on Isaiah 53 :8
And who shall declare his generation "And his manner of life who would declare" - A learned friend has communicated to me the following passages from the Mishna, and the Gemara of Babylon, as leading to a satisfactory explication of this difficult place. It is said in the former, that before any one was punished for a capital crime, proclamation was made before the prisoner by the public crier, in these words: כל מי שיודע לו זכות יבא וילמד עליו col mi shioda lo zachoth yabo vayilmad alaiv, "whosoever knows any thing of this man's innocence, let him come and declare it. "Tract. Sandhedrim. Surenhus. Part 4 p. 233. On which passage the Gemara of Babylon adds, that "before the death of Jesus this proclamation was made for forty days; but no defense could be found." On which words Lardner observes: "It is truly surprising to see such falsities, contrary to well-known facts." Testimonies, Vol. 1 p. The report is certainly false; but this false report is founded on the supposition that there was such a custom, and so far confirms the account given from the Mishna. The Mishna was composed in the middle of the second century according to Prideaux; Lardner ascribes it to the year of Christ 180.
Casaubon has a quotation from Maimonides which farther confirms this account: - Exercitat. in Baronii Annales, Art. lxxvi. Ann. 34. Numbers 119. Auctor est Maimonides in Perek 13 ejus libri ex opere Jad, solitum fieri, ut cum reus, sententiam mortis passus, a loco judicii exibat ducendus ad supplicium, praecedoret ipsum חכרוז κηρυξ, praeco; et haec verba diceret: Ille exit occidendus morte illa, quia transgressus est transgressione illa, in loco illo, tempore illo, et sunt ejus ret testes ille et ille. Qui noverit aliquid ad ejus innoeentiam probandam, veniat, et loquatur pro eo. "It was customary when sentence of death was passed upon a criminal, and he was led out from the seat of judgment to the place of punishment, a crier went before, and spoke as follows: - 'This man is going out to suffer death by - because he has transgressed by - such a transgression, in such a place, in such a time; and the witnesses against him are - . He who may know any thing relative to his innocence let him come and speak in his behalf.'"
Now it is plain from the history of the four Evangelists, that in the trlal and condemnation of Jesus no such rule was observed; though, according to the account of the Mishna, it must have been in practice at that time, no proclamation was made for any person to bear witness to the innocence and character of Jesus; nor did any one voluntarily step forth to give his attestation to it. And our Savior seems to refer to such a custom, and to claim the benefit of it, by his answer to the high priest, when he asked him of his disciples and of his doctrine: "I spoke openly to the world; I ever taught in the synagogue and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort; and in secret have I said nothing. Why askest thou me? ask them who heard me, what I have said unto them: behold, they know what I said," John 18:20, John 18:21. This, therefore, was one remarkable instance of hardship and injustice, among others predicted by the prophet, which our Savior underwent in his trial and sufferings.
St. Paul likewise, in similar circumstances, standing before the judgment seat of Festus, seems to complain of the same unjust treatment; that no one was called, or would appear, to vindicate his character. "My manner of life (την βιωσιν μου, דורי dori, 'my generation') from my youth, which was at the first among my own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews, who knew me from the beginning, if they would testify; that after the straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee;" Acts 26:4, Acts 26:5.
דור dor signifies age, duration, the time which one man or many together pass in this world, in this place; the course, tenor, or manner of life. The verb דור dor signifies, according to Castell, ordinatam vitam sive aetatem egit, ordinavit, ordine constituit. "He passed a certain course of life, he ordained," etc. In Arabic, curavit, administravit, "he took care of, administered to."
Was he stricken "He was smitten to death" - The Septuagint read למות lemaveth, εις θανατον, "to death." And so the Coptic and Saidic Versions, from the Septuagint; MSS. St. Germain de Prez.
