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Bailey Sadler Class
SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON STUDY GUIDE – 2015
Theme: Life Like No Other: The Life Of Christ
What This Study Is About:
focus of this week’s study is on the fact that we can always trust that God will keep
Promised Like No Other
A Birth Like No Other
Power Like No Other
Teaching Like No Other
Like No Other
Resurrected Like No Other
is the promised Messiah.
The Messiah Became One Of Us (Isa. 53:2-3)
Messiah Suffers For Us (Isa. 53:4-9)
Messiah Rescues Us (Isa. 53:10-12)
OF BACKGROUND PASSAGE:
ministered during the 8th century BC in the Southern Kingdom of
Judah. Little is known of the
man. His name means Yahweh
saves. The son of Amoz, he
prophesied during at least a portion of the reigns of four kings of Judah
(1:1). Chapter 6 records what
has frequently been viewed as Isaiah’s call in the year King Uzziah
died. Tradition claims that
Isaiah’s father was brother to King Amaziah, making Isaiah a cousin of
the kings during his ministry. He
married “the prophetess” (8:3) and had at least two sons.
the beginning of Isaiah’s ministry, both parts of the Divided Kingdom
still remained; by the end, the Northern Kingdom of Israel had ceased to
exist as an independent nation. Much
of Isaiah’s ministry, particularly the opening 39 chapters of the book,
focused on messages, warnings, and efforts to draw Judah back into a right
relationship with God so that they might avoid the same fate of their kin
to the north.
with chapter 40, however, the tone of the book changes.
The prophet of God surely must sound warnings of judgment and calls
for repentance, but the prophetic task frequently included comfort and
encouragement toward God’s people as well.
In the latter part of his book, Isaiah’s prophecies turned to
reminders of God’s strength and words of His salvation.
A reoccurring theme of Isaiah 40—66 examines a special servant of
God whom God would use in a variety of ways to bring about His plan and
His will. Isaiah 53:2-12 comes
fromt eh fourth of four so-called “servant songs” (42:1-9; 49:1-6;
50:4-6; 52:13—53:12) that help illuminate who this servant is and what
the servant would do.
SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza,
It’s often hard to determine who is a reliable source for information.
Anybody can post information
online and create “facts” to back up his beliefs. Leaders invite our
trust, but we find too many of them are not who they claim to be. This
cynicism makes many people cast a skeptical eye at Jesus. How
can we know Jesus is who He claimed to be? Is
our concept of Jesus something that His followers created? Not
Because hundreds of years before His birth, God’s prophets
pointed to Jesus. And we can
know that the prophecies of old are true because they came true in the
person of Jesus Christ, just as we were told.
We can believe Jesus is the Messiah because God pointed us to Him
even before His birth. We can
believe in God’s salvation through faith in the person of Jesus Christ
because we can look back at the prophecy recorded in God’s Word and see
for ourselves that everything predicted about the coming of Jesus Christ
has come true. That is a most
awesome testimony! Are you a
believer? Study Isaiah’s
prophecy in Isaiah 53:2-12 and see and see for yourself.
God’s Word is undeniably true and trustworthy!
SOURCE: The Herschel Hobbs
Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern
Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.
Messiah Became One Of Us (Isa. 53:2-3)
2 He grew up before Him like a young plant and like a root out of dry
ground. He didn’t have an
impressive form or majesty that we should look at Him, no appearance that
we should desire Him. 3
He was despised and rejected by men, a
man of suffering who knew what sickness was. He
was like someone people turned away from; He was despised, and we didn’t
How do you decide whether someone is believable
What ideas or images
come to mind when you hear the word “prophecy”?
is the suffering servant Isaiah wrote about?
(See Acts 8:26-35: Isa 53:7-8; Phil. 2:8.)
How would you know if Isaiah’s prophecy as
recorded in Isaiah 53 is believable or not?
What Bible references would you use to back up
your belief that Isaiah’s prophecy is true?
(See Acts 8:26-35; Philippians 2:8; Luke 23:26; Phil. 3:10.)
What words or descriptions in this passage tend
to be contrary to our expectation of a great man? Why?
What words or descriptions in this passage would
indicate that He would become one of us (v. 2)?
would those He became one of, respond to him (v. 3)?
do you think the very people that He became like would react as described in
what ways is the Servant described that would make it appear unlikely that He
would accomplish anything that mattered?
were some reasons that people in His day would despise and reject Him?
you think these reasons are still prevalent among people today?
Why, or why not?
does the treatment given the Suffering Servant portend* the treatment given to
do you think the treatment of Jesus lends to the truth of Isaiah’s prophecy in
our focal passage (Isa. 53:2-12)?
Do you think it is
easier to believe in someone touched by suffering and rejection than someone who
has never had any trouble? Why, or
Do you think Isaiah’s description of a
suffering Messiah has been, and remains today, a stumbling block for many
people? Why, or why not?
do you think it is about Jesus that’s the biggest stumbling block for many
people today? Why do you think this
a sign or warning that something momentous or calamitous is likely to happen.
Messiah Suffers For Us (Isa. 53:4-9)
4 Yet He Himself bore our sicknesses, and He carried our pains; but we in
turn regarded Him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. 5 But He was pierced because of
our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our
peace was on Him, and we are healed by His wounds. 6 We all went astray like sheep; we all have turned to our own way; and
the Lord has punished Him for the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed and
afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth. Like a lamb led to the slaughter
and like a sheep silent before her shearers, He did not open His mouth. 8 He was taken away because of oppression and judgment; and who
considered His fate? For He was cut off from the land of the living; He
was struck because of my people’s rebellion. 9 They made His grave with the
wicked and with a rich man at His death, although He had done no violence
and had not spoken deceitfully.
would you explain our “sicknesses” and our “pains” Isaiah prophesied the
Servant would bare and carry (v. 4)?
How can you testify to Christ bearing your
sickness and carrying your pain?
do you think it means that “we . .
. regarded Him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted (v. 4)?
did this Servant of God suffer so (v. 5)?
on this passage how did the Servant suffer?
there a purpose for the Servant’s suffering?
so, what was the purpose of His suffering and what does that mean for us today?
are at least two benefits that came to the people because of the Servant’s
do these verses remind you of events surrounding the death of Jesus?
Which of the prophecies about Jesus in Isaiah
53:4-9 do you find compelling? Explain
are at least five things in this passage that Isaiah prophesied the Servant
would you explain Jesus’ need to suffer for our salvation to a non-believer?
Not only did God prophesy the Messiah would
become one of us and suffer for us, but what else would He do for us?
How would you summarize the impact this passage
should have on us today?
Lessons in Isaiah 53:4-9:
that Jesus endured on the way to and upon the cross was punishment
deserved by each of us.
of the torture and agony of His affliction, Jesus bore without complaint
the brunt of all humanity could hurl at Him.
Messiah Rescues Us (Isa. 53:10-12)
10 Yet the Lord was pleased to crush Him severely. When You make Him a
restitution offering, He will see His seed, He will prolong His days, and
by His hand, the Lord’s pleasure will be accomplished. 11 He will see it out of His
anguish, and He will be satisfied with His knowledge. My righteous Servant
will justify many, and He will carry their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will give Him
the many as a portion, and He will receive the mighty as spoil, because He
submitted Himself to death, and was counted among the rebels; yet He bore
the sin of many and interceded for the rebels.
would it please the Lord to crush His
Servant (v. 10)?
you think it is pleasing to us today? Why,
or why not?
does it mean that “You make Him a restitution offering,” (v. 10b)?
are His ”seed” (v. 10c)?
does it mean that “He will prolong His days” (v. 10d)?
would you explain the meaning of “by His hand, the Lord’s pleasure will be
accomplished” (v. 10e)?
does all of verse 10 mean to you and what message do you think it has for us
on this passage, what would result from the anguish and death of the Servant?
to verse 12, what would happen to the Servant following death?
are three results of the Servant’s suffering to the point of death that bear
witness to His divine nature?
would you explain this link between His suffering with His divine nature to a
How would you describe the parallels between the
Suffering Servant and Christ?
What do these verses
teach you about God’s character?
When looking at the focal passage as a whole,
how would you describe the main
focus of Isaiah’s prophecy?
Lessons in Isaiah 53:10-12:
happened to Jesus was in accordance with God’s plan to make restitution
for our sins.
