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Sixth Prophecy - Isaiah 63:1-Joshua :
Judgment Upon Edom and Upon the Whole World that Is Hostile to the Church
Just as the Ammonites had been characterized by a thirst for extending their territory as well as by cruelty, and the Moabites by boasting and a slanderous disposition, so were the Edomites, although the brother-nation to Israel, characterised from time immemorial by fierce, implacable, bloodthirsty hatred towards Israel, upon which they fell in the most ruthless and malicious manner, whenever it was surrounded by danger or had suffered defeat. The knavish way in which they acted in the time of Joram, when Jerusalem was surprised and plundered by Philistines and Arabians (2 Chronicles 21:16-Esther :), has been depicted by Obadiah. A large part of the inhabitants of Jerusalem were then taken prisoners, and sold by the conquerors, some to the Phoenicians and some to the Greeks (Obadiah 1:20; Joel 3:1-Ruth :); to the latter through the medium of the Edomites, who were in possession of the port and commercial city of Elath on the Elanitic Gulf (Amos 1:6). Under the rule of the very same Joram the Edomites had made themselves independent of the house of David (2 Kings 8:20; 2 Chronicles 21:10), and a great massacre took place among the Judaeans settled in Idumaea; an act of wickedness for which Joel threatens them with the judgment of God (Joel 3:19), and which was regarded as not yet expiated even in the time of Uzziah, notwithstanding the fact that Amaziah had chastised them (2 Kings 14:7), and Uzziah had wrested Elath from them (2 Kings 14:22). “Thus saith Jehovah,” was the prophecy of Amos (Amos 1:11-2 Kings :) in the first half of Uzziah's reign, “for three transgressions of Edom, ad for four, I will not take it back, because he pursued his brother with the sword, and stifled his compassion, so that his anger tears in pieces for ever, and he keeps his fierce wrath eternally: And I let fire loose upon Teman, and it devours the palaces of Bozrah.” So also at the destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans, and the carrying away of the people, Edom took the side of the Chaldeans, rejoiced over Israel's defeat, and flattered itself that it should eventually rule over the territory that had hitherto belonged to Israel. They availed themselves of this opportunity to slake their thirst for revenge upon Israel, placing themselves at the service of its enemies, delivering up fugitive Judaeans or else massacring them, and really obtaining possession of the southern portion of Judaea, viz., Hebron (1 Macc. 5:65; cf., Josephus, Wars of the Jews, iv 9, 7). With a retrospective glance at these, the latest manifestations of eternal enmity, Edom is threatened with divine vengeance by Jeremiah in the prophecy contained in Jer 49:7-22, which is taken for the most part from Obadiah; also in the Lamentations (Lamentations 4:21-Song of Solomon :), as well as by Ezekiel (Ezekiel 25:12-2 Chronicles :, and especially Ezekiel 35:1), and by the author of Psalms 137:1-1 Samuel :, which looks back upon the time of the captivity. Edom is not always an emblematical name for the imperial power of the world: this is evident enough from Psalms 137:1-1 Samuel :, from Isaiah 21, and also from Isaiah 34 in connection with chapter 13, where the judgment upon Edom is represented as a different one from the judgment upon Babylon. Babylon and Edom are always to be taken literally, so far as the primary meaning of the prophecy is concerned; but they are also representative, Babylon standing for the violent and tyrannical world-power, and Edom for the world as cherishing hostility and manifesting hostility to Israel as Israel, i.e., as the people of God. Babylon had no other interest, so far as Israel was concerned, than to subjugate it like other kingdoms, and destroy every possibility of its ever rising again. But Edom, which dwelt in Israel's immediate neighbourhood, and sprang from the same ancestral house, hated Israel with hereditary mortal hatred, although it knew the God of Israel better than Babylon ever did, because it knew that Israel had deprived it of its birthright, viz., the chieftainship. If Israel should have such a people as this, and such neighbouring nations generally round about it, after it had been delivered from the tyranny of the mistress of the world, its peace would still be incessantly threatened. Not only must Babylon fall, but Edom also must be trodden down, before Israel could be redeemed, or be regarded as perfectly redeemed. The prophecy against Edom which follows here is therefore a well-chosen side-piece to the prophecy against Babel in Isaiah 47:1-Ezra :, at the point of time to which the prophet has been transported.
This is the smallest of all the twenty-seven prophecies. In its dramatic style it resembles Psalms 24:1-2 Samuel :; in its visionary and emblematical character it resembles the tetralogy in Isaiah 21:1-22:14. The attention of the seer is attracted by a strange and lofty form coming from Edom, or more strictly from Bozrah; not the place in Auranitis or Hauran (Jeremiah 48:24) which is memorable in church history, but the place in Edomitis or Gebal, between Petra and the Dead Sea, which still exists as a village in ruins under the diminutive name of el-Busaire. “Who is this that cometh from Edom, in deep red clothes from Bozrah? This, glorious in his apparel, bending to and fro in the fulness of his strength?” The verb c hâmats means to be sharp or bitter; but here, where it can only refer to colour, it means to be glaring, and as the Syriac shows, in which it is generally applied to blushing from shame or reverential awe, to be a staring red ( ὀξέως ). The question, what is it that makes the clothes of this new-comer so strikingly red? is answered afterwards. But apart from the colour, they are splendid in their general arrangement and character. The person seen approaching is בּלבוּשׁו הדוּר (cf., Arab. ḥdr and hdr , to rush up, to shoot up luxuriantly, ahdar used for a swollen body), and possibly through the medium of hâdâr (which may signify primarily a swelling, or pad, ὄγκος , and secondarily pomp or splendour), “to honour or adorn;” so that hâdūr signifies adorned, grand (as in Genesis 24:65; Targ. II lxx ὡραῖος ), splendid. The verb tsâ‛âh , to bend or stoop, we have already met with in Isaiah 51:14. Here it is used to denote a gesture of proud self-consciousness, partly with or without the idea of the proud bending back of the head (or bending forward to listen), and partly with that of swaying to and fro, i.e., the walk of a proud man swinging to and fro upon the hips. The latter is the sense in which we understand tsō‛eh here, viz., as a syn. of the Arabic mutamâli , to bend proudly from one side to the other (Vitringa: se huc illuc motitans ). The person seen here produces the impression of great and abundant strength; and his walk indicates the corresponding pride of self-consciousness.
