Who is God’s Suffering Servant?

Who is God’s Suffering Servant in Isaiah 52-53?

The broad consensus among Rabbinic Jews and Rabbi Tovia Singer / Jews for Judiasm are that the suffering servant in Isaiah 53 refers to the nation of Israel (or the house of Jacob), and their presentations undoubtedly have certain merits. The house of Israel, to be trained to be a kingdom of priest for the world (Exodus 19:6), needs numerous purifications in order to make them qualified.

Prime individual examples are Daniel and his three friends, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego, but become peripheral in the face of overwhelming evidence when compared to One individual who later identified Himself as the Son of God, the Messiah who would be the real High Priest.

Although Isaiah 53 is generally ascribes as the “suffering servant” it really started in the previous chapter, Isaiah 52, starting verse 13. So lets begin here:

Isaiah 52

13 “Behold, My Servant shall deal prudently, He shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high. — the Targum straightaway identifies and interprets the servant as the Messiah; He shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high;

— the English Targum verse translated by Etheridge in full: “Behold, my servant the Messiah shall prosper, He shall be exalted and extolled, and He shall be very strong,” Targum Isaiah 52:13. The Prophet Isaiah speaks of his own people, Israel, which include their own blind shepherd, “Hear, ye deaf; and look, ye blind, that ye may see,” Isaiah 42:18.

even from Jewish Sefaria, it is (הָא יַצְלַח עַבְדִי מְשִׁיחָא יְרוּם וְיִסְגֵי וְיִתְקוֹף לַחֲדָא:) that is, this Targum interprets מְשִׁיחָא as the Messiah; He shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high;

— the Targum is an indispensable source of understanding the Bible. Started by Ezra for those returning Jews from Babylon and for these returnees they could only understand the Sacred Text in Aramaic; hence the Targum is as if Ezra is speaking to us from the verses quoted. So why do the Rabbinic Jews today choose to ignore Ezra’s understanding and interpretation?

14 As many as were astonished at thee—His visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men” — before Yeshua the Messiah was sentensed to death, he was plaited with a crown of thorns and put on his head, led away to be crucified, but first to be flogged by the Roman soldiers, including more scourging in the praetorium, revealed as stated in the previous verse, the whole world will be astonished to see he would be so marred – (משׁחת mishechath); so defaced, destroyed, disfigured; this was a disfiguration or defacement of his aspect, more than that of any man.

The Targum verse in full: “As the house of Israel anxiously hoped for Him many days, (which was poor among the nations; their appearance and their brightness being worse than that of the sons of men.)” — this phrase “the house of Israel anxiously hoped for Him” shows that the house of Israel and the Suffering Servant are two separate entities, hence the Suffering Servant could not be the house of Israel. This is another checkmate! Period!

Verse 15, which contains Messianic significance is not in the King James versions but appears in the followings:

15 The Targum translated by Etheridge: Thus shall He scatter many nations; before Him kings shall keep silence: they shall put their hands upon their mouths, for that which had not been told them shall they see: and that which they had not heard shall they consider. — since King David, Israel (or any ordinary man) had never “scatter many nations.”

Or as in Chabad Bible: So shall he cast down many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him, for, what had not been told them they saw, and [at] what they had not heard they gazed.

The Septuagint (Brenton): Thus shall many nations wonder at him; and kings shall keep their mouths shut: for they to whom no report was brought concerning him, shall see; and they who have not heard, shall consider.

Young: So doth he sprinkle many nations. Concerning him kings shut their mouth, For that which was not recounted to them they have seen, And that which they had not heard they have understood! — the sprinkling of the blood of a sacrifice, which could mean the shedding of blood for our (Jews and Gentiles) sins; (He will cleanse many nations with his blood, GW).

The JPS 1917:

So shall he startle many nations,
Kings shall shut their mouths because of him;
For that which had not been told them shall they see,
And that which they had not heard shall they perceive.

Isaiah 53

Most theologians noted that the subject of the Suffering Servant, which the Targum (Isaiah 52:13) identifies as the Messiah, should start from Chapter 52:13 and onto the end of Chapter 53. More commentaries of this Suffering Servant, its prophecies and fulfillments are at the end.

1 Who hath believed our report? And to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? — Our report; literally, that which has been heard by us, or reported to us. But the word is used technically for a prophetic revelation (see Isaiah 28:9,19; Jeremiah 49:14);

— here the word would seem to refer especially to the Messianic prophecies delivered by Isaiah. To whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? The “arm of the Lord,” which has been “made bare in the eyes of all the nations” (Isaiah 52:10); the word of God is expressly called the power of God, 1 Corinthians 1:18.

For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground. He hath no form nor comeliness, and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. — for he shall grow up as a tender plant and as a root out of a dry ground; and the reason or occasion why the Jews generally rejected Yeshua as their Messiah is because he didn’t come into the world with secular pomp and power, like an earthly monarch, as they carnally and groundlessly imagined; but

— he shall grow up (or, spring up, Heb. ascend, to wit, out of the ground, as it follows, brought forth, and brought up); before him (before the unbelieving Jews, of whom “my servant the Messiah” spoken of in Isaiah 52:13 (Targum) and which the Jews are blinded to, as springing up of a low and insignificant plant or shrub out of the earth; has no strength nor straightness, of body; without verdure, leaves, blossom, and therefore despised;

— he hath no form nor comeliness; when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him; when we shall look upon him, expecting to find incomparable beauty and majesty in his countenance, and carriage and condition, we shall be altogether disappointed and shall meet with nothing amiable or desirable in him.

He is despised and rejected of men, a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. And we hid as it were our faces from Him; He was despised, and we esteemed Him not. — nowhere in all the Old Testament is it so plainly and fully prophesied that the Messiah ought to suffer and the Jews esteemed him not; which is repeated to show the great contempt cast upon him, to be despised and rejected of men before he is destined to enter into his glory.

Surely He hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. — the Septuagint renders the words, “he bears our sins” and the Targum, where the ancient Jews understood this prophecy of the Messiah, is “wherefore he will entreat for our sins.”

no human, from Abraham to Jacob, nor from King David to Zerubbabel could have such intrinsic qualities; and of course, Israel or Jacob (whom the Jews thought was the suffering servant) doesn’t suffer for the sins of the nations. They suffer for their own sins, Stupid! The house of Israel is being descibed by God in Isaiah 48:4 as “that thou art obstinate, and thy neck is an iron sinew and thy brow brass!”

But He was wounded for our transgressions; He was bruised for our iniquities. The chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and with His stripes we are healed. — but he was wounded for our transgressions; not for any sins of his own, but for humans, for our transgressions of his law, in order to make atonement and satisfaction for them;

— he was bruised for our iniquities; as bread corn is bruised by threshing it; he being broken and crushed to pieces under the weight of sin, and the punishment of it. The ancient Jews understood this of the Messiah; for in one place they say of King Messiah, “he was wounded for our transgressions; and bruised for our iniquities.” – Mechilta apud Yalkut, par. 2. fol 90.

— and with his stripes we are healed; or “by his stripe” so called from the gathering and settling of the blood where the blow is given. As a physician, the wonderful Messiah heals by taking the sicknesses of his people upon himself, by bearing their sins, and being wounded and bruised for them and by his enduring blows and suffering death itself for them;

— the Targum says, “when we obey his words, our sins will be forgiven us” but forgiveness is not through our obedience, but the blood of Christ.

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all. — all we like sheep have gone astray; all the children of God, whether Jews or Gentiles; whom he compares to “sheep” not for any good qualities, but for our own foolishness and stupidity;

— and particularly for their being subject to go astray from the shepherd and from their good pastures, and who never return of themselves until they are brought back by the shepherd; so the people of God, in a state of nature are like the silly sheep who go astray from God;

— and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all; that is, God the Father against whom we have sinned, from whom we have turned and whose justice must be satisfied; he has laid on his own Son, the sins of all his elect.

He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not his mouth; He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter; and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He openeth not His mouth. — he was oppressed and was afflicted; he was injuriously treated by both the Jews and Romans; they handled him roughly; he was oppressed and afflicted, both in body and mind, with their blows and with their reproaches;

— and he being the surety of his people was responsible for them and did answer, the debt they owed was required, the payment of it was called for and he accordingly answered; the punishment of the sins of his people was exacted of him and he bore it in his own body on the tree;

— so he opened not his mouth: not against his enemies, by way of threats 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.

He was taken from prison and from judgement; 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. — he was taken away from due justice and judgement; that is, his life was taken away in a violent manner, under a pretence of justice; whereas the utmost injustice was done him; a wrong charge was brought against him, false witnesses were suborned, and his life was taken away with wicked hands.

And He made His grave with the wicked, and with the rich in His death, because He had done no violence, neither was any deceit in His mouth. — and he made his grave with the wicked and with the rich in his death; these words are generally supposed to refer to a fact that Yeshua would die with two wicked men besides him as if he himself had been one, was buried in a rich man’s grave;

— neither was any deceit in his mouth: no false accusation was delivered by him; he was no deceiver of the people as he was charged; he did not attempt to seduce them from the true worship of God or persuade them to believe anything contrary to the law of Moses and the prophets; he was no enemy to the state, nor indeed guilty of any manner of sin, nor given to any arts of trick and dissimulation.

10 Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He hath put Him to grief. When thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand. — yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; the sufferings of Yeshua, the Son of God are signified by his being “bruised” as it was foretold he should have his heel bruised by the serpent, Genesis 3:15;

— but here it is ascribed to the Lord: he was bruised in body when scourged and nailed to the cross; and was bruised and broken in spirit when the sins of his people were laid on him, (for more, see The Missing Hours of Christ).

11 He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied. By His knowledge shall My righteous Servant justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities. — the travail of his soul is the toil and labour he endured in working out the salvation of his people; his obedience and death, his sorrows and sufferings;

— particularly those birth throes of his soul under a sense of divine wrath for the allusion is to women in travail; and all the agonies and pains of death which he went through. Now the fruit of all this he sees with inexpressible pleasure and which gives him an infinite satisfaction; namely, the complete redemption of all the chosen ones and the glory of the divine perfections as well as his own glory which follows.

12 Therefore will I divide Him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong, because He hath poured out His soul unto death. And He was numbered with the transgressors; and He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. — therefore will God divide him a portion with the great; the great ones of the earth: these are the words of God the Father, promising his Son that he shall have as great a part or portion assigned him as any of the mighty monarchs of the world, nay, one much more large and ample; that he would make him higher than the kings of the earth, and give him a name above every name in this world; and all this in consequence of his sufferings and as a reward of them.


More on the Suffering Servant and its Fulfilments

He will be exalted (52:13) Philippians 2:9
He will be disfigured (52:14; 53:2) Mark 15:17,19
He will make a blood atonement (52:15) 1 Peter 1:2
He will be widely rejected (53:1,3) John 12:37,38
He will bear our sins and sorrows (53:4,5) Romans 4:25; 1 Peter 2:24,25
He will be our substitute (53:6,8) II Corinthians 5:21
He will voluntarily accept our guilt and punishment (53:7-8) John 10:11; 19:30
He will be buried in a rich man’s tomb (53:9) John 19:38-42
He will save those who believe in Him (53:10-11) John 3:16; Acts 16:31
He will die on behalf of transgressors (53:12) Mark 15:27,28; Luke 22:37

~ by Joel Huan on May 16, 2022.

3 Responses to “Who is God’s Suffering Servant?”

  1. […] the Jews are blinded as to find their Messiah (Psalms 52:13 Targum); the ‘Christians’ could know God; his law, his judgement and his true Sabbaths! To […]

  2. […] 10 But the goat on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the Lord, to make an atonement with him and to let him go as a scapegoat into the wilderness. — and the one “for Azazel” represents the Son of Man; he was sent into the wilderness where he would be pushed over a cliff and to die there; he represents the Suffering Servant of Man as in Isaiah 52:13 to 53:12. […]

  3. […] is Yeshua, or popularly known as Jesus, first Coming as a lamb, a son of man, presenting Himself as the Suffering Servant, Isaiah 52:13 to 53:12; the second Coming as a King of kings, a Son of God. But for milleniums, in the Jewish mind, the […]

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