Isaiah 53 - Outline of Isaiah (Book Notes menu page)
[The thought continues from the previous chapter, as shown by the outline below.]
B. Salvation procured by the Suffering Servant (The Prince of Peace), ch. 49-57
     4. The Price of Redemption, the substitionary sacrifice of the Suffering Servant, 52:13-53:12
  1. The Servant Exalted (52:13-15)
    1. The Messiah's appearance -
    2. His sufferings (52:14 and 53:4-10)
    3. His glories (52:15 and 53:11-12)
  2. The Servant Despised (53:1-3)
  3. The Servant Wounded (53:4-6)
  4. The Servant Cut Off (53:7-9)
  5. The Servant Satisfied (53:10-12)
b. The Servant Despised (v.1-3)
1. Who hath believed our report?
and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?
who hath believed our report?...- Here, the speakers are the prophets of Israel
and the preachers of the Gospel, who marvel that men reject God's message of redemption. Joh 12:37-41; Rom 10:15-17; Isa 6:9-12
     What is the essence of their 'report' (ie., news, tidings). It is the message, outlined by the LORD (in Isa 52:13-15), concerning the Messiah's sufferings and glory (1Pet 1:10,11; Rev 19:10).
Several voices give testimony to Him in this brief passage, which could also be outlined according to the speakers:
  • The Testimony of the Father (Isa 52:13-15)
  • The Testimony of the Prophets (53:1-2)
  • The Testimony of Israel's Remnant (53:3-6)
  • The Testimony of the Gospel Preachers (53:7-10)
  • The Testimony of the Father (53:11-12)
to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed {ie., uncovered}?-
     The arm of the LORD is the Messiah, who is the power of God unto salvation. The LORD "bared His arm," like a man rolling up His sleeves to accomplish a difficult task, when He sent His Servant. He did not send Him secretly, but openly. Yet, there remains a covering over the eyes of Israel and of those gentiles who fail to see what God has done through Christ. cp. Isa 51:9; 52:10; Joh 12:37-41; Rom 10:16
     From the time of Isaiah, Jewish scholars interpreted this passage as referring to the coming Messiah. However, in the eleventh century AD, Rabbi Solomon Yitzchaki (also known as Rabbi Shlomo ben Isaac, whose name is often abbreviated as Rashi) wrote: "Since Christians interpret Isaiah 53 as being a prophecy concerning Jesus, we maintain that this is a prophecy concerning the people of Israel." This has become the prevailing Jewish understanding, even though many rabbis before and after Rashi, have understood this passage as referring to the Messiah. Here are a few excerpts of rabbinic commentary:
    "I will now proceed to explain these verses of our own Messiah, who G-d willing, will come speedily in our days. I am surprised that Rashi and Rabbi David Kimchi have not, with the Targums, applied it to the Messiah likewise." (Rabbi Naphtali ben Asher Altshuler, ca. 1650 AD)
    "I am pleased to interpret it according to our rabbis, of the King Messiah, and will be careful, so far as I am able, to adhere to the literal sense: thus, possible, I shall be free from the fancied and far fetched interpretations of which others have been guilty..." (Rabbi Moshe Kohen Ibn Crispin of Cordova and Toledo Spain, ca. 1350 AD)
    "Our rabbis of blessed memory with one voice accept and affirm the opinion that the prophet is speaking of the King Messiah. And we ourselves shall also adhere to the same view." (Rabbi Moshe Le Sheich, second half of the 16th century)
    "The meaning of 'He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities' is, that since the Messiah bears our iniquities which produce the effect of His being bruised, it follows that whosoever will not admit that Messiah thus suffers for our iniquities, must endure and suffer for them himself." (Rabbi Elijah de Vidas, 16th century AD)
     Although these (and other) Jewish scholars, did not acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah, they could not accept Rashi's explanation of the text. The passage clearly speaks of an individual man (52:14), who is distinct from the people (53:8). This man, in contrast to the confession of the people, is innocent of all sin. Furthermore, this man takes the sin of the people upon himself and dies sacrificially to carry their guilt away. The nation of Israel is neither innocent, nor could it die to justify itself or any other nation.
