The Religious A priori
[from Chiam Night]
Midrash on Ruth
Ruth Rabbah 5:6The fifth interpretation [of Ruth 2:14] makes it refer to the Messiah. Come hither: approach to royal state. And eat of the BREAD refers to the bread of royalty; AND DIP THY MORSEL IN THE VINEGAR refers to his sufferings, as it is said, But he was wounded because of our transgressions.
(Isa. LIII, 5).-- Soncino Midrash Rabbah (vol. 8, p. 64).
Yalkut ii: 571 (13th c.) (Yalkut contains the 50 oldest wirtten Rabbinical sources we possess. even though it was complied form middlae ages, the traditions it contains go back to near the time of Christ if not before)
Who art thou, O great mountain (Zech. iv. 7.) This refers to the King Messiah. And why does he call him "the great mountain?" Because he is greater than the patriarchs, as it is said, "My servant shall be high, and lifted up, and lofty exceedingly" -- he will be higher than Abraham, . . . lifted up above Moses, . . . loftier than the ministering angels.
--Driver and Neubauer, p. 9.
The same passage is found in Midrash Tanhuma to Genesis (perhaps 9th c.), ed. John T. Townsend (Hoboken, NJ: Ktav, 1989), p. 166. [also quoted in Edersheim)
Yalkut ii. 620 (13th c.), in regard to Psalm 2:6
I.e., I have drawn him out of the chastisements. . . .The chastisements are divided into three parts: one for David and the fathers, one for our own generation, and one for the King Messiah; and this is that which is written, "He was wounded for our transgressions," etc.
-- Driver and Neubauer, p. 10.
Yalkut Schimeon (ascribed to Rabbi Simeon Kara, 12th Century ) says on Zech.4:7:
"He ( the king Messiah ) is greater than the patriarchs, as it is said, 'My servant shall be high, and lifted up, and lofty exceedingly' (Isa. 52:13)."
"He was more exalted than Abraham, more extolled than Mose, higher than the archangels" (Isa.52:13).
Mysteries of R. Shim'on ben Yohai (midrash, date uncertain)
And Armilaus will join battle with Messiah, the son of Ephraim, in the East gate . . .; and Messiah, the son of Ephraim, will die there, and Israel will mourn for him. And afterwards the Holy One will reveal to them Messiah, the son of David, whom Israel will desire to stone, saying, Thou speakest falsely; already is the Messiah slain, and there is non other Messiah to stand up (after him): and so they will despise him, as it is written, "Despised and forlorn of men;" but he will turn and hide himself from them, according to the words, "Like one hiding his face from us."
-- Driver and Neubauer, p. 32, citing the edition of Jellinek, Beth ha-Midrash (1855), part iii. p. 80.
Lekach Tov (11th c. midrash)
"And let his [Israel's] kingdom be exalted," in the days of the Messiah, of whom it is said, "Behold my servant shall prosper; he will be high and exalted, and lofty exceedingly."
-- Driver and Neubauer, p. 36.
"The Midrash Rabbah says that the King Messiah, in an explanation of Ruth 2:14, is the one who was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities. The context of this section of the above Midrash is the idea of a suffering messiah that is connected to Isaiah 53:5 in one of the six interpretations given to this verse in Ruth. The tradition of this particular Midrash, which more than likely is dated from the middle of the 3rd century C.E., is just one example of the 53rd chapter being understood in a messianic way by later rabbis."
[--David Brewer ]
Yalkut (vol ii p53c) on Isaiah 52:7 Identifies the messenger as the prophet Elijah. Three days before Messiah arrives, he will go to the top of the moutains Of Israel and weeps for Israel. His voice will be heard thughout the world and the Gentiles will think they have found peace.(Edersheim,727)
Yalkut Midrash on Lammentations applied v 8 of Isaiah 52 to Messiah. (Ibid)
"v13 is applied in the Targum expressly of the Messiah, on the words 'he shall be extoled and exhaulted' we read in Yalkut ii (par 338 p.53c) 'he shall be higher than Abraham, to whom applies Gen.Xiv 22, higher than Moses to whom applies Num. xi.12 is predicted; higher than the ministering angels of whom Ez. i:18 is said. But to him there applies this; Zach 4:7 'who art thou or mighty mountain' and "he was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our inequities and the Chastizement of our peace was upon him and by his stripes we are healed.'"
"R. Huna says in the name of R. Acha: 'all sufferings are divided into three parts. One part goes to David and the Patriarchs; another to the generation of the rebellion and third to King Messiah as it is written in Ps ii.7 --yet have I set my King upon my Holy Hill of Zion.'" (Ibid.)
