Bible Verse Explanations and Resources


Isaiah 53:8

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

And who shall declare his generation "And his manner of life who would declare" - A learned friend has communicated to me the following passages from the Mishna, and the Gemara of Babylon, as leading to a satisfactory explication of this difficult place. It is said in the former, that before any one was punished for a capital crime, proclamation was made before the prisoner by the public crier, in these words: עליו וילמד יבא זכות לו שיודע מי כל col mi shioda lo zachoth yabo vayilmad alaiv, "whosoever knows any thing of this man's innocence, let him come and declare it. "Tract. Sandhedrim. Surenhus. Part 4 p. 233. On which passage the Gemara of Babylon adds, that "before the death of Jesus this proclamation was made for forty days; but no defense could be found." On which words Lardner observes: "It is truly surprising to see such falsities, contrary to well-known facts." Testimonies, Vol. 1 p. 198. The report is certainly false; but this false report is founded on the supposition that there was such a custom, and so far confirms the account given from the Mishna. The Mishna was composed in the middle of the second century according to Prideaux; Lardner ascribes it to the year of Christ 180.

Casaubon has a quotation from Maimonides which farther confirms this account: - Exercitat. in Baronii Annales, Art. lxxvi. Ann. 34. Numbers 119. Auctor est Maimonides in Perek 13 ejus libri ex opere Jad, solitum fieri, ut cum reus, sententiam mortis passus, a loco judicii exibat ducendus ad supplicium, praecedoret ipsum , class="greek-hebrew">κηρυξ חכרוז dori, 'my generation') from my youth, which was at the first among my own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews, who knew me from the beginning, if they would testify; that after the straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee;" Acts 26:4, Acts 26:5.

דור dor signifies age, duration, the time which one man or many together pass in this world, in this place; the course, tenor, or manner of life. The verb דור dor signifies, according to Castell, ordinatam vitam sive aetatem egit, ordinavit, ordine constituit. "He passed a certain course of life, he ordained," etc. In Arabic, curavit, administravit, "he took care of, administered to."

Was he stricken "He was smitten to death" - The Septuagint read למות lemaveth, εις θανατον, "to death." And so the Coptic and Saidic Versions, from the Septuagint; MSS. St. Germain de Prez.

"Origen, "(Contra Celsum, lib. 1 p. 370, edit. 1733), after having quoted at large this prophecy concerning the Messiah, "tells us, that having once made use of this passage in a dispute against some that were accounted wise among the Jews, one of them replied, that the words did not mean one man, but one people, the Jews, who were smitten of God and dispersed among the Gentiles for their conversion; that he then urged many parts of this prophecy to show the absurdity of this interpretation, and that he seemed to press them the hardest by this sentence, απο των ανομιων του λαου μον ηχθη εις θανατον, 'for the iniquity of my people was he smitten to death.'" Now as Origen, the author of the Hexapla, must have understood Hebrew, we cannot suppose that he would have urged this last quotation as so decisive if the Greek Version had not agreed here with the Hebrew text; nor that these wise Jews would have been at all distressed by this quotation, unless their Hebrew text had read agreeably to εις θανατον, "to death," on which the argument principally depended; for, by quoting it immediately, they would have triumphed over him, and reprobated his Greek version. This, whenever they could do it, was their constant practice in their disputes with the Christians. Jerome, in his Preface to the Psalms, says, Nuper cum Hebraeo disputans, quaedam pro Domino Salvatore de Psalmis testimonia protulisti: volensque ille te illudere, per sermones fere singulos asserebat, non ita haberi in Hebraeo, ut tu de lxx. opponebas. "Lately disputing with a Hebrew, - thou advancedst certain passages out of the Psalms which bear testimony to the Lord the Savior; but he, to elude thy reasoning, asserted that almost all thy quotations have an import in the Hebrew text different from what they had in the Greek." And Origen himself, who laboriously compared the Hebrew text with the Septuagint, has recorded the necessity of arguing with the Jews from such passages only as were in the Septuagint agreeable to the Hebrew: ἱνα προς Ιουδαιοις διαλεγομενοι μη προφερωμεν αυτοι τα μη κειμενα εν τοις αντιγραφοις αυτων, και ἱνα συγχρησωμεθα τοις φερομενοις παρ ' εκεινοις . See Epist. ad African. p. 15, 17. Wherefore as Origen had carefully compared the Greek version of the Septuagint with the Hebrew text, and speaks of the contempt with which the Jews treated all appeals to the Greek version where it differed from their Hebrew text; and as he puzzled and confounded the learned Jews by urging upon them the reading εις θανατον, "unto death," in this place; it seems almost impossible not to conclude, both from Origen's argument and the silence of his Jewish adversaries, that the Hebrew text at that time actually had למות lemaveth, "to death," agreeably to the version of the Septuagint. - Dr. Kennicott.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

