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“Did the ancient rabbis believe that Isaiah 53 speaks of a suffering Messiah?”
Welcome to another episode in our series “Is Christianity the Mormonism of Judaism?” where we are discussing the claims of the Jewish rabbis, who teach that Christianity has distorted the Jewish Scriptures and misapplied prophecies to apply those prophecies to the Messiah in much the same way that we Christians believe that Mormonism has distorted our Christian Scriptures and has misapplied verses, taking them out of context and used verses that have nothing to do with how Mormonism applies those verses. The Jewish rabbis make that same claim for us Christians in our Christian Scriptures, and they say that our Christian Scriptures have misapplied the prophecies of the Old Testament to teach that Jesus fulfilled those prophecies as the promised Messiah.
In our last video, we talked about Isaiah 53, which is one of the most popular passages that Christians use to show that Jesus fulfilled the prophecy to be the suffering servant of Isaiah 53, but the Jewish rabbis disagree. They claim that Israel, the nation of Israel, is a suffering servant that was being spoken of in Isaiah 53, and in our last video, we went verse by verse through that chapter and discussed both the preceding verses leading up to Isaiah 53, the context of Isaiah 53. We talked about the nation of Israel being called God’s servant in many of the chapters leading up to Isaiah 53. But we discussed how that shift from the nation of Israel, as a servant of God, is shifted to an individual in Isaiah 53 and does not speak of the nation as a whole, but rather an individual that comes out of the nation. And He is the one who fulfills the suffering servant of Isaiah 53.
Now, a couple of the things that we looked at that showed how the Jewish interpretation of Isaiah 53 does not fit the context, are verses we read in Isaiah 53 in the Jewish Bible, beginning at verse 4, “Indeed he bore our illnesses” – we saw that word, “illnesses,” can mean pains, or sorrow, or grief. “And our pains – he carried them, yet we accounted him as plagued, smitten by God and oppressed.” And verse 5: “But he was pained because of our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities; the chastisement of our welfare was upon him, and with his wound we were healed.” We talked about that.
When has the nation of Israel ever been persecuted by the nations around her and those nations that persecuted Israel received healing? If this passage, this suffering servant who is wounded because of our transgressions actually causes those that wound him healing, he causes them to receive healing, how can this be applied to the nation of Israel? God says that those who curse Israel, He will curse and those who bless Israel,
He will bless. His pattern is always the same. He doesn’t change his rules. In Isaiah 53, this servant who is persecuted, who is wounded because of our transgressions he, through his wounding, brings healing to those who persecute him, but that is not what happens with the nation of Israel. When the nations around Israel persecuted Israel, God judged those nations. It’s always been the case: He cursed those who curse Israel. So we see here in Isaiah 53 a clear example of why Isaiah 53 cannot be applied to the nation of Israel, but must be applied to an individual servant.
And we also have to ask a second question on Isaiah 53: if we try to make that passage applicable to the nation of Israel, rather than to an individual like the Messiah Jesus, we have to ask the question about the punishment, the punishment that the servant receives. The servant is seen as being righteous. It says here in the Scripture in verse 7: “He was oppressed, and [he was] afflicted, yet he would not open his mouth; like a lamb to the slaughter he was [would be] brought, and … he would not open his mouth. From imprisonment [and] from judgment he is taken, and his generation who shall tell?” He didn’t receive proper judgment. Why? Because he was innocent. And it says, “For he was cut off from the land of the living: because of the transgression of my people, a plague befell him.” (Or them, as the Jewish translation says). This is in verse 9: “He gave his grave to the wicked, and to the wealthy with his kinds of death, because he committed no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.” This person who was persecuted,
this suffering servant of Isaiah 53, had no deceit, no violence, and yet the nation of Israel cannot be said to have had no deceit and no violence. In fact, we see over and over, the nation of Israel violated God’s laws. The nation of Israel was not innocent. Any judgment that the nation of Israel received was just. That’s why it says in verse 8, “From imprisonment and from judgment he was taken.” So if this servant is Israel, how can that be said that that was fulfilled in verse 8, because he was taken from judgment; he wasn’t given proper judgment. We see that doesn’t apply to the nation of Israel, but applies to the individual servant Jesus, because he is innocent.
So then we read on; it says, “For he was wounded because of our transgressions,” and it says here, verse 10, “And the Lord wished to crush him, He made him ill; [for] if his soul makes itself restitution.” In other words, if his soul makes himself a guilt offering – that word for making itself restitution – is actually the word for guilt offering in the Hebrew Bible. “He shall see children.” He shall see seed, as many translations say here at verse 10. We see Jesus saw seed because He resurrected from the dead, and He has many followers today, who are the seed of Abraham as the New Testament describes. Just like Satan has spiritual seed in Genesis 3, the seed of the serpent, we also see God has spiritual seed through Jesus. The followers of Jesus become the spiritual seed of Jesus that is spoken of here, of the Messiah, the suffering Servant of Isaiah 53. Then it says here in verse 12, “He poured out his soul to death, and with transgressors he was counted, and he bore the sins of many, and interceded for the transgressors.”
So the second question is: when was Israel innocent? When did Israel intercede for the transgressors? How could this be applied to the nation of Israel? Rather, we see this can only be applied to an individual Messiah and we believe the Messiah Yeshua Jesus fulfills this. So that’s just a short recap of what we covered last time. There was more discussed, the meaning of words, some of the translational differences and some of the different renderings in Isaiah 53 that you find in different translations. We discussed some of that. The Jewish arguments against the Christian interpretation, but ultimately just looking at the context, reading Isaiah 53, and seeing how it moves from in the broader context, before we get to Isaiah 53, the nation of Israel is the focus as God’s servant. Then it moves into a specific, individual suffering Servant of Isaiah 53, and we see that those promises and those passages that are spoken of in Isaiah 53 can only be applied to an individual servant, the Messiah.
Now we’re going to look at some other passages and we’re going to be examining the Jewish rabbis, the ancient Jewish rabbis’
view of other passages in addition to Isaiah 53, that they saw foreshadowed a suffering servant, Messiah, Let’s look at this. Now I’d like to look at another prophecy that indicates a suffering Messiah and that is Zechariah chapter 12, particularly verse 10, but we’re going to back up a little bit to get context here. Zechariah 12, starting at verse 8, where it says, “In that day shall HaShem defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and he that stumbleth among them at that day shall be as David, and the house of David shall be as a god-like being, as the angel of Hashem before them.”
So we have a context where it says here in verse 8 that HaShem, the Lord Himself, is going to defend Jerusalem. And we get down to verse 9: “And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.” So this is a prophecy of the end times, when God is going to stand up and defend Jerusalem against her enemies. And it says in verse 10, “And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and supplication; and they shall look unto Me because they have thrust him through; and they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his first-born.”
Now here we have an interesting allusion to the one whom they have thrust through. Another word for that is pierced. A lot of translations put the word “pierced” here, in this passage. “And they shall look unto Me because they have thrust him through.” They have pierced him. Who is this talking about, and what are they mourning for? It says, “And they shall mourn for him as one mourneth for his only son.” And then verse 11, it says, “And in that day there shall be a great mourning in Jerusalem,” and verse 12: “And the land shall mourn, every family apart,” and on and on it goes about the mourning that is going to take place. Now, the ancient rabbis were puzzled by these passages, both the one in Isaiah 53 and the one here in Zechariah 12, where they see an allusion to someone who is suffering, and to the people of Israel mourning this person who is pierced.
I’d like to turn to some of the statements made by the ancient rabbis, so that we can see how the ancient rabbis viewed these passages, and why is this significant? It’s because New Testament Christianity came out of ancient rabbinic Judaism.
