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The coming of the Messiah, described briefly in the last few verses of Isaiah 62, is contrasted in chapter 63 with a counterfeit messiah, or antichrist. This is often misunderstood, partly because most Bible teachers and even theologians are woefully ignorant of the history of Edom. Most seem to think that the prophet was talking about the Messiah, when in fact it is a soliloquy, where the Messiah is expressing His disgust at the sight of His counterfeit.
(A soliloquy is a literary or dramatic discourse in which a character talks to himself in low tones to reveal his thoughts to the audience.)
Isaiah 63:1, 2, 3 begins,
1 WHO IS THIS who comes from Edom, with garments of glowing colors [chamets] from Bozrah, this One who is majestic in His apparel, marching in the greatness of His strength? It is I who speak in righteousness, mighty to save. 2 Why is YOUR apparel red [adom], and YOUR garments like the one who treads in the wine press? 3 I have trodden the wine trough alone, and from the peoples there was no man with Me…
The NASB capitalizes the pronouns, interpreting them to refer to Christ. But the One speaking is indignant at the one coming from Edom. Hence, in reading this, our tone of voice should reflect that fact. Allow me to paraphrase these verses so that we catch the proper sense:
Who is this Bozo coming from Edom dressed in royal garments dyed red from Bozrah? His appearance is majestic, marching in the greatness of power and strength. I am the One who speaks in righteousness and is mighty to save—not this Bozo. Why are your clothes red, as if you are the one who has trodden the wine press? You can’t take credit for treading the wine press. I have done this all by Myself. I am the One who judges the earth.
The scene pictures an Edomite who pretends to be the one who judges the earth and is even dressed for the occasion. Bozrah is from batsar, “sheepfold, enclosure,” but the prophet seems to connect it (as a homonym) to basar, “to cut off grape clusters, or gather the vintage.”
The great judgment at the end of the age is pictured in Revelation 14:18-20 as a vintage, where the grapes of the earth are harvested (oddly) with a sickle,
18 … “Put in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, because her grapes are ripe.” 19 So the angel swung his sickle to the earth and gathered the clusters from the vine of the earth and threw them into the great wine press of the wrath of God. 20 And the wine press was trodden outside the city, and blood came out from the wine press, up to the horses’ bridles, for a distance of two hundred miles.
Hence, the angel is God’s agent of judgment, showing that God alone takes credit for judging the earth. But in Isaiah 63, the Messiah sees another coming with red garments, pretending to have the authority to judge the earth. His garments are “red” (adom), a word that is related to both Adam (“ruddy”) and Edom (“red”). In fact, all of these words are spelled the same way, the only difference being the points that differentiate the meaning of the words.
Isaiah, then, paints the picture of a counterfeit coming from Edom, dressed in majestic red garments that give the impression that he is the one who is treading the grapes as the judge of the earth. The Messiah observes this and mutters to himself, “Who is this?? Why is your apparel red like the one treading the wine press? I am the One who did the work, not you!”
Judging Jerusalem by Himself
In Isaiah’s panoramic scene of divine judgment, this antichrist was coming from Edom, while the Messiah (presumably) was observing his approach while standing in or near Jerusalem. This appears to be a prophetic extension of Isaiah 29, where the destruction of Ariel-Jerusalem is described, and with Isaiah 34, which speaks of God’s judgment on Edom in regard to “the controversy of Zion” (Isaiah 34:8 KJV). That controversy, as we showed earlier, is about who is truly called to rule the earth. Is it Edom or (true) Israel?
The scene suggests that the Messiah was bringing judgment upon Jerusalem, which had been occupied by God’s “enemies” (Isaiah 29:5). God’s intent was to wage war on Ariel-Jerusalem and turn it into a burning hearth. God says to Ariel, “You will be brought low” (Isaiah 29:4). His garments were thus stained with blood (grapes).
