Isaiah 63:10
But they rebelled, and vexed his holy Spirit: therefore he was turned to be their enemy, and he fought against them.
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(10) Vexed his holy Spirit . . .—Literally, his Spirit of holiness. So St. Paul speaks of Christians as “grieving the Holy Spirit.” Here, and in Psalm 51:11, as in the “Angel of the Presence,” we may note a foreshadowing of the truth of the trinal personality of the unity of the Godhead, which was afterwards to be revealed. That which “vexed” the Holy Spirit was, in the nature of the case, the unholiness of the people, and this involved a change in the manifestation of the Divine Love, which was now compelled to show itself as wrath.

Isaiah 63:10. But they rebelled — Revolted from him and, as it were, took up arms against him, many instances of which we find in their history; and vexed, or grieved, his Holy Spirit — With their unbelief and murmuring, and continual proneness to idolatry, as well as by their repeated acts of obstinacy and disobedience. Therefore he was turned to be their enemy — Withdrew the tokens and evidences of his love and favour; and fought against them — By one judgment after another, both in the wilderness, and after their settlement in Canaan. 63:7-14 The latter part of this chapter, and the whole of the next, seem to express the prayers of the Jews on their conversation. They acknowledge God's great mercies and favours to their nation. They confess their wickedness and hardness of heart; they entreat his forgiveness, and deplore the miserable condition under which they have so long suffered. The only-begotten Son of the Father became the Angel or Messenger of his love; thus he redeemed and bare them with tenderness. Yet they murmured, and resisted his Holy Spirit, despising and persecuting his prophets, rejecting and crucifying the promised Messiah. All our comforts and hopes spring from the loving-kindness of the Lord, and all our miseries and fears from our sins. But he is the Saviour, and when sinners seek after him, who in other ages glorified himself by saving and feeding his purchased flock, and leading them safely through dangers, and has given his Holy Spirit to prosper the labours of his ministers, there is good ground to hope they are discovering the way of peace.But they rebelled - Against God. This charge is often made against the Jews; and indeed their history is little more than a record of a series of rebellions against God.

And vexed - Or rather 'grieved.' The Hebrew word עצב ‛âtsab, in Piel, means to pain, to afflict, to grieve. This is the idea here. Their conduct was such as was suited to produce the deepest pain - for there is nothing which we more deeply feel than the ingratitude of those who have been benefited by us. Our translators have supposed that the word conveyed the idea of provoking to wrath by their conduct (thus the Septuagint renders it παρώξυναν τὸ πνεύμα, κ.τ.λ. parōxunan to pneuma, etc.; but the more appropriate sense is, that their conduct was such as to produce pain or grief. Compare Ephesians 4:30 : 'Grieve not (μὴ λυπεῖτε mē lupeite) the Holy Spirit.' Psalm 78:40; Psalm 95:10. Hebrews 3:10-17.

His Holy Spirit - The Chaldee renders this, 'But they were unwilling to obey, and they irritated (provoked, blasphemed רגז râgaz) against the words of the prophets.' But the reference seems rather to be to the Spirit of God that renewed, comforted, enlightened, and sanctified them. Grotius, Rosenmuller, and Gesenius, suppose that this means God himself - a Spirit of holiness. But, with the revelation of the New Testament before us, we cannot well doubt that the real reference here is to the third person of the Trinity - the renewer and sanctifier of the people of God. It may be admitted, perhaps, that the ancient Hebrews would refer this to God himself, and that their views of the offices of the different persons in the divine nature were not very clearly marked, or very distinct. But this does not prove that the real reference may not have been to 'the Holy Spirit.' The renewer and sanctifier of the human heart at all times has been the same.

