53:3 “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.” Rashi notes, “So is the custom of this prophet: he mentions all Israel as one man, e.g., (44:2), ‘Fear not, My servant Jacob’; (44:1) ‘And now, hearken, Jacob, My servant.’ Here too (52:13), ‘Behold My servant shall prosper,’ he said concerning the house of Jacob.” As to the nature of the sufferings described here, Ibn Ezra writes, “The pains and sick-nesses spoken of are the sufferings of exile; and [וִ ידוּעַ; here, “familiar with”] means that he was taught and accustomed to have the yoke of exile pass over him.” And the nations could not even look at Israel because of the loathing they felt towards him.
53:4 “Yet it was our sickness that he was bearing, our suffering that he endured. We accounted him plagued, smitten and afflicted by God.” We now begin to get into the theological crux of the passage, and for Ibn Ezra, it is simply a matter of Israel, the righteous servant, suffering because of the sins of the nations. He states that the substance of the verse is this: “It was we who caused his sickness; yet he carried it, and bore all the pains wherewith we pained him. . . . [I]t was God who smote him and afflicted him because the sicknesses ought to have come upon us, whose laws were altogether vanity, but they came upon Israel instead, whose law was a law of faithfulness.”
The explanation of Radak goes further, beginning with a philosophical discussion, which is common in his writings: Based on Ezekiel 18:20, which states that the son cannot be punished for the sins of his father, or vice versa, how much more then is it true that “one man cannot suffer for another man, or one people for another people. What then is the meaning of surely he has carried our sicknesses, and he was pierced for our transgressions, and by his wounds we are healed?” He does not find Lamentations 5:7 to provide an answer to the question (there it is stated that the sons are suffering for the sins of their fathers), explaining the verse with reference to Exodus 20:5, viz., “when the children still continue to adhere to the works of their fathers.” He also finds Lamentations 5:7 to be spoken by Jeremiah “in the style of mourners,” thus uttered more out of emotion than reason.
How then are these expressions to be interpreted? The words are merely the thoughts of the Gentiles: “[I]t is not asserted that Israel actually bore the iniquity of the Gentiles, but the latter only imagine it to be the case when they see, at the time of [their] deliverance, that the faith which Israel adhered to was the true one, while that they themselves had adhered to was the false.” Thus, in the Gentiles’ attempt to explain the paradox—why did Israel suffer when Israel was so righteous whereas we enjoyed peace and tranquility while “adhering to falsehood”?—“it follows, therefore, that the sickness and pain which ought to have fallen upon us [the Gentiles] has fallen upon them [Israel], and they are our ransom [koper] and atonement [kappara ]. While they were in exile,” we wrongly surmised that God had smitten them for their iniquity; we now realize “that it was not for their iniquity but for ours, as it is said, ‘He suffered pangs for our transgressions.’”
What a remarkable explanation! The text clearly speaks of vicarious, atoning suffering—indeed, there are some who believe that this was what Ibn Ezra had in mind when he spoke of the passage being “extremely difficult”—and Radak recognizes that fact. But, since he finds the concept to be contrary to biblical truth, he must write it off to the wrong thinking of the Gentile nations, which is quite a stretch, to put it mildly. Perhaps all the supposed reflections of the nations in this passage are just the product of their incorrect thinking—which is the precise opposite of the whole lesson that the chapter is allegedly teaching, viz., that the Gentiles finally understand why Israel suffered and how righteous and beloved Israel is.
Interestingly, Rashi has no problem interpreting the text in vicarious terms, explaining that the opening word אָ כֵ ן, which is normally translated as “surely,” actually means “but,” thus, “But he bore our sicknesses.” In other words, as Rashi explains, “But now we see that this came to him not because of his low state, but that he was chastised with pains so that all the nations be atoned for with Israel’s suffering. The illness that should rightfully have come upon us, he bore. . . . We thought that he was hated by the Omnipresent, but he was not so, but he was pained because of our transgressions and crushed because of our iniquities.”
From: The Gospel According to Isaiah 53, Encountering the Suffering Servant in Jewish and Christian Theology, Chapter 2 JEWISH INTERPRETATIONS OF ISAIAH 53 by Michael L. Brown (edited).
