Isaiah 63
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Ch. Isaiah 63:1-6. The Day of Vengeance in Edom

These verses form a detached oracle, representing the final triumph of Jehovah over the enemies of His people. The image presented is one of the most impressive and awe-inspiring in the O.T., and it is difficult to say which is most to be admired, the dramatic vividness of the vision, or the reticence which conceals the actual work of slaughter and concentrates the attention on the Divine Hero as he emerges victorious from the conflict.—A solitary and majestic figure, in blood-red vesture, is seen approaching from the direction of Edom. A question of surprise escapes the prophet’s lips as he contemplates the singular and startling apparition; and a brief reply comes from afar, indicating that the Hero is Jehovah, the Saviour-God of Israel (Isaiah 63:1). The prophet then ventures to address himself directly to the advancing figure, inquiring the meaning of His crimson-stained raiment (Isaiah 63:2). What follows (Isaiah 63:3-6) contains Jehovah’s answer to the prophet’s challenge, and the explanation of His strange appearance. The day of vengeance, the necessary preliminary to redemption, has come and passed (Isaiah 63:4); the foes of Israel have been annihilated, as in some vast winepress (Isaiah 63:3; Isaiah 63:6); and this great act of judgement has been accomplished by Jehovah alone, no human helper having been found to execute His will (Isaiah 63:5).

It was a serious misapprehension of the spirit of the prophecy which led many of the Fathers to apply it to the passion and death of Christ. Although certain phrases, detached from their context, may suggest that interpretation to a Christian reader, there can be no doubt that the scene depicted is a “drama of Divine Vengeance” (G. A. Smith), into which the idea of propitiation does not enter. The solitary figure who speaks in Isaiah 63:3 ff. is not the Servant of the Lord, or the Messiah, but Jehovah Himself (comp. the parallel ch. Isaiah 59:16); the blood which reddens His garments is expressly said to be that of His enemies; and the “winepress” is no emblem of the spiritual sufferings endured by our Lord, but of the “fierceness and wrath of Almighty God” (Revelation 19:15) towards the adversaries of His kingdom. While it is true that the judgement is the prelude to the redemption of Israel, the passage before us exhibits only the judicial aspect of the Divine dealings, and it is not permissible to soften the terrors of the picture by introducing soteriological conceptions which lie beyond its scope.

Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength? I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save.
1. On Bozrah, a city of Edom, see on ch. Isaiah 34:6.

with dyed garments] Better, with bright coloured garments. The word for “dyed” means literally “sharp,” “piercing.”

The mention of Edom as the scene of a judgement which is obviously universal (see Isaiah 63:3; Isaiah 63:6), including all the enemies of Jehovah and Israel, is a feature common to this prophecy and that of ch. 34. It is partly accounted for by the embittered relations between the two peoples, of which traces are found in post-exilic writings (see the note on ch. 34); and partly perhaps by the ancient conception that Jehovah marches from Edom to the succour of His people (Jdg 5:4). There can hardly be a reference to anticipated resistance on the part of the Edomites to the re-establishment of the Jewish State, for the judgement is not on Edom alone but on all nations; and moreover the prophecy in all probability belongs to a date subsequent to the first return of the exiles from Babylon.

glorious in his apparel] The word for glorious is lit. “swelling,” being identical with that which is wrongly rendered “crooked” in ch. Isaiah 45:2 (see the note). It is doubtful what is the exact sense of the expression “swelling in his raiment.” Duhm’s suggestion of loose robes inflated by the wind seems a little fanciful. On the other hand “glorious” or “splendid” (LXX. ὡραῖος) conveys an impression hardly consistent with the image, since the garments of the divine champion are said to be “defiled” by the blood of His enemies (Isaiah 63:3).

travelling] R.V. marching; Vulg. gradiens. This however may represent a variant reading (çô‘çd, cf. Jdg 5:4) which is perhaps preferable to the Massoretic text (çô‘eh). The Hebr. word occurs in the difficult passage Isaiah 51:14 with the sense of “crouching.” Those who retain it here explain it in various ways with the help of the Arabic as a “gesture of proud self-consciousness” (Del.); “swaying to and fro”; “with head thrown back,” &c.

I that speak in righteousness &c.] i.e. “speak righteously” (cf. Isaiah 45:19). Jehovah declares Himself to be true in speech, faithfully fulfilling His prophecies, and powerful in deed (mighty to save).

Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat?
2. The meaning of Jehovah’s appearing is not yet explained, and so the dialogue proceeds.

Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel] Better, Wherefore is there red on thine apparel; the form of the question indicating that the red colour is not that of the vesture itself but is something adventitious. “Red” (’âdôm) is suggested by Edom, just as the figure of the winepress may be suggested by the resemblance of Boçrâh (Isaiah 63:1) to bâçîr (vintage). The figure, however, is in itself an appropriate one; the winepress appearing “as an emblem on the coins of Bostra during the Roman rule” (Cheyne, Comm.).

3 ff. Jehovah’s answer, disclosing the reason of His appearing.

I have trodden the winepress] or winetrough. The word (pûrâh), from a root meaning to “foam,” seems to be poetic, although the only other instance of its use is prosaic enough (Haggai 2:16). For the image of the winepress cf. Lamentations 1:15; Joel 3:13.

and of the peoples (R.V.) there was none (no man) with me] See Isaiah 63:5.

for I will tread them &c.] Render and I trod them &c. The substitution of past tenses for futures throughout the verse is imperatively demanded by the sense, although it requires a series of changes in the vowel-points (Vav consec. for simple Vav). The reason of the Massoretic punctuation was the desire to make it plain that the prophecy relates to the future. This of course is true; but though the event be in itself future, it is represented in the vision as past, from the standpoint of the Divine speaker. Otherwise, the verse would contain no answer to the question of Isaiah 63:2.

their blood] R.V. their lifeblood; lit., “their juice.” The word occurs only here and in Isaiah 63:6. shall be sprinkled] was sprinkled (2 Kings 9:33; see on ch. Isaiah 52:15).

I will stain] Rather, I have defiled. (The form in the original is Aramaic.)

I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me: for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment.
For the day of vengeance is in mine heart, and the year of my redeemed is come.
4. the day of vengeance] announced in ch. Isaiah 61:2.

is in mine heart] i.e. in my purpose.

the year of my redeemed] Another rendering, preferred by many authorities, is the year of my redemption: the plural being taken as expressing the abstract idea, in accordance with a common Hebr. usage. The year of redemption is the same as the year of Jehovah’s favour in ch. Isaiah 61:2; it is the time of Israel’s victory and salvation, a year that has no end.

And I looked, and there was none to help; and I wondered that there was none to uphold: therefore mine own arm brought salvation unto me; and my fury, it upheld me.
5. Comp. ch. Isaiah 59:16. The verse explains why it is that Jehovah treads the winepress “alone” (Isaiah 63:3). The expectation that some human helper would appear on the side of Jehovah is more remarkable here than in ch. Isaiah 59:16, where the judgement was on Israel itself, and the complaint might be that even within the chosen nation no champion of righteousness could be found. The idea that such a champion might have been found amongst heathen nations is of course much less easily explained; unless, with Duhm, we suppose that the prophet is sadly contrasting his own age with the more hopeful time of the Second Isaiah, when the faith of Israel was directed to Cyrus as the agent of Jehovah’s purposes on earth.

And I will tread down the people in mine anger, and make them drunk in my fury, and I will bring down their strength to the earth.
6. Repetition of the thought of Isaiah 63:3.

And I will tread down the people] R.V. rightly, And I trod down the peoples, though the verb differs from either of those in Isaiah 63:3. Past tenses are to be restored throughout.

make (made) them drunk] Some MSS., as well as the first printed edition of the Hebrew Bible (Soncino, 1488) read “broke them in pieces.” The Targ. likewise supports this reading, which is more suitable to the context than that of the received text. The orthographic difference is minute (substitution of ב for כ).

and I will … strength] R.V. and I poured out their lifeblood,—as in Isaiah 63:3. The A.V. thinks of another noun, similar in form, but from a different root, meaning “glory” (cf. 1 Samuel 15:29).

I will mention the lovingkindnesses of the LORD, and the praises of the LORD, according to all that the LORD hath bestowed on us, and the great goodness toward the house of Israel, which he hath bestowed on them according to his mercies, and according to the multitude of his lovingkindnesses.
7. I will mention] lit. “commemorate,” but with the implied idea of praise, as 1 Chronicles 16:4; Psalm 45:17; Psalm 71:16; Isaiah 26:13, &c.

the praises of the Lord] the praiseworthy deeds, as ch. Isaiah 60:6.

and the great goodness] Cf. Psalm 145:7, where the expression occurs.

according to his mercies &c.] Cf. Psalm 51:1,—one of several points of resemblance,—also Psalm 106:45.

