Eved Adonai – The Servant of the Lord
The clear reference to Yeshua haMashiach in Isaiah 53
This is a response to another one of Ibn Anwar’s articles, this time to his article about Isaiah 53 called A critical study of Isaiah 53. Ibn Anwar is one of many that try to make the wild allegation that Christians are mistaken when they claim that Isaiah 53 is talking about Yeshua. In order to do that, Ibn Anwar tries to appeal to mistranslations and misapplications, showing that the servant clearly cannot be Yeshua. And of course Ibn Anwar has to take this position, since Islam forces him in that corner of the, in my opinion, irrational claim that this “cannot” be about the Messiah. Because if it is about the Messiah, then Islam is false! But first, before I take it upon myself to unwrap the unwarranted claims of this Muhammadan, I would like to pose a question to him and to those that claim this isn’t about Yeshua: Who is Isaiah talking about here? It isn’t enough to deny that this is about Yeshua, it necessitates an alternative subject as well. Since this passage is clearly talking about someone who is innocent, who is dying for the wicked, as I will soon demonstrate, whom is this text talking about if you maintain that this is not about Yeshua, the Son of Glory?!
Ibn Anwar writes:
The context of Isaiah 53 actually begins in verse 13 in chapter 52. Superficially, some of the verses do seem applicable for Jesus, but, does the entire passage agree with the Jesus that is portrayed in the so called gospels?
Not only does this Muhammadan claim that our reading is superficial, but he claims to give us an in depth analysis of the passage, so we will be in for a treat. Let’s see what he has to say and check if his accusations hold water.
13. See, my servant will prosper;
he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted.
Who is this “servant” who will prosper? To know who he is we should have a look at the previous passages that are in actual fact related to chapter 53. For example, in Isaiah 41:8 the verse says,”But you, O Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen.” Once again in verse 9 it says,”I said,‘You are my servant’; I have chosen you and have not rejected you.” In Isaiah 43:1 we read,”..he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel.” And again in Isaiah 44:1 says,”But now listen, O Jacob, my servant, Israel, whom I have chosen.” In all those instances the same Hebrew word is used namely ‘ebed which means servant(’abd in Arabic). Look carefully at the verses and notice that the servant(’ebed) is mentioned along side Jacob and Israel. Thus it is safe to say that in verse 13 of chapter 52 the servant is not Jesus but rather the nation of Israel portrayed in one man namely, Jacob. According to Rabbi Rashi and the like it is a representation of the people of Israel.
First, there is no “Rabbi Rashi”. “Rashi” is not a proper name but the acronym for Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaqi (*). He did hold the view that this is about Israel as a nation and he is mostly responsible for this view being held by the overwhelming majority of orthodox Jews today, though his predecessors and many rabbis after him have rejected this view and applied it to the Messiah instead. For example, Moshe Ibn Crispin (14th century) has said about this chapter:
This Parashah [i.e. passage] the commentators agree in explaining of the Captivity of Israel, although the singular number is used in it throughout. The expression My Servant they compare rashly with Isaiah 41:8, "you Israel are My servant"; here, however, he does not mention Israel, but simply says, My servant; we cannot therefore understand the word in the same sense. … here he says My servant alone, and uniformly employs the singular, as there is no cause constraining us to do so, why should we here interpret the word collectively, and thereby distort the passage from its natural sense? … As then it seemed to me that the doors of the literal interpretation of the Parashah were shut in their face, and that "they wearied themselves to find the entrance," having forsaken the knowledge of our Teachers [i.e. the Sages], and inclined after the "stubbornness of their own hearts," and of their own opinion, I am pleased to interpret it, in accordance with the teaching of our Rabbis [i.e. the Sages], of the King Messiah, and will be careful, so far as I am able, to adhere to the literal sense; thus, possibly, I shall be free from the forced and far-fetched interpretations of which others have been guilty. (Adolf Neubauer and S.R. Driver, The Fifty-third Chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters, New York: Ktav, 1969, Vol. II, p. 99-100; boldface and underline emphasis mine; an older edition is available online)
Need I say more? This 14th century commentator says that the literal sense of Isaiah 53 is Messianic and that this has been the interpretation of the Sages (2nd – 6th century) as well. And that those that follow the interpretation that this is about collective Israel are deviating from the literal meaning of the text and the reading of the Sages. Not only that, but he deems the interpretation of collective Israel to be “forced and far-fetched”.
Second, as Ibn Crispin also points out above, the term “servant” is not exclusively used for Israel by Isaiah: Isaiah himself (20:3), Eliakim (22:20), David (37:35) and the Messiah (49:6) are also called “eved”. So I really don’t see how anyone can claim that, since Israel is called servant in certain places, therefore Israel must be the servant in Isaiah 52:13 as well. On the contrary the exalted language in this verse clearly points to the exaltation of the Messiah instead. (Compare with Isaiah 9:5-6 [6-7 in Christian translations] and Daniel 7:13-14.)
14. Just as there were many who were appalled at him —
his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man
and his form marred beyond human likeness—
If Jesus was marred beyond human likeness or as God’s Word Translation renders it, “His looks will be so disfigured that he will hardly look like a human.” surely people would not have recognised him. However, as we read in the gospels none of them had any problem in recognising the figure of Jesus e.g. Luke 23:27 and John 19:6 says that ,”as soon as the chief priests and officers saw him, they shouted,”Crucify! Crucify!”. So according to John 19:6 the moment Jesus stepped out of the shadow to meet them they immediately recognised him. If he had been marred beyond recognition surely there would have been hesitation. In fact the narratives about his alleged torture are not as dramatic or grim as the words of verse 14 in Isaiah 52 convey. In Luke 22 verse 63 it just says that the guards at the temple beat him. Interestingly enough Luke totally omits what is found in Matthew, Mark and John i.e. the narrative about Jesus getting beaten and his head getting fastened with a crown of thorns after his condemnation by Pilate. Nonetheless, even in those narratives Jesus is not described as being marred beyond recognition or human likeness.
This argument is just ridiculous. First, if this is not about Yeshua because people still recognized him after he was flogged, beaten and crucified, while the prophecy says that the servant will be so disfigured beyond human likeness, then this goes for anybody and no one can fulfill this prophecy. Whether it is Yeshua or Israel, since people recognize the servant even though they are appalled at him because of his disfigurement, the outcome is still the same: the servant, whether Yeshua or Israel, still looks like a human being.
Second, you really mean that they take Yeshua captive, bring him before the Sanhedrin, bring him before Pilate, flog him and beat him to the point of disfigurement, then drag him before the people and mistake someone else for him? Then who have they been beating up all that time? And if it weren’t Yeshua, does this mean that the substitute said absolutely nothing to anyone the whole time and just let them beat him to a pulp and nail him to a cross without even a single instance where he says “hey guys, you have the wrong dude!”? Are we really expected to believe that? Who else could that disfigured person be but the one that they presented to Pilate in the first place?
Third, John 19 doesn’t say they recognized him. It says in verse 5 that Pilate presented him before the people and they reacted by yelling that he should be crucified. There was no need for hesitation, since Pilate had already identified him as the one whom they had brought before him so that he should condemn him to death.
Fourth, I don’t see why it is “interesting” that Luke omits the details of the flogging. We have three witnesses that say he underwent the flogging and beating. Is Ibn Anwar maintaining that if a story is being told in different places, all the details must be repeated in all instances? Or does Ibn Anwar allow for omission where the author deems it unnecessary to report certain details? If the former, then the Muhammadans have a big problem with the Quran as well. If the latter, then what is so “interesting” about the omission of particular details in Luke?
All in all, this Muhammadan has not shown anything remotely like a refutation of the position that this is about Yeshua as portrayed in the Gospels.
53:1 Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
The arm or zrowa’ is often used in reference to God’s assistance or intervention in saving his people(Israel included) from the oppression of other nations. For example we read in Deuteronomy 4:33, “Has any god ever tried to take for himself one nation out of another nation, by testings, by miraculous signs and wonders, by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, or by great and awesome deeds, like all the things the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your very eyes?” In Isaiah 52:10 we read,”The LORD will lay bare his holy arm.” The same may also be found in Deuteronomy 7:19 and Isaiah 63:12,”who sent his glorious arm of power to be at Moses’ right hand, who divided the waters before them…”. The arm does not symbolise a human being who will die for the sins of all of humanity.
The term “z’roa YHWH”1 is always tied in directly with God’s salvation. Hence it stands for Divine intervention! This doesn’t mean that God doesn’t use human beings as a tool for His salvation. This is easily demonstrated by Ibn Anwar’s own examples. Deuteronomy 4:34 (not verse 33), as quoted above, is about the “outstretched arm” of God, referring to the wonders and signs He did in Egypt by which He saved His people. Who did He use for those signs? Moses! Was Moses a human being? Yes! Does this negate the fact that God intervened in the salvation of His people? No! In other words, this objection is self-refuting. God laying bare His arm is about God’s miraculous intervention in the salvation of man, almost always using humans as a tool to demonstrate His Majesty and Power. This we see many times in the Tanach. We also see this mentioned many times in the New Testament, that God, the Father, revealed His salvation to mankind in His Son. Therefore, the conclusion that Ibn Anwar comes to is a complete farce. That is like saying: My name is spelled C-A-T, which is pronounced as “Cat”, therefore I am a cat! The analysis is correct, but the conclusion is flawed.
verse 2, He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
This particular verse is just downright weird if not a mockery. If we were to accede to the Christian understanding i.e. it’s Jesus then we might as well just say that Jesus is ugly and there goes 90% of the portraits of Jesus the world over! The Passion of Christ ought to have had an ugly actor!
