BY DAVID BARON 1855-1926


Baron, David (1855-1926) David Baron and his Hungarian friend C.A.Schonberger found the Hebrew Christian Testimony to Israel in London in 1893. Born from a Russian family in Poland, David studied the Talmud and was told that Jesus was a liar and charlatan, but after emigrating to England he read the New Testament for himself, became a missionary to his own people and also to British church leaders, whom he often finds to be ignorant of the Old Testament and thus presenting a shallow gospel. He edited the Scattered Nation, wrote The Visions and Prophecies of Zecharia, The Shepherd of Israel, The Servant of Jehovah, Anglo-Israelism Examined, and The History of Israel. When the Zionist Congress began in a rented casino in Basle, Switzerland, David attended. Timing his continental tours to include the annual conference in his itinerary each year, as a reporter David obtained a permit to sit in with the delegates. He personally knew Theodor Herzl, the visionary and chairman of the congress. At one conference, a delegate stood and began to vent his spleen on Christian Jewish missionaries. Herzl's response was to quietly leave the rostrum and come down and seat himself by the side of Mr. Baron and a few of his fellow missionaries. In 1911, he used the term 'Messianic movement' to describe a belief among Hebrew Christians that: "It is incumbent on Hebrew Christians, in order to keep up their "national continuity," not only to identify themselves with their unbelieving Jewish brethren, in their national aspirations-as expressed, for instance, in Zionism and other movements which aim at creating and fostering "the national idea" and regaining possession of Palestine-but to observe the "national" rites and customs of the Jews, such as the keeping of the Sabbath, circumcision, and other observances, some of which have not even their origin in the law of Moses, but are part of that unbearable yoke which was laid on the neck of our people by the Rabbis." He disagreed with this "rather grand-sounding designation [which] does not describe any movement of Jews in the direction of recognizing our Lord Jesus Christ as the Messiah, but an agitation on the part of some Hebrew Christian brethren, who have evidently yet much to learn as to the true character of their high calling of God in Christ Jesus, supported by a few no doubt well-meaning excellent Gentile Christian friends, who…do not understand the real tendency of this 'movement'." Messianic congregations have multiplied throughout the earth, and his negative judgment may have been too hasty, but his warnings have merit in view of some heretic fringes of the Messianic movement which at times de-emphasize Yeshua's central role and Divine sonship.



There is truth in the observation of a scholarly writer that this great prophecy was "an enigma which could not be fully understood in the days before Christ, but which has been solved by the sufferings, death, resurrection, and exaltation of Him who was both Son of Man and Son of God.”

It is therefore not surprising to find that in the Talmud and Rabbinic Midrashim there is much confusion and contradiction in the various interpretations advanced by the Rabbis. But though it may be true, as Professor Dalman observes, that the Messianic interpretation was not the general one, or the one officially recognized in Israel (any more than any of the other interpretations can be said to have been either generally or officially recognized, yet from most ancient times there have not been wanting authoritative teachers who interpreted the chapter of the Messiah--in spite of the fact that the picture of the Redeemer which is here drawn is utterly opposed to the disposition and to the hopes and expectations in reference to the Messiah which have developed in Rabbinic Judaism.

In proof of this, the following few brief items form ancient Jewish interpretations will be of interest:


First, let me quote Jonathan ben Uziel (early first century A.D.), who begins his Targum with, “Behold, my servant Messiah shall prosper; He shall be high and increase, and be exceeding strong.” And then, to reconcile the interpretation of this scripture of the Messiah with his reluctance to recognize that the promised Deliverer must suffer and die for the sins of the nation, he proceeds to juggle with the scripture in a most extraordinary manner, making all the references of exaltation and glory in the chapter to apply to the Messiah, but the references to the tribulation and sufferings to Israel. In illustration of the method by which this is accomplished I need only quote his paraphrase of the very next verse (52:14), which reads, “And the House of Israel looked to Him during many days, because their countenance was darkened among the peoples, and their complexion beyond the sons of men.” [It should also be noted that the targums of Ben Uziel and others are thought to have been extensively re-written much later by the Babylonian schools--ed.]


In the Talmud of Babylon (Sanhedrin 98b), among other opinions, we find the following: “The Messiah--what is his name?. . . The Rabbis say, The Leprous One; (those) of the house of Rabbi (say), The Sick One, as it is said, ‘Surely he has borne our sicknesses’.” The expression, ‘The Leprous One, is based on a mis-interpretation of the word ‘nagua ’, נָגוּעַ verse 8 נֶגַע

H5062 נגף na?gaph naw-gaf'

A primitive root ; to push , gore , defeat , stub (the toe), inflict (a disease): - beat, dash, hurt, plague, slay, smite (down), strike, stumble, X surely, put to the worse.

Total KJV Occurrences: 47

smitten, 15

Deu_1:42 (2), Deu_28:7, Deu_28:25, Jdg_20:32, Jdg_20:36, Jdg_20:39, 1Sa_4:2-3 (2), 1Sa_7:10 (2), 2Sa_10:15, 2Sa_10:19, 1Ki_8:33, 2Ch_20:22

smite, 9

Exo_8:2, Exo_12:23 (2), 1Sa_26:10, 2Ch_21:14, Isa_19:22 (2), Zec_14:12, Zec_14:18

smote, 6

Exo_12:27, Jdg_20:35, 1Sa_25:38, 2Ch_13:15, 2Ch_14:12, 2Ch_21:18

worse, 5

2Ki_14:12, 1Ch_19:16, 1Ch_19:19, 2Ch_6:24, 2Ch_25:22

hurt, 2

Exo_21:22 (2), Exo_21:35

plagued, 2

Exo_32:35 (2), Jos_24:5

slain, 2

Lev_26:17, 2Sa_18:7

struck, 2

2Sa_12:15, 2Ch_13:20

stumble, 2

Pro_3:23, Jer_13:16

beaten, 1


dash, 1


H5061 נגע nega? neh'-gah

From H5060; a blow (figuratively infliction ); also (by implication) a spot (concretely a leprous person or dress): - plague, sore, stricken, stripe, stroke, wound.

Total KJV Occurrences: 78

plague, 64

Lev_13:1-6 (11), Lev_13:9, Lev_13:12-13 (2), Lev_13:17 (2), Lev_13:20 , Lev_13:22 , Lev_13:25 , Lev_13:27 , Lev_13:29-32 (5), Lev_13:44-47 (4), Lev_13:49-59 (17), Lev_14:3 , Lev_14:32 , Lev_14:34-37 (5), Lev_14:39-40 (2), Lev_14:43-44 (2), Lev_14:48 (2), Lev_14:54 , Deu_24:8 , 1Ki_8:37-38 (2), Psa_91:10

sore, 5

Lev_13:42-43 (2), 2Ch_6:28-29 (2), Psa_38:11

stroke, 4

Deu_17:8 (2), Deu_21:5, Psa_39:10

stripes, 2

2Sa_7:14, Psa_89:32

plagues, 1


stricken, 1


wound, 1




that is, ‘stricken’, or ‘plagued’, as meaning ‘leprous’.


(The other names of the Messiah mentioned in the passage are:

Shiloh, with reference to Gen. 49:10, “until Shiloh come”; “Yinnon”, with reference to Psalm 72:17, “His name shall endure forever; before the sun [was created] his name was Yinnon”; Haninah, in reference to Jer. 16:13, “where no Haninah (favor) will be given to you”; Menahem, in reference to Lam. 1:16, “the comforter (Menahem) that should restore my soul is far from me.” )

That the generally received older Jewish interpretation of this prophecy was the Messianic is admitted by Abrabanel, who himself proceeds in a long polemic against the Nazarenes to interpret it of the Jewish nation. He begins, “The first question is to ascertain to whom (this scripture) refers, for the learned men among the Nazarenes expound it of the man who was crucified in Jerusalem at the end of the Second Temple, and who according to them was the Son of God and took flesh in the virgin’s womb, as is stated in their writings. Jonathan ben Uziel interprets it in the Targum of the future Messiah; and this is also the opinion of our learned men in the majority of their Midrashim.”

Similarly another, Rabbi Mosheh el Sheikh, commonly known as Alshech (latter half of the sixteenth century), who also himself follows the older interpretation, at any rate of the first three verses (52:13-15, which, however, as we shall see, contain a summary of the whole prophecy), testifies that our Rabbis with one voice accept and affirm the opinioin that the prophet is speaking of the King Messiah.

In fact, until Rashi (Rabbi Solomon Yizchaki, 1040-1105) applied it to the Jewish nation, the Messianic interpretation of this chapter was almost universally adopted by Jews, and his view, which we shall examine presently, although recieved by Ibn Ezra, Kimchi, and others, was rejected as unsatisfactory by many others, one of whom (R. Mosheh Kohen Ibn Crispin, of Cordova, and afterwards Toledo, fourteenth century, who says rightly, of those who for controversial reasons applied this prophecy to Israel, that “the doors of literal interpretation of this chapter were shut in their face, and that they wearied themselves to find the entrance, having forsaken the knowledge of our teachers, and inclined after the stubborness of their own hearts and of their own opinions. According to Ibn Crispin, the interpretation adopted by Rashi “distorts the passage from its natural meaning, and that in truth “it was given of God as a description of the Messiah, whereby, when any should claim to be the Messiah, to judge by the resemblance or non-resemblance to it whether he were the Messiah or not.

Another (R. Eliyya de Vidas, c. 1575), says “The meaning of ‘He was wounded for our transgressions. . . bruised for our iniquities’, is that since the Messiah bears our iniquities, which produce the effect of him being bruised, it follows that whoever will not admit that the Messiah thus suffers for our iniquities must endure and suffer them for himself.”

Before proceeding to an examination of the modern Jewish iterpretation of this chapter, let me add two further striking testimonies to its more ancient Messianic interpretation--taken this time, not from any Targum, or Midrash, or Rabbinical Commentary, which might be said to express the individual opinion of this or that Rabbi, but from the Jewish liturgy, which may be said to bear upon it the seal of the authority and usage of the whole synagogue.

The first is taken from the liturgy for the Day of Atonement--the most solmen day of the Jewish year--and reads as follows: “We are shrunk up in our misery even until now! Our Rock has not come nigh to us; Messiah our righteousness (or, “our righteous Messiah’) has departed from us. Horror has seized upon us, and we have none to justify us. He has borne the yoke of our iniquities and transgressions, and is wounded because of our transgression. He bears our sins on his shoulder, that he may find pardon for our iniquities. We shall be healed by his wound at the time the Eternal will create him (Messiah) as a new creature. O bring him up from the circle of the earth, raise him up from Seir to assemble us the second time on Mount Lebanon, by the hand of Yinnon.” (This forms part of the Musaph service for the Day of Atonement. The author, according to Zunz, was Eleazer ben Kalir, who lived in the ninth century. Yinnon, as will be seen, was one of the names given by the Rabbis to the Messiah, and is derived from Psalm 72:17, which the Talmud renders, “Before the sun was, his name. . .” a rendering and expression which implies a belief in the pre-existence of at least the name of the Messiah, and perhaps of the Messiah himself.)

The other passage is also from the Machsor (Liturgy for the Festival Services), and will be found among the prayers on the Feast of Passover. It is as follows: “Flee, my beloved, until the end of the vision shall speak; hasten, and the shadows shall take their flight hence; high and exalted and lofty shall be the despised one; he shall be prudent in judgement, and shall sprinkle many! Lay bare thine arm! Cry out and say, ‘The voice of my beloved; behold he cometh!’” (David Levy, the English translator of the Machsor, says in a note that this verse referred to “the true Messiah”.)




ON examining the different non-Messianic interpretations of this great prophecy, given by Jewish and unbelieving Christian rabbis, it is an important fact to be borne in mind, as Pusey points out, that next to nothing turns upon the renderings of the Hebrew. It is not then a question of knowledge of Hebrew grammar, or Philology; and ordinary intelligent English readers, with the Authorized or Revised version in their hands, are well able to judge of the merits of the different interpretations which are advanced.

It is not necessary for us to examine those Jewish interpretations which apply this chapter to Jeremiah, Isaiah himself, Hezekiah, Josiah, or Job, etc., for they have been sufficiently refuted by Jewish writers themselves, but I may quote Hegstenberg’s observation in reference to those Christian writers who have followed in the same lines:


“Among the interpretations which refer the prophecy to a single individual other than the Messiah,” he says, “scarcely any one has found another defender than its own author. They are of importance only in so far as they show that the prophecy does most decidedly make the impression that its subject is a real person, not a personification; and further, that it could not by any means be an exegetical interest [i.e., a desire to find out what the text really says--ed] which induced rationalism to reject the interpretation which referred it to Christ.”


The most generally accepted Jewish modern Jewish interpretation of this prophecy is that which makes it apply to the Jewish nation.

The first mention we have of this explanation is by Origen (c. 200 A.D.) who, in his work against Celsus, says, “I remember once having used these prophecies in discussion with those called wise among the Jews, whereon the Jews said that these things were prophesied of the whole people, as one which was both dispersed abroad and smitten.” But this may then have been the opinion of that particular Rabbi, or the counter-explanation may have been advanced by him (as has been done by later Rabbis and Jewish commentators) as a device “in order to answer heretics”, who were pressing them with the remarkable resemblance between the prophecy and its fulfillment in Jesus of Nazareth. [In addition, the emphasis of the Rabbi in this discussion was on the dispersion of his people, not on their suffering . At that time, the Christians who were being persecuted, and if the Rabbi’s stress had been on the suffering of the figure in Isaiah 53, then the Christians could have retorted that it was they, then, who were the fulfillment of the prophecy.--ed]

The first of the authoritative Jewish commentators who applied this chapter to the Jewish nation was Rashi, and since his time it has become more and more the “generally received” interpretation among the Jews. And that unbelieving Israel should have departed from the ancient interpretation which applied this prophecy to the Messiah is really not to be wondered at, for first the idea of a suffering expiatory Messiah became more and more repugnant to Rabbinic Judaism, which lost the knowledge of sin and the consciousness of the need of salvation, such as alone could have made the doctrine of a vicariously suffering Redeemer acceptable. “Not knowing the holiness of God, and being ignorant of the true import of the Law,” as Hegstenberg observes, “they imagine that in their own strength they can be justified before God. What they longed for was only an outward deliverance from their misery and oppressors, not an inward deliverance from sin. For this reason the synagogue occupied itself exclusively with those scripture which announce a Messiah in glory, which passages also it misinterpreted.”

Secondly, lacking or rejecting the key to the true understanding of this prophecy, namely, its fulfillment in the Nazarene, Jewish commentators encountered great difficulties and inexplicabilities in their attempts to expound it. This picture of a Messiah, which represented him as passing through the deepest humiliation and suffering, and pouring out his soul unto death, appeared to them irreconcilable with those prophecies which speak of the Messiah as coming in power and glory.

And thirdly, this explanation was “too flattering to the national feeling not to be extensively adopted”, as Pusey observes, but it really has something plausible from their point of view as its basis. Is not Israel called “The Servant of the Lord” in this very book of Isaiah? And has not Israel among the nations suffered humiliations, and wrongs, and tortures, and massacres, such as have been the lot or experience of no other people? As Lukyn Williams says in his “Christian Evidences for Jewish People”, “Every true Christian reader feels humbled as he reads this portion of scripture, because he sees in it a description of his Savior, and the cost of his redemption; almost every Jew is like to feel lifted up, because he sees in it a description of the value of Israel to the nations of the world, and of his own sufferings as a means of peace and prosperity to the gentiles. There is thus a fundamental difference in the two interpretations of the chapter, answering to the fundamental difference that there is between Judaism and Christianity--the one a religion which magnifies the human efforts, the other one which makes humiliation of soul necessary to true exaltation.”

It is an interesting fact that the explanation of this chapter, which made the Jewish nation to be the innocent sufferer for the guilt of the other nations, originated in what has been described as “the iron age of Judaism”. Its author, Rashi, at an earlier period of his life--when he wrote his Commentary on the Talmud--actually followed the older interpretation, which applied Isaiah 53 to the Messiah, but he very probably wrote his Commentary on the bible (in which the new interpretation is first introduced) after the second Crusade, when the hideous massacres of Jews in Spire, Worms, Mainz, Cologne by the wild profligate swarm which gathered, after the first Crusaders were gone, might well have occasioned it.




I shall now proceed to show the untenableness of this modern interpretation; but before doing so it is necessary to point out that, like most of the false teaching of the present day, it contains a germ of truth which lends plausibility to the error.

The germ of truth contained in this explanation is that, as has already been observed, the term “Servant of the Lord” is indeed applied to Israel in the book of Isaiah. Thus, we read, “But you, Israel, are My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham, My friend.” (Isaiah 41:8) Again, “You are My witnesses, says the LORD, and My servant whom I have chosen; that you may know and believe Me, and understand that I am He.” (Isaiah 43:10). “Yet now hear, O Jacob My servant, and Israel whom I have chosen,” etc. (Isaiah 44:1)

This is Israel’s high calling, but alas! in this, as in the other great relationships to God, to which he was called, namely that of a son to his father, and of a wife to her husband, Israel has failed and proved himself unfaithful.

Israel’s failure to apprehend that for which he was apprehended to God, and his unfaithfulness as the Lord’s Servant, is forcibly depicted in many passages in these very chapters of Isaiah. “Hear you deaf,” God complains in the 42nd chapter, “and look, you blind, that you may see. Who is blind, but My servant? Or deaf, as My messenger that I send? Who is blind as he that was called to be perfect (or, “as he that is at peace”), and blind as the LORD’s servant? Seeing many things, but they observe not; his ears are open, but he hears not.” (Isaiah 42:18-20).

But Israel’s sins and disobedience cannot frustrate the purpose of God. The ideal to which the nation could not rise is gloriously realized in him who is both the Head and Heart of Israel. In the words of Von Orelli, “The idea, Servant of the LORD, which was united from the first in God’s purpose with the people of Israel, outgrew this national limit, even as the idea, “Son of God”, which was likewise at first attributed to the people, also became a separate Person and was definitely assigned to the Messiah--i.e., the Lord’s Anointed” (as, for instance, in Psalm 2). It is true that both these designations (“Servant” and “Son”) remain as much of the character indelebilis impressed by God’s grace on this nation, and in and through their Messiah, and in union with him, will yet become true of their actual condition and experience; hence, whenever this grace speaks, and restored and converted Israel in the future is prophetically contemplated, the nation still wears these names of honor, as, for instance, in the passages form chapters 41, 43, and 44, quoted above. “But the more the nation as a whole shows itself incapable of rising to the high calling implied in it, and the less the Lord is willing to renounce the realizing of this high idea, the more plainly the term ‘Servant of the LORD’ detaches itself from the national multitude and becomes a personally conceived ideal, which acquires such independence that the nation itself becomes the object of the Servant’s redeeming work.” (In chapter 49 especially we see this one individual who is out of the nation, and yet towering high above it, invested with the name and the mission to which the whole people was called in the first instance:


Listen, O isle, to me: and hearken, you peoples, from far; the LORD has called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother has he made mention of my name.

And he has made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand has he hid me, and he has made me a polished shaft; in his quiver has he kept me close.

And he said to me, You are My servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.

But I said, I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing, and for vanity; yet surely my judgment is with the LORD, and my recompense with my God.

And now, says the LORD that formed me form the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob again to him, and that Israel be gathered to him (for I am honorable in the eyes of the LORD, and my God is become my strength)

Yes, he said, It is too light a thing that you should be My servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel; I will give you for a light to the gentiles, and that you may be My salvation to the ends of the earth.”

(Isaiah 49:1-6)


That it is not of the nation of Israel that this prophecy speaks is clear, and manifest to every unbiased mind, since the one who is here thus dramatically introduced as proclaiming his own call and enduement for his office, and whom the LORD addresses, is the one who is sent as the Redeemer of Israel, namely, “to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved of Israel,” i.e., not only to their land, but to their God.

Here God says to him, “You are My servant, O Israel”, (or, “You are Israel”). He is invested with the name of Israel because he, “as Israel’s inmost center, as Israel’s highest head,” realizes the idea and carries out the mission to which the nation had originally been called, to the task of carrying out God’s saving purpose in relation to the world.

Here, too, as in chapter 43:1-0, where the ideal personal Servant of the LORD is contrasted with the nation whose failure and unfaithfulness is depicted in verses 18-25 of the same chapter, his mission extends, not only to Israel, whom he is to raise up and restore, and to whom he is to be, not only the mediator, but the very embodiment of the “covenant” which shall be everlastingly established between them and their God, but he is to be the light also of the gentiles, and God’s salvation to the very ends of the earth.

And as in the chapters 42 and 49, so also in Isaiah 53 itself, “where the figure of the Servant of the LORD unfolds its entire fullness of meaning”. He is clearly and definitely distinguished from the nation. Thus, for instance, we read in the 8th verse, “For the transgressions of my people was he stricken.” The speaker is either the Lord, or the prophet, but in either case “my people” can apply only to Israel, and if the servant is stricken for Israel he cannot be Israel. But, apart from the fact that in chapters 42:1-9, 49:1-7, 50:4-11, 53 (which begins with 52:13), and 61, this ideal servant stands out clearly distinguished from the nation, there are other conclusive reasons by the 53rd chapter in particular cannot apply to Israel, for (1), the subject of the chapter is an absolutely innocent sufferer who suffers for the guilt of others--one who has himself “done no violence, nor can deceit be found in his mouth”, but is “stricken”, “smitten”, and “afflicted of God” for others. (2), He is a voluntary sufferer--one who willingly “pours out his soul unto death” . (3) He is an unresisting sufferer--one who is “led as a lamb to the slaughter and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, he opens not his mouth.” (4) His suffering ends in death.

Now, none of these points is found in the Jewish nation. Israel has been suffering, and is suffering as no other nation has suffered. Truly, “under the whole heaven”, to use the words of Daniel, “has not been done as has been done upon Jerusalem”, and upon her people during the many centuries of their dispersion. I have elsewhere (in The Shepherd of Israel and His Scattered Flock) given a condensed summary of the terrible story of Israel’s sufferings since the destruction of the Second Temple, and of the guilt incurred by the nations by their cruel conduct towards them, but Israel is not an innocent sufferer. Israel’s sorrows are the consequences of his sins.

Modern rabbis, in spite of the definite statement in the chapter itself, that it was “for the transgression of my people” that the righteous servant was stricken, put verses 1-9 into the mouth of the gentile nations, and make them say, that “he (Israel) suffer the sickness and suffering which we gentiles deserved”; but this is only part of the self-deception which characterizes the modern teachers and leaders of the Synagogue, and which has led them to perversive views of their own scriptures and facts of history. It is in this same spirit of self-satisfaction which regards the dispersion among the nations as a blessing, and denies the necessity of atonement and of a mediator between God and man.

But whether we will heed it or not, the solemn fact remains that Israel’s dispersion among the nations, and their many sufferings during the long period of their wanderings from the presence of God, are the direct consequences of their apostasy and sin. “Who gave Jacob for a spoil, and Israel to the robbers? Did not the LORD? He against whom we have sinned, and in whose ways they would not walk, neither were they obedient unto His law. “ (Isaiah 43:23-25)

To evade the force of this truth, that the nation could not be the innocent sufferer set forth in the personal portraiture of the servant of the Lord, some writers have interpreted this prophecy of the godly remnant in the nation. But, though relatively the pious in the nation may be spoken of as righteous men when compared with the godless majority, they are not absolutely righteous and, far from being able to render a vicarious satisfaction for others, they cannot event stand themselves before God on the ground of their own righteousness.

It is indeed the godly remnant in the nation which is described in the second part of Isaiah as “a contrite and humble spirit”, who are themselves waiting for the salvation of God. It is they--the “righteous ones”--who confess for themselves and the entire nation that “we are all become as one that is unclean, and all our righteousnesses are as a polluted garment; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.”

It is perfectly true, therefore, that Isaiah speaks of the entire nation as needing enlightening, redeeming, and reconciling to God, and the godly remnant of it, far from being represented in these chapters as rendering satisfaction to others by their sufferings, appears on the contrary a fainting flock which the servant of the Lord is to release, and refresh, and for whose justification he is to suffer and die.

And as Israel is not an innocent sufferer, so neither does he suffer voluntarily. The Jews did not go voluntarily into captivity, as Hegnstenberg observes, but were dragged into it by force; and so through all the centuries they did not voluntarily suffer the many oppressions and wrongs which they had to endure, but were forced to submit to them by the gentile nations.

Still less can it be asserted that Israel was an unresisting sufferer. As long as Israel had the power, he did resist, bitterly and bloodily. The history of the Jewish captivity for the first seven centuries is a history of insurrections, fierce and violent, against the nations. How desperate was the resistance to the Roman power which brought on the destruction of the Temple by Titus. In A.D. 115, the Jews of Cyrene rebelled and slew 220,000 Libyans; in A.D. 132, Bar Kochba appeared in the guise of the Messiah at the head of an army; a bloody war was the consequence, and it was only by force that this insurrection was put down. In A.D. 415, the Jews of Alexandria revolted. In A.D. 522, the Jews of Persia revolted under the conduct of R. Mid, or Miz, at their head, and declared war against the king of Persia. In A.D. 535, the Jews in Caesarea rebelled. In A.D. 602, the Jews at Antioch. In A.D. 613, they joined the armies of Chrosoes, when he made himself master of Jerusalem, and put thousands to death. As is said in the prayers in the Service for the Festival of the Dedication, “When You shall have prepared a slaughter of the blaspheming foe, I will complete with song and psalm the dedication of Your altar ”; and “Lay bare Your holy arm. . . Take vengeance for the blood of Your servants from the wicked nation.”

And neither have the sufferings of the nation ended in death, as is the lot of the servant of the Lord in Isaiah 53. No; Israel, in spite of all the centuries of persecution and oppressions, still lives and can say as of yore, “Many a time they have afllicted me from my youth, yet they have not prevailed against me.”

I may add to all that has been said that it is clear and manifest to all unprejudiced minds that the chapter cannot be applied to a collective body, but must refer to an individual person. No similar example can be found of a personification carried through an entire section, without the slightest hint that it is not a single individual who is spoken of. In verse three the subject is called “ish” (“a man”). If we had an allegory before us, distinct hints as to the interpretation would certainly not be wanting. It is, in other words, quite different in those passages where the prophet designates Israel by the name of the servant of the Lord. In them, all uncertainty is prevented by the addition of the names “Jacob” and “Israel”, and in them, moreover, the prophet uses the plural to indicate that the servant here is an ideal personification, a collective.

No, this prophecy (Isaiah 53) speaks of an individual, and there is only one person in the world whom it fits. There is the most perfect correspondence between the two. In Jesus of Nazareth alone, but in him perfectly, has this prophecy found fulfillment. The meekness, the pathos of undeserved suffering, the atoning, the final triumph, will suit no other. That there is a marked resemblance between the picture of the servant of the Lord in this chapter and the historic account of Jesus of Nazareth is acknowledged by many Jews.

Thus, Rabbi Abraham Farisol (early 16th century, author of Iggereth Orechoth Olam), who himself mis-interprets the prophecy of Israel, says, “In this chapter there seem to be considerable resemblances and allusions to the work of the Christian Messiah and to the events which are asserted to have happened to him--so that no other prophecy can be found, the gist and subject of which can be so immediately applied to him.” And as a matter of fact this glorious prophecy of the sufferings of the Messiah and the glory which should follow has been used of God more than any scripture in opening the eyes of Jews to recognize in Jesus Israel’s Redeemer-King.

Is this, perhaps, the chief reason why this chapter is omitted from the public readings in the synagogue? We know, of course, that whereas the whole Torah is read through on the Sabbaths in the course of the year, only selections from the Prophets are appointed for the Haftarahs , but it is none the less remarkable that in these “selections” the portion for one Sabbath should end with the 12th verse of the 52nd chapter, and the one for the following should begin with the 54th chapter, and that the whole of this sublime section about the suffering servant, through the knowledge of whom the many are made righteous, is passed over.

It certainly gives ground for the statement that the 53rd chapter of Isaiah is “the bad conscience of the synagogue”, which it dare not face because it reminds them too much of him whom the nation-alas!--still despises and rejects, and considers “smitten of God and afflicted”. But this very feeling and attitude on the part of the Jewish nation is one great proof that Jesus is the Messiah, and that it is to him that this prophecy refers.


Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same

scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. Acts 8:35



Behold My servant will act wisely. He will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted. (Isaiah 52:13)


The prophecy begins with the word “hinneh” (“behold”).

This is the little word by which in scripture God seeks to call the attention of men to matters which are of the utmost importance for them to know.

We may note in passing that several different times is the Messiah introduced in the Old Testament by this word, “behold”. For example, in Zech. 6:12 we read, “Behold the man whose name is the Branch”; and in chapter 9:9 of the same prophecy, the announcement is, “Behold, your King comes to you”; while the proclamation to the cities of Judah in the latter part of Isaiah is, “Behold your God”. “Behold My servant, whom I uphold; Mine elect, in whom My soul delights”--one reason being, perhaps, because in this respect this ideal servant stands out in great contrast, not only to Israel nationally, who was called to be God’s servant, but to all other men.

The servant of the Lord, we read, “shall deal wisely”. The verb, his’kil, primarily means “to act wisely”, but the verb is also used sometimes as a synonym for “prosperously”. In Jeremiah 23:5, this verb is used directly of the Messiah: “Behold, the days come, says the LORD, that I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper (his’kil), and shall execute judgement and justice in the land.”

“He shall be exalted and extolled (“lifted up”), and be very high.” There is an ancient Rabbinic Midrash on this sentence, which says, “He shall be exalted above Abraham, he shall be lifted up above Moses, and be higher than the ministering angels.” I sometimes think that when the inspired writer of the letter to the Hebrews proceeded to show how the Messiah was greater, and higher, and “better” than the angels, than Moses, than Joshua, than Aaron and the whole Aaronic priesthood and ritual, that he must have had in mind the thought expressed in the Midrash.

The climax in the height of his exaltation is expressed by the word “meod”, literally, “very much”, with which the sentence ends. “He shall be exalted and lifted up and be high very much, exceedingly



Just as there were many who were appalled at him, his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man, and his form marred beyond human likeness.


The verb “shamem”, which is rendered “astonished”, or “appalled”, means to be desolate or waste; to be thrown by anything into a desolate or bereaved condition; to be startled, confused, as it were petrified by paralyzing astonishment. (See its use in Lev. 26:32; Ezek. 26:16). Even to such an extent will many be astonished at him because of the greatness of his suffering, which will cause his blessed countenance to be so “marred” that it shall appear, as it were, “disfigurement” itself, without any trace of the grace and beauty which belong to the human race and figure.


so he will sprinkle many nations.


But as his humiliation and sufferings were great, so also shall the blessed fruit and consequences of them be. The word “nazah ” occurs in very many passages in the Old Testament, and is used for the sprinkling with the blood of atonement and the water of purification. So shall “many nations” be sprinkled.


Kings will shut their mouths because of him. For what they were not told, they will see, and what they have not heard, they will understand.


These words, as well as the words of the seventh verse of Isaiah 49:7, summarize in a few words the sufferings of the Messiah and the glory which should follow--”Kings shall see and arise, princes and they shall worship, because of the LORD that is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you”--they shall see that the one whom man humbled God has exalted; that he who was despised of man, and abhorred of the nation, is, after all, he whom the Holy One of Israel has chosen; that in spite of their vain counsels, and their individual and united efforts, his kingdom progresses, and is destined to triumph--and they shall “arise” from their thrones in token of reverence, and shall signify their submission and allegiance by prostrating themselves before him in worship.

In a measure this has already been fulfilled. Because “He has humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross, therefore also God has highly exalted him, and given to him the name which is above every name; that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things on earth, and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”



Who has believed our report, and the arm of the LORD over (or upon) whom has it been revealed? (Isaiah 53:1)


The arm of the LORD is the emblem of divine power. In the 51st chapter we have the remnant of Israel appealing to it: “Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the LORD, as in the days of old, the generations of ancient times.” And in the 52nd chapter we read, “The LORD has made bare His holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.”

From the context we see that it is the manifestation of this power of God in and through the messiah that is here spoken of. “In the Servant of the LORD”, an old writer truly observes, “the redeeming arm of the LORD manifests itself; so to say, personifies itself. The Messiah himself is, as it were, the outstretched arm of the LORD,” and the message concerning him, “the power of God unto salvation for all who believe.” But who has believed this message? And whose eyes were opened to behold in this despised and humiliated Servant the very embodiment of the power of God and the wisdom of God? The answer implied in the first question is that very few, if any, did believe it; and to the second question, that only such upon whom an operation of divine power has been performed, only those “over” or “upon” whom the arm of the LORD has been revealed, could believe it--so marvelous, so utterly incredible to mere human thought and imagination is the wonderful story which, in all its saving power and glory, is now made known to us.


For (or “And”) he grew up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground.


The LORD’s Servant, as has been well said by another, “does not burst upon the world all at once in sudden splendor of daring or achievement, dazzling all eyes; but he conforms to God’s slow, silent law of growth.

The word yoneq, translated “tender plant”, literally means “suckling”, but is used here figuratively for the tender twig upon a tree or trunk, or stalk (as also in Ezekiel 17:22). Taken in connection with chapter 11:1, we see that it springs up out of the decayed stump of Jesse, “after the proud cedar of the Davidic monarchy had been felled”. But the second verse of Isaiah 53 presents not only a parallel but also a contrast to chapter 11. There, the figure is of a strong, vigorous shoot coming out of the decayed house of David; here, it is the frail “tender twig” or sapling, struggling out of the dry ground. Here, men are represented as turning away in disappointment, if not in disgust, from this “root” springing up out of such unpromising surroundings; there, we read in the tenth verse, “And it shall come to pass in that day, that the root of Jesse, which stands for an ensign of the people, unto him shall the nations seek, and his resting place shall be glorious.”

The difference is explained by the fact that whereas in chapter 53 the messiah’s sufferings and rejections are depicted, it is especially his millennial glory and reign, the beneficent effects of which extend even to the animal creation, which are described in chapter 11.

The expression, “out of dry ground”. is intended to depict “the miserable character of the external circumstances in the midst of which the birth and growth of the servant would take place.” (Delitzsch). [In addition, a root emerging out of dry ground is something not to be expected in the ordinary course of events; nor is a child born from a virgin, or a seed from a woman (Gen. 3:15). Thus, there is a constant refrain in scripture, marking a special intervention of God in the affairs of men when He sends this Redeemer.]

He had no form and comeliness that we should look on him, and no beauty that we should desire him.


It is not inconsistent with the text to suppose that “there may have been in his aspect, power, grace, majesty, blended with sorrow and meekness.The heart of the thing is, that men did not see the beauty that was there. He did not answer to their ideal; he wanted the qualities which they admired; his greatness was not shaped to their thoughts. They would have welcomed a plumed warrior, riding forth to battle against the oppressor. They have no admiration for one who comes, meek and lowly, to make his soul an offering for sin, and to be God’s salvation to the ends of the earth.It was not sin that troubled them; so how should a savior from sin delight them?”


He was despised and rejected (or “forsaken”) of men ,


The first description in this line--nibhzeh--”despised”--takes our thoughts back once more to what has already been said of the LORD’s Servant in the seventh verse of the 49th chapter: “Thus says the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel, and His Holy One, to Him whom man despises, to Him whom the nation abhors.”

No person in the history of Israel has produced such deep-seated abhorrence as the messiah who came only to bless them, and who even on the cross prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And all through the centuries no name has provoked such intense abhorrence among his own people as the name of Jesus.

But let it not be forgotten that if the messiah has been so “abhorred of the nation”, there has always been a remnant in the nation to whom he has been “the fairest of ten thousand”, and who, for the love of him, counted not even their lives dear to them. It was a man of Israel and a Pharisee who wrote, “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Messiah, yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss, for the excellency of the knowledge of Messiah Yeshua my Lord; for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung that I might win Messiah.”

The phrase “chadal ishim”--”rejected (or “forsaken”) of men”--has been variously rendered. But it seems to me that Franz Delitzsch has caught the true force of the Hebrew idiom. “the predicate chadal ishim is misunderstood by nearly all the commentators, inasmuch as they take ishim, the word for “men”, as synonymous with b’ne Adam (children of men), whereas it is rather used, in the sense of b’ne ish (men of high rank, lords) as distinguished from b’ne Adam (ordinary men, or common people). Hence, he was “wanting in men”, i.e., having no respectable men with him to support him with their authority. . . finding no sympathy from men of rank The chief men of his nation who towered above the multitude, the great men of this world, withdrew their hands from him.


a man of sorrows (or “a man of pains”) and acquainted with grief .


He was ish-makh’obhoth vidua choli--”a man of sorrows” (or “of pains”, the Hebrew idiom denoting “sorrow of heart in all its forms”), a man whose chief distinction was that “his life was one of constant, painful endurance”--and “acquainted” (or, “well acquainted”) with grief (or “sickness”), the meaning of which, as Delitzsch explains, is not that he had by nature a sickly body, but that “the wrath instigated by sin, and the zeal of self-sacrifice (Psalm 69:9) burnt like the fire of a fever in his soul and body.” The point emphasized is that sorrow and grief were the very characteristics of the Servant of the LORD, “the tokens by which we know him.” Grief and sorrow were present with him as his close companions through life. And the chief causes of these sorrows were not his personal ills, but the state of mankind.

Like one from whom men hide their faces, he was despised


The words kh’master panim mimmennu--”like one from whom men hide their faces”--suggests one from whom men turn away their face or hide it with their clothing; or, one whom, instead of meeting with joy, turn away--as one turns away to avoid meeting the eyes of a person he dislikes, or as one shrinks from an object of loathing.

and we esteemed him not.


And a second phrase is added, to indicate the depth of the contempt in which he was held. Instead of counting him dear and worthy, we formed a very low estimate of him, or rather, we did not esteem him at all.

This, dear reader, will be Israel’s broken-hearted confession on the day when the Spirit of grace is poured upon them, and their eyes are opened at last to their Messiah. But, as we read the words, “He was despised, as we esteemed him not”, may we not pause for a moment to ask ourselves if this is not true also in professing Christendom today? “How often,” writes another Hebrew Christian brother, “do we meet Christians expanding upon the wickedness of the Jews in crucifying the Messiah; implying, in fact, that if he had appeared amongst them, he would have met with a more favorable reception. . . You may be sure, however, that if Jesus humbled himself once more, and appeared visibly in modern Christendom, he would be treated in the same way as he was by Israel--yes, crucified afresh, and put to open shame.” He would once again be subjected to the intolerance of the dogmatic; he would once more be confronted with the sneers of the reprobate, and the high-born.


Verily they were our griefs (or “sicknesses”) which he bore, and our sorrows (or “pains”) with which he burdened himself, but we regarded him as one stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.


No plainer or stronger words could be used to express the thought of vicarious suffering than those employed in the original of this verse.

The verb nasa, “to bear”, is continually used in Leviticus of the expiation offered by the appointed sacrifices, as, for instance, in Leviticus 16:22, “The goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities into a solitary land.” “When construed with the accusative of the sin”, as Delitzsch explains, “nasa signifies to take the debt of sin upon oneself, and carry it as one’s own, i.e., to look at it and feel it as one’s own (for example, Leviticus 5:1,17) or more frequently to bear the punishment occasioned by sin, to make expiation for it (as in Lev. 20:19,20; 24:15), and in any case in which the person bearing it is not himself the guilty person (nasa signifies) to bear sin in a mediatorial capacity for the purpose of making expiation for it. It is evident that both the verbs used in this verse, ‘he has borne’, and ‘he carried’, are to be understood in the sense of an expiatory bearing, and not merely of taking away, which we may see also from Ezek. 4:4-8, where ‘seth ‘avon’ (‘bearing iniquity’) is represented by the prophet in a symbolical action. . . The meaning here is not only that the Servant of God entered into the fellowship of our sufferings, but that he took upon himself the suffering which we had to bear, and deserved to bear, and therefore not only took them away, but bore them in his own person, that he might deliver us from them.

Every one of the expressions of the second part of the verse, “but we regarded him as stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted”, is intended to describe one suffering terrible punishment for sin.

The error here confessed is not so much in their having considered these sufferings as punishment, but in having considered them as punishment for the sins which the Servant himself, and not they themselves, had committed. This alas, is what Israel has thought for all these centuries, and still thinks--thus Jesus, the only sinless man who ever trod this earth, is called the Poshe--the transgressor--who, according to even such illustrious figures as Maimonides, well deserved the violent death which he suffered (see especially Iggereth Teman, for example); while in the Talmud Jesus is consigned to hell along with Titus and Balaam, and condemned to the severest punishment.

We can well imagine, therefore, the deep contrition and heartbrokenness of repentant Israel when their eyes are at last opened by the Spirit of God to the true character of this holy sufferer, and when they perceive that it was for them and in their stead that he endured it all. “In that day”, of weeping and mourning over him whom they have pierced, we can hear, as it were, the sobs which will accompany this confession: “Yet we regarded him as plagued, smitten of God, and afflicted!”


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.


He was wounded, literally, “he was pierced through” (as the verb chalal primarily means) or, “wounded to death”--an expression which reminds us of Zechariah 12:10, “They shall look on me whom they have pierced,” though the verb for piercing used there is not exactly the same as here. And “he was bruised”, literally “crushed ” (m’duka) by the heavy burden of our sin which he took upon himself.

The phrase musar sh’lomenu--the “chastisement (or punishment) of our peace”--denotes the “chastisement which leads to our peace”, or, “the punishment by which our well-being and peace are secured”; and this was “upon him”. The same thought is expressed in the last clause of this verse, “by his stripes (ubhachabhuratho, literally, his wounds) “we were healed”, or, “healing was brought to us”. In Isaiah 1:6 the prophet uses the same expression, chabhurah , to describe the condition of Israel marred by sin; now, the stripe-wounds of a sinless one will remove the stripe-wounds of Israel.

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one into his own way, and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.


We all, without exception, are involved in this sin and guilt of having strayed from the Great Shepherd. We have all gone in the paths which we chose. We are like sheep which are scattered. But now the LORD has collected all our guilts together, and laid them upon him.

The word ‘hiph’gia, from paga’, signifies to cause something to strike, or to fall upon a person. The rendering in English (“laid upon him”) is too weak and suggests the idea of a mild and inoffensive gesture, whereas that conveyed by the Hebrew word is necessarily a violent action, namely, that of “causing to strike or to fall”. The verb is used in such a passage as II Samuel 1:15, “Go near and fall upon him; and he smote him that died.” In other passages our iniquity is spoken of as resting upon the Holy One, and he bears it. Here it is spoken of as coming upon him like a destroying foe, and overwhelming him with the wrath that it brought with it.


He was oppressed, and he was afflicted; and he opened not his mouth.


A possible paraphrase of these words is, “He was rigorously demanded to pay the debt, and he submitted himself, and did not open his mouth.” Niggas, usually translated as “he was oppressed ”, can also mean “to exact from”, and is sometimes applied to the rigorous exaction of debts. Another possible meaning of the word niggas is, “he was treated tyrannically”. And yet, he submitted himself voluntarily.


As a sheep that is led to the slaughter, as a lamb before its shearers is dumb, and opened not his mouth.


The whole object of this passage is to mark the meek and quite acceptance by our Redeemer in his prolonged suffering. In sublime silence he endures to the uttermost, sustained by the conviction, that the LORD wills it; he rests in the LORD. He came to do what only Love was equal to--and he shrank from no suffering; raised not his arm, opened not his mouth, in his own defense, wearied not, fainted not, but was dumb with silence. And further, we see here no only his love, but his acquiescence in the justice of God, in the punishment of sin, the whole burden of which he bore.


He was taken away from prison and from judgment.


The principal emphasis here is that it was out of the midst of suffering that he was carried off. The idea that is most prominent in the word luqqach (“taken away”) is that of being snatched or hurried away. The word otser (“prison”) primarily means a violent constraint. Here, as in Psalm 107:39, it signifies a persecuting treatment which restrains by force, such as that of prison, or bonds. The word mishpat (“judgment” refers to the judicial proceedings; and out of hostile oppression and judicial persecution he was carried away.


And who shall declare his generation?


There is a great variety of opinions as to how these words should be understood; and it would be useless to try and speak with dogmatism. Yet I may venture to suggest the explanation which seems to me the most probable.

In the Hebrew, dor (“generation”) signifies “an age”, or “the men living in a particular age”, or, a group who are all connected together by some similar disposition. Soche’ach (“declare”) can mean, “a thoughtful consideration, or a “meditation”; but it can also mean “to speak, “to complain”, “to lament”, and is used in at least one or two places to describe an exercise very much akin to prayer. (As, for instance, in Psalm 55:17, “Evening, morning, and at noonday will I pray, and cry aloud. . . “; and also in the inscription of Psalm 102: a prayer of the afflicted when he is overwhelmed and pours out his complaint (sicho) before the LORD.) Thus, this passage may be understood as saying, “As for his generation--who (among them) pours out a complaint?” (i.e., at his treatment); or “who among them utters a prayer (on his behalf)?”

In addition, as Bishop Lowth has pointed out, these words may contain a prophetic allusion to the custom which then prevailed, to call upon all those who had anything to say in favor of an accused, to come forward and “declare” it.

The following striking passage form the Talmud (Sanhedrin 43a) may be cited by way of illustration. “There is a tradition: On the eve of the Passover they hung Jesus the Nazarene. And the herald went forth before him forty days saying, ‘Jesus the Nazarene goes forth to be stoned, because he has practiced sorcery and led Israel astray. Anyone who knows anything in his favor, let him come and declare concerning him.’ And they found nothing in his favor; and they hung him on the eve of the Passover. . . “ (The reference to ‘stoning’ most likely derives from the fact that this would have been the punishment according to Jewish law; but it was the Roman, not the Jewish, method of execution which was imposed.)

This legend about Jesus may recall that in that hasty, mock trial before the Sanhedrin, which was in flagrant violation of the regulations which were supposed to govern that body’s procedures, there were none found who would, or who dared, to appear in his favor. When the Messiah of God stood on trial before a corrupt world, no one came forward with a justifying plea; the sword awoke to smite the Shepherd, and the sheep were all scattered, even his own disciples, who forsook him and fled.


For he was cut off from the land of the living.


It is by wicked and violent hands that this righteous Servant of the LORD dies--”cut off”, as it were, in the midst of his days. The prophet Daniel gives expression to the same theme (chapter 9:26), when he says that “. . .the Messiah (Anointed One) will be cut off and have nothing”, or, rendered another way, “. . . the Messiah (Anointed One) will be cut off, but not for himself. . . “; (though Daniel uses a different verb for “cut off”).



For the transgression of my people the stroke fell upon him.


The term ami, (“my people”), can only apply to Israel, and is one of the many internal marks which make it impossible to interpret the prophecy of Israel as a nation, for the servant suffers and dies for the people, and therefore cannot be the same as the people themselves.

The expression lamo (“upon him”), has a plural suffix, and might also be translated “upon them”. But Kimchi says in his grammar, that this suffix “is used both of many, and of one”. Examples of this can be found in Job 20:23; 22:2, and even in Isaiah 44:15 (“he makes a graven image, and falls down to it”). But even if the word here were to be a plural, the translation would merely be, “ He was cut off from the land of the living. For the transgression of my people--the stroke that should have fallen on them”, or, “to whom the stroke was due”; and thus the sense is in no way changed.


And they made (or “appointed”) his grave with the wicked, and with a rich man in his death, because he had done no violence, neither was deceit in his mouth.



“The predictions concerning Jesus in this chapter,” says Moses Margoliouth, “are so numerous and minute that they could not possibly have been dictated by any but by Him to whom all things are naked and open, and who works all things according to the counsel of his own will. The most insignificant details are set forth with as much accuracy as those which are most important. What could be more unlikely than that the Messiah should be crucified, when crucifixion was not a Jewish but a Roman punishment? And yet David (Psalm 22) predicted that such would be the case, and did so centuries before Rome’s founding. And this fulfillment was brought about by the Jewish leaders themselves contrary to their own law and tradition. The law expressly forbade them to choose a heathen for their king, or to deliver an Israelite to a heathen magistrate. But in this case--that the word of God should come to pass--they regard neither their own law nor their tradition, but deliver Jesus to the judgment of the Roman governor and call upon him to pronounce sentence. And when Pilate said, “Shall I crucify your king?”, they replied, “We have no king but Caesar.”

And after Jesus had been crucified according to Roman law, and put to death with two criminals, what should be more likely than that he should be treated afterwards as they were, and buried in a common grave? But no; for though “they appointed his grave with the wicked”, he was (instead) “with a rich man in his death”. The word “and” here may also have the meaning “but”; and so the sense may be, that while they wished to further dishonor him by burying him with the wicked, “but” (instead) he was with the rich in his death”.

The word “death” here is a plural, and so some have argued that it should be translated, “deaths”. But that is to ignore the Hebrew use of plural forms to describe conditions or periods of life, such as chayim for “life”, (but literally, “lives”); and similarly the words used for “age”, “youth”, “maidenhood”, “bridehood” (Jer. 2:2), “embalming” (Gen. 50:3), “blindness”, etc. There is no reason why “deaths” here should not mean “the state of death”, as “chayim” means the “state of life”. And this agrees better with the use of “b’”, that is, “in”, or “at”, his death. Similarly, in Ezekiel 28:10 this plural form of “deaths” is used to describe the (singular) death of the king of Tyre.

And the reason assigned for his honorable burial--with the rich, instead of the wicked--is that “he had done no violence, neither was deceit in his mouth.” It was a death of atonement that he died; but immediately after those sufferings were ended and that death accomplished, his humiliation was ended, and no further indignity to his person was to be permitted. And so, already in his burial, he was “separated from sinners”, and was laid in the tomb of the “rich man of Arimatheaea, wherein never man before was laid”.


Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise (or “to crush”) him; he has put him to grief.



This is the confession of the penitents whose eyes are now opened to see the true meaning of it all. It has pleased the LORD to make the sins of men subservient to his pleasure, and to accomplish his predetermined counsel. Not only did the LORD bruise him, but it was the “good pleasure of his will” to do so. He who has no pleasure in the death of the wicked was pleased to put His righteous Servant to grief--not, of course, because the death-agony was a pleasure to look upon, but as a means to the fulfillment of a great purpose.

[And it should be noted that with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, we can see that this verse, in the Great Isaiah Scroll found there, reads differently: “Yet the LORD wanted him crushed, and he pierced him (intently, i.e., to death)”. Perhaps somehow through the interval of a thousand years from the time of the writing of this scroll, to the finalization of our present-day text, around 900 A.D., the wording came to be somehow changed?--ed.]


If (or “when”) his soul shall make an offering for sin


The word tasim (“shall make”) can be read either “When You (that is, God) shall make his soul an offering for sin ”; or “When his soul shall make an offering. . . “ The latter is more likely, since nowhere else is God addressed directly in this chapter; but in either case the Servant of the LORD gives his life as an offering for the sins of others. To become an asham, a “sin offering”, plainly implies death (see Lev. 6), and since, as is also plainly indicated, he was to prolong his days, and to some extent on condition of becoming a sin offering, it plainly speaks then of his life after death, and implies that the Messiah must rise from the dead and then live.

He shall see his seed


Some have wished to say here that the word zera (“seed”) here cannot refer to Jesus, who had no children. But in fact it can be used also (as it is used, both in scripture and in the later post-Biblical rabbinical writings) in a figurative sense. Genesis 3:15 speaks of the “seed” of the serpent, which surely does not mean literal descendants of the serpent. Isaiah 1:4 describes the nation as “a people heavy with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, sons who corrupt”. In Psalm 22:30 (31), which is a parallel prophecy about the messiah, it says “A seed shall serve him”, and even Ibn Ezra agrees that the word is used here, not in the sense of natural issue, but of disciples or followers. Thus the “seed” of the Messiah are his spiritual offspring, the new family which he has come to found, the “bringing of many sons unto glory” (Heb. 2:10).


He shall prolong his days.


How wonderful, how seemingly paradoxical! He “pours out his soul unto death”, as a trespass offering; he is “cut off from the land of the living”; is dead and buried, and yet he shall live and have continuance of days!

How is it possible? The answer to this question is that the Messiah was not only to die for our sins, but must rise again from the dead “according to the scriptures”. This prediction that the Messiah shall “prolong his days” after having died, is also in accord with what we read in other scriptures, as for instance Psalm 16:10, “You will not leave my soul in Sheol; neither will you suffer Your Holy One to see corruption”; and Psalm 21:4, “He asked life of You, You gave it him, even length of days for ever and ever.”

[And this last is even specifically applied in the Talmud to the messiah, son of Joseph, whom some strains of Jewish thought believed would live and then be slain, before a second messiah, the son of David, appeared. And then this second messiah would raise to life the first: “And when he sees that Messiah son of Joseph is slain, he (the second messiah, the son of David) will say to Him (God), “Lord of the Universe! I ask of you nothing except for life (for messiah, son of Joseph).” And God will answer, “Before you even said, ‘life’, David your ancestor prophesied about you, as it is written, “He asked life of You, You gave it him.” (Talmud, Sukkah 52a).].




And the pleasure of the LORD will prosper in his hand,


God’s will shall be fully accomplished by him; the mission on which he is sent he shall triumphantly carry through. But if we want to know more particularly what this “pleasure of the LORD” is, we shall find the answer in the commission entrusted to the perfect Servant of the LORD as set forth earlier in Isaiah. Let me quote only briefly from preceding chapters: “Behold My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen, in whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit upon him, he shall bring forth judgment (or ‘justice’) to the nations. . . I the LORD have called you in righteousness, and will hold your right hand, and will keep you and give you for a covenant of the people, for a light of the gentiles; to open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.” “And now, says the LORD that formed me in the womb to be His Servant, to bring Jacob again to him, and that Israel be gathered unto Him (literally, ‘though Israel is not gathered’) . . yes, He says, It is too light a thing that you should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel. I will also give you for a light to the gentiles, that you may be My salvation to the ends of the earth.” (Isaiah 43:1-7; 49:5,6)

This, then, is the pleasure of the LORD which shall prosper in his hand, or be brought to triumphant accomplishment through him, namely, the ultimate regathering of Israel, the bringing back of Jacob, not only to his land but into new covenant relationship with God, of which he himself will be the bond; the illumination of the gentile world with the knowledge of the true and living God; the deliverance of men from spiritual blindness and the bondage of sin, and the bringing near of God’s salvation to all men throughout the whole world, even “unto the ends of the earth”.


After the suffering of his soul, he shall see and be satisfied.


After the sufferings of his soul (“My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death”), the messiah will see and be satisfied. [The Septuagint version reads here, “he shall see light and be satisfied”. The word “light” is not included in our present Hebrew text, though the sentence seems incomplete without some additional word as the object of the sentence. However, the Great Isaiah Scroll from the Dead Sea Scrolls does include the word “light”; and it is thought by some scholars that this word is another indication that, though “cut off from the land of the living ”, the Servant will be restored to life, and “see light” again.]


By his knowledge shall My Righteous Servant justify many,


More literally, this reads, “By his knowledge shall make righteous (or, “bring righteousness”) the Righteous One (My Servant) many.” It cannot be stated for certain whether beda’to (“by his knowledge”) should mean, “according to his knowledge”, or, “by the knowledge of him”. Grammatically it might be translated either way, though many who see in the Servant the Redeemer of mankind seem inclined to favor the latter version.

The phrase Tsaddiq ‘abhdi (“My Righteous Servant”) is unusual. In the first place, though many in scripture are called God’s servant, this is the only place where reference is made to a “righteous” servant. Secondly, in normal Hebrew usage, the adjective “righteous” should be placed after the word, “servant”. However, here it is placed before the noun “servant”, and it also lacks an article (i.e., the word “the”).This lack of an article (such as the word “the”) indicates that the person spoken of is to be regarded as standing in a sphere all his own--singular, isolated, pre-eminent. Thus, he is “the Righteous One”. The omission of the article indicates that the person spoken of held a position of righteousness that was singular and isolated, and that there was none like it. And the position of the adjective “righteous” before, and not after, the word it modifies (“servant”) is intended to emphasize even more the condition of this particular servant’s righteousness. Our minds are intended to focus on the righteousness of this Righteous One as the cause of the blessing spoken of in this verse. By virtue of having been the Righteous One, he becomes the cause, or the bringer of righteousness, to his believing people.

The rabbim (“many”) to whom he thus brings righteousness is the mass of mankind; and it is possible that this passage was in the mind of our messiah when, on the night of his betrayal, he took the cup and said to his disciples, “This is my blood of the new covenant which is poured out for many” (Matt. 26:28). And it may also have been in the mind of Paul when writing Romans 5:12-21. After setting forth the consequence of Adam’s transgression, he says, “For if by the trespass of one man the many died, how much more did the grace of God, and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Messiah Yeshua, abound to many. . . For just as through one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the one shall the many be made righteous.”


and he will bear their iniquities.


The fact that this phrase occurs in the future tense suggests, according to Delitzsch, that it “refers to something to be done by the Servant after the completion of the work to which he is called in this life, and denotes the continued operation of his ‘bearing’ or ‘carrying’ our sins through his own active mediation. His continued bearing of our trespasses upon himself is the constant presentation of his atonement which has been offered once for all. He is an eternal priest, who now lives to distribute the blessings that he has acquired.”


Therefore I will divide to him a portion among the many (or, “great”), and with the strong shall he divide the spoil.


This reward is bestowed upon him by the LORD’s own hand, and the prize is glorious beyond conception. “Ask of Me”, says Psalm 2, “and I will give you the heathen for your inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for your possession.”. And Psalm 72 says, “He shall have dominion also from sea to sea. . . Yes, all kings shall fall down before him, all nations shall serve him.” And truly he and no one else is worthy to be thus exalted, as is emphasized in the recapitulation of his peerless merit in the last words of this wonderful prophecy:


Because he poured out his soul unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. And he (himself) bore the sin of many.


The phrase tachath asher (“because”) expresses more than just the English word “because”, and indicates an idea of compensation or reward. It has been translated by some “instead of”, or “in return for that”, i.e., the glorious portion or allotment which is divided to him by the LORD is “in return” for the great redemption which he has accomplished by his own life’s blood.

And although this was all in accord with the predeterminate counsel of God, he did it voluntarily, which accords again with his own words, “Therefore does my Father love me, because I lay down my life. . . “ He was numbered with poshim (“transgressors”). To any believer it must be precious and interesting to remember that this clause formed one of the direct quotations made by Jesus just before his betrayal and crucifixion. “This which is written,“ he said, “must be fulfilled in me, ‘And he was reckoned among transgressors’”. (Luke 22:37).



And he made (or “makes”) intercession for the transgressors.


Again, the verb yaph’gia (“made intercession”) is an indefinite future verb, which expresses a work begun, but not yet ended. Its most striking fulfilment, as Delitzsch obsesrves, was the prayer of the crucified Savior, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” But this work of intercession which he began on the cross he still continues at the right hand of God, where he is now seated, a Prince and a Savior, to give repentance unto Israel and the forgiveness of sins. He stilll bears his own nation of Israel on his heart, for he still pleads: “For Zion’s sake I will not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until her righteousness goes forth as brightness and her salvation as a lamp that burns”--because it is not until then that the glory of the LORD shall fill this earth as the waters cover the sea. Will you not, therefore, for love of him share in this ministry of intercession for that people which are still beloved for their fathers’ sakes, and whose receiving again into God’s favor will be as life from the dead to the whole world?

“I have set watchmen upon your walls, O Jerusalem; they shall never hold their peace day or night. You that are the LORD’s remembrancers, take no rest, and give Him no rest until He establishes and makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth.”




the suffeirng Messiah of the Synagogue




The oldest testimony we possess that Isaiah 53 was by the Synagogue applied to the Messiah is found in the Targum on the Prophets ascribed to Jonathan ben Uziel (early first century A.D.) Although the Targum in the form we now possess it has been edited in Babylonia in the fourth century A.D.; yet there is no doubt that the material it contains is dervied from sources more ancient, and that as a whole it is of Palestinian origin. The paraphrase--for it is not a literal translation--of the chapter begins with the words:

“Behold, my servant, the Messiah, shall prosper. He shall be high, and increase, and be exceedingly strong.”

This is almost a literal translation. But in what follows the Targum, although ascribing to the Messiah a central place in Israel’s redemption, contrives by a method singularly strange to make Israel the real sufferer, for her own sins--the idea of Israel suffering for the nations being entirely foreign to the Targum. In this way the Targum succeeds in purging the Messiah from any taint of personal suffering and humiliation. [However, since our present versions of the Targum date only from after the period when Christianity was already well-established as a world religion, and its doctrines were known, it may be wondered if some later editing may not have taken place.--ed]

The Targum pictures the Messiah as a man of an imposing, holy and awe-inspiring appearance (verse 2). He makes intercession for the sins of his people, and they are forgiven for his sake. (verses 4,6,11,12). His prayers are answered, and before opening his mouth he is accepted (verse 7). He is a great teacher. By his wisdom he holds the guilty free from guilt, makes the rebellious subject to the Law (verses 11,12); by his instruction peace increases upon his people, and on account of its devotion to his words it obtains forgiveness of sin (verse 5). From subjection to the nations, from chastisement and punishment, he delivers the souls of his people (verses 8, 11), builds the Holy Place (verse 5), and wondrous things are done in Israel in his days (verse 8). He overthrows the kingdoms of the nations (verse 3) , scatters many peoples (verse 52:15), the mighty of the peoples he delivers like sheep to the slaughter (verse 7), causes the dominion of the gentiles to pass away from the land of Israel, and transfers on them the sins Israel had committed (verse 8), Israel looking on the punishment of those that hated her, and is satisfied with the spoils of their kings (verse 11). But the Messiah is also judge of his own people. He delivers the wicked to Gehenna, and those who are rich in possessions into the death of utter destruction (verse 9).

With the advent of the Messiah is a glorious time dawns for Israel. The purified remnant looks on the kingdom of the Messiah, their sons and daughters multiply, they prolong their days, and those who perform the Law of the Lord prosper in His good pleasure (verse 10). The righteous will grow up before him like blooming shoots, and like a tree which sends forth its roots to streams of water they increase--a holy generation in the land that was in need of him (verse 2).

Thus the Targum succeeded in reading into this chapter the whole Jewish Messianic hope, in which there was no place for a suffering Messiah. The words, “because he delivered up his soul to death”, in verse 12, do not mean that the Messiah actually died, but rather, that he for the sake of his people, like Moses of old, was ready to give his life.

But the Targum, in spite of the high esteem in which it was held, found no imitators. Its method was too drastic, and the violence done to the sacred text too apparent to be imitated. We find, therefore, in early Rabbinic literature not a few passages which speak of a suffering Messiah; but they all belong to the time after the Mishnah was created, i.e., after about 200 A.D.




1.In the Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 98a, we read, “The Messiah--what is his name? . . . The Rabbis say, The leprous one of the house of Rabbi is his name, as it is said, Surely he has borne our griefs. . . yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.’ “ The name, “The leprous one of the house of Rabbi”, is very obscure. Dr. Pusey (in his Introduction to The Fifty-Third Chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters ) has called attention to the better reading of this passage found in the Pugio Fidei by Raymundus Martini, where it reads, “The Rabbis say, The leprous one is his name; those of the house of Rabbi say, The sick one is his name,” etc. In Isaiah 53:4 the word “stricken” ( nagua) is taken by the Rabbis as meaning stricken with leprosy, hence they give the name, “The leprous one”. The house of Rabbi (i.e. Rabbi Judah the holy, the editor of the Mishnah) based the name, the sick one”, on the words, “our griefs literally, our diseases”, having in mind their teacher, Rabbi Judah, who had voluntarily taken upon himself bodily sufferings for thirteen years for the sake of the whole people, for during this period no pregnant woman died, nor did any miscarriage take place. (Jerusalem Talmud, Kilayim 32b and Ketuboth 35a).


2. Babylonian Sanhedrin 93b : “It is written (in Isaiah 11:3), And his delight (haricho) shall be in the fear of the Lord. Rabbi Alexandri said, This indicates that He (God) will load him (i.e., the Messiah) with commandments and sufferings as with millstones ( rechayim).” It is not said here for what purpose many sufferings will be laid on the Messiah, but the idea of a suffering Messiah is here expressed, although it has no connection with the scripture quoted.


3. Babylonian Sanhedrin 98a. Here we read, “Rabbi Joshua, the son of Rabbi Levi (third century A.D.), met Elijah standing at the door of the cave of Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai. . . He said to him, When shall the Messiah come? He answered, Go and ask him personally. --And where does he abide?--At the gates of Rome.--And what is his sign?--He abides among the poor who are stricken by disease. And all unbind, and bind up again, the wounds at the same time, but he undoes (i.e., the bandage) and rebinds each separately, saying, Perhaps I am wanted (i.e. will be summoned by God to perform my task), and I would not be detained. He went to meet him and said, Peace be to you, my master and teacher. He replied to him, Peace be to you, son of Levi. He said to him, When will you come, my Lord? Today, he replied. Then he returned to Elijah, who said to him, What has he said to you? He said to me, Son of Levi, peace be unto you. Elijah said to him, He has assured you and your father of the world to come. He said to him, But he deceived me in that he said, I come today, and he has not come. Elijah answered him, it was so meant--’Today, if you will hear my voice.’ “

To understand this legend one must remember that, according to the Rabbis, Messiah was born on the very day Jerusalem was destroyed, and is now living in obscurity. According to this passage his place is at the gate of Rome where he, through suffering, is waiting every moment to deliver his people.




1. In Ruth Rabba 5,6 (on chapter 11,14), we read: “ ‘Come hither’--this refers to the King Messiah. Come hither’, draw near to the kingdom; ‘and eat of the bread’, that is, the bread of the kingdom; ‘and dip your morsel in the vinegar’, this refers to the sufferings, as it is said, ‘But he was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities’.”

2. Midrash Tehillim on Ps. 2, and Midrash Samuel chapter 19 (with the readings of the Yalkut 11 620): “Rabbi Huna in the name of Rabbi Acha says: The sufferings are divided into three parts: one for David and the fathers, one for our own generation, and one for the King Messiah, and this is what is written, “He was wounded for our transgressions,” etc. And when the hour comes, the Holy One, blessed be He, says to them: I must create a new creation, as even as it is said, ‘This day I have begotten you’. This is the hour when he is made a new creation.” So many and great are the Messiah’s sufferings and afflictions that God must create for him a new body. It is not said in what way, perhaps by raising him from the dead. Psalm 2:7 is here used almost in the same way as it is used by the Apostle Paul in Acts 13:33.


3. Pesikta Rabbati , chapters 33-38. Nowhere in Rabbinic literature are the sufferings of the Messiah so graphically described and so expressly stated that he is suffering for the sins of his people as in this Midrash. Apart from this, we have here a vague conception of the pre-existence of the Messiah, for the transaction between God and the Messiah takes place at the beginning of Creation, when man was not yet created.

Chapter 36 is based on Isaiah 40:1,2. Psalm 36:10 is quoted, and the question is asked,What mean the words,‘ In your light we see light?

Which light is the congregation of Israel looking for? This is the light of Messiah, as it is written, And God saw the light, that it was good. This is intended to teach us, that the Holy One, blessed be He, foresaw the Messiah and his works before the world was yet created, and he did the light for the Messiah and his generation under his throne of glory. Said Satan before the Holy One, blessed be He, Lord of the World, the light hidden under your throne of glory, for whom is it prepared? And He said to him, For him who in the future will conquer you, and cover your face with shame. Said he: Lord of the World, show him to me. Come and see, was the Divine answer. And when he saw him, he began to tremble, and fell on his face, saying, Surely, this is Messiah, who in the future shall cast me and the (angelic) princes of the nations into the world of Gehenna, according to Isaiah 35:8 . . .


“And the Holy One began to make an agreement with him (Messiah), saying, Those who are hidden with you--their sins will cause you to be put under an iron yoke, and they will make you like this calf whose eyes are dim, and they will choke your spirit under the yoke, and on account of their sins your tongue will cleave to the roof of your mouth. Are you willing to do this? The Messiah said to the Holy One, Perhaps this anguish will last for many years? And the Holy One said to him: By your life, and by the life of My head, one week only have I decreed for you; but if your soul is grieved I shall destroy them even now. But he said to Him, Lord of all the worlds, with the gladness of my soul and the joy of my heart I take it upon me, on condition that not one of Israel shall perish, and not only those alone should be saved who are in my days, but also those who are hid in the dust; and not only should the dead be saved who are in my days, but also those who have died form the days of the first Adam till now; and not Only those, but also those who have been prematurely born. And not only those, but also those whom You have intended to create, but who have not yet been created. Thus I agree, and thus I take all upon me. In that hour the Holy One, blessed be He, orders for him four creatures to carry the throne of glory of the Messiah.”


“In the week when the Son of David comes, they bring beams of iron and put them (like a yoke) on his neck, until his stature is bent down. But he cries and weeps, and his voice ascends on high, and he says before him, Lord of the World, what is my strength, the strength of my spirit, of my soul and my limbs? Am I not flesh and blood? In view of that hour David wept, saying, ‘My strength is dried up like a potsherd.’ (Psalm 22:15/16. Here the Editor, Friedman’s edition, Vienna, 1880, has a note in which he calls attention to the fact that this psalm deals with the exile of the congregation of Israel, the sufferings of the Messiah and the future redemption, and that only on account of “the seditious talk of the heretics--i.e., the Christians--the Rabbis explained it as referring to Esther.) In that hour the Holy One, blessed be He, says to him, Ephraim, My righteous Messiah, (The Messiah is in these chapters called Ephraim; but the Messiah, son of Joseph, is not meant here, as Dr. Edersheim thinks, but the Son of David, as can be seen from the words with which the passage begins. I believe that they called the Messiah Ephraim on account of Jeremiah 31:20, which passage they applied to the Messiah.) you have already taken this upon you form the six days of Creation, now your anguish shall be like My anguish, for form the time that Nebuchadnezzar, the wicked one, has come and destroyed My house, and burned My sanctuary, and sent My children into exile among the nations of the world, by your life and the life of My head, I have not sat down upon My throne. And if you will not believe Me, see the dew which is on My head, as it is said, My head is filled with dew. (Song of Songs 5:2) In that hour the Messiah answers Him, Lord of the World, now I am quitted, for it is enough for the servant that he is like his Master.


Chapter 27 describes Messiah’s triumph and the glory which he receives as a due reward for his humiliation and suffering on behalf of Israel. It is based on Isaiah 41:10:

“The fathers of the world (the patriarchs) will rise again in the month of Nisan and will say to him, Ephraim, our righteous Messiah, though we are your fathers, yet you are greater than we, because you have borne the sins of our children, and hard and evil measure has passed upon you, such as has not been passed either upon those before or upon those after. And you have been for laughter and derision to the nations for the sake of Israel, and you have dwelled in darkness and in gloominess, and your eyes have not seen light, and your skin was cleaving to your bones, and your body was dry as wood, and your eyes were darkened through fasting, and your strength was dried up like a potsherd. And all this on account of the sins of our children. Is it your pleasure that our sons should enjoy the good things which the Holy One, blessed be He, has poured out so abundantly upon Israel? Or, perhaps, on account of the anguish which you have suffered so much for them, and because they have chained you in the prison house (i.e., this would indicate that he also suffered at the hands of his own people), perhaps you are not pleased with them?

He says to them, Fathers of the world, whatever I have done I have done only for your sakes, and for the sake of your children, for the sake of your honor and that of your children, and that they may enjoy the goodness which the Holy One, blessed be He, has poured out over Israel. Then the fathers say to him, Ephraim, our righteous Messiah, let your mind be at rest, as you have put the mind of your Maker at rest and also our mind.


Rabbi Simeon, the son of Rabbi Pasi, said: In that hour the Holy One, blessed be He, exalts the Messiah to the heaven of heavens, and spreads over him the splendor of His glory. . . And the Holy One says: You righteous ones of the world, Ephraim, the Messiah of My righteousness, has not yet received even one half for all he has suffered. . .





As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland.’ (Song of Songs 4:26) This teaches us that the Holy One shall clothe Ephraim, our righteous Messiah, with a garment, the splendor of which will be seen from one end of the world to the other. And Israel shall walk in his light and say:

“Blessed is the hour when the Messiah was created!

Blessed is the womb out of which he has come!

Blessed the generation whose eyes behold him!

Blessed the eye that was waiting for him. . .

The speech of his tongue is pardon and forgiveness to


His prayer is the sweet incense of offerings

His petitions are purity and holiness

Blessed are his fathers who obtained the eternal good

hidden forever. (or, as in some versions, Blessed

is Israel, for whom such has been prepared”)





The following remarkable hymn, by the famous hymn-writer, Eleazor ben Qualir, who, according to the Jewish historian, Zunz, lived in the 9th century A.D., is taken from the service for the Day of Atonement:


Our righteous Messiah is departed from us,

We are horror-stricken, and have none to justify us.

Our iniquities and the yoke of our transgressions

He carries who is wounded because of our transgressions.

He bears on his shoulder the burden of our sins,

To find pardon for all our iniquities.

By his stripes we shall be healed--

O Eternal One, it is time that you should create him anew!

O bring him up from the terrestrial sphere,

Raise him up from Seir

To announce salvation to us from Mount Lebanon,

Once again through the hand of Yinnon.


(Seir stands here for Edom, and by Edom the Talmud means Rome, where, as we have seen above, the Messiah already lives in deep humiliation and suffering. Lebanon stands for the Mount of the Temple, form which Messiah is to proclaim to Israel that the time of salvation has come. Yinnon is another name for the Messiah.)




(VOL. II 212a) “The souls which are in the garden of Eden below go to and fro every new moon and Sabbath, in order to ascend to the place that is called the Walls of Jerusalem. . . After that they journey on and contemplate all those that are possessed of pains and sicknesses and those that are martyrs for the unity of their Lord, and then return and announce it to the Messiah. And as they tell him of the misery of Israel in their captivity, and of those wicked ones among them who are not attentive to know their Lord, he lifts up his voice and weeps for their wickedness, and so it is written, ‘He was wounded for our transgressions’, etc. Then those souls return and abide in their own place.


“There is in the garden of Eden a palace called the palace of the sons of sickness. This palace the Messiah then enters, and summons every sickness, every pain, and every chastisement of Israel; they all come and rest upon him. And were it not that he had thus lightened them off Israel and taken them upon himself, there had been no man able to bear Israel’s chastisements for transgression of the Law; and this is that which is written, ‘Surely our sicknesses he has carried.



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