Ancient Paths

The Mysterious Prophecy of Isaiah 53

A Vision Given During Troubled Times…
To The People Of Jerusalem Living Under The Imminent Threat Of Invasion.
In 701, The King Of Assyria, Sennacherib, Sargon’s Son,
Came Over With His Army And Invaded The Kingdom Of Judah.
We Know From The Assyrian Sources That They Destroyed 46 Of The Cities Of Judah.
Narrator: According To The Vision, The Lord Was Trying To Get The Attention…
Of A Nation That Had Turned Their Backs On What He Had Said In The Torah, And On Him.
The Vision Expressed Both Warnings And Hope For Isaiah’s Time,
While Including Predictions That Reached To The End Of The Age.
But There Was One Part Of The Vision That Sounded Different, Totally Unexpected,
A Mysterious Prophecy Tucked In The 53rd Chapter Of Isaiah.
In Graphic Detail It Spoke Of A Servant,
A Servant Deliverer Whose Identity Seemed Hidden In A Kind Of Prophetic Riddle.
For Centuries, Many Have Tried To Solve The Mystery Of Isaiah Chapter 53,
And Identify This One Whom The Lord Calls, “My Servant.”
In The Ancient Targum, Which Is A Rabbinic Paraphrase Of The Bible,
It Says, “Behold, My Servant, The Messiah…”
And It Adds The Words, “The Messiah,” “…Will Prosper.”
And So, It Is Actually Thinking Of Isaiah 52:13 Through 53:12.
It Says, “This Is The Messiah.” So Many, Many Passages,
Many Citations Could Say, “Yes, This Was A Messianic Passage.”
From Ancient Times,
Jewish Interpreters Understood Isaiah 52:13 Through 53:12 To Be A Messianic Passage.
For Example, In The Talmud, In Sanhedrin 98, It Speaks Of The Messiah.
It Asks The Question, “What Is The Messiah’s Name?”
And It Says, “The Sick One, For He Shall Bear Our Sicknesses,”
Quoting From Isaiah, From Isaiah 53.
Dr. Darrell Bock: The Jewish View That’s Always Made The Most Sense To Me In This…
Has Been To Argue For The Righteous Remnant As A Function Of The Collective,
As Opposed To Israel As A Whole. Because We Know Israel’s History As…
As A Whole Is Not Particularly Righteous.
So The Nation, As A Whole, Doesn’t Qualify.
But The Idea That Within Israel There Are Certain Righteous Ones…
Who Have Faithfully Represented God, Who Could Perhaps Fit This Role,
Seems To Me Would Be A Plausible Way To Try And Make The… The Corporate Argument.
This Much We See: Beginning In The 41st Chapter,
Israel Is Referred To As The Servant Of The Lord, As A Nation,
But Then Sometimes One Individual Within The Nation Is Identified As The Servant.
It Says That The Servant Dies, “For The Sins Of My People.”
Now, Whether It’s Israel Speaking, God Speaking, Or Isaiah Speaking,
The Only Answer To The Question Of, “Who Are My People?” Is, “It’s Israel.”
So How Could Israel Die For Israel, As A Substitution?
Narrator: So The Unnamed Servant Succeeds And Conquers,
Not By Power, But By Surrender And Suffering,
Bringing Healing For His People, The Jewish People, And The World.
But Who Is This Suffering Servant?
When You Come To Isaiah 53, You Have To Ask Yourself, Who Actually Fulfilled This?
Who Actually Died And His Own People Thought He Was Dying For His Sin,
And Yet He Was Dying For The Sins Of The Whole World?
Who Was It That Didn’t Defend Himself, That Went As A Lamb To The Slaughter?
Who Was It That Not Only Was Cut Off From The Land Of The Living And Died,
But Then Continued On, Saw The Light Of Life, Continued Alive?
Who Was It That Bore The Sin Of Many?
Who Was It Because Of Whom Kings Of The Earth Have Shut Their Mouths In Awe And Said,
“We Never Knew. We Never Understood.”?
Narrator: For Centuries The Rabbis Of Israel…
Reflected On The Mysteries Of What Isaiah Had Foreseen.
Some Suggested That Isaiah Was Predicting Two Messiahs, Two Deliverers,
One In The Military Legacy Of King David, Another Who,
Like The Patriarch Joseph, Would Rescue His People Through Suffering.
Messiah Son Of David And Messiah Son Of Joseph.
Then, Just As The Modern Nation Of Israel Was Being Reborn,
The Prophecies Of Isaiah Resurfaced.
Ancient Copies Of The Prophet, Dated 100 Years Or More Before The Christian Era,
Were Discovered At The Lowest Spot On Earth, Near The Dead Sea.