I don’t think Ibn Anwar is aware that making this argument is actually conceding that he has nothing meaningful to say. First, the verse does not say that the servant is ugly. If it did, and we would go with the interpretation that this is about Israel, then this would be about only the ugly Israelites. Since orthodox Jews claim that this is about the righteous remnant of Israel, this would mean that if you are righteous, yet good looking, these verses would not apply to you. I seriously wonder how this line of reasoning gets you anywhere.
Second, criticizing paintings of Yeshua is something totally irrelevant, as is bickering about what the actor of the Passion of the Christ should look like. No one knows what Yeshua looked like to begin with. The verse merely says that he did not come in exceptional beauty or with an outward majestic appearance that would attract people to him. The verse is referring to his lowly state.
So where is the beef? Once again, our position remains untouched.
verse 3, He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not
Do you notice anything pecular [sic] about the verse? Yes, it uses the PAST TENSE! What is a prophesy? To prophesy is to foretell. It is something in future. To tell the future the appropriate tense to use is the future tense, hence, we have the famously quoted prophesy of Isaiah 7:14,”Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign…”. Isaiah 53:3 then seems to describe something that has happened. Secondly, it says that ,”he was despised and rejected” and “we esteemed him not”. This does not seem to correlate with what we discover in the gospels about Jesus’ relationship with the masses. For example, in Luke 4:14-15 we read, “Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.” The Greek word there is pas which means all and they praised(doxazo which can also mean glorify) him. So the verse says that EVERYONE praised him. In Matthew 4:25 it says, “Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.” In Matthew 21:9-11 we read about “a very large crowd” or pleistos ochlos greeted Jesus’ “triumphal” entry into Jerusalem with shouts of Hosanna, Hosanna. Even “nearing the end” Jesus’ popularity with the people did not wane as we read in Luke 23:27 ,”A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him.” All of these passages clearly contradict Isaiah 53:3 which describes the person as despised and rejected.
First of all, everyone knows that this is a prophecy. The fact that this is in the past tense is not a valid objection. The “prophetic perfect” is a well-known feature in the prophetic books of the Tanach.) The reason for using the “prophetic perfect” can be understood this way: a prophet can have a vision that is so real and tangible to the prophet, that he describes it as he sees it with his own eyes as if it has already happened, using the past tense instead of the future. Even God himself uses this language as we see in Genesis 17:5 saying:
5. And your name shall no longer be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations (ki av-hamon goyim n’taticha). (Judaica Press Complete Tanach / JPCT)
Here God said that he has made (past tense) Abraham a father of many nations, while Abraham only had one son at that time. This obviously refers to the future when Abraham will have become the father of many nations. Another example is in Jeremiah:
32. For this is the covenant that I will form with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will place (natati) My law in their midst (natati et-Torati beqirbam) and I will inscribe it upon their hearts, and I will be their God and they shall be My people. (Jeremiah 31, JPCT)
Here we see that Jeremiah, talking about the New Covenant that was clearly not made in his days, speaks in past tense in Hebrew (natati) referring to a future covenant which the Jewish translators of the JPCT correctly recognize and thus translate this accordingly. So Ibn Anwar’s appeal to the past tense does not accomplish anything.
Second, since appealing to the past tense is such big deal, who is this referring to? Who, prior to Isaiah’s prophecy, does this speak of?
Third, the vision starts in the future tense in 52:13 and ends in the future tense as well in 53:10-12. This shows that the vision of Isaiah cannot be referring to a past event and the case for the prophetic perfect is established.
Fourth, as I wrote in another article, Isaiah is describing the status of the servant in his suffering. In the case of Yeshua that would be during his trial and his death. He carried the suffering alone, with no one to aid or assist him. Thus, appealing to all the events that happened before and after his trial and execution proves nothing.
So I ask again, where is the beef? How does this not fit Yeshua as described in the Gospels?
Verse 4, Surely he took up our infirmities
and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God,
smitten by him, and afflicted.
The word infirmities and sorrows in Hebrew are choliy and mak’ob respectively. Neither convey the meaning of sin or iniquity. In fact, the word choliy is synoymous [sic] with davah which is mentioned in Leviticus 12:2 describing the infirmity of women during menstruation. Is menstruation or the weakness as a result thereof a sin or iniquity? No. Mak’ob is simply sorrow or anguish. What is the purpose of Jesus’ crucifixion? According to Christians it is to ATONE FOR THE SINS/INIQUITIES of humanity. The verse does not seem to suggest that. Nowhere does it mention the word sin. Had it really wanted to convey the meaning of atoning for sins surely it would have used words like ‘asham , chatah or chet all of which convey the meaning of sin. Did Jesus take up our weakness and sorrow? No, women are still menstruating and get tired during that period and all of us experience sorrow at least once a week. Further more, it says that he was smitten by God. The word there is nakah which means to strike. Are the Christians trying to tell us that the Pharisees and the Romans are all God since they were the ones who supposedly hit Jesus? Finally, notice that like the verse before this too is in the PAST TENSE.
