In a previous article we looked briefly at these verses in Isaiah 53:5-6. Now we will look a little more deeply at their richness. They portrayed what the promised Messiah would do when He came. Isa 53:5 “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” [NIV]
The Following Things Would Happen To The Coming Messiah
1). He would be “wounded” [or pierced] for the “transgressions” of the people
“Wounded” in the Hebrew Bible is “chalal”. It is used of causing a wound in people as in Psalm 109:22 (my heart is wounded within me”.) Ezekiel 28:9. It is also used of piercing something such as in Job 26:13, a serpent, and in Isaiah 51:9, a dragon. In Ezek 32:26 it is used of being slain by a sword. In other verses in Isaiah it is used of God seeing those opposed to Him as stained, defiled, profane or polluted, Isaiah 23:9, 43:28, 47:6. (It may be that some of that meaning is in mind here as the Messiah is to be defiled or polluted as he is made sin and slain on behalf of the people).
In the Greek Old Testament version, the Septuagint (abbreviated to LXX), the word is from “traumatizō” meaning to wound or to slay, and is used for people being injured (especially by sword or arrows). However most of the references go beyond wounding to being slain. Overall it seems that the death of the Messiah is in mind here as He is made sin and slain on behalf of the people.
“For their transgressions” . The word for “transgressions” is the Hebrew word “Pasha”. It means rebellion against fellow humans or against God. It can mean the act itself and the guilt and punishment arising from that action. The word in the LXX is “anomia” meaning “lawlessness” in general or the sinful act or “transgression”. It is failure to live according to the will of God. People sin against one another. People sin against God. People need a Messiah figure to act as their redeemer to set them free from the penalty their sins deserve. God Himself was to provide such a Messiah. He would be wounded, indeed slain for the transgressions of the people. Only in that way could forgiveness come to those who needed it. The following phrases add more meaning to this concept.
2). He would be “crushed” for their “iniquities” instead of them
The Messiah would be crushed for human iniquities. “Crushed” is “daka” meaning to bruise, beat down or to oppress. In Isaiah 53:10, Isaiah writes that it was God’s will to crush His Messiah, “Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him.” Why? Because He would be bearing the iniquities of the people. The Greek Old Testament (LXX) has the word “malakizō“ for “crushed”. Its main meaning is to be “sick” or “infirm” or “diseased” as we see in the other occurrences in the Old Testament.
What were those sins or iniquities? The word is “avon” with the meaning of evil, and the guilt and the punishment associated with it. It can stand for deliberate sin or failing to obey God. The LXX has “hamartia” for iniquities, denoting a failure to fulfil the will of God, or acting in defiance of God’s will and His Laws.
Again we see the Messiah taking the place of the people in bearing not only their sins, but seemingly their punishment as well.
3). He would bear the “chastisement” upon Himself for their sin, to bring them peace
“Chastisement “ is “musar” which means discipline, chastening, correction, instruction and punishment. It seems that in many passages where this word is used, people refused God’s correction and thus needed His chastisement or punishment, for example, Proverbs 15:10 Grievous punishment is for him who forsakes the way; He who hates reproof will die. (NASB). The LXX appears to have a softer description for “chastisement” with the use of “paideia”. The word was used for the instruction of children but more generally implied correction for those of all ages.
Isaiah went on to describe the result of the Messiah being chastised for the sin of the people. They would receive peace with God as a result of the Messiah suffering on their behalf, “Upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace”. Or in the NRSV, “Upon him was the punishment that made us whole”.
The Hebrew word used for “peace” is “shalom” which has the deeper meaning seen in the NRSV translation. It can mean completeness, soundness, wholeness, safety, well-being.
The LXX uses “eirēnē” which is the usual word for “peace” in the Greek Old and New Testaments. It too has much of the same depth of meaning. (In the New Testament we see it used for God as “the God of peace” in Philippians 4:9, who will be with His people. He gives His peace, “the peace of God”, to guard the hearts and minds of the people of God as they present their requests to Him in prayer, Philippians 4:6. Believers know “peace with God”, as they are justified by faith in Jesus Christ, Romans 5:1). All this Jesus made possible in His role as God’s Messiah.
4). By His “stripes” sinners would be “healed”
“Stripes” is from “chaburah” and can also be translated as blow, bruise, scourging, striking, welts and wounds. For example in the NASB version, “… by His scourging we are healed” , and in the NRSV, “… by his bruises we are healed”. In the LXX it is an interesting word “mōlōps” deriving from “mōlos”, a battle, and ōps, an eye or face. It could refer to the welt or bruise from being struck in battle, or to the stripes made by whip lashes.
Peter saw how this Messianic prophecy was fulfilled by what Jesus did on the cross in His death for sinners. He wrote of Jesus in 1Peter 2:22-24, “He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. Jesus as the Messiah didn’t die for His own sins for He had none. Peter concluded, 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed”. “Wounds” here is the same word found in the Greek text of the LXX in Isaiah 53:5.
“Healed”. What benefit did the Messiah bring to people by His suffering and death on their behalf? Isaiah 53:5 says, “and with his stripes we are healed”. What healing was Isaiah referring to? The Hebrew word is “rapha”. It has a very rich tapestry of meanings in the Old Testament. It is translated in terms of healing, being made fertile, of being repaired. God described Himself in Exodus 38:15, “I am the LORD, your healer” where “healer” is a derivative of “rapha”.
In the LXX the word here for “healed” is from “iaomai”. Again this word has a rich background of meanings including physical and emotional healing, healing of the land and many other meanings. The same word is used in the Greek New Testament for many of those healings as well. It is interesting that in another Messianic passage in Isaiah 61:1 this word is used for the Messiah “healing” the broken hearted. The same word is used in some New Testament manuscripts for Luke 4:18, where Jesus described His ministry as a fulfilment of Isaiah 61:1.
It is amazing how much information about God’s amazing grace to humans is contained in these verses. Even then we are not able to fully comprehend (or apprehend) the fullness of all God has made freely available to us in His Son Jesus. But at what a cost! The next time we read the words of these verses, I hope we will have a deeper understanding of their meaning, but more importantly a deeper appreciation for the God who sent His Son to die for sinners, and for the Son who wants to become, not only our friend, but also the Lord and Master of our lives.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER [Added November 2017]
1]. Do you think it was “fair” that Jesus [as the Christ, the Anointed One, the Messiah] had to be wounded for our transgressions? If not, what other method do you think God could have used to deal with the sin of humankind?
2]. “Jesus was “crushed” on the cross so that we don’t have to feel crushed by sin!” What do you think that saying means? If someone tells you they feel crushed under the weight of their sin, how could you try to help them to get rid of their burden using these truths from Isaiah?
3]. How would you try to explain to an inquirer what these words mean, “the punishment that brought us peace was on Him?” What form did the punishment take and on whom? What sort of peace do you think Isaiah had in mind? Can we experience that peace today? If so, how?
4]. The phrase, “and by his wounds we are healed” seem to indicate that the Messiah’s death would lead to healing for those who trusted God. What sorts of healing do you think Isaiah had in mind? How could that healing be received?
5]. These truths in Isaiah 53 [about the Messiah dying for the sins of the people] have been in existence for almost 2700 years. Do you think humans today can plead ignorance of the fact that Jesus fulfilled those prophecies 2000 years ago? How could we make those truths more well-known in today’s world?
Jim Holbeck. Blog No.29. Posted on Wednesday 3rd August 2011