THE BOOK OF ISAIAH
Lesson 20: Chapters 52-54
Part III: The Book of Consolation
We thank You for the gift of Your Servant and our Savior Jesus Christ. He came as an expression of Your great love for mankind to offer Himself as a sacrifice for our sins. He willingly accepted the cup of wrath that mankind deserved for the accumulation of generations of sins and, taking the burden of our sins upon Himself, died upon the altar of the Cross, paying mankind's debt of sin. Then He rose in glory having defeated sin and death that those who believed in Him might rise with Him and receive the promise of eternal life. It is because of our gratitude for His great gift that we live in imitation of Christ, and we take up His mission of servanthood in sharing His Gospel of light and salvation with those most in need of Your mercy. Send Your Holy Spirit to guide us as we study Isaiah's prophecies that were fulfilled in Your Servant-Son, Jesus Christ. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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servant shall be wise," that is, shall be illustrious; these words certainly
concern our Lord. Indeed, he was called a servant by his Father, because, in
the first place, he was sent by his Father in order to fulfill his will in
procuring salvation for all humankind, and in the second place, because he
assumed the aspect of a servant. "He shall be exalted and lifted up, and he
shall be very high" through his virtues and miracles.
St. Ephrem the Syrian, Commentary on Isaiah (quoting Isaiah 52:13 from the Septuagint)
In Isaiah 51:21-23, Isaiah assured the remnant of the nation of Judah that Jerusalem's redemption was certain. God would remove His cup of wrath/judgment that the covenant people were made to drink in their exile, and He would give it to the nation that had oppressed His people "they would also experience His divine wrath.
Isaiah promised that the time would come when God would call His people to rise up and depart from their exile in Babylon, leaving as a pure and holy people (Is 52:11). They were to leave behind all of the profane impurities of the Babylonians. His message was that the covenant people could not fully embrace God's holiness while clinging to pagan practices. When the time of liberation came, they were not to leave Babylon in a panic like fugitives (Is 52:12). They were to be led out by God in an orderly procession, carrying the sacred vessels of Solomon's Temple that the Babylonians had looted but Cyrus had returned. They were to carry these precious relics back to the holy city of Jerusalem and build a new Temple. God's words through His prophet were to be fulfilled when Cyrus of Persia issued a decree allowing the covenant people's return led by Davidic heirs Sheshbazzar and Zerubbabel in the company of the other Jewish leaders carrying the Temple vessels in a sacred procession (Ezra 1:5-11).
But Isaiah's promise of God's salvation for Judah is only the beginning of God's mighty works on behalf of His people. In 52:13-53:12 Isaiah goes beyond these images of the return of Judah to describe God's anointed Servant whose divine mission will bring a salvation far greater than the Babylonian deliverance.
Isaiah 52:13-53:12 ~ The Fourth Song of the Servant
For Christians Isaiah 52:13-53:12 is probably the best known and most often quoted passage in the Old Testament by the Holy Spirit inspired writers of the New Testament, by the Church Fathers, and by modern Christian scholars who all apply the passages of the fourth Song of the Servant to Jesus Christ.
|Isaiah Verses||New Testament Quotes|
|53:1||Jn 12:38 (fulfillment statement); Rom 10:16|
|53:4||Mt 8:17 (fulfillment statement)|
|53:7-8||Acts 8:32-33 (Septuagint)*|
|53:9||1 Pt 2:22|
|53:12||Lk 22:37 (fulfillment statement)|
*The deacon Philip explains to the Ethiopian eunuch how the Old Testament prophecies are fulfilled in Jesus beginning with the Isaiah passage that he was reading.
The fifteen verses that comprise the fourth Song of the Servant divide evenly into five sets of three verses:
Isaiah 52:13-15 ~ The Servant of the Lord: Introduction
13 Look, my servant will prosper [sakal], will grow great, will rise [rum] to great heights [nasa]. 14 As many people were aghast at him "he was so inhumanly disfigured that he no longer looked like a man "15 so many nations will be astonished [so many nations he will sprinkle = nazah*] and kings will stay tight-lipped before him, seeing what had never been told them, learning what they had not heard before. [...] = literal Hebrew words, IBHE, vol. IV, page 1710. * nazah, "to sprinkle" is a word typically used in the ritual sense of the "sprinkling" of the blood in the liturgical worship service.
The introduction of the fourth Song of the Servant begins abruptly with the Hebrew word hinneh, usually translated "look," or "see," or "behold" and indicating the beginning of a new section. In this case, in the next fifteen verses Isaiah is describing the anointed Servant and his God-ordained mission. Isaiah begins by describing the Servant's wisdom (verse 13a), exalted status (verse 13b), appearance (verse 14), and his relationship to the Gentile nations (verse 15).