In the midst of this judgment, the counterfeit is seen coming from Edom as if to claim authority to judge the nations. This creates a “controversy” that must be settled in the divine court. Who is truly called? Who is truly sovereign over the earth? The controversy is ridiculous, of course, but yet many Christians today have been blinded into supporting Edom as God’s chosen ones. By failing to study the history of Edom, they do not know that Edom was conquered and absorbed into Jewry in 126 B.C., ceasing to exist as a separate people to this day.
Likewise, by not understanding the law (Leviticus 26:40, 41, 42), they do not realize that God’s enemies are Israelites (and Judahites) who are in rebellion against God. In fact, Isaiah 63:10 states this clearly, saying,
10 But they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit; therefore He turned Himself to become their enemy; He fought against them.
This is why the “enemies” in Isaiah 29:5 are found in Ariel-Jerusalem and why God was leading the siege (Isaiah 29:3). “All the nations who wage war against Ariel” (Isaiah 29:7) formed God’s army to bring judgment upon the city!
This is consistent with Jeremiah 19:10, 11, 12,
10 Then you are to break the jar in the sight of the men who accompany you, 11 and say to them, “Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Just so will I break this people and this city, even as one breaks a potter’s vessel, which cannot again be repaired; and they will bury in Topheth [“burning; place of fire”] because there is no other place for burial. 12 This is how I will treat this place and its inhabitants,’ declares the Lord, ‘so as to make this city like Topheth’.”
In this case Topheth correlates with Ariel, the prophetic name for Jerusalem. Ariel has a double meaning, if you recall. The city was supposed to be the “lion of God,” but God was to turn it into a “hearth,” a place of burning.
Jesus had more to say about Jerusalem’s destruction. In one parable, He concluded in Matthew 22:7,
7 But the king [representing God] was enraged, and he sent his armies and destroyed those murderers and set their city on fire.
Using another prophetic metaphor, He concluded in Matthew 21:43, 44, 45,
43 “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing the fruit of it. 44 And he who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces [Romans 9:33]; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust” [Daniel 2:35]. 45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard His parables, they understood that He was speaking about them.
Only by having clear understanding of the prophecies against Jerusalem can we see what Isaiah 63 is picturing. The Messiah is judging Jerusalem as a man treads out the grapes at harvest. Suddenly an antichrist approaches from Edom with red garments, as if to claim that he was the one judging the nations. The Messiah then engages in a soliloquy to let the readers know that He alone was treading the grapes.
Isaiah 63:3, 4 says,
3 I have trodden the wine trough alone, and from the peoples there was no man with Me. I also trod them in My anger and trampled them in My wrath; and their lifeblood is sprinkled on My garments, and I stained all My raiment. 4 For the day of vengeance was in My heart, and My year of redemption has come.
It is clear from this that the Messiah’s garments too were “stained” with blood. Hence, there are two who appear with stained garments, not just one (as most commentators think). The overall emphasis was that the Messiah claimed to be the only One bringing judgment. The whole force of this passage shows that someone else was competing with the Messiah for this honor.
The “day of vengeance” (naqam) was the latter part of the Messiah’s calling and anointing in Isaiah 61:1, 2. Recall that Jesus omitted this verse when He taught at the synagogue in Nazareth (Luke 4:18, 19), because it was reserved for His second coming.
Isaiah 63:5, 6 concludes,
5 “I looked, and there was no one to help, and I was astonished [shamem, “appalled”] and there was no one to uphold [samak, “lean on”]; so My own arm brought salvation to Me, and My wrath upheld [samak] Me. 6 I trod down the peoples in My anger and made them drunk in My wrath, and I poured out their lifeblood on the earth.”
This is clearly a judgment scene, but the emphasis is on the fact that He alone is the great Judge of the earth. No one else is qualified. Though He uses men and nations to accomplish His purposes, as the One in authority, He takes full credit for accomplishing this judgment upon the nations and upon Jerusalem in particular.