Isaiah 53 is a profound prophecy which has been given a messianic interpretation for centuries. The messianic interpretation I’m referring to is that of ancient Jewish authors. To understand how ancient Jews would view their Messiah in the “Suffering Servant” prophecy, it is necessary to understand that it was once common among Jews to believe in two (or more) messianic figures.1)see The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls In English (Trans. Geza Vermes), Penguin Classics (London, England: 1962, 2004, p. 86 For example, a fifth century document 3 Enoch, states, “And I saw: the Messiah the son of Joseph and his generation, and all that they will do to the gentiles. And I saw: the Messiah the son of David and his generation, and all the battles and wars, and all that they will do to Israel whether for good or bad.” (3 Enoch 45:5)2)The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (Ed. James H. Charlesworth) Doubleday (New York, NY: 1983), Vol. 1, p. 298 This Messiah from the lineage of Joseph is called by various names, Messiah ben Joseph or Messiah ben Ephraim. The word “ben” is Hebrew for “son of”3) Gesenius’ Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon of the Old Testament Scriptures, Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. (Grand Rapids, MI: 1957), p. 125-127 with Joseph and Ephraim being interchangeable because this Messiah is supposed to come from the tribe of Ephraim which descended from Joseph.

One Jewish text from the mid-eighth century entitled The Secrets of Rabbi Simeon ben Yohai records, “If they [i.e. Israel] are not worthy, the Messiah of the lineage of Ephraim comes; but if they are worthy, the Messiah of the lineage of David will come.”4)The Secrets of Rabbi Simeon ben Yohai; in John C. Reeves, Trajectories in Near Eastern Apocalyptic: A Postrabbinic Jewish Apocalypse Readers, Society of Biblical Literature (Atlanta GA: 2005), p. 85 An earlier tradition from the Babylonian Talmud attempting to decipher the paradox of the exalted Messiah coming in the clouds of heaven (Daniel 7:13-14) or lowly riding a donkey (Zechariah 9:9), similarly expressed, “Rabbi Alexandri explains: If the Jewish people merit redemption, the Messiah will come in a miraculous manner with the clouds of heaven. If they do not merit redemption, the Messiah will come lowly and riding upon a donkey.” (B. Talmud, Sanhedrin 98a)5)https://www.sefaria.org/Sanhedrin.98a.13?lang=bi&with=all&lang2=en However, a prior comment interpreted Isaiah 52:3 “ye shall be redeemed without money” means “you will be redeemed not through repentance and good deeds, but through the will of God.” (B. Talmud, Sanhedrin 97b)6)https://www.sefaria.org/Sanhedrin.97b.15?lang=bi&with=all&lang2=en So Israel cannot merit redemption, thus God must redeem them implying the Messiah would come upon a donkey as the means of providing their redemption. David C. Mitchell writing about Messiah ben Joseph, says:

There is, in rabbinic literature, a figure called Messiah ben Joseph. This Messiah comes from Galilee to die, pierced by ruthless foes, at the gate of Jerusalem. Upon his death, Israel are scattered amidst the nations. But his death, as we shall see, confounds Satan, atones for sin, and abolishes death itself. And then he is raised to life again.7)David C. Mitchell, Messiah ben Joseph, Campbell Publications (Newton Mearns, Scotland: 2016), p. 1

The earliest Christian sources cited Isaiah 53 as evidence for Jesus as the Messiah who died for sin (Luke 22:37; Acts 8:32-35). This is also true with second century Christian authors such as Clement of Rome (1 Clement 16:3-14)8)The First Epistle of Clement, chapt. 16; in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Edited by Alexander Roberts, D.D., & James, Donaldson, LL.D., Hendrickson Publishers, 2012, vol. 1, p. 9 and Justin Martyr (1 Apology 50;9)The First Apology of Justin, chapt. 50; in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Edited by Alexander Roberts, D.D., & James, Donaldson, LL.D., Hendrickson Publishers, 2012, vol. 1, p. 179 Dialogue with Trypho 13; 43).10)Dialogue of Justin, Philosopher and Martyr, with Trypho, a Jew, chapt. 13 and 43; in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Edited by Alexander Roberts, D.D., & James, Donaldson, LL.D., Hendrickson Publishers, 2012, vol. 1, p. 201, 216 Considering that earlier Christians quoted this prophecy to argue that Jesus was the Messiah; it seems highly unlikely that Jews would invent a character such as Messiah ben Joseph to interpret the “Suffering Servant” of Isaiah 53 after the rise of Christianity and the New Testament.

The prophecy begins in Isaiah 52:13. “Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high.” The Targum on Isaiah, an ancient Aramaic paraphrase of this verse identified this “Servant” as the Messiah. “Behold, my servant the Messiah shall prosper, He shall be exalted and extolled, and He shall be very strong.”11)The Chaldee Paraphrase on the Prophet Isaiah (Trans. by Rev. C. W. H. Pauli), London Society’s House (London: 1871), p. 181 This shows an early, likely pre-Christian interpretation of Isaiah 53 being Messianic. Jintae Kim discussed the dating of this Targum being written, said, “Targum Isaiah is usually considered part of the Targum of Jonathan ben Uzziel, who lived in the first century BCE, but the dating of the Targum cannot be exactly determined, since the Talmud assigns some portions of it to Joseph ben Chija (c. 300 CE). The text now extant is presumably the result of an editorial process.”12)Jintae Kim, “Targum Isaiah 53 and the New Testament Concept of Atonement,” Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism, 5 (2008), p. 83  This particular Targum carried an authroitative impression among Jews which is why it is important to understand their early interpretation of this text. Philip Alexander indicated that the Targum Jonathan “was held in high esteem in Babylonia and is cited as autoritative in the Bavli [Babylonian Talmud]. On several occasions quotations from it are introduced by the formula: ‘Were it not for the targum of this verse we should not know what it means’ (B. T. Megilla 3a; parallel; B. T. Moed Katan 28b; B. T. Sanhedrin 94b; B. T. Berakhot 28b).”13)Philip S. Alexander, “Jewish Aramaic Translations of Hebrew Scripture,” in Mikra: Text, Translation, Reading & Interpretation of the Hebrew Bible in Ancient Judaism & Early Christianity (ed. Martin Jan Mulder and Harry Sysling), Baker Academic (Grand Rapids, MI: 2004), p. 223

Early in the second century A.D., 2 Baruch interpreted, “my Servant, the Anointed One” (2 Baruch 70:9),14)The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (Ed. James H. Charlesworth) Doubleday (New York, NY: 1983), Vol. 1, p. 645 meaning the Messiah. Notice that to be a servant is to be in a humble position, yet this servant is being exalted which is also evident in the closing verse of this prophecy (Isaiah 53:12). Jesus Christ spoke of the humble being exalted (Matthew 23:12; Luke 14:11), and His exaltation after suffering was preached (Acts 2:33; 3:13, 26) and prophesied in the New Testament (Philippians 2:5-11). The Septuagint translates this passage as indicating the servant is to be “exalted, and glorified exceedingly.” (Isaiah 52:13 [LXX])15)The Septuagint Version, Greek and English, Samuel Bagster and Sons Limited (London), p. 889

Peter D. Dirksen wrote on the scholarly debate over the Peshitta, an ancient Syriac version of the Bible, and its textual influences whether its translator(s) had been Jewish or Christian based on Isaiah 52:13-53:12. There is reference to “a few examples of agreement between the Peshitta and the targum which could point to the translator of the Peshitta being familiar with the targum.”16)Peter D. Dirksen, “The Old Testament Peshitta,” in Mikra: Text, Translation, Reading & Interpretation of the Hebrew Bible in Ancient Judaism & Early Christianity (ed. Martin Jan Mulder and Harry Sysling), Baker Academic (Grand Rapids, MI: 2004), p. 292 Further studies showed “a few readings where agreement of the Peshitta with LXX may indicate common use in the Peshitta and LXX (and targum) of current exegesis.”17) Peter D. Dirksen, “The Old Testament Peshitta,” in Mikra: Text, Translation, Reading & Interpretation of the Hebrew Bible in Ancient Judaism & Early Christianity (ed. Martin Jan Mulder and Harry Sysling), Baker Academic (Grand Rapids, MI: 2004), p. 292-293 By understanding the targum of Jewish thought behind the interpretive grid of Isaiah’s “Suffering Servant” prophecy, we can understand why scholars can argue whether the LXX and Peshitta could have been influenced by Christianity. The Jewish interpretation allowed a suffering, dying, and sin atoning Messianic figure.

