I continue from where I left off: The Messiah Revealed Pt. 1.
While the Hebrew Scripture portrays the Messiah as a glorious King as well as both a human and divine figure, the Bible also indicates that He will suffer and be put to death only to rise miraculously:
Isaiah 52:13-53:12 “See my servant will act wisely; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted. Just as there were many who were appalled at him – his appearance was disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness – so will he sprinkle many nations, and kings will shut their mouths because of him. For what they were not told, they will see, and what they have not heard, they will understand. Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? 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. 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. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. 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. 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. 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. 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 . 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.”
Amazingly, this passage declares the fact that the suffering servant is being crushed for the sins of Isaiah’s people, eventually being put to death. Yet, vv. 10-11 emphatically state that this servant would once more see “the light of life” and reign in order to justify “his offspring and prolong his days,” and that “the will of the LORD” will “prosper in his hand”. This seems to imply a bodily resurrection. The only way for the servant to be “assigned a grave with the wicked and with the rich in his death” and then “see the light of life” is if He were to be miraculously raised from the dead!
NOTE: That this too was considered a messianic prophecy becomes obvious when one reads the rabbinic commentaries. However, in order to avoid the obvious Christian implications, rabbis such as Rashi (Rabbi Solomon Izaak, circa 1040-1105 A.D.) referred this passage to the sufferings of the nation of Israel, despite the fact that rabbis such as the great Maimonides thought it was wrong to apply this to Israel. They rather maintained the belief that this passage of Scripture was about Messiah. The reason for Rashi’s attempt to make Israel the central focus of this passage was due to his seemingly anti-Christian bias, a fact to which he freely admitted:
“Since Christians interpret Isaiah 53 as being a prophecy concerning Jesus, we maintain that this is a prophecy concerning the people of Israel.” (Steve Schwarz, Letters to Rabbi Cohen Concerning Messiah)
|Rabbi R. Elyyah de Vidas sights, “The meaning of ‘he was wounded for our transgressions, … bruised for our iniquities’ is, that since the Messiah bears our iniquities , which produce the effect of His being bruised, it follows that whoever will not admit that the Messiah suffers for our iniquities must endure and suffer for themselves .”|
Ninth century poet, Eliazer Hakalir, paraphrases Isaiah 53 in a prayer that comprises a part of some Jewish sects’ traditional liturgical prayers recited on Yom Kippur (the Jewish Day of Atonement). The prayer begins: “We are shrunk up in our misery even until now! Our Rock hath not come nigh to us; Messiah our righteousness, hath turned from us; we are in terror, and there is none to justify us! Our iniquities and the yoke of our transgressions He will bear, for He was wounded for our transgressions ; He will carry our sins upon His shoulder, that we may find forgiveness for our iniquities; and by his strips we are healed …” (Baron, Rays of Messiah’s Glory, pp. 225-230)
Midrash Tanhuma and Yalkut, vol. 2, par. 338 on Isaiah 52:13 states that the expressions “exalted, and extolled and be very high” indicates that, “Messiah shall be more exalted than Abraham… more extolled than Moses… and be very high; that is higher than the ministering angels…”
This again demonstrates that Isaiah 52:13-53:12 was viewed by rabbis as a messianic prophecy.
Also: “… the weight of Jewish authority preponderates in favor of the Messianic interpretation of this chapter… that until recent times this prophecy has been almost universally received by Jews as referring to Messiah is evident from Targum Jonathan who introduces Messiah by name in chp. LII.13; from the Talmud (Sanhedrin vol. 98b); and from the Zohar… In fact, until Rabbi Rashi [Rabbi Solomon Izaak (1040-1105)], considered the originator of the modern school of Jewish interpretation], who applied it to the Jewish nation, the Messianic interpretation of this chapter was almost universally adopted by Jews… ” (Baron, Rays of Messiahs Glory, pp. 225-229)
Interestingly, Isaiah 53 is almost never read in the synagogues, as it is consistently neglected during the Haftorah readings. This is amazing in light of the fact that the chapters preceding and following Isaiah 53 are recited during these special readings. The following list illustrates this point:
Haftorah for Ekeb – Isaiah 49:14-51:3
Haftorah for Shofetim – Isaiah 51:12-52:12
Haftorah for Noah – Isaiah 54:1-55:5
Haftorah for Sephardi ritual – Isaiah 54:1-10
Haftorah for Hi Tetze – Isaiah 54:1-10
Haftorah for Re’eh – Isaiah 54:11-55:5
Herbert Lowe, a Cambridge University Rabbinics Professor notes: “Quotations from the famous 53rd chapter of Isaiah are rare in the Rabbinic literature. Because of the Christological interpretation given to the chapter by Christians, it is omitted from the series of prophetical lessons (HAFTORAH) for the Deuteronomy Sabbaths. The omission is deliberate and striking.” (Schwarz, Letters to Rabbi Cohen Concerning Messiah)
It should also be pointed out that the Haftorah readings are the same throughout synagogues and temples all over the world.
NOTE – There is evidence that the servant of Isaiah 53 was believed to be referring to national Israel by the Jews even before Rashi. The Church Father Origen writes:
“I remember that once in a discussion with some whom the Jews regard as learned I used these prophecies. At this the Jews said that these prophecies referred to the whole people as though of a single individual, since they were scattered in the dispersion and smitten, that as a result of the scattering of the Jews among other nations many might become proselytes.” [Origen, Contra Celsum, I., p. 55 A.D. 248]
Hence, Rashi was seemingly not the first rabbi that tried to apply Isaiah 53 to national Israel.
Zechariah 12:10 “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Israel a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look to Me, the One they have pierced , and mourn for Him as one mourns for an only child and grieve bitterly for Him as one grieves for a firstborn Son.”
An astonishing prophecy indeed! God claims that they will personally pierce Him. Yet, at the same time God refers to the pierced One as someone that is personally distinct from Him for whom the nations mourn and weep as for a firstborn Son.
This prophecy is confirmed by the Rabbis to be referring to the other “Messiah” which the Talmud calls Messiah Ben Joseph , the suffering Messiah. (T.V. Moore, Zechariah, Haggai and Malachi [Carlisle, PA; Banner of Truth Trust, 1974], p.199)
Edersheim states that this prophecy ” is applied to the Messiah the son of Joseph in the Talmud (Sukk.52a) and so is verse 12 …” (Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, [one volume edition], p.737)
T.V. Moore substantiates Edersheim’s statement by declaring: “… the later interpreters explaining it of Messiah Ben Joseph, or the suffering Messiah, whom they invented to meet the passages of Scripture that speak so clearly of this characteristic (i.e.,… the sufferings) of the promised redeemer. But as they believed that this Messiah son of Joseph was a mere man, the difficulty met them that Jehovah declared ‘they shall look on ME whom they have pierced’, so that if it refers to the Messiah he cannot be a mere man, but must be divine. ” (Ibid., pp.199-200)
Rabbi Moshe Alshekh also confirms the messianic overtones of this prophecy:
“I will do yet a thing, and that is, that ‘they shall look unto me for they shall lift up their eyes unto me in perfect repentance, when they see Him whom they have pierced’, that is Messiah, the son of Joseph; for our Rabbis, of blessed memory, have said that He will take upon Himself all the guilt of Israel, and shall then be slain in the war to make atonement in such manner that it shall be accounted as if Israel had pierced Him, f or on account of their sin He has died ; and therefore, in order that it may be reckoned to them as a perfect atonement, they will repent and look to the blessed One , saying, that there is none beside Him to forgive those that mourn on account of Him who died for their sin: this is the meaning of ‘they shall look upon me .'” (Schwarz, Letters to Rabbi Cohen Concerning Messiah)
He is the only self-professed Messiah to be born in Bethlehem and to come forth from Galilee. (cf. Matthew 2:1,22; Luke 2:4-7; Mark 1:9) The life of Jesus the Messiah is the only one that bears an amazing correlation to the Hebrew passages being studied. An examination of Psalm 22 and the events surrounding the crucifixion of Jesus as recorded in the New Testament solidifies this point, which we will discuss in the next segment: The Messiah Revealed Pt. 3.