And when any operations of the mind and heart pertaining to salvation are referred to in the Old Testament, nothing should forbid us to apply to the explanation of the expressions and the facts, the clear light which we have in the New Testament - in the same way as when the ancients speak of phenomena in the physical world, we deem it not improper to apply to the explanation of them the established doctrines which we now have in the physical sciences. By this we by no means design to say that the ancients had the same knowledge which we have, or that the language which they used conveyed the same idea to them which it now does to us, but that the events occurred in accordance with the laws which we now understand, and that the language may be explained by the light of modern science. Thus the word eclipse conveyed to them a somewhat different idea from what it does to us. They supposed it was produced by different causes. Still they described accurately the facts in the case; and to the explanation of those facts we are permitted now to apply the principles of modern science. So the Old Testament describes facts occurring under the influence of truth. The facts were clearly understood. What shall hinder us, in explaining them, from applying the clearer light of the New Testament? Admitting this obvious principle, I suppose that the reference here was really to the third person of the Trinity; and that the sense is, that their conduct was such as was suited to cause grief to their Sanctifier and Comforter, in the same way as it is said in the New Testament that this is done now.

He was turned - He abandoned them for their sins, and left them to reap the consequences.

And he fought against them - He favored their enemies and gave them the victory. He gave them up to a series of disasters which finally terminated in their long and painful captivity, and in the destruction of their temple, city, and nation. The sentiment is, that when we grieve the Spirit of God, he abandons us to our chosen course, and leaves us to a series of spiritual and temporal disasters.

10. vexed—grieved (Ps 78:40; 95:10; Ac 7:51; Eph 4:30; Heb 3:10, 17).

he fought—rather, "He it was that fought," namely, the angel of His presence [Horsley], (La 2:5).

They rebelled: many of their rebellions we read of in Exodus and Numbers in their travels. The Lord tells Moses that they had tempted him ten times, and therefore severely threatens them, Numbers 14:22,23. There were three principal times of their rebellion:

1. In the wilderness, where they murmured for want of bread and water.

2. In Canaan, in not destroying, but only making tributary, such nations as God commanded them to destroy.

3. Before the Babylonian captivity, when they set themselves against the prophets, which Stephen chargeth upon them, Acts 7:51,52. Among which also we may reckon all their behaviours under their judges and their kings. Or we may understand it of their not answering God’s end and expectation.

Vexed his holy Spirit; Spirit of his holiness; they vexed him by their obstinacy against his will and mind, and walking contrary unto him: not that there are such passions in God, but it is spoken after the manner of men, as they are vexed when their will is crossed.

He was turned to be their enemy; overthrew them not only in the wilderness, Psalm 78:33,59,60, &c., sending among them fiery serpents, Numbers 21:6; but even in Canaan, stirring up against them adversaries sometimes the Philistines, and the Midianites, and then the Moabites, &c. But they rebelled,.... Against the Lord, not withstanding he thought so well of them; did so many good things for them; sympathized with them, and showed them so many favours; wretched ingratitude! they rebelled against the Lord in the times of Moses, at the Red sea, and in the wilderness, by their murmurings, unbelief, and idolatry; wherefore he calls them a rebellious people, and says they were such from the day he had been with them; and so in later times, in the times of the judges, and of the prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel, they rebelled against God their Parent, Protector, and King; see Deuteronomy 9:7 and so they did in the times of Christ, whom they rejected as the Messiah, and disowned as their King, and still continue in their rebellion, Luke 19:14,

and vexed his Holy Spirit; the Spirit of God the Father, who pitied them in all their afflictions; or the Spirit of the Angel of his presence, that redeemed and saved them; for the Spirit is both the Spirit of the Father and of the Son; and he is holy in his nature and operations, and the author of sanctification in the hearts of his people; him they vexed and provoked to anger against them, speaking after the manner of men, by their sins and transgressions; rejecting his counsels and instructions by Moses, and by the prophets in later times, in and by whom he spake unto them, and by the apostles in Gospel times; for the Jews, as their fathers before them ever did, resisted the Holy Spirit of God in the evidence he gave of the Messiah, which must be very provoking, Acts 7:51. The Targum paraphrases it, the word of his holy prophets; and so Kimchi and Ben Melech interpret it; and according to some, in Aben Ezra, the Angel of glory is meant, who went before the people of Israel, whom they were charged not to provoke, Exodus 23:20,

