Either Yeshua is both God with us and the promised King Messiah of Israel, or He is a liar and a heretic. You choose. The truth will not be changed by your decision, but you could be.
John 8:31-59 is thematically similar to Galatians 4, where Rav Shaul illuminates and differentiates between Isaac the son of promise born of faith and Ishmael the illegitimate son born of disbelief. Note that both sons are sons of Avraham. Yeshua is not asserting that Jews are illegitimate sons but that human beings who choose to reject God’s redemptive plan are sons and daughters of Satan until such a time as they repent and receive the King Messiah and His vicarious sacrifice and resurrected life.
Keep in mind that many of those listening were Jewish believers in Yeshua (v.30) and that those who later violently oppose Him are specifically qualified as a group who “want to kill” Yeshua, by definition, a subset of the whole. Note that they do not succeed in stoning Yeshua because He was able to slip away in the crowd. Meaning that a large portion of the crowd of Jewish worshippers gathered in the court of the women were in favor of Yeshua and helped Him elude capture.
31 Therefore, Yeshua[H] (YHVH Saves, Joshua, Jesus) said (yomer[H], lego[G]) to those Judeans, Jews, (Ha-Yehudiym[H]) who had believed, were persuaded by, put their trust (hama’amiyniym[H], pisteuo[G]) in Him, “If you continue, remain, abide (meno[G]) in the word, essence, substance (vid’variy[H], ho logos[G]) of Me, truly, in truth (be’emet[H], alethos[G]) you are disciples (mathetes[G]) of Mine (talmiydiym atem liy[H]); 32 and you will know intimately (viyda’tem[H], ginosko[G]) the truth (et ha-emet[H], ho aletheia[G]), and the truth (ha-emet[H], ho aletheia[G]) will make, engrave, imprint you with freedom, [alt. let you go, set you free] (totziyachem l’cheirut[H], eleutheroo[G]).”
“Therefore” refers to the woman caught in adultery, the proclamation of Yeshua concerning His being the light of the world, and the belief of those mentioned in verse 30.
“Those Jews who believed” were made up of Jews from every tribe and every religious sect of first century Jewry, who had come up to Jerusalem for the festival of Sukkot. Therefore, what Yeshua says next is spoken to thousands of observant Jews, including believing Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes, Priests, and common Israelis.
We note that Yeshua was not content with their belief. He had come to set them free from slavery to sin and to give them the tools of discipleship, that is, the means to live an ongoing life of freedom in Him. Seeing their belief and approval of Him and His words, Yeshua did not push His advantage by blowing smoke up their skirts, rather He sought their advantage by challenging the depth of their belief and offering them the means by which they might continue to believe and be truly and eternally set free from sin.
"The truth will set you free" is perhaps the most decontextualized, misapplied, and philosophically misappropriated part verse of the entire New Testament. Those who use this phrase today as a type of all in one "Truth Coach" are in fact proliferating a lie. In order for this phrase to have any true meaning one must first define the truth it’s speaking of. Most modern speakers understand the truth as a collection of facts, or the subjective centre of some religion or philosophy, truth being defined by the individual rather than having its origin outside of the sphere of human intellect and spirituality. In fact the verses in question (John 8:31-32) identify truth as a person, that is, as an attribute of a person, and not just any person, but the King Messiah Yeshua, God with us (Imanu El).
Therefore, in order to understand what is meant by “The Truth” we must read the phrase in context:
“If you continue to remain in My word, essence, substance in truth you are My disciples, followers, students; and you will intimately know the truth, and the truth will imprint you with freedom, set you free.”
Note that there is a prerequisite for the freedom that truth makes possible: “If you continue to remain in My word, essence, substance”. In short, unless one remains in the message and person of Yeshua (the Speaker), one cannot know the truth or the freedom that knowing the truth affords a person.
Note that the second requirement for being set free is to “Intimately know the truth”. In fact, as I’ve said, the Truth is not an it but a Person, and that Person defines truth. Elsewhere Yeshua says, “Aniy Ha-Derekh, v’Ha-Emet, v’Ha-Chayiym, I Am the Way, and the Truth, and the Living, no one can come to the Father (God) except through, Me.”(John 14:6). Therefore, truth, like direction (way), and living, is an attribute of the Messiah, Who is God with us (Imanu El) [prophesied by Isaiah (7:10-16) 700 years before the birth of Yeshua].
Do you want to intimately know the Truth and be truly set free from all that keeps you in bondage? Then remain in the Word and Substance of Yeshua (Jesus), becoming His devout follower, and you will come to know the Truth Himself, and He will set you free.
Notice that this second half of chapter 8 begins with the theme of freedom from bondage. A theme that is ingrained in the Jewish soul from Egypt and up to the Roman occupation and beyond. Yeshua speaks of a freedom that transcends temporal life, to a people who are at the time tacitly enslaved by the Roman Empire.
Yeshua’s challenge to those listening, both believers and unbelievers, is intended to thresh the wheat and sift out the chaff. By the end of this dialogue the belief of some will be strengthened, while the belief of others will grow cold. Yeshua came to make disciples, not converts. We should be careful to emulate Him.
33 They answered Him, “We are Avraham’s (Father of many tribes) descendants and no one has enslaved us (douleuo[G]) at any time (popote[G]); how is it that You say, ‘You will become freeborn (eleutheros[G])’?”
“They answered Him” The nearest subjects are the thousands of observant Jews, including believing Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes, Priests, and common Israelis, who were in the court of woman in the Temple complex. A mixed crowd of those who now believed in Him and those who did not.
בני חורין, (noblemen), that are fallen from their substance, because they are the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob;'' -Mishnah. Bava Kama, c. 8. sect. 6. & Talmud Bavliy Bava Kama, fol. 86. 1. & 91. 1.
“We are Avraham’s descendants (Gen.12; Deut.14:1) and no one has enslaved us at any time…” They did not mean that the Jewish people had never been physically enslaved. After all, freedom from slavery in Egypt is part of our journey as a people, not to mention our time in Babylon and subsequent freedom. What they meant was that those Jewish people who were true worshippers of God had never been made spiritual slaves to other gods (Jer.2:10-14), nor were they, the generation to whom Yeshua spoke, slaves to the Romans.
The Jews of the land of Israel in the first century were under occupation but were not living lives of slavery as they had done in Egypt. The Roman Empire had a history of gleaning slaves from its conquests, thus the reality of one being born into slavery was a concern to all of those living in the Empire. However, those debating with Yeshua were freeborn people, meaning that they were not born into households already bound to indentured servitude or slavery. This is why they are incredulous and ask Yeshua, “How is it that You say, ‘You will become freeborn?”
“Freeborn” (eleutheros[G]) Is an important distinction. Ultimately Yeshua is saying that even the freeborn (eleutheros[G]) of the Roman Empire need to be set free (eleutheroo[G]), and become spiritually freeborn (eleutheros[G]).
34 Yeshua[H] answered them, “Amen[H] [G]Amen[H] [G] (B’emet[H], B’emet[H]), In truth, In truth, It’s certain, it’s certain, I say to you, everyone who commits sin (misses the mark set by God) is the slave (doulos[G]) of sin (hamartia[G]).
“Everyone who commits sin (misses the mark set by God) is the slave of sin.” Yeshua makes it clear that He is talking about spiritual bondage, slavery to sin.
Rav Shaul the Shaliach (Paul the Apostle), writes an exposition on this idea:
“14 For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.
15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! 16 Do you not know that to whatever you yield yourselves as slaves for obedience, you are slaves to what you obey—whether to sin resulting in death, or to obedience resulting in righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching under which you were placed; 18 and after you were set free from sin, you became enslaved to righteousness. 19 I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you yielded your body parts as slaves to uncleanness and lawlessness, leading to more lawlessness, so now yield your body parts as slaves to righteousness, resulting in holiness. 20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free with regard to righteousness. 21 So then, what outcome did you have that you are now ashamed of? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now, having been set free from sin and having become enslaved to God, you have your fruit resulting in holiness. And the outcome is eternal life. 23 For sin’s payment[a] is death, but God’s gracious gift is eternal life in Messiah Yeshua our Lord.” -Romans 6:14-23 TLV
35 Moreover, the slave, bondservant (doulos[G]) does not remain in the house (babayit[H], ho oikia[G]) forever; the son (ha-bein[H], uihos[G]) does remain forever.
