Isaiah 63:2
Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat?
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(2) Wherefore art thou red . . .?—The wondering question shows that the colour is not that of the warrior’s usual dress. The Hebrew word for “red” (ādom) connects itself with Edom (comp. Genesis 25:30), as batsir (“vintage”) probably with Bozrah.



Isaiah 63:2 - Isaiah 63:3

The structure of these closing chapters is chronological, and this is the final scene. What follows is epilogue. The reference of this magnificent imagery to the sufferings of Jesus is a complete misapprehension. These sufferings were dealt with once for all in Isaiah 53:1 - Isaiah 53:12, and it is Messiah triumphant who has filled the prophet’s vision since then.

I. The treading of the winepress.

The nations are flung into the press, as ripe grapes. The picture is plainly a figure of some tremendous judgment in which the powers that oppose the majestic march of the triumphant Messiah will be crushed and trampled to ruin. They are trodden ‘in Mine anger, and their life-blood is sprinkled on My garments.’ It is He who crushes, not He who is crushed. The winepress which He treads is the ‘winepress of the wrath of Almighty God,’ and His treading of it is His executing of God’s judgments on those whose antagonism to Him and to His ‘redeemed’ has brought them within their sweep. The prophetic imagination kindles and casts its thought into that terrible picture, which some fastidious people would think coarse, of a peasant standing up to his knees in a vat heaped with purple clusters, and fiercely trampling them down, while the red juice splashes upon his girt-up clothes.

The prophet does not date his vision. It has been realised many a time, and will be many a time still. Wherever opposition to Christ and His kingdom has reached ripeness, wherever antagonistic tendencies have borne fruit which has matured, the winepress is set up and the treading begins. ‘Wheresoever the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together.’ ‘Immediately he putteth in the sickle because the harvest is done.’ The judgments tarry long, and Christ’s servants, oppressed or hard pressed, get impatient, and cry ‘How long, O Lord, dost Thou not judge? It is time for Thee to work.’ But long patience precedes the divine awaking, for it is not God’s way nor Christ’s to cut down even a cumbering tree, until the possibility of its bearing fruit is plainly ended, and the last use that He makes of anything is to burn it. The repeated settings up of Christ’s winepress have all been one in principle, and they all point onwards to a final one. There have been many ‘days of the Lord,’ and if men were wise and ‘observed these things,’-which most of them are not,-they would see that these lesser ‘days’ made a ‘final great and terrible day of the Lord’ supremely probable, and in perfect analogy with all that experience and history have testified as to the method of the divine government.

Surely it is strange that the groundless expectation of the unbroken continuance of the present order should be so strong that many should utterly ignore the truth taught by such teachers as these, and reiterated by science, which declares that the physical universe had a beginning and will have an end, and confirmed by Jesus Himself. There will come a to-morrow when the sun will not rise. There will come a to-morrow which will be ‘the day of the Lord,’ of which all these earlier and partial epochs of judgment were but precursors and prophets.

II. The Treader of the Winepress.

The context clearly shows that, in the prophet’s view, the suffering Messiah in His exalted royalty is the agent of this, as of all divine acts. He is clothed with majesty, and it is ‘in His hand,’ or through His agency, that all ‘the pleasure of the Lord’ is brought to pass. The contrast with the figure in Isaiah 53:1 - Isaiah 53:12 is ever to be kept in view. The lowliness, the weales and bruises, the form without comeliness are gone, and for these we see a conqueror, glorious in apparel and striding onwards in conscious strength.

But the access of majesty does not imply the putting off of lowliness and meekness. There is much that is severe and terrible in the figure that rises here before the prophet’s vision, but both aspects equally belong to the glorified Christ, and that duality in His character makes each element more impressive. His long-suffering mercy and more than human tenderness do not hamper His arm when it is bared to smite; His judicial severity does not dam up the flow of His mercy and tenderness. When He was on earth, He wept over Jerusalem, but His tears did not hinder His pronouncing woe on the city. His love leads Him to warn before He smites, but it does not contradict His threatenings, nor augur our impunity. Nay rather, love compels Him to smite. And, more terrible still, it is His very love that smites most severely hearts that have rejected it and learn their folly and sin too late.

III. Why the winepress is trodden.

The context tells us. The triumphant figure, seen by the prophet striding onwards from Edom, answers the question as to His identity with, ‘I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save.’ Then the treading of the winepress, from which He is represented as coming, is regarded as an exemplification of both these characteristics. It is a great act of righteousness. It is a great act of salvation. Similarly, He is represented as having been moved to that destructive judgment by the ‘vengeance’ that burned in His heart, and by His seeing that there were none to help His ‘redeemed.’