therefore he was turned to be their enemy; not that there is any change in God, or any turn in him from love to hatred; but he may, and sometimes does, so appear in his providential dispensations towards his people, as to seem to be their enemy, and to be thought to be so by them, Job 13:24. The Targum is, and his Word became their enemy; compare with this Luke 19:27,

and he fought against them; as he threatened he would when they behaved ill towards him; and as he actually did when he brought the sword upon them, gave them up into the hands of their enemies, as often in the times of the judges, and particularly when the king of Babylon came against them; see Leviticus 26:25 and as the Messiah did when he brought the Roman armies against them, and destroyed their city, to which times this prophecy is thought by some to have respect, and not without reason.

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.Verse 10. - But they rebelled. The rebellions of Israel against God commenced in the wilderness. They rebelled at Sinai, when they set up the golden calf; at Meribah (Numbers 20:24); at Shittim, when they consorted with the daughters of Moab (Numbers 25:6). Under the Judges, their conduct was one long rebellion (Judges 2:11; Judges 3:7, 12; Judges 4:1; Judges 6:1; Judges 8:33; Judges 10:6; Judges 13:1). They rebelled in Samuel's time by asking for a king (1 Samuel 8:5, 19, 20). The ten tribes rebelled under Jeroboam, and set up the idolatry of the calves at Dan and Bethel. Worse idolatries followed, and in two centuries and a half had reached such a height, that God was provoked to "remove Israel out of his sight" (2 Kings 17:23). Judah remained, but "rebelled" under Manasseh, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah, "transgressing very much after all the abominations of the heathen, and polluting the very house of the Lord at Jerusalem" (2 Chronicles 36:14). These rebellions against God vexed his Holy Spirit - "provoked him," "grieved him," "moved the Holy One in Israel" (Psalm 78:40, 41; Psalm 106:43). Therefore he was turned to be their enemy (comp. Jeremiah 30:14; Lamentations 2:4, 5). Judah had "filled up the measure of her iniquities," had gone on "until there was no remedy" (2 Chronicles 36:16). God's indignation was therefore poured out upon her without let or stint. "He cut oft' in his fierce anger all the horn of Israel: he drew back his right hand from before the enemy; he burned against Jacob like a flaming fire, which devoureth round about. He bent his bow like an enemy; he stood with his right hand as an adversary, and slew all that were pleasant in the tabernacle of the daughter of Zion; he poured out his fury like fire. The Lord was as an enemy" (Lamentations 2:3-5). He fought against them; rather, he himself fought against them. God himself, though they were "his people," yet fought against them and for the Chaldeans in that final struggle. He "gave the city into the hand of the King of Babylon" (Jeremiah 34:2). The person replies: "I have trodden the wine-trough alone, and of the nations no one was with me: and I trode them in my wrath, and trampled them down in my fury; and their life-sap spirted upon my clothes, and all my raiment was stained. For a day of vengeance was in my heart, and the year of my redemption was come. And I looked round, and there was no helper; and I wondered there was no supporter: then mine own arm helped me; and my fury, it became my support. And I trode down nations in my wrath, and made them drunk in my fury, and made their life-blood run down to the earth." He had indeed trodden the wine-press (pūrâh equals gath, or, if distinct from this, the pressing-trough as distinguished from the pressing-house or pressing-place; according to Frst, something hollowed out; but according to the traditional interpretation from pūr equals pârar, to crush, press, both different from yeqebh: see at Isaiah 5:2), and he alone; so that the juice of the grapes had saturated and coloured his clothes, and his only. When he adds, that of the nations no one was with him, it follows that the press which he trode was so great, that he might have needed the assistance of whole nations. And when he continues thus: And I trod them in my wrath, etc., the enigma is at once explained. It was to the nations themselves that the knife was applied. They were cut off like grapes and put into the wine-press (Joel 3:13); and this heroic figure, of which there was no longer any doubt that it was Jehovah Himself, had trodden them down in the impulse and strength of His wrath. The red upon the clothes was the life-blood of the nations, which had spirted upon them, and with which, as He trode this wine-press, He had soiled all His garments. Nētsach, according to the more recently accepted derivation from nâtsach, signifies, according to the traditional idea, which is favoured by Lamentations 3:18, vigor, the vital strength and life-blood, regarded as the sap of life. ויז (compare the historical tense ויּז in 2 Kings 9:33) is the future used as an imperfect, and it spirted, from nâzâh (see at Isaiah 52:15). אגאלתּי (from גּאל equals גּעל, Isaiah 59:3) is the perfect hiphil with an Aramaean inflexion (compare the same Aramaism in Psalm 76:6; 2 Chronicles 20:35; and הלאני, which is half like it, in Job 16:7); the Hebrew form would be הגאלתּי.

