Isaiah 66:3
He that kills an ox is as if he slew a man; he that sacrifices a lamb, as if he cut off a dog's neck; he that offers an oblation, as if he offered swine's blood; he that burns incense, as if he blessed an idol. Yes, they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delights in their abominations.
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(3) He that killeth an ox . . .—The truth of the previous verse is emphasised by iteration, each clause presenting a distinct illustration of it. Chapter Isaiah 65:3-11 had pointed to tendencies, not yet extinct, which led to open apostasy. Now the prophet declares that there may be as real an apostasy beneath an orthodox creed and an irreproachable ritual. Each act of the hypocrite’s worship is as an idolatrous abomination.

Isaiah 66:3. He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man — Without this humble and devout temper of mind, killing an ox for a burnt-offering is no more acceptable to God than if a man offered his son in sacrifice to Moloch. “God here shows that the external ritual worship, offered to him by hypocrites and wicked persons, void of faith and virtue, was no more estimable in his sight than the material temple above spoken of; but that he was as much offended by the ritual worship of the impure, as by the most grievous crimes perpetrated against the immediate commands of the law, and particularly under the new economy, after the promulgation of the law of liberty, and the perfect and true sacrifice offered by Christ to expiate the sins of the world. The declaration is most important, but will not be understood unless by those who are well acquainted with the interior part of religion.” See Vitringa. Solomon, it may be observed, gives (Proverbs 15:8) a short but full commentary on the whole verse: The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord. He that sacrificeth a lamb as if he cut off a dog’s neck — Namely, in order to sacrifice it. This animal was held in the greatest abhorrence by the Jews, insomuch that the very price of a dog was forbidden to be brought into the house of the Lord, Deuteronomy 23:18. The comparison shows God’s detestation of ceremonial performances from persons destitute of true piety. He that offereth, &c., as if he offered swine’s blood — Which, being one of the principal sacrifices which the heathen offered to their idols, was in a particular manner abominable to God. He that burneth incense as if he blessed an idol — As if he honoured an idol with gifts and presents. From hence it is plain that the prophet is not here reflecting upon idolatrous worship, but formal worship; for to say, He that burneth incense to an idol is as he that blesseth an idol, would be only to say, He that blesseth an idol, blesseth an idol; that is, it would be saying nothing. But he is reflecting upon those who, in a formal way, and not in spirit and in truth, worshipped the true God, and by acts which he had appointed. God, by the prophet, declares that these men’s services were no more acceptable to him than murder, idolatry, or the most horrid profanation of his name. Yea, they have chosen their own ways — They live as they list; they persist in their wicked practices, and yet expect to recommend themselves to my favour by their ceremonial observances. And their soul delighteth in their abominations — Taking pleasure in their sins, and showing their contempt of my authority and enmity to my holiness, as much as their fathers did when they were mad upon their idols.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.He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man - Lowth and Noyes render this, 'He that slayeth an ox, killeth a man.' This is a literal translation of the Hebrew. Jerome renders it, 'He who sacrifices an ox is as if (quasi) he slew a man.' The Septuagint, in a very free translation - such as is common in their version of Isaiah - render it, 'The wicked man who sacrifices a calf, is as he who kills a dog; and he who offers to me fine flour, it is as the blood of swine.' Lowth supposes the sense to be, that the most flagitious crimes were united with hypocrisy, and that they who were guilty of the most extreme acts of wickedness at the same time affected great strictness in the performance of all the external duties of religion. An instance of this, he says, is referred to by Ezekiel, where he says, 'When they had slain their children to their idols, then they came the same day into my sanctuary to profane it' Ezekiel 23:39.

There can be no doubt that such offences were often committed by those who were very strict and zealous in their religious services (compare Isaiah 1:11-14, with Isaiah 66:21-23. But the generality of interpreters have supposed that a different sense was to be affixed to this passage. According to their views, the particles as if are to be supplied; and the sense is, not that the mere killing of an ox is as sinful in the sight of God as deliberate murder, but that he who did it in the circumstances, and with the spirit referred to, evinced a spirit as odious in his sight as though he had slain a man. So the Septuagint, Vulgate, Chaldee, Symmachus, and Theodotion, Junius, and Tremellius, Grotius, and Rosenmuller, understand it. There is probably an allusion to the fact that human victims were offered by the pagan; and the sense is, that the sacrifices here referred to were no more acceptable in the sight of God than they were.

