Isaiah 53 Explained – Verse by Verse Commentary

1 Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people?
9 And they made his grave with the wicked
and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.


The True Meaning of Isaiah 53

The book of Isaiah was written by the prophet Isaiah, who lived during the reigns of several Judean kings in the 8th century BCE. Isaiah was known for his powerful messages of judgment and hope, often speaking on behalf of God to the people of Judah. A profound prophecy about a suffering servant who will bear the sins of the people is seen in this chapter. This passage foreshadows the coming of the Messiah, who will willingly sacrifice himself for the sake of humanity. The imagery used here echoes themes found throughout the Bible, such as the Passover lamb in Exodus and the suffering of the righteous in the Psalms. As we delve into this chapter, we will witness the depth of human sin and the overwhelming grace of God. We will be confronted with the high cost of redemption and the transformative power of faith in the one who was “pierced for our transgressions.” May this passage stir our hearts to a deeper understanding of God’s love and the salvation that is offered to all who believe.

Isaiah 53:1-3

Sure, let’s explore Isaiah 53:1-3 in detail:

  1. “Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? The prophet Isaiah in this opening line is expressing bewilderment that their message has not been readily believed. The “arm of the Lord” refers to God’s power and might, which in this context is being presented as something hidden or revealed to only a few. It sets the stage for the forthcoming description of the suffering servant and the revelation of God’s ultimate plan of salvation.

  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 second part describes the humble origins and unassuming nature of the servant. The imagery of a tender shoot and a root out of dry ground symbolizes the servant’s unlikely beginnings and his growth in adverse conditions. The lack of physical beauty or attractiveness hints at the servant’s ordinariness, portraying a figure who does not conform to worldly expectations of greatness. This prophecy finds fulfillment in Jesus Christ, who, despite his divinity, came into the world in humble circumstances, born to a carpenter and raised in Nazareth, a town of little renown (Isaiah 53:2; John 1:46).

  1. “He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.”

This third section delves deeper into the suffering and rejection experienced by the servant. The description of being despised, rejected, and acquainted with grief paints a picture of a figure who is intimately familiar with human suffering. The imagery of people turning away their faces from him conveys the extent of the servant’s isolation and the weight of the contempt he faced. This rejection and suffering find a profound resonance in the life of Jesus Christ, who was indeed despised by many, betrayed by his own, and subjected to intense physical and emotional anguish leading up to his crucifixion (Matthew 26:67-68; Mark 15:29-32). Isaiah 53:1-3 introduces us to the enigmatic figure of the suffering servant, whose profound humility, rejection, and agony stand in stark contrast to the world’s expectations of power and glory. Through the lens of Christian interpretation, these verses foreshadow the sacrificial work of Jesus Christ on the cross, highlighting the redemptive purpose of his suffering and the depth of God’s love for humanity. The passage challenges us to reevaluate our perceptions of strength and success, reminding us that God’s ways are often contrary to the world’s standards, and that true greatness is found in humility, service, and sacrificial love (Philippians 2:5-8).

Isaiah 53:4-6

Isaiah 53:4-6 reads: “Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. Isaiah describes a figure who takes on the pain and suffering of others in the first part of this passage. This selfless act is often interpreted as a foreshadowing of the sacrificial suffering of Jesus Christ. The idea of someone bearing the pain and suffering of others is a powerful theme in the Bible. This verse reminds us of the concept of vicarious suffering, where one person takes on the burdens of another for their benefit.

The notion that this figure is “punished by God” reflects a common misunderstanding of suffering and pain. Oftentimes, people view suffering as a punishment from God for sin. However, in the case of Jesus Christ, his suffering was not a punishment for his own sins but rather a redemptive act for the sins of others. This distinction is crucial in understanding the message of salvation and grace in the Bible. It emphasizes that even in the midst of suffering, there can be a greater purpose at work.

The mention of being “pierced for our transgressions” and “crushed for our iniquities” alludes to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The piercing of Jesus’s hands and feet during his crucifixion, as well as the crushing weight of the sins of humanity, are symbolically represented in these verses. This imagery underscores the belief in Christianity that Jesus’s sacrificial death on the cross atoned for the sins of humanity, offering reconciliation and peace with God.

The metaphor of humans being like sheep who have gone astray echoes themes found throughout the Bible. The Bible frequently uses the metaphor of sheep to represent humanity’s tendency to stray from God’s path and guidance. This imagery emphasizes the idea of human sinfulness and the need for a Savior to lead us back to the right path. God in the Old Testament often refers to Himself as the Good Shepherd who cares for His flock, underscoring the idea that we are in need of guidance and redemption.

Finally, the verse concludes by stating, “and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” This powerful declaration reinforces the idea that Jesus bore the sins of humanity on the cross. This concept of substitutionary atonement is central to Christian theology, highlighting the belief that Jesus’s sacrificial death served as a payment for the sins of all people. It signifies the immense love and grace of God, who was willing to offer His Son as a sacrifice for the redemption of humanity. Isaiah 53:4-6 is a profound passage that foreshadows the sacrificial suffering of Jesus Christ and the redemptive work of God. It speaks to the universal reality of human sinfulness, the transformative power of Christ’s sacrifice, and the boundless love of God for His people. This passage reminds us of the enduring message of salvation, forgiveness, and reconciliation found throughout the Bible.

