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Babylon." Cyrus permitted the Jews to carry back the sacred vessels; and the return was conducted by Zerubbabel with great order, each family being numbered. Ezra i., ii.
Isaiah lii. 13: “Behold my servant shall deal prudently (or, prosper); he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high.”
A parallel passage to xlviii. 15, where, after speaking of the fall of Babylon, it is said, “ He (Jacob) shall make his way prosperous.
There is no reason to suppose that another subject, such as the mission of Christ, is introduced here. Supposing the “servant” to mean, as usual, Jacob or Israel, and the connexion with what goes before is easy and natural. Jacob, by the return from captivity, shall prosper, &c.
Isaiah lii. 14: “ As many were astonished at thee (Lowth, him): his visage was so marred, more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men.”
The disgraced state of Jacob at Babylon.
Isaiah lii. 15: “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."
Cyrus confesses that “the Lord God of Israel, he is the God,” Ezra i. 3; other kings shall follow his example, and wonder to find that the small despised Jewish nation was God's instrument for so mighty a purpose. The following is a parallel passage addressed to Zion, xlix. 23 : “And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and thy queens thy nursing mothers : they shall bow down to thee with their face toward the earth, and lick up the dust of thy feet.”
Isaiah liii. 1 : “Who hath believed our report ? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed ?”
Who is not surprised at hearing this account of God's
dealings with Jacob, and his intentions in laying afflictions upon him?
Isaiah liïi. 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.”
At Babylon, Jacob or Israel was like a plant growing on a harsh soil. The nation was in slavery, and had none of the beauty and splendour of an independent people. In chap. xliv. 3, Jacob is compared to the dry ground itself; which is nearly parallel to the root out of a dry ground in this place.
Isaiah liii. 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 ; (or he hid, as it were, his face from us ;) he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”
In chap. xlix. 7, Jacob or Israel is called “him whom man despiseth.” The latter part seems to mean, because of the contempt into which the Jewish nation had fallen, we Jews even were become ashamed of it.
Isaiah liii. 4: “Surely, he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted."
The sorrows of Jacob are our own, and ought to endear him the more to us Jews; yet many of us began to consider our nation forsaken by God, and were inclined to renounce our nationality.
Isaiah liji. 5: “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes (or bruise) we are healed. 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 of us all."
The right view of the nation's or Jacob's sufferings is, that they are to correct the iniquities of the people. Our country hath suffered much since the days of Nebuchadnezzar; but by this, we Jews are healed or made righteous. A parallel place is xliii. 24—28: “ Thou hast wearied me with thine iniquities; ... thy first father hath sinned, and teachers have transgressed against me. Therefore I have given Jacob to the curse, and Israel to reproaches."
Isaiah liji. 7: “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: and he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter ; and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.”
Jacob hath patiently endured his hard tribulation at Babylon.
Isaiah liii. 8: “He was taken from prison and from judgment, and (or, he was taken away by distress and judgment, but) 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" (or, was the stroke upon them).
Jacob was taken away from his own land by a severe judgment,* and who can help wondering at the strangeness of his life and fortunes ? for he became then to all appearance dead, being blotted out from the nations, the divine justice requiring this penalty for the sins of the people.
Isa. liii. 9: “ And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich † in his death in Hebrew, deaths), because (or, although) he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth."
Babylon, that idolatrous and rich city, seemed to be
According to Kimchi, “Oppressus est exactionibus pecuniarum.”
+ In the present Hebrew text, the word is in the singular, “ cum divite;" but in Justin's time it seems to have been plural, divitibus.” “Quater plurali numero vocem (divites) affert Justinus, atque in eâ, ac si sincera esset, acquiescit.”-Kennicott Dissert. sect. 70.
his tomb, his kings and people being carried thither to
Isa. liii. 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 (or, when his soul shall make 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.”
Yet all this was done by the Lord his God, not with a view to destroy him, but to fulfil his own deep purposes ; for when the people have thoroughly repented of their sins, and gone through the penalty decreed, Jacob shall be restored as a nation ; a fresh race of Jews shall spring up, and become a firm and flourishing people.
Ver. 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." +
Ver. 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."
By his preserving the knowledge of the law of God, Jacob shall justify his people, or wash away their guilt in the eyes of the Lord.
of the Lord. In reward, he shall enjoy again temporal prosperity, as when the kings of Persia shall
* The sense given by Rosenmüller is, “Quinetiam sepulchrum ei assignarunt cum scelestis; tumulum sepulchralem juxta facinorosos," which may mean simply that at his death he was accounted and treated as one of the wicked. In this case the second clause, “ with the rich,” &c., would be only a poetical repetition of the first. The rich and the wicked seem to be considered as nearly synonymous. Job xxvii. 13-19. The resemblance of the two adjectives resho and osheir might have suggested the use of such a synonyme. Kimchi says that the plural, “ deaths,” is used, because the Jews suffered many different kinds of deaths from the Babylonians.--See Rosenm. Scholia.
† Lam.v.7: “Our fathers have sinned, and are not, and we have borne their iniquities."
compel their tributaries, princes stronger than Jacob, to assist him. This shall compensate him for the political death which he hath endured, and reward the patience with which he has undergone the penalty of the nation's sins, and thereby, like Moses, performed the part of an intercessor with the Lord for the people.*
Isaiah liv. 1 : “Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear, break forth into singing, and cry aloud ...for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, saith the Lord. ... 3: For thou shalt break forth in the right hand and on the left; and thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles, and make the desolate cities to be inhabited.”
The same subject is continued, but Jerusalem or Zion, a female, is introduced instead of Jacob. The same transition occurs in ch. xlix. The idea here is the same as in ch. liii. 10," he shall see his seed;" and as the Jewish nation is plainly intended in this place, it is reasonable to suppose that it is in the former also.
Thus is this celebrated fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, which has been considered the chief prophecy concerning Jesus Christ, explained without any reference to him; and it is for the reader to determine if the sense here
* It is possible that the “transgressors” in this verse may mean the idolatrous nations amongst whom Jacob was captive, which would render this a parallel passage to Jer. xxix. 7: “And seek the peace of the city, whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the Lord for it.” But it seems more consistent to consider the transgressors here the same as in ver. 8.
The Rabbi David Kimchi supposed that, at ver. 1, the idolatrous kings and nations mentioned in the preceding chapter begin to speak, and that this whole chapter expresses their wonder at finding the Jewish nation destined to expiate their iniquities and to convert them. But it seems more consistent with the rest of the book to suppose that the iniquities of the Jewish people themselves are here intended; since Jacob or Zion is so frequently said to bear the iniquities of the people~xlii. 24; 1. 1; xliii. 27.