Ibn Anwar appeals to the Hebrew again, making unsubstantiated accusations. Like with most Muslims, because the Quran forces them to take certain positions, he obviously has difficulties discerning what we actually believe and therefore cannot accurately present our views. Does Ibn Anwar really think that any Christian believes that Yeshua bore our sins without taking the ramifications of those sins, which is sorrow, grief, hurt and all kinds of agony into account?
It’s ironic to see that Ibn Anwar in his next point refers to a footnote of the NET Bible to try to refute our position. But the same source says the following in a footnote to verse 5:
17 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. (NET Bible, Isaiah 53; boldface and underline emphasis mine)
So a footnote in the same chapter from which Ibn Anwar quotes another footnote, explains the very thing that he tries to undercut.
In addition, the mock conclusion that the Romans are supposed to be God because they had stricken Yeshua whereas the prophecy says God struck him is not only a silly argument, but is also a total misreading of the text. The text clearly says that the speaker esteemed (chashavnu = we thought) him to be stricken by God. And the language is such that the servant was deemed to be punished due to his own actions and sins. In other words: The speaker considered the servant to be punished by God for his own wrongdoing. But the very next verse clarifies that this interpretation of the speaker is wrong.
Lastly, to link with the words “choly” and “mak’ov” with the word “davah” is totally unwarranted. The word “davah” is such a rare word, it is only used once in the entire Tanach. To claim that these are related requires evidence of the use of “davah” and how they actually are related. Something that Ibn Anwar failed to do.
Verse 5, But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
The translation which is used by most Christian Bibles correspond with the above. However, the preposition used is inaccurate. The word for in the verse is min in Hebrew which should be translated as from or because of. As such the Bible resource website net.bible.org explains in its footnote on the verse,” 1 tn The preposition מִן (min) has a causal sense (translated “because of”) here and in the following clause.” You may be wondering what’s the big deal? Allow me to illustrate with an example. This is for you VERSUS this is because of you. In the first instance it is as if the you is given something(perhaps a reward or gift), however in the second instance the notion of a gift or reward is totally absent and instead the idea of accusation or guilt are implied. Likewise, in the common Christian translation the idea seems to be that the person who is supposed to be Jesus dies for you(as a gift or reward for you in order to save you, offer salvation) rather than just as a consequence of what you’ve done without reward or gift. The verse also mentions that he is “crushed”! When in the world was Jesus crushed?!? It says that “by the wounds we are healed”. That does not correlate with Hebrews 9:22 which is often used as the proof text for blood atonement, “without sheeding [sic] of blood there is no atonement.” So Hebrews 9:22 says that it is the blood that atones, but Isaiah 53:5 suggests that the wounds are the source for healing. Which is it? Finally, the verses before this too is in the PAST TENSE!
So if one instance says “blood” and the other one says “wound” this is a contradiction and therefore each is talking about different irreconcilable things? Talk about nitpicking. I don’t know if Ibn Anwar really wants to go there, since the Quran will then be held to the same standards. According to the Quran:
- we are made from earth (S. 11:61) in one verse,
- in another verse (S. 15:26) we are made from clay,
- in another verse (S. 16:4) we are made from semen,
- in yet another verse (S. 96:2) we are said to be created from a blood-clot,
- in another (S. 3:59) we are made from dust,
- then Allah tells us that we are made from water (S. 25:54)
- and then it claims (S. 2:117) that we are made by the word “be”,
- but then Allah claims (S. 52:35) he made man of nothing!
So the Quran uses eight different words to describe how man was made and therefore, by Ibn Anwar’s own standards, the Quran contradicts itself and per the Quran’s own standard cannot be from God. Which is it?
Now to Ibn Anwar’s nitpicking as far as the Hebrew is concerned. Whether it is translated for or translated because of, it makes absolutely no difference, even in light of his own analogy. Actually the analogy provided by Ibn Anwar proves that he has no case:
Jesus died for your sins: We sinned, he died.
Jesus died because of your sins: We sinned, he died.
Either way the dying is vicarious which is exactly the theme of the chapter, telling us that “he bore the sins of many and made intercession for the transgressors” (v.12). Bottom line: We messed up, he cleaned up.
And why Yeshua wasn’t “crushed” according to Ibn Anwar is beyond me. This is typically a case of not understanding the prophetic language. What is “crushed”? Is “crushed” that his body is completely crushed that he becomes a bloodstain? Is “crushed” that all of his bones are broken? Or that some of his bones are broken? How many bones should be broken? That depends on the person, doesn’t it? The prophet Isaiah tries to describe what he sees. He sees a crushed man that suffers immensely for, or should I say “because of”, the sins that others committed. What else can he call it than “crushed”?
Bottom line, the objection makes no sense.
