Introductory note

In Isaiah 63 there is a complete change of theme from chapters 61 and 62; whereas these chapters speak eloquently of the rewards of obedience, the chapter before us presents a deliberate contrast – we learn about the judgments upon the heedless nations.

Isaiah 63:1–6 pictures the multitudinous Christ emerging from Armageddon, resplendent in triumph. His gory appearance, his references to his fury and his revelation that no nation sided with him, provoke Isaiah to appeal to Yahweh on behalf of his people Israel, in a long and sustained prayer in which he recounts Israel’s special relationship to Yahweh. It commences in verse 7 and concludes in the last verse of Isaiah 64. God’s answer is given in chapter 65.

There is some confusion resulting from a mixture of past and future tenses of the verbs used in verses 1–6 in the AV (eg v3). In the RSV they are uniformly in the past tense. Though the events themselves are yet in the future, the use of the past tense emphasises their certainty.

Isaiah 63:1–6 The multitudinous Christ comes from Edom as a blood-stained warrior. He reveals that he has conquered the nations alone and unassisted.

63:1(1) Who is this that cometh from (2) Edom, with dyed [RSV crimsoned] garments from(3) Bozrah?(4) this that is glorious in his apparel, travelling [RSV marching] in the greatness of his strength?(5) I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save.”

(1) Here two questions are asked and an answer is given.

(2) Edom, located south of the Dead Sea, became the dwelling-place of Esau, Jacob’s twin brother. The hatred of Esau for his brother continued between their descendants, the nations of Edom and Israel, so much so that Edom became a symbolic name for Jew-haters, anti-Semites, for those who have sought to take possession of the land of Israel: the term is so used in Scripture. In Isaiah 34 the “indignation of Yahweh is upon all nations” (v2), and then the names Idumea (Edom) and Bozrah are mentioned, being synonymous (v5–6). Then we are informed that this “is the day of Yahweh’s vengeance, and the year of recompenses for the controversy of Zion” (v8; 63:4). It is a picture of Armageddon and Isaiah 63 is virtually a continuation of the vision of Isaiah 34.

In the context of the controversy between Israel and her enemies, Zion and Edom are often set in juxtaposition, with the ultimate deliverance of the former by Yahweh. Compare the following; Isaiah 34 with 35:10; Ezekiel 35 (Mt Seir in verse 2 is Edom) with 36:1 (“prophesy unto the mountains of Israel”); and Obadiah 1,15–18,21.

Edom means “red” (cp Gen 25:25,30), and that the Conqueror’s garments should be dyed crimson from the blood of the slain is fitting.

(3) Bozrah was the capital of Edom, though a ruin today. It means ‘fortified place, sheepfold’. It was noted for its sheep (Mic 2:12), and is located between the Dead Sea and Petra. Mount Seir and Teman are also places marking the route of the Conqueror as he will emerge from Sinai (Hab 3:3; Deut 33:2; Psa 68:17).

(4) This further description is notable and awesome, impressing us with the strength, glory and order of the multitudinous Christ.

(5) This is the Victor’s reply. As already indicated, the answer is Christ and the saints. This is confirmed beyond doubt by the words of verse 3 being cited and interpreted in Revelation 19:11–16. But mention is made here of him speaking “in righteousness”. Why? Because the world at large has no appreciation of God’s will, His laws, or His love for Israel, the chosen nation. The judgments to be poured out will be just and righteous (Rev 15:3;19:11; Acts 17:31).

Refer to hymn 308, “Yahweh Elohim”, where these words are quoted.

63:2–3 (1) Wherefore art thou (2) red [Heb adom] in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth (3) in the winefat [RSV winepress]?(4) I have trodden the winepress (5) alone [cited Rev 19:15]; and of the people [RSV, Roth peoples]there was none with me: for I will tread [RSV trod] them (6) in mine anger, and trample [RSV trampled] them in my fury; (7) and their blood [RSV lifeblood] shall be [RSV is] sprinkled upon my garments, and(8) I will stain [RSV have stained] all my raiment.”

(1) In verses 2 and 3 there is also a question and an answer. This time the question is not ‘who’ but ‘why are your garments red and soaked in blood, what is the reason for such apparent carnage?’

(2) The Hebrew word for “red” (adom) has the same consonants as Edom and is the word that gave Esau the name Edom (Gen 25:30) and is used of the “red horses” in the same context in Zechariah 1:8 and 6:2. It is translated “red” (as blood) in 2 Kings 3:22 and Numbers 19:2 (“red heifer”).

Note that these words are cited of the Lord, him who is “Faithful and True” in Revelation 19:13.Thereby the interpretation is sealed.

(3) Armageddon is often likened to the winepress, where the nations will be assembled and the wrath of God poured out (Joel 3:13–14; Rev 14:15–20; Psa 58:10). The words of the Edenic promise are recalled (Gen 3:15; Rom 16:20).

(4) The answer is notable for a number of reasons. His garments have been stained as a result of judgment being poured out on the nations, as grapes are crushed at harvest in a winepress.

