The Jewish people were attacked by Christianity before Christianity ever became a “legal” religion. Within Rome, Judaism was accepted as a legal religion because of an edict by Julius Caesar (“History of Jews in the Roman Empire”-Wikipedia; Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 14.10.1-8, Whiston Edition). As the “Christian” population grew, they became persecuted by Rome because they were seen as an illegal religious movement because their practices moved away from Judaism and the Torah. This is strong evidence of how early Christianity was already moving away from Judaism and the Torah and forming a “replacement.” Even Rome saw this because the “Christians” did not “fit” under the parameters allowed. Christianity countered by saying they were not “illegal”, but a “replacement” for Judaism, which was already legal. They felt that the Christians should be seen as legal and not a new religion. They said they were a “further evolution” of Judaism and that God had “rejected” the Jews. That is the basis for who theologians call “the Apologists” and who would become the “Church Fathers” during the fourth century A.D. They wanted Roman persecution to stop on the basis that Christianity had a right to exist under the previous permission granted by Julius Caesar to Judaism. They said they were the rightful benefactors of the legal parameters set forth by Julius Caesar now. However, at the same time, Judaism and the Jewish people were being attacked by Christianity.
Jews were being expelled out of Caesarea by the second century, and we haven’t even gotten to Constantine yet. This was done because they rejected Yeshua, so the Christians went after them. They were also driven out of Beit Shean and Sephoris (near Nazareth) by the second century. Jews were being killed by Christians over a hundred years before Christianity became a legal religion around 325 A.D. As a result, it became “you say this, we say that” and Jews were forced to come before the public in the Middle Ages for “rigged” debates. They had to argue the case as to why Yeshua was not the Messiah. So, whatever the Christian scholars used, the Jews would have a counter-argument. No matter what the Jews said, they were going to lose. The Christian scholars did not want to look at the evidence of whatever they were debating. Whatever Christianity said, the Jews were not going to accept it. So, what disappeared out of the equation was whether Yeshua matched the Scriptures or not. It’s a feud, like the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s, and that is what happened.
Judaism took passages that were previously identified as being about the Messiah and said they had nothing to do with the Messiah. To this day, there are Orthodox people that know other Jewish people who believe in Yeshua, and will say they cannot be Jewish if they believe in him. As a result, anything that concerns Yeshua and the Messiah will not be how they interpret it in the Scriptures, even though there is ample evidence that these passages were seen by the Jewish people as pertaining to the Messiah in earlier times. This is based on the violence the Jewish people suffered by “Christians.”
This must be kept in mind when reading a Jewish source that denies an obvious reference to the Messiah, like Isa 52.13 through Isa 53.12. The Concept of the “Suffering Servant” is not alien to Judaism, but it is alien to the discussion as to whether Yeshua is the Messiah or not. So, we are going to get into the concept of the “Suffering Servant” or “Suffering Tzaddik” from the Hebraic mindset. We are going to start with Ezek 4.4 with commentary. We will be quoting from the book “Ezekiel” by Mesorah Publications, p 109, where it says:
“As for you, lie upon your left side”…A person facing east would have the north to his left and the south to his right. Rashi explains that the left or northern side symbolizes the Northern Kingdom-Samaria, and the right or southern side (v 6), the Kingdom of Judah. Thus ‘the family of Israel’, in our verse refers not to the whole of Knesset Israel, but to the Ten Tribes of Samaria.
“And place the iniquity of the Family of Israel upon it”…It is the sins of Israel which turn the prophet into an ‘enemy’ who besieges the city (v 3). Thus the duration of the siege is determined by the number of years during which Israel sinned against God.
