The Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53?

Whom did the prophet have in mind? What is unique about the method of salvation? How was this model applied by Christianity?


just need like a simple explanation/answer to the above questions. Its for a class. Im not religious so idk this stuff.

12 Answers

  • 8 years ago
    Favourite answer

    I will take each q and address its specifics "Whom did the prophet have in mind?" The covenant nation Israel that he named specifically as the suffering servant fourteen times prior to that portion designated as Chapter 53 ( Chapters didn't divide his narrative until about 800 years after he wrote it) that begins in Chapter 41 and continues to the end of his book. Chapter 52 is especially important in understanding Chapter 53.

    "What is unique about the method of salvation?" You aren't being very clear in this question with regard to the narrative of Isaiah because his narrative only reflects that consistent concept of the Torah's that God is the 'salvation' of the covenant nation Israel. Israel was unique to the rest of the ancient world in that incarnate kings were not sacrificed to justify the lives of their adherents. The Christian concept of salvation referring to "original sin" that means all humans are born with a burden of sin that must be reconciled by a human sacrifice of an incarnate savior deity remains antithetical to the text of Isaiah and the Hebrew Bible's concept of the nature of humanity and our relationship between God and man. In the Torah, God tells us He does not incarnate and calls human sacrifice an abomination, and when Moses asked to take on the sins of Israel, God told him that is not possible, that every human is accountable for their own sins, directly. Thus, there is no model from Isaiah applied by Christianity. Isaiah has a lengthy narrative also condemning the notion of incarnate, if you want to look to Isaiah to justify either deicide or human sacrifice, you are not going to find it in the words he wrote. You can only look to how others have either mistranslated or taken passages out of context and imposed contradictory meanings on it.

    "How was this model applied by Christianity?" Neither Torah nor Isaiah's "model" is applied by Christianity.

    What Christianity does is IMPOSE it's model INTO Isaiah by cherry picking out of context specific passages to confuse the reader who is speaking in specific portions combined with mistranslation of a few specific words to tweak the meanings to imply things that are completely opposite to Isaiah's contextual meaning in the Hebrew text.

    Now, in reading from Chapter 41 forward in context, pay attention to ***Isaiah, in Chapter 44 warns Israel to eschew abandoning the eternal covenant for any foreign and forbidden form of worship including specific mention against bowing to any image created by a carpenter, specifically referring to making God into the image of a man. ***

    You said you aren't religious so you don't know this stuff..but obviously your questions are for a Christian religion class by virtue of the phrasing of the questions asking you to assume that Christianity is compatible with the narrative. That is an assertion unsupportable by the context of the narrative. Context, context, context is my mantra here. Your questions premise imposes Christian doctrine into Isaiah.

    What I propose is that you don't need to be religious to understand the text and that you take a challenge. Objectively read the narrative. This should NOT be Jewish vs. Christian interpretation to understand what Isaiah says. I propose that you read Isaiah in context from Chapter 41 to the end of his book in both an English translation of the Tanakh and the Christian translation &compare and contrast.

    While many Christians will insist that it refers to the Christian messiah, Jesus, many Christian theologians from the early church fathers onward were honest in recognizing that Isaiah tells us specifically who he is talking about far too many times to claim it refers to their messiah figure whose life in their New Testament also contradicts many things Isaiah claims about the servant in his narrative. The early church father, Origen, in 248 CE conceded that Isaiah's servant narrative was referring to the Jewish nation as a whole. If a reader is challenged to determine who is or isn't telling the truth on this issue, they'll do the necessary thing and read the whole text of Isaiah without relying on someone else to reinterpret it. Jesus life depicted in the New Testament clearly doesn't fit several of the details in the chapter.

    Please also read these past answers for greater understanding.

  • Anonymous
    5 years ago

    Thinking Isaiah 53 refers to Jesus is a common mistake. Chapters 40-55 of Isaiah were written by Second Isaiah i.e. after southern kingdom was destroyed in 586 BCE and the surviving Israelites had been taken into captivity. Like all the prophets, he was writing for his own time, not future generations. He was trying to explain to the nation of Israel why they suffered and why they should yet have hope. Here's why that interpretation is correct: 1) There is no use of the word “messiah” in the passage at all. Moreover, the Jewish idea of a messiah was not someone who suffered, but rather a mighty leader. Therefore it is clear that the “servant” who has suffered is not meant to be any type of messiah. 2) The servant is crushed, the opposite of stretched or crucified, which is what happened to Jesus. 3) Most fundamentally, the author specifically identifies the “servant” as the nation of Israel in 41:8 and 49:3. The sufferings of the servant are said to be in the past, not in the future. This is consistent with the timing of the writing, i.e. after the destruction of the nation of Israel has occurred and the captivity is underway. The suffering of Jesus, by contrast, occurs in the future.

  • 8 years ago

    In actuality, Isaiah 53 directly follows the theme of chapter 52, describing the exile and redemption of the Jewish people. The prophecies are written in the singular form because the Jews ("Israel") are regarded as one unit. Throughout Jewish scripture, Israel is repeatedly called, in the singular, the "Servant of God" (see Isaiah 43:8). In fact, Isaiah states no less than 11 times in the chapters prior to 53 that the Servant of God is Israel. When read correctly, Isaiah 53 clearly [and ironically] refers to the Jewish people being "bruised, crushed and as sheep brought to slaughter" at the hands of the nations of the world. These descriptions are used throughout Jewish scripture to graphically describe the suffering of the Jewish people (see Psalm 44). Isaiah 53 concludes that when the Jewish people are redeemed, the nations will recognize and accept responsibility for the inordinate suffering and death of the Jews.

    For further reading, go to:

    The key to deciphering any biblical text is to view it in context. Isaiah 53 is the fourth of the four “Servant Songs.” (The others are found in Isaiah chapters 42, 49 and 50.) Though the “servant” in Isaiah 53 is not openly identified – these verses merely refer to “My servant” (52:13, 53:11) – the “servant” in each of the previous Servant Songs is plainly and repeatedly identified as the Jewish nation. Beginning with chapter 41, the equating of God’s Servant with the nation of Israel is made nine times by the prophet Isaiah, and no one other than Israel is identified as the “servant”:

    •“You are My servant, O Israel” (41:8)

    •“You are My servant, Israel” (49:3)

    •see also Isaiah 44:1, 44:2, 44:21, 45:4, 48:20

    The Bible is filled with other references to the Jewish people as God’s “servant”; see Jeremiah 30:10, 46:27-28; Psalms 136:22. There is no reason that the “servant” in Isaiah 53 would suddenly switch and refer to someone other than the Jewish people.

    One obvious question that needs to be addressed: How can the “Suffering Servant,” which the verses refer to grammatically in the singular, be equated with the entire Jewish nation?

    The Jewish people are consistently referred to with the singular pronoun.

    This question evaporates when we discover that throughout the Bible, the Jewish people are consistently referred to as a singular entity, using the singular pronoun. For example, when God speaks to the entire Jewish nation at Mount Sinai, all of the Ten Commandments are written as if speaking to an individual (Exodus 20:1-14). This is because the Jewish people are one unit, bound together with a shared national destiny (see Exodus 4:22, Deuteronomy chapter 32). This singular reference is even more common in biblical verses referring to the Messianic era, when the Jewish people will be fully united under the banner of God (see Hosea 14:6-7, Jeremiah 50:19).

    As we will see, for numerous reasons this chapter cannot be referring to Jesus. Even in the Christian scriptures, the disciples did not consider the Suffering Servant as referring to Jesus (see Matthew 16:21-22, Mark 9:31-32, Luke 9:44-45).

    So how did the Suffering Servant come to be associated with Jesus? After his death, the promoters of Christianity retroactively looked into the Bible and “applied” – through mistranslation and distortion of context – these biblical verses as referring to Jesus.

    Missionary apologist Walter Riggans candidly admitted:

    “There is no self-evident blueprint in the Hebrew Bible which can be said to unambiguously point to Jesus. Only after one has come to believe that Jesus was the Messiah, and more specifically the kind of Messiah that he is, does it all begin to make sense...” (Yehoshua Ben David, Olive Press 1995, p.155)

    The intention is not to denigrate another religion, but rather to understand the true meaning of the Divine word.


  • Aravah
    Lv 7
    8 years ago

    answer: Israel - NO ONE can take on the sins of others:

    Exodus 32:30-35, Deuteronomy 24:16, Ezekiel 18:1-4; 20-24; 26-27, Jeremiah 31:29-30, Deuteronomy 24:16

    Despite strong objections from conservative Christian apologists, the prevailing rabbinic interpretation of Isaiah 53 ascribes the “servant” to the nation of Israel who silently endured unimaginable suffering at the hands of its gentile oppressors. The speakers in this most-debated chapter are the stunned kings of nations who will bear witness to the messianic age and the final vindication of the Jewish people following their long and bitter exile. “Who would have believed our report?,” the astonished and contrite world leaders wonder aloud in their dazed bewilderment (53:1)1.

    The stimulus for the world’s baffled response contained in this famed cluster of chapters at the end of the Book of Isaiah is the unexpected salvation of Israel. The redemption of God’s people is the central theme in the preceding verse (52:12) where the “you” signifies the Jewish people who are sheltered and delivered by God. Moreover, the “afflicted barren woman” in the following chapter who is protected and saved by God is also universally recognized as the nation of Israel2 (54:1).

    The well-worn claim frequently advanced by Christian apologists which argues that the noted Jewish commentator Rashi (1040 CE - 1105) was the first to identify the suffering servant of Isaiah 53 with the nation of Israel is inaccurate and misleading. In fact, Origen, a prominent and influential church father, conceded in the year 248 CE -- many centuries before Rashi was born -- that the consensus among the Jews in his time was that Isaiah 53 “bore reference to the whole [Jewish] people, regarded as one individual, and as being in a state of dispersion and suffering, in order that many proselytes might be gained, on account of the dispersion of the Jews among numerous heathen nations.”3

    The broad consensus among Jewish, and even some Christian commentators, that the “servant” in Isaiah 52-53 refers to the nation of Israel is understandable. Isaiah 53, which is the fourth of four renowned Servant Songs, is umbilically connected to its preceding chapters. The “servant” in each of the three previous Servant Songs is plainly and repeatedly identified as the nation of Israel.

    Isaiah 41:8-9

    But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, my friend; you whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners, saying to you, "You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off."

    Isaiah 44:1

    But now hear, O Jacob my servant, Israel whom I have chosen!

    Isaiah 44:21

    Remember these things, O Jacob, and Israel, for you are my servant; I formed you; you are my servant; O Israel, you will not be forgotten by me.

    Isaiah 45:4

    For the sake of my servant Jacob, and Israel my chosen, I called you by your name, I name you, though you do not know me.

    Isaiah 48:20

    Go out from Babylon, flee from Chaldea, declare this with a shout of joy, proclaim it, send it out to the end of the earth; say, "The Lord has redeemed his servant Jacob!"

    Isaiah 49:3

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

    Source(s): 1 Midrash Rabbah (Numbers XXIII.2), Zohar (Genesis, & Leviticus), Talmud (Brochos 5a), Rashi, Joseph Kara, Ibn Ezra, Joseph Kimchi, David Kimchi, Nachmanadies, Abarbinbanel, et all 2 Ibn Ezra on Isaiah 53 3 Origen, Contra Celsum, Chadwick, Henry; Cambridge Press, book 1, chapter 55, page 50 Isaiah 53:10 − The Hebrew Tanakh says “And the Lord wished to crush him, He made him ill; if his soul makes itself restitution (acknowledge guilt) he shall see children, he shall prolong his days and God’s purpose shall prosper in his hand.” But the KJV says:: “Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he had put him to grief: when thou shall make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand”
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  • 8 years ago


    Isaiah 53

    This chapter foretells the sufferings of the Messiah, the end for which he was to die, and the advantages resulting to mankind from that illustrious event. It begins with a complaint of the infidelity of the Jews, Isa_53:1; the offense they took at his mean and humble appearance, Isa_53:2; and the contempt with which they treated him, Isa_53:3. The prophet then shows that the Messiah was to suffer for sins not his own; but that our iniquities were laid on him, and the punishment of them exacted of him, which is the meritorious cause of our obtaining pardon and salvation, Isa_53:4-6. He shows the meekness and placid submission with which he suffered a violent and unjust death, with the circumstances of his dying with the wicked, and being buried with the great, Isa_53:7-9; and that, in consequence of his atonement, death, resurrection, and intercession, he should procure pardon and salvation to the multitudes, insure increasing prosperity to his Church, and ultimately triumph over all his foes, Isa_53:10, Isa_53:11. This chapter contains a beautiful summary of the most peculiar and distinguishing doctrines of Christianity.

    That this chapter speaks of none but Jesus must be evident to every unprejudiced reader who has ever heard the history of his sufferings and death. The Jews have endeavored to apply it to their sufferings in captivity; but, alas for their cause! they can make nothing out in this way. Allowing that it belongs to our blessed Lord, (and the best men and the best scholars agree in this), then who can read Isa_53:4, Isa_53:5, Isa_53:6, Isa_53:8, Isa_53:10, without being convinced that his death was a vicarious sacrifice for the sins of mankind? On the first and second verses of this chapter I have received the following remarks from an unknown hand.


  • 8 years ago

    Whom did the prophet have in mind? None other than the Messiah/ Jesus Christ

    What is unique about the method of salvation? That God himself come down in the flesh through a virgin birth to give himself as a sacrifice for the salvation of man.

    How was this model applied to christianity? It is the gospel of Christ Jesus, the foundation of our faith and salvation unto eternal life.

  • 8 years ago

    Isaiah speaks of the Lord Jesus Christ.

    You can take it from there and finish your own homework.

  • Tipton
    Lv 4
    8 years ago

    Are you serious? You really don't know?

    It is Christ, God's annointed to whom this refers. Christ saved His elect before the foundation of the world. (You can look that up while you do a study.)

    Isaiah 53:4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. Borne and carried refers to His work before the world was formed. He MANIFESTED this work in 33 A.D.

    Source(s): Read The Holy Bible. The King James Version is the most-accurate English translation of the original languages (which are without error).
  • 8 years ago

    In the book of Isaiah , there is a prophecy for an illiterate prophet ..

    ( And the book is given to him that is not learned, say read, and he says, I am not learned )

    This prophecy is for Muhammad ,,

  • 8 years ago

    This fictitious character could be anything.

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