The Sages on The Servant

Moses ben-Maimon, Maimonides (1135-1204) wrote to Rabbi Jacob Alfajumi: Likewise said Isaiah that He (Messiah) would appear without acknowledging a father or mother: “He grew up before Him as a tender plant and as a root out of a dry ground” etc. (Isaiah 53:2).

Talmud, Sanhedrin 98b: Rav said: The world was created only on David’s account. Samuel said: On Moses account; R. Johanan said: For the sake of the Messiah. What is His [the Messiah’s] name? - The Rabbis said: His name is “the leper scholar,” as it is written, Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem Him a leper, smitten of G-d, and afflicted. 

Talmud, Sanhedrin 98b: Messiah... what is His name? The Rabbis say, “the leprous one”; those of the house of the Rabbi say: “Cholaja” (the sickly), for it says, “Surely He has borne our sicknesses” etc. (Isaiah 53:4).

Targum Jonathan (4th Century) gives the introduction on Isaiah 52:13: “Behold, My servant the Messiah...” 

Rabbi Moses Alschech (1508-1600) says: Our Rabbis with one voice accept and affirm the opinion that the prophet is speaking of the Messiah, and we shall ourselves also adhere to the same view. 

Abrabanel (1437-1508) says: This is also the opinion of our own learned men in the majority of their Midrashim. 

Rabbi Yafeth Ben Ali (10th Century): As for myself, I am inclined to regard it as alluding to the Messiah. 

Abraham Farissol (1451-1526) says: In this chapter there seem to be considerable resemblances and allusions to the work of HaMoshiach and to the events which are asserted to have happened to Him, so that no other prophecy is to be found the gist and subject of which can be so immediately applied to Him. 

Gersonides (1288-1344) on Deuteronomy 18:18: In fact, Messiah is such a prophet, as it is stated in the Midrash on the verse, “Behold, My servant shall prosper...” (Isaiah 52:13). 

Yalkut Schimeon (ascribed to Rabbi Simeon Kara, 12th Century) says on Zech.4:7: He (the king Messiah) is greater than the patriarchs, as it is said, “My servant shall be high, and lifted up, and lofty exceedingly” (Isaiah 52:13). 

Tanchuma: Rabbi Nachman says: The Word “man” in the passage, “Every man a head of the house of his father” (Numbers 1,4), refers to the Messiah, the son of David, as it is written, “Behold the man whose name is Zemach” (the Branch) where Jonathan interprets, “Behold the man Messiah” (Zechariah 6:12); and so it is said, “A man of pains and known to sickness” (Isaiah 53:3). 

Pesiqta Rabbati (ca.845) on Isa. 61:10: The world-fathers (patriarchs) will one day in the month of Nisan arise and say to (the Messiah): “Ephraim, our righteous Anointed, although we are Your grandparents, yet You are greater than we, for you have borne the sins of our children, as it says: But surely He has borne our sicknesses and carried our pains; yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of G-d and afflicted. But He was pierced because of our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was laid upon Him and through His wounds we are healed”(Isaiah 53:4-5). 

Rabbi Shimon Ben Yochai (2nd Century), Zohar, part II, page 212a and part III, page 218a, Amsterdam Ed.: There is in the garden of Eden a palace called: “The palace of the sons of sickness.” This palace the Messiah enters, and summons every sickness, every pain, and every chastisement of Israel: they all come and rest upon Him. And were it not that He had thus lightened them off Israel, and taken them upon Himself, there had been no man able to bear Israel’s chastisement for the transgression of the law; this is that which is written, “Surely our sicknesses He has carried.” (Isaiah 53:4) As they tell Him (the Messiah) of the misery of Israel in their captivity, and of those wicked ones among them who are not attentive to know their L-rd, He lifts up His voice and weeps for their wickedness; and so it is written, “He was wounded for our transgressions.” (Isaiah 53:5) 

Midrash on Ruth 2:14: He is speaking of the King Messiah “Come hither,” i.e. Draw near to the throne; “eat of the bread,” i.e., The bread of the kingdom. This refers to the chastisements, as it is said, “But He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities.” (Isaiah 53:5) 

Rabbi Elijah de Vidas (16th Century): The meaning of “He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities” is, that since the Messiah bears our iniquities which produce the effect of His being bruised, it follows that whoever will not admit that Messiah thus suffers for our iniquities must endure and suffer for them himself. 

Sifre: Rabbi Jose the Galilean said, “Come and learn the merits of the King Messiah and the reward of the Just - from the first man who received but one commandment, a prohibition, and transgressed it. Consider how many deaths were inflicted upon himself, upon his own generation, and upon those who followed them, till the end of all generations. Which attribute is greater, the attribute of goodness, or the attribute of vengeance?” He answered, “The attribute of goodness is greater, and the attribute of vengeance is the less.” - “How much more then, will the King Messiah, who endures affliction and pains for the transgressions (as it is written, ‘He was wounded,’ etc.), justify all generations. This is the meaning of the word, ‘And the L-rd made the iniquity of us all to meet upon Him’” (Isaiah 53:6). 

Rabbi Eleazer Kalir (9th Century) is credited with writing the following Yom Kippur Musaf prayer, although there is some evidence that it dates back to the first century C.E.: Our righteous Messiah has departed from us. Horror has seized us and we have no one to justify us. He has borne our transgressions and the yoke of our iniquities, and is wounded because of our transgressions. He bore our sins upon His shoulders that we may find pardon for our iniquity. We shall be healed by His wounds, at the time when the Eternal will recreate Him a new creature. Oh bring Him up from the circle of the earth, raise Him up from Seir, that we may hear Him the second time. 

Rabbi Moses, “The Preacher” (11th Century) wrote in his commentary on Genesis (pg. 660): From the beginning G-d has made a covenant with the Messiah and told Him, “My righteous Messiah, those who are entrusted to you, their sins will bring You into a heavy yoke” ... And He answered, “I gladly accept all these agonies in order that not one of Israel should be lost.” Immediately, the Messiah accepted all agonies with love, as it is written: “He was oppressed and He was afflicted.” 

Pesikta Rabbati (on Isaiah 61:10): Great oppressions were laid upon You, as it says: “By oppression and judgment He was taken away; but who considered in His time, that He was cut off out of the land of the living, that He was stricken because of the sins of our children” (Isaiah 53:8), as it says: “But the L-RD has laid on Him the guilt of us all”. (Isaiah 53:6)


  1. Shalom Luke,

    This is a great post! Isn't it kind of ironical to think that some believe that Isa.53 is solely of the nation of Israel? This is wrong on many counts. While Israel is a servant of HaShem and in some allegorical way this passage can be ascribed to it, but the correct and immediate interpretation is that it is speaking of King Moshiach! Logic and context proves this without any shadow of a doubt. Plus King Moshiach is the 'Perfect Jew', He is the representation of the entire Nation of Israel, so it is fitting to call Him (Israel)!


  2. You're right, Rey. It's terribly obvious, to any intellectually honest person, exactly who this passage is describing. On top of that, it's prophetic! How many other passages in Tanakh are concerning one thing on the surface, but prophetically speak of something else just below? Isn't that nearly all of Talmudic function - examining a passage for the secondary and tertiary layers of meaning? Where would Judaism be if we just took every passage at face value and nothing more?

    But yes, many of the chapters surrounding chapter 53 deal with the servant being Israel - that's the mystery, the secret and the reward in discerning that this passage is about Mashiach. There wouldn't be a better place for HaShem to include such important information concerning exactly what Yeshua would endure. Those that have eyes, let them see.

  3. Luke,

    Amein to that my brother, we are so fortunate to know what we know! "B.H"! May HaShem continue to open the eyes of the blind, just like He did with us!

  4. Thanks for this Luke. Great to have all of this in one place! Peace! - Brooks

  5. You are absolutely welcome, Brooks! My pleasure. Just let me know if there's ever anything else you'd like to see collected in one place. :^)