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Foundation of the Earth

That I May Plant the Heavens, Genesis 1 or the Kingdom?, is part of a text from Isaiah 51:16. The controversy around this text offers three possible solutions for its interpretation. Some believe that it refers historically to Genesis 1:1, but not to a physical creation, rather to the covenantal creation of Israel. Others offer Sinai at the giving of the Law. Yet another group believe it refers to the kingdom age.

And I have put my words in your mouth; I have covered you with the shadow of My hand, that I may plant the heavens, lay the foundations of the earth, and say to Zion, ‘You are my people.'” (Isaiah 51:16).

Adam Clarke is verse sparse in his comments on the text. He offers justification for what we wrote above saying the text is very obscure. That doesn’t help much!  Young, a bit more generous acknowledges that the words are reminiscent of Sinai. However, he sees a futurist perspective in the second half of the verse.

“Yet the second half of the verse seems to suggest that the work therein described is to be carried out by those in whose mouth God has placed His words. They are to plant the heavens and found the earth. God places His words in their mouth that thereby the heavens and earth may be founded. ” (Edward Young, The New International Commentary, Book of Isaiah, Vol. III)

Young further adds that the more likely view is that the Servant of God, i.e. the Messiah. He reasons that the planting of the heavens and founding of the earth is not generally the work of Isaiah and the prophets. While Israel may be a consideration, it could only be representative of the one Seed through whom Israel is determined, i.e. the Messiah.

He concludes: “Yet in light of the nature of the work to be accomplished, it seems best to regard the One in whose mouth God places His words as the Messiah Himself, the One who is to plant the heavens and found the earth and bring a message of comfort to Zion.

God says he would put the words into the Messiah’s mouth. This is affirmed both from Deuteronomy 18:18-19 and John 14:10; 16:13. Now, since the heavens and earth were already created when Isaiah wrote, he could not be speaking of the material creation. Further, he could not be speaking of Sinai for the same reason. It currently ran its course as he spoke.

That I May Plant the Heavens – Genesis 1 or the Kingdom?

The language of Isaiah is clearly future tense as expressed in the LXX (Septuagint or Greek translation of the Old Testament). “I will put my words into thy mouth, and I will shelter thee under the shadow of mine hand, with which I fixed the sky, and founded the earth: and the Lord shall say to Sion, Thou are my people. ”

In this text note that God affirms that the Messiah would be sheltered under the shadow of his hand with which he “fixed” the sky. This is an allusion to the permanency of the material creation. See our book on “Will Planet Earth Be Destroyed?” for a full discussion on this concept. This further confirms that he speaks of a future creation. This text is parallel to Isaiah 65:17 where God says he would make a new creation and a new people. Only there he uses Jerusalem for Zion as the place of the creation. They are the same.

In previous verses, God had just spoken of the passing of the Old Covenant heaven and earth comparing it with the salvation which comes through the Messiah which would not be abolished. (Isaiah 51:6). Thus, the heavens and earth God would create per Isaiah 51:16 would not be abolished.

In summary, we have shown that the words of Isaiah 51:16 refers not to Gen. 1:1 (material creation). We demonstrated it could not be the Old Covenant creation at Sinai, in that that creation would pass away, whereas the new heavens and earth God would create would remain. Since the material creation is “fixed” then it will not vanish away. It is therefore the Old Covenant which passes away like smoke and vanishes like a garment.

Therefore, the reference in Isaiah 51:16 speaks of the New Covenant creation under the Messiah and the New Israel (Christians) who inhabit that new covenantal world.