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Isaiah 53:4-8

Context

53:4 But he lifted up our illnesses,

he carried our pain; 1 

even though we thought he was being punished,

attacked by God, and afflicted for something he had done. 2 

53:5 He was wounded because of 3  our rebellious deeds,

crushed because of our sins;

he endured punishment that made us well; 4 

because of his wounds we have been healed. 5 

53:6 All of us had wandered off like sheep;

each of us had strayed off on his own path,

but the Lord caused the sin of all of us to attack him. 6 

53:7 He was treated harshly and afflicted, 7 

but he did not even open his mouth.

Like a lamb led to the slaughtering block,

like a sheep silent before her shearers,

he did not even open his mouth. 8 

53:8 He was led away after an unjust trial 9 

but who even cared? 10 

Indeed, he was cut off from the land of the living; 11 

because of the rebellion of his own 12  people he was wounded.

1 sn Illness and pain stand by metonymy (or perhaps as metaphors) for sin and its effects, as vv. 11-12 make clear.

2 tn The words “for something he had done” are supplied in the translation for clarification. The group now realizes he suffered because of his identification with them, not simply because he was a special target of divine anger.

3 tn The preposition מִן (min) has a causal sense (translated “because of”) here and in the following clause.

4 tn Heb “the punishment of our peace [was] on him.” שָׁלוֹם (shalom, “peace”) is here a genitive of result, i.e., “punishment that resulted in our peace.”

5 sn Continuing to utilize the imagery of physical illness, the group acknowledges that the servant’s willingness to carry their illnesses (v. 4) resulted in their being healed. Healing is a metaphor for forgiveness here.

6 tn Elsewhere the Hiphil of פָגַע (paga’) means “to intercede verbally” (Jer 15:11; 36:25) or “to intervene militarily” (Isa 59:16), but neither nuance fits here. Apparently here the Hiphil is the causative of the normal Qal meaning, “encounter, meet, touch.” The Qal sometimes refers to a hostile encounter or attack; when used in this way the object is normally introduced by the preposition -בְּ (bet, see Josh 2:16; Judg 8:21; 15:12, etc.). Here the causative Hiphil has a double object – the Lord makes “sin” attack “him” (note that the object attacked is introduced by the preposition -בְּ. In their sin the group was like sheep who had wandered from God’s path. They were vulnerable to attack; the guilt of their sin was ready to attack and destroy them. But then the servant stepped in and took the full force of the attack.

7 tn The translation assumes the Niphal is passive; another option is take the clause (note the subject + verb pattern) as concessive and the Niphal as reflexive, “though he humbled himself.”

8 sn This verse emphasizes the servant’s silent submission. The comparison to a sheep does not necessarily suggest a sacrificial metaphor. Sheep were slaughtered for food as well as for sacrificial rituals, and טֶבַח (tevakh) need not refer to sacrificial slaughter (see Gen 43:16; Prov 7:22; 9:2; Jer 50:27; note also the use of the related verb in Exod 21:37; Deut 28:31; 1 Sam 25:11).

9 tn The precise meaning of this line is uncertain. The present translation assumes that מִן (min) here has an instrumental sense (“by, through”) and understands עֹצֶר וּמִמִּשְׁפָּט (’otser umimmishpat, “coercion and legal decision”) as a hendiadys meaning “coercive legal decision,” thus “an unjust trial.” Other interpretive options include: (1) “without [for this sense of מִן, see BDB 578 s.v. 1.b] hindrance and proper judicial process,” i.e., “unfairly and with no one to defend him,” (2) “from [in the sense of “after,” see BDB 581 s.v. 4.b] arrest and judgment.”

10 tn Heb “and his generation, who considers?” (NASB similar). Some understand “his generation” as a reference to descendants. In this case the question would suggest that he will have none. However, אֶת (’et) may be taken here as specifying a new subject (see BDB 85 s.v. I אֵת 3). If “his generation” refers to the servant’s contemporary generation, one may then translate, “As for his contemporary generation, who took note?” The point would be that few were concerned about the harsh treatment he received.

11 sn The “land of the living” is an idiom for the sphere where people live, in contrast to the underworld realm of the dead. See, for example, Ezek 32:23-27.

12 tn The Hebrew text reads “my people,” a reading followed by most English versions, but this is problematic in a context where the first person plural predominates, and where God does not appear to speak again until v. 11b. Therefore, it is preferable to read with the Qumran scroll 1QIsaa עמו (“his people”). In this case, the group speaking in these verses is identified as the servant’s people (compare פְּשָׁעֵנוּ [pÿshaenu, “our rebellious deeds”] in v. 5 with פֶּשַׁע עַמִּי [pesha’ ’ammi, “the rebellion of his people”] in v. 8).



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