Harry Whittaker
The Time Of The End

23) “With Dyed Garments From Bozrah”

Isaiah 63: 1-6

Traditionally few prophecies of the Last Days have been interpreted with more complete confidence than this one. When the Gog-Magog forces sweep into the Holy Land, they will simultaneously drive through to Egypt and also pursue the retreating defenders (the British army!) into Edom. At the crucial moment the Messiah and a mighty phalanx of warriors — the immortalized saints, now marching to the Land of Promise by the route followed by Moses and Israel — will come to the rescue and utterly destroy the invading army in a terrible carnage. This done, the march on Jerusalem is resumed, and the King of Glory enters his capital.

In the light of the current political situation and especially when the developments of modern warfare are considered, all this sounds rather odd. But quite apart from assessing this speculation in its relevance (sic!) to the twentieth century, it is surely time to take a fresh look at it and ask a few pointed questions about its Biblical basis.

Elsewhere (“The Last Days,” ch. 10) it has been shewn that the evidence for believing that the Judgement will take place at Sinai is hardly satisfactory and certainly not such as warrants confidence. The idea of a wilderness march by immortalized saints, who in any case would be able to transport themselves with the speed of angels has a further element of incongruity, and appears to be based almost entirely on a misreading of Micah 7: 15: “According to the days of thy coming out of Egypt will I shew unto him marvellous things.” This passage does not necessarily mean that precisely what happened at the time of the Exodus will happen again with Messiah in place of Moses. A11 that can be safely got out of it is that the marvels of Israel’s experience then will be matched by the manifestations of divine power through the Messiah. The entire scheme of prophetic interpretation often referred to as “the march of the Rainbowed Angel” has been built on one or two assumptions of this kind. A judicious re-appraisal of the solidity of its foundations has long been overdue.


In many parts of Isaiah (e.g. chs. 29-33) there are copious allusions to Israel in Egypt and the wilderness, yet in interpreting these chapters with reference to the contemporary crisis — Sennacherib’s invasion of Judah — no one is misled into thinking that the prophet was foretelling a march of rescued Israel through the wilderness of Sinai. His message was, very simply and forcefully, that there was to be a divine intervention in his day on behalf of Israel such as would parallel in its breath-taking majesty and power the magnificent demonstration of divine glory experienced by Israel under Moses.[29] And this duly took place, not in the wilderness of Sinai, but underneath the walls of Jerusalem. It is true that after the destruction of Sennacherib’s army, many captives were released from bondage and returned with joy and thanksgiving to their homeland, but these came from Assyria, not from Egypt. If Isaiah’s language about Sinai and the Exodus is not to be taken literally, but rather as a parallel to events in his day, is not the same likely to be true of his contemporary Micah? Of course the prophecies of Isaiah and Micah can be expected to have further fulfilment in the Last Days, but since the first fulfilment was not literal, how can one be confident that the second will be?


Returning to Isaiah 63, it has to be noted that the prophecy is couched in the most general terms, with the exception of the mention of Edom and its capital, Bozrah, and also the idea (v. 5) of redemption and vengeance when all hope seems to have been abandoned. Yet even the references to Edom and Bozrah are far from certain, for with only the slightest change in the pointing of the Hebrew text, the opening challenge may be read thus: “Who is this that comes, more than man, raiment more crimsoned than the grape-gatherer?” If this reading be accepted, and it is just as possible as the more familiar translation,[30] then no geographical reference remains, and the prophecy is seen as a picture of divine intervention, truly, but not in any specific place.

Another approach to this problem accepts the AV reading but interprets it as an allusion to the Song of Deborah after the rout of enemies in northern Canaan: “Lord, when thou wentest out of Seir, when thou marchedst out of the field of Edom, the earth trembled, and the heavens dropped, the clouds also dropped water. The mountains melted from before the Lord, even that Sinai from before the Lord God of Israel” (Judges 5: 4, 5). This language is echoed in Isaiah 64:1: “O that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow down at thy presence...”