Christianity began as a Jewish religion, and Jesus indeed was Jewish, in His own ministry. He started His ministry with the Jews and then later it was taken to the Gentiles, but Jesus was a Jew. And so, to get an idea of what first-century Jews believed about these passages that formed the very basis of the Christian belief about Jesus as the Messiah, we should look at ancient Jewish literature, because that will give us an idea of how New Testament Christianity came out of ancient Judaism. This is a very important point, because we can look at the very same Scriptures as we have been doing here, like in Isaiah 53 and as Christians, we see Jesus the Messiah being pierced, being crushed, and it pleased the Lord to crush Him, or to bruise Him or to make Him sick with with the emotional pain and calamity, and that word for pierced. And we see this allusion of a pierced, suffering servant. And then we read in Zechariah 12:10 of a servant who will be pierced or thrust through, and the Jews are gonna mourn for him in the end of days, when the Lord shows up to defend her against their enemies, and you have the Christian view of Yeshua, Jesus the Messiah, dying and then resurrecting so that He sees His seed, His spot, His posterity, His spiritual seed that followed. We see all this, the Christian understanding of these passages.
Was that the idea of ancient Judaism? Did the ancient Jewish rabbis see the same kinds of ideas in these passages? I’m going to suggest that they did. Here are some examples. Let’s start with the Jewish prayer book called Yom Kippur Machzor Kol Bo volume 2 prayer book, and this is an English translation of this Hebrew prayer. This says, “Our righteous Messiah has turned away from us, we have acted foolishly and there is no one to justify us. Our iniquities and the yoke of our transgressions he bears, and he is pierced for our transgressions. He carries our sins on his shoulder, to find forgiveness for our iniquities. By his wounds we are healed.”
Isn’t that incredible? This is an ancient Jewish rabbi saying, Look, our righteous Messiah has been pierced for our transgressions, our iniquities and the yoke of our transgressions he bears, so “He carries [our] sins on his shoulder, to find forgiveness for our iniquities. By his wounds, we (the Jews) are healed.” Sounds like a Christian understanding of this passage of Isaiah. Yet this was written by a Jewish rabbi, Rabbi Eliezer in the seventh century wrote this prayer for the Yom Kippur Kol Bo volume 2 prayer book. Very interesting, isn’t it? Christianity did not change the meaning of these passages. When Christianity interpreted these passages, when the New Testament writers took these passages of Isaiah and applied them directly to Jesus, that was
consistent with ancient rabbinic Judaism. It wasn’t like Mormonism does to Christianity, where Mormonism distorts the teachings of Christianity, and is not consistent with the historic Christian views of these passages or verses of the Scriptures. Christianity is not the Mormonism of Judaism.
Christianity in fact, agrees with ancient Judaism, as we are seeing here in the rabbinic writings. Let’s go on. We’re gonna look at now, a passage in the Jewish Talmud. The Talmud is the rabbinic understanding; the ancient rabbis would write their understandings and discuss these passages, what they thought these passages meant. It’s very interesting to read the Jewish Talmud, because when we come to passages like Zechariah 12:10, where we read of a messiah who’s been pierced, who’s been thrust through, and the people of Israel are mourning for him, we read an interesting exchange among the rabbis as they discussed this passage and try to figure out what is Israel mourning for? And who is this person who has been thrust through?
I’m going to read to you from Sukkah chapter 52a in the Jewish Talmud. This is Sukkah 52a and, regarding this passage here in Zechariah, it reads: “It is stated: ‘The land will eulogize (Another word for mourn), each family separately; the family of the house of David separately, and their women separately, the family of the house of Nathan separately, and their women separately'” (Zechariah 12:12). We were just reading that; I didn’t read all the verses, but it was the idea here: Israel is mourning. Okay, this is the context.
Then they say, “This indicates that at the end of days a great eulogy will be organized during which the men and women will [be] separate. They said: and are these matters not inferred a fortiori? (In other words, are these not inferred beforehand?) If in the future, at the end of days referred to in this prophecy, when people are involved in a great eulogy and consequently, the evil inclination does not dominate them, as typically during mourning, inappropriate thoughts and conduct are less likely.” So evil inclination is another phrase here in the Jewish Talmud to refer to our sinful desires. Okay, that sin nature that we all have. It says, “It will not dominate them during mourning (times of mourning), inappropriate thoughts and conduct are less likely.”
