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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 53

Old & New Testament Restoration CommentaryRestoration Commentary

Verses 1-3

Isa 53:1-3

Isaiah 53:1-3


We should not be surprised at this title assigned to the Holy Messiah in the Sacred Scriptures, because there is a magnificent profusion of names and titles bestowed upon the Son of God by the inspired writers of the Bible. A mere glance at these cannot fail to impress any thoughtful student.

NAMES AND TITLES: Isaiah prophetically referred to Jesus as Immanuel (Isaiah 7:13); Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6); God’s Servant (Isaiah 52:13). Moses referred to him as The Seed of Woman (Genesis 3:15); The Seed (singular) of Abraham (Genesis 28:14, and Galatians 3:16); Shiloh (Genesis 49:10); The Star out of Jacob, The Scepter out of Israel (Numbers 24:17); That Prophet Like Unto Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15); The Son of David (2 Samuel 7:12; 2 Samuel 7:14); The Lord of David, The Priest Forever After the Order of Melchizedek (Psalms 110, 4); The Judge of Israel, The Ruler in Israel Whose Goings Forth are Known of Old, from Everlasting (Micah 5:2-4); The King of Israel (Zechariah 9:9); The Sun of Righteousness (Malachi 4:2); The Son of David, The Son of Abraham (Matthew 1:1); The Dayspring from on High (Luke 1:78); Saviour, Christ, The Lord (Luke 2:11); Jesus (Luke 2:21); Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews (Matthew 27:37); Jesus Christ the Son of God (Mark 1:1); Son of God Most High (Mark 5:7); God (10 New Testament references use this title for Christ; see John 1:1; John 1:18; John 20:24, etc), My Beloved Son (Matthew 3:17); Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1-2); Christ Jesus our Lord (1 Timothy 1:12); our Lord Jesus Christ, The Blessed and Only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords (1 Timothy 6:14-15); The Rock (1 Corinthians 10:4); The Rose of Sharon, The Lily of the Valley (Song of Solomon 2:1); The Bright and Morning Star, The Root of David (Revelation 22:16); The Firstborn of the Kings of the Earth (Psalms 89:27; Hebrews 12:23); the Day Star (2 Peter 1:19); Our High Priest, Our Surety, Our Advocate, Our Intercessor (Hebrews 7); Christ Our Righteousness (Romans); The Mediator of the New Covenant (1 Timothy 2:5); Head Over All Things, Head of the Church Which is His Body (Ephesians 1:22); The Good Shepherd (John 10:11); The Bread of Life, The Water of Life, The Living Water, The Way, The Truth, The Life, The Light of the World, The True Vine, The Resurrection and the Life (from the Gospel of John), The Apostle and High Priest of our Confession (Hebrews 3:1); The Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4); The Shepherd and Bishop of our Souls (1 Peter 1:25); The Branch (Zechariah 3:8; Zechariah 6:12); The Author of Eternal Salvation (Hebrews 3:9); The Author and Finisher (Perfecter) of our Faith (Hebrews 12:2); The Son of Man (Daniel 7:15); The Alpha and the Omega (Revelation 1:11, KJV); The Living One (Revelation 1:18, ASV); and The Amen (Revelation 2:14), etc.

Of course, the above list is by no means all of the names and titles the Scriptures associate with the Saviour and Redeemer of mankind; but these are sufficient to indicate the comprehensive extent of them.

This chapter is concerned solely with the prophecies relating to that Ideal Servant, the True Israel of God, the Seed Singular of Abraham, who alone would bring the promise of redemption to fallen and sinful humanity and provide a way for the renewal of their lost fellowship with God. In Him is the life eternal, and "No man cometh unto God" except through Him (John 14:6).

We shall not engage in any defense of the interpretation of this chapter, which by unanimous consent of all scholars, Jewish and Gentile alike, was understood as descriptive of the sufferings of Christ for the first 1,150 years of the Christian era, at which time, Jewish writers began efforts to ascribe it to some other; and since then a very few so-called "Christian" writers have accepted some of the Jewish postulations. However, this defection of nominally Christian commentators to the Jewish interpretation is absolutely unworthy of any study whatever. The true interpretation is so obvious, so unanswerable, so absolutely certain, that it is a waste of time to explore allegations of Satan and his followers to the contrary.

The whole song of the servant includes the last three verses of Isaiah 52 and twelve verses of this chapter (Isaiah 53).

"It is unusually symmetrical. There are five paragraphs of three verses each. It begins and ends with the Servant’s exaltation (first and fifth stanzas); and set within this is the story of Christ’s rejection in sections two and four, which in turn frame the centerpiece (stanza 3, Isaiah 53:4-6), where the atoning significance is expounded. God and man, reconciled, share the telling. Note the `my’ and `our’ of the outer sections (one and five) and the `we’ and `our’ of Isaiah 53:1-6.”

"The word `our’ in Isaiah 53:1 raises the question of who the proclaimers are. Hailey gave the same answer to this that Kidner gave in the quotation above: "The message is to be identified as the messianic message of God through Isaiah."

Isaiah 53:1-3


"Who hath believed our message? and to whom hath the arm of Jehovah been revealed? For he grew up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief: and as one from whom men hide their face he was despised; and we esteemed him not."

As Cheyne pointed out, there is a peculiarity in these three verses that one word in each of the three verses is quoted in the second half of each verse. "Thus: in (1), the word is `who,’ `whom’; in (2) the word is `he’; and in (3) the word is `despised.’"

In this paragraph, the surpassing glory of the Lord Jesus Christ is hidden behind obscurity, poverty, humiliation, misery, and shame; and this is the great example that "God’s thoughts and God’s ways are as much higher than those of men as the heavens are higher than the earth," as Isaiah would more fully elaborate in Isaiah 55:8.

In Isaiah 53:1, the language suggests that "no one" believed the report, or hearkened to the Word of God; but the apostle Paul’s word shows that the statements here are hyperbole; for he said, "Not all hearkened to the good tidings" (Romans 10:16). Those who hearkened were the apostles of the New Testament Church and those who followed their leadership. Nevertheless, the very small percentage of the Old Israel who believed and obeyed the Son of God fully justified the hyperbole. A similar use of this figure of speech is seen in Luke 7:29-30, as compared with Matthew 3:5.

"As a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground ..." (Isaiah 53:2), Here are given the conditions of Jesus’ earthly environment which seem to be revealed as the reason why he had no comeliness or beauty that would cause him to be desired by men.

