Bible Commentary: Isaiah 63-64

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Bible Commentary

Isaiah 63-64

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Winepress of Wrath

God is pictured as returning from battle with Edom, Bozrah being the chief city of Edom. This ties in with many prophecies of Edom's destruction at Christ's return. Indeed, Obadiah states that there will be no Edomites left alive during Christ's reign (Obadiah 18). Yet, in context here, Edom seems to be used as a general representation of Israel's enemies since God mentions treading down the "peoples" (verses 3, 6). As was explained in the comments on Obadiah and Isaiah 34, there may be a connection between Edom and the future Babylon, the preeminent national foe of the end time—that is, a significant portion of Edomites may end up being part of this system.

Christ's garments are stained with blood because of the vengeance He has taken on the enemies of His people, something He has had to take care of by Himself since no one was found to help Him (verses 1-6). The winepress imagery—squeezing out the "blood" of grapes—as a figure of judgment can also be found in Joel 3:13, Lamentations 1:15, Revelation 14:17-20 and 19:15.

A God of Great Mercy

Then, in a moving description, Isaiah tells of the loving-kindness (Hebrew hesed, “covenant faithfulness" or "steadfast love") God has for His people, in spite of their depraved behavior (Isaiah 63:7). God is quoted as saying: "Surely they are My people, children who will not lie" (verse 8; see Exodus 24:7). He is pictured as trusting their honesty in remaining faithful to Him as they had promised, and He helped them in all their trials. Their rebellion grieved Him tremendously, yet God still remembers the old days fondly. And Isaiah reminds God of this in His appeal for mercy and help.

God putting "His Holy Spirit within them" in Isaiah 63:11 can also be translated as God putting "his Holy Spirit within him" (KJV and J.P. Green's Literal Translation)—that is, within Moses, who is mentioned earlier in the same verse. Indeed, this must be the case since God's Spirit was not given to the Israelites as a whole.

Israel's prayer for mercy and deliverance is continued in chapter 64. Verse 4 is quoted by Paul in describing the ignorance of those who crucified Jesus, not understanding the wisdom of God, and explaining that we, however, can understand through His Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:6-11).

In Isaiah 64:6, the people confess that their own righteousness—that is, their attempts to obey Him without His spiritual help and their living by what they themselves consider righteousness as opposed to true righteousness—are as worthless and repulsive as "filthy rags." Says the JFB Commentary, “lit[erally] a 'menstruous rag'" (note on verse 6). Or The Nelson Study Bible: "Garments stained during menstruation…making a woman unclean (Lev. 15:19-24; Ezek. 36:17)" (note on verse 6). Paul describes Israel's dilemma in this regard in Romans 10:1-3—and explains in the following verses that the answer they need is Christ for righteousness. That is, they need the justification that comes through His sacrifice and the ongoing obedience that comes from His living in people—as He transforms them as a potter does clay (Isaiah 64:8).

Isaiah is able to see, through the visions God has given him, the eventual destruction of Jerusalem, including the temple: "Our holy and beautiful temple, where our fathers praised You, is burned up with fire" (Isaiah 64:11). It was something very distressing to him, and added to his emotional turmoil.

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