Isaiah 53:4
Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
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(4) Surely he hath borne our griefs . . .—The words are spoken as by those who had before despised the Servant of Jehovah, and have learnt the secret of His humiliation. “Grief” and “sorrow,” as before, imply “disease” and “pain,” and St. Matthew’s application of the text (Matthew 8:17) is therefore quite legitimate. The words “stricken, smitten of God,” are used elsewhere specially of leprosy and other terrible sicknesses (Genesis 12:17; Leviticus 13:3; Leviticus 13:9; Numbers 14:12; 1Samuel 6:9; 2Kings 15:5). So the Vulg. gives leprosus. The word for borne,” like the Greek in John 1:29, implies both the “taking upon himself,” and the “taking away from others,” i.e., the true idea of vicarious and mediatorial atonement.



Isaiah 53:4 - Isaiah 53:6

The note struck lightly in the close of the preceding paragraph becomes dominant here. One notes the accumulation of expressions for suffering, crowded into these verses-griefs, sorrows, wounded, bruised, smitten, chastisement, stripes. One notes that the cause of all this multiform infliction is given with like emphasis of reiteration-our griefs, our sorrows, and that these afflictions are invested with a still more tragic and mysterious aspect, by being traced to our transgressions, our iniquities. Finally, the deepest word of all is spoken when the whole mystery of the servant’s sufferings is referred to Jehovah’s making the universal iniquity to lie, like a crushing burden, on Him.

I. The Burdened Servant.

It is to be kept in view that the ‘griefs’ which the servant is here described as bearing are literally ‘sicknesses,’ and that, similarly, the ‘sorrows’ may be diseases. Matthew in his quotation of the verse {Matthew 8:17} takes the words to refer to bodily ailments, and finds their ‘fulfilment’ in Christ’s miracles of healing. And that interpretation is part of the whole truth, for Hebrew thought drew no such sharp line of distinction between diseases of the body and those of the soul as we are accustomed to draw. All sickness was taken to be the consequence of sin, and the intimate connection between the two was, as it were, set forth for all forms of bodily disease by the elaborate treatment prescribed for leprosy, as pre-eminently fitted to stand as type of the whole. But the fulfilment through the miracles is but a parable of the deeper fulfilment in regard to the more virulent and deadly diseases of the soul. Sin is the sickness, as it is also the grief, which most afflicts humanity. Of the two words expressing the Servant’s taking their burden on His shoulders, the former implies not only the taking of it but the bearing of it away, and the latter emphasises the weight of the load.

Following Matthew’s lead, we may regard Christ’s miracles of healing as one form of His fulfilment of the prophecy, in which the principles that shape all the forms are at work, and which, therefore, may stand as a kind of pictorial illustration of the way in which He bears and bears away the heavier burden of sin. And one point which comes out clearly is that, in these acts of healing, He felt the weight of the affliction that He took away. Even in that region, the condition of ability to remove it, was identifying Himself with the sorrow. Did He not ‘sigh and look up’ in silent appeal to heaven before He could say, Ephphatha? Did He not groan in Himself before He sent the voice into the tomb which the dead heard? His miracles were not easy, though He had all power, for He felt all that the sufferers felt, by the identifying power of the unparalleled sympathy of a pure nature. In that region His pain on account of the sufferers stood in vital relation with His power to end their sufferings. The load must gall His shoulders, ere He could bear it away from theirs.

But the same principles as apply to these deeds of mercy done on diseases apply to all His deeds of deliverance from sorrow and from sin. In Him is set forth in highest fashion the condition of all brotherly help and alleviation. Whoever would lighten a brother’s load must stoop his own shoulders to carry it. And whilst there is an element in our Lord’s sufferings, as the text passes on to say, which is not explained by the analogy with what is required from all human succourers and healers, the extent to which the lower experience of such corresponds with His unique work should always be made prominent in our devout meditations.

II. The Servant’s sufferings in their reason, their intensity, and their issue.

The same measure that was meted out to Job by his so-called friends was measured to the servant, and at the Impulse of the same heartless doctrinal prepossession. He must have been had to suffer so much; that is the rough and ready verdict of the self-righteous. With crashing emphasis, that complacent explanation of the Servant’s sufferings and their own prosperity is shivered to atoms, by the statement of the true reason for both the one and the other. You thought that He was afflicted because He was bad and you were spared because you were good-no, He was afflicted because you were bad, and you were spared because He was afflicted.

The reason for the Servant’s sufferings was ‘our transgressions.’ More is suggested now than sympathetic identification with others’ sorrows. This is an actual bearing of the consequences of sins which He had not committed, and that not merely as an innocent man may be overwhelmed by the flood of evil which has been let loose by others’ sins to sweep over the earth. The blow that wounds Him is struck directly and solely at Him. He is not entangled in a widespread calamity, but is the only victim. It is pre-supposed that all transgression leads to wounds and bruises; but the transgressions are done by us, and the wounds and bruises fall on Him. Can the idea of vicarious suffering be more plainly set forth?

