Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Ch. 65. Threats and Promises, addressed to Two distinct Parties
The chapter may be divided into two nearly equal portions:—
i. Isaiah 65:1-12. A contrast is drawn between the servants of Jehovah and a party who have apostatised from the true religion.
(1) Isaiah 65:1-7. The divine speaker complains that His gracious invitations have been scorned by an “obdurate people” (Isaiah 65:1-2), who have provoked Him continually by scandalous and abominable superstitions (Isaiah 65:3-5), and against whom He now pronounces a final sentence of rejection (Isaiah 65:6-7).
(2) Isaiah 65:8-10. The method of Jehovah’s dealings with Israel illustrated by a figure from the vintage. As the grape cluster is spared for the sake of the new wine that is in it, so for the sake of the spiritual principle embodied in Israel, Jehovah will “not destroy the whole” (Isaiah 65:8). On the contrary a seed shall be brought forth from Jacob to inherit the Holy Land from the west to the east (Isaiah 65:9-10).
(3) Isaiah 65:11-12. The schismatics, here directly addressed as they that “forsake the Lord” and repudiate the Temple worship in their service of strange gods, are threatened with extinction. The first section ends, as it began, by reminding the apostates of the overtures of Divine love and condescension which they had so wantonly spurned.
ii. Isaiah 65:13-25. The final separation of the two classes.
(1) Isaiah 65:13-16. The future of the idolaters is more explicitly contrasted with that of the “servants” of Jehovah (Isaiah 65:13 f.). The former shall be annihilated, leaving behind them nothing but a name for a formula of imprecation (Isaiah 65:15); while Jehovah’s true servants remain in the land to “bless themselves in the God of truth” (Isaiah 65:16).
(2) Isaiah 65:17-25. The blessings reserved for the people of God in the Messianic age: an entire transformation of the conditions of human existence, compared to the creation of “new heavens and a new earth” (Isaiah 65:17); Jehovah’s delight in His handiwork dissipating the sorrows of earth (18, 19); patriarchal longevity (20); undisturbed possession of the land (21–23); immediate answer to prayer (24); and harmony in the animal world (25) are the features of this captivating picture of the latter days.
In the view of most expositors ch. 65 is Jehovah’s answer to the preceding intercession (Isaiah 63:7 to Isaiah 64:12). But this connexion, as Cheyne has long insisted, is far from obvious and probably does violence to the natural interpretation of Isaiah 65:1-2. The persons there referred to are sharply and explicitly distinguished from those in whose name the prayer is uttered. The community which in Isaiah 64:9 says, “We are all thy people” cannot surely have included amongst its members the openly pagan party described in Isaiah 65:3 ff., Isaiah 65:8 ff. And to suppose the meaning to be that Jehovah has always been ready to answer prayer, but must first effect a separation between the two classes, is very like an attempt to force a connexion where none exists. The theory becomes still more untenable when we take into account the extremely close resemblance between ch. 65 and 66. It is safer to regard these two chapters as one continuous discourse, complete in itself, and having no special reference to what immediately precedes.
