Isaiah 66, the closing chapter in this wonderful prophecy, is wide-ranging, covering in summary and bringing to a climax its main themes. In the opening verses Yahweh defines where He truly dwells (v1,2). Apostates who persecuted true believers will be put to shame while their victims will be consoled and rejoice with Zion. Enigmatically we are informed that Zion will bring forth a man child before her labour pains, and that a nation shall be born in a day! (v7–9) Zion’s children rejoice and are comforted by her, but apostates and her enemies are destroyed (v10–18). Survivors of Israel are sent to all nations to bring their “brethren for an offering unto the LORD” (v19–22). The final vision is one of “all flesh” coming to Zion “to worship before me, saith the LORD” (v23). A mausoleum of the carcases of the rebels will provide a sobering reminder of the consequences of transgression against God (v24).

66:1–4 The Almighty Creator will be served in humble sincerity. The sacrifices of the wicked are obnoxious – He will choose their peril.

66:1 “Thus saith the LORD(1), The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool:(2) where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest? [Heb menuchah cp Ruth 3:1; Psa 132:8, 14; 95:11)

66:2 (3) For all those things hath my hand made, and all those things have been [RSV mg ‘Heb came to be’], saith the LORD: (4) but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor [Heb ani, lowly, Roth humbled] and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word” (v5; Ezra 9:4; 10:3).

These verses bear particular reference to circumstances in the prophet’s day. There were two groups, those who reverenced the Word of God and sought to obey its precepts, and those who had corrupted true worship with pagan rites; the latter persecuting the former and seeking to cast them out, or excommunicate them (v5), no doubt because they were reproved by them. It is not hard to fit this picture into Manasseh’s reign of terror (2 Kings 21:2–11, 16; see also 57:1–2; 59:2–15).

(1) Elsewhere the ark and house or Temple are defined as God’s “footstool” (1 Chron 28:2; Psa 99:5; 132:7); but here, where the greatness of the Creator is the subject, the earth itself is no more than His footstool!

(2) Given the fact that Yahweh has created all things and that He fills heaven and earth (Jer 23:24; Psa 139:7), how could He ever be restricted or confined by any edifice made by man?!

(3) When David desired to build a more permanent dwelling-place for God, he was met with the retort, “Shalt thou build me an house for me to dwell in? … spake I a word with any of the tribes [mg any of the judges] … Why build ye not me a house of cedar?” (2 Sam 7:5–7). David would have been taken aback by these words. Was there not a measure of presumption in his good intentions? Yahweh had been content to “walk with the children of Israel”, a relationship less confining and from which He could withdraw in the event of wickedness. From God’s perspective, any attempt to make Him beholden to man, when He fills heaven and touches earth with His foot, is preposterous. These are all things His hand has made and brought into existence anyway!

(4) That said, there is a place where He looks with great interest: the heart of man (Jer 17:10), and a particular type of man; one “that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word” [Roth careth anxiously for]. Respect for God’s Word, the Bible, is the first requirement if we are to please Him. Paraphrasing these words, our Lord opened his teaching or Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 5:3). Without this building-block in place no growth or development can take place. Also note Isaiah 57:15, where the “high and lofty One” nominates those who are “contrite and humble” as those with whom He can dwell and “revive”.

666

66:3 “(1) He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man; he that sacrificeth a lamb, as if he cut off a dog’s neck; he that offereth an oblation [Heb minchah, meal offering, gift], as if he offered swine’s blood; he that burneth incense, as if he blessed an idol .Isa 66:3–4 The sacrifices of apostates are obnoxious to God. He will choose the delusions of those who choose their own ways.

(2) Yea, they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delighteth in their abominations.

66:4 (3) I also will choose their delusions [RSV affiction], and will bring their fears upon them; because when I called, none did answer; when I spake, they did not hear: but they did evil before mine eyes, and chose that in which I delighted not.”

(1) In this verse there are 4 illustrations showing how abhorrent in God’s eyes perverted worship is (cp 65:3–5). Because this group – these apostates – had chosen their own ways, giving no heed to the Law of God, their worship could not please Him. And even when they complied with the letter of the Law, because there was no respect for God, the legal acts of worship were obnoxious, repugnant (1:11–15; Prov 15:8; 1 Sam 15:22–23).

Thus in this context

(1) The lawful killing of an ox is equated with murder!

(2) The lawful sacrificing of a lamb is no better than if a dog (a term reserved by Jews for the ‘unclean’, the Gentiles) was offered (cp 56:10, 11; Phil 3:2; 2 Pet 2:22; Matt 7:6; 15:26; Rev 22:15)!

(3) A gift is no more acceptable than an offering of swine’s blood, an unclean animal anathema to Israelites (Matt 7:6; Lev 11:7)!

(4) He that burns incense might just as well bless an idol (1 Sam 15:23)!

(2) So far had worship degenerated that they were beyond appeal – they made a conscious decision, a choice of their own ways, and even worse they delighted in their abominations.

(3) Verse 4 spells out again that failure to respond to repeated appeals (65:2) meant that judgment would be their lot, judgment that Yahweh would choose!

“God shall send them strong delusion”

These words (2 Thess 2:11) are an allusion to Isaiah 66:4. though cast against a different background the principle is identical. Paul is warning believers of the rise of the “man of sin”, who would come with “all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.” So here in apostolic times, where there was no respect for the Word of God, ‘believers’ would be deceived by the false prophet, the Papal system. So in this case also God would “send them a strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (v11, 12).