"Than follows a curious quotation from the Midrash on Samuel in which the Messiah indicates that his dwelling is on Mt. Zion and that guilt is connected with the destruction of its walls."(ibid)
"v53:5 is Messianichally interpreted In the Midrash on Sammuel (ed Lemberger p.45 a last line) where it says that all suffering is divided into three parts one of which the Messiah bore a Remark that is brought into connection with Ruth 2:14." (Ibid.)
Messiah ben Joseph suffers
Orthodox Jews believe in the two Messiahs as at Qumran (or at least someof them do). The Messih ben Joseph (aka ben Ephriam) is a figure who comes during the war with Gog and Magog at the end of times. He will be imprisioned and killed.This much the anti-missionaries are glad to admit, because then they say "well, any suffering Messiah verse you can come up with is about this Messiah and not about the Son of David. So it doens't apply to Jesus in any case. Although it is difficult to know how many of the passages refur to him, and which one's do and which do not, some do and some don't. But I will argue that in terms of Biblical prophsy, there is only one Messiah. Therefore, the signs which led the Jews to belief in two Messiahs really just refur to the one Messiah and therefore we can regard all the ben Joseph passages as evidence for the suffering of the one and only Messiah.
Messiah Ben David Suffers as well
Yalkut ii (p. 66 c, end) God descirbes to the Joseph Messiah all the sufferings he must endure and Messiah ben Joeseph says that he will gladly endure them on the condition that all Israel will be saved.It's hard to say who is speaking, Messiah ben Joseph has been talking, and someone, pershpas Ephriam (ben Joseph) says "...when the son of David comes they shall bring beams of Iron and shall make them a yoke to his neck until his stature is bent down. But he cries and weeps and lifts up his voice on high before him and says: 'Lord of the world what is my spirit, my strength, my soul and my members? Am I not flesh and blood? In that hour David (the Son of David) weeps and says 'my strength is dried up like a potsherd.' IN that hour the Hoy One, blessed be his name, says : 'Ephriam the Messiah, my righteous one thou has already taken this upon thee before the six days of the world. Now you anguish shall be like my anguish...."
Dr Harris Brody
"An Introduction To Talmud
Peta Tikvah Magazine
"In the past four Talmud articles we have seen the aspect of the suffering Messiah as supported in Talmud Torah. In the last issue of Shalom an introduction to the Zohar was given, which is a book of Jewish mysticism believed by Jews to be inspired. Hassidic Judaism derives its spirituality from the Zohar. Many noted Christian scholars of the past have studied the Zohar and found doctrines concerning the Trinity, Original Sin and the Incarnation. Numerous times while witnessing I have used the Zohar to support New Testament doctrines. We now continue our study of the Suffering Messiah."
The Zohar makes some interesting statements concerning the Suffering Messiah:
"...In the Garden of Eden there is a hall which is called the Hall of the Sons of Illness. The Messiah enters that Hall and summons all the diseases and all the pains and all the sufferings of Israel that they should come upon him, and all of them came upon him. And would he not thus bring ease to Israel and take their sufferings upon himself, no man could endure the sufferings Israel has to undergo because they neglected. the Torah" (Zohar 2:212a).
It is very clear in the preceding reference that Messiah suffers for us. However, I have found while witnessing to my brethren in the flesh (Jews) that they will deny Scriptures and even their own writings rather than have them point to Yeshua, Jesus. For example, several months ago at Temple University an anti-missionary "friend" debated with me on Isaiah 53. Actually it was not much of a debate. I had asked him to explain Isaiah 53:8:
"He was taken from prison and from judgment and who shall declare his generation? For he was cut off out of the land of the living for the transgression of my people was he stricken."
From the syntax the phrase "my people" refers to Isaiah and his people the Jews. Thereby the pronoun "he" refers to another individual and not to the nation of Israel. My anti-missionary "friend" knew from where I was coming. He admitted that Isaiah was the author. However, when I asked him who were the "people" of Isaiah, he said, "The Gentiles." In response I shared that any simple, logical, rational thinking Jew knows that since Isaiah is Jewish his people must also be Jewish. He just smiled and said nothing. He was spiteful and would not admit that he was wrong. He would rather deny Scriptures than have them point to Yeshua, Jesus. This is true of other Jewish doctrines as well.
The Soncino publishers of the Zohar have excluded from the text section 2:211b-216a, from which the previous Zohar quote is taken. Like my "friend," it is easier for Soncino to deny and eliminate something that points to Yeshua rather than have it before them. Nor do they want anyone else to read it. To justify their actions, Soncino gives a footnote:
"The first four and a half pages of this section (211b-216a) are declared by all the commentators to be an interpolation, containing much erroneous doctrine."
However, what they overlook is that there are other similar references to the Suffering Messiah and other related doctrines elsewhere in the Zohar and Talmud. Most rabbis are not even aware that Soncino has excluded the 211b-216a section, nor can they give a reason. My response to one who argues in support of excluding the section would be to ask them why Soncino would exclude one section and not other sections that include similar information.