The situation presupposed by this chapter and the next presents many features of great interest and importance. On the whole the impression is confirmed that in this part of the book we have to do with prophecies delivered in Palestine, at a time subsequent to the Restoration. The notes will supply some indications of this; and there appears to be nothing which really countenances the idea that the author lived among the exiles in Babylon. The most important fact is the sharp division of parties, already referred to, which runs through the prophecy. This fact may be explained in two ways: (1) It may be merely the distinction, which always existed in Israel, between the godly kernel of the nation and the great mass who were addicted to heathen practices. The antithesis in this case would be largely ideal, being obvious from the point of view of the prophet and those who shared his faith, but not recognised by their opponents. But this conception hardly corresponds to the state of things revealed by the allusions of the prophecy. The separation is open and acknowledged on both sides; each party excommunicates the other (Isaiah 66:5); and the apostates maintain an attitude of opposition to the Temple at Jerusalem (Isaiah 65:11). (2) The second theory may better enable us to comprehend this situation. It is the same as was already suggested by ch. Isaiah 57:3 ff., viz., that the schismatics referred to are the half-caste Samaritans and their adherents amongst the “people of the land,” while the servants of Jehovah are the religious and strictly legal party which is known to have existed in the time of Malachi, and had been reinforced by the arrival of Ezra and his company from Babylon (Ezra 9:1-4). Some points in favour of this view are (a) the Hebrew extraction of the party denounced (Isaiah 66:5; see on Isaiah 57:3); (b) their separation from the Temple service (Isaiah 65:11); (c) the peculiar and revolting heathen rites to which they were addicted (Isaiah 65:3-5; Isaiah 65:11, Isaiah 66:3; Isaiah 66:17) implying a degree of religious degeneracy not easy to conceive in a properly Jewish society; (d) their perpetuation of the illegal worship of the “high places” (Isaiah 65:7); and (e) the manner in which they are addressed as a distinct and well-known body (Isaiah 65:5; Isaiah 65:11, Isaiah 66:5). These circumstances do not of course amount to a demonstration of the hypothesis, although in conjunction with the presumption of post-exilic authorship they invest it with a certain degree of probability.
I am sought of them that asked not for me; I am found of them that sought me not: I said, Behold me, behold me, unto a nation that was not called by my name.1, 2. Jehovah’s overtures have been rejected by an obdurate people.
1 Render: I was to be enquired of by those that asked not, I was to be found by them that sought me not, etc.
The first verb in each line is of the form Niphal, which is to be understood not as a simple passive, but in its tolerative sense: “I let myself be enquired of,” i.e. “I was ready to answer,” exactly as Ezekiel 14:3; Ezekiel 20:3; Ezekiel 20:31; Ezekiel 36:37 : “I let myself be found,” as ch. Isaiah 55:6. Jehovah’s readiness to hear is contrasted with the people’s unwillingness to pray.
Behold me, behold me] Cf. ch. Isaiah 40:9, Isaiah 41:27, Isaiah 52:6, Isaiah 58:9.
that was not called by my name] We should read, changing the vowels in accordance with the Old Versions: that did not call on my name.
I have spread out my hands all the day unto a rebellious people, which walketh in a way that was not good, after their own thoughts;2. spread out mine hands] The attitude of supplication; cf. Proverbs 1:24.
a rebellious (refractory, Hosea 4:16) people] LXX. has; λαὸν ἀπειθοῦντα καὶ ἀντιλέγοντα; and so the citation Romans 10:21.
a way that was not good] “A not-good way” (litotes). The same phrase in Psalm 36:4; Proverbs 16:29.
The people referred to here are necessarily the same as those described in the sequel. If these be the paganised Israelites of the North who had not shared the Captivity the two verses reveal an important fact not otherwise recorded. The prophetic representatives of Jehovah in the post-exilic community must, in that case, have sought to win over these outcasts to the pure worship of Jehovah, and the acceptance of the Law. This might appear to be inconsistent with what is told in Ezra 4:1-3, where the friendly advances of the Samaritans are met with a stern refusal on the part of the Jews. But the contradiction is perhaps only apparent. The Jewish leaders might very well have declined the co-operation of these people while they maintained their impure religion, and at the same time been eager to incorporate them in the Theocracy on the terms offered to foreigners in ch. Isaiah 56:6 f.
In Romans 10:20-21, St Paul quotes parts of these verses, applying Isaiah 65:1 to the conversion of the Gentiles and Isaiah 65:2 to the unbelief of Israel. Possibly this exegesis may have been traditional in the Apostle’s time (Delitzsch), although the primary sense of the passage is that the same persons are referred to throughout.