Isaiah 53:7-9

The prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 53:7-9 describes the suffering and submission of the Servant of the Lord, who is often interpreted as a prophetic figure representing Jesus Christ in the New Testament. Let’s identify the subject: “we”
Rewrite the sentence in active voice: We will break down these verses and delve into their significance in the larger biblical narrative.

Verse 7 speaks about the Servant being oppressed and afflicted, yet choosing not to open His mouth. This is a powerful image of humility and submission in the face of unjust suffering. This willingness to endure suffering without protest is a profound demonstration of the Servant’s obedience to God’s will. This verse reflects the theme of sacrificial submission that is central to Jesus’ earthly ministry. Jesus remained silent despite false accusations during His trial before Pilate in the Gospels, especially in the New Testament.

Moving on to verse 8, it mentions the Servant being taken away by oppression and judgment. This can be understood as a depiction of the unjust treatment and ultimate crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The Servant is described as being cut off from the land of the living, a grim foreshadowing of Christ’s death on the cross. The imagery of being stricken for the transgression of God’s people highlights the atoning sacrifice that Jesus made for the sins of humanity. This sacrificial act is a central tenet of Christian theology, with Jesus’ death being seen as the ultimate expression of God’s love and grace (Romans 5:8).

Verse 9 continues to emphasize the innocence and righteousness of the Servant, stating that He was assigned a grave with the wicked, but was buried with the rich in His death. This paradoxical imagery underscores the contrast between the guiltless Servant and the guilty criminals with whom He was grouped. It points to the exaltation and honor that would come after His suffering and death. Joseph of Arimathea, a rich and respected member of the council, buried Jesus in a tomb as fulfilled in the Gospel accounts (Matthew 27:57-60). Christians understand the Servant of the Lord in Isaiah 53 as a prefiguration of Jesus Christ, providing a vivid and prophetic portrayal of suffering, sacrifice, and ultimate triumph. They highlight themes of humility, obedience, atonement, and redemption that run throughout the Bible, culminating in the central message of salvation through the death and resurrection of Christ.

Isaiah 53:10-12

Isaiah in Isaiah 53:10-12 speaks of the suffering servant who would bear the sins of many. Let’s break down these verses to understand their significance in the context of the larger message of salvation and redemption in the Bible.

Verse 10 begins with “Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer.” This highlights the intentional and sacrificial nature of the suffering of the servant, which was part of God’s plan for redemption. The suffering servant, often interpreted as a representation of Jesus Christ in Christian theology, willingly bore the punishment for the sins of humanity, ultimately leading to salvation for those who believe in Him. This idea of sacrificial atonement is a central theme throughout the New Testament, where Jesus is portrayed as the ultimate sacrificial lamb whose death brings about redemption for all who believe in Him.

The verse goes on to say, “And though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days.” This notion of the servant seeing his offspring and having his days prolonged can be understood in the Christian context as referring to the resurrection of Jesus. Despite the suffering and death, Jesus conquered the grave and lives eternally, offering the same hope of eternal life to those who believe in Him. This promise of new life and eternal salvation is a crucial aspect of Christian faith, emphasizing the victory over sin and death through the sacrifice of Christ.

Verse 11 continues with the idea of the servant justifying many and bearing their iniquities. This concept of justification through the suffering servant’s sacrifice is central to Christian theology, where Jesus is viewed as the atoning sacrifice that reconciles humanity with God. Through His death on the cross, Jesus takes on the sins of the world, allowing believers to be justified before God and receive the gift of salvation by faith. This act of ultimate love and sacrifice demonstrates God’s mercy and grace towards humankind, offering a way for people to be reconciled to Him despite their sinful nature. The final verse describes the exaltation of the suffering servant in verse 12. It says, “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.” This verse speaks to the ultimate victory and triumph of the suffering servant, who is exalted and rewarded for his obedience and sacrifice. This idea of exaltation after suffering is a common theme in the Bible, where those who endure trials and persecution are ultimately rewarded and glorified by God. Jesus, as the suffering servant, exemplifies this truth through His resurrection and eventual exaltation to the right hand of God, where He reigns as King of kings and Lord of lords. The suffering servant in Isaiah 53:10-12 portrays the sacrificial and redemptive work, bearing the sins of many and bringing about justification and salvation through his atoning sacrifice. This prophetic passage points to the ultimate fulfillment of God’s plan for redemption through Jesus Christ, emphasizing the themes of sacrifice, victory over sin and death, and the exaltation of the righteous. Through the lens of Christian faith, these verses hold profound significance in highlighting the love, mercy, and grace of God in providing a way for humanity to be reconciled to Him through the sacrifice of His Son.

After Isaiah 53

Isaiah foretold the suffering and sacrifice of the coming Messiah in this chapter. The vivid imagery of a suffering servant who would bear the sins of many has stirred our hearts and minds. We reflect on these words and are reminded of the great love and mercy of God, who would send His own Son to redeem us from our sins. We should hold onto the promise of redemption and salvation that is to come as we prepare to turn the page to the next chapter. We should remember the words of Isaiah and the hope they bring, knowing that God’s plan for our salvation is unfolding before our eyes. May we continue to seek His will and trust in His perfect timing as we journey through the pages of prophecy and fulfillment.