ISAIAH 53: JESUS IS NOT THE SUFFERING SERVANT – Part 4

Continued from Part 3

ISAIAH 53:1

53:1:  “Who would have believed our report [literally, “what we have heard”]?”

As we enter chapter 53, a change of speakers occurs.  In Isaiah 52:13-15 God is the speaker, now in verses 1-8 it is as if it were the representative spokesman for the gentile nations who is speaking.  The spokesman declares:  “Who would have believed our report?” 

The gentile nations, as expressed through their spokesman, can scarcely believe what they have to say let alone expect others to believe what they are about to tell them.  These nations, recovering from their speechlessness, are still in a state of amazement at the turn of events they are witnessing.  “Then,” as the psalmist writes:  “they will say among the nations:  ‘God has done great things for these [Israel]’” (Psalms 126:2b).

53:1:  “And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” 

 What nation, the spokesman declares, has had God’s “protective arm,” revealed to it as is now obvious for the servant nation, Israel?  With greatness and glory, God now manifests his judgment upon the faithful servant, Israel, and upon those who reviled them, the gentiles.

Verse 1 uses metaphors to describe the historical development of the Jewish people.  The “arm of the Lord” signifies God’s power and is a biblical metaphor descriptive of God’s physical redemption of Israel from the oppression of other nations.

To whom has the “arm of the Lord” been revealed?  It is explicitly stated:  “Israel saw the great work that God inflicted upon the Egyptians, and the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord, and in His servant Moses” (Exodus 14:31).  We read further that the “arm of the Lord” is displayed for the protection of the people of Israel:  “Your right hand, O Lord is glorious in power; Your right hand, O Lord dashes in pieces the enemy” (Exodus 15:6); “The great trials which your eyes saw, and the signs, and the wonders, and the mighty hand, and the outstretched arm with which the Lord your God brought you out; so shall the Lord your God do to all the peoples of whom you are afraid” (Deuteronomy 7:19); and “The Lord has made bare His holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God” (Isaiah 52:10).  Thus, on the one hand, the “arm of the Lord” is displayed to Israel for it to have faith in the saving power of the Almighty and on the other hand it is revealed to the nations so that they will have an appreciation of what God will do for the nation of Israel.

There are Christians who identify “arm of the Lord” with Jesus but this claim is nothing but wishful thinking.

Who is not the servant and who is? 

Matthew misuses the Jewish Scriptures.  Matthew 12:18-21 literally applies to Jesus the announcement of Isaiah 42:1-4 that speaks in lofty terms of the servant.  But what of the verses in this same chapter which speak of the servant as being figuratively blind and deaf (verse 19)?  This passage shows the servant disobedient and rebellious at times yet still considered as God’s servant.

When does the New Testament portray Jesus as figuratively blind and deaf, a disobedient and rebellious sinner?   It does not and cannot, and still call Jesus sinless (1 Peter 2:22).  But then, he cannot be the servant mentioned in Isaiah 42:1.

A perusal of this chapter shows that Isaiah is speaking of neither the Messiah nor Jesus, but of a people/nation (verse 22) and that the prophet identifies that people/nation as Jacob/Israel (verse 24).   In, Ve-hu ‘am bazuz ve-shasu, “But he/it is a people/nation robbed and spoiled” (verse 22), the “he/it” refers to the people of Israel as identified in verse 24:  “Who gave Jacob for a spoil, and Israel to the robbers?

© Gerald Sigal

Continued…