Jesus and the Mount of Olives [33 page pdf file]
Isaiah wrote, "Who hath believed our report?" [Isa. 53:1] Christians apply the prophecy of Isaiah 53 to Jesus Christ. The gospel accounts document events leading up to his crucifixion, that fulfilled much of the prophecy.
In Acts 8, there is an account of how the evangelist Philip interpreting this prophecy for an Ethiopian eunuch.
And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest?
And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him.
The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth.
And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man?
Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.
Isaiah's question, "Who shall declare his generation?" implies there is a mystery involved. Was it limited to the first century, as the Jews say? Did it end at the crucifixion? The Jews deny his resurrection.
Early commentators thought the prophet was asking about the number of Christ's descendants, in the spiritual sense. Jerome understood it to say, "who can declare the number of His generation" (i.e. of those inspired by His spirit, or filled with His life)
Thus Isaiah's question would be about the scope of the salvation achieved by Christ. This is also supported in verse 10, "Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand."
Who are the seed referred to here? Obviously, those who follow Christ. Jesus sees them and knows every one of them, because he was raised from the grave, and he is the Shepherd of his sheep. The resurrection explains "he shall prolong his days."
The Jews argue that this prophecy cannot apply to Jesus, because he died childless. They presume to declare his generation was limited to a few decades in the first century.
A Wikipedia article says:
Judaism, teaches that the "servant" in question is
nation of Israel.
These scholars also argue that verse 10 cannot be describing Jesus.
10 he shall see [his] seed, he shall prolong [his] days
This description, is inconsistent with the short, childless life of Jesus.
The NIV translators also understood "generation" to be referring to
Isa. 53:8 NIV
By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken.
Innocent Lamb of God, yea, Thou shall have seed; as long as the sun continues Thy name shall extend to posterity (Ps. Ixxii. 17). Out of anguish and out of the judgment hast Thou come, and who will declare to the end the extent of Thy life? 'The lion that is of the tribe of Judah, the root of David has overcome, to open the book and to break its seven seals.' Now they sing to Thee a new song, and Thine whom Thou hast bought with Thy blood say eternally: '"Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. And every creature (says the seer) which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.'
[Quoted in A
Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Isaiah, by Johann Peter Lange,
Philip Schaff. 1878 p. 586]
The resurrection explains Isaiah's prophecy that Christ would "see his seed, and prolong his days." If Christ were not raised from the grave, the prophet's question, "Who shall declare his generation?" would make little sense. But because he was raised to life again, his generation spans all generations since the first century, and extends into the future indefinitely. This fulfills "he shall prolong his days."
Lange and Schaff commented:
Is it not really a contradiction to
say, that the Servant shall live long because He is taken out of the
land of the living? And also, that He will have seed, when He shall
have given His life an offering for sin? One sees here that the Prophet
has some presentiment of the higher nature of Him whom he presents to
us here as the Servant of Jehovah. According to the New Testament view,
one must be cut off from the so called land of the living, but which is
in truth the land of those devoted to death, in order to reach the land
of true, of eternal life. Thus it is hereby intimated, that Christ will
die in order to rise up again to everlasting life. Yea, even more! It
is also intimated (ver. 10), that precisely by the giving up of His
life He will accomplish, as it were, an act of generation, the result
of which will be an immeasurably numerous and immortal posterity. For
by His death He gives us eternal life (comp. Jno. xii. 24). The strange
death of Christ: 1) By His
death He laid down what was mortal in Him,
and now appears wholly as the eternal living One; 2) by His death He
gives life to them that were a prey to death. [Ibid.]
They quote Spurgeon:
The death of Christ: 1) Who willed and decreed it? (God Himself: it pleased the Lord to bruise Him). 2) Why did God will it? (He must give His life an offering for sin). 3) What are His fruits? (He shall see seed and live long, etc.). [After Spurgeon, The Gospel of the Prophet Isaiah.]
Scholars who are unbelievers, Jews who reject Christ, and preterists, limit the generation of Jesus to the first century. They presume to "declare his generation" to be limited to those living when Jesus was on the earth. The preterist scheme of interpretation insists that all prophecy was fulfilled, in that generation.
But Isaiah's prophecy shows that the scope of his generation is a mystery; it is unknown; but it certainly includes all generations since the earthly ministry of Jesus. As he said, "Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away." [Luke 21:32-33] Because Jesus was raised from the grave and remains alive, his generation has not passed away; as Isaiah wrote, "Who shall declare his generation?"
Copyright © 2010, 2014 by Douglas E. Cox
All Rights Reserved.