Isaiah 66:24
And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(24) And they shall go forth . . .—As at the close of Isaiah 48, 57, each ending a great section of the volume, so here, the vision of restoration and blessedness is balanced by that of the righteous condemnation of the wicked. The outward imagery is suggested, as in Joel 3:12; Zechariah 14:12, by that of the great battle of the Lord (Isaiah 66:15-16). Those who are slain in that battle are thought of as filling the valleys round about Jerusalem, especially the valley of Jehoshaphat (“Jehovah judges “), devoured by worms, or given to the flames. Taken strictly, therefore, the words do not speak of the punishment of the souls of men after death, but of the defeat and destruction upon earth of the enemies of Jehovah. The words that tell us that “the worm shall not die” and that “the fire shall not be quenched” point, however, to something more than this, to be read between the lines. And so those words became the starting-point of the thoughts of later Judaism as to Gehenna (Ecclesiasticus 8:17; Judith 16:17, and the Targum on this passage), of the words in which our Lord Himself gave utterance to what, at least, seemed to express those thoughts (Mark 9:44-48), of the dominant eschatology of Christendom. Even so taken, however, with this wider range, it is still a question whether the words are to be taken literally or figuratively (though this, perhaps, is hardly a question), whether the bodies, which represent souls, are thought of as not destroyed, but only tormented, or as consumed to nothing, by the fire and by the worm, whether those two agents represent sufferings of sense or spirit. The one aspect of the future life which they tend to exclude is that which presents the idea of a suffering that may be purifying. That idea is not without apparent support in other passages of Scripture (e.g., Romans 5:17-21; Romans 11:32; 1Peter 3:19; 1Peter 4:6); but we cannot say that it entered into the prophet’s thoughts here. What he emphasises is the eternal antagonism between the righteousness of God and man’s unrighteousness, and this involves the punishment of the latter as long as it exists. In any case there is a strange solemnity in this being the last word of the prophet’s book of revelation, even as there is a like awfulness in the picture of the final judgment, which appears in Matthew 25:46, at all but the close of our Lord’s public teaching. Cheyne quotes a singular rubric of the Jewish ritual, that when this chapter, or Ecclesiastes 12, or Malachi 3, was read in the synagogue, the last verse but one should be repeated after the last, so that mercy might appear as in the end triumphant after and over judgment.

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Isaiah 66:24. And they shall go forth — Namely, those who had joined themselves to the communion of the church spoken of in the preceding verses; and look upon the carcasses of the men that have sinned against me — Meaning chiefly the unbelieving Jews who rejected Christ and his gospel, including, however, all impenitent sinners, and especially all the enemies and persecutors of God’s truth and people. By looking upon their carcasses is meant beholding the dreadful vengeance taken on them. This is here represented in figurative language. The misery is described by an allusion to the frightful spectacle of a field of battle covered with the carcasses of the slain, which lie rotting upon the ground, full of worms, crawling about them, and feeding on them. It seems the Lord, by his prophet, first intends to set forth the dreadful temporal calamities that should come upon the Jews, in the destruction of their city and nation by the Romans; in which destruction, as has been intimated in the note on Isaiah 66:16, not less than between two and three millions, first and last, were cut off by the sword, famine, and pestilence. But when it is added, for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched, it is certain the punishment of the wicked in the world to come is chiefly intended. These words, it is well known, are applied by our Saviour, (Mark 9:44,) to express the everlasting punishment of the wicked in Gehenna, or hell, so called, in allusion to the valley of Hinnom, the place where the idolatrous Jews celebrated that horrible rite of making their children pass through the fire, that is, of burning them in sacrifice to Moloch; concerning which place see note Isaiah 30:33. “Our Saviour,” says Bishop Lowth, expressed the state of the blessed by sensible images; such as paradise, Abraham’s bosom, or, which is the same thing, a place to recline next to Abraham at table, in the kingdom of heaven; (see Matthew 8:11; John 13:23;) for we could not possibly have any conception of it, but by analogy from worldly objects: in like manner he expressed the place of torment under the image of Gehenna; and the punishment of the wicked by the worm, which there preyed on the carcasses, and the fire, which consumed the wretched victims. Marking, however, in the strongest manner, the difference between Gehenna and the invisible place of torment: namely, that in the former, the suffering is transient; the worm itself, that preys on the body, dies: whereas, in the figurative Gehenna, the instruments of punishment shall be everlasting, and the suffering without end; for there the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. “These emblematical images, expressing heaven and hell, were in use among the Jews before our Saviour’s time; and in using them, he complied with their notions. Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God, says the Jew to our Saviour, Luke 14:15. And, in regard to Gehenna, the Chaldee paraphrast renders everlasting, or continual burnings, by the Gehenna of everlasting fire. And before this time the son of Sirach (Sir 7:17) had said, The vengeance of the ungodly is fire and worms. So likewise the author of the book of Judith, ‘Wo to the nation rising up against my kindred, the Lord Almighty will take vengeance on them in the day of judgment, putting fire and worms in their flesh:’ Jdt 16:17, manifestly referring to the same emblem.”

