Thankful For His Service | Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12 Exegetical Paper

After (in a previous sermon on 1 Cor 15:1-8) examining the historical evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus, and the absurdity of alternative explanations of the historical data that scholars of all stripes agree upon, it seemed wise to examine the prophetic background of Christ’s substitutionary, atoning death and Resurrection.

Perhaps the most famous prophecy concerning Jesus is found in Is 53:5:

5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed. (NIV)

What follows is an updated version of an exegetical paper on the larger context of this verse (Is 52:13 – Is 53:12), which I first submitted back in Fall 2017 and I recently resurrected for a Bible Study last week.

The Hebrew texted of this prophetic passage is included, and my translation is explained.

Footnotes (linked) can be found throughout the paper, and sources are listed in the bibliography at the end of the page. See the text after a hyperlinked outline below (feel free to skim and skip around my nerdiness).


  1. Introduction
  2. Context
    1. Authorship
    2. Author: Isaiah
    3. Historical Context
    4. Literary Context
    5. The Servant of the Lord
    6. Messianic Prophecy?
  3. Structure
  4. Verse Commentary
    1. Is 52:13-15 God Foretells of the Servant’s Exaltation
      1. Is 52:13
      2. Is 52:14
      3. Is 53:15
    2. Is 53:1-3 People Testify: The Servant was Despised and Rejected
      1. Is 53:1
      2. Is 53:2
      3. Is 53:3
    3. Is 53:4-6 People Testify: The Servant Provided “Vicarious Suffering For Our Sins”
      1. Is 53:4
      2. Is 53:5
      3. Is 53:6
    4. Is 53:7-9 People Testify: “The Sinless, Silent Sufferer”
      1. Is 53:7
      2. Is 53:8
      3. Is 53:9
    5. Is 53:10-12 God Foretells of the Servant’s Final Exaltation 
      1. Is 53:10
      2. Is 53:11
      3. Is 53:12
  5. Conclusion
  6. Bibliography


In this paper, I will attempt to examine the one of the most beloved passages in the Scriptures – the fourth Servant song of Isaiah (Is 52:13-53:12).

First, I will strive to briefly survey the context (authorship, historical context, and literary context). Then, I will endeavor to illumine the structure of the passage before offering – stanza by stanza – my own translation.

I did not anticipate the amount of controversy surrounding the grammar and vocabulary of almost each verse. Nonetheless, in light of these debates, I will try to succinctly justify my translation choices while exegeting the text.

Given the length of exegetical sections, only afterwards will I briefly mention how I believe Christians should interpret this passage today.



Since the late 19th century, it appears that the majority of scholars have claimed that the book of Isaiah is not the product of one person, but the product of an ‘Isaiah school’ — a group of his disciples who edited the work over the centuries. Many maintain that chapters 40-55 are from the pen of a ‘Second Isaiah’ in the latter part of Israel’s exile in Babylon.

Furthermore, chapters 56-66 are thought to come from a ‘Third Isaiah’ who was writing in the post-exilic period of Israelite restoration. Such a view may serve to explain the variances in literary style and differing historical contexts reflected in the text.[1]

Though I was initially skeptical – as I was when learning about apparent editing of the Pentateuch over time – I find it reassuring to realize that the notion of unity of authorship is not necessary.[2]

My view on the doctrine of inspiration, which entails God’s middle knowledge – His knowledge of what any free person would do in any set of circumstances – allows for God, through the actions of free persons, to providentially superintend circumstances so that the result of the composition, redaction, and canonization of all Scripture is “God-breathed” (2 Tim 3:16).

That being said, it is one thing to posit that, though the content of the book is from vision of Isaiah (Is 1:1), the content, over time, was arranged into one volume. As scholars note, in the years following his death, the disciples of Isaiah could have faithfully edited the writings of the prophet.[3] It seems to be quite another to posit that, over time, the content of the book was expanded.

Since more and more contemporary scholars are coming to the conclusion that the book reflects “ideological and theological unity,”[4] the view that content was added by other authors at other times seems problematic. For the theme of so-called “Second Isaiah” is the superiority of the LORD. Only YHWH is able to tell of the past ([Is 41:22]), foretell the future ([Is 41:23]), and “do things that are radically new ([Is 43:18–19]).”[5]

It would seem awfully contradictory for “Second Isaiah” to claim that YHWH was superior because of His exclusive ability to predict the future, while basing such a claim on false future predictions.[6]  It would appear to undercut Deutero-Isaiah’s theology of a superior God if he is retroactively putting false prophecies in the mouth of the prophet.”[7]

While a lengthy evaluation of the debate of authorship is beyond the scope of this paper, suffice it to say that I am, at present, unconvinced by the arguments against the traditional view. Positing multiple authors of Isaiah “creates at least as many difficulties as it appears to settle.”[8]

Author: Isaiah[9]

Isaiah, whose name means, “The LORD Saves,” was an 8th-century prophet in Jerusalem in the southern kingdom Judah. Often considered the greatest of the writing prophets,[10] Isaiah was called to ministry the year King Uzziah (c. 783-742) died,[11] and his ministry lasted until the invasion of the Assyrians in 701 BC.[12]

Not too long after, Isaiah, according to tradition, was martyred under the reign of king Manasseh — who reigned from around 690 B.C. to 640 B.C.[13] All in all, there is good evidence that the large majority of Isaiah was completed (i.e., arranged, compiled, etc.) by his disciples within 90 years of his death — before the defeat and exile of the Israelites in Judah at the hand of the Babylonians in 586/7 BC.[14]

Historical Context[15]

During the time of Isaiah’s ministry, the kingdoms of Israel and Judah were often caught in the crossfire of several major ancient Near Eastern military powers — Egypt, Damascus, and Assyria. When Tiglath-pileser III became the king of Assyria in 745 BC, he embarked on several expansive conquests.[16]

By 738 BC, Tiglath-pileser III was exacting tribute from Damascus and Israel[17]— for the northern kingdom (Israel) and the southern kingdom (Judah) split following the reign of King Solomon (c. 970-930 BC).[18]

In 734 BC, King Rezin of Damascus joined forces with King Pekah of Israel to revolt against Assyria. The two endeavored to convince King Ahaz of Judah to join their coalition, but Ahaz refused. Damascus and Israel then invaded Judah, after which Ahaz sought help directly from King Tiglath-peleser III. The Assyrian King then conquered Damascus and forced Israel to become an Assyrian province.[19]

Eventually, Israel was conquered completely (c. 722) by Assyrian king Shalmaneser V (reigned 726-722 BC), and its inhabitants were exiled to Assyria by Shalmaneser’s successor, King Sargon II[20] (reigned 721-705 BC).[21]

When King Hezekiah (reigned 715 BC – 687 BC) of Judah refused to pay the normal tribute payment to the Assyrians following the crowning of King Sennacherib in 705 BC, the Assyrians, in response, invaded Palestine (Isaiah 36, 37). On the brink of impending destruction, the people of Judah were delivered by an angel of the LORD who killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers (Is 37:36, 37), decimating Sennacherib’s army.[22]

After Hezekiah showed the treasures of his palace in Judah to the messengers of the king of Babylon (Is 39:1-4), Isaiah warned that the Babylonians would one day take away those very treasures (Is 39:5-6). In addition, Isaiah accurately prophesied that the Babylonians would take away the very people of Judah, carrying them into exile (Is 39:7) (the period of Babylonian exile lasted from around 586/7 BC – 539 BC).

The prophet also foretold, however, that the Babylonians would be defeated, and Judah delivered, by an “anointed one” named Cyrus (Is 44:28; 45:1-5).[23]

A Persian king named Cyrus (reigned 559-530 BC) defeated Babylon in 539 BC and apparently allowed all of the former exiles in Babylon to return to their homelands and worship their gods. This fact is supported by an inscription in the ‘Cyrus Cylinder’, which was discovered by archaeologist Hormuzd Rassam while excavating ancient Babylon from 1879-1882.[24]

This also corroborates the Old Testament accounts that tell of the decree King Cyrus made to allow exiles to return to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple (2 Ch 36:22-23; Ez 1:1-3; 6:2-5).[25]

Literary Context

Ever since Bernard Duhm’s Isaiah commentary in 1895, biblical scholars have widely accepted his tripartite division of the book (Isaiah 1-39, 40-55, 56-66). Many, if not most, have concluded that these three divisions are the product of different authors in different historical contexts (Isaiah: 1–39 corresponding to 739–700 B.C.; Deutero-Isaiah: 40–55 corresponding to 545–535 B.C.; and Trito-Isaiah: 56–66 corresponding to 520–500 B.C.).[26]

No matter how one slices it, arguably, throughout the book of Isaiah, the central theme is servanthood – “the servanthood of God’s people through whom his saviorhood is revealed to the world.”  However, as Isaiah 1-39 make clear, God’s people, like Isaiah, had unclean lips (Isa 6:5). His people were not fit to be the Servant of God because they put their trust in other nations, worthless idols, and false gods instead of their true Master (Isaiah 7-39).