7–9. Celebration of Jehovah’s past mercies to Israel,—a frequent feature of O.T. prayers (Psalm 77:10-15; Psalm 78:1-4; Psalm 89:1 f., Psalm 105:1 f., Psalm 106:2; Nehemiah 9:5 ff., &c.).

Ch. Isaiah 63:7 to Isaiah 64:12. A Prayer of the People for the Renewal of Jehovah’s former Lovingkindness

(1) Isaiah 63:7-9. The prayer begins with thankful commemoration of Jehovah’s goodness to the nation in the days of old (Isaiah 63:7). The reference is to the time of Moses and Joshua, when Jehovah’s loving confidence in His children had not yet been betrayed (Isaiah 63:8), and when He continuously manifested Himself as their Saviour, bearing them safely through all dangers (Isaiah 63:9).

(2) Isaiah 63:10-14. This ideal relation between Israel and its God has indeed long since been broken, through the rebellion and ingratitude of the people (Isaiah 63:10). But in seasons of distress the better mind of the nation dwells wistfully on those ancient wonders of grace, and longs that Jehovah may again put forth His strength and vindicate His glorious name (Isaiah 63:11-14).

(3) Isaiah 63:15-16. From the past the writer turns to the gloomy present, be seeching Jehovah to take notice of and have compassion on the affliction of His people. For He alone, and not Abraham or Israel, is the Father of the nation, and its Redeemer from of old.

(4) Isaiah 63:17-19. From this point the increasing impetuosity of the language reveals for the first time the extremity of the Church’s anguish. The prophet remonstrates with God for so withdrawing Himself from the people as to harden them in sin (Isaiah 63:17) and cause them to be as if He had never ruled over them (Isaiah 63:19).

-5Isaiah 64:1-3. A passionate wish that Jehovah might now rend asunder the solid firmament, and melt the mountains, and make Himself known to the nation by terrible acts, surpassing the expectations of His people.

(6) Isaiah 63:4-7. In a more reflective strain the writer appears to seek for a reconciliation of Jehovah’s attitude to Israel with His eternally righteous character. He, the only God known who meets the righteousman, is yet wroth with His people so that they fall into sin (Isaiah 63:4-5). The lamentable consequences of this hiding of God’s face on the religious condition of the people are described in Isaiah 63:6-7.

(7) Isaiah 63:8-12. Final appeal to the Fatherhood of God, and His consideration for the work of His hands (Isaiah 63:8). Let Him moderate His wrath and remember that we are His people (Isaiah 63:9). For surely the punishment of sin has been sufficient,—the holy cities ruined, Jerusalem a desolation, the Temple burned with fire (Isaiah 63:10-11). Can Jehovah look on these things and yet restrain His compassion (Isaiah 63:12)?

The passage is one of the most instructive of O.T. prayers, and deserves careful study as an expression of the chastened and tremulous type of piety begotten in the sorrows of the Exile. Along with much that is of the permanent essence of prayer,—thanksgiving, confession of sin, and supplication,—it contains utterances which may cause surprise to a Christian reader, although they are paralleled in some of the Psalms, and in other portions of the literature. Very singular is the plea that the sinfulness of the people is due to the excessive and protracted anger of Jehovah, who “causes them to err from His ways” (Isaiah 63:17; cf. Isaiah 64:5; Isaiah 64:7). This feeling appears to proceed from two sources; on the one hand the ancient idea that national calamity is the proof of Jehovah’s anger, and on the other the lesson taught by all the prophets, that the sole cause of Jehovah’s anger is the people’s sins. The writer seems unable perfectly to harmonize these principles. He accepts the verdict of Providence on the sins of the nation, but he feels also a disproportion between the offence and the punishment, which neutralises all efforts after righteousness, unless Jehovah will relent from the fierceness of His wrath. The higher truth that the Divine chastisement aims at the purification of the people, and is therefore a mark of love, is not yet grasped, and for this reason the O.T. believers fall short of the liberty of the sons of God. Yet amid all these perplexities the faith of the Church holds fast to the truth of the Fatherhood of God, and appeals to the love which must be in His heart, although it be not manifest in His providential dealings.