This phrasing is qualified by the proceeding verse. Those listening were born into the slavery of sin affected humanity and therefore, in their present state, cannot remain in the house of life. Whereas, the Last Adam (Yeshua) [1 Cor. 15:22-45], the Son of God and therefore Son of the house of creation, being the perfect sinless example of humanity (God with us), is able to set free those who have been enslaved and offer them life everlasting as heirs with Him, sons and daughters of the renewed house of creation ordered by the Creator (YHVH).
With regard to Torah the exception to this idea applies to the slave who willing chooses to become a member of the family and an indentured servant for life (Exodus 21:6). This does not however negate the right of the son of the household to set that slave free. Although, in this case the slave is usually treated as a member of the family.
Our rabbis agree that irrespective of the “forever” clause in Exodus 21:6, that freedom is eventually mandatory according to the Torah law of Jubilee (Lev.25:10).
"one that is bored (through the ear) is obtained by boring (through the ear), and he possesses himself (becomes free) by the year of jubilee, and by the death of his master.''- Yarchi, Iben Ezra, & ben Gershom in Exod. xxi. 6.
"he that has served six years, and will not go out, lo, this is bored, and he serves until the year of jubilee, or until his master dies; and although he leaves a son, he that is bored does not serve the son; which may be learned from the letter of the words, "he shall serve him", not his son, "for ever", until the jubilee: from whence it appears, that he that is bored does not possess himself (or is free) but by the jubilee, and by the death of his master.'' – Maimonides Hilchot Abadim, c. 3. sect. 6, 7.
36 Therefore, if the Son (ha-bein[H], ho uihos[G]) makes you free (eleutheroo[G]), you will in reality, as a point of fact, be truly (be’emet[H], ontos[G]) freeborn (eleutheros[G]).
The Son of God, Yeshua, sets those enslaved to sin free (eleutheroo[G]) by causing them to be born from above (John 3:3-7). Thus, through Him they are freeborn (eleutheros[G]). Not freeborn in the Roman Empire, or at any point in human history within the sin affected world, but transcendently freeborn of God and children of God’s Kingdom, no longer subject to the temporal kingdoms of the sin affected world.
The use of Greek language as it pertains to the idea of freedom is exceptional. The writer of this Gospel shows in the language used that Yeshua is placing the concept of being freeborn (eleutheros) as superior to simply being freed from indentured servitude (doulos). If one is freed (eleuthero) by Yeshua, that one will be truly freeborn (eleutheros).
37 I know (yadatiy[H]) that you are Avraham’s (Father of many tribes) descendants; yet you seek to kill Me, because My word, essence, substance (devariy[H], logos[G]) has not been given space, room, place, occupation, yield (choreo[G]) in you (each individually).
NB: From here on to the end of the chapter Yeshua is specifically speaking to those who “seek to kill” Him, and not to those who have believed (v.30).
Keep in mind that Yeshua is also a descendant of Avraham and the substance of the Creator Who placed faith within Avraham. Therefore, as is the case with His saying “Your Torah”(John 8:17), He is not distancing Himself from Avraham, rather He is exposing the misuse of Avraham’s identity by those who claim connection to Avraham through pride of bloodline rather than through adherence to true faith. This does not discount the value of ethnic bloodline, which remains, given Yeshua’s zeal for the ethnic, religious, chosen people of Israel (Matt. 15:24). Rather, Yeshua is seeking to cleanse and sanctify the people, so that both their bloodline and spirituality might be unified in the freedom of Messiah.
“Yet you seek to kill Me” Cannot refer to those who have believed in Him (v.30), nor to the crowd in general, many of whom were undecided on the Person of Yeshua. Therefore, it is clear that He is now speaking directly to a subgroup of those who do not believe in Him and are seeking a way to put Him to death.
“because My word, essence, substance has not been given space, room, place, occupation, yield in you…” There are those in the crowd who have not believed and therefore have not allowed room within themselves for the Word essence of Yeshua to reside in them. In short, they seek to kill Him because they have refused to listen to Him. It is in our nature as human beings to ignore the contrary opinions of others while devising a rebuttal to their words. Our opponent may be speaking but we are not listening. Thus, we fail to hear another person in the throes of debate making us unable to properly entertain their point of view and measure it to determine its value.
Notice that one of the meanings of the Greek choreo is “yield”. Belief that is born of true faith will yield fruit but disbelief or false belief, even surface approval, does not allow sufficient depth of spiritual soil for the fruit of practical faith to be produced. Another meaning of the Greek choreo is “occupation”. Meaning in this context, “You have not allowed belief to perpetually occupy your life”. Therefore, belief of this sort alone is not sufficient for salvation.
“You believe that God is One. Excellent! Even the false deities, demons, evil spirits believe that—and are terrified.” -Yaakov (James) 2:19 Author’s translation
38 I speak the things which I have seen (horao[G]) from, beside, with, near (para[G]) The (My) Father (Aviy[H], ho Pater[G]); and you also do the things which you heard (akouo[G]) from, beside, with, near (para[G]) the father (ho Pater[G]) you acquired (poieo[G]) [Alt. Heb. Aviychem your (plural) father].”
NB: It’s important to remember that this is not being spoken to all present but specifically to those who are seeking to kill Him (v.37).
Yeshua explains that both He and His opponents are directed by their respective father’s. Yeshua “speaks” of what He has “seen” from being in, with and near the Father God. Whereas His opponents “do” the things which they have “heard” from the father they have acquired. That is to say, they have chosen a father other than God. In this context “speak” refers to the truth of God’s word made manifest based on literal “sight”, an actual true experience of the Person of God, and “do” is a reference to human effort based on hearsay “hearing” from a second-hand source (Satan).
39 They answered and said to Him, “Avraham is our father.” Yeshua[H] replied to them, “If you are Avraham’s children, accomplish the occupation (ho ergon Abraam poieo[G]) of Avraham. [Alt. in the business of Abraham work, make, fashion etc.]
“They” Those who are seeking to kill Yeshua (v.37) while claiming a connection to Avraham as their qualification, are in fact contradicting the faith practice of Avraham. Thus, Yeshua calls them on it. If you’re going to claim the tzadik (righteous) one Avraham as your father, then act righteously as he did. Believe God (accept His Messiah), and it will be credited to you as righteousness.
The rabbis of the Talmud agree with Yeshua’s assertion:
“whoever is merciful to the creature (man), it is evident that he is of the seed of Abraham, our father; but whoever has not mercy on the creature, it is a clear case that he is not of the seed of Abraham our father.'' - Talmud Bavliy Betza, fol. 82. 2.
40 But as it is, you are seeking to kill Me, a man who has told you the objective truth of the matter (ha-emet[H], aletheia[G]), which I heard from the God (ha Elohiym[H], ho Theos[G]); a thing Avraham could not do.
Yeshua heard the truth in the unveiled presence of God the Father as one with the Father and has imparted that same truth to His hearers, fellow descendants of Avraham. Though Avraham heard from God, he was not one with God, nor did he see and hear from God in the fullness of God’s glory. Therefore, Avraham could not reveal the fullness of God’s redemptive plan to his descendants in the way that Yeshua has. Avraham has relationship with God through Yeshua, as one who has had the truth revealed to him, whereas Yeshua being one with the Father, reveals the truth.
“which I heard from the God” Yeshua’s hearing, unlike that of His opponents, is unaffected by disbelief.
41 You are doing, fashioning, accomplishing (poieo[G]) the business, occupation (ergon[G]) of your father (av[H], pater[G]).” They said to Him, “We were not born of illicit sexual intercourse (fig. we are not idolaters); we have one Father (Av[H], Pater[G]): the God (ha-Elohiym[H], ho Theos[G]).”
Yeshua’s opponents (not all present but those who are specifically seeking to kill Him), understand that by making a distinction between God as father, Avraham as a father and yet another father, the father they are obeying, Yeshua is inferring that their claim on Avraham and his faith is a false one and that they are acting on the faith of a false father. Therefore, as one might expect, they take offense and proclaim, “We are not the children of whores (idolaters), we have one Father, Elohiym!” In short, “You’re no better than us, we are sons and daughters of God!” Some may even have been inferring that Yeshua was of illegitimate origin, while they were not.
42 Yeshua[H] said to them, “If the God (ha Elohiym[H], ho Theos[G]) were your Father (Av[H], Pater[G]), you would love (ahavtem[H], agapao[G]) Me dearly, for I come out of the God (ha Elohiym[H], ho Theos[G]) and go forth, not for the purpose of separating (apo[G]) Myself, but that of He Who sent Me (shelachaniy[H], apostello[G]).
Yeshua’s message is simple, “If you were truly sons and daughters of God you would recognise the present manifestation of God standing in front of you and would love Him.”
Note the progression. First they claim Avraham, and Yeshua refutes their claim. Then they claim God, and Yeshua exposes their inadequacy.
“I come out of the God and go forth, not for the purpose of separating Myself, but that of He Who sent Me.” Note the familiar use of the counter separation phrasing. Yeshua is very clear in saying “Neither I nor my purpose is in any way separate from God Who sent Me.” This becomes the pre-emptive counterpoint to the separation of the accuser Satan, who is separated from the beginning (v.44).
43 Why do you not understand (ginosko[G]) what I am saying? Because you are unable (dunamai[G]) to hear, perceive, comprehend (lishmo[H]) My word, essence, substance (et devariy[H], logos[G]).
They neither properly hear nor do they understand because they have wilfully resisted Yeshua and His message and are therefore incapable of comprehending His word, substance, essence. Again, “they” are specifically those who were “seeking to kill Him” (v.37, 40), and not all present (v.30)
44 You are of your father (aviychem[H], ho pater[G]) the Devil (ha-Satan[H], ho Diabolos[G]), and you have in mind (ethelo[G]) to do the lusts (epithumia[G]) of your father (aviychem[H], pater[G]). He was a murderer, human slayer (anthropoktonos[G]) separated (apo[G]) from the beginning (arche[G]), and in the absolute truth (emet[H], aletheia[G]) he does not stand because there is no truth (emet[G]) in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father (ha-av[H], ho pater[G]) of lies.
Note that while Yeshua speaks often of the fact that He has not come as one separate from the will of the Father, here, Satan is described as one who has been separate from the truth of God from the beginning of creation. Therefore, the battle between truth and lie is one of great imbalance. The Creator from Whom Truth comes, created a being that decided to reject the love of God, and His absolute Truth and seek to poison creation. Therefore, the liar is subject to the Truth, in fact his very existence relies on the truth.
We note that lying and murder are intrinsically linked. The enemy of our souls is by nature a liar and a murderer, the father of lies.
The Genesis account explains that Satan deceived Adam and Eve with a lie (Gen. 3:4; 2:17) and that as a result sin and death entered the world. Subsequently the first murder followed when Abel was murdered by Cain. Therefore, the father of lies is also the father of sin, and those that are bound by sin serve him.
“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” -Genesis 3:15 (ESV)
Thus, Yeshua’s opponents prove themselves children of Satan by their accusations aimed at Yeshua and their denial of the Truth in Him. A liar will always call the truth a lie.
45 But because I speak (dab’riy[H]) absolute truth (ha-emet[H], aletheia[G]), you do not believe, trust (ta’amiynu[H], pisteuo[G]) Me. 46 Which one of you convicts Me of sin? If I speak with absolute truth (emet[H], aletheia[G]), why do you not believe, trust (pisteuo[G]) Me?
Yeshua’s opponents had been trying and failing to trap Him in a sin from the moment they first began to hate Him. The phrase “why do you not believe Me…” further emphasises the fact that He is speaking specifically to that subgroup who have not believed, and want to kill Him.
47 He who is of the God (ha-Elohiym[H], ho Theos[G]) hears that which is spoken of the God (ha-Elohiym[H], ho Theos[G]); for this reason you do not hear, because you are not of the God (ha-Elohiym[H], ho Theos[G]).”
Here, He is clearly speaking to those who do not believe, and not to all present, many of whom have already believed.
48 The Judean Religious leaders (Ha-Yehudiym[H], Ioudaios[G]]) answered and said to Him, “Do we not say rightly that You are a Shomroniy[H] (Samaritan) and have a demon, evil spirit, false divinity (sheid[H], daimonion[G])?” 49 Yeshua answered, “I do not have a demon, evil spirit, false divinity (sheid[H], daimonion[G]); but I honour, esteem, revere (kabeid[H], timao[G]) My Father (Aviy[H]), and you dishonour, insult (atimazo[G]) Me.
I have translated Ioudaios as Judean Religious leaders here because the context shows clearly that only those who opposed Yeshua are speaking.
“Do we not say rightly that You are a Shomroniy[H] (Samaritan) and have a demon, evil spirit, false divinity?” This accusation explicitly vocalizes the tacit accusation of illegitimacy inferred in verse 41.
“Yeshua answered, “I do not have a demon, evil spirit, false divinity; but I honour, esteem, revere My Father, and you dishonour, insult Me.” Put simply, “By dishonouring Me you dishonour the God Whom you claim as your Father.”
Elsewhere when accused of having an evil spirit Yeshua warns His accusers that if they determine to continue to believe this of Yeshua that they will have no hope of salvation (Mark 3:23; Luke 12:10).
50 But I do not seek (zeteo[G]) My glory, judgement, view, opinion (kevodiy[H], doxa[G]); there is One who seeks and separates, selects, chooses (krino[G]).
We note that again a correlation can be made between glory and judgement. Yeshua submits His glory and judgement to the One to Whom it belongs, God the Father.
51 “Amen[H] [G]Amen[H] [G] (B’emet[H], B’emet[H]), In truth, In truth, It’s certain, it’s certain, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word, speech, essence, substance (devariy[H], logos[G]) that one will never see, attend to, remain in (tereo[G]) the death of the body (mavet[H], thanatos[G]).”
Further illuminating the practical outworking of the freedom He has previously spoken of, Yeshua explains that through intimacy with God in Him a person can be free from slavery to sin and death and instead will not remain or abide in death. Elsewhere Yeshua explains this in another way saying:
“‘I am the resurrection and the living. The one who believes in Me will live, even though that one dies;” -Yochanan (John) 11:25
“And as it is appointed unto human beings once to die, and then the judgment:” -Hebrews 9:27
The key here is that the one who keeps the message of Messiah Yeshua will not “remain” in the death that results from temporal life in the sin affected world.
52 The Judean Religious leaders (Ha-Yehudiym[H], Ioudaios[G]) said to Him, “Now we know that You have a demon, evil spirit, false divinity (sheid[H], daimonion[G]). Avraham died, and the prophets also; and You say, ‘If anyone keeps My word, speech, essence, substance (logos[G]), that one will not taste (geuomai[G]) of the death of the body (meit[H], thanatos[G]) into the unbroken age (aion[G]).’
This is the ancient equivalent of “You’re a total psycho, Abraham and the prophets died years ago, which proves that what you’re saying about your words having the ability to give a person life over death is a lot of garbage!”
53 Not in the least are You greater (ha’gadol[H]) than our father Avraham, who died? The prophets (han’viyiym[H]) died too; who are You making Yourself out to be?”
Yeshua’s opponents accuse Him of delusions of grandeur. The height of irony. Added to this is the interesting fact that the Samaritan woman asked something similar when she challenged Yeshua’s authority with the rhetorical question “Are you greater than our father Jacob?” (John 4:12).
It’s clear to we Messiah following Jews that those who challenged Him with these words did not represent the whole. One of our ancient commentators writes:
""Behold my servant shall deal prudently", this is the King Messiah; "he shall be exalted" above Abraham, as it is written, (Gen.14:22) "and extolled" above Moses, as it is written, (Num.11:12) and he shall be higher than the ministering angels, as it is written, (Eze.1:26) for he shall be גדול מן אבות, "greater than the fathers".'' - Tachuma apud Huls. p. 321
54 Yeshua answered, “If I glorify, extol, honour, prefer (chabeid[H], doxazo) Myself, My glory, judgement, view, opinion (k’vodiy[H], doxa[G]) is nothing; it is My Father (Aviy[H], Pater[G]) Who glorifies, extols, honours, prefers (chabeid[H], doxazo[G]) Me, of Whom you say, ‘He is our God (Eloheiynu[H], Theos[G])’;
Yeshua responds, “I’m not making Myself out to be anything, to the contrary, it’s My Father, Who honours Me, the same Father Whom you claim as your God.”
