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ISAIAH CHAPTER 63
Christ’s victory over his enemies, Isaiah 63:1-6,
and mercy towards his church; in judgment remembering mercy, Isaiah 63:7-14.
The church’s prayer and complaint in faith, Isaiah 63:15-19.
In these two verses either the prophet, as in some vision or ecstasy, is put probably upon inquiry by God himself, rather than by Christ, or Michael, or Judas Maccabeeus, as some have thought; and the rather, because this place doth thus suit best with Isaiah 59:16,Isaiah 59:17. Or the church makes inquiry, and that with admiration, who it is that appears in such a habit or posture, Isaiah 63:1, and why, Isaiah 63:2.
Edom; that is, the country of Idumea, where Esau dwelt, and Esau himself was sometimes called by this name, Genesis 25:30; and it is put synecdochically for all the enemies of the church, as Moab is, Isaiah 25:10; See Poole "Isaiah 25:10".
With dyed garments; or, stained: thus Christ is described, Revelation 19:13, and so also Isaiah 63:3; LXX., the redness of garments.
Bozrah; the capital city of Idumea; see further Isaiah 34:6, a parallel text; and Edom and Bozrah here are mentioned, either,
1. Not as relating to the places so called, but by way of allusion to the garments of this conqueror, Edom signifying red, and Bozrah a vintage; the one relating to his treading the winepress, and the other to the blood sprinkled upon his garments, Isaiah 63:3; the like manner of speaking you have Psalms 120:5. Or rather,
2. Put synecdochically for all the enemies of the church, among whom, though antichrist be not particularly designed, yet may be reckoned, being one of the chief of them; thus typifying Christ’s victories over all the enemies of the church, Revelation 19:19-21; and this is usual. Babylon is put for any detestable city, and Moab for all that are vile and abominable, Isaiah 25:10; so Edom here for all God’s enemies. And he mentions these Idumeans rather than the Chaldeans, who were the Jews’ chief and particular enemies,
2. Partly to set forth the greatness of the enmity, being of old standing, and an inbred malignity, Genesis 25:22,Genesis 25:23, and irreconcilable, and perpetual, Amos 1:11, and particularly put forth when the Babylonians took Jerusalem, Psalms 137:7 Partly to comfort the Jews, both because God would take particular revenge upon Edom, as he had threatened, and prophesied by Obadiah, which is the substance of that whole prophecy; and also these being their near neighbours, God doth give them security, that they shall not only be delivered frons the Chaldeans, those remoter enemies, but from the Idumeans also, whose vicinity and neighbourhood might have been troublesome to them.
Glorious in his apparel; such as generals are wont to march before their armies in, or great conquerors, that walk in state and gallantry from their conquests.
In the greatness of his strength; in or according to the majesty of his gait, being an indication of the greatness of his strength, and intimating that he hath thoroughly done his work, and fears no pursuing enemy, as the lion that keepeth his majestic gait without the fear of any other beast, Proverbs 30:30; this notes the invincibleness of his power, and that it is his own strength, he needeth not the help of armies or other instruments, and thus he will travel through all the countries of his enemies.
I that speak in righteousness: here the Lord Christ gives an answer, wherein he both asserts his fidelity, that he will faithfully perform what he hath promised, and that he will truly execute justice, Revelation 19:11; and hereby also he distinguisheth himself from all idol gods, Isaiah 45:19,Isaiah 45:20.
Mighty to save; I have power to accomplish salvation as powerful as faithful, Isaiah 19:20.
Having inquired of the person, now he inquires the reason of his habit being thus sprinkled.
I have trodden the winepress, i.e. I have destroyed the enemies of my people, I have crushed them as grapes are crushed; this being a usual metaphor to describe the utter destruction of a people, Psalms 44:5; Isaiah 25:10; Revelation 14:19,Revelation 14:20; and the easiness of doing it, no more than to crush a bunch of grapes.
Alone, to note his good-will and great power. The masters of vineyards are not willing to do this drudgery themselves; neither, if they would, could they be able to manage a whole vintage by themselves: but Christ was willing to undertake it, and able to go through it, without calling in the help of any other.
