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Isaiah: Chapter 63

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Who is this coming from Edom, In crimsoned garments from Bozrah— Who is this, majestic in attire, b‐ Meaning of Heb. uncertain; emendation yields “striding.” Pressing forward ‐b Meaning of Heb. uncertain; emendation yields “striding.” in His great might? “It is I, who contend victoriously, Powerful to c‐ Change of vocalization yields “Who contest triumphantly”; cf. 19.20. give triumph.” ‐c Change of vocalization yields “Who contest triumphantly”; cf. 19.20.

1 2Why is your clothing so red, Your garments like his who treads grapes? d Lit. “in a press.” 3“I trod out a vintage alone; e‐ Emendation yields “Peoples, and… Of the peoples ‐e Emendation yields “Peoples, and… no man was with Me. I trod them down in My anger, Trampled them in My rage; Their life‐blood f Meaning of Heb. uncertain. bespattered My garments, And all My clothing was stained. 4For I had planned a day of vengeance, And My year of redemption arrived. 5Then I looked, but there was none to help; I stared, but there was none to aid— So My own arm wrought the triumph, And g‐ Many mss. read weßidqathi “My victorious [right hand]”; cf. 59.16. My own rage ‐g Many mss. read weßidqathi “My victorious [right hand]”; cf. 59.16. was My aid. 6I trampled peoples in My anger, h‐ Many mss. and Targum read “I shattered them in”; cf. 14.25. I made them drunk with ‐h Many mss. and Targum read “I shattered them in”; cf. 14.25. My rage, And I hurled their glory to the ground.”

7I will recount the kind acts of the LORD, The praises of the LORD— For all that the LORD has wrought for us, The vast bounty to the House of Israel That He bestowed upon them According to His mercy and His great kindness. 8He thought: Surely they are My people, Children who will not play false. a‐ Ancient versions read “So He was their Deliverer / 9In all their troubles. / No [so kethib] angel or messenger, / His own Presence delivered them.” Cf. Deut. 4.37 and note. So He was their Deliverer. 9In all their troubles He was troubled, And the angel of His Presence delivered them. ‐a Ancient versions read “So He was their Deliverer / 9In all their troubles. / No [so kethib] angel or messenger, / His own Presence delivered them.” Cf. Deut. 4.37 and note. In His love and pity He Himself redeemed them, Raised them, and exalted them All the days of old. 10But they rebelled, and grieved His holy spirit; Then He became their enemy, And Himself made war against them. 11Then they b Heb. “he.” remembered the ancient days, c‐ Heb. moshe ‘ammo, a play on the name Moshe (Moses). Him, who pulled His people ‐c Heb. moshe ‘ammo, a play on the name Moshe (Moses). out [of the water]: “Where is He who brought them up from the Sea Along with the shepherd d So many mss. and ancient versions; other texts “shepherds.” of His flock? Where is He who put In their midst His holy spirit, 12Who made His glorious arm March at the right hand of Moses, Who divided the waters before them To make Himself a name for all time, 13Who led them through the deeps So that they did not stumble— As a horse in a desert, 14Like a beast descending to the plain?” Twas the spirit of the LORD e‐ Emendation yields “guided them.” gave them rest; ‐e Emendation yields “guided them.” Thus did You shepherd Your people To win for Yourself a glorious name.

15Look down from heaven and see, From Your holy and glorious height! Where is Your zeal, Your power? Your yearning and Your love Are being withheld from us! f Heb. “me.” Emendation yields “[Where are] Your yearning and Your love? / Let them not be restrained!” 16Surely You are our Father: Though Abraham regard us not, And Israel recognize us not, You, O LORD, are our Father; From of old, Your name is “Our Redeemer.” 17Why, LORD, do You make us stray from Your ways, And turn our hearts away from revering You? Relent for the sake of Your servants, The tribes that are Your very own! 18Our foes have trampled Your Sanctuary, Which Your holy people a‐ Meaning of Heb. uncertain. possessed but a little while. ‐a Meaning of Heb. uncertain. 19We have become as a people You never ruled, To which Your name was never attached.

