Have you ever applied for a job and been turned down?
You've been rejected.
Yet again the list maker takes a universal experience -- rejection -- and claims that it is a messianic prophecy.
The fact that the Christian bible claims that Jesus was beloved (not despised) by thousands.
The mere fact that the Christian bible says that the Romans had to be snuck away by the Romans for fear of riots by the thousands of followers of Jesus show that he was not rejected at all. Mark 14:2 says Jesus was arrested "not during the festival,” they said, “or the people may riot.”
Ergo Jesus was not rejected by "the people."
The Christian bible goes on to say that Jesus 'followers rejected him when the Romans convicted him of a crime, but this is meaningless when it comes to understanding Y'shayahu / Isaiah 53. The list maker seems to claim that simply because Jesus was rejected at the time of his arrest and execution (even though he had thousands of followers before this happened, and his disciples returned to him after his death) is proof that being isolated or rejected is proof of some messianic prophecy.
That makes no sense since just about everyone has been rejected or isolated at some point in life. To understand who the servant is who is isolated / rejected prior to being recognized as the opposite the words cannot be isolated themselves! To understand the meaning one must read the word(s) in context -- and when that is done any application to the messiah or Jesus disappears. The messiah is never described as rejected in the T'nach (Jewish bible).
Again, to understand who the servant in Isaiah is it helps to actually read the book of Isaiah -- particularly this servant song which begins with Y'shayahu / Isaiah 52:13. There were no chapters originally -- they were a Christian "invention." The last three lines of Y'shayahu / Isaiah 52 are part of the preamble to the first few lines in Y'shayahu / Isaiah 53 . In order to understand the subject of one must start at the end of
"Behold, My servant will succeed; he will be exalted and become high and exceedingly lofty. 14 Just as multitudes were astonished over you (saying) "His appearance is too marred to be a man's, and his visage to be human, 15 so will the many nations exclaim about him, and kings will shut their mouths (in amazement) for they will see that which had never been told to them, and will perceive things they had never heard. " Y'shayahu / Isaiah 52:13 - 15. (The quote is from the Artscroll Stone Edition translation, the link is to the Judaica Press translation).
Y'shayahu / Isaiah 53:3 has the non-Jewish nations state that this servant who had been "was despised and isolated from men, a man of pains and accustomed to illness. As one from whom we would hide our faces; he was despised and we had no regard for him" is in fact G-d's servant and is now brought to a high position of honor.
Did you notice in the translation that the word "rejected" is not found?
The Hebrew is וַחֲדַ֣ל. The וַ / vav is a prefix and here means "and." חֲדַ֣ל should translate to isolated or forsaken.
Isaiah speaks of the servant being isolated from men -- just as Jews for thousands of years were rejected in their exile from the host countries and very often placed into ghettos, unable to live among other people.
Were Jews isolated (let alone rejected)? Absolutely:
From the Crusades where Jews were slaughtered to pogroms (anti-Jewish riots) in Europe in the 19th century (four million Jews fled to Western Europe and America due to persecutions in Eastern Europe), to the Holocaust were half of the entire Jewish population was murdered the rejection / isolation continues today. Unfortunately the above is just a sample of the ill treatment of Jews by the non-Jewish nations.
For some who might be inclined to blame Catholics and absolve Protestants from the above list, think again. Martin Luther, founder of Protestantism, in 1543 CE wrote a treatise entitled: "On the Jews and their lies, On Shem Hamphoras": "Their synagogues should be set on fire... their houses should likewise be broken down and destroyed... Let them earn their bread by the sweat of their noses, as is enjoined upon Adam"s children."
Unfortunately Jews are still rejected and isolated even today. In 2003 the Islamic Summit Conference asserted that “Jews rule this world by proxy,” even though Jews number approximately 11 million out of 7 billion humans on earth. The Arab nations have run a multi-part dramatic TV series purporting to document Jewish plans to subjugate the world.
French Jews have been attacked and Jewish schools burned by arsonists this year. Link.
Although Isaiah 53 is a missionary favorite "proof text" to assert that Jesus is the Jewish messiah the Christian bible itself does not use Y'shayahu / Isaiah 53 at all to "prove" Jesus was the messiah.
Does Isaiah ever mention the messiah by name ("the messiah") and call him the servant?
In the T'nach (bible) the messiah is never called "the messiah" or even "messiah."
Isaiah does call quite a few people G-d's servant including
Himself (Isaiah). Y'shayahu / Isaiah 20:3;
Eliakim Y'shayahu / Isaiah 22:20;
King David Y'shayahu / Isaiah 37:37;
Israel / the Jewish nation / Jacob / Jeshrun:
Israel is called, by Isaiah, "My servant" time and time and time again. Even many Christian sources recognize that Isaiah's suffering servant in Y'shayahu / Isaiah 52:13 - Y'shayahu / Isaiah 53 is not Jesus. The English Bible, Oxford Study Edition says: "52.13-53.12: Fourth servant song. The suffering servant. See 42.1-4 n. Israel, the servant of G-d, has suffered as a humiliated individual... Israel, which has suffered for all mankind, will now be granted her rightful place." Another Christian source who concurs is The New Interpreter’s Study Bible, 20013. 52:13-15 "The L-rd speaks, promising that the servant Israel, although disfigured because of the agonies of exile, will be exalted so that the nations will be astounded."