“For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.” -2 Corinthians 10:18 (ESV)
55 and you have not come to know (y’datem[H], ginosko[G]) Him, but I see, perceive (eido[G]) Him; and if I say that I do not see, perceive (eido[G]) Him, I will be a liar like you, but I do see, perceive (eido[G]) Him and keep, guard, carefully attend to (tereo[G]) His word (d’varo[H], logos[G]).
The Greek text here is important. Yeshua explains that His opponents have not come to know (ginsoko) Him, and that Yeshua sees (eido) God. Note the present continuous tense of the text, not that Yeshua has seen God but that He continues to exist in and see God. Therefore, even if He wanted to acquiesce to the incredulity of His opponents He could not because being the very definition of Truth He is unable to lie and say that He is someone else.
Notice that Yeshua “guards carefully and attends to God’s word (davar[H], logos[G]). Yeshua is the Word (John 1). Therefore, He is instructing those who believe to follow His example (v. 31-32).
56 Your father Avraham rejoiced exceedingly (sas[H], agalliao[G]) to see perceive (eido[G]) My day (yomiy[H]), and he saw (eido[G]) it and was glad, hailed it, thrived in it (yis’mach[H], chairo[G]).”
In the order (Seder) of Simchat Torah (Rejoicing in the Torah) it is written:
“Abraham rejoiced with the rejoicing of the law, he that cometh shall come, the branch with the joy of the law; Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joshua, Samuel, David, Solomon, rejoiced with the joy of the law; he that cometh shall come, the branch with the joy of the law.'' -Seder Tephillot, fol. 309. 1. Ed. Basil.
Yeshua is quite literally saying that Avraham saw Yeshua and His day (time) [past tense]. Moses also knew the Messiah, which is the reason for his giving up life in Pharaoh’s palace in order to live among his Jewish people (Heb. 11:26).
NB: First century Jewish tradition (Testament of Abraham) records a story of Avraham being taken by the Arch Angel Michael on a tour of the heavens and the inhabited world, the idea being that on this tour he saw the coming judgement and the mercy and grace of God made manifest. However, it does not specify the revelation of the Messiah and is therefore unlikely to apply to the present text in any meaningful way.
57 Therefore, the Judean Religious leaders (Ha-Yehudiym[H], Ioudaios[G]) said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Avraham?”
They focused on the wrong subject. They were still fixated on how Yeshua measured up against Avraham when they should have considered how Yeshua might have been revealed in the faith of Avraham. It was not that Yeshua had seen Avraham that was important, rather it was that Avraham had seen Yeshua. God is the focus of our prayer, not the vehicle for our desires. Clear sight begets right conclusions and right conclusions beget clear sight.
The reference to the age of fifty years has significance in ancient Judaism. Pirke Abot, c. 5. sect. 21. Says that at the age of fifty a Jewish man becomes fit to give counsel (as an elder of the community). This is said to be why the Levites were dismissed from service at that age.
A Jewish man could not be chosen as a Meturgeman (interpreter) in a kehilah (congregation), until he reached fifty years of age. (Talmud Bavliy Chagigah, fol. 14. 1. Yuchasin, fol. 44. 2.)
If a Jewish man died before fifty years of age it was considered a death of “cutting off”, inferring a curse for a sinful life of disobedience to the Torah. (T. Hieros. Biccurim, fol. 64. 3. Talmud Bavliy Moed Katon, fol. 28. 1. Macsecheth Semachot, c. 3. sect. 9.)
58 Yeshua[H] said to them, “Amen[H] [G]Amen[H] [G] (B’emet[H], B’emet[H]), In truth, In truth, It’s certain, it’s certain, I say to you, before Avraham was born, I am, exist (Aniy[H], ego eimi[G]).”
Any fool who says that Yeshua never claimed to be God (with us) need look no further than this verse to see that Yeshua claimed to pre-exist Abraham as the great I AM. This is quite literally the meaning of verse 58.
“And God said unto Moses, I Am That I Am: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I Am hath sent me unto you.” -Exodus 3:14 KJV
59 Therefore they picked up stones to drop on Him, but Yeshua[H] hid Himself and went out of the temple (hieron[G], hamikdash[H]).
Believing Yeshua to have committed the gravest of blasphemies his opponents (not the majority of the crowd but the few who were already seeking a reason to kill Him) picked up heavy stones to drop on Him. They did this contrary to the sanctity of the Temple precinct in the court of the women, and contrary to the Torah instruction concerning the Sabbaths of God (although one commentator claims that the Torah allows for stoning on the Sabbath under exceptional circumstances. T. Hieros. Yom Tob, fol. 63. 2. ). But, Yeshua’s time had not come and Yeshua hid Himself in the crowd and made His way safely out of the Temple complex. It is highly likely that the crowd aided His escape, given that many believed and that those who were unsure did not consider Him worthy of stoning.
At this juncture the reader of the New Testament is faced once more with a major decision. Is Yeshua Who He says He is, that being God with us, or is He a blasphemer and heretic to be completely rejected? These are the only two choices. You may not call Him both a good teacher and a heretic, that is a contradiction. You may not call Him a devout Jew and a blasphemer, that would be a contradiction. According to the prophet Isaiah you may not call Him the Messiah and at the same time say that He is not God with us (Imanu El), that would be a contradiction. Either Yeshua is both God with us and the promised King Messiah of Israel, or He is a liar and a heretic. You choose. The truth will not be changed by your decision, but you could be.
Copyright 2020 Yaakov Brown
"At that time they shall declare to the Messiah the troubles of Israel in captivity, and the wicked which are among them, that do not mind to know the Lord; he shall lift up his voice, and weep over the wicked among them; as it is said, ‘he was wounded for our transgressions’.'' - Zohar in Exod. fol. 85. 2.
This chapter continues the prophet’s illumination of the Servant of God Whom he introduces afresh in Isaiah 52:13. Thus, as explained in my previous commentary on that chapter, the entirety of this portion from 52:13-53:12 is one cohesive prophetic message within the meta-narrative of the scroll of Isaiah.
I also explained in the previous commentary on chapter 52, that the modern Jewish and Liberal Christian theological assertion that the Servant is representative of Israel the people is untenable when weighed against the plain meaning of the text and the relevant historical and Biblical evidence to the contrary. While I acknowledge that The Servant is intrinsically connected to Israel and a representative of the people of Israel (a Jew, born of her), He cannot be both Israel (the ethnic/religious people) and the one Who is “struck, stricken” for the sake of Israel’s transgressions, at the same time (53:8). For this and many other reasons which will become clear as we follow the plain meaning of the text of Isaiah 53 to its logical goal, it is impossible to conclude, as the majority of our modern Rabbis have, that this portion of Isaiah applies to the people of Israel.
The Suffering Servant Prophesied and Fulfilled
This portion of Isaiah’s scroll (52:13-53:12) has 5 distinct sections that act together fluidly in order to provide a clear and concise prophetic picture of the Servant of HaShem.
The text speaks of an individual Who offers Himself as a substitutionary sacrifice for the atoning of Israel’s sins and subsequently, for the atoning of the sins of all who will accept God’s redemptive gift.
Isa 53:1 Miy Who he’emiyn has believed (found faith in) lishmoateinu the message which we have heard? And to whom has the arm of HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) been revealed?
The prophet himself cannot be the sole speaker of these words (his prophesying of them not withstanding), which are spoken by a group, thus, “our message”. The reference to this passage in Rav Shaul’s (Paul’s) letter to the Roman believers appears to apply the “our” of Isaiah 53:1 to the remnant among Israel who had believed. Thus, in one sense Rav Shaul is implying that Israel’s faithful were saying, “Lord, who has believed our message?” While this might include the prophets (Isaiah not withstanding), it doesn’t appear to refer to them alone.
