Introduction to Isaiah
This section of scripture is central to the Christian view of Messiah,
written over 700 years before the birth of Jesus, Christians see Jesus
as the fulfillment of these verses. Jewish interpreters object to this
reading, they see the servant here as; the nation of
Jeremiah or the Messiah, but not Jesus.
importance of this scripture in the Jewish-Christian debate on the
Messiah can be traced back to the time of Origen (185-254 A.D.)
and earlier. In the book of Acts, we see a man, a eunuch, of
Candace queen of the Ethiopians, sitting his chariot reading from Isaiah
53, not understanding what he is reading. Phillip then explains to the
man in the chariot the meaning of the verses in Isaiah, according to the
Christian understanding (Acts 8:30-35).
the person or group being referenced to in this section of Isaiah? The
meaning of this scripture is a touchstone on the understanding of just
who the Messiah is in Christianity.
What is the
from the early part of his ministry commissioned to warn Judah and
Jerusalem called them to repentance, in the face of God’s judgment.
said, "Go, and tell this people: 'Keep on hearing, but do not
understand; Keep on seeing, but do not perceive.'..
Then I said, "Lord, how long?" And He answered: "Until the cities are
laid waste and without inhabitant, The houses are without a man, The
land is utterly desolate, Isaiah 6:9,11
Isaiah warned Ahaz,
father of Hezekiah of the coming Assyrian invasion (Isaiah 7:17-25),
before he asked for their help. Isaiah was there when all hope seemed
lost, and the city of
was surrounded by the armies of Sennacherib, 701 B.C., then with
supernatural intervention the Angel of the Lord slew the army of
and Jerusalem were saved (Isaiah 36-37). This part of Isaiah,
classified as Proto-Isaiah (First Isaiah), by Isaiah’s critics
(Chapters 1-39), deals with the Assyrian conflict in
and Judah. In chapter 39, we see the envoys from Babylon who visit
Hezekiah after his illness. Isaiah warns Hezekiah, about the coming
which will follow, after Hezekiah’s death (Isaiah 39:6).
Chapters 40 to 55, skip forward in prophetic time to the Babylonian
captivity, which occurs after Babylon defeats Assyria, then captures
Jerusalem, destroying the city and taking captives (605, 597, 587 B.C.).
Isaiah 52:13-53:12 is located in a portion of scripture, dealing with
Judah and Jerusalem’s future, and redemption. Isaiah writes about this
coming captivity and redemption from the Babylonian.
Isaiah died even before the Babylonians took Judah and
captive, and Cyrus, king of
Babylon in 539 B.C. However, Isaiah wrote about Cyrus, and how he would
free the LORD’s people (Isaiah 44:28; 45:1-2). For this reason, many
who doubt the supernatural nature of scripture have classified this
section as Deutero-Isaiah,
saying, Isaiah, who died before Cyrus was born, could not have written
about someone he did not know.
It’s in this context, Isaiah writes a message of comfort and
redemption to a future captivity of Judah, yet to occur. Isaiah 53 is
part of this portion of scripture, dealing with the LORD’s plan of
redemption for His people Israel and His city Jerusalem.
What is Isaiah 52:13-53:12
This portion of
Isaiah foretells the coming of a righteous servant who would suffer for
the sins of the people, but in the future will be exalted above his
persecutors, who were unaware that his suffering was for their sins.
The questions, which follow the literal reading, of this portion of
Isaiah are the following; who is the servant? Is the servant a person or
a nation? Is this about the Messiah? Did this already happen or is in
Click to expand chart below
the Christian view?
The Christian view
is unified on this scripture, Jesus the Messiah fulfills the picture
presented by Isaiah, when he died for the sins of world on the cross,
and rose again. This portion of Isaiah is quoted throughout the New
Testament, demonstrating Jesus as the fulfillment of the Suffering
Servant foretold in Isaiah.
What is the Jewish
Isaiah talking about? From the Jewish view, its not Jesus. The Jewish
view varies however, there are several different views on who is the
focus of this scripture. The main view today is that Isaiah is talking
about the nation of
as the Lord’s Suffering Servant. Other views include a righteous
remnant, the prophet Jeremiah and even the Messiah, but not Jesus.
views will be discussed in detail, below, as we answer Jewish objection
Translations of Isaiah
13 Behold, My Servant shall deal prudently; He shall be
exalted and extolled and be very high.
14 Just as many were astonished at you, So His visage was
marred more than any man, And His form more than the sons of
15 So shall He sprinkle many nations. Kings shall shut
their mouths at Him; For what had not been told them they
shall see, And what they had not heard they shall consider.
1 Who has
believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord
been revealed? 2 For He shall grow up before Him as a tender
plant, And as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or
comeliness; And when we see Him, There is no beauty that we
should desire Him. 3 He is despised and rejected by men, A
Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it
were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not
esteem Him. 4 Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our
sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and
afflicted. 5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He
was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our
peace was upon Him, And by 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 has laid on Him the iniquity of
us all. 7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He
opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter,
And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened
not His mouth. 8 He was taken from prison and from judgment,
And who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from
the land of the living; For the transgressions of My people
He was stricken. 9 And they made His grave with the
wicked-But with the rich at His death, Because He had done
no violence, Nor was any deceit in His mouth. 10 Yet it
pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief.
When You 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 the labor of
His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous
Servant shall justify many, For He shall bear their
iniquities. 12 Therefore I will 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 He was
numbered with the transgressors, And He bore the sin of
many, And made intercession for the transgressors.
“Indeed, My servant shall prosper, Be exalted and raised to
great heights.14 Just as the many were appalled at him—
So marred was his appearance, unlike that of man, His form,
beyond human semblance—
15 Just so he shall startle many nations.
Kings shall be silenced because of him,For they shall see
what has not been told them,Shall behold what they never
believe what we have heard? Upon whom has the arm of the
LORD been revealed? 2 For he has grown, by His favor, like
a tree crown, Like a tree trunk out of arid ground. He had
no form or beauty, that we should look at him;No charm, that
we should find him pleasing.
3. He was despised, shunned by men, A man of suffering,
familiar with disease. As one who hid his face from us, He
was despised, we held him of no account.
4. Yet it was our sickness that he was bearing, Our
suffering that he endured. We accounted him plagued,
Smitten and afflicted by God;
5. But he was wounded because of our sins, Crushed because
of our iniquities. He bore the chastisement that made us
whole, and by his bruises we were healed.
6. We all went astray like sheep, Each going his own way;
And the LORD visited upon him the guilt of all us.”
7. He was maltreated, yet he was submissive, He did not open
his mouth; Like a sheep being led to slaughter, Like a ewe,
dumb before those who shear her, He did not open his mouth.
8. By oppressive judgment he was taken away, Who could
describe his abode? For he was cut off from the land of the
Through the sin of my people who deserved the punishment.
9. And his grave was set among the wicked, And with the
rich, in his death—
Though he had done no injustice And had spoken no falsehood.
10. But the LORD chose to crush him by disease, That, if he
made himself an offering for guilt, He might see offspring
and have long life, And that through him the LORD’s purpose
11. Out of his anguish he shall see it; He shall enjoy it to
the full through his devotion.“My righteous servant makes
the many righteous, It is their punishment that he bears;
12. Assuredly, I will give him the many as his portion, He
shall receive the multitude as his spoil. For he exposed
himself to death And was numbered among the sinners, Whereas
he bore the guilt of the many And made intercession for
my servant shall understand, he shall be exalted, and
extolled, and shall be exceeding high.14 As many have been
astonished at thee, so shall his visage be inglorious among
men, and his form among the sons of men. 15 He shall
sprinkle many nations, kings shall shut their mouth at him:
for they to whom it was not told of him, have seen: and they
that heard not, have beheld.
hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord
2 And he shall grow up as a tender plant before him, and as
a root out of a thirsty ground: there is no beauty in him,
nor comeliness: and we have seen him, and there was no
sightliness, that we should be desirous of him:
3 Despised, and the most abject of men, a man of sorrows,
and acquainted with infirmity: and his look was as it were
hidden and despised, whereupon we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he hath borne our infirmities and carried our
sorrows: and we have thought him as it were a leper, and as
one struck by God and afflicted.
5 But he was wounded for our iniquities, he was bruised for
our sins: the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and by
his bruises we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray, every one hath turned
aside into his own way: and the Lord hath laid on him the
iniquity of us all.
7 He was offered because it was his own will, and he opened
not his mouth: he shall be led as a sheep to the slaughter,
and shall be dumb as a lamb before his shearer, and he shall
not open his mouth.
8 He was taken away from distress, and from judgment: who
shall declare his generation? because he is cut oh out of
the land of the living: for the wickedness of my people have
I struck him.
9 And he shall give the ungodly for his burial, and the rich
for his death: because he hath done no iniquity, neither was
there deceit in his mouth.
10 And the Lord was pleased to bruise him in infirmity: if
he shall lay down his life for sin, he shall see a
long-lived seed, and the will of the Lord shall be
prosperous in his hand. 11 Because his soul hath laboured,
he shall see and be filled: by his knowledge shall this my
just servant justify many, and he shall bear their
12 Therefore will I distribute to him very many, and he
shall divide the spoils of the strong, because he hath
delivered his soul unto death, and was reputed with the
wicked: and he hath borne the sins of many, and hath prayed
for the transgressors.
Objections to Jesus being the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53
The Servant in Isaiah 52:13-53:1-12 is the nation of Israel, not the
comments on this section of scripture, as
Israel being the
Behold My servant shall prosper Behold, at the end of days, My servant,
Jacob, [i.e.,] the righteous among him, shall prosper….
wondered As many peoples wondered about them when they saw them in their
humble state, and said to one another, How marred is his [Israel’s]
appearance from that of a man! See how their features are darker than
those of other people, so, as we see with our eyes.
to Objection 1:
not the servant of Isaiah 52:13-53:12
need to understand the word Servant is used throughout scripture and the
book of Isaiah. The book of Jeremiah in fact calls Nebuchadnezzar, the
wicked pagan king of Babylon (605-562 B.C.) , the servant of the LORD.
6 'And now I have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar
the king of Babylon, My servant; and the beasts of the field I
have also given him to serve him. Jeremiah 27:6
would God call Nebuchadnezzar his servant? Because Nebuchadnezzar was
the Lord’s instrument of judgment against the sins of the land, through
the Nebuchadnezzar, the Lord judged Judah. Later, in Isaiah, the Lord
calls Cyrus, his anointed, translated messiah.
says the Lord to His anointed, To Cyrus, whose right hand I have held-To
subdue nations before him And loose the armor of kings, To open before
him the double doors, So that the gates will not be shut:
would the Lord call a pagan king his anointed? Because Cyrus was chosen
or anointed to serve the Lord’s purpose, to subdue nations and free his
people, from their Babylonian captivity.
The two servants of
In the book of
Isaiah, the Lord calls Jacob “His servant”(
,) but Jacob is
not the only servant in Isaiah, there is a greater servant in Isaiah,
the one who rescues and restores Jacob, the “Suffering Servant”
of Isaiah. The “Suffering Servant” is clearly seen in the four “Servant
Songs” of Isaiah, (1). Isaiah 42:1-4,( 2). Isaiah 49:1-6,( 3). Isaiah
50:4-9 (4) Isaiah 52:13-53:13.Both servants come from the opposite
ends of the their relationship with the Lord;
as a servant, does not know the Lord, the Isaiah 53 servant, is called
the “Arm of the Lord”
as a servant needs, sins and transgressions to be blotted out, the
Isaiah 53, is righteous, lacking any deceit, in fact, making others
as servant needs redemption, the Isaiah 53 servant, redeems, bearing sin
and making others righteous, acting as Redeemer.
Contrast between the
“Servants” in Isaiah
Suffering Servant (Isaiah52:13-53:12)
Knowledge of the Lord
For Jacob My servant's sake, And Israel My elect, I
have even called you by your name; I have named you,
though you have not known
Behold, My Servant shall deal prudently…
to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
Isaiah 52:13, 53:1
"Remember these, O Jacob, And Israel, for you are
My servant; …..
I have blotted out, like a thick cloud, your
transgressions, And like a cloud, your sins.
Return to Me, for I have redeemed you."
He had done no violence, Nor was any deceit in His mouth….My
shall justify many… He shall bear their iniquities…
He bore the sin of many Isaiah 53:9,11
Return to Me, for I have redeemed you."
…. For the Lord has redeemed
Jacob, Isaiah 44:22,23
My righteous Servant shall justify many, For He shall
bear their iniquities
was a servant, but sin disqualifies it from being the Isaiah 53 servant
be seen, Israel cannot be the “Righteous Servant” of Isaiah 53, because
Israel as a nation lacks righteousness according to scripture. The
whole reason Assyria and Babylon were used in judgment against Judah was
because of their sin, not their righteousness. Isaiah declares Israel’s
guilt before the Lord and the cause of judgment.