As some of those for whom Jesus bore our sins, we help
make up His portion, His reward for accomplishing all God asked of Him.
God promised a Servant who would be the Messiah, the Anointed One
of God who came as Deliverer. He
would come to do the Father’s will, which would include giving His life
for the sins of the world. This
was no vain promise. It was
fulfilled finally—once and for all—in Jesus.
Make It Personal: The
reason the Messiah suffered was because He took my sins upon
Himself. He offers me
forgiveness and a relationship with God when I place my
faith in Him. Have I
made the decision to accept Jesus Christ as my personal Savior?
If not, why not?
So, on a scale of 1 (No) to 10 (Yes), I have made a decision to
accept Jesus Christ as my personal Savior.
If your rating is 1 (No), why wait?
Isaiah knew about God’s plan hundreds of years before Jesus’
birth. He knew Jesus would
come and why He would come. And,
by faith, He will come into your life, if you will let Him.
Why wait, why not today?
are the implications of these truths for your life?
THE CHOICE IS YOURS, ISN’T IT!
REMEMBER, the safest place for a believer is in the
center of God’s will.
Lesson Outline, Introduction,
Discussion Questions, and Conclusion adapted from the following sources:
Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources
of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.
Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by
Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville,
Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist
Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.
Passage from three different translations of God’s Word:
King James Version: Isaiah 53:2-12:
For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a
dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there
is no beauty that we should desire him. 3
He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with
grief: and we hid as it were our
faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4
Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did
esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 5
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. 6 All
we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the
LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He
was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought
as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he
openeth not his mouth. 8 He was taken
from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was
cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he
stricken. 9 And he made his grave with
the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence,
neither was any deceit in
his mouth. 10 Yet it pleased the LORD to
bruise him; he hath put him
to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his
seed, he shall prolong his
days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. 11
He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous
servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. 12
Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the
strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with
the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the
Version: Isaiah 53:2-12:
2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and
like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. 3 He
was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him
not. 4 Surely he took up our infirmities and
carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and
afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our
transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought
us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. 6 We
all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the
LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was
oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb
to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not
open his mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment
he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off
from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken.
9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the
rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his
mouth. 10 Yet it was the LORD’S will to
crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes£ his
life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the
will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. 11 After
the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life£ and be
satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will
bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will
give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the
strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the
transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the
New Living Translation: Isaiah 53:2-12:
2 My servant
grew up in the LORD’s presence like a tender green shoot, like a root in dry
ground. There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance,
nothing to attract us to him. 3 He was despised and
rejected—a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs
on him and looked the other way. He
was despised, and we did not care. 4 Yet it was our
weaknesses he carried; it was our
sorrows£ that weighed him down.
And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for
his own sins! 5 But
he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we
could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.
6 All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have
left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the LORD laid on him the sins of us
all. 7 He was oppressed and treated harshly,
yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as
a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth. 8 Unjustly
condemned, he was led away. No
one cared that he died without descendants,
that his life was cut short in midstream. But he was struck down
for the rebellion of my people. 9 He had done no wrong
and had never deceived anyone. But he was buried like a criminal; he was put in
a rich man’s grave. 10 But it was the LORD’s good
plan to crush him and cause him grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for
sin, he will have many descendants. He will enjoy a long life, and the LORD’s
good plan will prosper in his hands. 11 When he sees all
that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied.
And because of his experience, my righteous servant will make it possible
for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins. 12 I
will give him the honors of a victorious soldier, because he exposed himself to
death. He was counted among the rebels. He bore the sins of many and interceded
for rebels. (NLT)
Outline — “Promised Like No Other” — Isaiah
The Messiah Became
One Of Us (Isa. 53:2-3)
The Messiah Suffers For Us (Isa. 53:4-9)
The Messiah Rescues Us (Isa. 53:10-12)
Commentary for the focal passage comes from three sources: “The Expositor’s Bible Commentary Old
“The Old Testament Survey Series,” and “The Complete Biblical Library Commentary,” and is provided for your study.)
The Expositor’s Bible Commentary Old Testament; Isaiah
intimate link between v. 1 and the closing verse of the last chapter can
hardly be missed and poses a difficulty for those who would divorce the end of
chapter 52 from this chapter. The two astonishing events of 52:14-15—the
appalling suffering of God’s own wise Servant who deserved none of it and the
subsequent elevation of one so dishonored by men—would in fact produce
incredulity in many hearing the report of these things. God’s way of doing
things often does not seem to make sense to men (cf. 55:8-9; 1 Cor
1:18-31). The cross is, however, where God’s power resides; and here is the
ultimate answer to the prophet’s prayer of 51:9, anticipated by its
foreshadowing in the new Exodus of 52:10. John 12:37-41 joins this
verse with Isaiah 6:10 in illustration of the rejection of Jesus by many of
the Jews of his day. Who are the speakers in v. 1? Are they Gentiles—or
Israelites, possibly speaking through the prophet as their representative? It is
not necessary to take a collective view of the Servant to feel the power of the
arguments for the former. His work was to have wide-ranging application (cf. 42:6; 49:6).
In the context it would seem natural that the nations and kings (52:15), at
first struck dumb by the astounding revelation, should then speak in response to
it. The “arm of the Lord” is the disclosure of his power. So this revelation
answers the prophet’s representative prayer in 51:9. Verse 2 echoes
and yet contrasts with 4:2. The whole verse suggests that the Servant would
be confronted with adverse conditions from his youth. In fact, Jesus could not
be explained in terms of his human environment, which in his day was dominated
by a legalistic Judaism almost devoid of the refreshing moisture of God’s word
truly understood and applied. Verse 2b implies that his true intrinsic
beauty was hidden from people because they looked at him entirely from a human
standpoint, in which case there are interesting comparisons and contrasts with 1
Samuel 16:5-13, where “a shoot from ... Jesse” (cf. Isa 11:1) is chosen
to be king. The principle that human appearance is irrelevant to God’s choice
is more radically applied here than in the choice of David. It is possible, on
the other hand, that these words apply to the Servant, not in terms of his
normal appearance, but that which was produced by his sufferings (cf. 52:14).
Verse 3 develops the thought of v. 2, for the onlookers moved from
failure to desire him to despising and rejection, refusing even to look at him
(cf. perhaps Num 21:8-9; John 3:14-16). The words translated
“sorrows” and “suffering” really mean “pains” and “sickness.”
They occur again in v. 4a. What does this imply? Kidner (“Isaiah,” in
loc.) writes that they “might suggest to the reader either a sick man or one
sick at heart, as in Jer 15:18. But there is another category, that of the
physician’s voluntary involvement; for he is also a man of pain and sickness
in the sense that he gives himself to these things and their relief. This is the
sense defined in Mt 8:17, quoting Isa 53:4. There is another
possibility. The concept of punishment finds many analogies in Isaiah’s
prophecies, from the whipping of the body politic in 1:5-6 to the
inebriated helplessness of 51:17-20. Could not this sickness be another? In
this case the punitive nature of the Servant’s sufferings is indicated before
the vicarious nature of them is made clear in v. 4.
central stanza of the fourth Servant song has a number of general
characteristics. The first is the frequency of the first person plural. This
occurs of course several times in vv. 1-3 as well. Who are the speakers
here? Probably the amazed onlookers of the first stanza, who appear from 52:15
to be predominantly, if not exclusively, Gentiles. Then there is the frequency
of nouns and verbs suggesting both pain and punishment. The passage also
emphasizes the sins of the onlookers, with one of the most vivid
analogies—even in this illustration-saturated book—given in v. 6. Here
is a picture of the willful and yet purposeless waywardness of sin, with
probably a suggestion that this is an offense against love as well as holiness,
for the divine Shepherd is a tender, loving image in the Bible (cf. esp. 40:11).