And so they’re asking the question, “Apropos, the eulogy at the end of days, the Gemara asks: For what is the nature of this eulogy? The Gemara answers: Rabbi Dosa and the Rabbis disagree concerning this matter. One said that this eulogy is for Messiah ben Yosef,” that’s a messiah son, ben, son of Joseph. Messiah, son of Joseph, messiah ben Yosef, “who was killed in the war of Gog (and Magog) [from the land of Magog] (and) prior to the ultimate redemption with the coming of Messiah ben David.” So they were saying, one interpretation is that Mashiach ben Yoseph, Messiah the son of Joseph, would be killed during Gog and Magog. They were trying to figure out what is this allusion to, someone who’s thrust through, that Israel is mourning, could it be a Messiah who they called Messiah, son of Joseph? And could it be that this Messiah was killed during a war with Gog and Magog
prior to the ultimate redemption? Because here in the passage of Zechariah, God is going to come to defend Israel against her enemies. So there they’re speculating. Maybe this this one who’s thrust through, who’s pierced, is actually somebody who was fighting in this final war with Gog and Magog, that we read about in Ezekiel and other passages of the end times. But that was one interpretation.
The other interpretation says, and one said that this eulogy is for the evil inclination that was killed. Well, what’s the evil inclination, where we just read above? They said that evil inclination was the inappropriate thoughts and conduct. So the other interpretation was: is it for sin nature being done away with? Let’s read on what the rabbis conclude. “The Gemara asks: Granted, according to the one who said that the lament is for Messiah ben Yosef (Messiah, son of Joseph) who was killed, this would be the meaning of that which is written in the context: ‘And they shall look unto Me because they have thrust him through; and they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for his only son,’ quoting Zechariah 12:10. However, according to the one who said to the eulogy is for the evil inclination that was killed, does one need to conduct a eulogy for this? On the contrary, one should conduct a celebration. Why, then did they cry?”
So the whole point is: why are they crying? They wouldn’t cry for sin nature being done away with, so it can’t possibly be referring to that. That’s not why the Jews were crying. As the rabbis concluded, it has to be for someone who they called Messiah ben Yosef, Messiah, son of Joseph. Now, I want you to think about this question. Why would the Messiah be called Messiah, son of Joseph? For what purpose? Why would they call him Messiah, Son of Joseph? Isn’t all the references to the Messiah, the coming reigning king, the reigning prince in the Old Testament, Messiah, son of David? So why would they say Messiah, son of Joseph?
I’m gonna suggest to you that the Jewish rabbis, looking at this One who was going to be thrust through for their sins, and this suffering Servant who was going to bear their iniquities in Isaiah 53, as we saw this one Jewish rabbi wrote about in the Yom Kippur Prayer, they saw a suffering servant who would be rejected by God’s people. That’s why God’s people are mourning, because it says in the very passage that they’re talking about here in the Jewish Talmud, in Zechariah 12:10, “And they shall look unto Me because they have thrust him through.” And I suggest to you that a few of those ancient rabbis were looking at these passages, and seeing Israel mourning for someone who they had thrust through as being an allusion to the picture of Joseph in Egypt. And saying that, just as Joseph in Egypt
was rejected by his brothers and sent away, and thought to be dead (his father thought he had died, right?), because they had killed an animal, and put blood on the coat and brought that back to his father, that they saw in these allusions here in the Old Testament about a suffering servant who would die, who would be thrust through, who all Israel would eventually mourn. They saw the picture of Joseph in Egypt, who was sent away, thought to be dead, but then eventually, his brothers received him back and they see here in Zechariah 12:10 the allusion to the Messiah, who they will look upon Him who they had thrust through. Then they would mourn for Him, all the families would mourn for Him. And they would mourn for Him as one mourns for an only son, because they will recognize their Messiah, just like Joseph’s brothers in Egypt recognized him as their brother and received him back. That is the picture that’s being carried here, and that is the picture that’s being carried in the very terminology that the ancient rabbis used to refer to a messiah who would be a suffering messiah, one who will be put to death, this Messiah ben Yosef, Messiah, son of Joseph.
Let’s read on in the Jewish Talmud to get more ideas of how they understood these Old Testament passages of the suffering Messiah. We read on in Sukkah 52a. “The Sages taught: To Messiah ben David (that’s Messiah, son of David), who is destined to be revealed swiftly in our time, the Holy One, Blessed be He, says: Ask of Me anything and I will give you whatever you wish, as it is stated: ‘I will tell of the decree; the Lord said unto me: You are My son, this day have I begotten you, ask of Me, and I will give the nations for your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for your possession’ (Psalm 2:7-8). Once the Messiah ben David (Messiah son of David) saw (Messiah ben Joseph) Messiah ben Yosef, who was killed, he says to the Holy One, Blessed be He: Master of the Universe I ask of you only (the gift of) life.”
Now, let’s pause for a second here. There’s a couple of things going on here. The Jewish rabbis are looking at the passages of Scripture, here in Psalm 2:7-8, about a Messiah, son of David, who it’s going to be said of Him, You are My son, this day have I begotten you, ask of Me, and I will give you the nations for inheritance.” The Jewish rabbis interpreted Psalm 2:8 about the Son (God’s Son, said), “This day have I begotten you.” What’s significant about this? What is significant about this? The idea of a son who would be begotten. Well, the very idea is that the New Testament applies this passage to Jesus when He was resurrected. Whenever a king was enthroned, it was said of him that he was begotten. In that sense, it meant that he had come into power. And when this passage is written not of David himself, because David had already come to kingly power here, this passage was actually an allusion to the Messiah who would come to power. And in that time,
when He was resurrected, the New Testament applies this passage to Him and says, this is just what it says here in Psalm chapter 2, when it says, “You are My son, this day have I begotten you,” it’s saying that in Jesus’s resurrection He took on his kingly power. He became that Messiah son of David, not just physically being born of the lineage of David, but now, spiritually taking on that spiritual throne of David that some day will come and rule the earth. So the ancient sages looked at these passages the same way the New Testament writers did, looking at Psalms chapter 2 about a Messiah who is the son of God, saying God’s saying to him, “You are My son, this day have I begotten you.” This is an allusion to him being God or being the Son of God, carrying the same power and authority of God, and they then say, “Once the (Messiah son of David) the Messiah ben David saw (Messiah son of Joseph) Messiah ben Yosef, who was killed, he says [to the] Holy One Blessed be He: Master of the Universe, I ask of you only life.”
Now, this is very interesting because the rabbis then had to answer the question: are there two messiahs coming? Is there one who is Messiah, son of David, who’s going to be king and the other who is Messiah, son of Joseph, who’s going to suffer for the sins of the people, be thrust through for the people, whether in the final battle of Armageddon or whether in Isaiah 53? They were undecided on how that was going to take place, but they saw, if you will, two messiahs. And in this passage here about the Messiah: “This day have I begotten you; You are My son, this day have I begotten you, ask of Me, and I will give you the nations for inheritance.” They saw an allusion, if you will, if this was one Messiah and two different aspects of this Messiah. They saw, in this passage, a resurrection of Messiah, son of Joseph, to become Messiah, son of David, or they were questioning, are there two separate messiahs coming? Two separate comings of the Messiah: one who’s gonna be son of David, one who’s going to be son of Joseph, the suffering Messiah?
Let’s read on in the Jewish Talmud. So when he sees Messiah, son of Joseph, “who was killed, he says [to the] Holy One, Blessed be He: Master of the Universe, I ask of you only life; that I will not suffer the same fate. The Holy One, Blessed be He, says to him: Life? Even before you stated this request, your father, David, already prophesied about you with regard to this matter precisely, as it is stated: ‘He asked life of You, You gave it to him, even length of days forever and ever’ (Psalm 21:5).”
