Isaiah 53


מִי הֶאֱמִין לִשְׁמֻעָתֵנוּ וּזְרֹועַ יְהוָה עַל־מִי נִגְלָתָה׃   53:1

Isai. 53:1   Who was steadfast to our announcement,

                             and the power of the Lord, by Whom it was revealed,

וַיַּעַל כַּיֹּונֵק לְפָנָיו וְכַשֹּׁרֶשׁ מֵאֶרֶץ צִיָּה לֹא־תֹאַר לֹו וְלֹא הָדָר וְנִרְאֵהוּ וְלֹא־מַרְאֶה וְנֶחְמְדֵהוּ׃   53:2

Isai. 53:2   that he shot up like a sapling before Him,

                             and like a root out of a parched earth?

                   There was no form to him

                             and no beauty as we looked at him,

                   and no appearance in which we would delight.

Commentators seem to agree that this is still Israel being described.  But some ascribe these words to the Babylonians, meaning that Isaiah is now mouthing their words about Israel.  That would seem to imply that the redeemed are returning from the Babylonian exile eighty years after the destruction of the Temple.  I believe that Isaiah is not necessarily writing about any given single period in history.  I suspect he is all-encompassing -- addressing the whole of the Jewish experience.  So as I see it, these verses are being expressed by whoever happens to be witnessing and understanding the redemption of Israel, perhaps the rulers mentioned in the last chapter.

נִבְזֶה וַחֲדַל אִישִׁים אִישׁ מַכְאֹבֹות וִידוּעַ חֹלִי וּכְמַסְתֵּר פָּנִים מִמֶּנּוּ נִבְזֶה וְלֹא חֲשַׁבְנֻהוּ׃   53:3

Isai. 53:3   He was despised, and rejected of men,

                             one of sorrows, and knowing of disease,

                    and was like one who hides the face from himself.

                             He was despised, and we did not esteem him.

אָכֵן חֳלָיֵנוּ הוּא נָשָׂא וּמַכְאֹבֵינוּ סְבָלָם וַאֲנַחְנוּ חֲשַׁבְנֻהוּ נָגוּעַ מֻכֵּה אֱלֹהִים וּמְעֻנֶּה׃   53:4

Isai. 53:4   But he bore our diseases,

                              and our pains, he carried them,

                    so we esteemed him stricken,

                              smitten of God, and afflicted.

וְהוּא מְחֹלָל מִפְּשָׁעֵנוּ מְדֻכָּא מֵעֲוֹנֹתֵינוּ מוּסַר שְׁלֹומֵנוּ עָלָיו וּבַחֲבֻרָתֹו נִרְפָּא־לָנוּ׃   53:5

Isai. 53:5   And he was wounded because of our transgressions,

                              crushed because of our iniquities.

                    The chastening of our health was upon him,

                              and with his wounds, healing was ours.

כֻּלָּנוּ כַּצֹּאן תָּעִינוּ אִישׁ לְדַרְכֹּו פָּנִינוּ וַיהוָה הִפְגִּיעַ בֹּו אֵת עֲוֹן כֻּלָּנוּ׃   53:6

Isai. 53:6   All of us went astray like sheep.

                             Each to his own way, we turned aside.

                    And the Lord made the iniquity of all of us fall on him.

נִגַּשׂ וְהוּא נַעֲנֶה וְלֹא יִפְתַּח־פִּיו כַּשֶּׂה לַטֶּבַח יוּבָל וּכְרָחֵל לִפְנֵי גֹזְזֶיהָ נֶאֱלָמָה וְלֹא יִפְתַּח פִּיו׃   53:7

Isai. 53:7   He was so oppressed that he was humbled

                             and would not open his mouth.

                    Like a lamb led to slaughter,

                             or like a sheep dumb before her shearers,

                    so he would not open his mouth.

