According to Christianity, the whole chapter of Isaiah 53 and the last verses of chapter 52, from verse 13, are talking about Jesus. Why do they think so? Because the NT says so, and because it fits so nicely with the Christian story about a suffering messiah. And what proof do the Christians have that the subject in Isaiah 53, the suffering servant, is the messiah?
There is not the slightest indication, let alone a proof, that the servant of God, mentioned in Isaiah 53, is the messiah. In the authentic messianic prophecies there is always a sign that it talks about the messiah, the anointed king. (“messiah” means “anointed one”) In the real messianic prophecies it speaks about a king, or about a ruler, or about a descendend of David, or about a descendend of Isai, the father of David. But here in Isaiah 53 is nothing like that. Also the word “messiah” is not used in Isaiah 53. There is not the slightest hint toward a messiah. It just speaks about the servant of God. And NOWHERE in Isaiah, NOWHERE in the whole Hebrew Bible, is the messiah ever referred to as “the servant of God”. So Christianity is making up fairy tales here.
Besides this, saying Isaiah 53 speaks about the messiah runs into several problems. The prophet Isaiah is talking in the present/past tense; verse 3 and 4: “He is despised and rejected of men” “We hid as it were our faces from him, he was despised, and we esteemed him not” It goes on like this in the past tense up to verse ten. This is not the way the prophets announce future events, by saying that they already happened. The King James Version says in verse 2: “For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant.” Future tense. However; this is wrong. Here is absolutely positively spoken in the past tense. Compare the Revised Standard Version, it gives this verse correctly in the past tense. A quick course in exegesis for confused Christians: When a prophet speaks in the past tense, then he speaks about events that happened already. This is commonly called ‘History’. Prophecy is about things that are going to happen in the future. History is the opposite of prophecy. Therefore, when a prophet speaks in the past tense, he is not prophesizing. These elementary facts were well known to the people whom translated the KJV, therefore they corrupted the translation and changed past tense to future tense, so that they could squeeze in Jesus.
When the prophet Isaiah switches to the future tense, he describes events that are not applicable to Jesus; verse 10: “When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days,” He was not married, how is he going to see his seed?
Verse 12: “Therefore I will divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong” This essential part he did not fulfill. Only the simple part he did, as usually; being sick, suffering, dying; the part that can apply to millions of people, and the key part is going to happen in some unknown future.
But who is the “servant of God” in Isaiah 53?
Let us now take a look about who the prophet Isaiah is really talking here. Isaiah 52:13; “Behold My servant shall deal prudently ….” The key question here is: Who is it that the prophet Isaiah calls the servant of God? We shall let the prophet Isaiah speak for himself, and please keep in mind that the name of Jacob was changed into Israel after the fight with the angel in the end of Genesis 32; Jacob is synonymous with Israel:
Isaiah 41:8: “But thou , Israel art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend. Thou who I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called thou from the chief men thereof, and said unto thee: Thou art my servant, I have chosen thee, and not cast thee away.”
Isaiah 44:1-2; “Yet now hear, O Jacob my servant, and Israel who I have chosen. Thus said the Lord that made thee, and formed thee from the womb, which will help thee; fear not O Jacob my servant, and thou Jesurun whom I have chosen.”
Isaiah 44:21; “Remember these, O Jacob and Israel, for thou art my servant. I have formed thee, thou art my servant; O Israel thou shalt not be forgotten of me
Isaiah 45:4; “For Jacob, my servant’s sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name.”
Isaiah 48:20; “The lord hath redeemed his servant Jacob.”
Isaiah 49:3; “And said unto me: Thou art my servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified.”
The servant that Isaiah is talking about is the people of Israel.
If you are honestly searching for the truth, then read Isaiah from say chapter 40 all the way to the end, chapter 66, and see that all the time Isaiah is speaking about the people of Israel. There is not the slightest indication that in chapter 52 verse 13 he suddenly jumps to the messiah. As a matter of fact, there is no indication whatsoever that Isaiah 53 speaks about the messiah. It does not speak about a king, it does not speak about a descendant of David or Jesse, nowhere is the word ‘messiah’ used; there is no proof or indication for the messiah at all.
The strongest proof for the servant being the people of Israel is Isaiah 42. This is also claimed by the NT as a messianic prophecy, see Matthew 12:16-21; “And charged them that they should not make him known: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Behold my servant, whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased: I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall shew judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory. And in his name shall the Gentiles trust.”
This is a quote from Isaiah 42, applied by the NT to JC. Now read here the whole chapter of Isaiah 42 and see that it speaks all the time about the servant of God, see who is that servant of God, and see that it does not speak about the messiah:
“Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth. He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for his law. Thus saith God the LORD, he that created the heavens, and stretched them out; he that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it; he that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein: I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house. I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images. Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare: before they spring forth I tell you of them. Sing unto the LORD a new song, and his praise from the end of the earth, ye that go down to the sea, and all that is therein; the isles, and the inhabitants thereof. Let the wilderness and the cities thereof lift up their voice, the villages that Kedar doth inhabit: let the inhabitants of the rock sing, let them shout from the top of the mountains. Let them give glory unto the LORD, and declare his praise in the islands. The LORD shall go forth as a mighty man, he shall stir up jealousy like a man of war: he shall cry, yea, roar; he shall prevail against his enemies. I have long time holden my peace; I have been still, and refrained myself: now will I cry like a travailing woman; I will destroy and devour at once. I will make waste mountains and hills, and dry up all their herbs; and I will make the rivers islands, and I will dry up the pools. And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them. They shall be turned back, they shall be greatly ashamed, that trust in graven images, that say to the molten images, Ye are our gods. Hear, ye deaf; and look, ye blind, that ye may see. Who is blind, but my servant? or deaf, as my messenger that I sent? who is blind as he that is perfect, and blind as the LORD’s servant? Seeing many things, but thou observest not; opening the ears, but he heareth not. The LORD is well pleased for his righteousness’ sake; he will magnify the law, and make it honourable. But this is a people robbed and spoiled; they are all of them snared in holes, and they are hid in prison houses: they are for a prey, and none delivereth; for a spoil, and none saith, Restore. Who among you will give ear to this? who will hearken and hear for the time to come? Who gave Jacob for a spoil, and Israel to the robbers? did not the LORD, he against whom we have sinned? for they would not walk in his ways, neither were they obedient unto his law. Therefore he hath poured upon him the fury of his anger, and the strength of battle: and it hath set him on fire round about, yet he knew not; and it burned him, yet he laid it not to heart.”