He was taken from prison - Margin, ‹Away by distress and judgment.‘ The general idea in this verse is, that the sufferings which he endured for his people were terminated by his being, after some form of trial, cut off out of the land of the living. Lowth renders this, ‹By an oppressive judgment he was taken off.‘ Noyes, ‹By oppression and punishment he was taken away.‘ The Septuagint renders it, ‹In his humiliation ( ἐν τῇ ταπεινώσει en tē tapeinōsei ), his judgment ( ἡ κρίσις αὐτοὺ hē krisis autou ), (his legal trial. Thomson), was taken away;‘ and this translation was followed by Philip when he explained the passage to the eunuch of Ethiopia Acts 8:33. The eunuch, a native of Ethiopia, where the Septuagint was commonly used, was reading this portion of Isaiah in that version, and the version was sufficiently accurate to express the general sense of the passage, though it is by no means a literal translation.

The Chaldee renders this verse, ‹From infirmities and retribution he shall collect our captivity, and the wonders which shall be done for us in his days who can declare? Because he shall remove the dominion of the people from the land of Israel; the sins which my people have sinned shall come even unto them.‘ The Hebrew word which is here used (עצר ‛otser from עצר ‛âtsar “to shut up, to close,” means properly “a shutting up,” or “closure”; and then constraint, oppression, or vexation. In Psalm 107:39, it means violent restraint, or oppression. It does not mean prison in the sense in which that word is now used. It refers rather to restraint, and detention; and would be better translated by confinement, or by violent oppressions. The Lord Jesus, moreover, was not confined in prison. He was bound, and placed under a guard, and was thus secured. But neither the word used here, nor the account in the New Testament, leads us to suppose that in fact he was incarcerated. There is a strict and entire conformity between the statement here, and the facts as they occurred on the trial of the Redeemer (see John 18:24; compare the notes at Acts 8:33).

And from judgment - From a judicial decision; or by a judicial sentence. This statement is made in order to make the account of his sufferings more definite. He did not merely suffer affliction; he was not only a man of sorrows in general; he did not suffer in a tumult, or by the excitement of a mob: but he suffered under a form of law, and a sentence was passed in his case (compare Jeremiah 1:16; 2 Kings 25:6), and in accordance with that he was led forth to death. According to Hengstenberg, the two words here ‹by oppression,‘ and ‹by judicial sentence,‘ are to be taken together as a hendiadys, meaning an oppressive, unrighteous proceeding. So Lowth understands it. It seems to me, however, that they are rather to be taken as denoting separate things - the detention or confinement preliminary to the trial, and the sentence consequent upon the mock trial.