"Origen, "(Contra Celsum, lib. 1 p. edit. 1733), after having quoted at large this prophecy concerning the Messiah, "tells us, that having once made use of this passage in a dispute against some that were accounted wise among the Jews, one of them replied, that the words did not mean one man, but one people, the Jews, who were smitten of God and dispersed among the Gentiles for their conversion; that he then urged many parts of this prophecy to show the absurdity of this interpretation, and that he seemed to press them the hardest by this sentence, απο των ανομιων του λαου μον ηχθη εις θανατον, 'for the iniquity of my people was he smitten to death.'" Now as Origen, the author of the Hexapla, must have understood Hebrew, we cannot suppose that he would have urged this last quotation as so decisive if the Greek Version had not agreed here with the Hebrew text; nor that these wise Jews would have been at all distressed by this quotation, unless their Hebrew text had read agreeably to εις θανατον, "to death," on which the argument principally depended; for, by quoting it immediately, they would have triumphed over him, and reprobated his Greek version. This, whenever they could do it, was their constant practice in their disputes with the Christians. Jerome, in his Preface to the Psalms, says, Nuper cum Hebraeo disputans, quaedam pro Domino Salvatore de Psalmis testimonia protulisti: volensque ille te illudere, per sermones fere singulos asserebat, non ita haberi in Hebraeo, ut tu de lxx. opponebas. "Lately disputing with a Hebrew, - thou advancedst certain passages out of the Psalms which bear testimony to the Lord the Savior; but he, to elude thy reasoning, asserted that almost all thy quotations have an import in the Hebrew text different from what they had in the Greek." And Origen himself, who laboriously compared the Hebrew text with the Septuagint, has recorded the necessity of arguing with the Jews from such passages only as were in the Septuagint agreeable to the Hebrew: ἱνα προς Ιουδαιοις διαλεγομενοι μη προφερωμεν αυτοι τα μη κειμενα εν τοις αντιγραφοις αυτων, και ἱνα συγχρησωμεθα τοις φερομενοις παρ' εκεινοις. See Epist. ad African. p. 15, 17. Wherefore as Origen had carefully compared the Greek version of the Septuagint with the Hebrew text, and speaks of the contempt with which the Jews treated all appeals to the Greek version where it differed from their Hebrew text; and as he puzzled and confounded the learned Jews by urging upon them the reading εις θανατον, "unto death," in this place; it seems almost impossible not to conclude, both from Origen's argument and the silence of his Jewish adversaries, that the Hebrew text at that time actually had למות lemaveth, "to death," agreeably to the version of the Septuagint. - Dr. Kennicott.
on Isaiah 53 :8
He was taken from prison - Margin, 'Away by distress and judgment.' The general idea in this verse is, that the sufferings which he endured for his people were terminated by his being, after some form of trial, cut off out of the land of the living. Lowth renders this, 'By an oppressive judgment he was taken off.' Noyes, 'By oppression and punishment he was taken away.' The Septuagint renders it, 'In his humiliation (ἐν τῇ ταπεινώσει en tē tapeinōsei), his judgment (ἡ κρίσις αὐτοὺ hē krisis autou), (his legal trial. Thomson), was taken away;' and this translation was followed by Philip when he explained the passage to the eunuch of Ethiopia Acts 8:33. The eunuch, a native of Ethiopia, where the Septuagint was commonly used, was reading this portion of Isaiah in that version, and the version was sufficiently accurate to express the general sense of the passage, though it is by no means a literal translation.
The Chaldee renders this verse, 'From infirmities and retribution he shall collect our captivity, and the wonders which shall be done for us in his days who can declare? Because he shall remove the dominion of the people from the land of Israel; the sins which my people have sinned shall come even unto them.' The Hebrew word which is here used (עצר ‛otser, from עצר ‛âtsar, "to shut up, to close," means properly "a shutting up," or "closure"; and then constraint, oppression, or vexation. In Psalm 107:39, it means violent restraint, or oppression. It does not mean prison in the sense in which that word is now used. It refers rather to restraint, and detention; and would be better translated by confinement, or by violent oppressions. The Lord Jesus, moreover, was not confined in prison. He was bound, and placed under a guard, and was thus secured. But neither the word used here, nor the account in the New Testament, leads us to suppose that in fact he was incarcerated. There is a strict and entire conformity between the statement here, and the facts as they occurred on the trial of the Redeemer (see John 18:24; compare the notes at Acts 8:33).