Even if a rabbi accepts the interpolation of the Zohar, the Talmud in Sanhedrin 98b makes it clear that the Messiah suffers for our sin, as can be seen in the following quote. There is not one who claims an interpolation of the Talmud.
"The Rabbis said that Messiah's name is the Suffering Scholar of Rabbi's House [some translated it as the Leper scholar] For it is written (Isaiah 53:4) Surely He hath borne our grief and carried our sorrows yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted" (Sanhedrin 98b).
The above declaration of Sanhedrin 98b is also supported by Marcus Jastrow's Dictionary on the Targums and the Talmud, page 452.
In studying the Zohar, especially section 3:7a-lOb, I was amazed that it parallels the gospel account of Matthew. It begins with the Messiah arising in the land of Galilee when Israel experiences birth pangs:
"Then shall pangs and travail overtake Israel, and all nations' and their kings shall furiously rage together and take counsel against her. Thereupon a pillar of fire will be suspended from heaven to earth for forty days, visible to all nations. Then the Messiah will arise from the Garden of Eden, from that place which is called 'The Bird's Nest.' He will arise in the land of Galilee...he shall reveal himself in the land of Galilee; for in this part of the Holy Land the desolation first began, and therefore he will manifest himself there first..." (Zohar 3:7b-8a).
Yeshua, Jesus, fulfilled Isaiah's prophecy by starting His ministry in Galilee (Isaiah 9:1,2). Isaiah points out that the very region where the Assyrian armies brought darkness and death would be the first to rejoice in the light brought by the preaching of Messiah. Matthew quotes the reference in Matthew 4:14-17. Yeshua, Jesus, begins His ministry in Capernaum of Galilee (Matt. 4:12-17; Mark 1:14; Luke 4:14,-15). Yeshua, Jesus, left Nazareth and took up residence in the town of Capernaum. He left His home never again to return. Galilee was the most northern district of Palestine and was very densely populated. Josephus, a Jewish historian during the days of Yeshua, says about Galilee, "They were ever fond of innovations and by nature disposed to changes, and delighted in seditions." They were open to new ideas. If anyone would have been open to hear Yeshua, it would have been in Galilee. Once He would be accepted in Galilee, His fame would travel, for the traffic of the world passed through Galilee. It was in Galilee where Yeshua called His disciples. Most Jews, including the rabbis, have no concept of this prophecy. It is especially spelled out in the Zohar and fulfilled in the New Testament. Many rabbinics mock at the ministry of Yeshua beginning in Galilee. After all, they believe that true spirituality is connected with Jerusalem and the Temple. They believe that Messiah would start in the heart of Israel, Jerusalem, not in the backward part. How wonderful it is that Yeshua started with the common person and saved simple people like us.
The Zohar then describes that a star shall come from the East and proceed the Messiah:
"...And the Messiah shall have manifested himself, a star shall come forth from the East variegated in hue and shining brilliantly, and seven other stars shall surround it and make war on it from all sides, three times a day for seventy days, before the eyes of the whole world. The one star shall fight against the seven with rays of fire flashing on every side, and it shall smite them until they are extinguished, evening after evening' (Zohar 3:7b, 8a).
Most of us are aware of the account of the wise men seeking Yeshua, Jesus:
"Where is he that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him" (Matt. 2:2).
We cannot tell what star the Magi saw, but it was very clear to them. Some suggestions of what it may have been are Haley's Comet, a conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter or the Dog Star. From Numbers a prophecy was given that a Star would come out of Jacob (Numbers 24:17).
Many Jews, especially the rabbis, believe that the birth of Yeshua, Jesus, is only a myth. Yet they do not even realize that the same story is spoken of in the Scriptures and in the Zohar.
"In our last study we began to see the parallel, concerning the Messiah, between Matthew's account and the Zohar, a Jewish mystical book. We especially took note concerning the star which would precede Messiah, and the place where He would begin His ministry, which was Galilee.
The Zohar continues and explains that when this star would disappear Messiah would go into hiding. Some very interesting things will then occur. Let's see what they are."
"After the seventy days the one star shall vanish. Also the Messiah shall be hidden for twelve months in the pillar of fire, which shall return again, although it shall not be visible. After the twelve months the Messiah will be carried up to heaven in that pillar of fire and receive there power and dominion and the royal crown. When he descends, the pillar of fire will again be visible to the eyes of the world, and the Messiah will reveal himself, and mighty nations will gather round him, and he shall declare war against the world" (Zohar III, Shemoth 7b 8a).
