Lesson 23: Chapters 61-63
Part III: Prophecies of Consolation (Chapters 40-66)

Holy and Eternal Lord,
Nations from across the earth have come to be gathered into one family that is Your Church. Your Bride, the Church, is clothed in the Word and adorned with the jewels that are the good deeds of Your faithful people down through the generations. As we draw nearer to the climax of the Age of Man in the Second Advent of the Christ, we pray, Lord, for You to guide and protect the faithful remnant of Your covenant family. Provide us with the will to seek unity among all Christians, give us the courage to preach the Gospel of salvation with conviction, and the determination not to compromise our beliefs or to let the teachings of Jesus Christ and His Church be stifled by the dictates of society. Help us to fulfill Isaiah's prophecy that the Church will be an "object of eternal pride, a source of joy from age to age" for our generation and for any generations yet to come. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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After completing these predictions, Isaiah now turns the prophecy to Christ the Master, who in the present life has given these things to the Church and has promised the commonwealth to come .... We do not need many examples to explain the meaning of this prophecy. For the Master himself has made it clear to us. For, entering the synagogue he took the book, unrolled it ... and he was anointed by the All-Holy Spirit, not as God but as man.
Theodoret, Bishop of Cyr (393-466), Commentary on Isaiah, 19.61.1-3

It is the Church whose children shall come to it with all speed after the resurrection, running to it from all quarters. [The Church] rejoices, receiving the light that never goes down and clothed with the brightness of the Word as with a robe.
Methodius, Bishop of Olympus (d. 311), Banquet of the Ten Virgins, 8.5

Chapter 61: Zion Glorified

In chapter 60 Isaiah prophesized that God will be glorified by the conversion of the Gentile nations of the earth. God takes an active role in providing for the future of His Church, but not so as to manipulate people or events to the point of doing away with the gift of free-will. Isaiah prophesizes that foreigners will gratefully come to the "light" that God will provide, and they build up the "walls" of Zion/the Church. This will be accomplished through the conversion of the Gentiles by Jesus' Apostles and disciples. It is these Gentile converts who have come into the Light that is Christ who will then dedicate their lives to "building up" the Church in preaching Jesus' Gospel of salvation to the ends of the earth.

Isaiah 61:1-9 ~ Promises of the Redeemer-Messiah for a Glorious Future
1 The spirit of Lord Yahweh is on me for Yahweh has anointed [mashach*] me. He has sent me to bring the news to the afflicted, to soothe the broken-hearted, 2 to proclaim liberty to captives, release to those in prison, to proclaim a year of favor from Yahweh and a day of vengeance for our God, to comfort all who mourn, 3 to give to Zion's mourners, to give them for ashes a garland, for mourning-dress, the oil of gladness, for despondency, festal attire; and they will be called "terebinths of saving justice", planted by Yahweh to glorify him. 4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins, and they will raise what has long laid waste, they will restore the ruined cities, all that has laid waste for ages past. 5 Strangers will come forward to feed your flocks, foreigners be your ploughmen and vinedressers; 6 but you will be called "priests of Yahweh" and be addressed as "ministers of our God". You will feed on the wealth of nations; you will supplant them in their glory. 7 To make up for your shame, you will receive double, instead of disgrace, shouts of joy will be their lot; yes, they will have a double portion in their country and everlasting joy will be theirs. 8 For I am Yahweh: I love fair judgment, I hate robbery and wrong-doing, and I shall reward them faithfully and make an everlasting covenant with them. 9 Their race will be famous throughout the nations and their offspring throughout the peoples. All who see them will admit that they are a race whom Yahweh has blessed. * mas hach is the verbal form of the noun "messiah"/ "anointed one" = mashiach.

There is a new dimension added to Isaiah's description of Israel/Jacob's promised golden future. The promise is that God's spirit-led anointed Redeemer will arise to fulfill God's divine plan for Zion. In Isaiah 59:20 Isaiah promised a Redeemer will come to Zion for those "who stop rebelling in Jacob." The verses in this passage are in the first person, suggesting that the same Redeemer is speaking for Himself to the people. The poem echoes some the same themes as those found in the "Servant Songs" (see 42:1; 42:7; 49:9; 50:4-11).

Question: What is the source of the Anointed One's strength?
Answer: The source of his strength is God's Spirit.

The Redeemer is anointed with Yahweh's spirit like prophets, priests, and kings (verse 1). In Hebrew the word for "anointed one" is mashiach or in English, messiah.

Question: What is the specific mission God has given the Redeemer-Messiah in verses 1b-2? List what are the five aspects of his ministry. The reference to "year" designates a "time" or "age" and not a literal year, and the word translated "vengeance" in Hebrew means "balancing the scales."