Of the people there was none with me:
1. Not that he excludes the Jews, but the other nations that dwelt about them; therefore he saith
of the people there was none with him; but God and his own people may be reckoned as one, Judges 5:23. And though this be true of his passion, in which sense some would carry it, yet doth it not so well suit with the design; for Christ is described here not as a priest sacrificing, or shedding of his own blood, but as a king, conquering and shedding the blood of his and his church’s enemies; hence it is said
their blood, not his own, to show that it cannot fairly relate to his passion: besides Christ could expect no help in that, for he knew none could; but here he looked, and wondered that there was none, Isaiah 63:5. And though it may be said that he makes use of instruments both in his conquering of temporal enemies, and also spiritual, consider,
1. That here he speaks as a general, and therefore the whole victory is ascribed to him alone.
2. They do it not only by commission and authority derived from him, but by strength conveyed to them from him, without which they could do no more than a watch without a spring, or tool without the workman’s strength and skill: and that Christ may make it appear they are no coadjutors that he needs, he makes them bring about such things as they never designed, as he speaks of the Assyrian; See Poole "Isaiah 10:6", See Poole "Isaiah 10:7"; and this is to be understood in like manner of Christ’s conquest over spiritual enemies, 2 Corinthians 4:7. See Acts 3:12,Acts 3:13.
And trample them in my fury: this latter expression is but an aggravating of the former; it implies a kind of insulting, an allusion to conquerors, who were wont to make the conquered to lie down, that others might trample on them, Isaiah 51:23.
Shall be sprinkled; or, was sprinkled; as in treading of grapes the juice sparkles upon the clothes: q.d. in his answer, Thus came my garments to be sprinkled.
I will stain; it shall not be, or it was not, only sprinkled, but perfectly stained, as it were rolled in blood, Isaiah 9:5.
The day of vengeance, designed and purposed by me to take vengeance on the enemies of my church; or particularly the posterity of Esau.
year is all one, save the latter may have some respect to the length of their captivity.
Is in mine heart; or, was in my heart; a desire of execution, Psalms 40:8. I have meditated or studied revenge; being long forborne, hath wrought in me resolutions of revenge; therefore wonder not that I am so bloody: noting the severity of his proceedings against his enemies.
My redeemed: the Jews have this title, because he redeemed them out of Egypt, and would also out of Babylon.
Is come; is at hand: see Psalms 102:13; Isaiah 34:8. The former part of the verse shows that Christ is still about his work, though he defer the execution till the fit time come; he may allude to the year of jubilee.
There was none to help; not that he needed it, for help implies a defect of power, or wisdom, or wealth, or opportunity, &c.; but to see what men would do, in regard his people needed it; therefore the standing or not standing by his people is the same thing with standing or not standing by him, Judges 5:23; Matthew 25:35,Matthew 25:40,Matthew 25:42,Matthew 25:45.
None to uphold; a metaphor taken from a staff, that is a help to one that leans on it.
My fury, or zeal, viz. against the adversaries of the church. God’s arm notes his strength and power, and his zeal sets this power on work, Isaiah 9:7; but See Poole "Isaiah 59:16", See Poole "Isaiah 59:17".
Make them drunk: the Hebrew often expresseth calamities by a cup of wine, or strong drink, by which the distressed persons are made drunk, Psalms 75:8; Isaiah 51:21,Isaiah 51:22; they go as it were to and fro, not knowing what to do with themselves; and in special drunk with their own blood, Isaiah 49:26; Revelation 16:6.
I will bring down their strength to the earth; whatever it is wherein their strength lies, their strong ones, or their strong places, or deep counsels, &c., he will bring to the very dust, to nothing; like drunken men, they shall fall to the ground, not being able to stand; the most miserable condition that men can fall into, Psalms 36:12.
Whether this ought to be the beginning of a new chapter, or no, is not material; but certainly here begins a new matter, which contains the prophet’s prayer, either in his own name or the church’s, to the end of Isaiah 64:0; wherein he begins with mentioning the great kindnesses that God had shown the Jews, and that emphatically, setting it forth with the greatest advantages; and the more, either to aggravate their great unkindness, or to give them some hope of finding him the like again in their distresses, or by way of argument with God to show them mercy, because he had been so good to them.
For he said, viz. within himself of old, when he made a covenant with our fathers, and brought them out of Egypt,
Surely they are my people, in covenant; though they are unworthy of me, yet I cannot but look upon them as my people. Their enemies would persuade themselves, O they are not God’s people, but cast-outs, that none cared for or looked after; but God will own them.