From the above quote we should take note of the following words and phrases: "hidden," "shall return again," "not be visible," "carried up to heaven," "pillar of fire," "descends," "will reveal himself," "gather round him," and "declare war." Most of these we are familiar with in regard to the gospel and the Lord's return. Let's see if we could make some sense from the Zohar's statement and if there really is a parallel to the gospel and Yeshua's, Jesus', return.
The Zohar made the statement that when the star which identified Messiah would disappear, he would go into hiding. Did this actually take place? We know from Matthew's account that after the wise men presented their gifts to Yeshua as a young child, an angel appeared to Joseph and told him to take his family and go down to Egypt and hide, because Herod was seeking the young child's life (Matthew 2:11-14). Matthew then makes a connection to Hosea 11:1. He identifies the term "my son" in Hosea and Israel's early sojourn in Egypt. Matthew develops what is commonly known as a Midrash.
The Zohar did not say where the Messiah would hide except that He would be in the "pillar of fire." Jewish reference would be of the Holy Spirit and of His leading. The trip for Joseph and his family was definitely the leading of the Holy Spirit.
The Zohar then makes a statement that the Messiah will "return again," and yet He would "not be visible." What does this mean? Yeshua did indeed return to Israel and began His ministry in Galilee which we noted previously. But how could He return and not be visible? This means that He would not be recognized. Our own Messiah would be rejected and despised. This is where Isaiah 53 begins to fit into the picture (see the previous studies). "He came unto his own, and his own received him not" (John. 1:11).
What happens when one is rejected? He leaves. After Yeshua Messiah bore our sin on the tree and was resurrected, He then ascended. This is what the Zohar means when it states that He was "carried up to heaven." Yeshua, Jesus, ascended from the Mount of Olives forty days after His resurrection. He will return to that same place (Acts 1:3,10-11; Zechariah 14:4).
The Zohar adds that the Messiah receives in heaven "power and dominion and the royal crown." Of these things Yeshua did receive. We read in Hebrews:
"Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honor, and didst set him over the works of thy hands; Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him" (Hebrews 2:7,8).
Next our passage from the Zohar states that when Messiah "descends, the pillar of fire will again be visible to the eyes of the world, and the Messiah will reveal himself." Yeshua Messiah will not return until the end of the Tribulation. He will return when all appears to be lost for Israel.
Then my people Israel will accept the rejected and despised Messiah (Zechariah12:10). They can only receive Him by the leading of the Holy Spirit, or in the Zohar's terms, by the "pillar of fire." John the Baptizer already identified Yeshua as the One who comes with the Holy Spirit and with fire (Matthew 2:11).
Those who are born from above have experienced these things, but the nation of Israel collectively awaits. When He "descends" He will "reveal himself as the Zohar says. He will come not as a lamb as He did previously, but this time as a warrior. The nation Israel will stare at the pierced hands of Messiah whom they have pierced. It will be a day of much mourning (Zechariah 12:10-14). It will be a day that the fountain is opened for them to be cleansed of sin and uncleanness (Zechariah 13:1). The mourning will not just be for the fact of acknowledging Yeshua as the Messiah whom they had rejected, but more so for the realization that their loved ones who died before His second advent have no atonement and will perish eternally.
Our Zohar section then adds, "mighty nations will gather round him and he shall declare war against all the world." This is the battle of Armageddon.
Zohar II, 212a (medieval)
There is in the Garden of Eden a palace named the Palace of the Sons of Sickness. This palace the Messiah enters, and He summons every pain and every chastisement of Israel. All of these come and rest upon Him. And had He not thus lightened them upon Himself, there had been no man able to bear Israel's chastisements for the transgressions of the law; as it is written, "Surely our sicknesses he has carried."
-- Cited in Driver and Neubauer, pp. 14-15 from section "va-yiqqahel". Translation from Frydland, Rachmiel, What the Rabbis Know About the Messiah (Cincinnati: Messianic Literature Outreach, 1991), p. 56, n. 27. Note that this section is not found in the Soncino edition which says that it was an interpolation.
Also in the Zohar-- "Zohar" 2:212a; cited in The Messiah Texts, 115-116:
"In the hour in which they tell the Messiah about the sufferings of Israel in exile, and about the sinful among them who seek not the knowledge of their Master, the Messiah lifts up his voice and weeps over those sinful among them. This is what is written: "He was wounded because of our transgressions, he was crushed because of our iniquities" (Isaiah 53:5).... The Messiah then summons all the diseases and all the pains and all the sufferings of Israel that they should come upon him, and all of them come upon him. And would he not thus bring ease to Israel and take their sufferings upon himself, no man could endure the sufferings Israel has to undergo because they neglected the Torah.... As long as Israel dwelt in the Holy land, the rituals and sacrifices they performed removed all those diseases from the world; now the Messiah removes them from the children of the world."
In the early cycle of synagogue readings
"We know that messianic homilies based on Joseph's career (his saving role preceded by suffering), and using Isaiah 53 as the prophetic portion, were preached in certain old synagogues which used the triennial cycle..."
-- Rav Asher Soloff, "The Fifty Third Chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Commentators, to the Sixteenth Century" (Ph.D. Thesis, Drew University,1967), p. 146.
"The addition of 53.4-5 [to the cycle of synagogue readings] was evidently of a Messianic purport by reason of the theory of a suffering Messiah. The earlier part of [the Haftarah] (52.7ff.) dealt with the redemption of Israel, and in this connection the tribulations of the Messiah were briefly alluded to by the recital of the above 2 verses."
-- Jacob Mann, The Bible as Read and Preached in the Old Synagogue (NY: Ktav, 1971, © 1940), p. 298.
The musaf (additional) service for the Day of Atonement, Philips machzor (20th c.)
Our righteous anointed is departed from us: horror hath seized us, and we have none to justify us. He hath borne the yoke of our iniquities, and our transgression, and is wounded because of our transgression. He beareth our sins on his shoulder, that he may find pardon for our iniquities. We shall be healed by his wound, at the time that the Eternal will create him (the Messiah) as a new creature. O bring him up from the circle of the earth. Raise him up from Seir, to assemble us the second time on Mount Lebanon, by the hand of Yinnon.*
-- A. Th. Philips, Machzor Leyom Kippur / Prayer Book for the Day of Atonement with English Translation; Revised and Enlarged Edition (New York: Hebrew Publishing Company, 1931), p. 239. The passage can also
"There is an interesting quotation from the liturgy for Yom Kippur (i.e., The Day of Atonement) which makes a clear connection between the Messiah and the one who carried the Jewish people's iniquities and transgressions. This liturgy also states that this Messiah was wounded because of their transgressions. According to some sources the author of this liturgy was Eleazer ben Kalir (9th century C.E.).
--David R. Brewer
AMF International Isaiah 53 ABout Whom Does it Speak?
Rabbis of the Middle Ages
Rabbi Eleazer Kalir (9.Century) wrote the following Musaf Prayer:
"Our righteous Messiah has departed from us. Horror has seized us and we have no one to justify us. He has borne our transgressions and the yoke of our iniquities, and is wounded because of our transgressions. He bore our sins upon His shoulders that we may find pardon for our iniquity. We shall be healed by His wounds, at the time when the Eternal will recreate Him a new creature. Oh bring Him up from the circle of the earth, raise Him up from Seir, that we may hear Him the second time."
Rabbi Moses, 'The Preacher'(11. Century) wrote in his commentary on Genesis (page 660):
"From the beginning God has made a covenant with the Messiah and told Him,'My righteous Messiah, those who are entrusted to you, their sins will bring you into a heavy yoke'..And He answered, 'I gladly accept all these agonies in order that not one of Israel should be lost.' Immediately, the Messiah accepted all agonies with love, as it is written: 'He was oppressed and he was afflicted'."
Pesiqta (on Isa. 61:10):
"Great oppressions were laid upon You, as it says: 'By oppression and judgement he was taken away; but who considered in his time, that he was cut off out of the land of the living, that he was stricken because of the sins of our children' (Isa.53:8), as it says:'But the LORD has laid on him the guild of us all'(Isa.53:6)."
Rabbi Moses Maimonides
Rabbi Moses Maimonides: "What is the manner of Messiah's advent....there shall rise up one of whom none have known before, and signs and wonders which they shall see performed by him will be the proofs of his true origin; for the Almighty, where he declares to us his mind upon this matter, says, `Behold a man whose name is the Branch, and he shall branch forth out of his place' (Zech. 6:12). And Isaiah speaks similarly of the time when he shall appear, without father or mother or family being known, He came up as a sucker before him, and as a root out of dry earth, etc....in the words of Isaiah, when describing the manner in which kings will harken to him, At him kings will shut their mouth; for that which had not been told them have they seen, and that which they had not heard they have perceived." (From the Letter to the South (Yemen), quoted in The Fifty-third Chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters, Ktav Publishing House, 1969, Volume 2, pages 374-5)
Maimonides (1135-12O4) wrote to Rabbi Jacob Alfajumi:
"Likewise said Isaiah that He (Messiah) would appear without acknowledging a father or mother: 'He grew up before him as a tender plant and as a root out of a dry ground' etc. (Isa.53:2)."
Gersonides (1288-1344) on Deut. 18:18:
"In fact Messiah is such a prophet, as it is stated in the Midrasch on the verse,'Behold, my servant shall prosper...' (Isa. 52:13)."