  1. He is to preach the good news of God's intervention to the afflicted.
  2. He is to bring comfort to the spiritually brokenhearted through a ministry of mercy.
  3. He is to proclaim freedom and release to captives and prisoners.
  4. He will usher in a time of divine justice for society and will restore the rights of the oppressed.
  5. He will proclaim both God's divine favor and His judgment.

Bringing God's glory is the ultimate purpose of the Redeemer's mission, and he will bring about great blessings to Zion (61:3). The Redeemer-Messiah comes as one possessing the fullness of the Holy Spirit in himself and at the same time sharing the Spirit with others: for the renewed Zion, for all the nations, for all humanity. The fullness of the Spirit of God is accompanied by many different spiritual gifts. Notice that God's favor will especially be given to the underprivileged in society. The Redeemer will restore balance to society by righting injustices most particularly to the poor.

3 to give to Zion's mourners, to give them for ashes a garland, for mourning-dress, the oil of gladness, for despondency, festal attire; and they will be called "terebinths of saving justice", planted by Yahweh to glorify him.
Zion's mourning will turn to gladness and the spiritually renewed covenant people will be changed from their former sad condition in five ways:

  1. They will be crowned with a garland (sign of royalty) instead of wearing ashes on their heads that are a sign of mourning.
  2. They will be anointed with the oil of gladness.
  3. They will wear not mourning clothes but will dress as for a festival.
  4. They will be called those who demonstrate "saving justice."
  5. All this will take place because God has "planted"/established them to glorify Him.

Then in verses 4-7 the Redeemer makes five promises that will be fulfilled in the new age of God's grace that the Redeemer is bringing about through his ministry:

  1. The covenant people will rebuild what had been destroyed.
  2. Gentiles will work with them to establish a prosperous society.
  3. There are those of the renewed Israel brought about through the ministry of the Redeemer who will be called "priests of Yahweh' and "ministers of God."
  4. The kingdom of the Redeemer will be supported by the wealth of Gentile nations.
  5. The faithful of the renewed Israel will receive the joyful "double portion" as the "firstborn sons" of the eternal covenant.

Notice the repetition of "fives." In the symbolic use of numbers in Scripture, five is the number of power and grace.

6 but you will be called "priests of Yahweh" and be addressed as "ministers of our God". You will feed on the wealth of nations; you will supplant them in their glory.
St. Peter will refer to this verse in 1 Peter 2:9 as being fulfilled in the New Covenant priesthood of believers: But you are a chosen race, a kingdom of priests, a holy nation, a people to be a personal possession to sing the praises of God who called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. And St. John will affirm the prophecy in the Book of Revelation, He loves us and has washed away our sins with his blood, and made us a Kingdom of Priests to serve his God and Father: to him, then, be glory and power forever and ever. Amen (Rev 1:6).

7 To make up for your shame, you will receive double, instead of disgrace, shouts of joy will be their lot; yes, they will have a double portion in their country and everlasting joy will be theirs.
Notice that the "double shame" echoes the double punishment" of Isaiah 40:2 and is contrasted with the "double portion."
Question: What is the significance of a "double portion" under the Law and how might that apply to this promised blessing? See Dt 21:17.
Answer: The "double portion" probably refers to the inheritance of the first born son and heir "the newly redeemed members of Zion will received a "double portion" as God's first born sons in the family of the many sons/daughters of the nations to be admitted into the everlasting covenant.

The Redeemer was speaking in 61:1-7 but now Yahweh is identified as speaking. Is the promised Redeemer Yahweh? The Fathers of the Church interpreted the passage this way based on Jesus' statement in Luke 4:21.

Question: In verses 8-9 what are the statements that Yahweh makes about Himself and His plans for the faithful of the new Zion?

  1. God loves righteousness that brings fair judgment.
  2. God hates robbery and wrong-doing.
  3. He will reward the faithful with an everlasting covenant.
  4. The new Zion will be famous throughout the Gentile world.
  5. They will be identified as having been blessed by Yahweh.

This is the second time we have seen the promise of the fulfillment of the everlasting Davidic covenant. In 55:3 Isaiah told the people in Yahweh's invitation to come and be spiritually renewed: Pay attention, come to me; listen, and you will live. I shall make an everlasting covenant with you in fulfillment of the favors promised to David.