Verse 6, We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
The verse seems to suggest that everyone has gone astray and chosen their own devices instead of following God. However, in Luke 1:6 we read something quite different. It says, “They(Zacharias and Elizabeth) were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord.” These two individuals obeyed all of God’s laws and teachings and did not do anything wrong, hence they cannot be blamed for anything! If that is so then the verse in Isaiah 53:6 applied to Jesus is false! And once more the verse is in the PAST TENSE just like the ones before!
Again, not understanding the language of scripture, Ibn Anwar thinks he is actually making valid objections. I have to ask: do you really think that Luke is writing to a community, trying to convince them that Yeshua died for their sins but then writes that Zacharias and Elizabeth are without sin? Nowhere does Luke 1:6 say that Zacharias and Elizabeth never sinned. On the contrary, Luke was part of a community that taught that no one was without sin (1 John 1:8, Romans 3:23), yet we are to believe that he held the view that Zacharias and Elizabeth were without sin? Obviously, he stated that, as far as their ability to keep Torah, they were completely dedicated in every way.
verse 7, He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before her shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
The verse is virtually saying that the person was led to his slaughter SILENTLY and QUIETLY with his mouth CLOSED. Did Jesus meet this criteria? I’m afraid not.
When Jesus was arrested he OPENED HIS MOUTH!
Matthew 26:55, “At that time Jesus said to the crowd, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me.”
See also Matthew 26:64, Matthew 27:11 and 46.
Luke 23:28, “Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children.”
See also Luke 23:34, 43, 46
In John we see that Jesus attempts a defence [sic] against the High Priest at the temple.
John 18:20-21, “I have spoken openly to the world,” Jesus replied. “I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret.Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said.”
See also John 18:34, 36, 37 etc.
Clearly, from the above given verses Jesus never kept silent as he was “led to the slaughter”. It cannot be about Jesus.
When the prophets delivered a message, they expected people to understand their language using their minds and reasoning from logic. That doesn’t mean that there can be no room for allegory and the like, but given the language that Isaiah used in this chapter, Ibn Anwar’s hyper-literalism was certainly not what the prophet Isaiah had in mind. I would bet that even if Yeshua would have said “ouch!” when He was flogged and beaten, people like Ibn Anwar would object saying that since Yeshua opened His mouth, this cannot be about Him, because the prophecy said that the servant would not open his mouth. But this is an invalid objection. Isaiah is describing the servant in his suffering. Read the following verse (v. 8) which talks about a judgment that the servant went through. Yeshua was led to the slaughter by whom? By His accusers. He was put on trial by whom? By His accusers. So the fact that “he did not open his mouth” would mean that He didn’t defend Himself in judgment before whom? His accusers. What was He accused of? Blasphemy, as we can clearly see:
60 Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, "Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?" 61 But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer. Again the high priest asked him, "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?" 62 "I am," said Jesus. "And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven." 63 The high priest tore his clothes. "Why do we need any more witnesses?" he asked. 64 "You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?" (Mark 14, NIV)
Do we see Yeshua defending Himself against His accusers? Not at all. He confirmed what they asked Him and did not back-paddle. What do we make of the references that Ibn Anwar brought up? He quoted Matthew 26:55. Yet he conveniently skipped verse 56:
55 At that time Jesus said to the crowd, "Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me. 56 But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled." Then all the disciples deserted him and fled. (Matthew 26, NIV)
It is clear to see that Yeshua was not objecting to His arrest, but that He was making a point by pointing to Scripture. This all happened in order that “the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled”. It is obvious that Ibn Anwar is trying to make it seem as though Yeshua was looking for excuses trying to squirm His way out of the position that He found himself in. So instead of dealing honestly with the text, he carefully takes the part he can use to make it seem as though his argument holds any weight. Because, darn it, Isaiah 53 cannot and will not be about Yeshua.
Then he quotes Luke 23:28. But that verse is not to the accusers or even in defense of Himself. Luke 23:28 is a warning to the women of Jerusalem that perilous times are approaching. So now, even uttering prophecies is not allowed and will disqualify Yeshua from being the subject of Isaiah 53 as well.
Lastly we will look at John 18:20-21. Let’s look at the text starting with verse 19:
19 Meanwhile, the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. 20 "I have spoken openly to the world," Jesus replied. "I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret. 21 Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said." (John 18, NIV)
So what is going on here is that Yeshua is questioned about His teachings. Read the Gospel of John and tell me what the teachings of Yeshua were. He claimed that He was the Divine Son of God who was to die for the sins of the world and would ultimately judge the world. Everyone knew this, because He taught openly. He said nothing in secret. This is what He is telling the high priest. He is telling him “you should know by now what I said, since I spoke openly on all the public places, you were all there. Ask anyone!” Again, is he protesting his arrest? Is he defending Himself, trying to get Himself out of the situation He was in? In no way. No one seriously reading this text would come to that conclusion. Yet those that feel that Isaiah 53 will not and cannot be about Yeshua will look for any excuse to try to disqualify Him as being the one spoken of by Isaiah.
verse 8, By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
And who can speak of his descendants?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was stricken.
