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: "The Messiah --what is his
name?...The Rabbis say, The Leper Scholar, as it is said, `surely
he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows: yet we did
esteem him a leper, smitten of God and afflicted...'"
Midrash Ruth Rabbah: "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'"
Targum Jonathan: "Behold my servant Messiah
shall prosper; he shall be high and increase and be exceedingly
Zohar: "`He was wounded for our transgressions,'
etc....There is in the Garden of Eden a palace called the Palace
of the Sons of Sickness; this palace the Messiah then 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 chastisements for the
transgression of the law: and this is that which is written, `Surely
our sicknesses he hath carried.'"
Rabbi Moses Maimonides: "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 harken 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,
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.)
Many more rabbinic citations can be found in books listed in
the resource link.
To see why Isaiah 53 cannot
refer to Israel, and who it must be, click here.
To learn about the curious idea
of the Leper-Messiah click here.
To learn about the
"Two-Messiah" theory of some rabbinic thinkers click
To see a list of resources for further study click here.
To go back to the Suffering Servant (Isaiah 53) page click here
To return to the CHAIM home
page click here.