A people that provoketh me to anger continually to my face; that sacrificeth in gardens, and burneth incense upon altars of brick;3. that sacrificeth in the gardens] Cf. ch. Isaiah 66:17, and see on Isaiah 1:29.
burneth incense upon altars of brick] Strictly on the bricks (R.V.), or tiles. We have no key to the meaning of the expression. Some think the “tiles” denote the roofs of the houses, where sacrifices were sometimes offered to false gods (see 2 Kings 23:12; Jeremiah 19:13; Zephaniah 1:5); others (like A.V.) suppose that altars made of bricks are referred to. Why the custom should be specially Babylonian (Del.) does not appear. The word for “burn incense” may mean simply “burn sacrifice”; see on ch. Isaiah 1:13.
3–5. Description of their illegal and superstitious cults.
Which remain among the graves, and lodge in the monuments, which eat swine's flesh, and broth of abominable things is in their vessels;4. The first two lines read:
Who sit in the graves,
and pass the night in secret (lit. guarded) places.
The practice of “sitting in graves” is undoubtedly rooted in the worship of ancestors (Schwally, Das Leben nach dem Tode, pp. 68, 71), and the object probably was to obtain oracles from the dead. The phrase “pass the night” seems to point to the custom known to the ancients as incubation: “ubi stratis pellibus hostiarum incubare soliti erant, ut somniis futura cognoscerent” (Jerome). This idea is expressed by the LXX. (which runs the two clauses into one): κοιμῶνται διὰ ἐνύπνια; i.e. for the purpose of obtaining dream-oracles. But whether the “secret places” are connected with the “graves” is uncertain.
which eat swine’s flesh] in sacrificial meals; in any case a violation of the Law (Deuteronomy 14:8; Leviticus 11:7). From the fact that wild pigs are mentioned in the cuneiform inscriptions (Jensen, Zeitschrift für Assyriologie, Vol. i. pp. 306 ff.) it has been inferred that the Jews were tempted into this during the Exile. But the swine was “forbidden food to all the Semites,” being sacred to more than one deity, and used in sacrifice only in some exceptional rites (W. R. Smith, Religion of the Semites2, pp. 218, 290 f., 351). It is probably such mystic sacrifices that are here referred to; and there was no place where lax Jews were more likely to be enticed into them than in their own land.
broth of abominable things] Such creatures as are enumerated in Isaiah 66:17. The “sacrifices are boiled and yield a magical hell-broth” (W. R. Smith, Marriage and Kinship, p. 310). “Broth” is the rendering of the Qěrê (mârâq, Jdg 6:19 f.); the Kěthîb has a word (pârâq) which might mean “piece” (sing.), although it does not occur elsewhere.
Which say, Stand by thyself, come not near to me; for I am holier than thou. These are a smoke in my nose, a fire that burneth all the day.5. Stand by thyself] Lit. “Draw near to thyself.” Cf. Isaiah 49:20.
for I am holier than thou] This construction of the accus. suffix is hardly admissible. The verb is to be pointed as Piel, and the clause rendered: else I sanctify thee (cf. the similar use of the perf. in 1 Samuel 2:16). The words express no Pharisaic sense of superior virtue; they are addressed by a Mystagogue (see on Isaiah 66:17), or at least a member of a special religious fellowship, to the uninitiated, warning them against the dangerous degree of holiness (taboo) which would be incurred by contact with the initiated (cf. Ezekiel 44:19). (See Rel. of Sem.2 pp. 343, 357–368). It is true we have no further evidence of the existence of such mystic societies in Palestine at any time. But the whole passage (Isaiah 65:3-5) is unique, and furnishes a startling revelation of a state of things without parallel in the O.T., although something similar may be inferred from Ezekiel 8:10. Its emergence at this particular period is no doubt to be explained by the collapse of the old national religions, which was the inevitable result of the Assyrian and Babylonian conquests. This naturally led to a recrudescence of primitive superstitions which had been handed down in obscure circles, but had been kept in check so long as the public religion of the state retained its vitality (Rel. of Sem.2 pp. 357 f.). But while this general explanation may be sufficient, the situation becomes perhaps still more intelligible if we suppose the description to apply to descendants of the colonists settled by Assyrian kings in Samaria (Cheyne, Introd. p. 369).
