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Bible Commentaries

Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Isaiah 53



The incredulity of the Jews: the death of Christ, and the blessed effects thereof, Isaiah 53:1-11; his exaltation and glory, Isaiah 53:12.

Verse 1

Who hath believed our report? the prophet having in the three last verses of the former chapter made a general report concerning the great and wonderful humiliation and exaltation of Christ, of which he intended more largely to discourse in this chapter, before he descended to particulars he thought fit to use this preface.

Who, not only of the Gentiles, but even of the Jews, will believe the truth-of what I have said and must say? Few or none. The generality of them will never receive nor believe in such a Messias as this. Thus this place is expounded by Christ himself, John 12:38, and by Paul, Romans 10:16. And this premonition was highly necessary, both to caution the Jews that they should not stumble at this stone, and to instruct the Gentiles that they should not be surprised, nor scandalized, nor seduced with their example.

The arm of the Lord; either,

1. The word of God, called the report in the former clause; the doctrine of the gospel, which is expressly called the power of God, 1 Corinthians 1:18, because of that admirable virtue and success which accompanied the preaching of it. Or,

2. The Messiah, who also is called the arm or power of God, 1 Corinthians 1:24; and that most fitly, because the almighty power of God was both seated in him, and declared and exercised by him in his powerful words and mighty deeds, as Simon for some great works wrought by him was called by the Samaritans the power of God, Acts 8:10.

Revealed; not outwardly, for so Christ was revealed and preached to vast numbers, both of Jews and Gentiles, as is evident from this context, arid from divers other places of Scripture; but inwardly and with power to their minds and hearts, of which kind of revelation see Ephesians 1:17-19, and compare it with 2 Corinthians 4:4. Thus even Moses, though sufficiently revealed to the eyes and ears of the Jews, yet is said to be unrevealed or hid from their minds and hearts, 2 Corinthians 3:14,2 Corinthians 3:15. The sense of the place is, few or none of the Jews will believe the gospel, or receive their Messiah when he comes among them.

Verse 2

For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground; and the reason or occasion why the Jews will so generally reject their Messiah, is because he shall not come into the world with secular pomp and power, like an earthly monarch, as they carnally and groundlessly imagined; but

he shall grow up (or, spring up, Heb. ascend, to wit, out of the ground, as it follows, brought forth, and brought up)

before him (before the unbelieving Jews, of whom he spake Isaiah 53:1, and that in the singular number, as here, who were witnesses of his mean original; and therefore despised him, according to Christ’s observation, John 4:44; or, as others, according to his face, or outward appearance, as he was man; whereby he sufficiently implies that he had another, a far higher, and a Divine nature in him)

as a tender plant, ( or, as this very word is translated, Ezekiel 17:4, a young twig, which is a small and inconsiderable thing,)

and as a root (as Christ is called, Romans 15:12, and elsewhere; or, as a branch; the root being put metonymically for the branch growing out of the root, as it is apparently used, where Christ is called the root of Jesse, and of David, Isaiah 11:10; Revelation 5:5, and in other places, as 2 Chronicles 22:10)

out of a dry ground; out of a mean and barren soil, whose productions are generally poor and contemptible: either,

1. Out of the womb of a virgin; but that was no ground of contempt; or,

2. Of the Jewish nation, which was then poor, and despised, and enslaved; or,

3. Out of the poor, and decayed, and contemptible family, such as the royal family of David was at that time.

He hath no form nor comeliness; his bodily presence and condition in the world shall be mean and contemptible.

When we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him; when we shall look upon him, expecting to find incomparable beauty and majesty in his countenance, and carriage, and condition, we shall be altogether disappointed, and shall meet with nothing amiable or desirable in him. This the prophet speaketh in the person of the carnal and unbelieving Jews, we, i.e. our people, the Jewish nation.

Verse 3

He is despised and rejected of men; accounted as the scum of mankind, as one unworthy of the company and conversation of all men.

A man of sorrows; whose whole life was filled with, and in a manner made up of, an uninterrupted succession of sorrows and sufferings.

Acquainted with grief; who had constant experience of and familiar converse with grievous afflictions; for knowledge is oft taken practically, or for experience, as Genesis 3:5; 2 Corinthians 5:21, and elsewhere.

We hid as it were our faces from him; we scorned and loathed to look upon him. Or, as others,

he hid as it were his face from us, as one ashamed to show his face, or to be seen by any men, as persons conscious to themselves of any great deformity do commonly shun the sight of men, as lepers did, Leviticus 13:45.

He was despised, and we esteemed him not: here are divers words expressing the same thing, to signify both the utmost degree of contempt, and how strange and wonderful a thing it was, that so excellent a person should be so despised.

Verse 4

Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: and whereas it may seem all unreasonable and incredible thing, that so excellent and glorious, and so innocent and just, a person should meet with this usage, it must be known that his griefs and miseries were not laid upon him for his own sake, but wholly and solely for the sake of sinful men, in whose stead he stood, and for whose sins he suffered, as it here follows.

Yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted; yet our people, the Jews, were so far from giving him the glory and praise of such a prodigious condescension and compassion, that they made a most perverse construction of it; and so great was their prejudice against him, that they believed that he was thus disgraced and punished, and at last put to death, by the just judgment of God, for his blasphemy and other manifold wickednesses.

Verse 5

But; but this was a most false and unrighteous sentence.

He was wounded; which word comprehends all his pains and punishments, and his death among and above the rest.

For our transgressions; not by them, which is expressed by another particle, not by the wickedness of the Jews; but for or because of them, as this particle commonly signifies, for the guilt of their sins, which he had voluntarily taken upon himself, and for the expiation of their sins, which was hereby purchased and procured of God for men. Which interpretation is confirmed,

1. By the opposition of this truth to the false opinion mentioned in the foregoing clause, that he was smitten of God for the guilt of his own sins.

2. By the following clause, as we shall see.

3. By the nature of the thing; this being evident from scriptures both from the Old and New Testament, that Christ was not to suffer for his own, but for other men’s sins. See Daniel 9:24,Daniel 9:26.

The chastisement of our peace; those punishments by which our peace, i.e. our reconciliation to God, and salvation, or happiness, was to be purchased.

Was upon him; was laid upon him by God’s justice with his own consent.

With his stripes we are healed; by his sufferings we are saved from our sins, and from the dreadful effects thereof.

Verse 6

All we, all mankind, the Jews no less than the Gentiles,

like sheep, which are simple and foolish creatures, and exceeding apt to straggle and lose themselves, have gone astray from God, and from the way of his precepts, in which he put our first parents, and in which he commanded us to walk.

To his own way; in general, to the way and course of sin, which may well be called a man’s own way, as sins are called men’s own lusts, James 1:14; 2 Peter 3:3, and elsewhere, because sin is natural to us, inherent in us, born with us, and very dear to us; and in particular, to those several paths of divers lusts which several men choose and follow, according to their differing opinions, inclinations, occasions, and circumstances.

Hath laid, Heb. hath made to meet, as all the rivers meet in the sea.

The iniquity; not properly, for so he knew no sin, 2 Corinthians 5:21; but the punishment of iniquity, as that word is most frequently used, as Genesis 4:1:3; Leviticus 20:17, &c.; that which was due for all the sins of all his people, whether Jews or Gentiles, which must needs be so great and heavy a lead, that if he had not been God as well as man, he must have sunk under the burden of them. This was actually verified in Christ. And both this and divers other passages here do as manifestly and fully point at Christ, as if they were not a prophetical representation of things to come, but an historical relation of them after they were done. Nor do I see how they can be excused from the fearful wresting of the Scripture that expound these places of the prophet Jeremiah, of any other person but Christ.

Verse 7

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted; he was sorely punished for our sins. But there is another translation, which seems to be more emphatical, and more agreeable to the Hebrew text; It (to wit, our iniquity last mentioned, or the punishment of all our sins) was exacted or required, (as this word most properly and frequently signifies, of which see my Latin Synopsis. God’s justice expected and required satisfaction from us for our sins; which, alas! we could not make to him,)

and he was afflicted or punished; he bore the guilt and punishment of our sins in his body upon the tree, as is said, 1 Peter 2:24; or, as others render this last word, and he answered, i.e. became our surety, or undertook to pay the debt, and to suffer the law in our stead, and for our sake.

