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Saturday, September 30th, 2023
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 53

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 3298. B.C. 706.

The two great things which the Spirit of Christ, in the Old Testament prophets, testified beforehand, were the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow, 1 Peter 1:11 ; and that which Christ himself, when he expounded Moses and all the prophets, showed to be the drift and scope of them all, was that Christ ought to suffer, and then to enter into his glory, Luke 24:26-27 . But nowhere, in all the Old Testament, are these two so plainly and fully prophesied of as here in this chapter, out of which divers passages are quoted and applied to Christ in the New Testament. We have here,

(1,) The reproach of Christ’s sufferings, the meanness of his appearance, the greatness of his griefs and troubles, and the prejudice thence conceived against him, Isaiah 53:1-4 .

(2,) The distinguished honour of his sufferings that he suffered for the sins of others, not for his own, Isaiah 53:4-6 , Isaiah 53:8 , Isaiah 53:9 , Isaiah 53:11 , Isaiah 53:12 ; that he bore his sufferings with perfect, invincible, and exemplary patience, Isaiah 53:7 ; that, in making atonement for our sins, he obeyed and honoured his Father, Isaiah 53:6 , Isaiah 53:10 ; and that his sufferings issued in his own high exaltation, and the eternal redemption of innumerable multitudes of mankind, Isaiah 53:8 , Isaiah 53:10-12 .

Verse 1

Isaiah 53:1. Who hath believed our report? The prophet having, in the last three verses of the former chapter, made a general report concerning the great and wonderful humiliation and exaltation of the Messiah, of which he intended to discourse more largely in this chapter, thought fit, before he descended to particulars, 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 further say? Few or none. The generality of them will never receive, nor believe in, such a Messiah as this. Thus this place is expounded by Christ himself, John 12:38, and by St. 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 seduced with their example. And to whom Hebrew, על מי , because, or, in behalf of whom, namely, to deliver them from the guilt and dominion of their sins, and other spiritual enemies; is the arm That is, the power; of the Lord revealed? This is only revealed, or displayed, for the deliverance of those who, with a lively and divine faith; believe the report: for the gospel is the power of God unto salvation only to him that believeth, Romans 1:16.

Verses 2-3

Isaiah 53:2-3. For he shall grow up, &c. And the reason why the Jews will generally reject their Messiah is, because he shall not come into the world with secular pomp, but he shall grow up, (or, spring up, out of the ground,) 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,) as a tender plant, (small and inconsiderable,) and as a root, or branch, grows out of a dry, barren ground, whose productions are generally poor and contemptible. He hath no form, &c. His bodily presence and condition in the world shall be mean and despicable. And when we see him, there is no beauty, &c. When we, that is, our people, the Jewish nation, shall look upon him, expecting to find incomparable beauty and majesty in his countenance and demeanour, we shall be altogether disappointed, and shall meet with nothing desirable in him. This the prophet speaks in the persons of the carnal and unbelieving Jews. There was a great deal of true beauty in him, the beauty of holiness, and the beauty of goodness, enough to render him the desire of all nations; but the far greater part of those among whom he lived and conversed saw none of this beauty; for it was spiritually discerned. Observe, reader, carnal minds see no excellence in the Lord Jesus; nothing that should induce them to desire an acquaintance with, or interest in him. Nay, he is not only not desired, but he is despised and rejected As one unworthy of the company and conversation of all men; despised as a mean man, rejected as a bad man, a deceiver of the people, an impostor, a blasphemer, an associate of Satan. He was the stone which the builders refused; they would not have him to reign over them. A man of sorrows Whose whole life was filled with, and, in a manner, made up of, a succession of sorrows and sufferings; and acquainted with grief Who had constant experience of, and familiar converse with, grievous afflictions. And we hid, &c. We scorned to look upon him; or we looked another way, and his sufferings were nothing to us; though never sorrow was like unto his sorrows.

Verses 4-5

Isaiah 53:4-5. Surely he hath borne our griefs Whereas it may seem an incredible thing, that so excellent and glorious, and so innocent and holy 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 for the sake of sinful men, in whose stead he stood, and for whose sins he suffered: yet we did esteem him Yet our people, the Jews, were so far from giving him the glory and praise of such astonishing condescension and compassion, that they made a most perverse construction of it; and so great was their prejudice against him, that they believed he was thus disgraced and punished, and, at last, put to death, by the just judgment of God, for his blasphemy and other manifold acts of wickedness. But, &c. This was a most false and unrighteous sentence. He was wounded

Which word comprehends all his pains and punishments, and his death among the rest; for our transgressions The prophet does not say by, but for them, or, because of them, namely, for the guilt of our sins, which he had voluntarily taken upon himself, and for the expiation of our sins, which was hereby purchased. The chastisement of our peace Those punishments by which our peace, our reconciliation to God, was to be purchased, were 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

