"Stranger still, the ancient religion of the Jews survives, when all the religions of every ancient race of the pre-Christian world have disappeared. Again it is strange that the living religions of the world all build on the religious ideas derived from the Jews" - The Ancient World, Professor T.R. Glover

"According to the materialistic and positivist criterion, this people ought to have perished long ago. It's survival is a mysterious and wonderful phenomenon demonstrating that the life of this people is governed by a special predetermination..."
- The Meaning of History, Professor Nicholas Berdkilaev of the Moscow Academy of Spiritual Culture

"It was Judaism that brought the concept of a God-given universal moral law into the world...the Jew carries the burden of God in history and for this he has never been forgiven" - Distinguished Catholic Scholar Edward H. Flannery

Fact: Judaism is the only religion in the world that lost its holy land and has regained it.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Suffering Servent of Isaiah 53 - Part One

A religious statement was once made in my presence by a Christian woman of which I openly agreed with her. With a big smile on her face she asked me if I went to church in the area nearby. When I told her my faith was Jewish that big smile she had immediately left her face as she proclaimed very vehemently that I believed in "nothing". It didn't dawn on her that such an attack on my faith opened up a justifiable response that from my prospective her form of Christianity is as "nothing" to me as my Judaism was to her. This was something I would have done had I not been convinced that she was totally clueless of Judaism, or for that matter, her "Old Testament".

Come to find out, this woman had never had an experience with God and was totally relying on what her pastor who she kept bringing up during the conversation, tells her. I ask her what scripture of the "Old Testament" most tells her that Jesus was the Jewish messiah. Of course, she, like most Christians, pointed to the 53rd chapter of Isaiah as a prophesy of Jesus' suffering. When I told her that the suffering servant was indeed the nation of Israel, she kept shaking her head from side to side (still without that big original smile on her face) stating that Israel was never a servant. It was then that I knew this religious woman was clueless of the Hebrew Bible, or her Old Testament for that matter.1

Therefore, while knowing that women will never read this blog, I'm dedicating this blog to her and the rest of the Judaism-hating Christian religious women with big smiles on their faces, who don't know the Bible that they say they believe as the word of God.
Two questions come to mind when first approaching Isaiah's suffering servant.
  1. Was the nation of Israel considered a "servant" in the prophet Isaiah's own eyes?

  2. Has the nation of Israel "suffered" as God's servant?
The first question is quite easy to answer given the fact that we have Isaiah's own words revealing the fact of Israel's servantship:
"But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend." - Isaiah 41:8
"Yet now hear, O Jacob my servant; and Israel, whom I have chosen.." - Isaiah 44:1
"Remember these, O Jacob and Israel; for thou art my servant: I have formed thee; thou art my servant: O Israel, thou shalt not be forgotten of me." - Isaiah 44:21
"And said unto me, Thou art my servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified." - Isaiah 49:3
From Isaiah 41:8 until the beginning of chapter 53 Israel is referred to as God's servant no less than sixteen times! Therefore, without a scriptural doubt, Israel was and is a biblically declared servant leading up to Isaiah 53. 2
The second question, "
Has the nation of Israel suffered as God's servant?" is almost a comical question. It's like asking if the Buffalo Bills has ever lost any major football games such as Super Bowls.3 Besides the sad fact of how much Israel has suffered, any question to their suffering can be answered with a question: "What nation throughout world history has been most persecuted through banishment, forced isolation, forced conversions, government-sponsored terrorism and mayhem, and industrialized murder?" Even new words such as "antisemitism" and "genocide" have arisen within the English language in response to such suffering of the Israelite nation! In fact, it has been said, "antisemitism is the second oldest profession known to man"! Such statements are attempts to somehow reflect the vastness of Israels' suffering throughout world history.
In comparison, the long historical sufferings brought about by the Roman conquest, the Inquisitions, the pogroms, the mind-blowing Holocaust, and the never-ending Muslim terrorism, far outweighs the suffering of one man's / one day crucifixion. The question then becomes, "Is Isaiah 53 talking about a literal one day execution of one single man or millennias of unjust persecutions of an entire people who just so happens to be His "Chosen People"?
FACT: Jesus' own crucifixion can be counted among the Israelite sufferings due to it being a Roman political execution, one of thousands preformed by the Romans on Jews while in occupied Jewish land. In suffering alone, Jesus' suffering was not unique. Thousands of Jews (and Gentiles) died upon Roman crosses as did Jesus. On the other hand, the Israelite nation's sufferings are very unique as the most persecuted people in human history and of whom the single greatest crime of mankind (the Holocaust) was orchestrated against! The Jews have been suffering at the hands of the Gentile nations long before, during, and long after the time of Jesus. In this present day there are several organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah vowing Israel's torture and death, while the world powers (the Quartet) overwhelmingly supports Israel's enemies.
ANOTHER FACT: Israel is a declared "servant" by the Hebrew prophet Isaiah. This is not a matter of faith. All it takes is just an ability to read the words of Isaiah and to comprehend what was read. This is something that cannot be said concerning Jesus. Jesus' servanthood has to be taken as a matter of "faith". Therefore, when it comes to who is best fitted for description of one who suffers as God's "declared" servant, Israel the nation, wins hands-down.
The text and context of Israel 53
It must be noted that chapters divisions and numbering of verses of the biblical texts were of medieval-Christian origin, and far from being part of the original text. Jewish Bibles adopted most of this Christian numbering system as late as 1330 CE, about two thousand years after the text was first given. http://www.onelittleangel.com/wisdom/quotes/bible.asp?level=3
The context of Isaiah 53 does not begin at verse 1 of the chapter, but three verses earlier in verse 13 of the 52nd. chapter. You say you want proof of this? I'll let you the reader establish your own proof. If you are a Christian who believes Isaiah 53 concerns only Jesus, then consider of whom Isaiah 52:13 (three verse earlier) is talking about:
"Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high."
If you believe this verse is talking about Jesus, then you yourself agree that the context of God's servant in Isaiah 53 is connected with the "servant context" just three verses prior to Isaiah 53.
If it's not Jesus, then who is this "exalted servant" of God? I rest my case on this "connection of context" issue.
Quick Test for Christians (and Jews):
  • What is Isaiah 53 about? You say the suffering servant? Very good.
  • Now, because I know you know your Bible really well, what is Isaiah 52 about? Not a clue?
  • What is Isaiah 54 about? Still, not a clue?
It interesting to note that when it comes to "Old Testament" readings most Christians are most familiar with scriptures that in their minds point to Jesus rather than all the scriptures as a whole. This is because they view the Hebrew scriptures through the window of the "New Testament" (or "New Covenant" as pertaining to the Christian Messianics) rather than the what the Hebrew scriptures gives on their own. It is the same principle as the Mormons viewing the New Testament through the window of the Book of Mormons, though I give Paul a lot more spiritual credit than Joseph Smith.
Since one can say for absolute certain that the last three verses in Isaiah 52 are connected with Isaiah 53, time needs to be spent examining chapter 52 because it indeed sets the stage for Isaiah 53. In fact, Isaiah 52 blends right into Isaiah 53.

Isaiah Chapter 52
Awake, awake; put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city: for henceforth there shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean. Shake thyself from the dust; arise, and sit down, O Jerusalem: loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion. For thus saith YHVH, Ye have sold yourselves for nought; and ye shall be redeemed without money. For thus saith YHVH GOD, My people went down aforetime into Egypt to sojourn there; and the Assyrian oppressed them without cause. - Isaiah 52:1-4
From the reading of the first four verses of Isaiah 52 can we conclude from the subject-nouns of Zion, Jerusalem, and holy city, that the context is obviously talking about the "servant" of Isaiah 41:8, Isaiah 44:1, Isaiah 44:21, Isaiah 49:3? Is there any chance that the words in verse 2 "Shake thyself from the dust; arise," has anything at all to do with the servant being exalted just eleven verses later in verse 13? "Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high."Any chance at all?
Verse 4 tells us that Israel was oppressed without cause: "My people went down aforetime into Egypt to sojourn there; and the Assyrian oppressed them without cause." What? Is there no mention within the context of Isaiah 52:4 of "Israel's sins" involved in this Gentile oppression of Israel here? Are the Christians who normally render every persecution of the Jewish people on their so-called "rejection of Jesus" forced to keep silent here on this Biblically proclaimed unjust Gentile persecution of the Jewish people?

Bringing this biblical context into modern times, Hitler's Europe, like Assyria of Isaiah's time, also oppressed Israel without a cause as well. The Islamic world carries the "Israel oppression without a cause" torch in this present day!

