Isaiah 53: Linchpin or Nail in the Coffin?

To Christian missionaries, there is no Scripture more sacred than Isaiah 53. When a missionary says, “Isaiah 53” they actually are referring to the passage found in Isaiah 52:13 – Isaiah 53:12. Christians believe that this passage is so convincing that if a person would only read it, they immediately will become a believer in Jesus. They believe it is a direct parallel to Jesus’ life and it details his mission to redeem mankind.

This is how the King James Bible presents it.

Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high. As many were astonished at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men: So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider. Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed? 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. 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. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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 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. 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. (Isaiah 52:13-53:12)

When I was a Christian, I had read this passage many times. At first glance, it looks like it describes Jesus’ life perfectly. When this passage is disassembled the similarities all but evaporate. Christians believe because the servant is referred to as a singular entity, it cannot be referring to any group of people. They disagree with the Jews, who believe that these verses are about Israel. Jews contend that Israel is referred to in a singular fashion here as well as in other passages, and some of the same language is used to describe the servant in parallel passages in the Hebrew Bible, yet Christians never use these other passages to point to Jesus.

The Servant: An Overview

The first thing you must realize is that this is not the first or only place the word servant is used in Isaiah or in the Hebrew Bible. Sure, Christians know exactly what Isaiah 53 says but do they know about the many other places where Isaiah mentions the servant in singular form or as one person? Let’s look at some of these verses.

But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend. Thou whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called thee from the chief men thereof, and said unto thee, Thou art my servant; I have chosen thee, and not cast thee away. (Isaiah 41:8,9)

Who is blind, but my servant? or deaf, as my messenger that I sent? who is blind as he that is perfect, and blind as the LORD’S servant? (Isaiah 42:19)

Is Jesus blind or deaf?

Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. (Isaiah 43:10)

Note that Isaiah actually refers to Israel as God’s witnesses (plural) and then God’s servant (singular) in the same verse.
Yet now hear, O Jacob my servant; and Israel, whom I have chosen: (Isaiah 44:1)

Thus saith the LORD that made thee, and formed thee from the womb, which will help thee; Fear not, O Jacob, my servant; and thou, Jesurun 1 , whom I have chosen. (Isaiah 44:2)

Remember these, O Jacob and Israel; for thou art my servant: I have formed thee; thou art my servant: O Israel, thou shalt not be forgotten of me. (Isaiah 44:21)

For Jacob my servant’s sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me. (Isaiah 45:4)

Go ye forth of Babylon, flee ye from the Chaldeans, with a voice of singing declare ye, tell this, utter it even to the end of the earth; say ye, The LORD hath redeemed his servant Jacob. (Isaiah 48:20)

And said unto me, Thou art my servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified. (Isaiah 49:3)

These verses are all describing Israel, not Jesus. Don’t think that Isaiah is the only one that uses this method for referring to Israel. The following verses are from Jeremiah where he speaks of Israel in the Singular form.

Is Israel a servant? is he a homeborn slave? why is he spoiled? The young lions roared upon him, and yelled, and they made his land waste: his cities are burned without inhabitant. (Jeremiah 2:14,15)

Therefore fear thou not, O my servant Jacob, saith the LORD; neither be dismayed, O Israel: for, lo, I will save thee from afar, and thy seed from the land of their captivity; and Jacob shall return, and shall be in rest, and be quiet, and none shall make him afraid. (Jeremiah 30:10)

But fear not thou, O my servant Jacob, and be not dismayed, O Israel: for, behold, I will save thee from afar off, and thy seed from the land of their captivity; and Jacob shall return, and be in rest and at ease, and none shall make him afraid. (Jeremiah 46:27)

Fear thou not, O Jacob my servant, saith the LORD: for I am with thee; for I will make a full end of all the nations whither I have driven thee: but I will not make a full end of thee, but correct thee in measure; yet will I not leave thee wholly unpunished. (Jeremiah 46:28)

I am not finished yet. Here are still more verses from the prophet Ezekiel.

