Deception in the Church
Israel & Middle East
Jesus the Messiah
One World System
One World Religion
Science & Evolution
We are a Christian Fellowship meeting in North London with a strong interest in teaching
the Bible and understanding our time in
the light of Bible prophecy
Isaiah 53 - who is the prophet speaking of?
Himself? - Someone else? - Israel? - The Messiah?
According to Rashi, the 11th century Rabbi, the answer is clear. The prophet
is talking about Israel suffering for the Gentiles. Most Rabbis today agree
that this is the Jewish interpretation of Isaiah 53. But not all Rabbis come
to this conclusion. Here is a selection of Rabbinic views which contract
'Behold my Servant Messiah shall prosper …' Targum (paraphrase) of Isaiah
52.13 (the introductory verses to Isaiah 53) by Jonathan ben Uzziel (First
'Messiah our righteousness is departed from us; horror hath seized us, and
we have none to justify us. He hath borne the yoke of our iniquities, and
our transgression and is wounded because of our transgression. He bears our
sin upon his shoulder, that he may find pardon for our iniquities. We shall
be healed by his wound at the time the Eternal will create him (the Messiah)
as a new creature. O bring Him up from the circle of the earth. Raise him up
from Seir, to assemble us the second time on Mount Lebanon, by the hand of
Yinnon.' Musaf prayer for the Day of Atonement, written by Rabbi Eliezer
Kalir around the 7th century CE.
(Writing of Isaiah 53) 'I shall flee from the forced and far fetched
interpretations of which others have been guilty. This prophecy was
delivered by Isaiah at the divine command for the purpose of making known to
us something about the nature of the future Messiah who is to come and
deliver Israel.' Rabbi Moshe Cohen Ibn Crispin of Cordova in Spain at about
'Our Rabbis with one voice accept and confirm the opinion that the prophet
is speaking of the King Messiah and we shall ourselves also adhere to the
same view.' Rabbi Alshech about 1550.
'But he was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities, the
meaning of which is that since the Messiah bears our iniquities which
produce the effect of his being bruised, it follows that whoso will not
admit that the Messiah thus suffers for our iniquities must endure and
suffer for them himself.' Rabbi Eliyyah de Vidas about 1575.
All these Rabbis are saying that Isaiah 53 is about Messiah suffering for
sin not about Israel suffering on behalf of the Gentiles.
So what about you? Who do you say it is about?
Is Rashi right when he says Isaiah 53 is a prophecy about Israel suffering
for the Gentiles? If so are those Rabbis, who claim that this is about the
sufferings of the Messiah, wrong?
If we examine the text, Rashi's interpretation raises some questions:
It means that Isaiah is a Gentile. 'He (Israel) was wounded for our (the
Gentiles') transgressions.' (v.5) All we (Gentiles) like sheep have gone
astray … and the Lord has laid on him (Israel) the iniquity of us all.'
(v6). In the passage the pronouns we, us, our must refer to Isaiah and the
people he identifies with while the pronouns he, him, his refer to the
So was Isaiah 53 written by a Gentile?
It also means that Israel bears the sins of the Gentiles in some kind of
atoning way. So what did Isaiah mean in the first chapter of his prophecy
when he spoke in the strongest language imaginable about Israel's sins and
called his own people to repentance? How can someone who is sinful bear the
sins of others? Surely Israel suffers because of the sins of the Gentiles
not on behalf of the Gentiles. The Jewish people's sufferings bring judgment
on those Gentiles who oppress them (see Genesis 12.3 'I will bless them that
bless you and curse him that curses you'), not justification with God. The
Servant of Isaiah 53 brings justification and healing to those who accept
him. The servant of Isaiah 53 suffers willingly and without resistance,
whereas Israel has never willingly been oppressed by the Gentiles.
Rashi's interpretation implies that Jewish people are sin bearers
(scapegoats?) for the Gentiles. How comfortable do you feel about that?
It means that Israel / the Jewish people will cease to live. The Servant of
Isaiah 53 is literally put to death. 'He was cut off from the land of the
living' (v 8). 'He poured out his soul unto death' (v 12). Individual Jewish
people have been put to death. In the Holocaust a demon inspired leader
sought to destroy the whole Jewish people. But despite the evil intentions
of anti-Semites - 'Am Israel Chai' - The people of Israel live. This fulfils
the prophecy of Jeremiah 31.35-37 which says that as long as the sun, moon
and stars endure so long will Israel be a nation before the Lord. The
Servant of Isaiah 53 dies and is resurrected to 'see the travail of his
soul'. The Jewish people have never ceased to exist and today we see the
restoration of Israel as a testimony to the faithfulness of God to the
covenant He made with Abraham (Genesis 15).
So what if Isaiah 53 is about the Messiah?
So far we have treated this as a debate within Judaism about different
Rabbinic interpretations, which may be interesting, but not in itself earth
shattering. But if Rashi is wrong and the prophecy is not about Israel
suffering for the nations and is about the Messiah, there remains an
interpretation which does raise a very big problem for Judaism.
The prayer of Rabbi Kalir quoted above speaks of Messiah as one who has
departed from us and who bears our sins and who will bring us healing. Rabbi
Eliyah de Vidas tells us that whoever does not believe that Messiah suffers
for our iniquities, 'must endure and suffer for them himself.'
If the Messiah has 'departed from us' does that mean that he has already
appeared? Is there a figure in history who has already borne the sins of
others? If we do not believe in Him do we have to endure and suffer for our
There is a book which claims that its central figure is the fulfilment of
Isaiah 53. According to the New Testament Yeshua / Jesus is the one of whom
Isaiah 53 speaks. Does this interpretation make sense of the text? We invite
you to study this text and look up the references given in the New
These verses introduce the Servant who is described in detail in the
following chapter. The servant will be exalted very high. Prior to his
exaltation he was to be humiliated and physically abused to the point where
he became almost unrecognisable. As a result he would 'sprinkle many
nations' and kings would be silent before him.
all this. Can you reach a lower point in human experience?
Peter and Paul? Can you reach a higher place?
have when 'sprinkled' on those who accept the sacrifice of Jesus?
Isaiah 53.1-3. These verses speak of the rejection which would accompany the
ministry of this Servant. His message would not be believed. His origin and
appearance would not meet the expectations of the people and therefore they
would reject him. This rejection would cause him grief.
in Nazareth. According to the prophecy of Micah 5.1 Messiah was to be born
in Bethlehem. How did this effect people's reaction to him? Where was he
born in fact? (Matthew 2.1-6)
Isaiah 53.4-6. These verses take the sufferings of the Servant further and
describe the purpose of his suffering. His death would be misinterpreted by
those who said he was stricken by God and afflicted (in other words he was
suffering for his own sins). In fact the whole meaning of his sufferings was
to atone for the sins of others. Because he experienced the worst sorrows
life can throw at any one, he can sympathise and carry the griefs of those
who are going through suffering now. The Lord has placed on Him the iniquity
of us all so that we can be forgiven.
that Jesus experienced in these chapters?
reason do these verses give for the life and death of Jesus?
this agree with Isaiah 53.6?
Isaiah 53.7-9. These verses tell us about the sufferings of the Messiah from
a human point of view. He would be brought to trial and willingly accept the
death sentence handed down to him, despite its injustice. He would be
literally put to death and once again it is stated that his death would be
for the sins of 'my people'. Although he would be expected to be put in a
grave with the wicked there would be some intervention of 'the rich' at the
point of his death.
How fair were his trials?
point in the Gospel? What unusual act was performed by Joseph of Arimathea
(a rich man)?
NB. The usual practice was for crucifixion victims to stay on the cross as a
warning to others not to go against the power of the occupying Romans, or
for their bodies to be taken down and thrown into a common grave in the
Valley of Hinnom outside Jerusalem. If either had happened to Jesus the next
event, the resurrection, would have lost its force. So God caused a rich
man, Joseph of Arimathea to intervene and ask Pontius Pilate for the body of
Jesus so he could bury him in his own tomb (Matthew 27.57-60). Pilate agreed
to this, no doubt influenced by his wife's dream not to have anything to do
with 'that just man' (Matthew 27.19), perhaps by Roman superstitions about
Jesus as a miracle worker (the Roman authorities would have known that Jesus
had raised Lazarus from the dead- John 11.47-48). Because the body of Jesus
was placed in a sealed tomb with a stone rolled across it, when the
resurrection happened it was a public event, which could not seriously be
denied with foolish rumours that the disciples had stolen the body (Matthew
28) as would have been the case if the body had been thrown into the common
grave. There is no record of the accusation of the body being stolen ever
being taken seriously following Jesus' resurrection by the opponents of the
Messianic movement. This is remarkable since the disciples who were
preaching less than two months later in Jerusalem that Jesus was risen from
Isaiah 53.10-12. These verses tell us the purpose of the Servant's death and
speak of his resurrection from the dead. He would be satisfied by seeing his
'seed' and bringing justification to many by bearing their iniquities. God
would highly exalt him because he was willing to be considered a
transgressor and die. He would make intercession for transgressors.
about who was ultimately responsible for the death of Jesus? What answer
does this give to the anti-Semitic accusation that 'the Jews killed Jesus'
and are therefore under a curse?
10 he shall see his seed. How can this be possible? See Luke 24, especially
this happened? In what way would this fulfil Isaiah 53.11?
the way we are 'justified' / put right with God?
intercession for others?
How many statements can you find in Isaiah 53 about the Servant bearing the
sins of others?
Since this is what the New Testament says was the prime purpose of Jesus
coming into the world and claims that he is the Messiah, surely there has to
be a connection between this passage and the Messiah Jesus?
If Rashi is wrong about the passage being about Israel suffering on behalf
of the Gentiles and if Rabbi Alshech is right that it is about the
sufferings of the Messiah shouldn't you consider that it is about the
Messiah who has come, Yeshua / Jesus, not about a Messiah who is still to