Michael L. Brown (born 1955) is an American Messianic Jew, radio host, conservative and author. His nationally syndicated radio show, The Line of Fire, airs throughout the United States. He is also president and professor of practical theology at Fellowship for International Revival and Evangelism School of Ministry. He has also served as adjunct professor of Old Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois and adjunct professor of Jewish apologetics at Fuller Theological Seminary School of World Mission. He has contributed to the Oxford Dictionary of Jewish Religion, and the Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Messianic Jewish theology is the study of God and Scripture from the perspective of Messianic Judaism, a disputed movement that claims to be a legitimate form of Judaism, but is considered by most Christians and Jews to be a form of Christianity. God: Messianics believe in the God of the Bible, and that he is all-powerful, omni-present, eternal, exists outside of creation, and infinitely significant and benevolent. The vast majority of Messianics adhere to trinitarian views of God, while others insist upon strict, unitarian monotheism. The Messiah: Yeshua (Jesus) is believed to be the promised Jewish messiah. The mainstream movement accepts Yeshua as God in the flesh, and as the Torah made flesh. Israel: It is believed that the Children of Israel were, remain, and will continue to be the chosen people of the God of Jacob and are central to his plans. Virtually all Messianics (whether Jewish nor non-Jewish) oppose Replacement theology. The Bible: The Tanakh and New Testament (sometimes called the B’rit Chadasha) are considered the established inerrant, and divinely inspired Biblical scripture by Messianic Judaism. Eschatology: Messianics hold all of the following eschatological beliefs: the End of Days, the Second Coming of Jesus as the conquering Messiah, the re-gathering of Israel, a rebuilt Third Temple, a Resurrection of the Dead (and that Jesus was resurrected after his death). In addition most believe in the millennial sabbath,although some are Amillinialist. Oral Torah: Messianic Jewish opinions concerning the “Oral Torah” (the Talmud) are varied and sometimes conflicting between individual congregations. Some congregations are very selective in their applications of Talmudic law, or do so for the sake of continuity with tradition, while others encourage a serious observance of the Jewish halakha. Virtually all Messianic congregations and synagogues believe that the oral traditions are subservient to the written Torah. Messianic Jewish theology from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (edited).
1He said to me, “Mortal, eat what is offered you; eat this scroll, and go speak to the House of Israel.” 2So I opened my mouth, and He gave me this scroll to eat,…” Ezekiel 3/1 Tanakh JPS 1985.
8But I will make your face as hard as theirs, and your forehead as brazen as theirs. 9I will make your forehead like adamant, harder than flint. Do not fear them, and do not be dismayed by them, though they are a rebellious breed.” Ezekiel 3/8-9 Tanakh JPS 1985.
12Then a spirit carried me away, and behind me I heard a great roaring sound: “Blessed is the Presence of the Lord, in His place,” 13with the sound of the wings of the creatures beating against one another, and the sound of the wheels beside them—a great roaring sound.
14A spirit seized me and carried me away. I went in bitterness, in the fury of my spirit, while the hand of the Lord was strong upon me. 15And I came to the exile community that dwelt in Tel Abib by the Chebar Canal, and I remained where they dwelt. And for seven days I sat there stunned among them. Ezekiel 3/12-15 Tanakh JPS 1985.
22Then the hand of the Lord came upon me there, and He said to me, “Arise, go out to the valley, and there I will speak with you.” 23I arose and went out to the valley, and there stood the Presence of the Lord, like the Presence that I had seen at the Chebar Canal; and I flung myself down on my face.
24And a spirit entered into me and set me upon my feet. And He spoke to me, and said to me: “Go, shut yourself up in your house. 25As for you, O mortal, cords have been placed upon you, and you have been bound with them, and you shall not go out among them.
26And I will make your tongue cleave to your palate, and you shall be dumb; you shall not be a reprover to them, for they are a rebellious breed.
27But when I speak with you, I will open your mouth, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God!’ He who listens will listen, and he who does not will not—for they are a rebellious breed.” Ezekiel Chapter 3/22-27 Tanakh JPS 1985.
4“Then lie on your left side, and let it bear the punishment of the House of Israel; for as many days as you lie on it you shall bear their punishment. 5For I impose upon you three hundred and ninety days, corresponding to the number of the years of their punishment; and so you shall bear the punishment for the House of Israel. 6When you have completed these, you shall lie another forty days on your right side, and bear the punishment of the House of Judah. I impose on you one day for each year.
7“Then, with bared arm, set your face toward besieged Jerusalem and prophesy against it. 8Now I put cords upon you, so that you cannot turn from side to side until you complete your days of siege. Ezekiel 4/4-8 Tanakh JPS 1985.
5But 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. 6We all went astray like sheep, Each going his own way; And the Lord visited upon him The guilt of all of us.” Isaiah 53/5-6 Tanakh JPS 1985.
8By oppressive judgment he was taken away, Who could describe his abode? For he was cut off from the land of the living Through the sin of my people, who deserved the punishment. Isaiah 53/8 Tanakh JPS 1985.
10But 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 might prosper.
11Out of his anguish he shall see it; He shall enjoy it to the full through his devotion. Isaiah 53/10-11 Tanakh JPS 1985.
1Behold, I am sending My messenger to clear the way before Me, and the Lord whom you seek shall come to His Temple suddenly. As for the angel of the covenant that you desire, he is already coming. Malachi 3/1 Tanakh JPS 1985.
Michael L. Brown sets forth the arguments of the Sages Rashi and Ibn Ezra that Isaiah 53 describes all of Israel as one man. He reveals that by doing so they make the argument for vicarious suffering of one man for others that he believes in as a messianic Jew. That Jesus died for the sins of others. And he is correct that they say that the Jewish people have suffered for the sins of the gentiles who benefit from it. But Jesus did not die for the sins of others anymore than the Jewish people have borne the sins of the gentiles.
The early Sages expected a personal Messiah to fulfill the Isaiah prophecy. No alternative interpretation was applied to this passage until the Middle Ages. And then, a completely different view was presented. This view was popularized by Jewish commentator Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Itzchaki), who lived one thousand years after Jesus.
Rashi held the position that the servant passages of Isaiah referred to the collective fate of the nation of Israel rather than a personal Messiah. Some rabbis, such as Ibn Ezra and Kimchi, agreed. However, many other rabbinic sages during this same period and later—including Maimonides—realized the inconsistencies of Rashi’s views and would not abandon the original messianic interpretations.
Yet to this day, many rabbis persist in citing Rashi as the definitive word on how to interpret the servant of the Lord in Isaiah 53. Others admit the weakness of this view and say that the passage applies to an individual. They usually cite the prophet Isaiah himself, King Cyrus, King Hezekiah, Josiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Moses, Job or even some anonymous contemporaries of Isaiah as the one spoken of by the prophet.
The Christian idea directly contradicts the basic Jewish teaching that God promises forgiveness to all who sincerely return to Him; thus there is no need for the Messiah to atone for others.
There is no vicarious suffering or atonement for others in Isaiah 53. There is no animal guilt sacrifice applied to humans. The man described is given long life. He is wounded and bruised not killed or sacrificed. It does not describe Jesus or the Jewish people.
And I can explain the true meaning of the verses as none have before me for one simple reason. I am that man.
I have been wounded, crushed, chastised and bruised by the hand and power of G-d to make me suitable for His purpose. That purpose includes being the messenger and herald of the new covenant of sin forgiveness to the Jewish people G-d declared for a time to come in Jeremiah 31.
There is no vicarious atonement in Isaiah 53 by one man or a nation or a part thereof for others. When G-d forgives sins He declares it through His prophets in writing and in Malachi 3 He sends the prophet Elijah with the angel of the covenant of sin forgiveness previously declared in Jeremiah 31.
The chastisement, punishment, bruising and crushing is to make me stronger emotionally. To be more of a soldier to God’s purpose. To protect me emotionally from the haters and naysayers, to move to a country of a foreign language I have never known all alone, and to speak God’s words to the Jewish people. The same chastisement and punishment G-d laid on Ezekiel for the sins of the House of Israel and the House of Judah.
And much more. The constant interaction created my devotion to God and the prosperity of His purpose, our communication when alone and when I am with others is perfect and on many levels, and I obey His every command with little emotional resistance. G-d has the power to stop any emotional response I may have to anything. We work on this all the time. But I have to be made ready for this power and it is through chastisement and punishment.
This is what G-d is referring to in Isaiah 53/11 when He says “Out of his anguish he shall see it; He shall enjoy it to the full through his devotion.” Out of the anguish of chastisement and punishment I will see the prosperity of His purpose and enjoy it to the full through my devotion to His purpose.
This same chastisement and punishment for the sins of others in Isaiah 53 is also in Ezekiel 4/4-8 where God says:
“Then lie on your left side, and let it bear the punishment of the House of Israel; for as many days as you lie on it you shall bear their punishment. For I impose upon you three hundred and ninety days, corresponding to the number of the years of their punishment; and so you shall bear the punishment for the House of Israel. When you have completed these, you shall lie another forty days on your right side, and bear the punishment of the House of Judah. I impose on you one day for each year. “Then, with bared arm, set your face toward besieged Jerusalem and prophesy against it. Now I put cords upon you, so that you cannot turn from side to side until you complete your days of siege.”
G-d and the person of the spirit of the Holy G-d have come to Ezekiel (Chapter 3/12-15 and 22-27) to prepare him to be a prophet to the Jewish people. The hand of the Lord of chastisement and punishment is infuriating his spirit. His power covering Ezekiel like cords. The Presence of G-d causes Ezekiel to fall to his face. His tongue is no longer his own for he speaks the words G-d would have him speak.
Ezekiel is treated harshly and punished for 430 consecutive days. This punishment is for the sins of the House of Israel and the House of Judah which is the Jewish people. This is the same manner G-d prepares His righteous servant of Isaiah 53. In Isaiah 53 the words “Through the sin of my people, who deserved the punishment.” and “It is their punishment that he bears” are used instead of “you shall bear their punishment” in Ezekiel 4/4.
Ezekiel does not relieve the punishment of the House of Israel and the House of Judah or atone vicariously for their sins by lying on his side for 390 days for the House of Israel and 40 days for the House of Judah. It is figurative and symbolic writing to describe a great ordeal Ezekiel is being put through to make him suitable for G-d’s purpose to be a prophet to the Jewish people.
Ezekiel is told that he is suffering the punishment of the Jewish people. No, their punishment is the armies G-d says he raised up against them, destruction of the first Temple and exile for their disobedience to Him.
When G-d says to Ezekiel “Mortal, eat what is offered you; eat this scroll, and go speak to the House of Israel” He is teaching Ezekiel the scripture He would have Ezekiel know with chastisement and punishment. There is nothing pleasant about eating a scroll of scripture.
And what G-d puts me through to learn the scripture and write His words and prepare to speak to the Jewish people makes eating a scroll sound good. A demanding and harsh teacher is HaShem. At least until I am suitable for His purpose. And out of my anguish I shall see His purpose prosper through my devotion.