Thus said the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that you build to me? and where is the place of my rest?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(1) The heaven is my throne . . .—We are left to conjecture the historical starting-point of this utterance of a Divine truth. Was the prophet condemning in advance the restoration of the temple on the return from Babylon, or, as some critics have supposed, the intention of some of the exiles to build a temple in the land of their captivity, as others did afterwards at Leontopolis in Egypt? Was he anticipating the vision of the Apocalypse, that in the new Jerusalem there was to be “no temple” (Revelation 21:22)? Neither of these views is satisfactory, Isaiah 56:7; Isaiah 60:7, and the writings of Ezekiel, Haggai, Zechariah, all pre-supposing the existence of a new temple. It seems better to see in the words the utterance, in its strongest form, of the truth that God dwelleth, not in temples made with hands, that utterance being compatible, as in the case of Solomon himself (2Chronicles 6:18), of our Lord (John 2:16-17; John 4:21-23), of St. Stephen, who quoted this passage (Acts 7:48-50), with the profoundest reverence for the visible sanctuary. Cheyne quotes a striking parallel from an Egyptian hymn to the Nile of the fourteenth century B.C., in which we find the writer saying of God, “His abode is not known . . . there is no building that can contain Him.” (Records of the Past, iv. 109.)Isaiah 66:1-2. Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is my throne — That is, the throne of my glory and government; the place where I most manifest my power, and show myself in my majesty. Hence we are taught to pray, Our Father which art in heaven. And the earth is my footstool — Or, a place on which I set my feet, (Matthew 5:35,) overruling all the affairs of it according to my will. Where is the house that ye build me? — Can there be a house built that will contain me, who encompass and fill heaven and earth? and where is the place of my rest? — Where is the place wherein I can be said to rest in a proper sense? The ark was indeed called God’s footstool, and the place of his rest, in a figurative sense, because there God manifested himself, though in degrees much beneath the manifestations of himself in heaven: but properly God hath no certain place of rest, and especially no temple built by man can be a place of rest for him. For what satisfaction can the Eternal Mind take in a house made with men’s hands? What occasion has he, as we have, for a house to repose himself in, who fainteth not, neither is weary; who neither slumbers nor sleeps? Or, if he had occasion, he would not tell us, Psalm 50:12. For all those things hath his hands made — Heaven and all its courts, earth and all its borders, and all the hosts of both. And all these have been — Have had their beginning by the power of God, who was infinitely happy from eternity before they existed, and therefore cannot be benefited by them. Or, as the clause may be rendered, all these things are: they still continue upheld by the same power that made them; so that our goodness extendeth not to him. Vitringa is justly of opinion that “this discourse is directed to the hypocrites, who, despising the gospel of the Son of God, after they had made the temple a den of thieves, were yet zealous to repair and adorn it. They did not consider that a new economy being established, no earthly and material temple could be acceptable to Him whose throne was in heaven, and who everywhere found the place of his rest in the humble and contrite heart.” “The Jews,” says Bishop Lowth, “valued themselves much upon their temple, and the pompous system of services performed in it, which they supposed were to be of perpetual duration; and they assumed great confidence and merit to themselves for their strict observance of all the externals of their religion. And at the very time when the judgments denounced in Isaiah 66:6; Isaiah 66:12 of the preceding chapter were hanging over their heads, they were rebuilding, by Herod’s munificence, the temple in a most magnificent manner. God, therefore, admonishes them, that the Most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; and that a mere external worship, how diligently soever attended, when accompanied with wicked and idolatrous practices in the worshippers, would never be accepted by him. This their hypocrisy is set forth in strong colours, which brings the prophet again to the subject of the former chapter; and he pursues it in a different manner, with more express declarations of the new economy, and of the flourishing state of the church under it; the increase of which he shows is to be sudden and astonishing.”
But to this man will I look — But though I regard not the magnificence and splendour of a temple built with human hands, nor any ornaments that are or can be bestowed upon it, nor the pomp and show of the ceremonies and services performed in it, or connected with it; and though I reign on a throne in majesty in the highest heavens, and fill both heaven and earth with my glory, yet will I look with a favourable eye to him that hath a broken and contrite spirit — Whose heart is subdued to the will of God, and who is poor and low in his own eyes; and that trembleth at my word — Who trembles when he hears my threatening words, and receives every revelation of my will with reverence. Such a one is a living temple of God, (Isaiah 57:15,) and of infinitely more value in his sight than the most sumptuous edifice that can be raised by the art or power of man, though it should be adorned in the most costly manner with gold and silver, and precious stones.Isaiah 57:15). Here he is represented as having his seat or throne there. He speaks as a king. heaven is the place where he holds his court; from where he dispenses his commands; and from where he surveys all his works (compare 2 Chronicles 6:18; Matthew 5:34). The idea here is, that as God dwelt in the vast and distant heavens, no house that could be built on earth could be magnificent enough to be his abode.
