Letter To The Jews / Chapter 24

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24: Who Will Think About His Generation?

“From restraint and judgment he was taken, and who will think about his generation? For he was severed from the land of the living. For the transgression of my people they1 were plagued. And he was given a tomb with the wicked and with the rich in his deaths1, although he did no wrong and no deceit was in his mouth.” 2

Who is speaking here? If it is the foreign kings, then why is it now “my people” and not “our people”? The implication is that one person is now speaking. If it is the prophet Isaiah, or perhaps even YHWH himself, then “my people” would be YHWH's people, and not the people of the foreign kings.

If one man is being described, it seems to reveal something about the generation in which he lived. For as well as this suffering servant being “severed from the land of the living,” his generation also seems to be plagued for their own transgression as well.

Earlier the question was posed, “Who has believed our report? And to whom is the arm of YHWH revealed?” And now another question is asked. Who will think about, or declare, this man’s generation? If he is despised by the nation of Israel, the question would make sense. It would perhaps be taboo to think deeply or speak about this man, or about his personal life, or even about the generation in which he lived.

And if this is YHWH speaking, the despised servant cannot be Israel the nation, for in that case, YHWH’s people are plagued for their transgression, and so cannot be described as having done no wrong.

Isaiah says that “no deceit was in his mouth.” Something similar is said of the perfect priest described in Malachi: “The law of truth was in his mouth, and iniquity was not found on his lips.” 3

Similar words are also spoken by the prophet Zephaniah to Israel: “In that day you will not be ashamed for all your deeds by which you transgressed against me; for then I will take away from among you those who rejoice in your pride, and you will no longer be haughty in my holy mountain.

And I will leave in the midst of you a humble and lowly people, and they will take refuge in the name of YHWH. The remnant of Israel will not commit iniquity, nor speak a lie; neither will a tongue of deceit be found in their mouths; for they will graze and lie down, and no one will cause them to tremble.” 4

And so only a remnant of Israel even qualify to be the “despised servant” spoken of by Isaiah, rather than the nation as a whole. And if only a remnant, a “humble and lowly people,” then their shepherd could be YHWH’s suffering servant who humbles himself and is humbled.

Now, why does Isaiah say, “in his deaths”? It could be an indication this is talking about multiple people or the nation, but in that case it could simply say “in their deaths.” Instead, it could suggest that there is something special about his death. After all, given this man dies and then lives again, which is certainly not the ordinary course of life in this present world, we should not be too surprised if his death is also special in some way, given the reason for it.

And if he is the fulfillment of the perfect priest described in Malachi, who “restored many from sin,” it could also be to correspond with the description of YHWH’s covenant with his perfect priest, which “became lives and peace.”

In that case, the suffering servant would die for many people, die their deaths as it were, to bring life and peace for many people.

“But it was YHWH's desire to crush him and cause him to be wounded. If he makes his soul a guilt offering, he will see his offspring. He will lengthen his days, and the desire of YHWH will prosper in his hand.” 5

In the law of Moses it was written: “If a soul sins, and does any of the things that YHWH commands should not be done, even if he doesn't know it, he is guilty, and will bear his iniquity. And he will bring an unblemished ram from the flock, appraised by you, as a guilt offering to the priest; and the priest will make atonement for him over his error, when he erred and didn't know; and it will be forgiven him. It is a guilt offering. He is certainly guilty to YHWH.” 6

Now, this specific requirement of the Law could not be fulfilled while the nation no longer had a Temple for animal sacrifices. However, it could be fulfilled, if this servant offered his own soul as a guilt offering for the transgression of others.

Of course, the law given through Moses does not allow for human sacrifice; but neither does it allow for the nation of Israel to be crushed for the iniquity of foreign kings, which would also be a form of human sacrifice, but on a mass scale!

Therefore it is clear this sacrifice is beyond the law of Moses, but described in terms that would be familiar to your ancestors.

As for his “offspring,” this is almost always about physical descendants. Yet it is also used by Isaiah to describe the remnant, the holy part of Israel. For elsewhere, Isaiah writes, “the holy seed is its stump”;7 and again, “I will bring forth an offspring out of Jacob, and out of Judah the one to inherit my mountains; and my chosen ones will inherit it, and my servants will dwell there.” 8 So this despised servant could “see his offspring” or “seed” in the sense of being shepherd over the remnant.

1 The Hebrew here is plural. 2 Isaiah 53:8,9. 3 Malachi 2:6. 4 Zephaniah 3:11-13. 5 Isaiah 53:10. 6 Leviticus 5:17-19. 7 Isaiah 6:13. 8 Isaiah 65:9.

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