The intensity of the Servant’s sufferings is brought home to our hearts by the accumulation of epithets, to which reference has already been made. He was ‘wounded’ as one who is pierced by a sharp sword; ‘bruised’ as one who is stoned to death; beaten and with livid weales on His flesh. A background of unnamed persecutors is dimly seen. The description moves altogether in the region of physical violence, and that violence is more than symbol.

It is no mere coincidence that the story of the Passion reproduces so many of the details of the prophecy, for, although the fulfilment of the latter does not depend on such coincidences, they are not to be passed by as of no importance. Former generations made too much of the physical sufferings of Jesus; is not this generation in danger of making too little of them?

The issue of the Servant’s sufferings is presented in a startling paradox. His bruises and weales are the causes of our being healed. His chastisement brings our peace. Surely it is very hard work, and needs much forcing of words and much determination not to see what is set forth in as plain light as can be conceived, to strike the idea of atonement out of this prophecy. It says as emphatically as words can say, that we have by our sins deserved stripes, that the Servant bears the stripes which we have deserved, and that therefore we do not bear them.

III. The deepest ground of the Servant’s sufferings.

The sad picture of humanity painted in that simile of a scattered flock lays stress on the universality of transgression, on its divisive effect, on the solitude of sin, and on its essential characteristic as being self-willed rejection of control. But the isolation caused by transgression is blessedly counteracted by the concentration of the sin of all on the Servant. Men fighting for their own hand, and living at their own pleasure, are working to the disruption of all sweet bonds of fellowship. But God, in knitting together all the black burdens into one, and loading the Servant with that tremendous weight, is preparing for the establishment of a more blessed unity, in experience of the healing brought about by His sufferings.

Can one man’s ‘iniquity,’ as distinguished from the consequences of iniquity, be made to press upon any other? It is a familiar and not very profound objection to the Christian Atonement that guilt cannot be transferred. True, but in the first place, Christ’s nature stands in vital relations to every man, of such intimacy that what is impossible between two of us is not impossible between Christ and any one of us; and, secondly, much in His life, and still more in His passion, is unintelligible unless the black mass of the world’s sin was heaped upon Him, to His own consciousness. In that dread cry, wrung from Him as He hung there in the dark, the consciousnesses of possessing God and of having lost Him are blended inextricably and inexplicably. The only approach to an explanation of it is that then the world’s sin was felt by Him, in all its terrible mass and blackness, coming between Him and God, even as our own sins come, separating us from God. That grim burden not only came on Him, but was laid on Him by God. The same idea is expressed by the prophet in that awful representation and by Jesus in that as awful cry, ‘Why hast Thou forsaken Me?’

The prophet constructs no theory of Atonement. But no language could be chosen that would more plainly set forth the fact of Atonement. And it is to be observed that, so far as this prophecy is concerned, the Servant’s sole form of service is to suffer. He is not a teacher, an example, or a benefactor, in any of the other ways in which men need help. His work is to bear our griefs and be bruised for our healing.

Isaiah 53:4-5. Surely he hath borne our griefs — Whereas it may seem an incredible thing, that so excellent and glorious, and so innocent and holy a person should meet with this usage, it must be known that his griefs and miseries were not laid upon him for his own sake, but wholly for the sake of sinful men, in whose stead he stood, and for whose sins he suffered: yet we did esteem him — Yet our people, the Jews, were so far from giving him the glory and praise of such astonishing condescension and compassion, that they made a most perverse construction of it; and so great was their prejudice against him, that they believed he was thus disgraced and punished, and, at last, put to death, by the just judgment of God, for his blasphemy and other manifold acts of wickedness. But, &c. — This was a most false and unrighteous sentence. He was wounded —

Which word comprehends all his pains and punishments, and his death among the rest; for our transgressions — The prophet does not say by, but for them, or, because of them, namely, for the guilt of our sins, which he had voluntarily taken upon himself, and for the expiation of our sins, which was hereby purchased. The chastisement of our peace — Those punishments by which our peace, our reconciliation to God, was to be purchased, were laid upon him, by God’s justice, with his own consent. With his stripes we are healed — By his sufferings we are saved from our sins, and from the dreadful effects thereof.

53:4-9 In these verses is an account of the sufferings of Christ; also of the design of his sufferings. It was for our sins, and in our stead, that our Lord Jesus suffered. We have all sinned, and have come short of the glory of God. Sinners have their beloved sin, their own evil way, of which they are fond. Our sins deserve all griefs and sorrows, even the most severe. We are saved from the ruin, to which by sin we become liable, by laying our sins on Christ. This atonement was to be made for our sins. And this is the only way of salvation. Our sins were the thorns in Christ's head, the nails in his hands and feet, the spear in his side. He was delivered to death for our offences. By his sufferings he purchased for us the Spirit and grace of God, to mortify our corruptions, which are the distempers of our souls. We may well endure our lighter sufferings, if He has taught us to esteem all things but loss for him, and to love him who has first loved us.Surely - This is an exceedingly important verse, and is one that is attended with considerable difficulty, from the manner in which it is quoted in the New Testament. The general sense, as it stands in the Hebrew, is not indeed difficult. It is immediately connected in signification with the previous verse. The meaning is, that those who had despised and rejected the Messiah, had greatly erred in condemning him on account of his sufferings and humiliation. 'We turned away from him in horror and contempt. We supposed that he was suffering on account of some great sin of his own. But in this we erred. It was not for his sins but for ours. It was not that he Was smitten of God for his own sins - as if he had been among the worst of mortals - but it was because he had taken our sins, and was suffering for them. The very thing therefore that gave offence to us, and which made us turn away from him, constituted the most important part of his work, and was really the occasion of highest gratitude. It is an acknowledgment that they had erred, and a confession of that portion of the nation which would be made sensible of their error, that they had judged improperly of the character of the sufferer. The word rendered 'surely' (אכן 'âkēn, Vulgate, vere), is sometimes a particle strongly affirming, meaning truly, of a certain truth Genesis 28:16; Exodus 2:14; Jeremiah 8:8. Sometimes it is an adversative particle, meaning but yet Psalm 31:23; Isaiah 49:24. It is probably used in that sense here, meaning, that though he was despised by them, yet he was worthy of their esteem and confidence, for he had borne their griefs. He was not suffering for any sins of his own, but in a cause which, so far from rendering him an object of contempt, made him worthy of their highest regard.

He hath borne - Hebrew, נשׂא nâs'â'. Vulgate, Tulit. Septuagint, φερει pherei - 'He bears.' Chald. 'He prayed (יבעי yibe‛ēy) for, or on account of our sins.' Castilio, Tulit ac toleravit. In these versions, the sense is that of sustaining, bearing, upholding, carrying, as when one removes a burden from the shoulders of another, and places it on his own. The word נשׂא nâs'a' means properly "to take up, to lift, to raise" Genesis 7:17, 'The waters increased, and lifted up the ark;' Genesis 29:1, 'And Jacob lifted up his feet (see the margin) and came.' Hence, it is applied to lifting up a standard Jeremiah 4:6; Jeremiah 50:2 : to lifting up the hand Deuteronomy 32:40; to lifting up the head Job 10:15; 2 Kings 25:27; to lifting up the eyes (Genesis 13:10, et soepe); to lifting up the voice, etc. It then means to bear, to carry, as an infant in the arms Isaiah 46:3; as a tree does its fruit Ezekiel 17:8, or as a field its produce Psalm 70:3; Genesis 12:6.

Hence, to endure, suffer, permit Job 21:3. 'Bear with me, suffer me and I will speak.' Hence, to bear the sin of anyone, to take upon one's self the suffering which is due to sin (see the notes at Isaiah 53:12 of this chapter; compare Leviticus 5:1, Leviticus 5:17; Leviticus 17:16; Leviticus 20:19; Leviticus 24:15; Numbers 5:31; Numbers 9:13; Numbers 14:34; Numbers 30:16; Ezekiel 18:19-20). Hence, to bear chastisement, or punishment Job 34:31 : 'I have borne chastisement, I will not offend anymore.' It is also used in the sense of taking away the sin of anyone, expiating, or procuring pardon Genesis 50:17; Leviticus 10:17; Job 7:21; Psalm 33:5; Psalm 85:3. In all cases there is the idea of lifting, sustaining, taking up, and conveying away, as by carrying a burden. It is not simply removing, but it is removing somehow by lifting, or carrying; that is, either by an act of power, or by so taking them on one's own self as to sustain and carry them. If applied to sin, it means that a man must bear the burden of the punishment of his own sin, or that the suffering which is due to sin is taken up and borne by another.

If applied to diseases, as in Matthew 8:17, it must mean that he, as it were, lifted them up and bore them away. It cannot mean that the Saviour literally took those sicknesses on himself, and became sick in the place of the sick, became a leper in the place of the leper, or was himself possessed with an evil spirit in the place of those who were possessed Matthew 8:16, but it must mean that he took them away by his power, and, as it were, lifted them up, and removed them. So when it is said Isaiah 53:12 that he 'bare the sins of many,' it cannot mean literally that he took those sins on himself in any such sense as that he became a sinner, but only that he so took them upon himself as to remove from the sinner the exposure to punishment, and to bear himself whatever was necessary as a proper expression of the evil of sin. Peter undoubtedly makes an allusion to this passage Isaiah 53:12 when he says 1 Peter 2:24, 'Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree' (see the notes at Isaiah 53:12). Matthew Mat 8:17 has translated it by ἔλαβε elabe ("he took"), a word which does not differ in signification essentially from that used by Isaiah. It is almost exactly the same word which is used by Symmachus (ἀνελαβε anelabe).

Our griefs - The word used here (חלי chăliy) means properly sickness, disease, anxiety, affliction. It does not refer to sins, but to sufferings. It is translated 'sickness' Deuteronomy 28:61; Deuteronomy 7:15; 2 Chronicles 21:15; 1 Kings 17:17; 'disease' Ecclesiastes 6:2; 2 Chronicles 21:18; 2 Chronicles 16:12; Exodus 15:26; 'grief' (Isaiah 53:3-4; compare Jeremiah 16:4). It is never in our version rendered sin, and never Used to denote sin. 'In ninety-three instances,' says Dr. Magee (On atonement and Sacrifice, p. 229, New York Ed. 1813), 'in which the word here translated (by the Septuagint) ἀμαρτίας hamartias, or its kindred verb, is found in the Old Testament in any sense that is not entirely foreign from the passage before us, there occurs but this one in which the word is so rendered; it being in all other cases expressed by ἀσθένεια astheneia, μαλακία malakia, or some word denoting bodily disease.' 'That the Jews,' he adds, 'considered this passage as referring to bodily diseases, appears from Whitby, and Lightfoot. Hor. Heb. on Matthew 8:17.' It is rendered in the Vulgate, Languores - 'Our infirmities.' In the Chaldee, 'He prayed for our sins.' Castellio renders it, Morbos - 'Diseases;' and so Junius and Tremellius. The Septuagint has rendered it in this place: Ἁμαρτίας Hamartias - 'Sins;' though, from what Dr. Kennicott has advanced in his Diss. Gen. Section 79, Dr. Magee thinks there can be no doubt that this is a corruption which has crept into the later copies of the Greek. A few Greek manuscripts of the Septuagint also read it ἀσθενείας astheneias, and one copy reads μαλακίας malakias.

Matthew Mat 8:17 has rendered it, ἀσθενείας astheneias - 'infirmities,' and intended no doubt to apply it to the fact that the Lord Jesus healed diseases, and there can be no doubt that Matthew has used the passage, not by way of accommodation, but in the true sense in which it is used by Isaiah; and that it means that the Messiah would take upon himself the infirmities of people, and would remove their sources of grief. It does not refer here to the fact that he would take their sins. That is stated in other places Isaiah 53:6, Isaiah 53:12. But it means that he was so afflicted, that he seemed to have taken upon himself the sicknesses and sorrows of the world; and taking them upon himself he would bear them away. I understand this, therefore, as expressing the twofold idea that he became deeply afflicted for us, and that. being thus afflicted for us, he was able to carry away our sorrows. In part this would be done by his miraculous power in healing diseases, as mentioned by Matthew; in part by the influence of his religion, in enabling people to bear calamity, and in drying up the fountains of sorrow. Matthew, then, it is believed, has quoted this passage exactly in the sense in which it was used by Isaiah; and if so, it should not be adduced to prove that he bore the sins of men - true as is that doctrine, and certainly as it has been affirmed in other parts of this chapter.

And carried - Hebrew, (סבל sābal). This word means properly to carry, as a burden; to be laden with, etc. Isaiah 46:4, Isaiah 46:7; Genesis 49:15. It is applied to carrying burdens 1 Kings 5:15; 2 Chronicles 2:2; Nehemiah 4:10, Nehemiah 4:17; Ecclesiastes 12:5. The verb with its derivative noun occurs in twenty-six places in the Old Testament, twenty-three of which relate to carrying burdens, two others relate to sins, and the other Lamentations 5:7 is rendered, 'We have borne their iniquities.' The primary idea is undoubtedly that of carrying a burden; lifting it, and bearing it in this manner.

Our sorrows - The word used here (מכאב make'ob, from כאב kâ'ab, "to have pain, sorrow, to grieve, or be sad"), means properly "pain, sorrow, grief." In the Old Testament it is rendered 'sorrow' and 'sorrows' Ecclesiastes 1:18; Lamentations 1:12-18; Isaiah 65:14; Jeremiah 45:3; Jeremiah 30:15; 'grief' Job 16:6; Psalm 69:26; 2 Chronicles 6:29; 'pain' Job 33:19; Jeremiah 15:18; Jeremiah 51:8. Perhaps the proper difference between this word and the word translated griefs is, that this refers to pains of the mind, that of the body; this to anguish, anxiety, or trouble of the soul; that to bodily infirmity and disease. Kennicott affirms that the word here used is to be regarded as applicable to griefs and distresses of the mind. 'It is evidently so interpreted,' says Dr. Magee (p. 220), 'in Psalm 32:10, 'Many sorrows shall be to the wicked;' and again, Psalm 69:29, 'But I am poor and sorrowful;' and again, Proverbs 14:13, 'The heart is sorrowful;' and Ecclesiastes 1:18, 'He that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow;' and so Ecclesiastes 2:18; Isaiah 65:14; Jeremiah 30:15.' Agreeably to this, the word is translated by Lowth, in our common version, and most of the early English versions, 'Sorrows.' The Vulgate renders it, Dolores: the Septuagint, 'For us he is in sorrow' (ὀδυνᾶται odunatai), that is, is deeply grieved, or afflicted.

