Does “He shall see see, prolong days” apply to Jesus?

Let's find out

Isaiah 53:10 says of the suffering servant, “He shall see seed, he shall prolong days.” Can this apply to Jesus? Let’s find out.

Answer:

According to the words “He shall see seed, he shall prolong days,” the suffering servant is to be rewarded for his selflessness in the service of the Almighty by being blessed with children and prolongation of life. These two promises must be treated as a unit, as described in greater detail in Isaiah 65:20-23. Each promise complements the other, highlighting the ancient Hebraic ideal of viewing children and a long life as the two greatest rewards God gives to man here on earth. This is further illustrated in Job 5:25-26: “You shall know also that your seed shall be great, and your offspring as the grass of the earth. You shall come to your grave in ripe age, as a shock of corn in its season.”  From the manner in which the Hebrew word zer’a (“seed”) is used in the Scriptures, there can be no doubt that actual physical offspring is meant here.

Christian commentators have interpreted certain verses in the Scriptures (Genesis 3:15, 38:8; Isaiah 1:4, 57:4; Malachi 2:15; Psalms 22:31; Proverbs 11:21) as referring only symbolically to “bodily seed.” But such an interpretation is unwarranted, since in each of these verses the term “seed” can be taken in a literal and physical sense. While the literal understanding of these verses is generally evident, those from the Book of Isaiah are misunderstood by some people.

In Isaiah 57, the prophet castigates certain individuals (not the nation as a whole) for perpetuating the idolatrous practices of their parents. Isaiah calls them “sons of the sorceress, the seed of adulterers and the harlot” (verse 3). He then asks, “Are you not children of transgression, a seed of falsehood?” (verse 4). These verses are a scathing denunciation of wicked offspring who uphold the sinful ways of their parents. They are what the prophet has earlier termed a “seed of evil-doers” (1:4) that is, children of parents who do evil deeds. Those spoken to in Isaiah 57 were conceived in adultery and harlotry; they are the resultant products of transgression and falsehood. Literally, they are children born as a result of parental transgression, a seed born as a result of parental falsehood.

Christian commentators would like us to believe that the term “seed” is used metaphorically, meaning, in Isaiah 53:10, “disciples.” Generally, the Hebrew word bayn (“son“) may be employed metaphorically with the meaning “disciples,” but never is the term zer’a (“seed“) used in this sense. For example, “And Abraham said: ‘Behold to me You have given no seed (zer’a), and, see the son (ben) of my house is my heir.’ And, behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying: ‘This man shall not be your heir, but he that shall come forth out of your own bowels shall be your heir‘” (Genesis 15:3-4). Hence, zer’a must be taken literally, which rules out the possibility that it refers to Jesus since he had no children of his own.

The second part of the promise, “. . . he shall prolong days,” also cannot be applied to Jesus, who died at a young age. To apply these words, as Christian commentators do, is not only evasive but also meaningless. How can such a promise have any meaning for Jesus, who is viewed as being of divine substance and whose existence is believed by Christianity to be eternal? There would be no need for God to assure a fellow member of the Trinity eternal life.

In understanding the meaning of the phrase “. . . he shall prolong days” it should be understood that there is a difference in meaning between the concept of prolonging of days and that of gaining eternal life. The concept of a prolonged life cannot be treated as the equivalent of eternal life because in an eternal context, time of any duration is of no consequence. Consequently, one cannot speak of an eternal being as having his days prolonged: “Are Your days as the days of man, or Your years as a man’s days?” (Job 10:5). God must be referred to as eternal: “The number of his years is unsearchable” (Job 36:26). He is the first, He is the last, He cannot be anything else. Prolonging the days of one who is already supposed to be eternal would make his life longer than eternity. That is an obvious impossibility. If the promise of prolonged days is applied to Jesus, he could not be of divine origin.

Prolonging of life implies earthly mortality, a cut-off date in the future, while the term eternal life refers to immortality. Therefore, the phrase “prolonged life” can only relate to the limited bodily existence in this world, and not to the endlessness of eternal life. Since the blessings of seeing children and prolonging life are only appropriate when applied to a mortal individual and not to an immortal being, these blessings cannot be applied to the Jesus of Christian theology. Jesus died young and childless. If, after his alleged resurrection, he returned to heaven to become an eternal heavenly being again, this stage of his existence cannot be appropriately referred to as prolongation of days.

Once again, we see that Isaiah 53‘s description of the suffering servant of the Lord does not find fulfillment in the New Testament’s description of Jesus.

© Gerald Sigal