doctrines and duties of the Christian religion, as the priests formerly taught the knowledge of the law, Malachi 2:7,

and for Levites, saith the Lord; this still more clearly shows that the prophecy belongs to the Gospel dispensation, and is to be understood figuratively and spiritually; for none but those of the tribe of Levi could be taken for Levites in a literal sense; but here Gentiles are said to be taken for such, and design men in Gospel churches. The Levites, as their name signifies, were such as were "joined" to others; they ministered to the priests, and assisted them, and had the charge of the temple, and the vessels of it, to whom deacons now answer; who are helps and assistants to the ministers of the word: their business is to serve tables, and to take care of the secular affairs of the church; so that this is a prophecy of the churches in the latter day being truly organized, and filled with proper officers, as well as with numerous members.

And I will also take of them for {h} priests and for Levites, saith the LORD.

(h) That is, of the Gentiles, as he did Luke, Timothy and Titus first, and others after to preach his word.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
21. And of them also will I take &c. (R.V.). Commentators differ in opinion as to whether the ministers of the sanctuary are to be taken from the restored exiles or from the Gentiles who bring them back; the language is consistent with either supposition. The latter is thought by some to be excluded by Isaiah 56:6 f. (shewing the utmost limit of concession to foreigners), and Isaiah 61:6 (where a priestly standing is assigned to the Jews). These considerations, however, are not decisive; and the emphasis of the statement is perhaps better explained by the bolder conception. In any case the prophet seems to contemplate a suspension of the provisions of the Law, for the words “I will take” suggest something more than that those who are priests and Levites by birth shall be permitted to exercise their hereditary functions.

for priests and for Levites] Strictly, “for the priests, for the Levites,” implying that they were to be given for the service of the priests and Levites. But the article should probably be omitted, and the rendering of E.V. retained. The conjunction “and” is supplied by all the Versions and some MSS. The duplication of the preposition distinguishes the expression from a characteristic phrase of Deuteronomy (see Driver on Deuteronomy 18:1), so that we cannot (without a change of text) render “for Levitical priests.” Nothing would be gained by such an alteration, for the adj. “Levitical” in this connexion would be a meaningless addition.Verse 21. - And I will also take of them for priests and for Levites; literally, and I will also take of them unto the priests and unto the Levites; i.e. I will add to the existing body of priests and Levites, who are pro-sumably Jews, fresh members from the newly converted Gentiles. The existence of a sacerdotal order, with distinctions of ranks, in the Church of the redeemed, is implied, and the gracious declaration is made that the privilege of furnishing members to both ranks of the order shall be conferred upon the Gentile proselytes. The prophecy now takes a new turn with the thought expressed in the words, "and fiercely does He treat His enemies." The judgment of wrath, which prepares the way for the redemption and ensures its continuance, is described more minutely in Isaiah 66:15 : "For behold Jehovah, in the fire will He come, and His chariots are like the whirlwind, to pay out His wrath in burning heat, and His threatening passeth into flames of fire." Jehovah comes bâ'ēsh, in igne (Jerome; the lxx, on the contrary, render it arbitrarily ὡς πῦρ kâ'ēsh), since it is the fiery side of His glory, in which He appears, and fire pours from Him, which is primarily the intense excitement of the powers of destruction within God Himself (Isaiah 10:17; Isaiah 30:27; Psalm 18:9), and in these is transformed into cosmical powers of destruction (Isaiah 29:6; Isaiah 30:30; Psalm 18:13). He is compared to a warrior, driving along upon war-chariots resembling stormy wind, which force everything out of their way, and crush to pieces whatever comes under their wheels. The plural מרכּבתיו (His chariots) is probably not merely amplifying, but a strict plural; for Jehovah, the One, can manifest Himself in love or wrath in different places at the same time. The very same substantive clause מרכבתיו וכסופה occurs in Jeremiah 4:13, where it is not used of Jehovah, however, but of the Chaldeans. Observe also that Jeremiah there proceeds immediately with a derivative passage from Habakkuk 1:8. In the following clause denoting the object, אפּו בּחמה להשׁיב, we must not adopt the rendering, "to breathe out His wrath in burning heat" (Hitzig), for hēshı̄bh may mean respirare, but not exspirare (if this were the meaning, it would be better to read להשּׁיב from נשׁב, as Lowth does); nor "ut iram suam furore sedet" (Meier), for even in Job 9:13; Psalm 78:38, עפו השיב does not mean to still or cool His wrath, but to turn it away or take it back; not even "to direct His wrath in burning heat" (Ges., Kn.), for in this sense hēshı̄bh would be connected with an object with ל, אל (Job 15:13), על (Isaiah 1:25). It has rather the meaning reddere in the sense of retribuere (Arab. athâba, syn. shillēm), and "to pay back, or pay out, His wrath" is equivalent to hēshı̄bh nâqâm (Deuteronomy 32:41, Deuteronomy 32:43), Hence עפו בחמה does not stand in a permutative relation instead of a genitive one (viz., in fervore, riâ suâ equals irae suae), but is an adverbial definition, just as in Isaiah 42:25. That the payment of the wrath deserved takes place in burning heat, and His rebuke (ge‛ârâh) in flames of fire, are thoughts that answer to one another.
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