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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Isaiah 63

Verses 1-19

Isaiah 63:1 . With dyed garments from Bozrah. Not the Bozrah in Moab, but Bozrah, the capital of Idumea. Perhaps it was because Judas Maccabeus slaughtered twenty thousand of them in one battle, that certain Jews, followed by many Christians, have erroneously understood this passage of that prince. But there was a gate in Jerusalem called the gate of Bozrah, through which the Saviour might pass when sent by Pilate to Herod.

The answer to the question is given by the Messiah. I that speak in righteousness, who am mighty to save. Now, no one but the Messiah published righteousness. He commissioned the king of Assyria, the rod of his anger, to punish the Jews: chap. 10.

Isaiah 63:2 . The church asks, Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the wine vat?

Isaiah 63:3 . The Messiah answers, I have trodden the wine-press alone, and of the people there was none with me. Isaiah 59:11; Isaiah 59:16, is much the same, where it is said, there being no intercessor, his own arm brought salvation. These words are not applicable to conquerors at the head of armies; but in the garden of Gethsemane the Saviour interceded alone, the disciples being heavy with sleep.

To the second question, Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, he answers, I will tread them in mine anger I will stain all my raiment with their blood. The Lord did this when he sent the Romans against Jerusalem, and he will do it more fully when he shall destroy the last enemies of the church. Revelation 19:15.

Isaiah 63:7 . I will mention the lovingkindnesses of the Lord, in a new song, after the victory obtained by his own arm. To memorialize the gracious cares of providence, and the particular instances of his mercy, would form the most elevated subject of sacred song. Every age, every year, every morning open with mercies ever new.

Isaiah 63:8 . He said, surely they are my people. Not feigning, not denying, not degenerating, as the Versions read; so he was their Father, pitying them as a father pitieth his children. In all their afflictions he was afflicted. He was with their fathers in their pilgrimage; he saw them in Egypt, he marched with them through the sea. The cloud of his chariot was seen by Ezekiel, in the oriental lands of their captivity.

Isaiah 63:9 . The Angel of his Presence, פניו panaiv, of his face, saved them. The Arians teach in succession that this angel was Michael, or one of the seven angels who stand before the throne. To follow those guides is to make shipwreck of faith. The old rabbins regard this angel as Shaddai, the strong, because he possesses the power of God. The angel named here, is no other than he who led the Hebrews in the desert. Behold, I send an angel before thee. Numbers 23:20. This angel is called the face of God, for he is the brightness of his glory. Hebrews 1:3.

The marvellous works he effectuated demonstrate the glory of his person; he saved and redeemed his servants from all evil and mischief. Genesis 48:16. It was against his Holy Spirit that the Hebrews revolted, and vexed him by their sins. His names equally designate who he is, for this Angel is called Jehovah. Exodus 33:2; Exodus 13:21; Exodus 14:10; Exodus 14:24. Nec alius is erat quàm Christus. Neither, says Poole, was this Angel any other than Christ, as appears by comparing Acts 8:48, with 1 Corinthians 10:4; 1 Corinthians 10:9. He is also called the angel of the covenant. Malachi 3:1. He is given for a covenant to the people, and is the Mediator of the new covenant. Hebrews 8:3. He is the face of God, for he who has seen the Son, hath seen the Father also. John 14:9. He is the image of the invisible God. Colossians 1:15. For our sake’s he appears in the presence of God, and makes intercession for the transgressors. The general council held at Constantinople in the year 381, confirms the above exposition.

To the scripture testimonies that this angel was the Christ, we may superadd those of the christian fathers. The Latin works of bishop Bull are before me. Ed. London, 1721. Defensio fidei Nicaenæ, &c. He proves, and with common consent, that the angel who appeared to the patriarchs, to Moses at the burning bush, and to the parents of Samson, was the Christ; which appears by his names, by his acts, and by the sacrifices and worship which he received. I will translate his words and extracts.

Justin Martyr, in his dialogue with Trypho the Jew, contends that “he who appeared to Abraham in the plains of Mamre; the Jehovah who from Jehovah in heaven, εκ πατρος των ολων , that is, from the universal parent, rained down fire and sulphur on Sodom; that he who appeared to Jacob in a dream, and afterwards wrestled with him in human form, to console him in his exile; and lastly, that he who appeared to Moses at the burning bush, was the Christ.” Ed. Paris, 1615. pp. 275, 277.

Of him who appeared to Abraham, and to Moses, Irenæus gives the same sense as Justin. Adv. Hæres. 50, 4. c. 11. Ed. Paris, 1639. “The living God therefore, adored by the prophets, even the living God, and his Word [ λογος ] who spake to Moses, and who confounded the sadducees by expounding the resurrection of the dead, is the same Jehovah.”

“Theophilus Antiochenus, writing to Autolycus, asserts that he who appeared to Adam immediately alter the fall was the Son of God, assuming the person of the Father and universal Lord; that he came into paradise in the person of God, and talked with Adam.”

