Nazarene Space

Of Whom Does the Prophet Speak? (Who is the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53?)

Of Whom Does the Prophet Speak?
(Who is the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53?)
By
James Scott Trimm



Tovia Singer and other anti-mssionaries argue that the "Suffering Servant" figure of Isaiah 53 is not a Messianic prophecy at all, and speaks instead only about Israel.

In fact the Suffering Servant Song (Is. 52:7-53:12) is the fourth of four "Servant Songs" in Isaiah. These four servant songs are to be found in:

Isaiah 42:1-9

Isaiah 49:1-12

Isaiah 50:4-11

and Isaiah 52:7-53:12

Now before we look at Is. 52:7-53:12 we should first look at the first three servant songs in Isaiah. Let us first look at Is. 42:1-9:

1 Behold My servant, whom I uphold; My chosen, in whom My soul delights:I have put
My spirit upon him; he shall make the right to go forth to the nations.
2 He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street.
3 A bruised reed shall he not break, and the dimly burning wick shall he not
quench: he shall make the right to go forth according to the truth.
4 He shall not fail nor be crushed, till he has set the right in the earth: and the
isles shall wait for his Torah.
5 Thus says El YHWH, He that created the heavens and stretched them forth, He that
spread forth the earth and that which comes out of it, He that gives breath unto
the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein:
6 I YHWH have called you in righteousness, and have taken hold of your hand, and
kept you, and set you for a covenant of the people, for a light of the nations.
7 To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, and them
that sit in darkness out of the prison house.
8 I am YHWH, that is My Name: and My glory will I not give to another, neither My
praise to graven images.
9 Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare; before
they spring forth I tell you of them.
(Is. 42:1-9 HRV)

Is. 42:1 says:

Behold my servant, whom I uphold;
my elect in whom my soul delights;
I have put my spirit upon him;
he shall bring forth judgement to the Gentiles.

This is a close parallel to another passage in Isaiah:

And the Spirit of YHWH shall rest upon him...
with righteousness shall he judge...
(Is. 11:2, 4)

Now EVERYONE agrees that Is. 11:1f speaks of the Messiah and it is clear that Is.

42:1 speaks of the same individual. (Also Is. 61:1 is parallel.)

Ok now lets look at Is. 49:1-12:

 1 Listen, O isles, unto me: and hearken, you peoples, from far. YHWH has called me
from the womb, from the innermost parts of my mother, has He made mention of my
name.
2 And He has made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of His hand has He hid
me, and He has made me a polished shaft. In His quiver has He concealed me,
3 And He said unto me: You are My servant, Yisra’el, in whom I will be glorified.
4 But I said, I have labored in vain. I have spent my strength for nought and
vanity: yet surely my right is with YHWH, and my recompense with my Elohim.
5 And now, says YHWH, that formed me from the womb to be His servant; to bring
Ya’akov back to Him, and that Yisra’el be gathered unto Him: for I am honorable in
the eyes of YHWH, and my Elohim is become my strength.
6 Yes, He says: It is too light a thing, that you should be My servant to raise up
the tribes of Ya’akov, and to restore the offspring of Yisra’el. I will also give
you for a light of the nations, that My salvation may be unto the end of the earth.
7 Thus says YHWH, the Redeemer of Yisra’el, his Set-apart One, to him who is
despised of men, to him who is abhorred of the nation, to a servant of rulers:
kings shall see and arise; princes, and they shall prostrate themselves, because of
YHWH that is faithful, even HaKadesh of Yisra’el, who has chosen you.
8 Thus says YHWH: In an acceptable time have I answered you, and in a day of
salvation have I helped you, and I will preserve you, and give you for a covenant
of the people: to raise up the land; to cause to inherit the desolate heritages;
9 Saying to the prisoners, Go forth. To them that are in darkness, Show yourselves.
They shall feed in the ways, and in all high hills shall be their pasture.
10 They shall not hunger nor thirst, neither shall the heat nor sun smite them: for
He that has compassion on them will lead them, even by the springs of water will He
guide them.
11 And I will make all My mountains--a way--and My highways shall be raised on
high.
12 Behold, these shall come from far, and behold, these from the north and from the
west, and these from the land of Sinim.
(Is. 49:1-12 HRV)