“Shall you shall bear their sin”…The pain and suffering which the prophet would endure in the course of 390 days of immobility (v 5, 8) would ‘atone’ for the sins of the people (Rashi). This comment interprets the verb ‘nasa’ (the root of ’tisha’ in our verse) as ‘to forgive.’ Indeed we find such usgae in other parts of the Bible (see Exo 34.7). It is obvious that complete forgiveness is not contemplated here, since the siege continued and Jerusalem ultimately fell. But even granting the limited nature of forgiveness, it is still difficult to understand how the prophet’s suffering could bring about any atonement. Perhaps the ordeal which symbolized Ezekiel’s love for his people (…’to tell you that as long as Israel is suffering so the righteous people are with them in their suffering’, Vayikra Rabbah 28.6), combined with his role as ‘Nebuchadnezzar the conqueror’, served to bring home to the people how even in the moment that God punishes Israel, his love for them remains unchanged. This realization would have generated some thoughts of repentance which would attain a degree of atonement for them. Radak however renders ’tisha’ not as relating to forgiving, but as ‘bearing’ the guilt of sin (Exo 28.42-43). The ‘sign’ for the Family of Israel (v 3) would be that the years of their sinning would bring untold suffering upon them. Harav Breuer interprets the root ‘nasa’ in its original sense of ‘carrying’-being weighed down by something. The sins of Israel ‘weigh down’ the prophet and immobilize him (3.25), forcing his prophecy to take the form of bizarre symbolism rather than the normal method of oral communication.” (For a further discussion of the concept that the suffering of a righteous man can atone for the community, see Appendix III).”
So, we are going to go to the Ezekiel commentary by Mesorah Publications, to Appendix III, p(v), called the “Suffering of the Zaddik” (Zaddik can be used for a righteous man, but it is also used in a different way. It is used as a leader, one who might be the Messiah, leading a movement. That is the context that the word is used here in this Ezekiel commentary) to bring out more about the concept of the “Suffering Zaddik” or servant. It begins by saying, “The Mercy in Atonement. In the commentary of 4.4 an attempt was made to explain how Ezekiel’s suffering might serve to atone for the sins of the people. The thesis was advanced that the sight of the Tzaddik’s agony, for which the people had been the cause might inspire them to true repentance. While this may be true, a careful analysis of the sources yields a more comprehensive picture.
Sanhedrin 39a relates that a ‘min’, heretic, said to Rabbi Abuha: ‘Your God is a prankster (gachakan) in that he made Ezekiel lie on his left side and on his right side.’ The heretic saw the bizarre nature of these symbolic acts, as an opportunity to mock the Jewish belief in a wise and just God. The Talmud continues that just then a student came to Rabbi Abuha and asked him to explain the significance of the law of Shemitah, the obligation to let the fields lie fallow every seven years. Rabbi Abuha said: ‘I will answer you both together. God commanded Israel to let its fields lie fallow every seventh year so that they would recognize that the earth is his. They did not do so and were driven into exile. When a country rebels against a mortal king, he will kill them all if he is cruel to them; if he is merciful he will kill half of them; if he is filled with mercy he will cause the great ones among them to suffer. So also the Holy One, blessed be he, chastised Ezekiel in order to wipe out the sins of Israel.
Communal Responsibility. The idea that the Tzaddik suffers in lieu of the death of all or part of the community, is elaborated upon in Sefer Chassidim 115. The passage begins with a discussion of the communal responsibility which rests on the entire Jewish nation: ‘All Israel are responsible one for another.’ The sin of one is the sin of all. Thus, in his confession on Yom Kippur, the High Priest declares, ‘I have sinned together with all Israel.’ He says this whether or not he personally has sinned. This is in order that people come to feel a sense of love and responsibility for one another and learn to rebuke one another.”
In Part 27 we will pick up here with the “Suffering of the Zaddik” in Mesorah’s publication of Ezekiel, Appendix III. We will begin with the concept of the Zaddik as a “representative.” By bringing this information out, we will have more insight into Isa 53 and the redemption, but also the statement of Caiaphas in John 11.47-53. Now if the Lord forgave Israel because of Ezekiel, a sinful man, how much more can he forgive us because of Yeshua, who knew no sin!