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Isaiah 65

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
A Rebellious People The Righteousness of God's Judgment God's Answer God's Punishment of the Rebellious The Coming Judgment
65:1-7  (1-7) 65:1-7  (1-7) 65:1-16  (1-16) 65:1-5 65:1-7  (1-7)  
      65:6-7  
65:8-12  (8-12) 65:8-12  (8-12)   65:8-10 65:8-25  (8-25)
      65:11-16  
65:13-16  (13-16) 65:13-16  (13-16)      
New Heaven and New Earth The Glorious New Creation   The New Creation  
65:17-25  (17-25) 65:17-19  (17-19) 65:17-25  (17-25) 65:17-25  
  65:20-23  (20-23)      
  65:24-25  (24-25)      

 

READING CYCLE THREE

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. These last two chapters are contained in a literary unit which runs from chapter 56 to chapter 66. It could be characterized as "A New Day" or "The New Age."

 

B. OT prophets used contemporary occurrences to foreshadow future events. The return of the exiles seems to be the foreshadowing of the spiritual return of all of God's human creation to an original Adamic fellowship of Eden (cf. Special Topic at 40:15).

 

C. Chapter 65 is possibly a response to Isaiah's corporate prayer for help and mercy which is recorded in 63:7-64:12. God's basic answer is that He has always been ready (cf. 55:6-7), but His people have always turned away from Him (v. 5).

 

D. It is quite interesting that Paul uses Isa. 65:1-2 in Rom. 10:20-21. Paul interprets v. 1 as referring to the Gentiles and v. 2 as referring to the Jews. In context they both seem to be related to the returning Judeans of Ezra's and Nehemiah's day. However, v. 1d, which contains the phrase, "to a nation which did not call on My name," could refer to the Jewish nation unless it is used in some kind of idolatrous, sarcastic, ironical way.

 

E. Chapter 65 is also unique in prophecy because it takes the concept of corporality into the area of individual response. The two groups can be clearly seen in 65:10c and 11a. God will make a distinction within the nation between those who know Him and those who reject Him (cf. Ezek. 18:1-21; 33:10-20; and Jer. 31:29-30.

 

F. Isaiah 65 culminates Isaiah's unique emphasis on the universal love of God and its inclusion of the Gentiles (i.e., 2:2-4; 42:6; 49:6; 51:4-5; 56:7; 60:1,3). He goes so far as to say that God will even make some Gentiles priests and Levites (cf. 66:21). This is very significant in light of the obvious conclusions of Jewish monotheism and the call of Abraham in Gen. 12:1-3, which also included all of the world (see Special Topic at 40:15).

 

G. It is surprising that this new age is described without any allusions to the Messiah of chapters 9 and 11.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 65:1-7
1"I permitted Myself to be sought by those who did not ask for Me;
I permitted Myself to be found by those who did not seek Me.
I said, 'Here am I, here am I,'
To a nation which did not call on My name.
2I have spread out My hands all day long to a rebellious people,
Who walk in the way which is not good, following their own thoughts,
3A people who continually provoke Me to My face,
Offering sacrifices in gardens and burning incense on bricks;
4Who sit among graves and spend the night in secret places;
Who eat swine's flesh,
And the broth of unclean meat is in their pots.
5Who say, 'Keep to yourself, do not come near me,
For I am holier than you!'
These are smoke in My nostrils,
A fire that burns all the day.
6Behold, it is written before Me,
I will not keep silent, but I will repay;
I will even repay into their bosom,
7Both their own iniquities and the iniquities of their fathers together," says the Lord.
"Because they have burned incense on the mountains
And scorned Me on the hills,
Therefore I will measure their former work into their bosom."

65:2 "I permitted Myself to be sought. . .to be found" God always takes the initiative in spiritual matters (i.e., John 6:44,65). Even in this context He is allowing Himself to be found, really presenting Himself to the Jews and to the Gentiles. These opening verses remind me of Romans 11.

▣ "Here am I, here am I" The doubling is for emphasis! These are words of a Hebrew idiom of availability (i.e., 6:8). God was always available but His people would not respond ("ask," "seek").

