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Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Isaiah 53

Verse 1

Isaiah 53:1-12. Man‘s unbelief: Messiah‘s vicarious sufferings, and final triumph for man.

The speaker, according to Horsley, personates the repenting Jews in the latter ages of the world coming over to the faith of the Redeemer; the whole is their penitent confession. This view suits the context (Isaiah 52:7-9), which is not to be fully realized until Israel is restored. However, primarily, it is the abrupt exclamation of the prophet: “Who hath believed our report,” that of Isaiah and the other prophets, as to Messiah? The infidel‘s objection from the unbelief of the Jews is anticipated and hereby answered: that unbelief and the cause of it (Messiah‘s humiliation, whereas they looked for One coming to reign) were foreseen and foretold.

report — literally, “the thing heard,” referring to which sense Paul says, “So, then, faith cometh by hearing” (Romans 10:16, Romans 10:17).

arm — power (Isaiah 40:10); exercised in miracles and in saving men (Romans 1:16; 1 Corinthians 1:18). The prophet, as if present during Messiah‘s ministry on earth, is deeply moved to see how few believed on Him (Isaiah 49:4; Mark 6:6; Mark 9:19; Acts 1:15). Two reasons are given why all ought to have believed: (1) The “report” of the “ancient prophets.” (2) “The arm of Jehovah” exhibited in Messiah while on earth. In Horsley‘s view, this will be the penitent confession of the Jews, “How few of our nation, in Messiah‘s days, believed in Him!”


Verse 2

tender plant — Messiah grew silently and insensibly, as a sucker from an ancient stock, seemingly dead (namely, the house of David, then in a decayed state) (see on Isaiah 11:1).

shall grow … hath — rather, “grew up … had.”

before him — before Jehovah. Though unknown to the world (John 1:11), Messiah was observed by God, who ordered the most minute circumstances attending His growth.

root — that is, sprout from a root.

form — beautiful form: sorrow had marred His once beautiful form.

and when we shall see — rather, joined with the previous words, “Nor comeliness (attractiveness) that we should look (with delight) on Him.”

there is — rather, “was.” The studied reticence of the New Testament as to His form, stature, color, etc., was designed to prevent our dwelling on the bodily, rather than on His moral beauty, holiness, love, etc., also a providential protest against the making and veneration of images of Him. The letter of P. Lentulus to the emperor Tiberius, describing His person, is spurious; so also the story of His sending His portrait to Abgar, king of Edessa; and the alleged impression of His countenance on the handkerchief of Veronica. The former part of this verse refers to His birth and childhood; the latter to His first public appearance [Vitringa].


Verse 3

rejected — “forsaken of men” [Gesenius]. “Most abject of men.” Literally, “He who ceases from men,” that is, is no longer regarded as a man [Hengstenberg]. (See on Isaiah 52:14; Isaiah 49:7).

man of sorrows — that is, whose distinguishing characteristic was sorrows.

acquainted with — familiar by constant contact with.

grief — literally, “disease”; figuratively for all kinds of calamity (Jeremiah 6:14); leprosy especially represented this, being a direct judgment from God. It is remarkable Jesus is not mentioned as having ever suffered under sickness.

and we hid … faces — rather, as one who causes men to hide their faces from Him (in aversion) [Maurer]. Or, “He was as an hiding of the face before it,” that is, as a thing before which a man covers his face in disgust [Hengstenberg]. Or, “as one before whom is the covering of the face”; before whom one covers the face in disgust [Gesenius].

we — the prophet identifying himself with the Jews. See Horsley‘s view (see on Isaiah 53:1).

esteemed … notnegative contempt; the previous words express positive.


Verse 4
our griefs — literally, “But yet He hath taken (or borne) our sicknesses,” that is, they who despised Him because of His human infirmities ought rather to have esteemed Him on account of them; for thereby “Himself took ourinfirmities” (bodily diseases). So Matthew 8:17 quotes it. In the Hebrew for “borne,” or took, there is probably the double notion, He took on Himself vicariously (so Isaiah 53:5, Isaiah 53:6, Isaiah 53:8, Isaiah 53:12), and so He took away; His perfect humanity whereby He was bodily afflicted for us, and in all our afflictions (Isaiah 63:9; Hebrews 4:15) was the ground on which He cured the sick; so that Matthew‘s quotation is not a mere accommodation. See Note 42 of Archbishop Magee, Atonement. The Hebrew there may mean to overwhelm with darkness; Messiah‘s time of darkness was temporary (Matthew 27:45), answering to the bruising of His heel; Satan‘s is to be eternal, answering to the bruising of his head (compare Isaiah 50:10).