“Who is this?” asks the seer of a third person. But the answer comes from the person himself, though only seen in the distance, and therefore with a voice that could be heard afar off. “I am he that speaketh in righteousness, mighty to aid.” Hitzig, Knobel, and others, take righteousness as the object of the speaking; and this is grammatically possible ( בּ = περί , e.g., Deuteronomy 6:7). But our prophet uses בצדק in Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 45:13, and בצדקה in an adverbial sense: “strictly according to the rule of truth (more especially that of the counsel of mercy or plan of salvation) and right.” The person approaching says that he is great in word and deed (Jeremiah 32:19). He speaks in righteousness; in the zeal of his holiness threatening judgment to the oppressors, and promising salvation to the oppressed; and what he threatens and promises, he carries out with mighty power. He is great ( רב , not רב ; S. ὑπερμαχῶν , Jer. propugnator ) to aid the oppressed against their oppressors. This alone might lead us to surmise, that it is God from whose mouth of righteousness (Isaiah 45:23) the consolation of redemption proceeds, and whose holy omnipotent arm (Isaiah 52:10; Isaiah 59:16) carries out the act of redemption.
The seer surmises this also, and now inquires still further, whence the strange red colour of his apparel, which does not look like the purple of a king's talar or the scarlet of a chlamys. “Whence the red on thine apparel, and thy clothes like those of a wine-presser?” מדּוּע inquires the reason and cause; למּה , in its primary sense, the object or purpose. The seer asks, “Why is there red ( ' âdōm , neuter, like rabh in Isaiah 63:7) to thine apparel?” The Lamed, which might be omitted (wherefore is thy garment red?), implies that the red was not its original colour, but something added (cf., Jeremiah 30:12, and lâmō in Isaiah 26:16; Isaiah 53:8). This comes out still more distinctly in the second half of the question: “and (why are) thy clothes like those of one who treads (wine) in the wine-press” ( b e gath with a pausal á not lengthened, like baz in Isaiah 8:1), i.e., saturated and stained as if with the juice of purple grapes?
The person replies: “I have trodden the wine-trough alone, and of the nations no one was with me: and I trode them in my wrath, and trampled them down in my fury; and their life-sap spirted upon my clothes, and all my raiment was stained. For a day of vengeance was in my heart, and the year of my redemption was come. And I looked round, and there was no helper; and I wondered there was no supporter: then mine own arm helped me; and my fury, it became my support. And I trode down nations in my wrath, and made them drunk in my fury, and made their life-blood run down to the earth.” He had indeed trodden the wine-press ( pūrâh = gath , or, if distinct from this, the pressing-trough as distinguished from the pressing-house or pressing-place; according to Fürst, something hollowed out; but according to the traditional interpretation from pūr = pârar , to crush, press, both different from yeqebh : see at Isaiah 5:2), and he alone; so that the juice of the grapes had saturated and coloured his clothes, and his only. When he adds, that of the nations no one was with him, it follows that the press which he trode was so great, that he might have needed the assistance of whole nations. And when he continues thus: And I trod them in my wrath, etc., the enigma is at once explained. It was to the nations themselves that the knife was applied. They were cut off like grapes and put into the wine-press (Joel 3:13); and this heroic figure, of which there was no longer any doubt that it was Jehovah Himself, had trodden them down in the impulse and strength of His wrath. The red upon the clothes was the life-blood of the nations, which had spirted upon them, and with which, as He trode this wine-press, He had soiled all His garments. Nētsach , according to the more recently accepted derivation from nâtsach , signifies, according to the traditional idea, which is favoured by Lamentations 3:18, vigor, the vital strength and life-blood, regarded as the sap of life. ויז (compare the historical tense ויּז in 2 Kings 9:33) is the future used as an imperfect, and it spirted, from nâzâh (see at Isaiah 52:15). אגאלתּי (from גּאל גּעל , Isaiah 59:3) is the perfect hiphil with an Aramaean inflexion (compare the same Aramaism in Psalms 76:6; 2 Chronicles 20:35; and הלאני , which is half like it, in Job 16:7); the Hebrew form would be הגאלתּי .
(Note: The Babylonian MSS have אגאלתי with c hirek, since the Babylonian (Assyrian) system of punctuation has no seghol.)
AE and A regard the form as a mixture of the perfect and future, but this is a mistake. This work of wrath had been executed by Jehovah, because He had in His heart a day of vengeance, which could not be delayed, and because the year (see at Isaiah 61:2) of His promised redemption had arrived. גּאּלי (this is the proper reading, not גּאוּלי , as some codd. have it; and this was the reading which Rashi had before him in his comm. on Lamentations 1:6) is the plural of the passive participle used as an abstract noun (compare היּים vivi , vitales , or rather viva , vitalia = vita ). And He only had accomplished this work of wrath. Isaiah 63:5 is the expansion of לבדּי , and almost a verbal repetition of Isaiah 59:16. The meaning is, that no one joined Him with conscious free-will, to render help to the God of judgment and salvation in His purposes. The church that was devoted to Him was itself the object of the redemption, and the great mass of those who were estranged from Him the object of the judgment. Thus He found Himself alone, neither human co-operation nor the natural course of events helping the accomplishment of His purposes. And consequently He renounced all human help, and broke through the steady course of development by a marvellous act of His own. He trode down nations in His wrath, and intoxicated them in His fury, and caused their life-blood to flow down to the ground. The Targum adopts the rendering “ et triturabo eos ,” as if the reading were ואשׁבּרם , which we find in Sonc. 1488, and certain other editions, as well as in some codd. Many agree with Cappellus in preferring this reading; and in itself it is not inadmissible (see Lamentations 1:15). But the lxx and all the other ancient versions, the Masora (which distinguishes ואשׁכרם with כ , as only met with once, from ואשׁברם morf , with ב in Deuteronomy 9:17), and the great majority of the MSS, support the traditional reading. There is nothing surprising in the transition to the figure of the cup of wrath, which is a very common one with Isaiah. Moreover, all that is intended is, that Jehovah caused the nations to feel the full force of this His fury, by trampling them down in His fury.
Even in this short ad highly poetical passage we see a desire to emblematize, just as in the emblematic cycle of prophetical night-visions in Isaiah 21:1-22:14. For not only is the name of Edom made covertly into an emblem of its future fate, אדם becoming אדם upon the apparel of Jehovah the avenger, when the blood of the people, stained with blood-guiltiness towards the people of God, is spirted out, but the name of Bozrah also; for bâtsar means to cut off bunches of grapes ( vindemiare ), and botsrâh becomes bâtsı̄r , i.e., a vintage, which Jehovah treads in His wrath, when He punishes the Edomitish nation as well as all the rest of the nations, which in their hostility towards Him and His people have taken pleasure in the carrying away of Israel and the destruction of Jerusalem, and have lent their assistance in accomplishing them. Knobel supposes that the judgment referred to is the defeat which Cyrus inflicted upon the nations under Croesus and their allies; but it can neither be shown that this defeat affected the Edomites, nor can we understand why Jehovah should appear as if coming from Edom-Bozrah, after inflicting this judgment, to which Isaiah 41:2. refers. Knobel himself also observes, that Edom was still an independent kingdom, and hostile to the Persians (Diod. xv 2) not only under the reign of Cambyses (Herod. iii. 5ff.), but even later than that (Diod. xiii. 46). But at the time of Malachi, who lived under Artaxerxes Longimanus, if not under his successor Darius Nothus, a judgment of devastation was inflicted upon Edom (Malachi 1:3-Deuteronomy :), from which it never recovered. The Chaldeans, as Caspari has shown ( Obad. p. 142), cannot have executed it, since the Edomites appear throughout as their accomplices, and as still maintaining their independence even under the first Persian kings; nor can any historical support be found to the conjecture, that it occurred in the wars between the Persians and the Egyptians (Hitzig and Köhler, Mal. p. 35). What the prophet's eye really saw was fulfilled in the time of the Maccabaeans, when Judas inflicted a total defeat upon them, John Hyrcanus compelled them to become Jews, and Alexander Jannai completed their subjection; and in the time of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, when Simon of Gerasa avenged their cruel conduct in Jerusalem in combination with the Zelots, by ruthlessly turning their well-cultivated land into a horrible desert, just as it would have been left by a swarm of locusts (Jos. Wars of the Jews, iv 9, 7).
The New Testament counterpart of this passage in Isaiah is the destruction of Antichrist and his army (Revelation 19:11.). He who effects this destruction is called the Faithful and True, the Logos of God; and the seer beholds Him sitting upon a white horse, with eyes of flaming fire, and many diadems upon His head, wearing a blood-stained garment, like the person seen by the prophet here. The vision of John is evidently formed upon the basis of that of Isaiah; for when it is said of the Logos that He rules the nations with a staff of iron, this points to Psalms 2:1-2 Kings :; and when it is still further said that He treads the wine-press of the wrath of Almighty God, this points back to Isaiah 63. The reference throughout is not to the first coming of the Lord, when He laid the foundation of His kingdom by suffering and dying, but to His final coming, when He will bring His regal sway to a victorious issue. Nevertheless Isaiah 63:1-Joshua : has always been a favourite passage for reading in Passion week. It is no doubt true that the Christian cannot read this prophecy without thinking of the Saviour streaming with blood, who trode the wine-press of wrath for us without the help of angels and men, i.e., who conquered wrath for us. But the prophecy does not relate to this. The blood upon the garment of the divine Hero is not His own, but that of His enemies; and His treading of the wine-press is not the conquest of wrath, but the manifestation of wrath. This section can only be properly used as a lesson for Passion week so far as this, that Jehovah, who here appears to the Old Testament seer, was certainly He who became man in His Christ, in the historical fulfilment of His purposes; and behind the first advent to bring salvation there stood with warning form the final coming to judgment, which will take vengeance upon that Edom, to whom the red lentil-judgment of worldly lust and power was dearer than the red life-blood of that loving Servant of Jehovah who offered Himself for the sin of the whole world.
There follows now in Isaiah 63:7-64:11 a prayer commencing with the thanksgiving as it looks back to the past, and closing with a prayer for help as it turns to the present. Hitzig and Knobel connect this closely with Isaiah 63:1-Joshua :, assuming that through the great event which had occurred, viz., the overthrow of Edom, and of the nations hostile to the people of God as such, by which the exiles were brought one step nearer to freedom, the prophet was led to praise Jehovah for all His previous goodness to Israel. There is nothing, however, to indicate this connection, which is in itself a very loose one. The prayer which follows is chiefly an entreaty, and an entreaty appended to Isaiah 63:1-Joshua :, but without any retrospective allusion to it: it is rather a prayer in general for the realization of the redemption already promised. Ewald is right in regarding Isaiah 63:7-66:24 as an appendix to this whole book of consolation, since the traces of the same prophet are unmistakeable; but the whole style of the description is obviously different, and the historical circumstances must have been still further developed in the meantime.
The three prophecies which follow are the finale of the whole. The announcement of the prophet, which has reached its highest point in the majestic vision in Isaiah 63:1-Joshua :, is now drawing to an end. It is standing close upon the threshold of all that has been promised, and nothing remains but the fulfilment of the promise, which he has held up like a jewel on every side. And now, just as in the finale of a poetical composition, all the melodies and movements that have been struck before are gathered up into one effective close; and first of all, as in Hab, into a prayer, which forms, as it were, the lyrical echo of the preaching that has gone before.