We cannot believe that the physical unattractiveness or ugliness of the Son of God are meant by the lack of beauty or comeliness on his part. The tremendous attractiveness of Jesus for the great women of that era who knew him absolutely denies any denial of the power and magnetism of his personality (Luke 7:37-38; Luke 8:1-4, etc.) Likewise the appeal that Jesus had for the rugged fishermen of Galilee, and the authority of his strong right arm with the whips when he drove the money changers out of the temple; none of these facts will harmonize with an unattractive countenance or any form of personal "ugliness." No! What is meant is that none of the trappings of wealth, office, social status, or any other such things which are so honored among men, belonged to Jesus.

"As a root out of dry ground ..." (Isaiah 53:2). What is the "dry ground" here? "This refers to a corrupt age and nation, and the arid soil of mankind." Both the nation of Israel and all of the nations of the pre-Christian Gentile world were at this time judicially hardened by God Himself; and nothing could have seemed more impossible to the citizens of that dissolute age than the fact that God’s Holy Messiah would be born to humble parents in some obscure village, and that the salvation of all the world would be available through that Child alone!

The lack of beauty and comeliness spoken of here has been the occasion of all kinds of derogatory statements about Christ. For example, Wardle stated that the passage means: "He was despised, pain-stricken and diseased, so that men turned away from him in revulsion." No word in all the Bible justifies such a statement as this. The emphasis upon the lack of beauty and comeliness refers not at all to the physical appearance of Jesus except during those terrible scenes of Holy Week, during which he was denied sleep, beaten unmercifully by a Roman chastisement, mocked some six times in all, crowned with a crown of thorns, tortured to death on the Cross, compelled to carry the cross till he fainted, being struck in the face with a reed, reviled and spit upon! This was the time when his visage was marred, and the last vestiges of his physical beauty perished under the venomous, inhuman treatment of Satan and his sons who put him to death.

"Despised and rejected of men ..." (Isaiah 53:3). Archer rendered this as, "Lacking men of distinction as his supporters.” This harmonizes with the fact that a tax collector and common fishermen were among his apostles, whereas distinguished persons like the rich young ruler turned away from him. "Men still persist in avoiding facing the `real Jesus,’ preferring what they call `the historical Jesus’ who would not trouble them with the Cross.”

Isaiah 53:1 UNBELIEVING: Chapter 53 is still in the predictive present tense. It is as if the Servant has come, been rejected, slaughtered and the people of Israel are looking at it all in retrospect! The overall reaction of the nation to Jesus’ claims to be the Messiah was scoffing, mockery, rejection and persecution. He gained a few disciples, but at the arrest in Gethsemane, they all forsook Him and fled (Mark 14:50). The nation, as a whole, could not believe that Jehovah was at work revealing His “Arm” in the itinerant Galilean carpenter’s son. It was especially difficult for any who had been attracted to Him during His life to believe that He was God’s Servant when they gathered at Golgotha and saw His humiliating death, (cf. Luke 24:13-27). The believing, penitent Jews after their baptism (Acts 2:37, etc.) still marvelled than they could have been so unbelieving. They are represented here by the prophet as continually marvelling as they reflect on their blindness. Twice in the N.T. this very verse of Isaiah’s prophecy is quoted as Jesus (John 12:38) and Paul (Romans 10:16) express shock that the Jews did not believe when Jehovah’s Servant came to them.

Is there any question as to the identity of this Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53? Servant of Jehovah, ‘ebed Yahweh in Hebrew is prophesied at least 20 times in Isaiah chapters 40–53. Sometimes it refers to Cyrus, king of Persia; sometimes it refers to the nation of Israel (Isaiah 41:8; Isaiah 42:19); but most often it refers to the Messiah (Isaiah 42:1-7; Isaiah 49:1-9; Isaiah 50:4-9; Isaiah 52:13 to Isaiah 53:12; Isaiah 61:1-3). The Servant is the same person (not nation) previously described in Isaiah 7:14; Isaiah 9:6 ff; Isaiah 11:1-5. He is also the “Branch” of Isaiah 4:2; Isaiah 11:1; Isaiah 53:2; Jeremiah 23:5 ff; Jeremiah 33:15; Zechariah 3:8; Zechariah 6:12 ff. The inspired authors of the New Testament specifically confirm the following prophecies of the Servant are fulfilled in Jesus Christ; Isaiah 42:1-4 fulfilled in Matthew 12:18-21; Isaiah 52:13 to Isaiah 53:12 fulfilled (or quoted) in Matthew 8:17; Luke 22:37; John 12:38; Acts 8:32 ff; Romans 10:16. The Servant’s mission can only be fulfilled by Christ:

1. Birth (Isaiah 49:1; Isaiah 53:2; Luke 1:31-35)

2. Anointing (Isaiah 42:1; Isaiah 48:16; Isaiah 59:21; Isaiah 61:1; Matthew 3:16; Luke 4:18 ff)

3. Ministry (Isaiah 49:8-13; Acts 10:36-43)

4. Rejection (Isaiah 49:4-7; Isaiah 53:1-3; Acts 3:13-18)

5. Obedience (Isaiah 40:4-7; Philippians 2:5-11)

6. New Covenant (Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 49:8; Isaiah 55:3; Matthew 26:26-29)

7. Vicarious death (Isaiah 53:4-12; 1 Peter 2:22-25)

8. Resurrection (Isaiah 53:10-12; Acts 2:24-36)

9. Salvation Offered (Isaiah 49:8; Isaiah 61:2; Luke 24:46-49)

10. Mission to Gentiles (Isaiah 42:1; Isaiah 42:6 ff; Isaiah 49:6; Isaiah 49:12; Isaiah 60:3; Isaiah 60:9; Matthew 28:18-20)

11. Glorification and Intercession Isaiah 49:3; Isaiah 53:12; Acts 2:33-36; Philippians 2:5-11; Hebrews 7:24 ff)

12. Jesus came to serve. (Matthew 20:28; John 12:13-20, etc.)

Isaiah 53:2-3 UNCIVIL: What Jew in his right mind would ever have dreamed or imagined rejecting his Messiah or Jehovah’s Servant in such an odious way as Isaiah predicts? Only the most shameful incivility prompts men to deliberately “hide” from another human being. Yet these verses vividly portray the scandalous hatred the Jews will manifest toward the Incarnate Servant. It is the life-story of the Servant from the cradle to the grave. The Servant’s entry into this world was so inglorious; born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), of poor parentage, in a stable. When He grew up as a lad in Nazareth He was just like any other lad according to all outward appearances (Luke 2:51-52) (with the one exception of confounding the scholars at Jerusalem, Luke 2:41-50).

“He grew up before him . . .” means the Servant grew up in the eyes of Jehovah, or, by the foreordained plan of God, “as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground.” Jehovah sent His Servant to the world through the Jews, despised and harassed people by the Roman world of Christ’s day. He grew up in Nazareth which was in Galilee (which means, “circuit of the Gentiles”). “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46) was the attitude toward that infamous village. That the Servant of Jehovah, the Messiah, should come from a carpenter’s family would be unthinkable to Jewish theology. A tender, green plant in dry parched ground is regarded with skepticism as to its origin and its survival. So Christ was looked upon.

