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September 27, 2016 / 24 Elul, 5776
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Friday the Rabbi Read Isaiah 53

Few chapters in the Jewish Bible have been used more vigorously and cleverly by Christian missionaries than this one, which happens to be a wonderful prophecy about the vindication of the Jewish nation.

A Jewish olah kissing the ground on her first moment back in the home of her people. This is the essence of Isaiah 53 – a prophetic poem of the national redemption of God's children while the nations of the world are watching enviously.

A Jewish olah kissing the ground on her first moment back in the home of her people. This is the essence of Isaiah 53 – a prophetic poem of the national redemption of God's children while the nations of the world are watching enviously.
Photo Credit: Guy Assayag /Flash90

In this morning’s video pick, a recording of the late Christopher Hitchens discussing the inherently immoral notion of someone dying for someone else’s sins, a kind of spiritual cannibalism, really, reader Alex Rivera entered the comment: “I take it the editor has never read Isaiah 53…”

Since Isaiah 53 is being used as one of the foundation strategies of missionary tricksters in seeking proof for their pagan ideas in our holy scriptures, I decided to respond immediately, lest this drivel have a chance to spread further.

Now, this article is directed at both Jewish and Christian readers, as an attempt to set the record straight. If you’re a Jew, I expect this should satisfy any doubt you may have had regarding the most remote possibility that the missionary claims bear any validity; if you’re Christian, I hope that this would serve as an opening to explore further the deep seated errors of your faith.

Isaiah 53 is an amazing piece of poetry, besides bearing a stirring prophetic message. I cannot understand how one would be able to get it without a thorough knowledge of Hebrew – even if he or she don’t have preconceived notions about the Christian message. This is precisely why the missionaries are able to fool our Jewish brothers and sisters who aren’t fluent in Hebrew – but now they can all come to the JewishPress.com and see the Jewish version of Isaiah 53.

To start, the original Hebrew texts had no chapters, and we read them based on their content, referring to each as a distinct episode, or a distinct poem, with their own cohesive content.

The segment in Isaiah 53 actually starts in Isaiah 52:13, flowing into Isaiah 53:1:

52:13 goes: “Behold, My slave has become wise, he has risen and become superior and very high.”

The nation of Israel, in the singular, is called God’s slave throughout the book of Isaiah. In one particular verse, Isaiah 41:8, the text refers to our nation using both names of our patriarch: “And you Israel, my slave Jacob whom I have chosen, seed of Abraham my lover.”

Both Isaiah and Jeremiah use the term “My slave Jacob” six times, four of them with the Divine’s call to “fear not.”

In both cases, the prophets are borrowing the names of our forefather Jacob-Israel, whom God addresses with that calming call on the eve of his journey down to Egypt, in the context of his becoming a great nation, the nation of Israel:

“He said, I am God, the God of your father, fear not going down to Egypt for I shall turn you into a great nation there.” (Gen. 46:3)

So that there’s no doubt in any Hebrew reader’s mind that the prophetic poem in Isaiah 52-53 is referring to us, the nation of Israel, children of Jacob. Nothing here about some guy telling folks he is the messiah.

The scene described by Isaiah is that of the nations of the world, kings and all, who are reviewing the progress of the nation of Israel—very much the way they do today, when 9 out of 9 UN resolutions are against Israel, when the president of the United States and his secretary of state cannot tear themselves away from discussing the extra bathroom the Berkowitzes wish to construct in their East Jerusalem apartment, when the faraway, impoverished nation of Iran is devoting $175 billion, at last count, to build a weapon that would finally annihilate all the Jews of Israel – this is precisely what the prophet describes, this obsession of the entire world with the children of God.

And so, God shares His own report with them:

52:13 “Behold, My slave has become wise, he has risen and become superior and very high.”

God proceeds to describe our history:

52:14-15 “Just as many were appalled by your appearance, saying: he is so disfigured, worse than any man, and his form worse than any human being, so he will humiliate many nations, kings will stand speechless over him, for that which had not been told them they’ll see and that which they had not heard they’ll ponder.”

The prophet continues:

53:1 “Who would believe what we have heard, and to whom has God’s arm been revealed?”

Now comes a description of the development of the nation of Israel, but from the implied point of view of those kings of the gentile nations:

53:2-4 “He grew up like a sapling, like a root out of dry ground. He is not well-formed or glorious; we saw him, but his appearance did not attract us. Despised and lowly, a man of pains, familiar with illness. As if he hid his face from us, he was lowly and we did not value him. In fact, it was our diseases he bore, our pains from which he suffered; yet we regarded him as if he were diseased himself, punished and tortured by God.”

In other words, the Jews were roaming the planet, encountering the diseases of the gentiles around them, and bearing them – so much so that the gentiles believe that these Jews are being punished by God.

Now, in retrospect, the gentiles are saying:

53:5 “He was wounded as a result of our transgressions, and crushed as a result of our iniquities. The chastisement upon him was for our benefit; and through his wounds we were healed.”

It is a perfect description of the life of the Jews in the diaspora, always contributing to the welfare of their host society, and always being made to suffer from its ailments.

The gentiles continue:

53:6-7 “We have all strayed like sheep, each of us turning his own way, and God inflicted upon him [Israel] the iniquity of all of us. He [Israel] was repressed and tortured, but he did not open his mouth. Like a sheep led to the slaughter and a lamb that is silent before her shearers, he did not open his mouth.”

Then, the end of Israel’s suffering has arrived, the prophet describes:

53:8 “He was released from captivity and judgment—who could have imagined such a generation would ever come? For he was already removed from the land of the living, my people were afflicted because of their crimes.”

Having been freed, the prophet evaluates Israel’s track record, pointing out that, once we were in exile, we preferred death and impoverishment over accepting the gentiles’ paganism:

53:9: “He was buried with the wicked, and executed with the wealthy, but he committed no crime, and there was no deceit in his mouth.”

It turns out that all our suffering were God’s will:

53:10 “God desired to oppress him and He afflicted him, to find out: if he acknowledged his own guilt, he would see offspring and live long days, and God’s plan would be carried out successfully by his hand.”

Of all the missionary attempts to subvert this chapter and make believe it describes the boy from Nazareth, I’m yet to see a single interpretation of the above verse, 53:10, that has anything to do with Jesus. Not going by my translation – going by theirs!

Here’s the King James Isaiah 53:10:

“Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.”

Did Jesus bear children? Did he live a long life?

Check out every existing English translation – they all repeat the same points: the subject of this prophecy is rewarded with children and a long life. Which means it cannot possibly be the Jesus who, by 99.9% of all Christian accounts, died childless at age 33, give or take.

In the final two verses, the nation of Israel reaches its peak in influencing humanity, teaching it the path to the true word of God, our Torah:

53:11-12 “He would learn from his travails, his mind will be satiated [with knowledge], My slave will teach the masses to be righteous, and he will tolerate their transgressions. Therefore, I will honor him among the multitudes and he will plunder the spoils of the mighty–for he has exposed himself to death and accepted being counted among the wicked, while actually bearing the sins of the many, and praying for the wicked.”

May we merit to live through the few months still remaining until this precious prophesy becomes fully realized – it has been getting there at an increasing speed for 60 some years. May all of us also merit to be here, in Zion (or the Netanya part of Zion) to embrace our redemption.

Shabbat Shalom.

Yori Yanover

About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.


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