Thus saith the Lord GOD; When I shall have gathered the house of Israel from the people among whom they are scattered, and shall be sanctified in them in the sight of the heathen, then shall they dwell in their land that I have given to my servant Jacob. (Ezekiel 28:25)

And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob my servant, wherein your fathers have dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, even they, and their children, and their children’s children for ever: and my servant David shall be their prince for ever. (Ezekiel 37:25)

In this last verse, Ezekiel switches from a singular servant to using plural personal pronouns in reference to the servant. Remember, this is The King James Version and not a Jewish translation that I am quoting these verses from. Now that we have established conclusively that the major prophets were inspired to refer to Israel in the singular form, let’s get back to the text of Isaiah 53.

Picking Isaiah 53 Apart

The best way for me to show you that Isaiah 53 has nothing to do with Jesus is to go through the entire passage section by section. I will discuss the translation problems, which are many, and then compare and contrast Israel and Jesus. I will also show other passages that speak of the same subject. Before I start, I want to step backwards a little bit and get a little more context. We will go back to verse 1 of Chapter 52.

Awake, awake; put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city: for henceforth there shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean. Shake thyself from the dust; arise, and sit down, O Jerusalem: loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion. For thus saith the LORD, Ye have sold yourselves for nought; and ye shall be redeemed without money. For thus saith the Lord GOD, My people went down aforetime into Egypt to sojourn there; and the Assyrian oppressed them without cause. Now therefore, what have I here, saith the LORD, that my people is taken away for nought? they that rule over them make them to howl, saith the LORD; and my name continually every day is blasphemed. Therefore my people shall know my name: therefore they shall know in that day that I am he that doth speak: behold, it is I. How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth! Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing: for they shall see eye to eye, when the LORD shall bring again Zion. Break forth into joy, sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem: for the LORD hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem. The LORD hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God. Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence, touch no unclean thing; go ye out of the midst of her; be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the LORD. For ye shall not go out with haste, nor go by flight: for the LORD will go before you; and the God of Israel will be your rereward. (Isaiah 52:1-12)

First, we can see here that these verses present a future time when Jacob will be delivered from the nations. This is speaking of a physical salvation not a spiritual one. First we must ask, “Who is speaking here?”

This is God speaking. He is saying that he will come and deliver them and immediately flowing out of these verses we see the rest of the passage that follows.

Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high. As many were astonished at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men: (Isaiah 52:13,14)

God is referring to the same servant that He had earlier in Isaiah. What God is saying here is because Israel has been delivered they will prosper. They will be lifted up and be the topic of every conversation. The phrase, “my servant shall deal prudently” is easier to understand if you consider how the Hebrew behind this phrase is used in other verses in the Hebrew Bible. The Hebrew word behind this is yashkil which means to act intelligently or to prosper or to succeed. It is also translated understand or instruct. Its meaning is somewhat ambiguous, but it doesn’t scream, “This is about Jesus!” God also says that many were amazed at Israel and that he was considered ugly by men more than any other people. In other words, he, Israel was despised. We can see this in our modern times. God uses the plural sons of men, not simply man in this verse.

Christians say that this is speaking of Jesus during his trial, when he was whipped. Surely Jesus wasn’t whipped to the point so that he was “marred” more than any other man, was he? Is this truly fulfilled in the gospels? Jesus was beaten 2 , but it does not say that he was beaten more than any other man.

One thing to understand about prophecy is that we can never know for sure what some prophecies mean with 100% accuracy until it has come to pass. We will not know with surety what some of this passage means. We will look, however, for an overall view from the parts that are easily understood. From those parts, we can form the picture of what this passage portrays. One should never think that an artist could paint a picture with one brushstroke on a blank canvas. With that in mind, let me say that it will be obvious to you, after we have gone through this passage, there will be no doubt that it does not point to Jesus when basing one’s conclusions on the text and context instead of what one believes the text should say.