Among all ancient peoples (even as among some modern advertisers) ideal physique, refined facial features, etc., were considered necessary prerequisites of future greatness, along with “right” parents, “right” birthplace, “right” schools, etc. These verses are not intended to describe Christ’s facial features or His physique. They are simply predicting that men would judge Him by that inauspicious human appearance and completely reject Him because of their presuppositions. When Jesus was only a baby, Simeon the aged prophet took Him in his arms and predicted He was the “consolation of Israel and a light unto the Gentiles” but that He would become a “sign that is spoken against,” (cf. Luke 2:22-35). When He was arrested and mocked and tortured by the Sanhedrin, Pilate and Herod, there was no “form or comeliness” in Him that any of the nation desired Him to be king. Why would God plan it that His Servant come into the world in such untoward surroundings? In order to put men into the “refiner’s fire.” All who beheld His glory through eyes of faith and saw beyond the humiliation of the incarnation that He was the Son of God became sons of God. All who were blinded by their own carnal standards of “comeliness” and judged Jesus by them became “sons of disobedience.” God wanted to get at the heart of man, for that is what He judges, not outward appearances.

Jesus was seldom treated with indifference. When He spoke or acted, people either clamored after Him or plotted against Him. But even most of the clamoring of the multitudes was only superficial. It was motivated by fleshly hunger for more “bread and fish” or for instantaneous healing of sicknesses. The Sadducees and Pharisees hated the Servant and plotted His death because He stripped away their facade of orthodoxy and exposed their immoral and rebellious hearts. And, in the end, these pretentious theologians and greedy legalists seduced the carnal-minded multitudes to clamor for His crucifixion! He was despised and rejected of men; forsaken and shunned. The two Hebrew words makeoyoth and kholiy are literally, “pain” and “sickness,” but are translated, “sorrows” and “grief.” When people saw that His earthly life was characterized by trouble, pain, rejection, sorrow, poverty, humiliation, absolute honesty and purity, few wanted to have anything to do with Him. Misunderstood by all—even His select disciples and His own human family—He was a “man of sorrows” (see comments on Isaiah 49:4). How could Jesus have been a “man of sorrows” and yet speak so much of his “joy”? Because the object of His joy was beyond this world! (Hebrews 12:1 ff). All men who live godly in this world will suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12; John 15:18 ff; John 16:33), but they may also have joy if the object of their joy is beyond this world (John 4:34; John 15:11; John 17:13, etc.).

What people turned away from the Servant of the Lord for when He was in human form on the earth they still turn away from Him for today—His substitutionary atonement. Some are superficially in agreement with what they think is His pacifistic humanitarianism or His socialistic human-rights stance, but they absolutely will not surrender to the truth that Jesus had to die for their sin. This is what was so unacceptable to the self-righteous Pharisees of Jesus’ day. It remains a threat to the self-righteousness of men today!

Verses 4-6

Isa 53:4-6

Isaiah 53:4-6


"Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and Jehovah hath laid upon him the iniquity of us all."

This is the heart of the Song of the Servant; here we learn why Jesus suffered, that it was not for himself but for us that he suffered. Note the emphatic recurrence of the word "our," as in our griefs, our sorrows, our transgressions, our peace, and our healing. "The atoning significance of the suffering is expounded here.”

Right here is the vital heart of Christianity: The case of Adam’s race was hopeless. All had sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. The penalty of sin is death, and the justice of God required that the penalty be paid; otherwise all of the human race would have been lost forever. But there was no one who could pay it. What was the solution? God Himself stepped into the human race; and, in the person of his Son, paid the penalty himself upon the Cross! Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift! No wonder that Satan executed every cruelty possible upon Jesus; because without the sacrifice of Jesus in paying the penalty of human transgressions, Satan would have achieved his purpose of the total destruction of Adam’s race.

The words "borne our griefs" in Isaiah 53:4 in the Hebrew are literally "borne our sicknesses"; but this is not a reference to Jesus’ suffering from all our sicknesses, but to his healing all diseases. It was to make this point clear that the translators rendered the word "griefs." Thus, "The rendition griefs is justifiable.”

"We did deem him stricken of God, and afflicted ..." (Isaiah 53:4). There is an inadvertent condemnation of the whole human race in this. No tendency among men is any more prevalent than that of attributing all the sorrows on earth to the fault and sins of the suffering people. This unhappy trait of men is often noted in scripture. The parents of the man born blind, asked, "Who sinned this man, or his parents, that he should have been born blind?" (John 9); and the citizens of Malta attributed Paul’s snakebite to the supposed criminality of the apostle (Acts 28:4). This indicates that the terrible and unlawful punishments, even death, that befell Jesus were considered by the people as being the natural result of the sins of Jesus. How wrong and misguided were the people!

"Chastisement ..." (Isaiah 53:5). Little did Pilate know, when he ordered the chastisement of Jesus that his command caused the fulfillment of this specific prophecy of the Christ. That the chastisement was indeed for "our sins" and for "our peace" is certain; because the Roman Procurator declared upon the occasion of his command that it was not indeed for anything that Jesus was guilty of; and he declared him innocent on that very occasion!

"Stripes ..." (Isaiah 53:5) is another reference to the chastisement; and modern treatment of criminals has no indication whatever of the terrible and sadistic brutality that accompanied such "scourgings." Excavations of the old judgment seat of Pilate have discovered the very truncated pillar upon which our Lord might have been chained, while two Roman soldiers, standing one on each side, with the brutal whips made lethal and bloody by small pieces of bone or glass chips attached to the cords of the whips, applied the awful punishment, first to the back, and then after turning the victim over, to the chest and face, each soldier smiting the victim with all his strength, and taking time about with their blows, tortured the victim within an inch of his life. No wonder the Lord fainted under the weight of the cross. After that chastisement, Jesus presented such a pitiable spectacle, that Pilate actually thought the Jews would declare that he needed no more punishment; and so he brought Jesus out and presented him to the mob, saying, "Behold the Man"! How pitifully wrong was Pilate’s underestimation of the sadistic hatred of that Jewish mob screaming for his crucifixion!

"Jehovah hath laid on him the iniquity of us all ..." (Isaiah 53:6). No greater declaration from Jehovah was ever given than this affirmation that Jesus Christ suffered for the sins of all men. The perfect, sinless life of Jesus was a sacrifice sufficiently adequate to atone for the sins of all mankind.