It is the claim of the anti missionaries that 49:3 closes the case and clearly identifies the Servant as Israel. However in context that identification must be alegorical. In Is. 49:1-12 the servant is clearly NOT literaly Israel because in verses 5 & 6 the servant brings Jacob (Israel) back to YHWH; raises up the tribes of Israel and restore the preserved of Israel. Clearly then the next two verses reveal that the servant is NOT Israel. So why does Is. 49:3 make that identification? Because their is an allegorical relationship Between Messiah and Israel. Both for example are the Son of Elohim. Both had miraculous births. Both were taken into Egypt to save them in their youth.  Both were called out of Egypt. Rome tried to kill both of them. etc.

In verse 7 most translations state that a "nation" abhors the servant. However some Rabbinic translations (JPS and Sonicio) state that the "nations" abhor the servant.  This makes a big difference. If the word is singular "nation" then by context the "nation" would be Israel. Thus proving once again that the servant is not Israel because Israel cannot abhor Israel. However if the reading is "nations" then this fits with the Rabbinic interpretation that the servant is Israel and that in Is. 53 Israel is being opressed by the nations. So one must ask: who is being honest? This is pivitol. Is the word "nation(s)" in Is. 49:7 plural or singular? The word is in the Hebrew SINGULAR thus proving once again that the servant is NOT Israel. The Rabbinics have actually CHANGED the text of Is. 49:7 so as to make it fit with their theory.

4 The Adonai YHWH has given me the tongue of them that are taught, that I should
know how to sustain with words, him that is weary. He wakens morning by morning. He
wakens my ear to hear, as they that are taught.
5 The Adonai YHWH has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away
backward.
6 I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I
hid not my face from shame and spitting.
7 For the Adonai YHWH will help me, therefore have I not been confounded. Therefore
have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed.
8 He is near that justifies me: who will contend with me? Let us stand up together:
who is my adversary? Let him come near to me.
9 Behold, the Adonai YHWH will help me: who is he that shall condemn me? Behold,
they all shall wax old as a garment; the moth shall eat them up.
10 Who is among you that fears YHWH, that obeys the voice of His servant, though he
walks in darkness, and has no light? Let him trust in the Name of YHWH, and stay
upon his Elohim.
11 Behold, all you that kindle a fire; that gird yourselves with firebrands. Begone
in the flame of your fire, and among the brands that you have kindled. This shall
you have of My hand: you shall lie down in sorrow.
(Is. 50:4-11)