(5) There is repeated emphasis on this fact; that he was alone, that it was a singlehanded conquest and no nation or people assisted or was sympathetic to his cause – no nation on earth comprehended that Yahweh’s holiness had been flouted, none rallied to his cause. And how true this is today. No nation, not even Israel, has any grasp of God’s will and purpose with His Anointed.

Be it noted that this staggering fact is again brought up by the Victor in verse 5: “And I looked, and there was none to help; and I wondered [RSVwas appalled] that there was none to uphold: therefore …”

(6) The anger and fury of God, His wrath,long pent up, had reached the point where He intervened. Again this is emphasised in verse 5 also (see 42:13–15; Rev 19:15; 11:18; Psa 110:5; 2 Thess 1:7–8).

(7) Cited Revelation 19:13 of Christ and the perfected saints.

(8) There is an agenda to be accomplished; there was no concern for clothing as the work of judgment had to proceed.

63:4 (1) For the day of vengeance is [RSV was] in mine heart, and the year of my redeemed is [RSV has] come.”

(1) Here is the rationale for the devastating, world-wide judgments upon all nations; vengeance upon the wicked and heedless, and rewards dispensed to faithful servants. Both are coetaneous, happening at the same time. Saints will be assembled at Christ’s feet and will receive the reward of eternal life and glory, while the wicked nations will gather against Jerusalem to battle. Following “the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Rev 19:9), they will go forth with him who is called “The Word of God” (v13).The nations will be smitten in “the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God” (v15).

This day of vengeance and recompense has long been foretold. At the commencement of Israel’s national history, in the ‘Song of Witness’(Deut 31:19,21,26; 32:1–43), it was plainly spoken about as the climax of the “times of the Gentiles”.Israel’s history was prophesied, culminating in their existence itself being threatened, and as expressed by Brother Thomas in Eureka, “It is the perfect powerlessness of the tribes before their enemies that excites the indignation and compassion of Yahweh”. Yahweh then intervenes to preserve His people at Armageddon, or as the ‘Song of Witness’ says, “To me belongeth vengeance and recompense … For Yahweh shall judge [RSV vindicate] his people … he will avenge the blood of his servants, and will render vengeance to his adversaries” (Deut 32:35–36,43; also refer to Isa 34:5; 61:2).

63:5 “(1) And I looked, and (2) there was none to help; and (3) I wondered [NIV was appalled] that there was none to uphold: therefore mine own arm brought salvation unto me; and (4) my fury, it upheld me. 63:6 And (5) I will tread down (6) the people [RSV peoples] in mine anger [NIV I trampled the nations…], and (7) make them drunk in my fury, and (8) I will bring down their strength to the earth” (RSV and I poured out their lifeblood on the earth; MLB NIV ESV etc similar).

(1) Notice how this verse is similar to 59:16–17. There, against the prevailing moral anarchy in Judah, there was found no intercessor – necessitating Yahweh’s intervention, “therefore his arm brought salvation [RSV victory] unto him, and his [zeal for] righteousness, it sustained him.” In the outworking of these words it was the LORD’s Son and Servant, “his arm” (Isa 53:1), who conquered the power of sin and gained the victory which will also be enjoyed by believers.

(2) As in Isaiah 59:16 so also in this verse, none was found to help. This is emphasised as it is in verse 3. But what is now the context and who is the speaker? Time has moved on. The gospel has been preached to all nations, the “times of the Gentiles” have run their course. In this era and the context of this verse, there is not one nation found to assist; and, no, not even Israel, the chosen race!!

(3) And who is the speaker? Clearly not Yahweh, but the glorified Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ; and it is now Armageddon. The world has lapsed into unprecedented wickedness; “darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people” (60:2): and so it is today, not just in Judah but the whole world is defiled (Isa 24:5).

(4) Whereas in Isaiah 59:16 it was Yahweh’s “righteousness,” His love of justice, that compelled Him to intervene and act, here it is His “fury” (RSV wrath; v3).

(5) Again we have the language of the winepress, of the grape harvest being gathered (see verse 3).

(6) Note the NIV, “I trampled the nations” [RSV MLB peoples]. This is the time when all the nations are gathered to Jerusalem for battle (Joel 3; Zech 14).

(7) Read Isaiah 51:17–23. It is the cup of Yahweh’s fury which His people have been made to drink. The day is envisaged when this same ‘cup’ shall be pressed against the lips of Israel’s oppressors in retribution for the way they have treated the chosen race. See also Jeremiah 25:15–33 for a dramatic description of the same event using the same imagery.

(8) Note the RSV etc. Here the slaughter of Yahweh’s enemies is likened to a sacrifice (see also 34:6; Ezek 39:17–20; Rev 19:17–18). Blood poured on the ground is a graphic way of saying that the lives of the enemies of God can never be reconstituted.

This concludes the opening vision of Isaiah 63. The remainder of this chapter and all of the following (64) are a dramatic plea by the prophet Isaiah on behalf of his people Israel. This prayer is answered by Yahweh in chapter 65.