Note here that the prophecy states that Jehovah laid the sins of all men upon Jesus. This corresponds with Paul’s statement that "God set forth his son to be a propitiation, through faith, in his blood" (Romans 3:25). Thus the initiative lay with God in the sufferings of Jesus upon the Cross. (1) God so loved the world that HE GAVE HIS ONLY BEGOTTEN SON. God was not the only one, however, who had a part in Jesus’ sacrifice upon the Cross. (2) Satan did indeed bruise the heel of the Seed of Woman. (3) Christ himself engineered his death upon Calvary (Luke 9:31). (4) The Jews crucified him. (5) the Romans crucified him. (6) The human race crucified him. (7) Every man crucified him. Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Isaiah 53:4-6 ATONING GRACE: Unusual pain, sorrow and grief was equated with unusual guilt in the ancient world. Job’s three friends told Job his calamities were punishment from God for his sinfulness. The man born blind was stigmatized as a sinner both by the disciples of Jesus and the Pharisees (cf. John 9:1 ff). Jesus corrected this concept in Luke 13 by saying that those upon whom the tower of Siloam fell were not worse sinners than others but that all calamities were warnings to the world to repent. And the Jews rationalized their prejudice against Jesus by mocking Him as a criminal at His crucifixion. Rather than admit their own ideas about God’s Messiah were contrary to the Old Testament, they accused Jesus of blasphemy and pointed to His violation of their traditions and His humble life-style as proof that God was punishing Him for being such a sinner.

But there was nothing wrong with Him. We (all mankind) were the guilty ones. The rejection, misunderstanding, poverty, humiliation, slander He endured should have been ours. He was finally forsaken by God, suffered the second death (Matthew 27:46) and was made to be sin on our behalf (2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:13). He bore our sins on the tree (2 Peter 2:22-22). The Righteous died for the unrighteous (2 Peter 3:18). Christ did not deserve any of what He suffered. He was hated without cause (John 15:24-25). The great capsulation of the atonement is Romans 3:21-26. The real suffering of the Servant was spiritual, not physical. Many men have suffered physically (perhaps even more torture than crucifixion), but He was innocent, without sin, and actually became sin and suffered spiritual separation (death) from the Father for those who actually deserved it. It is interesting to note that the Hebrew verb meholal translated “wounded” means literally pierced, perforated, a precise prophecy of the piercing of Christ’s body by the Roman soldier (John 19:34-37).

Do verses four and five indicate that the atonement of Christ also provided miraculous healing of physical sicknesses for all mankind? Some modern faith-healers contend that all men who believe in the atonement of Christ may expect God to heal their bodies. T. J. McCrossan in his Bodily Healing and the Atonement, pg. 16, says, “Again all Christians should expect God to heal their bodies today, because Christ died to atone for our sickness as well as for our sins.” Warren C. Roark, compiler of Divine Healing, pub. The Warner Press, Anderson, Ind., 1945, records a statement by a modern advocate of this view, E. E. Byers, pg. 58, “God . . . in the atonement . . . made provision for the healing of man’s mortal body so long as he lived in this world.” Although honest exegesis must admit that the Hebrew words makeoyoth and kholiy may literally mean “pain” and “sickness,” one must understand they may also be figuratively translated “griefs” and “sorrows.” The following considerations make it clear that Isaiah’s prophecy of the atonement by the Suffering Servant did not mean to include physical healing for all believers:

1. The context (all important in proper exegesis) indicates the subject is sin, spiritual sickness, not physical sickness. If the atonement made provision for the healing of man’s mortal body so long as he lived . . . he would live forever in this world! Death is the cumulative effect of one physical malady or another.

2. In Matthew 8:16-17 a portion of Isaiah’s prophecy is quoted in connection with Christ’s healing of some physical sicknesses. However, it is highly significant that verse five was not quoted by Matthew (“with his stripes we are] healed”). Furthermore, Jesus was fulfilling verse four three years before the atonement was made. Verse four was fulfilled in His divine ministry of healing, and not when He hung on the cross. Matthew was simply claiming, therefore, that Christ in performing miracles of healing, was fulfilling what Isaiah prophesied of His healing ministry and not His atonement.

3. There is no statement in the whole Bible suggesting that Christ “bore our sicknesses in his own body on the tree,” or that he was made to be “sick, diseased, or possessed with infirmity” for us.

4. The New Testament plainly shows that not all of the healings of Jesus demanded faith in Him. Thus, the efficacy of His atonement could not apply to the healing.

5. The New Testament plainly shows that many people with faith in the atonement of Christ were not healed of their sicknesses, including the great apostle Paul!

Some questions on healing in the atonement:

a. If the atonement provides for physical healing, why does not one receive healing at conversion—the place where the efficacy of the atonement is applied?

b. If the atonement provides for physical healing, why do not all believers receive healing? (cf. Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” 2 Corinthians 12:7-10).

c. Why is there as large a percentage of sickness among believers as there is among unbelievers?

d. Why did Paul prescribe a medical treatment to Timothy for his “oft infirmities”? (1 Timothy 5:23)

e. Why are there so many failures among faithful, honest, believing people who so earnestly and diligently seek healing?