Is it too far fetched of a biblical reading revelation that this biblical description of God's servant "oppression them without cause" found in Isaiah 52:4 is directly linked to the "oppression" (without cause implied) found in verse 7 of Chapter 53 which reads "He was oppressed, and he was afflicted"?
There are many reasons why I chose to learn Biblical Hebrew and the following is one of them. The KJV translates the Hebrew in verse 4 of chapter 52 "va-ashur ba-ephes ashak-o" as "and the Assyrian oppressed them without cause." However, that is incorrect. I agree that such a translation makes the English more understandable, for even some Jewish translations are similar, but that is not how the holy script in the original language was given! The word ashak meaning "to oppress" is given in the affixed form with the objected suffix pronoun letter "vav" (but is the holem maleh vowel) attached to the end of the verb, making the verb be applied with a singular-masculine pronoun.

The precise correct translation from the original Hebrew should be: "and Assyria without cause, oppressed him". The singular "him" meaning the "single servant" that will be referred to in the coming verses. Feel free to check out what I'm saying. Obtain a Biblical Hebrew grammar book (preferably edited by Christian scholars) and the Tanach (the Jewish Bible in Hebrew) and learn the objected suffix pronouns and then read it in Hebrew for yourself. Also, keep this in mind when we go through chapter 53 in part three of this blog, for we will see the exact opposite in verb pronoun formation where the plural was translated as being singular.
A further examination of chapter 52 reveals certain spiritual details about this servant:
  • Verses 5 and 6: God's people knowing God's Name of YHVH on a personal level.
  • Verses 7 and 8: The salvation of Zion (not the Gentile world, but Zion)
  • Verse 9: The redemption of Jerusalem (Zion, by name)
  • Verse 10: The Gentile world bears witness of God's salvation of Zion. Notice the words "salvation our God" and not just" salvation of God".
  • Verse 11: The commandment to be clean before YHVH.
  • Verse 12: The "God of Israel" is their reward.
All of these events found here in chapter 52 are also found elsewhere in prophecy Hebrew scriptures:
  • God's people knowing His name: "So will I make my holy name known in the midst of my people Israel, and I will not let them pollute my holy name any more." - Ezekiel 39:7 (Compared with Isaiah 52:5-6)
  • The salvation of Zion: "Thus saith YHVH; I am returned unto Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and Jerusalem shall be called a city of truth" - Zechariah 8:3 (Compared with Isaiah 52:7-8)
  • The redemption of Jerusalem: "And I will bring them, and they shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God, in truth and in righteousness." - Zachariah 8:8 (Compared with Isaiah 52:9)
  • The Gentile world bears witness of God's salvation of Zion: "And the heathen shall know that I YHVH do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore." - Ezekiel 37:28 (Compared with Isaiah 52:10)
  • The commandment to be clean before God: "And they shall teach my people the difference between the holy and profane, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean." - Ezekiel 44:23 (Compared with Isaiah 52:11)
  • God of Israel" is their reward: "yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people." - Ezekiel 37:27 (Compared with Isaiah 52:12)
Now we're back to the last three verses of chapter 52 again where a new thought begins in addition to the previous twelve verses. Isaiah 52:13 is where the fourth and last servant song begins with the servant being promised to be exalted as the prior verses indicate.
Isaiah 52:14 "As many were astonished at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men"
The Holocaust as a whole was the most despicable action known to the history of man. Great evil arose from out of Germany and spread among many European peoples. There were no shortages of Hitler's European willing executioners! What came out in Nazi-Germany wasn't something new under the sun as Solomon has informed us in Ecclesiastes 1:9, but what has been in the hearts of the Gentiles since ancient times then was brought out on a massive and technologically-advanced level! Pharaoh, Haman, Muhammad, the Popes, the Romans, the Crusaders, the Inquisitioners, and the Pogromers didn't have fast moving cattle-cars and Zyklon-B pellets at their disposal.
Many depictions of Jews as vermin and other non-human animals came out of Nazi-Germany http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Eternal_Jew and the official Nazi party indoctrinated its people that the Jews were "untermensch" (under-human or sub-human) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Untermensch

During the Spanish Inquisition, the Jews were known as "marranos" meaning "pigs", and Gentiles could be put to death for acts of bestiality and sodomy for have sexual relations with a Jew. Medieval folklore caused the actual belief that all Jews had indeed grew devil horns on their heads. When I see these historical phenomenons along with the Muslim Koran - dating back from the seventh century - that today billions in the world believe as the "revelation from Allah" stating that the Jews are as "donkeys" and were turned into "pigs" and "apes" (suras 5:59-60, 7:166, 62:5) I'm reminded of Isaiah 52:14.

