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Adam Clarke Commentary

Isaiah 53


This chapter foretells the sufferings of the Messiah, the end for which he was to die, and the advantages resulting to mankind from that illustrious event. It begins with a complaint of the infidelity of the Jews, Isaiah 53:1 ; the offense they took at his mean and humble appearance, Isaiah 53:2 ; and the contempt with which they treated him, Isaiah 53:3 . The prophet then shows that the Messiah was to suffer for sins not his own; but that our iniquities were laid on him, and the punishment of them exacted of him, which is the meritorious cause of our obtaining pardon and salvation, Isaiah 53:4 -6. He shows the meekness and placid submission with which he suffered a violent and unjust death, with the circumstances of his dying with the wicked, and being buried with the great, Isaiah 53:7 -9; and that, in consequence of his atonement, death, resurrection, and intercession, he should procure pardon and salvation to the multitudes, insure increasing prosperity to his Church, and ultimately triumph over all his foes, Isaiah 53:10 , Isaiah 53:11 . This chapter contains a beautiful summary of the most peculiar and distinguishing doctrines of Christianity.That this chapter speaks of none but Jesus must be evident to every unprejudiced reader who has ever heard the history of his sufferings and death. The Jews have endeavored to apply it to their sufferings in captivity; but, alas for their cause! they can make nothing out in this way. Allowing that it belongs to our blessed Lord, (and the best men and the best scholars agree in this), then who can read Isaiah 53:4 , Isaiah 53:5 , Isaiah 53:6 , Isaiah 53:8 , Isaiah 53:10 , without being convinced that his death was a vicarious sacrifice for the sins of mankind? On the first and second verses of this chapter I have received the following remarks from an unknown hand.

Verse 1

Who hath believed our report? - The report of the prophets, of John the Baptist, and Christ's own report of himself. The Jews did not receive the report, and for this reason he was not manifested to them as the promised Messiah. 'He came unto his own, but his own received him not.' Before the Father he grew up as a tender plant: but to the Jews he was as a root out of a dry ground. 'He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.'

Verse 2

For he shall grow up - Supposes something to have preceded; as it might be asked, what or who shall 'grow up before him,' etc. As the translation now stands, no correct answer can be given to this question. The translation then is wrong, the connection broken, and the sense obscured. זרוע zeroa, translated the arm, from the root zara.1. To sow, or plant; also seed, etc.2. The limb which reaches from the shoulder to the hand, called the arm; or more properly beginning at the shoulder and ending at the elbow.The translator has given the wrong sense of the word. It would be very improper to say, the arm of the Lord should grow up before him; but by taking the word in its former sense, the connection and metaphor would be restored, and the true sense given to the text. זרע zera signifies, not only the seed of herbs, but children, offspring, or posterity. The same word we find Genesis 3:15 , where Christ is the Seed promised. See also Genesis 22:17 , Genesis 22:18 ; Genesis 26:4 ; Genesis 28:14 . Hence the Seed of the woman, the Seed promised to the patriarchs is, according to Isaiah, the Seed of the Lord, the Child born, and the Son given; and according to St. John, 'the Son of God, the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.' זרע then, in this place, should be understood to mean Jesus Christ, and him alone. To speak here of the manifestation of the arm or power of God would be irregular; but to suppose the text to speak of the manifestation of Jesus Christ would be very proper, as the whole of the chapter is written concerning him, particularly his humiliation and sufferings, and the reception he should meet with from the Jewish nation.He hath no form nor comeliness "He hath no form nor any beauty" - Symmachus; the only one of the ancients that has translated it rightly.

Verse 3

Acquainted with grief - For וידוע vidua, familiar with grief, eight MSS. and one edition have וירע veyada, and knowing grief; the Septuagint, Syriac, and Vulgate read it ויודע veyodea.We hid as it were our faces from him "As one that hideth his face from us" - For וכמסתר uchemaster, four MSS. (two ancient) have וכמסתיר uchemastir, one MS. ומסתיר umastir. For פנים panim, two MSS. have פניו panaiu; so likewise the Septuagint and Vulgate. Mourners covered up the lower part of their faces, and their heads, 2 Samuel 15:30 ; Ezekiel 29:17 ; and lepers were commanded by the law, Leviticus 13:45 , to cover their upper lip. From which circumstance it seems that the Vulgate, Aquila, Symmachus, and the Jewish commentators have taken the word נגוע nagua, stricken, in the next verse, as meaning stricken with the leprosy: εν αφῃ οντα, Sym.; αφημενον, Aq.; leprosum, Vulg. So my old MS. Bible. I will insert the whole passage as curious: - There is not schap to him, ne fairnesse,And we seegen him, and he was not of sigte,And we desiriden him dispisid; and the last of men:Man of souaris and witing infirmitie;And he hid his cheer and despisid;Wherfor ne we settiden bi him:Verili our seeknesse he toke and our sorewis he bair,And we helden him as leprous and smyten of God, and meekid;He forsoth wounded is for our wickednesse,Defoulid is for our hidous giltisThe discipline of our pese upon him,And with his wanne wound we ben helid.