God proved His trustworthiness when he delivered them from the Assyrians (Isaiah 36-39),[27] though Hezekiah exemplified the people of God’s continual unfitness for servanthood by rejoicing over the subsequent envoys from mighty Babylon (Is 39:1 f.)[28]  – the very people whom his offspring would serve as eunuchs (Is 39:7).

Though Isaiah is predominantly written in poetic verse (Chapters 1-35, 40-66), the middle chapters (Isaiah 36-39) serve as a pivotal section of prose containing a shift in focus from the failed Assyrian invasion to the forthcoming Babylonian invasion.[29]

After the middle section of prose, Isaiah 40-66 relates the theology of Isaiah 1-39 to a new situation – to a people in future exile. Isaiah 40-55 addresses the notion of restoration[30] and the “vocation of servanthood.”[31]

This section can plausibly be further subdivided into sections pertaining to the “motive of servanthood:” God’s grace (Isaiah 40-48) – and the “means of servanthood:” the Servant’s atonement (Isaiah 49-55).[32] Isaiah 56-66 generally deals with the “marks of servanthood: divine character.”[33]

In chapters 40-48, Isaiah foretells of the coming invasion of and deliverance from the Babylonians at the hands of Cyrus — their gracious God’s anointed shepherd (Is 44:28; 45:1). In chapters 49-55, the section in which the pericope for this paper is located, Isaiah foretells of God’s Servant who will restore the nation of Israel, gather the scattered tribes of the Jacob, and be a light for the Gentiles, “that [God’s] salvation may reach to the ends of the earth” (Is. 49:6). This Servant will suffer in order to bear the sins of many and make intercession for the transgressors (Is 52:13-15; 53:12).[34]

The Servant of the LORD

In Isaiah, the “servant” of the LORD can refer to the prophet himself (Is 20:3), Eliakim (Is 22:20), and David (Is 37:5). “Servant” can also refer to Israel,[35] and to those who are faithful in Israel[36] – collectively.

However, in other passages, the Servant of the LORD is not identified – specifically.[37] Isaiah 52:13-53:12 is one of these “servant songs” (cf. Is 42:1-7; 49:1-9; 50:4-9).[38]

Messianic Prophecy?

Countless scholars have claimed that the Servant of the LORD in this servant song is not a coming Messiah. Alternative interpretations of this passage suggest that the Servant is the entire nation of Israel; Second Isaiah; a Second Moses, Jehoiakim, or a rabbi with leprosy; and perhaps even someone related to the Adonis-Tammuz cult.[39]

However, “most of these interpretations are not very convincing if one takes the view that all of these Servant poems are prophetic of a future figure in an eschatological setting,” in which God, for Israel and the Gentiles, will bring about salvation.[40]

Plausibly the final Servant song in Isaiah, it stands to reason that readers would be expected to remember what was prophesied earlier in the book about the coming Messiah[41] – in addition to what was written in the previous Servant poems. They might recall that Servant’s work will seem to be in vain (Is 49:4). Moreover, he will be loathed, despised (Is 49:7), mocked, spat upon, beaten, and more (Is 50:6-7).

Yet, in spite of being rejected, the Servant will not be dejected (Is 42:4). The Servant will bring about the justice and salvation of the LORD as a covenant for the people, as a light for the Gentiles (Is 42:4, 6; 49:5-6, 8).[42] In light of these previous passages, it seems that the reader should understand this Servant as a “messianic royal figure” who would face fierce opposition and incredible hardship, while executing the just, salvific mission of the LORD – who would ultimately vindicate and exalt His Servant. Even more light is shed on the Servant in this last song.[43]


The Servant Song of Is 52:13-12 is structured chiastically,[44] with five stanzas of roughly three verses each.[45] The song is plausibly in the form of a proclamation[46] about a king.[47] The poem is bracketed by words of the LORD (Is 52:13-15[48] and Is 52:10-12).[49]

Within these bookends are sections of words of an unnamed party of those who contributed to the suffering and humiliation of the Servant. This humiliation and suffering is detailed in the outer sections (53:1-3 and 53:7-9).[50] In the center of the chiasm, the crux of the passage, are the beloved words of Is 53:4-6 that tell of the healing afforded by the Servant’s wounds.[51]


A.  Is 52:13-15 God Foretells of the Servant’s Exaltation[52]

B.  Is 53:1-3 People Testify: The Servant was Despised and Rejected

C.  Is 53:4-6 People Testify: The Servant Provided “Vicarious Suffering for our Sins”[53]

B’. Is 53:7-9     People Testify: The Innocent, “Sinless, Silent Sufferer”[54]

A’. Is 53:10-12 God Foretells of the Servant’s Final Exaltation[55]

Verse Commentary

A. Is 52:13-15 God Foretells of the Servant’s Exaltation

13                                                                                              הִנֵּ֥ה יַשְׂכִּ֖יל עַבְדִּ֑י יָר֧וּם וְנִשָּׂ֛א וְגָבַ֖הּ מְאֹֽד׃

14                                                    כַּאֲשֶׁ֨ר שָׁמְמ֤וּ עָלֶ֨יךָ֙ רַבִּ֔ים כֵּן־מִשְׁחַ֥ת מֵאִ֖ישׁ מַרְאֵ֑הוּ וְתֹאֲרֹ֖ו מִבְּנֵ֥י אָדָֽם׃

15         כֵּ֤ן יַזֶּה֙ גּוֹיִ֣ם רַבִּ֔ים עָלָ֛יו יִקְפְּצ֥וּ מְלָכִ֖ים פִּיהֶ֑ם כִּ֠י אֲשֶׁ֨ר לֹֽא־סֻפַּ֤ר לָהֶם֙ רָא֔וּ וַאֲשֶׁ֥ר לֹֽא־שָׁמְע֖וּ הִתְבּוֹנָֽנוּ׃[56]

13 See, my servant will wisely succeed

he will be high and lifted up and highly exalted

14 Just as many were horrified on account of you –

So disfigured, compared to any man, was his appearance

and was his form, as compared to all of humanity –

15 So he will sprinkle many nations

on account of him, kings will shut their mouths

Because that which was not recounted to them, they will see

and that which was not heard by them, they will closely perceive[57]

The LORD’s words in the first stanza encapsulate the entire song. For we are introduced to the main themes of the Servant’s exaltation (v. 13), his suffering (v. 14), and his paradoxical, astonishing “reversal in his fortunes” (v. 15).[58]

Is 52:13

“See,” which begins the last Servant poem, is the last of a string of commands that begins in Isaiah 51 (Is 51:1 “Listen to me” שִׁמְע֥וּ אֵלַ֛י).[59] Furthermore, this is the same opening note of the first Servant song (Is 42:1;[60] cf. 50:9).[61] Yet, this is not just a mere literary device; one is being presented with something to behold![62]

The hifʿîl verb, שָׂכַל, can also mean “prosper” (NRSV, NASB). In this case, however, it may be better translated “act wisely” (NIV, ESV, HCSB) or “deal prudently” (KJV), or “act with insight or devotion.”[63] That being said, perhaps neither “prosper” or “act wisely” convey – singularly – the intended meaning as well as they may jointly. It appears that it is his wise actions that result in his success.[64]

Although it may have previously appeared as if his actions were in vain (Is 49:4),[65] The Servant knows and does that which causes him to prosper in his purpose.[66]

Consequently, the Servant will be high and lifted up and highly exalted. Three roughly synonymous verbs connote the magnitude of this exaltation. Furthermore, the first two verbs, (רוּם and נָשָׂא) are used in conjunction three other times in Isaiah – where they are used to describe God (Is 6:1; 33:10; 57:15). These two verbs appear together nowhere else in the Old Testament. In addition, a derivative of the verb translated exalted (גָּבַהּ) is also found earlier in the book (Is 2:11, 17) and nowhere else.[67]

This noun form (גַּבְהוּת) is used to describe the “arrogance of man” that “will be brought low,” which is paralleled to “human pride” (רוּם) that will be “humbled” (Is 2:17, NIV). As scholars note, in this earlier passage, we read of a day when the LORD will humiliate all that is high and exalted (Is 2:12f.) – all who are “proud and lofty” (רוּם) (Is 2:12, emphasis added, NIV) – so that the LORD alone will be exalted (Is 2:17).[68] Thus, it seems reasonable to infer that the Servant will be high and lifted up and highly exalted as ought only the LORD.

