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Will the Real Servant of Adonai Please Stand Up - Isaiah 53

An understanding of the Hebrew text to refute missionary attempts to misuse Isaiah Chapter 53 in an inappropriate manner to support the false claim that Jesus is the Mashiach (Messiah)

Any good student of Biblical interpretation versed in the original language of the Tanakh understands that in order to come to the intended meaning of a particular author of Holy Writ, verses, sections or passages can only be properly understood when they are viewed in the context of Adonai’s revelation as a whole and within the framework of the verses that come before and after any particular verse. With that firmly in mind, therefore, to better understand Isaiah Chapter 53 we must look at the setting in which it is situated.

In the chapters preceding Chapter 52 Israel's exile is being predicted and explained by HaShem through the prophet Isaiah. By the time we reach chapters 52 through 54 we find ourselves in the fourth and last of what has been hermeneutically titled “the servant songs of Isaiah" in which HaShem is delivering a message of loving consolation to His beloved people telling them of their future restoration.

He indicates that among the nations, Israel His servant, will be raised by HaShem to a place of prominence. Adonai will at last vindicate Israel because of the nations that oppressed him and forced him into exile. Chapter 54 onward continues with the future awaiting the Jewish people.

Those who study the Jewish Scriptures should know that there were no chapter and verse divisions in the Hebrew Bible (Scrolls). What is now termed Chapter 53 is really a continuation of a conversation begun in what has come to be known as Chapter 52 verse 13.

"Behold my servant shall prosper, he shall be exalted and extolled and be very high, just as many were astonished at you, saying, 'Surely his visage is too marred to be that of a man and his form to be that of the son's of men,' so shall he startle many nations. Kings will shut their mouths; for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard they shall perceive.”

At this juncture we must ask several questions:

(1) Who is the servant?

(2) Who are the nations?

(3) Who are the kings?

(4) Who is speaking in verses 13 and 15?

(5) Who interjects in verse 14?

Israel in the singular-collective tense is always referred to by HaShem throughout Isaiah's writings preceding Chapter 53 as "the servant.” It is unsound and totally irrational to think HaShem would suddenly change His meaning of Israel (Jacob) in Chapter 53 to mean anyone else other than the same servant that was referred to in all the preceding Chapters.

"But you are my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the descendants of Avraham my friend. You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth and called from its farthest regions. And I said to you, 'you are my servant. I have chosen you and have not cast you away: Fear not, for I am with you, be not dismayed for I am your G-d. I will strengthen you, yes I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.’” Isaiah 41:8-10

"Yet now hear, O Jacob my servant; and Israel whom I have chosen: thus says Adonai that made you, and formed you from the womb, who will help you; Fear not, O Jacob, my servant; and you, Yeshurun, whom I have chosen.” Isaiah 44:1-2

For Jacob my servant's sake, and Israel my elect, I have even called you by your name.” Isaiah 45:4

".....Adonai has redeemed his servant Jacob.” Isaiah 48:20

"You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.” Isaiah 49:3

The nations are all the Gentile nations of the world and the kings are the governments and rulers of those nations.

The speaker in verses 13 and 15 is HaShem. The speaker(s) in verse 14 and in Chapter 53 verses 1 through 11 1/2 are the kings (leaders/rulers) of the Gentile nations. The prophet picks up the dialogue in the last half of Chapter 53 verse 11, and continues on into Chapter 54.

This is the contextual setting of the verses found in Isaiah Chapter 53.

Please note other references to Israel as Adonai’s servant who has been regarded by the nations as having been cast out and forsaken by HaShem. This notion is the Gentile nation's perception (as in Chapter 53 of Isaiah) not HaShem's reality, however, even in chastisement of Israel Adonai never abandons or casts out his servant Jacob — Israel.

"Therefore fear not, O my servant Jacob, says Adonai; neither be dismayed, O Israel: for, lo, I will save you from afar, and your seed from the land of their captivity; and Jacob shall return, and shall be quiet, and at ease, and none shall make him afraid. For I am with you, says Adonai, to save you: for I will make a full end of all the nations where I have scattered you, yet will I not make a full end of you: but I will correct you in due measure, and will not leave you altogether unpunished. For thus says Adonai, your bruise is incurable, and your wound is grievous. There is none to take up your case, to bind up the wound; you have no healing medicines. All your lovers have forgotten you; they do not seek you out; for I have wounded you with the wound of an enemy, with the chastisement of a cruel one, for the multitude of your iniquity; your sins were increased. I have done these things to you. Therefore all they that devour you shall be devoured; and all your adversaries, every one of them, shall go into captivity; and they that spoil you shall be a spoil, and all that plunder you will I give for a prey. For I will restore health to you, and I will heal you of your wounds, says Adonai; because they called you an outcast, saying, 'This is Zion, for whom no one cares.’ Thus says Adonai; Behold, I will bring back the captivity of Jacob's tents, and have mercy on his dwelling places; and the city shall be built upon her own tel, and the palace shall stand on its proper place. And out of them shall proceed thanksgiving and the voice of them that make merry: and I will multiply them, and they shall not be diminished; I will also glorify them, and they shall not be small. Their children also shall be as before, and their congregation shall be established before me, and I will punish all that oppress them. And their prince shall be of themselves, and their governor shall proceed from the midst of them; and I will cause him to draw near, and he shall approach me; for who is that that engaged his heart to approach me? says Adonai! And you shall be my people, and I will be your G-d.” Jeremiah 30:10-21

In Isaiah Chapter 53 it is abundantly clear that the nations and their rulers are startled and speechless over what happens to Jacob (Israel), the servant of Adonai. They are so amazed that they exclaim, "Who could possibly believe our report?” (53:1) This astonishment and shame experienced by the nations as they watch HaShem restore Israel, His servant, to prominence is paralleled in the other prophets as well. For example in Micah 7:12-20 we read:

”This is rather a day when to you [Tramplers] will come streaming from Assyria and the towns of Egypt — from [every land from] Egypt to the Euphrates, from sea to sea and from mountain to mountain — and your land shall become a desolation — because of those who dwell in it — as the fruit of their misdeeds. Oh, shepherd Your people with Your staff, Your very own flock. May they who dwell isolated in a woodland surrounded by farmland graze Bashan and Gilead as in olden days. I will show him wondrous deeds as in the days when you sallied forth from the land of Egypt. Let nations behold and be ashamed despite all their might; let them put hand to mouth; let their ears be deafened! Let them lick dust like snakes, like crawling things on the ground! Let them come trembling out of their strongholds to Adonai our G-d; Let them fear and dread You! Who is a G-d like You, forgiving iniquity and remitting transgression; who has not maintained His wrath forever against the remnant of His own people, because He loves graciousness! He will take us back in love; He will cover up our iniquities, You will hurl all our sins into the depths of the sea. You will keep faith with Jacob, loyalty to Avraham, as You promised on oath to our fathers in days gone by.”

Isaiah Chapter 53:1 speaks of "the arm of the L-RD.” This always refers to Israel's physical redemption from the oppression of the nations (SEE: Isaiah 58:7-12):

"...the great trials which your eyes saw, and the signs, and the wonders, and the mighty hand, and the stretched out arm, whereby Adonai your G-d brought you out;” Deuteronomy 7:19

" you did drive out nations with your hand, and did plant them; how you battered the peoples, and cast them out. For they did not get the land in possession by their own sword, nor did their own arm save them: but Your right hand, and Your arm, and the light of Your countenance, because You have favorably accepted them." Psalms 44:3-4

Israel, as Adonai’s servant and chosen people, have a long history of being despised and rejected of men:

“You make us the butt of our neighbors, the scorn and derision of those around us. You make us a byword among the nations, a laughing stock among the peoples.” (Psalms 44:14-15)

"Whereas you were forsaken and hated, so that no man went through you, I will make you an eternal excellency, a joy of many generations.” Isaiah 60:15

And the pains of adversity endured by Israel, Adonai’s servant (some self inflicted but many by the nations) is frequently compared by HaShem to diseases, sickness and illness. ( SEE: Isaiah 1:5-7; 53:3; Jeremiah 10:17-20)

Remembering to keep in mind that the speakers in Chapter 53 of Isaiah are the ruling kings of the Gentile nations the strict translation from the Hebrew text should read, "For he was wounded because of our transgressions and bruised because of our iniquities." The Hebrew word for because may also be rendered as, "He was wounded from our transgressions, he was crushed from our iniquities." The word "for" in place of "because" or "from" is a later Christianized editing of the Hebrew text in order to best make it fit the Pauline narrative.

There are instances where Israel, the servant of Adonai, is likened to sheep readied to be slaughtered:

"You make us to turn back from the enemy: and they who hate us take plunder for themselves"......for he knows the secret of the heart. But for your sake we are killed all the day long; we are reckoned as sheep for the slaughter.” Psalms 44:11, 22

In Chapter 53 verse 8 of Isaiah we see another example of Christian editing and why it is so important to know the Hebrew text and language. The Christianized version reads, "He was taken from prison and judgment and who will declare his generation.” And, by the way, most Christian translations presume, so they capitalize the His. In Hebrew there is no such rendering or use of caps and punctuation, etc. It is only done sparingly now in our Jewish Bible translations to render a proper understanding of the Divine communicating and not a mere mortal. The correct and original Hebrew text states: “By oppressive judgment he was taken away, and of his generation, who considered?"

Of utmost importance in verses 8 and 9 is the prophets use of the word l'amoh. This word is a beacon of light as it attests to the fact that the servant spoken of is not an individual "single he", but the "collective them", referring to the single-collective servant, Israel. Another example of this Hebrew term can be found in Psalms 99:7. This changes the meaning significantly from the forced intended meaning of the Christian editors


In verse 10, which states; "He shall see his seed....": the Hebrew word here for seed is zerah which refers to the physical descendants and offspring created through the natural act of sexual intercourse. It has no spiritual connotation anywhere throughout the Jewish Scriptures.

The rest of verse 10 is self-explanatory. HaShem created His servant, Israel, over 4000 years ago beginning with Avraham avinu and He continues to be with His servant; inspite of the world's hatred of Israel, their attempts to destroy him or assimilate him. HaShem has and will continue to prolong his days as He promised.

In Chapter 53:11, once you get passed the Christian editors and to the Hebrew text, we find that, "With his knowledge the righteous one, My servant, will cause many to be just.”

NOTE: He will not "justify the many", as the Christian editors proclaim. How does this verse relate to Israel? Adonai's appointed mission for His people has always been to serve as a "light to the nations." Even when we fail by disobedience or as the result of the Gentile nation's refusal to heed, this is, nevertheless, still HaShem’s ordained mission for His people. Our Sages of blessed memory called it "tikkun olam", “healing or repairing the world."

Isaiah Chapter 53:12 is also self-explanatory in light of Israel being Adonai’s servant. The Jewish people, as the collective Israel and servant of the Almighty, and by the very nature of His call on our lives are righteously carrying upon ourselves the sin's of the nations. And the collective faithful Israel shall be rewarded with prosperity, strength and a portion of the spoils. Why? Because, as a people we continue to pour out our soul to death and are numbered with the transgressors.

This is the Jewish view of Isaiah Chapter 53. It stands on the firm foundation stones of sound doctrine, knowledge of Biblical Hebrew, contextual evidence, Scriptural reference correlation, and thorough exegesis.

The Jewish Bible in its Hebrew text stands on its own accord. The mistake the Christian editors made was to only edit their translations while leaving the Hebrew texts unadulterated. Thankfully, for our sakes, HaShem would not permit His Word to be altered from its original language and state; giving us a sure foothold on the foundation of His eternal truth.

Baruch HaShem

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