Isaiah 53: About the People of Israel or Messiah of Israel?

Eitan Bar

Eitan Bar is a native Jewish-Israeli who was born and raised in Tel Aviv, Israel (1984). Graduated with his B.A. in Biblical Studies from Israel College of the Bible (Jerusalem, 2009), his M.A. in Theology from Liberty University (2013) and is now pursuing his Doctorate with Dallas Theological Seminary. Eitan currently serves as ONE FOR ISRAEL's Director of Media & Evangelism. (From 2006 to 2013, Eitan worked for CRU, in which his roles included serving as Israel's VLM-SLM leader.)

Eitan's professional background is in "Multimedia Design and Visual Communications" working for various secular advertising agencies in Tel-Aviv.

Eitan is the producer of:
1) I MET MESSIAH (Jewish testimonials).
2) Answering Rabbinic Objections to Jesus.

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Without a doubt, Isaiah 53 is one of the most significant chapters in the Old Testament regarding the Messiah. It is also one of the most troubling chapters for the rabbis, because it prophesies very clearly that the Messiah will be rejected by his own people, will suffer, and will die for the sins of humanity. Since the appearance of Jesus of Nazareth (who was rejected, suffered, and died) this chapter has caused great confusion among the rabbis. Eventually, about 1,000 years ago, attempts began to reinterpret the whole chapter, claiming that it does not speak about the Messiah.

Some of you must be wondering what “reinterpret” means? Up until 1,000 years ago, all the wise men of Israel – the sages – understood that Isaiah 53 was about the Messiah. The claim of present day rabbis that the chapter speaks about the people of Israel and not about the Messiah is relatively new. See, for example, what Rabbi Haim Ratig said when he answered a question on the moreshet.co.il website. The question asked if Isaiah 53 points to Jesus. You can read the rabbi’s complete answer on the website, but pay attention to the following pearls: “Your question raised a smile on my lips, after all, how can it be possible that any Christian in the world would fit the description of “The Servant of the LORD” who is brought like a lamb to the slaughter?! It is not possible that Isaiah would prophesy regarding a Christian event rather than a Jewish one. Isaiah’s prophecies spoke about the people of Israel. Throughout the generations, the Jewish people offered themselves as an innocent lamb.

The rabbi claims that it’s impossible that Jesus is the Messiah, since it’s impossible that the prophecy will prophesy about a Christian event or about any Christian in the world. Do you see the irony? Although the rabbis distorted his name to “Jesus the Christian” (Yeshua haNotzri in Hebrew), Jesus is not “any Christian in the world,” but a Jew, from the line of David, who lived here in the land of Israel. Christianity was not even considered an official religion until about 4th century AD. The rabbi also claims that Isaiah 53 is not about the Messiah at all, but about the people of Israel who offered themselves as an innocent lamb. But what if we told you that only modern rabbis, only after the time of Jesus, suddenly began to interpret the prophecy in Isaiah 53 as if it was about the people of Israel? And what if we told you that, in contrast, the sages themselves interpreted Isaiah 53 as a prophecy about the Messiah?

We have already expanded in depth on Isaiah 53 in other video clips, but below is a shortened list of sages who, like us, interpreted Isaiah 53 as describing a single person – about the Messiah – and not about the people of Israel.

Targum Jonathan, a translation originating in Jerusalem from the post-Talmudic era, attributes a messianic character to Isaiah 53.

The Talmud itself never attributes Isaiah 53 to the people of Israel as a nation.

Tractate Sanhedrin 98 and Sotah 14 attribute Isaiah 53 to the Messiah.

Midrash Rabbah 5:1, Midrash Tanhuma and Midrash Konen attribute Isaiah 53 to the Messiah.

Yalkut Shimoni 4 attributes Isaiah 53 to the Messiah.

The Jewish Prayer Book for the Day of Atonement attributes Isaiah 53 to the Messiah.

The Zohar, a book of Jewish Mysticism, also attributes Isaiah 53 to the Messiah.

Even Rabbi Saadia Gaon, who confronted Christians in debates, did not attribute Isaiah 53 to the people of Israel as a nation, but to a single person.

Therefore, we clearly see that classical Jewish thought, the source and authority of the Jewish religion, almost unanimously attributes Isaiah 53 to a single person and not to the people of Israel as a whole. That single person being, of course, the Messiah.

And what about Rabbi Ratig’s claim that the people of Israel are an “innocent lamb”? Can the people of Israel be considered the innocent lamb?

“Innocent lamb” is a biblical definition for someone who is without sin or blemish – someone who is never wrong, never does evil, and never sins… someone who is perfect, pure, and sinless. Do our people really fit this definition? It’s enough to open the newspapers or listen to the news to find the answer to this, but since we’ve already started with the prophet Isaiah, let’s allow him to answer this question as well. Pay attention to his words to the people of Israel: “For your hands are defiled with blood and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies; your tongue mutters wickedness. No one enters suit justly; no one goes to law honestly… Their feet run to evil, they are swift to shed innocent blood; their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; desolation and destruction are in their highways. The way of peace they do not know, and there is no justice in their paths; they have made their roads crooked; no one who treads on them knows peace.” (Is 59:3-8)

One thing is for sure – it is impossible to declare our people, the people of Israel, an “innocent lamb”.

The prophecy of Isaiah 53 has caught Rabbinic Judaism “with their pants down” over and over again. Therefore, it’s not surprising to read the words of Rafael Levi, the 17th century Jewish researcher, who discovered that in the past Isaiah 53 was read in the synagogues; however, since the chapter caused so much confusion and so many arguments, the rabbis decided that the simplest solution would be to remove the prophecy from the reading order of the Haftarah in synagogues. This, of course, was done in order to hide Jesus from you.

And now, go and read the prophecy of Isaiah 53 for yourselves.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jqpa8qFBcIw

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