So far as the ideas of the passage are concerned, it might have been composed at any time from the Exile downwards. Nor are the historical allusions so clear as could be desired. From Isaiah 63:18, Isaiah 64:11 f. we learn that the Temple has been burned, and the land laid waste. It is natural to understand this of the destruction of the city and Temple by the Chaldæans in 586, and to conclude that the prayer was written during the Exile or at least before the rebuilding of the Temple in 520. In Isaiah 63:18 it is said that the Holy Land has been possessed “but a little while.” If the prayer was written in exile this must refer to the whole period from Joshua to the Captivity, which is not an interpretation that commends itself at first sight. It would no doubt be more intelligible if written not long after the restoration under Zerubbabel (cf. Ezra 9:8). But then we are confronted with the difficulty of the destruction of the Temple, for Duhm’s explanation that the writer ignores the second Temple because of its inferiority to the first can hardly be regarded as satisfactory; and to assume (with Kuenen and others) a destruction of the Temple by the Samaritans (see Ryle’s note on Nehemiah 1:3) is hazardous in face of the silence of history. Partly for these reasons, and partly because of affinities to ch. 24–27, and some Psalms which he assigns to the same period, Cheyne brings down the date of composition to the time of Artaxerxes Ochus (cf. Vol. i. of this commentary, p. 204). Apart from Isaiah 63:18, the hypothesis of exilic authorship presents no serious difficulty, for although the surrounding discourses are probably post-exilic, it is quite conceivable that an earlier writing might have been incorporated with them as sufficiently expressive of the mind of the nation at the later period.

For he said, Surely they are my people, children that will not lie: so he was their Saviour.
8. The retrospect goes back to the beginning of the nation’s history, when Jehovah’s affection for His people was still unimpaired. Cf. Hosea 11:1, “When Israel was a child then I loved him.”

children (sons) that will not lie] Contrast ch. Isaiah 1:2, Isaiah 30:9.

so he was their Saviour] and he became to them a saviour. LXX. adds from the following verse: in all their distress. On metrical grounds the addition is an obvious improvement; and it leads to an interesting explanation of the first part of Isaiah 63:9 (see below).

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.
9. In all their affliction he was afflicted] (lit. “there was affliction to Him”). This is the sense of the Qĕrê, which substitutes (to him) for the lô’ (not) of the Kĕthîb (see on ch. Isaiah 9:3). It is impossible to obtain a good sense from the consonantal text; and it is accordingly rejected in favour of the Qĕrê by nearly all commentators. There is, however, no equally strong expression of Jehovah’s sympathy with His people in the O.T.; both Jdg 10:16, and Psalm 106:44 fall far short of it. The LXX. (joining “in all their affliction” to the previous verse) continues: οὐ πρέσβυς οὐδὲ ἄγγελος, ἀλλʼ αὐτὸς ἔσωσεν αὐτούς; i.e. Not a messenger or an angel (but) His Presence saved them. The only textual difference here is that צִיר (“messenger” or “ambassador”) is read instead of צָר (“affliction”). It is true that צִיר is not elsewhere used of an angelic representative of Jehovah; but the metaphor is a natural one, and otherwise the translation has much to recommend it. (a) The “Presence” (lit. “Face”) of Jehovah is used elsewhere of His self-manifestation. The fundamental passage is Exodus 33:14-15 : “My presence shall go … If thy presence go not, &c.” But comp. also Deuteronomy 4:37; Lamentations 4:16, and see on ch. Isaiah 59:2. (b) An “angel of the Presence” on the other hand is a figure elsewhere unknown to the O.T.; the phrase would seem to be “a confusion of two forms of expression, incident to a midway stage of revelation” (Cheyne). (c) The “Face” of Jehovah, however, is not (as the LXX. inferred) just the same as Jehovah Himself in person. It is rather a name for His highest sensible manifestation, and hardly differs from what is in other places called the Mal’ak Yahveh (Angel of Jehovah). This is shewn by a comparison of Exodus 33:14 f., with Exodus 23:20-23. The verse therefore means that it was no ordinary angelic messenger, but the supreme embodiment of Jehovah’s presence that accompanied Israel in the early days. The idea has its analogies in Semitic heathenism, as when at Carthage the goddess Tanit was worshipped as the “Face of Baal,” although this has been otherwise explained (Euting, Punische Steine, p. 8).

and he bare them] Better, took them up, as in ch. Isaiah 40:15. Cf. Deuteronomy 32:11.

