Isaiah 53:2
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.
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(2) For he shall grow up . . .—The Hebrew tenses are in the perfect, the future being contemplated as already accomplished. The words present at once a parallel and a contrast to those of Isaiah 11:1. There the picture was that of a strong vigorous shoot coming out of the root of the house of David. Here the sapling is weak and frail, struggling out of the dry ground. For “before Him” (i.e., Jehovah) some critics have read “before us,” as agreeing better with the second clause; while others have referred the pronoun “him” to the Jewish people. Taking the received text and interpretation, the thought expressed is that Jehovah was watching this humble and lowly growth, as a mother watches over her weakest and most sickly child.

He hath no form nor comeliness.—See Note on Isaiah 3:14. The thought which has been constantly true of the followers of the Christ was to be true of the Christ Himself.

“Hid are the saints of God,

Uncertified by high angelic sign;

Nor raiment soft, nor empire’s golden rod,

Marks them divine. “

J. H. NEWMAN (Lyra Apostolica.)



Isaiah 53:2 - Isaiah 53:3

To hold fast the fulfilment of this prophecy of the Suffering Servant in Jesus it is not necessary to deny its reference to Israel. Just as offices, institutions, and persons in it were prophetic, and by their failures to realise to the full their own role, no less than by their partial presentation of it, pointed onwards to Him, in whom their idea would finally take form and substance, so this great picture of God’s Servant, which was but imperfectly reproduced even by the Israel within Israel, stood on the prophet’s page a fair though sad dream, with nothing corresponding to it in the region of reality and history, till He came and lived and suffered.

If we venture to make it the theme of a short series of sermons, our object is simply to endeavour to bring out clearly the features of the wonderful portrait. If they are fully apprehended, it seems to us that the question of who is the original of the picture answers itself. We must note that the whole is introduced by a ‘For,’ that is to say, that it is all explanatory of the unbelief and blindness to the revealed arm of the Lord, which the prophet has just been lamenting. This close connection with the preceding words accounts for the striking way in which the description of the person of the Servant is here blended with, or interrupted by, that of the manner in which he was treated.

I. The Servant’s lowly origin and growth.

‘He grew,’-not ‘shall grow.’ The whole is cast into the form of history, and to begin the description with a future tense is not only an error in grammar but gratuitously introduces an incongruity. The word rendered ‘tender plant’ means a sucker, and ‘root’ probably would more properly be taken as a shoot from a root, the tree having been felled, and nothing left but the stump. There is here, then, at the outset, an unmistakable reference to the prophecy in Isaiah 11:1, which is Messianic prophecy, and therefore there is a presumption that this too has a Messianic reference. In the original passage the stump or ‘stock’ is explained as being the humiliated house of David, and it is only following the indications supplied by the fact of the second Isaiah’s quotation of the first, if we take the implication in his words to be the same. Royal descent, but from a royal house fallen on evil days, is the plain meaning here.

And the eclipse of its glory is further brought out in that not only does the shoot spring from a tree, all whose leafy honours have long been lopped away, but which is ‘in a dry ground.’ Surely we do not force a profounder meaning than is legitimate into this feature of the picture when we think of the Carpenter’s Son ‘of the house and lineage of David,’ of the Son of God ‘who was found in fashion as a man,’ of Him who was born in a stable, and grew up in a tiny village hidden away among the hills of Galilee, who, as it were, stole into the world ‘not with observation,’ and opened out, as He grew, the wondrous blossom of a perfect humanity such as had never before been evolved from any root, nor grown on the most sedulously cultured plant. Is this part of the prophet’s ideal realised in any of the other suggested realisations of it?

But there is still another point in regard to the origin and growth of the lowly shoot from the felled stump-it is ‘before Him.’ Then the unnoticed growth is noticed by Jehovah, and, though cared for by no others, is cared for, tended, and guarded, by Him.

II. The Servant’s unattractive form.

Naturally a shoot springing in a dry ground would show but little beauty of foliage or flower. It would be starved and colourless beside the gaudy growths in fertile, well-watered gardens. But that unattractiveness is not absolute or real; it is only ‘that we should desire Him.’ We are but poor judges of true ‘form or comeliness,’ and what is lustrous with perfect beauty in God’s eyes may be, and generally is, plain and dowdy in men’s. Our tastes are debased. Flaunting vulgarities and self-assertive ugliness captivate vulgar eyes, to which the serene beauties of mere goodness seem insipid. Cockatoos charm savages to whom the iridescent neck of a dove has no charms. Surely this part of the description fits Jesus as it does no other. The entire absence of outward show, or of all that pleases the spoiled tastes of sinful men, need not be dwelt on. No doubt the world has slowly come to recognise in Him the moral ideal, a perfect man, but He has been educating it for nineteen hundred years to get it up to that point, and the educational process is very far from complete. The real desire of most men is for something much more pungent and dashing than Jesus’ meek wisdom and stainless purity, which breed in them ennui rather than longing. ‘Not this man but Barabbas,’ was the approximate realisation of the Jewish ideal then; not this man but-some type or other of a less oppressive perfection, and that calls for less effort to imitate it, is the world’s real cry still. Pilate’s scornfully wondering question: Art Thou-such a poor-looking creature-the King of the Jews? is very much of a piece with the world’s question still: Art Thou the perfect instance of manhood? Art Thou the highest revelation of God?

III. The Servant’s reception by men.

The two preceding characteristics naturally result in this third. For lowliness of condition and lack of qualities appealing to men’s false ideals will certainly lead to being ‘despised and rejected.’ The latter expression is probably better taken, as in the margin of the Rev. Ver. as ‘forsaken.’ But whichever meaning is adopted, what an Iliad of woes is condensed into these two words! ‘The spurns that patient merit of the unworthy takes,’ the loneliness of one who, in all the crowd descries none to trust-these are the wages that the world ever gives to its noblest, who live but to help it and be misunderstood by it, and as these are the wages of all who with self-devotion would serve God by serving the world for its good, they were paid in largest measure to ‘the Servant of the Lord.’ His claims were ridiculed, His words of wisdom thrown back on Himself; none were so poor but could afford to despise Him as lower than they, His love was repulsed, surely He drank the bitterest cup of contempt. All His life He walked in the solitude of uncomprehended aims, and at His hour of extremest need appealed in vain for a little solace of companionship, and was deserted by those whom He trusted most. His was a lifelong martyrdom inflicted by men. His was a lifelong solitude which was most utter at the last. And He brought it all on Himself because He would be God’s Servant in being men’s Saviour.

IV. The Servant’s sorrow of heart.

The remarkable expression ‘acquainted with grief’ seems to carry an allusion to the previous clause, in which men are spoken of as despising and rejecting the Servant. They left Him alone, and His only companion was ‘grief’-a grim associate to walk at a man’s side all his days! It is to be noted that the word rendered ‘grief’ is literally sickness. That description of mental or spiritual sorrows under the imagery of bodily sicknesses is intensified in the subsequent terrible picture of Him as one from whom men hide their faces with disgust at His hideous appearance, caused by disease. Possibly the meaning may rather be that He hides His face, as lepers had to do.

Now probably the ‘sorrows’ touched on at this point are to be distinguished from those which subsequently are spoken of in terms of such poignancy as laid on the Servant by God. Here the prophet is thinking rather of those which fell on Him by reason of men’s rejection and desertion. We shall not rightly estimate the sorrowfulness of Christ’s sorrows, unless we bring to our meditations on them the other thought of His joys. How great these were we can judge, when we remember that He told the disciples that by His joy remaining in them their joy would be full. As much joy then as human nature was capable of from perfect purity, filial obedience, trust, and unbroken communion with God, so much was Jesus’ permanent experience. The golden cup of His pure nature was ever full to the brim with the richest wine of joy. And that constant experience of gladness in the Father and in Himself made more painful the sorrows which He encountered, like a biting wind shrieking round Him, whenever He passed out from fellowship with God in the stillness of His soul into the contemptuous and hostile world. His spirit carrying with it the still atmosphere of the Holy Place, would feel more keenly than any other would have done the jarring tumult of the crowds, and would know a sharper pain when met with greetings in which was no kindness. Jesus was sinless, His sympathy with all sorrow was thereby rendered abnormally keen, and He made others’ griefs His own with an identification born of a sympathy which the most compassionate cannot attain. The greater the love, the greater the sorrow of the loving heart when its love is spurned. The intenser the yearning for companionship, the sharper the pang when it is repulsed. The more one longs to bless, the more one suffers when his blessings are flung off. Jesus was the most sensitive, the most sympathetic, the most loving soul that ever dwelt in flesh. He saw, as none other has ever seen, man’s miseries. He experienced, as none else has ever experienced, man’s ingratitude, and, therefore, though God, even His God, ‘anointed Him with the oil of gladness above His fellows,’ He was ‘a Man of Sorrows,’ and grief was His companion during all His life’s course.

Isaiah 53:2-3. For he shall grow up, &c. — And the reason why the Jews will generally reject their Messiah is, because he shall not come into the world with secular pomp, but he shall grow up, (or, spring up, out of the ground,) before him, (before the unbelieving Jews, of whom he spake, Isaiah 53:1, and that in the singular number, as here, who were witnesses of his mean original; and therefore despised him,) as a tender plant, (small and inconsiderable,) and as a root, or branch, grows out of a dry, barren ground, whose productions are generally poor and contemptible. He hath no form, &c. — His bodily presence and condition in the world shall be mean and despicable. And when we see him, there is no beauty, &c. — When we, that is, our people, the Jewish nation, shall look upon him, expecting to find incomparable beauty and majesty in his countenance and demeanour, we shall be altogether disappointed, and shall meet with nothing desirable in him. This the prophet speaks in the persons of the carnal and unbelieving Jews. There was a great deal of true beauty in him, the beauty of holiness, and the beauty of goodness, enough to render him the desire of all nations; but the far greater part of those among whom he lived and conversed saw none of this beauty; for it was spiritually discerned. Observe, reader, carnal minds see no excellence in the Lord Jesus; nothing that should induce them to desire an acquaintance with, or interest in him. Nay, he is not only not desired, but he is despised and rejected — As one unworthy of the company and conversation of all men; despised as a mean man, rejected as a bad man, a deceiver of the people, an impostor, a blasphemer, an associate of Satan. He was the stone which the builders refused; they would not have him to reign over them. A man of sorrows — Whose whole life was filled with, and, in a manner, made up of, a succession of sorrows and sufferings; and acquainted with grief — Who had constant experience of, and familiar converse with, grievous afflictions. And we hid, &c. — We scorned to look upon him; or we looked another way, and his sufferings were nothing to us; though never sorrow was like unto his sorrows.

53:1-3 No where in all the Old Testament is it so plainly and fully prophesied, that Christ ought to suffer, and then to enter into his glory, as in this chapter. But to this day few discern, or will acknowledge, that Divine power which goes with the word. The authentic and most important report of salvation for sinners, through the Son of God, is disregarded. The low condition he submitted to, and his appearance in the world, were not agreeable to the ideas the Jews had formed of the Messiah. It was expected that he should come in pomp; instead of that, he grew up as a plant, silently, and insensibly. He had nothing of the glory which one might have thought to meet with him. His whole life was not only humble as to outward condition, but also sorrowful. Being made sin for us, he underwent the sentence sin had exposed us to. Carnal hearts see nothing in the Lord Jesus to desire an interest in him. Alas! by how many is he still despised in his people, and rejected as to his doctrine and authority!For he shall grow up before him - In this verse, the prophet describes the humble appearance of the Messiah, and the fact that there was nothing in his personal aspect that corresponded to the expectations that bad been formed of him; nothing that should lead them to desire him as their expected deliverer, but everything that could induce them to reject him. He would be of so humble an origin, and with so little that was magnificent in his external appear ance, that the nation would despise him. The word rendered 'he shall grow up' (ויעל vaya‛al, from עלה ‛âlâh), means properly, "to go up, to ascend." Here it evidently applies to the Redeemer as growing up in the manner of a shoot or sucker that springs out of the earth. It means that he would start, as it were, from a decayed stock or stump, as a shoot springs up from a root that is apparently dead. It does not refer to his manner of life before his entrance on the public work of the ministry; not to the mode and style of his education; but to his starting as it were out of a dry and sterile soil where any growth could not be expected, or from a stump or stock that was apparently dead (see the notes at Isaiah 11:1). The phrase 'before him' (לפניו lepânâyv), refers to Yahweh. He would be seen and observed by him, although unknown to the world. The eyes of people would not regard him as the Messiah while he was growing up, but Yahweh would, and his eye would be continually upon him.

As a tender plant - The word used here (יונק yônēq, from ינק yânaq, to suck, Job 3:12; Sol 8:1; Joel 2:16), may be applied either to a suckling, a sucking child Deuteronomy 32:25; Psalm 8:3, or to a sucker, a sprout, a shoot of a tree Job 8:16; Job 14:7; Job 15:30; Ezekiel 17:22; Hosea 14:7. Jerome here renders it, Virgultum. The Septuagint renders it, Ἀνηγγείλαμεν ὡς παιδίον ἐναντίον αὐτοῦ anēngeilamen hōs paidion enantion autou - 'We have made proclamation as a child before him.' But what idea they attached to it, it is impossible now to say; and equally so to determine how they came to make such a translation. The Chaldee also, leaving the idea that it refers to the Messiah, renders it, 'And the righteous shall be magnified before him as branches which flourish, and as the tree which sends its roots by the fountains of water; thus shall the holy nation be increased in the land.' The Syriac translates it, 'He shall grow up before him as an infant.' The idea in the passage is plain. It is, that the Messiah would spring up as from an ancient and decayed stock, like a tender shoot or sucker. He would be humble and unpretending in his origin, and would be such that they who had expected a splendid prince would be led to overlook and despise him.

And as a root - (וכשׁרשׁ vekashoresh). The word 'root' here is evidently used by synecdoche for the sprout that starts up from a root (see the notes at Isaiah 11:10, where the word is used in the same sense).

Out of a dry ground - In a barren waste, or where there is no moisture. Such a sprout or shrub is small, puny, and withered up. Such shrubs spring up in deserts, where they are stinted for want of moisture, and they are most striking objects to represent that which is humble and unattractive in its personal appearance. The idea here is, that the Messiah would spring from an ancient family decayed, but in whose root, so to speak, there would be life, as there is remaining life in the stump of a tree that is fallen down; but that there would be nothing in his external appearance that would attract attention, or meet the expectations of the nation. Even then he would not be like a plant of vigorous growth supplied with abundant rains, and growing in a rich and fertile soil, but he would be like the stinted growth of the sands of the desert. Can anything be more strikingly expressive of the actual appearance of the Redeemer, as compared with the expectation of the Jews? Can there be found anywhere a more striking fulfillment of a prophecy than this? And how will the infidel answer the argument thus furnished for the fact that Isaiah was inspired, and that his record was true?

He hath no form - That is, no beauty. He has not the beautiful form which was anticipated; the external glory which it was supposed he would assume. On the meaning of the word 'form,' see the notes at Isaiah 52:14. It is several times used in the sense of beautiful form or figure (Genesis 29:17; Genesis 39:6; Genesis 41:18; Deuteronomy 21:11; Esther 2:17; compare 1 Samuel 16:18). Here it means the same as beautiful form or appearance, and refers to his state of abasement rather than to his own personal beauty. There is no evidence that in person he was in any way deformed, or otherwise than beautiful, except as excessive grief may have changed his natural aspect (see the note at Isaiah 52:14).

Nor comeliness - (הדר hâdâr). This word is translated honor, glory, majesty Deuteronomy 33:17; Psalm 29:4; Psalm 149:9; Daniel 11:20; excellency Isaiah 35:2; beauty Proverbs 20:29; Psalm 110:3; 2 Chronicles 20:21. It may be applied to the countenance, to the general aspect, or to the ornaments or apparel of the person. Here it refers to the appearance of the Messiah, as having nothing that was answerable to their expectations. He had no robes of royalty; no diadem sparkling on his brow; no splendid retinue; no gorgeous array.

And when we shall see him - This should be connected with the previous words, and should be translated, 'that we should regard him, or attentively look upon him.' The idea is, that there was in his external appearance no such beauty as to lead them to look with interest and attention upon him; nothing that should attract them, as people are attracted by the dazzling and splendid objects of this world. If they saw him, they immediately looked away from him as if he were unworthy of their regard.

There is no beauty that we should desire him - He does not appear in the form which we had anticipated. He does not come with the regal pomp and splendor which it was supposed he would assmne. He is apparently of humble rank; has few attendants, and has disappointed wholly the expectation of the nation. In regard to the personal appearance of the Redeemer, it is remarkable that the New Testament has given us no information. Not a hint is dropped in reference to his height of stature, or his form; respecting the color of his hair, his eyes, or his complexion. In all this, on which biographers are usually so full and particular, the evangelists are wholly silent. There was evidently design in this; and the purpose was probably to prevent any painting, statuary, or figure of the Redeemer, that would have any claim to being regarded as correct or true. As it stands in the New Testament, there is lust the veil of obscurity thrown over this whole subject which is most favorable for the contemplation of the incarnate Deity. We are told flint he was a man; we are told also that he was God. The image to the mind's eye is as obscure in the one case as the other; and in both, we are directed to his moral beauty, his holiness, and benevolence, as objects of contemplation, rather than to his external appearance or form.

It may be added that there is no authentic information in regard to his appearance that has come down to us by tradition. All the works of sculptors and painters in attempting to depict his form are the mere works of fancy, and are undoubtedly as unlike the glorious reality as they are contrary to the spirit and intention of the Bible. There is, indeed, a letter extant which is claimed by some to have been written by Publius Lentulus, to the Emperor Tiberius, in the time when the Saviour lived, and which gives a description of his personal appearance. As this is the only legend of antiquity which even claims to be a description of his person, and as it is often printed, and is regarded as a curiosity, it may not be improper here to present it in a note. This letter is pronounced by Calmer to be spurious, and it has been abundantly proved to be so by Prof. Robinson (see Bib. Rep. vol. ii. pp. 367-393). The main arguments against its anthenticity, and which entirely settle the question, are:

1. The discrepancies and contradictions which exist in the various copies.

2. The fact that in the time of the Saviour, when the epistle purports to have been written, it can be demonstrated that no such man as Publius Lentulus was governor of Judea, or had any such office there, as is claimed for him in the inscriptions to the epistle.

3. That for fifteen hundred years no such epistle is quoted or referred to by any writer - a fact which could not have occurred if any such epistle had been in existence.

4. That the style of the epistle is not such as an enlightened Roman would have used, but is such as an ecclesiastic would have employed.

5. That the contents of the epistle are such as a Roman would not have used of one who was a Jew.


2. tender plant—Messiah grew silently and insensibly, as a sucker from an ancient stock, seemingly dead (namely, the house of David, then in a decayed state) (see on [850]Isa 11:1).

shall grow … hath—rather, "grew up … had."

before him—before Jehovah. Though unknown to the world (Joh 1:11), Messiah was observed by God, who ordered the most minute circumstances attending His growth.

root—that is, sprout from a root.

form—beautiful form: sorrow had marred His once beautiful form.

and when we shall see—rather, joined with the previous words, "Nor comeliness (attractiveness) that we should look (with delight) on Him."

there is—rather, "was." The studied reticence of the New Testament as to His form, stature, color, &c., was designed to prevent our dwelling on the bodily, rather than on His moral beauty, holiness, love, &c., also a providential protest against the making and veneration of images of Him. The letter of P. Lentulus to the emperor Tiberius, describing His person, is spurious; so also the story of His sending His portrait to Abgar, king of Edessa; and the alleged impression of His countenance on the handkerchief of Veronica. The former part of this verse refers to His birth and childhood; the latter to His first public appearance [Vitringa].

For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground; and the reason or occasion why the Jews will so generally reject their Messiah, is because he shall not come into the world with secular pomp and power, like an earthly monarch, as they carnally and groundlessly imagined; but

he shall grow up (or, spring up, Heb. ascend, to wit, out of the ground, as it follows, brought forth, and brought up)

before him (before the unbelieving Jews, of whom he spake Isaiah 53:1, and that in the singular number, as here, who were witnesses of his mean original; and therefore despised him, according to Christ’s observation, John 4:44; or, as others, according to his face, or outward appearance, as he was man; whereby he sufficiently implies that he had another, a far higher, and a Divine nature in him)

as a tender plant, ( or, as this very word is translated, Ezekiel 17:4, a young twig, which is a small and inconsiderable thing,)

and as a root (as Christ is called, Romans 15:12, and elsewhere; or, as a branch; the root being put metonymically for the branch growing out of the root, as it is apparently used, where Christ is called the root of Jesse, and of David, Isaiah 11:10 Revelation 5:5, and in other places, as 2 Chronicles 22:10)

out of a dry ground; out of a mean and barren soil, whose productions are generally poor and contemptible: either,

1. Out of the womb of a virgin; but that was no ground of contempt; or,

2. Of the Jewish nation, which was then poor, and despised, and enslaved; or,

3. Out of the poor, and decayed, and contemptible family, such as the royal family of David was at that time.

He hath no form nor comeliness; his bodily presence and condition in the world shall be mean and contemptible.

When we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him; when we shall look upon him, expecting to find incomparable beauty and majesty in his countenance, and carriage, and condition, we shall be altogether disappointed, and shall meet with nothing amiable or desirable in him. This the prophet speaketh in the person of the carnal and unbelieving Jews, we, i.e. our people, the Jewish nation.

For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant,.... Which springs out of the earth without notice; low in its beginning, slow in its growth, liable to be crushed with the foot, or destroyed with the frost, and no great probability of its coming to any perfection; or rather as a little "sucker", as the word (b) signifies, which grows out of the root of a tree, at some little distance from it, of which no notice or care is taken, nor anything hoped for from it; and the figure denotes the mean and unpromising appearance of Christ at his incarnation; which is the reason given why the Jews in general disbelieved, rejected, and despised him; for this phrase of "growing up" does not design his exaltation, or rising up from a low to a high estate; but his mean entrance into the world, like that of the springing up of a low and insignificant plant or shrub out of the earth: and the phrase "before him" is to be understood either of God the Father, by whom he was taken notice of, though not by men; and in whose sight he was precious, though despised by men; or his growing up, and the manner of it, or his mean appearance, were all before the Lord, and according to his will: or else it may be understood of Christ himself, and be rendered "before himself", who was meek and lowly, and was mean and low in his own eyes; or rather it may be interpreted of the unbelieving Jew, of any or everyone of them that did not believe the report concerning him: because before him, in the sight of everyone of them, he sprung up in the manner described; unless it can be thought that it would be better rendered "to his face" (c); or "to his appearance"; that is, as to his outward appearance, in the external view of him, so he grew up:

and as a root out of a dry ground; or rather, "as a branch from a root out of a dry ground"; agreeably to Isaiah 11:1, meaning not so much the land of Judea, where he was born; or the country of Galilee, where he was brought up; as the family of David, from whence he sprung, which was reduced to a very low condition when he was born of it; his supposed father being a carpenter, and his real mother a poor virgin in Nazareth, though both of the lineage and house of David; from this passage the ancient Jews (d) are said to conclude that the Messiah would be born without a father, or the seed of man:

he hath no form nor comeliness; like a poor plant or shrub just crept out of the ground, in a dry and barren soil, ready to wither away as soon as up; has no strength nor straightness, of body; without verdure, leaves, blossom, and fruit things which make plants comely and beautiful. This regards not the countenance of Christ, which probably was comely, as were his types Moses and David; since he is said to be "fairer than the children of men"; and since his human nature was the immediate produce of the Holy Ghost, and without sin: but his outward circumstances; there was no majesty in him, or signs of it; it did not look probable that he would be a tall cedar, or a prince in Israel, much less the Prince Messiah; he was born of mean parents; brought up in a contemptible part of the country; lived in a town out of which no good is said to come; dwelt in a mean cottage, and worked at a trade:

and when we shall see him: as he grows up, and comes into public life and service, declaring himself, or declared by others, to be the Messiah: here the prophet represents the Jews that would live in Christ's time, who would see his person, hear his doctrines, and be witnesses of his miracles, and yet say,

there is no beauty, that we should desire him; or "sightliness" (e) in him; nothing that looks grand and majestic, or like a king; they not beholding with an eye of faith his glory, as the glory of the only begotten of the Father; only viewing him in his outward circumstances, and so made their estimate of him; they expected the Messiah as a temporal prince, appearing in great pomp and state, to deliver them from the Roman yoke, and restore their nation to its former splendour and glory; and being disappointed herein was the true reason of their unbelief, before complained of, and why they did not desire him, who is the desire of all nations.

(b) , Sept.; , Theodotion, vox a "lac sugere, proprie lactantem significat", Rivet. Sanctius, "surculus tener, veluti laetens", Forerius. (c) "ad faciem suam, vel in facie, sua", Rivet.; "quoad conspectum, vel quoad faciem suam, seu faciem ejus", Sanctius. (d) R. Hadarson apud Galatia, de Arcan. Cathol. Ver. l. 8. c. 2. p. 549. (e) "non aspectus", Munster: Vatablus, Pagninus, Montanus; "nulla spectabilis forma", Vitringa.

For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a {c} root out of a dry {d} ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.

(c) The beginning of Christ's kingdom will be small and contemptible in the sight of man, but it will grow wonderfully and flourish before God.

(d) Read Isa 11:1.

2. The verse seems to take us back to the origin of the Servant’s career, in order to account for the powerful prejudices with which his contemporaries regarded him. From the first he had been mean and unprepossessing in appearance, like a stunted shrub struggling for existence in an arid soil. To this corresponded the first impressions of the people, which were mainly of a negative kind; they found in him nothing that was attractive or desirable. Beyond this the verse does not go.

For he shall grow up] Lit. And he grew up. It is not easy to make out such a connexion between this sentence and the last as would naturally be expressed by “and.” If what is here stated were the explanation of the unbelief confessed in Isaiah 53:1, the proper conjunction would be “for,” and so the word is by many rendered. Others take it as the “and” of consequence (= and so), but the clause is not a statement of what the people thought of the Servant in consequence of their unbelief, but of what he actually was. The phrase “before him” seems decisive on that point, unless with Ewald and others we change the reading to “before us.” With that alteration the whole verse speaks of the impressions men formed of the Servant, and these impressions might readily be regarded as the result of their want of spiritual insight. But if the received text be retained (and there is no sufficient reason for departing from it) the description begins with a statement of fact and then proceeds to the effect on the mind of the people. It is probable that no logical connexion with the preceding is intended. The conjunction may mark the commencement of the narrative, in accordance with a tendency to begin a speech with “and” (Joshua 22:28; Jeremiah 9:11; cf. ch. Isaiah 2:2).

as a tender plant] a sapling. Cf. Ezekiel 17:22; Job 14:7.

a root (cf. ch. Isaiah 11:10) out of a dry ground] The “dry ground” might, on some theories of what is meant by the Servant, symbolise the Exile with its political hardships and lack of religious advantages, but it is doubtful if the figure should be pressed so far. The Servant is compared to a plant springing up in such a soil, but whether the prophet thought of his lowly growth as due in any degree to unfavourable circumstances is uncertain.

In what follows hath should be had, and comeliness, majesty. The words for form and beauty are the same as those rendered “form” and “aspect” in Isaiah 52:14. Both are here used in the sense of “pleasing form” &c.; comp. “a man of form “in 1 Samuel 16:18, and the Latin formosus from forma, or “shapely” from “shape.”

and when we shall see him] Rather, when we saw him. The clause, however, might (disregarding the accents) be read with what precedes: “… and no majesty, that we should look upon him—and no aspect that we should desire him” (see R.V. marg.). This at least yields a more perfect parallelism in the last two lines.

Verse 2. - For he shall grow up; rather, now he grew up. The verbs are, all of them, in the past, or completed tense, until ver. 7, and are to be regarded as "perfects of prophetic certitude." As Mr. Cheyne remarks, "All has been finished before the foundations of the world in the Divine counsels." Before him; i.e. "before Jehovah" - under the fostering care of Jehovah (comp. Luke 2:40, 52). God the Father had his eye ever fixed upon the Son with watchfulness and tenderness and love. As a tender plant; literally, as a sapling, or as a sucker (comp. Job 8:16; Job 14:7; Job 15:30; Psalm 80:12; Ezekiel 17:4, 22; Hosea 14:6). The "branch" of Isaiah 11:1, 10 - a different word - has nearly the same meaning. The Messiah will be a fresh sprout from the stump of a tree that has been felled; i.e. from the destroyed Davidic monarchy. As a root (so Isaiah 11:10; Revelation 5:5). The "sapling" from the house of David shall become the "root" out of which his Church will grow (comp. John 15:1-6). Out of a dry ground. Either out of the "dry ground" of a corrupt age and nation, or out of the arid soil of humanity. In the East it is not unusual to see a tall succulent plant growing from a soft which seems utterly devoid of moisture. Such plants have roots that strike deep, and draw their nourishment from a hidden source. He hath no form nor comeliness; rather, he had no form nor majesty. It is scarcely the prophet's intention to describe the personal appearance of our Lord. What he means is that "the Servant" would have no splendid surroundings, no regal pomp nor splendour - nothing about him to attract men's eyes, or make them think him anything extraordinary. It is impossible to suppose that there was not in his appearance something of winning grace and quiet majesty. but it was of a kind that was not adapted to draw the gaze of the multitude. And when we shall see him. Some connect this clause with the preceding, and translate, "He hath no form nor comeliness, that we should regard him; no beauty, that we should desire him" (Lowth, Vitringa, Gesenius, Ewald, Knobel, Henderson, Urwick. But Stier, Delitzsch, Kay, and Mr. Cheyne prefer the construction found in the Authorized Version). No beauty; literally, no sightliness; i.e. nothing to attract the eye or arrest it. The spiritual beauties of holy and sweet expression and majestic calm could only have ben spiritually discerned. Isaiah 53:2The confession, which follows, grows out of the great lamentation depicted by Zechariah in Zechariah 12:11. "And he sprang up like a layer-shoot before Him, and like a root-sprout out of dry ground: he had no form, and no beauty; and we looked, and there was no look, such that we could have found pleasure in him." Isaiah 53:2, as a sequel to Isaiah 53:1, looks back to the past, and describes how the arm of Jehovah manifested itself in the servant's course of life from the very beginning, though imperceptibly at first, and unobserved by those who merely noticed the outside. The suffix of לפניו cannot refer to the subject of the interrogative sentence, as Hahn and Hofmann suppose, for the answer to the quis there is nemo; it relates to Jehovah, by which it is immediately preceded. Before Jehovah, namely, so that He, whose counsel thus began to be fulfilled, fixed His eye upon him with watchfulness and protecting care, he grew up כּיּונק, like the suckling, i.e., (in a horticultural sense) the tender twig which sucks up its nourishment from the root and stem (not as Hitzig supposes, according to Ezekiel 31:16, from the moisture in the soil); for the tender twig upon a tree, or trunk, or stalk, is called ינקת (for which we have יונק here): vid., Ezekiel 17:22, the twig of a cedar; Psalm 80:12 (11), of a vine; Job 8:16, of a liana. It is thought of here as a layer, as in Ezekiel 17:22; and, indeed, as the second figure shows when taken in connection with Isaiah 11:1, as having been laid down after the proud cedar of the Davidic monarchy from which it sprang had been felled; for elsewhere it is compared to a shoot which springs from the root left in the ground after the tree has been felled. Both figures depict the lowly and unattractive character of the small though vigorous beginning. The expression "out of dry ground," which belongs to both figures, brings out, in addition, the miserable character of the external circumstances in the midst of which the birth and growth of the servant had taken place. The "dry ground" is the existing state of the enslaved and degraded nation; i.e., he was subject to all the conditions inseparable from a nation that had been given up to the power of the world, and was not only enduring all the consequent misery, but was in utter ignorance as to its cause; in a word, the dry ground is the corrupt character of the age. In what follows, the majority of the commentators have departed from the accents, and adopted the rendering, "he had no form and no beauty, that we should look at Him" (should have looked at Him), viz., with fixed looks that loved to dwell upon Him. This rendering was adopted by Symmachus and Vitringa (ἳνα εἴδωμεν αὐτόν; ut ipsum respiceremus). But Luther, Stier, and others, very properly adhere to the existing punctuation; since the other would lead us to expect בּו ונראה instead of ונראהוּ, and the close reciprocal relation of ולא־מראה ונראהוּ, which resembles a play upon the words, is entirely expunged. The meaning therefore is, "We saw Him, and there was nothing in His appearance to make us desire Him, or feel attracted by Him." The literal rendering of the Hebrew, with its lively method of transferring you into the precise situation, is ut concupisceremus eum (delectaremur eo); whereas, in our oriental style, we should rather have written ut concupivissemus, using the pluperfect instead of the imperfect, or the tense of the associated past. Even in this sense ונראהוּ is very far from being unmeaning: He dwelt in Israel, so that they had Him bodily before their eyes, but in His outward appearance there was nothing to attract or delight the senses.
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