Fairview Baptist Church
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Bailey Sadler Class



Study Theme: Life Like No Other: The Life Of Christ

What This Study Is About:

Week of:

Lesson Title:

The focus of this week’s study is on the fact that we can always trust that God will keep His promises.


Mar. 01

Promised Like No Other


Mar. 08

A Birth Like No Other


Mar. 15

Power Like No Other


Mar. 22

Teaching Like No Other


Mar. 29

 Death Like No Other


April 5

Resurrected Like No Other



Jesus is the promised Messiah.


Isaiah 53:2-12





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)


Isaiah 53:2-12:

Isaiah 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.

At 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.

Beginning 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, Nashville, TN.


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 hardly!  Why?  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.









The 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 value Him.

1.   How do you decide whether someone is believable or not?

2.   What ideas or images come to mind when you hear the word “prophecy”?

3.   Who is the suffering servant Isaiah wrote about?  (See Acts 8:26-35: Isa 53:7-8; Phil. 2:8.)

4.   How would you know if Isaiah’s prophecy as recorded in Isaiah 53 is believable or not? 

5.   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.)

6.   What words or descriptions in this passage tend to be contrary to our expectation of a great man? Why?

7.   What words or descriptions in this passage would indicate that He would become one of us (v. 2)?

8.   How would those He became one of, respond to him (v. 3)?

9.   Why do you think the very people that He became like would react as described in verse 3a?

10.   In what ways is the Servant described that would make it appear unlikely that He would accomplish anything that mattered?

11.   What were some reasons that people in His day would despise and reject Him?

12.   Do you think these reasons are still prevalent among people today?  Why, or why not?

13.   How does the treatment given the Suffering Servant portend* the treatment given to Jesus?

14.   How do you think the treatment of Jesus lends to the truth of Isaiah’s prophecy in our focal passage (Isa. 53:2-12)?

15.   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 why not?

16.   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?

17.   What do you think it is about Jesus that’s the biggest stumbling block for many people today?  Why do you think this is?

* Portend:  be a sign or warning that something momentous or calamitous is likely to happen.


Lasting Lessons in Isaiah 53:2-3:

1.  Isaiah foretold that though Jesus’ entrance into humanity would be remarkable and unexpected, He would appear to be no different from the rest of us.

2.  Suffering—physically and mentally or emotionally—is part of what it means to be human.  In becoming like us, Jesus would not exempt Himself from such experience but would endure the anguish if rejection.



The 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.

1.   How would you explain our “sicknesses” and our “pains” Isaiah prophesied the Servant would bare and carry (v. 4)?

2.   How can you testify to Christ bearing your sickness and carrying your pain?

3.   What do you think it means that  “we . . . regarded Him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted (v. 4)?

4.   Why did this Servant of God suffer so (v. 5)?

5.   Based on this passage how did the Servant suffer?

6.   Was there a purpose for the Servant’s suffering? 

7.   If so, what was the purpose of His suffering and what does that mean for us today?

8.   What are at least two benefits that came to the people because of the Servant’s suffering?

9.   How do these verses remind you of events surrounding the death of Jesus?

10.   Which of the prophecies about Jesus in Isaiah 53:4-9 do you find compelling?  Explain your answer!

11.   What are at least five things in this passage that Isaiah prophesied the Servant would suffer?

12.   How would you explain Jesus’ need to suffer for our salvation to a non-believer?

13.   Not only did God prophesy the Messiah would become one of us and suffer for us, but what else would He do for us?

14.   How would you summarize the impact this passage should have on us today?


Lasting Lessons in Isaiah 53:4-9:

1.  All that Jesus endured on the way to and upon the cross was punishment deserved by each of us.

2.  Regardless of the torture and agony of His affliction, Jesus bore without complaint the brunt of all humanity could hurl at Him.



The 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.

1.   Why would it please the Lord to crush His Servant (v. 10)?

2.   Do you think it is pleasing to us today?  Why, or why not?

3.   What does it mean that “You make Him a restitution offering,” (v. 10b)?

4.   Who are His ”seed” (v. 10c)?

5.   How does it mean that “He will prolong His days” (v. 10d)?

6.   How would you explain the meaning of “by His hand, the Lord’s pleasure will be accomplished” (v. 10e)?

7.   What does all of verse 10 mean to you and what message do you think it has for us today?

8.   Based on this passage, what would result from the anguish and death of the Servant?

9.   According to verse 12, what would happen to the Servant following death?

10.   What are three results of the Servant’s suffering to the point of death that bear witness to His divine nature?

11.   How would you explain this link between His suffering with His divine nature to a non-believer?

12.   How would you describe the parallels between the Suffering Servant and Christ?

13.   What do these verses teach you about God’s character?

14.   When looking at the focal passage as a whole, how would you describe  the main focus of Isaiah’s prophecy?


Lasting Lessons in Isaiah 53:10-12:

1.  All that happened to Jesus was in accordance with God’s plan to make restitution for our sins.

2.  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.



The Lord 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?

What 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:

SOURCE: Life Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.

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.

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.



Focal Passage from three different translations of God’s Word:

King James Version: Isaiah 53:2-12:

 2 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 transgressors. (KJV)

New International 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. 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. 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. 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 transgressors. (NIV)

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)


Lesson Outline — “Promised Like No Other” — Isaiah 53:2-12



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)



(NOTE:  Commentary for the focal passage comes from three sources: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary Old Testament,The Old Testament Survey Series,” andThe Complete Biblical Library Commentary,” and is provided for your study.)

The Expositor’s Bible Commentary Old Testament; Isaiah 53:2-12

53:1-3.  The 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.

53:4-6.  This 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).

53:7-9.  Thexton  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



The Old 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.

 The 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.








Pierced Through







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).

SOURCE: The Old Testament Survey Series: The Major Prophets; By James E. Smith; College Press Publishing Company; Joplin, Missouri.


The Complete Biblical Library Commentary: Isaiah 53:2-12

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 the truth.

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; Jam. 5:15).

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 1:29, 35).

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 were true.

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 with Him.

SOURCE: The 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.


SUFFERING:  Enduring 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.

Old Testament: 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. 12:1).

New Testament: 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.




Old Testament Burial Practices

By Daniel P. Caldwell

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 the so-called “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 death” (53:9).1  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).

While burial 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). 

Archaeological 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

Burying 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

During the 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).

At times 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).

Although the 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). 

When the 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 funeral bier.6  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).

People 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).                                                 Bi

1.  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.

2.  Payne, “Burial” in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, gen. ed. Bromiley, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979), 556-57.

3.  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.

4.  Bloch-Smith, “Burials” in The Anchor Bible Dictionary, ed. in chief Freeman (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 1:785.

5.  Ibid.

6.  Wilson, (mittah, “bed” or “bier”) in Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, ed. Harris (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), 2:573-75.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Spring 2009.


The Servant Songs in Isaiah

By Daniel B. McGee

Dan McGee is professor of religion, Baylor University, Waco, TX.

THE 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 [9]; 49:1-6 [9]; 50:4-9 [11]; 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.

The 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.

The 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.

The 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).

The 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.

A 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. 5-7).

The 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).

Then 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.

A 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 the afflicted.

The 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.

Submission 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.

The 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.

God 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.

The 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 Servant.

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.

1.  For 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.

2.  North, The Suffering Servant, pp. 220-39.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Fall 1988.


The Early Church’s use of Messianic Passages

By Thomas D. Lea

Dr. Lea is associate professor of New Testament, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

SHORTLY AFTER PAUL 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.

New 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.

The 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.

A 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.

As 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:

The 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    

The study of the Old Testament led Christian writers to affirm at least two points about Jesus:

1.  The revelation of God in the Old Testament pointed forward to him.

2.  The 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.

In 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.

The 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.

Another 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.

Some 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.

Peter 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.

Peter’s 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 together.”3

Peter’s 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.

The 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.

Peter 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.

The 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.

Many 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.                                                                                                                                                          Bi

1.  C.F.D. Moule, The Birth of the New Testament, 2nd ed. (London: Adam and Charles Black, 1966), pp.57-58.

2.  Richard Longenecker, Biblical Exegesis in the Apostolic Period (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1975). P. 210.

3.  F. W. Beare, The First Epistle of Peter (Oxford Basil Blackwell, 1947), p.99.

SOURCE: 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; Gen. 20:1-3,17.