So, then, the destructive act is a manifestation of Righteousness, which in such a connection means retributive justice. Awe-inspiring as it may be, the thunderstorm brings relief to a world sweltering in a stagnant atmosphere, and each blinding flash freshens the air. ‘When the wicked perish, there is shouting.’ The destruction of some hoary evil that has long afflicted humanity and blocked the progress of the kingdom which is ‘righteousness and peace and joy,’ is a good. Christ’s ‘terrible things’ are all ‘in righteousness,’ and meant to set Him forth as ‘the confidence of all the ends of the earth.’ To clear His character and government from all suspicion of moral indifference, to demonstrate by facts which the blindest can see, that it is not all the same to Him whether men are good or bad, to write in great letters which, like the capitals on a map, stretch across a whole land, ‘The Judge of all the earth shall do right’-surely these are worthy ends to move even the loving Christ to tread the winepress.

Further, His destructive judgments, however terrible, will always be accurately measured by righteousness. They are not outbursts of feeling; they are in exact correspondence with the evils that bring them down. The lava flows according to its own density and the lie of the land which it covers. These judgments are deformed by no undue severity; no base elements of temper, no errors as to the degree of criminality mar them. They are calm and absolutely accurate judgments of Him who is not only just but Justice.

But the context further teaches us that the true point of view from which to regard Christ’s treading of the winepress is to think of it as redemptive and contributory to the salvation of ‘My redeemed.’ Therefore there follows immediately on this picture of the conqueror treading the peoples in His fury and pouring their life-blood on the earth, the song of the delivered. Up through the troubled air, heavy with thunder-clouds, soars their praise, as a lark might rise and pour its strains above a volcano in eruption-’I will mention the loving kindness 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 loving kindnesses.’ Pharaoh is drowned in the Red Sea; Miriam and her maidens on the bank clash their cymbals, and lift shrill voices in their triumphant hymn. Babylon sinks like a millstone in the great waters-’and I heard as it were a great voice of a great multitude in heaven saying, Hallelujah; salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and righteous are His judgments.’ The innermost impulse of judgment is love.

Isaiah 63:2-4. Wherefore art thou red, &c. — The dialogue is continued, and the prophet or the church, having inquired concerning the person, now inquires why his habit has been thus sprinkled and stained. I have trodden the wine-press alone — I have destroyed the enemies of my people, I have crushed them as grapes are crushed; this being a usual metaphor to describe the utter destruction of a people, Psalm 44:5; Revelation 14:19-20; and the ease with which God can do it, which is no more than to crush a bunch of grapes. This exactly agrees with what is said of Christ, Revelation 19:15, That he treadeth the wine-press of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. Bishop Lowth has observed, that “there is an energy and sublimity in this description, which is not to be paralleled in any language.” And of the people there was none with me — I have delivered my people, and destroyed their enemies by my own power, without any human help. Thus he destroyed the Assyrians, Isaiah 37:36. Thus he infatuated the Babylonians, and opened the two-leaved gates for Cyrus, Isaiah 45:1. Thus he divided the sea and Jordan before Israel of old, and overthrew Jericho, and the kings and nations of Canaan. It is true he often makes use of instruments in conquering, whether the temporal or spiritual enemies of his people; but he needs them not; and when he employs them, they act by commission and authority derived from him, and by strength which he communicates to them. For I will tread, &c. — Or, rather, I trod them in mine anger, and I trampled them in mine indignation, and their blood — Hebrew, נצחם, robur eorum, their strength; Bishop Lowth renders it, their life-blood was sprinkled on my garments. For the day of vengeance — The day designed and appointed by me, wherein to take vengeance on the enemies of my church, is, or rather, was, in my heart — So that I could not forget nor neglect to execute it: see notes on Isaiah 34:8; Isaiah 61:1. And the year of my redeemed — The year appointed for their redemption, is or was come — Though it seemed to tarry, and his people might be ready to give up all hope of it, it came at last, and did not disappoint their expectations.

63:1-6 The prophet, in vision, beholds the Messiah returning in triumph from the conquest of his enemies, of whom Edom was a type. Travelling, not as wearied by the combat, but, in the greatness of his strength, prepared to overcome every opposing power. Messiah declares that he had been treading the wine-press of the wrath of God, Re 14:19; 19:13, and by his own power, without any human help, he had crushed his obstinate opposers, for the day of vengeance was determined on, being the appointed season for rescuing his church. Once, he appeared on earth in apparent weakness, to pour out his precious blood as an atonement for our sins; but he will in due time appear in the greatness of his strength. The vintage ripens apace; the day of vengeance, fixed and determined on, approaches apace; let sinners seek to be reconciled to their righteous Judge, ere he brings down their strength to the earth. Does Christ say, I come quickly? let our hearts reply, Even so, come; let the year of the redeemed come.Wherefore art thou red? - The inquiry of the people. Whence is it that that gorgeous apparel is stained with blood?