"Rabbi Nachman says: ,The Word MAN in the passage, 'Every man a head of the house of his father' (Num.1,4), refers to the Messiah, the son of David, as it is written, 'Behold the man whose name is Zemach'(the Branch) where Jonathan interprets,'Behold the man Messiah' (Zech.6:12); and so it is said,'A man of pains and known to sickness' (Isa.53:3)."
Abraham Farissol ( 1451- 1526) says:
"In this chapter there seem to be considerable resemblances and allusions to the work of the Christian Messiah and to the events which are asserted to have happened to Him, so that no other prophecy is to be found the gist and subject of which can be so immediately applied to Him."
Nachmanides (R. Moshe ben Nachman) (13th c.)
The right view respecting this Parashah is to suppose that by the phrase "my servant" the whole of Israel is meant. . . .As a different opinion, however, is adopted by the Midrash, which refers it to the Messiah, it is necessary for us to explain it in conformity with the view there maintained. The prophet says, The Messiah, the son of David of whom the text speaks, will never be conquered or perish by the hands of his enemies. And, in fact the text teaches this clearly. . . .
And by his stripes we were healed -- because the stripes by which he is vexed and distressed will heal us; God will pardon us for his righteousness, and we shall be healed both from our own transgressions and from the iniquities of our fathers.
-- Driver and Neubauer, pp. 78 ff.
R. Sh'lomoh Astruc (14th c.)
My servant shall prosper, or be truly intelligent, because by intelligence man is really man -- it is intelligence which makes a man what he is. And the prophet calls the King Messiah my servant, speaking as one who sent him. Or he may call the whole people my servant, as he says above my people (lii. 6): when he speaks of the people, the King Messiah is included in it; and when he speaks of the King Messiah, the people is comprehended with him. What he says then is, that my servant the King Messiah will prosper.
-- Driver and Neubauer, p. 129.
Looking back over all those passages, can it really be that every single one of them is just figurative? There are so many, 64 quotations Miller counts in Talmud alone, how can it be that all of them are merely figurative? Their sheer number alone argues agianst it, since the odds are not strong that that many people who chose the symbol of suffering Messiah as figurative association for any number of Biblical points if it didn't have some basis in doctrine.
Rabbis of the Post Middle Ages
Rabbi Simeon Ben Jochai (2.Century), Zohar,, part II, page 212a and III, page 218a, Amsterdam Ed.):
"There is in the garden of Eden a palace called : 'The palace of the sons of sickness, this palace the Messiah enters, and summons every sickness, every pain, and every chastisement of Israel: they all come and rest upon Him. And were it not that He had thus lightened them off Israel, and taken them upon Himself, there had been no man able to bear Israels chastisement for the transgression of the law; this is that which is written, 'Surely our sicknesses he has carried' Isa.53,4).- As they tell Him (the Messiah) of the misery of Israel in their captivity, and of those wicked ones among them who are not attentive to know their Lord, He lifts up His voice and weeps for their wickedness; and so it is written,'He was wounded for our transgressions' (Isa.53,5). Midrash (on Ruth 2,14): "He is speaking of the King Messiah - 'Come hither', i.e.">Draw near to the throne<; 'eat of the bread', i.e.>, The bread of the kingdom.' This refers to the chastisements, as it is said, 'But he was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities' (Isa.53,5). Rabbi Elijah de Vidas (16.Century) :
R. Elijah de Vidas (16th c.)
Since the Messiah bears our iniquities which produce the effect of His being bruised, it follows that whoso will not admit that the Messiah thus suffers for our iniquities, must endure and suffer for them himself.
-- Driver and Neubauer, p. 331.
Rabbi Moshe Alshekh (El-Sheikh) of Sefad (16th c.)
I may remark, then, that our Rabbis with one voice accept and affirm the opinion that the prophet is speaking of the King Messiah, and we ourselves also adhere to the same view.
-- Driver and Neubauer, p. 258.
[from Brewer article]
"One of the Aramaic translations was of the opinion that "the Servant of the LORD" referred to the Messiah. The rabbi that produced this translation had quite a problem though. This 53rd chapter of Isaiah obviously refers to the Messiah but this idea of a Messiah suffering for the sins of his people was impossible according to his theology. So throughout his writing he endeavors to prove that all of the verses that refer to the Servant's glory refer to the Messiah but all of the references to the Servant's suffering refer to Israel."
"In 1350 C.E., Rabbi Moshe Kohen Ibn Crispin of Cordova and Toledo in Spain strongly disagreed with Rashi's view and he made it very clear through his writing that the interpretation that the Servant is the Messiah is the natural sense and meaning of this chapter. He acknowledged that this interpretation was in harmony with the teaching of the Rabbis. He believed that the interpretation of those who connect "the Servant of the LORD" with the nation of Israel was " . . . forced and far-fetched . . ." If you read further in this rabbi's writing he did not believe though that the passage referred to God. He was aware of the Christian interpretation that this passage refers to Jesus the God-Man and he couldn't understand how God could suffer and die."