There is not a single Christian version of the Bible that translates the pronoun in the forth line differently than the above(NIV). They all translate it with the singular pronoun “he”. The following is the original Hebrew text of Isaiah 53:8,
מעצר וממשפט לקח ואת דורו מי ישוחח כי נגזר מארץ חיים מפשע עמי נגע למו׃
“meotser umimishpat lukakh veet doro mi yesokheakh ki nigzar meerets khayim mipesha ami nega lamo: “
The pronoun in the fourth line is lamo in Hebrew. Look at the following verse carefully from Psalm 99:7,
בעמוד ענן ידבר אליהם שמרו עדתיו וחק נתן למו׃
“beamud anan yedaber aleihem shamru edotav vekhok natan lamo:”
When the two verses are compared what becomes obvious is that both use the exact same pronoun i.e. lamo. Now, look at the NIV translation of Psalm 99:7,
“He spoke to them from the pillar of cloud;
they kept his statutes and the decrees he gave them(LAMO).”
Can you see the game now? The deception? One moment they translate it in the singular and the next it’s plural! They translate as they please when it suits them! The following is the correct translation of Isaiah 53:8 from the Jewish Bible,
“From imprisonment and from judgment he is taken, and his generation who shall tell? For he was cut off from the land of the living; because of the transgression of my people, a plague befell them.”
So it’s not a “he”, but rather “them”. It is in the collective and not in the singular. It speaks of the people of Israel as a nation and not a single man god who will die for mankind.
Ibn Anwar is using very big words for his conclusions of the translations he is criticizing. Let’s see if his claims of “deception” towards the Christian translations are warranted.
Ibn Anwar objects that the Christian translations are deceitful since the word “lamo” (למו) is translated as “he” instead of what Ibn Anwar considers should be translated as “them”. However, had Ibn Anwar studied both sides of the argument and not only this standard Jewish anti-missionary argument, he would have known that there is a simple and logical explanation for the reading “he”. The word “lamo” is a third person plural form of the pronoun “la”. The third person singular is “lo” (לו). However we shouldn’t only look at meanings of words, we should also look at the application of those words as well. When we do that, we will see that the word “lamo” is also used in reference to single subjects and in all the instances where it does refer to single subjects it is translated singular:
#1 He also said, "Blessed be the LORD, the God of Shem! May Canaan be the slave of Shem. (or “slave to him”, lamo, Gen 9:26)
#2 May God extend the territory of Japheth; may Japheth live in the tents of Shem, and may Canaan be his slave." (or “slave to him”, lamo, Genesis 9:27)
#3 he makes an idol and bows down to it. (lamo, Isaiah 44:15)
#4 for the transgression of my people he was stricken (or “a stroke to him”, lamo, Isaiah 53:8)
So we clearly see that the word “lamo” is to be translated and understood depending on the context. All the instances above show that the subject that “lamo” is referring to is singular and thus lamo is translated accordingly. This is no different with the context of the servant in Isaiah 53, who is described solely in the singular form.
Furthermore, the reading could easily be justified, since the wording “nega lamo” (a stroke to/for them) can also be read as “niga lamo” (the root verb naga in niph’al form - he was stricken for them). As if that wasn’t enough, when we turn to the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS)2 we read the following:
מִפֶּשַׁע עַמּו נוגַע למו
mipesha amo nuga lamo
Because of the transgressions of his people he was afflicted for them.
The DSS has “amo” (his people) instead of “ami” (my people) and “nuga” (the root verb naga in third person singular pu’al form - he was afflicted) instead of “nega” (a stroke). Although we are dealing with two different readings3 of the verse, in the final analysis they all say the same thing: the servant was wounded for his people’s transgressions. Who did the copyists of the DSS try to deceive?
Not only that, but even if we take lamo to refer to a plurality of people, that would still not change the meaning of the text. The Jewish Publication Society translation translates it as follows:
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away, and with his generation who did reason? for he was cut off out of the land of the living, for the transgression of my people to whom the stroke was due. (JPS)
So even the JPS is compelled to translate it as such that the stroke or plague befell the single servant for the sake of the multitude: they transgressed, they deserved the stroke, yet he was cut off. The following question comes to mind in light of Ibn Anwar’s bold accusation: What ax does the JPS have to grind?
Ibn Anwar continues:
verse 9, He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth.
Jesus was given a grave with the wicked? Last I checked he was not even buried but rather stored in a roomy chamber called a sepelchure [sic](chamber carved out of rock) and left there ALONE. Nobody else was stored with him by Joseph of Arimathea. The verse also suggests that “he had done no violence”. According to Matthew 21:12, Mark 11:15-16 and Luke 19:45 Jesus drove the people out of the temple. Did he do it by giving them sweets? Read the narratives yourself. He acted violently by overturning the tables and benches. Was there any deceit from the mouth of Jesus? The answer would seem to be yes according to Luke 23:43,”Today you will be with me in paradise.” He made this promise to one of the thieves who were exectued [sic] with him that he will be with him in paradise that very day. However, we know from John 20:17 that Jesus never ascended to heaven on that day or the day after that or even the day after that, “Do not hold me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them,’I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ” Where is the Father who is God? The “Lord’s prayer” tells us succinctly that,”Our Father who art IN HEAVEN.” So did Jesus lie when he made that promise that he obviously did not fulfill? You tell me.
