This must be a difficult verse to translate because the translations are all over the map:

KJV Isa 51:16  And I have put my words in thy mouth, and I have covered thee in the shadow of mine hand, that I may plant the heavens, and lay the foundations of the earth, and say unto Zion, Thou art my people

Brenton LXX Isa 51:16  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 art my people.  

New International Version I have put my words in your mouth and covered you with the shadow of my hand-- I who set the heavens in place, who laid the foundations of the earth, and who say to Zion, 'You are my people.'"

Douay-Rheims Isa 51:16  I have put my words in thy mouth, and have protected thee in the shadow of my hand, that thou mightest plant the heavens, and found the earth: and mightest say to Sion: Thou art my people.

Young's Literal Isa 51:16  And I put My words in thy mouth, And with the shadow of My hand have covered thee, To plant the heavens, and to found earth, And to say to Zion, 'My people art thou.'

God speaks in apocalyptic language of heaven and earth passing away. This seems to set up for verse 16:

KJV Isa 51:6  Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath: for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner: but my salvation shall be for ever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished.

So is the passing and recreating of the heavens and the earth speaking of the Jews entering a new covenant, a new age and a new creation?

3 Answers 3


God is the Creator of all. He was using creation language to provide the parallel for the creation of the covenant with His people. Heaven and earth is an Hebraic idiom for the covenant, and is not referring to a literal new sky, or literal new continent.

It is the contract or covenant between God and Israel - heaven (God) and earth (Israel).

An easier way to see it is to look at Matt. 24:35.

"Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away." (KJV)

Hebrew couplets draw a parallel between one thing and another thing either as synonyms or as antonyms. They become metaphors. Synonyms, one thing like another, are indicated by the words "as", "like", "and", etc. Antonyms, dissimilar things or one thing opposite of the other will usually be indicated by the word "but".

So, in Matt. 24:35, Christ was setting two things opposite of each other indicated by the word "but". "Heaven and earth" was opposed to "my words".

If His words are to be understood as remaining, then Heaven and earth represents someone else's words that were about to pass away when He was speaking to His disciples.

We look to the Mount of Transfiguration, and find in Matt. 17:5, that God told Peter to hear Christ's words rather than Moses' words.

"While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him." (KJV)

The covenant provided at the earthly Mt. Sinai in the Exodus from Egypt were handed down by Moses, the forerunner, the type of Christ. Christ's words were the gospel, or the good news of the new covenant that was about to come into effect with His death on the cross (AD 30-31), and the complete destruction of the Mosaic covenant and that temple in AD 70.

One covenant was going to pass away, while the new covenant of the reconciliation would not pass away.

So, Isa. 51:16 uses the metaphor of "heaven and earth" in the prophesy of the new covenant with the heavenly Zion, with the new Jerusalem (Heb.12:22, Rev. 21:1-2) that is now in the hearts of those who are in Christ (Gal. 3:26-29).

I have more on the use of Hebrew parallelisms and God's symbolism defined in the couplets in the post "Frequent Mistakes - Part V: Roses Are Red, and Violets Are Blue..." at my blog ShreddingTheVeil if you would like to explore more.

  • Nice post. However, in Gal 3:22-29 is Paul describing the experience of the believing Jew not the gentiles. The gentiles were never under the tutelage of the Torah.
    – Ruminator
    Aug 8, 2018 at 13:11
  • @Ruminator, all strangers and proselytes abiding with the Israelite under the law were to be treated the same as the native born (Ex. 12:49; Lev 19:33-34, 24:22; Eph 2:19). But, those of the other nations being grafted in as the wild branches with the native branches were no longer strangers, and Gal 3:27-29 is perfectly clear that all who r baptized into Christ r counted for the seed of Abraham, and thus all in Christ are now the Israel of God.
    – Gina
    Aug 8, 2018 at 23:51

Isa 51:16, to me, is simply using God's creativity as a symbol of His omnipotent "hand" (=ability) by which He protects His people. That is, the same hand that made the heavens and the earth is the same hand that protects "my people".

As to the creating of a new heavens and a new earth, this is referenced several times: Isa 65:17, 66:22, 2 Peter 3:13, Rev 21:1. However, in Isa 51:6, to me this is simply a contrast between the (apparent) permanence of the heavens and earth that would pass away before the God and His righteousness and words pass away. Matt 5:18 uses a similar metaphor.

  • Do you see Matthew 5:18 as alluding to Isaiah?
    – Ruminator
    Aug 8, 2018 at 22:06
  • Possibly but both Isa 51 and Matt are possibly drawing on the allusion to Gen 1.
    – user25930
    Aug 9, 2018 at 5:08

The 'shepherds' for Christ have barely touched on what it means that saints shall rule in the new age, that's why allusions to that existence in the terms new heavens and new earths are somewhat strange doctrine.

