Declaring His Generation

Isaiah 53:7-9

The Golden Passional of the Old Testament - Declaring His Generation

In our study of this Golden Passional we come to the most difficult portion. No words in the Hebrew Bible have been so variously rendered as those which constitute in the original language Isa 53:8. Translators have been puzzled how to adequately translate them.

I. THE SILENCE OF THE LORD JESUS (7). Of all animals, only one is silent when handled roughly by man, and that is the sheep. Rarely is a bleat heard in a shearer's shed or slaughter-house. The prophet points to this unusual animal characteristic as a figure and prophecy of the attitude of the Lord Jesus, the Lamb of God, toward and under His suffering. What a picture we have in Isa 53:7 of the unresisting endurance of the Servant! Surely here we have the most perfect, pathetic, and majestic picture of meek endurance!

There is a danger of forgetting the need and value of silence in this fussy and noisy age. There are moments when prolonged and unbroken silence is golden, and more expressive and fitting than words. Hannah Moore, in one of her essays, remarks, "That silence is one of the great arts of conversation is allowed by Cicero himself, who says there is not only an art, but even an eloquence in it." But silence never shows itself to so great an advantage as when it is made the reply to calumny and defamation. The prophecy of Isa 53:7 was literally fulfilled in our Lord's silence under gross injustice. "He opened not His mouth." Jesus' lips were opened in witness, but never in complaint or remonstrance. What a majestic silence!

Now let us consider Isa 53:8.

II. THE DIFFERENT RENDERINGS of Verses.

1. "He was taken from prison and from judgment" (A.V.), i.e., His death was a judicial murder.

2. "By oppression and judgment. He was taken away" (R.V.), i.e., the violence meted out to Him, and the suddenness of His death.

3. "By tyranny and law was He taken" (Smith), i.e., by a form of law that was a tyranny.

4. "Without restraint, and without a sentence was He taken away" (a Rabbi), i.e., the swiftness, suddenness, and unseemly haste of His murderers.

5. "And who shall declare His generation" (A.V.).

6. "And as for His generation, who among them considered that He was cut off out of the land of the living" (R.V.) i.e., the indifference of public opinion.

7. "And of His life, who shall recount, for He was cut off" (R.V., margin).

8. "And of His age, who reflected" (Smith).

9. "And among His contemporaries who was concerned" (Von Orelli).

10. "Who shall declare His life," i.e., the mystery of His being.

11. "Who can declare the number of His generation" (Hengstenburg), i.e., of those inspired by His Spirit, or filled with His life.

12. "Who can declare the length of His life hereafter" (Luther, Calvin, and Vitringer).

13. "Who can declare His posterity" (Kimchi).

III. PRISON AND JUDGMENT. "He was taken from prison." He was not imprisoned for long. At the longest but an hour or so. He was arrested at 1 a.m. and crucified at 9 a. m., and in between a great deal took place. The following time-table has been suggested:

1. Arrested and taken before Annas (Joh 18:13), 1:05 to 1:46 a.m.

2. Trial before Caiaphas (Joh 18:19), 1:46 to 2 a.m.

3. Taken before Sanhedrin (Mat 26:59), about 2 a.m.

4. Trial before Sanhedrin (Luk 22:66-71), 5:06 a.m. to 5:50 a.m.

5. Taken before Pilate (Luk 23:1), 5:51 a.m.

6. Taken before Herod (Luk 23:7), 6 a.m.

7. Condemned and scourged (Mat 27:26), after 6 a.m.

8. Crucified, 9 a.m.

IV. DECLARING HIS GENERATION. What a problem this has been to generations of Bible readers and students. This expression ceases to puzzle one when an old custom is remembered. In those olden days, under the Jewish law, it came to be the custom that every condemned man should receive forty day's grace before his execution, during which period an official, somewhat of the character of our old town-crier, passed to and fro through the town, city, or neighbourhood, and "cried" the offence and sentence of the man, together with his tribe, family, and branch of the family, and announcing that any of his generation (i.e., family or tribe) who could adduce evidence of innocence could appeal before the end of the forty days for a new trial.

But Jesus had no forty days' grace, and no one declared His generation. Thus no opportunity was given for a new trial. What unseemly haste!

V. THE BURIAL. The A.V. rendering, "He made His grave," etc., suggests that He had the power to select His grave, and, of course, He had, yet that is not the truth here. The R.V. clears up that point: "They appointed."

Those who know the Hebrew well are startled to find that it is deaths, not death. Assuming that a man can have but one death, critics have fixed upon the plural here as either supporting the application of this Golden Passional to the Jewish nation, and not an individual; or to the extreme violence of that death, the very pain of which made it like dying again and again. But in a surprising fashion, the plural here fits in with the actual facts of the case. For there were two deaths on the cross, spiritual first, then physical. On the Cross Jesus died before He died. What is the death of the soul but separation from God, and the Redeemer "tasted death" during the three hours' darkness (Mat 27:45-46) when He declared He was forsaken! What an awful "taste" that was! It was then He tasted spiritual death. But it soon passed. Afterward He experienced physical death.

Respecting the death of criminals, Josephus states the Jewish law thus: "He that blasphemed God, let him be stoned, and let him hang upon a tree all the day, and let him be buried in an ignominious and obscure manner," usually in an unclean place. Thus even after death, shame followed the criminal.

The Jewish leaders, not content with the humiliation and sufferings heaped upon Him, nor with the cruel and shameful death inflicted, followed Him with hatred to the grave, for "They appointed His grave with the wicked," intending His mortal remains to be interred in an unclean place. But that was an appointment never kept. He died at 3 p.m. Joseph of Arimathaea, a member of the Jewish Council, boldly went and requested the body of Jesus which was granted, and with the help of Nicodemus and others, he took it from the Cross, wrapped it in one cwt. of spices to prevent corruption, and placed it in his own rock-hewn tomb, this burial taking place between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. And thus "that body, reverently bedewed with tears, wrapped in fine linen, clean and white, softly laid down by loving hands, watched by love stronger than death, lay in fitting repose as the corpse of a king, till He came forth as a conqueror." He was buried in a rich man's tomb.

And what is the force of this? The fact that the authorities permitted His friends to have the body of Jesus was a proof that they did not consider Him guilty, that although slain as a criminal, He was not a criminal! What a vindication of His innocency and honour!


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