"A Lamb to the Slaughter" (Isaiah 53:7-9)
The previous section (vv 4-6) gave the reason for the
sufferings of the Messiah. This section gives the facts of the
The, figure is continued, from the previous section, of the
Messiah as a lamb, or a sheep. The Law of Moses designated the sheep as a clean
animal because it chewed the cud and parted the hoof. Chewing the cud, or
"ruminating", applies in the spiritual sense to pondering and meditating upon
the Word of God so as better to assimilate it into one's character. The parted
hoof points to the necessity of "making straight paths for our feet", or walking
morally upright, though the way may be rough and uneven. Jesus was such a lamb,
"a lamb without blemish", taken from the "flock" of Israel, and prepared for the
sacrifice that would take away the sin of the world (John 1:29).
"He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his
mouth" -- The parallelism of this phrase is incomplete, and it has been
suggested by textual critics that since the word "anah" means both "answer" and
"afflict" it originally occurred twice, in both senses, but that one "anah" has
"been dropped in transmission. If this is correct, though it essentially adds
nothing to the message of the whole, then the phrase would have originally
"He was oppressed, and he answered not; and he was afflicted, yet he opened not
"Oppression" is the word "nagas", signifying to drive or
harass. "He opened not his mouth" recalls the Psalms:
"Thus I was as a man that heareth not; and I was as a dumb man that openeth not
his mouth" (Psa 38:14).
Jesus was silent before the Sanhedrin (Mat 26:63), before
Herod (Luke 23:9), and before Pilate (Mat 27:12-14; John 19:9). On other
occasions he actively protested against sin (Luke 4:23-29; John 7:19), as did
Paul also (Acts 22:25); here, though the sin was flagrant, he did not.
"I was as dumb, I opened not my mouth" (Psa
"He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter" -- This phrase,
"like a lamb that is led to the slaughter" (RSV), is echoed by Luke
"... and led him unto Pilate" –-
and v 32:
"led... to be put to death".
"As a sheep before her shearers" -- The figure of shearing is
now blended into the figure of sacrifice, a minor variation on the major theme.
As the "fruit" of a shorn sheep provides, ultimately, a garment to cover the
nakedness of the shearers, so the "fruit" of Jesus' sore trials and death is a
"garment" of righteousness to cover the "nakedness" of sin!
This phrase is quoted in Acts 8:32 by the Ethiopian Eunuch as
he reads Isaiah with Philip:
"Like a lamb dumb before his shearer".
Definite differences appear between the original statement and
its citation Where Isaiah has "rachel", a ewe, matched by the pronoun "her";
Acts has "amnos" (which may be either masculine or feminine) and "his". Where
Isaiah has "shearers" plural, Acts has "shearer" singular. (In this, Acts 8:32
appears closely to follow the Septuagint.)
The female aspect stresses the docility, the passive response
of submission. In the sacrificial usage there may also be a clue to its usage
here: The sin-offering for a ruler was a male kid (Lev 4:23), but the
sin-offering for commoners was a female kid or lamb (Lev 4:28,32). The rulers of
Israel were not to benefit from the humiliation and suffering they inflicted
upon Christ; but the common people who heard him gladly (Mark 12:37) were to be
cleansed by his offering for sin.
It appears also that "shearers" (plural) has a relevance
unmatched by the singular "shearer". Only four men in Scripture are said to have
employed "shearers": Laban (Gen 31:19), Judah (Gen 38:12,13), Nabal (1Sa
25:2,4,7,11), and Absalom (2Sa 13:23,24). Not one of the four was spoken of as a
shearer personally, but each had shearers working for him. (This typifies the
Jewish elite class, which engineered the "shearing" of Christ, though the actual
operation was performed by the "employed" Romans.)
Not one of these four was a righteous man. In fact, in each
case the employer of the shearers had at the time of the shearing some evil
intention -- toward a victim -- which intention, however, never worked out as
All this reminds us very much of the antitypical "shearing" of
Christ. Sheep-shearing was generally performed in the spring, at Passover; it
was a season of great rejoicing (1Sa 25:2-13; 2Sa 13:23-29). But for a certain
sort of man it was also the time for theft, lust, greed, and murder. And so the
leaders of Israel, at the last true Passover, blindly plotted to fulfill this
unnoticed Scriptural type of "shearing": to steal from the Anointed One his
rightful title, to satisfy their lusts in assuring their political supremacy, to
protect their treasured wealth, and to murder the supposed rival for the
Father's affection. "Now shall the inheritance be ours!" But it could not be,
and in the conclusion of the tragedy and subsequent triumph, men like Peter,
Stephen, and Paul confronted the Jews with the foreordained outcome of their
- Laban intended to cheat Jacob of his rightful property, but his son-in-law
finally left him, taking great wealth and Laban's two daughters.
sought only to satisfy his lusts with a harlot, but inadvertently fulfilled the
Levirate function and fathered a son by Tamar in the Messianic line.
boldly and contemptuously denied the rightfully anointed King David. For his
trouble, however, he lost his property, his wife, and his life.
- Absalom hid
his royal ambitions in a cloak of righteous vengeance, but the outcome of his
murder of Amnon was Absalom's own loss of favor and
"Him... ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain... (but now)
let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus,
whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2; 23,36).
"The Just One, of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers... (but now)
I see... the Son of man standing on the right hand of God" (7:52,56).
"And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down
from the tree, and laid him in a sepulchre. But God raised him from the dead"
"He was taken from prison and from judgment; and who shall declare his
generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the
transgression of my people was he
"He was taken from prison and from judgment" -- "Prison" is
"atser", literally "restraint", and may simply mean "arrest" (as in NIV and NEB)
and not incarceration (although it is possible Jesus was thrown in a dungeon for
a brief time). "Judgment is "mishpat", the pronouncing of sentence "After arrest
and sentence he was taken away" (NEB). Compare this whole phrase with Psa 22;
"Dogs have encompassed me. The assembly ('edah' -- appointed meeting; probably
the Sanhedrin) of the wicked have inclosed
"And who shall declare his generation?" -- When a man dies
childless, not only is his own life cut off, but his name also perishes, not
being perpetuated to succeeding generations. In a psalm prophetic of Christ's
"Mine enemies speak evil of me, 'When shall he die and his name perish?' " (Psa
But the death of Jesus was the making and not the perishing of
his name, though this did not appear so to the Jews and Gentiles of his
generation. Multitudes of redeemed ones would come into being through the
redemptive work of Jesus. These would be his "generations", his
"He shall see his seed... (the fruit of) the travail of his soul" (Isa
"A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for
a generation. They shall come and declare his righteousness unto a people that
shall be born" (Psa 22:30,31).
But no one, except the Lord, could "declare" (Heb "siach" --
to produce or bring forth) these succeeding generations, because they would be
born spiritually and not naturally.
"For he was cut off out of the land of the living" -- "Cut
off" implies a violent death (Dan 9:26). Literally it means "cut in two" (ie,
1Ki 3:25; Psa 136:13), perhaps as a covenant-victim (cp Isa 49:8 with Gen
15:10). The cutting in two also holds subtle undertones of the garden of Eden,
where the Lord God took a rib (or a "side") from Adam, out of which He made Eve.
Thus Adam was literally "cut in two"; one became two, so that two could become
one again (Gen 2:21-24; Eph 5:31,32)! The lovely spiritual allegory should be
obvious to all. As Jesus "slept" in a garden tomb, out of the "side" pierced by
a Roman spear. God fashioned a companion for him -- one who would be "child" of
the "last Adam" as well as "bride"! "They two shall be one flesh."
"For the transgression of my people was he stricken" --
Recalling vv 4,5.
"And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because
he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his
"And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in
his death" -- At first glance the two phrases seem to be reversed. "The wicked"
is plural, recalling the two malefactors, with whom Jesus met his death! "The
rich" is singular ("a rich man" -- RSV), referring to Joseph of Arimathea, in
whose grave Jesus was placed! However, if the connective "and" is changed to
"but", a new meaning emerges:
"He (Pilate) appointed that he would be buried with the (two) wicked men; but
(God appointed) that when he died he would be (buried) with the (one) rich
Had Jesus' body been consigned to Gehenna, as generally with
the bodies of executed "criminals", it would have "seen corruption" (Psa 16:10),
which was not to be permitted by God. Furthermore, a subsequent resurrection out
of such a "grave" would not have provided the irrefutable evidence of an open
sepulchre and "bewildered guards. So Providence overruled the original intention
of the authorities. Joseph of Arimathea, a previously secret disciple, was moved
against all "reason" to ask for the body of Jesus. Pilate, the same man who
signed the death warrant, granted him the "body (Mat 27:57-60). By a remarkable
series of twists, then, this prophecy was fulfilled contrary to all natural
"Because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in
his mouth" – If the previous two phrases are taken to be parenthetical,
the "because" links with the last portion of v 8: He was "stricken" for the
transgressions of others, because he had done no violence. In other words, it
was only because Jesus was without sin that his death could be an atonement for
the sins of others. (An alternative viewpoint would substitute "although" for
"because", thus linking this phrase with the immediately The important fact
concerning the sinlessness of Jesus is wonderfully illustrated by no less than
Pilate himself, as well as other observers, in the scenes of Luke 23:
New Testament Quotations
- Pilate -- "I find no fault in this man" (v 4).
- Pilate again -- "(I)
have found no fault in this man" (v 14).
- And again -- "Why, what evil hath
he done?" (v 22).
- A malefactor -- "This man hath done nothing amiss" (v
- A centurion -- "Certainly this was a righteous man" (v
- Verse 7 -- Mark 15:5: When Jesus was before the Roman governor he "yet
answered nothing", the equivalent of "he opened not his mouth". Mark's next
phrase is; "so that Pilate marveled", recalling Isa 52:15.
- Verse 7 -- John
1:29,36; Rev 5:6,12; 13:8; etc: "A lamb to the slaughter" becomes one of the
principal designations of Christ in the New Testament, and particularly in the
Apocalypse: "a Lamb as it had been slain".
- Verses 7,8 -- Acts 8:32,33: The
Ethiopian eunuch was, as best he was able, a worshipper of the God of Israel.
But his physical disability excluded him from the closest fellowship. Therefore,
he would be particularly struck by the picture Isaiah painted, of a man cut off
without generation, who would yet see his "seed"! How could this be? rut when
Philip "preached unto him Jesus" (v 35), the meaning was obvious. Now, in direct
contrast to the exclusionary provisions of the Law, nothing could "hinder" him
"to be baptized" (v 36). All that was necessary was faith and confession. And
the Ethiopian became one of those eunuchs who take hold of God's covenant, who
will receive in His house a name better than of sons and daughters, an
everlasting name that shall not be cut off (Isa 56:4,5).
- Verse 9 -- Rev
14:5: The 144, 000 redeemed stand on Mount Zion, commended because in their
mouths was found no guile. They have become like the Lamb of Isaiah's prophecy,
who stands there with them. That is why they are there -- because a Lamb without
blemish has been offered on their behalf, and they have emulated his character,
and made his speech theirs.