So The Dead Sea Scrolls Are Ancient Jewish Manuscripts,
Discovered Between ’47 And ’56 In 11 Caves In The Area Of Qumran.
Qumran Is Located On The Northwestern Shore Of The Dead Sea,
25-30 Kilometers East From Jerusalem.
This Was One Of The Greatest And Most Important Discoveries…
Of Antiquities Ever Made.
Narrator: Here The Air Is Bone Dry,
Perfect For Preserving And Hiding The Manuscripts Of The Dead Sea Scrolls.
Many Scholars Identify What Remains Of The Qumran Community…
With A Jewish Sect Called The Essenes.
Seeing The Priesthood And Temple Worship Of Jerusalem As Being Corrupted,
The Essenes Broke From Mainstream Judaism…
And Retreated Here To Seek The Lord In The Wilderness.
It Seems That The Book Of Isaiah Was Among The Most Popular And Most Admired Books…
For The Sect Which Was Living At Qumran During Second Temple Period.
And Of The Book Of Isaiah, We Have 21 Copies.
Isaiah Is The Most Popular Prophet Among The Dead Sea Scrolls,
He’s The Oft-Quoted Prophet In All The Scrolls.
And It’s A Fact That Out Of The 220 Biblical Copies In… In Qumran,
The Only Full Copy Is The Great Isaiah Scroll Discovered In Cave One In ’47.
So It’s Very Obvious That Must Be A Reason, Hmm?
Because Isaiah Is A Key Prophet In Qumran.
Narrator: The Essenes Carefully Copied Biblical Texts And Community Documents.
Their Desert Library Reflected The Belief…
That They Were Living In The Times Of Israel’s Long-Awaited Messiah.
And There’re Many Examples In The Book Of Isaiah,
In The Oracles Of The Isaiah Prophet,
About A… The Future Savior And The… The End Of History.
In The First Century Bc, First Century Ad,
Those People Probably Felt Their Own Days As The Very Troublesome Days Of Prophet Isaiah.
They Regarded The Roman Threat To Be, Maybe,
Parallel To The Threat Felt By The Jerusalemites From Assyria,
The Great Power Of Their Time.
They Regarded Themselves As The Isaiah Of Their Own Time.
Some Groups Like The Qumranites And The… The Group Of Yeshua And John The Baptist,
They Live With The Sense That Actually They Are On The Eve Of The New Era,
Expecting The… The Messianic Kingdom.
It’s Quite Obvious Why Isaiah Became A Key Prophet For Disclosing The Secret Of Time.
Narrator: The Secret Of The Times.
In Scrolls Governing Life And Worship, Called The Community Rule,
The Essenes Used The Words Of Isaiah To Describe Their Messianic Mission To,
“Open Up A Path For The Lord.”
Roitman: And This Issue Is The Key Issue Mentioned In The Scrolls Themselves,
In The Community Rule. And It’s Not By Chance That The Same Verse,
Quoting From Isaiah Chapter 40, Verse 3,
Is The Same Verse Also Mentioned In The Context Of John The Baptist…
In The Gospel Of Mark And The Parallels.
Also, Strictly Speaking, This Verse Is Mentioned Explaining Why John The Baptist…
Is Announcing The Coming Of The Messiah In The Wilderness Of Judea.
So Again, It Can’t Be By Chance That Same Verse Is Quote,
And Again, It Teaches The Fact That The Prophet Isaiah…
Was A Key Prophet For Different Groups In Ancient Judaism.
Narrator: Soon After John The Baptist Called On His People…
To Prepare The Way Of The Lord In The Wilderness,
Isaiah’s Predictions Of A Suffering Servant Took A Controversial Turn.
Followers Of Yeshua, Or Yeshua In Hebrew,
Came To The Conclusion That They Had Seen An Unexpected And Dramatic Fulfillment…
Of The Ancient Words In The 53rd Chapter Of Isaiah.
The Shrine Of The Book At The Israel Museum…
Houses The Dead Sea Scrolls Exhibit.
Showcased Here Is A Replica Of The Great Scroll Of Isaiah,
1,000 Years Older Than Any Previously Discovered Copies Of The Prophet.
Here A National Treasure Silently Represents The Hope Of A Nation…
And A Promise For The World.
Within This 24-Foot Scroll Are Ancient Predictions Of A Restored People,
And Of A Global Peace.
It Is A Day When, As Isaiah Says, “The Lion Will Lie Down With The Lamb,
“And Swords Will Be Beaten Into Plows.”
A Time When A Long-Awaited Messiah Reigns In Justice.
Yet With The Promise Comes An Unfolding Drama.
The 53rd Chapter Of This Scroll Tells The Story Of The Suffering Servant Deliverer…
That Would Eventually Be Claimed By Followers Of Yeshua.