מֵעֹצֶר וּמִמִּשְׁפָּט לֻקָּח וְאֶת־דֹּורֹו מִי יְשֹׂוחֵחַ כִּי נִגְזַר מֵאֶרֶץ חַיִּים מִפֶּשַׁע עַמִּי נֶגַע לָמֹו׃   53:8

Isai. 53:8   Out of oppression and by judgment was he taken

                              (but who could reason with his generation?)

                    when he was cut off from the land of the living.

                              Because of the transgression of my people

                     the stroke was for him.

וַיִּתֵּן אֶת־רְשָׁעִים קִבְרֹו וְאֶת־עָשִׁיר בְּמֹתָיו עַל לֹא־חָמָס עָשָׂה וְלֹא מִרְמָה בְּפִיו׃   53:9

Isai. 53:9   And on his death,

                              his grave was put with the wicked,

                    and with the rich,

                              although he did no violence,

                    and no deceit was in his mouth.

וַיהוָה חָפֵץ דַּכְּאֹו הֶחֱלִי אִם־תָּשִׂים אָשָׁם נַפְשֹׁו יִרְאֶה זֶרַע יַאֲרִיךְ יָמִים וְחֵפֶץ יְהוָה בְּיָדֹו יִצְלָח׃   53:10

Isai. 53:10   But the Lord desired his oppression of disease

                              so his soul would be made a sin offering,

                       his seed would see He could lengthen days

                               that by his hand the purpose of the Lord might prosper,

מֵעֲמַל נַפְשֹׁו יִרְאֶה יִשְׂבָּע בְּדַעְתֹּו יַצְדִּיק צַדִּיק עַבְדִּי לָרַבִּים וַעֲוֹנֹתָם הוּא יִסְבֹּל׃   53:11

Isai. 53:11   out of the travail of his soul he would see,

                               might be satisfied by his understanding.

                      “My servant shall justify righteousness to the many,

                                and he would bear their iniquities.”

לָכֵן אֲחַלֶּק־לֹו בָרַבִּים וְאֶת־עֲצוּמִים יְחַלֵּק שָׁלָל תַּחַת אֲשֶׁר הֶעֱרָה לַמָּוֶת נַפְשֹׁו וְאֶת־פֹּשְׁעִים נִמְנָה   53:12 וְהוּא חֵטְא־רַבִּים נָשָׂא וְלַפֹּשְׁעִים יַפְגִּיעַ׃

Isai. 53:12   “Therefore I will share him with the many,

                               and he will divide the spoil with the mighty,

                       in that he bared his soul to death,

                               and was counted with the transgressors

                      when he bore the sin of many

                                that he might intercede for the transgressors.”

This has to be a rather amazing and startling chapter.  So much can be said about it - it has many ramifications -- but I’ll restrict my remarks to just one of them.  Has Isaiah described here what he sees as the raison d’etre of the Jews?  It would seem so.  The Jews are bearing the iniquities of the nations who oppress them -- so they, the nations, may be granted salvation?  This sounds like the Jews are fulfilling the role of Jesus for the Christians and the world.  What a startling idea!  However, I don’t see it that way at all.  If you visit my other web site, you’ll learn my point of view, which I believe is revealed in the Torah.

Be aware that many Christians believe this chapter (and numerous others in the bible) describes Jesus’ experience at his crucifixion.  This chapter contains several verses that seem eerily prophetic.  To this, I say, why not?  As I (and many others) see the bible, it incorporates divine prophecy about all of history, predicting all important events both before and ever after.  Then why should it not describe Jesus’ crucifixion, one of the most influential events of history?  I see this discussion as non-controversial, and it recognizes the educational value of the Hebrew bible, which I believe is a teaching tool for all time.  Notice, however, that in this chapter Isaiah neither implies nor suggests that Jesus is God.  In fact, none of the assumed prophetic chapters or verses in the Hebrew bible provide any hint of that.                                                                                                                [Return to Psal. 22:1]


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