carried … sorrows — The notion of substitution strictly. “Carried,” namely, as a burden. “Sorrows,” that is, pains of the mind; as “griefs” refer to pains of the body (Psalm 32:10; Psalm 38:17). Matthew 8:17 might seem to oppose this: “And bare our sicknesses.” But he uses “sicknesses” figuratively for sins, the cause of them. Christ took on Himself all man‘s “infirmities;” so as to remove them; the bodily by direct miracle, grounded on His participation in human infirmities; those of the soul by His vicarious suffering, which did away with the source of both. Sin and sickness are ethically connected as cause and effect (Isaiah 33:24; Psalm 103:3; Matthew 9:2; John 5:14; James 5:15).

we did esteem him stricken — judicially [Lowth], namely, for His sins; whereas it was for ours. “We thought Him to be a leper” [Jerome, Vulgate], leprosy being the direct divine judgment for guilt (Leviticus 13:1-59; Numbers 12:10, Numbers 12:15; 2 Chronicles 26:18-21).

smitten — by divine judgments.

afflicted — for His sins; this was the point in which they so erred (Luke 23:34; Acts 3:17; 1 Corinthians 2:8). He was, it is true, “afflicted,” but not for His sins.


Verse 5

wounded — a bodily wound; not mere mental sorrow; literally, “pierced”; minutely appropriate to Messiah, whose hands, feet, and side were pierced (Psalm 22:16). The Margin, wrongly, from a Hebrew root, translates, “tormented.”

for … for — (Romans 4:25; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 9:28; 1 Peter 2:24; 1 Peter 3:18) - the cause for which He suffered not His own, but our sins.

bruised — crushing inward and outward suffering (see on Isaiah 53:10).

chastisement — literally, the correction inflicted by a parent on children for their good (Hebrews 12:5-8, Hebrews 12:10, Hebrews 12:11). Not punishment strictly; for this can have place only where there is guilt, which He had not; but He took on Himself the chastisement whereby the peace (reconciliation with our Father; Romans 5:1; Ephesians 2:14, Ephesians 2:15, Ephesians 2:17) of the children of God was to be effected (Hebrews 2:14).

upon him — as a burden; parallel to “hath borne” and “carried.”

stripes — minutely prophetical of His being scourged (Matthew 27:26; 1 Peter 2:24).

healed — spiritually (Psalm 41:4; Jeremiah 8:22).


Verse 6

Penitent confession of believers and of Israel in the last days (Zechariah 12:10).

sheep … astray — (Psalm 119:176; 1 Peter 2:25). The antithesis is, “In ourselves we were scattered; in Christ we are collected together; by nature we wander, driven headlong to destruction; in Christ we find the way to the gate of life” [Calvin]. True, also, literally of Israel before its coming restoration (Ezekiel 34:5, Ezekiel 34:6; Zechariah 10:2, Zechariah 10:6; compare with Ezekiel 34:23, Ezekiel 34:24; Jeremiah 23:4, Jeremiah 23:5; also Matthew 9:36).

laid — “hath made to light on Him” [Lowth]. Rather, “hath made to rush upon Him” [Maurer].

the iniquity — that is, its penalty; or rather, as in 2 Corinthians 5:21; He was not merely a sin offering (which would destroy the antithesis to “righteousness”), but “sin for us”; sin itself vicariously; the representative of the aggregate sin of all mankind; not sins in the plural, for the “sin” of the world is one (Romans 5:16, Romans 5:17); thus we are made not merely righteous, but righteousness, even “the righteousness of God.” The innocent was punished as if guilty, that the guilty might be rewarded as if innocent. This verse could be said of no mere martyr.


Verse 7

oppressed — Lowth translates, “It was exacted, and He was made answerable.” The verb means, “to have payment of a debt sternly exacted” (Deuteronomy 15:2, Deuteronomy 15:3), and so to be oppressed in general; the exaction of the full penalty for our sins in His sufferings is probably alluded to.

and … afflicted — or, and yet He suffered, or bore Himself patiently, etc. [Hengstenberg and Maurer]. Lowth‘s translation, “He was made answerable,” is hardly admitted by the Hebrew.

opened not … mouthJeremiah 11:19; and David in Psalm 38:13, Psalm 38:14; Psalm 39:9, prefiguring Messiah (Matthew 26:63; Matthew 27:12, Matthew 27:14; 1 Peter 2:23).


