Isaiah 53


This chapter foretells the sufferings of the Messiah, the end

for which he was to die, and the advantages resulting to

mankind from that illustrious event. It begins with a complaint

of the infidelity of the Jews, 1;

the offence they took at his mean and humble appearance, 2;

and the contempt with which they treated him, 3.

The prophet then shows that the Messiah was to suffer for sins

not his own; but that our iniquities were laid on him, and the

punishment of them exacted of him, which is the meritorious

cause of our obtaining pardon and salvation, 4-6.

He shows the meekness and placid submission with which he

suffered a violent and unjust death, with the circumstances of

his dying with the wicked, and being buried with the great, 7-9;

and that, in consequence of his atonement, death, resurrection,

and intercession, he should procure pardon and salvation to the

multitudes, insure increasing prosperity to his Church, and

ultimately triumph over all his foes, 10, 11.

This chapter contains a beautiful summary of the most peculiar

and distinguishing doctrines of Christianity.


That this chapter speaks of none but JESUS must be evident to

every unprejudiced reader who has ever heard the history of his

sufferings and death. The Jews have endeavoured to apply it to

their sufferings in captivity; but, alas for their cause! they can

make nothing out in this way. Allowing that it belongs to our

blessed Lord, (and the best men and the best scholars agree in

this,) then who can read Isa 53:4-6, 8, 10, without being

convinced that his death was a vicarious sacrifice for the sins of

mankind? On the first and second verses of this chapter I have

received the following remarks from an unknown hand.

"Verse 1. Who hath believed our report?] The report of the

prophets, of John the Baptist, and Christ's own report of

himself. The Jews did not receive the report, and for this reason

he was not manifested to them as the promised Messiah. 'He came

unto his own, but his own received him not.' Before the FATHER he

grew up as a tender plant: but to the JEWS he was as a root out of

a dry ground. 'He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall

see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.'

"Verse 2. For he shall grow up] Supposes something to have

preceded; as it might be asked, what or who shall 'grow up before

him,' &c. As the translation now stands, no correct answer can be

given to this question. The translation then is wrong, the

connexion broken, and the sense obscured. zeroa, translated

the arm, from the root zara. 1. To sow, or plant; also

seed, &c. 2. The limb which reaches from the shoulder to the hand,

called the arm; or more properly beginning at the shoulder and

ending at the elbow. The translator has given the wrong sense of

the word. It would be very improper to say, the arm of the Lord

should grow up before him; but by taking the word in its former

sense, the connexion and metaphor would be restored, and the true

sense given to the text. zera signifies, not only the seed of

herbs, but children, offspring, or posterity. The same word we

find Ge 3:15, where CHRIST is the Seed promised. See also

Ge 22:17, 18; 26:4; 28:14. Hence the SEED of the

woman, the SEED promised to the patriarchs is, according to

Isaiah, the Seed of the Lord, the Child born, and the Son given;

and according to St. John, 'the Son of God, the only-begotten of

the Father, full of grace and truth.' then, in this place,

should be understood to mean JESUS CHRIST, and him alone. To speak

here of the manifestation of the arm or power of God would be

irregular; but to suppose the text to speak of the manifestation

of Jesus Christ would be very proper, as the whole of the chapter

is written concerning him, particularly his humiliation and

sufferings, and the reception he should meet with from the Jewish


"The first verse of this chapter is quoted Joh 12:38, and the

former part of the same verse Ro 10:16. But no objection of

importance can be brought forward from either of these quotations

against the above explanation, as they are quoted to show the

unbelief of the Jews in not receiving Christ as the promised


He hath no form nor comeliness-"He hath no form nor any beauty"]


επιθυμωμεναυτον He hath no form, nor any beauty, that we should

regard him; nor is his countenance such that we should desire

him." Symmachus; the only one of the ancients that has translated

it rightly.

Verse 2. See Clarke on Isa 53:1.