But they rebelled, and vexed his holy Spirit: therefore he was turned to be their enemy, and he fought against them.
10. and vexed his holy Spirit] Comp. Acts 7:51; Ephesians 4:30. Except here and in Isaiah 63:11 and Psalm 51:11 the predicate “holy” is never in the O.T. used of the spirit of Jehovah. It is perhaps impossible to determine the exact connotation of the word in this connexion. It cannot be accidental that in all three cases the holy spirit is a principle of religious life; hence the phrase hardly signifies so little as merely “His divine spirit”; as Jehovah’s “holy arm” may mean no more than His divine arm. Nor is it likely that it describes the spirit as the influence that imparts to Israel the quality of holiness, i.e. separateness from other nations, and consecration to Jehovah. The idea rather is that the spirit is holy in the same sense as Jehovah Himself is holy,—a principle which is both pure and inviolable, which resents and draws back from the contact of human impurity and especially of wilful opposition. This spirit is a national endowment, residing in the community (see Isaiah 63:11); it is the spirit of prophecy, resting on Moses, but manifesting its presence also through other organs of revelation (see Deuteronomy 34:9; Numbers 11:25 ff.). Hence it is said to have led the people (Isaiah 63:14), and to “vex” the spirit is to resist his guidance, by disobeying the divine word which he inspires. The use of this verb marks the highest degree of personification of the Spirit attained in the O.T., preparing the way for the N.T. doctrine concerning Him.

10–14. The rebellion of the people, by which Jehovah is made to be their enemy, and their vain regrets. Comp. Deuteronomy 32:15 ff.

Then he remembered the days of old, Moses, and his people, saying, Where is he that brought them up out of the sea with the shepherd of his flock? where is he that put his holy Spirit within him?
11. In adversity the people realised the privilege they had forfeited by their rebellion, and longed for a return of the days of Moses.

Then he (i.e. Israel) remembered &c.]. Since the second half of the verse contains obviously words of the people, the subject of “remembered” must be Israel, not Jehovah. In the view of many commentators this subj. is expressed in the following phrase “his people” (“Then his people remembered the days of old”). But this order of words would be unnatural. The two expressions “Moses” and “his people” probably represent separate marginal glosses which have crept into the text, the first explanatory of “shepherd” and the second perhaps of “his flock.” Neither is found in the LXX.

Where is he &c.] Or, Where is He that brought up from the sea the shepherd of His flock (i.e. Moses)? This reading is easier than that of the Massoretic text; it is supported by Hebr. MSS., and is followed by the LXX. The plural “shepherds” of R.V. represents the received Hebrew text; but the singular is the older and better reading. The plural was no doubt substituted in order to include Aaron (cf. Psalm 77:20).

This turning back of the people’s mind to the wonders of the Exodus is a hopeful sign of penitence which Jeremiah did not discover in the men of his day: “neither said they, Where is the Lord that brought us up out of the land of Egypt?” (Jeremiah 2:6).

that put his holy Spirit within him] Rather, within it, i.e. His flock, the community; see on Isaiah 63:10. Cf. Haggai 2:5; Nehemiah 9:20; Numbers 11:17; Numbers 11:25.

That led them by the right hand of Moses with his glorious arm, dividing the water before them, to make himself an everlasting name?
12. Render with R.V. That caused his glorious arm to go at the right hand of Moses &c.; accompanying him with its wonder-working power symbolized by the “rod of God” (Exodus 17:9). The reference in the latter part of the verse is not, as some have thought, to the bringing forth of water from the rock (ch. Isaiah 48:21; Exodus 17:1-7) but to the passage of the Red Sea.

That led them through the deep, as an horse in the wilderness, that they should not stumble?
13. the deep] R.V. the depths; Hebr. těhômôth, see on ch. Isaiah 51:10.

as a horse in the wilderness] treading as firmly and securely as the horse on the open pasture. Comp. the parallelism Psalm 106:9 : “He led them through the depths as through a pasture-land.”

As a beast goeth down into the valley, the Spirit of the LORD caused him to rest: so didst thou lead thy people, to make thyself a glorious name.
14. As the cattle that go down into the valley (R.V.). It is doubtful whether this clause does not continue Isaiah 63:13, adding a second image of the security with which Israel went down into the depths of the sea. It has certainly a more forcible sense in that connexion than if taken as an illustration of the words which follow. The only difficulty is that these words may seem too short to stand alone.

caused him to rest] i.e. brought him (the nation) to the resting-place, the Promised Land (Exodus 33:14; Deuteronomy 12:9; Joshua 1:13 &c.). The ancient versions read, less suitably, “led him.”

so didst thou lead &c.] Summarising the previous description and concluding the retrospect.