And thy garment like him that treadeth in the wine-fat? - Or rather the 'wine-press.' The word used here (גת gath) means the place where the grapes were placed to be trodden with the feet, and from which the juice would flow off into a vat or receptacle. Of course the juice of the grape would stain the raiment of him who was employed in this business, and would give him the appearance of being covered with blood. 'The manner of pressing grapes,' says Burder, 'is as follows: having placed them in a hogshead, a man with naked feet gets in and tread the grapes; in about an hour's time the juice is forced out; he then turns the lowest grapes uppermost, and tread them for about a quarter of an hour longer; this is sufficient to squeeze the good juice out of them, for an additional pressure would even crush the unripe grapes and give the whole a disagreeable flavor.' The following statement of I. D. Paxton, in a letter from Beyrout, March 1, 1838, will show how the modern custom accords with that in the time of Isaiah: 'They have a large row of stone vats in which the grapes are thrown, and beside these are placed stone troughs, into which the juice flows. People get in and tread the grapes with their feet. It is hard work, and their clothes are often stained with the Juice. The figures found in Scripture taken from this are true to the life.' This method was also employed in Egypt. The presses there, as represented on some of the paintings at Thebes, consisted of two parts; the lower portion or vat, and the trough where the men with naked feet trod the fruit, supporting themselves by ropes suspended from the roof (see Wilkinson's Ancient Egyptians, ii, 155). Vitringa also notices the same custom.

Huc, pater O Lenae, veni; nudataque musto

Tinge nero mecum direptis crura cothurnis.

Georg. ii. 7, 8

This comparison is also beautifully used by John, Revelation 14:19-20 : 'And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great wine-press of the wrath of God. And the wine-press was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the wine-press even unto the horses' bridles.' And in Revelation 19:15, 'And he treadeth the wine-press of the fierceness of the wrath of Almighty God.' The comparison of blood to wine is not uncommon. Thus in Deuteronomy 32:14, 'And thou didst drink the pure blood of the grape.' Calvin supposes that allusion is here made to the wine-press, because the country around Bozrah abounded with grapes.

2. The prophet asks why His garments are "dyed" and "red."

winefat—rather, the "wine-press," wherein the grapes were trodden with the feet; the juice would stain the garment of him who trod them (Re 14:19, 20; 19:15). The image was appropriate, as the country round Bozrah abounded in grapes. This final blow inflicted by Messiah and His armies (Re 19:13-15) shall decide His claim to the kingdoms usurped by Satan, and by the "beast," to whom Satan delegates his power. It will be a day of judgment to the hostile Gentiles, as His first coming was a day of judgment to the unbelieving Jews.

Having inquired of the person, now he inquires the reason of his habit being thus sprinkled.

Wherefore art thou red in thy apparel,.... Christ having satisfied the church as to her first question, concerning his person, who he was; she puts a second to him, about the colour of his garments, which was red, and the reason of it. His garments at his transfiguration were white as snow, whiter than any fuller on earth could whiten them; his robe of righteousness is fine linen, clean and white; the garment of his human nature, or his form as man, was white and ruddy; but this, through his bloody sufferings, became red, being all over bloody through the scourges he received, the crown of thorns he wore, the piercing of his hands, feet, and sides, with the nails and spear; but here it appears of this colour not with his own blood, but with the blood of his enemies, as is hereafter explained:

and thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat? or winepress, into which clusters of grapes are cast, and these are trodden by men, the juice of which sparkles on their garments, and stains them, so that they become of a red colour.

{c} Why art thou red in thy apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the wine press?

(c) Another question, to which the Lord answers.

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.)

Verse 2. - Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel? The prophet resumes his questioning. What means the redness of thine apparel? Whence the stains? Are they wine-stains consequent on treading the winepress? Among the Hebrews, as among the Egyptians (Wilkinson, 'Ancient Egyptians,' vol. 1. p. 46), the juice of the grape was trodden out by the feet of men, who often splashed some upon their garments (Genesis 49:11). Isaiah 63:2The seer surmises this also, and now inquires still further, whence the strange red colour of his apparel, which does not look like the purple of a king's talar or the scarlet of a chlamys. "Whence the red on thine apparel, and thy clothes like those of a wine-presser?" מדּוּע inquires the reason and cause; למּה, in its primary sense, the object or purpose. The seer asks, "Why is there red ('âdōm, neuter, like rabh in Isaiah 63:7) to thine apparel?" The Lamed, which might be omitted (wherefore is thy garment red?), implies that the red was not its original colour, but something added (cf., Jeremiah 30:12, and lâmō in Isaiah 26:16; Isaiah 53:8). This comes out still more distinctly in the second half of the question: "and (why are) thy clothes like those of one who treads (wine) in the wine-press" (begath with a pausal not lengthened, like baz in Isaiah 8:1), i.e., saturated and stained as if with the juice of purple grapes?
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