The Suffering Servant
THE SERVANT OF YHVH
According to Scripture and History
The fifty-third chapter of Isaiah describes profoundly and movingly the career of a Servant who, through his acts and suffering, fills a role in YHVH’s plan for mankind. The Christian Church has always pointed to this passage as a prophetic description of the life and death of Jesus of Nazareth. We honestly believe that Jesus was not, and could not have been, the Servant depicted in this scripture, and we would like to show why we believe thus, and whom we believe is the actual suffering Servant of YHVH.
By examining certain key phrases, basing our understanding on the original Hebrew text, we see most clearly that any christological interpretation of this chapter is, at best, forced and baseless. For example, verse 10 in the Hebrew reads: “im taseem asham nafsho” (if his soul offers itself as a sin offering), “yireh zera, yaarikh yamin” (he shall see seed, prolong days). In other words, on the condition that the Servant willingly offers his soul as a sin offering, he shall have descendants and live a long life. Jesus died childless at the age of about thirty. Moreover, the passage says , “if”, which means that the Servant has a choice – to obey or not to obey! According to mark 14:36, Jesus was unwilling, yet did not have a choice. the same scripture says: “Ve YHVH hafetz dakeo heheli” (and YHVH desires to oppress him with disease). Jesus was never stricken by any oppressive disease. Verse 8 says: “mipesha ami nega lamo” (as the result of my people’s sin were they… stricken). In other words, the Servant is a “they”, not a “he”; a collective Servant, not a single person. Verse 9 says: “he is despised and rejected of men”. According to the Gospel tale, Jesus was popular and admired by the masses. This same verse describes the Servant as being a “man of pains”, (Makhovot), “chronically diseased” (yedua holi). Neither of these descriptions fit Jesus. Moreover, verse 11 and 12 were never fulfilled in Jesus’ life. He died frustrated and defeated.
Who, then, is the despised, unattractive (verse 2) Servant who was considered, in every generation, to be stricken and punished by God (verse 4); when in reality he was being stricken by the sinning nations? Which Servant was labeled “heretic” by the Church and burnt during the Inquisition, the Crusades, the Pogroms, etc.? In Chapter 52, verse 15, the kings of the Gentiles are the ones whose mouths shut in amazement, and these very rulers of the Gentiles confess and proclaim in Chapter 53, “Who would have believed what we’ve heard? Those coarse, unbelieving Jews who were led like sheep to the slaughter in gas-chambers, infants and mothers, were the Servant of YHVH!”
For centuries, the Jew has suffered because the Gentiles sinned against him. Now it can be told! “Behold thou, Israel, My Servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham, My friend!” (Isaiah 41:8). “Who is blind, but My Servant? Or deaf, as My messenger that I send.” (Isaiah 42:10).
Yes, Israel can sometimes be deaf, blind, a worm (41:14), too human, imperfect, unfaithful: he has been robbed and spoiled (42:22; he is a sinner too! (43:24). But YHVH alone, without assistance from “relatives”, blots out Israel’s sin (verse 25) for YHVH’s own sake, and Israel is YHVH’s Witness, and Servant! “Yet now hear, oh Jacob My Servant, and Israel, whom I have chosen; thus saith YHVH that made thee, and formed thee from the womb, who will help thee: fear not, oh Jacob My Servant, and thou Yeshurun, whom I have chosen. For I will pour water upon the thirsty land, and streams upon the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit upon thy seed, and My blessing upon thine offspring; and they shall spring up among the grass, as willows by the watercourses. One shall say: “I am YHVH’s”; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and another shall subscribe with his hand unto YHVH, and surname himself by the name of Israel.” (Isaiah 44:1-5). The Servant, Israel, was burned, gassed, tortured, forcibly baptized… but he STILL LIVES!
“No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgement thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the Servants of YHVH, and their due reward from Me, saith YHVH.” (Isaiah 54:17).
FEAR NOT, OH JACOB MY SERVANT