Children that will not lie; that will keep my covenant; they will not deal falsely with me, that are under such obligations: or, I presume they will not; though they did go after their idols, and prove unfaithful to me in serving Baal and Ashteroth, &c., now I presume they will do so no more. Thus parents are apt tenderly to think of those children that they have been indulgent to, that they will not offer to abuse their kindness; thus God thinks the best of them. Or, he intimates here what they are obliged to do, though he knew they would do otherwise. Or, they will not degenerate after I have renewed them.
So he was their Saviour, viz. on these hopes and on these conditions he undertook the charge of them, Exodus 19:5,Exodus 19:6; Psalms 81:8-10; or, he; so he alone was their Saviour; when none to save, none to uphold, then he saved them; not Cyrus, Zerubbabel, Nehemiah, &c., but Christ himself.
In all their affliction he was afflicted; because of all the afflictions they endured in Egypt: this notes the sympathy that is in Christ, he having the same Spirit in him that the church hath, and her Head and Father. Or, In all their afflictions no affliction; so the words may be read; their afflictions were rather favors than afflictions; all that befell them from the Red Sea through the wilderness; and then tzar is taken actively, he afflicted not: this may note his clemency, their sting was taken out; either way it may be read according to the different spelling of lo, whether by aleph or vau. The first seems the more genuine; they that list to drive this notion further may consult the Latin Synopsis, and the English Annotations. The angel of his presence; the same that conducted them through the wilderness, called an angel, Exodus 33:2, and his presence, Isaiah 63:14, and Jehovah, Exodus 13:21; so that it must be the Lord Jesus Christ, who appeared to Moses in the bush, as Stephen doth interpret it, Acts 7:35, &c. Other angels are in his presence, but they were not always; he was ever so, therefore so called by way of eminency; hence the LXX. express it not a legate, or angel, but himself. Saved them from the house of bondage; brought them through the Red Sea, the wilderness, &c. Their Rock was Christ, 1 Corinthians 10:4.
In his love and in his pity: this shows the ground of his kindness; they were a stubborn, superstitious, idolatrous people, yet Christ’s love and pity saved them for all that; it was because he loved them.
He bare them, and carried them; he left them not to shift for themselves, but bare them as a father his child, or an eagle her young ones; he carried them in the arms of his power; see Isaiah 46:4; and on the wings of his providence: see Deuteronomy 32:10-12; and See Poole "Deuteronomy 1:31". And he is said to do it
of old, to remember his ancient kindness for many generations past; elam signifies an eternity, or a long time past, as well as to come; from the clays of Abraham or Moses, from their bondage in Egypt, to the time of Isaiah; and it is used as an argument to move him to do so still; he will carry her till he bring her unto his Father.
They rebelled: many of their rebellions we read of in Exodus and Numbers in their travels. The Lord tells Moses that they had tempted him ten times, and therefore severely threatens them, Numbers 14:22,Numbers 14:23. There were three principal times of their rebellion:
1. In the wilderness, where they murmured for want of bread and water.
2. In Canaan, in not destroying, but only making tributary, such nations as God commanded them to destroy.
3. Before the Babylonian captivity, when they set themselves against the prophets, which Stephen chargeth upon them, Acts 7:51,Acts 7:52. Among which also we may reckon all their behaviours under their judges and their kings. Or we may understand it of their not answering God’s end and expectation.
Vexed his holy Spirit; Spirit of his holiness; they vexed him by their obstinacy against his will and mind, and walking contrary unto him: not that there are such passions in God, but it is spoken after the manner of men, as they are vexed when their will is crossed.
He was turned to be their enemy; overthrew them not only in the wilderness, Psalms 78:33,Psalms 78:59,Psalms 78:60, &c., sending among them fiery serpents, Numbers 21:6; but even in Canaan, stirring up against them adversaries sometimes the Philistines, and the Midianites, and then the Moabites, &c.
Then, or yet,
he remembered: this relates either,
1. To the people, and then he is collectively taken; and so it looks like the language of the people in Babylon, and must be read, he shall remember. Or,
2. It may look back to their condition in the wilderness; and thus they may properly say, Where is he? or that God that delivered his people of old, to do the like for us now? there is a like phrase used by Elisha, 2 Kings 2:14. Or rather
3. To God, as it were recollecting himself in a pathetical prosopoeia: q.d. Where is he? Where am I with my former bowels, that moved me to help them of old, that I would now turn to be their enemy? Or, Is my hand shortened that I cannot do it? And so in the following verses he gives a particular description how kind he had been to them formerly, the times mentioned Isaiah 63:9; and thus God seems to work upon himself.
