For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning,
that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4

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 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2007 James Melough


53:1.  “Who hath believed our report? And to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?”


Taylor translates this verse, “But, oh, how few believe it! Who will listen? To whom will God reveal His saving power?”  When the disciples asked the Lord “.... are there few that be saved?” He answered, “Strive to enter in at the strait (narrow) gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.  When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are,” Lk 13:23-25, Matthew 25:46 adding the dire warning that, “.... these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal,” and in 2 Cor 6:2 the exhortation is given, “... behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”  Tomorrow may be too late!  Pr 27:1.


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.”


The reference is to the Lord Jesus Christ’s growing up in the “dry ground” of apostate Israel’s unbelief, and their failure to recognize Him as the Deliverer foretold by the prophets.  Their disparagement of Him is declared in their scathing comments, “Is not this the carpenter’s son?” Mt 13:55, and their hatred of Him, in Mt 27:22, “Let him be crucified.”


How different is God’s description of Him as recorded in Ca 5:16, “He is altogether lovely,” and Mt 3:17,  “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased,” and again in 1 Pe 2:2-7, “Behold, I lay in Zion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded.  Unto you therefore which believe he is precious ....”


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.”


Confronted with the havoc wrought by death “Jesus wept” when He stood at the tomb of Lazarus, see John 11:35.  He had compassion for the sorrows and grief of others, but when He himself was enduring the agony of crucifixion His concern that His murderers might not have to suffer the consequences of their wickedness impelled His plea, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do,” Lk 23:34.


The face averted bespeaks the indifference spoken of by the prophet in Lam 1:12-13, “Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? Behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, which is done unto me, wherewith the Lord hath afflicted me in the day of his fierce anger.  From above hath he sent fire into my bones, and it prevaileth against them: he hath spread a net for my feet, he hath turned me back: he hath made me desolate and faint all the day.”  The awful agony described here was what the Lord endured when He took my guilty place and yours at Calvary, yet the world is as indifferent now as then.  It means nothing to that world, nor does it to professing but apostate Christianity, that the Creator died - and such a terrible death - to save men from hell, an fit them for heaven.  Well might the writer of Hebrews ask, “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?” Heb 2:3.


53:4.  “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.”


The first half of this verse is the honest contrite confession of every believer, but the latter half declares the callous unbelief and indifference of every Christ rejecter.  The unbelieving Jews who witnessed His death declared in pious self-righteousness that Christ was suffering the just punishment of God due to Him as an imposter.


53:5.  “But he was wounded (pierced) for our transgressions (offenses), he was bruised (crushed) for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed.”


“... chastisement” means reproof, warning, instruction, restraint, check, correction, discipline, rebuke.


No definition of words can ever fully describe what the Lord suffered at Calvary.  Only He and His Father can comprehend the mystery of the agony He endured when He made atonement for sin; and only faith can appropriate the eternal benefits accruing from His death.  On the cross the Lord took upon himself our sins as though He had committed them, and by suffering the penalty, death, has enabled His Father, on a basis of perfect righteousness, to pardon every believer, and bestow His priceless gift of eternal life.  Well might Paul exclaim, and we with him, “Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable (indescribable) gift,” 2 Cor 9:15.


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 (guilt) of us all.”



The corresponding NT confirmation of our lost state is found in Ro 3:10-12,23, “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.  They are all gone out of the way, there are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one .... For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. ”  But the love and mercy of God are declared in the verse now being considered.  He has been willing to impute our sins to His sinless Son, and in response to each sinner’s faith in that Son as Savior imputes Christ’s perfect righteousness to every believer, as it is written, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast,” Eph 2:8-9, and Titus 3:5, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us ....”


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.”


“...oppressed” is also translated treated violently, harshly dealt with, ill-treated; and “afflicted” means to be distressed with bodily or mental pain, to be troubled grievously.


Christ’s being likened to a lamb speaks of His willing submission to death as our Substitute; and like the sheep silent under the hand of her shearers, so He without protest submitted to being defamed, for here the sheep’s wool symbolizes the perfect righteousness which clothed the Lord.   See also 61:10 which describes the believer as clothed in Christ’s righteousness, “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness ....”


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.”


The NEB renders the first part of this verse, “Without protection, without justice, he was taken away....” while the ASV translates it, “By oppression and judgment he was taken away,” and Taylor translates the latter half, “But who among the people of that day realized it was their sins that He was dying for - that he was suffering their punishment?”


“... his generation” is understood by most commentators to refer, not to His descendants, but to His contemporaries; and it is emphasized that it wasn’t for any transgressions of His own, but for those of His people Israel that He was put to death, see verse 5. 



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.”


Translators generally agree that “he” at the beginning of this verse is better translated “they,” i.e., the Jewish leaders; and “because” is better rendered “though,” see e.g., the NEB rendering, “He was assigned a grave with the wicked / a burial-place among the refuse of mankind, / though he had done no violence / and spoken no word of treachery.”


The accurate fulfillment of this verse further validates the veracity of Scripture.


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 Father’s pleasure wasn’t found in the sufferings of His sinless Son, but rather in the blessing that would accrue to men as a result of them, for it is to be remembered that the Lord has no pleasure in consigning the unrepentant rebels into hell and the lake of fire, see Ezek 33:11, “Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?”


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.”


This describes the pleasure that Christ now finds in those who have, and who will yet put their trust in Him, the “knowledge” mentioned here being the knowledge of Him possessed by those who have already trusted Him as Savior.



Believers are not just forgiven: they are also justified, i.e., their pardon rests on the just basis of His having borne and expiated all their sins at Calvary where He gave His life a ransom for their souls.  It isn’t just a matter of God’s having as it were “swept their sins under the rug.  They have been put out of His sight and memory forever, see Heb 8:12, “For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more,” and emphasized again in Heb 10:17, “And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.”  This complete forgiveness has been made possible only because “....this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; from henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool.  For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified,” the sanctified here being those who have been set apart for God, i.e., all those who know the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior.


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 reference is to the still future glorification of Christ when He will reign as King of kings and Lord of lords, see Paul’s command to Timothy, as recorded in 1 Tim 6:14-15, “.... keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ: which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings , and Lord of lords,” and Rev 19:16, “And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”  His coming glory will be the antithesis of the disapprobation He endured in the course of His earthly life as described in 53:3.



[Isaiah 54]

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     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
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