Is 52:14

Scholars on earth have interpreted this verse in several ways. The “just as” (כַּאֲשֶׁ֨ר)[69] may correspond to the “so” (כֵּן) at the beginning of v. 15. One could read it as: just as many were horrified by the Servant, so many will ultimately will benefit from him. However, this may overstate the emphasis on the many (רַבִּ֔ים).[70]

Secondly, it can be read as: just as people were shocked by his disfigurement, so people will be shocked by his exaltation. That is, “the measure of shock-horror will be the measure of amazed response.”[71]

While most commentators maintain the latter, more probable view,[72] others mention that the shock in both instances could pertain to the same issue: the disfigurement of the Servant of the LORD.[73]

In any case, it seems clear that the before LORD’s Servant was glorified he was disfigured. While apparently relatively few may see the earlier כֵּן of v. 14b as completing the just as clause of 14a,[74] since it is linked by a maqqef, I take it to be more closely related to noun describing his disfigurement (כֵּן־מִשְׁחַ֥ת).[75] I understand it to be indicating the magnitude (“so much”)[76] of the disfigurement of his appearance (מַרְאֶה).[77]

Furthermore, this disfigured appearance may pertain not only to his physical appearance. For the suffering that resulted in his extreme disfigurement may have also been mental and spiritual.[78]

Paradoxically, the humiliated, revulsive Servant, “disfigured beyond that of any human being” (Is 52:14, NIV), hears the words of the One exalted beyond that of any human being – YHWH. Though many modern translations appear to translate עָלֶ֨יךָ֙ with a third person pronoun instead of the second person pronoun in the text,[79] for which there is strong textual evidence,[80] one could argue that the Servant is receiving the utmost honor of direct divine address.[81]

Alternatively, this can be seen as a relatively common feature of poetic, prophetic language in which we see, “a more or less abrupt transition from one person to another.”[82] But what is probably the most original, albeit the most difficult, reading is that of the Servant himself hearing the words of the LORD (Is 52:13-15).[83]

Is 52:15  

Perhaps the most controversial – and most important – word of v. 15 is the hifʿîl verb translated sprinkle (נָזָה). In the Old Testament, the word indicates sprinkling – with blood, oil, water,[84] or a mixture of these[85] – with a finger (Lev 4:6) or a “sprinkler” (Lev 14:7).[86] Blood was to be sprinkled seven times for sin offerings.[87] This would seem to serve a purgative function.[88] Also, blood could be sprinkled as a “dedicatory rite.”[89]

Oil, on the other hand was sprinkled when consecrating the altar (Lev 8:11). And, oil was mixed with water and blood and sprinkled for cleansing/purification.[90] Sprinkling can have purgative, dedicatory, and/or consecratory implications.

Perhaps considering the potential Arabic roots of the verbs, some translations opt to translate this verb “startle” (NRSV, NLT). However, although the usual preposition that accompanies this verb is absent here, ‘startle’ apparently “imports a verb unexemplified in the Old Testament, in a meaning unexemplified anywhere, in order to solve a very minor variation from the customary usage of a  well-known verb in an established meaning.”[91]

Though one ought not read too much into the text,[92] it seems reasonable to believe that, in this context, the Servant is somehow cleansing, purifying, consecrating, and/or atoning for the nations.

Although we do not know which liquid is being sprinkled or the exact function of the sprinkling, it seems safe to say that it is startling. Kings will shut their mouths; they are speechless in reaction to hearing and seeing what was previously unheard of.[93] The subsequent stanzas elaborate.[94]

B. Is 53:1-3 People Testify: The Servant was Despised and Rejected

1                                                                                      מִ֥י הֶאֱמִ֖ין לִשְׁמֻעָתֵ֑נוּ וּזְר֥וֹעַ יְהוָ֖ה עַל־מִ֥י נִגְלָֽתָה׃

2                            וַיַּ֨עַל כַּיּוֹנֵ֜ק לְפָנָ֗יו וְכַשֹּׁ֨רֶשׁ֙ מֵאֶ֣רֶץ צִיָּ֔ה לֹא־תֹ֥אַר לוֹ֖ וְלֹ֣א הָדָ֑ר וְנִרְאֵ֥הוּ וְלֹֽא־מַרְאֶ֖ה וְנֶחְמְדֵֽהוּ׃

3                              נִבְזֶה֙ וַחֲדַ֣ל אִישִׁ֔ים אִ֥ישׁ מַכְאֹב֖וֹת וִיד֣וּעַ חֹ֑לִי וּכְמַסְתֵּ֤ר פָּנִים֙ מִמֶּ֔נּוּ נִבְזֶ֖ה וְלֹ֥א חֲשַׁבְנֻֽהוּ׃[95]

1   Who has believed our report,

and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?

2    He grew up before Him like a suckling

and like a root from the land of drought

He had neither form nor majesty that we should regard him

nor appearance that we should desire him

3    He was despised and rejected by (hu)mankind

a man of suffering and made to know affliction

And like one from whom people hide their faces

He was despised, and we did not esteem him[96]

This stanza makes at least two things relatively clear: the Servant was the arm of the LORD[97] and the Servant was human.[98] Though others have postulated that the “our”  and “us” refers to the nations from the previous verse or a group of prophets,[99] the speakers of this stanza and the next, are witnesses[100] – we read the testimony or report of the believing Israelite witnesses.[101]

Moreover, it seems possible that Isaiah “is probably identifying himself with his people and speaking for them.”[102]

Is 53:1   

Who has believed our report (שְׁמוּעָה)? The ESV, NRSV, and HCSB prefer something along the lines of “what we have heard” instead of “message” (NIV, NASB, NLT) or “report.”[103] (KJV, NKJV). In any case, the first question of the Israelites intimates that their report consists of information that is hard to believe. The second question plausibly intimates that not everyone has heard or understood the revelation of the LORD as they have.[104]

The arm of the LORD, His “miraculous saving power,” divided the Red Sea (Is 51:9; cf. Ex 6:6; 15:16), will smite the Babylonians (Is 48:14), and will bring salvation in view of all nations (Is 52:7).[105] His powerful arm brings about His just reign (Is 40:10; 51:5).

How ironic for the mighty arm of the LORD to be revealed as the disfigured Servant! This Servant is the means through which God’s people will be able to become true servants of God?[106] No wonder one senses incredulity.

Is 53:2

This human arm of the LORD grew up as humans do. But, the Servant grew like a suckling (יוֹנֵק from the verb יָנַק, which means “suck, nurse”),[107] like an unwanted shoot of a tree root.[108] Furthermore, he grew up like a root from the “land of drought.”[109] This figurative language conjures up images of unimpressive origins. Instead of being ascribed prominent provenance – maybe being pictured as a grand oak – the Servant evidently has very meager beginnings.[110]

Earlier in Isaiah the kingly messiah is described as a shoot from the stump of Jesse (albeit a different word, 11:1) and as the Root of Jesse (the same word שֹׁרֶשׁ, 11:10). Isaiah may be purposely relating the earlier messianic figure and the Servant.[111]

Not only did this Root have unimpressive roots, the Servant also had unimpressive features. As scholars note, the noun translated majesty (הָדָר) is used to describe the splendor of human kings (Ps 21:5; 45:4) and the splendor of the LORD (Is 2:10, 19, 21).[112] The kingly messiah lacked royal lineage and royal looks.

Is 53:3   

Consequently, the Servant was despised – considered worthless.[113] In addition, he was rejected by humankind (וַחֲדַ֣ל אִישִׁ֔ים), a construct chain I perceive to be a genitive of agency.[114] Additionally, the Servant was a man of suffering or “sorrows” (מַכְאוֹב), the same word used to describe the suffering and sorrows of the Israelites under the yoke of Egyptian slavery (Ex 3:7),[115] and made to know (Qal passive participle of יָדַע) affliction (חֳלִי).

Commentators note that Isaiah may have chosen to use a passive participle to suggest that his affliction – a word I chose for its applicability to a broad range of painful and unpleasant experiences[116] – was something for which he was known.[117] Suffering was part of his reputation. Subsequently, as Moses hid his face from the LORD (Ex 3:6),[118] people hid their faces from the arm of the LORD. And, the Israelites “esteemed him not” (Is 53:3, KJV).