Jesus will read from Isaiah 61:1-2 in His Sabbath visit to the Synagogue at Nazareth, and He will announce to the congregation that the Isaiah 61:1-2 passage is fulfilled in Him: 14 Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news of him spread throughout the whole region. 15 He taught in their synagogues and was praised by all. 16 He came to Nazareth, where he had grown up, and went according to his custom into the synagogue on the Sabbath day. He stood up to read 17 and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written: 18 "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, 19 and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord." 20 Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him. 21 He said to them, "Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing" (Luke 4:14-21 NAB). This is one of 64 times Isaiah is quoted in the Gospels and other New Testament books (see the chart in the appendix to this lesson).

By announcing that the Isaiah 60:1-2 passage is fulfilled in Him, Jesus is telling the people that He is the Messiah (the Christ), the one anointed by the Holy Spirit to proclaim salvation. He is the prophet promised by Yahweh to Moses in Deuteronomy 18:18-19, From their own brothers I shall raise up a prophet like yourself; I shall put my words into his mouth and he will tell them everything I command him.

Question: How is the entire passage fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth? Find some Scripture passages to back up your points.

  1. Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit at His Incarnation (Lk 1:35), and anointed by the Spirit of God at His baptism (Mt 3:13-17; Mk 1:9-11; Lk 3:21-22).
  2. Jesus came to bring good news to the poor and afflicted and to soothe those who mourn (Mt 5:5 Lk 6:20-23).
  3. Jesus released the captive, imprisoned souls in Sheol prior to His resurrection (1 Pt 3:18-20; 4:6).
  4. Jesus' sacrificial death and resurrection merited an age of reconciliation with God and divine grace for all mankind (Rom 5:8-11).
  5. Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead in a final day of divine judgment (Mt 25:31-46; Jn 5:28-29; Rev 20:11-15).
  6. Jesus is the fulfillment of the eternal Davidic covenant (Lk 1:32-33; Acts 2:29-36).
  7. The Kingdom of the Church established by Jesus has fulfilled the worldwide blessing promised to Abraham (Gal 4:25-29).
  8. The members of the New Covenant Church are anointed in Christian baptism to be a priestly people who continue to carry the Gospel of salvation to the nations (1 Pt 2:9; Rev 1:6).

Isaiah 61:10-11 ~ Thanksgiving
10 I exult for joy in Yahweh, my soul rejoices in my God, for he has clothed me in garments of salvation, he has wrapped me in a cloak of saving justice, like a bridegroom wearing his garland, like a bride adorned in her jewels. 11 For as the earth sends up its shoots and a garden makes seeds sprout, so Lord Yahweh makes saving justice and praise spring up in the sight of all nations.

Isaiah gives thanks for the promise of his eternal salvation. The joy in worshiping Yahweh for the renewed Zion is compared to that of bridegroom and bride on their wedding day and to a farmer and his rich harvest (verses 10-11). Notice the significance of the bridegroom and bride imagery. The marriage imagery includes the clothing of a bridegroom and bride in a wedding celebration:

Marriage is one of the reoccurring images of the prophets depicting the people in covenant union with Yahweh: Symbolic Images of the Old Testament Prophets.

Once again the theme of universal salvation is implied in the marriage imagery of covenant and will be carried over into chapter 62. The theme of universal salvation is expressed in God's gift of salvation and praise that will be available to all nations who will become God's Bride, the Church, and the rich harvest of souls into God's "storehouse" that is Heaven.

Isaiah 62:1-5 ~ The Splendor of God's Bride
1 About Zion I will not be silent, about Jerusalem I shall not rest until saving justice dawns for her like a bright light and her salvation like a blazing torch. 2 The nations will then see your saving justice, and all kings your glory, and you will be called a new name which Yahweh's mouth will reveal. 3 You will be a crown of splendor in Yahweh's hand, a princely diadem in the hand of your God. 4 No more will you be known as "Forsaken [ azubah]" or your country be known as "Desolation"' instead, you will be called "My Delight is in her [hephzibah]" and your country [land] "The Wedded [beulah]"; for Yahweh will take delight in you and your country [land] will have its wedding. 5 Like a young man marrying a virgin, your rebuilder [maker/Creator] will wed you [your sons shall marry you], and as the bridegroom rejoices in his bride, so will your God rejoice in you. [...] = IBHE vol. III, page1725.

The new city of Jerusalem is the restored "Zion" (verse 1). It will be praised in this hymn placed on the lips of the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah introduced the symbolic imagery of God's relationship with the renewed Zion/Jerusalem as bride and bridegroom in Isaiah 61:10. Now he continues the imagery. Yahweh will join Himself to Zion (a symbolic name for the redeemed of the Church) as His Bride forever. As mentioned previously, marriage is one of the reoccurring symbolic images of the Old Testament prophets in describing the relationship between Yahweh and His covenant people. The prophets longed for this day when God was to take back His Bride (see Hos 2:16-19:21-25). It is to be a day when God's redeemed people will see their final salvation.

Isaiah uses three aspects to describe Zion's marriage to Yahweh:

  1. God's determination to bring it about.
  2. Zion's spiritual splendor.
  3. The glory of the wedding celebration.

The renewed Zion will be the place where the people offer Yahweh liturgical worship and commune with their God. For the sake of Jerusalem/Zion, God will not be silent until her righteousness and salvation shine forth (verse 1). Other nations and their kings will see the beauty of God's Bride. It is a beauty that is not external but is in her righteousness and the glory of God's grace that she radiates. She will be given "a new name" and will be "a crown of splendor" in God's hand (verses 2-3). Zion's judgment for her past sins had been so horrific that neighboring nations saw her as "forsaken" and "desolation" (verse 4). But when God rescues His people, Zion will receive a new name, signifying her new relationship with her Divine Spouse.

Question: What is the "new name" the renewed Jerusalem/Zion will be given by her Divine Spouse?
Answer: Yahweh will name His Bride "my delight is in her."

"Hephzibah" means "my delight is in her" and "Beulah" means "married" (verse 4).

5 Like a young man marrying a virgin, your rebuilder [maker/Creator] will wed you [your sons shall marry you], and as the bridegroom rejoices in his bride, so will your God rejoice in you.
Verse 5 can be translated either "your sons will marry you" or "your rebuilder/maker/Creator will marry you," depending on how the Hebrew is translated and where the vowels are placed. Hebrew was originally written only in consonants.

Looking at this passage from our side of salvation history, the Fathers of the Church saw in it a prophecy of the wedding of the Lamb and His Bride, the renewed Zion of the New Covenant Church and the prophesied "new name" as "The Bride of Christ": Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; the first heaven and the first earth had disappeared now, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a ride dressed for her husband (Rev 21:1-2).

The "sons" who will wed/marry her will be the New Covenant priests, those who are "sons of the Church" that take a vow to wed themselves to the Church in making a lifetime commitment to serving the Bride of Christ. These are the "priests" mentioned in Isaiah 61:6.

Since the sixth century AD, the Church has used this poem in the liturgy on Christmas Day. The concept of Christ's union with His Bride the Church is beautifully expressed in a sermon from the Middle Ages: "Like the bridegroom who comes out of his chamber, the Lord came down from heaven to dwell on earth and to become one with the Church through his incarnation. The Church was gathered together from among the Gentiles, to whom he gave his dowry and his blessings "his dowry, when God was made man; his blessings, when he was sacrificed for their salvation" (Fausto de Riez, Sermo 5 in Epiphania).

Isaiah 62:6-9 ~ The Watchmen's Reward
6 On your walls, Jerusalem, I have posted watchmen; they will never fall silent, day or night. No peace for you, as you keep Yahweh's attention! 7 And give him no peace either until he restores Jerusalem and makes her the pride of the world! 8 Yahweh has sworn by his right hand and by his mighty arm: Never again shall I give your grain to feed your enemies. Never again will foreigners drink the wine for which you have toiled. 9 No, the reapers will eat it and praise Yahweh, the harvesters will drink it in my sacred courts!

These "watchmen" probably refer to God's holy prophets who admonish the people to repent their sins, encourage the people to live in righteousness, and pray constantly for their salvation. These "watchmen" who never fall silent are in contrast to the dumb and blind "watchmen" of 56:9-11 where "watchmen" is used for failed prophets. Jeremiah 6:17 and Ezekiel 3:17 and 33:1-9 also refer to prophets as "watchmen." However, these "watchmen" might also be angels who are the guardians of the Church or members of the faithful who have been given the mission to be in constant prayer for the Church "the prayer warriors.

In verse 6 Yahweh has posted "watchmen" for Zion. But unlike "watchmen" on a city's walls who only sound the alarm if the enemy is seen approaching the city, these watchmen call aloud to Yahweh day and night.
Question: What do these "watchmen" constantly call out to Yahweh?
Answer: They ask the Lord to honor His promises concerning Zion and will keep doing so until He fulfills His promise.

Question: What did Jesus tell His disciples about persistent prayer? See Luke 18:1-8.
Answer: He told them a parable about the need to pray continually and to never lose heart in the Parable of the Persistent Widow. Jesus told them that God will see justice done to His elect if they keep calling to him day and night even though he still delays to help them. His promise was that with such persistent prayer that God will see justice done for them.