And they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh — Hebrew דראון, an execration, as Dr. Waterland renders it. “Christ the Lord,” says Vitringa, “in passing his judicial sentence on false Christians and wicked persons, will say, Go, ye cursed: or execrated, into eternal fire. That evil will be added to their state of pain, and a condemning conscience. Separated from the blessed and glorious communion of God and the saints, cast into the deepest state of misery, they will be exposed to the reproach, ignominy, contempt, and execration of angels and saints,” (say rather of devils and condemned spirits,) “suffering the punishment of their pride, arrogance, tyranny, cruelty, injustice, crimes, hatred of the truth, persecutions, by which things in this life, fighting against God, and afflicting his saints, they knowingly and willingly provoked his displeasure. These are the ends of the two opposite kinds of men, the pious and the ungodly, in which, after various preparatory judgments of God, the fates of all ages as well as our own fates, will be terminated, and in which this divine book of the great Prophet Isaiah also terminates. May our lot be with the saints, with those who reverence God and love the truth; with the humble, the meek, the merciful, and those that persevere in good works to the end of life, through the grace of our great Lord, Saviour, and Judge, Jesus Christ, who will distribute these blessings according to the will of his Father.”

This eminent divine concludes his very learned commentary on this incomparable prophecy with the following devout prayer and thanksgiving, with which the author of this work, adopting his words, also closes his observations thereon. “Influenced by which hope, and prostrate before his throne, I return, with the most profound humility, my sincerest thanks to God the Father, in his Son Jesus Christ, by the Spirit, for the grace and light wherewith he hath favoured me, his unworthy servant, during my comment on this book; earnestly requesting from his grace and mercy that, pardoning the errors into which I have ignorantly fallen, he would render this work, of whatever sort it is, conducive to the glory of his great name, the benefit of the church, and the consolation of the pious.” Amen!

66:19,20, set forth the abundance of means for conversion of sinners. These expressions are figurative, and express the plentiful and gracious helps for bringing God's elect home to Christ. All shall be welcome; and nothing shall be wanting for their assistance and encouragement. A gospel ministry shall be set up in the church; they would have solemn worship before the Lord. In the last verse the nature of the punishment of sinners in the world to come is represented. Then shall the righteous and wicked be separated. Our Saviour applies this to the everlasting misery and torment of impenitent sinners in the future state. To the honour of that free grace which thus distinguishes them, let the redeemed of the Lord, with humility, and not without holy trembling, sing triumphant songs. With this affecting representation of the opposite states of the righteous and wicked, characters which include the whole human race, Isaiah concludes his prophecies. May God grant, for Christ's sake, that our portion may be with those who fear and love his name, who cleave to his truths, and persevere in every good work, looking to receive from the Lord Jesus Christ the gracious invitation, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.And they shall go forth - The sense of this verse evidently is, that the pious and happy worshippers of God shall see the punishment which he will execute on his and their foes, or shall see them finally destroyed. It refers to the time when the kingdom of God shall be finally and perpetually established, and when all the mighty enemies of that kingdom shall be subdued and punished. The image is probably taken from a scene where a people whose lands have been desolated by mighty armies are permitted to go forth after a decisive battle to walk over the fields of the slain, and to see the dead and the putrifying bodies of their once formidable enemies.

And look upon the carcasses of the men - The dead bodies of the foes of God (see Isaiah 66:15-16).