Isaiah 52:14 “As many were astonied at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men:” Edward Young’s exposition of this verse states, “This does not mean that he appears to be more disfigured than other men, but that his disfigurement was so great that he no longer appeared as a man. What might be seen of him, i.e. his appearance, was disfigurement. Parallel to this thought is the second, namely that his form was away from the sons of man, i.e. that his form was so disfigured that he no longer resembled a man. This is an extremely strong way of saying how great his sufferings were.”18)Edward Young, The Book of Isaiah: Chapters 40-66, Eerdmans Publishing Company (Grand Rapids, MI: 1972) Vol. 3, pp. 337-338 The Targum paraphrased this again as a reference to the Messiah. “As the house of Israel anxiously hoped for Him many days, (which was poor among the nations; their appearance and their brightness being worse than that of the sons of men:)”19) The Chaldee Paraphrase on the Prophet Isaiah (Trans. by Rev. C. W. H. Pauli), London Society’s House (London: 1871), p. 181 The change in the text is seen in the adapting a plural, “their appearance” instead of “his visage” as in the Masoretic text. The Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah has an alteration of one letter in this text causing the reading “my marring.20)The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible (Translates and with Commentary by Martin Abegg Jr., Peter Flint & Eugene Ulrich), HarperCollins Publishers (New York, NY: 1999), p. 359, fn 1152 Jintae Kim suggested how this one letter could have produced the Messianic interpretation in the Targum paraphrase. “The difference between משחתי in 1QIsaa 52:14 and מִשְׁחָת in the MT is only one consonant. As suggested by Bronwlee, the variant reading cannot be correct since it is not suited to the context; rather, it is a pun upon the word מִשְׁחָת (‘marred’), which was made for the purpose of interpretation by adding a single Hebrew letter yod (י). This is the clearest case of alteration for the purpose of giving the Servant a messianic interpretation.”21)Jintae Kim, “Targum Isaiah 53 and the New Testament Concept of Atonement,” Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism, 5 (2008), p. 84, fn. 10 The root for the Hebrew word “Messiah” is משיח which is similar to “marred” משחת allowing the word play when adding the letter yod (י) making the word “my Messiah” in the Targum according the Jintae Kim.

Isaiah 52:15 “so shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider.” This “Suffering Servant” is said to “sprinkle many nations” after being “marred” and disfigured beyond human resemblance. The Peshitta changes “sprinkle” to “purify many nations.”22)The Holy Bible from Ancient Eastern Manuscripts: Containing the Old and New Testaments Translated from the Peshitta, The Authorized Bible of the Church of the East (George M. Lamsa), A. J. Holman Company (Philadelphia, PA:1933, 1957), p. 744 “The verb he shall sprinkle is a technical word, found in the Mosaic law for the sprinkling of oil, water, or blood as a cleansing or purifying rite.”23) Edward Young, The Book of Isaiah: Chapters 40-66, Eerdmans Publishing Company (Grand Rapids, MI: 1972) Vol. 3, p. 338 In Leviticus 4:6-7 the priests are to sprinkle blood before the altar and pour the blood at the bottom of the altar as a burnt offering. The Dead Sea Scrolls often presents two Messiah figures, one from David’s lineage as the coming King referred to as the “Messiah of Israel,” and the other as a Priestly Messiah. In a Scroll called The Messianic Rule it is stated,

When God engenders the Priest Messiah, he shall come with them at the head of the whole congregation of Israel with all his brethren, the sons of Aaron the Priest, those called to the assembly, the men of renown; and they shall sit before him, each man in the order of his dignity. And then the Messiah of Israel shall come, and the chiefs of the clans of Israel shall sit before him, each in the order of his dignity, according to his place in their camp and marches. (1QSa II.11-15)24)The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls In English (Trans. Geza Vermes), Penguin Classics (London, England: 1962, 2004, p. 161

This disfigured Servant is performing a priestly activity of sprinkling, likely the blood shed from the Servant becoming disfigured; and this sprinkling is said to be performed upon “many nations.” The Mishna makes a number of references to the “Priest anointed for battle” (m. Sota 7.2;25) in The Mishna (Trans. Herbert Danby), Hendrickson Pub. (Peabody, MA: 1933, 2016), p. 300 8.1;26) in The Mishna (Trans. Herbert Danby), Hendrickson Pub. (Peabody, MA: 1933, 2016), p. 302 makkoth 2.6).27) in The Mishna (Trans. Herbert Danby), Hendrickson Pub. (Peabody, MA: 1933, 2016), p. 404 Interestingly, Messiah ben Joseph is frequently depicted as the warrior Messiah whose death atones for the nation.

Edward Young says, “It is the work of a priest that is here set forth, and the purpose of this work is to bring purification and cleansing to others. Men regard the servant as himself unclean and in need of purification, whereas he himself as a priest will sprinkle water and blood and so purify many nations.”28) Edward Young, The Book of Isaiah: Chapters 40-66, Eerdmans Publishing Company (Grand Rapids, MI: 1972) Vol. 3, p. 338-339 This is exactly how Jesus Christ’s ministry as the high priest is depicted in the book of Hebrews 10:19-22. “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus,  by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; and having an high priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.” The same author speaks of “Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling” (Hebrew 12:24). Peter names many gentile nations, “Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,” have been saved by the “sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:1-2). We understand this as a reference to gentiles, not Jews of the diaspora as many commentators interpret 1 Peter 1:1 as29)Kenneth Wuest, First Peter, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Compnay (Grand Rapids, MI: 1942, 1970), p. 14 because Peter’s later expression identifying them as “in time past were not a people” united as the diaspora Jews would have been a singular united people though scattered (1 Peter 2:9-10).

Isaiah 53:1 “Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?” Interestingly, the doubting of the report comes immediately after the mention of sprinkling many gentile nations for purification. Jesus Christ found opposition when reading the prophecy from Isaiah 61:1-2 in the synagogue (Luke 4:16-29); but after mentioning God working amongst the gentiles (Luke 4:25-27; cf. the Zidonian widow woman in 1 Kings 17; the Syrian Naaman in 2 Kings 5), the people of His home town Nazareth attempted to kill Him (Luke 4:28-29). They refused to hear the report of the gospel going to the gentiles, just as was commonly seen in the apostle Paul’s ministry in the synagogues (Acts 13:44-46; 14:1-2; 17:5; 18:6; 19:8-9; 26:11). In Romans 10:15 Paul quoted Isaiah 52:7, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!” Preaching glad tidings is attributed to part of Jesus’ ministry in Luke 8:1. Interestingly, this verse is also cited in the Dead Sea Scroll The Heavenly Prince Melchizedek, which gives a messianic interpretation. “This is the day of Peace/Salvation concerning which God spoke through Isaiah the prophet, who said, How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who proclaims peace, who brings good news, who proclaims salvation, who says Zion: Your Elohim reigns (Isaiah 52:7). Its interpretation; the mountains are the prophets… and the messenger is the Anointed one of the spirit, concerning whom Daniel said, Until an anointed one, a prince (Daniel 9:25).” (11Q13)30) The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls In English (Trans. Geza Vermes), Penguin Classics (London, England: 1962, 2004), p. 533 This unique text from the Dead Sea collection was discussed by David Aune who noted this as the only pre-70 A.D. text that ascribes preaching the “good news” (i.e. preaching the gospel) as a messianic activity.

The significance of 11Q Melchizedek is that it provides the first piece of conclusive evidence before A.D. 70 that the proclamation of glad tidings could be considered a significant aspect of the messianic task. Although this announcement of the reign of God cannot be said to have been a necessary ingredient of the messianic office, it nevertheless belonged to the spectrum of functions which the designation mashiach connoted in the first century A.D. The evidence provided by 11Q Melchizedek demands that the central characteristic of Jesus’ earthly ministry—the proclamation of the glad tidings of the kingdom of God—be considered a messianic function.31)David E. Aune, “A note of Jesus’ Messianic Consciousness and 11HQMelchizedek,” The Evangelical Quarterly, 45, 3 (July-Sept. 1973), p. 165

Isaiah 53:2 “For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and 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.” Edward Young comments, “To men, however, the servant appeared as a suckling, a tender twig that grows on the trunk or branch of a tree and draws its life and strength therefrom. Men cut off the sucklings, because they take life from the tree and in men’s sight are to be cast out.”32)Edward Young, The Book of Isaiah: Chapters 40-66, Eerdmans Publishing Company (Grand Rapids, MI: 1972) Vol. 3, p. 341-342 This further elaborates why the report is unbelievable from the previous verse. There is no desirable and attracting qualities to the Servant. The Peshitta personifies this tender plant specifically by indicating “he grew up before him like an infant and like a root out of the dry ground.”33)The Holy Bible from Ancient Eastern Manuscripts: Containing the Old and New Testaments Translated from the Peshitta, The Authorized Bible of the Church of the East (George M. Lamsa), A. J. Holman Company (Philadelphia, PA:1933, 1957), p. 744 The Targum paraphrase completely reverses the meaning of the verse but it remains applied to the Messiah Whom the righteous “need”.34)The Chaldee Paraphrase on the Prophet Isaiah (Trans. by Rev. C. W. H. Pauli), London Society’s House (London: 1871), p. 182 According to the Masoretic Text, the Servant is as a “tender plant” who is to grow in an atmosphere that is unnourishing as “dry ground.” This is acknowledged in the New Testament when Jesus of Nazareth is identified as the Christ but is immediately questioned, “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:45-46). John tells us, “He came to his own, and his own received him not” (John 1:11). This “emphasizes that they should have been familiar with His person, His coming and His claims, as well as the great tragedy of their ultimate rejection.”35) Cleon Roger Jr. and Cleon Roger III, The New Linguistic and Exegetical Key to the Greek New Testament, Zondervan (Grand Rapids, MI: 1998), p. 176 The Rabbis argued that Jesus could not be the Christ because He was from Galilee: “Search, and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet.” (John 7:52) However, the prophet Jonah was from Gath-hepher (2 Kings 14:25) which is a city in Galilee, and Jesus applied Jonah specifically as a typology fulfilled in Himself (Matthew 12:39-41; 16:4; Luke 11:29-32). Furthermore, Rabbinic tradition placed Messiah ben Joseph in Galilee. One example is Aggadat Ha-Messiah which offers the interpretation of Numbers 24:17. “R. Huna repeated in the name of R. Levi: This verse teaches that Israel will assemble in Upper Galilee, and there within Galilee the Messiah of the lineage of Joseph will be revealed to them.”36)Aggadat Ha-Messiah, in John C. Reeves, Trajectories in Near Eastern Apocalyptic: A Postrabbinic Jewish Apocalypse Readers, Society of Biblical Literature (Atlanta GA: 2005), p. 145-146

Isaiah 53:3 “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” The pre-Christian text of The Wisdom of Solomon expresses language that assuredly had this passage of Isaiah in mind when written.