So I thought I could add a little to what @Gina has already indicated fairly well, though in my opinion, not exhaustively.

Because beings who dwell in a specific place or realm often go by the name of their dwelling, therefore God often generalizes His references to given orders of ruling spirits in the heavens, simply by the term heavens, and those that hail from the underworld, by the term earth. These two categories of entities are what Jeremiah 4:23 also referred to, in that they had gone wayward as spirit rulers. The dismal regions in the earth are often called the earth.

And so the new Jerusalem from above, Mount Zion, signified glorified saints, these are they that will have dominion over the world of men and the underworld of spirits, come the time that Lucifer will be deposed as ruler over the earth. This is what Daniel 7:27 indicates by the kingdom under the whole heavens turning over to them.

Heaven is a 'dwelling' for ONLY ruling beings/spirits. But the earth has both spirit rulers and spirit forms that aren't.

So of the glorified saints, the new Jerusalem, those who will be based in the heavens are the 'new heavens', and of them that will be based or rule over things and beings in the underworld, they are the 'new earth'.

That's why saints MUST be glorified, 'signified as 'clothed with new garments', so as to rule over both flesh and spirits, whether weak or powerful, and this latter category, it is written, characterizes the rulers and dwellers in the underworld, and also because Satan who rules over them all, also ends up there, when cast out.

But to-date, it's Satan, or Devils, they are the dwellers in the heavens, and therefore the outgoing 'old heavens', indicated in Revelation 21, and the''principalities'' mentioned in Ephesians. They are the heavens today. The 'old Serpent', mentioned in singular is an allusion to an order of wicked spirit princes set over the world and the underworld. He is the prince that fell in Psalm 82:7.

This 'old serpent' rules over another similarly powerful entity named as 'beasts', or the ''powers'' in the same Ephesians 2, that's why these latter emerge from the underworld in Revelation 13 by the 'authority' of the 'dragon' who 'stands' on the sand of the sea, because rulers in the heavens have dominion over rulers{powers} in the underworld.

Yet these 'beasts', are similarly powerfully spirit kings, but have not authority to rule over the earth from the heavens, but from the underworld. They are the current 'earth' although that infernal region has other lesser and weaker creatures that aren't rulers. But the rulers, the kings mentioned in Isaiah 14:9, they are the outgoing and 'old earth', the earth in Revelation 21.

So come the time of Revelation 21, at the 'inauguration' of sons of men as 'spirit rulers' over the entire earth, as Psalm 45:16 and as Daniel 7:27 indicate, those that are based in the heavens to replace the 'old serpent', they are the new heavens, and those that will be based in the underworld, or simply set over things in the underworld, they are the new 'earth'. This is what Isaiah prophesied in that God says;

Isaiah 65:

17 For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. 18 But be ye glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create: for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. 19 And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people: and the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice of crying.

As to the planting of heavens, the allusion is to plants that become 'Cedars', an allusion to spirit princes that rule over lower order creations of God. This idea of a tree is what Lucifer is also called in Ezekiel going by the name Assyrian a Cedar in the garden of God. These are they that rule from the heavens, going by the symbolism of Cedars, wherever it appears in Scriptures.

Now that that is out of the way; as concerns sons of men that become the new heavens and the new earth, ask now by whom do humans acquire that new nature so as to rule in the new age? It's by Christ their Lord...

And so, God in Isaiah 51 speaks to Messiah, whether in His pre-incarnate form or after, its regardless, bottom-line is, it is before He takes on that 'duty' planting trees of the LORD.

To cover Messiah with God's hand is the so called being anointed or simply empowered by the Spirit of God to do that duty of transforming sons of men into sons of God. This is what John 1:12 indicates.

Messiah then reiterates these things that he would do by the 'hand of God' in the speech of Luke 4. Foundations simply allude to leaders in a congregation, but respecting things spirit. '1 Corinthians 3:11'

So the foundations that Messiah lays are sons of men, they who rule with Him come the time when the kingdoms of the world in Revelation 11:15, pass from Satan's grip into Messiah's charge. It is written!

The translations were 'allover' the place because the idea of a new heavens and a new earth is still uncharted waters to many teachers of the bible, because of the strange and peculiar idea that apparently a'son of man' under the shadow of the hand of the Almighty would plant the heavens and lay the foundation of the earth, which duties 'dogmatically' held as exclusive attributes of the Almighty...

I hope that helps...

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