     Sadly, it is common for Jewish teachers to avoid this passage entirely, in order to preclude the questions which it naturally raises. (eg., Acts 8:32-35)
     But the time will come when their blindness will be lifted (Rom 11:25-27). The LORD will reveal Himself to some, through His Word, and by His Spirit (cp. Luk 24:16,27-32; Joh 14:16-18; 16:13; Mat 11:27). Having come to know Him, these will raise their voices in testimony to their Messiah (cp. Luk 24:17,32-35; Rev 14:1-4) until the whole nation sees and receives Him (v.3-6; Zech 12:10).
2 For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant,
and as a root out of a dry ground:
he hath no form nor comeliness;
and when we shall see him,
[there is] no beauty that we should desire him.
3 He is despised and rejected of men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief:
and we hid as it were [our] faces from him;
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
for he shall grow up before {HB=paniym, in the face of, in the presence of} him... a tender plant {ie., shoot}... as a root out of dry ground...-
Before the face of the LORD, His Servant would spring up with true spiritual life, out of the land of Israel which had become a spiritual desert, and from the cut-off stump of David's line (cp. Isa 11:1). Therefore, the LORD would take special delight in Him (Mat 3:17).
he hath no form nor comeliness... that we should desire him.-
When the Messiah appeared at His first coming, there would be nothing impressive about His personal stature or appearance that would be especially attractive to the eyes of men (cp. 1Sam 9:2; 16:7). Instead...
he is despised {ie., regarded with contempt} and rejected of men...-
cp. Isa 49:7(a); Psa 22:6-8; Mat 27:27-31,39-44
...a man of sorrows {HB=mak'ob, pain}...
...acquainted with {ie., with full knowledge of} grief {HB=choliy, sickness}...-
The references above (at 'he is despised...') relate to the closing hours of His earthly life. However, verses 2-3 reveal a man characterized by a life of sorrow, especially during the years of His ministry.
     He lived as an alien on earth, and as a stranger even to his own family (Psa 69:8,9). He was consumed with fervent devotion to the LORD. While His zeal for the things of God was an embarrassment to His acquaintances, their apathy, toward God and His Word, made Him sick with grief (Psa 69:9-13; Rev 3:14-17). Yet, knowing the cause and consequences of the fallen human condition, He was continually burdened with the sorrows of mankind (Mat 9:35,36; 14:14; Mark 1:41; 6:31-34; Joh 11:33-35).
     His one place of refuge was the presence of His Father. Yet, He lived in anticipation of the hour in which the Father must forsake Him. cp. Psa 22:1-3; 102:1,2; Luk 22:41-44; Heb 5:7,8
...we hid... our faces {HB=paniym} from him...- Joh 1:10,11
We avoided eye contact with Him. We did not want to encourage His zeal. We thought there was something wrong with Him (Mark 3:21; Joh 10:20).
     In v.2(b)-6, the speakers are the believing Remnant of Israel ( They confess their previous rejection of the Messiah and mourn the years spent in unbelief. cp. Zech 12:10
...despised, and we esteemed him not...-
We considered Him insignificant. Zech 11:13; Mat 27:9; Acts 3:13-15
c. The Servant Wounded (v.4-6)
4. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows:
yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
5 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.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned every one to his own way;
and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Surely he hath borne our griefs {HB=choliy, sickness}...- cp. Mat 8:16,17
...and carried our sorrows {HB=mak'ob, pain}...-
With the word 'surely' {'truly'}, the speakers begin to confess the error of their previous low estimation of Him.
we did esteem him stricken... of God...-
(ie., We thought He was receiving just retribution for His crimes. cp. Joh 19:7)
...but he was wounded {HB=chalal, pierced, mortally wounded} for our transgressions {ie., rebellion}...
