Isaiah 53
Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?

CHAPTER 53:1–7

1          WHO hath believed our1 2report?

And to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?

2     For 3he 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 4we shall see him,

There is no beauty that we should desire him.

3     5He is despised and rejected of men;

A man of sorrows, and 6acquainted with grief:

And7 8we hid as it were our faces from him;

He was despised, and we esteemed him not.

4     Surely he hath borne our griefs,

And carried our sorrows:

Yet we did esteem him stricken,

Smitten of God, and afflicted.

5     But he was 9wounded for our transgressions,

He was bruised for our iniquities:

The chastisement of our peace was upon him;

And with his 10stripes we are healed.

6     All we like sheep have gone astray;

We have turned every one to his own way;

And the LORD 11hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

7     He was oppressed, and he 12was afflicted,

13Yet he opened not his mouth:

14He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter,

And as a sheep before her shearers is dumb,

So he 15openeth not his mouth.


See List for the recurrence of the words: Isa 53:3. נִבְזֶה (comp. Ps. 15: 4; Jer. 22: 28; Mal. 1:7, 12; Dan. 11:21). Isa 53:4. אָכֵן. Isa 53:5. חֲבֻרָה–מְחֹלָל everywhere else חַבֻּרָה comp. Gen. 4:23; Exodus 21:25. מְדֻכָּא Isa 53:6 פָנַע.

Isa 53:2. תֹּאַר like the Latin forma with the special meaning of the beautiful form, comp. Jer. 11:16; 1 Sam. 16:18.——הָדָר in parallelism with תאר spoken of the nature of the environment.——וְנִרְאֵהוּ is neither the same as וַנִּרְאֵהוּ nor to be rendered: “that we may see him,” for the latter words express such an absence of תאר and הדר that the Servant would be altogether invisible. But ונראהו is protasis of a hypothetical clause: and did we look at him, there was no such form that we would have had pleasure in him. Isa 53:3 gives the meaning of the figure used in Isa 53:2 a, and a nearer definition of the homely appearance of the Servant described in Isa 53:2 b. We may therefore regard Isa 53:3 as in apposition with the logical chief-subject of Isa 53:2, which is also at the same time the grammatical subject in the first clause of Isa 53:2 a.

Isa 53:3. נִבְזֶה, which is repeated by way of recapitulation in the last clause of the verse, forms the chief conception. Comp. בְּזֹה־נֶפֶשׁ 49:7,בְּזוּי עָם Ps. 22:6; Obad. 2; Jer. 49:15.——In חֲדַל אִישׁים DELITZSCH would take אישׁים in the sense of viri spectabiles. This plural occurs again only Ps. 141:4 and Prov. 8:4. In the Psalm it is used of the wicked. In the Proverbs it is, indeed, used in parallelism with בְּנֵי אָדָם. But in our text the Prophet can hardly intend to say, that the Servant is forsaken only by men of respectability, but not by inferior people. He would represent him rather as forsaken of all, as appears from what follows and 49:7. But it is very much a question whether חָדֵל may be taken in the sense of “desertus.” For Job 19:14 it is said חָ‍ֽדְלוּ קְוֹבַי, i.e., my neighbors have forsaken me. Therefore חָךֵל is not desertus but deserens. It has an active intransitive sense also in Ps. 39:5 (let me know what a transitory thing I am) and in Ezek. 3:27 (he that hears let him hear; and he that forbeareth let him forbear). I therefore agree with HENGSTENBERG, who regards the expression “as corresponding exactly to the ‘from a man’ and ‘from the sons of men,’ 52:14.” Then the plural would be chosen in order to intimate by the sound of the word the relation to the מֵאִישׁ 52:14 חָדֵל is desinens, חדל אישׁים therefore desinens hominum, i.e., he of men that ceases scil. to be a man. Thus the LXX. render it as regards the sense: εἶδος ἐκλεῖπον παρὰ πάντας ἀνθρώπους; SYMM.: ἐλάχιστος ἀνδρῶν; VULG. novissimus virorum. The explanation of HAHN: avoidance of men (inf. const. as in בְּזֹה־נֶכֶּשׁ 49:7), if not exactly ungrammatical, is still very far-fetched.——מַכְאוֹב occurs in Isaiah only in Isa 53:3, 4 of this chapter; in Isa 53:3 it has the feminine ending that never occurs elsewhere; in Isa 53:4 it has the common masc. plural ending (Gen. 3: 7; Ps. 32:10).——ידוע חלי can, of course, mean “the confidant of sickness,” if יָדוּעַ be taken in the sense of מְיֻדָּע Ps.31:12; 55:14, etc., מוּדָע Isa. 12:5, מֹדָע Ruth 2:1; Prov. 7:4 or מֹדַעַת Ruth 3:2. But in the only passage where יָדוּעַ occurs beside the present (Deut. 1:13, 15) it means “the acquaintance,” not in the sense of familiarity, but the man known and respected by all, the vir illustris or insignis. The genitive construction resolves itself into the construction of the verb with the accusative of nearer definition. for = יְדוּעַ חֹלִי ,יָדוּעַ חֳלִי, i.e., who is known in respect to sickness, as one may say נְשׂוּא פָנִים sublatus faciem 2 Kings 5:1. אֹבַד עֵצוֹת ἔθνος ἀπολωλεκὸς βουλήν (LXX.) Deut. 32:28. תֹּעֵי לֵבָב πλανώμενοι τὴν καρδίαν Ps. 95:10, etc.—The explanation “scitus morbi (better edoctus morbum), i.e., as one put in the condition of knowing about sickness” (DELITZSCH) seems to me too uncertain and farfetched.——If we were warranted in reading כְּמַסְתּיר, as indeed 4 CODD. do, or in taking מַסְתֵּר in the sense of מַסְתִּיר, we must translate and explain as HENGSTENBERG does, according to Lev. 14:45: “as one that hides the countenance from us.” But this usage of מַסְתֵּר is not sufficiently attested. It must therefore be taken as substantive (ad form. מַרְפֵא sanatio, מַשְׁחֵת vastatio (OLSH. §199 a) in the abstract sense of “veiling.” But the further question arises, whether the abstract meaning applies directly or indirectly, and whether the words וכמסתר פנים ממנו are to be construed as an independent sentence, or are to be joined with נבזה. If מסתר be taken directly as abstract, i.e., if it be left in its abstract meaning, then one must connect the whole clause with נבזה. For, “according to the veiling of the countenance from him,” would be a sentence without a predicate, to gain which the words must lean on נבזה. But then their position before נבזה is surprising. One would expect וְנִבְזֶה כְּמַסְתֵּר ונ׳, so that the second half of the verse would begin with נבזה as does the first. But נבזה comes after, and, as remarked above, it corresponds to the נבזה beginning the verse, as a sort of relative, recapitulating conclusion, therefore we must take the words ובמסתר פנים ממנו as an independent clause, which is also demanded by the accents. Then we must take מסתר as the abstract for the concrete. Veiling the countenance from him would be=the object before which one veils the countenance. Thus במסתר ונו׳ would be the same as כַּ‍ֽאֲשֶׁר מַסְתִּיר פָנִים מִמֶּנּוּ.

Isa 53:5. והוא is opposed to ואנחנו Isa 53:4 b, and this in turn to the הוּא before נשׂא Isa 53:4 a; so that here we have such a chain of adversative clauses as in 51:12, 13, where see.——מְחֹלָל is part. Poal, passive to מְחוֹלֶלֶת 51:9.——The expression מוסר שׁלומנו is to be judged as מוּסַר הַשְׂל Prov. 1:3, i.e., “chastisement, education to reason, to a reasonable being” (HITZIG, ZOECKLER); מוּסַר חָכְמָה Prov. 15:23, “chastisement to wisdom.” תּוֹכַחַת חַיִּים Prov. 15:31 “reproof to life.” The construction is analogous to that of the participle in the construct state instead of the connection by a preposition.——חֲבֻרָה. One properly looks for a plural, which also occurs elsewhere (Ps. 38:9; Prov. 20:30). For one cannot suppose that the Prophet would speak only of one mark of a blow. We must then take the word collectively. Its meaning is “vibex, wale,” the marks left by a blow.——נִרְפָא לָנוּ “healing is to us,” is explained as passive of the causative Kal רָפָא= “to do healing.” On this meaning is founded the construction of רפא with the dative of the person (e.g. Num. 12:13; 2 Kings 20:5, 8) and (more rarely) of the thing (Ps. 103:3), which occurs along with the construction with the accusative (19:22; 30:26; 57:18, 19, etc.). The word is found used impersonally (i.e., with indefinite subject) in 6:10, where we translate: one brought him healing. Then נִרְפָא is passive.

Isa 53:7. נֶֽאֱלָ‍ֽמָה is, according to the accents, to be treated as a perfect and not as a participle. The perfect is used because it expresses here not a transaction accomplished successively, like the being led, but an accomplished, continuing state, the being dumb, standing dumb.


1. Having stated the theme in 52:13–15, the Prophet introduces the people as speaking. They testify what was said by implication 52:15b, viz. that they have not believed the announcement of the prophets concerning the Servant that they have heard, and have not understood the revelation of the divine power imparted to them (Isa 53:1). Thus it came about that they treated as of no account the Servant of Jehovah who sprang up like a root-sprout out of dry ground (Isa 53:2, 3). This mean-looking form of the Servant of God is explained by the punishment of our sins being laid on Him, that through His suffering we might find peace and healing (Isa 53:4, 5). While we wearied ourselves in vain to find the way to salvation, Jehovah cast our guilt on Him (Isa 53:6); yet He bore it patiently like a sheep, that mutely suffers itself to be led to the slaughter or to shearing (Isa 53:7).

2. Who hath believed——revealed, Isa 53:1. At first sight that explanation (commended also by Jno. 12:38; Rom. 10:1616), seems to deserve the preference, that construes Isa 53:1 as the language of the Prophet, by which he expresses the consciousness of having said something incredible to the world. Yet on closer examination we admit that those are right who construe Isa 53:1 as the utterance of Israel. For 1) the perfect would be very surprising in the mouth of the Prophet. One looks for יַאֲמִין from him, whereas in the mouth of the people, who, according to Isa 53:2 sqq., have the historical appearance of the Servant before them, the perfect is quite in place. By this Israel gives confirmation that it has, indeed, not believed the prophetic pre- announcement, and assigns thereby, at the same time, the reason why, in His lowliness, it regarded the manifested Servant as of no account. 2) The word שׁמּעתנו likewise is much more appropriate in the mouth of Israel than of the Prophet. The choice of the word is explained by שׁמעו, 52:15. With reference to this they designate the prophetic announcement imparted to them as שְׁמֻעָה, as a thing heard. This is the fundamental meaning properly corresponding to the form of the word. The same underlies directly the meaning “knowledge report” (37:7). But as the something heard must at the same time be a something said, the word can, like the Greek ἀκοή, receive the meaning “announcement, preaching,” in which sense we have already had it, 28:9, 19. Yet in our text we do not need to have recourse to this meaning, as the original sense suffices perfectly. [The view presented here, taken in close connection with the explanation of 52:15 given above, leads consistently to the following logical connection, viz. It is declared 52:15b: for they to whom it had not been told shall see, and those who had not heard shall consider. Thereupon the Jews are introduced saying: Who has believed our report (i.e., what was reported us, what we had heard)? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed (i.e., to whom has it been made plain that the LORD sent this Servant and had a hand in all that He was and did)? So connected the language of 53:1 appears as an exclamation, which, with what follows, marks the contrast between those that heard and believed a revelation made to others (52:15), and those that did not believe that revelation, though it was their own (שׁמעתנֹו53:1, a thing heard by us). The language following (53:2 sqq.) proceeds, as the author says, to give the reason why the speakers did not believe, or rather it describes how they who were told did not believe what others did believe who were not the direct recipients of the prophetic announcement of what was to be. And the description is in terms that show how aggravated and perverse the unbelief was. Thus ver.1 is not simply an indirect statement that none believed, but a double intimation of how some believed, and others, the very ones of whom the contrary was to be expected, did not. This explanation is quite consistent with the facts of salvation, and these facts are so set forth by Isaiah himself and reiterated in the New Testament (comp. Isa. 45:1–3; Rom. 10:19–21; 11:11, 12). And this consideration gives great countenance to the view.—TR.]

The arm of the Lord is a metonymy for that of which the arm is the organ, viz. the almighty power of God (52:10). The arm of Jehovah is not only revealed to him who has seen its mighty efficiency a posteriori, but also to him who has recognized a priori what that arm can do. There is, therefore, an outward and an inward revelation of the divine power. The expression has the latter meaning here.

3. For He shall grow——esteemed Him not. Isa 53:2, 3.—Israel was ill-prepared to receive the Servant of God when He came. The Rabbins, who in polemics with Christians refer our chapter to the Jewish nation or to individual persons, must, indeed, admit that the ancient Synagogue, whose exegesis was as yet unaffected by these polemics, knew very well of a suffering Messiah (comp. the proofs of this in the writing of CONSTANTIN L’EMPEREUR,D. Isaaci Abrabanelis et R. MOSIS ALSCHECHI,Comment. in Jesajae prophetiam 30, etc. Lugd., Batav., 1631, in WUENSCHE,l. c., and in MCCAUL,l. c., p. 14 sqq.). Yet all quotations from the writings of the ancient Synagogue given by the authors named prove at the same time that even the most ancient authorities acknowledged the suffering Messiah only very reluctantly and with all possible artful turns and distortions. As an example we may cite how JONATAN BEN USIEL, the Targumist, translates Isa. 53:2, 3, 4, 7. Isa 53:2. Et magnificabitur justus coram eo sicut surculi, qui florent, et sicut arbor, quae mittit radices suas juxta torrentes aquarum; sic multiplicabitur gens sancta in terra, quae indigebat eo. Non erit aspectus ejus sicut aspectus communis, nec timor ejus sicut idiotae, sed erit decor ejus decor sanctitatis, ut omnis, qui viderit eum, contempletur eum. Isa 53:3. Erit quidem contemtus, verum auferet gloriam omnium regum: erunt infirmi et dolentes quasi vir doloribus et infirmitatibus expositus. Et cum subtrahebat vultum majestatis a nobis, eramus despecti et in nihilum reputati. Isa 53:4. Propterea ipse deprecabitur pro peccatis nostris et delicta nostra propter eum dimittenter; et nos reputati sumus vulnerati, percussi a facie Domini et afflicti. Isa 53:7. Deprecatus est, ipse exauditus est, et antiquam aperiret os suum, acceptus est. Robustos populorum quasi agnum ad victimam tradet, et sicut ovem, quae tacet coram tondente se, et non erit, qui aperiat os suum in conspectu ejus et loquatur verbum.” One sees that this paraphrase pretty much makes the text say the very opposite of what it intends. The insignificant sprig becomes the splendid, flourishing, holy nation; the homely look of the Servant becomes an aspectus non communis; Isa 53:3, it is indeed confessed that He will be despised, but at the same time He will deprive kings of their fame, and by withdrawing His countenance draw contempt to the nation. Isa 53:4. The substitutionary suffering is transformed into intercession, and those smitten by God are the Israelites. Isa 53:7. Finally, the Servant prays, and, before He opens His mouth, He is heard; the strong, however, among the nations He sacrifices like sheep, and no one dares to open His mouth before Him. Here the suffering Messiah is directly transformed into a victorious and triumphant Messiah. And it is not in a way that makes one say the translator must have had a different reading or have misunderstood. For that neither was the case appears partly from the fact that the other ancient versions agree exactly with the Masoretic text (see LOWTHin loc.), and partly from the Paraphrast translating quite correctly when it suits him. But he simply substitutes a Messiah, such as He must be according to his fancy, for the one described in the text, by which he involuntarily testifies, that in his day men indeed found the information of the suffering Messiah in the prophetic writing, but would not understand it. With this agrees admirably the manner in which the disciples of Jesus received the announcement of His impending passion (Luke 9:45; 18:34). Just on this account we say, that the people of Israel were badly prepared when the Servant of Jehovah appeared in the midst of them.

