An Assured Object, Accuracy, and Unity
The writings of Isaiah, and chapter 53 in particular, have been the subject of debate through the centuries. Jewish and Gentiles scholars alike have attacked the writer and his writings, but the believer can rest assured as to the Object, the Accuracy, and the Unity of this prophecy.
The Object of the Book
Isaiah 53 has been termed “the forbidden chapter of the Jewish synagogue,” for they don’t care to read it. David Baron, a missionary to his own people the Jews, writes that one Sabbath reading ends with 52:12 and the next begins with chapter 54.
It has been called “the bad conscience of the Jewish nation” for not only did they reject their Messiah, but as well they said to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, “His blood be on us and on our children.”
Early rabbis understood that this passage spoke of the coming Messiah. The remarkable teaching and miracles done by Him Who was known as Jesus of Nazareth convinced many that He was indeed their Messiah. This is expressed by the words of the people of Jerusalem, “when Christ cometh will He do more miracles than these which this Man hath done” (John 7:31). In spite of the evidence, the leaders rejected Him and the people called for Him to be crucified. Subsequent to His death, many rabbis taught that the passage applied either to Isaiah himself, or to Hezekiah or Jeremiah, or some other Old Testament individual. The common Jewish teaching today is that the passage applies to the sufferings of Israel as a nation and to its people.
Yet God answers all arguments.
In Acts 8 the Ethiopian eunuch was reading this passage as he traveled homeward from Jerusalem. Through this incident the Holy Spirit has left on record that the subject of Isaiah 53 is none other than the person of God’s Beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. For the Christian the matter is settled – Isaiah 53 prophetically speaks of Jesus of Nazareth, the promised Christ of the Old Testament.
The Accuracy of the Book
In 1947 three Arab shepherd boys were searching for their lost goats in an area known as Qumran, near the Dead Sea. Some of their flock had climbed the hillside and Juma, one of the boys, threw a stone into a cave to drive them out. Instead he heard something break. Those boys returned later and found many earthen jars, which they searched for gold. They found, not gold, but rather ancient scrolls and parchments. Seven scrolls were taken from that cave. For some time these scrolls hung on a pole in a Bedouin tent, before finally being sold to a dealer in antiquities. They eventually found their way into the hands of experts who recognized their value. In 1955 they were bought by the State of Israel for $250,000 and they are today on display in Jerusalem at the Shrine of the Book. In that discovery was a complete copy of the Book of Isaiah. It became the oldest copy of any Old Testament book and was 1000 years older than the existing Masoretic text, which was written around 1088 AD. There were no essential differences between them. God has preserved His record.
Eleven caves were later searched and in one (cave 4), 15,000 fragments were found, 600 complete scrolls, and parts of every book of the Old Testament, with the exception of the book of Esther. It seems the manuscripts were hidden in jars in the caves when the Romans were invading Israel. The writings were dated from 125 BC to 68 AD. The Essenes, who hid these documents, were a Bible believing people, who lived in the days of the Maccabeans, shortly before the New Testament days began. Their writings indicated that they looked forward to a coming prophet, also some future priest and the promised King of Israel. They make no mention of Jesus, for He had not yet come into the world.
The Unity of the Book
The book of Isaiah can be readily divided into two sections: Chapters 1-39 form the first part and chapters 40-66, the second. Scholars of the Higher Criticism in the nineteenth century suggested there was more than one writer of this book – Isaiah who wrote the first section before the exile to Babylon, and a second person who wrote the latter chapters after the return from Babylon. By this reasoning, the Pearl of Isaiah 53 would have been written by an unknown person at a later date. The Dead Sea scrolls clearly showed the latter section to have been written before the cross and the Christian era. The Septuagint, a Greek version of the Old Testament was written around 250 BC. It contains the complete book of Isaiah with no suggestion of a second writer.
The Old Testament prophets Nahum and Zephaniah, who lived before the exile to Babylon, referred to the second section of the book of Isaiah without any suggestion of a second writer. Jeremiah who wrote at the beginning of the exile also makes reference to last chapters of Isaiah. A number of others, secular writers, such as Josephus, attribute all chapters to the one writer Isaiah. Within the sixty-six chapters there are phrases and words used in both sections that are seldom found in others books of the Bible. One example is the term “The Holy One of Israel” found twelve times in ch 1-39 and thirteen times in ch 40-66, yet only six times elsewhere in the Old Testament. There is ample evidence as to the one writer of this book. Besides this, in the New Testament there are nine references to chapters 40 to 66, each one ascribed to Isaiah.
We can then be assured as to the object of this book: it presents Christ the perfect Servant and Son of God.
We can be assured as to the accuracy: it is an essential part of all that is given by “inspiration of God.”
We can be assured as to its unity: Isaiah the prophet is one of the “holy men of God” who “spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Pet 1:21).
Our consideration in these pages will be the fifteen verses of Isaiah 52:13-15 and 53:1-12. We will consider The Setting – Its Position, The Sections – Its Parts, The Subject Matter – The Purpose, The Speakers – The Persons (four) who speak, The Sequence – The Progression of Truth.