Chapter 12
The Blood of Jesus Predicted

An Analysis of the Servant Song of Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12

The greatest passage in the Bible concerning the work of Jesus Christ on the cross is found in one of Isaiah’s “Servant Songs” beginning at Isaiah 52:13 and continuing to 53:12. This prophecy contains, without question, the most important teaching on the Atonement in the entire Bible. Isaiah chapter 53 has been called, “the crown of all Old Testament prophecy.” The passage will now be analyzed in detail.

That the Song is a prediction referring to the Messiah is evident from five things:

(1) What the passage says can be applied only to Jesus Christ. No one has ever, or could ever, fulfill it. This will be seen as the poem is analyzed.

(2) The poem itself says it is about “the Servant of the Lord” (52:13; 53:11) who is seen from other passages in Isaiah to be the Messiah, and He is clearly distinguished from the nation of Israel who is also called “the Servant of the Lord.”

(3) The Messiah is predicted to be a Sufferer in other prophecies in the Old Testament.

(4) The Holy Spirit applied the prophecy to Christ directly in no less than eight New Testament passages. For example:

When the even was come, 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: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses. (Matt. 8:16-17)

Furthermore, the prophecy is applied to Christ indirectly in a multitude of other passages.

(5) The messianic interpretation has always been universally accepted by “Bible-believing” Christians.

The Jews abandoned their traditional messianic interpretation of the Servant of this prophecy when Jesus came and fulfilled it. Then they applied the prophecy to certain ones of the prophets or to the nation of Israel itself, and beginning with the nineteenth century, certain so-called “critical scholars” have adopted one or another of the Jewish interpretations.

To those who choose to believe the clear teachings of Scripture, however, there can be but one interpretation of this passage – the Suffering Servant is indeed the Messiah who suffered, died and rose again historically in the person of Jesus Christ.

Outline of Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12

I. A Summary of the Contents of 53:1-12 52:13-15

A. The obedience and exaltation of the Servant 52:13
B. The humiliation of the Servant 52:14
C. The application of the work of the Servant 52:15

II. The redemptive work of the Servant ch. 53

A. The rejection of the Servant 53:1-3
B. The work of the Servant 53:4-6
C. The voluntary sufferings of the Servant 53:7-10c
D. The results of the work of the Servant 53:10d-12

Analysis of Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12

52:13 Behold, my Servant

“Behold” focuses the prophetic spotlight on God’s Servant, who is the One who has been called and commissioned by the Lord to fulfill His will, as a sacrifice for sin, but also so that since He Himself has endured temptations,7 and who received public acknowledgement from Him. Jesus was the Lord’s Servant and not the Servant of men; and as His Father’s Servant, He was perfect in obedience, even to the point of dying on the cross.

shall deal prudently,

The Hebrew word means He will act “wisely” or “circumspectly.” This statement summarizes the Servant’s perfect obedience to the Lord’s will and purpose, and His complete success in accomplishing it.

He shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high.

After the Servant’s obedience unto death, He was raised from the dead and glorified. Jesus is now seated at the Father’s right hand and is “made higher than the heavens” (Heb. 7:26).

52:14 As many were astonied at thee;

In a complete contrast to verse 13, the sufferings of the Servant are now described. His humiliation was as deep as His exaltation was high. The Hebrew word translated “astonied” means “awestruck, appalled, emotionally desolated.” His physical sufferings were so terrible that all who witnessed them were awestruck and appalled.

His visage [i.e., His appearance] was so marred more than any man, and His form [i.e., His physical body in general] more than the sons of men:

This explains why all those who saw Him were appalled at the sight. Jesus experienced such brutal treatment at the hands of His persecutors and murderers, that His body was so extremely disfigured He lost even the outward appearance of a man.

52:15 So shall He sprinkle many nations;

Because He endured such sufferings and death, the result is the salvation of “many nations,”12 as well as the salvation of Israel.

The Hebrew word translated “sprinkle” refers, in the Old Testament, to religious purification and cleansing by blood as well as by water. Thus the Messiah saves “many nations” by means of the sprinkling of His blood and regeneration by His Spirit.

the kings shall shut their mouths at Him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider.

Even kings will be silenced in awe and veneration when the Gospel of the Person and redemptive work of the Servant is made known to them. This Gospel which had not previously been made known to them, but had been a mystery hidden since the world began, they will now “consider”; that is, they will understand it and be saved.