▣ "To a nation which did not call on My name" In context this refers either to (1) the Jewish nation who called upon idols, particularly the fertility gods or (2) the Gentiles (cf. Rom. 10:20-21). The concept of calling upon someone's name is the idea of responding to them. Paul uses this same concept of calling upon the name of the Lord in Rom. 10:9-13 (cf. Acts 7:59; 9:14,21; 22:16; I Cor. 1:2; II Tim. 2:22). This was considered an act of trust and worship.

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE NAME OF THE LORD

65:2 "I spread out My hands all day long to a rebellious people" This is an anthropomorphic (see Special Topic at 41:2) metaphor which shows the intensity and openness of God's love (cf. Rom. 10:21). Usually it is a gesture of prayer but here of welcome.

▣ "Who walk in the way which is not good, following their own thoughts" The following verses list several aspects of idolatry which characterize the Jewish people. It is very difficult in this period of history to completely understand each one of these aspects in detail (cf. vv. 3-7). Some say that they are all caught up in the garden worship mentioned in v. 3, while others differentiate between the groups. What is obvious is that God's people had turned to other gods. Some possible enumerations of these idolatrous traits are

1. offering sacrifice in gardens

2. burning incense on bricks

3. sitting among graves

4. spending nights in secret places

5. eating swine's flesh

6. having the broth of unclean meat in their pots

7. burning incense on mountains

8. scorning Me on the hills

9. setting a table for Fortune, v. 11

10. filling cups of mixed wine for Destiny

 

65:3 "A people who continually provoke Me to My face" This is a Hebrew metaphor of repeated, open defiance to God. Idolatry had become so common and accepted that it was not even hidden.

▣ "Offering sacrifice in gardens" We are not sure if this is the ancient veneration of trees that can be seen in Isa. 1:29 or if this is a particularized worship within a garden setting (cf. 66:17).

▣ "burning incense on bricks" It has been suggested that the term "bricks" can simply refer to

1. an altar made with cut stones (cf. Lev. 20:24-25)

2. the pillars of Ba'al worship (cf. Lev. 26:1)

3. the roof tiles which relate to the worship of Babylonian astral deities

4. incense altars (see IVP Bible Background Commentary: OT, p. 640)

These numerous possibilities show us that we simply do not know what this really means.

65:4 "Who sit among graves" This seems to be some kind of worship or communication with the dead, possibly necromancy or ancestral worship (cf. Deut. 18:10-12).

▣ "spend the night in secret places" The Hebrew term translated "secret places" (BDB 665) literally means "watch," "guard," or "keep" but here it seems to denote a secret.

1. secret things, Isa. 48:6

2. secret places, Isa. 65:4

3. secret minded, Pro. 7:10

We really do not have any idea what this has reference to but it seems to involve the cultic arts in some way.

▣ "Who eat swine's flesh,

And the broth of unclean meat is in their pots" Usually these two acts are connected by commentators although this is uncertain. They are a violation of the food laws of Leviticus (cf. 11:7). Pigs were common sacrifices of the surrounding nations (i.e., Ugaritic Texts).

The MT has (kethiv) "fragment" (פרק, BDB 830) but BDB suggests (qere) מרק, BDB 600 II, "a rich broth," along with DSS, LXX, and Aramaic Targum.

65:5 "Who say, 'Keep to yourself, do not come near me,

For I am holier than you!'" The first two verbs are commands.

1. keep to yourself - Qal imperative, BDB 897, KB 1132

2. do not come near me - Qal imperfect, BDB 620, KB 670 used in a jussive sense

Notice that these commands are from the idolaters (cf. vv. 2-4,7,11-12), possibly their "priests." They were concerned about

1. a transfer of "holiness" (cf. Ezek. 44:19, i.e., somehow a reduction of their power or prestige)

2. a transfer with possible negative effect to common pagan worshipers

 

NASB, NKJV"I am holier than you"
NRSV"I am too holy for you"
TEV"we are too holy for you to touch"
NJB"lest my sanctity come near you"
JPSOA"I would render you consecrated"
REB"my holiness will infect you"
Peshitta"I am sanctified"

The UBS Text Project gives a different vocalization, "I have sanctified you," but notes the MT's, "I am sacred for you" has a "B" rating.