The earth is my footstool - A footstool is that which is placed under the feet when we sit. The idea here is, that God was so glorious that even the earth itself could be regarded only as his footstool. It is probable that the Saviour had this passage in his eye in his declaration in the sermon on the mount, 'Swear not at all; neither by heaven, for it is God's throne; nor by the earth, for it is his footstool' Matthew 5:34-35.
Where is the house that ye build unto me? - What house can you build that will be an appropriate dwelling for him who fills heaven and earth? The same idea, substantially, was expressed by Solomon when he dedicated the temple: 'But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, the heaven, and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded!' 1 Kings 8:27. Substantially the same thought is found in the address of Paul at Athens: 'God, that made the world, and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands' Acts 17:24.
And where is the place of my rest? - It has already been intimated (in the analysis) that this refers probably to the time subsequent to the captivity. Lowth supposes that it refers to the time of the rebuilding of the temple by Herod. So also Vitringa understands it, and supposes that it refers to the pride and self-confidence of those who then imagined that they were rearing a structure that was worthy of being a dwelling-place of Yahweh. Grotius supposes that it refers to the time of the Maccabees, and that it was designed to give consolation to the pious of those times when they were about to witness the profanation of the temple by Antiochus, and the cessation of the sacrifices for three years and a half. 'God therefore shows,' says he, 'that there was no reason why they should be offended in this thing. The most acceptable temple to him was a pious mind; and from that the value of all sacrifices was to be estimated.' Abarbanel supposes that it refers to the times of redemption.
His words are these: 'I greatly wonder at the words of the learned interpreting this prophecy, when they say that the prophet in this accuses the people of his own time on account of sacrifices offered with impure hands, for lo! all these prophecies which the prophet utters in the end of his book have respect to future redemption.' See Vitringa. That it refers to some future time when the temple should be rebuilt seems to me to be evident. But what precise period it refers to - whether to times not far succeeding the captivity, or to the times of the Maccabees, or to the time of the rebuilding of the temple by Herod, it is difficult to find any data by which we can determine. From the whole strain of the prophecy, and particularly from Isaiah 66:3-5, it seems probable that it refers to the time when the temple which Herod had reared was finishing; when the nation was full of pride, self-righteousness, and hypocrisy; and when all sacrifices were about to be superseded by the one great sacrifice which the Messiah was to make for the sins of the world. At that time, God says that the spirit which would be evinced by the nation would be abominable in his sight; and to offer sacrifice then, and with the spirit which they would manifest, would be as offensive as murder or the sacrifice of a dog (see the notes at Isaiah 66:3).
Isa 66:1-24. The Humble Comforted, the Ungodly Condemned, at the Lord's Appearing: Jerusalem Made a Joy on Earth.
This closing chapter is the summary of Isaiah's prophecies as to the last days, hence the similarity of its sentiments with what went before.
1. heaven … throne … where is … house … ye build—The same sentiment is expressed, as a precautionary proviso for the majesty of God in deigning to own any earthly temple as His, as if He could be circumscribed by space (1Ki 8:27) in inaugurating the temple of stone; next, as to the temple of the Holy Ghost (Ac 7:48, 49); lastly here, as to "the tabernacle of God with men" (Isa 2:2, 3; Eze 43:4, 7; Re 21:3).
where—rather, "what is this house that ye are building, &c.—what place is this for My rest?" [Vitringa].God is served with the Spirit, and not by ceremonies, Isaiah 66:1-4, the wonderful birth and benefits of the gospel church, Isaiah 66:5-14. Severe judgments against the wicked, Isaiah 66:15-18. The Gentiles shall be a holy church, Isaiah 66:19-23. The eternal punishment of the wicked, Isaiah 66:24.