CaseReferencesNature of MaladyNature of CureComment
Nobleman’s sonJohn 4:46; John 4:54Sick at the point of death Healed the same hourFather believed, but not the son
Impotent manJohn 5:1-47Infirm 30 years; couldn’t walkMade whole at onceNo faith, except to walk
Demoniac in the Capernaum SynagogueMark 1:21-28 Luke 4:33-37Possessed spirit of unclean demonInstantly deliveredNo faith indicated
Peter’s wife’s motherMatthew 8:14-15 Mark 1:29-31 Luke 4:38-39Possessed of a “great fever”Fever left her immediately No faith required
Many in CapernaumMatthew 8:16-17 Mark 1:32-34 Luke 4:40-41Demoniacs, sick, diseasedInstantly healedNo faith indicated
LeperMatthew 8:1-4 Mark 1:40-45 Luke 5:12-16Full of leprosyHeal at onceHad faith; not required
Palsied manMatthew 9:1-8 Mark 2:1-12 Luke 5:17-26Palsied, could not walkInstantly healedFaith of others
Man with withered handMatthew 12:9-14 Mark 3:1-6 Luke 6:6-11Hand deformedInstantly healedNo faith required but to extend hand
Many in GalileeMatthew 4:23-24 Mark 3:7-12 Luke 6:17-19All manner of sicknessInstantly healedNo faith indicated
MultitudesMatthew 12:15-21Not statedHealed allNo faith
Blind and dumb demoniacMatthew 12:22-24 Luke 11:14-15Possessed a devil; blind and dumbHealed at onceNo faith required
Centurion’s servantMatthew 8:5-13 Luke 7:1-10Palsied, tormented, and nearly deadMade whole instantlyNo faith of servant
Widow’s son of NainLuke 7:11-17DeadInstantly sat up and spokeNo faith possible
DemoniacMatthew 9:32-34Dumb and demoniacInstantly deliveredNo faith evident
Two demoniacs at GadaraMatthew 8:28-34 Mark 5:1-20 Luke 8:26-40Possessed legion of devils. Fierce, couldn’t be boundDevils instantly cast outNo faith evident
The daughter of JairusMatthew 9:18-25 Mark 5:34-43 Luke 8:43-48DeadMade alive at onceNo faith possible
Woman with the issue of bloodMatthew 9:20-22 Mark 5:25-34 Luke 8:43-48Afflicted 12 years Grew worse, suffered muchMade whole at onceFaith present, but not required
Two blind menMatthew 9:27-31BlindEyes opened immediatelyFaith required
Healing of manyMatthew 14:34-36 Mark 6:55-56DiseasedMade perfectly wholeNo faith required
Daughter of Syrophonecian womanMatthew 15:21-28 Mark 7:24-30DemoniacMade whole instantlyNo faith of daughter, but of mother
Many near GalileeMatthew 15:29-31Lame, blind dumb, maimedHealed at onceNo faith indicated
Deaf and dumb manMark 7:31-37Deaf with impediment of speechHealed at once No faith indicated
Blind man at BethsaidaMark 8:22-26BlindSaw at onceNo faith indicated
Demoniac childMatthew 17:14-21Lunatic, sore vexed; fell in fire and waterCured that hourFaith of the father, but not of child
Blind manJohn 9:1-41Blind from his birthSaw at onceNo faith required but to wash
Woman with infirmityLuke 13:11-17Bowed for 18 yearsImmediately made straight No faith required
Man with dropsyLuke 14:1-6DropsyHealed at onceNo faith required
LazarusJohn 11:17-46DeadMade alive immediatelyNo faith possible
Ten lepersLuke 17:11-19LeprosyHealed at onceNo faith required
Two blind menMatthew 20:29-34 Mark 10:46-52 Luke 18:35-43BlindSaw immediatelyNo faith required, but present
Servant of MalchusMatthew 26:47-56 Mark 14:43-52 Luke 22:47-53 John 18:2-12Ear severedEar replaced immediatelyNo faith required or indicated

Isaiah 53:6 plainly states the healing we receive from His stripes is the healing from sin. Sin is “going astray” (cf. Romans 3:10-20). Sin is spiritual, psychological, mental sickness that needs healing. Paul calls sin insanity (1 Corinthians 15:34). Sin is spiritual disorientation. Man was not spiritually created for sin—it is against his spiritual nature. Spiritually, psychologically, emotionally and mentally man deteriorates when he sins. He begins to die, morally and spiritually when he begins to sin. Sin even causes some physical illnesses. Originally, of course, it caused all human illness and death as a constant reminder to man that he was not made for sin (cf. Romans 1:27—men receive in their physical and psychological selves the “due penalty” for their sins). Jesus came and died and was raised to make us whole. Upon Him was the chastisement that allowed us to regain our innocence (our healing from sin). He takes the guilt and frees us from the deception of Satan’s lies that we may come to our right minds (1 Corinthians 15:34). We still must suffer physical illnesses and death because of Adam’s sin, but no longer do we have to suffer spiritual illness and death! Sin is soul-sickness. It fractures, incapacitates, ineverates and destroys the personhood of man. Forgiveness through Christ’s atonement heals and saves us and restores us to the wholeness for which God created us.

Verses 7-9

Isa 53:7-9

Isaiah 53:7-9


"He was oppressed, yet when he was afflicted he opened not his mouth; as a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and as a sheep that before its shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who among them considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living for the transgression of my people to whom the stroke was due. And they made his grave with the wicked, and with a rich man in his death; although he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth."

This stanza is a return to the theme of suffering on the part of the Servant, stressing in the first verse (Isaiah 53:7) his silence in the face of accusers, mockers, and the "judges" of the tribunals before which he was arraigned.

"The Septuagint (LXX) renders part of this passage, as follows: He was led as a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is dumb, so he opens not his mouth. In his humiliation, his judgment was taken away; who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth: because of the iniquities of my people he was led to death.”

It is evident at once that the declarations of our version (American Standard Version) and the Septuagint (LXX) vary considerably. Isaiah 53:8, for example, in the Septuagint (LXX) states that it was Jesus’ judgment of innocence pronounced by Pilate which was "taken away" through mob violence and the humiliation of Jesus; but in the American Standard Version it is Jesus who is taken away. We believe that both renditions are correct, because both are true. When Philip encountered the Ethiopian eunuch on the road to Gaza (Acts 8:29 ff), the portion of Isaiah which the eunuch was reading and which formed the basis of Philip’s preaching Jesus unto him evidently came from the LXX.

"As a lamb that is led to the slaughter ..." (Isaiah 53:7). This is an agricultural simile based on the truth that a goat slaughtered in the traditional manner responds with blood-curdling cries that can be heard a mile away; but a sheep submits to the butcher’s knife silently. The same phenomenon occurs when the animals are sheared. Jesus submitted to the outrages perpetrated against himself, offering no more resistance than a lamb, either sheared or slaughtered.

"In his humiliation ... his judgment was taken away ..." (Isaiah 53:7, as in LXX), The verdict of Pilate was one of innocence; but, swayed by the yells of the bloodthirsty mob, Pilate took away his judgment and ordered his crucifixion.

"His generation who shall declare?" (Isaiah 53:7, LXX). There are two understandings of this, both of which may be right, for both are true. (1) "Who shall declare the number of those who share his life, and are, as it were, sprung from him? Who can count his faithful followers?”

(2) Bruce, however, rendered the passage, "Who can describe his generation?” Who indeed could describe that wicked generation which despised and murdered the Son of God? What a crescendo of shame was reached by that evil company who resisted every word of the Saviour of mankind, mocked him, hated him, denied the signs he performed before their very eyes, suborned witnesses to swear lies at his trials, rejected and shouted out of court the verdict of innocence announced by the governor of the nation, and through political blackmail, mob violence, and personal intimidation of the Procurator, demanded and achieved his crucifixion? Who could describe the moral idiocy of a generation that taunted the helpless victim even upon the cross, that gloated over his death, and that, when he rose from the dead, bribed the sixteen witnesses of it with gold to deny that it had indeed occurred? Who indeed can describe that generation?

Bruce further stated that between the times of Isaiah’s promised "Immanuel" (Isaiah 7:14) and Daniel’s "Son of Man" (Daniel 7:15), and the personal ministry of Christ, "No one identified the Suffering Servant of Isaiah with the Davidic Messiah, except Jesus.”

