Isaiah 53 Fulfilled in Jesus
Leading up to Isaiah 49, we get a glimpse at a figure who is fufilled prophetically in Jesus:
"It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth." Isaiah 49:6
This light will come from the Torah / Law spreading out to the nations. Isaiah 51:4 reads: "Listen to me, my people; hear me, my nation: The law will go out from me; my justice will become a light to the nations."
Then we come to Isaiah 53.
To avoid any claim of bias, let us rely upon Isaiah 53:1-12 from circa 250 BC in the Dead Sea Scroll Bible (Abegg, Flint & Ulrich)(1999) at 359-60. These modern translators -- Abegg, Flint & Ulrich -- borrowed from tradition to also not write down YHWH, and they replaced it with "LORD." However, we will note where YHWH appears in the DSS of Isaiah 53. (On where YHWH belongs in Isaiah 53 DSS, see this link.) Thus, Isaiah 53 reads in the DSS:
1 Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the YHWH / LORD been revealed? 2 He grew up before him like a tender plant, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no form or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should look at him. 3 He was despised and rejected by others, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. He was despised and rejected by others, and like one from whom people hide their faces, and we despised him, and we did not value him. 4 Surely he has borne our sufferings and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken and struck down by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, and he was crushed for our iniquities; and the punishment that made us whole was upon him, and by his bruises we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, each of us, to his own way; and the YHWH / LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth, like a lamb led to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. 8 From detention and judgment he was taken away. And who can even think about his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living, he was stricken for the transgression of my people 9 Then they made his grave with the wicked and with rich people his tomb although he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. 10 Yet it was YHWH / the LORD was willing to crush him and he made him suffer. Although you make his soul an offering for sin, and he will see his offspring, and he will prolong his days, and the will of the YHWH / LORD will triumph in his hand. 11 Out of the suffering of his soul he will see light and find satisfaction; And through his knowledge, his servant, the righteous one, will make many righteous, and he will bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will alot him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life to death, and was numbered with the transgressors, yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressions.
He Will See The Light (Of Life) - Verse 11
The NIV note to 53:11 says that Isaiah 53:11 in the Dead Sea Scrolls says the Messiah figure, after suffering as the sacrifice of God, will see the "light (of life) [the 'of life' NIV implies]:
he will see the light of life[d] Note D: "Dead Sea Scrolls (see also Septuagint); Masoretic Text does not have the light of life." See Note D to Isaiah 53:11 in NIV.
Jeff Benner in his article, "Selections from the Isaiah Scroll," reproduces a copy of Isaiah 53:11 from the Dead Sea Scrolls from at least 125 BCE:
He reports as to the above:
The underlined phrase [in the Dead Sea Scroll] reads "mey'amal naphshoh yireh or vayis'ba." In the Masoretic text this phrase is written as "mey'amal naphsho yireh yis'ba." Without even knowing Hebrew one can see that the Dead Sea Scroll includes some information that is not in the Masoretic text. The Masoretic text translates to "from the labor of his soul, he will see, he will be satisfied". The Dead Sea Scroll text translates to "from the labor of his soul, he will see light and he will be satisfied."
Thus, those who trust the Dead Sea Scrolls as more reliable here find a significant prophecy that the Messiah who after performing the sacrifice for us, shall see "life." This implies the resurrection. But for those who follow Messiah but believe the text preserved in 900 CE by the Masoretes, believe Isaiah only prophesied in verse 11 that Messiah will simply "see." Each believer must decide which manuscript they think is more reliable based upon the available evidence. It is clear that the Masorete text is missing what Messiah sees. It only says "he will see..." but does not say what He sees. I hope that helps believers to consider whether the Dead Sea Scrolls from 250 BC are more reliable than the Masorete text of 900 AD.
Silence To Charges / Putting Up No Defense
Some claim Jesus was not absolutely silent during his interrogation, and thus he did not fulfill Isaiah 53. Let's see whether that is fair.
The prophecy was specific in what way the suffering servant would be silent. To do this, one needs to see the metaphors which are used in Isaiah 53 about silence. It does not mean Jesus would never speak during his trial. It would mean he would never defend himself or resist the charges against him. There are 2 metaphors to consider about how Jesus responded to OPPRESSION and AFFLICATION.
Let's look at the Dead Sea Scrolls Isaiah 53:7. It says "he was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth, like a lamb that is led to slaughter, a sheep before its sheerers, so he is silent, so he did not open his mouth."
The metaphor is about a "lamb led to the slaughter" and a "sheep before its sheerers" as the response to OPPRESSION and AFFLICTION. Sheep bleet frequently, and they increase and become noisy at feeding times. Lambs express their distress by increased bleeting. See this link.
But what is a remarkable trait about lambs is they do not get excited in their bleets even though the knives to cut their throats are right in front of their eyes. Or as their fur is cut, they do not utter excited bleets and put up no resistance.