8 Yahweh has sworn by his right hand and by his mighty arm: Never again shall I give your grain to feed your enemies. Never again will foreigners drink the wine for which you have toiled. 9 No, the reapers will eat it and praise Yahweh, the harvesters will drink it in my sacred courts!
In verses 8-9 God swears an oath that when the day of salvation comes, the Gentiles will never again steal the "fruit" of Zion's labor. Oath swearing is part of covenant formation and points to a New Covenant in the new Age. Those who grew it and harvested it would enjoy the fruit of their labor and glorify God in lasting security. This reference to the harvest is probably symbolic like the harvest imagery in 61:11. In Jesus' Kingdom of the Church, the laborers in the fields are the disciples of Jesus Christ sowing the seeds of salvation. The harvest will be the souls who are gathered into the Church in the Sacrament of Baptism or those souls gathered into Heaven at Judgment. Jesus used the same imagery in Jesus' Kingdom Parables in Matthew 13:1-43.

the harvesters will drink it in my sacred courts!
The imagery of drinking wine is another of the images of the prophets that symbolizes covenant unity with Yahweh. The "harvesters" who have labored to spread the Gospel of salvation and bring the fruit of their labors to the altar are promised that they will drink wine in the presence of God in liturgical worship.
Question: How is this oath fulfilled in the Church today?
Answer: This oath is fulfilled in the chalice of the blood of Christ in the Eucharist that faithful Christians of the universal Church drink in the presence of the Divine.

Isaiah 62:10-12 ~ God's Redeemed
10 Pass through, pass through the gates. Clear a way for my people! Level up, level up the highway, remove the stones! Hoist a signal to the peoples! 11 This is what Yahweh has proclaimed to the remotest part of earth: Say to the daughter of Zion, "Look, your salvation is coming; with him comes his reward [sakar], his achievement precedes him!" 12 They will be called "The Holy People", "City-not-forsaken".

This short poem is a conclusion to the oracles in Isaiah chapters 60-62 and repeats several themes in the Book of Consolation.

Question: What are themes repeated in this passage that are also found in Isaiah 40:3-5, 10; 49:22; and 57:14?

  1. God will prepare sacred highway to bring back His people.
  2. Israel's redemption will be a signal to the Gentile peoples, and salvation will be proclaimed to the ends of the earth.

Yahweh's announcement of salvation will spread worldwide and everyone will see His care for His covenant people that He has brought back physically and spiritually (verse 10-11). The people will recognize Him as Redeemer and Savior, and their lives will reflect His holiness (verse 12).

Verse 11b, Say to the daughter of Zion, "Look, your salvation is coming; with him comes his reward [sakar], his achievement precedes him!" looks forward to the event of Jesus riding into the holy city of Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. St. Matthew identifies Jesus as the "him" in this passage when, in Matthew 21:5, St. Matthew writes, This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet: Say to the daughter of Zion: Look, your king is approaching, humble and riding on a donkey and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden [ass]" quoting from Isaiah 62:11b and Zechariah 9:9. Isaiah used the same word "zakar"/reward in Isaiah 40:10 concerning the coming of Yahweh to redeem His people.

12 They will be called "The Holy People", "City-not-forsaken".
The redeemed Jerusalem will be called by two more names on that great day: "The Holy People" (or "the sought-out") and "City-not-forsaken" (or "city no longer deserted").

Chapter 63: Judgment on the Nations and a Meditation on the History of Israel

Isaiah 63 recounts God's vengeance on the Gentile nations for their cruel treatment of Jews during the period of the Babylonian Exile, the vindication of the people of Zion/the old covenant Church, and the glorification of the holy city of Jerusalem. The key elements in the text of this chapter are:

  1. The judgment against the Gentile nations that surrounded Israel and contributed to her suffering in a "day of Yahweh's vengeance."
  2. The future of Israel, God's Covenant people.
  3. The faithfulness of the God of Israel who will come as His people's Redeemer.

Isaiah 63:1-6 ~ Yahweh's Judgment on the Nations
1 Who is this coming from Edom, from Bozrah in crimson garments, so magnificently dressed, marching so full of strength? "It is I, whose word is saving justice, whose power is to save "2 Why are your garments red, your clothes like someone treading the winepress? "3 I have trodden the winepress alone; of my people, not one was with me. So I trod them down in my anger, I trampled on them in my wrath. Their blood squirted over my garments and all my clothes are stained. 4 For I have decided on a day of vengeance, my year of retribution has come. 5 I looked: there was no one to help me; I was appalled but could find no supporter! Then my own arm came to rescue and my own fury supported me. 6 I crushed the peoples in my anger, I shattered them in my fury and sent their blood streaming to the ground.

This part of Isaiah's oracle is written in the form of a dialogue between Yahweh and the prophet Isaiah.(1) Isaiah describes Yahweh in two ways:

  1. As a warrior coming from Bozrah, the capital of Edom, with crimson stains on his garment.
  2. As a grape harvester who had tread the grapes in the winepress.

The territory of Edom was to the south of Judah at the southern end of the Dead Sea. These people were the descendants of Jacob's twin brother Esau, and Edom is used symbolically as a Biblical "type" for Israel's traditional enemy. Yahweh is also described as a grape-harvester whose garments are stained with the red juice of crushed grapes. The "winepress" in Scripture is usually a symbol of divine judgment. Yahweh has trampled the "winepress" of judgment alone because there were none to help Him obtain justice for His people.

Question: What has Yahweh been trampling in the "winepress?"
Answer: He has been trampling Israel's enemies.

Question: In verses 4-6 what does Yahweh declare is His reason for judging the nations?
Answer: His appointed time for "the day of vengeance" His "year of retribution" has arrived but since no one came to join Him, the Lord came to His people's aid alone and defeated the nations Himself.

The historical context is important for without it as a guide Biblical interpretation can be arbitrary and manipulated by the commentator. However, the historical context is not the only category. And the context should not be restricted to only what sequence of events happened earlier, for it is only as events unfold in God's ordained plan of history that the full interpretation of events can be determined. For example, the interpretation of the past in our own lives is influenced by our continuing life experience. It is in this light that Jesus taught "everything written in the Law and Prophets and Psalms is about me" (see complete quote in Luke 24:44), and St. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:12 that the events of the Old Testament were to instruct us about the past and be applied to present and future dangers to our salvation.

Looking at this passage from the Passion and Resurrection side of salvation history, it was the interpretation of the Church Fathers that it is God the Son whose garment is stained with the blood He shed to save mankind. There was no one who could save Zion except God Himself. He came Himself, as He promised in Ezekiel 34:11-16. He came as God enfleshed to fight mankind's greatest enemy, Satan, and He defeated Satan with His own blood shed on the altar of the Cross.

St. Cyril of Alexandria (375-444), Patriarch of Alexandria, Egypt, wrote on Isaiah 63:1-6 and the allegorical connection to Christ's Resurrection and Ascension in his commentary on the Book of Isaiah. Cyril linked this Isaiah passage to 1 Timothy 3:16 "manifested in flesh...seen by angels" and Ephesians 3:10. He wrote, "This prophetic oracle wisely and artfully gives a true to life portrayal of Christ, the Savior of all, as he makes his return to heaven...He was seen by the powers above in the form which he had among us, that is, as a man, and displayed to them the signs of his passion. This passage teaches not only that the perforations from the nails and the other marks remained in his holy flesh after he rose from the dead, it also gives us to understand that as he showed the nail wounds and his side to ascending into heaven with the signs of his passion so Christ also showed to the heavenly powers what he had accomplished that through the Church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places' (Ephesians 3:10)." Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on Isaiah 63:1-6.

Origen of Alexandria (b.185-d. 254), head of the famous school of Christian theology in Alexandria, Egypt, referred to Isaiah 63:1-6 as an allegory for Christ's passion. He wrote that after His death Christ returned to God the Father and the heavenly kingdom, "... victorious and bearing trophies with the body that had been raised from the dead" " comparing Christ's crucified Body and His victory over sin and death to victorious generals and kings who brought back to their kingdom the trophies of their conquest. Origin continues that Jesus is greeted by the heavenly host who ask Him (quoting from Isaiah 63:2) "Why is your apparel red and your garments as if fresh from a full wine press that has been trampled down?" To which Christ answers (Isaiah 63:2) "I trampled them." And his escorts say to those stationed at the gates of heaven: "Lift up your gates and the king of glory will come in," quoting from Psalm 24:7 (Origen, Commentary on John, 6:287-292).

Isaiah's Prayer for Yahweh's Intervention

Isaiah 63:7-64:11/12 contains Isaiah's prayer for God's intervention on behalf of His people. Isaiah describes Yahweh's faithful covenant love (hesed) and compassion toward His covenant people in the past despite Israel's stubborn rebellion and betrayal. He pleads for God to remember His faithful covenant love (hesed) for His people, and he asks for Yahweh to come again Himself, as the divine Shepherd of His flock, to redeem His covenant people. It is a petition that will be answered in the Incarnation of the Christ.

