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IV. Isaiah 52:13-53: The Song of the Suffering Servant

IV.(G) Jesus Christ Matches the Servant of Isaiah 52-53

Like Jesus, the Messiah would have to be rejected by Jerusalem's religious leaders. In Isaiah 53:3(JPS), Jerusalem and its vessel-bearers sing that the Servant “was despised, shunned by men, A man of suffering, familiar with disease. As one who hid his face from us, [“as one from whom men hide their face” -1917 JPS] He was despised, we held him of no account.” Crowds that welcomed Jesus when he rode into Jerusalem on a humble donkey, and then the crowds cried for His death when religious leaders told them that He was not the Messiah, but a weak, blasphemous, captured criminal.(Matthew 21&27).

Just as Jerusalem sings in Isaiah 53:3-4 that the Servant bore people's illnesses while they considered Him stricken, Matthew 8:2-17 & 12:24 record that Jesus Christ bore away people's illnesses, while the pharisees considered him afflicted with demons:

8:2. there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.
8:3. And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.
8:16. they brought unto him many that were possessed with devils: and he cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick:
8:17. That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.
12:24. "But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils."

 At first glance, one problem with relating Isaiah 53 to Jesus is that Isaiah 53:9(JPT) prophesies that the Servant was killed, although “he committed no violence." Jesus Christ's most seemingly violent act occurred in Matthew 21:12-14(KJV) when:

21:12 Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves,
21:13 And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.
21:14 And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple; and he healed them.

Technically, Jesus probably did not perform "violence," since the Oxford dictionary defines violence as: "behavior involving physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill someone or something," and pushing someone away does not cause physical damage to them. His intent was not to punish the money changers, since he did not follow them out. Rather, his intent was to remove them because the pharisees would not.

Further, the term "violence" in Isaiah appears to mean unjust physical harm. The only other time he mentions the term, he writes that an "deed of violence" is in the people's hands while ”Their feet run to evil, and they hasten to shed innocent blood… Therefore, justice is far from us” (Isaiah 59:3-9, JPT). For Isaiah, an "act of violence" means something physically destructive that removes justice. For example, firefighters, who pull people out of burning houses, do not commit "acts of violence" in the sense that Isaiah uses the word. Jeremiah and Ezekiel always use the word violence to refer to sinful or unlawful violence (Jer. 6:7,20:8,22:3,22:17,51:35,51:46; Ezek 7:11-23,8:17,12:19,18:7-18,28:16,45:9). The Scriptures(in particular the 1917 JPS) always uses the words "violence," "violent," and "violently" to suggest wickedness or unlawfulness, except for a mistranslation of Isaiah 22:18. (Isaiah 22:18 literally reads: "whirling He will whirl thee".) Perhaps for this reason the 1985 JPS translates Isaiah 53:9 to say: “Though he had done no injustice”, rather than “no violence.” Likewise, the Septuagint transcript of the Scriptures says in Isaiah 53:9 that the Servant "had done no lawlessness", instead of "no violence." 

The dove-sellers used the place of worship to profit from selling sacrificial animals to destitute people required to buy them. The money-changers charged a fee to exchange pilgrims' Roman money with graven images into clean money. The dove-sellers only took Jewish or Tyrian money, which is funny because Tyrian money also had graven images, since they showed the Tyrian god Herakles. If Jesus was the Messiah, it would be lawful and righteous for him to "fire" the moneychangers profiting needlessly from God's House.

 Another apparent problem is that Christ spoke at His trial, but Isaiah 53:7(JPT) says that the Servant "would not open his mouth; like a lamb to the slaughter he would be brought, and like a ewe that is mute before her shearers, and he would not open his mouth." In other words, the Servant lacked the ability to speak, like a mute female sheep, and did not open his mouth.

On the other hand, Ezekiel 3:26-27(JPS) records God's spirit telling Ezekiel "you shall be dumb… But when I speak with you, I will open your mouth”. Ezekiel writes that later: “the hand of the Lord had come upon me… and He opened my mouth… thus my mouth was opened and I was no longer speechless.” (Ezek 33:22, JPS) Numbers 22:28(JPT) records an unusual incident where the prophet Balaam strikes his she-donkey, and “The Lord opened the mouth of the she-donkey, and she said to Balaam, ‘What have I done to you that you have struck me these three times?’” Similarly, during His trial, a court officer struck Jesus, who also responded by His attacker why He was struck: "If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil: but if well, why smitest thou me?" (John 18:23).

So while Isaiah 53:7 says that the Servant would be mute like a female sheep, the Scriptures talks about God opening the mouths of a mute prophet and a she-donkey. Christ's mouth opened, and after hearing Him, "the high priest... saith 'Ye have heard the blasphemy: what think ye?' And they all condemned him to be guilty of death."(Mark 14:63-64).

Another fulfillment was that Joseph of Arithmea put Jesus' body in his wealthy family tomb. Isaiah 53:9(JPS) says: "his grave was set["vaiyitten”] among the wicked, And with the rich, in his death”. The word “vaiyitten” comes from the root word, "nathan", which means to set, as in to prepare or appoint (See: Joshua 20:2, 2 Kings 8:6, Ezra 8:20). The Sanhedrin might have arranged for Jesus to have a common grave with criminals, but Joseph of Arithmea later succeeded in requesting His body from Pilate for Joseph's family tomb. Isaiah would have considered Joseph's family to be wicked too, since Isaiah 58:1-4 & 59:1-4 describes everyone as wicked.

 

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