“But they did not all hearken to the glad tidings. For Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed our message?’” -Romans 10:16
The better translation of the phrase “Who has believed our message?” is in fact, “Who has believed the message we have heard?”
Therefore, message itself is the cumulative testimony of the forebears and prophets of Israel which had been imparted to Israel from her inception, prophetically speaking of the coming of the Deliverer appointed to redeem and completely save Israel from her sins. Thus, the first verse of Isaiah 53 is spoken by those among Israel’s remnant at the time of the Babylonian captivity and from that point (in a prophetic sense) throughout Israel’s future existence until the return of the Messiah (Servant).
Iben Ezra attributes this verse to the nations, however, due to the fact that according to Isaiah 52:15 the nations receive with faith the good news of things which they had not heard before; the present verse cannot apply to them. On the other hand Israel is mourning the fact that she had failed to put her faith in the good news which she had been hearing through her prophets from time immemorial.
Thus, having concluded that it is Israel who is speaking, it makes sense that she speaks from a position of incredulity with regard to her failure to believe. The remnant of Israel (ethnic/religious) speaks to both herself and the nations saying, “And to whom has the arm of HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) been revealed?” We know from Isaiah 52:10 that the Arm of HaShem has been made bare “in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.”
Therefore, in one sense Israel’s confession of her own disbelief makes it possible for her to become the light to the nations she was always meant to be through the redeeming work of the Servant Messiah Who has been sent to take upon Himself all her transgressions, and indeed, the transgressions of all who would receive Him. So it is that from the beginning of Isaiah 53 there is a clear distinction being made between Israel (ethnic/religious/corporate) and the Servant Redeemer of Israel (a unique individual, albeit a Jew [Israelite]). This, as we have seen in my commentary on Isaiah 52, and as we will yet see in the present commentary, is the view most common to our ancient Rabbis and commentators.
“The arm of the Lord” is a figure for the strength and wisdom of HaShem made manifest in His redemptive acts throughout history. This strength is of course yet another figure for the work of the Servant King Messiah. Therefore, it’s spoken of here to the people of Israel 700 years before the birth of the Servant, as an allusion to the redemptive work of the Servant as described in the subsequent verses.
Isa 53:2 Vaya’al For he grew up kayoneik like a sapling (a young plant) lefanayv before his face, vechashoresh and as a root mei-eretz tziyah from dry ground; he had no toar form ve’lo and no hadar splendour, honour, majesty that we should look at him, and no mareh spectacular appearance venechmedeihu that we should desire, take pleasure in, delight in him.
The humble beginnings of the Servant are described here. He is said to have no royal splendour about His visage. This is important because almost all of Israel was looking only for a triumphant King Messiah in the line of David (Israel was not wrong in this, just lacking a full understanding of the greater work of the coming Messiah). Therefore, she did not expect a humble seemingly unroyal Messiah.
The Hebrew “yoneik” refers to a plant that has just burst through the soil. A vulnerable young suckling. The Hebrew “sheresh” (from sharash) refers to a root and thus connects the present verse to Isaiah 11:1 where the prophet says:
“And then will come out a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a green branch misharashayhu from his root will bear fruit.”
Note that the same root “sharash” is used here to describe the “root” that comes from Jesse. This is an allusion to the fact that the Messiah will be born of the line of David, and thus, will be the King Messiah Who reigns on the throne of David. Therefore, Isaiah 53:2 connects the Kingly nature of the Messiah in juxtaposition against the humble lack of royal visage of the Servant. In a beautiful irony of practice the Servant, although He is royalty, choses to come without pomp or ceremony, royal clothing or position. In fact, such will be the lowliness of his station that His people will not recognise Him as being special or honourable: nor will they desire Him to rule over them.
“And it has come to pass in that day that the shoresh root of Jesse will stand to be a sign, banner, miracle for the peoples. The nations will seek for Him, and His resting place will be glory.” -Isaiah 11:10
There can be little doubt that the King Messiah (Who is to reign on David’s throne re: Jesse) of the early part of Isaiah’s scroll is also the Servant of the latter part of Isaiah’s scroll.
“mei-eretz tziyah” (from earth that is dry), can be understood in multiple ways. The condition of Israel in the first century CE at the time when Messiah Yeshua was born into this world, was truly dry in both a physical and spiritual sense. God had not spoken through a prophet to Israel for approximately 400 years prior to the birth of Yochanan (John). In addition to this Israel had been under Roman occupation for some time and prior to that had suffered under the oppression of Antiochus Epiphanes (Syrophoenician) among others. Under Roman occupation the illegitimate king Herod had usurped the throne of Judah, which when added to the rarity of the “Bat Kol” (Audible voice of the Holy Spirit: lit. daughters voice), the lack of true prophetic voices and the political subjugation of the Jewish people, made for a truly dry land from which the Servant would come forth.
“Eretz Tziyah” (Dry/Parched ground) is also literally the meaning of the proper noun Tziyon (Parched land). Thus, quite literally, the Servant will be born of Zion, of a daughter of Zion, of the tribe of Judah, in the line of David. Furthermore, the Servant comes to offer living waters (John 4:14) that will saturate refresh and rejuvenate the dry land.
Isa 53:3 Nivzeh He was despised (held in contempt) vachadal and rejected by iyshiym men (human beings), iysh a man machovot of sorrows (afflictions) vidua and a deep knowing (acquainted) concerning sickness, weakness, affliction, grief; uchemasteir and as one from whom people hide their paniym faces nivzeh He was despised (held in contempt), ve’lo and we did not chashavnuhu esteem him.
It’s clear that the afflictions suffered by the Servant are both physical and spiritual. There are of course no words to truly describe the weight of the affliction suffered for the sins of humanity.
The opening word “Nivzeh” (despised, held in contempt), links the Servant to the Messianic prophecy of Isaiah 49:7:
“Thus says the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel, and his Holy One, to him whom man despises (holds in contempt), to him whom the nation abhors, to a servant of rulers: Kings shall see and arise; princes, and they shall worship; because of Adonai that is faithful, even the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.”
Early rabbinic literature recognizes that part of the Messiah’s ministry includes suffering:
“The Messiah—what is his name? …The Rabbis say, ‘the Leprous one’: Those of the house of Rabbi say, ‘the sick one’, as it is said, ‘surely he has borne our sickness.’” -Sanhedrin 98b, Babylonian Talmud
Some of our ancient Rabbis struggled to understand the divergent elements of Isaiah 52:13-53:12. As a result the two Messiah theory developed. Mashiach Ben Yosef, the suffering Messiah (Isaiah 50:5-7 & 53). Mashiach Ben David, the triumphant King Messiah who subdues the nations and establishes his Messianic kingdom (Psalm 2 & 110). Messiah Ben Yosef is said to die in the battle against Edom (figuratively Rome): he is followed by Messiah Ben David, who establishes His kingdom of righteousness after defeating the gentile nations. The irony of this interpretation is that the two Messiah figures accurately divide the ministry of the living Messiah Yeshua, Who came first as the suffering Servant (Ben Yosef) and will come again as the victorious King (Ben David).
The Brit Ha-Chadashah (NT) solves the question of divergent themes by revealing the advent of the King Messiah and subsequently describing His second coming (Mt. 23:29; John 14:3; Acts 1:11; 1 Thess. 4:14-17 etc.)
“He was despised (held in contempt) and rejected by men (human beings),” Note the past tense. HaShem speaks into time and space through His prophet Isaiah, that which has already been made complete outside of time and space. The Hebrew plural “iyshim” (men) is the poetic form of “anashiym”. “Iyshiym” refers specifically to men of stature (Prov.8:4; Psalm 141:4). Thus, the Servant is shunned by leading men: kings, political leaders, spiritual leaders etc. Yeshua’s contemporaries struggled to come to terms with his humble birth and the town of His upbringing, which is not even mentioned in rabbinic literature.