After this summary of the contents of chapter 53, the poem continues without any chapter break:

53:1 Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?

Even though many Gentiles and even kings will receive Him, yet the Servant is rejected by His own nation who will not believe.

The “arm of the Lord” is a figure for God’s power exercised in deliverance and salvation as well as judgment. Used here, the expression indicates that through His Servant, God will bring salvation to His people.

This salvation, however, must be “revealed” by God before it will be “believed” by men.

53:2 For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground:

The explanation for verse 1 is given in verses 2 and 3. The people of Israel did more than just disbelieve the report of the Messiah (v. 1): they despised and rejected His very Person (vv. 2-3).

Jesus came quietly and inconspicuously. He grew up “before Him28 as a tender plant.” This rather unobtrusive entrance into the world is in marked contrast with the Messiah’s coming entrance into the world at His Second Advent. To the Jews who were waiting for a Messiah who would come in great strength, power and glory to destroy Israel’s enemies and establish His kingdom on this earth, exalting Israel to be the head of the nations, a “tender plant” and a “root out of a dry ground” was unexpected and undesired.

The phrase “He shall grow up…as a tender plant” describes Jesus’ normal and humble growth from infancy to manhood. “As a root out of a dry ground” reflects the “dry” adverse circumstances under which He was born. Jesus, who was a strong, vigorous “root” Himself, came to Israel at a time of spiritual dearth. Since the time of Malachi (433 B.C.), who was regarded by the Hebrews as being the last genuine “writing prophet,” there had been a long period of prophetic silence in Israel. Furthermore, the Jewish nation was under the yoke of the Roman Empire in an age characterized by low moral and spiritual conditions. Add to all this the humble and lowly circumstances under which Christ was born, and we can see what Isaiah meant by “a root out of a dry ground.”

He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him.

Jesus did not come in His First Advent as the outwardly glorious and exalted King of kings and Lord of lords, but He came as a humble servant, with no great outward splendor or magnificence. Because of His lack of worldly pomp and fleshly appeal, people saw Him as being nothing more than “the carpenter’s son,” and it took a supernatural revelation from God for men to know who He really was. Consequently there were only a few Jewish disciples who saw the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, and who could joyfully say, “We beheld His glory, the glory of the unique Son of the Father, full of grace and truth.” The nation as a whole saw “no form nor comeliness” to desire Him, so they despised Him and “esteemed Him not.”

53:3 He is despised and rejected of men;

Because of Jesus’ lack of outward splendor and appeal, the hypocritical religious Jews of His day, who measured greatness by a worldly standard of outward appearance, despised Him.

Furthermore, because of His holy life and teachings, Jesus was rejected and shunned by men who loved darkness rather than light.

a Man of sorrows [Hebrew is pains], and acquainted with grief [Hebrew is sickness, disease]:

Much of Jesus’ ministry was concerned with helping the sick, diseased and oppressed. Then at the cross, Jesus bore away our sicknesses and pains, and in this sense Christ is said to have been “acquainted” (i.e., familiar) with pain and sickness. This phrase also has reference to the profound inward sense of identification Jesus felt with the suffering and fallen state of lost mankind.

and we hid as it were our faces from Him; He was despised, and we esteemed Him not.

Here again is seen the willful unbelief of Israel who rejected and despised Jesus at His First Advent. The prophet identifies himself with the Jews (“we”) who saw nothing they desired in the Servant.

But God had purposely veiled who Jesus was. In God’s eternal plan it was necessary that Jesus be rejected at His First Advent. If they had not rejected Him, He wouldn’t have died; and if Jesus didn’t die there would be no salvation available for anyone.

Jesus knew from the beginning of His ministry that His message would be rejected by the people, and He would be crucified. God had ordained it before the foundation of the world.

It will be at His Second Advent that the Messiah will be recognized, acknowledged and received by His people, Israel.

53:4 Surely He hath borne our griefs [sicknesses, diseases; Hebrew], and carried our sorrows [pains; Hebrew]:

Verses 4 to 6 are the central part of the whole prophecy, and they reveal the nature of Jesus’ sufferings and death on the cross – it was a substitutionary sacrifice for sin.

Jesus bore the punishment of our sin and died in our place, to satisfy the violated justice of God. Therefore He set us free from the obligation to bear the punishment for our sin and He has borne away our sicknesses and pains.47

yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

The Jews, as a whole, failed to understand the reason for Jesus’ sufferings and death. They didn’t realize He was bearing their sins. To them it appeared that Jesus was being smitten (i.e., punished) by God for sins of His own.