...bruised {HB=daka', broken, crushed} for our iniquities {ie., perversities}...
...the chastisement of {ie., punishment which procured} our peace {HB=shalom} was upon him...
The word 'shalom' embraces total well-being (not merely a peaceful state of mind).
...with his stripes {ie., welts, bruises} we are healed.- (1Pet 3:18)
Here, 'His stripes,' refers not to the wounds of His scourging, but rather to the totality of the punishment which our sins deserved, but which He received, in our place... in order that we could be healed {ie., thoroughly cured, made whole}.
     As noted above, Matthew quoted v.4 (in Mat 8:16,17), saying that Jesus' healing miracles were in fulfillment of this passage. Matthew's point was that the people should have identified Jesus as their Messiah, since He fit the prophetic picture set forth in the scriptures.
     Today, some preachers use this passage to claim that Christ's death secures present physical healing for all believers. However, the healing which this passage teaches is the cure for our sinful condition (...our transgressions... our iniquities). The Holy Spirit makes this very clear by interpreting this verse for us, in 1Pet 2:24.
     Because of what Christ has done, there will come a day, when the Lord makes all things new, when sin will be completely absent from His Kingdom. In that day, there will be no more pain or disease (Rev 21:4). But that day has not yet come. In fact, at the present time, believers should regard suffering as the normal experience of the godly, and in keeping with the example of Christ's sufferings (see 1Pet 2:21-25).
     The emphasis here, in v.5-6, is upon Christ's death for sin, as a substitute for the sinner (who deserved that death). This is the very heart of the gospel. 1Cor 15:1-4; 2Cor 5:21
all we like sheep have gone astray... the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.-
Verse 6 begins and ends with the same word.
     The first 'all' shows that no one is excluded from the guilt of sin (Rom 3:10-20).
     The second 'all' shows that Christ's sacrifice was sufficient to cover the sins of every sinner (Rom 3:21-26; 2Cor 5:14; 1Joh 2:2). However, although He paid the price of redemption for 'all,' that redemption is only effective for everyone whose sins are confessed and laid on Him. Sadly, many refuse to own Him as their sacrificial lamb, and therefore remain under condemnation for their sin. Redemption applies only to as many as receive Him, as their sin-offering (eg., Lev 1:4; 4:27-29; Joh 1:29; 3:18; Mat 20:28).
...hath laid on {HB=paga, hath caused to meet on, hath interposed on} him the iniquity {HB='avon, perversity, depravity} of us all.-
The word for 'hath laid on' is rendered 'made intercession' in v.12. He made intercession for sinners by interposing Himself as the meeting place for our sin and its judgment.
d. The Servant Cut Off (v.7-9)
7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth:
he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb,
so he openeth not his mouth.
8 He was taken from prison and from judgment:
and who shall declare his generation?
for he was cut off out of the land of the living:
for the transgression of my people was he stricken.
9 And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death;
because he had done no violence, neither [was any] deceit in his mouth.
He was...- v.7-10 continue the focus on His sufferings, but the voice changes to third person narrative.
The speakers are the prophets and the Gospel preachers, who proclaim and explain Christ's work of salvation. It was at this passage of scripture that Philip began to preach Jesus to the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:32-35).
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet opened he not his mouth...-
This passage includes testimony from several voices concerning God's Servant. However, the Servant Himself remains silent. Confronted with gross injustice, Jesus neither defended Himself against false accusers, nor demanded due process from His unjust judges. Questioned concerning His identity, He simply spoke the Truth. v.7; cp. Mat 26:62-64; 27:12-14; Joh 19:9-11; 1Pet 2:23
...he was taken {ie., seized} from prison and from judgment {ie., justice}... -
Verse 8 means that "bound and with violence, He was taken away to death, justice being denied Him; and that being 'cut off' (Dan 9:26), He would have no posterity ('generation')." [GWms]
...for the transgression of my people was He stricken.-
As Dan 9:26 also declares: the Messiah would "be cut off, but not for himself." cp. 1Pet 3:18
...he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death...-
cp. v.9 in the NASB: "His grave was assigned with wicked men, Yet He was with a rich man in His death, because He had done no violence, nor was there any deceit in His mouth."