C. Is 53:4-6 People Testify: The Servant Provided “Vicarious Suffering for our Sins”

4                                       אָכֵ֤ן חֳלָיֵ֨נוּ֙ ה֣וּא נָשָׂ֔א וּמַכְאֹבֵ֖ינוּ סְבָלָ֑ם וַאֲנַ֣חְנוּ חֲשַׁבְנֻ֔הוּ נָג֛וּעַ מֻכֵּ֥ה אֱלֹהִ֖ים וּמְעֻנֶּֽה׃

5                                          וְהוּא֙ מְחֹלָ֣ל מִפְּשָׁעֵ֔נוּ מְדֻכָּ֖א מֵעֲוֹנֹתֵ֑ינוּ מוּסַ֤ר שְׁלוֹמֵ֨נוּ֙ עָלָ֔יו וּבַחֲבֻרָתוֹ֖ נִרְפָּא־לָֽנוּ׃

6                                                         כֻּלָּ֨נוּ֙ כַּצֹּ֣אן תָּעִ֔ינוּ אִ֥ישׁ לְדַרְכֹּ֖ו פָּנִ֑ינוּ וַֽיהוָה֙ הִפְגִּ֣יעַ בּוֹ֔ אֵ֖ת עֲוֹ֥ן כֻּלָּֽנוּ׃[119]

4    Surely, our affliction he took up

and our suffering he bore

And we esteemed him stricken,

smitten by God, and humiliated

5    But he was pierced for our transgressions,

crushed for our iniquities

The discipline that brought us peace was on him,

and by his wounds we are healed

6    All of us, like sheep, have gone astray

each of us has turned to our own way

And the LORD laid on him

the iniquity of us all[120]

Is 53:4

Now, at this plot-twisting crux of the passage, the affliction and suffering he was known for (v. 3) turns out to be the suffering and affliction of the onlookers. Yet, this is what he took up (נָשָׂא) – the same word used when describing the actions of the scapegoat (Lev 16:22) – and bore (סָבַל) – “to accept that burden as one’s own.”[121]

This affliction and suffering is greatly emphasized in the grammar. Very rarely is there an object-subject-verb arrangement in Hebrew syntax. However, the nouns for both of these terms are in precisely this order.[122] In my translation, I try to preserve this exceptional, emphatic O-S-V configuration.[123]

So, in spite of the Servant’s taking up of the burdens that the people deserved,[124] they considered him (probably deservedly) punished by God – using three similar verbs to stress this point.

In the ancient Near East, if someone was suffering, it was often understood to be a result of some wrong committed by the person him or herself.[125] The selfless, Suffering Servant, however, turns the “retribution principle”[126] on its head.

Is 53:5

For in this famous verse, in the center of the central stanza of the chiasm, the Israelites recognize the substitutionary atonement wrought by the Suffering Servant. He was pierced (חָלַל) and crushed (דָּכָא) for their transgressions/rebellions (פֶּשַׁע)[127] and iniquities (עָוֹן). On him was the discipline (מוּסָר from the verb יָסַר: “discipline, chasten, instruct.”)[128] that brought them peace (adverbial genitive)[129] – that is, שָׁלוֹם (“completion and fulfillment—of entering into a state of wholeness and unity, a restored relationship”).[130]

The discipline can be seen as the discipline of a parent on a rebellious child, which often includes punishment (Prov 22:15; 23:13).[131] And by his wounds – a singular collective[132] – they are healed and made whole.[133] These wounds may be a “metonymy for the violent substitutionary death that was suffered by the Righteous Servant”[134] that afforded the witnesses complete restoration and well-being.

Substitutionary atonement was not a notion with which the Israelites would be unfamiliar. Lambs and several other animals were sacrificed as aforementioned sin offerings. In this passage, this same principle appears to be present.[135] The Suffering Servant received the just punishment that was due the rebellious Israelites. By so doing, he healed the relationship between the people the LORD.[136]

Is 53:6   

This verse, featuring an inclusio, explains how though all of them had strayed like shepherdless sheep, the iniquity of them all, on him was laid (פָּגַע). This hifʿîl verb literally means (cause to) “encounter, meet…”[137]

All of the sins of all of those who turned away came together and were “cause[d] to light upon”[138] on “one substitutionary Victim.”[139] These central verses highlight the “sweet exchange,”[140] in which the vicarious suffering of the Servant allows for reconciliation.[141]

B’. Is 53:7-9     People Testify: “The Sinless, Silent Sufferer”

7                         נִגַּ֨שׂ וְה֣וּא נַעֲנֶה֮ וְלֹ֣א יִפְתַּח־פִּיו֒ כַּשֶּׂה֙ לַטֶּ֣בַח יוּבָ֔ל וּכְרָחֵ֕ל לִפְנֵ֥י גֹזְזֶ֖יהָ נֶאֱלָ֑מָה וְלֹ֥א יִפְתַּ֖ח פִּֽיו׃

8                                 מֵעֹ֤צֶר וּמִמִּשְׁפָּט֙ לֻקָּ֔ח וְאֶת־דּוֹרֹ֖ו מִ֣י יְשׂוֹחֵ֑חַ כִּ֤י נִגְזַר֙ מֵאֶ֣רֶץ חַיִּ֔ים מִפֶּ֥שַׁע עַמִּ֖י נֶ֥גַע לָֽמוֹ׃

9                                      וַיִּתֵּ֤ן אֶת־רְשָׁעִים֙ קִבְרֹ֔ו וְאֶת־עָשִׁ֖יר בְּמֹתָ֑יו עַ֚ל לֹא־חָמָ֣ס עָשָׂ֔ה וְלֹ֥א מִרְמָ֖ה בְּפִֽיו׃[142]

7    He was oppressed, humiliated,

but he did not open his mouth

like a lamb to the slaughter he was led

And like a sheep before the shearers is silenced

he did not open his mouth

8    By restraint and judgment he was taken away

Yet who of his generation deliberated?

For he was cut off from the land of the living

for the transgression of my people he was struck

9    He gave him, with the wicked, his grave

and, with a rich man, his funeral mound

Though no violence had he done

and no deceit was in his mouth[143]

Is 53:7

This verse conveys the Suffering Servant’s voluntary sacrifice. Unlike a sacrificial lamb who was offered up for sin (Gen 22:7-8, etc.) without making a conscious decision to do so, the Servant apparently offers his life willingly – without protest.[144]  Despite his oppression (נָגַשׂ), which also harkens back to Exodus (Ex 3:7),[145] it is mentioned twice that he does not open his mouth (יִפְתַּח־פִּיו֒).

He is humble and submissive like a sheep to be shorn.[146] The nifʿal verb translated silenced, which appears 8x in the OT, generally means “to have the lips tightly closed.”[147] In addition, readers may recall that, earlier in Isaiah, the Servant did not fight back against his oppressors (Is 50:6-7). In sum, atonement for people who consciously sin was made by a humble person who consciously self-sacrificed.[148]

Is 53:8

The first few words of this verse can be translated in many ways. I perceived the preposition מִן to be a causative,[149] instead of partitive, comparative, or temporal.[150] Moreover, restraint (עֹצֶר) is a derivative of the verb עָצַר (“restrain, close up, retain”).[151] Though the NIV translates the noun as “oppression,” Isaiah may be painting a picture of arrest and incarceration. This accords well with judgment (מִשְׁפָּט), which among other uses, can refer to a legal indictment of a criminal.[152]

Though the Servant was taken away by these means, none of his contemporaries[153] deliberated (שִׂיַח). This verb can mean to “meditate, muse” or “speak, complain”[154] – the meditation can be expressed silently and internally (“I meditate on your precepts…” Ps 119:15, NIV) or vocally and externally (“…I cry out in distress” Ps 55:17, NIV).[155] So, it seems a bit ambiguous as to whether no one “considered” (ESV, HCSB, NASB) what the Servant experienced or no one “protested” (NIV).

The silence of the people could be similar to the earlier silence of the sacrificial Servant, but since both meanings seem plausible, I (albeit imperfectly) attempted to choose a verb that also has a bit of ambiguity. For deliberate means “to think about or discuss issues and decisions carefully.”[156]

Whether they thought or spoke about the oppression of the Servant, he died. He was cut off from the land of the living – “led to death”[157] (LXX) – on account of the aforementioned rebellious transgressions of the Israelites.[158]

Is 53:9

The first half of this verse reiterates the fact of that the Servant Is dead. He was given a grave (קֶבֶר) with the wicked (רְשָׁעִים֙) and a “funeral mound”[159] with a rich man (עָשִׁיר).[160] Scholars point out, interestingly, that the wicked are plural and the rich is singular.[161] In any case, they could refer to the same group of individuals.[162]

The second colon establishes the Servant’s innocence.[163] He could be charged neither with violence (חָמָס ) nor deceit (מִרְמָה).  Commentators highlight that the stanza ends where it started: the mouth of the Servant. But, as Hebrew poetry often does, the point being made has been advanced.[164]

Not only does the Servant not open his mouth, even if he did, in it one would find no falsehood.[165] He was killed even though (I take the preposition עַ֚ל to be concessive in this instance)[166] he was innocent.