And who shall declare his generation? - The word rendered ‹declare‘ means to relate, or announce. ‹Who can give a correct statement in regard to it‘ - implying either that there was some want of willingness or ability to do it. This phrase has been very variously interpreted; and it is by no means easy to fix its exact meaning. Some have supposed that it refers to the fact that when a prisoner was about to be led forth to death, a crier made proclamation calling on anyone to come forward and assert his innocence, and declare his manner of life. But there is not sufficient proof that this was done among the Jews, and there is no evidence that it was done in the case of the Lord Jesus. Nor would this interpretation exactly express the sense of the Hebrew. In regard to the meaning of the passage, besides the sense referred to above, we may refer to the following opinions which have been held, and which are arranged by Hengstenberg:

1. Several, as Luther, Calvin, and Vitringa, translate it, ‹Who will declare the length of his life?‘ that is, who is able to determine the length of his future days - meaning that there would be no end to his existence, and implying that though he would be cut off, yet he would be raised again, and would live forever. To this, the only material objection is, that the word דור dôr (generation), is not used elsewhere in that sense. Calvin, however, does not refer it to the personal life of the Messiah, so to speak, but to his life in the church, or to the perpetuity of his life and principles in the church which he redeemed. His words are: ‹Yet we are to remember that the prophet does not speak only of the person of Christ, but embraces the whole body of the church, which ought never to be separated from Christ. We have, therefore, says he, a distinguished testimony respecting the perpetuity of the church. For as Christ lives for ever, so he will not suffer his kingdom to perish‘ - (Commentary in loc.)

2. Others translate it, ‹Who of his contemporaries will consider it,‘ or ‹considered it?‘ So Storr, Doderlin, Dathe, Rosenmuller and Gesenius render it. According to Gesenius it means, ‹Who of his contemporaries considered that he was taken out of the land of the living on account of the sin of my people?‘

3. Lowth and some others adopt the interpretation first suggested, and render it, ‹His manner of life who would declare?‘ In support of this, Lowth appeals to the passages from the Mishna and the Gemara of Babylon, where it is said that before anyone was punished for a capital crime, proclamation was made before him by a crier in these words, ‹Whosoever knows anything about his innocence, let him come and make it known.‘ On this passage the Gemara of Babylon adds, ‹that before the death of Jesus, this proclamation was made forty days; but no defense could be found.‘ This is certainly false; and there is no sufficient reason to think that the custom prevailed at all in the time of Isaiah, or in the time of the Saviour.

4. Others render it, ‹Who can express his posterity, the number of his descendants?‘ So Hengstenberg renders it. So also Kimchi.

5. Some of the fathers referred it to the humanity of Christ, and to his miraculous conception. This was the belief of Chrysostom. See Calvin in loc. So also Morerius and Cajetan understood it.

But the word is never used in this sense. The word דור dôr (generation), means properly an age, a generation of human beinigs; the revolving period or circle of human life; from דור dûr a circle Deuteronomy 23:3-4, Deuteronomy 23:9; Ecclesiastes 1:4. It then means, also, a dwelling, a habitation Psalm 49:20; Isaiah 38:12. It occurs often in the Old Testament, and is in all other instances translated ‹generation,‘ or ‹generations.‘ Amidst the variety of interpretations which have been proposed, it is perhaps not possible to determine with any considerable degree of certainty what is the true sense of the passage. The only light, it seems to me, which can be thrown on it, is to be derived from the 10th verse, where it is said, ‹He shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days;‘ and this would lead us to suppose that the sense is, that he would have a posterity which no one would be able to enumerate, or declare. According to this, the sense would be, ‹He shall be indeed cut off out of the land of the living. But his name, his race shall not be extinct. Notwithstanding this, his generation, race, posterity, shall be so numerous that no one shall be able to declare it.‘ This interpretation is not quite satisfactory, but it has more probabilities in its favor than any other.

For - (כי kı̂y ). This particle does not here denote the cause of what was just stated, but points out the connection (compare 1 Samuel 2:21; Ezra 10:1). In these places it denotes the same as ‹and.‘ This seems to be the sense here. Or, if it be here a causal particle, it refers not to what immediately goes before, but to the general strain and drift of the discourse. All this would occur to him because he was cut off on account of the transgression of his people. He was taken from confinement, and was dragged to death by a judicial sentence, and he should have a numerous spiritual posterity, because he was cut off on account of the sins of the people.