The phrase, therefore, properly seems to mean that he took upon himself the mental sorrows of people. He not only took their diseases, and bore them away, but he also took or bore their mental griefs. That is, he subjected himself to the kind of mental sorrow which was needful in order to remove them. The word which is used by Matthew Mat 8:17, in the translation of this, is νόσου nosou. This word( νόσος nosos) means properly sickness, disease Matthew 4:23-24; Matthew 9:35; but it is also used in a metaphorical sense for pain, sorrow, evil (Rob. Lex.) In this sense it is probable that it was designed to be used by Matthew. He refers to the general subject of human ills; to the sicknesses, sorrows, pains, and trials of life; and he evidently means, in accordance with Isaiah, that he took them on himself. He was afflicted for them. He undertook the work of removing them. Part he removed by direct miracle - as sickness; part he removed by removing the cause - by taking away sin by the sacrifice of himself - thus removing the source of all ills; and in regard to all, he furnished the means of removing them by his own example and instructions, and by the great truths which he revealed as topics of consolation and support. On this important passage, see Magee, On atonement and Sacrifice, pp. 227-262.

Yet we did esteem him stricken - Lowth, 'Yet we thought him judicially stricken.' Noyes, 'We esteemed him stricken from above.' Jerome (the Vulgate), 'We thought him to be a leper.' The Septuagint renders it, 'We considered him being in trouble (or in labor, ἐν πόνῳ en poiō) and under a stroke (or in a plague or divine judgment, ἐν πληγή en plēgē), and in affliction.' Chaldee, 'We thought him wounded, smitten from the presence of God, and afflicted.' The general idea is, that they thought he was subjected to great and severe punishment by God for his sins or regarded him as an object of divine disapprobation. They inferred that one who was so abject and so despised; who suffered so much and so long, must have been abandoned by God to judicial sufferings, and that he was experiencing the proper result and effect of his own sins. The word rendered 'stricken,' (נגוע nâgû‛a) means properly "struck," or "smitten."

It is applied sometimes to the plague, or the leprosy, as an act by which God smites suddenly, and destroys people Genesis 12:17; Exodus 11:1; Leviticus 13:3, Leviticus 13:9, Leviticus 13:20; 1 Samuel 6:9; Job 19:21; Psalm 73:5, and very often elsewhere. Jerome explains it here by the word leprous; and many of the ancient Jews derived from this word the idea that the Messiah would be afflicted with the leprosy. Probably the idea which the word would convey to those who were accustomed to read the Old Testament in Hebrew would be, that he was afflicted or smitten in some way corresponding to the plague or the leprosy; and as these were regarded as special and direct divine judgments, the idea would be that he would be smitten judicially by God. or be exposed to his displeasure and his curse. It is to be particularly observed here that the prophet does not say that he would thus be in fact smitten, accursed, and abandoned by God; but only that he would be thus esteemed, or thought, namely, by the Jews who rejected him and put him to death. It is not here said that he was such. Indeed, it is very strongly implied that he was not, since the prophet here is introducing them as confessing their error, and saying that they were mistaken. He was, say they, bearing our sorrows, not suffering for his own sins.

Smitten of God - Not that he was actually smitten of God, but we esteemed him so. We treated him as one whom we regarded as being under the divine malediction, and we therefore rejected him. We esteemed him to be smitten by God, and we acted as if such an one should be rejected and contemned. The word used here (נכה nâkâh) means "to smite, to strike," and is sometimes employed to denote divine judgment, as it is here. Thus it means to smite with blindness Genesis 19:11; with the pestilence Numbers 14:12; with emerods 1 Samuel 5:6; with destruction, spoken of a land Malachi 4:6; of the river Exodus 7:25 when he turned it into blood. In all such instances, it means that Yahweh had inflicted a curse. And this is the idea here. They regarded him as under the judicial inflictions of God, and as suffering what his sins deserved. The foundation of this opinion was laid in the belief so common among the Jews, that great sufferings always argued and supposed great guilt, and were proof of the divine displeasure. This question constitutes the inquiry in the Book of Job, and was the point in dispute between Job and friends.

And afflicted - We esteemed him to be punished by God. In each of these clauses the words, 'For his own sins,' are to be understood. We regarded him as subjected to these calamities on account of his own sins. It did not occur to us that he could be suffering thus for the sins of others. The fact that the Jews attempted to prove that Jesus was a blasphemer, and deserved to die, shows the fulfillment of this, and the estimate which they formed of him (see Luke 23:34; John 16:3; Acts 3:17; 1 Corinthians 2:8).