So the ancient Jewish rabbis saw all of these passages and put them together, saying, this shows that the suffering Messiah who dies will either be resurrected to life, or in this case, they’re kind of leaning to the idea of two messiahs coming, so the one that dies, this other Messiah, who comes as king, is given the gift of life to reign forever and ever. They’re trying to sort this out. They don’t quite understand it. They have another question, because there’s also an allusion to two comings of the Messiah in the Hebrew Old Testament Scriptures. I’d like to read to you a question that the rabbis had about these Messiahs. Rabbi Alexandri says in Sanhedrin 98a: “Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi raises a contradiction between two depictions
of the coming of the Messiah. It is written: ‘There came with the clouds of heaven, one like unto a son of man … and there was given him dominion and glory and a kingdom … his dominion is an everlasting kingdom [dominion]’ (Daniel 7:13-14). And it is written: ‘Behold, your king will come to you. He is just and victorious; lowly and riding upon a donkey and upon a colt, the foal of a donkey’ (Zechariah 9:9). Rabbi Alexandri explains: If the Jewish people merit redemption, the Messiah will come in a miraculous manner with the clouds of heaven. If they do not merit redemption, the Messiah will come lowly and riding upon a donkey.'”
So they’re trying to figure this out. Are there two messiahs coming? There appear to be two comings of this Messiah, one on the clouds and the other on a donkey. And so the way they reconciled it, they say, well, the explanation must be that if we’re worthy, he comes on the clouds. If we’re not worthy, he’s gonna be riding on a donkey, lowly. And yet again, they’re struggling with this Messiah, son of Joseph, who’s going to be killed, thrust through, as they see in Zechariah 12 and Isaiah 53, and suffering for the sins of the people, and they see this Messiah who’s a kingly reign, who’s asking for the gift of life, that he may reign forever, Messiah son of David.
Are there two messiahs coming? What about these two comings of the Messiah? Or is it as the Christians believe and as the New Testament interprets these passages? It’s one Messiah, who comes two times. The first time, to make an end of sin, the first time to suffer for the atonement, to make atonement for the people of God. And then the second time, to deliver His people and to reign forever as King David, as that final King David, who would reign and as such, when He comes, with His hands and feet thrust through, as we see in Zechariah 12:10. “Then the people will mourn for him as one mourns for an only son,” because they will realize what they have done to their Messiah and how they had rejected Him all these years.
Let’s read on. What did the ancient rabbis do with these two messiahs? We read over here in Sanhedrin 98b, “Rav Yehuda says that Rav says: “The Holy One, Blessed be He, is destined to establish another David for the Jewish people as the Messiah, as it is stated: ‘And they shall serve the Lord their God, and David their king, whom I will establish for them’ (Jeremiah 30:9). It is not stated: I established, but ‘I will establish,’ indicating that the name of the future King will be David. Rav Pappa said to Abaye: But isn’t it written: ‘And my servant David shall be their prince forever’
(Ezekiel 37:25), indicating that King David himself will rule over the Jewish people’ (They’re trying to reconcile these passages.). Abaye said, ‘They will rule in tandem like an emperor and a viceroy; the Messiah will be king and David will be second-in-command.'” So again, they’re trying to reconcile these Messiahs, these kingly passages and these suffering servant passages, and they end up with the conclusion, well, maybe God’s gonna raise David himself up and the Messiah will come and be the true Supreme King; David will serve under him. That’s one of their interpretations, essentially like two messiahs: they have Messiah, son of Joseph, they have Messiah, son of David.
They’re trying to reconcile these two and they come up with different interpretations. Maybe there’ll be a messiah and a king reigning simultaneously. That’s one speculation they had. What about two comings of the Messiah? Well, maybe if we’re worthy, he’ll come on the clouds, but if we’re not worthy, he’ll come on a donkey, or maybe, could it be, that these passages are one in the same Messiah? They’re referring to one Messiah, who both comes on a donkey to pay for sins, the suffering Messiah, son of Joseph. Interesting fact: If we look over at John 1:45, we have an interesting statement where Philip says, “We have found the Messiah, son of Joseph.”