For their worm shall not die - This image is evidently taken from the condition of unburied bodies, and especially on a battlefield. The Hebrew word (תולע tôlâ‛) properly refers to the worms which are generated in such corrupting bodies (see Exodus 16:20; the notes at Isaiah 14:11). It is sometimes applied to the worm from which the crimson or deep scarlet color was obtained (the notes at Isaiah 1:18); but it more properly denotes that which is produced in putrid substances. This entire passage is applied by the Saviour to future punishment; and is the fearful image which he employs to denote the final suffering of the wicked in hell. My views on its meaning may be seen in the notes at Mark 9:44, Mark 9:46.

Neither shall their fire be quenched - The fire that shall consume them shall burn perpetually. This image is taken evidently from the fires kindled, especially in the valley of Hinnom, to consume puffed and decaying substances. That was a valley on the south side of Jerusalem, into which the filth of the city was thrown. It was the place where, formerly, an image of brass was raised to Moloch, and where children were offered in sacrifice 2 Kings 16:3; 2 Chronicles 28:3. See a description of this in the notes at Matthew 5:22. This place was subsequently regarded as a place of special abomination by the Jews. The filth of the city was thrown there, and it became extremely offensive. The air was polluted and pestilential; the sight was terrific; and to preserve it in any manner pure, it was necessary to keep fires continually burning there. The extreme loathsomeness of the place, the filth and putrefaction, the corruption of the atmosphere, and the lurid fires blazing by day and by night, made it subsequently one of the most appalling and loathsome objects with which a Jew was acquainted.

It was called the gehenna of fire, and was the image which the Saviour often employed to denote the future punishment of the wicked. In that deep and loathsome vale it seems to have been the common expectation of the Jews that some great battle would be fought which would establish the supremacy of their nation over all others. Hence, the Chaldee renders this, 'They shall go forth, and shall look upon the dead bodies of the sinners who have rebelled against my word; because their souls shall not die, and their fire shall not be extinguished; and the wicked shall be judged in Gehenna (בגיהנם begēyhı̂nâm from גי gay and הנם hinnôm, hence coming down into Greek as γέεννα geenna), until the righteous shall say, We have seen enough.' It is, however, by no means certain that Isaiah refers here especially to the valley of Hinnom. The image in his mind is evidently that of a vast army slain, and left to putrify on the field unburied, and where fires would be kindled in part to consume the heaps of the slain, and in part to save the air from pestilential influences, All the enemies of God and his church would be like such a vast host strewed on the plains, and the perpetuity of his kingdom would be finally established.

And they shall be an abhorring - An object of loathing. So the Hebrew word דראון dêrâ'ôn, means. It is derived from דרא dârâ', an obsolete root, signifying, in Arabic, to thrust away, to repel. Jerome renders it, Ad satietatem visionis - understanding by it, that all flesh should look upon those dead bodies Until they were satisfied. The Septuagint, Εἰς ὅρασιν Eis horasin - 'For a vision;' or that all flesh might look upon them. It is evident that the Septuagint reads the word as if it were derived from the verb ראה râ'âh), "to see."

Unto all flesh - (See Isaiah 66:23). The sense is, that so entire would be their overthrow, and such objects of loathing would they become, that all the friends of God would turn from them in abhorrence. All the enemies of God would be destroyed; the pure religion would triumph, and the people of God would be secure.

It may be made a question, perhaps, to what period this refers. The Saviour Mark 9:44, Mark 9:46, applied the language to the future punishment of the wicked, and no one, I think, can doubt that in Isaiah it includes that consummation of worldly affairs. The radical and essential idea in the prophet is, as it seems to me, that such would be the entire overthrow and punishment of the enemies of God; so condign their punishment; so deep their sufferings; so loathsome and hateful would they be when visited with the divine vengeance for their sins, that they would be an object of loathing and abhorrence. They would be swept off as unworthy to live with God, and they would be consigned to punishment - loathsome like that of ever gnawing worms on the carcasses of the slain, and interminable and dreadful like everconsuming and extinguishable fires.

This is the consummation of the series of bright visions that passed before the mind of Isaiah, and is an appropriate termination of this succession of wonderful revelations. Where could it more appropriately close than in the final triumph of the true religion, and in the complete and final destruction of all the enemies of Gods. The vision stretches on to the judgment, and is closed by a contemplation of those scenes which commence there, but which never end. The church is triumphant. Its conflicts cease. Its foes are slain. Its Redeemer is revealed; and its everlasting happiness is founded on a basis which can never be shaken.

