Isaiah 66:8
Who has heard such a thing? who has seen such things? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? or shall a nation be born at once? for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children.
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(8) Shall the earth be made . . .—Better, Shall a land be made to travail. The usually slow processes of national development are contrasted with the supernatural rapidity of the birth and growth of the new Israel.

66:5-14 The prophet turns to those that trembled at God's word, to comfort and encourage them. The Lord will appear, to the joy of the humble believer, and to the confusion of hypocrites and persecutors. When the Spirit was poured out, and the gospel went forth from Zion, multitudes were converted in a little time. The word of God, especially his promises, and ordinances, are the consolations of the church. The true happiness of all Christians is increased by every convert brought to Christ. The gospel brings with it, wherever it is received in its power, such a river of peace, as will carry us to the ocean of boundless and endless bliss. Divine comforts reach the inward man; the joy of the Lord will be the strength of the believer. Both God's mercy and justice shall be manifested, and for ever magnified.Who hath heard such a thing? - Of a birth so sudden. Usually in childbirth there are the pains of protracted parturition. The earth brings forth its productions gradually and slowly. Nations rise by degrees, and are long in coming to maturity. But here is such an event as if the earth should in a day be covered with a luxurious vegetation, or as if a nation should spring at once into being. The increase in the church would be as great and wonderful as if these changes were to occur in a moment.

Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? - That is, to produce its grass, and flowers, and fruit, and trees. The idea is, that it usually requires much longer time for it to mature its productions. The germ does not start forth at once; the flower, the fruit, the yellow harvest, and the lofty tree are not produced in a moment. Months and years are required before the earth would be covered with its luxuriant and beautiful productions But here would be an event as remarkable as if the earth should bring forth its productions in a single day.

Or shall a nation be born at once? - Such an event never has occurred. A nation is brought into existence by degrees. Its institutions are matured gradually, and usually by the long process of years. But here is an event as remarkable as if a whole nation should be born at once, and stand before the world, mature in its laws, its civil institutions, and in all that constitutes greatness. In looking for the fulfillment of this, we naturally turn the attention to the rapid progress of the gospel in the times of the apostles, when events occurred as sudden and as remarkable as if the earth, after the desolation of winter or of a drought, should be covered with rich luxuriance in a day, or as if a whole nation should start into existence, mature in all its institutions, in a moment. But there is no reason for limiting it to that time. Similar sudden changes are to be expected still on the earth; and I see no reason why this should not be applied to the spread of the gospel in pagan lands, and why we should not yet look for the rapid propagation of Christianity in a manner as surprising and wonderful as would be such an instantaneous change in the appearance of the earth, or such a sudden birth of a kingdom.

8. earth—rather, to suit the parallelism, "is a country (put for the people in it) brought forth in one day?" [Lowth]. In English Version it means, The earth brings forth its productions gradually, not in one day (Mr 4:28).

at once—In this case, contrary to the usual growth of the nations by degrees, Israel starts into maturity at once.

for—rather, "is a nation born at once, that Zion has, so soon as she travailed, brought forth?" [Maurer].

The prophet calls either to the whole world, or to such as feared God amongst the Jews, to admire God in his stupendous works of providence, either in the easy manner of the deliverance of the Jews out of the captivity of Babylon, without any pain, without so much as one throe; or else in the erecting of his gospel church, into which all the Jews that received Christ were gathered as well as Gentiles, making both one, Ephesians 2:14; which seems to be meant by the earth’s bringing forth in one day; as great a work of Providence as if all the women in the world should have brought forth in a day, or as if all the plants of the earth had brought forth their flowers and fruit in one day.

As soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth children; as soon as the church of the Jews began to move out of the captivity of Babylon, God put it into the hearts of multitudes to go up, Exodus 1:5 Isaiah 2:1,2, &c. Or, as soon as the voice of the gospel put the church of the Jews into her travail, in John the Baptist’s, Christ’s, and the apostles’ times, it presently brought forth. In John Baptist’s time, the kingdom of heaven suffered violence, and the violent took it by force, Matthew 11:12; and it continued so, as three thousand were converted at Peter’s sermon, Ac 2. The Gentiles were the children of Zion, being planted into their stock, tho law of the gospel first going out of Zion. Who hath heard such a thing? who hath seen such things?.... Such numerous conversions, as after related; suggesting that they were wonderful and surprising, unheard of, what had never been seen in the world before, and which were amazing and astonishing to the church herself; see Isaiah 49:21,

shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? as if it was said the thing about to be related was as wonderful as if all the women in the world should bring forth their children in one day, or bring forth as many at once as would fill the whole earth; or as surprising as if the earth should all at once send out its herbs, plants, and trees, as it did on the third day of the creation, Genesis 1:11 which now gradually spring up, some in one month, and some in another, and some are months in their production:

or shall a nation be born at once? was ever such a thing heard of? yet this will be the case of the Jews in the latter day, when they shall be all converted and saved; and which shall be done suddenly and at once; see Hosea 1:10, of which the conversion of them, in the first times of the Gospel, was an earnest and pledge, when three thousand were convinced, converted, and regenerated, in one day, under one sermon; and at another time, under the word, two thousand, if not five thousand: thus Christ had,