The Talmud is a collection of Jewish literature, oral traditions and interpretations of the Old Testament, and in it, Jesus of Nazareth is consigned to hell alongside Balaam, Titus,49 and others, to suffer the severest and most degrading punishment.

The truth, however, is that Jesus was sinless and has never suffered any punishment for His own sins. His sufferings and death on the cross were not because of sins of His own, but they were because of our sins. His death was vicarious. He suffered and died instead of us. God allowed Him to die to bear the punishment of our sins.

53:5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed.

The Jews did not understand it, but the cause for which Jesus suffered was not His own sin, but He died for our transgressions and iniquities.

In fulfillment of this prophecy, Christ was “wounded” and “bruised.” He bore our chastisement (i.e., punishment) and was whipped.

We had sinned and deserved to be wounded, bruised, chastised and whipped, but in His love and grace, God took upon Himself flesh and bore our punishment in our place. Since Jesus has already borne our punishment we no longer have to, and therefore we have “peace” with God and are “healed.”

53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way;

All men are sinners by choice as well as by nature, and are lost like sheep and are totally unable to help themselves.

and the LORD hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

We had sinned and therefore deserved to be punished eternally, but, in His mercy, God provided a sacrifice on whom was laid “the iniquity of us all.” Jesus bore our punishment and therefore we don’t have to. Praise the Lord!

Jesus shed His precious blood and released us from all condemnation and from the curse of the broken law.

53:7 He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth: He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He openeth not His mouth.

Although He was God, in order to bear the penalty of our sins, Jesus humbled Himself and voluntarily submitted Himself to oppression, affliction and the death of the cross.

Just as a lamb is gentle and unresisting, so Jesus patiently endured His humiliation, sufferings and death. Because of His perfect submission to His Father’s will, even when He, the holy and pure Son of God, was falsely accused, reviled and abused, yet He didn’t open His mouth to justify or defend Himself, or to protest or complain – leaving us an example to follow.

53:8 He was taken from prison and from judgment:

Acts 8:33 quotes this prophecy: “In His humiliation His judgment was taken away.” In the violence and injustice done to Jesus, His judgment (i.e., justice and the fair trial due to Him) was withheld. His betrayer and His judge both asserted His innocence and yet He was delivered to death.

and who shall declare His generation? for He was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was He stricken.

The New American Standard Bible translates this more clearly: “And as for His generation, who considered that He was cut off out of the land of the living, for the transgression of my people to whom the stroke was due?”

“The land of the living” is the realm of physical life, and when Christ was “cut off out of” it, He died physically to pay the penalty for the sins of His people.

53:9 And He made His grave with the wicked [plural], and with the rich [singular] in His death;

Jesus was crucified and died between two thieves, and when His body was taken down it was intended that He be buried with them. Due to the intervention of Joseph of Arimathæa, however, Jesus’ body was placed in the honorable tomb of “the rich [man].” Once Jesus’ redemptive work had been finished God allowed no more abuses to be inflicted upon Him.

The word translated “death” in this verse is plural (deaths) in the Hebrew text, and an ignorance of the Hebrew language and its usage has led some to use this verse to try to prove that Jesus died two deaths – a physical death and a spiritual death. However, the use of the plural “deaths” in this verse is simply an example of what are called “plural nouns” in the Hebrew language. “Plural nouns” are quite common in the Hebrew Old Testament and frequently (as here) they do not express a numerical plurality (that is, the plural “deaths” signifying more than one death) but rather a plurality of intensity.

In Isaiah 53:9, the word “deaths” does not refer to two deaths, but it is used in the plural for emphasis.

Another example of this is found in Ezekiel 28:10 where God predicts the violent death of the wicked King of Tyre. The King James Version translates the Hebrew literally as “deaths” (plural)77 and yet only the physical death of the King is referred to (inasmuch as the wicked King was already spiritually dead). The plural “deaths” is used to emphasize the violent character of his death in the judgment of God. This usage of “plural nouns” is common in the Hebrew language.

The plural “deaths” in Isaiah 53:9 does not signify that Jesus died spiritually as well as physically, but it emphasizes the magnitude of the violent, painful death of the cross, and it is correctly translated as the singular “death” in the King James Version.78

because He had done no violence, neither was any deceit in His mouth.