Isaiah has painted the perfect portrait of the suffering, substitutionary, self-sacrificial Servant. For “he displays all the needed characteristics: acceptable to the offended God (6), without stain of our sin (9), identified with us in our need (4–5) and voluntarily standing in our place (7–8).”[167]

A’. Is 53:10-12 God Foretells of the Servant’s Final Exaltation

10                               וַיהוָ֞ה חָפֵ֤ץ דַּכְּאֹו֙ הֶֽחֱלִ֔י אִם־תָּשִׂ֤ים אָשָׁם֙ נַפְשֹׁ֔ו יִרְאֶ֥ה זֶ֖רַע יַאֲרִ֣יךְ יָמִ֑ים וְחֵ֥פֶץ יְהוָ֖ה בְּיָדֹ֥ו יִצְלָֽח׃

11                                                  מֵעֲמַ֤ל נַפְשׁוֹ֙ יִרְאֶ֣ה יִשְׂבָּ֔ע בְּדַעְתּוֹ֗ יַצְדִּ֥יק צַדִּ֛יק עַבְדִּ֖י לָֽרַבִּ֑ים וַעֲוֹנֹתָ֖ם ה֥וּא יִסְבֹּֽל׃

12          לָכֵ֞ן אֲחַלֶּק־לוֹ֣ בָרַבִּ֗ים וְאֶת־עֲצוּמִים֮ יְחַלֵּ֣ק שָׁלָל֒ תַּ֗חַת אֲשֶׁ֨ר הֶעֱרָ֤ה לַמָּ֨וֶת֙ נַפְשֹׁ֔ו וְאֶת־פֹּשְׁעִ֖ים נִמְנָ֑ה וְהוּא֙ חֵטְא־רַבִּ֣ים נָשָׂ֔א וְלַפֹּשְׁעִ֖ים יַפְגִּֽיעַ׃  ס[168]

10 Yet the LORD was willing to crush him, he was made to suffer

When his soul will lay a guilt offering

He will see the days of his offspring prolonged

and the will of the LORD, in his hands, will prosper

11 After the anguish of his soul

he will see the light and be satisfied

By his knowledge my just servant will justify many

And their iniquities he will bear

12 Therefore I will apportion to him the many

and the mighty he will apportion as spoil

Because he poured out his soul unto death

and with the transgressors he was counted,

And he himself bore the sin of many,

and for the transgressors he makes intercession [169]

 Is 53:10

The first verse of the last stanza, spoken by Isaiah,[170] also begins and ends with a repeated theme:[171] the LORD’s will (חָפֵץ).[172] For it was the will of the LORD to both crush him and make him suffer as a guilt offering (אָשָׁם)(Lev 5:16; 1 Sam 6:3, etc.).[173] And, the will of the LORD, in his hands, will prosper (צָלַח).

It seems wise to understand אִם as indicating simultaneity (“when,” NRSV, ESV, HCSB, KJV, NLT) instead of concession (“though,” NIV), or conditional (“if,” NASB).[174] The willing Servant was the agent of and will be the executor for the LORD’s will.[175]

Most controversy will surround the second colon of the verse. For the verb שִׂים, which means “put, set, place; set up; impose; appoint; lay…,”[176] may be in the Qal yiqtol third person feminine singular form, or the second person masculine form. If it is understood to be in the second person masculine form, it can be read as direct address to the LORD – who makes or lays the sacrifice.[177]

Alternatively, a modified second-person view entails Isaiah speaking directly to “you” – the reader.[178] However, the LORD is not directly addressed anywhere else in this song.[179] Moreover, if Isaiah speaks directly to the reader, in my view it seems odd that the viewing of the Servant’s offspring an lengthening of his days appear to be somehow dependent on the reader’s response.[180]

Though some say the fact that there are various plausible interpretations may be part of the poet’s purpose,[181] I am currently convinced that the Servant’s soul (נֶפֶשׁ – feminine noun), is the subject of the third person feminine singular verb. It seems plausible that it is his soul (perhaps figurative language for “himself”) lays a guilt offering – himself. And, v. 12, “leaves no doubt of the Servant’s self-giving.”[182]

Though he gave himself up and died, (v. 7-9) the LORD was willing to bring him back to life,[183] allowing him to see his descendants (זֶרַע). These can be understood as his spiritual children (Isa 54:13-14, etc.). In addition, the LORD will lengthen his days.[184]

Though not explicit, it does not seem like too much of a stretch to deduce that someone being dead at one point, but then later experiencing prolonged life while seeing his seed, entails some sort of resurrection.

Is 53:11

After his anguish (עָמָל),[185] which plausibly refers to the previous suffering and toil from v. 53:3-9,[186] he will see the light and be satisfied (as in the NIV). Many other modern translations do not add “the light,” for it is not present in the Masoretic Text.

However, it appears in the Dead Sea Scrolls and the LXX; it is a “reading that probably is original.”[187] If this is correct, it seems reasonable to place by his knowledge at the beginning of the third colon (NIV, ESV, NASB, KJV), instead of appending it to the end of the second (NRSV, HCSB).[188]

This knowledge may entail the realization that his anguish is efficacious for his peoples’ salvation.[189] It also may be harken back to him succeeding wisely (Is 52:13).[190]

In any case, by this knowledge the just servant will justify many. The text is, again, a bit ambiguous; it could also be translated: “the righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous” (NRSV). However, I chose to take the adjective (צַדִּיק) as a modifier instead of a substantive.[191]

Also, I attempted to preserve the potential poetic wordplay – justify (hi. צָדֵק) and just (צַדִּיק) have the same root. This justification afforded by the anguish of the Servant brings many (cf. Is 52:14-15) “into right relationship with God.”[192] This reconciliation is made possible by his substitutionary and restitutionary bearing of their iniquities.

Is 53:12

In the final stanza, it is clear that the previously humble Servant will be crowned with glory. As if leading a victory parade,[193] “the Servant will return from his mission like a warrior laden with spoil…The one who was despised and rejected will take the highest place, the place of a conqueror.”[194] The chiastic poem begins and ends with exaltation (cf. Is 52:13).

What is not clear, perhaps purposefully,[195] is exactly how the first bicolon should be understood. One option is to interpret it as if God is giving “him a portion among the great,” and he is dividing “the spoils with the strong.” (NIV). This view understands the prefixed בְ and אֶת as prepositions. On this view, the Servant will be given a place dividing booty with victors.[196]

However, the “great” is probably the aforementioned many (בָרַבִּ֗ים) (Is 53:11, cf. Is 52:14-15; 53:12c) and it seems to make little sense that the thrice exalted Servant (Is 52:13) who dumbfounds rulers (Is 52:14) is merely “among” the “great.”[197]

It seems more plausible that the prefixed בְ and אֶת are not prepositions but direct object markers. On this more exultant view, which I find more persuasive, God apportions to the Servant the many; the Servant apportions the mighty as booty.[198]

This is because (תַּ֗חַת אֲשֶׁ֨ר) or “in recompense for,”[199] in fourfold summary of the preceding stanzas, (1) he poured out his soul and died; (2) though sinless, the Suffering Servant let himself be counted among and identified with the rebellious sinners who thought he was getting what he deserved; (3) he bore the sin (חֵטְא) of many (cf. Is 53:4, 11), taking up the punishment that was due them; (4) and for the transgressors he makes intercession (פָּגַע).[200]

Though this same verb appears in Is 53:6, here it seems to have a different meaning. And, “this intercession was not merely the act of praying for them; it was intervention” (cf. Is 59:16: “his own arm achieved salvation for him…” NIV).[201]

At the close of the Servant song, paradoxically, “the dead ([Is 53:9]) is alive ([Is 53:10]), the condemned ([Is 53:8]) is righteous ([Is 53:11]), the helpless ([Is 53:7]) is the victor ([Is 53:12]).”[202]


In my view, this prophecy of Isaiah foretells of the forthcoming Servant of the LORD who is a kingly, even divine, Messiah. This Servant song alludes and adds to what readers/hearers have previously read and heard in Isaiah.

Though the nation of Israel was supposed to be to the collective Servant of the LORD through whom He would bring about justice and salvation to the nations, they rebelled and transgressed their covenant with YHWH. The unimpressive, unattractive, humble, despised, suffering Servant was to come and make a substitutionary, restitutionary, atoning self-sacrifice that would heal the relationship between the LORD and His covenant people, bringing שָׁלוֹם (shalom).

And, though he was arrested and killed for crimes he did not commit, because the LORD’s will was (and will be) accomplished through the Servant, the LORD will reward him with long life, many spiritual descendants (both Israelite and Gentile), and exaltation.

Unsurprisingly, many believe the divine Messiah to be in view – Jesus Christ. It seems plausible that Paul may have been alluding to this passage in the great Christ hymn of Philippians, in which Christ is humbled yet ultimately exalted (Php 2:6-11).[203]

Given the possible progressive nature[204] of the “threefold exaltation,” (Is 52:13) it has been related to Christ’s resurrection, ascension and enthronement at the right hand of God in heaven.[205] The New Testament writers clearly understood the Suffering Servant to be Jesus (frequently quoting and alluding to this passage).[206] And, for over two millennia Christians have done the same.

