Isaiah 63.1-6 – A Few Thoughts on Interpretation

The speaker is a watchman (the Prophet Isaiah) on the walls of Jerusalem, and he sees an enemy coming from the Edom (perhaps the ‘World’), but instead it turns out that it is God Almighty who is leading the charge.

Who is this who comes from Edom,
From the city of Bozrah, with his clothing stained red?
This One who is glorious in His apparel,
Traveling in the greatness of His strength?–

“I who speak in righteousness, mighty to save.”

Why is Your apparel red,
And Your garments like one who treads in the winepress?

“I have trodden the winepress alone,
And of the nations no one was with Me.
For I have trodden them in My anger,
And trampled them in My fury;
Their blood is sprinkled upon My garments,
And I have stained all My robes.

For the day of vengeance is in My heart,
And the year of My redeemed has come.

I looked, but there was no one to help,
And I wondered
That there was no one to uphold;
Therefore My own arm brought salvation for Me;
And My own fury, it sustained Me.

I have trodden down the peoples in My anger,
Made them drunk in My fury,
And brought down their strength to the earth.”

My thoughts:

Calvin says that those commentators that have associated this passage with Christ has ‘violently distorted it’ preferring the passage to be attributed to God. Further, this passage is related to Isaiah 34.

“For My sword shall be bathed in heaven; indeed it shall come down on Edom, And on the people of My curse, for judgment. The sword of the LORD is filled with blood, It is made overflowing with fatness, With the blood of lambs and goats, With the fat of the kidneys of rams. For the LORD has a sacrifice in Bozrah, And a great slaughter in the land of Edom. (Isaiah 34:5-6 NKJV)

Jerome seemed to think that this passage referred to Judah Maccabeus, citing,

But Judas made war on the sons of Esau in Idumea, at Akrabattene, because they kept lying in wait for Israel. He dealt them a heavy blow and humbled them and despoiled them. (1 Maccabees 5:3 RSVA)

Although the robe of blood is reminiscent of John’s vision of the Rider on the white horse,

He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. (Revelation 19:13 NKJV)

The winepress is a symbol of eschatological wrath,

So the angel thrust his sickle into the earth and gathered the vine of the earth, and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trampled outside the city, and blood came out of the winepress, up to the horses’ bridles, for one thousand six hundred furlongs. (Revelation 14:19-20 NKJV)

The year is again seen in chapter 34,

For it is the day of the LORD’s vengeance, The year of recompense for the cause of Zion. (Isaiah 34:8 NKJV)

But, it is the year of the Lord to which our mind is called,

To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, (Isaiah 61:2 NKJV)

Of course Christ utter these words,

“The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; (Luke 4:18 NKJV)

Verse 5 is mimicked before in chapter 59,

He saw that there was no man, And wondered that there was no intercessor; Therefore His own arm brought salvation for Him; And His own righteousness, it sustained Him. (Isaiah 59:16 NKJV)

So, what do we have? It is an eschatological picture of the coming of the Lord? Or perhaps as Jerome, the Maccabean Revolt some 160 years before the birth of Christ. Or could it be, contrary to Calvin, that Christ here is represented as a warrior king, defeating the eternal enemy of all people, which is death and the grave? Is not death the thing that has chased us since the Fall, just as Esau had chased Jacob?

If we learn interpretation from the Church Fathers, then we must see this passage as referring to Christ. If we do, we see the loneliness of His mission – He was alone in His anointing. Yet, He alone led the charge against Edom, destroying the enemy of His people, the Church. It is the year (the Last Days) of the Redeemed (His Church), and he has trodded down the enemies, the tares in the world for His Church.

Joel L. Watts
Joel L. Watts holds a Masters of Arts from United Theological Seminary with a focus in literary and rhetorical criticism of the New Testament. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

4 thoughts on “Isaiah 63.1-6 – A Few Thoughts on Interpretation

  1. We must remember that it is Christ to whom the Father has entrusted all judgement (John 5:22-30), and the rider on the white horse in Revelation 19 is “KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS” and “He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty.”

    Therefore, I believe Isaiah 63:1-6 is referring to Christ.

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