Moses and his people; or what great things he had done for them by Moses·
Where is he that brought them up out of the sea? here God speaks of himself, as in the former clause, viz. that divided the sea for them, being one of the greatest miracles that ever God wrought for his people; it is therefore frequently mentioned by way of encouragement to them, when they are in sore troubles.
The shepherd; or, shepherds; viz. Moses, that brought out his people as a shepherd doth his flock; he and Aaron are both joined, Psalms 77:20.
His holy Spirit, i.e. those abilities and gifts wherewith God furnished Moses, as properly proceeding from the Spirit, he can do the like again, and qualify instruments for his work.
The right land, viz. the strength and power that God gave to Moses, expressed by the right hand, that being usually esteemed the stronger, Psalms 16:8; Psalms 20:6. Or, the rod in his right hand; by which understand also all the wonders that he did for them in Egypt.
With his glorious arm; or that arm wherewith God gained to himself so much glory, being always present at the assistance of Moses, Deuteronomy 4:34; or Moses’s right hand, led by God’s glorious arm, as parents lead their children, that God may have all the glory in the using of his instruments.
Dividing the water; the Red Sea, Exodus 14:21, and also Jordan, Joshua 3:15,Joshua 3:16. To make himself an everlasting name; with reference both to his power and providence, as respecting either his aim and end in doing what he did, or the effect of it when it was done, it got him renown.
That led them through the deep; showing that God did not dry up shallow places, but the very depth of the sea, the very channel, which is the deepest part. Or, between those heaps of waters that stood up as a wall on each side of them, which might make it seem terrible, and therefore it is ascribed to their faith, Hebrews 11:29.
As an horse in the wilderness; or, plain; for so wilderness is sometimes taken, and may be here meant, by comparing it to a valley in the next verse, viz. with as much safety as the horse runs up and down in the plain ground; or, with as much ease and tenderness as a horse led by the bridle; not as men affrighted, but soberly and orderly.
That they should not stumble: this may be taken metaphorically, they came to no harm; or properly, that though the sea were but newly divided, yet it was so dried, that the mud, as also the unevenness of the ground, was not any occasion of their stumbling, or their sticking in it; probably so dried and smoothed by the wind that God sent as it were to prepare the way before them. See Isaiah 40:3-5.
As a beast goeth down into the valley; a laden beast goeth warily and gently down the hill: or, as a beast goeth down to the valley for grass, that being a mountainous country: or
going down for going along; so the word is used Isaiah 38:8; noting the evenness of their passage; or alluding to their going down from the shore into that great channel (as the coming out of it is called a going up, Isaiah 63:11) now made through the sea, orderly, and composedly, not like the Gadarenes’ swine, through consternation, ready to break their necks for haste.
The Spirit of the Lord, i.e. the Lord himself,
caused him to rest; led them easily, that they should not be over-travelled, or fall down, or come to any injury through weariness; thus Jeremiah expresseth it, Jeremiah 31:2, and thus God gave them rest from their enemies, drowning of them in the sea, and in their safe conduct, that they could not annoy or disturb them, leading them till he found them a place for resting; the word for leading and resting being much of a like notion, Zechariah 10:6; pointing at their several rests by the way, Numbers 10:33; or it may be read by way of interrogation, as all the foregoing words, and be the close of that inquiry, And where is the Spirit that caused them to rest? or he led them to Canaan, the place of their rest; so called Deuteronomy 12:9; Psalms 95:11.
So didst thou lead: the prophet here by an apostrophe doth only repeat the words in the name of the Jews that he had spake before, Isaiah 63:12; q.d. As thou didst then, so mayst thou do again if thou pleasest.
Look down from heaven: now they, or the prophet, begin to pray, and expostulate with God, and to argue both from the goodness of his nature, and from the greatness of his works that he had done. God sees every where and every thing, but he is said to
look down from heaven, because there is his throne, whereon he sits in great majesty and splendour.
Behold is added to note that he would not only barely see and look on, but that he would behold with regard, and respect his poor people in captivity.
The habitation of thy holiness; a description of heaven by a periphrasis, frequently used and explained, Deuteronomy 26:15. W here is thy zeal? what is become of that love which of old would not let time suffer thy people to be wronged? Isaiah 37:32.
Thy strength; that power of thine manifested in those valiant acts which thou didst put forth for thy people, Psalms 145:11,Psalms 145:12; Psalms 150:2; see Jeremiah 14:9.
