Introductory notes

1 Isaiah’s sustained prayer in which he passionately pleads for his people has concluded (63:7–64:12).

2 Chapter 65 records Yahweh’s response, His answer, in which He ‘sets the record straight’.

3 Yahweh points out that it was through no fault of His that Israel (Judah) had gone astray: His  grace had been spurned.

4 Also that the nation was to be preserved only because of a precious seed found in its midst (v8–10).

5 Then there is a dramatic contrast drawn between  the joy of “my servants” (v8, 16) and the woes of  the apostates (v11–15).

6 Finally there is a description of the new heavens  and new earth that Yahweh will create, made the  more compelling and vivid by contrasting it with  what had been the case in former times.

65:1–7 Yahweh replies that others have sought Him whilst Israel has spurned Him and His  frequent appeals. Moses’ prophetic forecast in  the song of witness (Deut 32) was coming to pass.

65:1 (1) “I am sought of them that asked not for me;  (2) I am found of them that sought me not [LXX I  became manifest to them that asked not for me]: I  said, Behold me, behold me, unto a nation that was  (3) not called by my name.”

(1) This is Yahweh’s answer to Isaiah’s appeal. The irony is that nations bearing no special relationship to Yahweh were seeking Him and would find Him. So  much is written in Isaiah about the universal embrace  of the salvation of His Servant that these words build on that premise (42:6, 7; 49:1–12; 51:5; 52:10; 55:1–5).

It has been said that reference is here being  made to Hezekiah’s messengers who invited the  ten tribes to his Passover (2 Chron 30: 1–11), in a  primary application of these words. But the context  and description do not fit as the words describing  the prevailing apostasy (v2–12) match Manasseh’s  reign, and Israel could not be described as “a nation  that was not called by my [God’s] name”.

Quoted by Paul in Romans 10; Deuteronomy  32:21.

You will notice that the apostle cites these words  from the LXX in Romans 10:20, saying that Isaiah  was “very bold, and saith, I was found …” But before  he quotes these words he says, “first Moses saith,  I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no  people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you”  (v19). The words are drawn from Deuteronomy  32:21, Moses’ Song of Witness. It was written  virtually before the history of the nation of Israel  commenced, just before Moses died. This amazing  chapter gives a detailed account of what would  befall Israel from its inception as a nation! It is frequently  alluded to by the prophets as a touch-stone,  because the sins and attitudes of the nation were  pre-recorded by inspiration. In verse 21 God says  that because Israel would provoke Him, He would  be led in turn to provoke them to jealousy, by calling  a “foolish nation”, the Gentiles. Notice that in verse  3 Israel is described as, “A people that provoketh me  to anger …” This then is carried forward in Paul’s  exposition on the relationship of the Gospel to Jews  and Gentiles in Romans 11 (see v11, 14).

Isaiah 65:2 is also cited in Romans 10:21.

(2) That is, Gentiles.

(3) In this phrase, God picks up Isaiah’s words  of appeal, “they [Judah’s enemies and destroyers]  were never called by thy name” (63:19).

65:2 (1) I have spread out my hands all the day  unto (2) a rebellious [NIV obstinate] people, that  walketh in a (3) way that was not good, after their  own thoughts.”

The Living Bible (a paraphrase) gives the sense,  “But my own people – though I have been spreading  out my arms to welcome them all day long  – have rebelled; they follow their own evil paths  and thoughts”.

(1) This is a gesture of appeal, an attitude of  prayer of man to God (1:15; 1 King 8:22, 38; Psa  143:6) but here the matter is reversed and God appeals  to man. It demonstrates His longing to bring  His people back to Him, through the agency of the  prophets (2 Chron 36:15–16).

(2) Israel was stubborn and rebellious, resisting  Yahweh’s incessant pleading “all the day” long.

(3) They were intent on pursuing their own  life-styles, embedded in their own “imaginations”  (NIV). How true this is also of our unheeding  world, devoted to fleshly pleasures with scarcely a  thought for the Creator.

65:3 “(1) A people that (2) provoketh me to anger  continually (3) to my face [NIV very face]; (4) that  sacrificeth in gardens (cp 1:29; 66:17), (5) and burneth  incense (6) upon altars of brick (LXX on bricks  to devils [Gk daimon]).”

(1) In the next three verses Yahweh summarises  the sins of His people. He explains their “[walking]  in a way that was not good, after their own  thoughts” (v2).

(2) See notes on verse 2, the allusion to  Deuteronomy 32:21. This is the first accusation.

(3) That is, “before me”, as in Exodus 20:3 and  refers to idolatry, and other forms of worship.

(4) There was blatant disregard for accepted  practice of worship at the Temple. Gardens were  such a focus (1:29; 66:17) and it is interesting that  this degeneration took place in the early grossly  apostate years of Manasseh’s reign (2 King 21:2–9).  Howbeit he repented and was restored and it is  curious that it is recorded that he “slept with his  fathers, and was buried in the garden of his own  house, in the garden of Uzza” (v18). Was it formerly  a place of idolatry?

(5) The verb here, ‘qatar’, is not restricted to  incense-burning but can have a wider application  to sacrifices, suggesting the sacrifices in gardens  were burned on bricks.

(6) Just as the garden was an unauthorised place  for sacrifice, so too, bricks were a forbidden material  for an altar (Exod 20:25; Deut 27:5–6; Josh 8:31).

65:4 “Which (1) remain [Roth tarry] among the  graves [RSV secret places; RV vaults;], and lodge  in the monuments, [LXX they lie down to sleep in  the tombs and in the caves for the sake of dreams]  (2) which eat swine’s flesh (66:17), (3) and broth of  abominable things [NIV impure meat] is in their  vessels;”

(1) This accusation relates to consultation with  the dead (cp 8:19–20). Necromancy and fortunetelling  was forbidden under the Law (Deut 18:9–14,  20) and only prophets whose words came to pass  were to be heeded (v21, 22).

It was among the graves that these séances took  place to “obtain” dreams and oracles (cp Legion  Matt 8:28). The Law also forbade any contact with  the dead, human bones etc (Num 19:11, 16, 20).

(2) Yahweh condemns the failure to observe the  Law relating to foods, firstly touching on clean and  unclean animals (Lev 11:7; Deut 14:8).

(3) Secondly, He condemns the eating of the  meat of sacrifices kept beyond the time permitted  (Lev 7:18; see also Deut 14:3, 21). (The word for  ‘abominable things’, piggul is used for unclean meat  in general in Leviticus 19:7 and Ezekiel 4:14). There  was scant regard to observe Yahweh’s standards  and holiness.

65:5 “Which say, (1) Stand by thyself, come not near to me; for I am holier than thou. (2) These are a smoke in my nose, a fire that burneth (3) all the day.”

(1) The apostates had invented a religion of  their own, thereby redefining holiness, the elitism of  which ‘holiness’ caused division and excluded others.  In our Lord’s time, the Pharisees (‘Separate Ones’)  had evolved an elitism based on the Tradition of the  Elders that despised others. The Lord exposed the  hypocrisy of this pseudo-religion (Matt 23) and  roundly condemned it many times (see also Matt  9:11–13; Luke 18: 9–14).

Even the division of Herod’s Temple, which  confined strangers to the ‘Court of the Gentiles,’  was founded on a ‘holier than thou’ belief (Acts  21:28).

(2) Just how obnoxious this was to the LORD  is evident from this description. It was as repulsive  as smoke in the nostrils from an incessant fire that  smoulders “all the day”.

(3) See verse 2. “All the day” completes the  inclusion.

65:6 “(1) Behold, it is written before me: I will not  keep silence, but will recompense [NIV pay back in  full], even recompense into their bosom [NIV laps],  65:7 (2) Your iniquities, and the iniquities of your  fathers together, saith the LORD, which have burned  incense upon the mountains, and blasphemed me  upon the hills (cp 57:7; Ezek 18:6): therefore will I  measure their former work into their bosom.”

(1) To what is Yahweh referring? To Moses’ Song of Witness (Deut 31:19, 21, 26) recorded in  Deuteronomy 32 (see notes on verse 3). There the  apostasy of Israel is foretold with pin-point accuracy;  there the declaration, “To me belongeth vengeance, and recompense, their [Israel’s] foot shall slide in due  time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste. For the LORD shall judge his people, and repent himself for  his servants, when he seeth that their power is gone, and there is none shut up,or left” (v35, 36).