The prophet, as the leader of the prayers of the church, here passes into the expanded style of the tephillah. Isaiah 63:7 “I will celebrate the mercies of Jehovah, the praises of Jehovah, as is seemly for all that Jehovah hath shown us, and the great goodness towards the house of Israel, which He hath shown them according to His pity, and the riches of His mercies.” The speaker is the prophet, in the name of the church, or, what is the same thing, the church in which the prophet includes himself. The prayer commences with thanksgiving, according to the fundamental rule in Psalms 50:23. The church brings to its own remembrance, as the subject of praise in the presence of God, all the words and deeds by which Jehovah has displayed His mercy and secured glory to Himself. חסדי (this is the correct pointing, with ד protected by gaya ; cf., כּדכד in Isaiah 54:12) are the many thoughts of mercy and acts of mercy into which the grace of God, i.e., His one purpose of grace and His one work of grace, had been divided. They are just so many t e hillōth , self-glorifications of God, and impulses to His glorification. On כּעל , as is seemly, see at Isaiah 59:18. There is no reason for assuming that ורב־טוּב is equivalent to רב־טוב וּכעל , as Hitzig and Knobel do. רב־טוב commences the second object to אזכּיר , in which what follows is unfolded as a parallel to the first. Rabh , the much, is a neuter formed into a substantive, as in Psalms 145:7; rōbh , plurality or multiplicity, is an infinitive used as a substantive. Tūbh is God's benignant goodness; rachămı̄m , His deepest sympathizing tenderness; c hesed (root חס , used of violent emotion; cf., Syr. c hăsad , c hăsam , aemulari ; Arab. ḥss , to be tender, full of compassion), grace which condescends to and comes to meet a sinful creature. After this introit, the prayer itself commences with a retrospective glance at the time of the giving of law, when the relation of a child, in which Israel stood to Jehovah, was solemnly proclaimed and legally regulated. Isaiah 63:8 “He said, They are my people, children who will not lie; and He became their Saviour.” א ך is used here in its primary affirmative sense. ישׁקּרוּ is the future of hope. When He made them His people, His children, He expected from them a grateful return of His covenant grace in covenant fidelity; and whenever they needed help from above, He became their Saviour ( m ōshı̄ă‛ ). We can recognise the ring of Exodus 15:2 here, just as in Isaiah 12:2. Mōshı̄ă‛ ) is a favourite word in chapters 40-66 (compare, however, Isaiah 19:20 also).
The next v. commemorates the way in which He proved Himself a Saviour in heart and action. “In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the Angel of His face brought them salvation. In His love and in His pity He redeemed them, and lifted them up, and bare them all the days of the olden time.” This is one of the fifteen passages in which the chethib has לא , the keri לו . It is only with difficulty that we can obtain any meaning from the chethib: “in all the affliction which He brought upon them He did not afflict, viz., according to their desert” (Targ., Jer., Rashi ); or better still, as tsâr must in this case be derived from tsūr , and tsăr is only met with in an intransitive sense, “In all their distress there was no distress” ( Saad. ), with which J. D. Michaelis compares 2 Corinthians 4:8, “troubled on every side, yet not distressed.” The oxymoron is perceptible enough, but the להם צר לא ), which is indispensable to this expression, is wanting. Even with the explanation, “In all their affliction He was not an enemy, viz., Jehovah, to them” (Döderlein), or “No man persecuted them without the angel immediately,” etc. (Cocceius and Rosenmüller), we miss להם or אתם . There are other still more twisted and jejune attempts to explain the passage with לא , which are not worth the space they occupy. Even in the older translators did not know how to deal with the לא in the text. The Sept. takes tsăr as equivalent to tsı̄r , a messenger, and renders the passage according to its own peculiar interpunctuation: οὐ πρέσβυς οὐδὲ ἄγγελος ἀλλ ̓ αὐτὸς ἔσωσεν αὐτούς (neither a messenger nor an angel, but His face, i.e., He Himself helped them: Exodus 33:14-Ezra :; 2 Samuel 17:11). Everything forces to the conclusion that the keri לו is to be preferred. The Masora actually does reckon this as one of the fifteen passages in which לו is to be read for לא .
(Note: There are fifteen passages in which the keri substitutes לו for לא . See Masora m agna on Leviticus 11:21 ( Psalter, ii. 60). If we add Isaiah 49:5; 1 Chronicles 11:20; 1 Samuel 2:16, there are eighteen ( Comm. on Job, at Job 13:15). But the first two of these are not reckoned, because they are doubtful; and in the third, instead of לּו being substituted for לא לא is substituted for לו (Ges. Thes. 735, b). 2 Samuel 19:7 also is not a case in point, for there the keri is לוּ for לא .)
Jerome was also acquainted with this explanation. He says: “Where we have rendered it, 'In all their affliction He was not afflicted,' which is expressed in Hebrew by lo, the adverb of negation, we might read ipse; so that the sense would be, 'In all their affliction He, i.e., God, was afflicted.' “ If we take the sentence in this way, “In all oppression there was oppression to Him,” it yields a forcible thought in perfect accordance with the Scripture (compare e.g., Judges 10:16), an expression in harmony with the usage of the language (compare tsar - lı̄ , 2 Samuel 1:26), and a construction suited to the contents ( לו = ipsi ). There is nothing to surprise us in the fact that God should be said to feel the sufferings of His people as His own sufferings; for the question whether God can feel pain is answered by the Scriptures in the affirmative. He can as surely as everything originates in Him, with the exception of sin, which is a free act and only originates in Him so far as the possibility is concerned, but not in its actuality. Just as a man can feel pain, and yet in his personality keep himself superior to it, so God feels pain without His own happiness being thereby destroyed. And so did He suffer with His people; their affliction was reflected in His own life in Himself, and shared Him inwardly. But because He, the all-knowing, all-feeling One, is also the almighty will, He sent the angel of His face, and brought them salvation. “The angel of His face,” says Knobel, “is the pillar of cloud and fire, in which Jehovah was present with His people in the march through the desert, with His protection, instruction, and guidance, the helpful presence of God in the pillar of cloud and fire.” But where do we ever read of this, that it brought Israel salvation in the pressure of great dangers? Only on one occasion (Exodus 14:19-Proverbs :) does it cover the Israelites from their pursuers; but in that very instance a distinction is expressly made between the angel of God and the pillar of cloud.