Here I close my labors in endeavoring to elucidate the visions of this wonderful prophet. I thank God - the source of every right feeling and every holy desire, and the suggester of every plan that will in any way elucidate his word or promote his glory - that he ever inclined my heart to these studies. I thank him for the preservation of my life, and the continuance of my health, until I am permitted to bring this work to a close. I record, with grateful emotions, my deep conviction, that if in any way I have been enabled to explain that which was before dark; to illustrate that which was obscure; or to present any views which have not before occurred to those who may peruse this work, it is owing to the gracious influences of his Holy Spirit. And I desire to render thanks to the Great Source of light and truth, if I have been enabled to throw any light on the prophecies recorded here more than 2500 years ago; or to confirm the faith of any in the truth of the inspiration of the Bible by tracing the evidences of the fulfillment of those predictions.

And I now commend the work to the blessing of God, and devote it to the glory of his name and to the advancement of the Redeemer's kingdom, with a humble prayer that it may be useful to other minds; but with the deep conviction, that whatever may be its effect on other minds, I have been abundantly compensated for all my labor in the contemplation of the inimitable beauties, and the sublime visions of Isaiah. thanks to God for this book; thanks for all its beauties, its consolations, its promises, its views of the Messiah, its predictions of the certain triumph of truth, and its glowing descriptions of the future conquest of the church, when God shall extend to it 'peace like a river, and the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream.' Come soon that blessed day, when 'the ransomed of the Lord shall return to Zion, with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads' Isaiah 35:10; when 'the wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad, and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose' Isaiah 35:1; and when it shall be announced to the church, 'thy sun shall no more go down; neither shall thy moon withdraw itself, for Yahweh shall be thine everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended' Isaiah 60:20.

May I be permitted to close my labors on this book in the beautiful language of Vitringa? 'These words Isaiah 66:23-24 express the final doom of the two opposite classes of people, the righteous and the wicked, when, after various preparatory judgments of God, the fates of all ages, and our own also, shall be determined; with which also this divine book of Isaiah itself is terminated.

Be it our lot, with those who are holy; with those who fear God and love the truth; with the humble, meek, and merciful, and with those who persevere in every good work to the end of life, from the gracious sentence of our great Lord, Saviour, and Judge, Jesus Christ, to obtain, by the will of the Father, the same portion with them. In which hope, I also, now deeply affected, and prostrate before his throne, give humble thanks to God the Father, and his Son Christ Jesus, through the Spirit, for the grace and light with which he has endowed me, his unworthy servant, in commencing and completing the commentary on this book; entreating, with earnest prayer, of his grace and mercy, that, pardoning those errors into which erroneously I may have fallen, he will employ this work, such as it is, to the glory of his name, the use of the church, and the consolation of his people; and to Him be the glory throughout all ages.'

24. go forth, and look—as the Israelites looked at the carcasses of the Egyptians destroyed at the Red Sea (Ex 14:30; compare Isa 26:14-19; Ps 58:10; 49:14; Mal 4:1-3).

carcasses, &c.—(Isa 66:16), those slain by the Lord in the last great battle near Jerusalem (Zec 12:2-9; 14:2-4); type of the final destruction of all sinners.

worm … not die—(Mr 9:44, 46, 48). Image of hell, from bodies left unburied in the valley of Hinnom (whence comes Gehenna, or "hell"), south of Jerusalem, where a perpetual fire was kept to consume the refuse thrown there (Isa 30:33). It shall not be inconsistent with true love for the godly to look with satisfaction on God's vengeance on the wicked (Re 14:10). May God bless this Commentary, and especially its solemn close, to His glory, and to the edification of the writer and the readers of it, for Jesus' sake!

Either the Gentiles, or the sincerer part of the Jews, shall go forth from their places, or from Jerusalem, or

go out of their graves, at the last day, and look upon the vengeance I have taken upon these vile idolaters and formalists, for their satisfaction, Psalm 58:10; they shall see none of them alive, but they shall see their carcasses. For the worms that feed on their slain carcasses shall not suddenly die, and the enemy’s fire burning upon their habitations shall not go out till they be wholly consumed; and after this life, and at the day of judgment, they shall go into eternal torments; see Mark 9:44,46,48; where they will feel a worm of conscience that shall never die, and a fiery wrath of God upon their souls and bodies that shall never go out.