In verses 13-15 Isaiah describes the Servant's
13a Look, my servant
will prosper [sakal]...
Isaiah says in verse 13a that the Lord's Servant will act wisely, using the Hebrew word sakal, which usually describes someone gifted with advanced insight, wisdom, knowledge, or understanding (see for example the use of the same word in Is 41:20; Jer 23:5 and Dan 1:17).
13b ... will grow great, will
rise [rum] to great heights [nasa].
Isaiah also describes the Servant as raised and lifted up, using the Hebrew words rum and nasa. These are the same two words in the same order that Isaiah used to describe Yahweh's majesty in His heavenly Sanctuary vision in Isaiah 6:1, I saw the Lord seated on a high [rum] and lofty [nasa] throne... Some scholars see this repeat of the same two words as intentional and suggest that the Servant is more than an ordinary human being. Jesus had divine wisdom, and when He was crucified He was "raised up," but He was raised up to great heights in His Resurrection and Ascension.
14 As many people were
aghast at him [you] "he was so inhumanly disfigured that he no longer looked
like a man ...
In verse 14 Isaiah describes the Servant's appearance. There are two issues to be addressed in interpreting this verse:
There are differences in translations due to a variation in the manuscripts of this passage. The problem is with two Hebrew letters that look very similar, the vav and the kaph "one meaning "him" and the other "you." The Masoretic Text and the Septuagint render this verse "at you" and the Syriac text and the Targum render it "at him" (Beyer, Encountering the Book of Isaiah, page 205). In the ancient handwritten texts the two letter shapes are so alike that a scribe could have misjudged the letter and rendered it "him", especially since all the other references in the passage refer to "him." However, the reading "you" singular has the support of the best manuscripts, and if this is indeed the correct reading, Beyer believes it clearly shows that Isaiah is distinguishing the Servant from Israel and identifies him as an individual chosen by God. However, it should be noted that while reading the passage as "at you" does identify the Servant as separate from Israel, the reading "at him" in 52:14 does not rule out distinguishing the Servant from Israel. Bryan Beyer makes the argument that Isaiah's point could be that just as many were aghast at Israel's disfigured appearance in the Egyptian exile, so the Servant's appearance was marred by his sufferings as well. The second question cannot be answered from what is in this passage, but it is answered in the context of the sufferings of Jesus the Christ.
14b he was so inhumanly
disfigured that he no longer looked like a man ...
Many were appalled at the Servant's appearance; it was so disfigured that he no longer looked like a man. This is fulfilled in Jesus when He is tortured by the Romans and scourged prior to His crucifixion.
15 so many nations will
be astonished [so many nations he will sprinkle*] and kings will stay
tight-lipped before him, seeing what had never been told them, learning what
they had not heard before.
The dispute in this passage is between the word in the Hebrew text and the Greek word used in the Septuagint translation. One thing that is clear is that the Servant's ministry affects not only the covenant people but also the Gentile nations. The debate over the interpretation of the Hebrew word nazah, a word typically used in the ritual sense of the "sprinkling" of the blood in the liturgical blood rituals (Ex 29:21; Lev 4:6, 17; 5:9; 7:2), and in the ritual purification of the Levites in Numbers 8:7, This is how you must purify them: you will sprinkle them with purifying water, and they will shave their bodies all over and wash their clothes. They will then be clean. Of course for Christians, the significance of this verse it that it looks forward to the Sacrament of Baptism by which the covenant people dispersed into the Gentile nations along with those nations will be joined to Christ and His Church as prophesied by Ezekiel in 36:24-25, For I shall take you from among the nations and gather you back from all the countries, and bring you home to our own country. I shall sprinkle [nazah] clean water over you and you will be cleansed; I shall cleanse you of all your filth and of all your foul idols (Ez 36:24-25).
15b ... and kings will
stay tight-lipped before him, seeing what had never been told them, learning
what they had not heard before.
Isaiah says that the earth's kings would be speechless when confronted by the Servant's message. Through the Servant's ministry rulers would come to understand truths that were formerly beyond their understanding. As applied to Jesus this would include the concept of redemption through the self-sacrifice of the Christ, justification by faith, and the promise of eternal life.