Isaiah 63:7-14 ~ Isaiah Recounts Yahweh's Acts of Covenant Love for Israel
7 I shall recount Yahweh's acts of faithful love [hesed], Yahweh's praises, in return for all that Yahweh has done for us, for his great kindness to the House of Israel, for all that he had done in his mercy, for the abundance of his acts of faithful love [hesed]. 8 For he said, "Truly they are my people, children who will not betray me." And he became their Savior. 9 In all their troubles, it was no messenger or angel but his presence that saved them. In his love and pity he himself redeemed them, lifted them up and carried them throughout the days of old. 10 But they rebelled and vexed his holy Spirit. Then he became their enemy and himself waged war on them. 11 But he called the past to mind, Moses his servant. Where is he who saved them from the sea, the Shepherd of his flock? Where is he who put his holy Spirit among them, 12 whose glorious arm led the way by Moses' right hand? Who divided the waters before them to win himself everlasting renown, 13 who led them through the depths as easily as a horse through the desert? They stumbled a little 14 as cattle going down to the plain. Yahweh's Spirit led them to rest. This was how you guided your people to win yourself glorious renown. [...] =IBHE, vol. III, page 1727.

Isaiah contrasts God's faithful covenant love with Israel's stubbornness and rebellion. The covenant people continually responded to God's acts of grace on their behalf with complaints and with the rebellion of sin. Notice the use of the Hebrew word hesed in this passage. It is a word used in the context of the kind of love bound by a covenant relationship. The first place the word hesed is found in Scripture is in Genesis 24:49 when Abraham's servant, sent to find a bride for Isaac, asks Rebekah, "Now tell me whether you are prepared to show constant and faithful love (hesed) to my master..." The word hesed is also used by Isaiah in 54:8, 10, and 55:3.

Question: What did Isaiah say Yahweh looked for in His covenant children in verse 8?
Answer: Because of the closeness of the covenant relationship where Yahweh became their divine Father, God looked for loyal children. Their loyalty and obedience was to be the sign of their love.

In Isaiah 63:1, 11, 13, 15 and 17 the prophet asks God series of questions intended to motivate God to take action in saving His people. In verses 11-13 Isaiah asks where is the God who saved His people in the past and recounts the way God worked to save His people in the Exodus liberation in the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea, leading them like a shepherd guiding his flock, and tending to them on every step of their journey (Ex 14:19-31). It was an act of God says Isaiah that won Him the admiration of the surrounding nations.

Israel 63:15-19a ~ Isaiah's Petition for National Restoration
15 Look down from heaven and see from your holy and glorious dwelling. Where is your zeal and your might? Are your deepest feelings, your mercy to me, to be restrained? 16 After all, you are our Father. If Abraham will not own us, if Israel will not acknowledge us, you, Yahweh, are our Father, "Our Redeemer" is your name from of old. 17 Why, Yahweh, do you let us wander from your ways and let our hearts grow too hard to fear you? Return, for the sake of your servants, the tribes of your heritage. 18 Your holy people have owned it for so short a time, our enemies have trampled on your sanctuary. 19 We have long been like those you do not rule, people who do not bear your name.

Isaiah continues to plead with the Lord for His help by asking Him more questions:

  1. Isaiah asks the Lord to look down from Heaven to see the plight of His people, and He urges God to show them His zeal and His might (verse 15a).
  2. He then asks the Lord why He withholds his mercy from Isaiah, and by inference also from the people (verse 15b).
  3. Finally Isaiah and implores God to remember that He is their divine Father and Redeemer. He asks why God has allowed them to separate themselves from Him and for their hearts to grow cold and hard until they have become so estranged that they have lost their reverent fear of offending God (verse17).

Isaiah is begging for God's divine intervention (63:17b-19). He wonders why God will allow the destruction of His holy Sanctuary (the Jerusalem Temple). A distraught Isaiah must be wondering what is the purpose of the extended exile in Babylon where the covenant people will become like the other Gentiles? "like "those you do not rule, people who do not bear your name." It is a question God will answer in the return from exile and in the Advent of the Redeemer-Messiah.

1. The reading of Isaiah 63:1-7 was part of the Eucharistic liturgy read on Wednesday of Holy Week in conjunction with Isaiah 53 until the reforms of Vatican II.

Questions for group discussion or reflection (consult the chart in the Appendix to answer the questions):
Question: Which Gospel had the most quotes from Isaiah? Which of the other New Testament books had the most quotes?

There are ten fulfillment statements in the Gospel of Matthew:

Nine of the fulfillment statements are from the Book of Isaiah. The only fulfillment statement not from Isaiah is the quote from Psalm 78:2.

