Isaiah 53:12
Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
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(12) Therefore will I divide . . .—The “great” and the “powerful” are words which describe the kings and rulers of mankind. The Servant, once despised and forsaken, takes his place with them, though not in the same manner, or by the same means. We may have echoes of the words in our Lord’s language as to the “spoiling of the strong man” (Matthew 12:29) as to the contrast between the greatness of His Kingdom and that of the rulers and great ones of the world (Matthew 20:25; Mark 10:42; Luke 22:25). The LXX., Vulg., Luther, and some modern scholars render, I will give him the multitude as a prey, the spoil “of the mighty ones.”

Because he hath poured out . . .—The absolutely voluntary character of the sacrifice is again emphasised. The next clause is better taken as he let himself be numbered. So it was that he bore (and took away) the sin of many, and gained the power for availing intercession, both in the hour of death (Luke 23:34) and in the eternal triumph (Hebrews 7:25). The ideal Servant, contemned, condemned, failing, is seen, at last, to be identical with the ideal King.



Isaiah 53:12

The first clause of this verse is somewhat difficult. There are two ways of understanding it. One is that adopted in A. V., according to which the suffering Servant is represented as equal to the greatest conquerors. He is to be as gloriously successful in His victory as they have been in theirs. But there are two very strong objections to this rendering-first, that it takes ‘the many’ in the sense of mighty, thus obscuring the identity of the expression here and in the previous verse and in the end of this verse; and secondly, that it gives a very feeble and frigid ending to the prophecy. It does not seem a worthy close simply to say that the Servant is to be like a Cyrus or a Nebuchadnezzar in His conquests.

The other rendering, though there are some difficulties, is to be preferred. According to it ‘the many’ and ‘the strong’ are themselves the prey or spoil. The words might be read, ‘I will apportion to Him the many, and He shall apportion to Himself the strong ones.’

This retains the same meaning of ‘many’ for the same expression throughout the context, and is a worthy ending to the prophecy. The force of the clause is then to represent the suffering Servant as a conqueror, leading back from His conquests a long train of captives, a rich booty.

Notice some points about this closing metaphor.

Mark its singular contrast to the tone of the rest of the prophecy. Note the lowliness, the suffering, the minor key of it all, and then, all at once, the leap up to rapture and triumph. The special form of the metaphor strikes one as singular. Nothing in the preceding context even remotely suggests it. Even the previous clause about ‘making the many righteous’ does not do much to prepare the way for it. Whatever be our explanation of the words, it must be one that does full justice to this metaphor, and presents some conquering power or person, whose victories are brilliant and real enough to be worthy to stand at the close of such a prophecy. We must keep in mind, too, what has been remarked on the two previous verses, that this victorious campaign and growing conquest is achieved after the Servant is dead. That is a paradox. And note that the strength of language representing His activity can scarcely be reconciled with the idea that it is only the post-mortem influence of His life which is meant.

Note, too, the singular blending of God’s power and the Servant’s own activity in the winning of this extended sovereignty. Side by side the two are put. The same verb is used in order to emphasise the intended parallel. ‘I will divide,’ ‘He shall divide.’ I will give Him-He shall conquer for Himself. Remember the intense vehemence with which the Old Testament guards the absolute supremacy of divine power, and how strongly it always puts the thought that God is everything and man nothing. Look at the contrast of the tone when a human conqueror, whose conquests are the result of God’s providence, is addressed {Isaiah 45:1 - Isaiah 45:3}. There is an entire suppression of his personality, not a word about his bravery, his military genius, or anything in him. It is all I, I, I. Remember how, in Isaiah 10:13, one of the sins for which the Assyrian is to be destroyed is precisely that he thought of his victories as due to his own strength and wisdom. So he is indignantly reminded that he is only ‘a staff in Mine hand,’ the axe with which God hewed the nations, whereas here the voice of God Himself speaks, and gives a strange place beside Himself to the will and power of this Conqueror. This feature of the prophecy should be accounted for in any satisfactory interpretation.

Note, too, the wide sweep of the Servant’s dominion, which carries us back to the beginning of this prophecy in Isaiah 52:15, where we hear of the Servant as ‘sprinkling’ {or startling’} many nations, and the ‘kings’ is parallel with the ‘strong’ in this verse. No bounds are assigned to the Servant’s conquests, which are, if not declared to be universal, at least indefinitely extended and striding on to world-wide empire.

These points are plainly here. I do not dilate upon them. But I ask whether any of the interpretations of these words, except one, gives adequate force to them? Is there anything in the history of the restored exiles which corresponds to this picture? Even if you admit the violent hypothesis that there was a better part of the nation, so good that the national sorrows had no chastisement for them, and the other violent hypothesis that the devoutest among the exiles suffered most, and the other that the death and burial and resurrection of the Servant only mean the reformation wrought on Israel by captivity. What is there in the history of Israel which can be pointed at as the conquest of the world? Was the nation that bore the yokes of a Ptolemy, an Antiochus, a Herod, a Caesar, the fulfiller of this dream of world-conquest? There is only one thing which can be called the Jew conquering the world. It is that which, as I believe, is meant here, viz. Christ’s conquest. Apart from that, I know of nothing which would not be ludicrously disproportionate if it were alleged as fulfilment of this glowing prophecy.

This prophetic picture is at least four hundred years before Christ, by the admission of those who bring it lowest down, in their eagerness to get rid of prophecy. The life of Christ does correspond to it, in such a way that, clause by clause, it reads as if it were quite as much a history of Jesus as a prophecy of the Servant. This certainly is an extraordinary coincidence if it be not a prophecy. And there is really no argument against the Messianic interpretation, except dogmatic prejudice-’there cannot be prophecy.’

No straining is needed in order to fit this great prophetic picture of the world-Conqueror to Jesus. Even that, at first sight incongruous, picture of a victor leading long lines of captives, such as we see on Assyrian slabs and Egyptian paintings, is historically true of Him who ‘leads captivity captive,’ and is, through the ages, winning ever fresh victories, and leading His enemies, turned into lovers, in His triumphal progress. He, and He only, really owns men. His slaves have made real self-surrenders to Him. Other conquerors may imprison or load with irons or deport to other lands, but they are only lords of bodies. Jesus’ chains are silken, and bind hearts that are proud of their bonds. He carries off His free prisoners ‘from the power of darkness’ into His kingdom of light. His slaves rejoice to say, ‘I am not my own,’ and he only truly possesses himself who has given himself away to the Conquering Christ. For all these centuries He has been conquering hearts, enthralling and thereby liberating wills, making Himself the life of lives. There is nothing else the least like the bond between Jesus and millions who never saw him. Who among all the leaders of thought or religious teachers has been able to impress his personality on others and to dominate them in the fashion that Jesus has done and is doing to-day? How has He done this thing, which no other man has been able in the least to do? What is His charm, the secret of His power? The prophet has no doubt what it is, and unfolds it to us with a significant ‘For.’ We turn, then, to the prophetic explanation of that worldwide empire and note-

II. The foundation of the Servant’s dominion.

That explanation is given in four clauses which fall into two pairs. They remarkably revert to the thought of the Servant’s sufferings, but in how different a tone these are now spoken of, when they are no longer regarded as the results of man’s blind failure to see His beauty, or as inflicted by the mysterious ‘pleasure of Jehovah,’ but as the causes of His triumph! Echoes of both the two first clauses are heard from the lips of Jesus. As He passed beneath the tremulous shadow of the olives of Gethsemane, He appealed for the companionship of the three, by an all but solitary revelation of His weakness and sorrow, ‘My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death; abide ye here and watch with Me.’ And even more distinctly did He lay His hand on this prophecy when He ended all His words in the upper room with ‘This which is written must be fulfilled in Me, And He was reckoned with “transgressors.”‘ May we not claim Jesus as endorsing the Messianic interpretation of this prophecy? He gazed on the portrait painted ages before that night of sorrow, and saw in it His own likeness, and said, That is meant for Me. Some of us feel that, kenosis or no kenosis, He is the best judge of who is the original of the prophet’s portrait.

The two final clauses are separated from the preceding by the emphatic introduction of the pronominal nominative, and cohere closely as gathering up for the last time all the description of the Servant, and as laying broad and firm the basis of His dominion, in the two great facts which sum up His office and between them stretch over the past and the future. ‘He bare the sin of many, and maketh intercession for the transgressors.’ The former of these two clauses brings up the pathetic picture of the scapegoat who ‘bore upon him all their iniquities into a solitary land.’ The Servant conquers hearts because He bears upon Him the grim burden which a mightier hand than Aaron’s has made to meet on His head, and because He bears it away. The ancient ceremony, and the prophet’s transference of the words describing it to his picture of the Servant who was to be King, floated before John the Baptist, when he pointed his brown, thin finger at Jesus and cried: ‘Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.’ The goat had borne the sins of one nation; the prophet had extended the Servant’s ministry indefinitely, so as to include unnumbered ‘many’; John spoke the universal word, ‘the world.’ So the circles widened.

But it is not enough to bear away sins. We need continuous help in the present. Our daily struggles, our ever-felt weakness, all the ills that flesh is heir to, cry aloud for a mightier than we to be at our sides. So on the Servant’s bearing the sins of the many there follows a continuous act of priestly intercession, in which, not merely by prayer, but by meritorious and prevailing intervention, He makes His own the cause of the many whose sins He has borne.

On these two acts His dominion rests. Sacrifice and Intercession are the foundations of His throne.

The empire of men’s hearts falls to Him because of what He has done and is doing for them. He who is to possess us absolutely must give Himself to us utterly. The empire falls to Him who supplies men’s deepest need. He who can take away men’s sins rules. He who can effectually undertake men’s cause will be their King.

If Jesus is or does anything less or else, He will not rule men for ever. If He is but a Teacher and a Guide, oblivion, which shrouds all, will sooner or later wrap Him in its misty folds. That His name should so long have resisted its influence is due altogether to men having believed Him to be something else. He will exercise an everlasting dominion only if He have brought in an everlasting righteousness. He will sit King for ever, if and only if He is a priest for ever. All other rule is transient.

A remarkable characteristic of this entire prophecy is the frequent repetition of expressions conveying the idea of sufferings borne for others. In one form or another that thought occurs, as we reckon, eleven times, and it is especially frequent in the last verses of the chapter. Why this perpetual harking back to that one aspect? It is to be further noticed that throughout there is no hint of any other kind of work which this Servant had to do. He fulfils His service to God and man by being bruised for men’s iniquities. He came not to be ministered unto but to minister, and the chief form of His ministry was that He gave His life a ransom for the many. He came not to preach a gospel, but to die that there might be a gospel to preach. The Cross is the centre of His work, and by it He becomes the Centre of the world.

Look once more at the sorrowful, august figure that rose before the prophet’s eye-with its strange blending of sinlessness and sorrow, God’s approval and God’s chastisement, rejection and rule, death and life, abject humiliation and absolute dominion. Listen to the last echoes of the prophet’s voice as it dies on our ear-’He bore the sins of the many.’ And then hearken how eight hundred years after another voice takes up the echoes-but instead of pointing away down the centuries, points to One at his side, and cries, ‘Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.’ Look at that life, that death, that grave, that resurrection, that growing dominion, that inexhaustible intercession-and say, ‘Of whom speaketh the prophet this?’

May we all be able to answer with clear confidence, ‘These things saith Esaias when he saw His glory and spake of Him.’ May we all take up the ancient confession: ‘Surely He hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. . . . 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 53:12. Therefore will I — Namely, God the Father; divide him a portion — This word portion (though there is nothing for it in the Hebrew)

is properly supplied out of the next clause, where a word, which answers to it, rendered the spoil, is expressed; with the great — Or, among the great — such as the great and mighty potentates of the world use to have after a short combat and a glorious victory. Though he be a very mean and obscure person, as to his outward condition in the world, yet he shall attain to a greater pitch of glory than the greatest monarchs enjoy. He shall divide the spoil with the strong — The same thing repeated in other words. The sense of both clauses is, I will give him great and happy success in his undertaking: he shall conquer all his enemies, and lead captivity captive; and he shall set up and establish his kingdom among and over all the kingdoms of the world: see Ephesians 1:20, &c.; and Php 2:8-9. Because he hath poured out his soul unto death — Because he willingly laid down his life in obedience to God’s command, and in order to the redemption of mankind. And he was numbered with the transgressors — He was willing, for God’s glory, and for man’s salvation, to be reproached and punished, like a malefactor, in the same manner and place with them, and between two of them, Mark 15:27-28. And made intercession for the transgressors — He prayed upon earth for all sinners, and particularly for those that crucified him, and in heaven he still intercedes for them, by a legal demand of those good things which he purchased by the sacrifice of himself, which, though past, he continually represents to his Father as if it were present.

53:10-12 Come, and see how Christ loved us! We could not put him in our stead, but he put himself. Thus he took away the sin of the world, by taking it on himself. He made himself subject to death, which to us is the wages of sin. Observe the graces and glories of his state of exaltation. Christ will not commit the care of his family to any other. God's purposes shall take effect. And whatever is undertaken according to God's pleasure shall prosper. He shall see it accomplished in the conversion and salvation of sinners. There are many whom Christ justifies, even as many as he gave his life a ransom for. By faith we are justified; thus God is most glorified, free grace most advanced, self most abased, and our happiness secured. We must know him, and believe in him, as one that bore our sins, and saved us from sinking under the load, by taking it upon himself. Sin and Satan, death and hell, the world and the flesh, are the strong foes he has vanquished. What God designed for the Redeemer he shall certainly possess. When he led captivity captive, he received gifts for men, that he might give gifts to men. While we survey the sufferings of the Son of God, let us remember our long catalogue of transgressions, and consider him as suffering under the load of our guilt. Here is laid a firm foundation for the trembling sinner to rest his soul upon. We are the purchase of his blood, and the monuments of his grace; for this he continually pleads and prevails, destroying the works of the devil.Therefore will I divide him - I will divide for him (לו lô). This verse is designed to predict the triumphs of the Messiah. It is language appropriate to him as a prince, and designed to celebrate his glorious victories on earth. The words here used are taken from the custom of distributing the spoils of victory after a battle, and the idea is, that as a conqueror takes valuable spoils, so the Messiah would go forth to the spiritual conquest of the world, and subdue it to himself. Rosenmuller renders this, Dispertsam ei multos - 'I will divide to him the many;' that is, he shall have many as his portion. Hengstenberg, 'I will give him the mighty for a portion.' So the Septuagint, 'Therefore he shall inherit (κληρονομήσει klēronomēsei) many.' So Lowth, 'Therefore will I distribute to him the many for his portion.' But it seems to me that the sense is, that his portion would be with the mighty or the many (ברבים bârabbı̂ym) and that this interpretation is demanded by the use of the preposition ב (b) in this case, and by the corresponding word את 'êth, prefixed to the word 'mighty.' The sense, according to this, is, that the spoils of his conquests would be among the mighty or the many; that is, that his victories would not be confined to a few in number, or to the feeble, but the triumphs of his conquests would extend afar, and be found among the potentates and mighty people of the earth.

The word rendered here 'the great' (רבים rabbı̂ym), may mean either many or powerful and great. The parallelism here with the word עצוּמים ‛ătsûmı̂ym (the mighty), seems to demand that it be understood as denoting the great, or the powerful, though it is differently rendered by the Vulgate, the Septuagint, the Chaldee, by Castellio, and by Junius and Tremellius. The sense is, I think, that his conquests would be among the great and the mighty. He would overcome his most formidable enemies, and subdue them to himself. Their most valued objects; all that constituted their wealth, their grandeur, and their power, would be among the spoils of his victories. It would not be merely his feeble foes that would be subdued, but it would be the mighty, and there would be no power, however formidable, that would be able to resist the triumphs of his truth. The history of the gospel since the coming of the Redeemer shows how accurately this has been fulfilled. Already he has overcome the mighty, and the spoils of the conquerors of the world have been among the trophies of his victories. The Roman empire was subdued; and his conquests were among these conquerors, and his were victories over the subduers of nations. It will be still more signally fulfilled in coming times, when the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever Revelation 11:15.

And he shall divide the spoil with the strong - And with the mighty, or with heroes, shall he divide the plunder. The idea here is not materially different from that which was expressed in the former member of the sentence. It is language derived from the conquests of the warrior, and means that his victories would be among the great ones of the earth; his conquests over conquerors. It was from language such as this that the Jews obtained the notion, that the Messiah would be a distinguished conqueror, and hence, they looked forward to one who as a warrior would carry the standard of victory around the world. But it is evident that it may be applied with much higher beauty to the spiritual victories of the Redeemer, and that it expresses the great and glorious truth that the conquests of the true religion will yet extend over the most formidable obstacles on the earth.

Because he hath poured out his soul unto death - His triumphs would be an appropriate reward for his sufferings, his death, and his intercession. The expression 'he poured out his soul,' or his life (נפשׁו napeshô; see the notes at Isaiah 53:10), is derived from the fact that the life was supposed to reside in the blood (see the notes at Romans 3:25); and that when the blood was poured out, the life was supposed to flow forth with it. As a reward for his having thus laid down his life, he would extend his triumphs over the whole world, and subdue the most mighty to himself.

And he was numbered with the transgressors - That is, he shall triumph because he suffered himself to be numbered with the transgressors, or to be put to death with malefactors. It does not mean that he was a transgressor, or in any way guilty; but that in his death he was in fact numbered with the guilty, and put to death with them. In the public estimation, and in the sentence which doomed him to death, he was regarded and treated as if he had been a transgressor. This passage is expressly applied by Mark to the Lord Jesus Mark 15:28.

And he bare the sin of many - (נשׂא nâs'â'). On the meaning of this word 'bare,' see the notes at Isaiah 53:4; and on the doctrine involved by his bearing sin, see the note at Isaiah 53:4-6, Isaiah 53:10. The idea here is, that he would triumph because he had thus borne their sins. As a reward for this God would bless him with abundant spiritual triumphs among people, and extend the true religion afar.

And made intercession for the transgressors - On the meaning of the word rendered here 'made intercession' (יפגיע yapegı̂y‛a), see the notes at Isaiah 53:6, where it is rendered 'hath laid on him.' The idea is. that of causing to meet, or to rush; and then to assail, as it were, with prayers, to supplicate for anyone, to entreat (see Isaiah 59:16; Jeremiah 36:25). It may not refer here to the mere act of making prayer or supplication, but rather perhaps to the whole work of the intercession, in which the Redeemer, as high priest, presents the merit of his atoning blood before the throne of mercy and pleads for people (see Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25; 1 John 2:1). This is the closing part of his work in behalf of his people and of the world; and the sense here is, that he would be thus blessed with abundant and wide extended triumph, because he made intercession. All his work of humiliation, and all his toils and sufferings, and all the merit of his intercession, became necessary in order to his triumph, and to the spread of the true religion. In consequence of all these toils, and pains, and prayers, God would give him the victory over the world, and extend his triumphs around the globe. Here the work of the Mediator in behalf of human beings will cease. There is to be no more suffering, and beyond his intercessions he will do nothing for them. He will come again indeed, but he will come to judge the world, not to suffer, to bleed, to die, and to intercede. All his future conquests and triumphs will be in consequence of what he has already done; and they who are not saved because he poured out his soul unto death, and bare the sin of many, and made intercession, will not be saved at all. There will be no more sacrifice for sin, and there will be no other advocate and intercessor.

We have now gone through perhaps at tedious length, this deeply interesting and most important portion of the Bible. Assuming now (see the remarks prefixed to Isaiah 52:13 ff) that this was written seven hundred years before the Lord Jesus was born, there are some remarks of great importance to which we may just refer in the conclusion of this exposition.

1. The first is, the minute accuracy of the statements here as applicable to the Lord Jesus. While it is apparent that there has been no other being on earth, and no "collective body of men," to whom this can be applied, it is evident that the whole statement is applicable to the Redeemer. It is not the general accuracy to which I refer; it is not that there is some resemblance in the outline of the prediction; it is, that the statement is minutely accurate. It relates to his appearance, his rejection, the manner of his death, his being pierced, his burial. It describes, as minutely as could have been done after the events occurred, the manner of his trial of his rejection, the fact of his being taken from detention and by a judicial sentence, and the manner in which it was designed that he should be buried, and yet the remarkable fact that this was prevented, and that he was interred in the manner in which the rich were buried (see the notes at Isaiah 53:2-3, Isaiah 53:7-10).

2. This coincidence could never have occurred if the Lord Jesus had been an impostor. To say nothing of the difficulty of attempting to fulfill a prediction by imposture and the general failure in the attempt, there are many things here which would have rendered any attempt of this kind utterly hopeless. A very large portion of the things referred to in this chapter were circumstances over which an impostor could have no control and which he could bring about by no contrivance, no collusion, and no concert. They depended on the arrangements of Providence, and on the voluntary actions of people, in such a way that he could not affect them. How could he so order it as to grow up as a root out of a dry ground; to be despised and rejected of men; to be taken from detention and from a judicial sentence though innocent; to have it designed that be should be buried with malefactors, and to be numbered with transgressors, and yet to be rescued by a rich man, and placed in his tomb?

This consideration becomes more striking when it is remembered that not a few people claimed to be the Messiah, and succeeded in imposing on many, and though they were at last abandoned or punished, yet between their lives and death, and the circumstances here detailed, there is not the shadow of a coincidence. It is to be remembered also that an impostor would not have aimed at what would have constituted a fulfillment of this prophecy. Notwithstanding the evidence that it refers to the Messiah, yet it is certain also that the Jews expected no such personage as that here referred to. They looked for a magnificent temporal prince and conqueror; and an impostor would not have attempted to evince the character, and to go through the circumstances of poverty, humiliation, shame, and sufferings, here described. What impostor ever would have attempted to fulfill a prophecy by subjecting himself to a shameful death? What impostor could have brought it about in this manner if he had attempted it? No; it was only the true Messiah that either would or could have fulfilled this remarkable prophecy. Had an impostor made the effort, he must have failed; and it was not in human nature to attempt it under the circumstances of the case. All the claims to the Messiahship by impostors have been of an entirely different character from that referred to here.

3. We are then prepared to ask an infidel how he will dispose of this prophecy. That it existed seven hundred years before Christ is as certain as that the poems of Homer or Hesiod had an existence before the Christian era; as certain as the existence of any ancient document whatever. It will not do to say that it was forged - for this is not only without proof, but wound destroy the credibility of all ancient writings. It will not do to say that it was the result of natural sagacity in the prophet - for whatever may be said of conjectures about empires and kingdoms, no natural sagacity can tell what will be the character of an individual man, or whether such a man as here referred to would exist at all. It will not do to say that the Lord Jesus was a cunning impostor and resolved to fulfill this ancient writing, and thus establish his claims, for, as we have seen, such an attempt would have belied human nature, and if attempted, could not have been accomplished. It remains then to ask what solution the infidel will give of these remarkable facts. We present him the prophecy - not a rhapsody, not conjecture, not a general statement; but minute, full, clear, unequivocal, relating to points which could not have been the result of conjecture: and over which the individual had no control. And then we present him with the record of the life of Jesus - minutely accurate in all the details of the fulfillment - a coincidence as clear as that between a biography and the original - and ask him to explain it. And we demand a definite and consistent answer to this. To turn away from it does not answer it. To laugh, does not answer it, for there is no argument in a sneer or a jibe. To say that it is not worth inquiry is not true, for it pertains to the great question of human redemption. But if he cannot explain it, then he should admit that it is such a prediction as only God could give, and that Christianity is true.

4. This chapter proves that the Redeemer died as an atoning sacrifice for people. He was not a mere martyr, and he did not come and live merely to set us an example. Of what martyr was the language here ever used, and how could it be used? How could it be said of any martyr that he bore our griefs, that he was bruised for our iniquities, that our sins were made to rush and meet upon him, and that he bare the sin of many? And if the purpose of his coming was merely to teach us the will of God, or to set us an example, why is such a prominence here given to his sufferings in behalf of others? Scarcely an allusion is made to his example, while the chapter is replete with statements of his sufferings and sorrows in behalf of others. It would be impossible to state in more explicit language the truth that he died as a sacrifice for the sins of people; that he suffered to make proper expiation for the guilty. No confession of faith on earth, no creed, no symbol, no standard of doctrine, contains more explicit statements on the subject. And if the language used here does not demonstrate that the Redeemer was an atoning sacrifice, it is impossible to conceive how such a doctrine could be taught or conveyed to people.

5. This whole chapter is exceedingly important to Christians. It contains the most full, continuous statement in the Bible of the design of the Redeemer's sufferings and death. And after all the light which is shed on the subject in the New Testament; after all the full and clear statements made by the Redeemer and the apostles; still, if we wish to see a full and continuous statement on the great doctrine of the atonement, we naturally recur to this portion of Isaiah. If we wish our faith to be strengthened, and our hearts warmed by the contemplalion of his sufferings, we shall find no part of the Bible better adapted to it than this. It should not only be the subject of congratulation, but of much fervent prayer. No man can study it too profoundly. No one can feel too much anxiety to understand it. Every verse, every phrase, every word should be pondered until it fixes itself deep in the memory, and makes an eternal impression on the heart. If a man understands this portion of the Bible, he will have a correct view of the plan of salvation. And it should be the subject of profound and prayerful contemplation until the heart glows with love to that merciful God who was willing to give the Redeemer to such sorrow, and to the gracious Saviour who, for our sins, was willing to pour out his soul unto death. I bless God that I have been permitted to study it; and I pray that this exposition - cold and imperfect as it is - may be made the means yet of extending correct views of the design of the Redeemer's death among his friends, and of convincing those who have doubted the truth of the Bible, that a prophecy like this demonstrates that the book in which it occurs must be from God.

12. divide—as a conqueror dividing the spoil after a victory (Ps 2:8; Lu 11:22).

him—for Him.

with … great—Hengstenberg translates, "I will give Him the mighty for a portion"; so the Septuagint. But the parallel clause, "with the strong," favors English Version. His triumphs shall be not merely among the few and weak, but among the many and mighty.

spoil … strong—(Col 2:15; compare Pr 16:19). "With the great; with the mighty," may mean, as a great and mighty hero.

poured out … soul—that is, His life, which was considered as residing in the blood (Le 17:11; Ro 3:25).

numbered with, &c.—not that He was a transgressor, but He was treated as such, when crucified with thieves (Mr 15:28; Lu 22:37).

made intercession, &c.—This office He began on the cross (Lu 23:34), and now continues in heaven (Isa 59:16; Heb 9:24; 1Jo 2:1). Understand because before "He was numbered … He bare … made intercession." His meritorious death and intercession are the cause of His ultimate triumph. Maurer, for the parallelism, translates, "He was put on the same footing with the transgressors." But English Version agrees better with the Hebrew, and with the sense and fact as to Christ. Maurer's translation would make a tautology after "He was numbered with the transgressors"; parallelism does not need so servile a repetition. "He made intercession for," &c., answers to the parallel, "He was numbered with," &c., as effect answers to cause, His intercession for sinners being the effect flowing from His having been numbered with them.

Therefore will I, God the Father, the Spectator and Judge of the action or combat,

divide him; give him his share; or, impart or give to him; for this word is oft used without respect to any distribution or division, as Deu 4:19 29:26, and elsewhere.

A portion; which is very commodiously supplied out of the next clause, where a word which answers to it,

the spoil, is expressed. With the great; or, among the great; such as the great and mighty potentates of the world use to have after a sharp combat and a glorious victory. Though he be a very mean and obscure person, as to his extraction and outward condition in the world, yet he shall attain to as great a pitch of glory as the greatest monarchs enjoy.

He shall divide the spoil with the strong: the same thing is repeated in other words, after the manner of prophetical writers. The sense of both clauses is, that God will give him, and he shall receive, great and happy success in his glorious undertaking; he shall conquer all his enemies, and lead captivity captive, as is said, Ephesians 4:8, and Set up his universal and everlasting kingdom in the world.

Because he hath poured out his soul unto death; because he willingly laid down his life in obedience to God’s command, John 10:17,18, and in order to the redemption of mankind. Death is here called a pouring out of the soul, or life, either because the soul or life, which in living men is contained in the body, is turned out of the body by death; or to signify the manner of Christ’s death, that it should be with the shedding of his blood, in which the life of man consists, Leviticus 17:11,14.

He was numbered with the transgressors; he was willing for God’s glory and for man’s good to be reproached and punished like a malefactor, in the same manner and place, and betwixt two of them, as is noted with reference to this place, Mark 15:27,28.

He bare the sin of many; which was said Isaiah 53:11, and is here repeated to prevent a mistake, and to intimate, that although Christ was numbered with transgressors, and was used accordingly, yet he was no transgressor, nor did submit to and suffer this usage for his own sins, but for the sins of others, the punishment whereof was by his own consent laid upon him.

Made intercession for the transgressors; either,

1. By way of satisfaction; he interposed himself between an angry God and sinners, and received those blows in his own body which otherwise must have fallen upon them. Or,

2. In way of petition, as this word is constantly used. He prayed upon earth for all sinners, and particularly for those that crucified him, Luke 23:34; and in heaven he still intercedeth for them, not by a humble petition, but by a legal demand of those good things which he purchased for his own people by the sacrifice of himself, which, though past, he continually represents to his Father, as if it were present.

Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great,.... The great ones of the earth, the kings and princes of the earth: these are the words of God the Father, promising Christ that he shall have as great a part or portion assigned him as any of the mighty monarchs of the world, nay, one much more large and ample; that he would make him higher than the kings of the earth, and give him a name above every name in this world, or that to come; and all this in consequence of his sufferings, and as a reward of them; see Philippians 2:8 and whereas the Lord's people are his portion, and with which Christ is well pleased, and greatly delighted, Deuteronomy 32:9, they may be intended here, at least as a part of the portion which Christ has assigned him. For the words may be rendered (e), "therefore will I divide, assign, or give many to him": so the Vulgate Latin version; and which is favoured by the Targum,

"therefore will I divide to him the prey of many people;''

and by the Septuagint version, therefore he shall inherit many, or possess many as his inheritance; so the Arabic version. The elect of God were given to Christ, previous to his sufferings and death, in the everlasting council of peace and covenant of grace, to be redeemed and saved by him; and they are given to him, in consequence of them, to believe in him, to be subject to him, and serve him; and so it denotes a great multitude of persons, both among Jews and Gentiles, that should be converted to Christ, embrace him, profess his Gospel, and submit to his ordinances; and which has been true in fact, and took place quickly after his resurrection and ascension.

And he shall divide the spoil with the strong; or "the strong as a spoil"; that is, he shall spoil principalities and powers, destroy Satan and his angels, and make an entire conquest of all his mighty and powerful enemies. The Septuagint, Vulgate Latin, and Arabic versions, render the words, "he shall divide the spoil of the strong"; of Satan and his principalities; those they make a spoil of he shall take out of their hands, and possess them as his own. The best comment on this version is Luke 11:22. Or rather the words may be rendered, "he shall have or possess for a spoil or prey very many" (f); for the word for "strong" has the signification of a multitude; and so the sense is the same as before, that a great multitude of souls should be taken by Christ, as a prey out of the hands of the mighty, and become his subjects; and so his kingdom would be very large, and he have great honour and glory, which is the thing promised as a reward of his sufferings. Some understand, by the "great" and "strong", the apostles of Christ, to whom he divided the gifts he received when he led captivity captive; to some apostles, some prophets, &c. Ephesians 4:10, and others the soldiers, among whom his garments were parted; but they are senses foreign from the text.

Because he hath poured out his soul unto death; as water is poured out, Psalm 22:14 or rather as the wine was poured out in the libations or drink offerings; for Christ's soul was made an offering for sin, as before; and it may be said with respect to his blood, in which is the life, that was shed or poured out for the remission of sin; of which he was emptied,

and made bare, as the word (g) signifies, when his hands, feet, and side, were pierced. The phrase denotes the voluntariness of Christ's death, that he freely and willingly laid down his life for his people.

And he was numbered with the transgressors; he never was guilty of any one transgression of the law; he indeed appeared in the likeness of sinful flesh, and was calumniated and traduced as a sinner, and a friend of the worst of them; he was ranked among them, and charged as one of them, yet falsely; though, having all the sins of his people upon him, he was treated, even by the justice and law of God, as if he had been the transgressor, and suffered as if he had been one; of which his being crucified between two thieves was a symbolical representation, and whereby this Scripture was fulfilled, Mark 15:28.

and he bore the sin on many; everyone of their sins, even the sins of all those whose iniquity was laid on him, of the many chosen in him, and justified by him; See Gill on Isaiah 53:11 where this is given as the reason for their justification; and here repeated as if done, to show the certainty of it; to raise the attention of it, as being a matter of great importance; see 1 Peter 2:24.

And made intercession for the transgressors; as he did upon the cross, even for those that were the instruments of his death, Luke 23:34 and as he now does, in heaven, for all those sinners for whom he died; not merely in a petitionary way, but by presenting himself, blood, righteousness, and sacrifice; pleading the merits of these, and calling for, in a way of justice and legal demand, all those blessings which were stipulated in an everlasting covenant between him and his Father, to be given to his people, in consequence of his sufferings and death; see Romans 8:33.

(e) "ideo dispertiam ei plurimos", V. L. "propterea ipsi attribuam (vel addicam) permultos", Bootius, Animadv. I. 4. c. 12. sect. 20. p. 251. "idcirco dispertiam ei sortem, multitudinem Gentium", Vitringa. (f) "et plurimos (seu innumeros) habebit loco praedae, vel plurimi obtingent ipsi pro praeda", Bootius, ibid. (g) "denudavit morti animam suam", Forerius.

Therefore I will divide to him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because {r} he hath poured out his soul to death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bore the sin {s} of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

(r) Because he humbled himself, therefore he will be extolled to glory, Php 2:7-2:12.

(s) That is, of all that believe in him.

12. As the reward of his unmerited sufferings and his mediatorial work, the Servant shall attain an influence equal to that of the great potentates of the world. To “divide spoil” is a figurative and proverbial expression for victory or success; Proverbs 16:19 (“It is better to be of lowly spirit with the meek than to divide spoil with the proud”). It is therefore not necessarily implied that the Servant’s future greatness will be political, although that is certainly suggested.

Instead of will I divide, the LXX. reads “he shall inherit” (which is perhaps preferable as avoiding the recurrence of the same verb in two consecutive lines), but it is a mistake of some authorities to follow this version in treating the “many” as direct obj. of the verb; the sense must be either “he shall inherit,” or “I will give him a share” amongst the many.

The latter part of the verse returns to the great contrast that runs through the passage, between the true meaning of the Servant’s afflictions and the false construction put on them.

because he poured out (omit “hath” with R.V.) his soul] his blood, which is the seat of life; Leviticus 17:11. For the expression cf. Psalm 141:8.

was numbered with the rebels] See Isaiah 53:9. Cited Mark 15:28; Luke 22:37.

and he bare &c.] whereas he bare, the true view of his death as opposed to the false judgement of men,—a circumstantial clause.

for the transgressors] for the rebellious, the class to which he was himself reckoned.

Although several things in this marvellous description of the innocent suffering for the guilty be obscure, the salient features of the picture stand out with great clearness. Whether the portrait be that of an individual or of a personified community is a question that need not here be discussed (See Appendix, Note I.). If there be personification it is as consistently maintained as it is vividly conceived, and we are hardly entitled to assume that the writer has anywhere allowed the collective reality to peer through the veil of allegory. The figure brought on the scene is that of a man, so marred and deformed by revolting sickness as to be universally shunned and despised and maltreated as one bearing the manifest tokens of the divine displeasure; yet the dignity and patience of his demeanour profoundly impresses his contemporaries, so that after his death their thoughts are irresistibly drawn back to the tragedy of his fate, and they come to the conviction that he was indeed what he professed to be, the Servant of Jehovah, that he was the one innocent person in his generation, and that his sufferings were due not to his personal guilt, but to the guilt of a whole nation, which is by them atoned for and taken away. And finally it is prophesied concerning him that he shall rise again, to the astonishment of the whole world, and that his career shall be crowned with success even more conspicuous than his humiliation had been.—It has already been pointed out that this conception of the Servant has certain affinities with the figure of Job, and it may be partly moulded on the story of that patriarch’s trial. But the religious teaching of this passage moves on a different plane from that of the Book of Job. The problem of individual retribution, of how it can be that the righteous suffer, does not seem to have been present to the mind of the writer, although he no doubt furnishes an important contribution to the solution of that mystery. This is found in the idea of vicarious suffering, which is so emphatically expressed throughout the passage. Now the principle that the individual bears the guilt of the community to which he belongs was perfectly familiar to the ancient world, and many startling applications of it occur in the O.T. (Joshua 7:24; 2 Samuel 21:6 &c.). It is true that it had begun to excite protest towards the time of the Exile (Deuteronomy 24:16; 2 Kings 14:6; Jeremiah 31:29; Ezekiel 18:20); but this prophet accepts the principle and discerns in it a moral significance by which it is deprived of the appearance of arbitrariness or injustice. The essence of the Servant’s sacrifice lies in the fact that whilst himself innocent he acquiesces in the divine judgement on sin, and willingly endures it for the sake of his people. And it is the perception of this truth on the part of the people that brings home to them the sense of their own guilt, and removes the obstacle which their impenitence had interposed to Jehovah’s purpose of salvation. The suffering of the innocent on behalf of the guilty is thus seen to be a moral necessity, since it was only through such sufferings as the sinless Servant of the Lord was alone capable of, that punishment could reach its end in the taking away of sin and the bringing in of everlasting righteousness.

Verse 12. - Therefore (see the comment on ver. 11, sub init.). Will I divide him a portion with the great; i.e. "I will place him among the great conquering ones of the earth" - an accommodation to human modes of thought analogous to the frequent comparison of Christ's kingdom with the kingdoms of the earth (Daniel 2:44; Daniel 7:9-14. etc.). The apostle goes deeper into the true nature of things when he says, "Therefore also hath God highly exalted him, and given him a Name which is above every name" (Philippians 2:9). He shall divide the spoil with the strong. A repetition of the thought in the preceding clause (comp. Proverbs 16:19). Because he hath poured out his soul unto death. Christ not only died for man, but, as it were, "poured out his soul" with his own hand to the last drop. The expression emphasizes the duration and the voluntariness of Messiah's sufferings. And he was numbered with the transgressors; rather, and he was reckoned with transgressors (see Luke 22:37, Μετὰ ἀνόμων ἐλογίσθη where our Lord applies the words to himself). Christ was condemned as a "blasphemer" (Matthew 26:65), crucified with malefactors (Luke 23:32), called "that deceiver" (Matthew 27:63), and regarded generally by the Jews as accursed (Deuteronomy 21:23). And he bare the sin of many; rather, and himself bare the sin of many (compare the last clauses of vers. 6 and 11; and see also Hebrews 9:27). And made intercession for the transgressors. The future is used, with van conversive, instead of the preterite, to mark that the act, though begun in the past, is inchoate only, and not completed. The "intercession for transgressors" was begun upon the cross with the compassionate words, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). But it has continued ever since, and will continue until the last day (see Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25).

Isaiah 53:12The last reward of His thus working after this life for the salvation of sinners, and also of His work in this life upon which the former is founded, is victorious dominion. "Therefore I give Him a portion among the great, and with strong ones will He divide spoil; because He has poured out His soul into death: and He let Himself be reckoned among transgressors; whilst He bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors." The promise takes its stand between humiliation and exaltation, and rests partly upon the working of the exalted One, and partly upon the doing and suffering of One who was so ready to sacrifice Himself. Luther follows the lxx and Vulgate, and adopts the rendering, "Therefore will I give Him a great multitude for booty;" and Hvernick, Stier, and others adopt essentially the same rendering, "Therefore will I apportion to Him the many." But, as Job 39:17 clearly shows, this clause can only mean, "Therefore will I give Him a portion in the many." If, however, chillēq b' means to have a portion in anything, and not to give the thing itself as a portion, it is evident that hârabbı̄m here are not the many, but the great; and this is favoured by the parallel clause. The ideas of greatness and force, both in multitude and might, are bound up together in rabh and ‛âtsūm (see Isaiah 8:7), and the context only can decide which rendering is to be adopted when these ideas are separated from one another. What is meant by "giving a portion bârabbı̄m," is clearly seen from such passages as Isaiah 52:15; Isaiah 49:7, according to which the great ones of the earth will be brought to do homage to Him, or at all events to submit to Him. The second clause is rendered by Luther, "and He shall have the strong for a prey." This is at any rate better than the rendering of the lxx and Vulgate, "et fortium dividet spolia." But Proverbs 16:19 shows that את is a preposition. Strong ones surround Him, and fight along with Him. The reference here is to the people of which it is said in Psalm 110:3, "They people are thorough devotion in the day of Thy power;" and this people, which goes with Him to battle, and joins with Him in the conquest of the hostile powers of the world (Revelation 19:14), also participates in the enjoyment of the spoils of His victory. With this victorious sway is He rewarded, because He has poured out His soul unto death, having not only exposed His life to death, but "poured out" (he‛ĕrâh, to strip or empty, or pour clean out, even to the very last remnant) His life-blood into death (lammâveth like the Lamed in Psalm 22:16), and also because He has suffered Himself to be reckoned with transgressors, i.e., numbered among them (niph. tolerativum), namely, in the judgment of His countrymen, and in the unjust judgment (mishpât) by which He was delivered up to death as a wicked apostate and transgressor of the law. With והוּא there is attached to נמנה ואת־פּשׁעים (He was numbered with the transgressors), if not in a subordinate connection (like והוא) in Isaiah 53:5; (compare Isaiah 10:7), the following antithesis: He submitted cheerfully to the death of a sinner, and yet He was no sinner, but "bare the sin of many (cf., Hebrews 9:28), and made intercession for the transgressors." Many adopt the rendering, "and He takes away the sin of many, and intervenes on behalf of the transgressors." But in this connection the preterite נשׂא) can only relate to something antecedent to the foregoing future, so that יפגּיע denotes a connected past; and thus have the lxx and Vulg. correctly rendered it. Just as בּ הפגּיע in Isaiah 53:6 signifies to cause to fall upon a person, so in Jeremiah 15:11 it signifies to make one approach another (in supplication). Here, however, as in Isaiah 59:16, the hiphil is not a causative, but has the intensive force of the kal, viz., to press forward with entreaty, hence to intercede (with a Lâmed of the person on whose behalf it occurs). According to the cons. temporum, the reference is not to the intercession (ἔντευξις) of the glorified One, but to that of the suffering One, on behalf of His foes. Every word stands here as if written beneath the cross on Golgotha. And this is the case with the clause before us, which was fulfilled (though not exclusively) in the prayer of the crucified Saviour: "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34).

"The prophetic view," says Oehler, who agrees with us in the general opinion that the idea of the Servant of Jehovah has three distinct stages, "ascends in these discourses step by step, as it were, from the one broad space covered by the foundation-walls of a cathedral up to the very summit with its giddy height, on which the cross is planted; and the nearer it reaches the summit, the more conspicuous do the outlines of the cross itself become, until at last, when the summit is reached, it rests in peace, having attained what it desired when it set its foot upon the first steps of the temple tower." There is something very striking in this figure. Here, in the very centre of this book of consolation, we find the idea of the Servant of Jehovah at the very summit of its ascent. It has reached the goal. The Messianic idea, which was hidden in the general idea of the nation regarded as "the servant of Jehovah," has gradually risen up in the most magnificent metamorphosis from the depths in which it was thus concealed. And this fusion has generated what was hitherto altogether strange to the figure of the Messiah, viz., the unio mystica capitis et corporis. Hitherto Israel has appeared simply as the nation governed by the Messiah, the army which He conducted into battle, the commonwealth ordered by Him. But now, in the person of the Servant of Jehovah, we see Israel itself in personal self-manifestation: the idea of Israel is fully realized, and the true nature of Israel shines forth in all its brilliancy. Israel is the body, and He the head, towering above it. Another element, with which we found the Messianic idea enriched even before Isaiah 53:1-12, was the munus triplex. As early as chapters 7-12 the figure of the Messiah stood forth as the figure of a King; but the Prophet like unto Moses, promised in Deuteronomy 18:15, was still wanting. But, according to chapters 42, 49, Isaiah 50:1-11, the servant of Jehovah is first a prophet, and as the proclaimer of a new law, and the mediator of a new covenant, really a second Moses; at the close of the work appointed Him, however, He receives the homage of kings, whilst, as Isaiah 53:1-12 clearly shows, that self-sacrifice lies between, on the ground of which He rules above as Priest after the order of Melchizedek - in other words, a Priest and also a King. From this point onward there are added to the Messianic idea the further elements of the status duplex and the satisfactio vicaria. David was indeed the type of the twofold state of his antitype, inasmuch as it was through suffering that he reached the throne; but where have we found, in all the direct Messianic prophecies anterior to this, the suffering path of the Ecce Homo even to the grave? But the Servant of Jehovah goes through shame to glory, and through death to life. He conquers when He falls; He rules after being enslaved; He lives after He has died; He completes His work after He Himself has been apparently cut off. His glory streams upon the dark ground of the deepest humiliation, to set forth which the dark colours were supplied by the pictures of suffering contained in the Psalms and in the book of Job. And these sufferings of His are not merely the sufferings of a confessor or a martyr, like those of the ecclesia pressa, but a vicarious atoning suffering, a sacrifice for sin. To this the chapter before us returns again and again, being never tired of repeating it. "Spiritus Sanctus," says Brentius, "non delectatur inani battologi'a, et tamen quum in hoc cap. videatur βαττολόγος καὶ ταυτολόγος esse, dubium non est, quin tractet rem cognitu maxime necessariam." The banner of the cross is here set up. The curtain of the most holy is lifted higher and higher. The blood of the typical sacrifice, which has been hitherto dumb, begins to speak. Faith, which penetrates to the true meaning of the prophecy, hopes on not only for the Lion of the tribe of Judah, but also for the Lamb of God, which beareth the sin of the world. And in prophecy itself we see the after-effect of this gigantic advance. Zechariah no longer prophesies of the Messiah merely as a king (Isaiah 5:13); He not only rules upon His throne, but is also a priest upon His throne: sovereignty and priesthood go hand in hand, being peacefully united in Him. And in Zechariah 12:13 the same prophet predicts in Him the good Divine Shepherd, whom His people pierce, though not without thereby fulfilling the counsel of God, and whom they afterwards long for with bitter lamentation and weeping. The penitential and believing confession which would then be made by Israel is prophetically depicted by Isaiah's pen - "mourning in bitter sorrow the lateness of its love."

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