Consequently the cloud and the angel were two distinct media of the manifestation of the presence of God. They differed in two respects. The cloud was a material medium - the evil, the sign, and the site of the revealed presence of God. The angel, on the other hand, was a personal medium, a ministering spirit ( λειτουργικὸν πνεῦμα ), in which the name of Jehovah was indwelling for the purpose of His own self-attestation in connection with the historical preparation for the coming of salvation (Exodus 23:21). He was the mediator of the preparatory work of God in both word and deed under the Old Testament, and the manifestation of that redeeming might and grace which realized in Israel the covenant promises given to Abraham (Gen 15). A second distinction consisted in the fact that the cloud was a mode of divine manifestation which was always visible; whereas, although the angel of God did sometimes appear in human shape both in the time of the patriarchs and also in that of Joshua (Joshua 5:13.), it never appeared in such a form during the history of the exodus, and therefore is only to be regarded as a mode of divine revelation which was chiefly discernible in its effects, and belonged to the sphere of invisibility: so that in any case, if we search in the history of the people that was brought out of Egypt for the fulfilment of such promises as Exodus 23:20-Isaiah :, we are forced to the conclusion that the cloud was the medium of the settled presence of God in His angel in the midst of Israel, although it is never so expressed in the thorah. This mediatorial angel is called “the angel of His face,” as being the representative of God, for “the face of God” is His self-revealing presence (even though only revealed to the mental eye); and consequently the presence of God, which led Israel to Canaan, is called directly “His face” in Deuteronomy 4:37, apart from the angelic mediation to be understood; and “my face” in Exodus 33:14-Ezra :, by the side of “my angel” in Exodus 32:34, and the angel in Exodus 33:2, appears as something incomparably higher than the presence of God through the mediation of that one angel, whose personality is completely hidden by his mediatorial instrumentality. The genitive פניו , therefore, is not to be taken objectively in the sense of “the angel who sees His face,” but as explanatory, “the angel who is His face, or in whom His face is manifested.” The הוּא which follows does not point back to the angel, but to Jehovah, who reveals Himself thus. But although the angel is regarded as a distinct being from Jehovah, it is also regarded as one that is completely hidden before Him, whose name is in him. He redeemed them by virtue of His love and of His c hemlâh , i.e., of His forgiving gentleness (Arabic, with the letters transposed, chilm ; compare, however, c hamūl , gentle-hearted), and lifted them up, and carried them ( נשּׂא the consequence of נטּל , which is similar in sense, and more Aramaean; cf., tollere root tal , and ferre root bhar , perf. tuli ) all the days of the olden time.
The prayer passes now quite into the tone of Ps 78 and 106, and begins to describe how, in spite of Jehovah's grace, Israel fell again and again away from Jehovah, and yet was always rescued again by virtue of His grace. For it is impossible that it should leap at once in והמּה to the people who caused the captivity, and ויּזכּר have for its subject the penitential church of the exiles which was longing for redemption (Ewald). The train of thought is rather this: From the proofs of grace which the Israel of the olden time had experienced, the prophet passes to that disobedience to Jehovah into which it fell, to that punishment of Jehovah which it thereby brought upon itself, and to that longing for the renewal of the old Mosaic period of redemption, which seized it in the midst of its state of punishment. But instead of saying that Jehovah did not leave this longing unsatisfied, and responded to the penitence of Israel with ever fresh help, the prophet passes at once from the desire of the old Israel for redemption, to the prayer of the existing Israel for redemption, suppressing the intermediate thought, that Israel was even now in such a state of punishment and longing.
Israel's ingratitude. “But they resisted and vexed His Holy Spirit: then He turned to be their enemy; He made war upon them.” Not only has ועצּבוּ (to cause cutting pain) קדשׁו את־רוּח as its object, but מרוּ has the same (on the primary meaning, see at Isaiah 3:8). In other cases, the object of m e rōth ( hamrōth ) is Jehovah, or His word, His promise, His providence, hence Jehovah himself in the revelations of His nature in word and deed; here it is the spirit of holiness, which is distinguished from Him as a personal existence. For just as the angel who is His face, i.e., the representation of His nature, is designated as a person both by His name and also by the redeeming activity ascribed to Him; so also is the Spirit of holiness, by the fact that He can be grieved, and therefore can feel grief (compare Ephesians 4:30, “Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God”). Hence Jehovah, and the angel of His face, and the Spirit of His holiness, are distinguished as three persons, but so that the two latter derive their existence from the first, which is the absolute ground of the Deity, and of everything that is divine. Now, if we consider that the angel of Jehovah was indeed an angel, but that he was the angelic anticipation of the appearance of God the Mediator “in the flesh,” and served to foreshadow Him “who, as the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15), as “the reflection of His glory and the stamp of His nature” (Hebrews 1:3), is not merely a temporary medium of self-manifestation, but the perfect personal self-manifestation of the divine pânı̄m , we have here an unmistakeable indication of the mystery of the triune nature of God the One, which was revealed in history in the New Testament work of redemption. The subject to ויּהפ ך is Jehovah, whose Holy Spirit they troubled. He who proved Himself to be their Father (cf., Deuteronomy 32:6), became, through the reaction of His holiness, the very reverse of what He wished to be. He turned to be their enemy; הוּא , He, the most fearful of all foes, made war against them. This is the way in which we explain Isaiah 63:10, although with this explanation it would have to be accentuated differently, viz., ויהפך m ahpach , להם pashta , לאויב zakeph , הוא tiphchah , נלחם־בם silluk . The accentuation as we find it takes נלחם־בם הוא as an attributive clause: “to an enemy, who made war against them.”