It’s Important To Remember That In The Time Of Yeshua…
There Was No Such Thing As Christianity.
He Was A Rabbi, Not A Reverend.
He Was Called Christ Not Because He Was The Son Of Mr. And Mrs. Christ,
But Because “Christ” Was The Greek Way Of Saying “Messiah.”
And The Only Bible They Had Was What We Call The Tanakh, The Jewish Scriptures.
Narrator: According To The Gospels,
Yeshua And His Disciples Didn’t See Themselves As Starting A New Religion,
But Part Of A New Era In Judaism, A New Era That Would,
Again And Again, Reach Back To The Promises Of Prophets Like Isaiah.
And It’s A Fact That Also The Prophet Isaiah…
Is The Oft-Quoted Prophet In The Brit Chadasha Writings.
Again, It Cannot Be A Chance. And There Is Another Very Intriguing Issue.
That Is In The Stories On Yeshua In The Gospels,
There Is Only One Story In Which Yeshua Is Said That He Reads From A Book.
There Is Only One Story In Only One Version, In The Gospel Of Luke In Chapter 4,
Which Tells The Story That When Yeshua On Sabbath, On Shabbat,
He… He Was In Nazareth. He Was Asked To Read From A… A Scroll,
And It Was Given To Yeshua, The Book Of Isaiah,
And He Read From Isaiah Chapter 61 About, “The Spirit Of God Upon Me.”
There Is A… A Big Discussion Among Scholarship…
If This Story Can Be Regarded As A True And Original Story About Yeshua,
Or It’s An Apocryphal Story.
But In Any Case, It’s Very Obvious That In One Way Or Another, The Story,
It Reflects The Significance That The Prophet Isaiah…
Had For The Followers Of Yeshua, John The Baptist And The First Talmadim.
In The Book Of Acts, In Acts Chapter 8,
There’s A Ethiopian Royal Official Who Is Heading Back. He’s The Treasurer.
He’s Obviously A Convert To Judaism, And He’s Got The Scroll Of Isaiah In His Chariot.
And He Is Reading It And He’s Trying To Figure Out, “Who Is This Servant?”
And It’s At This Point That He Meets Philip,
Who Was A Jewish Follower Of Yeshua In The First Century,
Obviously Taught By The Disciples,
Had Learned Of Isaiah 53 And Its Application To Yeshua Being The Messiah.
And When He Meets This Royal Official,
He Asks Him If He Knows Who He Is Reading About.
And The Royal Official Says, “I Don’t Know. There’s No One Here To Explain It To Me.
“Who Is He Speaking Of? Is He Speaking Of Himself? Is He Speaking Of…
“Who Is He Speaking Of?”
And At That Point Philip Shows Him How Yeshua Is The Fulfillment Of This Passage,
That It’s… That He Is The… The Referent That Isaiah Was Speaking Of…
When He Spoke Of The Messiah, The Suffering Servant.
And At This Point, The Royal Official Immediately Believes…
And Becomes A Follower Of Yeshua, As Well.
Narrator: What Really Inspired Those Close To Yeshua?
What Made Them See Him As More Than Another Rabbi?
After The Tragic And Unexpected Execution Of Their Teacher,
Followers Of Yeshua Claimed To Be Eyewitnesses Of His Resurrection.
Before Long, They Were Also Seeing In The 53rd Chapter Of Isaiah…
An Ancient Portrait Of The Remarkable Events They Had Just Witnessed.
In Verse After Verse They Saw Detailed Descriptions Of The Life Of Yeshua,
His Terrible Sacrificial Death And Even His Resurrection.
They Saw Yeshua As The Unnamed Suffering Servant…
In The Arresting Portrait Of Isaiah 53.
In Isaiah 53, It’s Shocking To See The Servant Of The Lord Experiencing…
Experiencing A Humiliating Death, A Horrific Death.
When It Describes Him, It Talks About Him Being Crushed For Our Iniquities.
It… It Describes Him As Being So Beaten And So Hurt That He’s Beyond Recognition.
It Is A Excruciating, Humiliating, Disfiguring Death That He Faces.
It Also Describes Him Dying Through Piercing.
It Says, “He Was Pierced Through For Our Iniquities.”
So It Indicates That His Death Would Include Piercing.
And The Significance Of His Death Is That…
It Wasn’t That He Was Dying Because He Did Something Wrong,
But It Says, “All We, Like Sheep, Have Gone Astray.
“We Each Have Turned To His Own Way.
“But The Lord Has Laid On Him, The Servant, The Iniquity Of Us All, The Guilt Of Us All.”
In Other Words, What He Is Saying Is That The Servant Is Dying As A Substitution…
To Take The Chastisement For Our Well-Being. He Is Paying The Punishment For Our Sins.