The prophet here refers, probably, first, to the spirit with which this was done. Their sacrifices were offered with a temper of mind as offensive to God as if a man had been slain, and they had been guilty of murder. They were proud, vain, and hypocritical. 'They had forgotten the true nature and design of sacrifice, and such worship could not but be an abhorrence in the sight of God. Secondly, It may also be implied here, that the period was coming when all sacrifices would be unacceptable to God. When the Messiah should have come; when he should have made by one offering a sufficent atonement for the sins of the whole world; then all bloody sacrifices would be needless, and would be offensive in the sight of God. The sacrifice of an ox would be no more acceptable than the sacrifice of a man; and all offerings with a view to propitiate the divine favor, or that implied that there was a deficiency in the merit of the one great atoning sacrifice, would be odious to God.

He that sacrificeth a lamb - Margin, 'Kid' The Hebrew word (שׂה s'eh) may refer to one of a flock, either of sheep or goats Genesis 22:7-8; Genesis 30:32. Where the species is to be distinguished, it is usually specified, as, e. g., Deuteronomy 14:4, כשׂבים שׂה עזים ושׂה ves'ēh ‛ı̂zzym s'ēh kı̂s'âbı̂ym (one of the sheep and one of the goats). Both were used in sacrifice.

As if he cut off a dog's neck - That is, as if he had cut off a dog's neck for sacrifice. To offer a dog in sacrifice would have been abominable in the view of a Jew. Even the price for which he was sold was not permitted to be brought into the house of God for a vow (Deuteronomy 23:18; compare 1 Samuel 17:43; 1 Samuel 24:14). The dog was held in veneration by many of the pagan, and was even offered in sacrifice; and it was, doubtless, partly in view of this fact, and especially of the fact that such veneration was shown for it in Egypt, that it was an object of such detestation among the Jews. Thus Juvenal, Sat. xiv. says:

Oppida tota canem venerantur, nemo Dianam.

'Every city worships the dog; none worship Diana.' Diodorus (B. i.) says, 'Certain animals the Egyptians greatly venerate (σέβονται sebontai), not only when alive, but when they are dead, as cats, ichneumons, mice, and dogs.' Herodotus says also of the Egyptians, 'In some cities, when a cat dies all the inhabitants cut off their eyebrows; when a dog dies, they shave the whole body and the head.' In Samothracia there was a cave in which dogs were sacrificed to Hecate. Plutarch says, that all the Greeks sacrificed the dog. The fact that dogs were offered in sacrifice by the pagan is abundantly proved by Bochart (Hieroz. i. 2. 56). No kind of sacrifice could have been regarded with higher detestation by a pious Jew. But God here says, that the spirit with which they sacrificed a goat or a lamb was as hateful in his sight as would be the sacrifice of a dog: or that the time would come when, the great sacrifice for sin having been made, and the necessity for all other sacrifice having ceased, the offering of a lamb or a goat for the expiation of sin would be as offensive to him as would be the sacrifice of a dog.

He that offereth an oblation - On the word rendered here 'oblation' (מנחה minchāh). See the notes at Isaiah 1:13.

As if he offered swine's blood - The sacrifice of a hog was an abomination in the sight of the Hebrews (see the notes at Isaiah 65:4). Yet here it is said that the offering of the מנחה minchāh, in the spirit in which they would do it, was as offensive to God as would be the pouring out of the blood of the swine on the altar, Nothing could more emphatically express the detestation of God for the spirit with which they would make their offerings, or the fact that the time would come when all such modes of worship would be offensive in his sight.

He that burneth incense - See the word 'incense' explained in the notes at Isaiah 1:13. The margin here is, 'Maketh a memorial of.' Such is the usual meaning of the word used here (זכר zâkar), meaning to remember, and in Hiphil to cause to remember, or to make a memorial. Such is its meaning here. incense was burned as a memorial or a remembrance-offering; that is, to keep up the remembrance of God on the earth by public worship (see the notes at Isaiah 62:6).