Israel being brought to a right mind in the midst of this state of punishment, longed fro the better past to return. “Then His people remembered the days of the olden time, of Moses: Where is He who brought them up out of the sea with the shepherd of his flock? where is He who put the spirit of His holiness in the midst of them; who caused the arm of His majesty to go at the right of Moses; who split the waters before them, to make Himself an everlasting name: who caused them to pass through abysses of the deep, like the horse upon the plain, without their stumbling? Like the cattle which goeth down into the valley, the Spirit of Jehovah brought them to rest: thus hast Thou led Thy people, to make Thyself a majestic name.” According to the accentuation before us, Isaiah 63:11 should be rendered thus: “Then He (viz., Jehovah) remembered the days of the olden time, the Moses of His people” (lxx, Targ., Syr., Jerome). But apart from the strange expression “the Moses of His people,” which might perhaps be regarded as possible, because the proper name m ōsheh might suggest the thought of its real meaning in Hebrew, viz., extrahens = liberator, but which the Syriac rejects by introducing the reading ‛abhdō (Moses, His servant), we have only to look at the questions of evidently human longing which follow, to see that Jehovah cannot be the subject to ויּזכּר (remembered), by which these reminiscences are introduced. It is the people which begins its inquiries with איּה , just as in Jeremiah 2:6 (cf., Isaiah 51:9-2 Samuel :), and recals “the days of olden time,” according to the admonition in Deuteronomy 32:7. Consequently, in spite of the accents, such Jewish commentators as Saad. and Rashi regard “his people” ( ‛ammō ) as the subject; whereas others, such as AE, Kimchi, and Abravanel, take account of the accents, and make the people the suppressed subject of the verb “remembered,” by rendering it thus, “Then it remembered the days of olden time, (the days) of Moses (and) His people,” or in some similar way. But with all modifications the rendering is forced and lame. The best way of keeping to the accents is that suggested by Stier, “Then men (indef. man, the French on ) remembered the days of old, the Moses of His people.”
But why did the prophet not say ויּזכּרוּ , as the proper sequel to Isaiah 63:10? We prefer to adopt the following rendering and accentuation: Then remembered ( zakeph gadol ) the days-of-old ( m ercha ) of Moses ( tiphchah ) His people. The object stands before the subject, as for example in 2 Kings 5:13 (compare the inversions in Isaiah 8:22 extr., Isaiah 22:2 init.); and m osheh is a genitive governing the composite “days of old” (for this form of the construct state, compare Isaiah 28:1 and Ruth 2:1). The retrospect commences with “Where is He who led them up?” etc. The suffix of המּעלם (for המעלם , like רדם in Psalms 68:28, and therefore with the verbal force predominant) refers to the ancestors; and although the word is determined by the suffix, it has the article as equivalent to a demonstrative pronoun ( ille qui sursum duxit , eduxit eos ). “The shepherd of his flock” is added as a more precise definition, not dependent upon vayyizkōr , as even the accents prove. את is rendered emphatic by yethib , since here it signifies unâ c um . The Targum takes it in the sense of instar pastoris gregis sui ; but though עם is sometimes used in this way, את never is. Both the lxx and Targum read רעה ; Jerome, on the other hand, adopts the reading רעי , and this is the Masoretic reading, for the Masora in Genesis 47:3 reckons four רעה , without including the present passage. Kimchi and Abravanel also support this reading, and Norzi very properly gives it the preference. The shepherds of the flock of Jehovah are Moses and Aaron, together with Miriam (Ps. 77:21; Micah 6:4). With these (i.e., in their company or under their guidance) Jehovah led His people up out of Egypt through the Red Sea. With the reading רעי , the question whether b e qirbô refers to Moses or Israel falls to the ground. Into the heart of His people (Nehemiah 9:20) Jehovah put the spirit of His holiness: it was present in the midst of Israel, inasmuch as Moses, Aaron, Miriam, the Seventy, and the prophets in the camp possessed it, and inasmuch as Joshua inherited it as the successor of Moses, and all the people might become possessed of it. The majestic might of Jehovah, which manifested itself majestically, is called the “arm of His majesty;” an anthropomorphism to which the expression “who caused it to march at the right hand of Moses” compels us to give an interpretation worthy of God. Stier will not allow that תּפארתּו זרע is to be taken as the object, and exclaims, “What a marvellous figure of speech, an arm walking at a person's right hand!” But the arm which is visible in its deeds belongs to the God who is invisible in His own nature; and the meaning is, that the active power of Moses was not left to itself, but he overwhelming omnipotence of God went by its side, and endowed it with superhuman strength. It was by virtue of this that the elevated staff and extended hand of Moses divided the Red Sea (Exodus 14:16). בּוקע has mahpach attached to the ב , and therefore the tone drawn back upon the penultimate, and metheg with the tsere, that it may not be slipped over in the pronunciation. The clause וגו לעשׂות affirms that the absolute purpose of God is in Himself. But He is holy love, and whilst willing for Himself, He wills at the same time the salvation of His creatures. He makes to Himself an “everlasting name,” by glorifying Himself in such memorable miracles of redemption, as that performed in the deliverance of His people out of Egypt. According to the general order of the passage, Isaiah 63:13 apparently refers to the passage through the Jordan; but the psalmist, in Psalms 106:9 (cf., Psalms 77:17), understood it as referring to the passage through the Red Sea. The prayer dwells upon this chief miracle, of which the other was only an after-play. “As the horse gallops over the plain,” so did they pass through the depths of the sea יכּשׁלוּ לא (a circumstantial minor clause), i.e., without stumbling. Then follows another beautiful figure: “like the beast that goeth down into the valley,” not “as the beast goeth down into the valley,” the Spirit of Jehovah brought it (Israel) to rest, viz., to the m e nūchâh of the Canaan flowing with milk and honey (Deuteronomy 12:9; Psalms 95:11), where it rested and was refreshed after the long and wearisome march through the sandy desert, like a flock that had descended from the bare mountains to the brooks and meadows of the valley. The Spirit of God is represented as the leader here (as in Psalms 143:10), viz., through the medium of those who stood, enlightened and instigated by Him, at the head of the wandering people. The following כּן is no more a correlate of the foregoing particle of comparison than in Isaiah 52:14. It is a recapitulation, and refers to the whole description as far back as Isaiah 63:9, passing with נהגתּ into the direct tone of prayer.