Christ did indeed identify himself as the Suffering Servant of Isaiah. "A Servant ... who would give his life a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45). "How is it written of the Son of Man, that he should suffer many things and be set at naught"? (Mark 9:12). "How indeed, unless the Son of Man be also the Servant of the Lord"? Thus Jesus Christ himself affirmed that the Son of Man and the Suffering Servant are one and the same!

In our opinion, Isaiah 53:8, as in the American Standard Version is much weaker than the Septuagint (LXX); and that may have accounted for the fact of the New Testament quotation’s following the LXX. In our version, Isaiah 53:8 becomes a rather long sentence, stressing the fact that Christ died instead of the Old Israel, to whom the stroke was due. Of course, this is true enough; but if this indeed is the correct rendition, why was not the vicarious nature of Jesus’ death stated in the previous stanza? It is the "sufferings" which are discussed here? We may read it either way; and it is true either way!

"And they made his grave with the wicked, and with a rich man in his death ..." (Isaiah 53:9). This is the most amazing prophecy in Isaiah. The significant fact is that the word "wicked" here is plural, and the words "rich man" are singular.

"Those who condemned Christ to be crucified with two malefactors on the common execution ground, `the place of a skull’ meant his grave to be with the wicked (of course, that is the reason why so many soldiers were assigned to the task of crucifixion; they would dig the graves. - J.B.C.), with whom it would naturally have been, but for the interference of Joseph of Arimathea. The Romans buried crucified persons with their crosses near the scene of their crucifixion.”

This does not prophesy that Christ would be buried in two graves, but that "they" would make two graves. There is no way that this prophecy could have been fulfilled by one grave; two are absolutely required!

There is a great deal more than appears in the lines here. Jonah also, the great Old Testament type of Jesus, being the only one of the Old Testament specifically cited and identified as a type of Himself by the Lord, had two graves.

Isaiah 53:7-9 ACOUIESCENT GOODNESS: The Lord’s servant was utterly innocent and totally submissive. He said nothing to answer the charges of the Sanhedrin (Matthew 26:63); He said nothing to answer the charges of Pilate (Matthew 27:14); He did not answer Herod’s questions (Luke 23:9). Pilate declared Him innocent; the Sanhedrin could bring no true accusation against Him (John 18:19-24). Why did Jesus not argue His case? Would it have persuaded the Jews not to crucify Him even if He had? Jesus’ mission as a “lamb” to be slaughtered was unique! He was the Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world (John 1:29)! He was the only Person ever with that mission. His death was preordained. He was the Lamb, foreordained from the foundation of the earth to be slain (cf. 1 Peter 1:20; Revelation 13:8; Acts 2:23). He willingly gave up His life, no one took it from Him (cf. John 10:17-18; John 19:11; Hebrews 10:1-10; etc.). We are not obligated to follow His acquiescent surrender to be illegally executed without reasonable defense. We cannot die for the same reason He died! We should never, of course, take the law into our own hands resisting evil. We must, if the occasion arises, suffer unjust trial and death without personally and individually using force to overthrow crooked judges. But that does not mean we cannot use peaceful, rational means to insist that justice be done. The apostle Paul insisted on correcting injustices (cf. Acts 16:35-39; Acts 25:8-12, etc.); he also wrote that Christians should appeal to their civil governments to uphold justice (Romans 13:1-7).

The Servant was “cut off” from life in this world (cf. our comments on Daniel 9:24-27 where the same phrase “cut off” is used in connection with the atoning death of the Messiah). And although there were a few plain announcements from Christ Himself that He was to die for the “ransom” of man’s sins (cf. John 1:29; Matthew 20:28; Matthew 26:26-29; John 14:1-31; John 16:10; John 17:11), and many Old Testament types and prophecies (Luke 24:25-49), none of His contemporaries (not even His own disciples) would accept the doctrine that the Messiah was to die as a substitutionary sacrifice for man’s sins. The O.T. has at least four plain prophecies that the Messiah will die (Isaiah 53:1-12; Daniel 9:24-27; Zechariah 12:10 to Zechariah 13:1; Psalms 22:1-31). Still, even those honest, courageous, Jewish fishermen and tax-collectors who confessed that He was the Son of the Living God, refused to accept the predictions of Jesus Himself that He was to die as a ransom (Matthew 16:21-23; Matthew 26:30-35; Mark 8:31-33; Mark 14:26-31; Luke 9:43-45; Luke 24:13 ff; John 12:27-36 [the crowd said, We have heard from the law that the Christ remains forever—does not die]; John 8:32-36). Isaiah graphically foretells that the Messiah would be slain as if He were a wicked person—a criminal—and yet, paradoxically, He would be buried in a rich man’s grave. History records the exact fulfillment of this! Jesus was sentenced as a blasphemer by the Jews, a seditionist by the Romans and executed on a criminal’s cross between two thieves. But He was buried in the rock-hewn tomb of the rich man, Joseph of Arimathea.

It is rather astounding that not one of Jesus’ own generation comprehended that He was to die an atoning death. Especially since a few of them confessed that He was who He claimed to be, The Son of the Living God. The prophet, overwhelmed by the importance of the substitutionary atonement involved, falls back once more upon it as the only explanation of an outcome so strange. It was the Messiah’s own people who had all the revelations of it in their Law and Prophets, and yet they are the ones who, at first totally rejected it; and ever since only a very small minority of Jews will accept it.

Verses 10-12

Isa 53:10-12

Isaiah 53:10-12


"Yet it pleased Jehovah to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of Jehovah shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by the knowledge of himself shall my righteous servant justify many; and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out his soul unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors: yet he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors."

"He shall prolong his days ..." (Isaiah 53:10). For one who was indeed put to death, this is undeniably a prophecy of his resurrection from the dead. By no other means, whatever, could it be said that of one who had poured out his soul unto death that he would "prolong his days." As Christ himself stated it: "I am the first and the last and the Living one; and I was dead, and, behold, I am alive forever more, and I have the keys of death and of Hades" (Revelation 1:18).

This stanza points to the glorification which God appointed for the Suffering Servant after the sufferings ended, constituting the problem that remained insoluble for the pre-Christian prophets. See 1 Peter 1;10-12. Added to the exaltation prophesied in the first stanza, the eternity of The Lord Jesus Christ is clearly visible.