Verse 8
from,” not “by … by.” But “prison” is not true of Jesus, who was not incarcerated; restraint and bonds (John 18:24) more accord with the Hebrew. Acts 8:33; translate as the Septuagint: “In His humiliation His judgment (legal trial) was taken away”; the virtual sense of the Hebrew as rendered by Lowth and sanctioned by the inspired writer of Acts; He was treated as one so mean that a fair trial was denied Him (Matthew 26:59; Mark 14:55-59). Horsley translates, “After condemnation and judgment He was accepted.

who … declare … generation — who can set forth (the wickedness of) His generation? that is, of His contemporaries [Alford on Acts 8:33 ], which suits best the parallelism, “the wickedness of His generation” corresponding to “oppressive judgment.” But Luther, “His length of life,” that is, there shall be no end of His future days (Isaiah 53:10; Romans 6:9). Calvin includes the days of His Church, which is inseparable from Himself. Hengstenberg, “His posterity.” He, indeed, shall be cut off, but His race shall be so numerous that none can fully declare it. Chyrsostom, etc., “His eternal sonship and miraculous incarnation.”

cut off — implying a violent death (Daniel 9:26).

my people — Isaiah, including himself among them by the word “my” [Hengstenberg]. Rather, Jehovah speaks in the person of His prophet, “My people,” by the election of grace (Hebrews 2:13).

was he strickenHebrew, “the stroke (was laid) upon Him.” Gesenius says the Hebrew means “them”; the collective body, whether of the prophets or people, to which the Jews refer the whole prophecy. But Jerome, the Syriac, and Ethiopiac versions translate it “Him”; so it is singular in some passages; Psalm 11:7, His; Job 27:23, Him; Isaiah 44:15, thereto. The Septuagint, the Hebrew, {lamo}, “upon Him,” read the similar words, {lamuth}, “unto death,” which would at once set aside the Jewish interpretation, “upon them.” Origen, who laboriously compared the Hebrew with the Septuagint, so read it, and urged it against the Jews of his day, who would have denied it to be the true reading if the word had not then really so stood in the Hebrew text [Lowth]. If his sole authority be thought insufficient, perhaps lamo may imply that Messiah was the representative of the collective body of all men; hence the equivocal plural-singular form.


Verse 9

Rather, “His grave was appointed,” or “they appointed Him His grave” [Hengstenberg]; that is, they intended (by crucifying Him with two thieves, Matthew 27:38) that He should have His grave “with the wicked.” Compare John 19:31, the denial of honorable burial being accounted a great ignominy (see on Isaiah 14:19; Jeremiah 26:23).

and with … rich — rather, “but He was with a rich man,” etc. Gesenius, for the parallelism to “the wicked,” translates “ungodly” (the effect of riches being to make one ungodly); but the Hebrew everywhere means “rich,” never by itself ungodly; the parallelism, too, is one of contrast; namely, between their design and the fact, as it was ordered by God (Matthew 27:57; Mark 15:43-46; John 19:39, John 19:40); two rich men honored Him at His death, Joseph of Arimathaea, and Nicodemus.

in his deathHebrew, “deaths.” Lowth translates, “His tomb”; {bamoth}, from a different root, meaning “high places,” and so mounds for sepulture (Ezekiel 43:7). But all the versions oppose this, and the Hebrew hardly admits it. Rather translate, “after His death” [Hengstenberg]; as we say, “at His death.” The plural, “deaths,” intensifies the force; as Adam by sin “dying died” (Genesis 2:17, Margin); that is, incurred death, physical and spiritual. So Messiah, His substitute, endured death in both senses; spiritual, during His temporary abandonment by the Father; physical, when He gave up the ghost.

because — rather, as the sense demands (so in Job 16:17), “although He had done no,” etc. [Hengstenberg], (1 Peter 2:20-22; 1 John 3:5).

violence — that is, wrong.