He professeth to have the knowledge of God: and he calleth himself the child of the Lord. He was made to reprove our thoughts. He is grievous unto us even to behold; for his life is not like other men’s, his ways are of another fashion. We are esteemed of him as counterfeits: he abstaineth from our ways as from filthiness: he pronounceth the end of the just to be blessed, and maketh his boast that God is his father. Let us see if his words be true: and let us prove what shall happen in the end of him. For if the just man be the son of God, he will help him, and deliver him from the hand of his enemies. Let us examine him with despitefulness and torture, that we may know his meekness, and prove his patience. Let us condemn him with a shameful death: for by his own saying he shall be respected. (Wisdom of Solomon 2:13-20)37)Wisdom of Solomon in The Apocrypha (ed. Manuel Komroff, Barnes & Noble Books (New York, NY: 1992), p. 131

The Targum simply sums this verse with the phrase “Although He shall be in contempt”38) The Chaldee Paraphrase on the Prophet Isaiah (Trans. by Rev. C. W. H. Pauli), London Society’s House (London: 1871), p. 183 prefixed to the following verse. In Sepher Zerubbabel, the Messiah from the lineage of David is given the name Menahem ben Amiel and is said to be despised by Israel when he is revealed after the former Messianic figure died. “Menahem b. Amiel will suddenly come on the fourteenth day of the first month; i.e., of the month Nisan…. Menahem b. Amiel will say to the elders and the sages: ‘I am the Lord’s Messiah: the Lord has sent me to encourage you and to deliver you from the power of these adversaries?’ The elders will scrutinize him and will despise him, for they will see that despicable man garbed in rags, and they will despise him just as you previously did.”39)Sefer Zerubbabel in John C. Reeves, Trajectories in Near Eastern Apocalyptic: A Postrabbinic Jewish Apocalypse Readers, Society of Biblical Literature (Atlanta GA: 2005), p. 60-61 Interestingly, from the text of Isaiah we see the Suffering Servant being despised, but Rabbinic literature consistently turned this despising to Messiah ben David. The Secrets of R. Simeon b. Yohai also applies this to Messiah ben David. “After this the Holy One blessed be He will reveal to them the Messiah of the lineage of David, but Israel will wish to stone him, and they will say to him: ‘You speak a lie, for the Messiah has already been slain, and there is no other Messiah destined to arise.’ They will scorn him, as scripture says: ‘despised and abandoned (by) men’ (Isa 53:3).”40)The Secrets of R Simeon b. Yohai in John C. Reeves, Trajectories in Near Eastern Apocalyptic: A Postrabbinic Jewish Apocalypse Readers, Society of Biblical Literature (Atlanta GA: 2005), p. 86

Isaiah 53:4 “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.” The Septuagint translated this verse as “He bears our sins, and is pained for us: yet we accounted him to be in trouble, and in suffering, and in affliction.” (Isaiah 53:4 [LXX])41)The Septuagint Version, Greek and English, Samuel Bagster and Sons Limited (London), p. 889 However, the Targum paraphrases “Although He shall be in contempt; yet He shall cut off the glory of all the wicked, they shall be weak and wretched. Lo, we are in contempt and not esteemed as a man of pain and appointed to sickness and as if He had removed the face of His Shekinah from us.”42)The Chaldee Paraphrase on the Prophet Isaiah (Trans. by Rev. C. W. H. Pauli), London Society’s House (London: 1871), p. 183 The third person singular “he” in the Masoretic text and the Septuagint is changed into the first person plural “we” which is apparently applied to Israel having God’s face turned from them, meaning to remove His blessings (cf. Numbers 6:24-26; Deuteronomy 31:18; 2 Chronicles 30:9; Psalm 67:1; 80:3, 7, 19; 104:15; 119:135; 132:10; Ezekiel 7:22; Daniel 9:17). The Hebrew depicts “he” the Servant carrying our griefs and sorrows, and “we” Israel esteeming him afflicted by God. Jintae Kim speaking of the first sentence in the verse, says, “As the Targum stands, it clearly identifies the Servant’s intercession with priestly atonement which obtains divine forgiveness.”43) Jintae Kim, “Targum Isaiah 53 and the New Testament Concept of Atonement,” Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism, 5 (2008), p. 86

Edward Young acknowledges that some have interpreted the Hebrew word נָג֛וּעַ to mean “stricken” with leprosy based on the use of the same word in 2 Kings 15:5.44) Edward Young, The Book of Isaiah: Chapters 40-66, Eerdmans Publishing Company (Grand Rapids, MI: 1972) Vol. 3, p. 346 The Babylonian Talmud discusses the question of what the Messiah’s name will be.

Apropos the Messiah, the Gemara asks: What is his name? The school of Rabbi Sheila says: Shiloh is his name, as it is stated: “Until when Shiloh shall come” (Genesis 49:10). The school of Rabbi Yannai says: Yinnon is his name, as it is stated: “May his name endure forever; may his name continue [yinnon] as long as the sun; and may men bless themselves by him” (Psalm 72:17). The school of Rabbi Ḥanina says: Ḥanina is his name, as it is stated: “For I will show you no favor [ḥanina]” (Jeremiah 16:13). And some say that Menaḥem ben Ḥizkiyya is his name, as it is stated: “Because the comforter [menaḥem] that should relieve my soul is far from me” (Lamentations 1:16). And the Rabbis say: The leper of the house of Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi is his name, as it is stated: “Indeed our illnesses he did bear and our pains he endured; yet we did esteem him injured, stricken by God, and afflicted” (Isaiah 53:4). (B. Talmud, Sanhedrin 98b)45) https://www.sefaria.org/Sanhedrin.98b.14?lang=bi&with=all&lang2=en

Another interesting passage from the Talmud suggests the Messiah’s being amongst those with infirmities is his means of bringing redemption.

Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said to Elijah: When will the Messiah come? Elijah said to him: Go ask him. Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi asked: And where is he sitting? Elijah said to him: At the entrance of the city of Rome. Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi asked him: And what is his identifying sign by means of which I can recognize him? Elijah answered: He sits among the poor who suffer from illnesses. And all of them untie their bandages and tie them all at once, but the Messiah unties one bandage and ties one at a time. He says: Perhaps I will be needed to serve to bring about the redemption. Therefore, I will never tie more than one bandage, so that I will not be delayed. (B. Talmud, Snahedrin 98a)46) https://www.sefaria.org/Sanhedrin.98a.16?lang=bi&with=all&lang2=en

The New Testaments expresses the healing ministry of Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of this prophesy in Isaiah (Matthew 8:16-17). Galatians 3:13 indicates the Jesus Christ was made a curse to redeem us from the curse of the law. Paul applied it to be hung on a tree as in Deuteronomy 21:23, but the ultimate curse of sin is death (Genesis 2:16-17) which Christ died for our sins to offer the gift of salvation (Romans 6:23).

Isaiah 53:5 “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.” The Peshitta changes the word “wounded” and states, “he was slain for our sins.”47)The Holy Bible from Ancient Eastern Manuscripts: Containing the Old and New Testaments Translated from the Peshitta, The Authorized Bible of the Church of the East (George M. Lamsa), A. J. Holman Company (Philadelphia, PA:1933, 1957), p. 744 The word “wounded” in Hebrew מְחֹלָ֣ל can literally be rendered as “pierced.”48) Francis Brown, S.R. Driver, C.A. Briggs, Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, (Claredon Press: Oxford, 1980, p. 319 Edward Young states, “The Predicate is not to be rendered wounded, but rather pierced through, and there accompanies this thought usually that of a piercing through unto death. Perhaps there is also included the idea of a violent death.”49) Edward Young, The Book of Isaiah: Chapters 40-66, Eerdmans Publishing Company (Grand Rapids, MI: 1972) Vol. 3, p. 347 Ezekiel 32:26 translates this word in the phrase “slain by the sword,” where the being “pierced through” is clearly expressed as the violent cause of death. A number of verses from the Hebrew Scripture have historically been interpreted by both Jews and Christians as Messianic passages refer to the Messiah being “pierced.”  Major verses such as Psalm 22:16 (“they pierced my hands and my feet”) and Zechariah 12:10 (“they shall look upon me whom they have pierced”) have been understood as parallel text to this reference of the Messiah being pierced. The New Testament expresses this as a meritorious suffering of the Servant Who is considered suffering as a substitute for the sins of others (1 Peter 2:24; 3:18).

Often the Jewish interpretation have implied Messiah ben Joseph as being pierced unto death.