According to Isaiah in verse 15, the Servant's mission is also concerned with bringing the knowledge of Yahweh to the nations. In Romans chapters 9-11, St. Paul wrote that Israel had the mission of bringing knowledge of Yahweh to the nations, but Israel failed in this mission. Paul then quotes the Septuagint translation from Isaiah 52:15 in Romans 15:21, applying the passage to Christ and saying that he and others have taken up Christ's mission to proclaim the Gospel to the nations: Thus I aspire to proclaim the Gospel not where Christ has already been named, so that I do not build on another's foundation, but as it is written: "Those who have never been told of him will see him, and those who have never heard about him will understand" (Rom 15:20-21). This is the same new understanding that Jeremiah wrote would come about when God makes a new covenant with His people in Jeremiah 31:31-34 promising, Within them I shall plant my law, writing it on their hearts. Then I shall be their God and they will be my people. There will be no further need for everyone to teach neighbor or brother, saying, "Learn to know Yahweh" No, they will all know me, from the least to the greatest, Yahweh declares, since I shall forgive their guilt and never more call their sin to mind" (Jer 31:33b-34). This "new understanding" written on the heart came about through the gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church at Pentecost (Acts chapter 2).
Isaiah 53:1-3 ~ The Servant's Rejection
1 Who has given credence to what we have heard? 2 And who has seen in it a revelation of Yahweh's arm? Like a sapling [yonak] he grew up before him, like a root [shoresh] in arid ground. 3 He had no form or charm [hadar] to attract us, no beauty [to'ar] to win our hearts; he was despised, the lowest of men, a man of sorrows, familiar with suffering, one from whom, as it were, we averted our gaze, despised, for whom we had no regard. [...] = IBHE, vol. IV, pages 1710-11.
Isaiah then asks two rhetorical questions in 53:1. The first is
essentially "Who has believed the Servant's message?" and the second is "Who
has recognized the Servant's message as a revelation from God?"
Question: What can be said about those who believe the Servant's message and recognize it as a work of God?
Answer: Those who "believe" and "recognize" are the ones who will come to salvation.
2b Like a sapling [yonak]
he grew up before him, like a root [shoresh] in arid ground.
Question: Who is the "he" and who is the "him" in this sentence?
Answer: The Servant is the "he" who grew up before the "him" that is Israel.
The Israelites were expecting the coming of the Davidic Messiah, but they didn't expect him to grow up within the community like everyone else. The imagery Isaiah uses is that of a plant growing from the ground. A shoot of a plant doesn't suddenly burst up fully grown. It pushes itself gently through the dirt into the light and takes time to grow to maturity. Likewise the Servant's arrival was unassuming within the "arid ground" that was Israel. The Hebrew words for "sapling" or "shoot" (yonak) and "root" (shoresh) in this passage conveys an image of the joyful prediction of the "shoot" from the "root" of Jesse "the Davidic Messiah" in Isaiah 11:1, 10:
3a He had no form or
charm to attract us, no beauty to win our hearts...
The Hebrew word to'ar is used to describe a person's physical features and can be translated "form" or "beauty," while the word hadar refers to a quality of being like "greatness" or "majesty."
Question: Why didn't the people realize the importance of God's Servant?
Answer: The Servant's humble beginning and unimposing appearance did not attract attention and did not cause people to notice anything special about him. They were, therefore, not prepared for his accomplishments.
3b he was despised, the
lowest of men, a man of sorrows, familiar with suffering, one from whom, as it
were, we averted our gaze, despised, for whom we had no regard.
The people had difficulty believing the Servant's message because of his humble origins and his lack of an impressive appearance or demeanor. This lack of confidence led the people to reject the Servant. He became a man who is despised and a man who endures the emotional suffering of His people's rejection.
Question: How is the description of God's anointed Servant in
verses 1-3 fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth?
Answer: Jesus came from a small village in the Galilee. There was nothing about Him that seemed remarkable "His foster father Joseph was a poor carpenter, He did not have an impressive education, nor did He have important family connections. He was sent to gather in the "lost sheep" of the House of Israel, and His rejection by His own people must have caused emotional pain.
Question: Why would Jesus' crucifixion have caused the people to
"avert their gaze" in 53:3b? See Dt 21:23.
Answer: Because such a person who was "hanged on a tree" was considered to be a curse of God.
Isaiah 53:4-6 ~ The Servant's Suffering
4 Yet ours were the sufferings he was bearing, ours the sorrows he was carrying, while we thought of him as someone being punished and struck with affliction by God; 5 whereas he was being wounded [pierced] for our rebellions, crushed because of our guilt; the punishment reconciling us fell on him, and we have been healed by his bruises. 6 We had all gone astray like sheep, each taking his own way, and Yahweh brought the acts of rebellion of all of us to bear on him.
In the previous verses Isaiah described the Servant's rejection by his
countrymen and the emotional pain and sorrow of that rejection. Now he
addresses the Servant's physical sufferings.
Question: According to these verses, what is unique about the Servant's physical sufferings?
