on Isaiah 65 :3
That sacrificeth in gardens, and burneth incense upon altars of brick "Sacrificing in the gardens, and burning incense on the tiles" - These are instances of heathenish superstition, and idolatrous practices, to which the Jews were immoderately addicted before the Babylonish captivity. The heathen worshipped their idols in groves; whereas God, in opposition to this species of idolatry, commanded his people, when they should come into the promised land, to destroy all the places wherein the Canaanites had served their gods, and in particular to burn their groves with fire, Deuteronomy 12:2, Deuteronomy 12:3. These apostate Jews sacrificed upon altars built of bricks; in opposition to the command of God in regard to his altar, which was to be of unhewn stone, Exodus 20:26. Et pro uno altari, quod impolitis lapidibus Dei erat lege constructum, coctos lateres et agrorum cespites hostiarum sanguine cruentabant. "And instead of one altar which, according to the law of God, was, to be constructed of unhewn stones, they stained the bricks and turfs of the fields with the blood of their victims." Hieron. in loc. Or it means, perhaps, that they sacrificed upon the roofs of their houses, which were always flat, and paved with brick, or tile, or plaster of terrace. An instance of this idolatrous practice we find in 2 Kings 23:12, where it is said that Josiah "beat down the altars that were on the top of the upper chamber of Ahaz, which the kings of Judah had made." See also Zephaniah 1:5. Sir John Chardin's MS. note on this place of Isaiah is as follows: "Ainsi font tous les Gentiles, sur les lieux eleves, et sur les terrasses, appellez latcres, pareeque sont faits de briq." "Who dwell in the sepulchres, and lodge in the caverns," for the purposes of necromancy and divination; to obtain dreams and revelations. Another instance of heathenish superstition: so Virgil: -
Huc dona sacerdos
Cum tulit, et caesarum ovium sub nocte silenti
Pellibus incubuit stratis, somnosque petivit:
Multa modis simulacra videt volitantia miris,
Et varias audit voces, fruiturque deorum
Colloquio, atque imis Acheronta affatur Avernis.
Aen. 7:86. - L.
"Here in distress the Italian nations come,
Anxious, to clear their doubts, and learn their doom.
First, on the fleeces of the slaughtered sheep,
By night the sacred priest dissolves in sleep:
When in a train, before his slumbering eye,
Thin airy forms and wondrous visions fly.
on Isaiah 65 :3
A people - This verse contains a specification of the reasons why God had rejected them, and brought the calamities upon them.
That provoketh me to anger - That is, by their sins. They give constant occasion for my indignation.
Continually - (תמיד tâmı̂yd). It is not once merely, but their conduct as a people is constantly such as to excite my displeasure.
To my face - There is no attempt at concealment. Their abominations are public. It is always regarded as an additional affront when an offence is committed in the very presence of another, and when there is not even the apology that it was supposed he did not see the offender. It is a great aggravation of the guilt of the stoner, that his offence is committed in the very presence, and under the very eye, of God.
That sacrificeth in gardens - (See the notes at Isaiah 1:29).
And burneth incense - On the meaning of the word 'incense,' see the notes at Isaiah 1:13.
Upon altars of brick - Margin, 'Bricks.' The Hebrew is simply, 'Upon bricks.' The command of God was that the altars for sacrifice should be made of unhewn stone Exodus 20:24-25. But the pagan had altars of a different description, and the Jews had sacrificed on those altars. Some have supposed that this means that they sacrificed on the roofs of their houses, which were flat, and paved with brick, or tile, or plaster. That altars were constructed sometimes on the roofs of their houses, we know from 2 Kings 23:12, where Josiah is said to have beaten down the 'altars that were on the top of the upper chamber of Ahaz, which the king of Judah had made.' But it is not necessary to suppose that such sacrifices are referred to here. They had disobeyed the command of God, which required that the altars should be made only of unhewn stone. They had built other altars, and had joined with the pagan in offering sacrifices thereon. The reason why God forbade that the altar should be of anything but unhewn stone is not certainly known, and is not necessary to be understood in order to explain this passage. It may have been, first, in order effectually to separate his people from all others, as well in the construction of the altar as in anything and everything else; secondly, because various inscriptions and carvings were usually made on altars, and as this tended to superstition, God commanded that the chisel should not be used at all in the construction of the altars where his people should worship.
on Isaiah 65 :3