Don Yitzchak Abrabanel (1437-1508) strongly disagreed with the "Nazarenes" who believed that Isaiah 53 referred to Jesus. He himself believed that "eved adonai" referred to the nation of Israel but he did admit that the interpretation that the Servant was the future Messiah was "the opinion of our learned men in the majority of their Midrashim."
Rabbi Saadyeh Ibn Danan of Grenada (2nd half of the 15th century C.E.) believed that according to the principles of interpretation this passage referred to King Messiah. If we read more of what this particular rabbi wrote, we can derive some hints of why Rashi went against the traditional Jewish interpretation and said that the Servant was the nation of Israel and not Messiah (also called King Messiah). This rabbi wrote about the "heretics" who believed that the Messiah was Jesus. We can deduce from what he and other rabbis wrote, that during Rashi's period and in later centuries Christians used Isaiah 53 as an apologetic in their debates with Jewish people by arguing from this chapter that Jesus was the Messiah. Evidently, this type of apologetic was so effective that many rabbis changed and began to say that the Servant was Israel. There is another probable reason why Rashi came up with this new and innovative interpretation that the Servant was the nation of Israel. Toward the end of Rashi's lifetime (1040-1105) the Crusades were started by the Church to protect herself against the large number of Muslims from Asia Minor and to free the city of Jerusalem from Muslim domination. About 10 years before Rashi died, Pope Urban II issued an appeal that started the Crusader period into motion. On the way to "the Holy Land" fanatical groups of peasants traveled eastward through southern Germany, Hungary, and the Balkans, murdering the Jewish communities on the way. The actual Christian armies did not reach the Holy Land until May of 1099 but during this time period there were many conversions forced upon the Jewish people. Also during this time period Jewish money was confiscated to help pay for the expenses of the Crusades and communities of Jewish people had to buy "protection" from their "Christian" overlords. So, in view of the above horrors and due to the pressures of these wicked professing Christians, Rashi wanted to preserve his people from accepting this type of faith, which explains why he came up with his view of the Servant in Isaiah 53.
In 1575 C.E., Rabbi Elijah Ben Moshe De Vidas who was a Kabbalistic (mystical) scholar at Safed (upper Galilee), also believed that the Servant in Isaiah 53 referred to the Messiah. He wrote that the phrase in Isaiah 53:5 refers to the Messiah who "was wounded for our transgressions . . . bruised for our iniquities". According to him this meant that whoever does not accept the fact that Messiah suffered for their iniquities will have to suffer for those transgressions himself.
Rabbi Moshe el Sheikh (commonly known as "Alshech") who was Chief Rabbi of Safed and a disciple of Joseph Caro sometime during 1603-1607, wrote that the rabbis who lived during his time period all agreed that Isaiah was speaking of King Messiah. He stated that in his opinion his method of interpretation was "straightforward" and he was reading the text in its literal sense. So as not to misrepresent this Rabbi, later on in his writing he wrote that in his view the Messiah was a reference to David.
Even as late as 1650 there were rabbis who still strongly disagreed with Rashi's unorthodox view of Isaiah 53. Rabbi Naphtali ben Asher Altschuler wrote that he was expectantly waiting for the Messiah to come during his lifetime and he continued to write that he was amazed Rashi and Rabbi David Kimchi did not interpret this passage to refer to the Messiah just as the Targums had. Although if we read all that this rabbi wrote about this passage he definitely disagreed with the view of Christians that the Servant referred to Jesus. In his writing he presented several arguments to support his opinion on this matter.
Most of the rabbis by the time of the 1800s believed, in harmony with Rashi's interpretation, that Isaiah 53 referred to [Israel, rather than to] the Messiah, but there was a Jewish scholar and famous Jewish educator named Herz Homburg (1749-1841) who in 1818 wrote in his commentary that this passage referred to King Messiah. He mentioned that, in his opinion, Rashi and Ibn Ezra were in error when they said that the Servant in Isaiah 53 referred to Israel.
As I have read through quotes from the writings of many ancient rabbis, I have discovered that most of them of course did not link "the Servant of the LORD" in Isaiah 53 with Jesus Christ, who was considered to be God by Christians, simply because they could not fathom how God could be a servant, how He could have suffered and then died.
--http://www.amfi.org/ABOUTWHOM.htm AMF International Isaiah 53 ABout Whom Does it Speak?
by David R. Brewer
Herz Homberg (18th-19th c.)
The fact is, that it refers to the King Messiah, who will come in the latter days, when it will be the Lord's good pleasure to redeem Israel from among the different nations of the earth.....Whatever he underwent was in consequence of their own transgression, the Lord having chosen him to be a trespass-offering, like the scape-goat which bore all the iniquities of the house of Israel.
