New English Translation
53 Who would have believed[a] what we[b] just heard?[c]
When[d] was the Lord’s power[e] revealed through him?
2 He sprouted up like a twig before God,[f]
like a root out of parched soil;[g]
he had no stately form or majesty that might catch our attention,[h]
no special appearance that we should want to follow him.[i]
3 He was despised and rejected by people,[j]
one who experienced pain and was acquainted with illness;
people hid their faces from him;[k]
he was despised, and we considered him insignificant.[l]
- Isaiah 53:1 tn The perfect has a hypothetical force in this rhetorical question. For another example, see Gen 21:7.
- Isaiah 53:1 sn The speaker shifts here from God to an unidentified group (note the first person plural pronouns throughout vv. 1-6). The content of the speech suggests that the prophet speaks here as representative of the sinful nation Israel. The group acknowledges its sin and recognizes that the servant suffered on their behalf.
- Isaiah 53:1 tn The first half of v. 1 is traditionally translated, “Who has believed our report?” or “Who has believed our message?” as if the group speaking is lamenting that no one will believe what they have to say. But that doesn’t seem to be the point in this context. Here the group speaking does not cast itself in the role of a preacher or evangelist. No, they are repentant sinners, who finally see the light. The phrase “our report” can mean (1) the report which we deliver, or (2) the report which was delivered to us. The latter fits better here, where the report is most naturally taken as the announcement that has just been made in 52:13-15.
- Isaiah 53:1 tn Heb “to whom” (so KJV, NASB, NIV, NRSV).
- Isaiah 53:1 tn Heb “the arm of the Lord.” The “arm of the Lord” is a metaphor of military power; it pictures the Lord as a warrior who bares his arm, takes up his weapon, and crushes his enemies (cf. 51:9-10; 63:5-6). But Israel had not seen the Lord’s military power at work in the servant.
- Isaiah 53:2 tn Heb “before him.” Some suggest an emendation to “before us.” If the third singular suffix of the Hebrew text is retained, it probably refers to the Lord (see v. 1b). For a defense of this reading, see R. Whybray, Isaiah 40-66 (NCBC), 173-74.
- Isaiah 53:2 sn The metaphor in this verse suggests insignificance.
- Isaiah 53:2 tn Heb “that we might see him.” The vav conjunctive prefixed to the imperfect introduces a result clause here. See GKC 504-5 §166.a.
- Isaiah 53:2 tn Heb “that we should desire him.” The vav conjunctive prefixed to the imperfect introduces a result clause here. See GKC 504-5 §166.a.
- Isaiah 53:3 tn Heb “lacking of men.” If the genitive is taken as specifying (“lacking with respect to men”), then the idea is that he lacked company because he was rejected by people. Another option is to take the genitive as indicating genus or larger class (i.e., “one lacking among men”). In this case one could translate, “he was a transient” (cf. the use of חָדֵל [khadel] in Ps 39:5 HT [39:4 ET]).
- Isaiah 53:3 tn Heb “like a hiding of the face from him,” i.e., “like one before whom the face is hidden” (see BDB 712 s.v. מַסְתֵּר).
- Isaiah 53:3 sn The servant is likened to a seriously ill person who is shunned by others because of his horrible disease.