So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider. (Isaiah 52:15)

God is still speaking here. Israel will shake up many nations because what will happen will be totally unexpected. Their delivery from their enemies will shake up the whole world. The world leaders will all be dumbfounded and aghast. Their unbelief in the fact that God has favored Israel will cause them to put their hands over their mouths. They will realize that they have to consider that all they have believed about Israel is wrong. They will be forced to rethink their world view concerning Israel.

Christians say that this is speaking about Jesus somehow. Perhaps they think that this is when Jesus returns and the rulers of the nations are shocked to see him. The thing to consider here, is that people that are non-Christians even talk about Jesus returning. Muslims expect Jesus to return to help their Maudi kill the Christians and the Jews. They believe that Jesus will be praying to Allah for him to give strength to the Maudi, so he can complete the mission to destroy his enemies.

What a surprise it will be when God raises Israel to prominence in the world scene, when no one actually is expecting Him to do it. If everyone previously had considered what they were going to experience, there would be no shock in what they were observing.

Now, we are going to listen to a different speaker and their thoughts about the subject of this passage.

Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed. (Isaiah 53:1)

Now, God is no longer speaking. These are the Kings (Rulers) speaking from the previous verse. One must realize that these chapter divisions are not part of the original text. The Kings are doubting if others would believe what they are seeing. What are they seeing? If we look back to the last chapter, we see the event that is transpiring is that God has delivered Israel. This is what they mean by the phrase, “the arm of the LORD.” It is the physical salvation of Israel being accomplished by their God.

The LORD hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God. (Isaiah 52:10)

This is language similar to that used in the Torah (The Books of Moses). When Israel was in slavery in Egypt, they were delivered when God bared his stretched out arm.

And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the LORD thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day. (Deuteronomy 5:15)

Let’s continue to the next part of the passage.

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. (Isaiah 53:2)

The Prophet is saying that the servant sprouted up from nothing and looked as if he would not survive. This describes Israel perfectly. At times, it seemed that Israel would vanish from the face of the Earth. They were attacked, captured, and many times carted off to other lands. Despite these things, God preserved them. There was nothing remarkable about their appearance to attract anyone to them. There have been many people that have expressed their disgust at the appearance of the Jews even to the point where they compared them to pigs and dogs. Some others have compared them to apes. The speaker is saying that they are not attracted to them any more than any other people. Still, there is nothing that speaks of any messiah or Jesus up to this point in the passage.

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. (Isaiah 53:3)

This is how the nations see Israel. They hated Israel. They rejected them. Israel was seen as a man that had nothing but troubles. Now, this is where Christian translations have hidden what the Hebrew actually says. The phrase, “acquainted with grief” is translated poorly to hide something that Christians would say can’t be speaking about Jesus. This phrase should be translated has known sickness or has experienced illness. In other words, he is sickly. Remember, whether correct or incorrect these are the views of the nations, not necessarily the view of truth through the eyes of God Himself.

You must realize, Christians believe that Jesus could never have been sick or ill. His body was not subject to frailties and disease, because he was not sinful. He was perfect. Why would the translators try to hide this obvious meaning of the word and instead render it with an ambiguous word like grief?

Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. (Isaiah 53:4)
What we see here is, the nations admit that they had poured out their griefs and sorrows on the servant, but they used the excuse that it was God’s will that Israel was stricken and afflicted. Perhaps they were thinking that it was God’s method of punishing them for killing the Son of God. They were only helping God punish the Jews for wrong doing. Christians, of course, believe that this is Jesus bearing their sins for forgiveness. Now you may agree but after reading the dissection of the next verse you might want to re-examine your thinking.

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. (Isaiah 53:5)

This verse is translated improperly. Rabbi Singer calls this a “theological crime scene.” 3 If the Word of God is so important to Christians then why do they feel compelled to change it?

In Hebrew, as well as in English, prepositions play a particularly pivotal role in the meaning of the passage. A single preposition can steer the whole passage in the wrong direction. Say for instance that the translators rendered a verse as, “he was killed for the sword” instead of “he was killed by the sword.” The two phrases have the same subject, object, and verb, but the proposition is different. This changes the meaning of the verse. If you translate a preposition incorrectly, you can cause a verse to convey an altogether different thought than the author intended.