     Having been crucified as a criminal, in company with other criminals (Luk 23:32,33), Jesus would have been buried with them. However, because He was innocent of the charges against Him, the LORD overruled the intentions of the rulers, by giving His body an honorable burial. cp. Mat 27:57-60; Mark 15:43-46; Luk 23:50-53; Joh 19:38-42 his death {lit., deaths}.- His death is stated in the plural, because...
  • His death had dual aspects:
    1. He was cut-off out of the land of the living.
      (The 'first death' involves physical separation from the world of men. Heb 9:27,28)
    2. He was forsaken by God, as He became sin, to take away sin and to destroy death.
      (The 'second death' involves spiritual separation from God. 2Cor 5:21; Rev 20:14,15)
  • His death bore the sting of death for multitudes who trust in Him. 1Cor 15:55-57
  • His death fulfilled and completed the significance of each of the distinct types of sacrifices described in the book of Leviticus. [The various types of sacrifices will be discussed briefly in the notes at v.12, below.]
e. The Servant Satisfied (v.10-12)
10. Yet it pleased the LORD 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 the LORD shall prosper in his hand.
11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, [and] shall be satisfied:
by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many;
for he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore will I divide him [a portion] with the great,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong;
because he hath poured out his soul unto death:
and he was numbered with the transgressors;
and he bare the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.
Yet it pleased the LORD {ie., it was His purpose, Acts 2:23a}... bruise {ie., to crush} Him...- (v.5)
...[to] put him to grief...- (v.3,4)
...[to] make his soul an offering for sin...- (v.6)
  • his soul...- ie., He Himself, not merely His body, for He was made sin for us (2Cor 5:21).
    What did this mean for Him? We will never fully understand.
       In this passage, we have seen the contrast between man's view of the Messiah (v.2,3) and the LORD's testimony concerning Him (Isa 52:13-14). At the time of His sacrificial death, men gawked at His physical agonies (Psa 22:7-18). But God, who looks on the heart, turned His face away from sin as the Lamb (the Messiah) was consumed upon the hearth of God's holiness (Psa 22:1-3). Thus, His personal devastation (described in Isa 52:14), as seen by the LORD, was much deeper than outward appearance, for it tore His suffering Servant's soul: Bearing the sin of all mankind, and judging it within Himself, the Messiah was "so marred more" {HB=mishchath, corrupted, perverted, ruined, destroyed} more than any other man (cp. Psa 40:12).
       His soul was offered to save your soul and mine.
  • an offering for sin {HB='asham, a trespass offering, Lev 6:6}...-
    Though His death fulfilled all of the Levitical sacrifices, the trespass offering is specifically mentioned here. Why?
       Because the trespass offering was not for the congregation at large, but to procure forgiveness for the individual repentant sinner (cp. Lev 6:1-7). Likewise, the salvation which Christ secured, though available for everyone, is effective only for those individuals who own Him as their substitutionary sacrifice for sin. Joh 1:12; Mat 20:28; Acts 13:38,39
His willing sacrifice of Himself, would please the Father and produce the following fruit...
A. He shall see His seed...- Though His early death would rob Him of physical children (v.8),
He would have many spiritual children. Psa 22:30; Joh 1:12,13
B. He shall prolong His days...- This forsees His resurrection and endless life (Rev 1:18).
His resurrection is also implied by the statement that He will 'see His seed' (cp. Joh 16:16-22).