So the point of these metaphors is SILENCE toward OPPRESSION or AFFLICTION.
With that in mind, were the words spoken by Jesus during the trial breaking this prophecy?
Had Jesus uttered words of resistance or struggle, then he would have not remained silent like a sheep before the slaughter. But instead Jesus clearly put up no fight to refute any of the charges, and this frustrated the high priest. Jesus spoke words when he was abjured to answer, but he still spoke no words of resistance or refutation. He just was even more non-committal and non-responsive except to say the High Priest was correct when he said Jesus was Messiah - which the High Priest inadvertently affirmed rather than asked as a question. In response, Jesus agreed He was Messiah, as the High Priest had said, and otherwise, Jesus simply spoke words that He would be seen on clouds of glory - the second coming. In Matthew 26 we read:
(57) So they seized Jesus and led him away to the house of Kaiaphah, the high priest where the scribes and Pharisees were gathered together. (58) But Peter followed him afar off to the court of the high priest, and entered in, and sat with the guards and servants to see the end. (59) Now the chief priests and the Pharisees and the whole council sought false witness against Jesus, that they might put him to death. (60) And they found not even one, though many false witnesses came forward. But afterward came forward two false witnesses, (61) and said, "This man said I am able to destroy the Temple of God, and to repair it in three days." (62) And the high priest stood up, and said to him, "Do you answer nothing to what these witness es are bearing against you?" (63) But Jesus answered not a word. And the high priest said to him, "I adjure you by the living God, that you tell us whether you are the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God." (64) Jesus said to him, " You said it. Nevertheless I again say to you, you have yet to see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power of God and coming on the clouds of heaven." (65) Then the high priest tore his garments, saying, "He has cursed God and blasphemed. What further need do we have of witnesses? You have now heard how he cursed God. (66) What do you think can be done?" They answered and said, "He is worthy of death." (67) Then they spit in his face and some smote him with thefist on his back, and others slapped him in the face, (68) saying, "Prophesy for us, you Messiah, who is it that struck you?"
Albert Nolan in Jesus Before Christianity (2001) at 160 correctly points out:
"what is frequently overlooked, is that Jesus did not defend himself. Throughout all the proceedings, no matter who accused him or what they accused him of, Jesus remained silent. (Mk 14:60-61; Mt 26:62-63; 27:12-14, Luke 23:9. If and when he did speak, it was only in order to be non-committal and in effect to refuse to give an answer: 'It is you who say it.' (Mk 15:2; Mt 26:64; 27:11; Lk 22:70, 23:3."And if I tell you, you will not believe me and if I question you, you will not answer." Lk 22:67; see also 20:8."
See His Offspring Argument Against Jesus' Fulfillment
A Jewish critic argues that because Jesus did not have offspring, as prophesied in verse 10, this entire passage cannot apply to Jesus.
At first, I answered the critic, contending that Jesus had offspring in the spirit by means of baptisms in his name. Each person is born again in Jesus' name -- hence making them offspring in spirit.
But then I looked at the passage a little closer, and I found a better answer.
Here is verse 10 again to examine:
10 Yet it was YHWH / the LORD was willing to crush him and he made him suffer. Although you make his soul an offering for sin, and he will see his offspring, and he will prolong his days, and the will of the YHWH / LORD will triumph in his hand.
First, notice that "he will prolong his days" has to be YHWH will "prolong" the suffering man's day. YHWH is the "He" in this subject phrase. The subject then of "he will see his offspring" can equally be YHWH. It means "YHWH will see his offspring." The question is who does the "his" in this phrase refer to. Because God is the Father, any spiritual children Jesus leads to become born again would be God's offspring, the phrase can very likely be referring to such an anticipated case -- YHWH will see His (YHWH's) offspring -- sons of God spawned by the Word spoken by Jesus / Yahshua, leading to new births in the spirit.
The Masoretic text does not have in verse 11 the words "light (of life)" as in "he will see the light (of life)." This phrase is interpreted as implying resurrection to many believers in Messiah. However, this "light of life" is missing in the Masoretic text. As a result, the Jewish Publication Society version of Isaiah 53:11 reads:
53:11 Of the travail of his soul he shall see to the full, even My servant, who by his knowledge did justify the Righteous One to the many, and their iniquities he did bear. (JPS, 53:11.)
Yet, the NIV says "light of life" is present in the earlier Dead Sea Scrolls from 135 BCE and the Septuagint from 257 BCE. See Note D to Isaiah 53:11 NIV.
Some believe any correction to the Masoretes is sacrilegious and blasphemy. I do not think that is true. Regardless, I make no comment whether the Masoretic text is accurate or the earlier Dead Sea Scrolls and Septuagint are accurate. That is for each reader to consider and determine in their own heart.