Finally lets look at Is. 52:7-53:12

7 How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messengers of good tidings-
-that announces peace, the harbinger of good tidings; that announces salvation;
that says unto Tziyon, Your Elohim reigns!
8 Hark! Your watchmen! They lift up the voice. Together do they sing, for they
shall see eye to eye, YHWH returning to Tziyon.
9 Break forth into joy; sing together, you waste places of Yerushalayim: for YHWH
has comforted His people; He has redeemed Yerushalayim.
10 YHWH has made bare, His Set-Apart arm in the eyes of all the nations, and all
the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our Elohim.
11 Depart you! Depart you! Go you out from thence. Touch no unclean thing; go you
out of the midst of her. Be you clean, you that bear the vessels of YHWH.
12 For you shall not go out in haste, neither shall you go by flight: for YHWH will
go before you, and the Elohim of Yisra’el will be your rearward.
13 Behold, My servant shall prosper: he shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall
be very high.
14 According as many were appalled at him,135 so marred was his visage unlike that
of a man: and his form, unlike that of the sons of men.
15 So shall he sprinkle many nations: kings shall shut their mouths because of him,
for that which had not been told them, shall they see, and that which they had not
heard, shall they perceive.
1 Who would have believed our report? And to whom has the arm of YHWH been
revealed?
2 For he shot up right forth as a sapling, and as a root out of a dry ground. He
had no form nor comeliness, that we should look upon him, nor beauty that we should
delight in him.
3 He was despised, and forsaken of men--a man of pains, and acquainted with
disease, and as one from whom men hide their face: He was despised, and we esteemed
Him not.
4 Surely our diseases He did bear, and our pains He carried: whereas we did esteem
Him stricken, smitten of Elohim, and afflicted.
5 But He was pierced because of our transgressions; He was crushed because of our
iniquities: the chastisement of our welfare 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
YHWH has made to light on Him, the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed, though He humbled Himself, and opened not His mouth. As a lamb
that is led to the slaughter, and as a sheep that before her shearers is dumb: yes,
He opened not His mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment He was taken away, and with His generation who did
reason? For He was cut off out of the land of the living, for the transgression of
my people to whom the stroke was due.
9 And He made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich, His tomb: although He
had done no violence, neither was any deceit in His mouth.
10 Yet it pleased YHWH to crush Him. He has put Him to suffering to see if His soul
would offer itself, as a guilt offering: that He might see His seed, prolong His
days, and that the purpose of YHWH might prosper by His hand.
11 From the travail of His soul, He shall see light, and shall be satisfied in His
understanding. My Righteous servant shall justify many, and their iniquities, He
bears.
12 Therefore will I divide Him a portion among the great, and He shall divide the
spoil with the mighty, because He bared His soul unto death, and was numbered with
the transgressors: yet He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the
transgressors.
(Is. 52:7-53:12 HRV)

The key questions are:

Who is the speaker?

Who is the servant?

Who is "we"?

Who is "he"?

OK who is the speaker?

Three answers have been proposed:

1. Isaiah

2. YHWH

3. The Gentile Kings of the Earth

We will examine number 1 last.

First: Is the speaker YHWH?

The speaker cannot be YHWH because the speaker has sins (53:6)

Second: Is the speaker The Gentile Kings of the Earth (As Tovia Singer claims) ?

The speaker cannot be the Gentile Kings because:

1. The chiastic structure in 52:7, 10; 53:1 reveals the speaker is the
same as the individual on the mountains in 52:7 which NO ONE claims is the Gentile Kings.


Is. 52:7
How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him
that brings goodnews,
that publishes peace;
that brings goodnews of good,
that publishes salvation,
that says to Zion: "Your God reigns!"


Is. 52:10
A. YHWH
B. has made bare his holy arm
C. in the eyes of all the nations
C. and all the ends of the earth
B. shall see the salvation
A. of our God.


Is. 53:1
Who has believed our report?
And to whom is the arm of YHWH revealed?


Clearly the "arm of YHWH" in 53:1 is the "report" of 53:1
Clearly the "arm of YHWH" in 53:1 is "his holy arm" in 52:10
Clearly "see the salvation" of 52:10 is "bare his holy arm" of 52:10
Clearly the "publishes salvation" of 52:7 = "see the salvation" of 52:10

Therefore the "report" of 53:1f is being given by the figure on the mountains who is certainly NOT the Gentile Kings.

2. The text of 52:15 specificly tells us that the Gentile kings are silent they have nothing to say, they are NOT delivering a report. If it was important that we think that the speaker was the Gentile kings of 2:15 then why would YHWH have the text tell us they are silent. in fact the Targum actually states that the kings "shall be silent because of him"

The speaker is Isaiah. In fact there is no reason not to believe that the speaker is Isaiah.

Now who is the servant?

Is the servant Israel?

The servant cannot be Israel because:

1. The servant is a voluntary sufferer (Is. 53:7, 12b)

2. The servant is contrasted with the speaker who counts
himself with a group (Israel) saying "we" throughout.
(Is. 53:6) If "we" is Israel and "we" is being contrasted
with "he" then "he" the servant cannot be Israel.