Many a missionary will insist that Israel (the Jewish people) could not be Isaiah's servant (even though Isaiah himself calls the Jews G-d's servant) because not all Jews meet the criteria. The missionary reasoning is that if even one Jew does not "fit" Isaiah then it can't apply to the Jews.
The missionary will say "Not all Jews have been" (fill in the blank).
These missionaries ignore Isaiah himself who tells us that Israel (the Jews) are G-d's servant!
The Jewish nation is seen as one nation -- and just as in America not all Americans are one thing, so too not all Jews optimize Judaism. It is the nation, viewed as a whole, not individual members of the nation, to whom Isaiah speaks.
Read Y'shayahu / Isaiah 53 in context. Isaiah is saying that the suffering servant of Y'shayahu / Isaiah 53 is not guilty of the crimes of which his persecutors accuse him.
Y'shayahu / Isaiah 42:1-4,, Y'shayahu / Isaiah 49:1-6, and Y'shayahu / Isaiah 52:13 - 53:12 explicitly use the Hebrew עַבְדִּ֖י / avdi (my servant).
Isaiah does not say that the servant was never violent or never guilty of lying.
Read it in context. Isaiah is saying that the suffering servant of Isaiah 53 is not guilty of the crimes of which his persecutors accuse him.
Also, Isaiah tells us that this servant is despised until his exaltation.
This, unfortunately, has not yet happened.
Here is the Artscroll Stone Edition translation along with their footnotes at the bottom of each response to aid in your understanding of the passage.
Isaiah 52:13 Behold, My servant will succeed; he will be exalted and become high and exceedingly lofty.
14 Just as multitudes were astonished over you (saying) "His appearance is too marred to be a man's, and his visage to be human,
15 so will the many nations exclaim about him, and kings will shut their mouths (in amazement) for they will see that which had never been told to them, and will perceive things they had never heard.
53:1 Who would believe what we have heard! For whom has the arm of HaShem been revealed?
2 Formerly he grew like a sapling or like the root from arid ground; he had neither form nor grandeur; we saw him, but without such visage that we could desire him.
3 He was despised and isolated from men, a man of pains and accustomed to illness. As one from whom we would hide our faces; he was despise and we had no regard for him.
4 But in truth it was our ills that he bore, and our pains that he carried -- but we had regarded him diseased, stricken by G-d and afflicted!
5 He was pained because of our rebellious sins and oppressed through our iniquities; the chastisement upon him was for our benefit, and through his wounds we were healed.
6 We have all strayed like sheep each of us turning his own way and HaShem inflicted upon him the iniquity of us all.
7 He was persecuted and afflicted but did not open his mouth; like a sheep being led to the slaughter or a ewe that is silent before her shearers, he did not open his mouth.
8 Now that he has been released from captivity and judgment who could have imagined such a generation? For he had been removed from the land of the living, an affliction upon them that was my people's sin.
9 He submitted himself to his grave like wicked men; and the wealthy (submitted) to his executions for committing no crime and with no deceit in his mouth.
10 HaShem desired to oppress him and He afflicted him; if his soul would acknowledge guilt he would see offspring and live long days and the desire or HaShem would succeed in his hand.
11. He would see (the purpose) and be satisfied with his soul's distress. With his knowledge My servant will vindicate the Righteous One to multitudes; it is their iniquities that he will carry.
12. Therefore, I will assign him a portion from the multitudes and he will divide the mighty as spoils -- in return for having poured out his soul for death and being counted among the wicked, for he bore the sin of the multitudes, and prayed for the wicked.
Isaiah 52:13 i.e. G-d's servant the people of Israel (Rashi)
52:15 Just as Israel had once been astonishingly degraded, so it will astonish the nations by its exaltedness when the time of redemption arrives.
53:1-3 this is the prophecy foretelling what the nations and their kings will exclaim when they witness Israel's rejuvenation. The nations will contrast their former scornful attitude toward the Jews (vv. 1-3) with their new realization of Israel's grandeur (vv 4-7).
53:5 we brought suffering upon Israel for our own selfish purposes; it was not, as we had claimed, that G-d was punishing Israel for its own evil behavior.
53:6 We sinned by inflicting punishment upon Israel. Such oppression is often described as "Hashem's punishment" (see 10:5, Habakkuk 1:12), for He decreed that it should happen (Abarbanel).
53:8 When Israel's exile is finally ended the nations will marvel that such a generation could have survived the expulsion from "the land of the living, i.e. Israel, that the nations had sinfully inflicted upon it.
53:9 Ordinary Jews chose to die like common criminals, rather than renounce their faith; and wealthy Jews were killed for no reason other than to enable their wicked conquerors to confiscate their riches (Radak).
53:10 That is, Israel. G-d replies to the nations that Israel's suffering was a punishment for its own sins; and when the people realize this and repent, they will be redeemed and rewarded.
53:11 Israel will teach the nations of G-d's righteousness.