One could also mention the expectation of “the Anointed one, the son of Ephraim” or “Joseph.” However there is no certain evidence before C.E. 135 for such an expectation. Here Deut 33:13 was the main warrant, but other passages, including Zech 12:10, were also applied to him. In this case the translation “Messiah” may be appropriate. The designation “Messiah of War” suggests some—but which?—relation to the priest in Deut 20:2.”50)N. A. Dahl, D. H. Juel, “Messianic Figures and Movments in First-Century Palestine,” in The Messiah: Developments in Earliest Judaism and Christianity (ed. James H. Charleworth with J. Brownson, M. T. Davis, S. J. Kraftchick and A. F. Segal), Fortress Press (Minneapolis, MN: 1992), p. 386

The Dead Sea Scroll frequent designation of an eschatological Priestly Messiah connected with the Messiah of War seems to be references to Messiah ben Joseph that predates the year of 135 A.D. The Dead Sea Scrolls do indeed depict a meritorious suffering of men on the behalf of others. “They shall preserve the faith in the Land with steadfastness and meekness and shall atone for sin by the practice of justice and by suffering the sorrows of affliction.”(1QSVIII)51) The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls In English (Trans. Geza Vermes), Penguin Classics (London, England: 1962, 2004), p. 109 Commenting on Habakkuk 2:4 “but the just shall live by his faith,” which is a common verse quoted by the apostle Paul (Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:38), is expounded as a Midrash in the Dead Sea Scrolls, “Interpreted, this concerns all those who observe the Law in the house of Judah, whom God will deliver from the House of Judgment because of their suffering and because of their faith in the Teacher of Righteousness.” (1QpHabVIII.1-3)52) The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls In English (Trans. Geza Vermes), Penguin Classics (London, England: 1962, 2004), p. 513

In earlier scholarship, the attempt to explain that Messiah ben Joseph was developed after the Bar Kokhbah revolt of 135 A.D. For example, F. W. Weber explains that it was a necessary development of Jewish exegesis.

Evidently, following Isa. 53, the servant of God or the Messiah must suffer and die for his people. One cannot believe that of the son of David, or only in a limited measure, therefore a Messiah of lesser worth must precede him, who will atone for the sins of Israel by his death and open to the King Messiah and his people the way to the establishment of the glorious kingdom. This is Messiah ben Joseph, also called Ben Ephraim.53)F. W. Weber, Judische Theologie auf Grund des Talmud und verwandter Schriften, gemeinfasslich dargestellt von Ferdinand Weber (eds. F. Delitzsch anc G. Schnedermann) (Leipzig, 1897), p. 362

In a twelfth century manuscript on the Targum of Zechariah, Codex Reuchinianus paraphrases Zecharaiah 12:10-12 as: “And I shall cause to rest upon the house of David and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem the spirit of prophecy and true prayer. And afterward the Messiah son of Ephraim will go out to do battle with Gog, and Gog will slay him in front of the gate of Jerusalem. And they shall look to me and shall inquire of me why the nations pierced the Messiah son of Ephraim, and they will mourn for him like a father and mother mourn for an only son and will be in bitterness over him like the bitterness over a firstborn.”54)The Bible in Aramaic: Based on Old Manuscripts and Printed Texts (ed. Alexander Sperber) Brill (Leiden: 2004), Vol. 3, p. 495 David Mitchell’s concluding his discussion of later Jewish Midrashim on Messiah Ben Joseph, stated, “In the midrashim, the narratives of Messiah ben Joseph always include a programmatic element: he appears in Galilee, gathers a band of followers, establishes a kingdom, dies in Jerusalem, and is later raised. Yet while this programmatic element steps to the fore in these midrashim, similar sequences of events can be pieced together from much earlier texts.”55)David C. Mitchell, Messiah ben Joseph, Campbell Publications (Newton Mearns, Scotland: 2016), p. 229-230 This particular Targum of Zechariah can be traced to earlier discussions of Zechariah in the Babylonian Talmud.

It is stated: “The land will eulogize, each family separately; the family of the house of David separately, and their women separately, the family of the house of Nathan separately, and their women separately” (Zechariah 12:12). This indicates that at the end of days a great eulogy will be organized during which men and women will be separate…. The Gemara answers: Rabbi Dosa and the Rabbis disagree concerning this matter. One said that this eulogy is for Messiah ben Yosef who was killed in the war of Gog from the land of Magog prior to the ultimate redemption with the coming of Messiah ben David. And one said that this eulogy is for the evil inclination that was killed.

The Gemara asks: Granted, according to the one who said that the lament is for Messiah ben Yosef who was killed, this would be the meaning of that which is written in that context: “And they shall look unto Me because they have thrust him through; and they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for his only son” (Zechariah 12:10). However, according to the one who said that the eulogy is for the evil inclination that was killed, does one need to conduct a eulogy for this? On the contrary, one should conduct a celebration….

   The Sages taught: To Messiah ben David, who is destined to be revealed swiftly in our time, the Holy One, Blessed be He, says: Ask of Me anything and I will give you whatever you wish, as it is stated: “I will tell of the decree; the Lord said unto me: You are My son, this day have I begotten you, ask of Me, and I will give the nations for your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for your possession” (Psalm 2:7-8). Once the Messiah ben David saw Messiah ben Yosef, who was killed, he says to the Holy One, Blessed be He: Master of the Universe, I ask of you only life; that I will not suffer the same fate. The Holy One, Blessed be He, says to him: Life? Even before you stated this request, your father, David, already prophesied about you with regard to this matter precisely, as it is stated: “He asked life of You, You gave it to him; even length of days for ever and ever” (Psalm 21:5).(Babylonian Talmud, Sukkah 52a)56)https://www.sefaria.org/Sukkah.52a.9?lang=bi&with=all&lang2=en

We see that the Babylonian Talmud, being composed between 250-500 A.D., was already identifying that Rabbis had understood Messiah ben Joseph was viewed in Zechariah’s prophecy.

This position had persisted in Jewish exegesis for well over a thousand years as Rabbi Hai Gaon (939-1038 A.D.), being one of the top Jewish expositors in his day, wrote responses to Jews who sent Scriptural questions. In his Responsum on the Topic of Redemption he explained, Zechariah 12.

At that time there shall arise from among the descendants of Joseph a man who will be called the Lord’s Messiah, and many people will assemble around him in Upper Galilee, and he will become their ruler…. It will happen that when the Messiah of the lineage of Joseph and all the people who are with him have made their dwelling in Jerusalem, Armilos will hear the news about them…. He will come up and do battle against Jerusalem and he will defeat the Messiah of the lineage of Joseph and his people….

Even the Messiah of the lineage of Joseph will be slain, and Israel will experience great distress. Scripture reveals about this time: ‘and they shall look to Me about the one whom they pierced, and they shall mourn for him as one would mourn an only child, and feel bitterness about him as one would feel bitterness about (the death of) a firstborn son. On that day the mourning will be great in Jerusalem’ (Zech 12:10-11)…. Most of those who were slain will lie dead in the Land for forty days, for when the Messiah of the lineage of Joseph is killed, his corpse will be cast aside for forty days. Nevertheless no impure thing will afflict it until the Messiah of the lineage of David comes and resurrects him at the command of the Lord. This will be the first of the signs that he will perform; namely, the resurrection of the dead, for he will regain life.”57)Responsum of R. Hai Gaon on Redemption in John C. Reeves, Trajectories in Near Eastern Apocalyptic: A Postrabbinic Jewish Apocalypse Readers, Society of Biblical Literature (Atlanta GA: 2005), p. 135-137

This aspect of being pierced also conveyed intertextual relations with Psalm 22:16, “they pierced my hands and my feet.” The New Testament reference of Psalm 22 is found frequently as having fulfilled prophecies in Jesus Christ’s crucifixion (Psalm 22:1 cf. Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34; Psalm 22:2 cf. Matthew 27:45; Mark 15:33; Psalm 22:6-8 cf. Matthew 27:39-44; Psalm 22:15cf. John 19:28; Psalm 22:16 cf. John 20:25-27; Psalm 22:18 cf. Matthew 15:24; Mark 15:24; John 19:24). Clement of Rome noted Psalm 22 as a Messianic prophecy (1 Clement 16),58)in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Edited by Alexander Roberts, D.D., & James, Donaldson, LL.D., Hendrickson Publishers, 2012, vol. 1, p. 9 as did Justin Martyr on multiple occasions (1 Apology 35;59) in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Edited by Alexander Roberts, D.D., & James, Donaldson, LL.D., Hendrickson Publishers, 2012, vol. 1, p. 174 38;60)in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Edited by Alexander Roberts, D.D., & James, Donaldson, LL.D., Hendrickson Publishers, 2012, vol. 1, p. 175 Dialogue with Trypho 103).61) in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Edited by Alexander Roberts, D.D., & James, Donaldson, LL.D., Hendrickson Publishers, 2012, vol. 1, p. 251 We would expect Jewish expositors to avoid any Messianic claims to Psalm 22 but we find rather, “In rabbinic literature, Psalm 22 is also cited as relating to the affliction of a Jewish Messiah.”62)Rivka Ulmer, “Psalm 22 in Pesiqta Rabbati: The Suffering of the Jewish Messiah an Jesus,” in The Jewish Jesus—Revelation, Reflection, Reclamation (ed. Zev Garber) Purdue University Press (West Lafayette: 2011), p. 106 Discussing a text called Pesiqta Rabbati, Andras Kiss acknowledge it as a “collection of Jewish homilies for Sabbath titled Pesiqta Rabbati, recorded in the seventh century but probably going back to earlier times, presumably to the 4th century…. Four of its texts, Section 34 to 37, which might be the earliest chapters, probably originating even from the 2nd century, contain apocalyptic visions featuring a certain Messiah Ephraim son of Joseph, whose description contains a surprisingly large number of Christological features, as if they were copy-pasted from the New Testament.”63)Andras Kiss, “Christ in the Midrash? “True Messiah Ephraim” in the Early Rabbanic Judaism,” Cambridge Scholars Publishing (2018), p. 2-3 Chapters 36-37 of this text is riddled with references to Psalm 22 as it presents Messiah ben Joseph as a preexisting Messiah hidden beneath the throne of God (cf. Psalm 91:1), who willfully takes to himself the propitious suffering for seven years to atone for mankind.64)see translation of this text in David C. Mitchell, Messiah ben Joseph, Campbell Publications (Newton Mearns, Scotland: 2016), p. 145-148 This fascinating text references Genesis 1:4 as applied to the preexistence of the Messiah, stating: “This verse proves that the Holy One, blessed be he, contemplated the Messiah and his works before the world was created, and then hid away his Messiah under his throne of glory until the generation in which he will appear.”65) Pesiqta Rabbati in David C. Mitchell, Messiah ben Joseph, Campbell Publications (Newton Mearns, Scotland: 2016), p. 146 An 11th century Jewish exegete named Moshe Ha-Darshan wrote a Midrash Bereshit Rabbati, wherein he alludes to Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22 as developed in Pesiqta Rabbati on his commentary of Genesis 1:3 discussing a conversation between the Messiah and God. Oddly, the third century Montanus author Tertullian also applied Genesis 1:3 to God bringing forth The Son Jesus Christ with the words, “let there be Light” in expressing his subordinationism heresy.66)Tertullian, Against Praxeas, 7; in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Edited by Alexander Roberts, D.D., & James, Donaldson, LL.D., Hendrickson Publishers, 2012, vol. 3, p. 601

