The Instigator
Pro (for)
0 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
6 Points

The prophecy in Isaiah 53 is Israel; not the Messiah.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 6/27/2011 Category: Religion
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,735 times Debate No: 17300
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (7)
Votes (2)





The prophecy concerning Isaiah 53 is one of the most debated chapters in the Bible. Pro will affirm that the chapter is talking about the Israeli nation as a whole and not Jesus. Con, on the other hand, will affirm that it is talking about the messiah, Jesus.


The chapter of Isaiah 53 says the following:

1. Who would have believed our report, and to whom was the arm of the Lord revealed? א.
2. And he came up like a sapling before it, and like a root from dry ground, he had neither form nor comeliness; and we saw him that he had no appearance. Now shall we desire him? ב.
3. Despised and rejected by men, a man of pains and accustomed to illness, and as one who hides his face from us, despised and we held him of no account. ג.
4. Indeed, he bore our illnesses, and our pains-he carried them, yet we accounted him as plagued, smitten by God and oppressed. ד.
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. ה.
6. We all went astray like sheep, we have turned, each one on his way, and the Lord accepted his prayers for the iniquity of all of us. ו.
7. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he would not open his mouth; like a lamb to the slaughter he would be brought, and like a ewe that is mute before her shearers, and he would not open his mouth. ז.
8. From imprisonment and from judgment he is taken, and his generation who shall tell? For he was cut off from the land of the living; because of the transgression of my people, a plague befell them. ח.
9. And 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. ט.
10. And the Lord wished to crush him, He made him ill; if his soul makes itself restitution, he shall see children, he shall prolong his days, and God's purpose shall prosper in his hand. י.
11. From the toil of his soul he would see, he would be satisfied; with his knowledge My servant would vindicate the just for many, and their iniquities he would bear. יא.
12. Therefore, I will allot him a portion in public, and with the strong he shall share plunder, because he poured out his soul to death, and with transgressors he was counted; and he bore the sin of many, and interceded for the transgressors.



As per our offline disucssion round one is limited for acceptance.

I accept the debate and remain open to differing translations and discussions of the Sept. and HEB. versions as well.

I do want to start out stating that I am excited about this discussion Gmdebater and Hatzlacha Rabbah!
Debate Round No. 1


Thank you for accepting this debate. It is an honour. I will be going verse by verse and explaining the suffering servant of Isaiah 53. Good luck.

In efforts to understand who the "servant" is, we need to look at the other servant songs of Isaiah.

    • “You are My servant, O Israel” (41:8)

    • “You are My servant, Israel” (49:3)

    • see also Isaiah 44:1, 44:2, 44:21, 45:4, 48:20

It is clear that everywhere else in the servant songs, the servant is referring to Israel. How can you then take one chapter and apply it to Jesus?

Through the Hebrew language, the Jewish people are referred to as a singular pronoun. We need to understand who is speaking. In verses 1-10, the prophecy is being told in a perspective of the world leaders. Let us now go line by line.

vs 1: In this opening verse, the world leaders are in shock at the coming of Messiah and the salvation of Israel. "Who would believe what we have heard!" "The arm of G-d" refers to a redemption of the Jewish people from persecution.

Vs 2: Isaiah uses an imagery of a tree struggling to grow in a dry earth. It is a metaphor for the Jewish struggle in exile. A young sapling in dry ground appears that it will die. The Jews were ALWAYS a small nation, at times as small as 2 million people. In this verse, Isaiah describes the miraculous return from exile, like a sapling that sprouts from this dry ground. This idea also appears in Isaiah 60:21, Ezekiel 19:13, Hosea 14:6-7, Amos 9:15 etc.

Vs 3: The servant is being described as "despised and rejected" which is contrary to Jesus' popularity. It is evidence of a long line of oppression.

While Jesus died a criminals death, Isaiah is describing someone with a LONG time of neglect and rejection.

Vs 4:

Throughout the centuries of Israel’s exile, many nations persecuted the Jews on the pretense that it was God’s way of “punishing” the “accursed” Jews for having stubbornly rejected the new religions. In these verses, until the end of the chapter, the nations confess how they used the Jewish people as scapegoats, not for the “noble” reasons they had long claimed.

Indeed, the nations selfishly persecuted the Jews as a distraction from their own corrupt regimes: “Surely our suffering he did bear, and our pains he carried...” (53:4)

Vs 5:

This verse describes how the humbled world leaders confess that Jewish suffering occurred as a direct result of “our iniquities” – i.e., depraved Jew-hatred, rather than, as previously claimed, the stubborn blindness of the Jews.