24 Who gave Jacob for plunder, and
Israel to the
robbers? Was it not the Lord, He against whom we have sinned? For they
would not walk in His ways, Nor were they obedient to His law.25
Therefore He has poured on him the fury of His anger And the strength of
battle; It has set him on fire all around, Yet he did not know; And it
burned him, Yet he did not take it to heart.
2. For Israel to be
the servant of Isaiah 53, God would have to invalidate the Torah
Torah, specifically Deuteronomy, is very clear regarding Israel as a
nation. Before, they entered the Promised Land, the LORD promised Israel
blessings and cursing on the nation. If the nation was
obedient and righteous, they would be blessed above all nations, if they
were disobedient they would suffer curses. The blessing, Deuteronomy
28:1-12, the curses Deuteronomy 28:15-68, here the LORD gave
as a nation instruction on what would follow, if they choose the path of
obedience or disobedience.
1 "Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of the
Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command
you today, that the Lord your God will set you high above all nations of
the earth.2 "And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake
you, because you obey the voice of the Lord your God:13"And
the Lord will make you the head and not the tail; you shall be above
only, and not be beneath, if you heed the commandments
Israel was an obedient nation, they would not suffer punishment or
suffering, they would receive blessings. They would be placed above the
nations of the earth. Therefore the idea, that the Suffering Servant
of Isaiah 52:12-53:13, is the nation of Israel violates the Torah,
because it implies
as a righteous servant would suffer. In fact, Isaiah presents Israel as
a disobedient nation, which is judged by the LORD because of their sins
(See Isaiah 42:24-25). The captivity in Babylon was not because of
obedience but disobedience.
it shall come to pass, if you do not obey the voice of the Lord your
God, to observe carefully all His commandments and His statutes which I
command you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake
Lord will bring a nation against you from afar, from the end of the
earth, as swift as the eagle flies, a nation whose language you will not
understand, 50 "a nation of fierce countenance, which does not respect
the elderly nor show favor to the young. 63 "And it shall be, that just
as the Lord rejoiced over you to do you good and multiply you, so the
Lord will rejoice over you to destroy you and bring you to nothing; and
you shall be plucked from off the land which you go to possess.
Jeremiah refers to
Nebuchadnezzar, as the “Servant” of the Lord (Jeremiah 27:6), when he
takes the people captive to
Nebuchadnezzar is fulfilling the LORD’s judgment against Judah, because
of their sins, not because they are righteous.
other Servant Songs
"Behold! My Servant whom I uphold, My Elect One in whom My
soul delights! I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring
forth justice to the Gentiles.
2 He will
not cry out, nor raise His voice, Nor cause His voice to be
heard in the street.
bruised reed He will not break, And smoking flax He will not
quench; He will bring forth justice for truth.
4 He will
not fail nor be discouraged, Till He has established justice
in the earth; And the coastlands shall wait for His law."
"Listen, O coastlands, to Me, And take heed, you peoples
from afar! The Lord has called Me from the womb; From the
matrix of My mother He has made mention of My name.
2 And He
has made My mouth like a sharp sword; In the shadow of His
hand He has hidden Me, And made Me a polished shaft; In His
quiver He has hidden Me."
3 "And He
said to me, 'You are My servant, O Israel, In whom I will be
4 Then I
said, 'I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for
nothing and in vain; Yet surely my just reward is with the
Lord, And my work with my God.' "
now the Lord says, Who formed Me from the womb to be His
Servant, To bring Jacob back to Him, So that Israel is
gathered to Him (For I shall be glorious in the eyes of the
Lord, And My God shall be My strength),
He says, 'It is too small a thing that You should be My
Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob, And to restore the
preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to
the Gentiles, That You should be My salvation to the ends of
the earth.' "
Lord God has given Me The tongue of the learned, That I
should know how to speak A word in season to him who is
weary. He awakens Me morning by morning, He awakens My ear
To hear as the learned.
Lord God has opened My ear; And I was not rebellious, Nor
did I turn away.
6 I gave
My back to those who struck Me, And My cheeks to those who
plucked out the beard; I did not hide My face from shame and
the Lord God will help Me; Therefore I will not be
disgraced; Therefore I have set My face like a flint, And I
know that I will not be ashamed.
8 He is
near who justifies Me; Who will contend with Me? Let us
stand together. Who is My adversary? Let him come near Me.
the Lord God will help Me; Who is he who will condemn Me?
Indeed they will all grow old like a garment; The moth will
eat them up.