Yet he opened not his mouth; he neither murmured against God for causing him to suffer for other men’s sins, nor reviled men for punishing him without cause, nor used apologies or endeavours to save his own life; but willingly and patiently accepted of the punishment of our iniquity.

Is dumb; bears the loss of its fleece or life without any such clamour or resistance as other creatures use in such cases.

Verse 8

He was taken from prison and from judgment: these words are understood either,

1. Of Christ’s humiliation or suffering; and then the words are to be thus rendered,

He was taken away (to wit, out of this life, as this word is used, Psalms 31:13; Proverbs 1:19, and elsewhere; he was put to death) by distress (or violence, or tyranny, as this word is used with this preposition before it, Psalms 107:39) and judgment; by oppression and violence, under a form and pretence of justice. Or rather,

2. Of Christ’s exaltation, because of the following clause; which is not unseasonably mentioned in the midst of his sufferings, to take off the scandal which might have arisen from Christ’s sufferings, if there had not been a prospect and assurance of his victoriousness over them, and his glory after them; and so the words may be rendered, He was taken up (or, taken away, freed or delivered) from prison (i.e. from the grave, which being called a house, Job 30:23, and a pit, in which men are shut up Psalms 69:15, may fitly be called a prison; or, from distress or affliction, or oppression, from the power and malice of his enemies, and from the torments of his own soul, arising from the sense of men’s sins and God’s displeasure) and from judgment, i.e. from all the sufferings and punishments inflicted upon him, either by the unrighteous judgment of men, or by the just judgment of God, punishing him for those sins which he had voluntarily taken upon himself; or, which is the same tiling, from the sentence of condemnation, and all the effects of it; for in this sense judgment is very commonly taken both in Scripture and other authors.

Who shall declare? who can declare it? the future being taken potentially, as it is frequently; no words can sufficiently express it.

His generation; either,

1. His age, or the continuance of his life. So the sense is, that he shall not only be delivered from death, and all his punishments, but also shall be restored to an inexpressible or endless life; and to an everlasting kingdom. Thus great interpreters understand it; with whom I cannot comply, because I do not find this Hebrew word to be ever used in Scripture of the continuance of one man’s life. Or rather,

2. His posterity; and so this word is unquestionably used, Genesis 15:16; Exodus 20:5; Deuteronomy 23:2,Deuteronomy 23:3,Deuteronomy 23:8, and in many other places. And so the sense of the place is this, that Christ’s death shall not be unfruitful, and that when he is raised from the dead, he shall have a spiritual seed, as is promised, Isaiah 53:10; a numberless multitude of those who shall believe in him, and be regenerated and adopted by him into the number of his children, and of the children of God, John 1:12; Hebrews 2:10,Hebrews 2:13,Hebrews 2:14. He was cut off, to wit, by a violent death. And this may be added as a reason, both of his exaltation, and of the blessing of a numerous posterity conferred upon him, because he was willing to be cut off for the transgression of his people; and, as it followeth, Isaiah 53:10, made his soul an offering for sin; Christ’s death being elsewhere declared to be the only way and necessary means of obtaining both these ends. Luke 24:26,Luke 24:46; John 12:24,John 12:32,John 12:33; Philippians 2:8,Philippians 2:9. But these words may be rendered, although he was cut off, to signify that his death should not hinder these glorious effects.

For the transgression of my people was he stricken: this is repeated again, as it was fit it should be, to prevent men’s mistakes about and stumbling at the death of Christ, and to assure them that Christ did not die for his own sins, but only for the sins and salvation of his people.

Verse 9

He made his grave with the wicked; and although he did not die for his own, but only for his people’s sins, yet he was willing to die like a malefactor, or like a sinner, as all other men are, and to be put into the grave, as they used to be; which was a further degree of his humiliation. He saith, he made his grave, because this was Christ’s own act, and he willingly yielded up himself to death and burial. And that which follows, with the wicked, doth not note the sameness of place, as if he should be buried in the same grave with ether malefactors, but the sameness of condition; as when David prayeth, Psalms 26:9, Gather not my soul (to wit, by death) with sinners, he doth not mean it of the same grave, but of the same state of the dead.