from the womb of the morning, or at the first break of the Gospel day, "the dew of his youth", or numbers of souls born again to him, like the drops of the morning dew; see Acts 2:41,

for as soon as Zion travailed she brought forth her children; this shows that the preceding verse must be understood of some travail and pain, though comparatively little, and so soon over, that it was as if none; and this is to be understood of the pains which Gospel ministers take in preaching the word, which is the means of regeneration, and they the instruments of it; and so are called fathers, who through the Gospel beget souls to Christ; and of their anxious concern for the conversion of sinners, and the formation of Christ in them, which is called a travailing in birth; see 1 Peter 1:23, Romans 8:22 and it may also design the earnest prayers of the church and its members, striving and wrestling with God, being importunate with him, that the word preached might be useful for the good of souls; and particularly their earnest and fervent prayers for the conversion of the Jews, which will soon be brought about, when a spirit of grace and supplication is not only poured on them, but upon the saints in general, to pray fervently and earnestly for it.

Who hath heard such a thing? who hath seen such things? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one {i} day? or shall a nation be born at once? for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children.

(i) This will pass the capacity of man to see such a multitude that will come up at once, meaning under the preaching of the gospel of which they who came out of Babylon were a sign.

8. Shall the earth &c.] Render: Shall (the people of) a land be travailed with in one day? For “land” in the sense of “population” there do not seem to be any real parallels; Jdg 18:30 is hardly a case in point. Possibly the word for “people” (‘am) should be inserted (Duhm).Although the note on which this prophecy opens is a different one from any that has yet been struck, there are many points in which it coincides with the preceding prophecy. For not only is Isaiah 65:12 repeated here in Isaiah 66:4, but the sharp line of demarcation drawn in chapter 65, between the servants of Jehovah and the worldly majority of the nation with reference to the approaching return to the Holy Land, is continued here. As the idea of their return is associated immediately with that of the erection of a new temple, there is nothing at all to surprise us, after what we have read in Isaiah 65:8., in the fact that Jehovah expresses His abhorrence at the thought of having a temple built by the Israel of the captivity, as the majority then were, and does so in such words as those which follow in Isaiah 66:1-4 : "Thus saith Jehovah: The heaven is my throne, and the earth my footstool. What kind of house is it that ye would build me, and what kind of place for my rest? My hand hath made all these things; then all these thing arose, saith Jehovah; and at such persons do I look, at the miserable and broken-hearted, and him that trembleth at my word. He that slaughtereth the ox is the slayer of a man; he that sacrificeth the sheep is a strangler of dogs; he that offereth a meat-offering, it is swine's blood; he that causeth incense to rise up in smoke, blesseth idols. As they have chosen their ways, and their soul cheriseth pleasure in their abominations; so will I choose their ill-treatments, and bring their terrors upon them, because I called and no one replied, I spake and they did not hear, and they did evil in mine eyes, and chose that in which I took no pleasure." Hitzig is of opinion that the author has broken off here, and proceeds quite unexpectedly to denounce the intention to build a temple for Jehovah. Those who wish to build he imagines to be those who have made up their minds to stay behind in Chaldea, and who, whilst their brethren who have returned to their native land are preparing to build a temple there, want to have one of their own, just as the Jews in Egypt built one for themselves in Leontopolis. Without some such supposition as this, Hitzig thinks it altogether impossible to discover the thread which connects the different vv. together. This view is at any rate better than that of Umbreit, who imagines that the prophet places us here "on the loftiest spiritual height of the Christian development." "In the new Jerusalem," he says, "there will be no temple seen, nor any sacrifice; Jehovah forbids these in the strongest terms, regarding them as equivalent to mortal sins." But the prophet, if this were his meaning, would involve himself in self-contradiction, inasmuch as, according to Isaiah 56:1-12 and 60, there will be a temple in the new Jerusalem with perpetual sacrifice, which this prophecy also presupposes in Isaiah 66:20. (cf., Isaiah 66:6); and secondly, he would contradict other prophets, such as Ezekiel and Zechariah, and the spirit of the Old Testament generally, in which the statement, that whoever slaughters a sacrificial animal in the new Jerusalem will be as bad as a murderer, has no parallel, and is in fact absolutely impossible. According to Hitzig's view, on the other hand, v. 3a affirms, that the worship which they would be bound to perform in their projected temple would be an abomination to Jehovah, however thoroughly it might be made to conform to the Mosaic ritual. But there is nothing in the text to sustain the idea, that there is any intention here to condemn the building of a temple to Jehovah in Chaldaea, nor is such an explanation by any means necessary to make the text clear. The condemnation on the part of Jehovah has reference to the temple, which the returning exiles intend to build in Jerusalem. The prophecy is addressed to the entire body now ready to return, and says to the whole without exception, that Jehovah, the Creator of heaven and earth, does not stand in need of any house erected by human hands, and then proceeds to separate the penitent from those that are at enmity against God, rejects in the most scornful manner all offerings in the form of worship on the part of the latter, and threatens them with divine retribution, having dropped in Isaiah 66:3-4 the form of address to the entire body. Just as in the Psalm of Asaph (Psalm 50) Jehovah refuses animal and other material offerings as such, because the whole of the animal world, the earth and the fulness thereof, are His possession, so here He addresses this question to the entire body of the exiles: What kind of house is there that ye could build, that would be worthy of me, and what kind of place that would be worthy of being assigned to me as a resting-place? On mâqōm menūchâthı̄, locus qui sit requies mea (apposition instead of genitive connection). He needs no temple; for heaven is His throne, and the earth His footstool. He is the Being who filleth all, the Creator, and therefore the possessor, of the universe; and if men think to do Him a service by building Him a temple, and forget His infinite majesty in their concern for their own contemptible fabric, He wants to temple at all. "All these" refer, as if pointing with the finger, to the world of visible objects that surround us. ויּהיוּ (from היה, existere, fieri) is used in the same sense as the ויהי which followed the creative יהי. In this His exaltation He is not concerned about a temple; but His gracious look is fixed upon the man who is as follows (zeh pointing forwards as in Isaiah 58:6), viz., upon the mourner, the man of broken heart, who is filled with reverential awe at the word of His revelation.