4. Surely … our griefs—literally, "But yet He hath taken (or borne) our sicknesses," that is, they who despised Him because of His human infirmities ought rather to have esteemed Him on account of them; for thereby "Himself took OUR infirmities" (bodily diseases). So Mt 8:17 quotes it. In the Hebrew for "borne," or took, there is probably the double notion, He took on Himself vicariously (so Isa 53:5, 6, 8, 12), and so He took away; His perfect humanity whereby He was bodily afflicted for us, and in all our afflictions (Isa 63:9; Heb 4:15) was the ground on which He cured the sick; so that Matthew's quotation is not a mere accommodation. See Note 42 of Archbishop Magee, Atonement. The Hebrew there may mean to overwhelm with darkness; Messiah's time of darkness was temporary (Mt 27:45), answering to the bruising of His heel; Satan's is to be eternal, answering to the bruising of his head (compare Isa 50:10).

carried … sorrows—The notion of substitution strictly. "Carried," namely, as a burden. "Sorrows," that is, pains of the mind; as "griefs" refer to pains of the body (Ps 32:10; 38:17). Mt 8:17 might seem to oppose this: "And bare our sicknesses." But he uses "sicknesses" figuratively for sins, the cause of them. Christ took on Himself all man's "infirmities;" so as to remove them; the bodily by direct miracle, grounded on His participation in human infirmities; those of the soul by His vicarious suffering, which did away with the source of both. Sin and sickness are ethically connected as cause and effect (Isa 33:24; Ps 103:3; Mt 9:2; Joh 5:14; Jas 5:15).

we did esteem him stricken—judicially [Lowth], namely, for His sins; whereas it was for ours. "We thought Him to be a leper" [Jerome, Vulgate], leprosy being the direct divine judgment for guilt (Le 13:1-59; Nu 12:10, 15; 2Ch 26:18-21).

smitten—by divine judgments.

afflicted—for His sins; this was the point in which they so erred (Lu 23:34; Ac 3:17; 1Co 2:8). He was, it is true, "afflicted," but not for His sins.

Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: and whereas it may seem all unreasonable and incredible thing, that so excellent and glorious, and so innocent and just, a person should meet with this usage, it must be known that his griefs and miseries were not laid upon him for his own sake, but wholly and solely for the sake of sinful men, in whose stead he stood, and for whose sins he suffered, as it here follows.

Yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted; yet our people, the Jews, were so far from giving him the glory and praise of such a prodigious condescension and compassion, that they made a most perverse construction of it; and so great was their prejudice against him, that they believed that he was thus disgraced and punished, and at last put to death, by the just judgment of God, for his blasphemy and other manifold wickednesses.

Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows,.... Or "nevertheless", as Gussetius (k); notwithstanding the above usage of him; though it is a certain and undoubted truth, that Christ not only assumed a true human nature, capable of sorrow and grief, but he took all the natural sinless infirmities of it; or his human nature was subject to such, as hunger, thirst, weariness, &c.; and to all the sorrow and pain arising from them; the same sorrows and griefs he was liable to as we are, and therefore called ours and hence he had a sympathy with men under affliction and trouble; and, to show his sympathizing spirit, he healed all sorts of bodily diseases; and also, to show his power, he healed the diseases of the soul, by bearing the sins of his people, and making satisfaction for them; since he that could do the one could do the other; wherefore the evangelist applies this passage to the healing of bodily diseases, Matthew 8:17, though the principal meaning of the words may be, that all the sorrows and griefs which Christ bore were not for any sins of his own, but for the sins of his people; wherefore these griefs and sorrows signify the punishment of sin, and are put for sins, the cause of them and so the apostle interprets them of Christ's bearing our sins in his own body on the tree, 1 Peter 2:24, and the Septuagint and Arabic versions render the words here, "he bears our sins"; and the Targum is,

"wherefore he will entreat for our sins;''

these being laid upon him, as is afterwards said, were bore by him as the surety of his people; and satisfaction being made for them by his sufferings and death, they are carried and taken away, never to be seen any more:

yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted; so indeed he was by the sword of divine justice, which was awaked against him, and with which he was stricken and smitten, as standing in the room of his people; but then it was not for any sin of his own, as the Jews imagined, but for the sins of those for whom he was a substitute; they looked upon all his sorrows and troubles in life, and at death, as the just judgment of God upon him for some gross enormities he had been guilty of; but in this they were mistaken. The Vulgate Latin version is, "we esteemed him as a leprous person"; and so Aquila and Symmachus render the word; and from hence the Jews call the Messiah a leper (l); they say,

"a leper of the house of Rabbi is his name''

as it is said, "surely he hath borne our griefs", &c.; which shows that the ancient Jews understood this prophecy of the Messiah, though produced to prove a wrong character of him; and so it is applied unto him in other ancient writings of theirs; See Gill on Matthew 8:17. The words are by some rendered, "and we reckoned him the stricken, smitten of God" (m), and "humbled"; which version of the words proved the conversion of several Jews in Africa, as Andradius and others relate (n); by which they perceived the passage is to be understood not of a mere man, but of God made man, and of his humiliation and sufferings in human nature.