Now that’s interesting to see the phrase “Messiah, son of Joseph” used in the New Testament and I do not believe that it was saying that this was the Messiah son of Joseph, because Jesus’ adoptive father was Joseph. I think it was an allusion to what the rabbis were talking about, a suffering Messiah who was Messiah, son of Joseph. So when he says, “We have found the Messiah, son of Joseph, who the Prophets spoke about,” when we read about that in the New Testament, I think it’s an allusion to these rabbinic teachings that the rabbis all taught about, a suffering Messiah who would be called Messiah, son of Joseph, who would ride on the donkey. And then these passages speak of the Messiah coming in the clouds, and that’s the future Messiah who will reign as King David, Yeshua, our Messiah, our Mashiach, is indeed the one and the same person who fulfils all these prophecies, both in His first coming that’s the Messiah-son-of-Joseph prophecies and then in His future, second coming when He rules as king and delivers Israel from her enemies. They will look on Him whom they have thrust through, as we also read about in Revelation [Rev. 1:7] that Israel will look upon the One whom they have pierced and they will mourn as we see here in Zachary 12. It’s one and the same Messiah. And I want to
point to one more reference where we see the Messiah, the suffering servant, Isaiah 53. That very passage, the ancient Jewish rabbis applied to the Messiah, not only in the Yom Kippur Prayer that we just read, but also in the Jewish Talmud.
I’d like to read to you here from Sanhedrin [98b] we read, “And the rabbis say: The leper of the house of Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi is his name, as it is stated: “Indeed, our illnesses he did bear and our pains he endured; yet we did esteem him injured, stricken by God, and afflicted’ (Isaiah 53:4). Rav Nahman says: ‘If the Messiah is among the living in this generation, he is a person such as me, who already has dominion over the Jewish people, and it is stated: “And their prince shall be of themselves and their governor shall proceed from their midst’ (Jeremiah 30:21). … Rav says: If the Messiah is among the dead, he is a person such as Daniel, the beloved man.’ ”
So here’s an interesting thing. They’re quoting Isaiah 53, the ancient rabbis quoting Isaiah 53, about him being the leper of the house of Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi, because why? Because he did bear “Our pains he endured; yet we did esteem him injured, stricken by God, and afflicted,” They applied these passages of Isaiah 53 to none other than an individual, and they were speculating, is this an individual who is among the living, who’s already ruling the people, or is this an individual among the dead who will be resurrected, like David or Daniel? They were speculating about who this individual Messiah would be, that fulfilled these passages of Isaiah 53. Why do I bring this up? Because it’s the rabbis of ancient Judaism that applied Isaiah 53 to individuals, and they’ve speculated about who that individual would be, who would bear the iniquities of the sin and the pains and the sufferings of Israel, or on behalf of Israel? They recognized that it would only be fulfilled in an individual person and, in fact, it isn’t until we get to the Middle Ages, under Rashi, who first came up with the idea that Isaiah 53 is not a reference to an individual Messiah,
but rather a reference to the nation of Israel as a collective whole, fulfilling the role of this servant, who would be suffering in Isaiah 53. It was Rashi who came up with a new interpretation of this passage in the Middle Ages. Before Rashi, there was no interpretation of Isaiah 53 to refer to the nation of Israel. It was always applied to an individual person, and the rabbis would speculate about who that person would be, whether that was somebody in the past, whether that was Moses, like in Sotah 14. We’re not going to read that right now, but Sotah 14 talks about Moses, and they try to apply Isaiah 53 to Moses, saying the Moses fulfilled some of these aspects: when Moses stood up on behalf of the nation of Israel and interceded for Israel, they saw those passages in Isaiah 53 about this servant interceding and suffering with the hands. In the case of Moses, he suffered with the people of Israel on behalf of Israel’s wickedness. Moses offered his soul to God and said, “Well God, if You’re not going to forgive them,” in so many words, he said, “Take my life.” He was standing on behalf of Israel and interceding for Israel, and the rabbis saw those parallels in Sotah 14 and they described that, again applying Isaiah 53 to an individual Messiah, not to some corporate nation of Israel that would corporately fulfill this role of suffering servant.