If You would but tear open the heavens and come down,

Notes:

b‐b Meaning of Heb. uncertain; emendation yields “striding.”

c‐c Change of vocalization yields “Who contest triumphantly”; cf. 19.20.

d Lit. “in a press.”

e‐e Emendation yields “Peoples, and…

f Meaning of Heb. uncertain.

g‐g Many mss. read weßidqathi “My victorious [right hand]”; cf. 59.16.

h‐h Many mss. and Targum read “I shattered them in”; cf. 14.25.

a‐a Ancient versions read “So He was their Deliverer / 9In all their troubles. / No [so kethib] angel or messenger, / His own Presence delivered them.” Cf. Deut. 4.37 and note.

b Heb. “he.”

c‐c Heb. moshe ‘ammo, a play on the name Moshe (Moses).

d So many mss. and ancient versions; other texts “shepherds.”

e‐e Emendation yields “guided them.”

f Heb. “me.” Emendation yields “[Where are] Your yearning and Your love? / Let them not be restrained!”

a‐a Meaning of Heb. uncertain.

Text Commentary view alone

63.1–6 :

The divine warrior. A short and disturbing passage concerning divine vengeance against God's enemies, symbolized especially by the Edomites. This passage is closely connected with ch 34 , which also belongs to the Deutero‐Isaianic collection; there, too, the prophet predicted a great slaughter in the land of Edom. On the Edomites and the background of this ch, see 34.1–17 n.

1 :

God comes from the south, covered with the blood of enemies. A speaker (perhaps the prophet, perhaps the inhabitants or watchmen of Jerusalem) notices a figure approaching from the south and asks who it is; God replies in the second half of the v. Edom is the land southeast of Judah. Botzrah is a city in Edom.

2–6 :

The speaker asks another question, and God gives a lengthier response.

63.7–64.11 :

A psalm of lament. A communal complaint, this text is spoken by the nation and addressed to God; it may also include lines spoken by God in response, which is a typical feature of a lament. The lament follows the pattern of similar prayers found in the book of Psalms. The presence of a psalm in prophetic literature is not unusual; see Isa. 33.1–9 ; Jonah ch 2 . As is normal in laments, the description of the nation's current plight and the request for help are preceded by a review of God's mighty acts in the past. Deutero‐Isaiah may have composed this prayer, or the prophet may have included (and perhaps modified) a psalm already in use.

63.7–14 :

God's mighty acts recalled. Before outlining the complaint and the request for divine aid, the prayer calls God's kind deeds to mind. It is because God acted successfully and graciously in the past that the nation expects that God will intervene now. These vv. at once bolster the Judeans' confidence and goad the LORD to live up to the divine reputation.

9 :

As rendered in the NJPS, this v. reflects an important tendency of Deutero‐Isaiah's theology: God participates in the suffering of the nation. Cf. 57.15 . But many regard the translation in translators' note a‐a as more accurate.

10 :

Here again the prophet mentions God's pain.

11 :

They (Heb “he”) remembered: The subject of this verb is not clear: “He” may refer to God or to the nation as a collective. It is also possible to translate, “He who pulled his people out [of the water] remembered the ancient days,” but even then it is not clear whether “He who pulled…refers to God or to Moses. Where is He who brought…: The identity of the speaker here through v. 14a is not clear. One possibility is that the Judeans speak, wondering where their savior is (so most rabbinic commentators). Alternatively, God may ask these questions, as if saying, “Long ago I saved Israel—whatever became of that side of Me?” In that case, vv. 11b–14 mark the beginning of God's movement from wrath to grace. Along with, alternatively, “Specifically.” Shepherd of His flock: The flock is the nation Israel; the shepherd is either Moses or God. (If the translation “shepherds” found in translators' note d is correct, then this word refers to Moses and Aaron and perhaps also to Miriam.)

63.15–64.11 :

Complaint and request for help. Having expressed confidence in God's ability to save, the speaker now calls out for God's attention ( 63.15; 64.8 ), describes their current lamentable state ( 63.18–19a; 64.8–10 ), and requests divine intervention ( 63.19b–64.1; 64.8; 64.11 ). The combination of these four elements is very common in psalms of lament; see 33.2–9 n.

63.16 :

Israel: Here this name refers not to the nation as a whole but to the patriarch Jacob; see Gen. 32.29; 35.9 .

63.17, 64.4 :

These vv. are remarkable and rather daring for their assertion that God, too, must accept some responsibility for the Judeans' sins. Their continuing hardships have worn away their hope (so Radak). If the LORD would intervene more quickly on their behalf, they would have clear reason to abandon their misdeeds and adopt a firm belief in God's authority. God's response to the nation's sins has created a cycle: Crime leads to punishment, punishment to disbelief, disbelief to more crime. Some rabbinic commentators reject this interpretation, however, arguing that only Israel is responsible for its sins, and that these vv. do not attribute responsibility to God.

63.18 :

As this v. indicates, the surrounding passage was written before the Temple was rebuilt in 516 (see also 64.9–10 ).

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