This is exactly what has happened here. Hebrew is different from English in that prepositions are not separate words but are prefixes that are attached to the Hebrew object. In this verse, the translator has rendered the preposition incorrectly. This was done purposefully. If the preposition had been translated properly, this passage would be of no consequence to Christians. This is the verse translated properly.
But he is being wounded because of our transgressions, he is being bruised because of our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we were healed. (Isaiah 53:5)

This translation paints a wholly different picture, doesn’t it? Suddenly, the idea of Jesus being sacrificed for your sins has no foundation in this verse. Notice the phrase “was wounded” in the KJV should be translated as a continuing action and not as a completed action. The same mistake was made with the phrase “was bruised.” Also, notice that the source of the common refrain “we are healed” reads “we were healed” and is in the past tense. As Rabbi Tovia Singer would ask, “How do you play with my Bible?”

Many Christians believe that you can translate Hebrew in any manner you would like to as long as you do it their way. Christians will disagree and argue with the rabbis about the Hebrew, but they will not argue with the Chinese restaurant owner about what their Chinese menu actually says. I wonder why Christians impose their beliefs on the text and will not rely on the Jewish translation. Is it that they believe the rabbis actually realize it is speaking about Jesus in these text passages, but the rabbis want only to deny that Jesus is the Messiah? Or, is it that Christians start with their belief in Jesus and they are willing to “reverse engineer” the entire Hebrew Bible to make him fit into it?

Dying for Another Person’s Sins

Let’s step back for a moment from this text and examine the idea of someone dying for another person’s sins. Can someone else die for your sins? Can you die for another person’s sins? These questions were addressed more than once in the Hebrew Bible. Let’s look at these Scriptures briefly.

And Moses returned unto the LORD, and said, Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold. Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin–; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written. And the LORD said unto Moses, Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book. (Exodus 32:31-33)

Moses has realized that Israel has displeased God and offers himself as a sacrifice for them. God rejects his offer and informs him that whoever sins against him is responsible for their own sins and adds no qualifiers. This is not the only scripture that answers the question of someone giving their life for another in order to “save someone from their sins.” Even though Israel had the Torah and specifically this scripture, they forgot this truth. The prophet Ezekiel was used to remind Israel that no man can die for another person’s sin. He also taught them that sin is not passed down from one generation to the next.

The word of the LORD came unto me again, saying, What mean ye, that ye use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying, The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge? As I live, saith the Lord GOD, ye shall not have occasion any more to use this proverb in Israel. Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die. But if a man be just, and do that which is lawful and right, And hath not eaten upon the mountains, neither hath lifted up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, neither hath defiled his neighbour’s wife, neither hath come near to a menstruous woman, And hath not oppressed any, but hath restored to the debtor his pledge, hath spoiled none by violence, hath given his bread to the hungry, and hath covered the naked with a garment; He that hath not given forth upon usury, neither hath taken any increase, that hath withdrawn his hand from iniquity, hath executed true judgment between man and man, Hath walked in my statutes, and hath kept my judgments, to deal truly; he is just, he shall surely live, saith the Lord GOD. If he beget a son that is a robber, a shedder of blood, and that doeth the like to any one of these things, And that doeth not any of those duties, but even hath eaten upon the mountains, and defiled his neighbour’s wife, Hath oppressed the poor and needy, hath spoiled by violence, hath not restored the pledge, and hath lifted up his eyes to the idols, hath committed abomination, Hath given forth upon usury, and hath taken increase: shall he then live? he shall not live: he hath done all these abominations; he shall surely die; his blood shall be upon him. Now, lo, if he beget a son, that seeth all his father’s sins which he hath done, and considereth, and doeth not such like, That hath not eaten upon the mountains, neither hath lifted up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, hath not defiled his neighbour’s wife, Neither hath oppressed any, hath not withholden the pledge, neither hath spoiled by violence, but hath given his bread to the hungry, and hath covered the naked with a garment, That hath taken off his hand from the poor, that hath not received usury nor increase, hath executed my judgments, hath walked in my statutes; he shall not die for the iniquity of his father, he shall surely live. As for his father, because he cruelly oppressed, spoiled his brother by violence, and did that which is not good among his people, lo, even he shall die in his iniquity. Yet say ye, Why? doth not the son bear the iniquity of the father? When the son hath done that which is lawful and right, and hath kept all my statutes, and hath done them, he shall surely live. The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him. But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die. All his transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him: in his righteousness that he hath done he shall live. Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord GOD: and not that he should return from his ways, and live? But when the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and doeth according to all the abominations that the wicked man doeth, shall he live? All his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned: in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die. Yet ye say, The way of the Lord is not equal. Hear now, O house of Israel; Is not my way equal? are not your ways unequal? When a righteous man turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and dieth in them; for his iniquity that he hath done shall he die. Again, when the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness that he hath committed, and doeth that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive. Because he considereth, and turneth away from all his transgressions that he hath committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die. Yet saith the house of Israel, The way of the Lord is not equal. O house of Israel, are not my ways equal? are not your ways unequal? Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord GOD. Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin. Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord GOD: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye. (Ezekiel 18:1-32)