As you see, saying JC was the servant doesn’t fit very well: “Hear, ye deaf; and look, ye blind, that ye may see. Who is blind, but my servant? or deaf, as my messenger that I sent? who is blind as he that is perfect, and blind as the LORD’s servant? Seeing many things, but thou observest not; opening the ears, but he heareth not.”
According to the NT Jesus was not blind and deaf. Conclusion: JC is not the servant. Conclusion: The NT is based upon false premises.
It is here literally spelled out who is the servant that Isaiah talks about: “Who is blind, but my servant? or deaf, as my messenger that I sent? who is blind as he that is perfect, and blind as the LORD’s servant? Seeing many things, but thou observest not; opening the ears, but he heareth not. The LORD is well pleased for his righteousness’ sake; he will magnify the law, and make it honourable. But this is a people robbed and spoiled; they are all of them snared in holes, and they are hid in prison houses: they are for a prey, and none delivereth; for a spoil, and none saith, Restore. Who among you will give ear to this? who will hearken and hear for the time to come? Who gave Jacob for a spoil, and Israel to the robbers?”
Where it says “But this is a people”, (some translations say: But it is a people), there it says in the original Hebrew: we-hu am bazuz. That is literally translated: “And HE is a robbed nation/people.” The ‘he’ refers to the servant in the previous verse. The following verses identify that nation as the people of Israel: “Who gave Jacob for a spoil, and Israel to the robbers?”
We see here that in Isaiah 41:8-9, that is only twenty verses before the beginning of chapter 42 about which the NT claimes that the servant is the messiah, that there the servant is clearly and undisputed ISRAEL: “But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, my friend; you whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners, saying to you: You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off”
We also see that in Isaiah 42:18-25, only fourteen verses after the beginning of chapter 42 about which the NT claimes that the servant is the messiah, that there the servant is clearly and undisputed ISRAEL.
So we see that the Christian claim is based upon nothing, and goes against the context and against the plain text of Isaiah.
The same holds true for Isaiah 53. Also there the context speaks about the people of Israel: Isaiah 52:4 “For thus says the Lord God: MY PEOPLE went down at the first into Egypt to sojourn there, and the Assyrian oppressed them for nothing.”
Isaiah 52:6 “Therefore MY PEOPLE shall know my name; therefore in that day they shall know that it is I who speak; here am I.”
Isaiah 52:9 “Break forth together into singing, you waste places of Jerusalem; for the LORD has comforted HIS PEOPLE, he has redeemed Jerusalem.”
Please read Isaiah 52 from the beginning, and see that it speaks about the redemption of Israel, and Israel being released from captivity and returning from exile. The very last verse right before the place from where Christianity claims it speaks about the messiah, speaks about Israel going out of exile: Isaiah 52:12 “For you shall not go out in haste, and you shall not go in flight, for the LORD will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard.” And after this it goes on describing how Israel will be restored, using the metaphor “the servant” for Israel, a metaphor which can be found in many places in Isaiah.
When we fill in the Jewish people in Isaiah 53, everything falls into place. Isaiah 52:14; “As many were astonished at thee, his visage was so marred, more than any man, “ In Isaiah’s time the Jewish people had already been abused by many nations, see Isaiah 1:1-7; “…. Why should ye be stricken anymore? Ye will revolt more and more; the whole head is sick and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it, but wounds and bruises, and putrifying sores; they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment. Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire; your land, strangers devour it in your presence, and it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers.” Also here does the prophet Isaiah personify the people of Israel as a man who is stricken by God: From the sole of the foot up to the head covered with sores.
When we fill in the Jewish people in this text,: “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed.” we also have to ask: who is the ‘our’ and the ‘we’? Here is the prophet Isaiah speaking as a part of the Jewish people. So also the ‘we’ points to the Jewish people. Now in stead of the metaphor, ‘the servant’, let’s fill in the Jewish people and see what we get: But [the Jewish people] were wounded for the transgressions of [the Jewish people], [the Jewish people] were bruised for the iniquities of [the Jewish people], the chastisement of the peace of [the Jewish people] was upon [the Jewish people], and with the stripes of [the Jewish people] [the Jewish people] are healed.
Here we see that the Jewish people were punished for the sins of the Jewish people, just like in Isaiah 1:4-9. Also there are the Jewish people punished for the rebellious sins of the Jewish people. And that is what happens, when we sin we get punished, and through the punishment the sin is erased. This is a much more normal view upon sin and punishment than to think that when we sin God gets or was punished for it by being nailed to a cross. And those are the hard facts; everybody has to take his own responsibility, you cannot shove it of unto God or anybody else.
So Isaiah 53 speaks about the people of Israel, and not about Jesus.