We are continuing our study of the Servant Passages from Isa 40 through Isa 66, picking out relevant verses about the redemption. What we bring out is not all there is to say about the subject, but it will give us some insight to these passages.
Isa 51.17 says, “Rouse yourself!, rouse yourself! Arise, O Jerusalem.” These are the same terms we discussed in Isa 51.9, where it says, “Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord.” The term “arm” (Zeroah) is referring to Yeshua in the second redemption, and alludes to Isa 53.1, but it also says to “awake as in the days of old” which is referring to Moses as the “arm of the Lord” in the first redemption. These are Rosh Ha Shannah terms. In Eph 5.14 it says, “For this reason it says, ‘Awake, sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Messiah will give you light.'” This alludes to Isa 26.19 and it is believed that Paul wrote the Book of Ephesians during the High Holy Days of Rosh Ha Shannah and Yom Kippur. This verse from Ephesians is based on an ancient prayer in the Temple on Rosh Ha Shannah, which in turn was based on these verses in Isaiah.
In Isa 52.1 we have the same terms again. These terms are associated with Rosh Ha Shannah and verses 1-13 are connected to Isa 51. Why is that significant? The actual second redemption will begin on a Rosh Ha Shannah, and Yeshua returns to earth, probably at Mount Sinai, on Rosh Ha Shannah. He will travel to Jerusalem, picking up the Jewish and non-Jewish believers that have fled to the wilderness (Rev 12.14) along the way, arriving in Jerusalem on Yom Kippur. It will conclude at the festival of Sukkot.
Isa 52.7-15 is very messianic, especially verses 13-15. A Targum is an Aramaic paraphrase of the Hebrew Scriptures. The Targum on the prophets was written by Yonaton Ben Uzziel. He was one of 80 tannaim who studied under Hillel the Elder during the time of Roman occupied Judea. The Targum on the Torah was written by Onkelos, a Roman national who converted to Judaism in Tannaic times (The “tannaim” were Rabbinic sages whose views were recorded in the Mishnah from about 10-220 A.D.). He was born in 35 A.D. and died in 120 A.D. The Taergum Ben Uzziel was written before the destruction of the Temple and it shows what the people believed in the time of Yeshua. In the Targum Ben Uzziel on Isa 52.13 it says, “Behold my servant, the Messiah, will prosper.” The Messiah was added to let the reader know who the verse is talking about. That is what a “targum” does, it explains and expands the Jewish Scriptures so that the people can understand the meaning.
Now, we started off saying that the Servant Passages in Isaiah are understood in Judaism to be talking about Israel collectively. In Christianity, in general, they will say the Servant Passages are about the Messiah. In reality, many will apply to Israel, and many will apply to Messiah, and most will apply to both. But, Isa 52.13-15 is referring to Yeshua the Messiah specifically.
This brings us to Isa 53 and it is recognized as one of the major portions of Scripture of messianic importance. We are going to spend a little more time on Isa 53 because it is so important to our study of the redemption. What it comes down to is whether one recognizes Isa 53 as talking about Israel or Messiah as the servant. Most Rabbis will say Isa 53 is talking about Israel. When you look at the history between the Rabbis and Christianity, you can understand why. Many times the Rabbis were forced into a debate with a Christian scholar about different topics. These debates were “rigged” no matter how strong a case the Rabbis presented. They were going to lose. The church will never admit they were wrong, especially during those events and at that time. A defense developed after a period of time that if you had a passage that was truly “messianic” the Jewish commentaries would say that it was not.
The text we have from Isa 52.13 to Isa 53.12 is about the Messiah, no question. There is a term for Messiah called the “Leper Messiah” and it is derived from Isa 53. There are many other sources that will say Isa 53 refers to a Leper Messiah (see “The Messiah Texts” by Raphael Patai). But why call the Messiah a “Leper Messiah?” He is a Suffering Servant and we will point this out as we go over this passage with a little more detail.