Many people reading this will question if this actually has anything to do with Jesus dying for mankind’s sins. This passage starts with God asking a question concerning a false doctrine, presented as a proverb, being circulated amongst the people of Israel. This false doctrine is based on two premises. The first premise is that a man can inherit guilt from someone else, and the second is that someone can die for another person’s sins.

Using impeccable logic, God lays out every possibility of someone either inheriting sin from someone else or someone sacrificing themselves for another. God’s unwavering decision is that neither wickedness or righteousness cannot be imputed to another person. Each person dies or lives because of their own actions not someone else’s. These are God’s words being given to Israel through a holy prophet, not the words of a theologian sitting in a seminary.

The hallmark of Christianity is that Jesus bore our iniquity and died for us all. This idea is foreign to the Hebrew Bible. Christians are under the false impression that the New Covenant presents this new truth and replaces God’s own words concerning this false doctrine. If you are a Christian that has not thoroughly studied the Hebrew Bible, you may have been deceived by this teaching, as I was.

In the book of Jeremiah, we are given a description of what things will be like when the New Covenant is finally given by God to Israel. Of course, if you are a Christian you have probably read in the New Testament that Jesus has already instituted the New Covenant. Although we will discover that Jesus did not initiate the New Covenant, the point I want to make will surprise you as much as it did me. We will now examine the passage in Jeremiah that describes what happens when the New Covenant is given by God.

In those days they shall say no more, The fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the children’s teeth are set on edge. But every one shall die for his own iniquity: every man that eateth the sour grape, his teeth shall be set on edge. Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. (Jeremiah 31:29-33)

In this passage, the first thing we notice is that the formerly mentioned false doctrine, identified as a proverb, is associated with the phrase, “But every one shall die for his own iniquity.” This means that the idea of someone dying for someone else’s sin is incorrect. At first glance, this seems out of place. If I were a Christian, I would be asking, “Why is this statement here?” Doesn’t this disagree with the entire basis of the reason of Jesus dying on the cross? Shouldn’t there be a statement here indicating that once and for all mankind will understand that the messiah came and died for mankind’s sins, dispelling the Old Testament idea that each man needs to die for his own sins? Instead, what we have here in the same passage describing the New Covenant is a statement saying someone can’t die for someone else’s sins.
Additionally, the Jeremiah passage here also shows us some more information about something pertaining to the New Covenant that will surprise you. Most people stop reading when they get to the end of verse 33 of Jeremiah Chapter 31. God makes a statement in the next verse that shocks most Christians when they think about it for a few minutes after reading it. We are going to look at verse 34 in a few seconds but consider this thought first.

