A re-translation and reconsideration of some of Isaiah 53

Isaiah 53 is a much loved passage in the Tanakh, both for Judaism and for Christianity. Yet, there is much debate over it’s true and full meaning.

This debate has gone on for at least 1800 years with some famous commentaries such as the intriguing commentary of Rabbi Nachmanides (Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman, who lived from 1194 to 1270 CE), which I discuss briefly in my article ‘The Messiah from an Hebraic Perspective’ – http://goo.gl/0Z5AHc

I even have a book entitled ‘The Fifty-third Chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters’ (first published in 1896) which has over 50 leading Rabbi’s and Jewish scholars who give their take on this amazing chapter and prophecy.

So what more could be added to the mix? How could anyone give some added value or new insight, with possibly greater validity, to the many books and articles already written on this great portion of Isaiah (correctly transliterated as Yishaiyahu)?

Before I answer that question, consider that Yishaiyahu was first written for and to the Jewish people, at least some 2,600 years ago and possibly even as early as 2,780 odd years ago. Until the Dead Sea Scrolls discoveries the oldest versions of Yishaiyahu in the original language was the Masoretic Text of the Codex Leningrad, (dated at 1000 CE), but first complied around 700 CE.

The DSS discovery of the Great Isaiah Scroll (dated at the latest to be around 100 BCE with some carbon dating giving an age of 350 BCE) changed all this. While this text has been in public circulation for some decades now, to the best of my knowledge no Jewish Hebrew translator had compiled a re-translation with commentary until now. Very recently this task has been undertaken.

Note that I stated a ‘Jewish Hebrew translator’, meaning someone not only Jewish but a native Hebrew speaker and also a skilled translator. Why is this important?

The Jewish people, if you take the time to ask them, will argue that the Gentile/Hellenistic Christian church has taken their Bible, which they paid for in their own blood, translated it without properly understanding it, and then, handed back to the Jewish people a corrupted version, which has effectively striped the Torah from the Apostolic Writings (the NT).

These same ‘translators’ and Christian leaders then have the check to call the Jewish people ‘blind’, when they refuse to accept the re-worked and corrupted Bible that has had its very core and essence (Torah) seriously diminished and sidelined in its pages.

What really amazes me is that Yishaiyahu (Isaiah) foresaw all this and more over 2,500 years ago when he composed his book of the Tanakh!

The translation below is by a Jewish translator living in Jerusalem. In undertaking to translate the Great Isaiah Scroll, Uriel ben Mordechai took careful notice of every Hebrew letter difference between the Aleppo and Leningrad texts versus the Great Isaiah Scroll. While DSS scholars such as the great Frank Moore Cross inform us that the differences between the MT and the Great Isaiah Scroll are minimal, Uriel found that there were some significant differences.

To help with readability in translating a Hebrew document, whose original composition was over 2500 years ago, and with which the extant copy is at least 2100 years old, Uriel added some clarifications in square brackets. These are not part of the original text, but add a lot of clarity and explanation for today’s English readership (note also, AM Israel means ‘the people of Israel’).

Yishaiyahu 52:15 – 53:5:

“Concerning him [AM Israel, the Servant of HaShem], leaders shall jump into formation to open their mouths [in a panic], because that which was not told to them, they will grasp, and that which they would not hear, they will discover.

[These leaders will say,] “Who [now] will believe our version of the story, and [what we once claimed with reference] to whom the arm of HaShem had [in actual fact] been revealed,…

who also grew up as a nursing child, before Him [i.e. HaShem], and like a root in the desert, without him having had title [or rank], and without any honor, that we might have noticed him; Unimpressive, that we would have found him attractive?”

“He [the Servant of HaShem, AM Israel] was [considered by us to be] revolting, lacking personality [or repugnant], like a grief-stricken man, known [by us] to be ill [or deficient]. And in that he distanced himself from our company, [all the more] we found him despicable, and we handed him [only] our contempt.

Undeniably, he shouldered [the brunt of] our insanities. Our regrets [i.e. our sad stories, or shameful acts] — he tolerated them. We deemed him contaminated; [having been] defeated by G-d [Himself]; and [utterly] humiliated!

And he was dishonored [or desanctified] on account of our misconduct [or crimes]; [he was] downtrodden [i.e. tyrannized, or persecuted] from our improprieties. Moral values [i.e. our own ethical standard] with which we were comfortable, were thrust upon him. And yet [only] in the company of his people, shall we be restored to health.” <end quote>

For those of you seeking a prophecy here about Yeshua, remember that ‘the Servant of HaShem’ describes the people of Israel, and Yeshua is a member of this Servant Nation. Therefore, this text can also refer to him, both as a part of AM Israel and also individually as the Mashiach (Messiah) of Israel.