He was cut off - This evidently denotes a violent, and not a peaceful death. See Daniel 9:26: ‹And after threescore and two weeks shall the Messiah be cut off, but not for himself.‘ The Septuagint renders it, ‹For his life is taken away from the earth.‘ The word used here (גזר gâzar ), means properly “to cut, to cut in two, to divide.” It is applied to the act of cutting down trees with an axe (see 2 Kings 6:4). Here the natural and obvious idea is, that he would be violently taken away, as if he was cut down in the midst of his days. The word is never used to denote a peaceful death, or a death in the ordinary course of events; and the idea which would be conveyed by it would be, that the person here spoken of would be cut off in a violent manner in the midst of his life.

For the transgression of my people - The meaning of this is not materially different from ‹on account of our sins.‘ ‹The speaker here - Isaiah - does not place himself in opposition to the people, but includes himself among them, and speaks of them as his people, that is, those with whom he was connected‘ - (Hengstenberg). Others, however, suppose that Yahweh is here introduced as speaking, and that he says that the Messiah was to be cut off for the sins of his people.

Was he stricken - Margin, ‹The stroke upon him;‘ that is, the stroke came upon him. The word rendered in the margin ‹stroke‘ (נגע nega‛ ), denotes properly a blow Deuteronomy 17:8: Deuteronomy 21:5; then a spot, mark, or blemish in the skin, whether produced by the leprosy or any other cause. It is the same word which is used in Isaiah 53:4 (see the note on that verse). The Hebrew, which is rendered in the margin ‹upon him‘ (למו lâmô ) has given rise to much discussion. It is properly and usually in the plural form, and it has been seized upon by those who maintain that this whole passage refers not to one individual but to some collective body, as of the people, or the prophets (see Analysis prefixed to Isaiah 52:13), as decisive of the controversy. To this word Rosenmuller, in his Prolegomena to the chapter, appeals for a decisive termination of the contest, and supposes the prophet to have used this plural form for the express purpose of clearing up any difficulty in regard to his meaning. Gesenius refers to it for the same purpose, to demonstrate that the prophet must have referred to some collective body - as the prophets - and not to an individual. Aben Ezra and Abarbanel also maintain the same thing, and defend the position that it can never be applied to an individual. This is not the place to go into an extended examination of this word. The difficulties which have been started in regard to it, have given rise to a thorough critical examination of the use of the particle in the Old Testament, and an inquiry whether it is ever used in the singular number. Those who are disposed to see the process and the result of the investigation, may consult Ewald‘s Hebrew Grammar, Leipzig, 1827, p. 365; Wiseman‘s Lectures, pp. 331-333, Andover Edit., 1837; and Hengstenberg‘s Christology, p. 523. In favor of regarding it as used here in the singular number and as denoting an individual, we may just refer to the following considerations:

1. It is so rendered by Jerome, and in the Syriac version.

2. In some places the suffix מו mô attached to nouns, is certainly singular. Thus in Psalm 11:7, (פניטו pânēyṭô ) ‹His face,‘ speaking of God; Job 27:23, ‹Men shall clap their hands at him‘ (עלימו ‛âlēymô ), where it is certainly singular; Isaiah 44:15, ‹He maketh it a graven image, and falleth down thereto‘ (למו lâmô ).

