The antiphonal character of the opening verses links them
with Psalm 24. The strange misapplication by the "fathers"
which has been almost universally followed. The "winepress"
judgment always refers to the Jew, as the "harvest" to the Gentile.
Meditation, confession, vehement desire, in natural sequence.
first six verses of this chapter are clearly to be taken by themselves,
and form the third and closing section of this minor division of our
book. The structure is antiphonal, at once reminding us of Psalm 24,
the closing verses of which give question and answer in the same way.
This unique correspondence of structure leads us to question if there
are not other links between our verses and that psalm. Let us see!
Psalm 24 and these verses occupy a third place, and even by that
position both speak of the revelation of the same majestic Divine
Personage. The first of this trilogy of psalms (Ps. 22) speaks also of
a winepress, in which He on whom we are looking in Isaiah, was Himself
not the Treader but the Trodden, so that the Blood that there flowed
was indeed His own, and of unspeakable preciousness to us, for it was
that of atonement—it is the Blood of the Cross. This is followed by Ps.
23, the few verses of which tell of a wilderness journey, through which
every need is supplied by the same One who is here the Shepherd; and
the psalm ends (and this we need to mark carefully) not with an
introduction to our Father's House, but to the House of Jehovah. That
Name fixes the primary application of the psalm to Israel, yet quite as
evidently it makes that ending to be a type or shadow of the end of our
wilderness journey in our unending dwelling in our Father's House. But
we must not put aside Israel as the prime object, for the following
psalm (Ps. 24) closes with the triumphant entry of her Messiah into the
city whose gates are commanded to admit the Sufferer of Ps. 22 and the
Shepherd of Ps. 23, but in a third character as the King of Glory. Here
He is assumed to be unknown, in order that He may be introduced in the
most graphic way. Let us listen then to the question, "Who is this King
of Glory?" to which this answer comes: "The Lord, strong and mighty;
the Lord mighty in battle." This awakens a universal shout: "Lift up
your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors, and
the King of Glory shall come in." But the question is repeated, as if
the announcement were too stupendous to be taken in quickly: "Who is
this King of Glory?" to which we hear the final word: "The Lord of
Hosts, He is the King of Glory."
We must recur to this later, but it is surely intensely dramatic; nor is this less so:
1: Who is this who cometh from Edom,
Comes with stained garments from Bozrah?
This One so splendid in His apparel,
Marching so proudly in fulness of strength?
'Tis I who speak in righteousness,
And mighty am to save.
2: Why is there red upon Thine apparel,
Thy garments like his who treads a winepress?
3: The winepress I've trodden, and trodden alone,
Not a man of the peoples was with Me!
For I have trodden them down in My wrath,
And trampled them down in My fury;
Their life-sap1upon My clothing did spurt,2
And all of My raiment was stained.
4: For the day of avenging has been in My heart,
And the year for redeeming My people is come.
5: I looked all around—there was none who could help!
That none could uphold made Me marvel!
Then 'twas My arm that brought Me salvation,
Then did My fury become My support!
6: And down I trod nations in My just wrath,
Made them drunk with the cup of My fury—
Thus made their life-sap1to flow to the earth.
scene opens with One advancing from Edom, and more specifically from
Bozrah. We shall not reach the mind of the Spirit if we take these as
merely geographical localities. This in itself is not free from
difficulty, for whilst this glorious Personage is evidently marching
from some victory, the context makes it clear that the reference is to
the last judgment upon apostates, both Jew and Gentile, at that crisis
of all crises in human affairs—the Day in which our Lord comes in glory
to assume His Throne over the earth. Joel (chap. 3:12) tells us that
that last judgment takes place in the "valley of Jehoshaphat" (a name
that itself means "The judgment of Jehovah"), which lay to the east of
Jerusalem, separating the city from the Mount of Olives. "Thither cause
Thy mighty ones to come down," is the way the Spirit invokes the Lord
in that prophet. In accord with this Zechariah (chap. 14) tells us that
His Feet shall stand at that day on the Mount of Olives, which is also
on the eastern side of the valley of Jehoshaphat.
This seems clearly
enough to determine the site of that last battlefield (although in the
light of Rev. 6:15, 16 it is too one-sided to be called a battle) to be
in the vicinity of Jerusalem; but here we learn that it is in the land
of Edom and near the city of Bozrah. But that does not necessarily
involve any discord; for such a revelation of divine Majesty would at
once cause a flight, and the pursuit may be carried on from Olivet,
till the confused rout crosses the Jordan, the last stand being made in
Edom, whence the divine-human Conqueror is seen returning with the
evidences of His victory upon His apparel!3 But even
admitting this as a possible interpretation, the whole character of our
book would lead us to discern a deeper than a mere geographical
significance in these names. "Edom" is but another form of Adam, and
may thus well stand for Adam's race, governed by that carnal mind that
is enmity against God, just as Edom was ever in hostility to Israel.
perfect harmony with this, too, is Bozrah, from bazar "to cut off," and
applied to the gathering of grapes in the vintage (See Lev. 25:5).