Isaiah 53:6. All we All mankind; like sheep Which are exceedingly apt to go astray, and lose themselves; have gone astray From God, and from the way of truth and duty; of wisdom, piety, and virtue; of holiness and happiness. We have turned every one to his own way In general, to the way of sin, which may well be called a man’s own way, because sin is natural to us, inherent in us, born with us; and, in particular, to those several paths which several men choose, according to their different opinions and circumstances. And the Lord hath laid Hebrew, hath made to meet on him, as all the rivers meet in the sea. The iniquity of us all

Not properly, for he knew no sin; but the punishment of iniquity, as the word עון is frequently used. That which was due for all the sins of all mankind, which must needs be so heavy a load, that if he had not been God as well as man he must have sunk under the burden.

Verse 7

Isaiah 53:7. He was oppressed By the intolerable weight of his sufferings, and he was afflicted By the most pungent pain and sorrow. Or, as the Hebrew נגשׁ הוא נענה , is rendered by Bishop Lowth and others, It was exacted, and he answered, or, was made answerable. God’s justice required satisfaction from us for our sins, which, alas! we were incapable of making, and he answered the demand; that is, became our surety, or undertook to pay our debt, or suffer the penalty of the law in our stead. Yet he opened not his mouth He neither murmured against God for giving him up 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 quietly accepted the punishment of our iniquity, manifesting, through the whole scene of his unparalleled sufferings, the most exemplary patience and meekness, and the most ready and cheerful compliance with his heavenly Father’s will.

Verse 8

Isaiah 53:8. He was taken from prison and from judgment As we do not find that imprisonment was any part of Christ’s sufferings, the marginal reading seems to be preferable here. He was taken away by distress and judgment; that is, he was taken out of this life by oppression, violence, and a pretence of justice: or, as Bishop Lowth has it, By an oppressive judgment he was taken off. In Acts 8:33, where we find this passage quoted, the reading of the LXX. is followed exactly, Εν τη ταπεινωσει η κρισις αυτου πρθη , In his humiliation his judgment was taken away; that is, in his state of humiliation he had no justice shown him; to take away a person’s judgment, being a proverbial phrase for oppressing him. Or, as Dr. Doddridge explains it, “Jesus appeared in so humble a form, that, though Pilate was convinced of his innocence, he seemed a person of so little importance that it would not be worth while to hazard any thing to preserve him.” They who prefer the translation given in our text, as Beza and many other commentators do, think the words refer to Christ’s being taken, by his resurrection, from his confinement in the grave, (which they suppose to be here called a prison, as it is termed a house, Job 30:23, and a pit, Psalms 69:15,) and from the judgment, or sentence, which had been executed upon him: “agreeable to which Mr. L’Enfant renders it, His condemnation was taken away by his very abasement; that is, his stooping to death gave occasion to his triumph.” And who shall declare his generation “This is one of the many passages of the Old Testament prophecies,” says Dr. Doddridge, “in which it is not so difficult to find a sense fairly applicable to Christ, as to know which to prefer of several that are so. Many ancient, as well as modern writers, have referred it to the mystery of his Deity,” his eternal generation, “or his incarnation,” his miraculous conception. “But Calvin and Beza say, this was owing to their ignorance of the Hebrew, the word דור not admitting such a sense; and it is certain it very ill suits the connection with the following clause.” Some understand it as referring to his not having any witnesses to appear for him and give an account of his life and character. This interpretation is preferred by Bishop Lowth, who therefore renders the clause, And his manner of life who would declare? Others again, among whom are Calvin and Beza, think it is as if the prophet had said, “Who can declare how long he shall live and reign, or count the numerous offspring that shall descend from him?” But, “not to say that this idea is much more clearly expressed by the prophet, Isaiah 53:10, which, on this interpretation, is a tautology,” it does not appear that דור , generation, and זרע , seed, are ever used as synonymous terms. The former of these words, in the Hebrew, signifies the same with a generation of men, in English, who are contemporaries; (see Genesis 7:1; Judges 2:10; Psalms 95:10; Psalms 109:13;) and γενεα , in the LXX., by which it is here rendered, has most frequently this sense. “Therefore, I suppose,” says Dr. Doddridge, “with Dr. Hammond, the sense to be, ‘Who can describe the obstinate infidelity and barbarous injustice of that generation of men, among whom he appeared, and from whom he suffered such things?’” For he was cut off Namely, by a violent death; out of the land of the living By the wicked hands of those whom he came to save: see Acts 2:23. For the transgression Or, as some render, מפשׁע עמי , By the transgression of my people was he stricken Hebrew, נגע למו , the stroke was on him; that is, he was stricken, was crucified and slain, by or through the wickedness of the Jews. The former, however, is doubtless the sense intended, for, as the angel testified to Daniel, (Daniel 9:24; Daniel 9:26,) the Messiah was to be cut off, not for himself, but for the sins and salvation of mankind. And this, though asserted Isaiah 53:4-6, is here repeated as a doctrine that cannot be too frequently inculcated, or too much regarded; and to prevent men’s mistakes about, or stumbling at, the humiliation of Christ, as though he had suffered and died for his own sins.

