Most Christians are familiar with the passage about the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 52:13-53:12. If you are not, I would encourage you to study it! For Christians, this is the most clear and relevant prophecy on Jesus. This passage seems to point exactly towards the story of Jesus:

Who has believed our message
    and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
    and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
    nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
    a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
    each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed and afflicted,
    yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
    and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
    so he did not open his mouth.
By oppression[a and judgment he was taken away.
    Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
    for the transgression of my people he was punished.
He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
    and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
    nor was any deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
   and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
    and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
11 After he has suffered,
    he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
    and he will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
    and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
    and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
    and made intercession for the transgressors.

Isaiah 53:1-12

I mean this sounds like the story of Jesus, hundreds of years before Jesus existed, right? Jewish scholars have had to respond to this prophecy and have pushed one main theory, that the passage is describing Israel, not Jesus. Here are 3 reasons that the Suffering Servant isn’t Israel.

1.) The Use of Pronouns

Isaiah uses pronouns to describe the suffering servant such as “he” and “him” throughout the passage. If you substitute Israel in place for those words, there are numerous parts of the passage that would not make sense.

Take verse 7:

Israel was oppressed and afflicted,
   yet Israel did not open Israel’s mouth

Isaiah 53:7

The idea that Israel did not fight back when oppressed his historically false.

2.) The Suffering Servant was a Sacrafice

Isaiah 53:8 says:

For he was cut off from the land of the living;
    for the transgression of my people he was punished.

Isaiah 53:8

The Suffering Servant was a sacrifice for the sins of “my people”. The people referenced in that passage would have been the people of Israel. Therefore, the Suffering Servant could not be Israel, because the Suffering Servant is supposed to cover the sins of Israel.

3.) The Suffering Servant has Qualities Israel that Israel Didn’t

The Suffering Servant is portrayed as innocent, which is something that is not at all true of Israel throughout the Bible. We could go over endless passages where Israel turns from God.

Isaiah 53:11 describes Israel as a “Righteous Servant”. The only being that could be described as perfect is God, as all humans are sinners.

So what do you think?

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