With the rich in his death: this passage is thought by many to signify that Christ should be buried in the sepulchre of Joseph, who is said to be both rich, Matthew 27:57, and honourable, Mark 15:43, which they conceive to be intimated as a token of favour and honour showed to him; which to me seems not probable, partly because this disagrees with the former clause, which confessedly speaks of the dishonour which was done to him; and partly because the burial of Christ, whatsoever circumstances it was attended with, is ever mentioned in Scripture as a part of his humiliation, Acts 2:24,Acts 2:27. And it seems more reasonable, and more agreeable to the usage of the Holy Scripture, that this clause should design the same thing with the former, and that by rich he means the same persons whom he now called wicked, not as if all rich men were or must needs be wicked, but because for the most part they are so; upon which ground riches and rich men do commonly pass under an ill name in Scripture; of which see Psalms 37:10; Psalms 49:6; Luke 6:24; Luke 18:24; James 1:11; James 5:1.

In his death, Heb. in or at (or after, as this particle is frequently taken, as hath been already noted) his deaths; for Christ’s death might well be called deaths, in the plural number, because he underwent many kinds of death, and many deadly dangers and pains, which are frequently called by the name of death in Scripture, of which instances have been formerly given; and he might say, with no less truth than Paul did, 1 Corinthians 15:31, I die daily, and 2 Corinthians 11:23. I was in deaths oft. Because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth: this some suppose to be added as a reason of the last branch of the foregoing clause, why God so overruled matters by his providence, that Christ should not be buried in the same grave, or in the same ignominious manner, as malefactors were, but in a more honourable manner, in Joseph’s own tomb. But the last part of the foregoing clause cannot, without violence, be pulled asunder from the former, wherewith it is so closely joined, not only by a conjunction copulative, and, but also by being under the government of the same verb; and therefore this latter clause of the verse, if thus rendered, must be added as the reason of what is said to be done in the former. And so the sense of the place may be thus conceived, This was all the reward of the unspotted innocency of all his words and actions, to be thus ignominiously used. But these words may well be and are otherwise rendered, both by Jewish and Christian interpreters, either thus, although he had done, &c., or rather thus, not for (as these two same particles placed in the very same order are rendered by our translator, and others, Job 16:17) any violence (or injury, or iniquity) which he had done, nor for any deceit which was in his mouth; not for his own sins, but, as hath been said before, for his people’s sins; in which translation there is nothing supplied but what is most frequent in Scripture also.

Verse 10

Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; but although he was perfectly innocent, it pleased God for other just and wise reasons to punish him.

He hath put him to grief; God was the principal Cause of all his sorrows and sufferings, although men’s sins were the deserving cause.

When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin; when thou, O God, shalt make, or have made, thy Son a sacrifice, by giving him up to death for the atonement of men’s sins. His

soul is here put for his life, or for himself, or his whole human nature, which was sacrificed; his soul being tormented with the sense of God’s wrath, and his body crucified, and soul and body separated by death. Or the words may be rendered, when his soul shall make, or have made, itself

an offering for sin; whereby it may be implied that he did not lay down his life by force, but willingly.

He shall see his seed; his death shall be glorious to himself, and highly beneficial to others; for he shall have a numerous issue of believers reconciled to God, and saved by his death.

He shall prolong his days; he shall be raised to immortal life, and shall live and reign with God for ever; he shall die no more, Romans 6:9, and of his kingdom there shall be no end, Luke 1:33.

The pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand; God’s gracious decree for the redemption and salvation of mankind shall be effectually carried on by his ministry and mediation.

Verse 11

He shall see, he shall receive or enjoy, as this word commonly signifies,

of the travail of his soul, the comfortable and blessed fruit of all his hard labours and grievous sufferings,

and shall be satisfied; he shall esteem his own and his Father’s glory, and the salvation of his people, an abundant recompence for all his sufferings.

By his knowledge; either,

1. Actively, by that knowledge of God’s will, and of the way of salvation, which is in him in its highest perfection, and which by him is revealed unto men, and by his Spirit is imprinted in the minds and hearts of his people, so as to produce faith and obedience in them. Or,

2. Passively, by the knowledge of him, as my fear and thy fear are put for the fear of me and of thee, Psalms 5:7; Jeremiah 32:40; knowledge being here, as it is most frequently in Scripture, taken practically, for that kind of knowledge which worketh faith, and love, and obedience to him. So the sense is the same in both cases.