And they shall go forth,.... That is, those constant and spiritual worshippers shall go forth from the holy mountain Jerusalem, the church of God, whither they are brought as an offering to the Lord, and where they worship him; for this is not to be understood of going out of Jerusalem literally, as Aben Ezra and Kimchi; or of their going out of their graves after the resurrection, as others; but either out of the Christian assemblies, or out of the houses of the saints, and the beloved city, when fire shall come down from heaven, and destroy the wicked, Revelation 20:9,

and look upon the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against me. The Targum is,

"against my Word;''

against Christ, whose person they blasphemed, denying him to be God; whose office, as a Mediator and Saviour, they rejected; whose doctrines they contradicted; and whose ordinances they despised: these are not the carcasses of the camp of Gog and Magog, the Jews so call, as Kimchi interprets it; though it may have reference to the carcasses of Gog's army, the Turks, that will be slain in their attempt to recover Judea, Ezekiel 38:1 or else the carcasses of those that will be slain at the battle at Armageddon, Revelation 16:16 or the army of Gog and Magog, at the end of the thousand years, Revelation 20:8. The Talmudists (t) observe from hence, that the wicked, even at the gate of hell, return not by repentance; for it is not said, that "have transgressed", but "that transgress"; for they transgress, and go on for ever; and so indeed the word may be rendered, "that transgress", or "are transgressing" (u); for they interpret it of the damned in hell, as many do; and of whom the following clauses may be understood:

for their worm shall not die; with which their carcasses shall be covered, they lying rotting above ground; or figuratively their consciences, and the horrors and terrors that shall seize them, which they will never get rid of. The Targum is,

"their souls shall not die;''

as they will not, though their bodies may; but will remain to suffer the wrath of God to all eternity: neither shall their fire be quenched; in hell, as Jarchi interprets it; those wicked men, the followers and worshippers of antichrist, will be cast into the lake which burns with fire and brimstone; they will for ever suffer the vengeance of eternal fire; and the smoke of their torment shall ascend for ever and ever, Revelation 14:10,

and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh; the true worshippers of God, Isaiah 66:23 to whom their carcasses will be loathsome, when they look upon them; and their souls abominable, because of their wicked actions; and who cannot but applaud the justice of God in their condemnation; and admire distinguishing grace and mercy, that has preserved them from the like ruin and destruction. The Targum is,

"and the ungodly shall be judged in hell, till the righteous shall say concerning them, we have seen enough;''

see Mark 9:44, where our Lord mentions and repeats some of the clauses of this, text, and applies them to the torments of hell.

(t) T. Bab. Erubim, fol. 19. 1. R. Hona in Midrash Tillim in Psal. i. 6. (u) "praevaricantium in me", Pagninus, Montanus; "qui transgressi sunt contra me", Piscator; "deficientium a me", Cocceius.

And they shall go forth, and look upon the {k} carcases of the men that have transgressed against me: for their {l} worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorrence {m} to all flesh.

(k) As he who declared the happiness that will be within the Church for the comfort of the godly, so does he show what horrible calamity will come to the wicked, that are out of the Church.

(l) Meaning, a continual torment of conscience, which will always gnaw them, and never permit them to be at rest, Mr 9:44.

(m) This is the just recompense for the wicked, who contemning God and his word, will be by God's just judgments abhorred by all his creatures.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
24. And they (the worshippers) shall go forth] to some place in the vicinity of Jerusalem, no doubt the Valley of Hinnom, Nehemiah 11:30; cf. Joshua 15:8; Joshua 18:16; 2 Chronicles 28:3; Jeremiah 7:32; 2 Kings 23:10. (See below.)

the men that rebelled against me] The apostates so often referred to in the last two chapters.

for their worm shall not die, &c.] (see below) Jdt 16:17; Sir 7:17; Mark 9:44 ff.

an abhorring] The Hebrew word (dçrâ’ôn) occurs again only in Daniel 12:2.