(Note: The Babylonian MSS have אגאלתי with chirek, since the Babylonian (Assyrian) system of punctuation has no seghol.)

AE and A regard the form as a mixture of the perfect and future, but this is a mistake. This work of wrath had been executed by Jehovah, because He had in His heart a day of vengeance, which could not be delayed, and because the year (see at Isaiah 61:2) of His promised redemption had arrived. גּאּלי (this is the proper reading, not גּאוּלי, as some codd. have it; and this was the reading which Rashi had before him in his comm. on Lamentations 1:6) is the plural of the passive participle used as an abstract noun (compare היּים vivi, vitales, or rather viva, vitalia equals vita). And He only had accomplished this work of wrath. Isaiah 63:5 is the expansion of לבדּי, and almost a verbal repetition of Isaiah 59:16. The meaning is, that no one joined Him with conscious free-will, to render help to the God of judgment and salvation in His purposes. The church that was devoted to Him was itself the object of the redemption, and the great mass of those who were estranged from Him the object of the judgment. Thus He found Himself alone, neither human co-operation nor the natural course of events helping the accomplishment of His purposes. And consequently He renounced all human help, and broke through the steady course of development by a marvellous act of His own. He trode down nations in His wrath, and intoxicated them in His fury, and caused their life-blood to flow down to the ground. The Targum adopts the rendering "et triturabo eos," as if the reading were ואשׁבּרם, which we find in Sonc. 1488, and certain other editions, as well as in some codd. Many agree with Cappellus in preferring this reading; and in itself it is not inadmissible (see Lamentations 1:15). But the lxx and all the other ancient versions, the Masora (which distinguishes ואשׁכרם with כ, as only met with once, from ואשׁברם morf , with ב in Deuteronomy 9:17), and the great majority of the MSS, support the traditional reading. There is nothing surprising in the transition to the figure of the cup of wrath, which is a very common one with Isaiah. Moreover, all that is intended is, that Jehovah caused the nations to feel the full force of this His fury, by trampling them down in His fury.

Even in this short ad highly poetical passage we see a desire to emblematize, just as in the emblematic cycle of prophetical night-visions in Isaiah 21:1-22:14. For not only is the name of Edom made covertly into an emblem of its future fate, אדם becoming אדם upon the apparel of Jehovah the avenger, when the blood of the people, stained with blood-guiltiness towards the people of God, is spirted out, but the name of Bozrah also; for bâtsar means to cut off bunches of grapes (vindemiare), and botsrâh becomes bâtsı̄r, i.e., a vintage, which Jehovah treads in His wrath, when He punishes the Edomitish nation as well as all the rest of the nations, which in their hostility towards Him and His people have taken pleasure in the carrying away of Israel and the destruction of Jerusalem, and have lent their assistance in accomplishing them. Knobel supposes that the judgment referred to is the defeat which Cyrus inflicted upon the nations under Croesus and their allies; but it can neither be shown that this defeat affected the Edomites, nor can we understand why Jehovah should appear as if coming from Edom-Bozrah, after inflicting this judgment, to which Isaiah 41:2. refers. Knobel himself also observes, that Edom was still an independent kingdom, and hostile to the Persians (Diod. xv 2) not only under the reign of Cambyses (Herod. iii. 5ff.), but even later than that (Diod. xiii. 46). But at the time of Malachi, who lived under Artaxerxes Longimanus, if not under his successor Darius Nothus, a judgment of devastation was inflicted upon Edom (Malachi 1:3-5), from which it never recovered. The Chaldeans, as Caspari has shown (Obad. p. 142), cannot have executed it, since the Edomites appear throughout as their accomplices, and as still maintaining their independence even under the first Persian kings; nor can any historical support be found to the conjecture, that it occurred in the wars between the Persians and the Egyptians (Hitzig and Khler, Mal. p. 35). What the prophet's eye really saw was fulfilled in the time of the Maccabaeans, when Judas inflicted a total defeat upon them, John Hyrcanus compelled them to become Jews, and Alexander Jannai completed their subjection; and in the time of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, when Simon of Gerasa avenged their cruel conduct in Jerusalem in combination with the Zelots, by ruthlessly turning their well-cultivated land into a horrible desert, just as it would have been left by a swarm of locusts (Jos. Wars of the Jews, iv 9, 7).