Verse 4

Surely he Bath borne our griefs "Surely our infirmities he hath borne" - Seven MSS. (two ancient) and three editions have חליינו cholayeynu in the plural number.And carried our sorrows "And our sorrows, he hath carried them" - Seventeen MSS. (two ancient) of Dr. Kennicott's, two of De Rossi's, and two editions have the word הוא hu, he, before סבלם sebalam, "carrieth them, "in the text; four other MSS. have it in the margin. This adds force to the sense, and elegance to the construction.

Verse 5

The chastisement of our peace "The chastisement by which our peace is effected" - Twenty-one MSS. and six editions have the word fully and regularly expressed, שלמינו shelomeynu; pacificationum nostrarum, "our pacification;" that by which we are brought into a state of peace and favor with God. Ar. Montan.

Verse 6

The Iniquity of us all - For עון avon, "iniquity," the ancient interpreters read עונות avonoth, "iniquities," plural; and so the Vulgate in MS. Blanchini. And the Lord hath הפגיע בו hiphgia bo, caused to meet in him the iniquities of us all. He was the subject on which all the rays collected on the focal point fell. These fiery rays, which should have fallen on all mankind, diverged from Divine justice to the east, west, north, and south, were deflected from them, and converged in him. So the Lord hath caused to meet in him the punishment due to the iniquities of All.

Verse 8

And who shall declare his generation "And his manner of life who would declare" - A learned friend has communicated to me the following passages from the Mishna, and the Gemara of Babylon, as leading to a satisfactory explication of this difficult place. It is said in the former, that before any one was punished for a capital crime, proclamation was made before the prisoner by the public crier, in these words: כל מי שיודע לו זכות יבא וילמד עליו col mi shioda lo zachoth yabo vayilmad alaiv, "whosoever knows any thing of this man's innocence, let him come and declare it. "Tract. Sandhedrim. Surenhus. Part 4 p. 233. On which passage the Gemara of Babylon adds, that "before the death of Jesus this proclamation was made for forty days; but no defense could be found." On which words Lardner observes: "It is truly surprising to see such falsities, contrary to well-known facts." Testimonies, Vol. 1 p. 198. The report is certainly false; but this false report is founded on the supposition that there was such a custom, and so far confirms the account given from the Mishna. The Mishna was composed in the middle of the second century according to Prideaux; Lardner ascribes it to the year of Christ 180.Casaubon has a quotation from Maimonides which farther confirms this account: - Exercitat. in Baronii Annales, Art. lxxvi. Ann. 34. Numbers 119. Auctor est Maimonides in Perek 13 ejus libri ex opere Jad, solitum fieri, ut cum reus, sententiam mortis passus, a loco judicii exibat ducendus ad supplicium, praecedoret ipsum חכרוז κηρυξ, praeco; et haec verba diceret: Ille exit occidendus morte illa, quia transgressus est transgressione illa, in loco illo, tempore illo, et sunt ejus ret testes ille et ille. Qui noverit aliquid ad ejus innoeentiam probandam, veniat, et loquatur pro eo. "It was customary when sentence of death was passed upon a criminal, and he was led out from the seat of judgment to the place of punishment, a crier went before, and spoke as follows: - 'This man is going out to suffer death by - because he has transgressed by - such a transgression, in such a place, in such a time; and the witnesses against him are - . He who may know any thing relative to his innocence let him come and speak in his behalf.'"Now it is plain from the history of the four Evangelists, that in the trlal and condemnation of Jesus no such rule was observed; though, according to the account of the Mishna, it must have been in practice at that time, no proclamation was made for any person to bear witness to the innocence and character of Jesus; nor did any one voluntarily step forth to give his attestation to it. And our Savior seems to refer to such a custom, and to claim the benefit of it, by his answer to the high priest, when he asked him of his disciples and of his doctrine: "I spoke openly to the world; I ever taught in the synagogue and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort; and in secret have I said nothing. Why askest thou me? ask them who heard me, what I have said unto them: behold, they know what I said," John 18:20 , John 18:21 . This, therefore, was one remarkable instance of hardship and injustice, among others predicted by the prophet, which our Savior underwent in his trial and sufferings.St. Paul likewise, in similar circumstances, standing before the judgment seat of Festus, seems to complain of the same unjust treatment; that no one was called, or would appear, to vindicate his character. "My manner of life (την βιωσιν μου, דורי dori, 'my generation') from my youth, which was at the first among my own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews, who knew me from the beginning, if they would testify; that after the straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee;" Acts 26:4 , Acts 26:5 .Was he stricken "He was smitten to death" - The Septuagint read למות lemaveth, εις θανατον, "to death." And so the Coptic and Saidic Versions, from the Septuagint; MSS. St. Germain de Prez.