Though Isaiah is not foretelling of Christ with photographic precision, it seems reasonable to believe that Jesus is, in fact, the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy.  His self-sacrificial, atoning work has reconciled us back into right relationship with the Father.

Now we are to be His servants – His ambassadors of this ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:17-20). Thanks to be to Servant for His Service. Thanks be to God! The God who “made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21).

“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Pet 2:24-25)


Arnold, Bill T., and H. G. M. Williamson. Dictionary of the Old Testament: Historical Books. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005.

Baltzer, Klaus. Deutero-Isaiah: A Commentary on Isaiah 40–55. Edited by Peter Machinist. Hermeneia—a Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2001.

Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia: With Werkgroep Informatica, Vrije Universiteit Morphology; Bible. O.T. Hebrew. Werkgroep Informatica, Vrije Universiteit. Logos Bible Software, 2006.

Boda, Mark J., and J. Gordon McConville, eds. Dictionary of the Old Testament: Prophets. Downers Grove, IL; Nottingham, England: IVP Academic; Inter-Varsity Press, 2012.

Brown, Francis, Samuel Rolles Driver, and Charles Augustus Briggs. Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977.

Carson, D. A., R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, and G. J. Wenham, eds. New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition. 4th ed. Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994.

Craig, William Lane. “Doctrine of Christ (Part 10).” Podcast Transcript. March, 14, 2017. <>

Cross, F. L., and Elizabeth A. Livingstone, eds. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. Oxford;  New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Elwell, Walter A. Evangelical Commentary on the Bible. Vol. 3. Baker Reference Library. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1995.

Elwell, Walter A., and Barry J. Beitzel. Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988.

Freedman, David Noel, Gary A. Herion, David F. Graf, John David Pleins, and Astrid B. Beck, eds. The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary. New York: Doubleday, 1992.

Gesenius, Friedrich Wilhelm. Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar. Edited by E. Kautzsch and Sir Arthur Ernest Cowley. 2d English ed. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1910.

Gesenius, Wilhelm, and Samuel Prideaux Tregelles. Gesenius’ Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2003.

Harris, R. Laird, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, eds. Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. Chicago: Moody Press, 1999.

Joüon, Paul, and T. Muraoka. A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew. Roma: Pontificio Istituto Biblico, 2006.

Longman, Tremper, III, and Peter Enns, eds. Dictionary of the Old Testament: Wisdom, Poetry & Writings. Downers Grove, IL; Nottingham, England: IVP Academic; Inter-Varsity Press, 2008.

Oswalt, John N. The Book of Isaiah, Chapters 1–39. The New International Commentary on the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1986.

Oswalt, John N. The Book of Isaiah, Chapters 40–66. The New International Commentary on the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1998.

Matthews, Victor Harold, Mark W. Chavalas, and John H. Walton. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament. Electronic ed. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000.

Merriam-Webster, Inc. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, Inc., 2003.

Motyer, J. Alec. Isaiah: An Introduction and Commentary. Vol. 20. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999.

VanGemeren, Willem, ed. New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology & Exegesis. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1997.

Scotton, Danny Jr. “Isaiah 55:2 Commentary + Memorization Tutorial.” July 12, 2017. <>.

Smith, Gary V. Isaiah 1–39. Edited by E. Ray Clendenen. The New American Commentary. Nashville: B & H Publishing Group, 2007.

Smith, Gary. Isaiah 40-66. Vol. 15B. The New American Commentary. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2009.

Swanson, James. Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997.

Treier, Daniel J., and Walter A. Elwell, eds. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic: A Division of Baker Publishing Group, 2017.

Waltke, Bruce K., and Michael Patrick O’Connor. An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1990.

Webb, Barry. The Message of Isaiah: On Eagles’ Wings. Edited by J. A. Motyer and Derek Tidball. The Bible Speaks Today. England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1996.

Whitaker, Richard, Francis Brown, S.R. (Samuel Rolles) Driver, and Charles A. (Charles Augustus) Briggs. The Abridged Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew-English Lexicon of the Old Testament: From A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament by Francis Brown, S.R. Driver and Charles Briggs, Based on the Lexicon of Wilhelm Gesenius. Boston; New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1906.

[1] The text in the lines above is from an earlier blog post of a website I manage,  ( ). The wording is my own, but the information is from Barry Webb, The Message of Isaiah: On Eagles’ Wings, ed. J. A. Motyer and Derek Tidball, The Bible Speaks Today (England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1996), 33.

[2] Williamson goes further in saying, “I do not find the idea of unity of authorship to be either plausible or necessary.” H. G. M. Williamson, “Isaiah: Book of,” ed. Mark J. Boda and Gordon J. McConville, Dictionary of the Old Testament: Prophets (Downers Grove, IL; Nottingham, England: IVP Academic; Inter-Varsity Press, 2012), 370.

[3] The wording from the sentence is from the aforementioned blog post but the information is from Webb, 34.

[4] John N. Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah, Chapters 40–66, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1998), 5.

[5] Oswalt, 5.

[6] “[the so-called Second Isaiah’s] God Yahweh cannot tell the future any more than the gods can, but he wishes his hearers to believe that Yahweh can. In order to prove this point, the prophet tries to get his readers to believe that it was really Isaiah of Jerusalem who said these things, all the while knowing this was not true.” Oswalt is against this view but is commenting on its implications. Oswalt, 5-6.

[7] “…the power to predict is precisely the proof paraded here that Yahweh alone is God (cf. [Is 41:21–23, 26–29; 44:7–8, 25–28; 46:10–11; 48:3–8]).” F. Derek Kidner, “Isaiah,” in New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, ed. D. A. Carson et al., 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), 631. “The author is insistent that the LORD has proved himself to be the only true God by predicting the rise of Cyrus… This presents a considerable problem…for those who hold the ‘Second Isaiah’ hypothesis…” Webb, 36.

[8] Kidner, 632. Moreover, “…despite the attractive simplicity of a supposed two-volume work (by Isaiah and a successor), the only viable alternative to a single author is not two authors but something like a dozen.” Kidner, 630.

[9] The wording from this section appears in the aforementioned blog post, where the same sources are cited in footnotes.

[10] Herbert M. Wolf, “Isaiah, Book Of,” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 1047.

[11] J. Kenneth Kuntz, “Uzziah (Person),” ed. David Noel Freedman, The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 777.

[12] F. L. Cross and Elizabeth A. Livingstone, eds., The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 854.

[13] Cross and Livingstone, 854.

[14] Webb, 35.

[15] The wording from this section appears in my aforementioned blog post, where the same sources are cited in footnotes.

[16] B. E. Kelle and B. A. Strawn, “History of Israel 5: Assyrian Period,” ed. Bill T. Arnold and H. G. M. Williamson, Dictionary of the Old Testament: Historical Books (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 467.

[17] Wolf, 1047.

[18] Cross and Livingstone, 1526

[19] Wolf, 1047.

[20] A. Kirk Grayson, “Shalmaneser (Person),” ed. David Noel Freedman, The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 1155.

[21] A. Kirk Grayson, “Sargon (Person),” ed. David Noel Freedman, The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 984.

[22] Preceding information from Wolf, 1047.

[23] Preceding information from Wolf, 1047.

[24] Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, “Cyrus the Great,” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 563-65.

[25] Elwell and Beitzel, 563-65.

[26] Oswalt, 3. Though I, at present, reject the implication of multiple authors and multiple historical contexts, the divisions may prove to be helpful when considering the structure of Isaiah. “…scholars increasingly agree that however and whenever chs. 40–66 came into existence, they were never meant to stand alone.” Oswalt, 7.

[27] Oswalt, 7.

[28] “ this kind of reliance upon, and delight in, human power and glory is exactly what the first half of the book is warning against.” John N. Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah, Chapters 1–39, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1986), 694. They “[trusted] Babylon rather than God (39:1–8).” Gary V. Smith, Isaiah 1–39, ed. E. Ray Clendenen, The New American Commentary (Nashville: B & H Publishing Group, 2007), 654.

[29] Much of the wording from this paragraph is from the aforementioned blog post but the information is from Webb, 30.

[30] Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah, Chapter 40-66, 8.

[31] Oswalt, 17.

[32] Oswalt, 17-18.

[33] Oswalt, 18.

[34] The wording from these preceding lines is from the aforementioned blog post but the information is from Williamson, 366.

[35] Is 41:8–9; 43:10; 44:1–2, 21; 45:4; 48:20; 49:3 J. Goldingay, “Servant of Yahweh,” ed. Mark J. Boda and Gordon J. McConville, Dictionary of the Old Testament: Prophets (Downers Grove, IL; Nottingham, England: IVP Academic; Inter-Varsity Press, 2012), 700.

[36] Is 54:17; 56:6; 63:17; 65:8–9, 13–15; 66:11. Goldingay, 701.