This last stanza makes the worldwide success of Christ the marvel of all ages. He shall see his seed, number his followers in the countless millions; he shall prolong his days, be raised from the dead; the pleasure of Jehovah shall prosper in his hand, 1e., righteousness shall prosper in the world; he shall justify many, 1e., countless millions shall be saved from their sins through him; I will divide him a portion with the great, Jesus Christ shall attain worldwide and perpetual "greatness." In connection with this it should be remembered that all history falls into A.D. and B.C, and that more great and beautiful buildings have been constructed and dedicated to his glory in a single century than were ever erected and dedicated to all the kings and potentates who ever lived in the previous millenniums of human history, etc.

"He was numbered with the transgressors and made intercession for the transgressors" (Isaiah 53:12). This prophecy was fulfilled by the Saviour himself when he prayed for those who nailed him to the cross, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34).

Once, as this writer traveled southward on the Missouri-Pacific from St. Louis to Little Rock, a Unitarian noticed my reading the New Testament; and he said: "You Christians have your arithmetic all wrong. How could the atoning sacrifice of one man wipe out the sins of billions of men’"?.

The reply was: "Indeed, you are right. The sacrifice of one man would not even wipe out that one man’s sins, much less the sins of all men. Your mistake, Sir, is in your failure to see that Jesus Christ was in no sense whatever only one man. He was and is The Son of God, God manifested in the flesh; and that Holy Being’s atoning sacrifice was more than sufficient to wipe out the sins of all the myriads of men who ever lived." This answer left the questioner without reply.

Isaiah 53:10 PERPETUITY: The Hebrew word khaphetz means, “delighted” or “desired” and indicates that the death of the Messiah involved more than a sterile, unfeeling, deterministic plan of an unfeeling God. It is incomprehensible to the finite mind of sinful man how God could “delight” in the death of His Son, but He did. The Hebrew word translated bruise is heheliy and means to make painful. The Isaiah Scroll from Qumran has the word vyhllhv which means that he might pierce him (see comments on Isaiah 53:5).

These verses are some of the strongest of the Old Testament on the resurrection or immortality of the Servant-Messiah. The Servant dies, but He also lives on, succeeds and carries out the work of atonement, redemption, justification, sanctification and intercession that the Father has entrusted to Him, just as it was predicted He would do (Luke 24:25 ff). Other O.T. prophecies of the resurrection of the Messiah:

Psalms 16:1-11 Acts 2:25-33

Psalms 110:1-7 Acts 2:34-36

Psalms 22:1-31 Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34

2 Samuel 7:12; Psalms 89:3-4 Acts 13:34 (The enduring throne promised to David’s Messiah-Son presupposed victory over death.)

Genesis 22 (Abraham and Isaac; Hebrews 11:17-19). Abraham, on Mt. Moriah, participated in a dramatic typical event portraying Calvary and the Empty Tomb. Perhaps Jesus was alluding to this when He said, “Abraham rejoiced to see my day . . . and was glad.” John 8:56

Psalms 118:22 (The stone which the builders rejected is become the head of the corner).

There is no doubt that Isaiah 53 is Messianic and that it is predicting His atoning death and resurrection. Philip, by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, interpreted it thusly, Acts 8:26-40.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is a well established fact of history:

Proof of the Resurrection of Christ:

1. The historical records, by competent, credible, honest, numerous eyewitnesses say the tomb was empty. There is no historical testimony or evidence to the contrary. The only explanation is Matthew 28:11-15, soldiers were paid to say His disciples stole the body while the soldiers were asleep. How absurdly incredible!

2. Credible, competent, honest eyewitnesses testify they saw Jesus after his death, alive, talking to them, eating fish with them, even saw the nail prints in His hands.

3. The conversion of the enemies of Christianity can only be accounted for by the historical factuality of the resurrection of Christ (Saul of Tarsus; great company of the priests; even some of Caesar’s own household).

4. The Catacombs of Rome depict the resurrection of Jesus and testify to the belief in it by first century saints.

5. The existence of the church and its ordinances testifies to the resurrection. The fact of the New Testament itself is inexplicable apart from it.

It is not a question of could the resurrection occur or not. It is a question of did it occur or not—not a philosophical question, but a historical, scientific question!

Merrill C. Tenney says, “The event is fixed in history, the dynamic is potent for eternity.”

Unbelievers say Christ was not raised from the dead—I say prove it! All the reliable evidence we have says He was!

The church began in the city where Jesus’ burial was known, among those who could have refuted the testimony of Peter (Acts 2) and proved it false. All they would have to have done was produce the body of Jesus! But 3000 testify that He had arisen and Peter was telling the truth.

There are Imperatives to the Resurrection.

1. There is power in it. The power of Christianity is not in the esthetic value of great cathedrals, somber ritual and tradition, nor emotionalism but in the historical fact of the resurrection of Christ.

a. Gives hope that is living (1 Peter 1:3)

b. Brings joy unspeakable and full of glory (1 John 1:1-4)

c. Sanctifies and purifies (1 John 3:3; Acts 17:32)

d. Gives power to evangelism (Acts 4:33)

e. Gives stedfastness (1 Corinthians 15:58)

2. There is only one alternative to the resurrection. That is a life of eating, drinking, for tomorrow we die (1 Corinthians 15:12-19; 1 Corinthians 15:32).

3. But, if Christ is raised from the dead, and we shall be also, then:

a. The Bible is God’s Word!

b.Heaven and Hell are real places!

c. Man will live forever, one place or the other!

d. A man’s sins may really be forgiven!

e. The plan of salvation in the N.T. is the only valid one!

f. Christ is coming again!

g. There is only one church, the universal body of Christ which consists of all who believe in Christ, are repenting of their sins and have been immersed in water in obedience to His command!

h. No one will be saved who is not a member of that church!

The resurrection of Christ makes all the above imperative! There is no middle ground on any of that because His resurrection establishes beyond any question His deity and His authority!

The Servant shall produce “seed” or descendants. He shall have a family, but it will be a spiritual family (cf. Romans 9:8; Galatians 3:15-20; Galatians 3:23-29). So, it is in being lifted up He will draw men unto Him (cf. John 3:14-15; John 8:28; John 12:32). He shall fall into the ground like a grain of wheat and die, and then bear much fruit (John 12:23-26). And the khephetz (delight) of Jehovah shall succeed through His efforts. The delight of Jehovah is, of course, His eternal plan for the redemption of man! What wonder, what unsearchable grace, that Jehovah’s delight should be the salvation and regeneration of a planet full of wicked rebels. But more wonderful, His Son should come to this planet in the form of a man and willingly submit to humiliating death allowing Himself, though absolutely innocent, to become sin on man’s behalf!