Verse 3. Acquainted with grief] For vidua, familiar with

grief, eight MSS. and one edition have veyada, and knowing

grief; the Septuagint, Syriac, and Vulgate read it


We hid as it were our faces from him-"As one that hideth his

face from us"] For uchemaster, four MSS. (two ancient)

have uchemastir, one MS. umastir. For

panim, two MSS. have panaiv; so likewise the Septuagint

and Vulgate. Mourners covered up the lower part of their faces,

and their heads, 2Sa 15:30; Eze 29:17; and lepers were commanded

by the law, Le 13:45, to cover their upper lip. From which

circumstance it seems that the Vulgate, Aquila, Symmachus, and the

Jewish commentators have taken the word nagua, stricken, in

the next verse, as meaning stricken with the leprosy: εναφηοντα,

Sym.; αφημενον, Aq.; leprosum, Vulg. So my old MS. Bible. I will

insert the whole passage as curious:-

There is not schap to him, ne fairnesse,

And we seegen him, and he was not of sigte,

And we desiriden him dispisid; and the last of men:

Man of souaris and witing infirmitie;

And he hid his cheer and despisid;

Wherfor ne we settiden bi him:

Verili our seeknesse he toke and our sorewis he bair,

And we helden him as leprous and smyten of God, and meekid;

He forsoth wounded is for our wickednesse,

Defoulid is for our hidous giltis

The discipline of our pese upon him,

And with his wanne wound we ben helid.

Verse 4. Surely he hath borne our griefs-"Surely our infirmities

he hath borne"] Seven MSS. (two ancient) and three editions have

cholayeynu in the plural number.

And carried our sorrows-"And our sorrows, he hath carried them"]

Seventeen MSS. (two ancient) of Dr. Kennicott's, two of De

Rossi's, and two editions have the word hu, he, before

sebalam, "carrieth them," in the text; four other MSS. have

it in the margin. This adds force to the sense, and elegance to

the construction.

Verse 5. The chastisement of our peace-"The chastisement by

which our peace is effected"] Twenty-one MSS. and six editions

have the word fully and regularly expressed, shelomeynu;

pacificationum nostrarum, "our pacification;" that by which we are

brought into a state of peace and favour with God. Ar. Montan.

Verse 6. The iniquity of us all.] For avon, "iniquity,"

the ancient interpreters read avonoth, "iniquities," plural;

and so the Vulgate in MS. Blanchini. And the Lord hath

hiphgia bo, caused to meet in him the iniquities of us all. He

was the subject on which all the rays collected on the focal point

fell. These fiery rays, which should have fallen on all mankind,

diverged from Divine justice to the east, west, north, and south,

were deflected from them, and converged in him. So the Lord hath

caused to meet in him the punishment due to the iniquities of ALL.

Verse 8. And who shall declare his generation-"And his manner of

life who would declare"] A learned friend has communicated to me

the following passages from the Mishna, and the Gemara of Babylon,

as leading to a satisfactory explication of this difficult place.

It is said in the former, that before any one was punished for a

capital crime, proclamation was made before the prisoner by the

public crier, in these words:

col mi shioda lo zachoth yabo vayilmad alaiv, "whosoever knows

any thing of this man's innocence, let him come and declare it."

Tract. Sandhedrim. Surenhus. Part iv. p. 233. On which passage the

Gemara of Babylon adds, that "before the death of Jesus this

proclamation was made for forty days; but no defense could be

found." On which words Lardner observes: "It is truly surprising

to see such falsities, contrary to well-known facts." Testimonies,

Vol. I. p. 198. The report is certainly false; but this false

report is founded on the supposition that there was such a custom,

and so far confirms the account given from the Mishna. The Mishna

was composed in the middle of the second century according to

Prideaux; Lardner ascribes it to the year of Christ 180.

Casaubon has a quotation from Maimonides which farther confirms

this account:-Exercitat. in Baronii Annales, Art. lxxvi. Ann. 34.

Num. 119. Auctor est Maimonides in Perek xiii. ejus libri ex opere

Jad, solitum fieri, ut cum reus, sententiam mortis passus, a loco

judicii exibat ducendus ad supplicium, praecedoret ipsum

κηρυξ, praeco; et haec verba diceret: Ille exit occidendus morte

illa, quia transgressus est transgressione illa, in loco illo,

tempore illo, et sunt ejus ret testes ille et ille. Qui noverit

aliquid ad ejus innoeentiam probandam, veniat, et loquatur pro eo.

"It was customary when sentence of death was passed upon a

criminal, and he was led out from the seat of judgment to the

place of punishment, a crier went before, and spoke as

follows:-'This man is going out to suffer death by _____ because

he has transgressed by _____ such a transgression, in such a

place, in such a time; and the witnesses against him are _____. He

who may know any thing relative to his innocence let him come and

speak in his behalf.'"

Now it is plain from the history of the four Evangelists, that

in the trial and condemnation of Jesus no such rule was observed;

though, according to the account of the Mishna, it must have been

in practice at that time, no proclamation was made for any person

to bear witness to the innocence and character of Jesus; nor did

any one voluntarily step forth to give his attestation to it. And

our Saviour seems to refer to such a custom, and to claim the

benefit of it, by his answer to the high priest, when he asked him

of his disciples and of his doctrine: "I spoke openly to the

world; I ever taught in the synagogue and in the temple, whither

the Jews always resort; and in secret have I said nothing. Why

askest thou me? ask them who heard me, what I have said unto them:

behold, they know what I said," Joh 18:20, 21. This, therefore,

was one remarkable instance of hardship and injustice, among

others predicted by the prophet, which our Saviour underwent in

his trial and sufferings.

St. Paul likewise, in similar circumstances, standing before the

judgment seat of Festus, seems to complain of the same unjust

treatment; that no one was called, or would appear, to vindicate

his character. "My manner of life (τηνβιωσινμου, dori,

'my generation') from my youth, which was at the first among my

own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews, who knew me from the

beginning, if they would testify; that after the straitest sect of

our religion I lived a Pharisee;" Ac 26:4, 5.

dor signifies age, duration, the time which one man or many

together pass in this world, in this place; the course, tenor, or

manner of life. The verb dor signifies, according to Castell,

ordinatam vitam sive aetatem egit, ordinavit, ordine constituit.

"He passed a certain course of life, he ordained," &c. In Arabic,

curavit, administravit, "he took care of, administered to."

Was he stricken-"He was smitten to death"] The Septuagint read

lemaveth, ειςθανατον, "to death." And so the Coptic

and Saidic Versions, from the Septuagint; MSS. St. Germain de


"Origen," (Contra Celsum, lib. i. p. 370, edit. 1733,) after

having quoted at large this prophecy concerning the Messiah,

"tells us, that having once made use of this passage in a dispute

against some that were accounted wise among the Jews, one of them

replied, that the words did not mean one man, but one people, the

Jews, who were smitten of God and dispersed among the Gentiles

for their conversion; that he then urged many parts of this

prophecy to show the absurdity of this interpretation, and that he

seemed to press them the hardest by this sentence, αποτωνανομιων

τουλαουμονηχθηειςθανατον, 'for the iniquity of my people was

he smitten to death.'" Now as Origen, the author of the Hexapla,

must have understood Hebrew, we cannot suppose that he would have

urged this last quotation as so decisive if the Greek Version had

not agreed here with the Hebrew text; nor that these wise Jews

would have been at all distressed by this quotation, unless their

Hebrew text had read agreeably to ειςθανατον, "to death," on

which the argument principally depended; for, by quoting it

immediately, they would have triumphed over him, and reprobated

his Greek version. This, whenever they could do it, was their

constant practice in their disputes with the Christians. Jerome,

in his Preface to the Psalms, says, Nuper cum Hebraeo disputans,

quaedam pro Domino Salvatore de Psalmis testimonia protulisti:

volensque ille te illudere, per sermones fere singulos asserebat,

non ita haberi in Hebraeo, ut tu de LXX. opponebas. "Lately

disputing with a Hebrew,-thou advancedst certain passages out of

the Psalms which bear testimony to the Lord the Saviour; but he,

to elude thy reasoning, asserted that almost all thy quotations

have an import in the Hebrew text different from what they had in

the Greek." And Origen himself, who laboriously compared the

Hebrew text with the Septuagint, has recorded the necessity of

arguing with the Jews from such passages only as were in the

Septuagint agreeable to the Hebrew: ιναπροςιουδαιοις


αυτωνκαιινασυγχρησωμεθατοιςφερομενοιςπαρεκεινοις. See

Epist. ad African. p. 15, 17. Wherefore as Origen had carefully

compared the Greek version of the Septuagint with the Hebrew text,

and speaks of the contempt with which the Jews treated all appeals

to the Greek version where it differed from their Hebrew text; and

as he puzzled and confounded the learned Jews by urging upon them

the reading ειςθανατον, "unto death," in this place; it seems

almost impossible not to conclude, both from Origen's argument and

the silence of his Jewish adversaries, that the Hebrew text at

that time actually had lemaveth, "to death," agreeably to the

version of the Septuagint.-Dr. Kennicott.

