Servant Songs of Isaiah
Adam Thropay, California [SEE PROFILE BELOW]
Continuing our study in Isaiah chapter 53, in verses 7-9 Israel confesses the mock trial and death of the Servant.
He was oppressed: (nigas) could mean either or both of the following:
- To be hard pressed; driven, hunted, plagued or urged. He was hunted and persecuted by man.
- To be exacted from, demanded or required by authority. Sin’s punishment was exacted from Him. He had to experience the full consequence of sin.
and he was afflicted (onoh) could mean either or both of these:
- To bow down; to humble oneself; suffer voluntarily – When hunted down by men to Gethsemane, the Lord volunteered Himself to them for arrest, Matt. 26. 47-49.
- To become answerable – The consequences of sin had to be faced as each point was exacted by the Father. It was Christ His Son, the sinless One, who became answerable for our sins.
yet he opened not his mouth: This caused Pilate, who presided as judge at that time, to marvel. Every other prisoner would plead his innocence, but the Son of Man answered to none of their charges, Matt. 27. 12-14.
he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter: The lamb accompanies his guide to the slaughter house willingly and silently. The cow weeps at the slaughter house, and the pig squeals.
and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so (in the same way) he openeth not his mouth. When they plucked the hair out of His cheek He was silent like a sheep when sheared. He gave His back to the smiters. He did not hide His face from shame and spitting.1
He was taken: (luggach) snatched, hurried away.
from prison and from judgment: (mishpat) the administration of justice. Usually, an accused person will be imprisoned while the defence attorney studies the case. They bypassed this part of the process. He was hurried through the legal proceedings before the High Priest and Pilate. He had no defence lawyer/attorney.
Who shall declare his generation? There are various possible interpretations of this question:
(a) Adam’s generations have been declared in Genesis chapter 5, but who shall declare His? Where is His offspring that shall carry on His line, and His title to the throne of David? His claim dies with Him. His disciples were shattered, for they trusted that He would deliver Israel, Luke 24. 21.
(b) ‘Who could have imagined such a generation?’2 Who can discern the true significance of those sufferings and that life that was so soon cut off?
(c) ‘Who by meditation discerns the true?’ ‘And of His generation, who doth meditate that he hath been cut off from the land of the living?’3
(d) ‘as for his generation who considered’.4 ‘Who of his generation considered’ NIV margin.
(e) ‘But his generation – who could tell’.5
(f) ‘Who shall declare His manner of life?’ This question was answered by the robber who died with Him, when he said, ‘This man hath done nothing amiss’, Luke 23. 41.
for he was cut off: (gazar) torn away, snatched out of the land of the living: His life came to an abrupt end, Ps. 102. 23-28,
for (because of) the transgression of my people was He stricken: as verse 4 – stroke, blow, calamities from God.
J. N. Darby provides a helpful translation: And [men] appointed his grave with the wicked, but he was with the rich in his death, because he had done no violence, neither was there guile in his mouth. This rendering shows one way that God used His determinate (‘to set limits’) counsel to affect the proceedings of His Servant’s arrest and punishment, Acts 2. 23. The Jewish leaders would have been glad to see Him thrown by the authorities into a common burying pit, with a heap of criminals’ corpses. Instead, the Servant was given a dignified burial in a rich man’s new tomb, Mark 15. 43-59.
The word ‘death’ here is actually plural – deaths. ‘It is applied to a violent death, the very pain of which makes it like dying again and again’ Keil and Delitzsch.
He hath done no violence refers to acting violently to oppress or damage someone in thought, word, or deed. Neither was there any deceit in his mouth – He spoke no fraud nor deception. This phrase is quoted in 1 Peter chapter 2 verse 22.
In the last section of this song, verses 10 to 12, Israel confesses that it was really the suffering Servant, not Israel, who was the bearer of other men’s sins.
Yet: That is, in spite of His perfection in thought, word, and deed,
it pleased: (chaphets) denotes ‘To will or purpose that in which a person has a great pleasure or delight when accomplished’.
the Lord: YHVH, Jehovah
to bruise (dachah, as verse 5) Him. The unthinkable ordeal of incessant piercing and crushing was necessary in order for God to fulfil the plan in which He found great delight – to provide forgiveness for His sinful creatures.
He hath put Him to grief: (chalah) to be weak, pained, become sick; Jehovah, looking at the anticipated results of this sacrifice, willingly caused His beloved Son undeserved pain and grief on the cross.
When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin: (asham) the technical word used for the trespass offering – one depiction of the Saviour in His character and work, Lev. 5. 5, 6.
He shall see his seed: (zera) physical descendants, offspring, posterity. The One who died young without any children to carry on His name shall enjoy more offspring than anyone. This phrase answers the question, ‘Who shall declare His generation? For He was cut off out of the land of the living’.
The modern Jewish interpretation about this song is fraught with difficulties, one of which is this verse. If the Servant is Israel as a nation, who is the seed that is referred to? The seed cannot be the Servant himself.
Viewing the Servant Messiah as God manifest in flesh, the ‘seed’ refers to the literal physical and literal spiritual seed of Abraham. Jeremiah chapter 31 verse 27, ‘Behold days are coming, says Jehovah, when I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of man and the seed of beast, and it shall come to pass that . . . I will watch over them to build and to plant, says Jehovah’. In other words, the Servant will see the seed of Israel flourish in the Land. The seed is sown by Jehovah, and thus it is His seed, not by physical procreation, but by His creative agency in man, as He did with Abraham and Sarah.
Again, the Messiah Servant is representative of Israel. It is due to His atoning suffering and death that all Israel will one day be restored to the land, and that people from all nations can become Abraham’s spiritual seed.
He shall prolong: (awrak) to continue, lengthen
His days: The One who was cut off will live forever, Ps. 102. 23-28.
If, as modern Jews claim, the Servant is Israel as a whole, Israel’s prolonged life would commence at her national resurrection from death, not before. As of now she is dead before God, Ezek. 37. 11.
The Lord Jesus has already passed through death and resurrection as the representative of Israel. When, as a nation, Israel turns to their Messiah, He will lead them on to national resurrection as taught in Ezekiel chapter 37. By its context, Ezekiel chapter 37 is one of Ezekiel’s Messianic visions.
and the pleasure: (khayfets) That which is precious as an object of delight and thus a person’s desire
of the Lord: God’s pleasure is the salvation of mankind through the Servant, His Messiah. See 42. 1-8
shall prosper: (tsalach) primarily, ‘to advance incessantly, pressing on to the final goal; to accomplish successfully’.6 ‘To advance, prosper, to make successful’7 in His hand.
He shall see of: or, as a consequence of the travail: (amal) labour, toil; a wearing effort; trouble, vexation, sorrow
of his soul: Christ suffered not only bodily, but in the innermost recesses of His soul
and shall be satisfied: (sava) fill to satisfaction, fill to contentment, a satisfying abundance. The word is used of contented persons with plenty to eat. This first phrase of the verse may also be rendered, ‘As a consequence of the trouble of His soul, He will enjoy a satisfying or pleasing sight’.
by his knowledge: (yadah) to know with perception, understanding, affection, and wisdom. It is a knowledge gained from experience.
shall my righteous servant justify: (yatsdiyq) to make to be accounted righteous, to vindicate, to turn to righteousness many.
This sentence may have various meanings:
(a) His knowledge (or wisdom) will result in the justification of many. The wisdom of Christ is the preaching of the gospel which is foolishness to the world, 1 Cor. 1. 18.
(b) Knowledge of Him shall justify many.
(c) By His knowledge shall my righteous Servant instruct many (i.e., in practical righteousness).
The death of the Lord Jesus and His resurrection provide the means by which a person may be justified. However, it is by His knowledge that a person receives this justification. The Lord Jesus knows the thoughts and heart of each individual, seeing his genuine faith, and He justifies him based on this knowledge. See Matt. 9. 2 and Luke 7. 47-50.
His knowledge of our hearts at the present time gives Him the authority to justify all those who repent of their sins, turning to God in truth.
for He shall bear: (sahval) as verse 4 – to carry or bear a heavy load with pain and suffering. Compare Gen. 49. 15 and 2 Chr. 2. 2.
their iniquities: as verse 5 – to turn aside or go the wrong way.
- Isa. 50. 6; Matt. 27. 26-31.
- Artscroll Tanach translation
- Robert Young’s Literal Translation
- John Joseph Owens, Analytical Key to the Old Testament; Isaiah, Alec Motyer.
- Isaac Leeser translation, The Holy Scriptures.
- Keil and Delitzsch.
- Brown, Driver, Briggs, Hebrew and English Lexicon, pg. 852
AUTHOR PROFILE: Fellowships with an assembly meeting in his office building where many mebers were reached with the gospel as patients in his busy chiropractic practice. An overseer and diligent Bible scholar, Adam is known for his expository teaching and writings.