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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
Isaiah 63

 

 

Verse 1

1. The scene here introduced is as if Jehovah, in a broken dramatic picture, is returning with the tread of a triumphant conqueror from a complete victory over foes. and the people cry out,

Who is this that cometh from Edom — Ever a scornful enemy to the Jews, and even to the latest day of their history a relentless one.

With dyed garments — Edom means red; some, from this fact, have needlessly supposed a play upon words, and not a reference to the land of Edom. This coincidence of blood-red with the dazzling garments of the conqueror is, however, quite too fanciful.

Bozrah — A town within the limits of Edom, not the Bozrah of the Hauran.

I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save — This is the answer of the conqueror, Jehovah.


Verses 1-6

THE VINTAGE OF JUDGMENT, Isaiah 63:1-6.

In preceding chapters, (60-62,) the glow of hope was paramount, and the vision of the coming glory was so full with the prophet, (with occasional exceptions,) that in a measure he overlooked the fact of still surviving, though weakening, hostile powers gnashing spite on Zion, by reason of conscious decadence of their own might and dominion. Reference is made to these in Isaiah 59:18, also in Isaiah 60:12. Here, in Isaiah 63:1-6, the reference to them is distinctly pronounced. Edom is here, as in chap. 34, (as it also is in Psalms 137:7,) taken to represent a power ever malignant against Israel and against Israel’s religion.


Verse 2

2. The next question is,

Wherefore… red in thine apparel — Why bespattered as if with red grape juice, like him that treadeth in the winefat or winepress.


Verse 3-4

3, 4. In reply, the mistake of his visage, (Isaiah 63:1,) as that of an earthly warrior approaching as from afar, is explained. Not that kind of a warrior is he; but he is as one who has braved sin, death, and hell at Gethsemane and on the cross, then rose as a conqueror out of the grave, and ascended to the highest heaven. Ephesians 4:8-9.

Trodden the winepress alone — If this refers to the closing scenes of Christ’s life, as not improbably it may, at least in more than a secondary way, then those scenes are present or past as seen in vision, but future as actually to be viewed in exposition. He went emphatically “alone” to his death, with garments soiled and dripping; but on regaining victory and power, held for a time in abeyance, he hastened to judgment upon the unrighteous and incorrigible, causing their utter separation from among those humble ones who were ready to receive him and render to him such aid as they were able. For the while, the process is destructive, but in the end he shall put all enemies under his feet. Of the last part of Isaiah 63:3, their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment, Dr. W. Kay says, on the phrase “will stain:” “The unique form of the Hebrew verb, gaal, seems meant to connect it with the word ‘redeemed’ (geul) in Isaiah 63:4, as though the stains were marks of his having fulfilled the duty of goel — the avenger of blood and the re-instater of his oppressed kinsman.” — Sp. Comment.

The day of vengeance — Announced before, (Isaiah 61:2,) to follow “the acceptable year,” a period during which the best great efforts of the Messianic reign of peace and salvation are exemplified. But in contrast with this is a period wherein surviving powers of evil gather strength, and upon which the positive side of Messiah’s righteousness and judgment must be visited, and his own true people be avenged. This is the year of Messiah’s redeemed people. This principle has many a time had, and will yet have, exemplification in Messianic or Christian history.


Verse 5-6

5, 6. I looked… there was none to help — These opening words do but repeat Isaiah 59:16, with one change only, that of the person, which, in the latter is Jehovah, while in the former it is Messiah, or the Lord’s Anointed — the Servant of Jehovah.

I wondered — Amid rank rebellion there ought, in the nature of things, to be some exceptions; some might, perchance, have conscience enough left to have taken sides with him. But not even one appeared.

Therefore mine own arm brought salvation — Namely, to his sorely oppressed spiritual Israel. Opposers shall not escape. Hostile nations and individual souls alike shall drink the cup of retribution to the dregs. Full justice shall be done to his righteous cause. It shall be shown that no incorrigible foe can stand. Thus ends this obscure and dramatic scene, in which some moderns see little or nothing of Christ, as Calvin, Grotius, Alexander, Barnes, and others; while earlier commentators, and not a few modern, see much of him, displaying the righteousness of his cause, and the peril of opposition to it.


Verse 7

7. I will mention the lovingkindness of the Lord — Or, I will record, etc. The words of the voice recall the deep religious sense of Psalms 139. Praises of the Lord… bestowed… mercies, etc. — That is, in the name of the Church, to such a degree restored, the prophet recounts the Lord’s mercies, which show that he is worthy of abounding thanksgiving from the Church.


Verses 7-25

THE LAST CONTROVERSY WITH ISRAEL, Isaiah 63:7 to Isaiah 65:25.