This verse is the basis of the later Jewish conception of Gehenna as the place of everlasting punishment (see Salmond, Christian Doctrine of Immortality, pp. 355–360). Gehenna is the Hebrew Gê-Hinnôm (Valley of Hinnom), the place where of old human sacrifices were offered to Molech (Jeremiah 7:31 f., et passim), and for this reason desecrated by king Josiah (2 Kings 23:10). Afterwards it became a receptacle for filth and refuse, and Rabbinical tradition asserts that it was the custom to cast out unclean corpses there, to be burned or to undergo decomposition. This is in all probability the scene which had imprinted itself on the imagination of the writer, and which was afterwards projected into the unseen world as an image of endless retribution. The Talmudic theology locates the mouth of hell in the Valley of Hinnom. But how much of the later theology lies in this passage it is difficult to say. Nothing is expressly said of torment endured by the dead, but only of the loathsome spectacle they present to the living; although the former idea may be implied and is suggested by a comparison with ch. Isaiah 50:11. “If this passage is of too early a date, as Dillmann thinks, to admit of a reference to the horrors of the Valley of Gehinnom, the double figure of the worm and the fire may be due to the two ways of disposing of the dead, by interment and by cremation. The immediate object of the description of the worm as never dying and the fire as never being quenched, appears to be to mark the destination of those men as a perpetual witness to the consuming judgements of God, and one which all flesh may see. The incongruity of the idea of a fire burning a dead body and never going out, is supposed, however, to point to something more.… It may be that the dead body is poetically conceived to be conscious of the pains of the worm and the fire, as Dillmann supposes [cf. Job 14:22]. But even that goes beyond the immediate object, which is to present the men in question as a perpetual spectacle of shame to all beholders” (Salmond, l.c. p. 212). The view thus expressed is reasonable if the passage was written by the author of the preceding chapters. But there is much to be said for the opinion (of Duhm and Cheyne) that the last two verses are an appendix to the prophecy, written at a later time, so that the language may to some extent be saturated with the ideas which were afterwards associated with the word Gehenna.

In Heb. Bibles and MSS. part of Isaiah 66:23 is repeated (without the vowel signs) after Isaiah 66:24, in accordance with a Massoretic direction, so that the reading in the Synagogue might” close with words of comfort.” The same practice was followed in the reading of the “Twelve” (Minor) Prophets, Lamentations, and Ecclesiastes. see Ginsburg’s Introduction, p. 850.

Verse 24. - And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases, etc. Here is more imagery, which it is impossible to understand literally. The carcases could not remain always to be looked at, nor while they remained could the sight of them be otherwise than loathsome to God's redeemed saints. Again, they could not be at the same time burnt with fire and eaten by worms. "The prophet, by the very mode of description adopted by him, precludes the possibility of our conceiving of the thing set forth as realized in any material form in this present state. He is speaking of the future state, but in figures drawn from the present world" (Delitzsch). Does he mean more than this - that the redeemed shall have in their thoughts, at any rate from time to time, the fact that, while they have by God's great mercy been saved and brought into His kingdom, there are those who have not been saved, but lie for ever under the awful sentence of God's wrath? This is a knowledge which the redeemed must have, and which may well produce a salutary effect on them, intensifying their gratitude and maintaining in them a spirit of reverent fear. Their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched (comp. Mark 9:44, 46, 48). It cannot be by chance that the evangelical prophet concludes his glorious prophecy with this terrible note of warning. Either he was divinely directed thus to terminate his teaching, or he felt the need that there was of his emphasizing all the many warnings dispersed throughout his "book" by a final, never-to-be-forgotten picture. The undying worm and the quenchless fire - images introduced by him - became appropriated thenceforth to the final condition of impenitent sinners (Jud. 16:17; Ecclus. 7:17), and were even adopted by our Lord himself in the same connection (Mark 9.). The incongruity of the two images shows that they are not to be understood literally; but both alike imply everlasting continuance, and are incompatible with either of the two modern heresies of universalism or annihilationism. They shall be an abhorring unto all flesh (comp. Daniel 12:2, where the word deraon is rendered "contempt"). The Jewish rabbis regarded it as anomalous that any portion of Scripture should conclude with words of ill omen. When, therefore, this chapter was read in the synagogue, or the last of Ecclesiastes, or Lamentations, or Malachi, they directed that after the reading of the last verse, the last verse but one should he repeated, to correct the sad impression that would otherwise have been left upon the mind. But Isaiah thought it salutary to leave this sad impression (comp. Isaiah 48:22; Isaiah 57:21).



Isaiah 66:24They who go on pilgrimage to Jerusalem every new moon and Sabbath, see there with their own eyes the terrible punishment of the rebellious. "And they go out and look at the corpses of the men that have rebelled against me, for their worm will not die and their fire will not be quenched, and they become an abomination to all flesh." They perfects are perf. cons. regulated by the foregoing יבוא. ויצאוּ (accented with pashta in our editions, but more correctly with munach) refers to their going out of the holy city. The prophet had predicted in Isaiah 66:18, that in the last times the whole multitude of the enemies of Jerusalem would be crowded together against it, in the hope of getting possession of it. This accounts for the fact that the neighbourhood of Jerusalem becomes such a scene of divine judgment. בּ ראה always denotes a fixed, lingering look directed to any object; here it is connected with the grateful feeling of satisfaction at the righteous acts of God and their own gracious deliverance. דראון, which only occurs again in Daniel 12:2, is the strongest word for "abomination." It is very difficult to imagine the picture which floated before the prophet's mind. How is it possible that all flesh, i.e., all men of all nations, should find room in Jerusalem and the temple? Even if the city and temple should be enlarged, as Ezekiel and Zechariah predict, the thing itself still remains inconceivable. And again, how can corpses be eaten by worms at the same time as they are being burned, or how can they be the endless prey of worms and fire without disappearing altogether from the sight of man? It is perfectly obvious, that the thing itself, as here described, must appear monstrous and inconceivable, however we may suppose it to be realized. The prophet, by the very mode of description adopted by him, precludes the possibility of our conceiving of the thing here set forth as realized in any material form in this present state. He is speaking of the future state, but in figures drawn from the present world. The object of his prediction is no other than the new Jerusalem of the world to come, and the eternal torment of the damned; but the way in which he pictures it, forces us to translate it out of the figures drawn from this life into the realities of the life to come; as has already been done in the apocryphal books of Judith (16:17) and Wisdom (7:17), as well as in the New Testament, e.g., Mark 9:43., with evident reference to this passage. This is just the distinction between the Old Testament and the New, that the Old Testament brings down the life to come to the level of this life, whilst the New Testament lifts up this life to the level of the life to come; that the Old Testament depicts both this life and the life to come as an endless extension of this life, whilst the New Testament depicts is as a continuous line in two halves, the last point in this finite state being the first point of the infinite state beyond; that the Old Testament preserves the continuity of this life and the life to come by transferring the outer side, the form, the appearance of this life to the life to come, the New Testament by making the inner side, the nature, the reality of the life to come, the δυνάμεις με λλοντος αἰῶνος, immanent in this life. The new Jerusalem of our prophet has indeed a new heaven above it and a new earth under it, but it is only the old Jerusalem of earth lifted up to its highest glory and happiness; whereas the new Jerusalem of the Apocalypse comes down from heaven, and is therefore of heavenly nature. In the former dwells the Israel that has been brought back from captivity; in the latter, the risen church of those who are written in the book of life. And whilst our prophet transfers the place in which the rebellious are judged to the neighbourhood of Jerusalem itself; in the Apocalypse, the lake of fire in which the life of the ungodly is consumed, and the abode of God with men, are for ever separated. The Hinnom-valley outside Jerusalem has become Gehenna, and this is no longer within the precincts of the new Jerusalem, because there is no need of any such example to the righteous who are for ever perfect.

In the lessons prepared for the synagogue Isaiah 66:23 is repeated after Isaiah 66:24, on account of the terrible character of the latter, "so as to close with words of consolation."

(Note: Isaiah is therefore regarded as an exception to the rule, that the prophets close their orations ותנחומים שבח בדברי (b. Berachoth 31a), although, on the other hand, this exception is denied by some, on the ground that the words "they shall be an abhorring" apply to the Gentiles (j. Berachoth c. V. Anf. Midras Tillim on Psalm 4:8).)

But the prophet, who has sealed the first two sections of these prophetic orations with the words, "there is no peace to the wicked," intentionally closes the third section with this terrible picture of their want of peace. The promises have gradually soared into the clear light of the eternal glory, to the new creation in eternity; and the threatenings have sunk down to the depth of eternal torment, which is the eternal foil of the eternal light. More than this we could not expect from our prophet. His threefold book is now concluded. It consists of twenty-seven orations. The central one of the whole, i.e., the fourteenth, is Isaiah 52:13-53:12; so that the cross forms the centre of this prophetic trilogy. Per crucem ad lucem is its watchword. The self-sacrifice of the Servant of Jehovah lays the foundation for a new Israel, a new human race, a new heaven and a new earth.

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