The Hebrew word translated “because” should have been translated “although” or “yet” or “but.” Although Jesus died like a criminal; yet He Himself had done no “violence.” Jesus was sinless and perfectly innocent, and He deserved no death. His death, however, was not for His own sins but for ours.

53:10 Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He hath put Him to grief: when thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin,

Although Jesus was perfect and sinless, yet God was “pleased” (i.e., it was His purpose or decision) to “bruise [crush: same Hebrew word as ‘bruised’ in v. 5] Him,” to “put Him to grief,”82 and to make His “soul” (i.e., He Himself) an offering for sin.

Jesus’ death was as a “sin offering” for us. Thus He fulfilled the types of the Levitical sacrificial system. This chapter in Isaiah is a major connection between the Old and New Testaments. In it, the Old Testament type of sacrifice and the New Testament fulfillment in the death of the Lamb of God are brought together.

God’s purpose in the cross was the redemption of men, and to achieve that purpose the innocent Servant voluntarily substituted Himself as a sacrifice in the place of sinners.

After dealing at length with Messiah’s redemptive work, the prophecy now moves into a survey of its results.

He shall see His seed,

Though Jesus must die, yet He will live again to “see His seed.” “His seed” are His spiritual offspring or posterity. “His seed” are the redeemed. Through His work on the cross, Jesus will bring “many sons unto glory.” Those sons will be born of God and will be God’s heirs.

He shall prolong His days,

This is a prediction of the resurrection of the Servant. The same verse that says He will die as an offering for sin, goes on to say that He will prolong His days. That is only possible by His resurrection, after which He will enjoy endless life or “prolonged days.”

and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand.

Through the Servant’s work on the cross and His subsequent resurrection and High Priestly mediation, the “pleasure” (i.e., purpose) of God on this earth with respect to the redemption of both Jew and Gentile will “prosper” (i.e., be completely accomplished).

53:11 He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied:

Jesus’ redemptive work is described here as being “travail” and the Hebrew word implies hard, painful labor and toil. But the sufferings that Jesus endured were not futile, and after His death and resurrection Isaiah prophesies that He “shall see of [i.e., the fruit or results of] the travail of his soul.” Then when He sees the results of His work on the cross in the salvation, healing, blessing and eternal life of His “seed,” He “shall be satisfied.” The Hebrew word translated “satisfied” means to be “saturated” or “abundantly full.” Jesus endured the sufferings and shame of the cross “for the joy that was set before Him” (Heb. 12:2). When God’s children are saved, healed, delivered and walk in the blessings He has provided for them through the shed blood of the cross, Jesus is gratified. When His people are restored to a living, loving fellowship with Him through His shed blood, Jesus’ joy is deeply fulfilled and “satisfied.”

by His knowledge shall my righteous Servant justify many; for He shall bear their iniquities.

Through the knowledge of Jesus and what He has done on the cross, many people will receive forgiveness of sins and the gift of imputed righteousness, and they will be justified by God.

The basis of this justification is the death of Jesus on the cross when He bore our iniquities,94 and the means by which this justification is received are the knowledge of Jesus and faith in Him and His work.

53:12 Therefore will I divide Him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong;

Because the Servant was obedient to God even to the point of dying, God therefore will exalt Him and divide (i.e., allot) Him a place among the great and the mighty, and as “King of kings” and “Lord of lords” He will rule over all nations on the earth in the Millennium, and to Him “every knee shall bow.”

With “the strong”100 who have shared in His sufferings and rejection, and who then go forth with Him to do battle against His enemies, He will “divide the spoil.”

because He hath poured out His soul unto death:

Jesus “poured out His soul [i.e., His life, which was in His blood] unto death” thus paying the full price for the redemption of men.

and He was numbered with the transgressors; and He bare the sin of many,

Although He Himself was not a transgressor; yet Jesus was counted as a transgressor105 and treated like a transgressor by the Jews and the Romans, and He was crucified with transgressors.

But God’s purpose in it all was that Jesus should bear “the sin of many” and die in their place, delivering them from the punishment of their sin.

and made intercession for the transgressors.

While this prediction was fulfilled by Jesus on the cross; yet as our High Priest, Jesus’ ministry of intercession continues in heaven as He applies to us the redemption that He purchased for us when He shed His precious blood on our behalf.


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