Isaiah 66:9
Shall I bring to the birth, and not cause to bring forth? said the LORD: shall I cause to bring forth, and shut the womb? said your God.
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(9) Shall I bring to the birth . . .—The implied thought is that God will not leave His work of national restoration unfinished. There shall not be that frustration of hopes when they seem just on the point of being fulfilled which the history of the world so often records. (Comp. Isaiah 37:3.)

Isaiah 66:9. Shall I bring to the birth — Shall I disappoint and render abortive a design of which I myself was the author, when every thing is ripe for execution, and the effect just ready to be produced? Shall I begin a work and not perfect it? Shall I cause to bring forth, and shut the womb — That there should not be a continual succession of converts in all ages? Zion shall not bring forth once only, but she shall continue to be fruitful: her womb shall not be shut: she shall every day bring forth more and more children, and my presence shall be with my church to the end of the world. Thus the prophet still carries on the comparison between the natural and the spiritual birth.66:5-14 The prophet turns to those that trembled at God's word, to comfort and encourage them. The Lord will appear, to the joy of the humble believer, and to the confusion of hypocrites and persecutors. When the Spirit was poured out, and the gospel went forth from Zion, multitudes were converted in a little time. The word of God, especially his promises, and ordinances, are the consolations of the church. The true happiness of all Christians is increased by every convert brought to Christ. The gospel brings with it, wherever it is received in its power, such a river of peace, as will carry us to the ocean of boundless and endless bliss. Divine comforts reach the inward man; the joy of the Lord will be the strength of the believer. Both God's mercy and justice shall be manifested, and for ever magnified.Shall I bring to the birth? - The sense of this verse is plain. It is, that God would certainly accomplish what he had here predicted, and for which he had made ample arrangements and preparations. He would not commence the work, and then abandon it. The figure which is used here is obvious; but one which does not render very ample illustration proper. Jarchi has well expressed it: 'Num ego adducerem uxorem meam ad sellam partus, sc. ad partitudinem, et non aperirem uterum ejus, ut foetum suum in lucem produceret? Quasi diceret; an ego incipiam rem nec possim eam perficere?'

Shall I cause to bring forth? - Lowth and Noyes render this, 'Shall I, who begat, restrain the birth?' This accurately expresses the idea. The meaning of the whole is, that God designed the great and sudden increase of his church; that the plan was long laid; and that, having done this, he would not abandon it, but would certainly effect his designs.

9. cause to bring forth, and shut—rather, "Shall I who beget, restrain the birth?" [Lowth], (Isa 37:3; Ho 13:13); that is, Shall I who have begun, not finish My work of restoring Israel? (1Sa 3:12; Ro 11:1; Php 1:6).

shut—(compare Re 3:7, 8).

The work before spoken of seemeth not after the manner of men, who do things that are great gradually, nor in an ordinary course of nature, whose motions also bring things by degrees to their perfection; but you must consider who it is that speaketh,

saith the Lord; now as is the God, so is his strength. Again, men may undertake things, and for want of power not bring them to perfection; but shall I do such a thing? I have by many prophecies and promises secured you in the expectation of such a thing, and shall I not by my providence effect it? I, that in the ordinary course of my providence use to give a birth to women, to whom I have given a power to conceive, shall I not give a birth to Zion, to my people, whom by my prophecies and promises I have made to conceive such hopes and expectations? Nor shall Zion once only bring forth, but she shall go on teeming; her womb shall not be shut, she shall every day bring forth more and more children; my presence shall be with my church to that end, to the end of the world. Shall I bring to the birth, and not cause to bring forth, saith the Lord?.... Or, "to the place of breaking" forth of children, as in Hosea 13:13, the womb, and the mouth of it: or, "shall I break or open" that, so some (s) render it; lest too much should or seem to be attributed to the Church, she being said to travail in birth, and bring forth children, this is said by the Lord. The church may pray, and her ministers preach, and both be said to travail in birth, but it is the Lord that brings to it; regeneration is not the work of man, but of God; it is he that beget, again, quickens, renews, and sanctifies; it is he that begins the work of grace in regeneration, in real and thorough convictions of sin; which are right when men are convinced of the impurity of their nature, the exceeding sinfulness of sin, have a godly sorrow for it, and forsake it: the work is begun when souls feel the burden of sin; the inward struggling, of grace and corruption; a want of spiritual food, and hunger after it; desires after spiritual things, and a glowing love and affection for them; and when light is infused, faith, fear, and love produced, and every other grace implanted; and he that has begun the good work will perform it; as Jarchi rightly gives the sense of the clause,

"shall I begin a thing, and not be able to finish it?''

no, he is a rock, and his work is perfect, as in creation and redemption, so in regeneration and conversion; as may be concluded, from his power to effect it, and his promise to do it; the grace of Christ, and the indwelling of the Spirit; the impotency of everything to hinder it, and the glory of the three divine Persons concerned in it. As in the natural birth it is he that gives strength to conceive, forms the embryo in the womb, ripens it for the birth, and takes the child out of its mother's womb; so he does all that answers hereunto in the spiritual birth.

Shall I cause to bring forth, and shut the womb, saith thy God? no, I will not. As God has regenerated many souls in the first times of the Gospel, and many more since, in various nations, in each of the ages and periods of time; so he has not ceased, nor will he cease from this work, until all his elect are born again; for everyone that is chosen of the Father, given to the Son, taken into covenant, and redeemed by his blood, shall be begotten again to a lively hope of a glorious inheritance; God will not shut the womb of conversion until they are all brought to faith in Christ, and repentance towards God. He will beget many more sons and daughters; and he will cause the fulness of the Gentiles to be brought forth and brought in, and convert his ancient people the Jews; all his promises shall be performed, and all prophecies relating to these things shall be accomplished.

(s) "matricem frangam?" Montanus; "an ego aperirem os matricis?" Junius & Tremellius, Piscator.

Shall I {k} bring to the birth, and not cause to bring forth? saith the LORD: shall I cause to bring forth, and shut the womb? saith thy God.

(k) Declaring by this that as by his power and providence women travailed and delivered so he gives power to bring forth the Church at his appointed time.

9. Comp. ch. Isaiah 37:3; “the children are come to the birth, and there is not strength to bring forth.” But in this crisis Jehovah Himself is present, and what He begins He will carry on to its marvellous issue.

The second half of the verse should be rendered as in R.V. shall I that cause to bring forth shut the womb? &c.Verse 9. - Shall I bring to the birth, etc.? i.e. "Should I arrange all the preliminary circumstances for the restoration of my people, and stop there?" (Cheyne). Nay, should I, having done so much, interpose at the last moment, to shut the womb? Without such interposition, matters have progressed so far, that the result must come. Although 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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