Isaiah 53:11 PLEASURE: The Servant will have “travail of . . . soul” (cf. Isaiah 49:4 ff). But He will be “satisfied.” For the joyous reward that was set before Him, He could endure the cross (cf. Hebrews 12:2). He will look back from His enthronement at the right hand of the Father and see that He has succeeded in accomplishing the once-for-all-time redemption and regeneration of the Father’s creation (man and cosmos). As Young points out, the suffix on the Hebrew word beda’etto is difficult of interpretation. Is the suffix subjective or objective—that is, is Isaiah speaking of the knowledge that the servant himself possesses or of knowledge of the servant on the part of others? We think the context is emphasizing the successfulness of the Servant Himself and that it is through His own incarnation (human experience) that He performs His work of justification. It was through the experience of obedience as a Son that He became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him (cf. Hebrews 5:7-9; Philippians 2:5-11). The righteous servant (tzaddiyk ‘aveddiy) will make many righteous (yatzeddiyk). He makes it possible for us to become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21). This was the “grace that was to be ours” which the prophets prophesied (cf. 1 Peter 1:10-12). He bore our iniquities and became a “curse for us” (cf. Galatians 3:13).

Isaiah 53:12 PORTION: On account of the Servant’s victory over sin, Satan and death, Jehovah will exalt Him above every other man. The exaltation of the Servant of Jehovah is clearly predicted by the prophet earlier (Isaiah 49:7; Isaiah 52:15). When the Servant made purification for sins, he was enthroned at the right hand of the Majesty on high (Hebrews 1:3-4). When He ascended, He took captivity captive (Ephesians 4:8) and dispensed His gifts according to His will and purpose for the ongoing of the kingdom of God here on earth. The Servant whom the Jews crucified, God made both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36). There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12). The reason for this exaltation is summarized in the statement, “because he poured out his soul unto death.” “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing” (Revelation 5:12).

A whole volume could justifiably be written on this chapter alone. Perhaps the most intriguing question about Isaiah 53 is: “If the New Testament is so clear about its fulfillment in Jesus Christ, why do the majority of Jews not see and understand it?” A few references to The Servant of Jehovah in Jewish literature, both ancient and modern, may provide a partial answer to this question:

Jewish Apocrypha and The Suffering Servant concept:

The apocalyptic literature of the Jewish Apocrypha are such books as I Enoch, The Sibylline Oracles, The Testaments of the XII Patriarchs, the Psalms of Solomon, II Esdras, II Baruch and others. They were written in the years 165 B.C.—100 A.D.

In a book entitled, The Method and Message of Jewish Apocalyptic, by D. S. Russell, pub. Westminster, we learn, “There is no serious evidence of the bringing together of the concepts of the Suffering Servant and the Davidic Messiah before the Christian era.” Mr. Russell continues, “The Targum (Jewish Targums are rabbinical interpretations of the O.T.) on Isaiah 53 has often been alluded to, but it cannot be the Suffering Servant Isaiah predicted. The Messiah presented in this Targum is one who will triumph over the heathen and all the enemies of God’s people! The suffering he has to endure is minimal and devoid of all vicariousness. In fact, it is hardly suffering at all, for it consists simply in the exposure of himself to those dangers he will have to face in the coming struggle with the heathen before his final victory is assured. There is no mention of an atoning deathno reference to a suffering and dying Messiah.

II Esdras and II Baruch (cir. 90 A.D.) use the word “servant” to describe the Messiah from the seed of David. However, there is no suggestion of a suffering Messiah, or an atoning death. He is not killed by enemies or disease—he simply ceases to exist. The reference to his death is with the same casualness as any human death. He establishes his kingdom, dies, and presumably will rise with other humans at the general resurrection of the people of God.”

Modern Jews:

1. A Jewish woman doctor, recounting her conversion to Christ in a book called Pursued:

While recuperating from illness she began reading a Bible. She read Isaiah 53. She was forced to acknowledge it must be talking about the Messiah. But then she said she refused to accept the consequences of that passage for her Messiah. Suddenly she realized that she was reading from the KJV, “A Protestant Bible! Of course, it was slanted to sound that way. I went to sleep that night, confident I had caught the gentiles at a not-too-clever trick.”

But then she read it in a Jewish Bible and it was basically the same message!

2. Chapters 52–53 (of Isaiah) and other chapters contain the prophecies concerning the ‘suffering servant’ which the Christian church later interpreted as referring to Jesus, but which, in Jewish tradition, refer to the people of Israel,” pg. 151 from, The International Jewish Encyclopedia, by Rabbi ben Isaacson and Deborah Wigoder, compiled and produced in Israel for Prentice-Hall.

3. History of the Jew, by Heindrich Graetz, pub. The Jewish Pub. Soc. of America, 1893, in chapter entitled “Messianic Expectations and Origins of Christianity,” indicates the idea of a suffering Messiah was completely foreign to Jewish thinking.

It is not difficult now to understand the “rebuke” Peter had for Jesus (Matthew 16:22) when Jesus predicted His death!

4. Non-Messianic Interpretations:

a. Most prevalent among Jewish writers is that Isaiah 53 means the nation of Israel. Some say empirical Israel; some say ideal Israel; some say the pious remnant of the true Israel.

b. Isaiah 53 means the prophetical order—i.e. the collective body of the prophets . . . as the sacrificial victim taking upon itself the sins of the people.

c. Isaiah 53 means an individual (Hezekiah, Isaiah, Josiah, but most frequently, Jeremiah), but a human individual. Some said, an unknown sufferer (sounds like the apostles first answer to Jesus at Cesarea Philippi, Matthew 16).

5. Aaron Kligerman, in his book, Old Testament Messianic Prophecy, pub. Zondervan, paperback, thinks there were some Jewish interpretations which believed the Suffering Servant was to be the Messiah. He refers to Yalkut and Rambam which are Talmudic and Midrashic literature of the days of Maimonides (cir. 1135–1204 A.D.). These are so obscure, however, they are not worth considering as having direct reference to the Messiah as an individual. They could be understood in any of the categories listed above. Furthermore, they are of such late date they are probably concessions to Christian interpretations of Isaiah 53.

Jews are not alone in disavowing the biblical doctrine of the substitutionary atonement. Bishop G. Bromley Oxnam, former head of the World Council of Churches says in his book, A Testament of the Faith, pg. 144, Boston, 1958;

“We hear much of the substitutionary theory of the atonement. This theory to me is immoral. If Jesus paid it all, or if He is the substitute for me, or if He is the sacrifice for all the sin of the world, then why discuss forgiveness? The books are closed. Another has paid the debt, borne the penalty. I owe nothing. I am absolved. I cannot see forgiveness as predicted upon the act of some one else. It is my sin. I must atone.”

It is not trite to repeat that Philip, by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, applied Isaiah 53 to the atoning death and justifying resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is difficult to see how one may claim to be a disciple of Jesus and contradict this doctrine!

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Isaiah 53". "Old & New Testament Restoration Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/onr/isaiah-53.html.
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