“‘Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?’ Nathanael asked.” -John 1:46a (NIV)
“Still others asked, ‘How can the Messiah come from Galilee’”? -John 1:41b (NIV)
“A man of afflictions and of a deep knowing (acquainted) concerning sickness, weakness, affliction, grief…” Although it is true that the Messiah was familiar with grief (it is likely that His earthly father Joseph died prior to the beginning of Messiah’s ministry, and He is seen grieving deeply at the tomb of Lazarus), the meaning of the text appears to convey that the Servant was familiar with the cause of disease and sickness and was knowledgeable in a transcendent way concerning the healing of such disease and afflictions. Additionally, the Messiah Himself suffered great affliction both physical and spiritual prior to and during His crucifixion.
“And as one from whom people hide their faces” As a result of His affliction the people of Israel turned away from Him, the disfigurement resulting from His beating, whipping and crucifixion making Him a hideous sight to behold.
He was despised (held in contempt), and we did not esteem him.” The Hebrew “nivzeh” (despised) is repeated here as affirmation of the fullness of His people’s rejection of Him. In particular He was despised by many of Israel’s first century religious leaders. To this day as a result of the modern rabbinic polemic against Yeshua, His name is rendered in modern Hebrew as Yeshu which is an acronym for the curse “Ye’mach Sh’mo” meaning, “May His name be blotted out!” This disgusting curse is further evidence of the ongoing rejection of the Servant King Messiah by our people.
“He was in the world, and the world was made through Him; but the world did not know Him. He came to His own, but His own did not receive Him. But whoever did receive Him, those trusting in His name, to these He gave the right to become children of God.” -John 1:10-12 (TLV)
Isa 53:4 Achein Certainly cholayeinu our sicknesses, weaknesses, diseases he has nasa borne, carried, lifted up (a sign) umachoveiynu and our sorrows, pain sevalam he has dragged along, bared as a load; yet we esteemed him nagua struck (diseased) mukeih beaten, killed, slain by Elohiym (God: Judge), umeuneh and afflicted, oppressed, humbled.
“But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out.” -John 19:34 (TLV)
“Look, He is coming with the clouds,
and every eye shall see Him,
even those who pierced Him.
And all the tribes of the earth
shall mourn because of Him.
Yes, amen!” -Revelation 1:7 (TLV)
“Certainly our sicknesses, weaknesses, diseases he has nasa borne, carried, lifted up (a sign)” The sickness described here is the result of sin’s entry into the world (and death with it). Or else, why does the Hebrew employ the word “nasa”, which is used in connection with the Torah sacrifices of expiation (Lev.5:1, 17; 10:17; 16:22; 17:16; 20:19-20; 24:15).
“Who His own self bore our sins in his body upon the tree, that we, having died unto sins, might live unto righteousness; by whose stripes you were healed.” -1 Peter 2:24 (ASV)
“Nasa” is also a sign (nisi) that points to a mighty work of Hashem. Yeshua quite literally bore (healed) our (The people of Israel) sicknesses and diseases during His earthly ministry:
“And when Yeshua was come into Peter's house, he saw his wife's mother lying sick of a fever. And He touched her hand, and the fever left her; and she arose, and ministered unto him. And when even was come, they brought unto Him many possessed with demons: and He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all that were sick: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken through Isaiah the prophet, saying, ‘He took our infirmities, and bare our diseases.’” -Matthew 8:14-17
“Our sorrows, pain he has dragged along, bared as a load” I’m surprised that few if any comment on the descriptive Hebrew language here in regard to the last hours of the Messiah’s life. After all, He quite literally dragged the cross (means of His death) along until He was relieved by Shimon of Cyrene.
“Yet we esteemed him nagua struck mukeih beaten, killed, slain by Elohiym (God: Judge), umeuneh and afflicted, oppressed, humbled.” The Hebrew “nagua” is associated to terrible diseases such as leprosy (Gen. 12:17; Lev. 13:5; 1 Sam. 6:9; 2 Kings 15:5), and “mukeih” to divine retribution for heinous sin (Though the servant is not suffering for His own sin re: next verse).
The Talmud says of the Messiah that he is "a leper of the house of Rabbi is his name'' - T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 98. 2.
Sadly, the Talmud calls Yeshua a “transgressor”, ironic, given that Yeshua died for the transgressions of those who penned and codified the Talmud. Maimonides states that Yeshua deserved the violent death which He suffered. Once again ironic, given that it is in fact Maimonides who deserved the rightful punishment for his sins, and yet Yeshua was willing to die also for Maimonides. So much for the human wisdom of our rabbis. I have visited the tomb of Maimonides, it is dead and lifeless. The tomb of Yeshua however is empty, He is alive and living by His Spirit within me. He is transcendent and seated at the right hand of the Father.
Isa 53:5 Vehu And he mecholal was pierced (defiled, polluted) mipeshaeinu for our transgressions (rebellions); meduka he was crushed (broken, became contrite) meiavonoteiynu for our iniquities (perversity, depravity, guilt); Musar The chastisement (discipline) shelomeinu of our peace, wholeness, wellbeing alayv was placed upon him, uvachavurato and by his wounds (stripes, bruises, blows) nirpa-lanu we are healed, made healthy (whole).
As I have previously shown, the Servant cannot be Israel the people. Why? Because the entire history and character of the people of Israel as a whole is contrary to the description of God’s faithful Servant, Who takes upon Himself the sins of His people (inferring that He is not guilty of their sins) and redeems all willing human beings. Israel the collective people on the other hand are repeatedly denounced by the prophet Isaiah as being deaf and blind to the will of God (42:19-20; 43:24). The prophet’s words state that the people do not even deserve the name Israel (Overcome in God), and that their allegiance to YHVH is insincere (48:1). Further, Isaiah speaking from God pronounces his nation “an obstinate people with a neck like iron sinew and their forehead like brass” (48:4). Thus, Israel the people, like all people, are sinners in need of salvation. Fortunately for Israel, the Servant King Messiah was pierced for our transgressions.
We are reminded again that our ancient Rabbis understood these words to be referring to the King Messiah:
“Chastisements are divided into three parts, one to David and the fathers, one to our generation, and one to the King Messiah; as it is written, ‘he was wounded for our transgressions; and bruised for our iniquities’:'' - Mechilta apud Yalkut, par. 2. fol 90.
“Messiah Son of David who loves Jerusalem… Elijah takes Him by the head…and says, ‘You must bear the sufferings and wounds by which the Almighty chastises you for Israel’s sins’ and so it is written, ‘He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities.’” -Midrash Konen; 11 Century CE
“The children of the world are members one of another. When the Holy One desires to give healing to the world, He smites one just man amongst them, and for his sake heals all the rest. From where do we learn this? From the saying, ‘he was wounded for our transgressions; and bruised for our iniquities’”. -Zohar, Numbers, Phinchus 218a
Furthermore, our Rabbis also testify to the wickedness of Israel and her need for the Messiah:
"At that time they shall declare to the Messiah the troubles of Israel in captivity, and the wicked which are among them, that do not mind to know the Lord; he shall lift up his voice, and weep over the wicked among them; as it is said, ‘he was wounded for our transgressions’, &c.'' - Zohar in Exod. fol. 85. 2. See also Midrash Ruth, fol. 33. 2. and Zohar in Deut. fol. 117. 3. and R. Moses Hadarsan apud Galatia de Arcan. Cath. Ver. I. 8. c. 15 p. 586. and in I. 6. c. 2. p. 436.
“And he was pierced (defiled, polluted) for our transgressions (rebellions);” The Hebrew “mecholal” meaning pierced, could only have been written by a divinely inspired prophet of God. These words, spoken and recorded some 700 years before the birth (into this world) of Messiah Yeshua, describe exactly what happened to Him, both physically and spiritually.
“Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgota). There they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Yeshua in the middle. Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: Yeshua of nazareth, the king of the jews.” -John 19:17-19
Crucifixion involved the nailing of hands and feet to a cross beam position equal to or slightly below the top of a firmly established upright post. Thus, Yeshua had is hands and feet pierced quite literally. The Psalmist, writing over 500 years before the birth (into this world) of Yeshua the Servant of God, wrote:
“Do not be far from me,
for trouble is near
and there is no one to help.
12 Many bulls surround me;
strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.
13 Roaring lions that tear their prey
open their mouths wide against me.
14 I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart has turned to wax;
it has melted within me.
15 My mouth is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
you lay me in the dust of death.
16 Dogs surround me,
a pack of villains encircles me;
they pierce my hands and my feet.
17 All my bones are on display;
people stare and gloat over me.
18 They divide my clothes among them
and cast lots for my garment.” -Psalm 22:11-18 (NIV)
“But when they came to Yeshua and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Yeshua in the side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe.” -John 19:33-35
“He was crushed (broken, became contrite) for our iniquities (perversity, depravity, guilt); The chastisement (discipline) of our peace, wholeness, wellbeing was placed upon him, and by his wounds (stripes, bruises, blows) we are healed, made healthy (whole).” The entire sacrificial system of the Torah is symbolic of substitution.
“For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.” -Leviticus 17:11 (NIV)
One of the primary stories of the Torah “Ha-Akeidah” The Binding of Isaac, binds Israel to the faith of Abraham and frees her from bondage to sin through the substitution of the Ram, who is a figure for the promised Messiah, and highlights the fact that the Messiah will be a substitutionary sacrifice for Israel (Jacob). While Jacob was still in the loins of Isaac, the Ram took his place on the altar (of Moriah) [Genesis 22].
“He was crushed (broken, became contrite) for our iniquities (perversity, depravity, guilt);” We note that the Servant takes a punishment upon Himself that was meant for us (Israel, ethnic, religious). Not only was He crushed on our behalf, He took the suffering willingly, the Hebrew “meduka” denotes contrite acceptance.
“The chastisement (discipline) of our peace, wholeness, wellbeing was placed upon him, and by his wounds (stripes, bruises, blows) we are healed, made healthy (whole).” As a result of the Servant’s substitutionary sacrifice and because our sin has not just been covered but has been atoned for, annihilated by His blood shed for us, we are made whole, given peace, physical and spiritual, temporal and transcendent. Those who receive the Servant King Messiah enter the eternal present. Though we die, yet will we live. The Hebrew “Musar shelomeinu” reads, “The chastisement that secures our peace”. There is everlasting security in the receipt of the sacrificial love of the Servant King Messiah.
“In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” -Hebrews 19:22 (NIV)
“The next day Yochanan saw Yeshua coming toward him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’” -John 1:29
At a time yet future, all ethnic/religious Israel will look upon the Servant King Messiah and repent in mourning, acknowledging that for our sake He has been pierced (Zech. 12:10). Thus the redemption of the entire remnant of ethnic/religious Israel will take place through Messiah Yeshua at His second coming following the coming in of the fullness of the nations (Romans 11:25-26).
“Then I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication, when they will look toward Me whom they pierced. They will mourn for him as one mourns for an only son and grieve bitterly for him, as one grieves for a firstborn.” -Zechariah 12:10 (TLV)
“For I do not want you, brothers and sisters, to be ignorant of this mystery—lest you be wise in your own eyes—that a partial hardening has come upon Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written,
“The Deliverer shall come out of Zion.
He shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.” -Romans 11:25-26 (TLV)
Isa 53:6 Kulanu All we katzon like sheep taiynu we have wandered, erred, staggered, gone astray; iysh each human being (man) ledarko to his own way paniynu we have turned; and HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) hifgiya has laid on him (caused him to encounter, make intercession for) et avon the perversity, depravity, guilt, iniquity of kulanu us all.
In reference to Genesis 49:11, the Jewish commentator R. Kahana writes:
"As the ass bears burdens, and the garments of travellers, so the King Messiah will bear upon him the sins of the whole world; as it is said, ‘the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all’”
- Apud Galatin. de Cathol. Ver. I. 10. c. 6. p. 663, and Siphre in ib. l. 8. c. 20. p. 599.
The righteous remnant of the people of Israel speak here of the nature of human beings, themselves included. This is a confession of the sin nature and its fruit. As is so often the case in the TaNakh (OT), Israel are figuratively referred to as sheep. However, what’s different here is that Israel self-identify as sheep who have strayed from the Shepherd’s (YHVH) instruction, guidance and the safe pasture of His kingdom. It is also literally true that the sin of Israel had been the reason for their being led into captivity. Thus, they physically strayed into Babylon, leaving the promised land of Israel behind them.
“For ‘you were like sheep going astray,’ but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” -1 Peter 2:25
“Each human being to his own way we have turned” Both as individuals and corporately human beings (iysh used in an iconic way) have fallen short of the holiness of God. Israel includes herself in this and acknowledges that she has turned to her “own way” rather than continuing in the “way of the Lord”.
“And Adonai has laid on him (caused him to encounter, make intercession for) the perversity, depravity, guilt, iniquity of us all.” The problem of sin is addressed here. Sin must be atoned for. A substitution must be made (Lev.17:11; Hebrews 9:22). Thus, the Servant becomes the vicarious sacrifice for Israel and all humanity. It is Adonai Himself that has laid the utter depravity of human sin on the Servant. Once again, Israel cannot be both those who have gone astray and the one on whom the sins of those who have gone astray are laid upon. Israel corporate is not the Servant. The Servant is an individual born of her on whom Adonai will lay the sins of Israel and of all humanity.
The core doctrine of the fallen nature of humanity is supported throughout Scripture:
“No one living is righteous before you.” -Psalm 143:2b
“Surely there is no one on earth so righteous as to do good without ever sinning.” -Ecclesiastes 7:19
“For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin. 10 As it is written:
‘There is no one righteous, not even one;
11 there is no one who understands;
there is no one who seeks God.
12 All have turned away,
they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.’” -Romans 3:9b-12 (Psalms 14:1-3; 53:1-3; Eccles. 7:20)
“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” -Romans 3:23
“God made Him who had no sin to be a sin offering for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” -2 Corinthians 5:21
Isa 53:7 He was oppressed (tormented), and he was afflicted, and did not open his mouth; kaseh like a lamb latevach led to the slaughter, ucheracheil and like a ewe lifneiy before the face of its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.
“He was oppressed (tormented), and he was afflicted,” The Servant King Messiah suffered both physical and spiritual affliction.
“and did not open his mouth” This is repeated in the last clause. The firmly established humility and silence of the falsely accused Messiah is evident in the Brit HaChadashah (NT) account (Matt. 26:62-63, 27:12).
“Like a lamb led to the slaughter, and like a ewe before the face of its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” The NT references to Yeshua as the “Lamb of God” are born of the story of the Passover and Israel’s exodus from Egyptian bondage (Ex.12:3, 4, 7). The blood of the Pesach Lamb was painted on the door posts of Jewish homes as a symbol of God’s protection and deliverance of the family who lived within. Additionally, vicarious animal sacrifice is well established in the TaNakh (OT).
The extreme submissive behaviour of the Servant cannot be attributed to Israel as a nation. The nation of Israel has many virtues but suffering silently is not among them. Throughout our history we have resisted our oppressors. Even in the most heinous case of our persecution (the Shoah) the Holocaust, we resisted wherever possible. Therefore, as a nation Israel does not qualify for the position of Servant as described in Isaiah 53.
Isa 53:8 Meiotzer From restraint (prison, oppression) umishpat and judgment lukach he was seized, taken away; ve’et-doro and as for his generation, miy who yesocheicha has considered it? Kiy For nigzar he was cut off mei’eretz from the land chayiym of the living, mipesha for the transgression, rebellion amiy of My people nega lamo he was stricken (diseased, marked, plagued).
“From restraint (prison, oppression) and judgment he was seized, taken away”
He was not treated fairly with a proper trial. He was taken out of prison and summarily judged and sentenced to death contrary to both Jewish and Roman law.
“And as for his generation, who has considered it? For he was cut off from the land of the living” His generation refers to any for whom he might have been a progenitor. The Servant will have no physical children born of His natural seed. Why? Because He was cut off (murdered, killed) from the land (Israel, the earth) of living (the present world).
“He was cut off from the land of the living, for the transgression, rebellion of My people he was stricken (diseased, marked, plagued).” These words are prophesied spoken through Isaiah by the Spirit of God. Thus, Israel is called “My people” by both God Himself and the prophet. If the Servant is to be killed as a vicarious sacrifice for Isaiah’s people (Israel), He cannot be corporate Israel. The same is true of the ethnic/religious people of God. Israel (ethnic/religious) are God’s people. This latter clause shows clearly that the Servant is killed (cut off) as a substitutionary sacrifice (because of transgression) for Israel (My people).
