Adam Clarke Commentary
This chapter foretells the sufferings of the Messiah, the end for which he was to die, and the advantages resulting to mankind from that illustrious event. It begins with a complaint of the infidelity of the Jews, Isaiah 53:1; the offense they took at his mean and humble appearance, Isaiah 53:2; and the contempt with which they treated him, Isaiah 53:3. The prophet then shows that the Messiah was to suffer for sins not his own; but that our iniquities were laid on him, and the punishment of them exacted of him, which is the meritorious cause of our obtaining pardon and salvation, Isaiah 53:4-6. He shows the meekness and placid submission with which he suffered a violent and unjust death, with the circumstances of his dying with the wicked, and being buried with the great, Isaiah 53:7-9; and that, in consequence of his atonement, death, resurrection, and intercession, he should procure pardon and salvation to the multitudes, insure increasing prosperity to his Church, and ultimately triumph over all his foes, Isaiah 53:10, Isaiah 53:11. This chapter contains a beautiful summary of the most peculiar and distinguishing doctrines of Christianity.
That this chapter speaks of none but Jesus must be evident to every unprejudiced reader who has ever heard the history of his sufferings and death. The Jews have endeavored to apply it to their sufferings in captivity; but, alas for their cause! they can make nothing out in this way. Allowing that it belongs to our blessed Lord, (and the best men and the best scholars agree in this), then who can read Isaiah 53:4, Isaiah 53:5, Isaiah 53:6, Isaiah 53:8, Isaiah 53:10, without being convinced that his death was a vicarious sacrifice for the sins of mankind? On the first and second verses of this chapter I have received the following remarks from an unknown hand.
Who hath believed our report? - The report of the prophets, of John the Baptist, and Christ‘s own report of himself. The Jews did not receive the report, and for this reason he was not manifested to them as the promised Messiah. ‹He came unto his own, but his own received him not.‘ Before the Father he grew up as a tender plant: but to the Jews he was as a root out of a dry ground. ‹He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.‘
For he shall grow up - Supposes something to have preceded; as it might be asked, what or who shall ‹grow up before him,‘ etc. As the translation now stands, no correct answer can be given to this question. The translation then is wrong, the connection broken, and the sense obscured. זרוע (zeroa), translated the arm, from the root zara.
1.To sow, or plant; also seed, etc.
2.The limb which reaches from the shoulder to the hand, called the arm; or more properly beginning at the shoulder and ending at the elbow.
The translator has given the wrong sense of the word. It would be very improper to say, the arm of the Lord should grow up before him; but by taking the word in its former sense, the connection and metaphor would be restored, and the true sense given to the text. זרע (zera) signifies, not only the seed of herbs, but children, offspring, or posterity. The same word we find Genesis 3:15, where Christ is the Seed promised. See also Genesis 22:17, Genesis 22:18; Genesis 26:4; Genesis 28:14. Hence the Seed of the woman, the Seed promised to the patriarchs is, according to Isaiah, the Seed of the Lord, the Child born, and the Son given; and according to St. John, ‹the Son of God, the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.‘ זרע then, in this place, should be understood to mean Jesus Christ, and him alone. To speak here of the manifestation of the arm or power of God would be irregular; but to suppose the text to speak of the manifestation of Jesus Christ would be very proper, as the whole of the chapter is written concerning him, particularly his humiliation and sufferings, and the reception he should meet with from the Jewish nation.
“The first verse of this chapter is quoted John 12:38, and the former part of the same verse Romans 10:16. But no objection of importance can be brought forward from either of these quotations against the above explanation, as they are quoted to show the unbelief of the Jews in not receiving Christ as the promised Messiah.”
He hath no form nor comeliness “He hath no form nor any beauty” -
Symmachus; the only one of the ancients that has translated it rightly.
Acquainted with grief - For וידוע (vidua), familiar with grief, eight MSS. and one edition have וירע (veyada), and knowing grief; the Septuagint, Syriac, and Vulgate read it ויודע (veyodea).
We hid as it were our faces from him “As one that hideth his face from us” - For וכמסתר (uchemaster), four MSS. (two ancient) have וכמסתיר (uchemastir), one MS. ומסתיר (umastir). For פנים (panim), two MSS. have פניו (panaiu); so likewise the Septuagint and Vulgate. Mourners covered up the lower part of their faces, and their heads, 2 Samuel 15:30; Ezekiel 29:17; and lepers were commanded by the law, Leviticus 13:45, to cover their upper lip. From which circumstance it seems that the Vulgate, Aquila, Symmachus, and the Jewish commentators have taken the word נגוע (nagua), stricken, in the next verse, as meaning stricken with the leprosy: εν αφῃ οντα , Sym.; αφημενον , Aq.; leprosum, Vulg. So my old MS. Bible. I will insert the whole passage as curious: -
Surely he Bath borne our griefs “Surely our infirmities he hath borne” - Seven MSS. (two ancient) and three editions have חליינו (cholayeynu) in the plural number.
And carried our sorrows “And our sorrows, he hath carried them” - Seventeen MSS. (two ancient) of Dr. Kennicott‘s, two of De Rossi‘s, and two editions have the word הוא (hu), he, before סבלם (sebalam), “carrieth them, “in the text; four other MSS. have it in the margin. This adds force to the sense, and elegance to the construction.
The chastisement of our peace “The chastisement by which our peace is effected” - Twenty-one MSS. and six editions have the word fully and regularly expressed, שלמינו (shelomeynu); pacificationum nostrarum, “our pacification;” that by which we are brought into a state of peace and favor with God. Ar. Montan.
