Partner with as God uses us to make a difference for those displaced by Russia's war on Ukraine.
Click to donate today!

Bible Commentaries

Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary

Isaiah 53

Verses 1-3


1. For the most part, the message of the prophets, as that of the Servant (and later of His apostles), went unheeded, (vs. 1a; 2 Kings 7; Isaiah 6:9-12; Matthew 21:31-32; Luke 22:68; John 3:11; John 10:24-26; Acts 13:46; Acts 18:6; Acts 28:25-28; Romans 10:16-17; Romans 11:7-8; 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16).

a. Isaiah is evidently speaking here as a representative of the covenant-nation (at the time of their future restoration) when they, in astonishment, reverent awe, and deep remorse, inquire, in essence: "Who would have BELIEVED that such an one was truly the Messiah?"

b. It is an admission that they formerly DID NOT BELIEVE!

2. The "arm of the Lord", His strength, personified in the Christ, was revealed only to those whose ears were opened to His voice, and whose hearts were open to the exercise of His rightful lordship over their lives, (1b; Isaiah 51:9; Deuteronomy 4:33-35; Deuteronomy 5:15; Deuteronomy 26:8; 2 Chronicles 32:7-8; Jeremiah 17:5).

a. The figure is suggestive of the authority by which righteous judgment is executed, (John 5:22; John 5:27).

1) That "arm" was revealed in the incarnation, life, miracles, voluntary death, resurrection, and ascension of the Christ.

2) The same arm of strength that brings deliverance to His people will be a crushing force of destruction to their enemies.

b. It also suggests the power. by which He opens eyes to perceive, and hearts to understand, the word of the Lord, (Luke 24:25-32; Acts 16:14).

1) If one believes the message concerning the Servant, it is because God has enabled him to do so, (Ephesians 2:8-10).

2) Every true believer bears evidence that the arm or strength of the Lord has been revealed, (Philippians 2:12-13).

3. Such as were moved only by APPEARANCE would never have recognized the reality and identity of His person and mission (vs. 2) - "form" referring, not so much to His personal appearance, but to the state of humiliation in which the nation viewed Him.

a. "As a "tender plant", He grew to the maturity of a perfect manhood under the Father’s watchful, guiding, guarding, and loving eye.

b. The "dry ground" depicts Israel (an enslaved and degraded nation) as a spiritual desert that brought forth no fruit to the glory of God.

c. The mention of "root" (or "shoot") suggests that it was from the long humiliated and cast down "stump" of the Davidic house and kingdom that the Servant came forth, (Isaiah 11:1; Ezekiel 21:26-27; Luke 1:30-35; Matthew 4:17; Luke 19:14).

d. To the debased and perverted senses of a fallen humanity (and this refers to Israel first), there was nothing so attractive about His appearance as to make Him desirable; there was "no beauty that we should desire him", (vs. 2b).

e. Thus was He despised and rejected of men, (vs. 3; Isaiah 49:7; Psalms 22:6-8; Matthew 13:55; Mark 15:29-30; Luke 18:31-33; Luke 16:14; John 10:20).

1) He was a "man of sorrows" - sore afflictions, (vs. 3b).

"Man of Sorrows"! What a name!

For the Son of God Who came

Ruined sinners to reclaim!

HALLELUJAH! What a Saviour!

2) And He was intimately acquainted with grief - a grim companion to walk beside a man all His days! (vs. 3b).

3) As one from whom men hid their faces, he was shunned; nor was he esteemed, valued, or shown the slightest respect (John 1:10-11) by those who despised Him, (vs. 3c; Mark 10:33-34; contrast Isaiah 50:6).

Verses 4-6


1. Here is the confession of a repentant Israel - not yet fulfilled; it describes the heart-attitude that is essential before they can be restored to the covenant. In the blindness of unbelief the nation viewed their rightful Messiah as:

a. "Stricken" from above, (comp. Genesis 12:17; 2 Kings 15:5); so strong is this word that many have viewed the Servant as a leper - His disease so far advanced that men were horrified by His very appearance!

b. "Smitten of God" - an expression that is used elsewhere of the infliction of disease as a divine chastisement, (1 Samuel 5:12; Psalms 102:4; Hosea 9:16; John 19:7).

c. "Afflicted", wrapped about with suffering - which they regarded as a consequence of His own sin, (comp. Acts 3:13-21; 1 Corinthians 2:8).