(k) Ebr. Comment. p. 41. "verumtamen", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator; "et tamen", so some is Vatablus. (l) T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 98. 2.((m) "percussum Deum", Sanctius. (n) Vid. Sanctium in loc.

Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried {f} our sorrows: yet we did esteem him {g} stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.

(f) That is, the punishment due to our sins, for which he has both suffered and made satisfaction, Mt 8:17, 1Pe 2:24.

(g) We judge evil, thinking that he was punished for his own sins, and not for ours.

4. Surely he hath borne &c.] Render:

Surely it was our sicknesses that he bore

and our pains that he carried.

The emphasis of contrast lies on the words our and he in both lines. To “bear” sickness is not to take it away (although that will be the effect of vicarious bearing of it) but simply to endure it (as Jeremiah 10:19). In Matthew 8:17 the words are applied to our Lord’s miracles of healing, but the prophet’s meaning plainly is that the Servant endured in his own person the penal consequences of the people’s guilt.

yet we did esteem &c.] Rather, while we accounted him stricken &c. The subject “we” is strongly emphasised, and the clause is circumstantial, introducing the people’s false estimate of the Servant as a concomitant of the main statement of the verse. “Stricken” is the expression used when God visits a man with severe and sudden sickness (Genesis 12:17; 1 Samuel 6:9), especially leprosy, which was regarded as preeminently the “stroke” of God’s hand (Job 19:21; 2 Kings 15:5; Leviticus 13:3; Leviticus 13:9; Leviticus 13:20) and the direct consequence of sin. That the Servant is pictured as a leper is suggested by several particulars in the description, such as his marred and disfigured form, and his isolation from human society, as well as the universal conviction of his contemporaries that he was a special object of the divine wrath; and the impression is confirmed by the parallel case of Job, the typical righteous sufferer, whose disease was elephantiasis, the most hideous form of leprosy. It has to be-borne in mind, of course, that the figure of the Servant is in some sense an ideal creation of the prophet’s mind, so that the leprosy is only a strong image for such sufferings as are the evidence of God’s wrath against sin.

4–6. While Isaiah 53:2-3 describe the natural instinctive impressions produced by the Servant’s appearance, Isaiah 53:4-6 reveal incidentally the moral judgement which the people were led to form regarding him. His unparalleled sufferings had seemed to them to mark him out as a special object of Jehovah’s anger (Isaiah 53:4), just as Job’s calamities were believed by his friends to be the evidence of great, though secret, sins. But it is the reversal of this judgement, and the perception thereby gained of the true nature of the Servant’s mission, that is the chief theme of this section. The people now see that although he suffered greatly he was himself innocent, and from this they have advanced to the conclusion that he suffered vicariously, bearing the penalty due to the sin of his nation. This change of attitude towards the Servant marks the beginning of repentance in the people; the consciousness of their own guilt takes possession of their minds when they read God’s judgement upon it in the chastisement borne by their substitute.

Verse 4. - Surely he hath borne our griefs; or, surely they were our griefs which he bore. The pronouns are emphatic. Having set forth at length the fact of the Servant's humiliation (vers. 2, 3), the prophet hastens to declare the reason of it. Twelve times over within the space of nine verses he asserts. with the most emphatic reiteration, that all the Servant's sufferings were vicarious, borne for him, to save him from the consequences of his sins, to enable him to escape punishment. The doctrine thus taught in the Old Testament is set forth! with equal distinctness in the New (Matthew 20:28; John 11:50-52; Romans 3:25; Romans 5:6-8; Romans 8:3; 2 Corinthians 5:18-21; 2 Corinthians 8:9; Galatians 3:13; Ephesians 1:7; 1 Peter 2:24, etc.), and forms the hope, the trust, and the consolation of Christians. and carried our sorrows. The application which St. Matthew makes of this passage to our Lord's miracles of healing (Matthew 8:17) is certainly not the primary sense of the words, but may be regarded as a secondary application of them. Christ's sufferings were the remedy for all the ills that flesh is heir to. Yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God. They who saw Christ suffer, instead of understanding that he was bearing the sins of others in a mediatorial capacity, imagined that he was suffering at God's hands for his own sins. Hence they scoffed at him and reviled him, even in his greatest agonies (Matthew 27:39-44). To one only, and him not one of God's people, was it given to see the contrary, and to declare aloud, at the moment of the death, "Certainly this was a righteous Man" (Luke 23:47). Isaiah 53:4Those who formerly mistook and despised the Servant of Jehovah on account of His miserable condition, now confess that His sufferings were altogether of a different character from what they had supposed. "Verily He hath borne our diseases and our pains: He hath laden them upon Himself; but we regarded Him as one stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted." It might appear doubtful whether אכן (the fuller form of אך) is affirmative here, as in Isaiah 40:7; Isaiah 45:15, or adversative, as in Isaiah 49:4. The latter meaning grows out of the former, inasmuch as it is the opposite which is strongly affirmed. We have rendered it affirmatively (Jer. vere), not adversatively (verum, ut vero), because Isaiah 53:4 itself consists of two antithetical halves - a relation which is expressed in the independent pronouns הוּא and אנחנוּ, that answer to one another. The penitents contrast themselves and their false notion with Him and His real achievement. In Matthew (Matthew 8:17) the words are rendered freely and faithfully thus: αὐτὸς τὰς ἀσθενείας ἡμῶν ἔλαβε καὶ τὰς νόσους ἐβάστασεν. Even the fact that the relief which Jesus afforded to all kinds of bodily diseases is regarded as a fulfilment of what is here affirmed of the Servant of Jehovah, is an exegetical index worth noticing. In Isaiah 53:4 it is not really sin that is spoken of, but the evil which is consequent upon human sin, although not always the direct consequence of the sins of individuals (John 9:3). But in the fact that He was concerned to relieve this evil in all its forms, whenever it came in His way in the exercise of His calling, the relief implied as a consequence in Isaiah 53:4 was brought distinctly into view, though not the bearing and lading that are primarily noticed here. Matthew has very aptly rendered נשׂא by ἔλαβε, and סבל by ἐβάστασε. For whilst סבל denotes the toilsome bearing of a burden that has been taken up, נשׂא combines in itself the ideas of tollere and ferre. When construed with the accusative of the sin, it signifies to take the debt of sin upon one's self, and carry it as one's own, i.e., to look at it and feel it as one's own (e.g., Leviticus 5:1, Leviticus 5:17), or more frequently to bear the punishment occasioned by sin, i.e., to make expiation for it (Leviticus 17:16; Leviticus 20:19-20; Leviticus 24:15), and in any case in which the person bearing it is not himself the guilty person, to bear sin in a mediatorial capacity, for the purpose of making expiation for it (Leviticus 10:17). The lxx render this נשׂא both in the Pentateuch and Ezekiel λαβεῖν ἁμαρτίαν, once ἀναφέρειν; and it is evident that both of these are to be understood in the sense of an expiatory bearing, and not merely of taking away, as has been recently maintained in opposition to the satisfactio vicaria, as we may see clearly enough from Ezekiel 4:4-8, where the עון שׂאת is represented by the prophet in a symbolical action.

But in the case before us, where it is not the sins, but "our diseases" (חלינוּ is a defective plural, as the singular would be written חלינוּ) and "our pains" that are the object, this mediatorial sense remains essentially the same. The meaning is not merely that the Servant of God entered into the fellowship of our sufferings, but that He took upon Himself the sufferings which we had to bear and deserved to bear, and therefore not only took them away (as Matthew 8:17 might make it appear), but bore them in His own person, that He might deliver us from them. But when one person takes upon himself suffering which another would have had to bear, and therefore not only endures it with him, but in his stead, this is called substitution or representation - an idea which, however unintelligible to the understanding, belongs to the actual substance of the common consciousness of man, and the realities of the divine government of the world as brought within the range of our experience, and one which has continued even down to the present time to have much greater vigour in the Jewish nation, where it has found it true expression in sacrifice and the kindred institutions, than in any other, at least so far as its nationality has not been entirely annulled.

(Note: See my Jesus and Hillel, pp. 26, 27.)

Here again it is Israel, which, having been at length better instructed, and now bearing witness against itself, laments its former blindness to the mediatorially vicarious character of the deep agonies, both of soul and body, that were endured by the great Sufferer. They looked upon them as the punishment of His own sins, and indeed - inasmuch as, like the friends of Job, they measured the sin of the Sufferer by the sufferings that He endured - of peculiarly great sins. They saw in Him נגוּע, "one stricken," i.e., afflicted with a hateful, shocking disease (Genesis 12:17; 1 Samuel 6:9) - such, for example, as leprosy, which was called נגע κατ ̓ ἐξ (2 Kings 15:5, A. ἀφήμενον, S. ἐν ἁφῆ ὄντα equals leprosum, Th. μεμαστιγωμένον, cf., μάστιγες, Mark 3:10, scourges, i.e., bad attacks); also אלהים מכּה, "one smitten of God" (from nâkhâh, root נך, נג; see Comm. on Job, at Job 30:8), and מענּה bowed down (by God), i.e., afflicted with sufferings. The name Jehovah would have been out of place here, where the evident intention is to point to the all-determining divine power generally, whose vengeance appeared to have fallen upon this particular sufferer. The construction mukkēh 'Elōhı̄m signifies, like the Arabic muqâtal rabbuh, one who has been defeated in conflict with God his Lord (see Comm. on Job, at Job 15:28); and 'Elōhı̄m has the syntactic position between the two adjectives, which it necessarily must have in order to be logically connected with them both.

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