“Tertullian, in his book against the Jews, asserts that he who spake to Moses was the Son of God; but more openly and fully against Praxeas, caput 16. The Son who was the Judge from the beginning, overthrew the proud tower, deluged the whole earth with violent waters, rained on Sodom and Gomorrah fire and sulphur, Jehovah from Jehovah. He it was who always descended to talk with men, from Adam to the patriarchs and prophets, in visions and dreams, in shadows and figures, and guided their affairs from the beginning, everywhere following and instructing them. God conversing with men, could be no other than the WORD, which was made flesh.”

For a superabundance of other short testimonies, bishop Bull refers the student to Origen, to Cyprian, Novatius, and other fathers, which assert that this Angel was the Christ, the Word, the Son of God. In those fathers Christ, and his holy apostles, still speak to us.

How appalling on this head to find Lowth arranged on the opposite side to Bull. It is bishops opposing bishops, and on a vital article of faith. The contamination is general among the dignitaries of the church. Dr. Enfield has published The English Preacher, in nine volumes of sermons, so low in sentiment as to give no offence to the Unitarian reader!

Isaiah 63:10 . They rebelled and vexed his Holy Spirit. They did so at the waters of Meribah, and at Kadesh-barnea. Numbers 14:11. Psalms 95:10. It was against the Jehovah Elohim that they revolted. This whole passage is therefore properly adduced to prove the doctrine of the adorable Trinity, by the fathers and divines of every succeeding age. Vide Turrentine’s Latin work, an excellent compendium of Theology, Ed. Amsterdam, 1695, pp. 35, 36. Vide Mellificium Theologicum, a Latin commonplace book, containing a hundred thousand heads of theology. The only edition of this invaluable work was printed at Amsterdam, 1658.

Isaiah 63:11 ; Isaiah 63:14 . Then he remembered the days of old, Moses and his people. How he forgave their sins on imperfect acts of repentance; how he led them through the deep, as a horse is led into the water; how he caused them, like a herd of cattle, to go down into the vallies, and feed in peaceful pastures, giving them rest in the promised land. How many are his tender mercies!

Isaiah 63:16 . Doubtless thou art our Father, though Abraham be ignorant of us. A just avowal that God was more their Father than the holy patriarchs. In trouble, those fathers could not save them; but the Messiah was ever their Saviour, as in Isaiah 62:11; and their Redeemer, as in Job 19:25. Why then do the papists pray to dead men?

Thy name is from everlasting, מעולם me-ôlam, verbatim, from everlasting. So is the liberal reading of Psalms 90:2. From everlasting to everlasting thou art God. The same word occurs in Micah 5:2. The Messiah, born in Bethlehem Judah, whose goings forth were of old from everlasting. This agrees with Psalms 110:3. From the womb of the morning thou hast the dew of thy youth. Proverbs 8:22. Dr. Lowth’s note here is, “But instead of me-ôlam, from everlasting, an ancient manuscript has למען le-mâan, for the sake of, which gives a much better sense.” Thus, to deprive the Redeemer of a text which literally designates his eternity, one solitary Hebrew manuscript must supersede the wide world of Hebrew Bibles! From such comments, Animus luctu refugit, the mind revolts with sorrow. Surely, my friend, Dr. Adam Clarke, in reprinting the whole of Lowth, did not weigh the consequences of such futile criticisms, being himself, on Isaiah 9:6, “unto us a Son is given,” very explicit on the divine nature of Christ. No paternity can be added to the Father, nor filiation to the Son.

Isaiah 63:19 . We are thine: thou never barest rule over them. The LXX read, We are as we were at first, when thou didst not rule over us, and when we were not called by thy name. DR. WALL.


Isaiah, foreseeing the ruin of the Jewish church and nation, looks solely for help and hope to the Redeemer, clothed with a high coloured vesture, baptized and besprinkled with blood. Vengeance he saw would overtake the enemies of the church, and a new Israel would be gathered when this victorious Sovereign should publish righteousness to the heathen, and show himself mighty to save.

His names, his titles, and his offices embolden the confidence of the church. Jehovah, the Elohim, the Divinity, the great Angel of the covenant, who did great and marvellous things for the fathers, is made the only hope of the children. Though they had rebelled, and vexed his Holy Spirit, anger soon gave way to paternal love. Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, that passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage; he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy. Micah 7:18.

Zion therefore sings a new song in the time of sorrow. I will memorialize the lovingkindness of the Lord in all ages past, as arguments and pledges of hope for future years. The Lord will return for his servants’ sake, and pity the ruins and walls of his desecrated Zion, and cause his light and glory to return.

Assuredly, the gift of prophecy to the favoured few, was luminous in the ancient church; they saw the consolations, as well as the sorrows of the saints. And those holy seers always placed the flock under shelter, before the ruder blasts devastated the land. May the same Lord ever hide us in the clefts of the rock.

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Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Isaiah 63". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. 1835.