This aimless yet determined wandering is
marvellously conveyed in the music of Handel’s Messiah, with its
jerkily wandering melody, and likewise, in total contrast, the deeply moving
affirmation of atonement of great cost with which the verse ends. It is that
costly atonement that provides the dominant theme of this stanza. Verse 4a
views our punishment figuratively in terms of the visitation of disease (see
comments at v. 3), while v. 4b shows the onlookers coming to the
grievously wrong conclusion that the Servant was suffering for his own sins at
the hand of God. Verse 5 shows that they have now accepted for themselves
the objective fact declared in v. 4a. Piercing
and crushing are both appropriate terms for the Crucifixion, the first literal
and the second figurative; and both are aptly summed up as “wounds” later in
the verse. Peace and healing view sin in terms of the estrangement from God and
the marring of the sinner himself that it causes. Verse 6 may well derive
its language from the Day of Atonement ritual (cf. Lev 16:21-22); for as
God was the Author of the ritual (cf. Lev 17:11), the high priest was
simply his agent for transferring the sins of the people symbolically to the
scapegoat. Finally, we should note the element of conversion conveyed in vv. 4-5.
The onlookers put aside their premature judgment on the matter and accept that
the sufferings of the Servant were not only penal but also substitutionary.
Kidner notes “the expressions, all we ... we all, which give the
verse an identical beginning and end in the Hebrew; grace wholly answering
sin” (emphasis his).
has given an admirable precis of these verses: “Meekly and without
protest the Servant accepts sentence to death and suffers execution. Although
innocent, he is given a felon’s grave.” The term “oppressed” (v. 7)
was appropriate in relation to the trials and death of Jesus; for all those who
tried him—Pilate, Herod, Annas, and Caiaphas—had a measure of human
authority and misused it when they condemned him or, washing their hands of him,
allowed others to take him to the place of death. In it all, he had a quiet and
uncomplaining bearing (cf. esp. 1 Peter 2:23), which suggests not only
comparison but also contrast with Jeremiah (cf. Jer 11:18-20; 12:1-3).
Writing on v. 7b, Simon says, “This new David (cf. Ezek 34:23) gives
his life for the sheep who, strangely, are his murderers. He combines both the
initiative and the submissiveness of the priest-shepherd and the victim-sheep.
Thus he transmutes what might have been merely the murder of a good person into
a holy and abiding Messianic sacrifice.” The phrase “by oppression and
judgment” (v. 8) is, formally, somewhat like the earlier expression
“iniquity and solemn assembly” (1:13 RSV; “evil assemblies,” NIV), in
that the two nouns present concomitant aspects of the same fact. The judgment
was in fact employed as an instrument of oppression. It seemed as though he must
die without issue, which was regarded as a great misfortune or worse in that
society. The phrase “cut off” strongly suggests not only a violent,
premature death but also the just judgment of God (cf., e.g., Gen 9:11; Exod
12:15), not simply the oppressive judgment of men. H.R. Minn points out that the
versions support the MT in reading “my people”; then he goes on to say,
“If this is allowed to stand—and why should it not?—there is a distinction
between the people and the Servant. They are not identical.” Verse 9
presents an enigma, a striking prediction fulfilled in due time, and a
transition to the final stanza, which describes the Servant’s vindication. The
enigma consists in the apparent juxtaposition of “the wicked” and “the
rich,” the former more appropriate to his rejection and the latter to his
ultimate vindication. We are forced to conclude that the parallelism is not
synonymous but antithetical, the first line indicating the human intention and
the second the divinely ordained intervention and transference. This in fact was
strikingly fulfilled in the burial of Jesus (Matt 27:57-60). Simon (in loc.)
writes: By a very simple manipulation of the text we may read a less dramatic
account according to which he was thrown into a common grave with the wicked and
evil-doers. But though this emendation may claim to restore an obvious Hebrew
parallelism the simplification seems altogether regrettable here. The ancient
commentators wisely retained the word “rich,” which has become troublesome
only to modern minds ... By retaining the unconventional “rich” and
rejecting the easier “evil-doers” we follow a sound principle. “Rich”
must have been there from the start; it may have become “evil-doers” whereas
the reverse is impossible. The paradox should be taken quite seriously. The
Servant’s gentle ingenuousness is asserted at the close of the stanza.
53:10-12. The NIV text gives the
word “yet” twice in this chapter, the previous occurrence being in v. 4.
Both verses present reassessment that means the balancing of one partial truth
with another, thus giving a full picture. In v. 4 penal suffering is
balanced—and so interpreted—by substitution; here man’s unjust treatment
of the Servant is balanced—and also interpreted—by God’s saving purpose in
the Servant’s sufferings. Verse 10a is almost shocking in its apparent
presentation of arbitrary disregard for personal righteousness, but then the
reader recalls the substitutionary nature of those sufferings, already declared
in vv. 4-6 and to be referred to again later in this stanza. At once God is
seen not to be harsh but astonishingly gracious. Verses 10b-11, as rendered
in the NIV, remind us of 52:14-15; for after suffering comes vindication,
suggesting perhaps at the same time the completion of the Servant’s atoning
work in his death and the opening of a new life beyond that death. The guilt
offering may have special overtones of completeness for it involved restitution
as well as an offering to God (cf. Lev 5). Nothing then remained to be
done; the work was complete. Verse 11a, with its contrast of
“suffering” and “light,” certainly makes us think of the Resurrection,
which is still more clearly suggested by the earlier words “prolong his
days.” In fact, the words “he will see his offspring and prolong his days”
seem to stand in intended contrast with the second and third lines of v. 8.
There is a parallel here with Psalm 22, which has so much in common with
this passage, where a sufferer now vindicated declares, “Posterity will serve
him” (Ps 22:30). Some commentators take the words “by his knowledge” with
the preceding clause; but, as Young points out, the Masoretic accentuation,
representing of course the Jewish traditional understanding, links it with the
words that follow it. If this is so, are we to take the pronominal suffix to be
subjective, as in the NIV text (“by his knowledge”) or objective, as in the
NIV margin (“by knowledge of him”)? Young well expresses the contextual
argument for the latter: “In this context the servant appears, not as a
teacher, but as a saviour. Not by his knowledge does he justify men, but by
bearing their iniquities.” We are saved, not simply by revelation, but by
redemptive suffering, the latter being the teaching of the context of this
verse. In this case, then, it is the experimental knowledge of faith that is in
view; and we have here an important background for the Pauline doctrine of
justification through the blood of Christ, appropriated by faith. The adjective
“righteous” and the verb “will justify,” coming from the same Hebrew
root (sdq), are placed next to each other in the Hebrew, as if to stress
their relationship. Calvin stressed that the obedience of Christ was the chief
circumstance of his death. His righteousness and therefore his innocence of sin
furnished a basis for his substitution. The final clause of v. 11, with its
reminder of v. 6 (see comments there), states the objective grounds of this
justification, which is of course a new position before God, the righteous
Judge, on the basis of what the Servant has achieved in his sufferings and not
of what we have ourselves done or will do. The opening statement of v. 12,
reminding many commentators of Philippians 2:9, shows God honoring the
Servant for his faithful work and the Servant in horn distributing the spoils of
battle to others. In fact it introduces a new note into the passage; for 52:13,
to which in other ways it answers, contains no military language. The NT however
does; and Christ’s work there is presented as a victory over spiritual foes,
resulting in a distribution of the spoil to those made strong in him (cf., e.g., Eph
4:8; 6:10-17). J. Jeremias and others have argued that the words heauton
ekenosen (“made himself nothing”) in Philippians 2:7 are a
translation from a Semitic original meaning “he poured himself out” and are
based on this verse. Thornton further points out that the clause can in fact be
completed by the words “to death” from v. 8. Here, in both passages, is
the ultimate in self-abnegation in dedication to the will of God. The last three
clauses of v. 12 sum up the matter. The
Servant was numbered with the transgressors, not only in the outward
circumstances of his death (Mark 15:27 NIV mg), but as a general description of
the meaning of his sufferings (Luke 22:37). Innocent, he was charged with human
sins and so bore their penalty. Beyond this as the Epistle to the Hebrews
proclaims, he has an intercessory ministry based on the finality of his
sufferings. This means that even when vindicated by God, he is still concerned
to minister to his people. In 44:28 the name “Cyrus” is solemnly and
dramatically revealed long before his coming. Our present passage speaks so
eloquently of the work of Christ that even the inclusion of his name could add
but little more to the extent of its disclosure of him.
SOURCE: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary Old
Testament; Frank E. Gaebelein; General Editor;
Zondervan Publishing House; A Division of Harper Collins Publishers
Testament Survey Series: The Major Prophets – Isaiah 53:2-12
The Slighting of the Servant (53:1-3). Isaiah was amazed that so few would (1) believe the prophets regarding
the Servant; and (2) take note of the power of God displayed in his life. The
Servant would be despised and rejected because of his humble origins and his
appearance. This rejection would cause him deep sorrow.
Suffering of the Servant (53:4-6). The
reason for his suffering would be misunderstood. Most would think he suffered
for some terrible crime or sin in his own life. Nothing could be further from
the truth. His suffering was vicarious and redemptive. Only through that
suffering could all the straying sheep be recovered. The our and his
contrast in these verses is striking and moving.
The Submission of the Servant (53:7-9). Isaiah described the Servant as silent during the abuse of his trial.
From that oppressive trial he would be taken away to die. No one really would
give a great deal of thought to the significance of his death. Though innocent
of any crime, he would be sentenced to be buried with evil men. His grave,
however, eventually was with a rich man.
The Satisfaction of the Servant (53:10-12). That the Servant should suffer was part of the plan of God. He was to be a sin offering. Yet the Servant would live after death, “he shall see his seed,” i.e., his disciples. God’s purposes would then prosper in his hand. Many would be justified before God when they learn of what he had done. For this reason the Servant could look with satisfaction upon his work (53:10f.). The Servant would be regarded as a great conqueror, one who shares the spoils of victory with his followers. Victory, however, would come only through the fact that the Servant was willing to suffer as a sin-bearer and pour out himself in death. Through his death and resurrection he made intercession (53:12).
The Old Testament Survey Series: The Major
Prophets; By James E. Smith; College Press Publishing Company;
Complete Biblical Library Commentary: Isaiah
53:1. Israel, or rather, the godly remnant in Israel
speaks. Initially, not even they believed the message, the thing heard (cf. Luke
24:25, 41; Rom. 10:16). The “arm,” that is, the power of the Lord, was
revealed supernaturally. Jesus himself had to come to his disciples and explain
53:2. The Servant
grows up as a “new shoot” before the Lord, in his presence and under his
protection. But He appeared as in a dry ground that gives no appearance of any
fertility that would make growth possible. The comparison to the shoot and the
root ties the Servant to the earlier Messianic prophecies (see 11:1, 10). But He
is not coming as a King this time. There is nothing wonderful or spectacular
about his coming. There is no outward evidence of royalty. Rather there seems to
be nothing desirable about Him.
53:3. In his
severe suffering, He is characterized as “rejected” or forsaken. He was a
man of physical pains and experienced the same suffering that accompanies severe
illness or sickness. People despised Him in a mocking way, or else they forsook
Him (Matt. 26:56). Those who despised Him found his suffering so repulsive that
they turned their faces away.
53:4. It was not for any sin of his own that He suffered.
He willingly took up and bore the heavy load of our sicknesses and our pains.
Matthew 8:17 applies this to Jesus’ healing ministry where He took pain and
sickness away. This He could do because He was going to die. The Hebrew words,
however, refer to his own physical suffering which He endured on the cross. Yet
the nation as a whole thought He had become the object of God’s judgment,
struck down and humbled by Him to the point of death.
53:5. The explanation is emphatic. He was pierced with
painful bodily wounds for our rebellion (against God and his Word) and bruised
for our sinful guilt. (Both “pierced” and “bruised” are used of
situations where the person dies.) The chastisement laid on Him was to secure
our peace, including our eternal well-being, blessing and joyful fellowship with
the Lord. By his wounds (or stripes) there is healing for us. This includes not
only physical healing, but restoration to fellowship with God (cf. 1 Pet. 2:24f;
53:6. Everyone needs
the Redeemer, for all like sheep have wandered away from God and strayed into
sin (cf. Ps. 119:176; Matt. 9:36). God caused all our sins (including both our
guilt and the punishment we deserve) to fall on Him. His suffering was
completely for others. His sacrifice was substitutionary. We could not pay the
penalty for our sins, so God provided the payment for us.
53:7. He was oppressed as one oppresses a debtor to exact
payment, or as a slave driver whips the slaves; yet there was no word of
complaint. In his patience and silence, He was like a lamb (cf. the Passover
lamb of Exo. 12:3; John the Baptist calls Jesus “the Lamb of God” in John
53:8. He was put under constraint (as Jesus was bound and
placed under guard like a criminal). “Judgment” refers to the trial (though
it was illegal), after which He was led away to die. No one at that time
understood the meaning of all this (even his disciples did not understand He was
suffering for them). He was cut off by violent suffering and death, a death his
people, as well as all the people of the world, deserved.
53:9. It was intended that his grave be with the wicked,
that is, with the condemned criminals who were crucified with Him. Yet, when He
actually died, He was buried with honor by a rich man (see Matt. 27:57-60). This
was God’s assurance that the accusations that He was a violent man and a
deceiver were false (cf. 1 Pet. 2:22). He was gentle with sinners, and his words
53:10. God not only allowed the Servant’s death, it
pleased God to bruise Him and make Him suffer. We in no way deserved such a
sacrifice on our behalf. God did it out of pure grace and love (John 3:16). God
made the Servant’s soul, that is, his life including his whole self, a guilt
offering (the word ordinarily translated “trespass offering” in KJV, cf. 2
Cor. 5:21). By the shedding of his blood and the outpouring of his life,
sufficient expiation was made for all our sin and guilt. But his death would not
be the end. “That He would view seed,” means He would rise from the dead and
see spiritual children. “That He would lengthen days,” means He would live
on. The pleasure of the Lord includes the business of the Lord. It would be
brought to a successful conclusion “in his hand,” that is, by his power and
under his administration.
53:11. He will see the outcome of his sufferings and be
satisfied. The Dead Sea Scrolls add that He will see the light of life, which
was indeed fulfilled in his resurrection. The Servant’s “knowledge” means
He knew the Father, He knew what He was doing in his sacrifice of himself for
us, and He knew who He was and is. His righteousness means He was without sin
and therefore could “justify (provide righteousness for) many”--not just
one, but for all who would come to Him. He could do this because He would bear
the consequences of their guilt.
53:12. The Servant will triumph. God will richly reward
Him. All the grandeur and power of his enemies will be among the spoils of his
victory. All this because He was willing to go down to death and let himself be
identified with humankind that was in a state of rebellion (see Mark 15:28).
Though He was treated as a rebel, He was making intercession for rebels and
would continue to do so (cf. Luke 23:34; Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25). It is clear from
this He was not a mere martyr, not merely our example, not merely a teacher. He
carried the burden of the sins and guilt of all humankind, and bore it all away,
so we can be free to come into the presence of God and be in right relationship
Complete Biblical Library Commentary – Acts. Database ©
2009 WORDsearch Corp.; World Library Press, Inc.
SERVANT OF THE LORD, THE: Title Jesus
took up from the Old Testament, especially Isaiah 40-55. The term the
servant of the Lord (or “My servant” or “His servant” where the
pronouns refer to God) is applied to many leaders of God’s people: to Moses
over 30 times, to David over 70 times, and to Israel as a nation a
number of times. It assumes a special significance in Isaiah 40-55. The
idea is introduced almost incidentally. Chapter 41 pictures a great crisis,
as a powerful army moves westward from Persia, conquering many nations
and filling all with terror. In contrast, God told Israel not to fear.
“But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham
my friend.... Thou art my servant; I have chosen thee, and not cast thee
away” (Isa. 41:8, 9b). Israel had to be preserved, because it was God’s instrument
to perform a task of worldwide importance. Isaiah 42 gives a remarkable picture
of the ideal Servant of the Lord and the great work that God intends Him to
accomplish. He is to “bring forth judgment to the Gentiles” (v.
1). He must “set judgment in the earth,” and the distant “isles shall wait
for his law” (v. 4). The tasks He is destined to accomplish are almost
beyond belief. He is to bring God’s justice to all the nations (vv.
1, 4). Almost more remarkable than the immensity of the task that the Servant
must perform is the description of the way He is to do it. He will move forward
with absolute confidence, but nothing indicates strenuous effort will be needed.
He will have such an understanding of His overwhelming power that He can be
absolutely gentle as He does His work (vv. 2-4) even toward those whose
efforts have failed. This first part of chapter 42 pictures the ideal
Servant—the goal for which Israel was to be preserved. As an Israelite read
this prediction, he would think: “How can Israel even think of performing this
great task that God’s Servant must do?” Soon the Lord Himself called
attention to the inability of the natural Israelite to fulfill the
picture of the ideal Servant. In verse 19 He says, “Who is blind, but my
servant? or deaf, as my messenger that I sent?” Israel had a
responsibility to fulfill this ideal, but to do so was far beyond its power.
Still, the Lord says: “Ye are my witnesses, ... and my servant whom I
have chosen” (43:10; compare 44:1-2, 21). Israel had
responsibility to do the work of the Servant. Yet not all Israel could be meant,
for some were blasphemers and idolaters. Could part of Israel be the real
Servant? Or might it really point to One who must come out of Israel—One who
could represent Israel in accomplishing the task? Matthew 12:17-21 quotes Isaiah
42:1-4 as fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Chapter 49 presents the work of the Servant
in more detail. The Servant tells the “isles” and the “people, from
far;” that God called Him before His birth, even mentioning His name:
Israel (Isa. 49:3). Verse 4 describes the godly in Israel who know what God
wants but feel their own inadequacy and provides assurance that the work belongs
to God, and He will bring it to pass. Verses 5 and 6 distinguish
between the One who will fulfill the work of the Servant and the nation of
Israel, to which this One belongs and which He represents. Not only is He to
bring judgment to all the world—He is “to bring Jacob again to him”
(v. 5) and “to restore the preserved of Israel” (v. 6). He is to be “a
light to the Gentiles” and “my salvation unto the end of the
earth” (v. 6). In 50:4-10, we hear of the sufferings to which He will
voluntarily submit. All this leads up to the triumphal picture in Isaiah
52:13-53:12, showing the sufferings of the Servant (52:14; 53:2-5, 7-8, 10),
their vicarious and redemptive nature (52:15; 53:4-6, 8, 10-12;
compare 1 Pet. 1:1-2). Chapter 54 shows the outreach of the
Servant’s work, and chapter 55 gives the glorious call to receive
the salvation won by the Servant’s redemptive work, “without money and
without price” (v. 1). After chapter 53, Isaiah never again used
“servant” in the singular; rather he spoke of the blessings that the
followers of the Servant will receive, calling them “the servants of the Lord”
(54:17); “his servants” (56:6; 65:15; 66:14); and “my
servants” (65:8, 9, 13, 14). The New Testament pictures
Jesus as the Suffering Servant fulfilling the glorious descriptions of Isaiah.
In refusing to let disciples reveal His true identity, Jesus was the
pleasing Servant who did not strive or cry out (Matt. 12:14-21). In the resurrection
and ascension, God glorified Jesus the Servant (Acts 3:13; compare verse
26 where the same Greek word for servant appears though KJV translates
“Son.”). Gentile and Jewish leaders conspired to make Jesus, “your holy
servant” suffer as God “had decided beforehand” (Acts 4:27-28 NIV). This
led the early church to pray that as God’s servants they would speak with boldness
and perform miracles through the name of “your holy servant Jesus” (Acts
4:29-30 NIV). Jesus saw His mission as that of the Servant (Luke 4:18-19;
compare 22:37) and symbolized it for His disciples, calling on them to
serve one another and the world (John 13:4-17).
SOURCE: Holman Bible Dictionary; General Editor, David S.
Dockery; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville, Tennessee.
undesirable pains and experiences. The Bible does not treat suffering
systematically nor philosophically. It relates how people and nations experience
suffering in various ways for a variety of reasons. Clearly an understanding of
suffering introduces the problem of evil. Suffering follows the entrance of
evil into the universe. The Bible does not attempt to explain the origin of
evil. It accepts evil and suffering as givens in a fallen and sinful world. The
various writers present multiple perspectives on the causes of suffering and how
it can be endured.
The Semitic mind dealt with concrete situations rather than abstract forms.
Their perspective was not to treat the issue of suffering as an intellectual
one. The Old Testament writers, accordingly, sought to identify the causes and
purposes of suffering when it happened. The Hebrews regarded suffering as
punishment for sin against the divine moral order. The wicked would surely
suffer for their evil ways (Pss. 7:15, 16; 37:1-3; 73:12-20; 139:19),
even though they might prosper for a time (Job 21:28-33). Some writers expressed
consternation that God stayed His hand of judgment against the offenders of His
will (Jer. 12:1-4; Hab. 1:2-4; Mal. 3:7-15). They often interpreted
their own suffering as a sign of God’s wrath and punishment for sin
in their lives. The highly developed sense of corporate identity in Hebrew
thought meant that suffering could come as a result of parents’ sin (1
Kings 21:20, 22, 29; an idea reflected by Jesus’ disciples
in John 9:2, the story of the healing of the man born blind) or the
wickedness of the king (2 Kings 21:10, 11). The suffering of the righteous
posed a problem. It was explained variously as a way for God to gain peoples’
attention (Job 33:14; 36:15), to correct sin into obedience (2 Chron.
20:9, 10; Mal. 3:3), to develop or refine character (Job 23:10; Ps.
66:10). Ultimately, the writers consigned themselves to trust in God’s
sometimes hidden wisdom (Job 42:2, 3; Ps. 135:6). The prophet
gained a vision of a greater purpose in suffering—carrying the sins of
others (Isa. 53). As eschatological hopes matured in late Old
Testament and intertestamental times, the righteous looked forward to the Day
of the Lord when they would be vindicated and justice would reign (Dan.
Into an evil world God sent His only Son. God is Himself touched by the
suffering of Christ on the cross. Christian writers in the New
Testament incorporated the trials of Christ into their existing Old Testament
understanding of suffering. The purposefulness and necessity of suffering in the life
of the Son of God (Matt. 16:21; Mark 8:31; Luke 9:22) aided them
in coping with their own. The early Christians recognized the inevitability of
their suffering. As Christ suffered, so would they (John 16:33; Acts 14:22; Rom.
8:31-39; 1 Cor. 12:26; 1 Thess. 2:14; 2 Tim. 3:12; 1 Pet.
4:12, 13). Continuing His mission, they would incur tribulation
(Mark 13:12, 13; Rev. 17:6; 20:14) because the world hates the
disciples as much as it did their Lord (see John 15:18; 1 Cor.
2:8; 1 John 3:11, 12). Suffering for His sake was counted a privilege
(Acts 5:41; 1 Cor. 11:32; 1 Thess. 1:4-8). New Testament writers
realized there were other types of suffering than that incurred as they lived on
Christian mission. These are to be endured patiently rather than
rebelliously (1 Thess. 3:3; Jas. 1:2-4) because God is working His purpose
out in His children’s lives (Rom. 8:28-29). Satan would tempt believers
to be defeated in their suffering (2 Cor. 4:8-12; Rev. 2:10). Instead,
Christians can grow stronger spiritually through trials (Rom. 6:4-8; 1 Pet.
4:1; Heb. 12:11) and share Christ’s ultimate triumph (Mark 13:9; John
16:33; 2 Thess. 1:5; Rev. 5:5; 20:9, 14, 15) even now
as they experience daily victories (Rom. 8:37; 1 John 2:13-14; 1 Pet.
5:10). Therefore, sufferings give rise to hope (Rom. 12:12; 1 Thess.
1:3), for no present suffering compares with the rewards that await the faithful
follower of Christ (Rom. 8:17-18).
SOURCE: Holman Bible Dictionary; General Editor, David S.
Dockery; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville, Tennessee.
Testament Burial Practices
By Daniel P.
Daniel P. Caldwell is vice president of
church relations and dean of the Cooper School of Missions and Biblical Studies
at William Carey University, Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
N THE LAST of
“Servant Song” passages, Isaiah mentioned the burial of the Servant by
saying, “They made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man at his
The internment of the dead was a matter of significant during the Old
Testament era. Old Testament texts
offer numerous references to burials. The
passages are more descriptive in nature than prescriptive.
The burial practices for the rich and for the poor were different as were
the burials for the righteous and those who were noted a sinners.
Burial practices changed over the course of time.
At the time
of death, the eldest son, or in his absence the nearest next of kin, closed the
eyes of the deceased.2
Reflecting this custom, God speaking in a vision, told Jacob to go to
Egypt and there “Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes” (Gen. 46:4).
for kings and other political officials may have involved longer periods of
mourning before the actual internment, burial for the commoner generally
occurred within 24 hours. At times
the internment may have taken place on the same day that the death occurred.
This was partly because of the climate in Israel and partly because
people considered the body to be ceremonially unclean.
People thus prepared a body of burial as soon as possible.
Deuteronomy 21:23 states that the corpse of a man put to death was not to
be left overnight but was to be buried on the same day.
In Leviticus 10:4-5, the lifeless bodies of Nadab and Abihu were removed
immediately from the Israelite camp. To
allow a body to decay or to be defiled above ground was highly shameful (2 Kings
9:34-37). Even David commanded the
burial of the bones of Saul and Jonathan (2 Sam. 21:10-14).
evidence from the early Canaanite period (3150-2200 BC ) revealed the use of
family burial caves, also known as patriarchal tombs.
These caves were generally outside of towns and villages among the hills
or cliffs. Some of these caves were
natural formations that people expanded to include space for additional family
members. In the absence of a natural
cave, families hewed caves for the purposes of creating a place for internment.
The skeletons in such caves indicate a careful positioning of bodies and
thus the great care that people took in burying the dead.3
funerary gifts with the deceased was not uncommon.
Typically, the gifts were small and refined pieces of pottery—bowls,
platters, jugs (for liquids), and smaller jugs for oil and perfumes.
Some burials included weapons such as knives and daggers.
Further, the presence of pins (or fibula) for fastening clothing and
other jewelry indicates that people gave attention to dressing and adorning a
body for burial.4
Patriarchal period (about 2200-1950 BC ), all patriarchs and matriarchs (Sarah
[Gen. 23:19], Abraham [25:9], Isaac, Rebekah, Leah [49:31], and Jacob [50:13])
were buried in the cave of Machpelah. Abraham
purchased this cave as a place of internment (49:29-32).
The only matriarch not buried in the cave of Machpelah was Rachel.
She died after giving birth to Benjamin and was buried outside Bethlehem.
To mark the site of Rachel’s burial, Jacob set up a pillar (35:19-20).
burial took place at the location of death and near a tree.
In Genesis 35:8, Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, died near Bethel and was
buried beneath an oak tree. The
people of Jabesh-gilead buried the bodies of Saul and his sons under a tamarisk
tree (1 Sam. 31:11-13). Burial by a
tree may have expressed a desire to perpetuate the memory of the deceased just
as the establishment of a pillar, monument, or the piling up of stones.5
In one passage the burial site was marked with a pile of stones.
After the stoning of Achan for his sin, the people “raised over him a
great heap of stones” (Josh. 7:26).
Old Testament commonly mentions burying a person in a cave or in the ground, it
also mentions a few other burial methods. Only
in connection with the burials of Jacob and Joseph do we find the Egyptian
ritual of embalming being used for Israelites (Gen. 50:2-3,26).
Their situations were unique because of their presence in Egypt at the
time of their deaths. A few texts
mention cremation, but evidently this was not a common burial practice.
Cremation occurred only in exceptional circumstances such as trying to
prevent the threat of plague or following the mutilation of a body at death (1
Sam. 31:11-13; Amos 6:8-10). According
to the Mosaic law, bodies were burned for those who had been found guilty of
unnatural sins (Lev. 21:9) or those who died under a curse, such as Achan and
his family, who were burned with fire (Josh. 7:25).
body had been prepared for burial, the deceased would be placed on a funeral
bier and transported to the place of internment.
Coffins were relatively unknown in the Old Testament world.
The bier was a portable litter or a bed.
The same Hebrew term designated both an actual bed for sleeping and the
The context of the passage was the only means of determining the correct
designation (compare 2 Sam. 3:31; 2 Kings 1:4).
The typical bier was a simple set of wooden boards.
Sometimes the bier would have a pole at each corner to assist in carrying
the deceased. At the burial of King
Asa, he was placed on a bier and laid in a tomb he had made for himself.
His seems to be more elaborate than the common bier, being covered with
various kinds of spices prepared by the perfumer’s art (2 Chron. 16:13-14).
carried the body to the place of burial in a procession of family members,
friends, and servants. The
procession was accompanied by a group of professional mourners, usually women,
who cried aloud and wailed in shrieks and lamentation.
Jeremiah alluded to this activity: “Thus says the Lord
of hosts: ‘Consider, and call for the mourning women to come; send for the
skilful women to come; let them make haste and raise a wailing over us, that our
eyes may run down with tears, and our eyelids gush with water’” (Jer.
9:17-18). In addition to the
professional mourner’s loud weeping, other rituals were part of the mourning
and grief process. They included
tearing one’s mourning garment known as sackcloth (2 Sam. 14:2; Isa. 3:24),
cutting one’s hair or beard (Isa. 22:12; Jer. 7:29; Ezek. 7:18), and placing
dirt on the head and sitting in ashes. The
Bible offers no greater lamentation than that of Job.
After being told of his loss of his beloved children from a great wind,
Job performed the rituals of mourning. He
“arose, and rent his robe, and shaved his head, and fell upon the ground, and
worshiped” (Job 1:20).
All Scripture references are from the Revised Standard
Version (RSV) unless otherwise noted. Servant
Song passages include Isaiah 42:1-4; 49:1-6; 50:4-9; and 52:13—53:12.
Payne, “Burial” in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, gen. ed. Bromiley,
vol. 1 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979), 556-57.
Aharoni, The Archaeology of the Land of Israel: From the Prehistoric Beginnings
to the End of the First Temple Period, ed. Aharoni, trans. Rainey,
(Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1982), 51.
Bloch-Smith, “Burials” in The
Anchor Bible Dictionary, ed. in chief Freeman (New York: Doubleday, 1992),
Wilson, (mittah, “bed” or “bier”) in Theological
Wordbook of the Old Testament, ed. Harris (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980),
Servant Songs in Isaiah
Daniel B. McGee
is professor of religion, Baylor University, Waco, TX.
PASSAGES KNOWN AS the
Servant Songs in Isaiah provide some of the most meaningful material in the
Bible. At the same time, these
passages have been among the most disputed and debated verses in the Bible.
Scholars even do not agree on which particular verses should be
identified as the Servant Songs material. The
most commonly accepted identifications include Isaiah 42:1-4 ; 49:1-6 ;
50:4-9 ; and 52:13 to 53:12. The
bracketed figures indicate the extended limits proposed by some scholars.
Some add 61:1-3, which has much of the same content and spirit as the
other four songs.
significance of these passages is they portray the Chosen of God as a servant.
This understanding of God as servant is at the heart of the Christian
view of Christ and His mission. Although
there may be disagreement about many aspects of interpreting these passages,
there can be no disputing the centrality of the revelation about the nature of
the God of the Christian faith contained in these passages.
This revelation proclaims the absolutely revolutionary view of a God who
enters human history to be a servant of humanity.
strong word “behold” in Isaiah 42 introduces God’s proclamation to His
people that a matter of greatest importance is to be revealed.
God announced that His Chosen One would be a servant.
Note the close association between God and the chosen one.
God claims Him with the recurring possessive pronoun my servant
and my chosen “in whom my soul delights” and within whom God’s
spirit dwells (v. 1, RSV). God would
take Him by the hand (v. 6) and give His glory to on one else (v. 8).
The point is clear that the Servant would come at God’s command, on
God’s mission, and with God’s power. The
Servant’s task is to bring forth justice (some translations say judgment).
The term used here is misphat
(mish-POT) most often translated “justice for the oppressed”; but its most
general meaning is “right order.” Setting
things right seems to be the most appropriate interpretation here.
Servant’s style is described with an emphasis on how He would not be like what
many people expected from God’s representative.
He would not be loud and ostentatious, seeking publicity before the
crowds (v. 2). Unlike Cyrus the king
(Isa. 45:1-13), the Servant would be gentle and meek.
This understanding is reflected in the New Testament reference to this
passage in describing Christ. “ He
would not wrangle or cry aloud, nor would any one hear his voice in the
streets” (Matt. 12:19, RSV).
Servant also would be gentle with those who are in need.
He would be careful not to
break a bruised reed and would prevent the smoldering wick from being
extinguished (v. 3). His purpose
would not be destruction, but reclamation.
final characteristic of the Servant would be His patient endurance.
Although the opposition would be great, He would not become discouraged
or fail (v. 4). The reason for His
success would be that He comes in the power of the Creator of the universe (vv.
second Servant Song is in the form of the Servant’s words as He addressed the
nations. He told of how God called
Him from birth and prepared Him for His mission to Israel (vv. 1-2).
Through Israel all people would see God’s glory (v. 3).
the Servant reflected the difficulty of His mission by confessing His strength
was not adequate for the task (v. 4). This
confession did not lead to despair, however, because the Servant’s hope was
not in His own strength, but rather in the power of the One who had called Him
(vv. 4-5). This radical
theocentricism is central to the entire servant theme because at the heart of
the Servant’s faith is a sense of absolute dependence upon God.
final element of the Servant Songs that is developed in this passage is the idea
that the Servant would be called to serve not just Israel, but all nations.
It would be too small a task to serve only Israel; rather, He would be a
light to all nations (v. 6). This
larger mission is affirmed and reviewed in verses 7-13 where the prophecy is
made that the Servant would be rejected by Israel but would be honored in all
nations as He fulfilled His mission of freeing captives and having compassion on
third song begins as does the second, with the Servant speaking.
He said God had given to Him both the gift of speaking and hearing (vv.
4-5). With His God-given speech, He
can sustain those who are weary; and with His ear He may hear and be obedient to
God. This openness to God would save
Him from rebellion and despair.
to God’s will prepared the Servant to endure rebuke and suffering (v. 6).
The suffering of the Servant that had been hinted at in the first two
songs (42:4; 49:4,7) is amplified here. The
forms of abuse described here (beatings, pulling the beard out of the face, and
spitting) were common forms of public ridicule of criminals.
In the face of this abuse, the Servant could be certain that with God’s
help He would be able to stand with flint-like toughness (v. 7).
He would not be ashamed because in God’s eyes He is innocent and
justified (v. 8). In the end those
who condemn and abuse Him would disintegrate like old garments eaten by moths
(v. 9). The theme here is that the
Suffering Servant, through God’s power, would be victorious.
fourth Servant Song may stand as the most important Old Testament passage for
the Christian faith. From the
beginning, those who found God revealed in Christ understood this passage as
descriptive of the work and mission of Christ (for example, Luke 22:37; Acts
8:30-35; 1 Pet. 2:22-25). In this
song the vicarious purpose of the Servant’s suffering was revealed.
spoke initially to proclaim the success of His Servant (52:13).
Although His sufferings would disfigure Him beyond human semblance, all
nations would be startled by what He revealed (52:14-15).
Chapter 53 contains the now familiar, but always compelling account of
the Servant’s life story of suffering. From
the beginning He would be repulsive and revolting to the world.
All men would reject Him and turn their faces from Him (vv. 2-3). Then
the bold claim is made that the Servant’s suffering that would burden and
disfigure Him would result from human sin: “Surely he hath borne our griefs,
and carried our sorrows . . .” (v. 4). The
Servant would take the burden of suffering on himself for our transgressions:
“with his stripes we are healed” (v. 5).
The senseless suffering is the means by which human sin is conquered.
The rest of the chapter points to the voluntary and patient suffering of
the innocent Servant and how such suffering would be victorious over all sin.
history of interpreting the meaning of these passages is complex and filled with
many diverse views. At the heart of
any interpretation is the identification of the Suffering Servant.1 Most of the debates have centered on whether the
Servant represented a single individual or a collective group.
Some, although not all, of the different individuals who have been
suggested as referred to by the Servant are Moses, Hezekiah, Cyrus, Isaiah,
Jeremiah, Deutero-Isaiah, Josiah, and Ezekiel.
It should be noted that there is little support among scholars today for
any of these candidates. None of
these individuals could claim to perform the full function or ministry of the
Some scholars have proposed the author was referring to the nation of
Israel or some segment thereof, such as a righteous remnant, the Davidic
dynasty, the priestly or prophetic order, or some ideal model of the nation of
Israel. One of the difficulties in
the collective theory is the Servant at times is pictured as having a ministry
to Israel and thus being distinct from Israel (49:5-6).
Also, He speaks in such autobiographical terms, especially in songs two,
three, and four, the He must be understood as an individual.
One solution to this puzzle has been the suggestion that there is a
progression in the four songs from a collective view to, finally in the fourth
song, an unequivocal understanding of the Servant as an individual.2
This view is held widely today.
Whatever the disagreements may be among the different interpreters
regarding who the prophet Isaiah had in mind, there is little dispute that from
the very beginning Christians have seen the fulfillment of the Suffering Servant
prophesy in Jesus Christ. They
understood that this truly revolutionary perception of God was incarnated in the
life and ministry of Christ.
All four Gospel accounts interpret Christ in terms of the Servant
described in these songs. Mark
(1:1-3) began his Gospel with a reference to Isaiah 40:3.
The same references are found in Matthew 3:1-3; Luke 3:1-6; and John
1:19-23. In Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22;
and Matthew 3:17, the messianic reference at Jesus’ baptism seems clearly to
be taken from Isaiah 42:1. The same
reference from Isaiah is seen in the transfiguration passages of Mark 9:2-8;
Matthew 17:1-8; and Luke 9:28-36. The
miracles of Jesus are seen as a fulfillment of Isaiah 42:1-4 (Matt. 12:15-21).
Jesus’ entire style of ministry is understood as fulfilling Isaiah 53:
“For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his
life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45, RSV).
Jesus Himself understood His ministry in terms of the servant image (Luke
22:37). Although He did not use the
specific term “servant of the Lord,” Paul described Christ as the One who
according to Scriptures died for our sins (1 Cor. 15:3).
The most important conclusion regarding the Servant Songs is that their
vision of God’s Suffering Servant provides a central ingredient in the
Christian understanding of God as revealed in Christ.
some useful surveys of our history, see F. Duane Lindsey, The Servant Songs:
A Study in Isaiah (Chicago: The Moody Press, 1985), pp. 1-17; James
Muilenberg, “Isaiah: Chapters 40-66,” in The Interpreters Bible, vol.
5 (New York: Abingdon Press, 1956), pp. 406-14; Christopher R. North, The
Suffering Servant in Deutero-Isaiah: An Historical and Critical Study, 2nd
ed. (London: Oxford University Press, 1955), pp. 65-80.
The Suffering Servant, pp. 220-39.
Early Church’s use of Messianic Passages
Thomas D. Lea
is associate professor of New Testament, Southwestern Baptist Theological
was converted, he appeared publicly in the synagogues of Damascus to proclaim
that Jesus was the Messiah and the very Son of God (Acts 9:20-22).
Luke indicates that Paul bewildered his Jewish opponents with arguments
that proved Jesus was the Messiah,. Although
Acts does not demonstrate precisely how Paul proved Jesus’ messiahship, we
should understand that he used the Old Testament messianic passages and
proclaimed that they were fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth.
Testament writers used many Old Testament passages to demonstrate that Jesus is
the Messiah, the most important being Psalm 2:7; 110:1; 118:22-23; Isaiah 28:16;
40:3-5; 42:1-4; several passages from Isaiah 53; and Malachi 3:1.
Outside of the Gospels, Acts shows the most frequent use of Old Testament
passages for this purpose, and several messianic references are employed in
Romans, Galatians, Hebrews, and 1 Peter. The
Old Testament is referred to many more times, of course, to explain some
doctrine other than Jesus’ messiahship or to illustrate a New Testament truth.
We cannot always tell whether a specific Old Testament messianic
reference made by the Gospels reflects more the teaching of Jesus or the beliefs
of the early church as Jesus inspired the writers.
Old Testament references appear in a number of forms,.
A writer frequently quoted from the Old Testament, reproducing the words
almost exactly as they appear in the Old Testament.
Or a writer paraphrased the Old Testament passage to support a specific
point which he affirmed. Or he
clothes his New Testament language in words he adapted from the Old Testament,
in which cases the words differ in some measure from the Old Testament.
New testament writer could choose from at least two sources to quote from the
Old Testament: (1) the Hebrew Old Testament called the Masoretic test; (2) the
Greek Old Testament, called the Septuagint (see “the Old Testament Version
Quoted in Hebrews,” Summer ’82), which was translated in Egypt in the third
century BC. Most of the Old
Testament references made by New Testament writers resemble the Septuagint.
However, some of the references differ sufficiently from both the
Septuagint and the Masoretic to indicate the likelihood that other textual
sources were available in addition to these two, sources we know little or
nothing about now.
Christian writers pored over the Old Testament, they looked at it from the
position of their new commitment to Christ.
C.F.D. Moule has stated:
Christians began from Jesus—from his known character and mighty deeds and
sayings, and his death and resurrection; and with these they went to the
scriptures, and found that God’s dealings with his People and his intentions
for them there reflected did, in fact, leap into new significance in the light
of these recent happenings. Sooner
or later this was to lead, through a definition of what God had done, to
something like a definition of who Jesus was.1
study of the Old Testament led Christian writers to affirm at least two points
revelation of God in the Old Testament pointed forward to him.
messiahship and lordship of Jesus were confirmed by the resurrection and
witnessed to by the Holy Spirit.2
Christian usage of the Old Testament thus came largely
from a desire to demonstrate that Jesus was truly the Messiah spoken of by the
prophets. This particular emphasis
would give a Jew a compelling reason to consider the Christian claims for
Christ. This type of usage of the
Old Testament was not as common where the intended audience was largely Gentile.
In Acts 2:34-35 Peter refers to Psalm 110:1; this same
Old Testament reference is also quoted by Jesus in Mark 12:36 and the parallels
in other Gospels. The tone of the
psalm is somewhat war-like and the Hebrew superscription ascribes the writing to
David. If David is indeed the
author, this lifelong warrior naturally would use imagery from the battlefield
to describe the conquests of the Messiah. The
psalm contains an utterance of a revelation by Jehovah in which the Lord of the
psalmist is assigned a place at the right hand of Jehovah.
The passage may be seen as an utterance prophetically spoken by David
concerning the Messiah.
the New Testament usage, Peter concluded with the statement that Jesus was
raised from the dead. He then
asserted abruptly that this same Christ has been exalted into the heavens and is
seated at the right hand of the Father. To
prove this assertion, Peter quoted Psalm 110:1.
The use of the term, “right hand,” signifies that Christ was raised
to the place of highest honor by Jehovah. Also,
the exaltation which Christ receives is more than the original dominion which he
possesses as God. The reference is
to a majesty which comes as a reward
to his suffering and obedience.
Old Testament text as used here by Peter closely resembles the Septuagint, but
in this instance the Septuagint also follows closely the Masoretic.
Peter likely learned to refer this psalm to Jesus by
listening to Jesus’ own interpretation of the writing (Mark 12:36 and
parallels). Jesus was conscious of
being the Messiah and understood this Old Testament passage to describe the
majesty and exaltation which he received from Jehovah by virtue of his
obedience. Peter followed Jesus’
direction, saw that the prophecy was not fulfilled in David, and could only be
fulfilled in one who ascended into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God.
passage which gives evidence of Jesus’ influence in interpretation is the
reference to Psalm 118:22, as it appears in Acts 4:11 and again in 1 Peter 2:7.
Jesus quotes from Psalm 118:22-23 in Matthew 21:42 and parallels.
feel that the psalm was used by a group of pilgrims proceeding to the Jewish
Temple for worship. In the Old
Testament, the “stone” referred to Israel, despised by the nations but
chosen by God to accomplish his purpose. The
pilgrims were rejoicing in this fact.
referred to this psalm in Acts 4:11 to amplify the principle that a rejected
stone has now become the chief cornerstone of Christian faith.
Also, since “stone” is in the Old Testament a reference to Israel,
Peter was saying that God’s purpose for Israel finds its fulfillment in the
single-handed work of Christ. Peter
was eager to lead the Jewish leaders to recognize that the one whom they had
rejected by their unbelief had been installed as the true author of salvation to
mankind. His reference here is not a
deliberate quotation from either the Septuagint or the Masoretic, but has
similarities to both.
reference to this same text in 1 Peter 2:7 bears a close similarity to the text
of the Septuagint of Psalm 118:22. The
reference occurs amidst a section in which Peter refers to Jesus in terms of
“stone” or “rock.” In 2:7
Peter affirmed that this “stone,” Jesus the Messiah, is precious for the
believer. In 2:8 he referred to
Isaiah 8:14-15 to demonstrate the fearful consequences of rejecting Jesus.
Peter noted that Christ was made the “head of the corner,” a
reference that refers to “a massive cornerstone which is set not in the
foundation, but at the upper corner of the building, to bind the walls firmly
use of the Old Testament here need not be seen to state that the psalmist
himself made a deliberate prophecy about Jesus.
The words simply may indicate that God accomplished a marvelous work by
the use of materials rejected by the world.
The life of Jesus strikingly illustrates this principle.
application of Psalm 118:22 to the Messiah may well have been first Old
Testament prophecy undertaken by Jesus himself.
In Matthew 21:42 and parallels Jesus is shown engaged in a debate with
the chief priests and elders. Prior
to this reference to the psalm, Jesus’ authority was questioned (Matt.
21:23-27). He then used the Psalm
reference to show that God made him the crucial issue in a personal decision for
or against salvation.
probably was present to hear Jesus’ interpretation on this occasion, and later
he used the principles he learned from Jesus when he addressed the Sanhedrin
(Acts 4:11; 1 Pet. 2:7). Following
the leadership of Jesus, Peter even widened the application of the reference,
for in 1 Peter 2:7 his reference to “builders” likely includes mankind in
general. In the Matthew 21:42
passage Jesus spoke more precisely of civil authorities, but in a true sense all
of those who attempt to build their lives apart from Christ are guilty of
rejecting God’s stone.
New Testament refers to many passages from Isaiah 53: Isaiah 53:1 is quoted in
Romans 10:16; Isaiah 53:4 is the object of a reference in Matthew 8:17; Isaiah
53:12 is referred to in Mark 15:28 and Luke 22:37; a most impressive collection
of references appears in 1 Peter 2:22-25. In
this last section Peter described the death of Christ with language drawn from
Isaiah 53. He did not quote the Old
Testament, but his description of Christ’s passion is replete with Isaiah’s
words and phrases. In 1 Peter 2:21
Peter set forth the example of Christ as one who suffered for doing well; he
further described the nature of these sufferings in 2:22-25; in 2:22 he drew on
the language of Isaiah 53:9 to show the innocence of Christ; in 2:23 he drew on
the description of Isaiah 53:7 to picture the patience of Christ amidst his
sufferings; in 2:24 he used Isaiah 53:5 to show the vicarious nature of
Christ’s suffering; Isaiah 53:6 is referred to in 1 Peter 2:25 to contrast the
helplessness of lost mankind with the hopefulness of redeemed mankind.
modern interpreters identify the “servant of the Lord” in Isaiah 53 with the
nation of Israel. However, in this
passage Peter identified the sufferings of Christ with those of Isaiah’s
servant, and he sees the Old Testament reference as messianic.
The towering figure of Jesus provided the influence and
instruction which New Testament writers needed in order to learn to use the Old
Testament in a messianic sense. Such
passages as Mark 4:34 and Luke 24:27,45 suggest that Jesus frequently explained
his teachings to his followers. We
might also imagine that Jesus privately instructed his followers in many items
of Old Testament interpretation not recorded in Scripture.
Such passages as Matthew 16:12 and 17:13 and John 2:22 provide evidence
that the words of Jesus gave his disciples much object for thought and
reflection, even after his death. Such
passages as John 2:17 and 12:16 show that the disciples learned to interpret
events in Jesus’ life in the light of certain Old Testament statements.
We may properly understand, then, that instructions and directions from
Jesus himself provided the incentive for them to seek messianic references to
him in the Old Testament.
Moule, The Birth of the New Testament, 2nd ed. (London: Adam
and Charles Black, 1966), pp.57-58.
Longenecker, Biblical Exegesis in the Apostolic Period (Grand Rapids: Wm.
B. Eerdmans, 1975). P. 210.
W. Beare, The First Epistle of Peter (Oxford Basil Blackwell, 1947),
Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist
Convention; Nashville, TN 37234.
What Is The Answer
To & Where In The Bible Is This Week’s Trivia Question Found? (03/02/15)
Why wasn’t David allowed to build God’s house? Answer next week:
The answer to last
week’s trivia question: (02/22/15)
Which king was saved from death by Abraham’s prayer? Answer: Abimelech;