The verse does not say, “He was wounded for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities,” which could convey the vicarious suffering ascribed to Jesus. Rather, the proper translation is: “He was wounded because of our transgressions, and crushed because of our iniquities.” This conveys that the Servant suffered as a result of the sinfulness of others – not the opposite as Christians contend – that the Servant suffered to atone for the sins of others.

Indeed, the Christian idea directly contradicts the basic teaching that God promises forgiveness to all who sincerely return to Him; thus there is no need for the Messiah to atone for others (Isaiah 55:6-7, Jeremiah 36:3, Ezekiel chapters 18 and 33, Hoseah 14:1-3, Jonah 3:6-10, Proverbs 16:6, Daniel 4:27, 2-Chronicles 7:14).

Vs 6:

The nations realize that their lack of proper leadership (“shepherd”) caused them to treat the Jews with disdain. They further acknowledge how punishments that should have befallen the nations were averted through Israel’s suffering.

Vs 7:

In various contexts, the Bible uses the imagery of “sheep led to the slaughter” specifically in reference to the Jewish people. For example: "You give us as sheep to be eaten and have scattered us among the nations... we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered" (Psalms 44:12, 23).

This verse prophesizes the many hardships – both physical torment and economic exploitation – that the Jews endured in exile. Ironically, this prophecy refers in part to the 11th century Crusaders who "persecuted and afflicted” the Jews in the name of Jesus. In our time, while Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe were "led to the slaughter," they still remained like a "lamb that is silent before her shearers" – without complaints against God.

Vs 8:

The phrase, "land of the living” (Eretz HaChaim) refers specifically to the Land of Israel. Thus this verse, “He was removed from the land of the living,” does not mean that the servant was killed, but rather was exiled from the Land of Israel.

This verse again describes the world’s surprise at witnessing the Jewish return to the Promised Land. "Who could have imagined” that the nation we tortured now prospers? World leaders offer a stunning confession: “Because of my people’s sin, they [the Jews] were afflicted.”

Here the text makes absolutely clear that the oppressed Servant is a collective nation, not a single individual. This is where knowledge of biblical Hebrew is absolutely crucial. At the end of the verse, the Hebrew word for “they were” (lamoh – לָמוֹ) always refers to a group, never to an individual. (see for example, Psalms 99:7)

Vs 9:

Throught the history, Jews were given the choice to "convert or die." Yet as this verse describes, there was "no deceit in his mouth"-the loyal Jews refused to accept a pagan deity as their god. They chose to die rather than profane G-d's Holy Name, thus they "submitted to the grave"-i.e. chose to die than to renounce their faith. As a result, they were denied proper burial "to the grave as evil people."

Vs 10:

"God desired to oppress” the Jewish people, in order to inspire them to return to Torah observance. If the Jews would only "acknowledge guilt," they would see their "offspring and live long days." This refers to the Messianic era when all Jews will return to Torah observance.

This verse emphasizes that the Servant is to be rewarded with long life and many children. This verse could not possibly refer to Jesus who, according to the New Testament, died young and childless. (Furthermore, if Jesus was alleged to be the immortal Son of God, it is absurd to apply the concept of “living long days.”)

Although missionaries may claim that the “offspring” refers to spiritual descendants, this is based on a distortion and mistranslation. In this verse, the Hebrew word for "offspring" (zera) always refers to physical descendants (see Genesis 12:7, 15:2-4, 15:13, 46:6; Exodus 28:43). A different word, banim generally translated as "sons," is used to refer to spiritual descendants (see Deut. 14:1).

Vs 11:

This verse describes how God’s Servant “will cause the masses to be righteous” – not as some mistranslate, “he will justify the many." The Jewish mission is to serve as a "light to the nations," leading the world to righteousness through knowledge of the one true God. The Jews will accomplish this both by example (Deut. 4:5-8; Zechariah 8:23) and by instructing the nations in God's Law (Isaiah 2:3-4; Micah 4:2-3). As it says: “The world will become full of the knowledge of God, as water covers the sea” (Isaiah 11:9).

Vs 12:

This verse speaks of how the Jews always pray for the welfare of the nations they are exiled into (see Jeremiah 29:7). The verse continues to explain that the Jewish people, who righteously bore the sins of the world and yet remained faithful to God, will be rewarded.