We may see from Psalm 51:9 what the link of connection is between Isaiah 66:2 and Isaiah 66:3. So far as the mass of the exiles were concerned, who had not been humbled by their sufferings, and whom the preaching of the prophet could not bring to reflection, He did not want any temple or sacrifice from them. The sacrificial acts, to which such detestable predicates are here applied, are such as end with the merely external act, whilst the inward feelings of the person presenting the sacrifice are altogether opposed to the idea of both the animal sacrifice and the meat-offering, more especially to that desire for salvation which was symbolized in all the sacrifices; in other words, they are sacrificial acts regarded as νεκρὰ ἔργα, the lifeless works of men spiritually dead. The articles of hasshōr and hasseh are used as generic with reference to sacrificial animals. The slaughter of an ox was like the slaying (makkēh construct with tzere) of a man (for the association of ideas, see Genesis 49:6); the sacrifice (zōbhēăch like shâchat is sometimes applied to slaughtering for the purpose of eating; here, however, it refers to an animal prepared for Jehovah) of a sheep like the strangling of a dog, that unclean animal (for the association of ideas, see Job 30:1); the offerer up (me‛ōlēh) of a meat-offering (like one who offered up) swine's blood, i.e., as if he was offering up the blood of this most unclean animal upon the altar; he who offered incense as an 'azkârâh (see at Isaiah 1:13) like one who blessed 'âven, i.e., godlessness, used here as in 1 Samuel 15:23, and also in Hosea in the change of the name of Bethel into Beth 'Aven, for idolatry, or rather in a concrete sense for the worthless idols themselves, all of which, according to Isaiah 41:29, are nothing but 'âven. Rosenmller, Gesenius, Hitzig, Stier, and even Jerome, have all correctly rendered it in this way, "as if he blessed an idol" (quasi qui benedicat idolo); and Vitringa, "cultum exhibens vano numini" (offering worship to a vain god). Such explanations as that of Luther, on the other hand, viz., "as if he praised that which was wrong," are opposed to the antithesis, and also to the presumption of a concrete object to מברך (blessing); whilst that of Knobel, "praising vainly" ('âven being taken as an acc. Adv.), yields too tame an antithesis, and is at variance with the usage of the language. In this condemnation of the ritual acts of worship, the closing prophecy of the book of Isaiah coincides with the first (Isaiah 1:11-15). But that it is not sacrifices in themselves that are rejected, but the sacrifices of those whose hearts are divided between Jehovah and idols, and who refuse to offer to Him the sacrifice that is dearest to Him (Psalm 51:19, cf., Psalm 50:23), is evident from the correlative double-sentence that follows in Isaiah 66:3 and Isaiah 66:4, which is divided into two masoretic verses, as the only means of securing symmetry. Gam ... gam, which means in other cases, "both ... and also," or in negative sentences "neither ... nor," means here, as in Jeremiah 51:12, "as assuredly the one as the other," in other words, "as ... so." They have chosen their own ways, which are far away from those of Jehovah, and their soul has taken pleasure, not in the worship of Jehovah, but in all kinds of heathen abominations (shiqqūtsēhem, as in many other places, after Deuteronomy 29:16); therefore Jehovah wants no temple built by them or with their co-operation, nor any restoration of sacrificial worship at their hands. But according to the law of retribution, He chooses tha‛ălūlēhem, vexationes eorum (lxx τὰ ἐμπαίγματα αὐτῶν: see at Isaiah 3:4), with the suffix of the object: fates that will use them ill, and brings their terrors upon them, i.e., such a condition of life as will inspire them with terror (megūrōth, as in Psalm 34:5).

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