What You Have To Know About Isaiah 53 Verse 8

Continued from Part 14


53:8:   “As a result of the transgression of my people he has been afflicted.” 

The literal rendering of this verse is:  “From the transgression of my people the stroke [nega‘] to them.”  That is, because of the transgressions of the gentiles the servant suffered. 

As regards the word lamo, to them,” grammarians recognize that it is also in a sense singular, “to him” (as it is in non-poetic usage), because it agrees with certain singular nouns.

As in this verse, lamothe poetic form of lahem (“to them”), is used often in referring to a collective noun.  Examples are, Genesis 9:26 (where it refers to Shem, that is, the descendants of Shem); Psalms 28:8 where it refers to the people of verse 9; Psalms 73:10 (also in reference to “people”); Isaiah 44:15 (in reference to ’el [a god] and pesel [a carved image], which are also to be understood respectively as referring collectively to all false gods); and finally Isaiah 53:8.

The translator of the Hebrew, into the Greek Septuagint, understood the proper use of lamo when rendering Isaiah 44:15:  “That it might be for men to burn:  and having taken part of it he warms himself; and they burn part of it; and bake loaves thereon; and the rest they make for themselves gods, and they worship them.

Lamo is generally rendered “to him” as it refers to the collective noun, servant, that is, the Jewish people, not a single individual.  In such an instance, lamo can be translated in the singular.  Although it must always be understood to be in the plural in relation to what numerically constitutes the entity that is given the appellative servant.  The plural nature of the poetic form lamo is supported by the manner in which it is used in the Jewish Scriptures.  Isaiah uses lamo eleven times:  16:4, 23:1, 26:14, 26:16, 30:5, 35:8, 43:8, 44:7, 44:15, 48:21, and 53:8.  This poetic usage especially works well in verse 8.

Although the subject of chapter 53 is given throughout in the singular, the change to the plural form in verse 8 is fully accounted for when the servant of God is considered to stand collectively for the people of Israel.  That the plural lamo in verse 8 refers to the servant as a collective noun excludes any possibility that it pertains to an individual.  Therefore, it cannot refer to Jesus.

© Gerald Sigal