Question: What purpose do the ten "fulfillment" statements serve in St. Matthew's Gospel and what is significant about so many of the passages coming from Isaiah?
Answer: They show that everything God did in the Old Testament was part of His divine plan in preparation for the Advent of the Messiah, and it was to Isaiah that God revealed the most concerning the future mission of the Redeemer-Messiah.


Book of Isaiah References in the Gospels Isaiah References in Other New Testament Books
Matthew 1:23 ~ Isaiah 7:14, 8:8, 10 (LXX)
Matthew 3:3 ~ Isaiah 40:4
Matthew 4:15-16 ~ Isaiah 9:1-2
Matthew 8:17 ~ Isaiah 53:4
Matthew 12:18-21 ~ Isaiah 42:1-4
Matthew 13:14-15 ~ Isaiah 6:9-11
Matthew 15:8-9 ~ Isaiah 29:13 (LXX)
Matthew 21:5 ~ Isaiah 62:11
Matthew 21:13 ~ Isaiah 56:7

Mark 1:3 ~ Isaiah 40:3
Mark 4:12 ~ Isaiah 6:9-10
Mark 7:6-7 ~ Isaiah 29:13 (LXX)
Mark 11:17 ~ Isaiah 56:7
Mark 12:32 ~ Isaiah 45:21

Luke 4:18-19 ~ Isaiah 61:1-2
Luke 8:10 ~ Isaiah 6:9
Luke 19:46 ~ Isaiah 56:7
Luke 22:37 ~ Isaiah 53:12

John 1:23 ~ Isaiah 40:3
John 6:45 ~ Isaiah 54:13
John 12:38 ~ Isaiah 53:1
John 12:40 ~ Isaiah 6:10
Acts 7:49-50 ~ Isaiah 66:1-2
Acts 8:32-33 ~ Isaiah 53:7-8 (LXX)
Acts 13:22 ~ Isaiah 44:28
Acts 13:34 ~ Isaiah 55:3 (LXX)
Acts 13:47 ~ Isaiah 49:6
Acts 28:26-27 ~ Isaiah 6:9-10

Romans 2:24 ~ Isaiah 52:5
Romans 3:15-17 ~ Isaiah 59:7-8
Romans 9:29 ~ Isaiah 1:9
Romans 9:33 ~ Isaiah 8:14
Romans 9:33 ~ Isaiah 28:16
Romans 10:11 ~ Isaiah 28:16
Romans 10:15 ~ Isaiah 52:7
Romans 10:16 ~ Isaiah 53:1
Romans 10:20 ~ Isaiah 65:1
Romans 10:21 ~ Isaiah 65:2
Romans 11:8 ~ Isaiah 29:10
Romans 11:26-27 ~ Isaiah 59:20-21
Romans 11:34 ~ Isaiah 40:13
Romans 14:11 ~ Isaiah 45:23
Romans 15:12 ~ Isaiah 11:10
Romans 15:21 ~ Isaiah 52:15

1 Corinthians 1:19 ~ Isaiah 29:14
1 Corinthians 2:9 ~ Isaiah 64:4
1 Corinthians 2:16 ~ Isaiah 40:13
1 Corinthians 14:21 ~ Isaiah 28:1-12
1 Corinthians 15:32 ~ Isaiah 22:13
1 Corinthians 15:54 ~ Isaiah 25:8

2 Corinthians 6:2 ~ Isaiah 49:8
2 Corinthians 6:17 ~ Isaiah 6:17

Galatians 4:27 ~ Isaiah 54:1

Hebrews 2:13 ~ Isaiah 8:17 (LXX)
Hebrews 2:13 ~ Isaiah 8:18
Hebrews 10:37 ~ Isaiah 26:20

1 Peter 1:23-25 ~ Isaiah 40:6-8
1 Peter 2:6 ~ Isaiah 28:16
1 Peter 2:8 ~ Isaiah 8:14
1 Peter 2:9 ~ Isaiah 61:6
1 Peter 2:9 ~ Isaiah 43:20
1 Peter 2:9 ~ Isaiah 43:20
1 Peter 2:22 ~ Isaiah 53:9
1 Peter 3:14-15 ~ Isaiah 8:12-13

LXX refers to a quote from the Greek Septuagint translation of Isaiah.

Chart adapted from The Greek New Testament, editors Kurt Aland et al., 3rd edition (London: United Bible Society, 1975), page 899.

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2016 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.

Catechism references for this lesson:
Isaiah 61:1 (CCC 436, 695, 716, 1286)
61:6 (CCC 1539)
62 (CCC 1611)
62:4-5 (CCC 219)