Those who claim that the Hebrew “lamo” is solely plural are incorrect, it is used here to refer to the singular Servant in the same way it is used in the singular in Job 20:23, 22:2 and Isaiah 44:15.
“Philip ran up and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?”
31 ‘How can I,’ he said, ‘unless someone guides me?’ So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 Now the passage of Scripture that he was reading was this:
‘He was led as a sheep to slaughter;
and as a lamb before its shearer is silent,
so He opens not His Mouth.
33 In His humiliation justice was denied Him.
Who shall recount His generation?
For His life is taken away from the earth.’
34 The eunuch replied to Philip, ‘Please tell me, who is the prophet talking about—himself or someone else?’ 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he proclaimed the Good News about Yeshua.” -Acts 8:30-35 (TLV)
“Therefore the Father loves me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again.” -John 10:17
Isa 53:9 And they made kivro his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no mirmah deceit in his mouth.
The Hebrew “kever” grave, is here used to describe the physical status of a dead body. Thus, the Servant’s physical death was like that of the wicked (albeit undeserved). This is why the subsequent phrase “and with a rich man in his death” is added in describing the nature of the Servant’s tomb.
“Now when it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had also become a disciple of Yeshua. 58 This man went to Pilate and asked for Yeshua’s body. Then Pilate ordered it to be given up. 59 And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth. 60 And he laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. Then he rolled a large stone up to the door of the tomb and went away.” -Matthew 27:57-60
Isa 53:10 Yet HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) chafeitz desired to bruise (crush) him; hecheliy He has put him to grief; im-tasiym with his appointment as an offering for guilt nafsho by his soul (life, being), yireh he will see his zera offspring; ya’ariych he will prolong his yamiym days; ve’cheifetz and the desire of HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) beyado in his hand yitzlach will advance, rush, succeed, progress, prosper.
Iben Ezra says these words are spoken of the generation that shall return to God, and to the true religion, at the coming of the Messiah.
An old midrash says:
“The Messiah, in order to atone for them both (Adam & David), will make his soul a trespass offering; as it is written next to [prior to] this parashah [Isa.53:10], “Behold My Servamt” [Isa.52:13]. -Midrash Aseret Memrot
We note that the desire or will of Hashem begins and completes the verse. In order for the will of Hashem to bring redemption and the advancement of His kingdom, He must also will the means of that redemption, suffering in and with the Servant King Messiah for the sin of His people, and indeed, for all people.
“Yet HaShem desired to bruise (crush) him” This connects the present passage to the prophecy of Genesis 3:15, where the Serpent Satan is said to bruise the heel of the Messiah. In the present text the bruising is ascribed to HaShem. Thus we understand that Satan is subject to HaShem and is allowed to act only according to God’s purposes for the redemption of His chosen.
“He has put him to grief; with his appointment as an offering for guilt by his soul (life, being)” The text could not be more clear. The Servant is to be a guilt offering, that is a substitutionary offering for the sins of others. He is to complete His atoning work by giving His very soul (life). “Asham” is a trespass offering that is distinct from every other sacrifice. It was made by an individual as a substitutionary compensation for any wrong doing committed by that person. It removed the person’s guilt and set them free (Lev. 5:15). The central tenant of this and many other sacrifices was the need to satisfy the justice demanded by the Holy God of Israel, Creator of the universe and God over all things.
“How much more shall the blood of Messiah, Who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish unto God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” -Hebrews9:14
“Him who knew no sin He made to be a sin offering on our behalf; that we might become the righteousness of God in him.” -2 Corinthians 5:21
“and walk in love, even as Messiah also loved you, and gave himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for an odour of a sweet smell.” -Ephesians 5:2
“He will see his offspring; he will prolong his days” The “seed” (offspring) in question are spiritual seed (Psalm 22:30; Isa. 65:25; Malachi 2:15): those who receive Him. We know this because Yeshua Himself explained that the resurrected do not procreate (Luke 20:34-36). “He will prolong His days” is a figurative way of describing the Olam Haba (World to come).
“Certainly, certainly, I say to you, except a grain of wheat fall into the earth and die, it abides by itself alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” -John 12:24
“His seed also will I make to endure for ever, And his throne as the days of heaven.” -Psalm 89:29
“The desire of HaShem in his hand will advance” In the hand (actions) of the resurrected Servant King Messiah the desire of HaShem will advance. The Servant, a son of Israel, will thus make it possible for Israel to fulfil her calling to be a light to the nations (Isa.49:6). The Spirit will be poured out and the kingdom of God will grow and await the Messiah’s return, the final resurrection and the Olam Haba (World to come).
Isa 53:11 Meiamal From the anguish of nafsho his soul yireh he will see and be satisfied; bedato by the knowledge (perception, skill, understanding, wisdom, discernment) of Him yatzdiyk tzadiyk avdiy the righteous one, My servant, larabiym will justify many, va’avonotam and their iniquities (depravity, perversity, guilt) hu he yisbil shall bear.
“From the anguish of his soul he will see and be satisfied” The Servant King Messiah will look back on His suffering and death, and resurrected He will see the resulting fruit of His anguish and be satisfied.
“looking to Yeshua the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” -Hebrews 12:2
“By the knowledge of Him the righteous one, My servant, will justify many, and their iniquities he shall bear.” The Servant King Messiah will justify “many”, not only Israelites (ethnic/religious) but also people from the nations. They will be justified through the knowledge of Him. Not just mental assent but true knowledge learned in relationship through practiced faith placed in Him.
“Seventy weeks are decreed upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy.” -Daniel 9:24
The Servant King Messiah’s ministry of bearing the sin of many goes beyond the finished work of His death and resurrection to His continued work as the Great High Priest Mediator for all who believe (Hebrews 8:6).
“As through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the one shall the many be made righteous.” -Romans 5:19
Isa 53:12 Lachein Therefore, achalek I will divide him barabiym among the many, ve’et and from the atzumiym strong (mighty, numerous) he shall divide the spoil, tachat asher for the sake of (beneath) which he’erah he poured out lamavet to death, nafsho his soul ve’et-posheiym and with the transgressors was numbered; vehu and he cheit-rabiym nasa bore the sin of many, velaposheiym and for the transgressors yafgiya made intercession.
“Therefore, I will divide him among the many” This opening phrase uses the Hebrew “rabiym” which can be understood as “great ones” or “many”. The same word is used at the end of the verse and refers to the many believers who will receive the forgiveness of sin through the Messiah’s finished work. Therefore, it seems unlikely that “rabiym” refers to “men of stature, kings, politicians, religious leaders” as some suggest. The more consistent understanding is that the body of the Servant King Messiah’s is divided among the “many” in Israel and among the nations, who, later in the verse are interceded for by the Servant. That is, those who receive Him.
“And from the strong (mighty, numerous) he shall divide the spoil” Here, the “mighty” may refer to the men of stature of 52:15. The Servant Messiah will one day yet future divide the spoils of all the mighty rulers of the earth.
“for the sake of (beneath) which he poured out to death, his soul” For the sake of the many and the strong, the Servant will pour out His life unto death.
“And with the transgressors was numbered” The Servant was crucified as a criminal in spite of the fact that He was innocent and there were no legitimate legal reasons for His execution (Matt. 27:38).
“And he bore the sin of many, and for the transgressors made intercession.” Even as He was dying on the cross the Servant King Messiah Yeshua spoke words, not of vengeance or hatred but of intercession:
“But Yeshua was saying, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’ Then they cast lots, dividing up His clothing.” -Luke 23:34 (TLV)
The Servant King Messiah Yeshua continues to make intercession today for all who put their trust in Him:
“But now Yeshua has obtained a more excellent ministry, insofar as He is the mediator of a better covenant which has been enacted on better promises.” -Hebrews 8:6 (TLV)
© 2019 Yaakov Brown
Founder of the Beth Melekh International Messiah Following Jewish Community,