The Babylonian Talmud presented Psalm 22 in the context of Queen Esther who risked her life when appearing before the Persian King to appeal for the lives of the Jewish people (Babylonian Talmud, Megillah 15b).67)https://www.sefaria.org/Megillah.15b.2?lang=bi&with=all&lang2=en Her willingness to die was considered meritorious of atoning for others. Josephus expressed a literal suffering of Esther when she approached the King. Josephus records,

Yet did she go in to him with fear; and as soon as she was come over against him, as he was sitting on his throne, in his apparel, which was a garment interwoven with gold and precious stones, which made him seem to her more terrible, especially when he looked at her somewhat severely, and with a countenance on fire with anger, her joints failed her immediately, out of dread she was in, and she fell down sideways in a swoon… after she had recovered herself by these encouragements, she said, “My lord, it is not easy for me, on the sudden, to say what hath happened, for so soon as I saw thee to be great, and comely, and terrible my spirit departed from me, and I had no soul left in me.” (Josephus, Antiquity of the Jews, 11.234-237, 240)68) The New Complete Works of Josephus (Revised and Expanded) (Trans. William Whiston, Introduction and Commentary by Paul L. Maier), Kregel Publications (Grand Rapids, MI: 1999), p. 377

The Targum changes the atonement through His suffering into his teachings which will bring peace and forgiveness. “He shall build the house of the sanctuary which has been profaned on account of our sins; He was delivered over on account of our iniquities, and through His doctrine peace shall be multiplied upon us, and through the teaching of His words our sins shall be forgiven us.”69) The Chaldee Paraphrase on the Prophet Isaiah (Trans. by Rev. C. W. H. Pauli), London Society’s House (London: 1871), p. 183 J. Kim notes, “The manner of obtaining divine forgiveness in v. 5 differs from v. 4 in the Targum.”70) Jintae Kim, “Targum Isaiah 53 and the New Testament Concept of Atonement,” Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism, 5 (2008), p. 88

Isaiah 53:6 “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” The interesting expression in this verse is כֻּלָּֽנ “of us all.” In Pesiqta Rabbati Messiah ben Ephraim request that his suffering will save “also those who die unborn,”71) see translation of this text in David C. Mitchell, Messiah ben Joseph, Campbell Publications (Newton Mearns, Scotland: 2016), p. 146 a phrase which includes miscarriages and aborted children. This would seems to extend cross culturally since it was the gentiles who performed abortions being strictly condemned in Jewish culture.72)see Heath Henning, “Abortion is Murder: Light from Creation, Conception, and Conversion,” April 6, 2019; http://truthwatchers.com/abortion-is-murder-light-from-science/ The atonement from sin is offered for everyone as a once and for all sacrifice (Hebrews 9:11-15).

The Targum paraphrase of this verse is almost a literal rendering. “All we like sheep have been scattered, every one of us has turned to his own way; it pleased the Lord to forgive the sins of all of us for His sake.”73) The Chaldee Paraphrase on the Prophet Isaiah (Trans. by Rev. C. W. H. Pauli), London Society’s House (London: 1871), p. 183 Jintae Kim mentioned, “By adding the phrase ‘for his sake’, the targumist strikes the same note that the Servant is mediator of atonement.”74) Jintae Kim, “Targum Isaiah 53 and the New Testament Concept of Atonement,” Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism, 5 (2008), p. 90 This should not be surprising since suffering for sins atonement is well rooted in Jewish thought. During the intertestamental period, it was written: “But, I as my brethren, offer up my body and life for the laws of our fathers, beseeching God that he would speedily be merciful unto our nation; and that thou by torments and plagues mayest confess, that he alone is God; and that in me and my brethren the wrath of the Almighty, which is justly brought upon our nation, may cease.” (2 Maccabees 7:37-38)75)The Apocrypha (ed. Manuel Komroff, Barnes & Noble Books (New York, NY: 1992), p. 328

During the 1st century B.C., it was recorded, “Happy is the man whom the Lord remembers with rebuking, and protects from the evil way with a whip (that he may) be cleansed from sin that it may not increase. The one who prepares (his) back for the whip shall be purified, for the Lord is good to those who endure discipline. For he will straighten the ways of the righteous, and will not bend (them) by discipline; and the mercy of the Lord is upon those who truly love him.” (Psalm of Solomon 10:1-3)76) in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (Ed. James H. Charlesworth) Doubleday (New York, NY: 1985), Vol. 2, p. 661 That someone could suffer on behalf of the nation was understood in the first century (John 11:20), which resembles the Septuagint rendering of Isaiah 53:6 and 12— “the Lord gave him up for our sins…. Because his soul was delivered to death: and he was numbered among the transgressors; and he bore the sins of many, and was delivered because of their iniquities.”77) The Septuagint Version, Greek and English, Samuel Bagster and Sons Limited (London), p. 889 It is clearly established in New Testament theology (Romans 4:25; 8:32; 1 Corinthians 5:7), and in the early 2nd century A.D. Jewish document further report: “Therefore, he did not spare his own sons first, but he afflicted them as his enemies because they sinned. Therefore, they were once punished, that they might be forgiven.” (2 Baruch 13:9-10)78)in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (Ed. James H. Charlesworth) Doubleday (New York, NY: 1983), Vol. 1, p. 625

A later Jewish text entitled Midrash Konen, relates Messiah Ephraim suffering propitiously. “The fifth chamber: [this is where] Messiah ben David, Elijah and the Messiah Ephraim dwell. Elijah holds his head and allows it to rest on his chest. He encourages him and says to him: Bear the torment and judgment of your Lord while He punishes you for the sin of Israel, for Scripture says: He is pierced for our rebellions, crushed for our transgressions (Isa. 53:5) until the time when the end arrives. Every Monday, Thursday, Shabbat, and festival day the ancient Patriarchs, Moses, Aaron, David, Solomon, the entire royal line, the prophets and the pious ones come to greet him [the Messiah] and to weep together with him. They express gratitude to him and say to him: Bear the judgment of your Lord, for the end has almost arrived, and the chains which are on your neck will be broken off and you will go forth in freedom.” 79)Midrash Konen, as cited in Rivka Ulmer, “Psalm 22 in Pesiqta Rabbati: The Suffering of the Jewish Messiah an Jesus,” in The Jewish Jesus—Revelation, Reflection, Reclamation (ed. Zev Garber) Purdue University Press (West Lafayette: 2011), p.127-128; also cited in John C. Reeves, Trajectories in Near Eastern Apocalyptic: A Postrabbinic Jewish Apocalypse Readers, Society of Biblical Literature (Atlanta GA: 2005), p. 23

Isaiah 53:7 “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.” The Targum twists this verse to make the mighty of the nations come before the Messiah as lambs for the slaughter unable to open their mouths before Him. “He shall deliver over the mighty of the nations as a lamb to the slaughter, and like a sheep before her shearers is dumb, none shall in His presence open his mouth, or speak a word.”80)The Chaldee Paraphrase on the Prophet Isaiah (Trans. by Rev. C. W. H. Pauli), London Society’s House (London: 1871), p. 183-184 This alteration of the text seems to indicate the paraphraser of this Targum had the warrior Messiah in mind such as Messiah ben Joseph was viewed.