Verse 9. With the rich in his death-"With the rich man was his

tomb"] It may be necessary to introduce Bishop Lowth's translation

of this verse before we come to his very satisfactory criticisms:-

And his grave was appointed with the wicked;

But with the rich man was his tomb:

Although he had done no wrong,

Neither was there any guile in his mouth.

Among the various opinions which have been given on this passage,

I have no doubt in giving my assent to that which makes the beth

in bemothaiv radical, and renders it excelsa sua. This is

mentioned by Aben Ezra as received by some in his time; and has

been long since approved by Schindler, Drusius, and many other

learned Christian interpreters.

The most simple tombs or monuments of old consisted of hillocks

of earth heaped up over the grave; of which we have numerous

examples in our own country, generally allowed to be of very high

antiquity. The Romans called a monument of this sort very properly

tumulus; and the Hebrews as properly bamoth, "high place,"

for that is the form of the noun in the singular number; and

sixteen MSS. and the two oldest editions express the word fully

in this place, bamothaiv. Tumulus et collem et sepulchrum

fuisse significat. Potest enim tumulus sine sepulchro

interpretatione collis interdum accipi. Nam et terrae congestio

super ossa tumulus dicitur. "Tumulus signifies a sepulchre with a

hillock of earth raised over it. The word is sometimes restrained

to the bank of earth; for the heaping up of the earth over the

bones is named the tumulus."-Servius, AEn. iii. 22. And to make

the tumulus still more elevated and conspicuous, a pillar or some

other ornament was often erected upon it:-



Odyss. xii. 14.

"A rising tomb, the silent dead to grace,

Fast by the roarings of the main we place;

The rising tomb a lofty column bore,

And high above it rose the tapering oar."


The tomb therefore might with great propriety be called the high

place. The Hebrews might also call such a tomb bamoth, from

the situation, for they generally chose to erect them on

eminences. The sepulchre of Joseph of Arimathea, in which the

body of Christ was laid, was upon a hill, Mount Calvary. See

Isa 22:16, and the note there.

"It should be observed that the word bamothaiv is not

formed from bamoth, the plural of bamah, the

feminine noun, but from bamothim, the plural of a masculine

noun, bamoth. This is noted because these two nouns have been

negligently confounded with one another, and absurdly reduced to

one by very learned men. So Buxtorf, lex. in voc. bamah,

represents bamotey, though plainly without any pronoun

suffixed, as it governs the word arets following it, as only

another form of bamoth; whereas the truth is, that

bamoth and bamothim are different words, and have through

the whole Bible very different significations; bamah, whether

occurring in the singular or plural number, always signifying a

place or places of worship; and bamothim always

signifying heights. Thus in De 32:13; Isa 58:14; Am 4:13;

and Mic 1:3,

bamothey arets signifies 'the heights of the earth;' Isa 14:14,

bamothey ab, 'the heights of the clouds;' and in

Job 9:8,

bamothey yam, 'the heights of the sea,' i.e., the high waves of

the sea, as Virgil calls a wave praeruptus aqua mons, 'a broken

mountain of water.' These being all the places where this word

occurs without a suffix, the sense of it seems nearly determined

by them. It occurs in other instances with a pronoun suffixed,

which confirm this signification. Unluckily, our English Bible has

not distinguished the feminine noun bamah from the masculine

singular noun bamoth; and has consequently always given the

signification of the latter to the former, always rendering it a

high place; whereas the true sense of the word appears plainly to

be, in the very numerous passages in which it occurs, 'a place of

worship,' or 'a sacred court,' or 'a sacred inclosure;' whether

appropriated to the worship of idols or to that of the true God,

for it is used of both, passim. Now as the Jewish graves are

shown, from 2Ch 32:33, and Isa 22:16, to have been in high

situations, to which may be added the custom of another eastern

nation from Osbeck's Travels, who says, vol. i. p. 339, 'the

Chinese graves are made on the side of hills;' 'his heights'

becomes a very easy metaphor to express 'his sepulchre.'"-JUBB.

The exact completion of this prophecy will be fully shown by

adding here the several circumstances of the burial of Jesus,

collected from the accounts of the evangelists:-

"There was a rich man of Arimathea, named Joseph, a member of

the sanhedrin, and of a respectable character, who had not

consented to their counsel and act; he went to Pilate and begged

the body of Jesus: and he laid it in his own new tomb, which had

been hewn out of the rock, near to the place where Jesus was

crucified; having first wound it in fine linen with spices, as the

manner of the Jews was to bury the rich and great."

It has been supposed that kibro, his grave, and

bemothaiv, in his death, may have been transposed, as also the

prefix be originally placed before reshaim, the

wicked. Thus:-

mothaiv eth bireshayim vaiyitten

kibro ashir veeth

Yea, his death was appointed among the wicked,

And with a rich man, his tomb.

By these alterations it is supposed the text would be freed from

all embarrassment. But see the preceding notes of Bishop Lowth,

and the various readings of De Rossi, in loc.

Verse 10. To grief-"With affliction"] For hecheli, the

verb, the construction of which seems to be hard and inelegant in

this place, the Vulgate reads bocholi, in infirmitate,

"with infirmity."

When thou shalt make his soul-"If his soul shall make"] For

tasim, a MS. has tasem, which may be taken passively, "If

his soul shall be made-"agreeably to some copies of the

Septuagint, which have δωται. See likewise the Syriac.

When thou shalt make his soul an offering] The word nephesh,

soul, is frequently used in Hebrew to signify life. Throughout

the New Testament the salvation of men is uniformly attributed to

the death of Christ.

He shall see his seed] True converts, genuine Christians.

He shall prolong his days] Or this spiritual progeny shall

prolong their days, i.e., Christianity shall endure to the end of


And the pleasure of the Lord] To have all men saved and brought

to the knowledge of the truth.

Shall prosper in his hand.] Shall go on in a state of

progressive prosperity; and so completely has this been thus far

accomplished, that every succeeding century has witnessed more

Christianity in the world than the preceding, or any former one.

Verse 11. Shall be satisfied-"And be satisfied"] The Septuagint,

Vulgate, Syriac, and a MS. add the conjunction to the verb,


Shall my righteous servant justify-"Shall my servant justify"]

Three MSS., (two of them ancient,) omit the word tsaddik; it

seems to be only an imperfect repetition, by mistake, of the

preceding word. It makes a solecism in this place; for according

to the constant usage of the Hebrew language, the adjective, in a

phrase of this kind, ought to follow the substantive; and

tsaddik abdi, in Hebrew, would be as absurd as "shall

my servant righteous justify," in English. Add to this, that it

makes the hemistich too long.

Verse 12. He bare the sin of many] rabbim, the

multitudes, the many that were made sinners by the offences of

one; i.e., the whole human race; for all have sinned-all have

fallen; and for all that have sinned, and for all that have

fallen, Jesus Christ died. The rabbim of the prophet

answers to the οιπολλοι, of the apostle, Ro 5:15, 19. As the

πολλοι of the apostle means all that have sinned; so the

rabbim of the prophet means those for whom Christ died; i.e.,

all that have sinned.

And made intercession for the transgressors.] For yaphgia,

in the future, a MS. has hiphgia, preterite, rather better,

as agreeable with the other verbs immediately preceding in the


He made intercession for the transgressors.-This was literally

fulfilled at his death, "Father, forgive them; they know not what

they do!" Lu 23:34. And to make intercession for transgressors is

one part of his mediatorial office. Heb 7:25; 9:24.

IN this chapter the incarnation, preaching, humiliation,

rejection, sufferings, death, atonement, resurrection, and

mediation of Jesus Christ are all predicted, together with the

prevalence of his Gospel, and the extension of his kingdom through

all ages.

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