these are a smoke in my nose] If the clause stood alone it would be interpreted as a figurative expression of the idea of Isaiah 65:3 a,—a smoke entering into and irritating the nostrils. The parallel clause, however, has led nearly all commentators to understand the “smoke” as a symbol of the Divine anger (cf. Psalm 18:8); and to paraphrase the line thus: “these are (the cause of) a smoke (proceeding from) my nostrils.” This is certainly very unnatural. Why should not the second line be subordinate to the first,—the continually burning fire being the source of the “smoke” as the emblem of provocation?
a fire that burneth all the day] Probably a citation from Jeremiah 17:4; cf. Deuteronomy 32:22.
Behold, it is written before me: I will not keep silence, but will recompense, even recompense into their bosom,6, 7. Sentence is now pronounced on the reprobates, who by their persistent idolatries have served themselves heirs to the guilt of their fathers.
it is written before me] The sins mentioned above stand recorded in the heavenly books, calling constantly for punishment (cf. Jeremiah 17:1). Another interpretation, according to which the subject of the sentence is the Divine decree of judgement, is less acceptable, because the following words can hardly be taken as the contents of such a decree.
I will not keep silence until I have recompensed] For the construction cf. Genesis 32:26; Leviticus 22:6, &c.
even recompense &c.] and I will recompense into their bosom,—a new sentence, as is shown by the Hebr. pointing of the verb as consec. perf. Cf. Jeremiah 32:18; Psalm 79:12.
Your iniquities, and the iniquities of your fathers together, saith the LORD, which have burned incense upon the mountains, and blasphemed me upon the hills: therefore will I measure their former work into their bosom.7. Your iniquities … your fathers] The change from 3rd to 2nd pers. is extremely awkward, unless the verse could be detached from the preceding and regarded (down to “hills”) as an exclamation. This is far from natural; the better construction is that of the E.V. which makes “iniquities” the obj. to “recompense.” It is probably necessary (with the LXX.) to read “their” in both cases. The iniquities of the fathers are indicated in the following words.
which have burnt incense (have sacrificed,—see on Isaiah 1:13) upon the mountains] The reference is obviously to the illegal worship of the “high places” or local sanctuaries, which is denounced in similar terms in Hosea 4:13; Ezekiel 6:13; cf. Ezekiel 18:6 (if the text be right,—see Davidson on the passage in Camb. Bible for Schools). That this form of idolatry was also practised by those here spoken of is in every way probable (see ch. Isaiah 57:7); on the other hand their ancestors, the pre-exilic Israelites, could not be charged with the more heinous offences described in Isaiah 65:3-5. These last, however, were the outcome of the same idolatrous tendency which formerly shewed itself in the worship at the high places, and the judgement now about to descend on the children is called forth both by their own guilt and by that of their fathers.
therefore will I measure their former work] Rather: and I will first measure their reward. The word for “former” (rí’shônâh) if an adj., ought to have the art., and moreover the thought expressed by this translation would be unsuitable, since it passes by in silence the recompense due to the sins of the children themselves. It must therefore be rendered as an adverb, as in Jeremiah 16:18 (“and first I will recompense their iniquity” &c.). So R.V.
into their bosom] as Isaiah 65:6.
Thus saith the LORD, As the new wine is found in the cluster, and one saith, Destroy it not; for a blessing is in it: so will I do for my servants' sakes, that I may not destroy them all.8. In the figure, the grape-cluster represents the nation as a whole, including many unworthy members, the “new wine” (iîrôsh, “must”) is the spiritual kernel of the nation, here called “my servants”; and the truth taught is that for the sake of the latter “the whole” shall not be annihilated in the judgement that is to come. It is an application to new circumstances of Isaiah’s doctrine of the Remnant (ch. Isaiah 6:13).
The words Destroy it not, for a blessing is in it have been thought, from their rhythm, to be the first line of one of the vintage songs often referred to in Scripture (cf. Jdg 9:27; Isaiah 16:10; Jeremiah 25:30; Jeremiah 48:33, &c.). It has further been conjectured that the words “Destroy not” (’al tashḥçth) in the headings of four psalms (57, 58, 59, 75) refer to this song, naming its melody as the tune to which these Psalms were to be sung (W. R. Smith, O. T. in Jewish Church2, p. 209).
that I may not &c.] (so as) not to destroy the whole.
8–10. In spite of the gross idolatries denounced in the preceding section there is that in Israel which makes it precious in the sight of Jehovah, and ensures for it a brilliant future.
And I will bring forth a seed out of Jacob, and out of Judah an inheritor of my mountains: and mine elect shall inherit it, and my servants shall dwell there.9. When a separation is effected the true Israelites shall possess the land (ch. Isaiah 57:13, Isaiah 60:21).
a seed] Cf. ch. Isaiah 6:13, Isaiah 53:10.
my mountains] the mountain land of Palestine, an Isaianic phrase (ch. Isaiah 14:25). shall inherit it] i.e. the land.
shall dwell there] Dillmann infers from the adv. “there” that neither the prophet nor his hearers lived in Palestine; but the argument cannot be sustained. “There” may be said of a place just mentioned, irrespective of the speaker’s relation to it. Thus in ch. Isaiah 37:33 Isaiah says that the king of Assyria “shall not shoot an arrow there,” referring to Jerusalem (“this city”) where he was living.
And Sharon shall be a fold of flocks, and the valley of Achor a place for the herds to lie down in, for my people that have sought me.10. Sharon] (in Hebr. always with the art.) the northern part of the Maritime Plain, from near Carmel to Joppa, varying in breadth from 6 to 12 miles. (For a description see G. A. Smith, Hist. Geogr. pp. 147 f.)
the valley of Achor] Joshua 7:24; Joshua 15:7; Hosea 2:15. One of the valleys (not identified) running up into the mountains from the Jordan-depression somewhere near Jericho. The names are mentioned as the extreme limits, W. and E., of the land to be inherited by the servants of Jehovah.
for my people that have inquired of me] in contrast to those spoken of in Isaiah 65:1.
But ye are they that forsake the LORD, that forget my holy mountain, that prepare a table for that troop, and that furnish the drink offering unto that number.11, 12. A renewed threat against the apostates, with a further allusion to their idolatry.
But ye are they that forsake &c.] Render: But as for you that forsake Jehovah (ch. Isaiah 1:4) &c. The whole verse is a descriptive anticipation of the object of the verb “destine” in Isaiah 65:12 (see R.V.).
that forget my holy mountain] The phrase may denote either simple indifference to the welfare of Zion (cf. Psalm 137:5), or deliberate abstention from the Temple ritual. The second view implies residence in Palestine at a time when the Temple services were in full operation; hence the other is necessarily adopted by all who hold the prophecy to have been written in Babylon. It is perhaps impossible to decide which is right, although those who recognise a Palestinian colouring throughout the chapter will naturally prefer the second as the more forcible interpretation, and find in it some confirmation of their theory.
that prepare a table &c.] Better: that spread a table for Gad, and fill up mixed wine (see ch. Isaiah 5:22) to Meni. The rites described are the lectisternia, well known throughout the ancient world, in which a table was spread, furnished with meats and drinks as a meal for the gods (Liv. Isaiah 5:13; Herodot. 1:183; Ep. of Jeremiah , vv. 27 f.; Bel and the Dragon, v. 11; cf. Jeremiah 7:18; Jeremiah 19:13; Jeremiah 44:17, 1 Corinthians 10:21). A parallel in the O.T. religion is the Shewbread in the Temple (or Tabernacle), Exodus 25:30 &c. Gesenius remarks that the description of the complete lectisternium extends over both members of the parallelism, and infers that the two deities were worshipped together. This is probable, being in accordance with ancient custom (Liv. Isaiah 5:13), but the laws of Hebrew parallelism hardly permit us to say that this must be the meaning.