The way is prepared for the petitions for redemption which follow, outwardly by the change in Isaiah 63:14, from a mere description to a direct address, and inwardly by the thought, that Israel is at the present time in such a condition, as to cause it to look back with longing eyes to the time of the Mosaic redemption. “Look from heaven and see, from the habitation of Thy holiness and majesty! Where is Thy zeal and Thy display of might? The pressure of Thy bowels and Thy compassions are restrained towards me.” On the relation between הבּיט , to look up, to open the eyes, and ראה , to fix the eye upon a thing. It is very rarely that we meet with the words in the reverse order, והביט ראה (vid., Habakkuk 1:5; Lamentations 1:11). In the second clause of Isaiah 63:15, instead of m isshâmayim (from heaven), we have “from the dwelling-place ( m izz e bhul ) of Thy holiness and majesty.” The all-holy and all-glorious One, who once revealed Himself so gloriously in the history of Israel, has now withdrawn into His own heaven, where He is only revealed to the spirits. The object of the looking and seeing, as apparent from what follows, is the present helpless condition of the people in their sufferings, to which there does not seem likely to be any end. There are no traces now of the kin'âh (zeal) with which Jehovah used to strive on behalf of His people, and against their oppressors (Isaiah 26:11), or of the former displays of His g e bhūrâh ( וּגבוּרת ך , as it is correctly written in Ven. 1521, is a defective plural). In Isaiah 63:15 we have not a continued question (“the sounding of Thy bowels and Thy mercies, which are restrained towards me?”), as Hitzig and Knobel suppose. The words 'ēlai hith'appâqū have not the appearance of an attributive clause, either according to the new strong thought expressed, or according to the order of the words (with אלי written first). On strepitus viscerum , as the effect and sign of deep sympathy, see at Isaiah 16:11. רחמים and מעים , or rather מעים (from מעה , of the form רעה ) both signify primarily σπλἀγχνα , strictly speaking the soft inward parts of the body; the latter from the root מע , to be pulpy or soft, the former from the root חר , to be slack, loose, or soft. המון , as the plural of the predicate shows, does not govern רחמי ך also. It is presupposed that the love of Jehovah urges Him towards His people, to relieve their misery; but His compassion and sympathy apparently put constraint upon themselves ( hith'appēq as in Isaiah 42:14, lit., se superare, from 'âphaq , root פק ), to abstain from working on behalf of Israel.
The prayer for help, and the lamentation over its absence, are now justified in Isaiah 63:16: “For Thou art our Father; for Abraham is ignorant of us, and Israel knoweth us not. Thou, O Jehovah, art our Father; our Redeemer is from olden time Thy name.” Jehovah is Israel's Father (Deuteronomy 32:6). His creative might, and the gracious counsels of His love, have called it into being: אבינוּ has not yet the deep and unrestricted sense of the New Testament “Our Father.” The second kı̄ introduces the reason for this confession that Jehovah was Israel's Father, and could therefore look for paternal care and help from Him alone. Even the dearest and most honourable men, the forefathers of the nation, could not help it. Abraham and Jacob-Israel had been taken away from this world, and were unable to interfere on their own account in the history of their people. ידע and הכּיר suggest the idea of participating notice and regard, as in Deuteronomy 33:9 and Ruth 2:10, Ruth 2:19. יכּירנוּ has the vowel â (pausal for a , Isaiah 56:3) in the place of ē , to rhyme with ידענוּ (see Ges. §60, Anm. 2). In the concluding clause, according to the accents, מעולם גּאלנוּ are connected together; but the more correct accentuation is גאלנו tiphchah, מעולם m ercha, and we have rendered it so. From the very earliest time the acts of Jehovah towards Israel had been such that Israel could call Him גאלנו .
But the in the existing state of things there was a contrast which put their faith to a severe test. “O Jehovah, why leadest Thou us astray from Thy ways, hardenest our heart, so as not to fear Thee? Return for Thy servants' sake, the tribes of Thine inheritance.” When men have scornfully and obstinately rejected the grace of God, God withdraws it from them judicially, gives them up to their wanderings, and makes their heart incapable of faith ( hiqshı̄ăch , which only occurs again in Job 39:16, is here equivalent to hiqshâh in Psalms 95:8; Deuteronomy 2:30). The history of Israel from Isaiah 6:1-1 Chronicles : onwards has been the history of such a gradual judgment of hardening, and such a curse, eating deeper and deeper, and spreading its influence wider and wider round. The great mass are lost, but not without the possibility of deliverance for the better part of the nation, which now appeals to the mercy of God, and sighs for deliverance from this ban. Two reasons are assigned for this petition for the return of the gracious presence of God: first, that there are still “servants of Jehovah” to be found, as this prayer itself actually proves; and secondly, that the divine election of grace cannot perish.
