Isaiah 53 - Outline of Isaiah (MENU page)
[The thought continues from the previous chapter.]

a. The Messiah...
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 (vs.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 as 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 (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}...-
These words give us the big picture. They look beyond His distress in Gethsemane and His agony on the cross (Mat 26:37-39; Heb 5:7,8), as acute as they were, to reveal a man characterized by sorrow. He lived as an alien on earth, and as a stranger even to his own family (Psa 69:8,9). 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
...we hid... our faces {HB=paniym} from him...- Joh 1:10,11
In vs.2(b)-6, the speakers are the Remnant of Israel (...we...our...us). They confess their rejection of the Messiah and mourn the years spent in unbelief. cp. Zech 12:10
...despised, and we esteemed him not...- Zech 11:13; Mat 27:9; Acts 3:13-15
b. His sufferings...
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}...-
we did esteem him stricken... of God...- ie., as though receiving just retribution for His crimes. cp. Joh 19:7
...but he was wounded {HB=chalal, pierced, mortally wounded} for our transgressions...
...the chastisement of {ie., which procured} our peace was upon him...- 1Pet 3:18
...with his stripes we are healed.- Through the punishing wounds that He received, we are made whole.
- - As noted above, Matthew quoted v.4, saying that Jesus' healing miracles were in fulfilment 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 the context of 1Pet 2:21-25).
- - The emphasis here, in vs.5-6, is upon Christ's death for sin, and 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.-
v.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). His sacrifice is effective for everyone whose sins are confessed and laid on Him. Yet, many refuse to own Him as their sacrificial lamb. Atonement is available for as many as avail themselves of the sin-offering (eg., Lev 1:4; 4:27-29; Joh 1:29; Mat 20:28).
...hath laid on {HB=paga, hath caused to meet on, hath interposed on} him the iniquity {HB='avon, perversity, depravity} ...-
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.
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.
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.
He was...- vs.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).
...yet opened he not his mouth...-
Though this passage includes testimony from several voices concerning God's Servant, the Servant Himself remains silent before His accusers. v.7; cp. Mat 26:63; 27:12-14; Joh 19:9; 1Pet 2:23
...he was taken {ie., seized} from prison and from judgment {ie., justice}... - v.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.- cp. 1Pet 3:18
...he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death...- cp. v.9 in the NASV:
"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."
ie., 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
...in his death {lit., deaths}.- His death is stated as plural, because
  • it fulfilled and completed the significance of every one of the sacrifices described in the book of Leviticus.
  • Though He died once, He died the death of everyone who trusts in Him.
Yet it pleased the LORD {ie., it was His purpose} to bruise {ie., to crush} Him...- (v.5)
...[to] put him to grief...- (vs.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 (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 (1Sam 16:7), 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, the devastation described in Isa 52:14 is not according to man's view of outward appearance, but according to the LORD's perspective of His suffering Servant's soul: Bearing the sin of all mankind, and judging it in Himself, the Messiah was "so marred more" {HB=mishchath, corrupted, perverted, ruined, destroyed} more than any other man.
    - - His soul was offered to save yours 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
...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
His resurrection is implied by the statement that He will see them (cp. Joh 16:16-22).
c. His glories...
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.
He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: cp. Rev 5:9,10
...by his knowledge shall my righteous {HB=tsaddiyq} servant justify {HB=tsadaq, make righteous} many...-
Those who are justified are not merely declared righteous, but 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). 2Cor 5:21; Php 3:8-10; 2Pet 1:2,3; 3:18
Observe that, in vs.11,12, it is the LORD who speaks again concerning His Servant. In Isa 52:13-16, He spoke of His Servant's suffering and of His exaltation beyond what kings would have considered. Here, He speaks of the fruit of His suffering: a salvation which is great beyond what any man could imagine (cp. 1Cor 2:8,9; Eph 3:20,21).
Therefore will I divide {HB=nephaq, bring forth, set forth} him with the great... he shall divide {HB=nephaq}... with the strong-
The LORD speaks also of the Messiah's ultimate exaltation (Isa 52:13) and of His full victory over every enemy (Psa 2:8; Dan 7:13,14; Php 2:9-11)
...for he shall bear their iniquities.- vs.5,6; Rom 5:1,9,18,19; Heb 9:28; 1Pet 2:24; 3:18
...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 (v.12a), the peace offering (v.5), the sin offering (v.6,12b), the meal offering (which speaks of His perfect life, pleasing to God, v.2).
[For more about these sacrifices, see "Christ in the Tabernacle, chapter 5: The Offerings." This study may be accessed through the Intro & Resource Menu.]
...he was numbered with the transgressors...- cp. Mat 27:38; Mark 15:27,28; Luk 22:37
...made intercession for the transgressors.- cp. v.6.
- - 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.

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