I strongly recommend you re-read this short section of Uriel’s translation and contrast the prophecies with the events of today. What can you see?

How much does this scream anti-Semitism? Can you see the pogroms and mistreatment of the Jewish people as a result of the Gentile ignorance and arrogance with respect to Israel?

And yet, can you also see that the time will dawn when we Gentiles will recognize that our restoration, our return to full health and lasting vitality will only come when we embrace HaShem’s Servant Nation (and of course, His Mashiach)! But we can’t have one without the other. We can’t have Mashiach without first accepting AM Israel!

AM Israel Chai!

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A different take on Isaiah 9:6

This prophecy is one, which is extremely well known within Christendom, or more accurately, it is very often quoted and preached on by Pastors and preachers in the mainstream Christian churches. For example, I have attended Christmas Day services where this was the main Scripture quoted and discussed.

One of these occasions some years ago led me to write to the Pastor of a large Pentecostal church here in Brisbane, and try to share with him my understanding of the many ways in which he was mis-interpreting this passage.

Now, in looking back over what I wrote, while I still believe I was pointing him in the right direction, I now believe that if I had better understood this passage in Hebrew, I would have been much more able to show him how very far his understanding was from the truth. I am fairly sure though, that I would still not have influenced him in any significant way to change his cherished Hellenistic doctrines and lens through which he read this passage.

Here though is the utterly remarkable way in which the Hebrew of this passage can be fairly and accurately translated into English that sheds an amazing light on what this passage was really revealing.

Let me first share his translation and then try to explain how this comes about and what it means:

“… For unto use a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government shall be on his shoulders.
A Wonder, a Counselor, Mighty G-d, my Father in perpetuity, shall call him … “Prince of Peace”’
– translation by Uriel ben Mordechai

There are many Christian ‘Hebrew scholars’ who have translated this phrase differently, but very few of those ‘Hebrew scholars’ have been native speakers of Hebrew like Uriel.

As Uriel points out in much detail, his translation is much closer to how a native Hebrew speaker who knows his/her Tanakh would pronounce it, in particular because they would know how to read the ‘nikud’ (a system of diacritical signs used to represent vowels and distinguish between alternative pronunciations and determine the intended grammatical structure).

Many Hebrew versions of the text also have ‘cantillation marks’ (a system of marks to help with chanting the text which are very much like todays commas and colons, but which dates back to the time of Ezra – circa 510 BCE). This clearly establish where breaks occur in the text and thus establishes that the first 4 ‘nicknames’ belong to the ‘caller’ and only the last nickname, ‘Prince of Peace’ belongs to the one being ‘called’ by the ‘caller’.

Further evidence that these first four nicknames; Wonder, Counselor, Mighty G-d and ‘my Father in perpetuity’ all are labels/names for the Creator and King of the Universe; the God of Israel, is seen in these verses from the Tanakh, where each of this ‘nicknames’ are applied to the Almighty:

פֶּ֫לֶא – ‘Peleh’, a noun meaning a ‘Wonder’ – see Ex 15:11 “Who is like you, Adonai, among the gods? 
Awesome in praise, doing a wonder (peleh)?”

יוֹעֵץ (Yo-etz) – a noun meaning ‘a counselor’ – see Psalm 16:7 “I will bless Adonai, my counselor.”

(el Gibor גִּבּוֹר אֵל – Hebrew back to front sorry) – meaning ‘mighty or powerful God’ – see Deut 10:17 “For the LORD your God, He is God of gods, and Lord of lords, the great God (Ha’El – הָאֵל), the mighty (ha-Gibor הַגִּבֹּר), and the awful, who regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward.”

אֲבִי-עַד – (Avi-ad) – meaning ‘my Father for eternity’ or ‘my Father for perpetuity’ – see 1 Chronicles 29:10b “…Blessed be Thou, O L-RD, the God of Israel our father for eternity”

So we can see that al these ‘nicknames’ have been used elsewhere in the Tanakh to refer to the Almighty. It is true that ‘El Gibor’ can also refer to great leaders of men, but in the grammatical structure of this verse, Uriel shows very clearly, that here it is referring to YHWH Himself.

Lastly שַׂר-שָׁלוֹם (sar Shalom) refers to a Prince or Ruler of peace (see Psalms 2 for example). In could well be that Isaiah had Hezekiah in mind when he penned this, but we can also see how this verse may apply to the end-times Mashiach when he comes to rule the Earth and bring the Peace of God to this world.

This is all articulated in great detail in ‘If: The End of the Messianic Lie’ – get it at http://above-and-beyond-ltd.com/store/books/if.html