2. In the day of enlightenment Israel will recognize the truth: here the idea of divine substitution is perfectly expressed; it is FOR US that He suffered!

a. He has "borne OUR griefs" (sickness, weakness and distress), "and carried our sorrows" - involving the pain and punishment due OUR SINS, (vs. 4a; Isaiah 63:9; Hebrews 4:15). The word "borne" is clearly connected with sacrifices and expiation, (Leviticus 5:1; Leviticus 5:17; Leviticus 16:22).

1) Though Matthew sees in this a reference to our Lord’s healing of physical ailments (Matthew 8:17), its main emphasis is on the spiritual.

2) The Lord did not heal everyone during His personal ministry; nor does he do so today, (comp. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10; 2 Timothy 4:20; 1 Timothy 5:23).

b. It was for OUR transgressions (those who have so wretchedly misjudged the truth concerning Him) that He was "pierced through". (vs. 5a, 8; Psalms 22:16; Hebrews 9:28); for OUR "iniquities" He was smitten, crushed, bruised or broken, (vs. 5-b, 10; Romans 4:25; Romans 5:6-8; 1 Corinthians 15:3; Ephesians 5:2; comp. Genesis 3:15); Isaiah uses the strongest words possible to describe a violent and agonizing death!

c. The divinely-administered chastisement that fell upon the Suffering Servant was the very thing that provides our PEACE - not only our general well-being, but our salvation and restoration to a relationship of peace with God, (vs. 5-c; Hebrews 5:8; Philippians 2:7-8).

d. It is by, or through, His "stripes" that we are healed (from our rebellion and backslidings) - restored to spiritual soundness and fellowship with the heavenly Father, (vs. 5-d; 1 Peter 2:24-25).

e. Like wandering sheep, WE are ALL GONE ASTRAY - each one demanding freedom and independence for working out his own destiny, (vs. 6-a).

1) Created with the power of self-determination, mankind has persistently demonstrated a spirit of self-will - rejecting, even failing to consider, the will of God, Ephesians 5:18.

2) Made in the image of God, and destined to share His very nature and deity, rebellious man has become self-centered instead of God-centered.

f. But, instead of destroying the rebel race, God has caused the total weight of our wretchedness and sin to fall, with terrific impact, upon His obedient and faithful Servant - sparing not His own beloved Son, but freely delivering Him up FOR US ALL!! (vs. 6-b; Romans 5:16-17; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 8:32).

3. Under the influence of the Holy Spirit, Peter uses this passage to remind the household of faith that the suffering Servant is the "Shepherd and Bishop" of their souls, (1 Peter 2:24-25). He is:

a. The Good Shepherd - who lays down His life for the sheep (John 10:11).

b. The Great Shepherd - risen from the dead and interceeding at the Father’s right hand, (Hebrews 13:20-21).

c. The Chief Shepherd - whose glorious second coming, to rule righteously over all the earth, is the blessed expectation of His believing people, (1 Peter 5:4; Titus 2:11-14).

Verses 7-9


1. Though perfectly innocent, the Suffering Servant is unresisting and uncomplaining, (vs. 7).

a. See what oppression and afflictions are heaped upon Him! (Isaiah 50:6; Matthew 26:68-68; John 19:1-7; Matthew 27:27-31). Yet, He utters no word of complaint, and offers no resistance, (vs. 7a).

b. Brought as a lamb to the slaughter, He is silent as a sheep before her shearers - opening not His mouth, (vs.. 7b).

c. only when "adjured by the living God", and when silence would have implied the withdrawal of His claim to deity, did He speak before the Council (Matthew 26:63-64), and before Pilate (John 18:33-37; John 19:10-12 a); Herod heard not a single syllable from His lips! (Luke 23:8-9).

d. Thus, it is evident that He accepted the cross willingly - out of love for His Father and for a lost world, (Psalms 40:8; Heb 5-8-9; Galatians 1:4; Galatians 2:20).

2. The grand purpose of the Servant’s suffering was misunderstood by all, (vs. 8).

a. With a solemn prophetic reticence, the treatment He is to receive, at the hands of sinful men, is described as being: "taken away", "cut off" and "stricken" - carefully veiled language which suggests the sudden and violent end that He is to meet.

b. Though it is clear that His death will involve nothing short of judicial murder, Isaiah leaves in obscurity the actual agents through which it is to be accomplished; it is sufficient to know that man’s end will be accomplished only through such wresting of the law as is flagrantly unjust, and through the blind instruments of a higher, over-ruling and providential power, (Acts 2:22-24; 1 Peter 1:18-21; Revelation 13:8).

c. And Isaiah clearly foresees a wholesale blindness as to the PURPOSE of the Servant’s death; He will die misunderstood, despised and alone - that we might not have to take that journey in lonely solitude, (Matthew 26:56; Mark 14:50; Psalms 22:1; Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34; Psalms 23:4; Hebrews 13:5-6).