3. In Ethiopic the suffix is certainly singular (Wiseman).

These considerations show that it is proper to render it in the singular number, and to regard it as referring to an individual. The Septuagint renders it, Εἰς Θάνατον Eis Thanaton - ‹Unto death,‘ and evidently read it as if it were an abbreviation of למות lāmûth and they render the whole passage, ‹For the transgressions of my people he was led unto death.‘ This translation is adopted and defended by Lowth, and has also been defended by Dr. Kennicott. The only argument which is urged, however, is, that it was so used by Origen in his controversy with the Jews; that they made no objection to the argument that he urged; and that as Origen and the Jews were both acquainted with the Hebrew text, it is to be presumed that this was then the reading of the original. But this authority is too slight to change the Hebrew text. The single testimony of Origen is too equivocal to determine any question in regard to the reading of the Hebrew text, and too much reliance should not be reposed even on his statements in regard to a matter of fact. This is one of the many instances in which Lowth has ventured to change the Hebrew text with no sufficient authority.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
In these verses is an account of the sufferings of Christ; also of the design of his sufferings. It was for our sins, and in our stead, that our Lord Jesus suffered. We have all sinned, and have come short of the glory of God. Sinners have their beloved sin, their own evil way, of which they are fond. Our sins deserve all griefs and sorrows, even the most severe. We are saved from the ruin, to which by sin we become liable, by laying our sins on Christ. This atonement was to be made for our sins. And this is the only way of salvation. Our sins were the thorns in Christ's head, the nails in his hands and feet, the spear in his side. He was delivered to death for our offences. By his sufferings he purchased for us the Spirit and grace of God, to mortify our corruptions, which are the distempers of our souls. We may well endure our lighter sufferings, if He has taught us to esteem all things but loss for him, and to love him who has first loved us.
Ellen G. White
The Acts of the Apostles, 225-7

With convincing power Paul reasoned from the Old Testament Scriptures that “Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead.” Had not Micah prophesied, “They shall smite the Judge of Israel with a rod upon the cheek”? Micah 5:1. And had not the Promised One, through Isaiah, prophesied of Himself, “I gave My back to the smiters, and My cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not My face from shame and spitting”? Isaiah 50:6. Through the psalmist Christ had foretold the treatment that He should receive from men: “I am ... a reproach of men, and despised of the people. All they that see Me laugh Me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, He trusted on the Lord that He would deliver Him: let Him deliver Him, seeing He delighted in Him.” “I may tell all My bones: they look and stare upon Me. They part My garments among them, and cast lots upon My vesture.” “I am become a stranger unto My brethren, and an alien unto My mother's children. For the zeal of Thine house hath eaten Me up; and the reproaches of them that reproached Thee are fallen upon Me.” “Reproach hath broken My heart; and I am full of heaviness: and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none.” Psalm 22:6-8, 17, 18; 69:8, 9, 20. AA 225.1

How unmistakably plain were Isaiah's prophecies of Christ's sufferings and death! “Who hath believed our report?” the prophet inquires, “and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? 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. 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; He was despised, and we esteemed Him not. AA 225.2

“Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 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 we are healed. AA 226.1

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Ellen G. White
God's Amazing Grace, 358.2

When Christ came to this earth the first time, He came in lowliness and obscurity, and His life here was one of suffering and poverty.... At His second coming all will be changed. Not as a prisoner surrounded by a rabble will men see Him, but as heaven's King. Christ will come in His own glory, in the glory of His Father, and in the glory of the holy angels. Ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands of angels, the beautiful, triumphant sons of God, possessing surpassing loveliness and glory, will escort Him on His way. In the place of a crown of thorns, He will wear a crown of glory—a crown within a crown. In the place of that old purple robe, He will be clothed in a garment of whitest white, “so as no fuller on earth can white” (Mark 9:3) it. And on His vesture and on His thigh a name will be written, “King of kings, and Lord of lords”.... AG 358.2

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Ellen G. White
God's Amazing Grace, 358.2

When Christ came to this earth the first time, He came in lowliness and obscurity, and His life here was one of suffering and poverty.... At His second coming all will be changed. Not as a prisoner surrounded by a rabble will men see Him, but as heaven's King. Christ will come in His own glory, in the glory of His Father, and in the glory of the holy angels. Ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands of angels, the beautiful, triumphant sons of God, possessing surpassing loveliness and glory, will escort Him on His way. In the place of a crown of thorns, He will wear a crown of glory—a crown within a crown. In the place of that old purple robe, He will be clothed in a garment of whitest white, “so as no fuller on earth can white” (Mark 9:3) it. And on His vesture and on His thigh a name will be written, “King of kings, and Lord of lords”.... AG 358.2

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