[37] Is 42:1, 19; 44:26; 49:5–6; 50:10; 52:13; 53:11. Goldingay, 701.

[38] “…and probably 61:1–3” J. Barton Payne, “Servant of the Lord,” ed. Daniel J. Treier and Walter A. Elwell, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic: A Division of Baker Publishing Group, 2017), 803.

[39] Smith, 430.

[40] Smith, 431.

[41] Is 9:1-6; 11:1-5; 32:1, 15-20; 42:1-3 Smith, 431.

[42] Smith, 431.

[43] Smith, 431-32.

[44] Goldingay, 702.

[45] Oswalt, 376.

[46] Oswalt, 376.

[47] Goldingay, 702. Alternatively, a heavenly courtroom drama – featuring a judge, prosecutors, and witnesses –about the defendant (i.e., The Servant), may be in view. Though I am not persuaded by Baltzer’s interpretation of this song of “Deutero-Isaiah.” Klaus Baltzer, Deutero-Isaiah: A Commentary on Isaiah 40–55, ed. Peter Machinist, Hermeneia—a Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2001), 392-429.

[48] Goldinggay, 702.

[49] Oswalt, 376. Though others see Is 53:10-11a as the words of Isaiah and/or the people – not the LORD. Webb, 212. Either way one could argue that they would be God’s words or God’s words spoken through Isaiah. And, the LORD could, at first, be speaking in third-person.

[50] Oswalt, 376.

[51] Webb, 210.

[52] Smith, 433.

[53] Smith, 433.

[54] Webb, 212.

[55] Smith, 457.

[56] Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia: With Werkgroep Informatica, Vrije Universiteit Morphology; Bible. O.T. Hebrew. Werkgroep Informatica, Vrije Universiteit. (Logos Bible Software, 2006), Is 52:13–15.

[57] Author’s translation.

[58] Webb, 210.

[59] Motyer, 374. Though “See” הִנֵּ֥ה  is not an imperative but an interjection.

[60] Oswalt, 378.

[61] Smith, 435.

[62] Oswalt, 378. Baltzer, 394.

[63] Willem VanGemeren, ed., New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology & Exegesis NIDOTTE (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1997), 1243. “…the suffering Servant acted prudently in fulfilling the work assigned to him (Isa 52:13)” R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, eds., Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament TWOT (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 877.

[64] “…act with such wisdom that one’s efforts will be successful (cf. Josh. 1:8; Jer. 10:21).” Oswalt, 378.

[65] Smith, 435.

[66] Oswalt, 378.

[67] TWOT, 145.

[68] Oswalt, 378.

[69] “according to that which, according as, as… b. answered, for increased emph., by כֵּן… Is 10:11; 14:24; 52:14 f.”

Francis Brown, Samuel Rolles Driver, and Charles Augustus Briggs, Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon BDB (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977), 455. “The conjunction כַּֽאֲשֶׁר … is used as a comparative conjunction…frequently with כֵּן so, corresponding to it in the apodosis, Is 31:4, 52:14f.” Friedrich Wilhelm Gesenius, Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar, ed. E. Kautzsch and Sir Arthur Ernest Cowley, 2d English ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1910), 499.

[70] Motyer, 375. Though, ‘many’…is a keyword in this passage for the beneficiaries of the Servant’s suffering” cf. (Is 15a; 53:11c, 12ae). Motyer, 375.

[71] Motyer, 375.

[72] According to Oswalt, 379. “…this second view is fuller and more exact.” Motyer, 375.

[73] This may allow Is 53:1-3 to be read with more continuity according to Oswalt, 379.

[74] “Virtually all commentators understand the kēn in v. 14 not to be part of the comparison construction but to function in an adverbial way” Oswalt, 379 in a footnote.

[75] “a small stroke, similar to our dash, indicating that two or more words form an extremely closely knit group.”

Paul Joüon and T. Muraoka, A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew (Roma: Pontificio Istituto Biblico, 2006), 53.

[76] “i.e., a marker of a high degree of objects or events” James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).

[77] “(from the root šāḥat)” not his “anointing (from the root māšaḥ).” Smith, 438.

[78] Oswalt, 379.

[79] NIV, NRSV, NLT. The NASB interestingly reads, “many were astonished at you, My people” (italics theirs).

[80] Smith, 436.

[81] As did Isaiah (Is 6:8-9) Baltzer, 398.

[82] “…Thus from the 2nd to the 3rd (i. e. from an address to a statement)…Is 31:6 (?), [Is 42:20, 52:14, 61:7…]”

GKC, 462.

[83] Smith, 436.

[84] Num 8:7, TWOT, 566.

[85] NIDOTTE, vol 3, 69.

[86] TWOT, 566.

[87] Lev 4:6, 17; 16:14, 15, 19; Num 19:4. NIDOTTE, vol 3, 69.

[88] E.g., “the sevenfold sprinkling purges the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur (16:14, 15, 19).” NIDOTTE, vol 3, 69.

[89] Lev 14:16; Num 19:4, NIDOTTE, vol 3, 69.

[90] Lev 14:51f.

[91] Moyter, 375-76. “The major problem with this alternative is that the Arabic root does not mean “to be startled” but “stand up, leap up.” Smith, 440. “The LXX rendering θαυμάζειν, “be astonished,” has probably been suggested by the context, and cannot provide the basis for an emendation.” Baltzer, 400.

[92] Smith hesitates connecting this verse with Moses’ covenantal sprinkling of the Israelites (Ex 24:6-8). Smith, 439.

[93] Though, interestingly, Baltzer sees this as an honorific, ceremonial gesture of a royal Persian court. Baltzer, 399.

[94] Motyer, 376.

[95] Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia: With Werkgroep Informatica, Vrije Universiteit Morphology; Bible. O.T. Hebrew. Werkgroep Informatica, Vrije Universiteit. (Logos Bible Software, 2006), Is 53:1-3.

[96] Author’s translation.

[97] While Motyer and Oswalt affirm this, Smith says “most do not make this identification.” Smith, 444.

[98] Motyer, 376.

[99] Oswalt, 381.

[100] Webb, 210.

[101] Smith, 441-42.

[102] “(see Jer. 14:7–9 for the same phenomenon there). The two NT quotations of the passage understand it in this way…” (John 12:38; Rom. 10:16). Oswalt, 381.

[103] “n.f. report” Abridged BDB, 1035.1

[104] Smith, 443-44.

[105] Smith 444.

[106] Oswalt, 382.

[107] “and יוֹנֶקֶת f. properly sucking, figuratively a sucker of a tree, as if it sucked nourishment from a mother. Job 8:16; 14:7; 15:30; Eze. 17:22; Hos. 14:7” TWOT, 383-84.

[108] Oswalt, 382.

[109] Abridged BDB, 851.1

[110] Oswalt, 382.

[111] Cf. Is 4:2; Jer 23:5; Zech 3:8; 6:12. Smith, 444.

[112] Smith, 445.

[113] Oswalt, 383.

[114] “b In a genitive of agency G does the action described by C” Bruce K. Waltke and Michael Patrick O’Connor, An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1990), 143. “חָדֵל (ḥādēl) fleeting, rejected.” TWOT, 264.

[115] This is only time the word is used in the Pentateuch. Baltzer, 406.

[116] A derivative of the verb “חָלָה (ḥālâ) I, be or become sick, weak, diseased, grieved, sorry, et al.” TWOT, 286.

[117] Smith, 447.

[118] Though, in my view, this may be a stretch. Baltzer, 407.

[119] Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia: With Werkgroep Informatica, Vrije Universiteit Morphology; Bible. O.T. Hebrew. Werkgroep Informatica, Vrije Universiteit. (Logos Bible Software, 2006), Is 53:4–6.

[120] Author’s translation

[121] Motyer, 377.

[122] “The affected object can be put at the beginning for the sake of emphasis… we rarely have O-S-V: 2Kg 5.13… [in a footnote on the same page] Seven more cases have been located by M. Malessa (private communication, 4.4.2000): Is 49.25; 53.4, 11 (provided that הוּא is the subject)…” Joüon and Muraoka, 548-49.

[123] In which the emphatic pronoun ה֣וּא is also present. Kidner, 663.

[124] Webb, 211.

[125] Oswalt, 386.

[126] The “retribution principle” is the conviction that the righteous will prosper and the wicked will suffer, both in proportion to their respective *righteousness and wickedness. J. H. Walton, “Retribution,” ed. Tremper Longman III and Peter Enns, Dictionary of the Old Testament: Wisdom, Poetry & Writings (Downers Grove, IL; Nottingham, England: IVP Academic; Inter-Varsity Press, 2008), 647.

