John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible
INTRODUCTION TO ISAIAH 53
This chapter treats of the mean appearance of Christ in human nature, his sufferings in it, and the glory that should follow. It begins with a complaint of the small number of those that believed the report concerning him, the power of God not being exerted, Isaiah 53:1, the reason of this general disbelief was the meanness of his outward circumstances, and the want of comeliness in him; hence he was treated with general neglect and contempt, Isaiah 52:2 was the more unkind and ungenerous, since it was the griefs and sorrows of others he bore, and their sins also, for which he was wounded and bruised, that they might have healing, Isaiah 53:4, yet he took and bore all patiently, like a lamb at the slaughter, and the sheep under the shearer, Isaiah 53:7, which was the more extraordinary, since he was used, both in life and at death, in so rigorous and barbarous a manner, and all for the sins of others, having been guilty of none himself, Isaiah 53:8, and, what is most amazing, the Lord himself had a hand in grieving and bruising him, Isaiah 53:10, though for his encouragement, and a reward to him, as man and Mediator, for all his sufferings, it is intimated that he should succeed and prosper, have a numerous issue, should justify many, and have a portion and spoil divided with the great and mighty, Isaiah 53:10.
Who hath believed our report?.... Or "hearing"
and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? meaning either the Gospel itself, the power of God unto salvation, hidden from the generality of men; for though externally, yet not internally revealed and made known; which to do is the Lord's work, and is owing to his special grace: or Christ, who is the power of God, by whom all the works of creation, providence, grace, and salvation, are wrought; and by whom the blessings of grace are dispensed; and by whom the Lord upholds all things, and supports his people; and who was not revealed but to a very few, as the true Messiah, as God's salvation, and in them the hope of glory: or else the powerful and efficacious grace of the Spirit, and the exertion and display of it, which is necessary to a true and spiritual believing the Gospel, and the report of it; which, unless it comes with the power and Spirit of God, is ineffectual.
For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant,.... Which springs out of the earth without notice; low in its beginning, slow in its growth, liable to be crushed with the foot, or destroyed with the frost, and no great probability of its coming to any perfection; or rather as a little "sucker", as the word
and as a root out of a dry ground; or rather, "as a branch from a root out of a dry ground"; agreeably to Isaiah 11:1, meaning not so much the land of Judea, where he was born; or the country of Galilee, where he was brought up; as the family of David, from whence he sprung, which was reduced to a very low condition when he was born of it; his supposed father being a carpenter, and his real mother a poor virgin in Nazareth, though both of the lineage and house of David; from this passage the ancient Jews
he hath no form nor comeliness; like a poor plant or shrub just crept out of the ground, in a dry and barren soil, ready to wither away as soon as up; has no strength nor straightness, of body; without verdure, leaves, blossom, and fruit things which make plants comely and beautiful. This regards not the countenance of Christ, which probably was comely, as were his types Moses and David; since he is said to be "fairer than the children of men"; and since his human nature was the immediate produce of the Holy Ghost, and without sin: but his outward circumstances; there was no majesty in him, or signs of it; it did not look probable that he would be a tall cedar, or a prince in Israel, much less the Prince Messiah; he was born of mean parents; brought up in a contemptible part of the country; lived in a town out of which no good is said to come; dwelt in a mean cottage, and worked at a trade:
and when we shall see him: as he grows up, and comes into public life and service, declaring himself, or declared by others, to be the Messiah: here the prophet represents the Jews that would live in Christ's time, who would see his person, hear his doctrines, and be witnesses of his miracles, and yet say,
there is no beauty, that we should desire him; or "sightliness"
He is despised, and rejected of men,.... Or, "ceaseth from men"
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: or "known by grief"
and we hid as it were our faces from him; as one loathsome and abominable as having an aversion to him, and abhorrence of him, as scorning to look at him, being unworthy of any notice. Some render it, "he hid as it were his face from us"
he was despised, and we esteemed him not; which is repeated to show the great contempt cast upon him, and the disesteem he was had in by all sorts of persons; professors and profane, high and low, rich poor, rulers and common people, priests, Scribes, and Pharisees; no set or order of men had any value for him; and all this disgrace and dishonour he was to undergo, to repair the loss of honour the Lord sustained by the sin of man, whose surety Christ became.
Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows,.... Or "nevertheless", as Gussetius
"wherefore he will entreat for our sins;'
these being laid upon him, as is afterwards said, were bore by him as the surety of his people; and satisfaction being made for them by his sufferings and death, they are carried and taken away, never to be seen any more:
yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted; so indeed he was by the sword of divine justice, which was awaked against him, and with which he was stricken and smitten, as standing in the room of his people; but then it was not for any sin of his own, as the Jews imagined, but for the sins of those for whom he was a substitute; they looked upon all his sorrows and troubles in life, and at death, as the just judgment of God upon him for some gross enormities he had been guilty of; but in this they were mistaken. The Vulgate Latin version is, "we esteemed him as a leprous person"; and so Aquila and Symmachus render the word; and from hence the Jews call the Messiah a leper
"a leper of the house of Rabbi is his name'
as it is said, "surely he hath borne our griefs", &c.; which shows that the ancient Jews understood this prophecy of the Messiah, though produced to prove a wrong character of him; and so it is applied unto him in other ancient writings of theirs; See Gill on Matthew 8:17. The words are by some rendered, "and we reckoned him the stricken, smitten of God"
But he was wounded for our transgressions,.... Not for any sins of his own, but for ours, for our rebellions against God, and transgressions of his law, in order to make atonement and satisfaction for them; these were the procuring and meritorious causes of his sufferings and death, as they were taken upon him by him to answer for them to divine justice, which are meant by his being wounded; for not merely the wounds he received in his hands, feet, and side, made by the nails and spear, are meant, but the whole of his sufferings, and especially his being wounded to death, and which was occasionally by bearing the sins of his people; and hereby he removed the guilt from them, and freed them from the punishment due unto them:
he was bruised for our iniquities; as bread corn is bruised by threshing it, or by its being ground in the mill, as the manna was; or as spice is bruised in a mortar, he being broken and crushed to pieces under the weight of sin, and the punishment of it. The ancient Jews understood this of the Messiah; in one place they say
"chastisements are divided into three parts, one to David and the fathers, one to our generation, and one to the King Messiah; as it is written, "he was wounded for our transgressions; and bruised for our iniquities":'
and in another place
"at that time they shall declare to the Messiah the troubles of Israel in captivity, and the wicked which are among them, that do not mind to know the Lord; he shall lift up his voice, and weep over the wicked among them; as it is said, "he was wounded for our transgressions", &c.'
the chastisement of our peace was upon him; that is, the punishment of our sins was inflicted on him, whereby our peace and reconciliation with God was made by him; for chastisement here does not design the chastisement of a father, and in love, such as the Lord chastises his people with; but an act of vindictive justice, and in wrath, taking vengeance on our sins, of our surety, whereby divine wrath is appeased, justice is satisfied, and peace is made:
and with his stripes we are healed; or "by his stripe"
"when we obey his words, our sins will be forgiven us;'
but forgiveness is not through our obedience, but the blood of Christ.
