The Seed Of
by Rachmiel Frydland
It is curious that RASHI, who greatly honors the Talmud and its traditions, departs from its interpretation when it comes to the 53rd chapter of the Book of Isaiah.
Undoubtedly, the primary reason RASHI opted for a different interpretation was the controversy stirred as a result of Christians invoking the chapter to prove that it was fulfilled in Yeshua (Jesus). The opinion, however, that the whole chapter refers to Israel or even to the prophet Isaiah, runs contrary to ancient tradition, Targum, Talmud, Midrashim, and the Rabbinic commentaries which were examined in Chapter Thirteen of this book. It was not until the 13th century that the opinion seriously arose, as exposited by RASHI that both the suffering and exaltation passages in Isaiah 53 applied to Israel. Several expositors followed RASHI'S lead thereafter, and today this opinion has unfortunately influenced many.
There are a number of reasons why the chapter does not refer to Israel or to the prophet, but instead. to the Messiah. When the chapter is examined verse by verse, it is clear that the singular is used throughout. Hence. it is written: he shall grow up; he has he has no form nor beauty; he is despised and rejected; we hid our faces from him; he bore our grief's; he was wounded for our sins: the Lord laid upon him the iniquity of us all; he was oppressed; he was led as a lamb to the slaughter; he was taken out from prison and justice; he was cut off out of the land of the living: he made his grave with the wicked and the rich.
It is all a description of one person only, and that person is masculine. In Scripture, Israel is referred to more often in the feminine. This is, of course, not conclusive, since there is scriptural precedent for the use of parables, symbolism's and other usage's where the intent is something other than the plain meaning.
In order for the chapter to apply to Israel, however, verse eight, "[f]or the transgression of my people was He stricken," would have to be seriously contorted. "My people" are the prophet Isaiah's people - Israel. For the servant to be Israel would mean that Israel was stricken for Israel because of Israel’s sins. This would be absolutely contrary to normative biblical principles of atonement. The sacrificial offering for sin, the Sin Bearer, had to be separate from the sinner.
The substitutionary offering and atonement are graphically presented in the chapter:
He was wounded for our transgressions ... and with his stripes we are healed. 1 ...
The Lord caused the iniquity of us all to fall upon him. 2 ...
Through the transgression of my people was he stricken. 3 ...
[T]hou shall make his soul an offering for sin. 4
This Servant bears the sin of Israel and hence is not Israel, this Servant, in any event, is "without guile," whereas chapter comprehends the need for Israel's atonement because of Israel's guile.
And he made his grave among the wicked, and his tomb among the rich: although he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. 5
Israel is not now, nor has it ever been, without sin (guile), but the Servant is innocent. All others, including Israel and the prophet Isaiah, are "as an unclean thing." 6
According to Isaiah, the Servant did not complain of the injustice :
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; he is brought as a lamb to the
slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers are dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. 7
Since when has Israel remained silent in her oppression? Certainly it was not when she was carried away captive to Assyria or to Babylon. Neither did she remain silent when she was oppressed by the Greeks but instead rose up under the leadership of the Maccabees. Neither did she remain silent under Roman rule nor when she was forced into Dispersion. Israel has always, to this day, been outspoken, and she does not have a reputation for being in silence.
He was cut off out of the land of the living for my people, the passage states. After the sacrifice, however, he is seen alive in verse 10. it becomes clear that this is the Lord's doing.
Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him ;
... He shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days,
and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. 8 [Emphases added.]
Who is the seed that the Lord shall see?
The Lord sees this Servant's seed, and it is in connection with extended life and pleasure. There are two obvious possibilities: First, the seed may refer to the physical offspring of the Servant. This is the opinion Rabbi Izaak of Troki who wrote Faith Strengthened, a polemical work against New Covenant faith. Troki maintained that the word for seed, z'roah, is used only for bodily heirs in the Bible. This is not always the case, however. 9 Moreover, the chapter opens with the Servant being introduced as z'roah adonai, translated "the arm of the Lord." This phrase is used over thirty times in the Scriptures and always in reference to God’s divine person. 10 Yet none of the passages referring to this Divine Person speak of him having any physical offspring.
The second, and the most likely interpretation, is that it applies to the disciples of the Servant - his spiritual offspring. These are those who have received and believed in the Servant. They are the Servant-Messiah's seed, and live with him in “pleasure" for eternity. They are the ones whose eyes have been opened to the redemptive work of this Suffering Messiah.
1 Isaiah 53:6 2 Isaiah 53:8
3 Isaiah 53:10 4 Ibid. 5 Isaiah 53:9 6 Isaiah 64:5 6 Isaiah 53:8 7 Isaiah 53:10 9
In Genesis 3:15 the seed of the Serpent does not refer to his bodily heirs.
See also Psalm 22:30 where seed is used in a figurative sense.
10 See e.g., Jeremiah 27:5 and Isaiah 40:10.
What The Rabbis Know About The Messiah by Rachmiel Frydland
Reprinted With Permission of the Messianic Literature Outreach
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