His Death In… In Effect, Is A Substitution.
He Is Exchanging His Life So That We Can Be Forgiven.
Narrator: This Description Of The Servant Reads Like It’s A Person,
An Individual, And Remarkably Like The Story Of Yeshua.
But Traditional Judaism Most Often Identifies The Servant As The Nation Of Israel,
Who Also Suffered Tragically.
If I Was Reading It As A Traditional Rabbi…
So I’m Reading The Hebrew Text, But I’m Not Just Reading The Text,
I’m Reading It With The Major Commentaries.
And The Primary Commentaries On My Page Are Going To Be…
Some Of The Commentaries From Eleventh, Twelfth, Thirteenth Centuries…
Named Rashi And Ibn Ezra And Radach.
These Men Are Very Important In Traditional Judaism.
I’m Going To Be Reading It In Light Of What They Say,
And They’re Going To Tell Me That The Servant Of The Lord Is Israel,
And This Is Speaking Of The Suffering Of The Jewish People,
Or The Righteous Remnant, The Righteous Minority Within The Nation.
And This Is As We’re Scattered Around The World, Be It The Holocaust,
Be It Crusades, Inquisitions, Whatever We’ve Suffered Through The Centuries.
And This Is Through Our Suffering, Somehow Healing Comes To The World.
And… And Then At The End, The Gentile Kings, The Nations Will Recognize,
“They Were…Wow! We Thought They Were Despised And Rejected.
“They Were Actually Suffering For Us, And Through Them Healing Has Come Our Way.”
Narrator: First Century Israel Certainly Knew About Suffering.
Yeshua Wasn’t The Only One Crucified.
Some Were Still Looking For A Messiah, A Deliverer,
Someone To Free Them From Roman Occupation, To Restore Their Kingdom.
But It Had Been 400 Years Of Silence,
400 Years Since There Had Been A Word From The Lord,
Or A Prophet To Show Them The Way.
Yeshua And John The Baptist Both Enter The Scene,
But Without A Word About Roman Oppression.
Yeshua Did Say, “Give To Caesar The Things That Are Caesar’s,
“And To God The Things That Are God’s.”
So It’s Not Surprising That The Rabbi From Nazareth…
Didn’t Meet The Expectations Of Many In Jerusalem.
There’s No Question That The Primary Jewish Expectation Of The Messiah,
Even Among The Disciples, Would Be One Who Would Rule And Reign,
And Establish The Kingdom And Destroy The Yoke Of Rome,
And Set The Jewish People Free And Bring The Kingdom Of God To The Earth.
That Would Have Been The Most Common Jewish Expectation.
Narrator: By Contrast, According To The Gospels Of The Brit Chadasha,
Yeshua Presented Himself Humbly As The Servant Of Isaiah,
Conquering Through Surrender And Suffering.
Bock: He Does It Indirectly, Which Is How He Actually Does A Lot Of Things.
But He Does It By Saying That He Came To Give His Life As A Ransom For Many,
Which Is An Allusion To The Imagery Of This… Of This Text.
He Does It At The Last Supper. You Know, The Last Supper Is Kind Of Like…
A Last Will And Testament Time With His Disciples.
You Say Things When You Know You’re Departing To People To… That They’ll Remember.
And So He Has This Meal, And He… He Takes What Is… What Is Passover,
What Is The Passover, And Changes The Imagery And Relates It All To Himself.
And In The Midst Of Doing That, He Says…
He Speaks About The Blood Being Shed On Behalf Of The Many.
And So This Is The Blood Of The New Covenant.
And So… Poured Out For You Or Poured Out For The Many.
Two… We Have Two Versions Of These Words In The Gospels,
But The… The Allusion Is To Isaiah 53.
And… And So Yeshua Is Connecting Himself With This Sacrifice, Being This Servant.
He Tells, At The Same Meal, In Luke,
He Tells His Disciples That He Will Be Reckoned With The Transgressors,
Which Is A Passage Coming Right Out Of This Text.
Narrator: So According To The Gospels, While Anticipating His Death,
Yeshua Spoke Of That Future Kingdom Foreseen By Isaiah.
And Earlier In His Life Yeshua Stated His Purpose Was To Serve,
And Serve As A Ransom, Again Quoting From Isaiah 53.
However, Yeshua Didn’t Just Link Himself To One Prophetic Chapter In Isaiah,
But To The Whole Of The Hebrew Bible.
Centuries Ago, The Prophet Wrote Of The Suffering…
Of A Heroic Figure Called, “My Servant.”
Does The Mystery Still Remain?
Was That Servant A Nation That Suffered?
Was The Servant A Son Of David Who Said He Came To Serve And Suffer?
All Prophecies Are Tested By Time.