Isaiah 53:7
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.
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(7) He was afflicted . . .—More accurately, He let himself be afflicted, as implying the voluntary acceptance of the suffering.

Opened not his mouth.—The silence of absolute acquiescence, as in Psalm 38:14; Psalm 39:9.

As a lamb to the slaughter.—It is suggestive, as bearing both on the question of authorship, and that of partial fulfilment, that Jeremiah (Jeremiah 11:19) appropriates the description to himself. In our Lord’s silence before the Sanhedrin and Pilate it is allowable to trace a conscious fulfilment of Isaiah’s words (Matthew 26:62; Matthew 27:14). (Comp. 1Peter 2:23.)



Isaiah 53:7 - Isaiah 53:9

In this section of the prophecy we pass from contemplating the sufferings inflicted on the Servant to the attitude of Himself and of His contemporaries towards these, His patience and their blindness. To these is added a remarkable reference to His burial, which strikes one at first sight as interrupting the continuity of the prophecy, but on fuller consideration assumes great significance.

I. The unresisting endurance of the Servant.

The Revised Version’s rendering of the first clause is preferable to that of the Authorised Version. ‘Afflicted’ would be little better than tautology, but ‘humbled Himself’ strikes the keynote of the verse, which dwells not on the Servant’s afflictions, but on His bearing under them. Similarly, the pathetic imagery of the lamb led and the sheep dumb gives the same double representation, first of the indignities, and next of His demeanour in enduring them, as is conveyed in ‘He was oppressed, yet He humbled Himself.’ Unremonstrating, unresisting endurance, then, is the point emphasised in the lovely metaphor.

We recall the fact that this emphatically reduplicated phrase ‘opened not His mouth’ was verbally fulfilled in our Lord’s silence before each of the three authorities to whom He was presented, before the Jewish rulers, before Pilate, and before Herod. Only when adjured by the living God and when silence would have been tantamount to withdrawal of His claims, did He speak before the Sanhedrin. Only when silence would have been taken as disowning His Kingship, did He speak before Pilate. And Herod, who had no right to question Him, received no answer at all. Jesus’ lips were opened in witness but never in complaint or remonstrance. No doubt, the prophecy would have been as really fulfilled though there had been no such majestic silences, for its substance is patient endurance, not mere abstinence from speech. Still, as with other events in His life, the verbal correspondence with prophetic details may help, and be meant to help, to bring out more clearly, for purblind eyes, the true fulfilment. So we may meditate on the wonder and the beauty of that picture which the evangelists draw, and which the world has recognised, with whatever differences as to its interpretation, as the most perfect, pathetic, and majestic picture of meek endurance that has ever been painted.

But we gather only the most superficial of its lessons, if that is all that we find to say about it. For the main point for us to lay to heart is not merely the fact of that silent submission, but the motive which led to it. He opened not His mouth, because He willingly embraced the Cross, and He willingly embraced the Cross because He loved the Father and would do His will, because He loved the world and would be its Saviour,

That touching imagery of the dumb lamb has manifold felicities and significances beyond serving to figure meekness. And we are not forcing unintended meanings into a mere piece of poetic imagination when we note how remarkably the metaphor links on to that of strayed sheep in the preceding verse, or when we venture to recall John Baptist’s first proclamation of the Lamb of God, and Peter’s quotation of this very prophecy, and the continual recurrence in the Apocalypse of the name of The Lamb as the title of honour of ‘Him who sitteth on the throne.’ A kind of nimbus or aureole shines round the humble figure as drawn by the prophet.

II. The misunderstood end of the Servant’s life.

The difficult expressions of Isaiah 53:8 are rendered in the Revised Version with clearness and so as to yield a profound meaning. We may note that here, for the first time, is spoken out that end to which all the preceding description of sufferings has been leading up, and yet it is spoken with a kind of solemn reticence, very impressive. The Servant is ‘taken away,’ ‘cut off,’ ‘stricken.’ Not yet is the grim word ‘death’ plainly uttered; that comes in the next verse, only after the Servant’s death is supposed to be past. The three words suggest, at all events, though in half-veiled language, violence and suddenness in the Servant’s fate. Who were the agents who took Him, cut Him off and struck Him, is left in impressive obscurity. But the fact that His death was a judicial murder is set in clear light. Whether we read ‘By’ or ‘From-oppression and judgment He was taken away,’ the forms of law are represented as wrested to bring about flagrant injustice. And, if it were my object now to defend the Messianic interpretation, one might ask where any facts corresponding to this element in the picture are to be found in regard to either the national Israel, or the Israel within the nation.

That unjust death by illegal violence under the mask of law was, further, wholly misunderstood by ‘His generation.’ We need not do more than remark in a sentence how that feature corresponds with the facts in regard to Jesus, and ask whether it does so on any other theory of ‘fulfilment.’ Neither friends nor foes had even the faintest conception of what the death of Jesus was or was to effect. And it is worth while to dwell for a moment on this, because we are often told that there is no trace of the doctrine of an atoning sacrifice in the Gospels, and the inference is drawn that it was an afterthought of the apostles, and therefore to be set aside as an excrescence on Christianity according to Christ. The silence of Jesus on that subject is exaggerated; but certainly no thought of His being the Sacrifice for the sins of the world was in the minds of the sad watchers by the Cross, nor for many a day thereafter. Is it not worth noting that precisely such a blindness to the meaning of His death had been prophesied eight hundred years before?

But the reason why this feature is introduced seems mainly to be to underscore the lesson, that those who exercised the violence which hurried the Servant from the land of the living were blind instruments of a higher power. And may we not also see in it a suggestion of the great solitude of sorrow in which the Servant was to die, even as He had lived in it? Misapprehended and despised He lived, misapprehended He died. Jesus was the loneliest man that ever breathed human breath. He gave up His breath in a more awful solitude than ever isolated any other dying man. Utterly solitary, He died that none of us need ever face death alone.

III. The Servant’s Grave.

Following on the mystery of the uncomprehended death comes the enigma of the burial. The words are an enigma, but they seem meaningless on any hypothesis but the Messianic one. As they stand, they assert that unnamed persons gave Him a grave with the wicked, as they would do by putting Him to death under strained forms of law, and that then, somehow, the criminal destined to be buried with other criminals in a dishonoured grave was laid in a tomb with the rich. It seems a singularly minute trait to find place in such a prophecy. The remarks already made as to similar minute correspondences in details of the prophecy with purely external facts in Christ’s life need not be repeated now. One does not see that it is a self-evident axiom needing only to be enunciated in order to be accepted, that such minute prophecies are beneath the dignity of revelation. It might rather seem that, as one element in prophecy, they are eminently valuable. The smaller the detail, the more remarkable the prevision and the more striking the fulfilment. For a keen-sighted man may forecast tendencies and go far to anticipate events on the large scale, but only God can foresee trifles. The difficulty in which this prediction of the Servant’s grave being ‘with the rich’ places those who reject the Messianic reference of the prophecy to our Lord may be measured by the desperate attempts to evade it by suggesting other readings, or by making ‘rich’ to be synonymous with ‘wicked.’ The words as they stand have a clear and worthy meaning on one interpretation, and we even venture to say, on one interpretation only, namely, that they refer to the reverent laying of the body of the Lord in the new tomb belonging to ‘a certain rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph.’

If in the latter clause of Isaiah 53:9 we render ‘Because’ rather than ‘Although,’ we get the thought that the burial was a sign that the Servant, slain as a criminal, yet was not a criminal. The criminals were either left unburied or disgraced by promiscuous interment in an unclean place. But that body reverently bedewed with tears, wrapped in fine linen clean and white, softly laid down by loving hands, watched by love stronger than death, lay in fitting repose as the corpse of a King till He came forth as a Conqueror. So once more the dominant note is struck, and this part of the prophecy closes with the emphatic repetition of the sinlessness of the Suffering Servant, which makes His sufferings a deep and bewildering mystery, unless they were endured because of ‘our transgressions.’

Isaiah 53:7. He was oppressed — By the intolerable weight of his sufferings, and he was afflicted — By the most pungent pain and sorrow. Or, as the Hebrew נגשׁ הוא נענה, is rendered by Bishop Lowth and others, It was exacted, and he answered, or, was made answerable. God’s justice required satisfaction from us for our sins, which, alas! we were incapable of making, and he answered the demand; that is, became our surety, or undertook to pay our debt, or suffer the penalty of the law in our stead. Yet he opened not his mouth — He neither murmured against God for giving him up to suffer for other men’s sins, nor reviled men for punishing him without cause, nor used apologies or endeavours to save his own life; but willingly and quietly accepted the punishment of our iniquity, manifesting, through the whole scene of his unparalleled sufferings, the most exemplary patience and meekness, and the most ready and cheerful compliance with his heavenly Father’s will.

53:4-9 In these verses is an account of the sufferings of Christ; also of the design of his sufferings. It was for our sins, and in our stead, that our Lord Jesus suffered. We have all sinned, and have come short of the glory of God. Sinners have their beloved sin, their own evil way, of which they are fond. Our sins deserve all griefs and sorrows, even the most severe. We are saved from the ruin, to which by sin we become liable, by laying our sins on Christ. This atonement was to be made for our sins. And this is the only way of salvation. Our sins were the thorns in Christ's head, the nails in his hands and feet, the spear in his side. He was delivered to death for our offences. By his sufferings he purchased for us the Spirit and grace of God, to mortify our corruptions, which are the distempers of our souls. We may well endure our lighter sufferings, if He has taught us to esteem all things but loss for him, and to love him who has first loved us.He was oppressed - (נגשׂ nichas'). Lowth renders this, 'It was exacted.' Hengstenberg, 'He was abased.' Jerome (the Vulgate), 'He was offered because he was willing.' The Septuagint 'He, on account of his affliction, opened not his mouth,' implying that his silence arose from the extremity of his sorrows. The Chaldee renders it, 'He prayed, and he was heard, and before he opened his mouth he was accepted.' The Syriac, 'He came and humbled himself, neither did he open his mouth.' Kimchi supposes that it means, 'it was exacted;' and that it refers to the fact that taxes were demanded of the exiles, when they were in a foreign land. The word used here (נגשׂ nāgas') properly means, "to drive," to impel, to urge; and then to urge a debtor, to exact payment; or to exact tribute, a ransom, etc. (see Deuteronomy 15:2-3; 2 Kings 23:35.) Compare Job 3:18; Zechariah 9:8; Zechariah 10:4, where one form of the word is rendered 'oppressor;' Job 39:7, the 'driver;' Exodus 5:6, 'taskmasters;' Daniel 11:20, 'a raiser of taxes.' The idea is that of urgency, oppression, vexation, of being hard pressed, and ill treated. It does not refer here necessarily to what was exacted by God, or to sufferings inflicted by him - though it may include those - but it refers to all his oppressions, and the severity of his sufferings from all quarters. He was urged impelled, oppressed, and yet he was patient as a lamb.

And he was afflicted - Jahn and Steudel propose to render this, 'He suffered himself to be afflicted.' Hengstenberg renders it, 'He suffered patiently, and opened not his mouth.' Lowth, 'He was made answerable; and he opened not his mouth.' According to this, the idea is, that he had voluntarily taken upon himself the sins of people, and that having done so, he was held answerable as a surety. But it is doubtful whether the Hebrew will bear this construction. According to Jerome, the idea is that he voluntarily submitted, and that this was the cause of his sufferings. Hensler renders it, 'God demands the debt, and he the great and righteous one suffers.' It is probable, however, that our translation has retained the correct sense. The word ענה ‛ânâh, in Niphil, means to be afflicted, to suffer, be oppressed or depressed Psalm 119:107, and the idea here is, probably, that he was greatly distressed and afflicted. He was subjected to pains and sorrows which were hard to be borne, and which are usually accompanied with expressions of impatience and lamentation. The fact that he did not open his mouth in complaint was therefore the more remarkable, and made the merit of his sufferings the greater.

Yet he opened not his mouth - This means that he was perfectly quiet, meek, submissive, patient, He did not open his mouth to complain of God on account of the great sorrows which he had appointed to him; nor to God on account of his being ill-treated by man. He did not use the language of reviling when he was reviled, nor return upon people the evils which they were inflicting on him (compare Psalm 39:9). How strikingly and literally was this fulfilled in the life of the Lord Jesus! It would seem almost as if it had been written after he lived, and was history rather than prophecy. In no other instance was there ever so striking an example of perfect patience; no other person ever so entirely accorded with the description of the prophet.

He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter - This does not mean that he was led to the slaughter as a lamb is, but that as a lamb which is led to be killed is patient and silent, so was he. He made no resistance. He uttered no complaint. He suffered himself to be led quietly along to be put to death. What a striking and beautiful description! How tender and how true! We can almost see here the meek and patient Redeemer led along without resistance; and amidst the clamor of the multitude that were assembled with various feelings to conduct him to death, himself perfectly silent and composed. With all power at his disposal, yet as quiet and gentle as though he had no power; and with a perfect consciousness that he was going to die, as calm and as gentle as though he were ignorant of the design for which they were leading him forth. This image occurs also in Jeremiah, Jeremiah 11:19, 'But I was like a lamb or an ox that is brought to the slaughter.'

As a sheep - As a sheep submits quietly to the operation of shearing. Compare 1 Peter 2:23, 'Who when he was reviled, reviled not again.' Jesus never opened his mouth to revile or complain. It was opened only to bless those that cursed him, and to pray for his enemies and murderers.

7. oppressed—Lowth translates, "It was exacted, and He was made answerable." The verb means, "to have payment of a debt sternly exacted" (De 15:2, 3), and so to be oppressed in general; the exaction of the full penalty for our sins in His sufferings is probably alluded to.

and … afflicted—or, and yet He suffered, or bore Himself patiently, &c. [Hengstenberg and Maurer]. Lowth's translation, "He was made answerable," is hardly admitted by the Hebrew.

opened not … mouth—Jer 11:19; and David in Ps 38:13, 14; 39:9, prefiguring Messiah (Mt 26:63; 27:12, 14; 1Pe 2:23).

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted; he was sorely punished for our sins. But there is another translation, which seems to be more emphatical, and more agreeable to the Hebrew text; It (to wit, our iniquity last mentioned, or the punishment of all our sins) was exacted or required, (as this word most properly and frequently signifies, of which see my Latin Synopsis. God’s justice expected and required satisfaction from us for our sins; which, alas! we could not make to him,)

and he was afflicted or punished; he bore the guilt and punishment of our sins in his body upon the tree, as is said, 1 Peter 2 24; or, as others render this last word, and he answered, i.e. became our surety, or undertook to pay the debt, and to suffer the law in our stead, and for our sake.

Yet he opened not his mouth; he neither murmured against God for causing him to suffer for other men’s sins, nor reviled men for punishing him without cause, nor used apologies or endeavours to save his own life; but willingly and patiently accepted of the punishment of our iniquity.

Is dumb; bears the loss of its fleece or life without any such clamour or resistance as other creatures use in such cases.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,.... He was injuriously treated by the Jews; they used him very ill, and handled him very roughly; he was oppressed and afflicted, both in body and mind, with their blows, and with their reproaches; he was afflicted, indeed, both by God and men: or rather it may be rendered, "it was exacted", required, and demanded, "and he answered" (u), or "was afflicted"; justice finding the sins of men on him, laid on him by imputation, and voluntarily received by him, as in the preceding verse, demanded satisfaction of him; and he being the surety of his people, was responsible for them, and did answer, and gave the satisfaction demanded: the debt they owed was required, the payment of it was called for, and he accordingly answered, and paid the whole, every farthing, and cancelled the bond; the punishment of the sins of his people was exacted of him, and he submitted to bear it, and did bear it in his own body on the tree; this clearly expresses the doctrine of Christ's satisfaction:

yet he opened not his mouth; against the oppressor that did him the injury, nor murmured at the affliction that was heavy upon him: or, "and he opened not his mouth"; against the justice of God, and the demand that was made upon him, as the surety of his people; he owned the obligation he had laid himself under; he paid the debt, and bore the punishment without any dispute or hesitation: "he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb"; or, "as a sheep to the slaughter, and as an ewe before her shearer" (w); these figurative phrases are expressive, not only of the harmlessness and innocence of Christ, as considered in himself, but of his meekness and patience in suffering, and of his readiness and willingness to be sacrificed in the room and stead of his people; he went to the cross without any reluctance, which; when there was any in the sacrifice, it was reckoned a bad omen among the Heathens, yea, such were not admitted to be offered (x); but Christ went as willingly to be sacrificed as a lamb goes to the slaughter house, and was as silent under his sufferings as a sheep while under the hands of its shearers; he was willing to be stripped of all he had, as a shorn sheep, and to be slaughtered and sacrificed as a lamb, for the sins of his people:

so he opened not his mouth: not against his enemies, by way of threatening or complaint; nor even in his own defence; nor against the justice of God, as bearing hard upon him, not sparing him, but demanding and having full satisfaction; nor against his people and their sins, for whom he suffered; see 1 Peter 2:23.

(u) "exigebatur, et ipse respondit", Gataker; "exigitur poena, et ipse affligitur", Junius & Tremellius; "quum illa exigebatur, ipse affligebatur", Piscator; "exigebatur, et ipse submittebatur", Cocceius. (w) "sicut ovis----sicut ovis foemina", Gataker; "ut agnus----et ut agna", Cocceius; "instar ovis----et ut agna", Vitringa. (x) Macrob. Satnrnal. I. 3. c. 5. Plin. Nat. Hist. I. 8. c. 45.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he {k} opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth.

(k) But willingly and patiently obeyed his father's appointment, Mt 26:63, Ac 8:32.

7. He was oppressed and he was afflicted] The first verb (“oppressed”) may summarize the preceding account of the Servant’s afflictions (Dillmann), but more probably it introduces a feature not previously adverted to, namely, the outrages inflicted on the Servant by his contemporaries, in consequence of their false judgement of him. It denotes harsh, cruel and arbitrary treatment, such as that of a slave-driver towards those who are under him (Exodus 3:7; Job 3:18), and is nowhere employed of God’s action towards men. The second verb is shewn by the form of sentence to be a contrast to the first, and must therefore be rendered as in R.V.: yet he humbled himself (cf. Exodus 10:3, “How long dost thou refuse to humble thyself …?). And as this is the main idea of the verse, the meaning may best be brought out if we translate the first two lines thus:

Though oppressed, he was submissive

and opened not his mouth.

Cf. Psalm 38:13-14; Psalm 39:9.

he is brought … dumb] Two relative sentences, to be rendered with R.V.

as a lamb (lit. “sheep”) that is led to the slaughter,

and a sheep (lit. “ewe”) that before her shearers is dumb.

Comp. Jeremiah 11:19 : “I was like a gentle lamb that is led to the slaughter.”

so (R.V. “yea”) he openeth not his mouth] in the Hebr. an exact repetition of the second line. Since the tetrastich is complete without it, the clause may possibly have been inserted through an error in transcription.

7–9. The narrative of the Servant’s sufferings is in these verses brought to its conclusion: after enduring violence and injustice at the hands of men, his life was cut short and he was laid in a dishonoured grave. The passage presents many difficulties, and the details of the picture are somewhat uncertain. Thus it is doubtful whether the Servant be represented as put to death by men, or as carried off by the disease with which Jehovah had smitten him. With perhaps less reason it has been questioned whether there is any reference to human cruelty in the verses at all, whether the strong expressions “oppressed,” “oppression,” “judgement” are not to be understood figuratively of the hard fate which relentlessly pursued the sufferer to his death (so Duhm). These matters, however, are of subordinate interest; the prominent feature of the description is the meek and submissive demeanour of the Servant under his undeserved sufferings.

Verse 7. - He was oppressed. As Israel under the Egyptian taskmasters (Exodus 3:7). The cruel ill usage in the high priest's house, and before Herod is, perhaps, specially pointed at. He was afflicted; rather, he abased himself (comp. Isaiah 31:4 and Exodus 10:3). The position of the emphatic pronoun (hu) between the first participle and the second detaches the second clause from the first and conjoins it with the third. Otherwise the rendering of the Authorized Version might stand. Translate, He was oppressed, but he abased himself and opened not his mouth. The silence of Jesus before his judges (Matthew 26:62, 63; Matthew 27:14), when he could so easily have vindicated himself from every charge, was a self-abasement. It seemed like an admission of guilt. He opened not his mouth (comp. Psalm 38:13, 14; Psalm 39:2, 9). The contrast of the Servant's silence and passivity with men's ordinary vehemence of self-assertion under ill usage is most striking. Who was ever silent but he under such extremity of provocation? (For a contrast, see the account of the Jewish martyrdoms in 2 Macc. 7.) He is brought as a lamb; rather, as the lamb. The Paschal lamb is, perhaps, intended, or, at any rate, the lamb of sacrifice. The prophet has often seen the dumb, innocent lamb led in silence to the altar, to be slain there, and thinks of that touching sight. It was probably the use of this imagery here which caused the Baptist to term our Lord "the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). As a sheep before her shearers. A second image, a reflex of the first, somewhat weaker, as so often in Isaiah (Isaiah 1:22, 30; Isaiah 5:18, 24; Isaiah 8:14; Isaiah 10:24, 27, 34; Isaiah 11:8; Isaiah 13:14; Isaiah 24:13; Isaiah 25:7, etc.). Isaiah 53:7The fourth turn describes how He suffered and died and was buried. "He was ill treated; whilst He suffered willingly, and opened not His mouth, like the sheep that is led to the slaughter-bench, and like a lamb that is dumb before its shearers, and opened not His mouth." The third pers. niphal stands first in a passive sense: He has been hard pressed (1 Samuel 13:6): He is driven, or hunted (1 Samuel 14:24), treated tyrannically and unsparingly; in a word, plagued (vexatus; compare the niphal in a reciprocal sense in Isaiah 3:5, and according to the reading נגשׂ in Isaiah 29:13 in a reflective sense, to torment one's self). Hitzig renders the next clause, "and although tormented, He opened not His mouth." But although an explanatory subordinate clause may precede the principal clause which it more fully explains, not example can be found of such a clause with (a retrospective) והוּא explaining what follows; for in Job 2:8 the circumstantial clause, "sitting down among the ashes," belongs to the principal fact which stands before. And so here, where נענה (from which comes the participle נענה, usually met with in circumstantial clauses) has not a passive, but a reflective meaning, as in Exodus 10:3 : "He was ill treated, whilst He bowed Himself ( equals suffered voluntarily), and opened not His mouth" (the regular leap from the participle to the finite). The voluntary endurance is then explained by the simile "like a sheep that is led to the slaughter" (an attributive clause, like Jeremiah 11:19); and the submissive quiet bearing, by the simile "like a lamb that is dumb before its shearers." The commentators regard נאלמה as a participle; but this would have the tone upon the last syllable (see Isaiah 1:21, Isaiah 1:26; Nahum 3:11; cf., Comm. on Job, at Job 20:27, note). The tone shows it to be the pausal form for נאלרמה, and so we have rendered it; and, indeed, as the interchange of the perfect with the future in the attributive clause must be intentional, not quae obmutescit, but obmutuit. The following words, פּיו יפתּח ולא, do not form part of the simile, which would require tiphtach, for nothing but absolute necessity would warrant us in assuming that it points back beyond רחל to שׂה, as Rashi and others suppose. The palindromical repetition also favours the unity of the subject with that of the previous יפתח and the correctness of the delicate accentuation, with which the rendering in the lxx and Acts 8:32 coincides. All the references in the New Testament to the Lamb of God (with which the corresponding allusions to the passover are interwoven) spring from this passage in the book of Isaiah.
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