All we like sheep have gone astray,.... Here the prophet represents all the elect of God, whether Jews or Gentiles; whom he compares to "sheep", not for their good qualities, but for their foolishness and stupidity; and particularly for their being subject to go astray from the shepherd, and the fold, and from their good pastures, and who never return of themselves, until they are looked up, and brought back by the shepherd, or owner of them; so the people of God, in a state of nature, are like the silly sheep, they go astray from God, are alienated from the life of him, deviate from the rule of his word, err from the right way, and go into crooked paths, which lead to destruction; and never return of themselves, of their own will, and by their own power, until they are returned, by powerful and efficacious grace, unto the great Shepherd and Bishop of souls; see 1 Peter 2:25 where the apostle has a manifest respect to this passage:
we have turned everyone to his own way; and that is an evil one, a dark and slippery one, a crooked one, the end of it is ruin; yet this is a way of a man's own choosing and approving, and in which he delights; and it may not only intend the way of wickedness in general, common to all men in a state of nature, but a particular way of sinning, peculiar to each; some are addicted to one sin, and some to another, and have their own way of committing the same sin; men turn their faces from God, and their backs upon him, and look to their own way, and set their faces towards it, and their hearts on it; and which seems right and pleasing to them, yet the end of it are the ways of death; and so bent are men on these ways, though so destructive, that nothing but omnipotent grace can turn them out of them, and to the Lord; and which is done in consequence of what follows:
and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all; that is, God the Father, against whom we have sinned, from whom we have turned, and whose justice must be satisfied; he has laid on Christ, his own Son, the sins of all his elect ones; which are as it were collected together, and made one bundle and burden of, and therefore expressed in the singular number, "iniquity", and laid on Christ, and were bore by him, even all the sins of all God's elect; a heavy burden this! which none but the mighty God could bear; this was typified by laying of hands, and laying of sins upon the sacrifice, and putting the iniquities of Israel upon the head of the scapegoat, by whom they were bore, and carried away. The words may be rendered, "he made to meet upon him the iniquity of us all"
"as the ass bears burdens, and the garments of travellers, so the King Messiah will bear upon him the sins of the whole world; as it is said, "the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all",' Isaiah 53:6.
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,.... He was injuriously treated by the Jews; they used him very ill, and handled him very roughly; he was oppressed and afflicted, both in body and mind, with their blows, and with their reproaches; he was afflicted, indeed, both by God and men: or rather it may be rendered, "it was exacted", required, and demanded, "and he answered"
yet he opened not his mouth; against the oppressor that did him the injury, nor murmured at the affliction that was heavy upon him: or, "and he opened not his mouth"; against the justice of God, and the demand that was made upon him, as the surety of his people; he owned the obligation he had laid himself under; he paid the debt, and bore the punishment without any dispute or hesitation: "he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb"; or, "as a sheep to the slaughter, and as an ewe before her shearer"
so he opened not his mouth: not against his enemies, by way of threatening or complaint; nor even in his own defence; nor against the justice of God, as bearing hard upon him, not sparing him, but demanding and having full satisfaction; nor against his people and their sins, for whom he suffered; see 1 Peter 2:23.
He was taken from prison, and from judgment,.... After he had suffered and died, and made satisfaction to divine justice; or after he had been arrested by the justice of God, and was laid in prison, and under a sentence of condemnation, had judgment passed upon him, and that executed too; he was taken in a very little time from the prison of the grave where he lay, and from the state of condemnation into which he was brought, and was acquitted, justified, and declared righteous, and his people in him; a messenger was sent from heaven to roll away the stone, and set him free: though some render it,
he was taken by distress and judgment; that is, his life was taken away in a violent manner, under a pretence of justice; whereas the utmost injustice was done him; a wrong charge was brought against him, false witnesses were suborned, and his life was taken away with wicked hands; which sense seems to be favoured by the quotation in Acts 8:32 "in his humiliation his judgment was taken away": he had not common justice done him:
and who shall declare his generation? which is not to be understood of his divine generation, as the Son of God, which is in a way ineffable and inconceivable; nor of his human generation, as the Son of Man, which is unaccountable, being born of a virgin; nor of the duration of his life after his resurrection, he dying no more, but living for ever, which is more probable; nor of the vast number of his spiritual offspring, the fruit of his sufferings, death, and resurrection; but of the age, and men of it, in which he lived, whose barbarity to him, and wickedness they were guilty of, were such as could not be declared by the mouth, or described by the pen of man. The Targum is,
"and the wonderful things which shall be done for us in his days, who can declare?'