Thus, in these very names we get a key to what follows; a double
infliction—Edom standing for "man" as such, in a broad sense, or the
Gentiles; and Bozrah for the vine of the earth, or Jew.4 Nor
is it without interest to note the differences between the picture here
and that which closely corresponds with it in Revelation 19, for it is
the same moment. Here in Isaiah, the Conqueror is seen marching with
infinite dignity; "swinging his body from the hips,"5 as
Delitzsch says; and coming from the infliction of judgment. In
Revelation, however, while coming to that judgment (there called the
"Supper of the great God"), yet even there His vesture is already seen
as "dipped in blood." This forbids a literal interpretation, for His
raiment could not have been dipped in what we know as blood in heaven
whence He then comes; but it is a perfect symbolic picture of a
judgment that has already been inflicted in the heavenlies upon
rebellious principalities and powers as in Rev. 12:7-9. This is clearly
confirmed in our book, for punishment has to fall on "the host of the
high ones on high," as well as "on the kings of the earth upon the
earth" (chap. 24).
Let us then endeavor to recast the scene. We
are standing in Palestine, and looking eastward from Jerusalem. From
afar we discern One advancing. Nearer He comes till we note that His
apparel, splendid as it is, is deeply blood-stained. To question One
who here comes in such splendor, such awe-inspiring Majesty, as when
transfigured on the Holy Mount, would be too familiar, and so we
ask—not addressing anyone directly, but looking about as if to find
anyone who can tell us—who this can be. He Himself must reply, for His
Name no one knows but Himself (Rev. 19:12). That reply is stern and
terse, again uniting those two apparently opposing terms,
"righteousness" and "salvation," for He speaks in righteousness and yet
is "mighty to save." His very righteousness makes Him mighty to save
those who are oppressed. Emboldened by His condescension in thus
answering, we ask Him directly: "How is it that Thine apparel is thus
stained as one that treads the winepress?" He takes up that word and
says: "It is indeed the winepress that I have trodden, and that alone,
for of the peoples, the Gentiles, there was none with Me. In this
winepress guilty men have taken the place of the grapes; and it is
their blood that has thus stained My raiment."
Here we must tread
carefully, for in no passage in our book has the error that has come
down to us from the so-called "fathers," of forcing Christian truth
into Jewish Scriptures, been more evidenced than here. They taught that
the blood that stained His garments was His own. But the mere
superficial reading of the verses should be enough to dispel such a
distorted application in a moment. Some of the "fathers" taught it,
"Rome" adopted it, and what she calls "the Church" accepted it through
the centuries. This certainly provides a loud call to accept nothing
that has only tradition to justify its existence. Well may we test, by
the Word of God, everything that we have accepted.
This blood is
that of Israel's oppressors, and yet, if I mistake not, it is not the
Gentiles who are, at least primarily, in view in this terrible picture
of the trodden winepress. For we must ever remember that in that last
day of the revelation of the Lord in righteous judgment—the heavenly
redeemed having been taken Home—there will be four distinct parties
left upon the stage. First, the Gentiles, confederated under one
federal head, forming that clearly foretold event, a revival of the
fourth empire of Daniel's second chapter. In close alliance with these,
both politically and in Satanic apostasy, will be the mass of the Jews,
back in their land, to which our own eyes see them now going. Then in
the third place there will be a large number of penitent Gentiles whom
we see in the latter part of chapter 7 of Revelation. Finally, a fourth
company will be composed of the penitent remnant of Jews, who will
repeat the opposition to the future Antichrist, as the Maccabees made
to the past Antiochus, and these will seize the citadel of Jerusalem,
stand siege there by the combined forces of apostasy, both Jew and
Gentile, suffer defeat (Zech. 14), and, when at their last gasp, will
be relieved by the revelation of that glorious Person of whom our
chapter speaks, and who will inflict judgment on both Jew and Gentile
But even in this there is some discrimination between
them. The Lord here says, "Of the peoples (and in that plural form it
always means the Gentiles) there was none with Me"; but if the Gentiles
were themselves the object of the infliction, it would be incongruous
to expect their assistance or association in inflicting it. So I
conclude that the "winepress" refers to judgment on the apostate mass
of the Jews (as also in Rev. 14:18), who are fully as hostile to the
pious remnant of their brethren as the Gentiles, and who are here seen
in the winepress.
The emphasis on "Of the peoples (or Gentiles)
there was none with Me," seems rather to imply that the Lord places
Himself at the head of those Jewish youths who, as the psalmist says,
shine like morning dew in the rays of the Sun of Righteousness. They
are at this time His "willing people" (Ps. 110), and, when we turn the
light of other Scriptures on the scene, have the honor of sharing in
that dreadful day of avenging, as speaks Ps. 58:10: "The righteous
shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance, he shall wash his feet in
the blood of the wicked." And again: "To execute upon them the judgment
written: this honor have all His saints" (Ps 149:9).
now to the scene in Isaiah, let us draw nearer but without joining in
the "vengeance," for which we have little desire. The most one-sided of
all battles is over. The Victorious Commander (chap. 55:4) is
returning, heading His little band of "willing people." We will join it
and accompany it, as it re-crosses Jordan, and goes on its way to
Jerusalem. Would that, think you, be a silent journey? How far from it!
Every possible ascription of praise would fill the air, and all might
be focused in the term, "King of Glory." As we approach the city, we
are met by another company from it, and they take up the word asking:
"Who is this King of Glory?" Can we not hear the shout, as all hands
point to the Leader: "Jehovah Tzebaoth! He is the King of glory!" Then
comes the command of the Zionists: "Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and
be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors, and the King of Glory shall come
in!" So Salem welcomes the King she crucified. It is with joy and
sorrow mingling; the joy we see here, the sorrow in Zech. 12. Thus
would the two antiphones meet, and the psalm take its place of sequence
A change now comes over the spirit of the
prophecy—a striking change from the vision of the Victor triumphantly
marching from Edom. Gently and meditatively it begins, but the
retrospect warms the heart, the words increase in strength, till they
close in a perfect storm of confession and longing desire, which is
carried into the next chapter.
This is the first of the last sub-section, and again has marked upon it the significant "three."
1:Verses 7-14: Retrospective and meditative.
2: Verses 15-19a: Confession and Petition.
3: Verses 19b-Ch. 64:12: Vehement desire.
Israel always provides patterns for us (1 Cor. 10), her condition just
prior to the intervention of her Lord will be of peculiar value, as
telling us what shall be our condition as the responsible witness for
God on the earth, just prior to our Lord's intervention on our behalf,
and gives us the one sure mark that shall evidence those who are true
amid a mass of dead and luke-warm profession—that surely must command
7: The mercies of Jehovah will I now remember,
The praises of Jehovah will I now recall,
According unto all that Jehovah hath bestowed on us;
The goodness so great He hath shown to Isr'el's house,
The which He hath given them in His lovingkindnesses,
According to His many, very many, mercies.
8: He hath said to Himself: Surely they're My people,
Children that will never turn to lie:
So He was to them a Saviour, and that in very deed.
9: In all their distresses distressed too was He,
By the angel of His presence did He save them!
In His love and compassion He redeemed them,
Took them up and carried them all the days of old,
10: But they did rebel, and grieve His holy Spirit;
Then He turned against them and became their foe!
Aye, He did indeed even war against them!
11: Then His people called to mind6the days that were gone by,
E'en the days of Moses; and they cried, Oh, where is He
Who raised them from out of the sea's dark depths,
By the shepherd of His flock?
Oh, where is He who put His holy Spirit in him?7
12: The arm so majestic that did lead them,—
Led them by the right hand of Moses,
Before them split the waters, to make Himself a name,
A name that should remain forevermore!
13: Who led them through the deeps, like a horse in a pasture,8
So that they did not even stumble?
14: Like domestic cattle that go down to the valley,
The Spirit of Jehovah brought them to their rest.
Thus didst Thou lead Thy people in the past,
To make Thyself a Name of excellent renown.
Isaiah wrote this chapter, Israel certainly had not reached the low
condition it describes. Not yet was the sanctuary in Jerusalem trodden
down; not yet had Jehovah fought against them; not yet was the House of
David set aside. On the contrary the most gracious promise that the
Word contains is in a communication to the worst of the kings, Ahaz
(chapter 7), while, as we have seen, the message that the "sun-dial"
brought to Hezekiah was full of grace. But in these verses the Spirit
of Christ transports the spirit of the prophet far into the future; and
then he speaks from that standpoint, telling what he sees there. This
foresight is, and must be, the very essence of divine prophecy, and the
clearest proof that, in the Book that records these prophecies, we have
to do with God. This was the very ground of Jehovah's challenge to the
false deities, and it will still serve today as a test of what is
called "spiritualism"; for we too can take up that challenge and say,
"Let them show us what shall happen." Wicked spirits may, through their
human mediums, tell where a lost article may be found, or the physical
condition of another who is far away, and a hundred other wonders, but
not one of them can foretell with any certainty the future. But with
Jehovah, so certain is the accomplishment of what He foretells that He
speaks of it as already accomplished and past.