Again it has to be emphasized that in the days of Deborah there was no recapitulation of Exodus deliverance or wilderness journey, but there was a deliverance comparable to those mighty happenings, and this is the point of the allusion.

Even if the traditional interpretation of Isaiah 63 were accepted, it should not be overlooked that the Lord coming first to Jerusalem, later seeking out certain enemies for special judgement in the territory of Edom and then returning to Jerusalem could fulfill it. There is nothing in the prophecy which rules out such an idea, and in Isaiah 25: 9, 10 there is an exact parallel regarding Moab. It is this view, which is favoured by the present writer, but only in a tentative fashion, because no arguments are known which definitely rule out the alternative modes of interpretation just mentioned.


It is not difficult to demonstrate that this “punitive expedition” in the direction of Edom is not against the forces of the great northern confederacy. Jeremiah 49: 7-22 is a prophecy with marked similarities to Isaiah 63, and a careful reading of its details makes very clear that this is a judgement on the Arab enemy of Israel. Verse 12 repeats the language of Jeremiah 25: 29, a prophecy which is concerned first of all with Israel’s hostile neighbours. Verse 19 also is important: “Behold, he shall come up like a lion from the swelling of Jordan against the strong habitation: for I will suddenly drive them away (RVm): and who is a chosen man that I may appoint over her? for who is like me? and who will appoint me the time? (or possibly: who will cause men to know me?), and who is that Shepherd that will stand before me?”

Who can this be but the Messiah? And he comes “from the swelling of Jordan,” not from mount Sinai, against the proud enemy “that dwells in the clefts of Sela” (v. 16).


Other details of Isaiah 63 can now be considered more specifically.

“Who is this that comes from Edom?... I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save.” This is the leader with blood-stained raiment, described in Revelation 19: 11-16 as “King of kings and Lord of lords” and also as “the Word of God.” In that prophecy he has a sharp sword going out of his mouth — “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” The idea is the same. He speaks in righteousness, and judgement ensues.

It is a mistake, commonly made, to picture this divine Man as being alone in the judgement described. The Hebrew word translated “trample them in my fury” necessarily describes the action of a multitude. And in the parallel in Revelation 19, the crowned warrior is followed by an army “clothed in fine linen, white and clean.” Since this is the description of the glorified saints (Revelation 19: 8), and since the leader is already crowned, the saints have already been made immortal in Jerusalem (“The Last Days” ch. 10) by one whose kingdom is already in existence.[31]

Then in what sense is he “alone”? The next phrase explains: “of the peoples there was none with me.” This word is commonly used with reference to the tribes of Israel. It is a redemption brought to Israel when at last they realize that their own efforts cannot save them. The rest of the chapter, so often neglected, emphasizes this theme. “The day of vengeance (vengeance for the oppression of Israel, not of the saints) is in mine heart, and the year of my redeemed is come.” The word “redeemed” implies a near kinsman. This is a greater Joseph saving his brethren, but only when they acknowledge the despite done to him long before (Genesis 42: 21).

The mention of “the day of vengeance” recalls Isaiah 34: 8, which prophesy also is directed against Edom (34: 6), in “the year of recompenses for the controversy of Zion.” “Red in thine apparel” is a play on the name Edom; and “I will stain all my raiment” plays with the (untranslatable) double meaning of a Hebrew word, which also signifies “redeemed.” Thus this dramatic divine act — the Arm of the Lord bringing salvation (v. 5) — looks both ways. It is on behalf of a people reconciled to Christ and recognized as His kinsfolk. And it is against callous unspiritual enemies who refuse to see Israel as the Chosen Seed of Abraham with full right to the Land by divine covenant.

[29] Compare also Isaiah 63:015, a passage, which makes the same point very clearly.
[30] See W. A. Wordsworth's En Roeh, in loc.
[31] Another possible interpretation here identifies these who are with Christ as his angels of judgement (note Revelation 15: 6). This view would not seriously interfere with the main point being made in this paragraph.

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