And from judgment - From a judicial decision; or by a judicial sentence. This statement is made in order to make the account of his sufferings more definite. He did not merely suffer affliction; he was not only a man of sorrows in general; he did not suffer in a tumult, or by the excitement of a mob: but he suffered under a form of law, and a sentence was passed in his case (compare Jeremiah 1:16; 2 Kings 25:6), and in accordance with that he was led forth to death. According to Hengstenberg, the two words here 'by oppression,' and 'by judicial sentence,' are to be taken together as a hendiadys, meaning an oppressive, unrighteous proceeding. So Lowth understands it. It seems to me, however, that they are rather to be taken as denoting separate things - the detention or confinement preliminary to the trial, and the sentence consequent upon the mock trial.
And who shall declare his generation? - The word rendered 'declare' means to relate, or announce. 'Who can give a correct statement in regard to it' - implying either that there was some want of willingness or ability to do it. This phrase has been very variously interpreted; and it is by no means easy to fix its exact meaning. Some have supposed that it refers to the fact that when a prisoner was about to be led forth to death, a crier made proclamation calling on anyone to come forward and assert his innocence, and declare his manner of life. But there is not sufficient proof that this was done among the Jews, and there is no evidence that it was done in the case of the Lord Jesus. Nor would this interpretation exactly express the sense of the Hebrew. In regard to the meaning of the passage, besides the sense referred to above, we may refer to the following opinions which have been held, and which are arranged by Hengstenberg:
1. Several, as Luther, Calvin, and Vitringa, translate it, 'Who will declare the length of his life?' that is, who is able to determine the length of his future days - meaning that there would be no end to his existence, and implying that though he would be cut off, yet he would be raised again, and would live forever. To this, the only material objection is, that the word דור dôr (generation), is not used elsewhere in that sense. Calvin, however, does not refer it to the personal life of the Messiah, so to speak, but to his life in the church, or to the perpetuity of his life and principles in the church which he redeemed. His words are: 'Yet we are to remember that the prophet does not speak only of the person of Christ, but embraces the whole body of the church, which ought never to be separated from Christ. We have, therefore, says he, a distinguished testimony respecting the perpetuity of the church. For as Christ lives for ever, so he will not suffer his kingdom to perish' - (Commentary in loc.)
2. Others translate it, 'Who of his contemporaries will consider it,' or 'considered it?' So Storr, Doderlin, Dathe, Rosenmuller and Gesenius render it. According to Gesenius it means, 'Who of his contemporaries considered that he was taken out of the land of the living on account of the sin of my people?'
3. Lowth and some others adopt the interpretation first suggested, and render it, 'His manner of life who would declare?' In support of this, Lowth appeals to the passages from the Mishna and the Gemara of Babylon, where it is said that before anyone was punished for a capital crime, proclamation was made before him by a crier in these words, 'Whosoever knows anything about his innocence, let him come and make it known.' On this passage the Gemara of Babylon adds, 'that before the death of Jesus, this proclamation was made forty days; but no defense could be found.' This is certainly false; and there is no sufficient reason to think that the custom prevailed at all in the time of Isaiah, or in the time of the Saviour.
4. Others render it, 'Who can express his posterity, the number of his descendants?' So Hengstenberg renders it. So also Kimchi.
5. Some of the fathers referred it to the humanity of Christ, and to his miraculous conception. This was the belief of Chrysostom. See Calvin in loc. So also Morerius and Cajetan understood it.
But the word is never used in this sense. The word דור dôr (generation), means properly an age, a generation of human beinigs; the revolving period or circle of human life; from דור dûr, a circle Deuteronomy 23:3-4, Deuteronomy 23:9; Ecclesiastes 1:4. It then means, also, a dwelling, a habitation Psalm 49:20; Isaiah 38:12. It occurs often in the Old Testament, and is in all other instances translated 'generation,' or 'generations.' Amidst the variety of interpretations which have been proposed, it is perhaps not possible to determine with any considerable degree of certainty what is the true sense of the passage. The only light, it seems to me, which can be thrown on it, is to be derived from the 10th verse, where it is said, 'He shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days;' and this would lead us to suppose that the sense is, that he would have a posterity which no one would be able to enumerate, or declare. According to this, the sense would be, 'He shall be indeed cut off out of the land of the living. But his name, his race shall not be extinct. Notwithstanding this, his generation, race, posterity, shall be so numerous that no one shall be able to declare it.' This interpretation is not quite satisfactory, but it has more probabilities in its favor than any other.