Verse 10

Transition from His humiliation to His exaltation.

pleased the Lord — the secret of His sufferings. They were voluntarily borne by Messiah, in order that thereby He might “do Jehovah‘s will” (John 6:38; Hebrews 10:7, Hebrews 10:9), as to man‘s redemption; so at the end of the verse, “the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.”

bruise — (see Isaiah 53:5); Genesis 3:15, was hereby fulfilled, though the Hebrew word for “bruise,” there, is not the one used here. The word “Himself,” in Matthew, implies a personal bearing on Himself of our maladies, spiritual and physical, which included as a consequence His ministration to our bodily ailments: these latter are the reverse side of sin; His bearing on Him our spiritual malady involved with it His bearing sympathetically, and healing, the outward: which is its fruits and its type. Hengstenberg rightly objects to Magee‘s translation, “taken away,” instead of “borne,” that the parallelism to “carried” would be destroyed. Besides, the Hebrew word elsewhere, when connected with sin, means to bear it and its punishment (Ezekiel 18:20). Matthew, elsewhere, also sets forth His vicarious atonement (Matthew 20:28).

when thou, etc. — rather, as Margin, “when His soul (that is, He) shall have made an offering,” etc. In the English Version the change of person is harsh: from Jehovah, addressed in the second person (Isaiah 53:10), to Jehovah speaking in the first person in Isaiah 53:11. The Margin rightly makes the prophet in the name of Jehovah Himself to speak in this verse.

offering for sin — (Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:2; 1 John 4:10).

his seed — His spiritual posterity shall be numerous (Psalm 22:30); nay, more, though He must die, He shall see them. A numerous posterity was accounted a high blessing among the Hebrews; still more so, for one to live to see them (Genesis 48:11; Psalm 128:6).

prolong … days — also esteemed a special blessing among the Jews (Psalm 91:16). Messiah shall, after death, rise again to an endless life (Hosea 6:2; Romans 6:9).

prosper — (Isaiah 52:13, Margin).


Verse 11

Jehovah is still speaking.

see of the travail — He shall see such blessed fruits resulting from His sufferings as amply to repay Him for them (Isaiah 49:4, Isaiah 49:5; Isaiah 50:5, Isaiah 50:9). The “satisfaction,” in seeing the full fruit of His travail of soul in the conversion of Israel and the world, is to be realized in the last days (Isaiah 2:2-4).

his knowledge — rather, the knowledge (experimentally) of Him (John 17:3; Philemon 3:10).

my … servant — Messiah (Isaiah 42:1; Isaiah 52:13).

righteous — the ground on which He justifies others, His own righteousness (1 John 2:1).

justify — treat as if righteous; forensically; on the ground of His meritorious suffering, not their righteousness.

bear … iniquities — (Isaiah 53:4, Isaiah 53:5), as the sinner‘s substitute.


Verse 12

divide — as a conqueror dividing the spoil after a victory (Psalm 2:8; Luke 11:22).

him — for Him.

with … great — Hengstenberg translates, “I will give Him the mighty for a portion”; so the Septuagint. But the parallel clause, “with the strong,” favors English Version. His triumphs shall be not merely among the few and weak, but among the many and mighty.

spoil … strong — (Colossians 2:15; compare Proverbs 16:19). “With the great; with the mighty,” may mean, as a great and mighty hero.

poured out … soul — that is, His life, which was considered as residing in the blood (Leviticus 17:11; Romans 3:25).

numbered with, etc. — not that He was a transgressor, but He was treated as such, when crucified with thieves (Mark 15:28; Luke 22:37).

made intercession, etc. — This office He began on the cross (Luke 23:34), and now continues in heaven (Isaiah 59:16; Hebrews 9:24; 1 John 2:1). Understand because before “He was numbered … He bare … made intercession.” His meritorious death and intercession are the cause of His ultimate triumph. Maurer, for the parallelism, translates, “He was put on the same footing with the transgressors.” But English Version agrees better with the Hebrew, and with the sense and fact as to Christ. Maurer‘s translation would make a tautology after “He was numbered with the transgressors”; parallelism does not need so servile a repetition. “He made intercession for,” etc., answers to the parallel, “He was numbered with,” etc., as effect answers to cause, His intercession for sinners being the effect flowing from His having been numbered with them.


Copyright Statement
These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.

Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Isaiah 53:12". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory

on the Whole Bible". "http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/view.cgi?book=isa&chapter=53&verse=12". 1871.

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