Thus the Servant came up like a sprout before him.לפניו is to be referred to Jehovah, Isa 53:1, and not to the subject of the interrogative clause in Isa 53:1. For the latter mode of expression, even if not exactly incorrect logically, would be very artificial. One would expect לְפָנֵינוּ. The meaning of לפניו, however, is that the Servant of God so grew up before God according to His counsel and will. יֹונֵק is properly “the suckling” (11: 8), but is here used of the tender offshoot of a plant [“precisely like the cognate English word sucker, by which LOWTH translates it.”—J. A. ALEX.]. יוֹנֶקֶת is every where else used in the latter sense (Job 8:16; 14:7; Ps. 80:12, etc.). The choice of the expression here is perhaps influenced by the Prophet having in mind the prophecy of 11:1 sqq. There he spoke of the revirescence of the Davidic house reduced to an insignificant root-stock, and how this renewing would be by means of “a rod of the stem of Jesse” and “a Branch from his roots.” Although he does not use there the expression יונק, and only by the way mentions the suckling that plays on the hole of the adder (11:8), still one sees that in general the Prophet transposes himself back into the sphere of thought of that prophecy. Hence, more plainly than יונק, does כשׁרשׁ recall that prophecy (comp.11:1–10). As a root can be said to mount up only in the sense of sending forth a sprout or shoot from itself, so ויעל כשׁרשׁ is to be understood of the springing up of such a root-sprout (comp. נֶצֶר שָׁרָשִׁים, Dan. 11:7). A root in dry ground has little hope of flourishing. This was exactly the situation of the Davidic royal house at the time Christ was born. When the carpenter Joseph was necessitated by the command of Cæsar Augustus (Luke 2:1) to betake himself from Nazareth to Bethlehem, the house of David and his kingdom were like a root out of dry ground; it had no form nor splendor, and as men looked on him there was no such form that they could have pleasure in him (see Text. and Gram.).

Isa 53:3 (see Text. and Gram.). By what means the Servant was brought to the state that He ceased to be a man, is said by the words: “a man of suffering and noted for pain.”—And as one, before whom one veils the face, a despised one, whom we did not regard. According to HAHN, it is the countenance of Jehovah that is hid. It is true, so far as I know, that, often as there is mention of hiding the countenance as a sign of mourning (2 Sam. 19: 4; Ezek. 12:6), or of anger (Isa. 54:8; 59:2, etc.), or of reverence (Ex. 3:6) or in order not to be seen (Exod. 13:45), still our text gives the only instance of doing so in order not to see an object of disgust. Yet this is merely an accident. For the gesture is so natural, and so universal and necessary, for men that there is no need of seeking any confirmation of it in national custom. But the context is decidedly against the view of HAHN. For our passage only speaks of how the Servant of God appeared to men. The outward appearance of a man from whom God hides His face is by no means necessarily that of an ecce homo.

4. Surely he hath borne——his mouth.

Isa 53:4-7. The Prophet leads us from the outward appearance to what is inward. He shows that this pitiable form of the Servant is not an outside corresponding to His interior. It was not He that drew that woful fate on Himself by His own guilt, but, according to God’s will and for our salvation, He bears our guilt, and He bears it with the patience of a lamb.—אָבֵן, “surely,” is best construed here in its simple and natural adversative meaning as in 49:4. As there the Servant’s hope in God’s righteousness is put in contrast with His apparent ill-success, so here to the outward appearance of sinfulness is opposed the inward truth of His innocence and love that suffers for others.—This is done first by declaring the true ground of these sufferings. They are those that we ought properly to have borne. Therefore He took our pains on Himself (נשׂא comp. Matth. 8:17ἔλαβεν; Lev. 17:16; 20:17, 20, etc.), and bore our sufferings (Matth. 8:17ἐβάστασεν). When Matth. l. c., refers these words to the trouble that the Lord underwent in healing crowds of sick-folk of every sort, it is not thereby affirmed that only in that sense did He bear our sufferings and pains. For the evangelist certainly saw in the passion of the LORD the chiefest fulfilment of our prophecy, as well as did Christ Himself (Luke 22:37) and Philip (Acts 8:28 sqq.) and Peter (1 Pet. 2:22 sqq.). But we learn from that citation in Matth., that we are not to refer our passage exclusively to the passion of the LORD. In the second half of Isa 53:4, the Prophet by no means repeats merely the thoughts to which the first half was set in antithesis. He adds an essentially new ingredient. For while Isa 53:3 only says: “we esteemed Him as nothing,” it is said in Isa 53:4: but we esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted. In נָנוּעַ has been justly detected an allusion to the plague of leprosy, which in Hebrew is especially called נֶנַע (Lev. 13:3, 9, 20 sqq.; 2 Kings 15:5). At the same time one involuntarily recalls Job, of whom his friends entertained the same opinion that the people of Israel express about the Servant of Jehovah (comp. 2:9; 4:7; 8:3, etc.). The position of “God” between “smitten” and “afflicted” intimates that both are referred to God’s doing. The Rabbins reproach Christians with proving from מכה אלהים that the Messiah is both a smitten one and God. To this L’EMPEREUR (p. 7 of the work named above at Isa 53:2, 3) replies to ABRABANEL and ALSCHECH in defence of Christians, that they know very well how to distinguish between convenientia and regimen (i.e. st. absol. and st. constr.).——WUENSCHE calls attention to the fact, that the thought that the Servant of God took on Himself our guilt occurs no less than twelve times in one chapt.: viz., 1) “He bore our sickness,” Isa 53:4a; 2) “He carried our griefs,” Isa 53:4a; 3) “He was wounded for our transgressions,” Isa 53:5a; 4) “He was pierced for our iniquities,” Isa 53:5a; 5) “The chastisement of our peace was upon Him,” Isa 53:5b; 6) “By His stripes we were healed,” Isa 53:5b; 7) “Jehovah laid on Him the iniquity of us all,” Isa 53:6b; 8) “For the transgression of my people He was stricken,” Isa 53:8b; 9) “When thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin,” Isa 53:10a; 10) “And He will bear their iniquity” Isa 53:11b; 11) “And was numbered with the transgressors,” Isa 53:12a; 12) “He bore the sins of many,” Isa 53:12b. From this appears what eminent importance the Prophet attaches to this thought, and how he cannot leave off extolling this wonderful display of the self-denying love of the Servant of God to men.

Isa 53:5. The description of the Servant as pierced and crushed, plainly intimates that the Prophet thinks of Him as mortally hurt, which is, moreover, confirmed by “He was cut off,” etc. (Isa 53:8), and by the mention of His burial (Isa 53:9), and awakening to life (Isa 53:10), and finally by the unmistakable “He hath poured out His soul unto death” (Isa 53:12).—מִפְשָׁעֵינוּ מֵעֲוֹתֵינוּ; as מן does not=ὑπό, but is=ἀπό, our sins and iniquities are not the direct origin of His being pierced and crushed, but only the indirect cause of it (DEL.).—As יָסַר or יִסַּר, is very often used in the sense of “to punish,” and is used in particular of the punishments that God decrees against sin (comp. e.g., Lev. 26:28; Ps. 39:12; Jer. 10:24; 30:11), we must refer מוסר to the first half of the verse, and must regard this being pierced and crushed for the sake of sin as the punishment that rests on the Servant to the salvation of His people. For שָׁלוֹם stands here evidently on the one hand in antithesis to the wounds and stripes, on the other parallel with נִרְפָא, so that the sense is salvum esse, salus, healing, salvation, corresponding to the fundamental meaning of the word. The second half of the verse, like the first, consists of two members that are parallel in meaning.

Isa 53:6 explains how it comes, that the Servant of God, though innocent Himself, has yet to bear the guilt of men. “All we,” says Israel, “like lost sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way.” No distinction is observable here between true and apostate Israelites. There is rather an expression of universal sinfulness. Or did the Servant of God appear only for the apostate? Did, perhaps, “the true worshippers of Jehovah” need no expiation for their sins? That would be a contradiction of the universal Biblical view, that Paul so emphatically utters with special appeal to Old Testament passages (Rom. 3:9 sqq., comp. Ps. 14:3; 53:4; Isa. 59:2 sqq.). No, Israel so speaks in the name of all its members. And it seems to me, that Israel has not merely its Babylonian forsakenness in mind, but the total character of its moral status in all times. For it seems to me that the words, Isa 53:6a, according to the whole context, are to be referred, not to the outward, but to the inward condition, the state of the heart. In fact it is of the sins of the people that the context speaks, which the Servant is to bear. Wherein these sins consist is stated Isa 53:6a, viz., that the Israelites were all of them wandering sheep, that had forsaken their shepherd (comp. Num. 27:17; 1 Kings 22:17; 2 Chr. 18:16), and were going their own self-chosen way, that gratified the flesh, כלנו and the corresponding אישׁ לדדבו the Prophet utters with the greatest emphasis. Sinners they all are, even the prophets and the pious. Does not Isa 6:5 exclaim: “woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips”? Thus all of them may, in a certain sense, be more or less compared to sheep, that strayed away behind their shepherd (comp. Num. 14:43, etc.), an went their own way (65:2; comp. 42:24 and 56:11, where the same words are used). Of course they were divided into misleaders and misled (comp. Jer. 1:6, 7; Ezek. 34:2 sqq.). In fact under some conditions the הִתְעָה is ascribed to the LORD Himself (63:17).

Israel, therefore, has sinned, and the Servant of God is punished. How does that hang together? Did the Servant, perhaps, accidentally come into the domain of the evil that should come on Israel for the punishment of its sins? By no means. God intentionally laid on the Servant the guilt of Israel. פָנַע means undoubtedly, “to strike, to hit against one, impingere, obvenire,” in a hostile as in a friendly sense. That is, of course, wonderful, that the sufferings that strike the Servant of God are such as properly ought to strike us, the wandering sheep, but which the hand of God diverts and suffers to fall on His head. If now the object of this procedure was not to make the just punishment strike the Servant for imputed guilt with the same inward necessity with which it would have struck the actually guilty, and, in fact, that these guilty ones under certain conditions might be free from punishment, then I see not how the Prophet could say: “Jehovah laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”—By that it is surely not said that the Servant “let Himself experience the violent death [occasioned] through [men’s] enmity against God,” but that God laid on Him the guilt of us all. What an injustice! Who without the least fault will let himself be loaded with the burden of another’s faults to his own ruin? Who does not at least protest against it with all his might by word and deed? The Servant of God does not protest. He is dumb. If the ideas נִנַשׂ and נַ‍ֽעֲנֶה were meant to be regarded as of equal value and more rhetorical repetition, it must read נִגּשׂ הוּא וְנַעֲנֶה. The placing of וְ before הוּא and the participle gives the clause the character of a conditional clause and simultaneously makes prominent the subject. נָגַשׂ is “urgere,” “premere.” It is commonly used in respect to violent oppressors (comp. 3:5, 12; 9:3 and the נֹגְשִׂים of the Israelites in Egypt, Exod. 5:6 sqq.). In respect to this “oppression” the Servant maintains a passive attitude. Yet there is also a certain activity on His part, i.e., so far as He willingly submits Himself. This is expressed by והוּא נעגה. We can therefore translate: He was oppressed (the doing of another), while He (the doing of the Servant) willingly submitted Himself. Hence the Niph. נִגַּשׂ is a pure passive Niph., while נַעֲנֶה is reflexive. This willing submission is emphatically portrayed by a double figure. But because the silent suffering of the Servant (comp. 1 Pet. 2:23) would be made prominent, that is twice said of Him which is an index of the patience of the sheep both in the slaughter and the shearing, viz., He did not open His mouth.—And indeed this phrase is put before as if it were a thesis, to be illustrated by examples, and then it follows at the close as designation of the general truth drawn from the special facts. שֶׂה, properly nomen unitatis as צֹאן, designates here a single, and that a male sheep, such as was prescribed for sacrifice (Exod. 12:5, etc.).רָחֵל is the grown mother-sheep, as lambs were not shorn. The figure of the dumb sheep occurs again Jer. 11:19 also Ps. 38:14, 15 (13,14); 39:10 (9)). In the New Testament several passages refer to the present one: Matth. 26:63; 27:14; Mark 14:61; 15:5; John 1:29; Acts 8:32.


[1]Or, doctrine.

[2]Heb. hearing.

[3]he came up.

[4]we saw.

[5]Despised and ceasing to be man.

[6]noted for pain.

[7]Or, he hid as it were his face from vs.

[8]Heb. as an hiding of faces from him, or from us.

[9]Or, tormented.

[10]Heb. bruise.

[11]Heb. hath made the iniquities of us all to meet on him.

[12]wittingly bowed himself.


[14]As a lamb is brought to the slaughter.


[16][There is no need of making it appear as if one must choose between the interpretation of John and Paul on the one hand and that of the Author and other commentators on the other. For as DELITZSCH, in loc., says: “The references to this passage in John and Romans do not compel us to assign ver.1 to the Prophet and his comrades in office.”—TR.]

He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.

CHAPTER 53:8–12

8          He was taken 17from 18prison and from judgment:

And who shall declare his generation?

For he was cut off out of the land of the living:

For the transgression of my people 19was he stricken.

9     And 20he made his grave with the wicked,

And with 21the rich in his 22death;

Because he had done no violence,

Neither was any deceit in his mouth.

10     Yet it pleased the LORD to 23bruise him;

He hath put him to grief:

24When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin,

He shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days,

And the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.

11     25He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied:

By his knowledge shall 26my righteous servant justify many;

27For he shall bear their iniquities.

12     Therefore will I 28divide him a portion with the great,

And he shall divide the spoil with the strong;

29Because he hath poured out his soul unto death:

And he was numbered with the transgressors;

And he bare the sin of many,

And 30made intercession for the transgressors.


Isa 53:8. יְשׂוֹחֵחֵ Pil. only recurs again Ps. 143:5. Usually construed with בְּ, the word is found as here joined with the accusative of the thing Ps, 145:5; with the accusative of the person addressed, as it seems, Prov. 6:22.—מִפֶשַׁע, the מִן here is causal, as in Isa 53:5.—Since לָמוֹ, according to 44:15 (comp. EWALD, § 247 d), can certainly be used as singular, all the explanations are superfluous that would refer it to the people of Israel and take נֶגַע in various senses as in apposition with the whole preceding clause, or with some single word of it. Hence we may follow the Masorets who separate מפשׁע עמי from what precedes, and connect it with נגע למו. Thus מפשׁע עמי is to be explained according to Isa 53:5, and נגע according to נָגוּעַ Isa 53:4.

Isa 53:9. There is not the least grammatical difficulty about translating וַיִּתֵּן with the indefinite subject “they” (comp. 6:10; 7:24; 8:4; 10:4; 14:32; 18:5; 21:9; 33:20; 34:11; 45:24). All the explanations that would make the subject to be the people or God or the Servant Himself are forced and unnecessary. The greatest difficulty is in בְּמֹתָיו. All the ancient versions express the idea “death.” LXX: καὶ δώσω … . τοὺς πλουσίους ἀντὶ τοῦ θανάτου αὐτοῦ. VULG.: et dabit impios pro sepultura et divitem pro morte sua, which JEROME and THEODORET, understand of giving over the Jews to the power of the Romans. ABENEZRA, first with a יֵשׁ אֹמְרִים mentions the view, that במתיו here as בָּמוֹתֵימוֹ Deut. 33:29 is to be taken in the sense of aedificium super sepulcro erectum synonymous with קבר. Among moderns, BECK, EWALD and BOETTCHER (De inferis § 79 sqq.), have approved this view. It is doubtless the most satisfactory according to the context, and it seems almost demanded by the parallelism. But there are grammatical objections, for 1) the word must be pointed בָּמתָיו if it were derived from בָּמָה “the height;” 2) במה has nowhere the meaning “grave mound,” although the Greek βωμός, which means altar and grave mound, offers an interesting parallel. As long as the Masoretic pointing cannot be proved false we must derive במתיו from מוּת, though it may not give a satisfactory sense. The predicate וַיִּתֵּן and the object קברו we must regard as applying also to the second member of the clause: and they gave with the wicked his grave, and with a rich man. On the other hand the qualification of time also extends backwards to the first member of the clause. For it does not suit to take ואת עשׁיר ב׳ּ as an independent clause: “and He was with a rich man in His death,” for then הָיָה or הוּא must follow עשׁיר, nor does it suit to refer במתיו only to את עשׁיר, because a corresponding designation of time is wanting in the first member of the clause. במתיו would then answer to the בְּמוֹתוֹ 2 Chron. 22:38 which denotes “when He was dead,” or to the בְּמֹתָם, Lev.11:31, 32; Num. 6:7. The plural מֹתִים, however, has an analogy in Ezek. 28:10, where it is said: מוֹתֵי עֲרֵלִים תָּמוּת (comp. the like-meaning חָלָלמְמוֹתֵי ibid. Isa 53:8, and מְמוֹתֵי תַֽחֲלֻאִים Jer. 16:4). מוֹתִים is the state of death consisting of a number of particulars or degrees. Thus, as is well-known, the Hebrew is wont to designates relations of time and space. The plural מותים is therefore the same as in חַיִּים “life,” נְעוּרִים “the time of youth,” בַּחֻרִים “age of young men,” זְקֻנִים “old age,” סַנְוֵרִים “state of blindness.”—עַל לֹא המם, the rendering “spite of” is not grammatically supported. For all the passages that are cited in proof (38:15; Job 10:7; 16:17; 1 Kings 16:7 comp. EWALD § 217 i; 222 b), on closer examination demand the meaning “because, on account of.”

Isa 53:10. The construction חָפֵץ הֶֽחֱלִי, not taking החלי as equivalent to or miswritten for הֶֽחְָלִי, could not in itself seem strange. For it is no uncommon thing in Hebrew for a verb depending on another verb as object, instead of being subordinated in the infinitive, to be co-ordinated in the same verbal form. Comp. הוֹאִיל בֵּאֵר coepit inscripsit instead of coepit inscribere (Deut. 1:5), אוֹסִף אֲבַקְשֶׁנּוּ pergam quaeram instead of pergam quaerere (Prov. 23:35); comp. Lam. 3:3; Hos. 5:11; Isa. 52:1; Jer. 49:19; Zeph. 3:7; Lam. 4:14.—But there occurs here the modification that between the dependent and the governing verb there is inserted an infinitive, that on the one hand seems to make that co-ordinate verb superfluous, on the other contains what the other wants, viz.: the designation of the object, i.e., the suffix. We will accordingly have to take דכאו החלי together, so that both words complete one another. The Hiph. החלי as causative conjugation has דכאו for its object, by which the latter is defined in respect to manner. From חָלִָה may be assumed a secondary form חָלָא after תֲּֽחֲלֻאִים Jer. 16:4; from this would be the Hiph. הֶחֱלִיא, and by rejecting the א, הֶחֱלִי like the form הֶֽחֱטִי 2 Kings 13:6 (GREEN, § 164, 1). The meaning of חָלָה is doluit, dolorem sensit. The Hiph. will accordingly mean “to give a painful sensation, make painful.” Thus we read Mic. 6:13; הֶֽחֱלֵיתִי הַכּוֹתֶךָ “I make painful the beating thee;” Hos.7:5; הֶֽחֱלִי שָׂלִים חֲמַת מִיַּיִן “the princes make painful heating from wine,” i.e., they bring about painful heating from indulgence in wine. So we may here render החלי דכאו; He made painful the crushing Him, i.e., He crushed, beat Him in a painful way.—אִס־תָּשִׂים is quando posueris. There can be no doubt about the imperf. having the meaning of the fut. exacti (Amos 6:9; Job 8:18; 22:13). As regards the meaning of אָשָׁם, it is certain that it means “guilt offering” (comp. UMBREIT, Die Suende, Beitrag zur Theol. d. A. T., 1853, p. 54 sq.). But one must not urge a sharp distinction between it and חַטָּאת. We read immediately after חטא־רבים נשׂא, etc., certainly the Prophet does not speak here according to the rules of the theory of sacrifices. I think that the effort to accumulate the s sound, and to gain a likeness of sound with תשׂים was not without its influence in the choice of the words in the little clause אס־תשׂים אשׁם נפשו. שִׂים is used in connection with offering a sacrifice Ezek. 20:28. Comp. the New Testament phrase τιθέναι τὴν ψυχήν Jno. 10:12,15,17,18; 13:37,38; 15:13; 1 Jno. 3:16.

Isa 53:11. מעמל (see List), the מִן I would not construe as causal with DELITZSCH, for not the labor He endured, but the inmost being of the Servant is the ground of His exaltation (comp. Acts 2:24). One will have to take מִן either temporally (=statim post comp. 24:22; Ps. 73:20 and מִקֵּץ, e.g., Gen. 41:1), or locally—to take out of the tribulation. יִרְאֶה specially favors the latter construction.—יראה ישׂבע is an instance of the same construction as that of חפץ החלי explained at Isa 53:10 above. It is analogous to רָאִיתִי אוּר 44:16.

Isa 53:12. For the expression אחלק לו ברבים there is only one parallel In the Old Testament, viz.: Job 39:17, where it is said of the ostrich: לֹא חָלַק לָהּ בַּבִּינָה “God gave it not a share in understanding.” In this, בינה is conceived of as a territory to be distributed in which God assigned not the ostrich a חֵלֶק, a portion. Accordingly here, too, רבים must be regarded as a region that God divides out: I will assign Him a חֵלֶק on or in the region that consists in רבים. But then the Servant would only be a partaker along with many equals. His whole reward would consist in His not being excluded from the partition. We must notice that in Job the Kal is used, while we have here the Piel. The later can have a causative meaning=make חֵלֶק “make, give a share,” and the prefix בְּ can refer to this substantive idea חֵלֶק and introduce just that wherein the חֵלֶק consists. As is well-known בְּ is often used in making specifications (Gen. 7:21; 9:2,10, etc., comp. Isa. 7:4; 20:22).—Against the explanation of את־עצומים (see Exeg. and Crit.), the grammatical objection may be raised perhaps, that the nota acc, as a rule stands only before the definite noun. But, on the other hand it is to be remembered that the definite article is often wanting, where the word as a general designation is already rendered definite by the sense (comp. 1:4; Exod. 21:28; Prov. 13:21; Job 13:25).—הערה is Hiph., from עָרָה (see List). The meaning of the Hiph., as of the Piel is “evacuare, effundere, to empty, to pour out, flow out.” The word is used again of the soul Ps. 141:8.—נִמְנָה is taken by many here as Niph. tolerativum=He let Himself be numbered, although elsewhere this Niph. is used as simple Passive, Gen. 13:16; 2 Chron. 5:6; Eccl. 1:15.—והוא is, as to form, a departure from the dependence on תַּחַת, though as to substance the clauses והוא נשׂא and יפגיע are just as much causal as both those that precede them. The Hebrew shuns long chains of subordinated clauses; it prefers parataxis to syntaxis (comp. EWALD, § 339 a).


1. With Isa 53:8 comes a transition. The Prophet perceives that the Servant of God will be released from the distress, and that from then onward His continuance will be endless. These words stand first like a theme. But the Servant will not go on living on the earth among men that live there, for, on account of the sin of the people He is taken away out of the land of the living (Isa 53:8). They have buried Him, too, but honorably, because He never used violence nor deceit (Isa 53:9), and His destruction was only in consequence of the divine decree. When, now, the LORD will have made a sin-offering of the soul of His Servant, the latter will prove to be the head of a new generation, He will continue to live forever, and Jehovah’s counsel will be accomplished by Him (Isa 53:10). After tribulation and necessity He will find His satisfaction; by His insight He will help many to righteousness and He will carry their guilt (Isa 53:11). Therefore Jehovah will assign to Him the great multitude, and He will divide the strong as spoil—all this as reward for having given His life to death, having been reckoned among transgressors, having borne the sins of many, and continually praying for transgressors.

2. He was taken——prosper in his hand. Isa 53:8-10. Having set forth, in what precedes, what and how the Servant will suffer, we are now told what kind of a turning of the scale shall happen after the suffering is accomplished. עֹצֶר, found again only Ps. 107:39; Prov. 30:16, is undoubtedly “coarctatio, restraint, oppression”. Having a general meaning, the word can also mean imprisonment, but it does not mean exclusively confinement. מִשְׁפָּט conjoined with עצר, can only mean judicial procedure. We may even take the two words as a sort of hendiadys. For “oppression and judgment” is just an oppressive, violent, unjust judicial procedure, “unrighteous administration of justice”, as DELITZSCH says. I cannot see why לֻקַּח should not mean “He is taken away”. It means the same as in 49:24 (25). As there it is asked: can the prey be taken away from the strong? so here it is said that the Servant shall be taken away from the power of unrighteous oppression. This is one, the negative side of the transition. The positive side is stated in the words: and his generation who will think and declare? Every thing here depends on recognizing the theme-like character of the first part of Isa 53:8. Then the mention of his living on will not appear to be a “premature” thought. דּוֹר is manifestly, as to sense, an allusion to the theocratic promise, Exod. 20:5, 6; Deut. 5: 9, 10, and in respect to the sound an allusion to Deut. 7: 9 (“which keepeth covenant and mercy——to a thousand generations”). Whatever may be the fundamental meaning of דּוֹד, it any way means the γενεά, the generation, and that in various senses. From a temporal point of view, the members of the great chain to which one may compare the human race, or nation, are called דור with reference to the generations that succeed one another. Hence both past (comp. 58:12; 61:4) and future (comp. Exod. 3:17; 23:14, 31,41, etc.) generations are called דורות. Thus there is mention of coming and going generations (Eccl. 1:4), of “another generation” (Ps. 119:13), of a first, second, third, etc., generation (Deut. 23:3, 4, 9). Hence דוֹר can mean also the present generation, contemporaries (Num. 34:13, etc.). But because every such generation has a character common to it good or bad, the word acquires also an ethical meaning, and designates a generation as a whole of this or that kind. Hence the meaning, “kind, race” (Jer. 2:31, etc.). But because a generation is always the product of another, or also of a head of a race, it involves necessarily the idea of descent, posterity. Hence to the people of Israel may be said “your generations”, i.e., your coming posterity (Lev. 23:23), or: “to you and your posterity” (לכם או לדרתיכם, Num. 9:10). But the total of the generations of posterity can be comprehended as a whole, and this whole be called דּוֹר. Comp. Ps. 22:31, where דור in this sense stands between זֶרַע and עַם נוֹלָד; Ps. 71:18. And such is the meaning of the word here (LXX. γενεὰ αὐτοῦ, VULG. generatio ejus). “His generation” are those descended from him conceived as a unit. This is the meaning of דּוֹר in Isa 53:10. Therefore the words: “he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days” is not empty repetition, but explication of the particular intimated in the theme of the discourse. According to the most ancient Old Testament representations, as found in the Pentateuch, there is no continued living in the world beyond. Hence, excepting long life on earth, posterity is for each person the highest wish and happiness. Without posterity, to die is the same as to be condemned. Numerous, measureless posterity means the same as everlasting life. Hence the lawgiver threatens those that transgress Jehovah’s commandments with visitation on children in the third and fourth degree, thus extinction in the third or fourth generation. On the contrary he promises those that keep the commandments, that the LORD will be gracious to them to a thousand generations (Exod. 20:5, 6). The Prophet’s thought here connects with this representation, and hence he uses דּוֹר, and not זֶרַע. To him whom men thought to exterminate, the LORD promises דור, posterity, a race that shall descend from him, but of a peculiar kind, as appears from what follows (“for he is taken away,” etc.). Who is able to think out and declare the manner of this race?—For the ideas “to think and to declare” both lie in שִׂיחַ. It is a poetic word, belonging to higher and choice style, that is used partly of meditative contemplation (Ps. 55:18; 77:4, 7,13; 119:15, 23, 27, 48, etc.), partly of uttering the thoughts (Ps. 69:13, comp. Prov. 6:22).

When a man is dead he is past begetting posterity. But it is otherwise with this wonderful Servant of God. Hence the nature of His posterity is so inexplicable, because He will have it after He is cut off from the land of the living. גָּזַר (see List) is “to cut,” “to hew,” both “to cut through” (1 Kings 3:25 sq.; 2 Kings 6:2), and “to cut off,” “to sunder” (2 Chr. 26:21), always, however, with the secondary idea of cutting off sharp or smooth. “Land of the living” is the earth, the dwelling-place of men in the flesh (Deut. 12:1; 31:13; 1 Kings 8:40), and stands in antithesis to Sheol, the dwelling of the departed, the shades (comp. Job 28:13; Ps. 27:13; Jer. 11:19; Ezek. 26:20; 32:23 sqq.). Why He was so clean cut off from the land of the living the Prophet states in words that recall Isa 53:4, 5. We have already remarked that the Prophet surprisingly often and certainly on purpose repeats the thought that the Servant must die for the sin of His people. On account of the sin of my people is a plague to Him. It must be remembered that נֶגַע (used especially Lev. 13, 14 of the “plague of leprosy”) beside the meaning of divine punitive judgment, includes that of leprosy.—The Prophet also gives intimation concerning the burial of the Servant. But it is obscure. One gets the impression as if the persons that attended the last stage of the Servant’s earthly history were confused in the Prophet’s view. We cannot be surprised if the Prophet sees forms and scenes whose nature and meaning he does not himself understand. But still his delineation always appears correct to those who are able to test it by the fulfilment. Here we might say that he saw the wicked, in whose company the Servant of God died, so near together with the rich man in whose grave he was laid, that he construes the relation of all these persons as fellowship with reference to the burial. Yet we do not know where the two malefactors were buried with whom the LORD was crucified. For that they were buried we may definitely conclude from Jno. 19:31, and from what JOSEPHUS says of the care of the Jews for the burial even of those who were capitally punished (“so as also … to take down and bury those crucified before the setting of the sun,” Bell. jud. iv. 5, 2). But if they were buried near the place of execution, then their grave was near to that of the LORD, and thus in general the Prophet’s representation appears correct. אֵת undoubtedly means “with” also in a local sense (comp. Gen. 19:33; Lev. 19:13; Job 2:13; Judg. 4:11; 1 Kings 9:26). He is buried with a rich man that lies in the rich man’s grave, as much as He is buried with the wicked, who has His grave near theirs. F. PHILIPPI, whom DELITZSCH quotes, has justly remarked that the honorable burial with a rich man makes “the beginning of the glorifying (of the Servant) that begins with His death.” He receives such a burial after severe suffering and a shameful death, because (see Text. and Gram.) He used no violence nor was guile in His mouth. Similar language is found Job 16:17. חמם and מרמה are found conjoined as here, Zeph. 1:9. “But Jehovah was pleased to smite Him painfully” does not begin a new thought, but connects closely with what precedes, and forms a conclusion. “When thou shalt have made His soul,” begins a new chain of thought: the Servant is buried with a rich man because He had done no wrong, but only Jehovah had decreed to crush Him. The honor put upon the Servant therefore had its ground 1) in that He had done nothing bad, 2) in that His suffering was only in consequence of a divine decree. Guilt and punishment were in themselves something quite foreign to the sinless One; independent of that a divine decree would impose on Him the crushing load of sickness, of pain.

What is subject in the words אם תשׂים אשׁם נפשׁו? As the suffix in נפשׁו can only relate to the Servant, He cannot be the subject, but only either “soul” or Jehovah. To take the people as subject (HOFMANN) is forced and without ground in the context, though I cannot urge against the view that the people are here the speakers. For they cease to speak, Isa 53:6. From Isa 53:7–10 the Prophet speaks. If “soul” be taken for subject (as by most expositors: MAURER, UMBREIT, STIER, HENGSTENBERG, V. F. OEHLER, EBRARD, DELITZSCH,etc.), several objections appear. First of all it is an unusual mode of expression to say the soul has brought a sin-offering. If that points to an antithesis in Himself, one cannot understand why just the soul should be elevated into antithesis to spirit or body. But if “His soul” is as much as to say, “He Himself as contrasted with others,” still it must be said what He offered in sacrifice. For if He brought any sort of offering that another also could bring, then that is nothing that deserves to be made prominent. But if it would be intimated that He sacrificed what others could not, viz., Himself, then that needs to be expressly said. Many, indeed, (STIER, HAHN,etc.), suppose that this idea is contained in the words themselves; for if the Servant, in so far as He is a living soul, makes a sacrifice, then He gives just Himself as a living soul away unto death. But that is by no means a necessary consequence. For then תשׂים אשׁם נפשׁו would only be another way of writing יָשִׂים אָשָׁם. But would these words imply that He offered Himself? V. F. OEHLER urges this very tellingly against HENGSTENBERG, STIER, HAHN, but overlooks the fact that he condemns his own view. For he gets the “soul” as subject from the context, while the others would take it from the words themselves. But that just the chief thing remains unsaid, is against his view as it is against theirs. Or is שִׁים the same as “to set one’s self,” as KNOBEL would have, appealing to Ezek. 23:24; 1 Sam. 15:2; 1 Kings 20:12? But in the places cited שׁים is used causatively=“to make a station, take a station.” And this causative use requires that an object beside that which is inherent be not named. How would one combine אשׁם with that inherent object? In short, if נפשׁו is subject, then it is not said what the Servant brings as a sin-offering, and one cannot understand why the Prophet did not write simply יָשׂים.—I believe (with HOFMANN and DELITZSCH in their earlier editions, and with HITZIG, but in another sense than his) that Jehovah is subject. The abrupt change of person need give no surprise. We have already had many examples of how common this is to the language in general, and to Isaiah in particular. Comp. 2:6; 14:30; 33:2, 6; 41:1; 42:20; 45:8, 21; 52:14. Already in Isa 53:6, “Jehovah laid on Him the iniquity of us all,” says that Jehovah gave up His Servant that He might take on Himself the guilt and punishment of the sinful people. Essentially the same is said in the words “He was pleased to smite Him painfully.” For that this means here a smiting to death and not mere sickness as some would have it, is as certain as that the cause of this death was the sin of the people (Isa 53:8פשׁע עמי). But, it is replied, the expiation is offered to God, he does not perform it himself. That is true. But for this reason it is still possible that God may provide the beast of sacrifice, as in the case of Abraham, Gen. 22:8, 13. The Prophet, indeed, did not know how that could happen. But we, who see the prophecy in the light of its fulfilment, do know (Jno. 3:16; 2 Cor. 5:21). According to this exposition we can understand why the Prophet did not avoid the abrupt change of person. Had he written יָשִׂים instead of תָּשִׂים, undoubtedly the Servant would have been taken for subject of the clause. Just that He would avoid, and therefore speaks of Jehovah in the second person in spite of His being before and afterwards spoken of in the third person.——But death shall not swallow up the Servant of God. He shall be taken from “oppression and judgment” (Isa 53:8), and become the progenitor of a new race. For here the Prophet connects back with the thought of Isa 53:8, that was put first as the theme. Here, too, we learn what we are to understand by תּוֹר of Isa 53:8. Seed, posterity shall the Servant see.—There underlies the expression, and also the following: He shall prolong His days, primarily the Old Testament representation of life, viz., that the life-necessity of the pious is satisfied by a long life on earth (comp. “that thy days may be long” Exod. 20:12; Deut. 4:40; 22:7, etc.) and numerous posterity. But he that has these lives to see children’s children (Gen. 50:23; Job 42:16; Ps. 128:6). Yet, though the Prophet’s thought has this connection, it is in the nature of the Servant of God that the Old Testament letter must in Him be fulfilled in a higher sense. His posterity comes not by fleshly generation, but by a life-communication of another sort. How this will be the Prophet does not say. But we can perceive from מי ישׂוחח “who will think and declare,” Isa 53:8, that he treats here of a life, and answering to it also, of a communication of life of a high and wonderful kind. But the Servant of God will do more than merely live and communicate life. He will also work and create. What was pleasing to God (חֵכֶּץ comp. 44:28; 46:10), His counsel and will, shall find its realization by the hand of the Servant (comp. 54:17; 48:15; 55:11).

3. He shall see——transgressors, Isa 53:11, 12. In 52:13–15 God was the speaker; 53:1–6, the people of Israel speak; 7–10 the Prophet speaks. The concluding word is put again into the mouth of God Himself. Also in their contents Isa 53:11, 12, have a great resemblance to 52:3–15 as we shall see. Only in 52:13 and in 53:11 is He that is the subject of the whole prophecy named by His honorable title, and both times the form is my Servant. This my expresses high honor. Not men, but God Himself, with His own mouth, applies to the Servant this honorable title here at the culmination of this prophecy relating to Him.

Isa 53:11 connects with what precedes, and continues the description of the ascent from lowliness to highness. The tribulation was night, in which one saw nothing (comp. 50:10). The seeing shows that it grows light (see Text. and Gram. on מצמל). It is possible that the Prophet combines both constructions [the temporal and the local meaning of מִן, viz. “after and away from out of the tribulation of His soul He shall see”], which we are not able to reproduce in our language. Is בדעתוcognitio sui or cognitio sua? I believe with most expositors that the former is meant. For the latter only Mal. 2:7 can be quoted; and there it is doubtful whether we ought to render conservant or custodiunt cognitionem. As the lips are not the seat of knowledge, the latter is more probable, and then the sense would be: the mouth of the priest must reprove those that depart from right knowledge. But then דעת is not doctrine, but knowledge. And so also in our text the assured meaning “cognitio,” therefore in the passive sense “cognitio sui” is to be preferred. Without knowledge, indeed, there is also no faith (Rom. 10:14).—צַדִּיק is “as a righteous man.” הצדיק is causative Hiph.: “to prepare righteousness;” hence the construction with לְ. As the one that has the righteousness, He can be the means of others obtaining it. Here, also, the Prophet can hardly have understood the deep import of his words. For we cannot assume that he had a clear knowledge that the “righteousness that avails with God” would be alone in the possession of Him who acquired it by His blood (Rom. 3:21–26).—לָרַבִּים, “to many,” answers to the New Testament τοῖς πολλοῖς (e.g.Matth. 20:28; comp. 1 Tim. 2:4; Rom. 5:18, where for οἱ πολλοὶ is simply πάντες). It expresses the majority, the great mass, compared with which single exceptions vanish, and in so far it is almost the same as “totality.” עונתם יםנל, He will bear their iniquities, cannot relate to that “bearing” that consists in sufferings in the place of others (Isa 53:4). For we are here in the condition of glory. Hence “to bear” here can only relate to that priestly bearing that the Mediator accomplishes by the ever-continued presentation of His merit before God (Heb. 7:25). It is identical with “He will make intercession for the transgressor,” Isa 53:12.

Isa 53:12. לכן introduces a concluding inference from what precedes. But what was previously represented (52:14, 15; 53: 8, 10,11) as a suitable transition from bad to good appears now directly as a reward, and the situation of Isa 53:12, into which the Servant is translated as a reward for His suffering, appears as that of a ruler. For a great territory and glorious spoil are given Him. The first clause may be rendered: Therefore I will assign Him a part that shall consist of the many (see Text. and Gram.). Therefore the many themselves (taking the word in the same sense as in Isa 53:11), or the totality, shall make the region, in the assignment of which shall consist the Servant’s reward. The rendering: “I give Him a part among the great,” is not at all exactly conformed to the passage in Job. In Job בְּ marks the region on which or of which a share is given; but this explanation takes בְּ as marking the fellowship that the Servant is to share. If it be urged against our explanation that He that gets the whole cannot be said to get a part, it may be replied, that, in antithesis to the single parts, the whole, i.e. the highest power over all single parts, can be assigned to one. It is a result of this highest power when He that is entrusted with it on His part takes in hand the distribution of the individual parts of the spoil to His subjects. This is the meaning of the following words, which speak no more of a share that the Servant receives, but of the shares He distributes. This second clause ואת־עצומים וגו֯ has a parallel in Prov. 16:19: “Better is it to be of an humble spirit with the lowly than to divide the spoil with the proud” (מֵחַלֵּק שָׁלָל אֶת־גֵּאִים). According to that we should translate here: “and with strong men will He divide spoil.” But against this are to be urged the same considerations that we urge above (see Text. and Gram.) concerning the first clause. Who equals the Servant of God in merit? Whose reward shall equal His? Who are the strong that, as His peers, may divide the spoil with Him? It is true that את־עצומים can mean: with the strong, and that in the sole parallel passage אֵת does mean “with.” But must it mean “with?” And that too when “with” gives an unsuitable meaning, and the sign of the accusative, on the contrary, a very suitable one? And the latter is the case when we remember that there is also living and human spoil (comp. Judg. 5:30; Zech. 2:12, 13). Prisoners may be used as slaves or sold. So here it can be said that the Servant of Jehovah will make booty of the strong, and distribute them among His own. But then “the strong” must be understood not only as belonging to the corporeal sphere, but also to the spiritual. The choice of expressions in these clauses (רבים and עצומים and חלק) are intended to recall the passages in the Pentateuch that promise to the Israelites victory over the “many and mighty nations” that inhabited Palestine before them (comp. Deut. 4:38; 7:1, 17; 9:7; 11:23; Josh. 23:9). [The Author’s defence of his construction of the first two clauses of Isa 53:12 is enough to make one sensible of its difficulty, and prepare one to agree with J. A. ALEX., when, after noticing the construction as presented by others, he says: “It is better, therefore, to adopt the usual construction, sanctioned by CALVIN, GESENIUS and EWALD, which supposes Him (the Servant) to be described as equal to the greatest conquerors. If this is not enough, or if the sense is frigid, as MARTINI alleges, it is not the fault of the interpreter, who has no right to strengthen the expressions of his author by means of forced constructions. The simple meaning of the first clause is that He shall be triumphant; not that others shall be sharers of His victory, but that He shall be as gloriously successful in His enterprise as other victors ever were in theirs.”—TR.]

תַּחַת וגו [“in lieu of this that,” etc.] reaches back to what in Isa 53:11 has already served as a premise for the conclusion “therefore,” etc., with which Isa 53:12 begins. So that there is a succession of links here also (comp. on Isa 53:4, 5). The Prophet would manifestly recapitulate by the words that follow what is of chief moment in the meritorious, representative suffering; a fresh proof of the high importance he attaches to this suffering. That the Servant was numbered with transgressors has not before been mentioned, although it is implied in the statements of Isa 53:5–8, and especially in “they made His grave with the wicked,” Isa 53:9. Comp. Mar. 15:18; Luke 22:37.—He bore the sin of many stands related to “He bore our sickness,” Isa 53:4, and the kindred expressions that follow, as the root to the fruits. One is reminded here of 2 Cor. 5:21, and still more, even to the sound of the words, of Heb. 9:28. In the last clause הפגיע, Hiph., has the same sense of “to pray, to intercede,” that we had to maintain for the Kal in 47:3 (comp. 59:16). As in Isa 53:11, the enumeration of what the Servant will do as priest after His exaltation stops with “He will bear their iniquities,” so here the enumeration of what He did as a priest in His humiliation concludes with the mention of His work of intercession. But it is to be noted that it is not said הפְגִיעַ, but יַפְגִיעַ. The reason for this seems to be that the Prophet understands the intercession in the same sense as at the end of Isa 53:11. He means the lasting intercession that the Mediator makes for us on the ground of His sacrificial death. This had indeed begun already in His state of humiliation; the very ones that put Him to death were the first for whom He prayed while dying (Luke 23:34). But since then He intercedes forever for us all. That He can do this is the abiding fruit of His once dying on the cross. Hence the Prophet concludes his enumeration with the imperfect.


[17]Or, away by distress and judgment: but, etc.


[19]Heb. was the stroke upon him.


[21]a rich man, when he was dead.

[22]Heb. deaths.

[23]painfully break him to pieces.

[24]Or, when his soul shall make an offering.

[25]After the tribulation of his soul he shall, etc.

[26]the righteous One, my Servant cause righteousness to many.


[28]divide to him the many, And the strong will he divide as spoil.

[29]In lieu of his having.


Lange, John Peter - Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical

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