That Gad and Meni are divine proper names is universally acknowledged, although neither has quite lost its appellative signification and both are here pointed with the article. Gad means “good fortune”; he is personified luck. [The rendering “troop” in A.V. is a mistake. Cf. Genesis 30:11, where “A troop cometh” should be “With fortune!” as R.V. marg. In Genesis 49:19, where a different etymology is supposed, the word for “troop” is not gad but gĕdûd.] The existence of a Syrian god of this name (or the Greek equivalent Τύχη) is well established, and his worship is proved to have extended over a very wide area (see Baethgen, Beiträge zur Sem. Rel.-Gesch. pp. 76–80). It appears that the evidence is most copious amongst the Greek inscriptions of the Hauran (note the proximity to the Hebrew tribe of Gad) where there must have been numerous temples in his honour. But the name occurs also in Phœnician and Palmyrene inscriptions, and on coins of several cities, including Ashkelon, while a temple to the “Fortune” of Gaza is known to have existed in that city (Baethgen, p. 66). The place-names Baal-Gad (at the foot of Hermon, Joshua 11:17; Joshua 12:7; Joshua 13:5) and Migdal-Gad (in Judah, Joshua 15:37) seem to shew that his worship was practised in Palestine proper. There are besides frequent references in Syriac and later Jewish literature; a Syriac writer of the 5th century mentions that lectisternia were still prepared for Gad in his time. The Jewish interpreters identified Gad with the planet Jupiter, called by the Arabs “the greater Luck,” but this association may be more recent than our passage (Baethgen). Meni (Měnî) has left fewer traces. He is possibly identical with the goddess Manât, one of the three chief divinities of the pre-Mohammedan Arabs (Koran, Sura 53:19–23). A personal name ‘Abdmenî (= Servant of Meni?) has been found on coins of the Achæmenidæ, but the accuracy of this is doubted by some (Delitzsch, Schrader in Riehm’s Handwörterbuch). The meaning of the word is “Destiny,” and the god has been identified with the planet Venus, “the lesser Luck” of the Arabs. It is quite as likely, however, that Meni is the antithesis of Gad,—the god of evil destiny. [Observe that in the LXX. Gad is Δαιμόνιον and Meni Τύχη.] Nothing has yet been discovered to connect these deities with the Babylonian pantheon. Some think they may be Hebrew equivalents of Babylonian names (Dillmann), others that their worship was transported from Syria to Babylon (Baethgen). These are speculations, but the actual evidence points to Western Asia as the natural environment of this cult.
Therefore will I number you to the sword, and ye shall all bow down to the slaughter: because when I called, ye did not answer; when I spake, ye did not hear; but did evil before mine eyes, and did choose that wherein I delighted not.12. Render with R.V. I will destine you to the sword &c. There is a play upon words between the verb for “destine” (mânâh) and Měnî in Isaiah 65:11.
because when I called &c.] Cf. Isaiah 65:1-2.
but did evil before mine eyes &c.] Exactly as ch. Isaiah 66:4.
Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, my servants shall eat, but ye shall be hungry: behold, my servants shall drink, but ye shall be thirsty: behold, my servants shall rejoice, but ye shall be ashamed:13–16. Contrast between the fate of these idolaters and that of Jehovah’s servants.
Behold, my servants shall sing for joy of heart, but ye shall cry for sorrow of heart, and shall howl for vexation of spirit.14. joy of heart] Cf. Deuteronomy 28:47.
vexation of spirit] lit. breaking of spirit; contrast the different sense of “broken of heart” (ch. Isaiah 61:1).
And ye shall leave your name for a curse unto my chosen: for the Lord GOD shall slay thee, and call his servants by another name:15. Their names shall be used in a formula of imprecation. Comp. in illustration Jeremiah 29:22 : “And from them shall be taken a curse for all the captivity of Judah … saying, ‘Jehovah make thee like Zedekiah and like Ahab, whom the king of Babylon roasted in the fire!’.” Have we such a formula quoted in the clause following, “and the Lord Jehovah shall slay thee”? It is objected (1) that the formula would be incomplete, the essential words—“like so-and-so”—being omitted; (2) the “and” is unaccounted for, while to remove it would leave a perf. with a precative sense, a usage which is very doubtful in Hebr. (Driver, Tenses, § 20). On the other hand, the use of 2nd pers. sing. rather favours the view that the words are meant as a specimen of the curse.
and call his servants by another name] The LXX. (Cod. Vat.), with slight modifications of the text, reads: “And on my servants shall be called a new name” (τοῖς δὲ δουλεύουσί μοι κληθήσεται ὄνομα καινόν). The καινόν is no doubt a slip; but the change of “his” to “my” is an obvious improvement, and may safely be adopted. The promise must not be taken too literally, nor too closely connected with the preceding threat. It is hardly conceivable that the prophet contemplates the abrogation of the name “Israel,” because it has been degraded by unworthy Israelites (Cheyne, Comm.). This would be implied only if the name “Israel” were that which is to remain for a curse, which is again a too violent interpretation. The “other name” is contrasted, not with that which both parties had borne in common, but with names such as “Forsaken,” which describe the present condition of the true believers. Cf. ch. Isaiah 62:2; Isaiah 62:4; Isaiah 62:12.
That he who blesseth himself in the earth shall bless himself in the God of truth; and he that sweareth in the earth shall swear by the God of truth; because the former troubles are forgotten, and because they are hid from mine eyes.16. That] R.V., So that (as Genesis 11:7; Psalm 95:11; Malachi 4:1, &c.).
he who blesseth himself in the land] i.e. “who invokes a blessing on himself”; cf. Genesis 22:18; Genesis 26:4; Genesis 48:20; Jeremiah 4:2.
shall bless himself by the God of truth] using such expressions as, “May the God of truth bless me.” By the fulfilment both of His threatenings and His promises Jehovah will have shewn Himself to be the God of truth, so that a blessing uttered in His name is certainly effective. God of truth is strictly “God of the Amen” (cf. 2 Corinthians 1:20; Revelation 3:14), but this is a too artificial phrase for so early a period. Read ’ômen (= “truth,” “fidelity”).
swear by the God of truth] Cf. ch. Isaiah 48:1.
the former troubles are forgotten] See Revelation 21:4. hid from
mine eyes] a reminiscence probably of Hosea 13:14.
For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.17. new heavens and a new earth] i.e. a new universe, Hebrew having no single word for the Cosmos (cf. ch. Isaiah 66:22; 2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1). The phrase sums up a whole aspect of the prophetic theology. The idea of a transformation of nature so as to be in harmony with a renewed humanity has met us several times in the earlier part of the book (ch. Isaiah 11:6-9, Isaiah 29:17, Isaiah 30:23 ff., Isa 32:15, 35, &c.), and is a frequent theme of prophecy, but the thought of a new creation is nowhere expressed so absolutely as here. It may have been suggested to the prophet by ch. Isaiah 51:6, where it is said that the present universe shall be dissolved, although it is doubtful if that verse contains more than a metaphorical expression of the transitoriness of the material in contrast with the spiritual. Here there can be no doubt that the words are to be interpreted literally. At the same time the new creation preserves as it were the form of the old, for the next verse shews that a new Jerusalem is the centre of the renovated earth.
the former] R.V. the former things. The reference may be specifically to the “former troubles” of Isaiah 65:16, or generally to the old state of things which shall have vanished for ever.
nor come into mind] Lit. “come up on the heart,” as Jeremiah 3:16; Jeremiah 7:31, &c.
17–25. The last sentence of Isaiah 65:16 inspires the loftiest flight of the prophet’s imagination. The “former troubles shall be forgotten” in the glories of a new creation, in which all things minister to the welfare of Jehovah’s regenerate people.
But be ye glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create: for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy.18. I create Jerusalem a rejoicing &c.] i.e. either an object in which one may rejoice (Isaiah 65:19, ch. Isaiah 60:15) or an abode of joy (ch. Isaiah 51:3, Isaiah 61:7).
And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people: and the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice of crying.19. God Himself rejoices in the new city and people; cf. Isaiah 62:5.
and the voice of weeping &c.] Cf. ch. Isaiah 25:8, Isaiah 35:10.
There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days: for the child shall die an hundred years old; but the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed.20. Amongst the blessings of the new people of God the chief shall be a miraculous extension of the term of human life. This is the dominant idea down to the end of Isaiah 65:22. The expression of the thought is unaccountably laboured and obscure.
an infant of days] must mean one who lives only a few days.
nor an old man … days] (cf. Genesis 25:8; Exodus 23:26; Job 5:26), i.e. none shall become prematurely old; each shall attain the allotted measure of life according to the standard which shall then be normal.
for the youth shall die an hundred years old &c.] These two cases must be regarded as hypothetical merely. Death at the age of 100 years (if such a thing took place) would be looked on as an untimely death in extreme youth, and as a special mark of the Divine anger on a career of wickedness (Job 15:32; Job 20:5). The possibility of a hardened sinner being actually found in the Messianic community cannot be seriously contemplated (see ch. Isaiah 60:21).
It is evident that the idea of immortal life is unknown to the writer. He looks forward to a restriction of the power of death, but not to its entire cessation. The same idea is probably implied in a prophecy of the early post-exilic period (Zechariah 8:4; see on ch. Isaiah 25:8); and a conception precisely similar is characteristic of the first section of the Book of Enoch. see Charles, Book of Enoch, pp. 26, 55, 98. Comp. En. Isaiah 5:9 : “And [the elect] will not be punished all the days of their life, nor will they die of plagues or visitations of wrath, but they will complete the full number of the days of their life, and their lives will grow old in peace, and the years of their joy will be many, in eternal happiness and peace all the days of their life.” Cf. also Isaiah 10:17 and Isaiah 25:4-5.
And they shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them.21, 22. In consequence of this extension of the term of life, each man shall enjoy the fruit of his own labour (cf. Deuteronomy 28:30). The idea is therefore somewhat different from that of ch. Isaiah 62:8-9.
as the days of a tree] Cf. Psalm 92:12-13.
mine elect (= my chosen, Isaiah 65:15) shall long enjoy &c.] lit. “shall wear out,” “use up” (Job 21:13).
They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat: for as the days of a tree are the days of my people, and mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands.
They shall not labour in vain, nor bring forth for trouble; for they are the seed of the blessed of the LORD, and their offspring with them.23. They shall not weary themselves for vanity] ch. Isaiah 49:4; Habakkuk 2:13; because God’s blessing rests on them.
nor bring forth (sc. children) for sudden destruction] Jeremiah 15:8; Psalm 78:33.
and their offspring with them] Better perhaps as a complete sentence: and their offspring shall be with them (R.V. marg.); many generations living together. Cf. Job 21:8.
And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.24. Cf. Daniel 9:21.
The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent's meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the LORD.25. A last feature of the new earth is the peace which shall reign in the animal world. See on ch. Isaiah 11:6-9, from which this verse is quoted. The second and fourth lines are cited literally from Isaiah 11:7; Isaiah 11:9, the first is a condensation of Isaiah 11:6-7 a. The only clause not represented in the original passage is the third line: and dust shall be the serpent’s meat an allusion to Genesis 3:14. Duhm, partly on metrical grounds, rejects these words as a gloss.