In our book of
Christian prophecy with its significant title "Revelation," it is
revealed to us how the human spirit is thrown forward into future
scenes; for there the human writer, John, is transported by the Spirit
of God into what is termed "The Lord's Day" as being in direct contrast
with man's day (1 Cor. 4:3, where the marginal reading is the correct
one). John's body was in man's day, suffering from the injustice of
man's judgment. John's spirit became in the Lord's day, and so he sees
the Lord Jesus standing in judgment, not of the world but in the midst
of the churches (Rev. 1:10).
Thus in the first six verses of this
chapter of Isaiah, the prophet becomes in Spirit in the day of the Lord
(not the Lord's Day), and sees His triumphant intervention for His
afflicted earthly people. But in what follows we are led back to those
exercises in the remnant of His people that justified that intervention.
in mind that in Israel we have a pattern for ourselves, and that what
led to Jehovah's intervention for her will lead to our Lord Jesus
intervening for us, we note that the first step is in remembering the
past. Strange paradox in the ways of God with His people, for is it not
written: "Forgetting the things that are behind" (Phil. 3:13)? Yes, but
it also written: "Remember what ye were in times past" (Eph. 2:11). We
have both to forget and to remember; to forget, that is, not to dwell
on, any past attainment that would hinder our race to our goal, Christ
in glory; but still to remember what we were in the bondage of sin, and
the love that delivered us from that bondage, for that too shall
quicken our steps on our homeward way.
In verse 8 is a sentence
that demands some comment: "For He said, Surely they are My people,
children that will never turn to falsehood." The prophet appears to
attribute to Jehovah an expectation that proves baseless, as if He did
not know what was in man, and here sighs His disappointment. This has
led some to translate, "Children must not lie"; that is, it is a
prohibition. But apart altogether from any deeper consideration, this
is such a very tame, weak, and flat rendering, so entirely inconsistent
with the lively force and beauty of the prophet's style, that we reject
it. We must remember too that this is not a direct word from Jehovah
Himself, but a retrospect by one speaking for the people, and thus he
makes his thoughts vividly clear by this human way of speaking. Jehovah
has done everything that a human father could do for his children, and
had every reason for expecting the filial affection and full confidence
of their hearts. For this is, I believe, the force of the word "lie"
here, as in chap. 28:15, "Under falsehood (the same word) have we hid
ourselves." In neither case is it merely a mis-statement of facts, but
the heart turning away from God to idols, from Christ to other
confidences, as in I John 2:22, "Who is the liar but he that denieth
that Jesus is the Christ?"
Is there nothing in this for us? Can
we read coldly and unmoved of His dealings with Israel and not see the
correspondences there are to His dealings with each of us? We were in
bondage; were we not? He redeemed us by His own sufferings; did He not?
He has borne with us to this hour; has He not? Is He not entitled to
our heart's full confidence? Every rival to Him then is a lie.
verse 10 the Redeemer, kind and pitiful, is changed in His governmental
dealings with them to be their enemy. But bear in mind this is not
Jehovah speaking, but an inspired record of Israel's experience. It
does not mean that Jehovah really was their foe, but His providences
had that appearance, for He gives them up to foe after foe as in the
Book of Judges, since they have grieved His holy Spirit. The word
"Spirit" is not used here exactly as it is in the New Testament, of the
third Person of the Holy Trinity, for that truth was not yet revealed.
To a pious Jew the term "Spirit" seems to have referred, when thus
used, to the realized presence of God, as in the parallelism of Ps.
39:7: "Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit? or whither shall I flee from
Thy Presence?" It is the felt, realized presence of God who is Spirit,
and in our chapter is a parallel idea to "the angel of His Presence."
blessed is adversity to the true people of God! In itself, it does not
distinguish them from the world, but in its effects it does. They are
not marked today by freedom from bereavement, loss, or sickness, or
death; all these come indifferently to all. It is man, as man, who "is
born to trouble as the sparks fly upward" (Job 5:7). Let verses 11 to
14 show where the distinction begins. On the one hand there is hopeless
despairing grief, or an endeavor to drown all memory in worldly
excitement, or a bitter arraignment of God's ways; but on the other,
there is a remembrance of, and a turning to, Him whose love has been so
clearly shown in His ways with them from the beginning. Our memories
turn not to the shadows of Moses and the Red Sea, not to the strong
east wind and the black night, but to the substance of these in the
"storm that bowed His blessed head"—to the sorrows of Gethsemane, and
the unseen but deeper sorrows of the Cross. No; neither sorrow nor
sickness, pain nor death, are in the least discriminative; but penitent
self-judgment, due to memories of the past, and finding our way to His
Feet, do mark the child of God, and turn the suffering that is common
to all into chastening which distinguishes the true-born child from the
bastard (Heb. 12:8).
