Isaiah 63

Garments Bloody from the Winepress

This chapter has little to do with Edom and Bozrah. Those words are symbols and are used in accordance with Isaiah's use of "play on words" as a literary device. Bozrah was a place known for the vats in which they dyed cloth crimson in iridescent glowing shades. Edom is inescapably connected with the color "red." It has been since the time that Esau was born covered with red hairy exterior which was one of the reasons he was nicknamed "edom" or "red;" the other event being the selling of his birthright for a pottage of red lentils, Gen 25:30 stating that as the reason he was from then on called Edom. Esau later chose the mountainous country southeast of Israel which then took his name Edom and is known for the red rocks out of which, the capital Petra "the Rose Colored City" of world renown, was carved. Thus, it is the connection of the color red with the one coming to tread down the winepress of fury which is being spoken about in this prophesy. Some commentators of especial reputation still see the chapter as some kind of prophetic destruction meted out on Edom. This has to be a mistake. Notably, Delitzsch makes the chapter to refer to Edom. However it would be out of place if Isaiah had interjected a "Burden" or "Oracle" about Edom in this place. The "Oracles" are in a section all together from Chapters 13 through 23 and even though there is no separate "oracle" about Edom in that listing, Edom is mentioned as being under a curse in 34:5.6 and the picture of her final destruction is pictured there. Ezek 35:15; 36:5 speak of the same final overthrow of Edom. Other mentions of the final disappearance of Edom as a nation are in Jeremiah and Malachi but most notably in Obadiah, but not here. Petra which has one of the most beautiful sites for a city and was very defensible was desolate long before its defense system became obsolete. Idumea was still a strong nation at the time of Christ and the last of the great Idumean Kings was Herod the Great. Not withstanding, this chapter does not refer to the downfall of Edom; and the fury in the wine vats is not expended on Edom. The chapter is messianic and the paradoxes of the messianic visitation are interwoven in the chapter. The one coming is furious but full of loving kindness, he is angry and covered with the life-blood of the enemies, but he redeems them; he treads the people down and bestows on them his mercies and calls them his people. It is in these paradoxes that the messianic mission is seen. Only the events from Gethsemane to Calvary can be properly linked to this passage. The one coming red from the sheepcote; crimson from the blood of his enemies; his garments stained with the spurting blood from stamping out the iniquities and the afflictions of the people whom he now calls his own, which afflictions, he himself is now afflicted with, can only be linked to the victim of Golgotha.

1. Who is this that comes from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this one who is glorious in his apparel, traveling in the greatness of his strength, It is I, who speaks in righteousness, mighty to save.

Verse 1: Edom and Bozrah are places. Bozrah was a city in Edom about 22 miles south of the Dead Sea. Edom is the word for "red" in Hebrew. The same word is used below in verse two. "Why are your clothes "red?" Bozrah means a "sheepfold." The prophecy is not about Edom or Bozrah as geographical locations or as nations but is rather a prophecy about the one who comes red from the sheepfold. And his garments are red with the blood of sacrifice. The use of Edom and Bozrah is a play on words and the chapter is about the reconciliation brought about by the Messiah. The reconciliation is confused with retribution and vengeance against sin while those who are not recognized by the natural nation live to enjoy the blessings and claim kinship with Abraham although they are not actual descendants. Beside reconciliation there is a mix of salvation, punishment, loving kindness, vengeance, fury, savior of aliens, redemption, afflicted with their affliction, mercy, and anger which would be difficult to interpret were it not for the hindsight we have of the Nazarene visitation of the "messenger of his presence." This is a vision of the Messiah who will be associated with all the above and blood red stains; it is not of Edom.

2 Why are your clothes red, and your clothing like him who treads in the wine vat?

3 I trod the winepress alone; and there was none with me of the peoples: for I will tread on them in my anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my clothing

Verse 3: The following portion of the verse is omitted from the Qumran text: "for I will tread them in my anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments." It is interesting that this portion which is linked to the messianic mission is confirmed as correct by the later Masoretes.