Isaiah’s reference to the lamb for the slaughter, the prophet is clearly intending to imply the Passover lamb being sacrificed (Exodus 12:3; John 1:29, 36; 1 Corinthians 5:7; 1 Peter 1:18-19). This was understood as fulfillment in Christ as Phillip expounded to the eunuch (Acts 8:32-35). Christ qualified His Messianic mission as suffering (Mark 8:29, 31 cf. 15:2; 10:45); and remained silent before those who judged and condemned Him to the cross (Matthew 26:63; Mark 14:61; 15:5; Luke 23:9; John 19:9).

The Mishna in context of Achan being put to death for his sin, suggests that being put to death can atone for sin. “Whence do we learn that his confession made atonement for him [Achan]? It is written, And Joshua said, Why hast thou troubled us? The Lord shall trouble thee this day—this day thou shalt be troubled, but in the world to come thou shalt not be troubled. If he knows not how to make his confession they say to him, ‘Say, May my death be an atonement for all my sins’. R. Judah says: If he knew that he was condemned because of false testimony he should say, ‘Let my death be an atonement for all my sins excepting this sin.’” (m. Sanhedrin 6.2)81) The Mishna (Trans. Herbert Danby), Hendrickson Pub. (Peabody, MA: 1933, 2016), p. 390 Other indications of meritorious deaths would include Phinehas killing Zimri and Cozbi to stop the plague (Numbers 25:6-8), turning God’s wrath to establishing a covenant of peace (Numbers 25:11-13). Phinehas putting to death Zimri and Cozbi is said specifically to have “made an atonement for the children of Israel” (Numbers 25:13). Jesus ben Sirach indicates Phinehas “made reconciliation for Israel” (Ecclesiasticus 45:23).82)in The Apocrypha (ed. Manuel Komroff, Barnes & Noble Books (New York, NY: 1992), p. 220

In 2 Samuel 21:1-9, God strike Israel with famine for three years and His wrath is only appeased after seven men are put to death to “make the atonement” (2 Samuel 21:3). King David offered himself and his father’s house to have a plague placed upon to relieve the people from being plagued (1 Chronicles 21:17). The prophet Jonah also reveals an example of being willingly offered to an expected death by being cast into the tempestuous sea to appease the wrath of God (Jonah 1:11-15). The apostle Paul expressed that his willingness to die to spread the gospel brought life to those who received it (2 Corinthians 4:11-12). Josephus offered his whole family and own life to save the Jewish nation during the Roman siege. “I am sensible that this danger will extend to my mother, and wife, and to that family of mine who have been by no means ignoble, and indeed to one that hath been very eminent in old time; and perhaps you may imagine that it is on their account only that I give you this advice; if that be all, kill them; nay, take my own blood as a reward, if it may but procure your preservation; for I am ready to die, in case you will but return to a sound mind after my death.” (The Jewish Wars 5.418)83) The New Complete Works of Josephus (Revised and Expanded) (Trans. William Whiston, Introduction and Commentary by Paul L. Maier), Kregel Publications (Grand Rapids, MI: 1999), p.869 Later rabbinic literature exalted Isaac for his willingness to be sacrificed (Genesis 22). He is reported to say, “And if You say that all of them, the sins of all twelve and a half years that remain, are upon me, I sacrificed my soul before You and You should forgive them due to my merit. The Jewish people began to say to Isaac: You are our father. Only Isaac defended the Jewish people as a father would and displayed compassion toward his children.” (Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 89b)84) https://www.sefaria.org/Shabbat.89b.6?lang=en&with=all&lang2=en

Isaiah 53:8 “He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.” Instead of questioning about “his generation,” the Peshitta asks, “who can discribe his anguish?”85)The Holy Bible from Ancient Eastern Manuscripts: Containing the Old and New Testaments Translated from the Peshitta, The Authorized Bible of the Church of the East (George M. Lamsa), A. J. Holman Company (Philadelphia, PA:1933, 1957), p. 744 The New Testament quotation of this verse says, “for his life is taken from the earth” (Acts 8:33), altering the phrase “the land of the living.” The Peshitta expresses the next phrase, “some of the evil men of my people struck him.”86)The Holy Bible from Ancient Eastern Manuscripts: Containing the Old and New Testaments Translated from the Peshitta, The Authorized Bible of the Church of the East (George M. Lamsa), A. J. Holman Company (Philadelphia, PA:1933, 1957), p. 744 Here we find the further elaboration of the premise of the Servant’s death being an atonement. Being cut off from the land of the living for the transgressions of the people of God connects to the Messiah as presented in Daniel 9:26, who is also “cut off, but not for himself.” Ancient Jews did expect the Messiah to die. For example, 4 Ezra, a late first century text, states: “For my son the Messiah shall be revealed with those who are with him, and those who remain shall rejoice four hundred years. And after these years my son the Messiah shall die, and all who draw human breath.” (4 Ezra 7:28-29)87) The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (Ed. James H. Charlesworth) Doubleday (New York, NY: 1983), Vol. 1, p. 537

Another text from the second century B.C. presents a Levitical Messiah whose descendants will die on behalf of others. The Testament of Reuben states, “since God gave Levi the authority, and to Judah with him, [as well as to me and to Dan and to Joseph] to be rulers. It is for this reason that I command you to give heed to Levi, because he will know the law of God and will give instructions concerning justice and concerning sacrifice for Israel until the consummation of times; he is the anointed priest of whom the Lord spoke…. Prostrate yourselves before his posterity, because (his offspring) will die in your behalf in wars visible and invisible. And he shall be among you an eternal king.” (The Testament of Reuben 6:7-8, 12)88) The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (Ed. James H. Charlesworth) Doubleday (New York, NY: 1983), Vol. 1, p. 784-785 The editor footnotes that this portion in brackets is “possibly a later Jewish interpolation, since Dan and Joseph did not have messianic significance in Hasidic or Essene circles, nor in early Christianity.”89)The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (Ed. James H. Charlesworth) Doubleday (New York, NY: 1983), Vol. 1, p. 784 However, as we have seen a Josephite Messiah does exist, but most scholar presuppose that Jews did not conceive of the idea of Messiah ben Joseph prior to A.D. 135. There are multiple attestations to the thought that the tribe of Dan would produce the antichrist which may be the significance to Dan being mentioned in this passage (see for example, The Testament of Dan 5:4-13;90) The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (Ed. James H. Charlesworth) Doubleday (New York, NY: 1983), Vol. 1, p. 809 Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 5.30.2).91)in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Edited by Alexander Roberts, D.D., & James, Donaldson, LL.D., Hendrickson Publishers, 2012, vol. 1, p. 559

The Testament of Benjamin specifically discusses Messiah ben Joseph which makes the editor’s note extremely odd to ignore a Messiah from Joseph. It states:

Joseph also urged our father to pray for his brothers, that the Lord would not hold them accountable for their sin which they so wickedly committed against him. And Jacob cried out, ‘O noble child, you have crushed the inner feelings of Jacob, your father.’ He embraced him and kept kissing him for two hours, saying, ‘In you will be fulfilled the heavenly prophecy which says that the spotless one will be defiled by lawless men and the sinless one will die for the sake of impious men.’ (Testament of Benjamin 3:6-8)92) The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (Ed. James H. Charlesworth) Doubleday (New York, NY: 1983), Vol. 1, p. 826

The words of Jacob in the quote above are taken from the Aramaic version, but there is a Greek recension in which Jacob says, “Through you will be fulfilled the heavenly prophecy concerning the Lamb of God, the Savior of the world, because the unspotted one will be betrayed by lawless men, and the sinless one will die for impious men by the blood of the covenant for the salvation of the gentiles and of Israel and the destruction of Beliar and his servants.”(Testament of Benjamin 3:8)93) The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (Ed. James H. Charlesworth) Doubleday (New York, NY: 1983), Vol. 1, p. 826 This appears to be an obvious Christian interpolation, but there is no sound evidence that Christians had ever held to a Messiah from the tribe of Joseph.94)David Mitchell makes a pathetic attempt to show Messiah ben Joseph in the New Testament and early church fathers by twisting the texts out of context. See, David C. Mitchell, Messiah ben Joseph, Campbell Publications (Newton Mearns, Scotland: 2016), pp. 117-130

Isaiah 53:9 “And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.” The phrase “in his death” is presented in Hebrew as an intensive plural form for death בְּמֹתָ֑יו to grammatically emphasize the Servant died under sever conditions. Once again, the context remains evident that the Servant Himself is innocent with no “deceit in his mouth,” yet, within this idea of His suffering and dying is the substitutionary propitiation for others. The logic behind the text of this Servant suffering vicariously for the sins of others would demand a sinless sacrifice. “If one who himself was iniquitous bore the sins of another, then there is a travesty upon justice, for the sinbearer in this case would have need that his own sins be borne by another.”95) Edward Young, The Book of Isaiah: Chapters 40-66, Eerdmans Publishing Company (Grand Rapids, MI: 1972) Vol. 3, p. 348 The Peshitta translates the phrase “he had done no violence” to, “he had done no iniquity.”96)The Holy Bible from Ancient Eastern Manuscripts: Containing the Old and New Testaments Translated from the Peshitta, The Authorized Bible of the Church of the East (George M. Lamsa), A. J. Holman Company (Philadelphia, PA:1933, 1957), p. 744 The Testament of Judah records the prophecy of the descendant of Judah being the future king of the children of Israel who will be “walking with the sons of men in gentleness and righteousness, and in him will be found no sin.” (Testament of Judah 24:1)97)The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (Ed. James H. Charlesworth) Doubleday (New York, NY: 1983), Vol. 1, p. 801 This is exactly how the apostle Peter would apply this text as a sacrificial lamb being without blemish or spot (1 Peter 1:19), clearly connecting the context of this prophecy (see Isaiah 53:7).

The Dead Sea Scrolls relate, “and he will pass on to them his sons his wisdom. He will atone for all the sons of his generation and will be sent to all the sons of his people. His word is like a word of heaven, and his teaching is according to the will of God. His eternal sun will shine, and his fire will spring forth to all the ends of the earth, and will shine over darkness. The darkness will pass away from the earth, and deep darkness from the dry land. They will utter many words against him and many … They will invent stories about him, and will utter everything dishonorable against him. Evil will overturn his generation because … will be, and because lies and violence will fill his existence, and the people will go astray in his days and will become perplexed.” (4Q541, fr. 9)98) The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls In English (Trans. Geza Vermes), Penguin Classics (London, England: 1962, 2004), p. 561-562 This has multiple parallels to the Suffering Servant passage. Whoever this manuscript is referring to is said to “spring forth… from the dry land” similarly to Isaiah 53:2; those who appear to be his opponents “invent stories” and “utter dishonorable things against him,” implying he is despised and rejected (Isaiah 53:3). His existence is filled with violence which seems to be an appropriate paraphrase for the intensive plural of the word “death” (Isaiah 53:9) as well as his being “wounded,” “bruised,” “chastised” with “stripes” (Isaiah 53:5).

4 Maccabees also plays on the theme of one dying for the nation. “You know, O God, that though I could have saved myself I am dying in these fiery torments for the sake of the law. Be merciful to your people and let our punishment be a satisfaction on their behalf. Make my blood their purification and take my life as a ransom for theirs.” (4 Maccabees 6:27-30)99) The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (Ed. James H. Charlesworth) Doubleday (New York, NY: 1985), Vol. 2, p. 552 Being written during the first century as a contemporary document with the development of the New Testament, we see these views were prevalent among the Jewish people. “These then, having consecrated themselves for the sake of God, are now honored not only with this distinction but also by the fact that through them our enemies did not prevail against our nation, and the tyrant was punished and our land purified, since they became, as it were, a ransom for the sin of our nation. Through the blood of these righteous ones and through the propitiation of their death the divine providence rescued Israel, which had been shamefully treated.” (4 Maccabees 17:20-22)100) The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (Ed. James H. Charlesworth) Doubleday (New York, NY: 1985), Vol. 2, p. 563

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.” The Targum rewrites this verse as: “And it was the pleasure of the Lord to refine and to purify the remnant of His people, in order to cleanse their souls from sin, that they might see the kingdom of their Messiah, that their sons and daughters might multiply, and prolong their days, and those that keep the law of the Lord shall prosper through His pleasure.”101) The Chaldee Paraphrase on the Prophet Isaiah (Trans. by Rev. C. W. H. Pauli), London Society’s House (London: 1871), p. 184 Jintae Kim commented on this Targum, “This verse may well be called a showcase of violent wresting of the Hebrew text to remove elements of vicarious suffering from the Servant’s role… Thus, the targumist translated the verse to mean that the suffering of the remnant of Israel are all atoning acts of cleansing.”102)Jintae Kim, “Targum Isaiah 53 and the New Testament Concept of Atonement,” Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism, 5 (2008), p. 91 So much of the Targum is so altered it is difficult to recognize some passages. This particular verse is clearly a perversion of the Scripture; however, it still confirms the Jews believed in the vicarious suffering for atoning “their souls from sin.” Such expressions are abundant in Rabbinic literature.

For example, in the middle of discussing signs of leprosy, the Mishna records the words “R. Ishmael says: the Children of Israel (may I make atonement for them!)…” (Mishna. Negaim 2.1)103) in The Mishna (Trans. Herbert Danby), Hendrickson Pub. (Peabody, MA: 1933, 2016), p. 678 The Babylonian Talmud presents a story of a priest’s son who was stabbed and the following is reported: “The father of the boy, i.e., the young priest who was stabbed, came and found that he was still convulsing. He said: May my son’s death be an atonement for you [כפרתכם].” (Babylonian Talmud, Yoma 23a)104) https://www.sefaria.org/Yoma.23a.13?lang=bi&with=all&lang2=en Another comment from a Rabbi relates, “Reish Lakish said: I am the atonement [כפרת] for Rabbi Ḥiyya and his sons” (Babylonian Talmud. Sukka 20a)105) https://www.sefaria.org/Sukkah.20a.11?lang=bi&with=all&lang2=en The Hebrew word being referenced by these Rabbis is כפרה, which Marcus Jastrow defines in his A Dictionary of the Targumim, The Talmud Babli and Yerushalmi, and the Midrashic Literature as, “atonement, expiation, expiatory service…. The act of expiation (sprinkling) be performed with the understanding that the sacrifice is a sin-offering”106)Marcus Jastrow, A Dictionary of the Targumim, The Talmud Babli and Yerushalmi, and the Midrashic Literature, Judaica Press, Inc. (New York, NY: 1971, 1996), p. 662

Moses is presented as an archetype of the suffering Servant who willingly offers himself for an atonement. During the event of the golden calf during the exodus Moses speaks to God as Scripture records: “And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses said unto the people, Ye have sinned a great sin: and now I will go up unto the Lord; peradventure I shall make an atonement [אוּלַ֥י אֲכַפְּרָ֖ה] for your sin. And Moses returned unto the Lord, and said, Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold. Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin—; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written.” (Exodus 32:30-32) Moses make another similar comment in Numbers 11:15. The Exodus account has Moses offering himself to be blotted out of the book of life as an atonement for Israel. The Hebrew phrase אוּלַ֥י אֲכַפְּרָ֖ה is a Pi’el imperfect verb with a voluntative ה. Gesenius explains the Piel verb in his classic Grammar text, “The fundamental idea of Piel, to which all the various shades of meaning in this conjugation may be referred, is to busy oneself eagerly with the action indicated by the stem.”107)Gesenius’ Hebrew Gramar (Second English edition), Cladendon Press (Oxford: 1910), p. 141 Robert B. Chisholm indicates the significance of the voluntative ה as “the volitional form of the first person. It is almost identical to the imperfect, but in most cases has ה- suffixed to the form…. Sometimes a person uses the corhortative to make a request of someone or express a wish.”108) Robert B. Chisholm, Jr., From Exegesis To Exposition: A Practical Guide to Using Biblical Hebrew, Baker Books, (Grand Rapids, MI: 1998), p. 107 Here, Moses is eagerly requesting Jehovah that his own voluntary death would be an atonement for Israel’s idolatry.

The Rabbis of the Talmud discuss Moses’ atoning intercession for Israel.

The phrase: Leave Me be, teaches that Moses grabbed the Holy One, Blessed be He, as a person who grabs his friend by his garment would, and he said before Him: Master of the Universe, I will not leave You be until You forgive and pardon them…. The Gemara concludes: Happy is the student whose teacher concedes to him as the Lord conceded to Moses.…Explaining the next verse, “Nevertheless, as I live, and the glory of the Lord fills the entire world” (Numbers 14:21), Rava said that Rav Yitzḥak said: This teaches that the Holy One, Blessed be He, said to Moses: Moses, you have given Me life with your words. I am happy that on account of your arguments, I will forgive Israel.” (Babylonians Talmud, Berakhot 32a)109) https://www.sefaria.org/Berakhot.32a.30-31?lang=en&with=all&lang2=en

Elsewhere in the Babylonian Talmud the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53 is applied to Moses (Babylonian Talmud, Sotah 14a)110) https://www.sefaria.org/Sotah.14a.12-16?lang=en The concept can be seen in the Targum version of verse 11: “By His wisdom He shall justify the righteous, in order to make many to keep the law, and He shall pray for their sins.”111) The Chaldee Paraphrase on the Prophet Isaiah (Trans. by Rev. C. W. H. Pauli), London Society’s House (London: 1871), p. 184 However, the efficacious atonement of Isaiah’s Suffering Servant could not be interpreted as Moses as he never suffered and died for Israel, and Moses was incapable of intercede for Manasseh’s sin (Jeremiah 15:1). However, Moses surely plays a major part on the writing of Isaiah (Isaiah 12:2; cf. Exodus 15:2; Isaiah 63:11-14). Moses is also depicted as a type for Jesus Christ being despised and rejected servant of God in the New Testament (Acts 7:35).

Many Rabbis mimicked Moses’ intercession as if they in their self-righteousness would be able to merit forgiveness for the sin of others. The apostle Paul likely had Moses as the example in his mind, as other Rabbis would have making such comments, when he stated, “I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh” (Romans 9:3). Jintae Kim writing about Paul’s statement, said,112)Jintae Kim, “The Concept of Atonement in Early Rabbanic Thought and the New Testament Writings,” Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism, 2 (2001-2005), p. 142

The idea expressed by Paul is clearly reminiscent of Moses’ statement. As Moses was willing to give up his salvation on behalf of his people, so was Paul willing to be accursed on behalf of the Jews. Certainly what Paul meant is analogous to the idea expressed by the formula אני כפרה

It is important to keep in mind the point made in the text of Isaiah. It is the Suffering Servant that is presented as an atonement being bruised by the Lord and his soul becomes an offering for sins of others. It is the Lord Who has preordained the suffering of this Servant at the hands of men who despise the Servant (Acts 2:23). Though His soul was offered for death, the text says, “he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days,” which indicates the Servant prevails after his death and continues alive (Acts 2:24).