As if he blessed an idol - The spirit with which incense would be offered would be as offensive as idolatry. The sentiment in all this is, that the most regular and formal acts of worship where the heart is lacking, may be as offensive to God as the worst forms of crime, or the most gross and debasing idolatry. Such a spirit often characterized the Jewish people, and eminently prevailed at the time when the temple of Herod was nearly completed, and when the Saviour was about to appear.

3. God loathes even the sacrifices of the wicked (Isa 1:11; Pr 15:8; 28:9).

is as if—Lowth not so well omits these words: "He that killeth an ox (presently after) murders a man" (as in Eze 23:39). But the omission in the Hebrew of "is as if"—increases the force of the comparison. Human victims were often offered by the heathen.

dog's neck—an abomination according to the Jewish law (De 23:18); perhaps made so, because dogs were venerated in Egypt. He does not honor this abomination by using the word "sacrifice," but uses the degrading term, "cut off a dog's neck" (Ex 13:13; 34:20). Dogs as unclean are associated with swine (Mt 7:6; 2Pe 2:22).

oblation—unbloody: in antithesis to "swine's blood" (Isa 65:4).

burneth—Hebrew, "he who offereth as a memorial oblation" (Le 2:2).

they have chosen—opposed to the two first clauses of Isa 66:4: "as they have chosen their own ways, &c., so I will choose their delusions.

Solomon, Proverbs 15:8, gives us a short but full commentary on the whole verse, The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord. He that killeth an ox, that is, for sacrifice, as it is expounded by the next words, he that sacrificeth a lamb. The comparisons show God’s detestation of ceremonial performances from men of wicked hearts and lives. He that burneth incense, as if he blessed an idol: from hence it is plain that the prophet is not here reflecting upon idolatrous worship, but formal worship; for to say, he that burneth incense to an idol is as he that blesseth an idol, is but to say, he that blesseth an idol blesseth an idol; but upon those who in a formality worshipped the true God, and by acts which he had appointed, such were offering sacrifices, oblation, incense. God by the prophet declares that these men’s services were no more acceptable to him than murder, idolatry, or the most horrid profanation of his name. Such would cutting off a dog’s neck for sacrifice have been, or offering swine’s blood; so little do ritual performances, though instituted by God himself, please God, when they are but mere formalities, as they always are when those that perform them live as they list, lewd and loose lives, and think to save themselves by their prayers, like the whore, Proverbs 7:14,15; not only sinning by human frailty, but taking pleasure in their sins, Proverbs 15:26. To offer a sacrifice with a heart resolved (when it is offered) to go on in sinful courses, is to offer it with an evil mind. This is a dreadful text to those persons who will murder, and steal, and swear, and curse, and lie, and commit adultery, and then come and stand before God in his house, which is called by his name, that is, come to serve him in acts of worship, Leviticus 10:3; see Psalm 50:16-18 Isaiah 1:11-14 Jeremiah 7:9,10 Mt 7:21-23 John 4:24 1 Timothy 4:8. He that killeth an ox, is as if he slew a man,.... Not that killed the ox of his neighbour, which, according to law, he was to pay for; or that killed one for food, which was lawful to be done; but that slew one, and offered it as a sacrifice; not blamed because blind or lame, or had any blemish in it, and so unfit for sacrifice; or because not rightly offered, under a due sense of sin, and with repentance for it, and faith in Christ; but because all sacrifices of this kind are now abolished in Gospel times, to which this prophecy belongs; Christ the great sacrifice being offered up; and therefore to offer sacrifice, which, notwithstanding the unbelieving Jews continued daily, till it was made to cease by the destruction of their temple, was a great offence to God; it was as grievous to him as offering their children to Moloch; or as the murder of a man; and was indeed a trampling under foot the Son of God, and accounting his blood and sacrifice as nothing, which was highly displeasing to God:

he that sacrificeth a lamb, as if he cut off a dog's neck; the lamb for the daily sacrifice, morning and evening, or the passover lamb, or any other: this now is no more acceptable to God, than if a dog, a very impure creature, was slain, his head cut off, and offered on the altar; which was so abominable to the Lord, that the price of one might not be brought into his house, Deuteronomy 23:18,

he that offereth an oblation, as if he offered swine's blood; the meat offering, made of fine flour, on which oil was poured, and frankincense put, Leviticus 2:1, however rightly composed it might be, and offered according to law, yet now of no more esteem with God than blood, which was forbidden by the same law; nay, than the blood of swine, which creature itself, according to the ceremonial law, was unclean, and might not be eaten, and much less be offered up, and still less its blood, Leviticus 11:7,

and he that burneth incense, as if he blessed an idol; or that "remembers incense" (p); that offers it as a memorial of mercies, and by way of thankfulness for them, as if he gave thanks to an idol, which is nothing, and vanity and vexation in the world; sacrifices of such kind, be they what they will, are reckoned no other than as idolatry and will worship:

yea, they have chosen their own ways: which were evil, and opposite to the ways of God, especially to the way of salvation by Christ; they gave heed to the traditions of the elders; continued the service of the ceremonial law; and set up their own righteousness, in opposition to the doctrines, ordinances, sacrifice, and righteousness of Christ:

and their soul delighteth in their abominations: things which were abominable unto God; as were their traditions, which were preferred to the word of God, and by which they made it void; and their sacrifices being offered up contrary to his will, and with a wicked mind; and their righteousness being imperfect, and trusted in, to the neglect and contempt of the righteousness of his Son.

(p) , , Sept.; "qui recordatur thuris", V. L. Calvin, Vatablus; "memorans thus", Montanus.

He that killeth an ox is as if he {d} slew a man; he that sacrificeth a lamb, as if he cut off a dog's neck; he that offereth an oblation, as if he offered swine's blood; he that burneth incense, as if he blessed an idol. Yea, they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delighteth in their abominations.

(d) Because the Jews thought themselves holy by offering their sacrifices, and in the mean season had neither faith or repentance, God shows that he no less detests these ceremonies than he does the sacrifices of the heathen, who offered men, dogs and swine to their idols, which things were expressly forbidden in the law.

3. The first part of the verse runs literally thus: “The slaughterer of the ox, a slayer of a man; the sacrificer of the sheep, a breaker of a dog’s neck; the offerer of an oblation,—swine’s blood; the maker of a memorial of incense, one that blesseth vanity (i.e. an idol)”;—four legitimate sacrificial acts being bracketed with four detestable idolatrous rites. The first member of each pair is probably to be taken as subj., the second as pred., of a sentence. But this leaves open a choice between two interpretations. (a) That the legal sacrificial action is as hateful in the sight of God as the idolatrous rite, so long as it is performed by unspiritual worshippers. (b) That he who does the first series of actions does also the second, i.e. combines the service of Jehovah with the most hateful idolatries. It is extremely difficult to decide which is the true sense. The words “as if” in E.V. are of course supplied by the translators, but the rendering is a perfectly fair one. The one fact that favours the second explanation (b) is that the latter part of the verse speaks of those who “delight in their abominations.” Unless there be a complete break in the middle of the verse, which is unlikely, this would seem to imply that the abominations enumerated were actually practised by certain persons, who at the same time claimed to be worshippers of Jehovah. Cf. Isaiah 66:17, Isaiah 65:3-5, Isaiah 57:3-9.

as if he slew a man] The reference may be either to murder merely or to human sacrifice; most probably the latter, since every other member of the sentence expresses a religious act. That human sacrifice was actually perpetrated by those spoken of may be safely inferred from ch. Isaiah 57:5.

breaketh a dog’s neck] “This sacrifice … seems … to be alluded to as a Punic rite in Justin xviii. 1. 10, where we read that Darius sent a message to the Carthaginians forbidding them to sacrifice human victims and to eat the flesh of dogs: in the connexion a religious meal must be understood.” (W. R. Smith, Rel. of the Semites2, p. 291.) The whole paragraph should be consulted for other important references to the sacredness of the dog amongst the Semites. See also the note in Cheyne’s Commentary.

he that offereth an oblation (see on ch. Isaiah 1:13) (offereth) swine’s blood] See on ch. Isaiah 65:4.

burneth incense] R.V. marg. maketh a memorial of incense. The Hebr. verb (hizkîr) is connected with ’azkârâh, the technical name of the part of the meal offering which had to be burned with incense on the altar (cf. Leviticus 2:2; Leviticus 24:7).

blesseth an idol] Lit. “vanity,” but the rendering rightly expresses the sense; cf. ch. Isaiah 41:29.