The New Testament counterpart of this passage in Isaiah is the destruction of Antichrist and his army (Revelation 19:11.). He who effects this destruction is called the Faithful and True, the Logos of God; and the seer beholds Him sitting upon a white horse, with eyes of flaming fire, and many diadems upon His head, wearing a blood-stained garment, like the person seen by the prophet here. The vision of John is evidently formed upon the basis of that of Isaiah; for when it is said of the Logos that He rules the nations with a staff of iron, this points to Psalm 2:1-12; and when it is still further said that He treads the wine-press of the wrath of Almighty God, this points back to Isaiah 63. The reference throughout is not to the first coming of the Lord, when He laid the foundation of His kingdom by suffering and dying, but to His final coming, when He will bring His regal sway to a victorious issue. Nevertheless Isaiah 63:1-6 has always been a favourite passage for reading in Passion week. It is no doubt true that the Christian cannot read this prophecy without thinking of the Saviour streaming with blood, who trode the wine-press of wrath for us without the help of angels and men, i.e., who conquered wrath for us. But the prophecy does not relate to this. The blood upon the garment of the divine Hero is not His own, but that of His enemies; and His treading of the wine-press is not the conquest of wrath, but the manifestation of wrath. This section can only be properly used as a lesson for Passion week so far as this, that Jehovah, who here appears to the Old Testament seer, was certainly He who became man in His Christ, in the historical fulfilment of His purposes; and behind the first advent to bring salvation there stood with warning form the final coming to judgment, which will take vengeance upon that Edom, to whom the red lentil-judgment of worldly lust and power was dearer than the red life-blood of that loving Servant of Jehovah who offered Himself for the sin of the whole world.

There follows now in Isaiah 63:7-64:11 a prayer commencing with the thanksgiving as it looks back to the past, and closing with a prayer for help as it turns to the present. Hitzig and Knobel connect this closely with Isaiah 63:1-6, assuming that through the great event which had occurred, viz., the overthrow of Edom, and of the nations hostile to the people of God as such, by which the exiles were brought one step nearer to freedom, the prophet was led to praise Jehovah for all His previous goodness to Israel. There is nothing, however, to indicate this connection, which is in itself a very loose one. The prayer which follows is chiefly an entreaty, and an entreaty appended to Isaiah 63:1-6, but without any retrospective allusion to it: it is rather a prayer in general for the realization of the redemption already promised. Ewald is right in regarding Isaiah 63:7-66:24 as an appendix to this whole book of consolation, since the traces of the same prophet are unmistakeable; but the whole style of the description is obviously different, and the historical circumstances must have been still further developed in the meantime.

The three prophecies which follow are the finale of the whole. The announcement of the prophet, which has reached its highest point in the majestic vision in Isaiah 63:1-6, is now drawing to an end. It is standing close upon the threshold of all that has been promised, and nothing remains but the fulfilment of the promise, which he has held up like a jewel on every side. And now, just as in the finale of a poetical composition, all the melodies and movements that have been struck before are gathered up into one effective close; and first of all, as in Hab, into a prayer, which forms, as it were, the lyrical echo of the preaching that has gone before.

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