Verse 3: The word translated "stain" is from a Chaldean form in the Masoretic text. The Chaldean form appears as shown here: " 'eg'altiy"  The Hebrew form is similar; thus: "Hig'altiy."  The only difference is the substitution of the preformative "h" (he:y) in Hebrew for the Chaldean A (aleph) or "a". This is used by some scholars to support the idea of a second Isaiah, who according to them had to write after the Babylonian captivity and used the Chaldean spelling which would be anachronistic for Isaiah. But this is an over simplification, since there are other reasons why the "aleph" is mistakenly in the Masoretic text beside the fact that the Masoretic text can be called in question. The Qumran text (which is older than the Masoretic text) does not have a preformative at all but uses the entirely Hebrew form "ge'altiy"  which can not be mistaken for Chaldean. Also the scribes of the Qumran texts often made it difficult to distinguish between "aleph" and "he:y." It can therefore be supposed that other older antiquated script in early manuscripts could also be equally difficult and therefore that the Masoretic reading is simply a variation from the original which either corresponded to the Qumran (without preformative) or a poorly written "he:y" that was copied as an "aleph" was handed down to Masoretes who carefully copied what they had received. This is more likely than that there were two Isaiahs, one during the Assyrian period and one during the Persian period. (See also note under 63:18 and 64:11) below, See also the text and comments in the Qumran Scroll where this word  can be viewed in context. Look at the aleph which is the 2nd letter from the right in the last Hebrew word. Now compare it with the 2nd letter from right in the following word which is a "he" (an H) It is possible that a poorly written "he" may have been taken for an aleph. That is more likely than there are two Isaiahs and there is a Chaldean (Aramaic) spelling in Isaiah 63:3.

4 For the day of vengeance is in my heart, and the year of my redeemed is come.

5 And I looked, and there was none to help; and I was astonished that there was none to uphold: therefore my own arm brought salvation to me; and my fury, it supported me.

6 And I will tread down the people in my anger, and make them drunk in my fury, and I will bring down their strength to the earth.

Verses 6 ff: Do not miss the paradoxes in these verses. It becomes obvious that the "treading down of the people" redeems them and removes their iniquities through the love and mercy of Him who has the blood stains on his clothes and who had to do it alone even though he sought in vain for help from anyone. The events in the Garden of Gethsemane are depicted here including His disappointment with those "who could not watch one hour." These paradoxes are harmonized in the life of Him who has been called the "Absolute Paradox" by one astonished thinker, himself an unbeliever, who tried to harmonize fury, death, blood and anger with love, mercy and redemption.

7. I will mention the lovingkindnesses of the LORD, and the praises of the LORD, according to all that the LORD has bestowed on us, and the great goodness toward the house of Israel, which he has bestowed on them according to his mercies, and according to the multitude of his lovingkindnesses

8 For he said, Surely they are my people, children that will not lie: so he was their Savior.

9 In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old.

10 But they rebelled, and vexed his holy Spirit: therefore he was changed to be their enemy, and he fought against them.

11 Then he remembered the days of old; Moses; his people; saying, Where is he that brought them up out of the sea with the shepherd of his flock? where is he who put the spirit of his holiness within him?

Verse 11: The construction here is ("ro'ey tso'no") that is "shepherd of his sheep," in which "shepherd" is plural construct. The KJV translates the construction accurately in the singular because it is a plural of majesty. just as the word "God" in Hebrew is plural and the majestic plural is meant to be understood as "Great." Just so, other words are placed in this construction. For instance the word mother-in-law is always plural in Hebrew. Thus, the shepherd of his flock is to be understood as "the great shepherd." Who is the great shepherd? but the one who comes out of Edom to tread the winepress alone and who stains his garments red in treading out the iniquity of the nations!? Moses was a shepherd, but who actually was the "great shepherd?" Who actually did the leading? Was it not the pillar of fire, the shekina glory, which did the actual leading? It is YHWH himself who did the leading and who did the saving! In vs 10 above the LXX says: "it was the LORD himself who redeemed them." In this chapter He is: the one who treads the wine press alone, The Angel of his presence, the one in whom he has put the spirit of his holiness, savior, redeemer, and in the verses that follow he is described as the shekina pillar which led them in the wilderness.

12 Who led them by the right hand of Moses with his glorious arm, dividing the water before them, to make himself an everlasting name?

13 Who led them through the deep, as a horse in the wilderness, that they should not stumble?

14 As farm animals go down into the pasture, the Spirit of the LORD caused him to rest: so did you lead your people, to make yourself a glorious name.

15. Look down from heaven, and behold from the habitation of your holiness and glory: where is your zeal and your strength, the tumult of your heart and of your mercies toward me? are they restrained?

16 Doubtless you are our father, though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel does not acknowledge us: you, O LORD, are our father, our redeemer; your name is from eternity.

17 O LORD, why have you made us to wander from your ways, and hardened our heart from your fear? Restore for your servants' sake, the tribes of your inheritance.

18 The people of your holiness have possessed it but a little while: our adversaries have trodden down your sanctuary.

Verse 18: The Temple: This verse (and more specifically 64:11 below) is used by critics who couple it with the apparent Chaldaeism of verse 3, (See the note above), to establish a "Deutero" or second Isaiah. Because Isaiah speaks of the desolation of the temple by foreigners as an event that is past it is assumed by skeptics that he had to live after the end of the Babylonian captivity. This assumption readily fits the skeptical mind which then can conclude that all of Isaiah must be written after the fact. However the miraculous nature of the book does not depend entirely on the historical material of the Assyrian and Babylonian periods. There is too much of the messianic mission which is fulfilled by Jesus of Nazareth which can not be explained away and which validates the book. If Isaiah can predict the virgin birth of the Messiah, the spiritual nature of His kingdom, His close association with YHWH, and the garments of the Messiah which will be eternally linked with blood, why is it so great a thing to predict the events associated with the rise and fall of Assyria and Babylon and their interaction with Israel and Judah? Isaiah's style of speaking of the future as though it is an ongoing event or as though it is in the past has already been pointed out. Don't stumble over a matter of visionary style and miss the miracle of Isaiah.

19 We are yours: you never bore rule over them; they were not called by your name.

Verse 19: The Qumran text confirms the Masoretic text. They are both the same. However the LXX is very different as to person and number of subject and object pronouns which changes the meaning considerably. Also the masoretic text continues the verse through verse one of the next chapter. The LXX also includes verse one of the next chapter as the conclusion of verse 19. LXX reads: "We have been the same from the beginning, when you did not rule over us, neither was your name called upon us. If you would open heaven the mountains will tremble before you and they will melt."

Isaiah 64

1. Oh that you would rend the heavens, that you would come down, that the mountains might flow down at your presence,

This verse ends chapter 63 in the Masoretic and the LXX texts

10 Your holy cities are a wilderness, Zion is a wilderness, Jerusalem a desolation.

11 Our holy and our beautiful house, where our fathers praised you, is burned up with fire: and all our pleasant things are laid waste.

12 Will you hold yourself back for these things, O LORD? will you excessively keep silence and humble us?

Verse 11: See the note on 63:18 above which in that chapter mentions the destruction of the temple as an accomplished fact. It is Isaiah's style to relate his visions as though the events had already happened. Reasons for rejecting "Deutero-Isaiah" are given above. The visions of Isaiah relate the future destruction of Jerusalem and the restoration and the birth of Zion under the Messiah, which will result in the call of the Gentiles into a Jewish root, and the new heavens and the new earth which is to follow the messianic period. Shall we say that Isaiah lived after those times too? It is simply short sighted skepticism which does not require a great deal of literary skill which creates doubt from such superficial exegesis.

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