Yea, they have chosen &c.] These clauses form the protasis to (Isaiah 66:4. Render: As they have chosen … (Isaiah 66:4) so will I choose &c.

I also will choose] with the same shade of meaning as in Isaiah 66:3 (“will find satisfaction in”). “The Orientals are fond of such antitheses” (Gesenius).Verse 3. - He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man; literally, is a manslayer. The full meaning seems to be, "He that, not being of a poor and contrite spirit, would offer me an ox in sacrifice, is as little pleasing to me as a murderer." Sacrifice, without the true spirit of sacrifice, is an abomination (comp. Isaiah 1:11, "To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the Lord," etc.). There, however, the sacrifices are actually offered; here they are hypothetical. The ungodly exiles design to offer sacrifice to God in his temple, when they have rebuilt it (ver. 1). God rejects their offerings by anticipation. As if he out off a dog's neck; i.e." would no more please me by the sacrifice than if he were to make an offering of the unclean dog." (On the uncleanness of the dog, see Deuteronomy 23:18.) He that offereth an oblation; or, a meat offering (see Leviticus 2:1-15). He that burneth incense. With his meat offering, as directed in Leviticus 2:1, 2. Such a one is no better than he that blesseth (i.e. worships) an idol. It may be suspected that the ritual acts selected for comparison with those of the Levitical law are practices to which the exiles were given (comp. Isaiah 65:3, 4). Yea, they have chosen, etc.; rather, as they haw chosen. The clause stands over against the first clause of ver. 4, "As they (gain hemmah) have chosen their ways, so I (gain ani) have chosen their delusions." In the place of the threatened curses of the law in Leviticus 26:16 (cf., Deuteronomy 28:30), the very opposite will now receive their fullest realization. "And they will build houses and inhabit them, and plant vineyards and enjoy the fruit thereof. They will not build and another inhabit, nor plant and another enjoy; for like the days of trees are the days of my people, ad my chosen ones will consume the work of their hands. They will not weary themselves in vain, nor bring forth for sudden disaster; for they are a family of the blessed of Jehovah, and their offspring are left to them." They themselves will enjoy what they have worked for, without some one else stepping in, whether a countryman by violence or inheritance, or a foreigner by plunder or conquest (Isaiah 62:8), to take possession of that which they have built and planted (read יטעוּ without dagesh); for the duration of their life will be as great as that of trees (i.e., of oaks, terebinths, and cedars, which live for centuries), and thus they will be able thoroughly to enjoy in their own person what their hands have made. Billâh does not mean merely to use and enjoy, but to use up and consume. Work and generation will be blessed then, and there will be no more disappointed hopes. They will not weary themselves (יגעוּ with a preformative י without that of the root) for failure, not get children labbehâlâh, i.e., for some calamity to fall suddenly upon them and carry them away (Leviticus 26:16, cf., Psalm 78:33). The primary idea of bâhal is either acting, permitting, or bearing, with the characteristic of being let loose, of suddenness, of overthrow, or of throwing into confusion. The lxx renders it εἰς κατάραν, probably according to the Egypto-Jewish usage, in which behâlâh may have signified cursing, like bahle, buhle in the Arabic (see the Appendices). The two clauses of the explanation which follows stand in a reciprocal relation to the two clauses of the previous promise. They are a family of the blessed of God, upon whose labour the blessing of God rests, and their offspring are with them, without being lost to them by premature death. This is the true meaning, as in Job 21:8, and not "their offspring with them," i.e., in like manner, as Hitzig supposes.
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