But the existing condition of Israel looks like a withdrawal of this grace; and it is impossible that these contrasts should cease, unless Jehovah comes down from heaven as the deliverer of His people. Isaiah 63:8, Isaiah 63:19 (Isaiah 64:1). “For a little time Thy holy people was in possession. Our adversaries have trodden down Thy sanctuary. We have become such as He who is from everlasting has not ruled over, upon whom Thy name was not called. O that Thou wouldst rend the heaven, come down, the mountains would shake before thy countenance.” It is very natural to try whether yâr e shū may not have tsârēnū for its subject (cf., Jeremiah 49:2); but all the attempts made to explain the words on this supposition, show that lammits‛âr is at variance with the idea that yâr e shū refers to the foes. Compare, for example, Jerome's rendering “ quasi nihilum (i.e., ad nihil et absque allo labore ) possederunt populum sanctum tuum ;” that of Cocceius, “ propemodum ad haereditatem ;” and that of Stier, “for a little they possess entirely Thy holy nation.” Mits‛âr is the harsher form for m iz‛âr , which the prophet uses in Isaiah 10:25; Isaiah 16:14; Isaiah 29:17 for a contemptibly small space of time; and as ל is commonly used to denote the time to which, towards which, within which, and through which, anything occurs (cf., 2 Chronicles 11:17; 2 Chronicles 29:17; Ewald, §217, d), lammits‛âr may signify for a (lit. the well-known) short time ( per breve tempus ; like εἰς ἐπ ̓κατ ̓ ἐνιαυτόν , a year long). If m iqdâsh could mean the holy land, as Hitzig and others suppose, m iqdâshekhâ might be the common object of both sentences (Ewald, §351, p. 838). But m iqdash Jehovah (the sanctuary of Jehovah) is the place of His abode and worship; and “taking possession of the temple” is hardly an admissible expression. On the other hand, yârash hâ'ârets , to take possession of the (holy) land, is so common a phrase (e.g., Isaiah 60:21; Isaiah 65:9; Psalms 44:4), that with the words “Thy holy people possessed for a little (time)” we naturally supply the holy land as the object. The order of the words in the two clauses is chiastic. The two strikingly different subjects touch one another as the two inner members. Of the perfects, the first expresses the more remote past, the second the nearer past, as in Isaiah 60:10. The two clauses of the v. rhyme - the holiest thing in the possession of the people, which was holy according to the choice and calling of Jehovah, being brought into the greatest prominence; bōsēs = πατεῖν , Luke 21:24; Revelation 11:2. Hahn's objection, that the time between the conquest of the land and the Chaldean catastrophe could not be called m its‛âr (a little while), may be answered, from the fact that a time which is long in itself shrinks up when looked back upon or recalled, and that as an actual fact from the time of David and Solomon, when Israel really rejoiced in the possession of the land, the coming catastrophe began to be foreboded by many significant preludes.
The lamentation in Isaiah 63:19 proceeds from the same feeling which caused the better portion of the past to vanish before the long continuance of the mournful present. Hitzig renders היינוּ “we were;” Hahn, “we shall be;” but here, where the speaker is not looking back, as in Isaiah 26:17, at a state of things which has come to an end, but rather at one which is still going on, it signifies “we have become.” The passage is rendered correctly in S.: ἐγενήθημεν (or better, γεγόναμεν ) ὡς ἀπ ̓αἰῶνος ὧν οὐκ ἐξουσίασας οὐδὲ ἐπικλήθη τὸ ὄνομά σου αὐτοῖς . The virtual predicate to hâyı̄nū commences with m ē‛ōlâm : “we have become such (or like such persons) as,” etc.; which would be fully expressed by אשׁר כּעם , or merely כּעשׁר , or without אשׁר , and simply by transposing the words, וגו משׁלתּ כּלא (cf., Obadiah 1:16): compare the virtual subject אהבו יהוה in Isaiah 48:14, and the virtual object בשׁמי יקרא in Isaiah 41:25 (Ewald, §333, b). Every form of “as if” is intentionally omitted. The relation in which Jehovah placed Himself to Israel, viz., as its King, and as to His own people called by His name, appears not only as though it had been dissolved, but as though it had never existed at all. The existing state of Israel is a complete practical denial of any such relation. Deeper tones than these no lamentation could possibly utter, and hence the immediate utterance of the sigh which goes up to heaven: “O that Thou wouldst rend heaven!” It is extremely awkward to begin a fresh chapter with כּקדח (“as when the melting fire burneth”); at the same time, the Masoretic division of the vv. is unassailable.
(Note: In the Hebrew Bibles, Isaiah 64:1-2 Kings : commences at the second v. of our version; and the first v. is attached to Isaiah 63:19 of the previous chapter. - Tr.)
For Isaiah 63:19 (Isaiah 64:1) could not be attached to Isaiah 64:1-Exodus :, since this v. would be immensely overladen; moreover, this sigh really belongs to Isaiah 63:19 (Isaiah 63:19), and ascends out of the depth of the lamentation uttered there. On utinam discideris = discinderes , see at Isaiah 48:18. The wish presupposes that the gracious presence of God had been withdrawn from Israel, and that Israel felt itself to be separated from the world beyond by a thick party-wall, resembling an impenetrable black cloud. The closing member of the optative clause is generally rendered ( utinam ) a facie tua montes diffluerent (e.g., Rosenmüller after the lxx τακήσονται ), or more correctly, defluerent (Jerome), as nâzal means to flow down, not to melt. The meaning therefore would be, “O that they might flow down, as it were to the ground melting in the fire” (Hitzig). The form nâzollu cannot be directly derived from nâzal , if taken in this sense; for it is a pure fancy that nâzōllū may be a modification of the pausal נזלוּ with ō for ā , and the so-called dagesh affectuosum). Stier invents a verb med. o. נזל . The more probable supposition is, that it is a niphal formed from zâlāl = nâzal (Ewald, §§193, c). But zâlal signifies to hang down slack, to sway to and fro (hence zōlēl , lightly esteemed, and zalzallı̄m , Isaiah 18:5, pliable branches), like zūl in Isaiah 46:6, to shake, to pour down;
(Note: Just as the Greek has in addition to σαλ εὐειν the much simpler and more root-like σεἰ-ειν ; so the Semitic has, besides זל , the roots זא זע : compare the Arabic סלסל זאזע זעזע , all three denoting restless motion.)
and nâzōllu , if derived from this, yields the appropriate sense concuterentur (compare the Arabic zalzala , which is commonly applied to an earthquake). The nearest niphal form would be נזלּוּ (or resolved, נזלוּ , Judges 5:5); but instead of the a of the second syllable, the niphal of the verbs ע has sometimes o , like the verb ע ו (e.g., נגלּוּ , Isaiah 34:4; Ges. §67, Anm. 5).
The Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Isaiah 63". Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34