-- Driver and Neubauer, p. 400-401.
Dr Harris Brody
"An Introduction To Talmud
Peta Tikvah Magazine
In Part III of "An Introduction to the Talmud" a Talmudic story of a rabbinical disciple was given. When this disciple, Issac ben Judah, found a law to contradict Rabbi Sheshet's law the response was that it was then one law against another law (Zev. 96b).
Many Jews today accept Rashi's interpretation of Isaiah 53 not realizing that there are other Talmudic alternatives referring to Messiah as the Suffering Servant. With the use of the Scriptures and Talmud I point out that my interpretation of Isaiah 53 and other Messianic passages is truly a Jewish interpretation. I bring out that the "Derash" (commentary) of the majority of the traditional rabbis prior to and following Rashi was always that Isaiah is referring to the Messiah as the Suffering Servant. The following are only a few of the many "Derash" quotes of the Messiah as the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53 that can be used:
"I will now proceed to explain these verses of our own Messiah, who G-d willing, will come speedily in our days. I am surprised that Rashi and Rabbi David Kimchi have not, with the Targums, applied it to the Messiah likewise" (Rabbi Naphtali ben Asher Altshuler, ca. 1650 A.D.).
"I am pleased to interpret it in accordance of our rabbis, of the King Messiah, and will be careful, so far as I am able, to adhere to the literal sense: thus, possible, I shall be free from the fancied and far fetched interpretations of which others have been guilty. . ." (Rabbi Moshe Kohen Ibn Crispin of Cordova and Toledo in Spain, ca. 1350)."
"Our rabbis of blessed memory with one voice accept and affirm the opinion that the prophet is speaking of the King Messiah. And we ourselves shall also adhere to the same view" (Rabbi Moshe Le Sheich, second half of the 16th century).
"But he was wounded . . . meaning that since the Messiah bears our iniquities which produce the effect of His being bruised, it follows that whosoever will not admit that Messiah thus suffers for our iniquities, must endure and suffer for them himself" (Rabbi Elijah de Vidas)."
"Many Jews do not know the "unknown God" of Isaiah 53. With the use of the Talmud and Scriptures I show that my interpretation is truly Jewish and Biblical. God has given me the privilege to lead many of my Jewish brethren to Messiah Yeshua with the Talmudic apologetic approach."
Rabbi Yehoshua M. Othniel - President Observant Messianic Jewish Rabbinical Association
Many early Jewish commentators did believe that Isaiah 53 referred to a messiah who suffered (you can see some of their views here at Saltshakers, in the Library Messianica, in the abbreviated collection, "The Fifty-Third Chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters", edited by Driver and Neubauer). Even some prayerbooks for the Day of Atonement reflect this belief in one of the prayers. But once this became a polemical issue between Christianity and Judaism, it became the modern Jewish apologia to suggest that this passage must refer to the nation of Israel as a whole (even though that doesn't fit the words of the passage). This view was first popularized by Rashi, and became more or less general. However, recently the Lubavitcher Hasidim began comparing the sufferings of their own late Rebbe, whom they hoped would be the messiah, to the prophecies in Isaiah 53 of a suffering messiah.
Rabbi Michael Silver - Etz Chayim - Tree of Life Messianic Jewish Congregation
What a loaded question! Let me say first that in my response I donut mean to criticize the questioner. Your question sounds precisely the way most any non-Jewish Christian would pose it. Viewing Isaiah 53 through a Christian lens, I agree: it does seem rather obvious, doesn't it. But, from a Jewish perspective, it's not that way at all. The Jewish view, in a nutshell, is that the suffering servant is the nation of Israel. This is based on the usage elsewhere in Isaiah: the servant of HaShem in Isaiah is generally Israel (e.g., 44:1 & 21). In my view, that interpretation doesn't work, for two reasons. First, unless we see it highly figuratively, the language refers to an individual, not a group. Second, the servant suffers on behalf of Israel; the people of Israel observe and comment on His experience. And, in fact, there is much in Jewish tradition which does view the servant of Isaiah 53 as the Messiah, although more in terms of a conqueror than a sufferer. (In fact, there is an excellent book, "The Fifty-third Chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters", which details this.) Id like to return, though, to the notion of Jewish and Christian "lenses" for viewing Scripture. To the rabbis, Torah (= Tanakh) must be interpreted within Torah (= the entire rabbinic tradition), or else it is not truly Torah. Christians effectively do the same thing with the Bible as a whole. We tend to restrict interpretation of Scripture into what fits within our theology. Were just not as up front about this as are the Jewish people.
[Note both of these men are "Messianic" Rabbis, but they are real Jewish Rabbis having both recieved ordination from other Rabbis.
The Religious A priori