Notice in this passage that Isaiah shifts back and forth between the
work of the Servant's mission and the blessings his work brings to God's
Question: Make a chart showing the blessings to the people through the works of the Servant in each of the verses in 53:4, 5 and 6.
|Verses||The People||The Servant|
he was bearing
he was carrying
for our rebellions
because of our guilt reconciling us
we have been healed
he was wounded [pierced]
[he was] crushed
[he was] punishment
by his bruises
|53:6||the acts of rebellion of us all||to bear on him|
God's unnamed Servant is called to bear sufferings that are not due to his own personal sins but are taken up in atonement for the sins of others. St. Matthew will quote Isaiah 53:4 as a fulfillment statement applied to Jesus and His mission in Matthew 8:17: He drove out the spirits with a command and cured all who were sick. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: "He himself bore our sicknesses away and carried our diseases" (Mt 8:16-17).
Matthew interprets Jesus as being the servant foretold by Isaiah and Jesus' healing miracles as a sign of redemption. Jesus suffered for the sins of the entire people even thought He was not guilty of any sins. By bearing the penalty for the sins of humanity He expiated the guilt others had earned through sin, and he redeemed mankind. Jesus' whole life is a mystery of redemption. His work of redemption above all comes to us through the blood of His Cross (Eph 1:7; Col 1:13-14; 1 Pt 1:18-19), and this mystery began to be unveiled in the prophecies of the Old Testament prophets like Isaiah (CCC 517). St. Theodoret of Cyrus wrote: "The sufferings of our Savior are our cure" ( De incarnatione Domini, 28). He died for us that we might have an eternally "long life" as the children of His Kingdom in Heaven
Referring to Isaiah 53:4-6 Catechism teaches: "... On the cross Christ took upon himself the whole weight of evil and took away the sin of the world,' of which illness is only a consequence. By his passion and death on the cross Christ has given a new meaning to suffering: it can henceforth configure us to him and unite us with his redemptive Passion" (CCC 1505).
The concept of redemptive suffering is unique to the New Testament. Under the old covenants the people saw human suffering as God's judgment upon sinners, even though they had the example of Job who suffered not because of personal sin but because of sin in the world and because of sin in others. In fact God requires atoning sacrifices from Job's three accusers for having accused an innocent Job of sin that contributed to his emotional suffering (Job 42:7-9).
St. Paul wrote about uniting our suffering with Christ's sufferings for us on the altar of the Cross in Romans 8:17; 2 Cor 1:5-7; 4:17; Phil 3:10-11; Col 1:24. The Catechism teaches the uniting of our sufferings to Christ "help configure us to Christ, who alone expiated our sins once for all. They allow us to become co-heirs with the risen Christ, "provided we suffer with him" (CCC 1460 quoting Romans 8:17). This is the basis of the Catholic doctrine of redemptive suffering. It carries with it the promise that all our personal sufferings that are united to Christ are not wasted or without merit.
St. John Paul II wrote: "Human suffering has reached it culmination in the Passion of Christ. And at the same time it has entered into a completely new dimension and a new order: it has been linked to love" (Salvifici Doloris, 18). He continues: "In the Cross not only is the Redemption accomplished through suffering, but also human suffering itself has been redeemed" (Salvifici Doloris, 19). By Jesus' total offering of Himself on the altar of the Cross He revealed the dimension of love in human suffering, making it possible for St. Paul to write to the Christian community at Colossus: I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is the Church (Col 1:24). Commenting on the mystery of redemptive suffering, St. John Paul II wrote: "Christ has opened His suffering to man...Man, discovering through faith the redemptive suffering of Christ, also discovers in it his own sufferings; he rediscovers them through faith, enriched with a new content and meaning" (Salvifici Doloris, 20; cf. Mt 25:35-36).
It is in the midst of our sufferings that the words of St. Paul in regard to praying to God concerning some of his own sufferings are especially poignant. St. Paul wrote that God encouraged him in his suffering by telling His servant: My grace is sufficient for you, for in weakness power reaches perfection (2 Cor 12:9). In is in God's words to Paul that the depth of the mystery of redemptive suffering is disclosed as it becomes clear that suffering has been transformed in Christ to "constitute a special support for the powers of good" (Pope John Paul II, Salvifici Doloris, 27).
5 whereas he was being wounded [pierced] for our rebellions recalls the piercing of Jesus' side by the Roman soldier in the Gospel of John 19:33-34. John testifies in 19:37 that this event fulfills a prophecy in Scripture: and again in another place scripture says: "They will look to the one that they have pierced." He is probably referring to Zechariah 12:10, But over the House of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem I shall pour out a spirit of grace and prayer, and they will look to me. They will mourn for the one whom they have pierced as though for an only child, and weep for him as people weep for a first-born child. However, Isaiah 53:5 also gives us the same image of the pierced Messiah who suffered for the sake of the people.