Isaiah 53:11 “He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.” The scroll of Isaiah discovered at the Dead Sea adds the phrase in this first sentence of this verse: “Out of the suffering of his soul he will see light, and find satisfaction.” (1QIsaa; 1QIsab; 4QIsad)113) The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible (Translates and with Commentary by Martin Abegg Jr., Peter Flint & Eugene Ulrich), HarperCollins Publishers (New York, NY: 1999), p. 360 This follows closely with a similar addition in the Septuagint, “the Lord also is pleased to take away from the travail of his soul, to shew him light, and to form him with understanding…”114)The Septuagint Version, Greek and English, Samuel Bagster and Sons Limited (London), p. 889 These ancient emendation are hard to make sense of in trying to understand what the authors considered this to mean. Isaiah does prophecy that the Messiah would be the light to the gentiles (Isaiah 9:2) which is fulfilled in Jesus Christ (Matthew 4:16). Jesus Christ further reflected Himself as the “light of the world” (John 8:12; 9:5). The only sense that can be drawn from these ancient versions is the resurrection of the Suffering Servant, whose soul travails unto death to be raised and sees light. It is possible that the authors of these texts inserted the thought from Micah 7:8-9, “Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me. I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him, until he plead my cause, and execute judgment for me: he will bring me forth to the light, and I shall behold his righteousness.” The Peshitta has no addition about “light” but implies the resurrection by stating, “he shall see the reward of the travail of his soul.”115)The Holy Bible from Ancient Eastern Manuscripts: Containing the Old and New Testaments Translated from the Peshitta, The Authorized Bible of the Church of the East (George M. Lamsa), A. J. Holman Company (Philadelphia, PA:1933, 1957), p. 744 Of course, the travail of his soul was when “he laid down his life as an offering for sin” in verse 10;116)The Holy Bible from Ancient Eastern Manuscripts: Containing the Old and New Testaments Translated from the Peshitta, The Authorized Bible of the Church of the East (George M. Lamsa), A. J. Holman Company (Philadelphia, PA:1933, 1957), p. 744 so in order to see the reward he must be risen to life again.

In the Hebrew we find the Servant being satisfied when seeing his own soul in travail. Not that the travail is satisfying, but rather the outcome it brings—that is, justifying many by bearing their iniquities. The Hebrew word translated “satisfied” is יִשְׂבָּ֔ע, which Bruce K. Waltke defines, “to be satisfied by nourishment”117)Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, Jr., Bruce K. Waltke) Moody Press (Chicago, IL 1980), Vol. 2, p. 869 either physically or spiritually. This word is used in other Messianic prophecies such as Psalm 16:10-11, when the Messiah is raised from the dead (Acts 2:27, 31; 13:35-37) he praises God saying, “Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness joy” (Psalm 16:11). In Psalm 22, the crucifixion is graphically depicted in which God looks upon the travail of the sin bearing crucified one. “For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard” (Psalm 22:24). Because the Lord answers his prayer and delivers him from death by the means of resurrection, “The meek shall eat and be satisfied” (Psalm 22:26). “In this messianic psalm a satisfaction is promised which extends beyond the bounds of merely having enough food and drink to a spiritual satisfaction because the Lord answered the prayer of the righteous.”118) Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, Jr., Bruce K. Waltke) Moody Press (Chicago, IL 1980), Vol. 2, p. 869 Thus the willingness to be filled with joy and to fill others, gave the Servant strength to endure this travail and death, to be raised and exalted. “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2)

The prophet Jonah also reveals an example of being willingly offered to an expected death by being cast into the tempestuous sea to appease the wrath of God (Jonah 1:11-15). Christ pointed to Jonah as a sign being a prophetic typology. Both were Galilean prophets (2 Kings 14:25, cf. Matthew 2:22), in spite of the ignorance of the Pharisees (John 7:52). Both lay asleep in a ship in the midst of a severe storm (Jonah 1:5, cf. Mark 4:38-39). Jonah willingly offered himself to die on behalf of saving others from God’s wrath (Jonah 1:12, cf. Isaiah 53:10; 1 John 2:2). Jonah’s three days and nights was the sign Christ identified His resurrection with (Jonah 1:17, cf. Matthew 12:40; Luke 11:29-30). Ancient Jewish and Christian sources taught Jonah actually died (Jonah 2:2) and was raised back to life (Jonah 2:6, cf. Psalm 49:9) as would be the specific sign Christ gave to the unbelieving Jews, which they understood (Matthew 27:62-63). Tertullian even expressed Christ not decaying was evident in Jonah not being digested by the whale.119)Tertullian, “ON the Resurrection of the Flesh, 32; in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Edited by Alexander Roberts, D.D., & James, Donaldson, LL.D., Hendrickson Publishers, 2012, vol. 3, p. 568

Isaiah 53:12 “Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” The Targum rewrites this verse as, “Therefore I will divide to Him the spoil of many people and the treasures of strong fortifications; He shall divide the spoil; because He has delivered His life unto death, and He shall make the rebellious to keep the law; He shall pray for the sins of many, and as for the transgressors, each shall be pardoned for His sake.”120) The Chaldee Paraphrase on the Prophet Isaiah (Trans. by Rev. C. W. H. Pauli), London Society’s House (London: 1871), p. 185 Receiving the spoil after “He has delivered His life unto death” implies the Servant is raised after dying “for the transgressors” who are “pardoned for His sake.” The fact that the Servant “poured out his soul unto death” is revealing it as an offering to God (2 Samuel 23:16-17), which is fulfilled in Christ crucified (Mark 15:28).

Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum relates “By quoting from Isaiah 53, verses 7, 5, and 12 respectively, the author of Bereshith Rabbah draws certain conclusions. One is that the Messiah will save many, but that this salvation of the many is accomplished by means of his suffering. Secondly, the Messiah’s sufferings are viewed to be vicarious in nature, for he is seen as suffering for the sins of Israel.”121) Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, Jesus Was A Jew, Ariel Ministry Press (Tustin, CA: 1974, 2003), p. 30 He follows with the quote from Bereshith Rabbahwhich states:

The Holy One gave Messiah the opportunity to save souls but to be severely chastised: and forthwith the Messiah accepted the chastisements of love, as it is written, “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted.” And when Israel is sinful, the Messiah seeks mercy upon them, as it is written, “By his stripes we were healed,” and, “He carried the sins of many and made intercession for the transgressor.”122)as cited by Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, Jesus Was A Jew, Ariel Ministry Press (Tustin, CA: 1974, 2003), p. 30

A dying and resurrected Messiah remained being taught in Jewish literature beyond the Talmud period. Apocalyptic Midrashim suggest Messiah ben Joseph as the dying and rising Messiah as one text dated “in the period AD 617-634.”123) David C. Mitchell, Messiah ben Joseph, Campbell Publications (Newton Mearns, Scotland: 2016), p. 171 Relating “Ten Signs” of the end of the world and coming of the Messiah, it is said, “The Messiah will request of the Holy One, blessed be He, that He resurrect the dead. The Messiah of the lineage of Joseph will be the first of all those who are brought back to life, and he will become the emissary of the Messiah of the lineage of David.”124)Ten Signs, in John C. Reeves, Trajectories in Near Eastern Apocalyptic: A Postrabbinic Jewish Apocalypse Readers, Society of Biblical Literature (Atlanta GA: 2005), p. 119; also in David C. Mitchell, Messiah ben Joseph, Campbell Publications (Newton Mearns, Scotland: 2016), p. 173

Rabbi Hai ben Sherira Gaon (939-1038) wrote his Responsum on the Topic of Redemption, as one of the top Rabbis in his day, recorded:

Most of those who were slain will lie dead in the Land for forty days, for when the Messiah of the lineage of Joseph is killed, his corpse will be cast aside for forty days. Nevertheless no impure thing will afflict it until the Messiah of the lineage of David comes and resurrects him at the command of the Lord. This will be the first of the signs that he will perform; namely, the resurrection of the dead, for he will regain life.125)Responsum of R. Hai Gaon on Redemption, in John C. Reeves, Trajectories in Near Eastern Apocalyptic: A Postrabbinic Jewish Apocalypse Readers, Society of Biblical Literature (Atlanta GA: 2005), p. 137; also in David C. Mitchell, Messiah ben Joseph, Campbell Publications (Newton Mearns, Scotland: 2016), p. 220-221

Here we see the application that the Messiah’s dead body will not see corruption (Psalm 16:10) and will be the first resurrected, just as Christ is called the firstfruits of the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:20-23), and firstborn from the dead (Colossians 1:18).

Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum accurately remarked, “So to interpret Isaiah 53 as speaking of Messiah is not non-Jewish. In fact, if we are to speak of the traditional Jewish interpretation, it would be that the passage speaks of the Messiah. The first one to expound the view that this referred to Israel rather than the Messiah was Shlomo Yizchaki, better known as Rashi (c. 1040-1105). He was followed by David Kimchi (1160-1235). But this was to go contrary to all rabbinical teaching of that day and of the preceding one thousand years.”126)Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, Jesus Was A Jew, Ariel Ministry Press (Tustin, CA: 1974, 2003), p. 35 Indeed, a Messiah that suffers and dies for the sins of others is very much a Jewish concept. This fact should be evident since it was written by a Jewish prophet.

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