Isaiah 53 : The Suffering Messiah

Isaiah 53 contains what has to be the scripture that is the easiest application anywhere to the life and mission of Jesus of Nazareth. No other person has arisen to lay claim to being a Messiah who would suffer for mankind. This chapter is cited by all Jew and Gentiles alike as a chapter that must be fulfilled by the Messiah.

 Isaiah 53

 Chapter 53: The assessment of the of the Messiah and how he is to be received by his own people actually begins in verse 13 above. It contains the following evaluations and incidents which are the very contradictions that caused his own people to reject Jesus. Only Jesus of Nazareth has laid claim to every one of these here enumerated." No other person has ever tried to meet the contradictions of disgrace and glory fused in these messianic predictions.

  1. He is to be a person of great importance. 52:13
2. He will be abused to the point of extreme physical damage. 52:14
3. Kings of foreign nations will give attention to this news with astonishment. 52:15
4. But his own people, in general, will not believe nor recognize him. 53:1
5. Nothing noteworthy about his personality nor appearance will stand out. 53:2
6: He will know the pain of rejection. 53:3
7. His punishment is to be considered as God's justice. 53:4
8. He is not to suffer for himself but to heal us with his wounds 53:5
9. Our sins are to be laid on him by God. 53:6
10. He is to suffer and offer no defense. 53:7
11. He is to be imprisoned and sent to death from trial. 53:8
12. During the trial he is to be beaten for the nation's sin. 53:8
13. Even though innocent he is to die among the wicked. 53:9
14. He is to be given a grave among the wicked and the rich. 53:9
15. God's will is that he see his offspring when his life is made a sin offering. 53:10
16. God is pleased and his life is prolonged by his death. 53:10
17. After the travail and anguish he is to see himself as completed. 53:11
18. Many will be saved by the knowledge of his righteous act. 53:11
19: He will bare his soul to death and thereby be insured a place of historical greatness. 53:12
20. Wealth will be his because he faced death as a sinner bearing the sins of sinners and interceding for them. 53:12

 1. Who has believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?

Verse 1: Who has believed: Several commentators (Delitzsch, Howell, etc.) call attention to the last verse which is verse 15 of chapter 52 to show that the people addressed here could not be the Gentiles since they were to accept that which they had not previously considered nor been told. On the other hand in chapter 53 those who would not believe the report are those among whom the suffering Messiah was to grow up and they would see, evaluate and reject him.. The Jewish nation is being described here as the one to whom the Messiah will appear and be scorned by. The idea proposed by Graetz, the renowned Jewish historian, is that the passage of the suffering Messiah refers to the Jewish nation as the Messiah. They suffer for the rest of mankind according to him. It is a kind of Messianic nationalism which Graetz believed and propounded while he made statements that would convince Christians that Jesus was the link between the Old Covenant and the New. So unseeing are our Jewish friends who still have a "veil over their hearts" according to the Apostle Paul in 2 Cor. 3:14. In recounting the history of the crucifixion of Jesus Graetz makes the following observations: "If Jesus was mocked at and forced to wear a crown of thorns in scorn of his Messianic kingship, this brutality proceeded from the Roman soldiers who were too glad of the opportunity of ridiculing in his person the entire Judean nation." and again: "He was the only man born of woman of whom it may be said without exaggeration that he accomplished more in his death than in his life." and again, "Golgotha became another Sinai to the historical world." Greatz was truly, a good man with a veil over his heart. [Graetz Vol. 2: pgs 90, 91]

Verse 1: Arm of the LORD: For an explanation of this phrase see 51:9.

 2 For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground: he has no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.

Verse 2: He shall grow up: The Isaiah Targum is a paraphrase commentary-translation which was not considered to be authoritative, but simply an attempt to pass along the Rabbinical interpretations of a portion of the Old Testament. The Targum was collected and edited over a long period of time both before and after the advent of the Messiah. In this verse, and the rest of the chapter as well, there is a confusion between who suffers and who redeems. Since the idea of a suffering Messiah was not easy for the Rabbis to accept the paraphrase makes the Messiah relieve the suffering of the nation brought on itself by its own sin. Even though this confusion of purpose is present in the Targum it is plainly evident that the Rabbis of the inter-testament period saw the Messiah in this verse, as well as the rest of the chapter, as an individual person who is the Coming One. There is no confusion of "Messianic Nationalism in the Targum. The "arm of the Lord" is the person of the coming Messiah to the Jewish Targumists both before and after the birth of Jesus of Nazareth.

 3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

 Verse 4: We hid ourselves from him: The Isaiah Targum likens this to "when the presence of the Shekinah was withdrawn from us." The Targum written during the inter-testament period or "silent years" makes the analogy between withdrawal of the presence of God from the Temple and the Land from 586 BC to 516 BC, which they looked back upon, and the rejection of the Messiah by the Jewish nation to come!.

 4. Surely he has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him beaten and buffeted and afflicted by God. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opens not his mouth. 8 He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he beaten. 9 And he was given his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; Even though he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth, 10. The LORD was pleased to bruise him. he has put him to grief: if you shall put his soul as a sin offering, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.

Verse 10: An offering for sin. [asham mva] the word is used repeatedly in the O.T. and translated as "trespass offering" The Masoretic text translates "if his soul shall consider it a recompense for guilt, he shall see his seed..." The text is properly translated in the KJV but the Masoretic requires extra words to arrive at this translation. It clearly states that when you shall place (the Messiah's soul) as a sin offering He shall see his seed and prolong his days.

 . Verse 10: Pleasure of the Lord: The Targum has :Kingdom of the Messiah:" thus continuing the identity of the Messiah as person who will deliverer the nation and who is to "purify the remnant of his people" and then they will see the Messiah.

11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: By his knowledge my righteous servant shall justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he exposed his soul to death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bore the sins of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

Verse 12: The word "great" [rabiym: is plural and has the equivalent of a definite article] It is from the word from which Rabbi is derived. In fact it could be translated "I will divide him a portion with the Rabbis."

 . Verse 12: Sins of many: "Many" is the same word [mybr rabiym] that is translated "great" in the first part of this verse. It is in the construct state which makes it definite and can be translated "the sins of the Rabbis." If Isaiah mystically used this as a play on words it would not be out of character since there are also other instances of such alliterations involving the word "salvation" and "branch" throughout the total prophecy.

Click this link to see a page of quotations from Jewish rabbis, who, through the centuries saw that this chapter refers to the Messian.


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