and the earth is my footstool: on which he treads, is below him, subject to him, and at his dispose; and therefore is not limited to any part of it, or included in any place in it; though he for a while condescended to make the cherubim his throne, and the ark his footstool, in the most holy place in the temple; which were all figurative of other and better things, and so no more used:
where is the house that ye build unto me? what house can be built for such an immense Being? and how needless as well as fruitless is it to attempt it? where can a place be found to build one in, since the heaven is his throne, and the earth his footstool? and therefore, if any place, it must be some that is without them both, and that can hold both; but what space can be conceived of that can contain such a throne and footstool, and much less him that sits thereon? see 1 Kings 8:27,
and where is the place of my rest? for God to take up his rest and residence in, as a man does in his house? no such place can be found for him, nor does he need any; indeed the temple was built for an house of rest for the ark of the Lord, which before was moved from place to place; but then this was merely typical of the church, which God has chosen for his rest, and where he will dwell, as well as of heaven, the resting place of his people with him to all eternity; no place on earth is either his rest or theirs.Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest?
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)1, 2. Jehovah, who fills and has created heaven and earth, “dwelleth not in temples made with hands.” Comp. the citation in Acts 7:48 ff., also 1 Kings 8:27; Jeremiah 23:24.
The heaven is my throne] Psalm 11:4; Psalm 103:19.
the earth is my footstool] Hence the Temple itself (or the ark) is spoken of as Jehovah’s footstool; Lamentations 2:1; Psalm 99:5; Psalm 132:7; 1 Chronicles 28:2.
where is the house &c.] Render: what manner of house will ye build unto me? and what manner of place is my resting place (Psalm 132:8; Psalm 132:14)?Verses 1-4. - THE UNGODLY EXILES REBUKED. Israel, being about to return from the Captivity, had the design of rebuilding the temple and re-establishing the temple worship. God rebukes this design in persons devoid of any spirit of holiness, and warns them that mere formal outward worship is an abomination to him (vers. 1-3). In ver. 4 he threatens them with punishment. Verse 1. - Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool (comp. Psalm 11:4; Psalm 103:19). The Hebrews, while they earnestly desired to have a material emblem of the presence of God in their midst, were deeply impressed with the feeling that no temple could be worthy of him, or other than most unworthy. "Will God," said Solomon, "indeed dwell on the earth? behold, the heaven and heavens of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded?" (1 Kings 8:27). And again, "Who is able to build him an house, seeing the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain him? Who am I then, that I should build him an house, save only to burn sacrifice before trim?" (2 Chronicles 2:6). Thus Isaiah's note of warning was no novelty, and might rind responsive echoes in the hearts of many. Where is the house that ye build unto me? rather, what manner of house is it that ye would build to me, add what manner of place for my rest? God needs no "house;" and they cannot build him a house that could be in any way worthy of him. They, moreover, are unworthy to build him any house, which is the real ground of the refusal. There was no refusal, when the better part of the exiles, having returned, took the building in hand (see Ezra 3:8-13; Ezra 6:14, 15; Haggai 1:8-14; Zechariah 1:16; Zechariah 4:9, etc.). Isaiah 65:20 with לא־יהיה, but according to the Masora (see Mas. finalis, p. 23, Colossians 7), which reckons five ולא־יהיה at the commencement of verses, and includes our v. among them, it must read ולא־יהיה, as it is also rendered by the lxx and Targum. The meaning and connection are not affected by this various reading. Henceforth there will not spring from Jerusalem (or, what hâyâh really means, "come into existence;" "thence," misshâm, not "from that time," but locally, as in Hosea 2:17 and elsewhere, cf., Isaiah 58:12) a suckling (see p. 90) of days, i.e., one who has only reached the age of a few days (yâmı̄m as in Genesis 24:55, etc.), nor an old man who has not filled his days, i.e., has not attained to what is regarded as a rule as the full measure of human life. He who dies as a youth, or is regarded as having died young, will not die before the hundredth year of his life; and the sinner (והחוטא with seghol, as in Ecclesiastes 8:12; Ecclesiastes 9:18; Ges. 75, Anm. 21) upon whom the curse of God falls, and who is overwhelmed by the punishment, will not be swept away before the hundredth year of his life. We cannot maintain with Hofmann (Schriftbeweis, ii. 2, 567), that it is only in appearance that less is here affirmed than in Isaiah 25:8. The reference there is to the ultimate destruction of the power of death; here it is merely to the limitation of its power.
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