▣ "These are smoke in My nostrils,

A fire that burns all the day" This idiom shows God's irritation and anger at this type of attitude and idolatrous activity.

65:6 "Behold, it is written before Me,

I will not keep silent, but I will repay" The idea of something "written" is an ancient metaphor which refers to the memory of God (cf. The Book of Deeds and the Book of Life, Dan. 7:10; Rev. 20:12-15). The truth is that judgment will come one day. This is a word that all humans need to hear. Notice what YHWH will do.

1. I will not keep silent

2. I will repay

3. I will repay into their bosom

 

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE TWO BOOKS OF GOD

▣ "I will repay into their bosom" The metaphor for "bosom" means "I will return to them their own sin" (cf. Job 34:11; Ps. 28:4; 62:12; Pro. 24:12; Eccl. 12:14; Jer. 17:10; 32:19; Matt. 16:27; 25:31-46; Rom. 2:6; 14:12; I Cor. 3:8; II Cor. 5:10; Gal. 6:7-10; II Tim. 4:14; I Pet. 1:17; Rev. 2:23; 20:12; 22:12).

65:7 "Both their own iniquities and the iniquities of their fathers together" This is a combination of corporate sin and individual, volitional sin. We are affected not only by the past corporately, and the present corporately, but also by individual choice in the present. We learn from the Ten Commandments in Exod. 20:5; Deut. 5:9, that we are affected by the sins of the parents to the third and fourth generation. We also learn from Ezekiel 18 the opposite truth that we are responsible only for our sins.

▣ "Because they have burned incense on the mountains
And scorned Me on the hills"
This, according to the prophet Hosea, is an aspect of the worship of the fertility god Ba'al (cf Hos. 4:13-14).

NASB, NKJV"their former work"
NRSV"full payment"
TEV"their past deeds"
NJB, JPSOA"in full"

The NASB follows the MT text. The NRSV, NJB, and JPSOA suggest an emendation הנשאר (BDB 911) meaning "former," to ושארב (BDB 1168) meaning "in full" (Lev. 6:5) or "first" (Jer. 16:18).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 65:8-12
8Thus says the Lord,
"As the new wine is found in the cluster,
And one says, 'Do not destroy it, for there is benefit in it,'
So I will act on behalf of My servants
In order not to destroy all of them.
9I will bring forth offspring from Jacob,
And an heir of My mountains from Judah;
Even My chosen ones shall inherit it,
And My servants will dwell there.
10Sharon will be a pasture land for flocks,
And the valley of Achor a resting place for herds,
For My people who seek Me.
11But you who forsake the Lord,
Who forget My holy mountain,
Who set a table for Fortune,
And who fill cups with mixed wine for Destiny,
12I will destine you for the sword,
And all of you will bow down to the slaughter.
Because I called, but you did not answer;
I spoke, but you did not hear.
And you did evil in My sight
And chose that in which I did not delight."

65:8 "As the new wine is found in the cluster" This is a metaphor that says that even in a cluster of grapes which contains some bad fruit there are always some good grapes. This is the beginning of a discussion that runs from v. 8 to v. 10 which states that a remnant of Jews (see Special Topic at 46:3) will be faithful to YHWH. However, vv. 11-13 show the complete rejection and judgment of those of Judah who continue to reject God. This is the beginning of the painful but true emphasis that judgment will begin with the house of God. There is a form of our religion in which God takes no pleasure. God looks at the heart (cf. Isa. 29:13).

For "new wine" see Special Topic below.

SPECIAL TOPIC: BIBLICAL ATTITUDES TOWARD ALCOHOL AND ALCOHOLISM

65:10-11 "For My people who seek Me.
 But you who forsake the Lord" This shows a new concept in the OT. God had always dealt in a corporate aspect with the nation. The entire nation was blessed or the entire nation was cursed (i.e., Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 28-29). Now we are coming to the individualized focus of Ezek. 18:32; 30:10-19; and Jer. 31:29-30, where there is a distinction within the people of God as to those who believe and those who do not believe (cf. Deut. 29:24-28). Later in chapter 66 there will be a distinction between all mankind, of those who reject and those who receive YHWH.