The sounding of thy bowels: by the sounding thereof may be understood those sympathizing sighs and compassionate groans that proceed from the bowels when they are affected, which being thought the subject of pity are often by a metonymy put for compassion, and hence proceed those rumblings of the bowels occasioned by strong passions called yearnings: it is spoken of God after the manner of men. Is all this shut up from me? Thou art naturally so compassionate, dost thou lay a restraint upon thyself, that thy bowels shall not move towards me?
Are they restrained? or canst thou be thus straitened? Psalms 77:7-9; Isaiah 64:12; an expostulation, that agrees very well with the next verse,
Doubtless, & c. How can this come to pass?
Doubtless thou art our Father: thus they urge God with that relation he stands in unto them, Malachi 2:10; therefore we as thy children expect the bowels and compassions of a father.
Though Abraham, he who was our father after the flesh, though he be dead, and so ignorant of our condition.
And Israel; or, Jacob; who was also our father; and therefore a vain thing to call upon them; or if they were not dead, they could not help us out of our straits; or if they were alive, we are so much degenerate that they would not own us. Some say Abraham and Israel are here mentioned, and not Isaac,
1. Because the covenant was made more solemnly, and the promises more frequently renewed, with them, than with Isaac.
2. Because with Abraham the covenant was first made, and the whole seed of Israel was taken into it; but not so of Isaac. Or else,
3. Abraham and Israel being named Isaac is included.
Thou art our Father, our Redeemer: this is urged as another argument for pity, and the more because their Father was their Redeemer, Deuteronomy 32:6.
Thy name is from everlasting; or, Redeemer is thy name from everlasting; thou hast been our Redeemer of old.
Made us to err from thy ways, commandments. It is the language of the godly among them being troubled, and therefore complaining that so gracious a Father should leave them to such exigences.
Made us to sin by withdrawing thy Spirit and leaving us to ourselves, Psalms 81:12. It is not to be understood as if God did force them to it, but either letting loose their hearts, or by giving occasion to their hearts, being naturally too apt to apostatize by their severe afflictions: see this more cleared in the Latin Synopsis. Or, make us desperate, by leaving us so long under the oppression of the adversary, thereby casting off thy worship.
From thy fear, or fear of time, viz. as the object, Psalms 5:7; or, that we may not fear thee; as seeing, that they may not see, Psalms 69:23; or, thy service, Isaiah 29:13, so as to go after other gods.
Return for thy servants’ sake either our godly forefathers, or particularly to Abraham, Isaac, &c., viz. for the sake of thy promises made to them; or rather, our sakes, that little remnant that are thy servants, be reconciled to us, Psalms 90:13; for the next words seem to be put by apposition to the former.
The tribes of thine inheritance; either,
1. The people themselves, which were divided into tribes; or, rather,
2. The land of Canaan, which God gave them as an inheritance, as appears by the next verse: q.d. What will thine enemies say if thou suffer us to perish, or thine inheritance to be destroyed. Or rods, meaning their rulers, see Isaiah 43:28, or heads of their tribes.
The people of thy holiness; or, thy holy people, as being set apart for his servants; holiness being to be understood for a covenant separation from other people.
But a little while. i.e.
1. Comparatively to the promise, which was for ever, though they had possessed it about one thousand four hundred years. Or,
2. It seeming to them so, as things, especially such as are desirable, seem when they are past, Job 9:25,Job 9:26; Psalms 90:4. Or,
3. They enjoyed but small spaces of time in quietness, so they had small enjoyment of it. Or,
4. It may respect the temple, which stood but four hundred years.
Have trodden down thy sanctuary; the temple, called the sanctuary from the holiness of it; this our adversaries the Babylonians have trodden down, 2 Chronicles 36:19; and this also implies their ruining of their whole ecclesiastical policy.
We are thine; we continue so; we are in covenant which they never were; and thus it is an argument they use with God to look upon them. Or, the word thine, being not in the text, some do otherwise interpret it; We are even in the same condition we were in at first, either in Egypt, or Ur of the Chaldees, before thou broughtest us into covenant, and are accordingly dealt with; we are become even as they, whom thou didst not bear rule over. Or, we are as, if thou hadst never ruled over us of old.
Thou never barest rule over them; not in that manner, or in that relation to them, that thou didst over us.
They were not called by thy name; neither owned thee, nor owned by thee: this phrase implies a near relation in some circumstance or other, as wife, or servant, or child, &c., Isaiah 4:1.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Isaiah 63". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany