Of Sickness, Friends and the plain meaning of words

CD 1Imagine the scenario, a new insight on homosexuality based on a bizarre rendition of an ancient Greek word from the New Testament and a modern day Greek work where the new insight reveals that Jesus was gay! Never mind that the ancient Greek word from the New Testament and the modern day Greek word are two completely different words! Why begrudge those who wish to go along with the insight on homosexuality? Well why not? Perhaps those in the business of similarly butchering the Hebrew bible may wish to consider what they do to those Jews who know their books and their language. A case of the Christian saying my Hebrew Bible is your Hebrew Bible as opposed to your “Tanach is my Tanach in the example below:

In Isaiah 53  it is written, “By his stripes we are healed”. But these words are not true to the Hebrew. The proper way of expressing this is “By His friendship, we are healed”.

Since when do biblical Hebrew stripes (חבורה) become modern Hebrew friendship (חברותו)? Even Christian concordances get it right (see H2250) חבורה always means a wound, a bruise, a hurt or a stripe, never does it mean friend. Moreover, Biblical H2266 (חבר) never means friend but is rendered as to unite, join, bind together, be joined, be coupled, be in league, heap up, have fellowship with, be compact or be a charmer. Equating  Biblical H2266 (חבר) with  Biblical H2250 ( חבורה) is rather like equating ‘pray’ with ‘prey’, kind of spelled similar, sound the same yet completely different words!!

Context

“Yet it was our sickness he was bearing, our sufferings he carried. But we accounted him plagued, smitten by God and afflicted. But he was pierced on account of our rebelling, crushed on account of our iniquities, the chastisement that brought us peace was upon him, and by his bruises we are healed. All of us like a flock had gone astray, we had turned each to his own way, and the L-rd interposed on him the iniquity of all of us.” [53:4-6]

If the first person plural language in the above is taken universally, then the servant of the L-rd necessarily must be Jesus, because nobody else but Jesus bears universal sin. But within the biblical context of the prophecy, the “we” is not universal. In context, the “we” is in the mouth of the non-Jewish kings who have despised and taken advantage of Israel in exile. The kings whose report of Israel’s success would not have been believed had the kings (see chapter 52) not seen Israel’s ultimate success with their very own eyes.

“Kings shall shut their mouths at him. For what was not told them, they shall see. And what they did not hear, they shall observe. ‘Who would have believed our report? Upon whom has the arm of the L-rd been revealed?’ He arose before him like a sucker, like a root out of dry ground. He had no visage and no majesty. ‘We saw him, and there was no appearance that we should find him pleasing. He was despised and shunned by men, a man of sufferings and familiar with sickness; like one who hides his face from us. He was despised, and we held him of no account.’” [52:15b-53:3]

In view of context, if the “we” of the prophecy is not referring to all sinners ever born on planet earth, then the suffering servant is not Jesus or necessarily any would be messiah. Israeli kids learn Isaiah 53 in school, along with all the rest of Isaiah. Israelis know chapter 53 goes with the rest of the book! It may well be only people unfamiliar with the Book of Isaiah, ‘Christianized’ people who have read only chapter 53, who jump to the conclusion that this is all about Jesus because secular Jews who participate in Western civilization are for all intents and purposes culturally Christian. Some Jews who are won over to the Christian understanding of Isaiah 53 are therefore, being won over to majority Christian culture, rather than to fulfillment of Bible prophecy or simply because of a lack of self esteem and/ or lack of Jewish identity.

Taking a look at context, Isaiah 53 obviously prophesies that non-Jews will someday repent of their mistreatment of Israel, recognize that in God’s mysterious plan Israel’s sufferings have been to the benefit of others, and acknowledge that Israel has been the true servant of God all along. The problem however, is with those ‘Jesus glasses’ on, seeing Israel as the true servant of God certainly is not obvious to many non-Jews!

Certain of the prophetic specifications, which Christians often view as pointing exclusively to Jesus, are in fact borrowed from biblical descriptions of Israel’s experience. For example, in Isaiah 53:7 the servant of the L-rd is said to be like a flock led to the slaughter. In Psalms 44:22 Israel is said to be like a flock led to the slaughter.

“For on your account we are killed all the day; we are considered as a flock for the slaughter.”

To give another example, Isaiah 53:11 says “my righteous servant shall make many righteous.” We have just such an expression in the Book of Daniel regarding Daniel’s people Israel. Daniel 12:1b-3.

“At that time your people will escape, everyone found written in the book. Many among those sleeping in the dust of the ground will awake, some to the life of eternity and others to shame and to the contempt of eternity. And the prudent will shine like the brilliance of the firmament, and those who make many righteous like the stars, for eternity and ever.”

To give another example, Isaiah 53:11 says “my righteous servant shall make many righteous and carry their iniquities.” This language comes from the operation of Israel’s sanctuary. It was the duty of Israel’s priests to carry[3] the iniquity of others. Leviticus 10:16-17.

“Concerning the goat of the sin-offering Moshe diligently inquired. There it was ― ablaze. He was angry with Elazar and with Itamar the surviving sons of Aaron. He said, ‘Why did you not eat the sin-offering in a sacred place, for it is most holy? And it was given you in order to carry the iniquity of the congregation, to make expiation on them before the L-rd.’”

Numbers 18:1 is also explicit in this connection.

“The L-rd said to Aaron, ‘You, your sons, and your father’s house with you shall carry the iniquity of the sanctuary; you and your sons with you shall carry the iniquity of your priesthood.’”

Carrying the iniquity of others is also a prophetic gesture. Ezekiel 4:4-6.

“And you shall lie on your left side and place the iniquity of the house of Israel on it, the number of which you lie on it you will carry their iniquity. I have given you the years of their iniquity, according to the number of days, three hundred and ninety days. And you shall carry the iniquity of the house of Israel. And you shall finish these, then you shall lie on your right side, and you shall carry the iniquity of the house of Judah, forty days, a day for a year, one day per year I have imposed on you.”

During the exile, the children of Israel complain that their punishment is too severe, because they’re carrying the iniquity of previous generations.

“Our fathers sinned and they are no more, and we are carrying their iniquities.” [Lamentations 5:7]

In order to end the exile, the L-rd calls his righteous servant to resume Israel’s mission task of carrying the iniquity of others. This is what priests do, and Israel is a kingdom of priests (Exodus 19:6).

When will the Christians realize that the  New Testament accounts relate numerous instances of Jesus healing people, but never is it told in the NT that he got sick in their place. If his work load and hiking itinerary is anything to go by, Jesus seems to have been a robustly healthy individual. If Jesus was characterized by sickness, the gospel writers do not note the fulfillment of prophecy. When will Christians realize that words mean exactly what they are instead of showing such ignorance of them. Perhaps when they read the Hebrew scriptures for what they actually instead of what they want them to say? Time will tell, may be!!

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