Isaiah 53 is the fifty-third chapter of the Book of Isaiah in the Hebrew Bible or the Old Testament of the Christian Bible. This book contains the prophecies spoken by the prophet Isaiah, and is a part of the Book of the Prophets. It is said that the chapter talks about Yeshua Hamoschaich (Jesus), or does it? Let’s find out.
I was given a book by a friend entitled: Isaiah 53-Explained. It is very confusing and I really don’t know who “the Servant” is……It sounds like it IS talking about “Yeshua Hamoschaich” (Jesus). Is it?
The book, published by Chosen People Ministry, and distributed free to thousands of Jewish homes, is part of a multi-million dollar proselytizing campaign currently in its second year.
The use of ISAIAH 53, aka “the suffering servant” chapter has been consistently misquoted by missionaries trying to claim that the prophet Isaiah is speaking of Jesus and fulfills the prophecies that “he would suffer for our sins.” They often site the fact that “the servant” is singular and must therefore be talking about a single individual – Jesus. Though a thorough analysis can not been given in this limited space, we will explore some important points.
First, one must read the entire book of Isaiah in context and from an accurate Jewish translation (such as an Artscroll/ Mesorah Publication Bible). It was written by Isaiah who was a prophet from 619-533 B.C.E. In the original text there were no chapters and breaks. The book was written in fluid format and therefore, must be read as a whole. When doing so, you will note that this chapter, which is known as the “Fourth Servant Song” actually begins in chapter 52 verse 13.
When reading Isaiah and other text, God often calls Israel and Jacob (another reference to Israel), His “servant” in both the singular and plural.
“But you, O Israel, My servant, Jacob, you whom I have chosen, offspring of Abraham who loved Me…and to whom I shall say: ‘You are my servant’ – I have chosen you and not rejected you.” (Isaiah 41:8-9)
“But hear now Jacob, My servant, and Israel whom I have chosen!” (Isaiah 44:1)
“Remember these things, Jacob and Israel, for you are My servant: I fashioned you to be My servant: Israel do not forget Me!” (Isaiah 44:21)
“..for the sake of My servant Jacob and Israel, My chosen one: I have proclaimed you by name…” (Isaiah 45:4)
“…say, ‘Hashem (God) has redeemed His servant Jacob.” (Isaiah 48:20)
“…You are my servant, Israel, in whom I take glory.” (Isaiah 49:3)
“But as for you, do not fear My servant Jacob, the word of Hashem (G-d) and do not be afraid, Israel…” (Jeremiah 30:10)
“A heritage for Israel, His (God’s) servant, for His kindness endures forever.” (Psalms Chapter 136:22)
In Chapters 52 – 54, the prophet is referring to the gentile nations who have tormented and inflicted pain and suffering on the Jewish people. It is THESE nations who will be astounded and shocked to see that God has saved us from their persecution and returned us to our home, Israel: and, that ultimately, God will vindicate us for our suffering The same promises appear in the Book of Ezekiel 36:6-9 & 15 and in Jeremiah 30:8-13.
Another interesting point is, many missionaries often claim that “the Rabbis” have deliberately eliminated this chapter from the Haftorah portions (section from Prophets that is read every Shabbat after the Torah reading) in an effort to suppress the fact that Isaiah is talking about Jesus. The Haftorah system was established nearly two hundred years before the common era and Christianity, when Jews were prohibited to read and learn the Torah (pre-Chanukah revolt).
This fact is even documented in Acts 13:14-15, 27 (NT-Christian Gospels):
“…went into the synagogue on Sabbath, and sat down. And after the reading of the Law (Torah) and the Prophets (Haftorah)….the voices of the Prophets which are read every Sabbath day…”