(2) Mention is made here of the sins of their  fathers which are extant and not forgotten. Guilt  deepens as with the passage of time it passes from one generation to another and intensifies. Justice  will be done but it is clear in the Song of Witness that Yahweh will not destroy His chosen nation  (Isa 65:8–10). However, for their sins they will pay dearly: this will be “the time of Jacob’s trouble; but  he shall be saved out of it” (Jer 30:7, 11) or to cite  the closing words of the Song of Witness, “Rejoice,  O ye nations, with his people: for he will avenge the  blood of his servants, and will render vengeance to  his adversaries, and will be merciful unto his land,  and to his people” (Deut 32:43).

65:8–10 Israel, however, is not to be utterly destroyed because of a remnant, a precious seed among them, from which would come  the altogether lovely one.

65:8 “Thus saith the LORD, As the (1) new wine  is found in the cluster, and one saith, (2) Destroy it  not; for a blessing is in it: (3) so will I do for my (4)  servants’ sakes, that I may not destroy them all.  65:9 And I will (5) bring forth a seed out of Jacob,  and out of Judah an (6) inheritor of my mountains:  and mine elect shall inherit it, and my servants shall  dwell there.”

(1) Fermented wine is referred to, wine made  from the first drippings oozing before the winepress  was trodden! This juice was “found” and considered  precious and specially valued.

(2) This sounds like a vintage song (16:10). As  there was good (a blessing) in it, it was not likely  to be destroyed.

(3) Notice the “as”, “so” construction of this  verse – as the “new wine”, the first drippings of  juice were preserved and valued, even so Yahweh  would not destroy all of Jacob: within the ranks of  the nation were His true servants, a remnant that  would be saved.

(4) This title, “servants”, was not used prior  to the completion of the Servant’s work (Isa 53),  with the possible exception of Isaiah 44:26. Now  that work has been accomplished, his “seed”, the  “many” (53:10–11) have been brought forth and  they are fellow servants, walking in his steps. See  the following references to saints as God’s servants  (Isa 54:17; 56:6; 63:17; 65:8, 9, 13, 14, 15; 66:14).

(5) Of the greatest significance and buried  in this language, “I will bring forth a seed out of  Jacob”, is the coming of Messiah, who is the seed  of the woman, Abraham and David (Matt 1:1). He  is the one who would confirm the promises, and by  a sinless life culminating in obedience even to the  cross, provide the wine of the new covenant “shed  for many for the remission of sins” (Matt 26:28).

This language echoes an earlier promise: “there  shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall  rise out of Israel” (Num 24:17).

(6) Reference to inheritance of God’s mountains  hearkens back to the covenants to Abraham, Isaac  and Jacob. To Abraham and his seed the holy land  was promised as an eternal inheritance (Gen 13:15).  By baptism into Christ, who was Abraham’s seed,  saints become “Christ’s” and hence Abraham’s seed  and heirs of the promise (Gal 3:27–29).

65:10 “And (1) Sharon shall be a fold of flocks, and (2)  the valley of Achor [trouble] a place for the herds to  lie down in, for (3) my people that have sought me.”

(1) Sharon, once spoiled and desolate (33:9),  will become a symbol of Messianic revival (35:2),  fruitful and a fold of flocks.

(2) The valley of Achor (perhaps enlarged by the  great earthquake), reminiscent of a bright beginning  marred by the sin of Achan the Troubler (Josh  7:19–26), will become a place for herds to lie down  in, perhaps providing sacrifices for worship in the  Temple, the house of prayer for all nations. Hosea  2:15 speaks of Yahweh bestowing on His reformed  bride, Israel, vineyards, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope (Heb Petach Tikvah, the name of a  kibbutz in Israel, north of Tel-Aviv).

So the glorious picture is of restoration and  transformation, with Sharon on the western maritime  plain, and Achor to the east – the whole land  of promise will be a blessing!

(3) This hearkens back to verse 1, where Yahweh  was “sought of them that asked not for me” that is,  the Gentiles. They, too, will be included and number  among His servants.