How much money do you think Christian churches as a whole spent last year teaching the world about God? Well, the actual amount doesn’t matter but the fact that they spent any money is the problem. The reason why this is a problem will become evident when you read verse 34.
And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. (Jeremiah 31:34)

This verse indicates that after God renews his covenant that all will know him. After Jesus gave the New Covenant to his disciples, did all men come to know God? How many times have you observed people worshiping other gods or realized that they didn’t know anything about the God of Israel? Obviously, there is a real problem with the current situation of all men not knowing the God of Israel. The fact is that the New Covenant or what should actually be referred to as the Renewed Covenant has not been instituted yet. Most Christians will try to argue with me when I point this out, but the fact remains that God’s Word is clear here. There is no mention anywhere that this covenant will be given earlier or more than once. Can you believe that Jesus had the power to establish the covenant even though it didn’t result in fulfilling Jeremiah’s prophecy? I can’t.

Read the rest of this chapter in my book…

This is an excerpt from my book, “Leaving Jesus.” It is available as an ebook ($4.99), an audiobook ($6.00) or a paperback ($7.49) at the link below.

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5 Responses to Isaiah 53: Linchpin or Nail in the Coffin?

  1. Andrew says:

    For more than 1700 years, the Jewish rabbis interpreted this passage almost unanimously as referring to the Messiah. This fact is thoroughly documented in S.R. Driver and Adolf Neubauer’s The Fifty-Third Chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters. They quote numerous rabbis during this period who equated the servant of Isaiah 53 with the Messiah. Not until the twelfth century A.D., no doubt under the suffering of the Jews at the hand of the Crusaders, did any Jewish interpreter say that Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12 refers to the whole nation of Israel, the most common interpretation today among Jewish scholars. Even after Rashi first proposed this interpretation, however, many other Jewish interpreters have held, even to the present, the traditional Talmudic view that Isaiah 53 speaks of the Messiah. One of the most respected Jewish intellectuals of all history, Moses Maimonides rejected Rashi’s interpretation, and he taught that the passage was messianic.
    Isaiah 52:14 further proves wrong the view that the Servant is Israel when it compares the Nation of Israel to the servant: “Just as many were astonished at you, My people, so his appearance was marred more than any man.” In 53:8, the servant bears punishment that should have been born by “my people” (obviously Israel). It makes no sense for the nation of Israel to bear substitutionary punishment for the nation of Israel. Therefore Israel cannot be the servant of Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12.

    The key to identifying the servant in Isaiah 52:13-53:12 is to see who he is in the three previous “servant songs” of Isaiah 42:1-9; 49:1-12; and 50:4-9. These passages speak of the servant, for example, establishing justice in the earth (Isaiah 42:4) and regathering the Jewish people from worldwide exile (Isaiah 49:8-13). Even Isaiah 49:3 does not say that Israel is the servant; rather it says that the servant (Messiah) is the true Israel! Verse 5 and 6 go on to say “Now says the Lord, who formed Me from the womb to be His servant…’to raise up the tribes of Jacob (Israel), and to restore the preserved ones of Israel.'” The point is that Jacob (Israel) had gone astray, especially from the commission God gave to him: “In you and in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 28:14). The Servant (Messiah) was now to stand in Israel’s place to do two things: (1)to bring the nation of Israel back to God (Isaiah 49:5); and (2) to be a light to the nations.

    • James Wood says:

      Do you believe that rabbis are infallible? Which one of these rabbis broke the news to the Jewish community that Jesus was this servant and the messiah?

      I am concerned only with the text. If you believe that Hebrew words mean things and actually read what I wrote you would see the obvious inconsistencies between Isaiah 53 and Jesus’ life.

      I suggest you return to my writing and reread it, then you can counter particular points. If you don’t agree with what I wrote then we will have to agree to disagree….

      Also you should use your own words not cut and paste… I see alot of this is from

    • hesedyahu says:

      To add to what James said, the notion that for 1700 years rabbis unanimously held that this referred to messiah is an outright lie. The book you cite has already been countered by sites written by Jews that actually are Orthodox Jews and rabbis who have intensely studied the oral tradition, as opposed to johnny-come-lately christians who wish to push their lie. Your logic that the text cannot refer to the nation of Israel is invalidated by the text of Isaiah itself reading from Isaiah chapter 41 onwards.

      The rest of your message is just empty of truth content as in no place, even in Isaiah 53 is the servant ever OVERTLY equated with Messiah, whereas repeatedly the servant is identified as Israel from Isaiah 41 onwards.

  2. Andrew says:

    As for his visage, I think that the culprit is that some Christians are accustomed to the handsome Caucasian man in their images. Myself not one for images, I have no problem admitting that Jesus may not have been visually impressive, in fact, I find this verse to be a compelling argument to the contrary. In addition, we often find hyperbole in the Scriptures, so “more than any man” does not disqualify someone who was beaten so severely he could not have been recognized. Unless that is, the wind is actually kept in storehouses.
    “So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider.” (Isaiah 52:15)
    The sprinkling I’m sure is a reference to the priestly action of sprinkling anointing oil mixed with blood; He will consecrate the nations. In contrast to your interpretation, I could just as easily interpret this verse in the context of Jesus as a prophecy of your very reaction to this passage: The world will have to consider things they did not hear before- a Messiah that must suffer, for instance, and a Messiah that is the Son of God. Often we hear in discussion with Jews that this or that could not be, because otherwise God would have told us completely and clearly. In fact, he has said just the opposite: that we can not know His mind, that His ways are higher than our ways. Now, we can expect that He will not break his promises, but it’s folly to think that you know the plans of God. You yourself said that no prophesy can be known until it comes to pass, and yet if it does come to pass and contradicts your expectation, you reject it. This is the pattern of Israel all throughout Scripture, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This is the LORD’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.” The fact that Israel rejects Jesus as the Messiah is, in the eyes of one who studies the Old Testament, further motivation to believe that he is the Chosen One.
    In addition, I have no problem with your interpretation “The world leaders will all be dumbfounded and aghast. Their unbelief in the fact that God has favored Israel will cause them to put their hands over their mouths. They will realize that they have to consider that all they have believed about Israel is wrong. They will be forced to rethink their world view concerning Israel.” This is also surely true.
    What a surprise it must have been when God revealed the truth of the Messianic divinity to Israel, when no one actually was expecting Him to do it. If everyone previously had considered what they were going to experience, there would be no shock in what they were observing.
    “Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?” A report of the Messiah by whom salvation comes through suffering? And what’s more, a man raised from the dead and called the Son of God? Who indeed!
    I won’t continue a verse by verse response, as mostly, the following presumptions present a consistent paradigm in which to interpret the passage:
    1) The Messiah had to suffer
    2) The world rejects the Messiah,
    which we see throughout the Scriptures, some of which I quoted in other replies.
    You say that the phrase “acquainted with grief” should be translated “has known sickness” or “has experienced illness,” and conclude “he is sickly.” First, this is a leap of a conclusion, as would be the interpretation of “having known grief” as “he suffered from constant depression.”
    Second, the operative word in any case is the “acquainted with” and not “grief/sickness.” It gives no reason to think that he himself was sick, but that knew sickness, and was surrounded by it. This is the passive form of the same verb used in Genesis 3:5, in the statement that God “knew” both good and evil. Certainly God was never afflicted by evil. Now, Jesus was certainly exposed to sickness and surrounded himself with the sick, touching lepers and bleeding women, saying, “healthy people don’t need a doctor–sick people do.” In the eyes of the Jewish establishment and the kings of the earth, he was most certainly the embodiment of sickness, with complete disregard for the standard of cleanliness they developed in their traditions. They would not have touched him for fear of becoming unclean.
    Your correction to the translation of 53:5 (though not consistent with the Jewish, non-Christian English versions I just checked) does not change the meaning of the verse in as significant a way as I anticipated with the prelude you gave.
    But he is being wounded because of our transgressions, he is being bruised because of our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we were healed. (Isaiah 53:5)
    Surely, Jesus was and continues to be wounded and bruised by the world that did not accept him or believe what he said. So, the propositional argument is not compelling.
    In the Scriptures, you will observe a very prolific notion of familial identity. The Nation of Israel are not only the sons of Israel, they are Israel himself in a very real way. The sum of the progeny is the patriarch, if you will. In the same way, the patriarch is the sum of his progeny. Judah didn’t rule over his brothers, he died in Egypt, and Joseph ruled over his brothers and his father as in his dream. But David the son of Judah ruled Israel, and so Judah ruled over Israel in David. Is David prince forever? Not David himself, he’s dead, but the Root of Jesse has been raised up and reigns forever. We are taught in the New Testament that all men sinned, since all men are in Adam and were in Adam when he sinned, and those who are in Christ are redeemed by his death, since the righteous are in Christ.

    “For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

    “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,”

    And so Jesus did not just die in place of the righteous (a purely substitutionary interpretation is an incomplete one) but also, the righteous who were once transgressors of the law were put to death with Jesus, so that we could also be raised from death with him.

    And so we do not disqualify the Law or ignore it, in fact we work toward the perfection of our bodies by the standard of the Law as do the Jews. But we understand that righteousness does not come by the law but by faith, and we ask, as it is written, “What does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

    And so the substitutionary argument is also not compelling.

    Now, I don’t mean to say that an interpretation of Israel is an incorrect interpretation. Indeed, Jesus came for Israel first and the nations second, and Israel will continue to be first in the eyes of God, indeed, she is the apple of His eye. Israel has and will continue to suffer until she receives her Messiah in power. But to be sure that this passage applies only to Israel, and only physically seems, in light of 1700 years of Jewish scholarship, to be a childish retort to a rhetorical opponent, and not an honest examination of Holy Scriptures. So to answer your question no, the Jewish Rabbi’s were certainly not infallible, but one should consider why, before the availability of Old Testament Scripture to Europe and interpretation by Christians that they held one viewpoint, and after, they held the opposite viewpoint, in contrast to the Christians. As if they decided “Well, this is the same conclusion to which the Goyim arrived, so it can’t be right-Let us abandon it altogether and oppose it vehemently.” It seems that, as in most things, the Jewish scholars became more concerned with tradition and appearances than with truth.

    • hesedyahu says:

      Neither messiah or jesus are identified as “my servant” in the context, so “visage” doesn’t matter. And as neither messiah or jesus are identified in the context, much of what you say that follows is irrelevant, such as the notions that messiah will suffer and be rejected.
      The word isn’t sprinkle, but rather startle in the Hebrew so that’s a mistranslation.
      The logic that Israel rejected Jesus giving more evidence that he is messiah and chosen is weak. The same logic could be used that because Israel rejected Chemosh, the idol, in some parts of their history, that this is further proof that the idol is chosen. Israel rejected many self-proclaimed messiahs in the past before and after jesus, and that rejection added nothing to the claims of those false messiahs.
      The New Testament makes a mistake in logic when it claims that all men were in Adam, something not stated in the Jewish Bible. The Jewish Bible admits that people make mistakes and sin, but even those who make mistakes are still considered righteous without some belief in a messiah. The logic of righteous people dying in jesus is just as flawed. The Jewish Bible in Deuteronomy 6 and Ezekiel 18 disproves the notion that righteousness comes from belief, as both speak of keeping God’s law as the means of being righteous.
      I won’t go again into your mistake about history when you claim that rabbis believed one thing about Isaiah 53 before the printing of a mistranslation of the Jewish Bible and then another thing afterwards, which again is a pure and utter falsehood.

      Once again, as of the 15th of October, I’m asking you to limit the length of your responses or else I will have to ask my colleague, James Woods, to simply remove them. Anytime after this, if you choose to give an over-lengthy reply, I’ll just ask that it be taken from our blog. If you want to refer to a different site, just leave a link. If you want to refer to scriptures, especially lengthy ones, just give a quick note about the point you want to make and then put the reference to the book, chapter, and verse in brackets beside it.


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