So I bring this up to show that ancient Judaism is consistent with how the New Testament – Christianity – interpreted this passage. We see a lot of parallels with what ancient Jewish rabbis saw in these passages about a suffering servant, a messiah who they called Messiah, son of Joseph. And indeed, not only did they look at the same prophecies that Christians look at today, and that New Testament Christianity looked at when they quoted these ancient prophecies of Jesus, Yeshua, our Messiah, but the ancient rabbis made a statement here in Sanhedrin 99a. “Rabbi Hiyya bar Abba says that rabbi Yohanan says: In their prophecies with regard to redemption and the end of days, all the prophets prophesied only about the Messianic era.” Did you catch that? In their prophecies “With regard to the redemption and the end of days, all the prophets prophesied only about the Messianic era.” So what this means is the ancient rabbis were always looking at those prophecies that had any allusion to redemption, forgiveness of sins and bringing about the deliverance of Israel from her enemies at the end of days, they looked at all those prophecies and said, “Look, let’s see if we can find shadows of the Messiah, of the Messianic age, and see how all these prophecies are fulfilled.”
Essentially, in one Man, these prophecies would culminate as one Man they called the Messiah, son of David, son of Joseph. They speculated whether there would be two messiahs coming. They speculated: how do we have two different comings of
the Messiah, one on the clouds, one on a donkey. And I submit to you that all of these questions the ancient rabbis had over these prophecies about the Messiah, were indeed fulfilled in Yeshua, our Messiah, Jesus in the past, when He suffered as Messiah, son of Joseph, and then in the future, they will be fulfilled, the kingly prophecies about Messiah, son of David, will be fulfilled when He returns to Earth on the clouds, as He promised. In Acts we read that the Messiah will come back in the same way that He went up to heaven, and He will deliver Israel from her enemies, as we read about in Ezekiel and many other passages. And then in Zechariah, they will look on the Messiah, on this One whom they have pierced, who they have thrust through and they will mourn for Him. And then we will see the fulfillment of yet one more prophecy that we read about in the Scriptures and that the Jewish rabbis commented on.
Let me read here the Sanhedrin 98b. It says, “The Jewish people, who will all suffer at the time when the Holy One, Blessed be He, says: These, the Jewish people, are My handiwork, and those, the gentiles, are My handiwork. How shall I destroy those on account of these? It appears that the Holy One, Blessed be He, does not distinguish between the Jewish people and the gentiles. That is why Rabbi Yohanan was concerned with regard to the coming of
the Messiah.” Because here they were going to see that the Messiah was not going to distinguish between Jewish people and the Gentiles, because why? Because what did Jesus say in John 10:16? “I have other sheep who are not of this fold,” this immediate fold, this Jewish fold He was ministering to. He said I have come, but to the lost sheep of the tribe of Israel, and then He says in John 10, “I have other sheep who are not of this fold. Those also will I bring and they will be one flock under one shepherd.” And that will be the culmination that we will see when the Messiah comes, the Jews and the Gentiles together being one flock under one Shepherd. Why? Because those of us who have been grafted into the vine, who have accepted Jesus as our Messiah; when the Jewish people recognize their Messiah when He returns, we will all be one flock under one shepherd, Jesus, Yeshua our Messiah, and we will serve Him as He will forever minister to us, be our king and establish His kingdom here on earth, just as He has done in heaven, just as He has done in our hearts. Then the nation of Israel will return to Him as we see in the prophecies, and we will become one flock under one shepherd.
Even the ancient rabbis saw that. That prophecy will be fulfilled when He comes, when the Holy One comes. In those days, it says, “It appears, The Holy One, blessed be He, does not distinguish between the Jewish people and the Gentiles.” So here again, even they recognize there is going to be a time when all of us will be united in one flock under one shepherd, Yeshua our Messiah. Isn’t it beautiful to see how New Testament Christianity does not distort the teachings and the prophecies of the Old Testament, but rather agrees with those prophecies and with the interpretations, in many cases, that the ancient Jewish rabbis gave for these very same prophecies as they saw a suffering Messiah, Messiah son of Joseph, and a kingly Messiah, Messiah son of David, ruling God’s people, and yet suffering for the sins of God’s people. And in Christ, together, those prophecies are reconciled into one. One Messiah, who came the first time on a donkey and will come the second time on the clouds, amen, come Lord Jesus, Yeshua our Messiah. [ Music]
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