Verse 9

Isaiah 53:9. And he made his grave with the wicked And although he did not die for his own sins, but only for those of mankind, yet he was willing to die like a malefactor, or like a sinner, as all other men are, and to be put into a grave as they use 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, does not denote the sameness of place, as if he should be buried in the same grave with other malefactors, but the sameness of condition. But the words may be rendered, A grave was appointed for him with the wicked; but he was with the rich at his death. Or, as Bishop Lowth reads it, His grave was appointed with the wicked; but with the rich man was his tomb. See his notes. “As our Lord was crucified between two thieves, it was doubtless intended he should be buried with them. ‘Thus his grave was appointed with the wicked;’ but Joseph of Arimathea came and asked for his body, and Pilate, convinced that he had committed no crime, readily granted Joseph’s request. Thus ‘he was with the rich at his death,’ that is, till his resurrection: and this took place contrary to the intention of his enemies, because he had done no violence, &c., for otherwise Joseph would scarcely have requested Pilate, and probably Pilate would not have consented, to deliver up the body of a crucified malefactor.” Scott. But this latter clause may be connected with the following verse, and rendered, Although he had done no violence, &c ., yet it pleased the Lord, &c. In this light it is considered by Bishop Lowth and many others.

Verses 10-11

Isaiah 53:10-11. It pleased the Lord to bruise him Although he was perfectly innocent, it pleased God, for other just and wise reasons, to expose him to sufferings and death. He hath put him to grief His God and Father spared him not, though he was his only and beloved Son, but delivered him up for us all, to ignominy and torture, delivered him by his determinate counsel and foreknowledge, (Acts 2:23,) into the power of those whose wicked hands he knew would execute upon him every species of cruelty and barbarity. When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin When thou, O God, shalt 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 oppressed with a sense of the wrath of God due to our sins, his body crucified, and his soul and body separated by death. Or, the words, נפשׁו אם תשׁים אשׁם , may be rendered, when, or, if his soul shall make an offering for sin, or, a propitiatory sacrifice: whereby it may be implied, that he did not lay down his life by compulsion, 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 seed of believers, reconciled to God, and saved by his death. He shall prolong his days He shall be raised to immortal life, and live and reign with God for ever. The pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand God’s gracious decree, for the salvation of mankind, shall be effectually carried on by his ministry and mediation. He shall see of the travail of his soul He shall enjoy 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 recompense. By his knowledge By the knowledge of, or an acquaintance with himself, that knowledge which is accompanied with faith, love, and obedience to him; shall my righteous servant justify many Shall acquit them that believe in and obey him from the guilt of all their sins, and save them from the dreadful consequences thereof. Justification is here, as in most other places of the Scriptures, one or two excepted opposed to condemnation: and Christ is said to justify sinners, because he does it meritoriously, procuring justification for us by his sacrifice; as God the Father is commonly said to justify authoritatively, because he accepted the price paid by Christ for that blessing, and the pronouncing of the sentence of absolution is referred to him in the gospel dispensation. 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, on the principles of reason and justice, they must be acquitted, otherwise the same debt would be twice required and paid.

Verse 12

Isaiah 53:12. Therefore will I Namely, God the Father; divide him a portion This word portion (though there is nothing for it in the Hebrew)

is properly supplied out of the next clause, where a word, which answers to it, rendered 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 short combat and a glorious victory. Though he be a very mean and obscure person, as to his outward condition in the world, yet he shall attain to a greater pitch of glory than the greatest monarchs enjoy. He shall divide the spoil with the strong The same thing repeated in other words. The sense of both clauses is, I will give him great and happy success in his undertaking: he shall conquer all his enemies, and lead captivity captive; and he shall set up and establish his kingdom among and over all the kingdoms of the world: see Ephesians 1:20, &c.; and Philippians 2:8-9. Because he hath poured out his soul unto death Because he willingly laid down his life in obedience to God’s command, and in order to the redemption of mankind. And he was numbered with the transgressors He was willing, for God’s glory, and for man’s salvation, to be reproached and punished, like a malefactor, in the same manner and place with them, and between two of them, Mark 15:27-28. And made intercession for the transgressors He prayed upon earth for all sinners, and particularly for those that crucified him, and in heaven he still intercedes for them, by a legal demand of those good things which he purchased by the sacrifice of himself, which, though past, he continually represents to his Father as if it were present.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Isaiah 53". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/isaiah-53.html. 1857.
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