My righteous servant; which title is here given to Christ, partly to vindicate him from those false imputations of wickedness which were fastened upon him by his adversaries, and which found the more belief because of his most grievous and unexampled sufferings both from God and men; and partly to show his fitness for this great work of justifying sinners, because he was exactly

holy, and harmless, and undefiled, Hebrews 7:26, and

fulfilled all righteousness, according to his duty, Matthew 3:15; and therefore his person and performance must needs be acceptable to God, and effectual for the justification of his people, which was the great design of his coming into the world. Justify acquit them from the guilt of their sins, and all the dreadful consequences thereof; for justification is here opposed to condemnation, as appears from the following clause, and from many other passages in this chapter, and as it is used in all places of Scripture, one, or two at most, excepted, where it is mentioned. And Christ is said to justify sinners meritoriously, because he purchaseth and procureth it for us; as God the Father is commonly said to do it authoritatively, because he accepted the price paid by Christ for it, and the pronunciation of the sentence of absolution is referred to him in the gospel dispensation.

Many; which word is seasonably added, partly by way of restriction, to show that Christ will not justify all, but only such as believe in him and obey him; and partly by way of amplification, to declare that this blessed privilege shall not now be, as hitherto it had in a manner been, confined to Judea, and the Jews, but shall be conferred upon an innumerable company of all the nations of the world.

For he shall bear their iniquities; for he shall satisfy the justice and law of God for them, by bearing the punishment due to their sins, and therefore by the principles of reason and justice they must be justified or acquitted, otherwise the same debt should be twice required and paid.

Verse 12

Therefore will I, God the Father, the Spectator and Judge of the action or combat,

divide him; give him his share; or, impart or give to him; for this word is oft used without respect to any distribution or division, as Deuteronomy 4:19; Deuteronomy 29:26, and elsewhere.

A portion; which is very commodiously supplied out of the next clause, where a word which answers to it,

the spoil, is expressed. With the great; or, among the great; such as the great and mighty potentates of the world use to have after a sharp combat and a glorious victory. Though he be a very mean and obscure person, as to his extraction and outward condition in the world, yet he shall attain to as great a pitch of glory as the greatest monarchs enjoy.

He shall divide the spoil with the strong: the same thing is repeated in other words, after the manner of prophetical writers. The sense of both clauses is, that God will give him, and he shall receive, great and happy success in his glorious undertaking; he shall conquer all his enemies, and lead captivity captive, as is said, Ephesians 4:8, and Set up his universal and everlasting kingdom in the world.

Because he hath poured out his soul unto death; because he willingly laid down his life in obedience to God’s command, John 10:17,John 10:18, and in order to the redemption of mankind. Death is here called a pouring out of the soul, or life, either because the soul or life, which in living men is contained in the body, is turned out of the body by death; or to signify the manner of Christ’s death, that it should be with the shedding of his blood, in which the life of man consists, Leviticus 17:11,Leviticus 17:14.

He was numbered with the transgressors; he was willing for God’s glory and for man’s good to be reproached and punished like a malefactor, in the same manner and place, and betwixt two of them, as is noted with reference to this place, Mark 15:27,Mark 15:28.

He bare the sin of many; which was said Isaiah 53:11, and is here repeated to prevent a mistake, and to intimate, that although Christ was numbered with transgressors, and was used accordingly, yet he was no transgressor, nor did submit to and suffer this usage for his own sins, but for the sins of others, the punishment whereof was by his own consent laid upon him.

Made intercession for the transgressors; either,

1. By way of satisfaction; he interposed himself between an angry God and sinners, and received those blows in his own body which otherwise must have fallen upon them. Or,

2. In way of petition, as this word is constantly used. He prayed upon earth for all sinners, and particularly for those that crucified him, Luke 23:34; and in heaven he still intercedeth for them, not by a humble petition, but by a legal demand of those good things which he purchased for his own people by the sacrifice of himself, which, though past, he continually represents to his Father, as if it were present.

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Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Isaiah 53". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.