Isaiah 53:7-9 ~ The Servant's Death
7 Ill-treated and afflicted, he never opened his mouth, like a lamb led to the slaughter-house, like a sheep dumb before its shearers he never opened his mouth. 8 Forcibly, after sentence, he was taken. Which of his contemporaries [generation] was concerned at his having been cut off from the land of the living, at his having been struck dead for his people's rebellion? 9 He was given a grave with the wicked, and his tomb is with the rich, although he had done no violence, had spoken no deceit.
It is the Servant's destiny, according to God's will, to suffer and die for the salvation of the people. In Jesus' Passion He suffered, becoming "a man of sorrows" (53:3). His scourging by the Roman soldiers disfigured His face and body, and His crucifixion as a common criminal would also have caused people to avert their gaze from Him. Those who rejected His claim to messiahship and His claim of being God's Son despised Him, including the Pharisees, scribes, Sadducees, and the chief priests.
7 Ill-treated and
afflicted, he never opened his mouth, like a lamb led to the slaughter-house,
like a sheep dumb before its shearers he never opened his mouth.
Jesus never protested or tried to defend Himself in His trial before the Jewish Sanhedrin or before the Roman governor Pontius Pilate. Referring to this verse, St. Peter wrote: He had done nothing wrong and had spoken no deceit. He was insulted and did not retaliate with insults, when he was suffering he made no threats but put his trust in the upright judge (1 Pt 2:22-23).
The word "house" is not in the Hebrew or Greek text of verse 7. "Like a lamb led to the slaughter" has liturgical significance and recalls the twice daily sacrifice of the Tamid lambs in the Temple worship services (usually translated as "daily sacrifice," or "daily holocaust"). It was the premier sacrifice around which the entire sacrificial system revolved (Num 28-29). It was described as a single sacrifice in a morning and afternoon (their evening is our afternoon) liturgical worship service (Ex 29:38-42). The lives of the two lambs, considered to be a single sacrifice, were offered on God's altar in thanksgiving for the atonement of the community's sins and for the sanctification of the covenant people, and, as the 1st century AD Jewish theologian Philo of Alexandria wrote, also for the salvation of the whole world: "Accordingly, it is commanded that every day the priests should offer up two lambs, one at the dawn of the day, and the other in the evening; each of them being a sacrifice of thanksgiving; the one for the kindnesses which have been bestowed during the day, and the other for the mercies which have been vouchsafed in the night, which God is incessantly and uninterruptedly pouring upon the race of men" (The Works of Philo, Special Laws, I.35 ; emphasis added).
Question: How is this imagery of the Servant being offered as a
sin sacrifice the way St. John identified Jesus in John 1:29 and 36?
Answer: To the crowd of Jews listening to St. John's preaching, he identified Jesus by saying, "Look, there is the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world."
In John 1:29 and 36, St. John was referring to Jesus as the living embodiment of the daily Tamid sacrifice. He cannot be referring to the Passover sacrifice that happened only once a year in the offering of either lambs or goat kids (Ex 12:5). John was speaking in Aramaic, the common tongue of the Jews in the 1st century AD. In Aramaic the word talya' means both lamb and servant. It is possible that St. John spoke this word intentionally to connect Jesus to the Servant prophecy in Isaiah 53:4 and 7.
8 Forcibly, after
sentence, he was taken. Which of his contemporaries [generation] was concerned
at his having been cut off from the land of the living, at his having been
struck dead for his people's rebellion?
The Servant will be tried and sentenced with no one standing up for his defense; and he will die as a sin offering for the people's rebellion. This prophecy is not fulfilled by the prophet Isaiah, nor is it fulfilled by Israel as a covenant people. God through Isaiah continually condemns the people of Israel/Judah for their sins, so how can Israel be fit to be offered as a sin offering for its own redemption (see 53:10-11)? A sin offering according to the Law had to be unblemished (Lev 1:3, 10; 4:3, 14, 23, 28, 32; Num 28:3 (Tamid); etc.).
9 He was given a grave
with the wicked, and his tomb is with the rich, although he had done no
violence, had spoken no deceit.
The Servant is innocent of all wrong-doing and yet he is condemned to death with the "wicked" and is buried in a tomb of the rich.
Question: How is this passage fulfilled in the death of Jesus? See Mt 27:38 and 57-60.
Answer: He was crucified in the company of criminals, but he was buried in the grave of a rich man, Joseph of Arimathaea.
