Who is the servant in Isaiah 53?

  • 1
    @Aaron It provides motivation for the question.
    – