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Isaiah 53: What Did The Rabbis Say?

Maybe you weren't told, but many ancient rabbinic sources understood Isaiah 53 as referring to the Messiah.
Here are quotations from some of them:

Babylonian Talmud (Sanhedrin 98b): "Messiah ...what is his name? The Rabbis say,'The leprous one'; those of the house of the Rabbi (Jehuda Hanassi, the author of the Mishna, 135-200) say: 'Cholaja' (The sickly), for it says, 'Surely he has borne our sicknesses' etc. (Isa.53,4)."

Babylonian Talmud, (Sanhedrin 98), p.2 "Rabbi Yochanan said, The Messiah-what is his name?... And out Rabbis said. "the pale one"... is his name, as it is written "Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows-yet we considered him stricken by G-d, smitten by him and afflicted."


Midrash Ruth Rabbah: 2:14 "Another explanation (of Ruth ii.14): -- He is speaking of king Messiah; `Come hither,' draw near to the throne; and eat of the bread,' that is, the bread of the kingdom; `and dip thy morsel in the vinegar,' this refers to his chastisements, as it is said, `But he was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities.'"


Rabbi Mosheh Kohen Ibn Crispin: This rabbi described those who interpret Isaiah 53 as referring to Israel as those: "having forsaken the knowledge of our Teachers, 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, of the King Messiah....This prophecy was delivered by Isaiah at the divine command for the purpose of making known to us something about the nature of the future Messiah, who is to come and deliver Israel, and his life from the day when he arrives at discretion until his advent as a redeemer, in order that if anyone should arise claiming to be himself the Messiah, we may reflect, and look to see whether we can observe in him any resemblance to the traits described here; if there is any such resemblance, then we may believe that he is the Messiah our righteousness; but if not, we cannot do so." (From his commentary on Isaiah, quoted in The Fifty-third Chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters, Ktav Publishing House, 1969, Volume 2, pages 99-114.)


Rabbi Moses Maimonides: (1135-1204) "What is the manner of Messiah's advent....there shall rise up one of whom none have known before, and signs and wonders which they shall see performed by him will be the proofs of his true origin; for the Almighty, where he declares to us his mind upon this matter, says, `Behold a man whose name is the Branch, and he shall branch forth out of his place' (Zech. 6:12). And Isaiah speaks similarly of the time when he shall appear, without father or mother or family being known, He came up as a sucker before him, and as a root out of dry earth, etc....in the words of Isaiah, when describing the manner in which kings will hearken to him, At him kings will shut their mouth; for that which had not been told them have they seen, and that which they had not heard they have perceived." (From the Letter to the South (Yemen), quoted in The Fifty-third Chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters, Ktav Publishing House, 1969, Volume 2, pages 374-5)

Also from the Rambam Maimonides:

“Whoever does not believe in him (Messiah), or does not await his coming, denies not only the other prophets but also the Torah and Moses, our teacher, for the Torah attests to his coming.”  Source: Hilchos Melachim from the Mishneh Torah of the Rambam, 11:1.


Rabbi Moses, 'The Preacher'(11. Century) wrote in his commentary on Genesis (page 660):
"From the beginning God has made a covenant with the Messiah and told Him,'My righteous Messiah, those who are entrusted to you, their sins will bring you into a heavy yoke'..And He answered, 'I gladly accept all these agonies in order that not one of Israel should be lost.' Immediately, the Messiah accepted all agonies with love, as it is written: 'He was oppressed and he was afflicted'."


Targum Jonathan ( 4th Century ) The Aramaic translation of Isaiah 53, ascribed to Rabbi Jonathan ben Uzziel, a disciple of Hillel, begins with the simple and worthy words: 

Behold my servant Messiah shall prosper; he shall be high, and increase, and be exceeding strong: as the house of Israel looked to him through many days, because their countenance was darkened among the peoples, and their complexion beyond the sons of men. (Targum Jonathan on Isaiah 53 )


Zohar: Rabbi Simeon Ben Jochai (2nd Century), "There is in the garden of Eden a palace called : 'The palace of the sons of sickness, this palace the Messiah enters, and summons every sickness, every pain, and every chastisement of Israel: they all come and rest upon Him. And were it not that He had thus lightened them off Israel, and taken them upon Himself, there had been no man able to bear Israel's chastisement for the transgression of the law; this is that which is written, 'Surely our sicknesses he has carried' Isa.53,4).- As they tell Him (the Messiah) of the misery of Israel in their captivity, and of those wicked ones among them who are not attentive to know their Lord, He lifts up His voice and weeps for their wickedness; and so it is written, 'He was wounded for our transgressions' (Isa.53,5), part II, page 212a and III, page 218a, Amsterdam Ed.):


Miscellaneous:

There are other supporting comments in Jewish literature to show that this Isaiah 53 passage has been traditionally thought of as referring to the Messiah and not to the Nation of Israel as a whole.

In the chapter of Isaiah preceding the Isaiah 53 passage God's "servant" is spoken of in a clear Messianic reference. Since there were no chapter breaks in the original document many scholars believe that this part of Isaiah 52 clearly belongs with Isaiah 53.

"Behold, My servant shall be wise, he shall be exalted and lofty, and shall be very high," (Isaiah 52:13). His wisdom shall exceed even that of King Solomon.(1)

Articles Related To Isaiah 53 Include:

Articles Related To Messiah's Death Include:

Other areas of interest include:

Acknowledgment:

1). Mashiach: The Principle of Mashiach and the Messianic Era in Jewish Law and Tradition by Jacob Immanuel Schochet p.38 (Quoting Hilchot Teshuvah 9:2).

www.hearnow.org/isa_com.html

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