Isaiah 53:10-12 ~ The Servant's Triumph
10 It was Yahweh's good pleasure to crush him with pain; if he gives his life as a sin offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his life, and through him Yahweh's good pleasure will be done. 11 After the ordeal he has endured, he will see the light and be content. By his knowledge, the upright one, my servant will justify many by taking their guilt on himself. 12 Hence I shall give him a portion with the many, and he will share the booty with the mighty, for having exposed himself to death and for being counted as one of the rebellious, whereas he was bearing the sin of many and interceding for the rebellious.
Question: How was Jesus "counted as one of the rebellious"? See
Mt 27:11, 29, 37; Jn 19:12-21.
Answer: Jesus was "counted as one of the rebellious" in being condemned to death by the Romans for treason against Caesar on the charge that He claimed to be the "king of the Jews."
Because the Servant was obedient to the divine will of God by suffering
for the sins of others, he will be rewarded by the Lord. He will know those
who belong to his family (his "offspring") and he, though he died, will be
blessed with a "long life."
Question: Who are Jesus' "descendants" what is the possible symbolic meaning of the reference to being blessed with a "long life"?
Answer: Jesus' "descendants" are the children born to the universal Church through the Sacrament of Christian baptism. The "long life" Jesus enjoys is the triumph of the resurrection through which God's "good pleasure will be done."
11 After the ordeal he has endured, he will see the light and be content. By his knowledge, the upright one, my servant will justify many by taking their guilt on himself. 12 Hence I shall give him a portion with the many, and he will share the booty with the mighty, for having exposed himself to death and for being counted as one of the rebellious, whereas he was bearing the sin of many and interceding for the rebellious.
Because of the Servant's obedience to the will of God, he will be glorified ("see the light") and he will be content in his triumph. Paul wrote that Jesus justified the sins of all mankind in the past and in the present when he wrote: ...and all are by the free gift of his grace through being set free in Christ Jesus. God appointed him as a sacrifice for reconciliation through faith by the shedding of his blood, and so showed his justices, first for the past when sins went unpunished because he held his hand; and now again for the present age, to how he is just and justifies everyone who had faith in Jesus (Rom 3:25-26). And St. Peter may have been thinking of this passage in Isaiah when he wrote: He was bearing our sins in his own body on the cross, so that we might die to our sins and live for uprightness; through his bruises you have been healed (1 Pt 2:24-25).
Question: How is this prophecy of the Servant dying vicariously
for the sins of the people according to the will of God fulfilled in the death
of Jesus Christ? See Mk 10:45; Jn 4:34;
Jn 10:17; 12:27; 14:31;
Rom 3:24-26; Heb 9:26;
1 Pt 2:21-25; 3:18a;
1 Jn 2:2; 3:5.
|Isaiah 52:13-53:12||Description of the Servant||Fulfillment in Jesus Christ|
|52:13||He is raised, lifted up, exalted||God exalted Jesus in His Resurrection and Ascension and will exalt Him fully at the Second Coming (Phil 2:9-11)|
|52:14||His appearance is disfigured||Jesus was scourged and beaten at His trials before the Sanhedrin and Pilate (Mt 26:67)|
|52:15||He will sprinkle many nations||Sprinkling of His blood brings forgiveness (1 Pt 1:2); nations will come into His kingdom in the Sacrament of Baptism (Mt 28:19)|
|53:4-6||He suffered for our sins by God's command||Jesus died for our sins according to God's plan (1 Cor 15:3)|
|53:7||Silent before his oppressors||Jesus was silent before His accusers at His trial (Mk 14:60-61)|
|53:8||He is killed for the sins of his people||Jesus died for the sins of Israel and all mankind (2 Cor 5:14-15)|
|53:9||He is assigned a grave with the wicked and a tomb with the rich but he did no wrong||Jesus was crucified between 2 criminals, and He was buried in a rich man's tomb (Mk 15:27-28, 43-46)|
|53:10||It was God's will to crush him; he will see his offspring||It was God's plan that Jesus should be an offering for sin (Rom 5:9; 2 Cor 5:21)|
|53:12||He will receive a great reward because he gave up his life according to God's plan||Jesus received a great reward because He poured out His life on the altar of the cross (Phil 2:9-11; Heb 1:3-4)|
See the complete list of the four Servant Songs and Jesus' fulfillment of the mission of the Servant of God in each song in the #2 handout for this lesson.
