April 1 – No Striking Back

He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth.

Isaiah 53:7


Jesus reflects a humble attitude before His tormentors: “When He was reviled, did not revile in return” (1 Pet. 2:23). Though under sustained provocation, Jesus spoke no evil because there was no sin in His heart.

However, under similar provocation, our reaction would be more like that of the apostle Paul’s. When he was on trial before the Sanhedrin, the high priest Ananias ordered him to be struck on the mouth. His immediate response to Ananias was, “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall!” (Acts 23:3). Paul immediately had to apologize—such an exclamation against a high priest was against the law (vv. 4–5; cf. Ex. 22:28).

Paul wasn’t perfect. He is not our standard of righteousness. Only Christ is a perfect standard of how to handle the reviling of one’s enemies.

Like our Master, we are never to abuse those who abuse us.[1]

53:7 like a lamb. I.e., innocent, submissive, not complaining (cf. John 1:29, 36; Acts 8:32–33; 1 Pet. 2:22–23).[2]

53:7 slaughter Possibly alludes to sacrifice since sheep were important sacrificial animals. Lambs were used in the offering made on the Day of Atonement (Num 29:8). Lambs were also sacrificed on Passover (Exod 12:3–6).

Jesus unjustly dies on Passover, while hardly speaking a word (e.g., Matt 27:12–14; John 19:9). John’s description of Jesus as the “Lamb of God” (John 1:29) is likely intended to evoke this ot passage. John’s Gospel emphasizes the connections between Jesus’ death as an atoning sacrifice and the symbolism of the Passover (see John 1:29 and note).

is silent Unlike Jeremiah, who also speaks about being like a lamb led to the slaughter (Jer 11:19), the Servant does not plead or complain. He is not requesting redemption from his situation, and he is certainly not asking for God to act (compare Jer 11:20).[3]

53:7, 8 This is the portion of Scripture read by the Ethiopian eunuch and subsequently explained to him by Philip as referring to Jesus (Ac 8:32, 33).

53:7 did not open His mouth. The Servant will utter no protest and will be utterly submissive to those who oppress Him. Jesus fulfilled this (Mt 26:63; 27:12–14; Mk 14:61; 15:5; Lk 23:9; Jn 19:9; 1Pe 2:23). lamb … led to slaughter. The Servant was to assume the role of a sacrificial lamb (Ex 12:3, 6). Jesus fulfilled this figurative role literally (Jn 1:29; 1Pe 1:18, 19; Rev 5:6).[4]

53:7 lamb … sheep. Christ is the Lamb of God (John 1:29; 1 Cor. 5:7; Rev. 5:6) in obedience and submission to God (cf. Matt. 26:63; 27:12, 14; 1 Pet. 2:23). We went astray like sheep and He paid the penalty.[5]

53:7, 8 Like a sheep, that is, silent and uncomplaining before its shearers, He endured the cross. He was hurried away from prison and a fair trial (or “by oppression and judgment He was taken away”). It seemed impossible that He would have any posterity since He was cut off in His prime, slain for the sins of the people.[6]

53:7 Opened not His mouth speaks of the Servant’s willingness to die for sinners; it also marks His dignity and authority (Matt. 26:67, 68; 27:12–14; 1 Pet. 2:23). as a lamb to the slaughter: For similar imagery, see John 1:29, 36; 1 Cor. 5:7; Rev. 5:6, 12; 13:8.[7]

53:7 The Lamb of God—The imagery of Jesus as a lamb invokes the rich significance of the OT sacrificial system. Jesus suffered and died to fulfill the spiritual significance God had built into those sacrifices when He instituted the Levitical rituals.

  1. The Passover lamb. Jesus died as an unblemished lamb in the place of those who by faith apply His blood to the doorposts of their hearts. The death angel has no claim on them (1 Cor. 5:7; see Ex. 12).
  2. The Day of Atonement. The NT looks at Jesus fulfilling the Day of Atonement imagery primarily through His activity as High Priest (Heb. 9:11, 12) because the offerings that day were of a bull and two goats. However, it was His own blood that Jesus offered to God as High Priest (v. 14).

Jesus was “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29) because He died in the place of sinful humans. His death was a substitutionary sacrifice (Mark 10:45; John 10:11; 2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Pet. 2:24; 3:18).