Here Israel remembers the sea and its depths
through which their fathers were led with such a sure foot that it was
like a horse galloping over a pasture, or as cattle quietly leaving the
mountains for the valleys to feed and rest, and after first asking,
"Where is He who led them?" answers it by, "It was Thou who didst this,
to make Thy Name attractive, as Saviour and Lover, to be remembered
forever." This awakens the cry:
15: From heaven look down and regard,
From where Thy holiness dwells,
From where Thy glory inhabits.
Oh, where is Thy zeal? The display of Thy strength?
Thy yearnings of love to me? All are restrained.
16: For Thou art our Father alone:
For Abraham knoweth us not,
Israel owneth us not;
Our Father, Jehovah, art Thou,
Our Redeemer Thy name from of old,
17: Oh, why, from Thy ways hast Thou made us to stray?
And hardened our hearts from Thy fear?
Lord, for the sake of Thy servants, return,
The tribes that Thou dost inherit!
18: How brief is the time that Thine own holy ones
Have held it in their own possession.
'Tis Thy sanctuary our foes have downtrodden.
19: We've become as the rest of the nations,
Over whom Thou hast never borne rule,
Who have not been called by Thy name.
pathos there is in this affecting appeal! Our printed page reads
coldly, and the living Spirit of God can alone communicate to us the
real feeling with which the words were written. It is not here a little
company of Jews who are weeping at the stones of their ancient city,
but these are looking heavenward, with tears streaming down their
cheeks, and they cry: "Look down once more from that heaven so
uncontaminated by human foe, and regard the conditions on this earth.
In heaven Thy holiness and Thy glory still find unrivaled dwelling; but
what a contrast is here! Thy Temple is closed and downtrodden (Dan.
9:27). Oh, where is Thy zeal, and where Thy strength? Alas, those
yearnings of Thy love are now restrained.
"We sprang from Abraham—he
is our father. Israel is our mother. But both have forsaken us, and
will own no relationship. But is it not written that, 'When my father
and my mother forsake me, the Lord will take me up' (Ps. 27:10). We
confess that we have turned from every expression of Thy love, till now
Thou hast hardened our hearts, and we have lost all that we enjoyed for
such a brief space, and are become as those who have never had Thy
rule, or borne Thy name. Could anything exceed our misery?"
this pathetic picture of Israel in those last days we may see our own
state today, as our Lord speaks to us in the letter to the Church in
Laodicea (Rev. 3:14). The boastings that we hear on all sides are but
history repeating itself, as it ever will, while the comparatively few
who are confessing, with many a secret sigh, the true condition of the
Church, take the place of that "Remnant" of Israel to whose cries we
have been listening. Many a heart is joining with that beloved earthly
people in the cry of the next chapter: "Oh, that Thou wouldst rend the
heavens and come down!" It is indeed our hope, as well as theirs,
although ours is to join Him in the air, before He reaches the earth in
1 "Life-sap," literally, the juice of the grapes; it is not the usual word for "blood."
2 "Spurt," the same word we have rendered "start" in Chap. 52:15.
3 This does away absolutely with any possibility of Megiddo in the north being the Har Mageddon of Rev. 16:16. Edom is not there.
spiritual significance of the words Edom and Bozrah is confirmed by the
twofold reaping in Rev. 14. The time is the same, and there we can see
"Edom" in the widespread harvest of the earth (verses 14-16), and
"Bozrah" in the localized harvest of the vine; the Gentile in the
former, the Jew in the latter.
5 This is the meaning given to the word rendered in A.V. "traveling" (ver. 1), or as in text, "marching so proudly."
is much question as to the subject of the verb "called to mind." The
A.V. and Revised in the text, with many others, make it read as Jehovah
asking, "Where is he?" but I have eventually adopted the marginal
reading of the Revised that the word "people" is the subject, for it
brings the whole passage into direct accord with all Scripture that
tells of the result of chastening. When it leads to exercise it awakens
memories of a better time, and thus a longing for the recovery of it.
7 That is, in Moses.
8 "As a horse gallops over the plain" (Delitzsch).