Chapter 54: Yahweh Forgives His People and Takes Them Back
Isaiah 54:1-10 ~ Yahweh Takes Back His Wife
1 Shout for joy, barren one who has borne no children! Break into cries and shouts of joy, you who were never in labor! For the children of the forsaken one are more in number than the children of the wedded wife, says Yahweh. 2 Widen the space of your tent, extend the curtains of your home, do not hold back! Lengthen your ropes, make your tent-pegs firm, 3 for you will burst out [parats] to right and to left, your race will dispossess the nations and repopulate deserted [shamam] towns. 4Do not fear, you will not be put to shame again, for you will forget the shame of your youth and no longer remember the dishonor of your widowhood. 5 For your Creator is your husband, Yahweh Sabaoth is his name, the Holy One of Israel is your redeemer [ga'al], he is called God of the whole world. 6 Yes, Yahweh has called you back like a forsaken, grief-stricken wife, like the repudiated wife of his youth, says your God. 7 I did forsake you for a brief moment, but in great compassion I shall take you back. 8 In a flood of anger, for a moment I hid my face from you. But in everlasting love [hesed] I have taken pity on you, says Yahweh, your redeemer. 9 For me it will be as in the days of Noah when I swore that Noah's waters should never flood the world again. So now I swear never to be angry with you and never to rebuke you again. 10 For the mountains may go away and the hills may totter, but my faithful love [hesed] will never leave you, my covenant of peace will never totter, says Yahweh who takes pity on you. [...] = IBHE, vol. IV, page 1712.
Question: Which of the reoccurring symbolic images
of the prophets does Isaiah use in this passage? It is imagery he has used in
several other passages in his book. See the chart of the Symbolic Images of the
Old Testament Prophets in handout 3 for Lesson 1.
Answer: He again uses the image of covenant marriage.
Question: Isaiah uses what two examples to contrast the history of Jerusalem's past ordeals and separation from God, her divine spouse, with her coming blessings? See Biblical examples of the imagery in 1 Sam 2:5; Ps 113:9 and also in Hos 1:16-17 for the second example.
The covenant people, in separating themselves from Yahweh through their sins, have become spiritually barren. God punished His wayward Bride by forsaking their covenant relationship and sending Israel into exile. But Israel's barren condition is going to change when God, the divine spouse, redeems Israel as His Bride and He will bless, as a sign of her redemption, with many children "more than they had when Israel was wedded to Yahweh (verse 1).
St. Paul cited Isaiah 54:1 in Galatians 4:27 when he compared those who tried to make themselves right with God by keeping the Law of Moses with those who placed their faith in Jesus Christ. He did this by comparing Jerusalem in her present state in his time under Roman rule with the promised heavenly Jerusalem: ... for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and that is the one that is our mother; as Scripture says: "Shout for joy, you barren woman who has borne no children! Break into shouts of joy, you who were never in labor. For the sons of the forsaken one are more in number than the sons of the wedded wife (Gal 4:25b-27). Paul says the "sons" or children of the forsaken one (Jesus in His Passion) are Christians who belong to Jesus Christ who are the numerous children God promised in the Isaiah passage.
Lengthen your ropes, make your tent-pegs firm, 3 for you will burst out [parats] to right and
to left, your race will dispossess the nations and repopulate deserted [shamam]
Isaiah reveals that God is doing a new work among His people, and He encourages Israel to "make room" for all those who will return and their children in verses 2-3. The words you will "burst out" or "spread out," (in Hebrew parats) "to the right and to the left" recalls the promise God made to Jacob in Genesis 28:14 that used the same Hebrew word and promised the vast expanse of the descendants of Jacob across the earth.
In 54:4-10 God reveals His plan concerning the rebirth of
Question: Isaiah presents what three aspects of God's plan?
4 Do not fear,
you will not be put to shame again, for you will forget the shame of your youth
and no longer remember the dishonor of your widowhood.
In 54:4 Isaiah encourages the people not to be afraid of their coming shame and disgrace. He introduces two themes that will continue to be developed: the shame of Israel's "youth" and the shame of Israel's "widowhood" during the exile.
5 For your
Creator is your husband, Yahweh Sabaoth is his name, the Holy One of Israel is
your redeemer [ga'al], he is called God of the whole world.
Yahweh, the Holy One of Israel, the Creator of the whole world, is Israel's "husband." The concept of redemption in this passage uses the Hebrew word ga'al that denotes "buying back" or "taking back." Yahweh is taking back the disloyal wife He has disciplined. He had married her when she was "young", and she had known an experience like widowhood during the time of her exile, but how the time for reconciliation was coming (see Ez chapter 16 for a lengthy description of Yahweh's courtship and marriage to Israel in her "youth" and her fall into harlotry and disgrace).
7 I did forsake
you for a brief moment, but in great compassion I shall take you back. 8 In a flood of anger, for a moment I hid my
face from you. But in everlasting love [hesed] I have taken pity on you, says
Yahweh, your redeemer.