Now go to—Eph. 4:3: The Person of the Holy Spirit.[8]

53:7 like a lamb. I.e., innocent, submissive, not complaining (cf. John 1:29, 36; Acts 8:32–33; 1 Pet. 2:22–23).[9]

7–9 Thexton (in loc.) has given an admirable précis of these verses: “Meekly and without protest the Servant accepts the sentence to death and suffers execution. Although innocent, he is given a felon’s grave.” Motyer’s comments (1993, 1999, in loc.), in which he sets these verses in their wider theological context, are well worth reading. The term “oppressed” (v. 7) is appropriate in relation to the trials and death of Jesus; for all those who tried him—Pilate, Herod, Annas, and Caiaphas—had a measure of human authority and misused it when they condemned him or, washing their hands of him, allowed others to take him to the place of death. In it all, he had a quiet and uncomplaining bearing (cf. esp. 1 Pe 2:23), which suggests not only comparison but also contrast with Jeremiah (cf. Jer 11:18–20; 12:1–3). Writing on v. 7b, Simon (in loc.) says:

This new David (cf. Eze 34:23) gives his life for the sheep who, strangely, are his murderers. He combines both the initiative and the submissiveness of the priest-shepherd and the victim-sheep. Thus he transmutes what might have been merely the murder of a good person into a holy and abiding Messianic sacrifice.

The phrase “by oppression and judgment” (v. 8) is, formally, somewhat like the earlier expression “iniquity and the solemn assembly” (1:13, NASB; NIV, “evil assemblies”) in that the two nouns present concomitant aspects of the same fact. The judgment is in fact employed as an instrument of oppression. It seemed as though he must die without issue, which was regarded as a great misfortune or worse in that society.

The phrase “cut off” strongly suggests not only a violent, premature death but also the just judgment of God (cf., e.g., Ge 9:11; Ex 12:15), not simply the oppressive judgment of human beings. Motyer (1993, in loc.), referring to Whybray’s theory that this chapter does not require the actual death of the Servant, points out that “from the land of the living” is unequivocal in the OT as meaning death (Pss 27:13; 116:9; 142:5–6; Isa 38:11; Jer 11:19). The Isaiah 38:11 reference is important for two reasons: the entire context refers to death not only unambiguously but emphatically, and, if the book is conceived as a unity, the reference is part of the wider context of Isaiah 53 (see the discussion in Oswalt, in loc.). H. R. Minn (The Servant Songs [Christchurch, N.Z.: Presbyterian Bookroom, 1966], 23) points out that the versions support the MT in reading “my people”; he goes on to say, “If this is allowed to stand—and why should it not?—there is a distinction between the people and the Servant. They are not identical” (see Introduction, pp. 453–62).

Verse 9 presents an enigma, a striking prediction fulfilled in due time, and a transition to the final stanza, which describes the Servant’s vindication. The enigma consists in the apparent juxtaposition of “the wicked” and “the rich,” the former more appropriate to his rejection and the latter to his ultimate vindication. We are forced to conclude that the parallelism is not synonymous but antithetical, the first line indicating the human intention and the second the divinely ordained intervention and transference. This in fact is strikingly fulfilled in the burial of Jesus (Mt 27:57–60). Simon (in loc.) writes:

By a very simple manipulation of the text we may read a less dramatic account according to which he was thrown into a common grave with the wicked and evil-doers. But though this emendation may claim to restore an obvious Hebrew parallelism the simplification seems altogether regrettable here. The ancient commentators wisely retained the word “rich,” which has become troublesome only to modern minds.… By retaining the unconventional “rich” and rejecting the easier “evil-doers” we follow a sound principle. “Rich” must have been there from the start; it may have become “evil-doers” whereas the reverse is impossible. The paradox should be taken quite seriously.

Motyer (1999), noting that “wicked” is plural while “rich” is singular, makes an important point: “If Isaiah had merely intended the contrast between a shameful and a sumptuous burial he would have used two singulars. The use of a plural and a singular suggests that he is talking not about categories but about actual individuals. He offers no explanation nor is there one until the fulfillment.”

The Servant’s gentle ingenuousness is asserted at the close of the stanza.[10]

[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 106). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

[2] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1338). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[3] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Is 53:7). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Is 53:7). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[5] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 1225). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.

[6] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 980). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[7] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (Is 53:7). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

[8] The Open Bible: New King James Version. (1998). (electronic ed., Is 53:7). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[9] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1338). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[10] Grogan, G. W. (2008). Isaiah. In T. Longman III, Garland David E. (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Proverbs–Isaiah (Revised Edition) (Vol. 6, pp. 801–802). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

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