So many errors crammed up in an attempt to exegete a single verse is a seldom sight. Starting at the beginning of the objection, Ibn Anwar claims that Yeshua was not buried at all but stored somewhere in a chamber. As typical with Muslims, Ibn Anwar has obviously no idea how burials in those days went. It is a fact that there were two phases in a burial: The first phase was that the body was put in a sepulcher so that the flesh would decay and only the bones remained. The second phase was that when the bones finally were left, the bones would be placed in a box like object and then buried in the ground. BOTH phases were burials since in both cases the burial place was called a tomb.
As for the phrase “with the wicked”, this doesn’t have to necessarily mean that the servant should be buried in one room or tomb with other wicked people. This is Ibn Anwar’s superimposing his (already demonstrated) deficient understanding of scripture on the text. It could easily mean that the servant would be assigned to a burial by wicked people, or that the servant would be buried among wicked people in other surrounding tombs, etc. So to narrow the scope of the words of Isaiah, that can be understood in several different ways, in order to fit ones own biased position will not work here.
Then the Muhammadan tries to convince us that Yeshua acted violently and therefore He couldn’t possibly be the servant of Isaiah 53 of whom it is said that he did no violence. I just want to take a moment here and emphasize my amazement at the Muslim reasoning: Yeshua overturning money tables in the Temple of God to rebuke people not to use His Father’s house as a robber’s den rather than a house of prayer is called violent by Muslims, yet Muhammad, who killed people by the droves, went out and attacked towns and villages for plunder, raped women and allowed his companions to rape women at will, hit at least one of his 13 wives (child-bride Aisha), ordered his followers to fight all mankind until they submitted to Islam is called a man of peace and the perfect human being in all aspects of life. As I write this I am shaking my head in amazement. Fact of the matter is that when Yeshua was on trial no one could bring any charge against Him. Many witnesses came against Him, none could bring anything substantial, Pilate could not find anything, nor could Herod. In fact, considering the complete innocence of the servant in Isaiah 53 the word “chamas” (violence) could easily be understood as a wrong action. He has DONE and SPOKEN nothing wrong.
This brings us to the charge of deceit, which again prompts me to use sarcasm because of the deceitful character of both Muhammad and Allah as they are portrayed in the Islamic sources. Allah, who tricked the world into believing that “his beloved prophet Isa” was killed (or actually swapped (or swooned) him with someone else and made that person look like the Islamic Isa) and is now belly-aching that we believe what he “made to appear to” us as though the Islamic Isa actually died and rose from the dead. Since this is the logical conclusion of Allah’s actions, we should expect nothing less from his most beloved messenger Muhammad, who, indeed, acted likewise and told his followers to use deceit in order to kill his critics Ka’b bin al-Ashraf and Abu Afak and used deceit to conquer Mecca, by making a treaty for 10 years and then violate it by attacking them when they least expected it, two years later. Yet, the promise of the crook being in Paradise with Yeshua on that day He told him that it would happen is taken as Yeshua being deceitful.
Again, I must say that Ibn Anwar narrows the scope of his shallow understanding of the Holy Scriptures in order to try to convince his gullible readers that the Messianic understanding of Isaiah 53 is flawed. The phrase from Luke 23:43 where Yeshua promises the thief ”Today you will be with me in paradise.” is talking about being in paradise in soul and spirit, NOT physically. No one understood those words of the Messiah to be about a resurrected thief. Everyone knew that the resurrection would be at the end of times, which was obviously not on that day. So to impose that view on this text of Luke 23 is completely wrong and illogical. What Yeshua meant is evident by His own words “Father into your hands I commit my spirit”. Yeshua was with the Father as soon as He died and finished His work on earth and that thief went with Him as soon as he died as well, just as Yeshua promised. John 20 poses no problem whatsoever to this reading either. In John 20 Yeshua tells Mary not to touch Him because He has not ascended to His Father yet. This, of course, is a physical ascension. Yeshua came fresh out of the tomb physically and had not yet ascended, posing no problem with the narration of Luke. This is obvious to anyone with average intellect that tries to understand the text. Yet Ibn Anwar manages to see an error where you would have to be quite innovative to be able to find one.
verse 10, Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.
We have noted the “crushing” issue earlier. Jesus was never “crushed”. It says that “he will see his offspring and prolong his days,” Since when does Jesus have offspring? And how in the world can the days of God be “prolonged” which means to extend. God is immortal and time has no bearing on his being. If Jesus is God it makes no sense to prolong his days.