3. In such minute detail, and with such unwavering precision, does the prophet describe the crucifixion and burial of Jesus Christ that He could only have written under the power of divine illumination and direction, (vs. 9; 2 Peter 1:21).

a. It was as a sinner, and with sinners, that He was to be crucified - and so did wicked men intend to deal with His corpse.

b. But, because He had never sinned (in word or deed), divine providence so over-ruled their wicked designs that loving hands took Him down from the cross and laid him in a rich man’s new tomb, (Matthew 27:57-60).

Verses 10-12


1. The prophecy concerning the Suffering Servant reaches its glorious climax in these last three verses.

2. The perplexing mystery of God’s treatment of His righteous Servant is solved ONLY when it is understood that the sinless One is offering His LIFE (soul) as an OFFERING for our sins, (vs. 10).

a. Here is the prophetic explanation of what the suffering is all about.

b. God has purposed that His Servant should be bruised and put to grief - His soul (life) sacrificed as an offering for the sin of a fallen race, (John 3:16; 1 John 4:10).

a. Here is the prophetic explanation of what the suffering is all about.

b. God has purposed that His Servant should be bruised and put to grief - His soul (life) sacrificed as an offering for the sin of a fallen race, (John 3:16; 1 John 4:10).

c. But such an ignominious death will, by no means, be the END of the Servant; His work will have only begun. Following the voluntary sacrifice of His own life:

1) He will see His seed (offspring) - those who are redeemed and set in positions of divine sonship through His sufferings and death, (Revelation 1:5-6; Revelation 5:9-10; Galatians 3:26).

2) He will prolong His days - being made alive FOREVERMORE, (John 10:15; John 17-18; Revelation 1:18).

3) And the eternal purpose of the Father will progressively move forward under His control; this involves His present mediatoral work as our great High Priest, and will ultimately involve His exercise of universal dominion as King of kings and Lord of lords in His coming Kingdom of righteousness, (Philippians 2:9-11; Hebrews 4:14-16; Daniel 7:13-14; John 5:26-27; Matthew 28:18; 1 Corinthians 15:24-26).

3. It is a heavenly voice that one hears in verse 11; the Father declares His pleasure in, and the reward that is to be bestowed upon, His obedient Servant and Son!

a. It is the Servant Himself who shall see the realization of that for which His soul was in travail - the glorious FRUITION of His suffering, wherein He will find great satisfaction.

b. By His knowledge (or, through the knowledge of Himself; John 17:3; 1 John 5:20; comp. 1 Peter 1:3) the Servant will "justify many"; that is, He will positively DECLARE them to be RIGHTEOUS.

1) It is strange that both translators and commentators are so careless and inconsistent in their dealings with the word "justification - often forcing upon it the idea of "making righteous" or a bestowing of righteousness.

2) However, it is primarily a JUDICIAL word - contrasted with, and set as the very antithesis of, "condemnation", (Romans 5:18).

3) Instead of being something that HAPPENS to a person, it involves a DECLARATION CONCERNING HIM - concerning the character of his living; justification is "of life" (Romans 5:18), and is always God’s response to the attitudes and actions of men which spring from faith, (Romans 5:1; Galatians 2:16; Galatians 3:24; etc.)

4) Justification is possible because the righteous Servant has borne our iniquities - being "made sin" for us, that we might "be made the righteousness of God" IN HIM, (2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 3:20-30).

4. In whatever way one may choose to explain the first two clauses of verse 11, it is the glorious climax of this prophecy; He who was despised, rejected and crucified of men is to be so divinely exalted that the whole earth will see His glory and acknowledge His rightful lordship - as He leads a host of captives (delivered through His blood) in His train!

5. The foundation of such exaltation and dominion is in the faithful fulfillment of His Servant-role wherein He:

a. Poured out His soul (life) unto death, (Luke 9:23-25; comp. (Luke 2:48-52).

b. Was numbered (reckoned, counted) with the transgressors, (Luke 22:35-38).

c. Bare the sins of many.

1) Symbolically previewed in the "scapegoat" which, figuratively, carried the sins of the covenant nation into a solitary land, (Leviticus 16:7-10).

2) But, John the Baptist recognized Him, at the very beginning of His earthly ministry, as "the lamb of God" who would take away "the sin of the world"! (John 1:29).

d. Yet, He is now ALIVE FOREVERMORE - to "make intercession FOR THE TRANSGRESSORS! (Hebrews 4:14-16; Hebrews 7:25).

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Blessed Hope Foundation and the Baptist Training Center.
Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Isaiah 53". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. 1985.