Isaiah 53: The Suffering and Insufferable Servant

The insufferable servant revealed: Why did Moses yearn to enter the land of Israel? To bare the sins of many, says the Talmud

The Babylonian Talmud is regarded by religious Jews as “Oral Torah.” Here is the Tractate Sotah.

Folio 14a

“R. Simlai expounded: Why did Moses our teacher yearn to enter the land of Israel? Did he want to eat of its fruits or satisfy himself from its bounty? But thus spake Moses, ‘Many precepts were commanded to Israel which can only be fulfilled in the land of Israel. I wish to enter the land so that they may all be fulfilled by me’. The Holy One, blessed be He, said to him, ‘Is it only to receive the reward [for obeying the commandments] that thou seekest? I ascribe it to thee as if thou didst perform them’; as it is said: Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out his soul unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bare the sins of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.13  ‘Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great’ — it is possible [to think that his portion will be] with the [great of] later generations and not former generations; therefore there is a text to declare, ‘And he shall divide with the strong’, i.e., with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who were strong in Torah and the commandments. ‘Because he poured out his soul unto death’ — because he surrendered himself to die, as it is said: And if not, blot me, I pray thee etc.14  ‘And was numbered with the transgressors’ — because he was numbered with them who were condemned to die in the wilderness. ‘Yet he bare the sins of many’ — because he secured atonement for the making of the Golden Calf. ‘And made intercession for the transgressors’ — because he begged for mercy on behalf of the sinners in Israel that they should turn in penitence.”

OneDaring Jew

In the book of Isaiah there are four “servant songs.” The exegetical problem is that sometimes the servant refers to Israel and other times not. The Jewish argument is that the servant always refers to Israel. There does, however, seem to be two servants, one of which is Israel. Consider the following passage (Isaiah 49:3-6):

[3] And he said to me, “You are my servant,
Israel, in whom I will be glorified.”
[4] But I said, “I have labored in vain;
I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity;
yet surely my right is with the LORD,
and my recompense with my God.”

It is clear, the servant is Israel. Now read on (Isaiah 49:5):

[5] And now the LORD says,
he who formed me from the womb to be his servant,
to bring Jacob back to him;
and that Israel might be gathered to him—
for I am…

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