The Iniquity of us all - For עון (avon), “iniquity,” the ancient interpreters read עונות (avonoth), “iniquities,” plural; and so the Vulgate in MS. Blanchini. And the Lord hath הפגיע בו (hiphgia bo), caused to meet in him the iniquities of us all. He was the subject on which all the rays collected on the focal point fell. These fiery rays, which should have fallen on all mankind, diverged from Divine justice to the east, west, north, and south, were deflected from them, and converged in him. So the Lord hath caused to meet in him the punishment due to the iniquities of All.
And who shall declare his generation “And his manner of life who would declare” - A learned friend has communicated to me the following passages from the Mishna, and the Gemara of Babylon, as leading to a satisfactory explication of this difficult place. It is said in the former, that before any one was punished for a capital crime, proclamation was made before the prisoner by the public crier, in these words: כל מי שיודע לו זכות יבא וילמד עליו (col mi shioda lo zachoth yabo vayilmad alaiv), “whosoever knows any thing of this man‘s innocence, let him come and declare it. “Tract. Sandhedrim. Surenhus. Part 4 p. 233. On which passage the Gemara of Babylon adds, that “before the death of Jesus this proclamation was made for forty days; but no defense could be found.” On which words Lardner observes: “It is truly surprising to see such falsities, contrary to well-known facts.” Testimonies, Vol. 1 p. 198. The report is certainly false; but this false report is founded on the supposition that there was such a custom, and so far confirms the account given from the Mishna. The Mishna was composed in the middle of the second century according to Prideaux; Lardner ascribes it to the year of Christ 180.
Was he stricken “He was smitten to death” - The Septuagint read למות (lemaveth), εις θανατον , “to death.” And so the Coptic and Saidic Versions, from the Septuagint; MSS. St. Germain de Prez.
With the rich in his death “With the rich man was his tomb” - It may be necessary to introduce Bishop Lowth‘s translation of this verse before we come to his very satisfactory criticisms: -
Among the various opinions which have been given on this passage, I have no doubt in giving my assent to that which makes the ב (beth) in במותיו (bemothaiv) radical, and renders it excelsa sua. This is mentioned by Aben Ezra as received by some in his time; and has been long since approved by Schindler, Drusius, and many other learned Christian interpreters.
The tomb therefore might with great propriety be called the high place. The Hebrews might also call such a tomb במות (bamoth), from the situation, for they generally chose to erect them on eminences. The sepulcher of Joseph of Arimathea, in which the body of Christ was laid, was upon a hill, Mount Calvary. See Isaiah 22:16 (note), and the note there.
It has been supposed that קברו (kibro), his grave, and במתיו (bemothaiv), in his death, may have been transposed, as also the prefix ב (be) originally placed before רשעים (reshaim), the wicked. Thus: -
By these alterations it is supposed the text would be freed from all embarrassment. But see the preceding notes of Bishop Lowth, and the various readings of De Rossi, in loc.
To grief “With affliction” - For החלי (hecheli), the verb, the construction of which seems to be hard and inelegant in this place, the Vulgate reads בחלי (bocholi), in infirmitate, “with infirmity.”
When thou shalt make his soul “If his soul shall make” - For תשים (tasim), a MS. has תשם (tasem), which may be taken passively, “If his soul shall be made” agreeably to some copies of the Septuagint, which have δωται See likewise the Syriac.
When thou shalt make his soul an offering - The word נפש dro (nephesh), soul, is frequently used in Hebrew to signify life. Throughout the New Testament the salvation of men is uniformly attributed to the death of Christ.
He shall see his seed - True converts, genuine Christians.
He shall prolong his days - Or this spiritual progeny shall prolong their days, i.e., Christianity shall endure to the end of time.
And the pleasure of the Lord - To have all men saved and brought to the knowledge of the truth.
Shall prosper in his hand - Shall go on in a state of progressive prosperity; and so completely has this been thus far accomplished, that every succeeding century has witnessed more Christianity in the world than the preceding, or any former one.
Shall be satisfied “And be satisfied” - The Septuagint, Vulgate, Sryiac, and a MS. add the conjunction to the verb, וישבע (vaigisba).
Shall my righteous servant justify “Shall my servant justify” - Three MSS., (two of them ancient), omit the word צדיק (tsaddik); it seems to be only an imperfect repetition, by mistake, of the preceding word. It makes a solecism in this place; for according to the constant usage of the Hebrew language, the adjective, in a phrase of this kind, ought to follow the substantive; and צדיק עבדי (tsaddik abdi), in Hebrew, would be as absurd as “shall my servant righteous justify,” in English. Add to this, that it makes the hemistich too long.
He bare the sin of many - רבים (rabbim), the multitudes, the many that were made sinners by the offenses of one; i.e., the whole human race; for all have sinned - all have fallen; and for all that have sinned, and for all that have fallen, Jesus Christ died. The רבים (rabbim) of the prophet answers to the οἱ πολλοι , of the apostle, Romans 5:15, Romans 5:19. As the πολλοι of the apostle means all that have sinned; so the רבים (rabbim) of the prophet means those for whom Christ died; i.e., all that have sinned.
And made intercession for the transgressors - For יפגיע (yaphgia), in the future, a MS. has הפגיע (hiphgia), preterite, rather better, as agreeable with the other verbs immediately preceding in the sentence.
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