The Jewish View or A Jewish View?

by Tony Pearce ( Light for Last Days).

'The Christian view of Isaiah 53:1-12 is that it is about Jesus suffering for the sins of the world. The Jewish view is that it is about Israel suffering on behalf of the nations.'

This is the standard opinion of Rabbis today. However it would be more accurate to say that the interpretation of Isaiah 53 as a prophecy of the sufferings of the Jewish people is a Jewish view not the Jewish view. When I put this to a Jewish lecturer on the subject, he had to admit that the ancient Rabbis believed that Isaiah 53 is about the sufferings of the Messiah. In the Targum (first century paraphrase) of this passage Jonathan ben Uzziel wrote, 'Behold my Servant Messiah shall prosper …'

A prayer written by Rabbi Eliezer Kalir around the 7th century clearly refers to Isaiah 53 and relates it to the Messiah: 'Messiah our righteousness is departed from us; horror hath seized us, and we have none to justify us. He hath borne the yoke of our iniquities, and our transgression and is wounded because of our transgression. He bears our sin upon his shoulder, that he may find pardon for our iniquities.'

Writing of Isaiah 53 in about 1550, Rabbi Alshech said, 'Our Rabbis with one voice accept and confirm the opinion that the prophet is speaking of the King Messiah and we shall ourselves also adhere to the same view.'

The first Rabbinic reference to Isaiah 53 being about Israel suffering on behalf of the Gentiles rather than the sufferings of the Messiah is in the writings of Rashi in about 1050 in order to answer Christians who were relating the passage to the sufferings of Jesus as Messiah. At the time Rashi's opinion was rejected by many.

In fact Isaiah 53 does not make sense if it is about Israel suffering on behalf of the nations. For one thing this makes Isaiah a Gentile! 'For the transgressions of my people (the Gentiles?) was he (Israel?) stricken.' For another Isaiah has spent much of his prophecy speaking of Israel's sins. So how can the Lord lay on Israel 'the iniquity of us all'?

The only interpretation which makes sense of the passage is that it is a prophecy of the Messiah Jesus.

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