65:11 "you who forsake the Lord" The verb (Qal participle, BDB 736 I, KB 806) means "to abandon" or "to leave." It is regularly used of forsaking God (cf. Deut. 28:20; 31:16; Jdgs. 10:10; Jer. 1:16; Jonah 2:8). They abandoned YHWH for idols (cf. II Kgs. 9-22; II Chr. 36:13-21). God will forsake them (cf. Deut. 31:17; Isa. 41:17; 49:14; 54:7).

▣ "Who set a table for Fortune,
And who fill cups with mixed wine for Destiny"
The term "Fortune" (BDB 151 II, KB 176 II) and the Hebrew "Destiny" (BDB 584, KB 602) are names for pagan gods, possibly relating to the worship of planetary deities (cf. Jer. 7:18; 44:17), which was the worship of "the queen of heaven." It is certain that these terms refer to idolatrous worship of some type!

65:12

NASB"I will destine you for the sword"
NKJV"I will number you for the sword"
NRSV, NJB"I will destine you to the sword"

Notice the play on the verb (Qal perfect, BDB 584, KB 599), which is used as a title for a false god in v. 11, "Destiny" (BDB 584).

▣ "Because I called, but you did not answer" This is a summary of vv. 1-7. God continually loved them and called them but they refused and rejected His call (cf. 41:28; 50:2; 66:4; Hos. 11:2).

The last lines of v. 12 are repeated in 66:4.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 65:13-16
13Therefore, thus says the Lord God,
"Behold, My servants will eat, but you will be hungry.
Behold, My servants will drink, but you will be thirsty.
Behold, My servants will rejoice, but you will be put to shame.
14Behold, My servants will shout joyfully with a glad heart,
But you will cry out with a heavy heart,
And you will wail with a broken spirit.
15You will leave your name for a curse to My chosen ones,
And the Lord God will slay you.
But My servants will be called by another name.
16Because he who is blessed in the earth
Will be blessed by the God of truth;
And he who swears in the earth
Will swear by the God of truth;
Because the former troubles are forgotten,
And because they are hidden from My sight!

65:13-16 This is the continuing emphasis on the contrast between the two types of seed (i.e., descendants) of Abraham-believing and unbelieving. In the NT this turns to all humans (cf. Rom. 2:28-29).

65:14 Notice the contrast between

1. the faithful - shout with a glad heart

2. the unfaithful - cry out with a heavy, painful heart

There is a division among humans (cf. Matt. 7:13-14,15-23,24-27; Luke 13:22-30), even those who seem "religious"!

65:15 "You will leave your name for a curse to My chosen ones" This is another play on the word "name" (BDB 1027). Here it is the concept that the name of the unbelievers will become accursed, while the believers will have a new name. From the immediate context we do not know the new name by which they will be called. A new name for God is given in v. 16-"the God of Amen," "the God of Truth," or "the God of faithfulness" (cf. Rev. 3:14). The believer's new name will possibly be related to that.

In Genesis YHWH's promise to Abraham carried a warning and a blessing related to the treatment of Abraham using "name" to represent him as a person (cf. Gen. 12:2; 18:18; 22:18).

65:16 "Because the former troubles are forgotten,
And because they are hidden from My sight"
In the Bible "when God forgets" is a metaphor for total forgiveness. Notice the continuing metaphor that sins are hidden from His sight. This is a repeated theme of the OT. When God forgives, God forgets (cf. Ps. 103:11-13; Isa. 1:18; 38:17; 43:25; 44:22; and Micah 7:19)!

NASB, NKJV,
NJB"the God of truth"
NRSV"the God of faithfulness"
TEV"the faithful God"
LXX, JPSOA"the true God"
REB"by God whose name is Amen"

The title for Deity, "God," אלה (BDB 43), is often used in ancient poems (cf. Deut. 32:15,17; Job 3:4; Ps. 18:32; 50:22; 114:7; 139:19; Pro. 30:5; Isa. 44:8; Hab. 3:3).

The second part of the title is "Amen." See Special Topic below.