for he was cut off out of the land of the living; was not suffered to live, was taken off by a violent death; he was cut off in a judiciary way, as if he had been a malefactor; though lest it should be thought it was for his own sins he was cut off, which is denied, Daniel 9:26 it is added,
for the transgression of my people was he stricken; that is, either through the malice and wickedness of the people of the Jews, whom the prophet calls his people, he was stricken, not only with the scourges of the whip, but with death itself, as the efficient cause thereof; or rather because of the transgressions of God's elect, in order to make satisfaction for them, he was stricken by divine justice, and put to death, as the meritorious cause thereof; and so they are the words of God the Father; and this, with the preceding clause, give a reason, showing both why he was taken from the prison of the grave, acquitted, and exalted, and why the wickedness of his age could not be declared; he being stricken and cut off in such a manner, when he was an innocent person; and since it was only for the transgressions of others, even of God's covenant people, the people he chose, and gave to Christ, Matthew 1:21.
And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death,.... These words are generally supposed to refer to a fact that was afterwards done; that Christ, who died with wicked men, as if he himself had been one, was buried in a rich man's grave. Could the words admit of the following transposition, they would exactly agree with it, "and he made his grave with the rich; and with the wicked in his death"; for he died between two thieves, and was buried in the sepulchre of Joseph of Arimathaea, a rich man. Or the meaning perhaps in general is, that, after his death, both rich men and wicked men were concerned in his sepulchre, and about his grave; two rich men, Nicodemus and Joseph, in taking down his body from the cross, in embalming it, and in laying it in the tomb of the latter; and wicked men, Roman soldiers, were employed in guarding the sepulchre, that his disciples might not take away the body. Or the sense is, "he" the people, the nation of the Jews, through whose enmity against him he suffered death, "gave", intended, and designed, that "his grave" should be with "the wicked"; and therefore accused him to the Roman governor, and got him condemned capitally, and condemned to a Roman death, crucifixion, that he might be buried where such sort of persons usually were; and then it may be supplied, "but he made it"; that is, God ordered and appointed, in his overruling providence, that it should be "with the rich in his death", as it was. Aben Ezra observes, that the word במתיו, which we translate "in his death", signifies a structure over a grave, "a sepulchral monument"; and then it may be rendered impersonally thus, "his grave was put or placed with the wicked, but his tomb", or sepulchral monument, was "with the rich"; his grave was indeed put under the care and custody of the wicked soldiers; yet a famous tomb being erected over it, at the expense of a rich man, Joseph of Arimathaea, which was designed for himself, made the burial of Christ honourable: which honour was done him,
because he had done no violence: or injury to any man's person or property; had not been guilty of rapine and oppression, theft and robbery; murder and cruelty; he had not been a stirrer up of sedition, an encourager of mobs, riots, and tumults, to the harm of the civil government:
neither was any deceit in his mouth: no false doctrine was delivered by him; he was no deceiver of the people, as he was charged; he did not attempt to seduce them from the true worship of God, or persuade them to believe anything contrary to the law of Moses, and the prophets; he was no enemy to church or state, nor indeed guilty of any manner of sin, nor given to any arts of trick and dissimulation; see 1 Peter 2:22. Some render the words, "though"
Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him,.... The sufferings of Christ are signified by his being "bruised"; See Gill on Isaiah 53:5, and as it was foretold he should have his heel bruised by the serpent, Genesis 3:15, but here it is ascribed to the Lord: he was bruised in body, when buffeted and scourged, and nailed to the cross; and was bruised and broken in spirit, when the sins of his people were laid on him, and the wrath of God came upon him for them: the Lord had a hand in his sufferings; he not only permitted them, but they were according to the counsel of his will; they were predetermined by him, Acts 2:23, yea, they were pleasing to him, he took a kind of delight and pleasure in them; not in them simply considered as sufferings, but as they were an accomplishment of his purposes, a fulfilment of his covenant and promises, and of the prophecies in his word; and, particularly, as hereby the salvation of his people was brought about; see John 10:17,
he hath put him to grief; when he awoke the sword of justice against him; when he spared him not, but delivered him up into the hands of wicked men, and unto death: he was put to grief in the garden, when his soul was exceeding sorrowful; and on the cross, when he was nailed to it, had the weight of his people's sins, and his Father's wrath, on him; and when he hid his face from him, which made him cry out, "my God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" or, "hath put him to pain": suffered him to be put to pain, both in body and mind:
when thou shall make his soul an offering for sin: not his soul only, but his body also, even his whole human nature, as in union with his divine Person; for it was he himself that was offered up in the room and stead of his people, to make atonement and satisfaction for their sins, Hebrews 9:14, or, "when thou shalt make his soul sin"
He shall see his seed; or, "a seed"; a spiritual seed and offspring; a large number of souls, that shall be born again, of incorruptible seed, as the fruit of his sufferings and death; see John 12:24, this he presently began to see after his resurrection from the dead, and ascension to heaven; when great numbers were converted among the Jews, and after that multitudes in the Gentile world, and more or less in all ages; ever since has he had a seed to serve him; and so he will in the latter day, and to the end of time:
he shall prolong his days: live long, throughout all ages, to all eternity; though he was dead, he is alive, and lives for evermore; lives to see all the children that the Father gave him, and he has gathered together by his death, when scattered abroad, and see them all born again, and brought to glory. Some connect this with the preceding clause, "he shall see a seed that shall prolong its days"
"they shall see the kingdom of their Messiah; they shall multiply sons and daughters; they shall prolong their days:'
and so Aben Ezra says these words are spoken of the generation that shall return to God, and to the true religion, at the coming of the Messiah.
And the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand; the work of man's redemption, put into the hands of Christ, which he undertook to accomplish; which was with him and before him, when he came into this world, and was his meat and drink to do; this he never left till he had finished it; so that it succeeded and prospered with him: and this may well be called "the pleasure of the Lord"; it was the good pleasure of his will; it was what he purposed and resolved; what his heart was set upon, and was well pleasing to him, as effected by his Son. Likewise the setting up of the kingdom and interest of Christ in the world, and the continuance and increase of it; the ministry of the word, and the success of that as the means thereof, may be also meant; for the Gospel will be preached, and a Gospel church still continued, until all the elect of God are gathered in.
He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied,.... "The travail of his soul" is the toil and labour he endured, in working out the salvation of his people; his obedience and death, his sorrows and sufferings; particularly those birth throes of his soul, under a sense of divine wrath, for the allusion is to women in travail; and all the agonies and pains of death which he went through. Now the fruit of all this he sees with inexpressible pleasure, and which gives him an infinite satisfaction; namely, the complete redemption of all the chosen ones, and the glory of the divine perfections displayed therein, as well as his own glory, which follows upon it; particularly this will be true of him as man and Mediator, when he shall have all his children with him in glory; see Hebrews 12:2. The words are by some rendered, "seeing himself or his soul freed from trouble, he shall be satisfied"
By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; Christ is the servant of the Lord; See Gill on Isaiah 53:1, Isaiah 49:3, Isaiah 52:13. He is said to be "righteous", because of the holiness of his nature, and the righteousness of his life as a man; and because of his faithful discharge of his work and office as Mediator; and because he is the author and bringer in of an everlasting righteousness, by which he justifies his people; that is, acquits and absolves them, pronounces them righteous, and frees them from condemnation and death; he is the procuring and meritorious cause of their justification; his righteousness is the matter of it; in him, as their Head, are they justified, and by him the sentence is pronounced: for this is to be understood not of making men holy and righteous inherently, that is sanctification; nor of a teaching men doctrinally the way and method of justifying men, which is no other than ministers do; but it is a forensic act, a pronouncing and declaring men righteous, as opposed to condemnation: and they are many who are so justified; the many who were ordained to eternal life; the many whose sins Christ bore, and gave his life a ransom for; the many sons that are brought by him to glory. This shows that they are not a few, which serves to magnify the grace of God, exalt the satisfaction and righteousness of Christ, and encourage distressed sinners to look to him for justification of life; and yet they are not all men, for all men have not faith, nor are they saved; though all Christ's spiritual seed and offspring shall be justified, and shall glory: and this is "by" or "through his knowledge"; the knowledge of him, of Christ, which is no other than faith in him, by which a man sees and knows him, and believes in him, as the Lord his righteousness; and this agrees with the New Testament doctrine of justification by faith; which is no other than the manifestation, knowledge, sense, and perception of it by faith.