3. The servant is an innocent sufferer (53:6, 9) but Israel
has guilt. Israel suffers BECAUSE we have sinned
(see Deut. 28-29 and Lev. 26)

53:10 says "he shall see his seed" and anti-missionaries make much of this. They say that zera cannot be used allegorically. Infact the word zera (seed) is used allegorically in Jewish literature to refer to the scattered tribes. In fact the Targum on this passage understands "seed" allegorically and paraphrases it "the Kingdom of their Messiah". In fact then term seed is used allegorically in the very next chapter (Is. 54:1-3)

In the Hebrew of the Masoretic Text Isaiah 53:11 has a serious grammatical problem.

The Hebrew of the Masoretic Text reads literally:

From the travail of his soul he shall see ________
shall be satisfied in his understanding.
My Righteous servant shall justify many
and their iniquities he bears.

There is very clearly a missing word in the Hebrew resulting in two verbs in a row "shall see" and "shall be satisfied". What shall he see? Now the missing word "light" DOES appear in the Septuagint and has also now turned up in two Hebrew copies of Isaiah found at Qumran.

The passage SHOULD read (as it does in the HRV):

From the travail of his soul he shall see light
and shall be satisfied in his understanding.
My Righteous servant shall justify many
and their iniquities he bears.
(Is. 53:11 HRV translation)

In fact the Targum Jonthan to Isaiah plainly proclaims the servant of the Suffering Servant Song in Isaiah to be the Messiah:

Behold, My Servant the Messiah shall prosper;
he shall be exalted and great and very powerful.
(Targum Jonathan on Is. 52:13)

It is the will of the Lord to purify and to acquit
as innocent the remnant of His people, to cleanse
their souls of sin, so that they may see the Kingdom
of their Messiah, have many sons and daughters,
enjoy long life, and observe the Torah of the Lord,
prospering according to his will.
(Targum Jonathan on Is. 53:10)

The Babylonian Talmud also applies this section of Isaiah as speaking of the Messiah:

 The Rabanan say that that Messiah's name is the Suffering
Scholar of Rabbi's House (or the Leper Scholar) for it is
written, "Surely he has born our grief and carried our sorrows,
yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted."
(Is. 53:4)
(b.San. 98a)

The Messiah- what is his name?Š The House of Rabbi Judah the
Holy One says: The Sick OneŠ "Surely he has born our sicknesses"
(Is. 53:4)
(b.San. 98b)

Rabbi Joshua came upon the prophet Elijah as he was standing
at the entrance of Rabbi Simeon ben Yohai's cave. He asked him:
"When is the Messiah coming?" The other replied: "Go and ask
him yourself." "Where shall I find him?" "Before the gates
of Rome." "By what sign shall I know him?" "He is sitting
among the poor people and covered with wounds."(see Is. 53:5)
(b.San. 98a)

The same application is made in the Midrash Rabbah:

Rabbi Jose the Galilean says: Great is peace-for
at the hour the King Messiah reveals himself unto Israel,
he will begin in no other way than with "peace" as it is
written: "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of
the messenger of goodnews, that announces peace." (Is. 52:7)
(Perek HaShalom in some Talmud editions and Numbers Rabbah XI, 16-20)

Rambam says:

Regarding the mission by which Messiah will present himself
Isaiah states, "He grew like a tender plant and as a root
out of dry land At him will kings shut their mouths,
for what had not been told unto them shall they see,
and what they never heard shall they understand."
(Is. 52:15-53:2)

Perhaps most interesting is the application of Isaiah 53 to the Messiah in the Zohar:

In the Garden of Eden there is a hall that is called the
"hall of  the afflicted." Now it is into this hall that
the Messiah goes and summons all the afflictions and pains
and sufferings of Israel to come upon him.  And so they all
come upon him. And had he not eased the children of Israel
of their sorrow, and taken their burden upon himself, there
would be none who could endure the suffering of Israel
in penalty of neglecting the Torah. Thus it is written:
"Surely our diseases he did bear and our pains he carried."
(Is. 53:5) As long as the children of Israel dwelt in the
Holy Land, they averted all afflictions and sufferings from
the world by the service of the sanctuary and by sacrifice.
But now it is the Messiah who is averting them from the
habitants of the world.
(Zohar 2:212a)

The Messiah like the service of the sanctuary and the sacrifice has taken upon himself the sins of Israel.  Messiah is the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 52:7-53:12

3 He was despised, and forsaken of men--a man of pains, and acquainted with
disease, and as one from whom men hide their face: He was despised, and we esteemed
Him not.
4 Surely our diseases He did bear, and our pains He carried: whereas we did esteem
Him stricken, smitten of Elohim, and afflicted.
5 But He was pierced because of our transgressions; He was crushed because of our
iniquities: the chastisement of our welfare 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
YHWH has made to light on Him, the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed, though He humbled Himself, and opened not His mouth. As a lamb
that is led to the slaughter, and as a sheep that before her shearers is dumb: yes,
He opened not His mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment He was taken away, and with His generation who did
reason? For He was cut off out of the land of the living, for the transgression of
my people to whom the stroke was due.
(Isaiah 53:3-8 HRV)

In fact Yeshua is actually identified with his name actually encoded in the prophecy of Isaiah 53.  If we start with the sixth to the last YOD in Isaiah 53:10 and count every 20th letter going from left to right, we spell YESHUA SHMI "Yeshua is my name", 


 

BOLDLY STANDING FOR TRUTH



We are bringing the dual message of Torah and Messiah to a lost world, while at the same time having the courage to stand up against false teaching in the Body of Messiah.

And please support us as we have the courage to stand against false doctrine when others remain silent.

 

Will you stand with us?

 

Donations this month are down by more than half!  We have bills to pay and the accounts are virtually empty.
What other ministry provides this kind of teaching?  What other ministry dares to stand up and speak when others are silent?

Now is absolutely the time to step up to the plate!

 

As I have said to you many times, I look on this work as a co-operative one with me, and all of you combining our resources together in order to get the job done of helping to teach this great truth to all in the world who will listen. Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart for your continued support, you are the ones who make it all possible by your contributions and your prayers for our work. I truly appreciate your help in every way.
You can donate by going to the pay-pal counter at http://www.nazarenespace.com or donations can be sent by paypal to donations@wnae.org.

Donations can also be made out to “Nazarene Judaism” and sent to:

Nazarene Judaism
PO Box 471
Hurst, TX 76053

Views: 516

Comment by Erik Adoniqam on April 21, 2012 at 11:48am
Excellent job. To add, the "light" seen by the servant in 53:11 refers "life" and "resurrection" as it clearly means in Pss 36,49,&56. But also I think that whenever an exegesis or discourse of this topic is conducted, one should always address the issue of the plural "deaths" in v.9 (MT) and the verb meaning to "sprinkle" vs. "to startle" in 52:15. These are major issues of contention in the debate.
Comment by Kenny Cartwright on April 22, 2012 at 5:03pm

Very good point, Erik. The MT does say "his deaths"- b'motayv. However, the Isaiah Scroll has "b'moto"- "in His death" singular. If I recall correctly, so does the Peshitta Tanakh and the LXX. But I would check those two out before believing what I say here. Thing is they are much more ancient than the MT. Glad you brought it up!! =o)

Comment by Erik Adoniqam on April 22, 2012 at 5:52pm
Thanks Kenny. You are correct the QIsa scroll does have the singular as well as the LXX and beings the Peshitta extent mss that we have are generally considered to be reworked to match the LXX variants, they too are singular I believe. Interestingly, the 1QIsa has a variant that reads his "highplace" as does some MT mss according to the BHS. This too, however, may refer to a grave as it does in Ezekiel. With all that said, the plural "deaths" in the MT is most parsimoniously explained as an emphatic given the singular subject as well. You and I are obviously familiar with these common objections, but it behooves us to share them and their clarifications with others that have never encountered them. It is by these arguments that so many have left the faith.

Comment

You need to be a member of Nazarene Space to add comments!

Join Nazarene Space

 

 

 

















 

LINKS

 

 

 

 

Badge

Loading…

© 2018   Created by James Trimm.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service