Isaiah 52:14 is describing the "psychology of the nations" view towards the Jewish people down through the ages. It is an interesting fact that this Gentile concept of the Jew has been so vast that Gentiles living before the television and the internet who had never seen or known a Jew became actual shocked on that how the Jew resembles a normal human!
As far as this servant being marred by crucifixion, I would recommend the reading of the book entitled "The Crucified Jew: Twenty Centuries of Christian Anti-Semitism" by Dan Cohn-Sherbok http://www.amazon.com/Crucified-Jew-Centuries-Christian-Anti-Semitism/dp/0802843115
And the answer is "yes" for all you who have a touch of "Protocols of the Elders of Zion - spiritual conspiracy" on the brain and don't know it, Mr. Cohn-Sherbok is Jewish. But that just means his book has a more personal viewpoint of the Jewish people being of victims of Gentile aggression than does a conspiring evil shylock
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shylock attempting to replace a Jesus-verse out of his own Hebrew Bible for a Jewish one. 4
Isaiah 52:15
"So shall he sprinkle (shake) 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."

It must first be noted that the "many nations" in this verse are Gentile nations. Never does the word "goyim" in the Hebrew Bible refer the non-gentile single nation of Israel. Secondly, the subject of "the kings" (given in the plural) is the continuation of the first mentioned "many nations" context of the verse. The verse moves the subject matter from addressing Gentile peoples themselves to the leadership and political arena of those "many nations" which is their "kings".

Fact: The Herodian Dynasty that was ruling over Israel during the time of Jesus was not of Jewish descent and were puppet kings that was put in place by the Roman Senate.
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herodian_Dynasty

The Christian notion that Isaiah 52:15 refers to Jesus transforming the Jewish nation can not be further from the truth. It is the Gentile nations as a single unit that are being shook up over something they have never considered, but shall indeed witness.