C. The pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand.-
Through Christ, the LORD's purposes will be accomplished, including: bringing many sons to glory, and establishing the Messianic Kingdom on earth. eg., Joh 6:37-40; Eph 1:5-9; 2Cor 1:20
D. He shall see of the travail {ie., agonizing labor} of His soul, and shall be satisfied... (v.11)
The Savior, who "poured out His soul unto death" (v.12), to accomplish God's purposes, will be satisfied {filled} to see those purposes fulfilled. cp. Joh 4:34; 12:24-28; Heb 12:2; Rev 5:6-12
E. By his knowledge shall my righteous {HB=tsaddiyq} servant justify {HB=tsadaq, make righteous} many...-
The justification of believing sinners rests entirely upon the shoulders of the one absolutely righteous Servant, who, as our High Priest, bore away our iniquities when He sacrificed Himself as our trespass offering. Heb 4:15; 1Joh 2:1,2
...for he shall bear their iniquities.- v.5,6; Rom 5:1,9,18,19; Heb 9:27,28; 10:14-18; 1Pet 2:24; 3:18
     Today, those, who are justified by faith in Christ, are declared righteous, despite present imperfections. But when He returns, they will be made truly righteous, in the righteousness of the One they have come to know. This righteousness is conveyed 'by his knowledge' (ie., through knowing Him). Joh 17:3; 2Cor 5:20,21; Php 3:8-10; 2Pet 1:2,3; 3:18; 1Joh 5:20
     The phrase 'by His knowledge' can also be understood as 'by His own knowledge.' He was imbued with the Spirit of Knowledge (Isa 11:2). As the only man with perfect knowledge of the Father, only He can reveal the Father to others (Mat 11:27). Likewise, it is the Father who makes His Son known.
     Observe that, in v.11,12, it is the God the Father, who speaks again concerning His Servant. In Isa 52:13-16, He spoke of the astonishing depth of His Servant's suffering and the astonishing height of His exaltation. Here, He speaks of the astonishing fruit of His suffering: a salvation which is great beyond what any man could imagine (cp. 1Cor 2:9; Eph 3:20,21; Heb 2:10-13).
Therefore will I divide {HB=chalaq, apportion (eg., an inheritance)} him [a portion] with the great,
he shall divide {HB=chalaq} the spoil with the strong {ie., mighty}...-
The Septuagint renders this line: "He shall divide the spoils of the mighty" (in prophetic foreview of His complete conquest of the kingdoms of this world).
     Here again, the LORD speaks of the Messiah's ultimate exaltation (cp. Isa 52:13) and of His full victory over every enemy (Psa 2:8,9; Dan 7:13,14; Php 2:9-11). The cause of His glory and the glories of His Kingdom is reviewed and summarized, in the closing lines of this chapter:
1. for He hath poured out his soul unto death...- cp. Joh 10:17,18; Mat 26:38,39
The completeness of the Messiah's willing obedience to the Father's will is depicted in the five Levitical sacrifices. We have previously mentioned the Trespass Offering (at v.10), as it pertains to the individual believer. But all of the sacrifices are represented in this passage. Consider: the Burnt Offering (completely consumed for the LORD's purposes, v.12b), the Peace Offering (v.5), the Sin Offering (v.6,12c), the Meal Offering (which speaks of His perfect life, pleasing to God, v.2a).
     [For more about these sacrifices, see Christ in the Tabernacle, chapter 5: "The Offerings." This study can also be accessed through the Resource Menu button.]
2. He was numbered with the transgressors...- cp. Mat 27:38; Mark 15:27,28; Luk 22:37
3. He bare the sin of many...- Joh 1:12,13; 3:16
4. [He] made intercession {ie., He intervened, He interposed Himself} for the transgressors.-
     (cp. v.6, where the word for 'he made intercession' is rendered 'hath laid on him.')
In Himself, our sin met the judgment deserved, at a specific point in time. cp. Luk 23:33,34; 1Tim 2:5,6; Titus 2:14; Heb 9:24-28
     The HB tense of the words 'made intercession' indicates that His intercession is continuously active, for all, in any age, who come unto God by Him (Heb 7:25).
He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (Joh 1:29).
But is He your Lamb?
For another look at this chapter, see "Isaiah 53: Of Whom Does the Prophet Speak?" by Victor Buksbazen.
[This study is also accessible via the Resource Menu button.]

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