(24) And they shall go forth . . .-As at the close of Isaiah 48, 57, each ending a great section of the volume, so here, the vision of restoration and blessedness is balanced by that of the righteous condemnation of the wicked. The outward imagery is suggested, as in Joel 3:12; Zechariah 14:12, by that of the great battle of the Lord (Isaiah 66:15-16). Those who are slain in that battle are thought of as filling the valleys round about Jerusalem, especially the valley of Jehoshaphat (“Jehovah judges “), devoured by worms, or given to the flames. Taken strictly, therefore, the words do not speak of the punishment of the souls of men after death, but of the defeat and destruction upon earth of the enemies of Jehovah. The words that tell us that “the worm shall not die” and that “the fire shall not be quenched” point, however, to something more than this, to be read between the lines. And so those words became the starting-point of the thoughts of later Judaism as to Gehenna (Ecclesiasticus 8:17; Judith 16:17, and the Targum on this passage), of the words in which our Lord Himself gave utterance to what, at least, seemed to express those thoughts (Mark 9:44-48), of the dominant eschatology of Christendom. Even so taken, however, with this wider range, it is still a question whether the words are to be taken literally or figuratively (though this, perhaps, is hardly a question), whether the bodies, which represent souls, are thought of as not destroyed, but only tormented, or as consumed to nothing, by the fire and by the worm, whether those two agents represent sufferings of sense or spirit. The one aspect of the future life which they tend to exclude is that which presents the idea of a suffering that may be purifying. That idea is not without apparent support in other passages of Scripture (e.g., Romans 5:17-21; Romans 11:32; 1Peter 3:19; 1Peter 4:6); but we cannot say that it entered into the prophet’s thoughts here. What he emphasises is the eternal antagonism between the righteousness of God and man’s unrighteousness, and this involves the punishment of the latter as long as it exists. In any case there is a strange solemnity in this being the last word of the prophet’s book of revelation, even as there is a like awfulness in the picture of the final judgment, which appears in Matthew 25:46, at all but the close of our Lord’s public teaching. Cheyne quotes a singular rubric of the Jewish ritual, that when this chapter, or Ecclesiastes 12, or Malachi 3, was read in the synagogue, the last verse but one should be repeated after the last, so that mercy might appear as in the end triumphant after and over judgment. . . . Verse 24. – And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases, etc. Here is more imagery, which it is impossible to understand literally. The carcases could not remain always to be looked at, nor while they remained could the sight of them be otherwise than loathsome to God’s redeemed saints. Again, they could not be at the same time burnt with fire and eaten by worms. “The prophet, by the very mode of description adopted by him, precludes the possibility of our conceiving of the thing set forth as realized in any material form in this present state. He is speaking of the future state, but in figures drawn from the present world” (Delitzsch). Does he mean more than this – that the redeemed shall have in their thoughts, at any rate from time to time, the fact that, while they have by God’s great mercy been saved and brought into His kingdom, there are those who have not been saved, but lie for ever under the awful sentence of God’s wrath? This is a knowledge which the redeemed must have, and which may well produce a salutary effect on them, intensifying their gratitude and maintaining in them a spirit of reverent fear. Their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched (comp. Mark 9:44, 46, 48). It cannot be by chance that the evangelical prophet concludes his glorious prophecy with this terrible note of warning. Either he was divinely directed thus to terminate his teaching, or he felt the need that there was of his emphasizing all the many warnings dispersed throughout his “book” by a final, never-to-be-forgotten picture. The undying worm and the quenchless fire – images introduced by him – became appropriated thenceforth to the final condition of impenitent sinners (Jud. 16:17; Ecclus. 7:17), and were even adopted by our Lord himself in the same connection (Mark 9.). The incongruity of the two images shows that they are not to be understood literally; but both alike imply everlasting continuance, and are incompatible with either of the two modern heresies of universalism or annihilationism. They shall be an abhorring unto all flesh (comp. Daniel 12:2, where the word deraon is rendered “contempt”). The Jewish rabbis regarded it as anomalous that any portion of Scripture should conclude with words of ill omen. When, therefore, this chapter was read in the synagogue, or the last of Ecclesiastes, or Lamentations, or Malachi, they directed that after the reading of the last verse, the last verse but one should he repeated, to correct the sad impression that would otherwise have been left upon the mind. But Isaiah thought it salutary to leave this sad impression (comp. Isaiah 48:22; Isaiah 57:21).
Parallel Commentaries …“As they go forth,וְיָצְא֣וּ (wə·yā·ṣə·’ū)Conjunctive waw | Verb – Qal – Conjunctive perfect – third person common pluralStrong’s 3318: To go, bring, out, direct and proximthey will seeוְרָא֔וּ (wə·rā·’ū)Conjunctive waw | Verb – Qal – Conjunctive perfect – third person common pluralStrong’s 7200: To seethe corpsesבְּפִגְרֵי֙ (bə·p̄iḡ·rê)Preposition-b | Noun – masculine plural constructStrong’s 6297: A carcase, an idolatrous imageof the menהָאֲנָשִׁ֔ים (hā·’ă·nā·šîm)Article | Noun – masculine pluralStrong’s 376: A man as an individual, a male personwho have rebelled against Me;הַפֹּשְׁעִ֖ים (hap·pō·šə·‘îm)Article | Verb – Qal – Participle – masculine pluralStrong’s 6586: To break away, trespass, apostatize, quarrelforכִּ֣י (kî)ConjunctionStrong’s 3588: A relative conjunctiontheir wormתוֹלַעְתָּ֞ם (ṯō·w·la‘·tām)Noun – feminine singular construct | third person masculine pluralStrong’s 8438: The crimson-grub, of the color, from it, cloths dyed therewithwill neverלֹ֣א (lō)Adverb – Negative particleStrong’s 3808: Not, nodie,תָמ֗וּת (ṯā·mūṯ)Verb – Qal – Imperfect – third person feminine singularStrong’s 4191: To die, to killtheir fireוְאִשָּׁם֙ (wə·’iš·šām)Conjunctive waw | Noun – common singular construct | third person masculine pluralStrong’s 784: A firewill neverלֹ֣א (lō)Adverb – Negative particleStrong’s 3808: Not, nobe quenched,תִכְבֶּ֔ה (ṯiḵ·beh)Verb – Qal – Imperfect – third person feminine singularStrong’s 3518: To be quenched or extinguished, to go outand they will beוְהָי֥וּ (wə·hā·yū)Conjunctive waw | Verb – Qal – Conjunctive perfect – third person common pluralStrong’s 1961: To fall out, come to pass, become, bea horrorדֵרָא֖וֹן (ḏê·rā·’ō·wn)Noun – masculine singularStrong’s 1860: An object of aversionto allלְכָל־ (lə·ḵāl)Preposition-l | Noun – masculine singular constructStrong’s 3605: The whole, all, any, everymankind.”בָּשָֽׂר׃ (bā·śār)Noun – masculine singularStrong’s 1320: Flesh, body, person, the pudenda of a, manIsaiah 66:24 NIVIsaiah 66:24 NLTIsaiah 66:24 ESVIsaiah 66:24 NASBIsaiah 66:24 KJVIsaiah 66:24 BibleApps.comIsaiah 66:24 Biblia ParalelaIsaiah 66:24 Chinese BibleIsaiah 66:24 French BibleIsaiah 66:24 Catholic BibleOT Prophets: Isaiah 66:24 They shall go forth and look (Isa Isi Is)