Look down from heaven, and behold from the habitation of thy holiness and of thy glory: where is thy zeal and thy strength, the sounding of thy bowels and of thy mercies toward me? are they restrained?
15, 16. A piteous appeal to the Divine clemency, based on Israel’s filial relation to Jehovah.

Look down from heaven, and behold] (Psalm 80:14). By a natural anthropomorphism the O.T. attributes the prevalence of evil on earth to a suspension of Jehovah’s watchfulness; hence He is said to come down from heaven to enquire (Genesis 18:21), or, as here, to look down (cf. Psalm 14:2; Psalm 102:19, &c.). To this writer it seems as if He had for the present withdrawn into His palace, and did not fully realise the sufferings of His people.

where is thy zeal (or jealousy)] Cf. ch. Isaiah 59:17. For strength read with R.V. mighty acts.

the sounding of thy bowels] i.e. the yearning of thy compassion. See ch. Isaiah 16:11.

towards me? are they restrained] Rather, as R.V., are restrained towards me (LXX. “towards us”). Cf. ch. Isaiah 42:14.

Doubtless thou art our father, though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge us not: thou, O LORD, art our father, our redeemer; thy name is from everlasting.
16. The verse reads: For thou art our Father; for Abraham knoweth us not and Israel doth not recognise us; Thou Jehovah art our Father; our Redeemer from of old is Thy Name. Jehovah is the Father of Israel, i.e. the Creator and founder of the nation (Deuteronomy 32:6; Malachi 2:10; cf. Exodus 4:22; Hosea 11:1; Isaiah 1:2; Jeremiah 3:4; Jeremiah 3:19; Malachi 1:6). The idea of the divine Fatherhood is not yet extended in the O.T. to the individual believer, although a remarkable anticipation of the N.T. doctrine is found in Sir 23:1; Sir 23:4 : “O Lord, Father and Master of my life, … O Lord, Father and God of my life.” (Cheyne.)

O LORD, why hast thou made us to err from thy ways, and hardened our heart from thy fear? Return for thy servants' sake, the tribes of thine inheritance.
17. Render: Why shouldest Thou leave us to wander, O Jehovah, from Thy ways; and harden our heart so that we fear Thee not? etc. Israel had rejected God’s guidance, and He had given them up to their sins; how long was this to last? The idea underlying this plea seems to be that the people’s faint aspirations Godward were checked and baffled by the continued evidence of Jehovah’s displeasure. Some measure of outward success was needed to guide them into the path of obedience, and no such token was vouchsafed.

hardened our heart from thy fear] so that we cannot attain to the true fear of God, i.e. true religion or piety. “Harden” in the original is a strong word, recurring only in Job 39:16.

Return for thy servants’ sake] Cf. Psalm 90:13.

17–19. Expostulation with Jehovah for the hard treatment which makes righteousness and true religion impossible to the nation.

The people of thy holiness have possessed it but a little while: our adversaries have trodden down thy sanctuary.
18. The people … while] The want of an acc. to the verb excites suspicion, for it is hardly possible to take “thy sanctuary” as the obj. common to the two clauses. The text of the LXX., which reads “mountain” instead of “people” and has the verb in the first pers. plu., is perhaps to be preferred: For a little while have we possessed Thy holy mountain. Comp. ch. Isaiah 57:13.

The second part of the verse speaks of a desecration of the Temple, which apparently followed the possession of the land. The difficulty of reconciling these two facts has been pointed out in the Introductory Note above. If any destruction of the second Temple were known to have taken place about the time of Ezra, the circumstances would be explained. But the stronger statements in Isaiah 64:10-11 make it unlikely that if such a calamity had really happened it should not have been expressly mentioned, even in the meagre historical records which have been preserved of that period.

We are thine: thou never barest rule over them; they were not called by thy name.
19. Render: We are become (as those) over whom from of old Thou hast not borne rule, over whom Thy name has not been called. The visible splendours of Jehovah’s kingship have been absent throughout the later period of the nation’s history. Comp. ch. Isaiah 26:13, and (for the second part of the verse) Deuteronomy 28:10; Jeremiah 14:9.

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