For he shall bear their iniquities; this is the reason of Christ's justifying many, the ground and foundation of it; he undertook to satisfy for their sins; these, as before observed, were laid on him; being laid on him, he bore them, the whole of them, and all the punishment due to them; whereby he made satisfaction for them, and bore them away, so as they are to be seen no more; and upon this justification proceeds.
Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great,.... The great ones of the earth, the kings and princes of the earth: these are the words of God the Father, promising Christ that he shall have as great a part or portion assigned him as any of the mighty monarchs of the world, nay, one much more large and ample; that he would make him higher than the kings of the earth, and give him a name above every name in this world, or that to come; and all this in consequence of his sufferings, and as a reward of them; see Philemon 2:8 and whereas the Lord's people are his portion, and with which Christ is well pleased, and greatly delighted, Deuteronomy 32:9, they may be intended here, at least as a part of the portion which Christ has assigned him. For the words may be rendered
"therefore will I divide to him the prey of many people;'
and by the Septuagint version, therefore he shall inherit many, or possess many as his inheritance; so the Arabic version. The elect of God were given to Christ, previous to his sufferings and death, in the everlasting council of peace and covenant of grace, to be redeemed and saved by him; and they are given to him, in consequence of them, to believe in him, to be subject to him, and serve him; and so it denotes a great multitude of persons, both among Jews and Gentiles, that should be converted to Christ, embrace him, profess his Gospel, and submit to his ordinances; and which has been true in fact, and took place quickly after his resurrection and ascension.
And he shall divide the spoil with the strong; or "the strong as a spoil"; that is, he shall spoil principalities and powers, destroy Satan and his angels, and make an entire conquest of all his mighty and powerful enemies. The Septuagint, Vulgate Latin, and Arabic versions, render the words, "he shall divide the spoil of the strong"; of Satan and his principalities; those they make a spoil of he shall take out of their hands, and possess them as his own. The best comment on this version is Luke 11:22. Or rather the words may be rendered, "he shall have or possess for a spoil or prey very many"
Because he hath poured out his soul unto death; as water is poured out, Psalm 22:14 or rather as the wine was poured out in the libations or drink offerings; for Christ's soul was made an offering for sin, as before; and it may be said with respect to his blood, in which is the life, that was shed or poured out for the remission of sin; of which he was emptied,
and made bare, as the word
And he was numbered with the transgressors; he never was guilty of any one transgression of the law; he indeed appeared in the likeness of sinful flesh, and was calumniated and traduced as a sinner, and a friend of the worst of them; he was ranked among them, and charged as one of them, yet falsely; though, having all the sins of his people upon him, he was treated, even by the justice and law of God, as if he had been the transgressor, and suffered as if he had been one; of which his being crucified between two thieves was a symbolical representation, and whereby this Scripture was fulfilled, Mark 15:28.
and he bore the sin on many; everyone of their sins, even the sins of all those whose iniquity was laid on him, of the many chosen in him, and justified by him; See Gill on Isaiah 53:11 where this is given as the reason for their justification; and here repeated as if done, to show the certainty of it; to raise the attention of it, as being a matter of great importance; see 1 Peter 2:24.
And made intercession for the transgressors; as he did upon the cross, even for those that were the instruments of his death, Luke 23:34 and as he now does, in heaven, for all those sinners for whom he died; not merely in a petitionary way, but by presenting himself, blood, righteousness, and sacrifice; pleading the merits of these, and calling for, in a way of justice and legal demand, all those blessings which were stipulated in an everlasting covenant between him and his Father, to be given to his people, in consequence of his sufferings and death; see Romans 8:33.
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