SPECIAL TOPIC: AMEN

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 65:17-25
17"For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth;
And the former things will not be remembered or come to mind.
18But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create;
For behold, I create Jerusalem for rejoicing
And her people for gladness.
19I will also rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in My people;
And there will no longer be heard in her
The voice of weeping and the sound of crying.
20No longer will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days,
Or an old man who does not live out his days;
For the youth will die at the age of one hundred
And the one who does not reach the age of one hundred
Will be thought accursed.
21They will build houses and inhabit them;
They will also plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
22They will not build and another inhabit,
They will not plant and another eat;
For as the lifetime of a tree, so will be the days of My people,
And My chosen ones will wear out the work of their hands.
23They will not labor in vain,
Or bear children for calamity;
For they are the offspring of those blessed by the Lord,
And their descendants with them.
24It will also come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear. 25The wolf and the lamb will graze together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox; and dust will be the serpent's food. They will do no evil or harm in all My holy mountain," says the Lord.

65:17 "For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth" The context of vv. 17-25 is extremely important because it is the key, not only of these last two chapters-that God is going to make all things new (cf. 42:9; 48:6; 66:22; II Pet. 3:13), but it is a discussion of the New Age or the Age of the Messiah (cf. Rom. 8:18-25). It also implies that the current order will be destroyed (cf. Isa. 51:6 and II Pet. 3:10). There is also a relation between vv. 16 and 17 that the New Order will not contain sins because they will be forgiven, as is mentioned in the latter part of v. 16.

The terminology of "a new heaven and a new earth" is common in Jewish Apocalyptic Literature (cf. II Esdras 6:11-24; I Enoch 91:16). This becomes the imagery for Revelation 21-22! The earth will return to its pre-Genesis 3 glory and purpose. See full note at 62:2.

65:18 The first line of poetry has two parallel imperatives.

1. be glad - Qal imperative, BDB 965, KB 1314, cf. 61:10 (twice); 62:5; 64:5; 65:18,19; 66:10,14

2. rejoice - Qal imperative, BDB 162, KB 189, cf. 61:10; 65:18,19; 66:10

AB, p. 198, sees these as new titles for Jerusalem and the returnees.

▣ "forever" This term (BDB 723 I) denotes perpetual fellowship with the Creator and His human vessels (cf. I Chr. 28:9; Micah 7:18).

65:19 "And there will no longer be heard in her
  The voice of weeping and the sound of crying" This is the continual theme of Isaiah that the New Age will not have the pain of this former sin-cursed earth (cf. Isa. 25:8; 30:1; 35:10; 55:11). This seems to be alluded to in Rev. 21:4.

65:20 "No longer will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days,

 Or an old man who does not live out his days" This hyperbolic statement can have one of two origins.

1. an allusion to the long lives of Genesis 1-5, thereby denoting a return to the Garden of Eden time

2. an OT way of describing the "new age," which we know from the NT involves not just protracted physical life but a new eternal life (zoa)

For a good discussion of Isaiah's discussion of extended lives and the NT discussion of eternal life, see Hard Sayings of the Bible, pp. 307-309.

65:22 These are metaphors to describe the fact that the people will live in the land and enjoy its fruits. It is a direct allusion to the exile and the promise of a return to Palestine. See Special Topic at 40:9.

The Septuagint sees the word "tree" (BDB 781) as referring to the "tree of life" in the Garden of Eden, as do the Aramaic Targums.

65:24 This is a beautiful promise of instantaneous answered prayer and is even more extensive than Matt. 6:8.

65:25 "The wolf and the lamb will graze together" Here again is the idyllic picture of God and mankind together in a garden setting with the animals (cf. Isa. 11:6-9; Genesis 1,2; Rev. 21:22). This goes along with my particular theology that we are not going to heaven, but heaven is coming back to a recreated and cleansed earth. It will be as it was!

▣ "and dust will be the serpent's food" This is a rather unusual idiom because dust was commonly understood as the food of serpents in that day. However, it may be a reference to

1. Gen. 3:14, which shows that Satan's temptations will be completely finished as far as their effect on believing and renewed mankind

2. Isa. 11:8, a strophe that also describes the new age

 

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