Since we indeed have already dealt with the “crushing” issue earlier, let’s look at the objection of the servant seeing offspring and his days being prolonged. The use of “seed” here is understood to be metaphorical. The word “zera” can also refer to followers, not only to literal offspring. In fact, who says that the offspring would be the offspring of the servant? The text doesn’t say זַרְעוֹ (zar’o – HIS seed) but זֶרַע (zera – seed). It could be anyone’s seed and doesn’t have to be the seed of the servant himself. We see this same application of zera in Psalm 22:31:
31 A seed (zera) shall serve him; it shall be told of the Lord unto the next generation. (Jewish Publication Society)
This doesn’t mean that the zera will be that of the subject, which is God, but that the offspring of others will serve Him. Likewise, the same word zera in Isaiah 53:10 doesn’t have to be understood as being the servant’s own seed, but that he would see others benefit of his works as the verses 11 and 12 explain.
The objection about the prolonging of the days of the servant is also without any merit as we will see. The objection is that since Yeshua is claimed to be God, how can God’s days be prolonged. This objection comes from a good dose of lack of understanding of what we believe about Yeshua. Either Ibn Anwar really doesn’t understand our concept of the incarnation or he does a good job trying his best to not understand it. I will present Paul as a witness to concisely explain how Yeshua, as God, can die and prolong His days at the same time:
5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2)
It is quite obvious what is said here: Yeshua existed as God in Heaven, gave everything up to become a servant IN ORDER TO BE ABLE TO DO WHAT IS DESCRIBED OF THE SERVANT. Namely, die on the cross and then rise from the dead, which is exactly what this verse is talking about. The servant offers himself as a guilt offering to intercede for others and after he has done so, he will see the result of his work, which means only one thing: death and resurrection. Bottom line, what Paul is explaining is that Yeshua could only die by taking on himself human flesh and become a servant. This servant is what we read about in Isaiah 53.
I think I will end the article here. It’s past 1 am now and I really need my sleep. I believe the thesis thus far is more than sufficient in proving our point.
Remember what was mentioned in the beginning? If there is even one thing that does not correlate with Jesus then the whole Christian argument for Isaiah 53 fails. But, it’s not just one non-correlation! We have seen that almost all the verses give rise to many problems when Jesus is forced into it. In conclusion, it is foolish to claim that Isaiah 53 is about the alleged crucifixion of Jesus to atone for the sins of the entire human race.
Somehow I don’t think Ibn Anwar stops at verse 10 because it’s supposedly late and he needs his sleep. He could have saved this file and continued his arguments after his sleep. My educated guess is that he stops at verse 10 because verse 11 and 12 make it abundantly clear that, in light what we have read thus far, Isaiah cannot be speaking about anyone else than the Messiah Yeshua:
11 From the travail of his soul, he will see [the light – according to the DSS and the LXX] and be satisfied; by his knowledge the Righteous, My servant, will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. (my translation)
See what I mean? How on earth can this be about Israel? How can anyone read this and come to any other conclusion than that this is talking about Yeshua as He is described in the Gospels? And because Ibn Anwar simply is unable to raise any meaningful objections from these verses he stops at verse 10. It is not “foolish” to claim Isaiah 53 is about the Messiah interceding through his death and resurrection, it is foolish to read these explicit references and claim that this is about Israel instead of Yeshua.
Given the fact that this verse by verse analysis of Ibn Anwar’s objections has done nothing than show his lack of discernment of Scripture, the superimposing of his bias against the Messianic reading of the text and the immense double standards in his accusations of violence and deceit towards the Lord and Savior Yeshua the Messiah, we conclude that Ibn Anwar has failed to demonstrate in any meaningful way that this cannot be about Yeshua. If Ibn Anwar will claim that this is about Israel instead, then I would like to issue the challenge for him to prove, via verse by verse analysis, that this is talking about Israel and how the verses apply to Israel. Just making objections without a viable and better alternative will not cut it. I submit to you that Ibn Anwar will not be able to meet the challenge. If he would even attempt to do so, I would be much surprised.
We can therefore conclude also that Isaiah 53 perfectly describes the sufferings and the purpose of those sufferings of the Messiah, who took our iniquities upon Himself and made intercession for us. If Isaiah, more than 700 years before the birth of the Messiah, is right, then Yeshua is that intercessor prophesized about in Isaiah 53. I invite all Muslims to put their trust in Him Who perfectly intercedes for sins on our behalf – an intercession that Muslims will badly need on that dreadful day when the Messiah will pronounce God’s Judgment on all who rejected His intercession. As Rabbi Elijah de Vidas (16th century) correctly observed:
Since the Messiah bears our iniquities which produce the effect of His being bruised, it follows that whoso will not admit that the Messiah thus suffers for our iniquities, must endure and suffer for them himself. (Neubauer and Driver, op. cit., p. 386)
Bo Yeshua, Adoneinu! – Come Yeshua, our Lord!
In Messiah’s peace,