Isa 53.1-2 tells us that the Messiah was a “tender shoot” (without notice) like a “root out of dry ground” (from the House of David, of low estate). “He has no form or majesty (no kingly majesty) that we should look upon him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to him (no “beauty”).” Now, we can tell you what Yeshua did not look like. He did not look like the “Jesus” of Christianity. He did not have long hair, it was short around his ears. This was the custom (Ezek 44.20=an even length). Nazarites for life let their hair grow, but most Nazarites went into their vow for a very short time, and cut off their hair to the way it was before they took their vow. If a lifetime Nazarite had long hair, it was braided like Samson, who had seven separate braids (Judges 16.13).
He was not “handsome” because it says there was “no form or majesty that we should look upon him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to him.” He was average, like everyone else. He could blend in with a crowd (John 7.10-11). He had no “kingly majesty.” The unleavened bread at Passover was “pierced” and bland and the loaves looked like all the others. That is what he looked like, not a “movie star” but plain. This doesn’t mean that he was ugly, but it doesn’t mean that he was not, but people were not attracted to him because of his appearance.
Isa 53.3 says he was “despised” and this is another way of saying he was a “Nazarene” like in Matt 2.23. People from Nazareth were called “despised ones” and this is alluded to in John 1.46. There is a fantasy “Jesus” that is put forth in all the movies that come out during Christmas and Easter that portray him as a western, Gentile form of a Jewish Messiah. Some “Jewish” organizations try to convert Jews to this western concept of the Christian “Messiah.” We believe that the Church is Replacement Theology and it turns a Jewish person away from the Torah. We have a “fantasy Messiah” in much of the Hebrew Roots Movement because it has a major problem. It is anti-Semitic because they are willing to accept Yeshua but they don’t want much to do with the Jewish people.
Yeshua is a Jew (not past tense) and he follows the Torah. He always will, even when he returns (Isa 2.2-4). He is the Messiah. The teachers that wrote the Gospels and Epistles, like James the Nasi of the believers, was a noted Pharisee, and so was Paul, from the School of Hillel. There is a concept that is keeping people from seeing Yeshua the way he really was. He was a Torah observant Jew who followed many of the ways of the Jewish people. But, when Messiah is seen for who he really is, people will panic. If you have a congregation that moves into praying the Shema, the Amidah and using Hebrew, people will quit saying, “You are moving away from Jesus.” They will say you are getting “too Jewish” and yet Yeshua prayed these prayers and he was Jewish!
Everything concerned with Yeshua will be in a Jewish context. If you want to follow Yeshua, you will follow the Torah. When we read “he was despised” in Isa 53.3 we think this was by unbelievers. But, it can also include people who profess to believe in him who don’t like the Jewishness of Yeshua, and they are anti-Torah people. People who say “I love the Torah” but say “We are the New Israel” like many Hebrew Roots people are not understanding the Torah or the Messiah.
Isa 53.4 says that the Messiah will be “stricken, smitten of God and afflicted.” This is the Leper Messiah. It says “Surely our griefs (sickness) he himself bore.” The word for “bore” is “nasa” in Hebrew and it means he lifted their loads by healing the sick. He cared for them like the High Priest in Exo 28.38 where it says, “Aaron shall bear the iniquity of the holy things.” The word “nasa” can also mean “to forgive or to relieve from guilt.” Eph 6.2 says “Bear one another’s burdens and thus fulfill the law of Messiah (the Torah).” This refers to the fact that we need to forgive one another. Matt 9.36 says, “And seeing the multitudes, he had compassion for them, because they were distressed and downcast like sheep without a shepherd.”
Isa 53.5 says, “But he was pierced through for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities, the chastening for our well-being fell upon him, and by his scourging we are healed.” The word for “scourging” (chavurato) has a root meaning “to be joined.” Isa 53.6 says that we have all “turned to his own way” because we are the center of our lives and our hearts are basically selfish.
In Part 25 we will pick up in our examination of Isaiah 53 with verses 7-9 and continue our examination of the redemption.