Also Isaiah 52:15 is very consistent with what the Hebrew Bible does and doesn't do throughout its entire message, especially in the "Israel redemptive section" of Isaiah (chapters 40-66).
  • The Hebrew Bible never, I repeat, NEVER prophesies or even implies in the slightest way that the Hebrew nation turns to the Gentiles for their understanding of God.
  • The Hebrew Bible prophesies in many places show how the Gentiles as a whole, will turn to the Jewish people for a correct understanding and worship of the God of Israel. Here is the list from the book of Isaiah alone: Isaiah 2:2-3, 11:10-12, 42:1-6, 49:6-7, 52:10, 52:15, 54:3, 55:5, 60:3, 60:10-12, *60:16-21, *61:6-11, 62:6-7, 66:18-20.
Most Christians will try to spiritualize the Hebrew prophecy of Gentile recognition of Israel as being related to the vast number of Gentiles becoming Christians under Jewish-Christian leadership at the beginning of the Christian era. However, some of these scriptures are impossible to deny, and when compared altogether, they become overwhelming for the Christian faith.
Let's take a look at Zechariah 8:23 for an example where it prophesies that the Gentiles will take a hold of a Jew in seeking the correct path to God. One might argue that ten Gentiles will grab hold of Jesus, Peter, or Paul in fulfilling that prophecy. However, when the same scene of Gentile recognition is setup by the prophet Ezekiel it becomes very difficult for the Christian apologist to keep such claims. Consider the uniformity and closeness of the two prophesies:
"Thus saith YHVH of hosts; In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you." - Zechariah 8:23
"And the heathen shall know that I YHVH do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore." - Ezekiel 37:28
Does it not become very clear that the Gentiles shall finally know (implying that they never have known before this prophesied-fulfilled time) that the God of Israel does sanctify Israel, are the same Gentiles grabbing unto a Jew in finding a true path to God? There is a very spiritual and profound reason why the Ezekiel prophecy and the Zachariah prophecy mentions Gentile recognition. These prophets did not just mentioning it in passing when writing their holy script.
In the short verses above the two prophecies relate on two accounts. One, is Israel's spiritual glorification, and the second is the Gentile recognition of that glorification. It is a greater stretch to say that they are fulfilled thousands of years apart than to say they are simply fulfilled at the same time. It is according to prophecy that the Gentiles turn to glorified Israel (the same glorified Israel that returns to the land in a massive in-gathering and becomes holy before God) not some Jewish cult during the exile!!!
As I pointed in my open letter to Hank Hanegraaff
http://zionism-now.blogspot.com/2007/08/letter-to-hank-henegraaff.html the Ezekiel prophecy could not have happened during the Babylonial return of the 6th. century BCE because one, only about 5% of the Jewish exiles actually returned which would not fulfill other scripture-prophecy of return (see Isaiah 27:12 / Ezekiel 36:24). Because of this low Jewish percentage rate of return from Babylon is also why we have today the "Babylonian Talmud". And two, the Ezekiel prophecy states that the messiah (a descendant of Kind David) will rule the Jewish nation which could not have happened during the time of the Babylonian return.
Neither could the Ezekiel prophecy be fulfilled during the time of Jesus since Israel was being ruled by Rome and the Jewish nation mostly lived outside "the land of their fathers" during the 1st. century CE which goes totally against the context of the Ezekiel prophecy (see St. John 7:35 compared to Ezekiel 37:25).
Also, the Ezekiel prophecy consists of a temple lasting forever (Ezekiel 37:27-28) , while the Herodian Temple that stood during Jesus' time was completely destroyed 37 years after Jesus' life in 70 CE. Therefore, this Ezekiel prophecy in all of its context can only, I repeat can ONLY, be fulfilled at a future date. And if the Ezekiel prophecy is indeed set for the future, then so is all the other prophecies of the same event including Zechariah 8:23.
Now allow me to through in a "servant-prophecy" scripture into the "Gentile-recognizing prophecy scriptures" for a conformation, and watch how all three scriptures compliment each other in painting the true and perfect end-time scene.
"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." - Isaiah 52:15"
"Thus saith YHVH of hosts; In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you." - Zechariah 8:23
"And the heathen shall know that I YHVH do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore." - Ezekiel 37:28
Yes, the Gentiles who shut their mouths and consider something about Israel that they had never considered according to prophecy, are the same Gentiles grabbing unto a Jew because they know "God is with them" according to prophecy and that "God does sanctify" them according to prophecy. Any questions? Feel free to leave a comment.
With these things in mind, one can begin to understand Isaiah 53 which the continence of the fourth servant song of Isaiah that consists of Israel being exalted before the nations and the Gentiles recognizing it! Isaiah 53 begins with the Gentiles' response under "shock and awe" in recognizing Israel's exaltation. They begin to speak about what they have began to spiritually recognize. And it is from there (Isaiah 53:1) is where I will continue the second part of this blog.
Even the New Testament states that Israel is God's servant. "He has helped His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy" - Luke 1:54. This New Testament verse shows the 1st. century Jewish mindset towards the mentioning of "God's servant" throughout the Hebrew Bible including the servant songs found in Isaiah's writings.
2. There are four "servant songs" throughout the "redemptive portion" of the book of Isaiah (chapters 40-66). First servant song - Isaiah 42:1-4, second servant song - Isaiah 49:1-6, third servant song - Isaiah 50:4-9, and fourth servant song - Isaiah 52:13 - 53:12.
3. I heard someone say that an acronym for "Bills" is: "Boy, I love losing Super-Bowls".
4. I mention this because of two personal accounts. One was a racially-aware feminist-liberal who believes America should let anybody and everybody come and live within her borders based upon what I call the "Rainbow-brotherhood doctrine". When I got her to read part of a newspaper editorial column condemning the religious evils of Islam the first words from out of her mouth concerning the columnist who wrote the article was, "Is she Jewish?" as if being Jewish created a strike against the columnist that she must use when evaluating her opinion. It seems the self-proclaimed enlighten ones regarding racism are not so enlightened, at least not spiritually. The second incident occurred when the James Ossuary was still being tested and dated. A Christian-conservative who generally favored Israel, suggested to me that Israel (the Jews) might deliberately falsify their findings on the ossuary in order to further deny Jesus and Christianity. This kind of thought process comes from being effected by the antisemitic portions of the New Testament that portrays Jews as being inherently evil towards Christianity, and for that matter, all mankind (see I Thessalonians 2:14-15). How someone really feels about another can be manifested of what a person is likely to believe about someone. In a small way he was mimicking the mindset of the Christian Europeans in their "Blood Libels" and the "Protocols of the Learn Elders of Zion" conspiracy without realizing it. It turns out that a Jew named Oded Golan forged the writing on the ossuary naming James as the brother of Jesus. I guess one could call him a "Jew for Jesus" in the archaeological world.