Regarding the above passage, some have claimed that the "suffering servant" cannot be Israel, since Israel has sins. Yet this is a fallacy, since we know that no human being – not even Moses – is completely free of sin. Yet Moses was considered “righteous,” which takes into account not only one's good deeds, but also one's repentance after sin. If Jesus is God, these ideas have no meaning.

Immediately following this promise of reward for the Jews’ suffering (53:10-12), chapter 54 clearly speaks of the redemption which awaits the Jewish people. This point is acknowledged by many Christian commentaries.


With an open mind, you clearly see how this referrs to the Jewish nation.



I want to again thank my opponent for this debate as he begins to wrestle with modern Judaism vs. the ancient Jewish sect called Christianity.

I felt that each statement could have proceeded with “and it could mean this…” and it would have been the only validation for the interpretation needed for your viewpoint.
Nothing was validated.

To make a valid interpretation you must layout the following:

1) The interpretation must be held in antiquity. The earliest primary source must be cited which shows that this has been an interpretation “all along”. After all, if the interpretation you hold to be accurate is divinely inspired it will have its ground in antiquity. God did not “hold back” the truth to snooker everyone (Example: Mormon interpretations, Ellen g. White, Harold Camping etc..)

2) My opponent’s interpretation must predate the Advent to Jesus Christ. Any interpretation at a later date would very likely be a “responsive” interpretation rather than a preexisting one.

3) This interpretation must have “weight” in the form of legitimate scholarship.
4) AFTER my opponent has laid out this framework he then MUST show why the interpretation he supports is accurate. He has not done this in his first round post.

5) My opponent must cite primary source documentation when citing an ancient scholar.

I will show each of the following things.
First I will cite:

1) Rabbinical Messianic interpretations of Isaiah 53 were pre-Christ to the exclusion of any national interpretation, including the Midrash and Talmud both interpreting the scripture as Messianic well after the advent of Jesus Christ.

2) I will show a national interpretation was a reinterpretation that is only recently viewed favorably by Jewish Rabbis’ and only held by a few select Rabbis’ starting in the Middle Ages, by no means the majority.

3) St. Mathew’s Interpretation of Isaiah 53 at the Time of Christ was clearly Messianic and Rabbinical Scholarship took no issue with such an interpretation until well into the present age.

4) I will also show the reasons that every Rabbi and Christian scholar throughout antiquity viewed “Israel” as a Title of the Messiah and not a nation.

Contention 1: The Talmud and Midrash interpretations of Isaiah 53 (suffering Messiah) clearly believed prior to Jesus’ arrival by the Rabbinical community.

A) The Babylonian Talmud, which is prior to Jesus’s advent on earth through 300 A.D., discusses the different aspects of the Messiah and clearly interprets Isaiah 53 as Messianic and specifically gives the Messiah the title of “the Leper Scholar”(suffering servant).

“The Rabbis said: His name is 'the leper scholar,' as it is written, Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him a leper, smitten of God, and afflicted.”(Isaiah 53:4)

B) There is no authoritative rabbinical support for anything but a personal messianic interpretation of Isaiah 53 until the 11th century AD. (source: Rashi, Ibn Ezra) Nearly all the Rabbi’s held to ancient traditional Messianic interpretation until the recently shifting that interpretation.

C) Even after the first “idea” of a nation of Israel concept comes from a 150 A.D. writing of Origen (Book 1 Chapter 55) ( no authoritative Jewish writings hold to a national interpretation of Isaiah 53 as my opponent describes. This viewpoint was available to the Midrash and the Talmud. Even though this interpretation was available to the Rabbis who wrote the Midrash and Talmud no rabbinical support was given to this viewpoint until even well after the start of Christianity all the way until the last two centuries. (Ibid)

Clear factual understanding of the evidence: All of the Rabbi’s, who spoke the original languages in the Bible, never interpreted the language to mean anything other than a suffering personal Messiah.

These facts alone are overwhelming to my opponents position.

Contention 2: The New Testament (a Jewish writing) also interpreted Isaiah 53 as personal Messiah with no contest from the contemporary rabbinical community on this interpretation.

Matthew 8:17

17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:

“He took up our infirmities
and bore our diseases.”[a]

Contention 3: Clear breakdown of rationale with the text being translated as the nation of Israel pointed out by Origen.

Origen points out the distinction between the “Servant” and those for whom he suffers. Asking the question, if the “Servant” suffering is Israel, who are the people he suffers for? How is it he is led away because of the iniquities of the “People of God”? Since, the servant is the “People of God”?” (Book 1 Chapter 55)

Contention 4: The following is the list of reasons as to “why” all of the Jews and Christians have, throughout antiquity up to today, interpreted Isaiah 53 as a personal “Messiah Ben Joseph”

So who is Israel if not the nation?

A) Israel means Prince of God. Hebrew = “Ysr El”

B) Israel is the title of the servant Messiah of God used by Isaiah.

C) We see that indeed a single man, Jacob, was also called Israel and all his descendants are called to be “princes of God”. The entirety of the gentile nations was to be saved by the Israelis, (princes of God). The Messiah is the Prince of God that will do the job where the descendents of Jacob, Israel, failed.

D) Not only is the Nation of Israel called Israel but the nation is also called Jacob and Zion quite a bit. These titles are often interchangeable.

E) Isaiah utilizes multiple metaphors to describe different aspects of the Nation and of the Messiah. The Talmud does a great job detailing both aspects.

F) All of 4 Servant Songs in Isaiah are laying out the failure of the nation to be God’s Israel and that God responds with providing himself a “True Israel (Prince of God) the Messiah. All servant songs are Messianic vs. failed nation.

- The above source lays out a clear program of how the Messiah is the fulfillment of the failings of the nation. This is clear concept when the context is understood.

G) All four Servant Songs clearly use personal language when discussing God’s Messiah and all the Rabbi’s that understood ancient Hebrew continue to affirm this view throughout antiquity.


Everything my opponent stated was refuted in the above details.

Everything he “suggested those things meant” have a true meaning detailed by ancient Rabbinical and Christian Scholars which is in direct conflict.

Harold Camping is a recent example (May 21st doomsday) where a recent interpretation can cause things to go horribly awry. I would recommend my opponent start by studying ancient writers who first dealt with these issues.

My opponent must cite his sources for critical review and he must also give valid reasons for “why” those things mean what he states rather than what every biblical scholar in history has stated they mean.

After, all I could state that all lions mean Zedekiah and just claim that. I need to prove why indeed it does mean that.

In conclusion:

I have shown both to my opponent and to the readers that no authoritative Jewish or Christian scholars support his view.

Also, I have shown that all of the scholars in antiquity, that spoke the original languages, view a personal messiah being discussed alongside a failed nation.

I have shown that first, a single person can hold the title Israel, then also the context clearly shows that God points to the nation as failed and the Messiah will fulfill the Israel concept in each requirement.

A bit more study and the Messianic interpretation becomes the only interpretation you can hold to.
Debate Round No. 2


con, younare a great debater and was impressed by that round. Due to personal reasons, I cannot continue this debate. Can we burn the rounds quickly so we won't have to wait a long time? anyway, I'd love to debate with you again. Fair?


I am sorry you are unable to continue. I hope everything is going well!

I would love to debate on other topics when you have more time.
Debate Round No. 3


Thank you. May G-d be with you. The issue is I'm in too many debates.


Ah, understood. I am excited about a constitution debate when you are up for it.
Debate Round No. 4


thanks! furthermore, I've been rather ill lately. Good debate and i will debate with you soon.

It does take an honest person to admithe was wrong at times. This was one of them.


I thank you for yielding. You have shown a desire for the truth that is quite rare on this debate site and is very much to your credit. God bless.
Debate Round No. 5
7 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 7 records.
Posted by Mr.Infidel 4 years ago
Don't understand your question.
Posted by Gileandos 4 years ago
Well even traditional Judiasm has held Isaiah 53 is Messianic.

Why do you feel it is discussing Israel when the Messiah is considered True Israel?
Posted by Mr.Infidel 4 years ago
I believe Isaiah 53 is talking about Israel.
Posted by Gileandos 4 years ago
What part would you debate?
The historical Judiac interpretation has been messianic. What new interpretation would you be offering?
Posted by Mr.Infidel 4 years ago
I'd be willing to debate this.
Posted by Gileandos 5 years ago
It hiccuped :)
Posted by GMDebater 5 years ago
sorry for the format of round 1.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by ReformedArsenal 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Nicely done Gil... I have a tough time thinking of a way that Pro could have come back from that.
Vote Placed by Cliff.Stamp 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro needs to commit to debates. I hope he is learning from the experience.