[127]“ פֶּשַׁע (pešaʿ). Rebellion, revolt, transgression.” Transgressing (e.g., stepping outside the boundaries of God’s torah) is plausibly in view, but readers may recall that Israel was also accused of being rebels from birth (Isa 48:8). TWOT, 741

[128] TWOT, 386 Cf. ESV, KJV “chastisement,” NASB “chastening”

[129] Waltke and O’Connor, 146.

[130] TWOT, 930.

[131] Oswalt, 388. Smith, 450.

[132] “…of blows (sg. coll.) inflicted on suffering servant of י׳ Is 53:5” Enhanced BDB, 289.

[133] “be made wholesome…” Though this often concerns making salt water drinkable NIDOTTE, vol 3, 1162.

[134] NIDOTTE, vol 2, 4.

[135] Webb, 212.

[136] Smith, 450-51.

[137] TWOT, 714

[138] Abridged BDB, 803.1

[139] “The Servant is the solution of the LORD to the needs of sinners.” Motyer, 378-79.

[140] Kidner, 663.

[141] Willem A. VanGemeren, “Isaiah,” in Evangelical Commentary on the Bible, vol. 3, Baker Reference Library (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1995), 507.

[142] Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia: With Werkgroep Informatica, Vrije Universiteit Morphology; Bible. O.T. Hebrew. Werkgroep Informatica, Vrije Universiteit. (Logos Bible Software, 2006), Is 53:7–9.

[143] Author’s translation

[144] Motyer, 379.

[145] Motyer, 379.

[146] Smith, 453.

[147] Cf. Ps 31:18 “Let their lying lips be silenced…” (NIV). NIDOTTE, vol 2, 4.

[148] Motyer, 379. “…willing submission.” Though Smith says, “one probably should not import into this verse sacrificial imagery” (Smith, 452-53) Oswalt would counter, “if the author did not intend his readers to think in terms of sacrifice, he certainly made a major blunder in his choice of metaphors.” Oswalt, 392.

[149] “The cause or means of a situation is marked by mn,” Waltke and O’Connor, 213.

[150] Smith, 453.

[151] TWOT, 691.

[152] Smith, 453. Cf. “Perversion of justice” NRSV; “unjustly condemned” NLT (perhaps understood as a hendiadys) Oswalt, 393.

[153]descendants agrees better with the LXX, quoted in Acts 8:33, than with the Hebrew text, whose word dôr points rather to one’s contemporaries.” Kidner, 663. Although some read it as “who has considered his descendants?” That is, who has considered the fact that he is childless – which adds even more insult to injury. Oswalt, 395.

[154] TWOT, 875.

[155] TWOT, 875.

[156] Inc Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. (Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, Inc., 2003).

[157] “The LXX emphasizes this even more because the final clause is ‘he was led to death.’” Smith, 454..

[158] “…’my people’ means the people of Israel. Smith, 455. It may be a literary device meaning “us.” Oswalt, 396.

[159] Abridged BDB, 119.1 though a “(?)” is present there. “…funeral mound, i.e., a burial place, possibly a monument construction of some kind (Eze 43:7)” Swanson, “בָּמָה” (Hebrew GK #1195). “in their death …Is 53:9” BDB, 119.2. “It rarely signifies a sepulchral mound, Greek βωμός. Eze. 43:7;…Isa. 53:9 where this signification may suitably be taken.” Wilhelm Gesenius and Samuel Prideaux Tregelles, Gesenius’ Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2003), 125.

[160] “The NIV should restore the Hebrew’s singular, ‘a rich man’. It was an enigma until the event of Mt. 27:57, 60, and it still embarasses [sic] those to whom detailed prediction is unacceptable. But the ancient versions and the Scrolls confirm the authenticity of rich, the latter source indeed correcting a plural found in the LXX, retaining the singular, as found in the standard text.” Kidner, 663.

[161] Motyer, 380.

[162] Smith 456.

[163] Smith, 456.

[164] “synthetic or advancing parallelism” Sidney Greidanus, Preaching Christ from Psalms: Foundations for Expository Sermons in the Christian Year (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2016), 16.

[165] Oswalt, 396.

[166] “construed with a clause (verbal or nominal; cf. § 129p): Is 53.9 עַל לא־חָמָס עָשָׂה although he has not committed any injustice” emphasis mine. Joüon and Muraoka, 602.

[167] Motyer, 381.

[168] Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia: With Werkgroep Informatica, Vrije Universiteit Morphology; Bible. O.T. Hebrew. Werkgroep Informatica, Vrije Universiteit. (Logos Bible Software, 2006), Is 53:10–12.

[169] Author’s translation. V. 12a based on Motyer, 382.

[170] Smith, 457.

[171] Motyer, 381.

[172] A derivative of the verb חָפֵץ which can mean “be willing; have desire.” NIDOTTE, vol 2, 231.

[173] Smith, 458. “This offering is designed to address a particular category of offense—a breach of faith or an act of sacrilege.” The breach in view is most likely the breach of Israel’s covenant with the LORD. Victor Harold Matthews, Mark W. Chavalas, and John H. Walton, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, electronic ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), Is 53:10.

[174] “…NIV (whose though is surely erroneous)” Motyer, 381.

[175] Motyer, 381.

[176] NIDOTTE, vol 3, 1237.

[177] Kidner, 663. Smith, 459.

[178] “But now the prophet looks us straight in the eye and suggests that we can no longer hide from the issue in comfortable anonymity. If the Servant’s ministry is to have any validity for me, I must take the broken self he offers me and in turn offer it back to God in my place.” Oswalt, 401-2.

[179] Oswalt, 401.

[180] Though, Oswalt claims this prolonging of his life and viewing of his descendants may be understood as figurative language intimating that his ostensibly pitiful life may become meaningful if we (the listeners) make him our guilt offering. Oswalt, 401. I find this unpersuasive.

[181] Motyer, 381.

[182] Kidner, 663. “[This] option is preferable. It communicates that “his soul, his life” was made a restitution (usually it was a ram) for the life of the sinner in order to accomplish restitution for sins committed.” Smith, 459.

[183] Webb, 212.

[184] Citing the preceding text and “(Deut 4:1, 40; 5:16; 6:2; 11:8–9; 30:15–20).” Lengthening of one’s days was a common blessing from the LORD in the OT. Smith, 459. Also, this is the fourth time YHWH is mentioned in the fourth Servant song. Balzer, 424.

[185]ʿāmāl relates to the unpleasant factors of work and toil.” TWOT, 675. Cf. NRSV, ESV, NASB, HCSB

[186] Smith, 461.

[187] Smith, 460. “The noun אוֹר is found in 1QIsa, 1QIsb, 4QIsd, and the Old Greek and is widely supported in modern commentaries.” Ibid. “…we should probably follow 1QIsaa,b and add “light” (אוֹר).” Baltzer, 423.

[188] Oswalt also takes this view, 403.

[189] Smith, 461.

[190] Webb, 213.

[191] “in צַדִּיק עַבְדִּי (Isa 53:11), for example, the “adjective” צַדִּיק can be construed as a modifier of עַבְדִּי or as a substantive, that is, ‘the Righteous One, (who is) my servant’ or ‘my servant (who is) righteous.’…grammatical ambiguity is a genuine and often functional part of language.” Waltke and O’Connor, 223.

[192] Smith, 461.

[193] Oswalt, 405.

[194] Webb, 213.

[195] “The verse begins with a puzzle, and this is probably intentional.” Baltzer, 425.

[196] Oswalt, 406.

[197] How could he “share the supreme place with any other”? Motyer, 383. “…this sharing with many others is not a very great exaltation of the servant and probably would not cause the kings to respond as 49:7; 52:15 suggest.” Smith, 463.

[198] Smith, 463. “Koole, Isaiah III, Volume 2: Isaiah 49–55, 339, understands the phrase ‘apportion the booty’ in the sense of ‘to possess the booty’ based on Gen 49:27; Exod 15:9; Judg 5:30; Isa 9:2–3.” Ibid (in a footnote).

[199] “in recompense for:…תחת אשׁר Nu 25.13; Is 53.12…” Joüon and Muraoka, 600.

[200] Smith, 463.

[201] Oswalt, 407.

[202] Motyer, 381.

[203] Oswalt, 378.

[204] Baltzer sees a progression: He will rise, then be (passively) carried up, and then he will be exalted very high – into the “presence of his Lord… the divine sphere…” Baltzer, 394-396.

[205] Motyer, 374. Though Smith believes the Servant is not necessarily accorded similar kingly status to that of YHWH, but only a “high position of honor.” Smith, 436.

[206] “Ten of the twelve verses of Isaiah 53 are quoted in the New Testament. There are abundant allusions and echoes of Isaiah 53 as well.” William Lane Craig, “Doctrine of Christ (Part 10),” Podcast Transcript, March, 14, 2017. <>

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Imperfect servant striving to be an unapologetically apologetic ambassador for Jesus the Christ. Princeton University Alum | Palmer Theological Seminary Student