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63. God's Day of Vengeance and Redemption

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. 2Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat? 3I 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. 4For the day of vengeance is in mine heart, and the year of my redeemed is come. 5And 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. 6And 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.

7I 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. 8For he said, Surely they are my people, children that will not lie: so he was their Saviour. 9In 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.

10But they rebelled, and vexed his holy Spirit: therefore he was turned to be their enemy, and he fought against them. 11Then 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? 12That led them by the right hand of Moses with his glorious arm, dividing the water before them, to make himself an everlasting name? 13That led them through the deep, as an horse in the wilderness, that they should not stumble? 14As 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.

15Look 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? 16Doubtless 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.

17O 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. 18The people of thy holiness have possessed it but a little while: our adversaries have trodden down thy sanctuary. 19We are thine: thou never barest rule over them; they were not called by thy name.

1. Who is this that cometh from Edom? This chapter has been violently distorted by Christians, as if what is said here related to Christ, whereas the Prophet speaks simply of God himself; and they have imagined that here Christ is red, because he was wet with his own blood which he shed on the cross. But the Prophet meant nothing of that sort. The obvious meaning is, that the Lord comes forth with red garments in the view of his people, that all may know that he is their protector and avenger; for when the people were weighed down by innumerable evils, and at the same time the Edomites and other enemies, as if they had been placed beyond the reach of all danger, freely indulged in wickedness, which remained unpunished, a dangerous temptation might arise, as if these things happened by chance, or as if God did not care for his people, or chastised them too severely. If the Jews were punished for despising God, much more the Edomites, and other avowed enemies of the name of God, ought to have been punished.

The Prophet meets this very serious temptation by representing God the avenger as returning from the slaughter of the Edomites, as if he were drenched with their blood. There is great liveliness and energy in a description of this sort, Who is this? for that question raises the hearts of the hearers into a state of astonishment, and strikes them more forcibly than a plain narrative. On this account the Prophet employed it, in order to arouse the hearts of the Jews from their slumbering and stupefaction.

We know that the Edomites were somewhat related to the Jews by blood; for they were descended from the same ancestors, and derived their name from Esau, who was also called Edom. (Genesis 36:1, 8, 9.) Having corrupted the pure worship of God, though they bore the same mark of circumcision, they persecuted the Jews with deadly hatred. They likewise inflamed the rage of other enemies against the Jews, and shewed that they took great pleasure in the ruin of that people, as is evident; from the encouraging words addressed by them to its destroyers.

“Remember, O Lord, (says the Psalmist,) the children of Edom, who, in the day of the destruction of Jerusalem, said, Raze, raze it even to the foundations.” (Psalm 137:7.)

The Prophet, therefore, threatens that judgment shall be passed on the Edomites, that none may imagine that they shall escape punishment for that savage cruelty with which they burned towards their brethren; for God will punish all wicked men and enemies of the Church in such a manner as to shew that the Church is the object of his care.

Beautiful in his raiment. Because spots of blood pollute and stain the conquerors, Isaiah affirms that God will nevertheless be “beautiful in his raiment,” after having taken vengeance on the enemies. In like manner, we have seen in other passages (Isaiah 34:6) that the slaughter of the wicked is compared to sacrifices, because the glory of God shines brightly in them; for can we conceive of any ornament more lovely than judgment? Thus, in order to impress men with reverence for God’s righteous vengeance, he pronounces the blood with which he was sprinkled, by slaying and destroying the wicked, to be highly beautiful and ornamental. As if he had said, “Think not that God will resemble a person of mean rank. Though he be drenched with blood, yet this will not prevent his glory and majesty from shining brightly.”

Marching in the greatness of his strength. Various expositions of the word צעה (tzogneh) are given by the Jews. Some view it in a transitive sense, as referring to the people whom the Lord brought back from captivity. Others refer it to the nations whom the Lord will remove to another country, though they appear to have a settled habitation. But I consider it to he more agreeable to the context to give to it an absolute sense as a noun. The Prophet, therefore, describes God’s majestic march and heroic firmness, by which he displays vast power.

I who speak. The Lord himself replies; and this carries much more authority than if the Prophet spoke in his own person. Believers are reminded by him of former predictions, that they may know that in the judgments of God not only his justice and goodness, but likewise his faithfulness is manifested. As if he had said, “Behold, ye now see fulfilled what I have already and frequently testified to you by my servants. This effect of my promises clearly shews that I am true, and that I speak justly and sincerely, and not for the purpose of deceiving you.” The vision would have been little fitted to strike their minds, if the Jews had not remembered those promises which they formerly heard; but since the design of it was, that they should rely on God’s salvation, he at the same time claims for himself no ordinary power to save.

2. Wherefore is thy raiment red? He proceeds with the same subject; but, as it would have impaired the force of the narrative, he does not immediately explain whence came the red color of God’s garments, but continues to put questions, that he may arouse their minds to the consideration of what is strange and uncommon. He means that this sprinkling of blood is something remarkable and extraordinary. The comparison drawn from a “wine-press” is highly appropriate; for the town Bozrah, which he mentioned a little before, lay in a vine-bearing district. As if he had said, “There will be other vintages than those which are customary; for blood shall be shed instead of the juice of the grapes.”


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