Isaiah 66:1
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?
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(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.

66:1-4 The Jews gloried much in their temple. But what satisfaction can the Eternal Mind take in a house made with men's hands? God has a heaven and an earth of his own making, and temples of man's making; but he overlooks them, that he may look with favour to him who is poor in spirit and serious, self-abasing and self-denying; whose heart truly sorrows for sin: such a heart is a living temple for God. The sacrifice of the wicked is not only unacceptable, but a great offence to God. And he that now offers a sacrifice after the law, does in effect set aside Christ's sacrifice. He that burns incense, puts contempt upon the incense of Christ's intercession, and is as if he blessed an idol. Men shall be deceived by the vain confidences with which they deceive themselves. Unbelieving hearts, and unpurified consciences, need no more to make them miserable, than to have their own fears brought upon them. Whatever men put in the place of the priesthood, atonement, and intercession of Christ, will be found hateful to God.The heaven is my throne - (See the notes at 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.

The heaven is my throne; the heaven, that is, the highest heavens, are the place where I most manifest my power and glory, and show myself in my majesty. Psalm 11:4 103:19 Matthew 5:34. Hence we are taught to pray, Our Father which art in heaven. And

the earth is my footstool, or a place wherein I set my feet, Matthew 5:35.

Where is the house that ye build unto me? can there be a house builded that will contain me, who can encompass the heavens and the earth with a house? Where is the place of my rest? or, where is the place wherein I can be said to rest in a proper sense? The ark is indeed 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.

Thus saith the Lord, the heaven is my throne,.... The third heaven, the heaven of heavens, where angels and glorified saints are, and some in bodies, as Enoch and Elijah, and where now Christ is in human nature; this is the seat of the divine Majesty, where he in a most illustrious manner displays his glory; and therefore we are to look upwards to God in heaven, and direct all our devotion to him there, and not imagine that he dwells in temples made with hands; or is confined to any place, and much less to any on earth, as the temple at Jerusalem, the Jews boasted of, and trusted in; and which were the unworthy notions they had of God in the times of Christ and his disciples; to confute which these words are here said, and for this purpose are quoted and applied by Stephen, Acts 7:48. See Gill on Acts 7:48, Acts 7:49, Acts 7:50,

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?
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 66:1Although 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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