For - (כי kı̂y). This particle does not here denote the cause of what was just stated, but points out the connection (compare 1 Samuel 2:21; Ezra 10:1). In these places it denotes the same as 'and.' This seems to be the sense here. Or, if it be here a causal particle, it refers not to what immediately goes before, but to the general strain and drift of the discourse. All this would occur to him because he was cut off on account of the transgression of his people. He was taken from confinement, and was dragged to death by a judicial sentence, and he should have a numerous spiritual posterity, because he was cut off on account of the sins of the people.
He was cut off - This evidently denotes a violent, and not a peaceful death. See Daniel 9:26 : 'And after threescore and two weeks shall the Messiah be cut off, but not for himself.' The Septuagint renders it, 'For his life is taken away from the earth.' The word used here (גזר gâzar), means properly "to cut, to cut in two, to divide." It is applied to the act of cutting down trees with an axe (see 2 Kings 6:4). Here the natural and obvious idea is, that he would be violently taken away, as if he was cut down in the midst of his days. The word is never used to denote a peaceful death, or a death in the ordinary course of events; and the idea which would be conveyed by it would be, that the person here spoken of would be cut off in a violent manner in the midst of his life.
For the transgression of my people - The meaning of this is not materially different from 'on account of our sins.' 'The speaker here - Isaiah - does not place himself in opposition to the people, but includes himself among them, and speaks of them as his people, that is, those with whom he was connected' - (Hengstenberg). Others, however, suppose that Yahweh is here introduced as speaking, and that he says that the Messiah was to be cut off for the sins of his people.
Was he stricken - Margin, 'The stroke upon him;' that is, the stroke came upon him. The word rendered in the margin 'stroke' (נגע nega‛), denotes properly a blow Deuteronomy 17:8 :Deuteronomy 21:5; then a spot, mark, or blemish in the skin, whether produced by the leprosy or any other cause. It is the same word which is used in Isaiah 53:4 (see the note on that verse). The Hebrew, which is rendered in the margin 'upon him' (למו lâmô) has given rise to much discussion. It is properly and usually in the plural form, and it has been seized upon by those who maintain that this whole passage refers not to one individual but to some collective body, as of the people, or the prophets (see Analysis prefixed to Isaiah 52:13), as decisive of the controversy. To this word Rosenmuller, in his Prolegomena to the chapter, appeals for a decisive termination of the contest, and supposes the prophet to have used this plural form for the express purpose of clearing up any difficulty in regard to his meaning. Gesenius refers to it for the same purpose, to demonstrate that the prophet must have referred to some collective body - as the prophets - and not to an individual. Aben Ezra and Abarbanel also maintain the same thing, and defend the position that it can never be applied to an individual. This is not the place to go into an extended examination of this word. The difficulties which have been started in regard to it, have given rise to a thorough critical examination of the use of the particle in the Old Testament, and an inquiry whether it is ever used in the singular number. Those who are disposed to see the process and the result of the investigation, may consult Ewald's Hebrew Grammar, Leipzig, 1827, p. 365; Wiseman's Lectures, pp. 331-333, Andover Edit., 1837; and Hengstenberg's Christology, p. 523. In favor of regarding it as used here in the singular number and as denoting an individual, we may just refer to the following considerations:
on Isaiah 53 :8
53:8 Taken away - Out of this life. By distress and judgment - By oppression and violence. and a pretence of justice. His generation - His posterity. For his death shall not be unfruitful; when he is raised from the dead, he shall have a spiritual seed, a numberless multitude of those who shall believe in him. Cut off - By a violent death. And this may be added as a reason of the blessing of a numerous posterity conferred upon him, because he was willing to be cut off for the transgression of his people.