Isaiah describes Yahweh's judgment on Israel as a brief "disciplinary abandonment." In a "flood of anger" God had turned His face away from His people, but only "for a moment." The "moment" is in contrast to the long time that He had endured their sins. Now He will gather them to Himself "in great compassion" and in "everlasting love" [hesed]. The Hebrew word hesed is used over a hundred times in the Old Testament. It is often translated as "compassion," or "kindness," or "tenderness," but always in the context of covenant "that which comes from covenant love and commitment.
God's love is everlasting (Is 5:8). His steadfast love will never depart from those who belong to Him in the bond of covenant (Is 54:10). It is as Yahweh will assure the covenant people through His prophet Jeremiah: I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you (Jer 31:3). But the New Testament goes even farther in proclaiming that "God is love" (1 Jn 4:8, 16).
9 For me it will
be as in the days of Noah when I swore that Noah's waters should never flood
the world again. So now I swear never to be angry with you and never to rebuke
you again. 10 For the mountains
may go away and the hills may totter, but my faithful love [hesed] will never
leave you, my covenant of peace [shalom] will never totter, says Yahweh who
takes pity on you.
Isaiah now uses the covenant with Noah after the Great Flood Judgment in Genesis 9:8-17 to emphasize the magnitude of God's promise of redemption (Is 54:9).
Question: What is the promise that Isaiah says God makes to His covenant people?
Answer: Just as God promised Noah that He would never again destroy the earth with a great flood, He promises never again to rebuke His people by sending them into exile.
Isaiah then relates the promise to nature by the vow that even if the mountains and hills went away, His faithful-covenant-love and His "covenant of peace" [shalom] will never be taken from His people. The expression "covenant of peace" denotes a covenant between God and His people in which the chief feature would be lasting peace. This is fulfilled in the New Covenant in Christ Jesus, the "prince of peace."
Isaiah 54:11-17 ~ Rebuilding the New Jerusalem
11 Unhappy creature, storm-tossed, unpitied, look, I shall lay your stones on agates and your foundations on sapphires. 12 I shall make your battlements rubies, your gateways firestone and your entire wall precious stones. 13 All your children will be taught by Yahweh and great will be your children's prosperity. 14 In saving justice you will be made firm, free from oppression: you will have nothing to fear; free from terror: it will not approach you. 15 Should anyone attack you, that will not be my doing, and whoever does attack you, for your sake will fall. 16 I created the smith who blows on the charcoal-fire to produce a weapon for his use; I also created the destroyer to ruin it. 17 No weapon forged against you will succeed. Any voice raise against you in court you will refute. Such is the lot of the servants of Yahweh, the saving justice I assure them, declares Yahweh.
Finally Isaiah speaks of the rebirth of the city of Jerusalem. He focuses on two aspects of the rebuilding:
In verses 13-17 Isaiah describes the people who will inhabit the New Jerusalem "their children will be disciples of the Lord God (Is 54:13). In verse 17 he promises that the inhabitants of the New Jerusalem will never again be challenged by enemies either on the battle field or "in court," and he ends this passage with the promise that this is the heritage of the servants of Yahweh who will live in the grace of His "saving justice."
The description of the rebuilt city of Jerusalem is not the city rebuilt after the return from exile. Rather it is like the city St. John saw in the Book of Revelation 21:18-21 whose foundations and walls are built with precious stones and those who inhabit the city are the righteous who have been redeemed by the blood of the Christ. Isaiah has probably been given a vision of the new Jerusalem at the end of the age that St. John also saw, and the Jerusalem Isaiah has described is our promised inheritance at the end of time: The wall was built of diamond, and the city of pure gold, like clear glass. The foundations of the city wall were faced with all kinds of precious stone: the first with diamond, the second lapis lazuli, the third turquoise, the fourth crystal, the fifth agate, the sixth ruby, the seventh gold quartz, the eighth malachite, the ninth topaz, the tenth emerald, the eleventh sapphire, and the twelfth amethyst. The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate being made of a single pearl, and the main street of the city was pure gold, transparent as glass ... and the city did not need the sun or the moon for light, since it was lit by the radiant glory of God, and the Lamb was a lighted torch for it (Rev 21:18-23).
For reflection or group discussion:
Review the chart of the Servant Song prophecies and discuss how they are fulfilled in the birth, life and mission, and death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.
Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2016 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.
Is 52:13-53:12 (CCC 713);
53:1 (CCC 591);
53:4-6 (CCC 1505);
53:4 (CCC 517, 1505);
53:7-8 (CCC 601);
53:7 (CCC 608);
53:8 (CCC 627);
53:10-11 (CCC 440, 615);
53:10 (CCC 623);
53:11-12 (CCC 601);
53:11 (CCC 64, 579, 601, 623, 1502);
53:12 (CCC 536, 608)
Is 54 (CCC 1611); 54:8 (CCC 220); 54:10 (CCC 220)