Isa 66:5 Vindication and joy of Yahweh’s servants: shame on their persecutors

66:5 “(1) Hear the word of the LORD, ye that tremble at his word;(2) Your brethren that hated you, that cast you out for my name’s sake, said, Let the LORD be glorified [Heb kabed; LXX doxasthe]:(3) but he shall appear to your joy, and they shall be ashamed.”

(1) It is evident from this verse that the two groups, the ‘Word-tremblers’ and the ‘apostates’ of verses 1–3 are being referred to. Clearly they belong to the same ‘community’ as they are called “brethren”.

(2) It is the ‘Word-tremblers’ that are addressed, and we are told that the apostates:

(1) hated them, and (2) cast them out “for my[God’s] name’s sake,” Claiming that by so acting they were glorifying Yahweh!

Applications of these words

(1) As indicated the words have a primary fulfillment in the prophet’s day during the persecution inflicted upon those who protested (like Isaiah) at the idolatry and corruption of Manasseh’s reign.

(2) Th e blind man in John 9 This man had his sight restored by our Lord. It was a notable miracle which the Jews were loath to acknowledge, so they endeavoured to intimidate him by saying that as Jesus was a sinner he could not have performed such a miracle. The Jews said to him, “Give God the praise [Gk doxa, glory]”. They use virtually the same words as in Isaiah 66:5 – “Let the LORD be glorified” – as if to say God would not be glorified if you, the blind man, attribute the miracle to Jesus (John 9:24)! Because this man insisted that Jesus had healed him, he was excommunicated: “Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out” (v34, mg Or, excommunicated him) – exactly as Isaiah 66:5 declared would take place.

(3) In the Lord’s ministry and teaching

Jesus made no secret of the fact that those who followed him would be hated and persecuted by their brethren for his name’s sake – clearly citing Isaiah 66:5.

Matt 10:22; Mark 13:13 “And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake.”

Luke 6:22 “Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company … and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake.”

John 15:18–16:2 “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before …” (v18). “But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake” (v21) … “They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service” (16:2). The words have as much reference to our Lord in his sufferings as to his followers.

(4) In the apostolic era

The persecution of the apostles by the Jewish authorities and also Paul during his ministry (1Thess 2:14–16).

(3) This statement introduces the subject matter dealt with in the remainder of this chapter, stating that patient endurance was required as He (Yahweh) will appear to your joy (v10–14); and they shall be ashamed (see v6, 14–17, 24). Compare these words with Paul’s words of comfort to the Thessalonians in 2 Thessalonians 1:4–10.

66:6 The voice of Yahweh – vengeance on His Enemies

66:6 “(1) A voice of noise from the city,

(2) a voice from the temple,

(3) a voice of the LORD that rendereth recompense to his enemies.”

(1) In this threefold declaration the certainty of coming divine recompense is made plain.

(2) Reference to the temple as the place from whence the judgments are sounded forth is echoed in Revelation 11:18–19; 14:15; 17; 15:5–8; 16:17; see also Isaiah 6:1–4. Coming from the temple indicates they come from God and with His sanction.

(3) Yahweh’s enemies, those who persecuted the saints, ‘the Word-tremblers,’ will be repaid – there will be full settlement (cp Rev 18:6; 2 Tim 4:14).

66:7–9 Two remarkable births ‘precede’ Zion’s labour pains

66:7 “Before she [mother Jerusalem v10] travailed, she brought forth; before her pain came, she was delivered of a man child.” [RSV a son] An historical application of these words has been made to the deliverance of Hezekiah and the faithful sheltered within Jerusalem at the time of the Assyrian invasion. Collectively that generation was called Immanuel, God with us (8:8–10). This verse describes an unnatural birth, in which the birth pains which were part of the curse resulting from the first sin, are removed (Gen 3:16)! Reference is made to the painless birth of a man child (RSV a son). This is a different event to that referred to in verse 8 where the birth of a “nation”, or “her children” (RSV her sons) occurs. What is verse 7 telling us? That a son, a man child, would be born before Jerusalem travailed. And was not this the case in regard to our Lord? Yes, for Jesus was born before Jerusalem would travail in pain in her destruction at the hands of the Romans in AD70.

66:8 “Who hath hea shallrd such a thing? who hath seen such things? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? or a nation be born at once? for as soon as Zion travailed [RSV was in labor], she brought forth her children” (RSV sons).

As mentioned this is a different event but also an unnatural birth: how could a whole nation be born in a day? How could Zion give birth to all her sons at once, at the beginning of her labour? Th e picture in the following verses is of Zion rejoicing with these children. Who then are they? They are the redeemed, resurrected and glorified spiritual Israel, who are Zion’s true children. Isaiah 49 tells us that Zion will be confounded by children coming to her from all points of the compass, that is, Gentiles, sons born during the long period of her estrangement, when she had no husband, and was “left alone”, when she had lost her natural children (v20–21).

And this is how it will seem. Think about this coming graphic reality! 66:9 “Shall I bring to the birth, and not cause to bring forth? saith the LORD: shall I cause to bring forth, and shut up the womb? saith thy God.”

By these two questions Yahweh emphasises the inevitability of His purpose. The two questions relate to different phases of child-bearing – gestation and birth: Yahweh does not commence and proceed with His plan, only to abandon it; and He does not almost consummate it only to abort it at the last moment!

These words are in a sense an answer to the words Hezekiah put to Isaiah when confronted with the Assyrian juggernaut outside the walls of Jerusalem, “This day is a day of trouble, and of rebuke, and blasphemy: for the children are come to the birth, and there is not strength to bring forth. It may be that the LORD thy God will hear all the words of Rabshakeh …” And he did and wrought a great deliverance for His people.