Israel’s former Mercies and Sins.

There are various schemes of division of the matter now following. The one here adopted as best, is that of two well-defined sections, namely, The Last Controversy of Israel, with subdivisions as the topics vary, (Isaiah 63:7 to Isaiah 65:25,) and The Full Redemption of Zion, comprising chapter 66.


Verse 8

8. He said — Jehovah said, in the exercise of his great mercy.

Surely — Without possible ground for doubt.

They are my people — They only are the people.

That will not lie — That is, that are true to the covenant with me. The body of Israel had not so proved: but these are they whose characters have been proved.

He was their Saviour — Namely, of the few who, out of severe trial, proved genuine, and deserving to be saved.


Verse 9

9. In all their affliction he was afflicted — Was a sharer in “their affliction,” and consequently not the inflicter, or, he was not one who afflicted. The original well bears either meaning. The difference arises by לא, not, in the Hebrew text, and לו, for him, in the margin. Original copies vary on these two forms. To general readers the difference is not essential, and scarcely important.

Angel of his presence — (See Exodus 23:20-21; Numbers 20:16.) This means the “angel” standing in his presence. In Old Testament theophanies, the Servant, or Messenger — in other words, the Messiah, often appeared in bodily form to his people or their representatives. The remaining words tenderly express the divine interferences for God’s ancient saints.


Verse 10

10. But they rebelled — A charge often made against Judah and Israel.

And vexed his Holy Spirit — “His Holy Spirit” is God himself, the Holy Ghost of the New Testament; though the Old Testament development does but indistinctly define the third person of the Godhead.

He was turned — He left them to the consequences of their chosen course.


Verses 11-13

11-13. Then he remembered the days of old — His own covenant was not forgotten, though unavailing to the people if they kept not their part good. Their repentance always caused Jehovah to return to his wonted mercies. See Joshua 24:31; Judges 2:6-10; Isaiah 41:10-14; Isaiah 45:1-6.

As a horse in the wilderness — Or, as a courier through the desert, without stumbling. So the Israelites were led without falling while they submitted to Jehovah’s guidance.


Verse 14-15

14, 15. As a beast — Collectively for a herd of cattle or flock of sheep.

Goeth down into the valley — That is, to luxuriant feeding places, and for rest.

So didst thou lead thy people — In a general way all through their history.

Look down from heaven Isaiah 57:15. A metaphor, as in the reference designating the infinite grandeur of Deity, not his locality.

Where is thy zeal — Thy former zeal for thy people — thy might once shown so often by their deliverances.

Sounding of thy bowels — Organs of the chest, deemed the seat of compassionate emotions, which, when intense, caused a stirring and a sound. Isaiah 16:11. The whole importunate appeal for new blessings is made on the ground that God, in olden time, was full of compassion toward Israel, as just stated, Isaiah 63:13.


Verse 16

16. Doubtless — Rather, surely.

Thou art our Father — And to thee, not to Abraham, will we look for help. Their national privileges, derived through “Abraham,” had proved, through their own faithlessness, unsatisfactory and largely unfruitful; and now they would fain look to Him who not only appointed them, but especially could alone uphold the people, and make their relation as a separate nation fruitful of good to them.


Verse 17

17. Made us to err… hardened our heart — Such expressions in the Bible are the simple-minded, oriental, phenomenal way of looking at the matter of God’s overruling providence, as if that were efficiently productive of evil as well as of good; as if that were the cause, not merely the occasion, of human wickedness. Yet counter expressions by the thousand, in the Bible, of that same childlikeness, of ancient simplicity in apprehension, show that the orientals no more held God to be blamed for the evil around them than they held that a solid rock wall, against which if a foolhardy man dashed his head, was to be blamed for the broken skull and consequent death. See Isaiah 6:9-10, and notes there.


Verse 18-19

18, 19. The people of thy holiness — People adhering to principles of the divine holiness, is an expression stronger than the phrase, thy holy people, and is to be preferred. God’s interposition in their behalf is pleaded for in the preceding, and continued in this verse, on the ground that, as the covenant people with God, they held peaceable possession of the land of promise but a little while, because their sins had made him to become their enemy; but now that they return in penitence, they plead for spiritual and eternal possession on the ground of such having been the intent of the covenant on God’s part. Besides, the original and literal promised possession is now trodden down by foes, and this gives reason for his people’s stronger and more persistent pleading. Besides, still further, say they, We are thine. Thy foes are not thy people. They will not have thee as their ruler. We are of old. We belong to the line who always held sacred thy spiritual covenant. Yet “but a little while” have we held spiritual possession.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Isaiah 63:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/isaiah-63.html. 1874-1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, November 12th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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