Does "By oppression and judgment he was taken away," refer to Jesus?

Why do Jews reject the Christian claim that the beginning of Isaiah 53:8, generally rendered, "By oppression and judgment he was taken away," refers to Jesus?


Generally, the beginning of this verse is rendered: "By oppression and judgment he was taken away." When explained in this way, the verse is meant to indicate that, by means of persecution and judicial decision, the servant was exiled, not only from his own homeland but from the lands of his dispersion as well. But, at best, the prophet's words have no particular application to Jesus, since they could, in actuality, be applied generally to many people who suffered persecution.

However, the general context of this verse indicates that the word may-'otser should not be translated as "by oppression" but in accordance with its derivation from 'etser, denoting "domination," "sovereignty," and thus the beginning of the verse should read: "From dominion and judgment. . . ." Accordingly, the verse does not refer to how the servant was taken away but refers, rather, to what he was taken away from. Can this be applied to Jesus? From what dominion and judgment was Jesus taken away? He never had any power as a ruler to lose. He was never deprived of any office.

According to the New Testament, Jesus' "first coming" was not as a ruler or judge, but as one who would bring salvation. The New Testament further claims that Jesus will be coming back a second time and it is only then that he will reign as king and judge of the world. Jesus is quoted as saying: ". . . the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28) and "My kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36). It is further stated in the Gospel of John: "For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world; but that the world should be saved through him" (John 3:17). The preceding quotations illustrate that Jesus did not lose any dominion or right to judge during his lifetime, since he never had these rights in the first place.

Considering verse 8 in its entirety, within the context of the entire chapter, it becomes clear that Isaiah did not refer to Jesus. "From dominion and judgment" reflects critical events in Jewish history: Taken from "dominion and judgment, that is, rulership and the right to judge, who can relate Israel's history which followed after "he was cut off out of the land of the living," that is, the Land of Israel? Israel's life was filled with innumerable sufferings because of the misdeeds of the Gentiles who afflicted him unjustly. Driven into exile, the servant was deprived of his right to rule and judge.

The fact is that there is nothing in any part of this verse that points to Jesus as the "suffering servant of the Lord."

© Gerald Sigal