Verse 9

With the rich in his death "With the rich man was his tomb" - It may be necessary to introduce Bishop Lowth's translation of this verse before we come to his very satisfactory criticisms: - And his grave was appointed with the wicked;But with the rich man was his tomb:Although he had done no wrong,Neither was there any guile in his mouth.Among the various opinions which have been given on this passage, I have no doubt in giving my assent to that which makes the ב beth in במותיו bemothaiv radical, and renders it excelsa sua. This is mentioned by Aben Ezra as received by some in his time; and has been long since approved by Schindler, Drusius, and many other learned Christian interpreters.The most simple tombs or monuments of old consisted of hillocks of earth heaped up over the grave; of which we have numerous examples in our own country, generally allowed to be of very high antiquity. The Romans called a monument of this sort very properly tumulus; and the Hebrews as properly במות bamoth, "high place," for that is the form of' the noun in the singular number; and sixteen MSS. and the two oldest editions express the word fully in this place, במותיו bamothaiv. Tumulus et collem et sepulchrum fuisse significat. Potest enim tumulus sine sepulchro interpretatione collis interdum accipi. Nam et terrae congestio super ossa tumulus dicitur. "Tumulus signifies a sepulcher with a hillock of earth raised over it. The word is sometimes restrained to the bank of earth; for the heaping up of the earth over the bones is named the tumulus." - Servius, Aen. 3:22. And to make the tumulus still more elevated and conspicuous, a pillar or some other ornament was often erected upon it: - Odyss. sii. 14.Fast by the roarings of the main we place;The rising tomb a lofty column bore,And high above it rose the tapering oar."PopeThe tomb therefore might with great propriety be called the high place. The Hebrews might also call such a tomb במות bamoth, from the situation, for they generally chose to erect them on eminences. The sepulcher of Joseph of Arimathea, in which the body of Christ was laid, was upon a hill, Mount Calvary. See Isaiah 22:16 (note), and the note there.The exact completion of this prophecy will be fully shown by adding here the several circumstances of the burial of Jesus, collected from the accounts of the evangelists: - It has been supposed that קברו kibro, his grave, and במתיו bemothaiv, in his death, may have been transposed, as also the prefix ב be originally placed before רשעים reshaim, the wicked. Thus: - Yea, his death was appointed among the wicked,And with a rich man, his tomb.By these alterations it is supposed the text would be freed from all embarrassment. But see the preceding notes of Bishop Lowth, and the various readings of De Rossi, in loc.

Verse 10

To grief "With affliction" - For החלי hecheli, the verb, the construction of which seems to be hard and inelegant in this place, the Vulgate reads בחלי bocholi, in infirmitate, "with infirmity."When thou shalt make his soul "If his soul shall make" - For תשים tasim, a MS. has תשם tasem, which may be taken passively, "If his soul shall be made" agreeably to some copies of the Septuagint, which have δωται See likewise the Syriac.When thou shalt make his soul an offering - The word נפש dro nephesh, soul, is frequently used in Hebrew to signify life. Throughout the New Testament the salvation of men is uniformly attributed to the death of Christ.He shall see his seed - True converts, genuine Christians.He shall prolong his days - Or this spiritual progeny shall prolong their days, i.e., Christianity shall endure to the end of time.And the pleasure of the Lord - To have all men saved and brought to the knowledge of the truth.Shall prosper in his hand - Shall go on in a state of progressive prosperity; and so completely has this been thus far accomplished, that every succeeding century has witnessed more Christianity in the world than the preceding, or any former one.

Verse 11

Shall be satisfied "And be satisfied" - The Septuagint, Vulgate, Sryiac, and a MS. add the conjunction to the verb, וישבע vaigisba.Shall my righteous servant justify "Shall my servant justify" - Three MSS., (two of them ancient), omit the word צדיק tsaddik; it seems to be only an imperfect repetition, by mistake, of the preceding word. It makes a solecism in this place; for according to the constant usage of the Hebrew language, the adjective, in a phrase of this kind, ought to follow the substantive; and צדיק עבדי tsaddik abdi, in Hebrew, would be as absurd as "shall my servant righteous justify," in English. Add to this, that it makes the hemistich too long.

Verse 12

He bare the sin of many - רבים rabbim, the multitudes, the many that were made sinners by the offenses of one; i.e., the whole human race; for all have sinned - all have fallen; and for all that have sinned, and for all that have fallen, Jesus Christ died. The רבים rabbim of the prophet answers to the οἱ πολλοι, of the apostle, Romans 5:15 , Romans 5:19 . As the πολλοι of the apostle means all that have sinned; so the רבים rabbim of the prophet means those for whom Christ died; i.e., all that have sinned.And made intercession for the transgressors - For יפגיע yaphgia, in the future, a MS. has הפגיע hiphgia, preterite, rather better, as agreeable with the other verbs immediately preceding in the sentence.He made intercession for the transgressors. - This was literally fulfilled at his death, "Father, forgive them; they know not what they do!" Luke 23:34 . And to make intercession for transgressors is one part of his mediatorial offlce. Hebrews 7:25 , and Hebrews 9:24 .In this chapter the incarnation, preaching, humiliation, rejection, sufferings, death, atonement, resurrection, and mediation of Jesus Christ are all predicted, together with the prevalence of his Gospel, and the extension of his kingdom through all ages.

Isaiah 53

  1 Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?
  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.
  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.
  4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
  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.
  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.
  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.
  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.
  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.
  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.
  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.
  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.

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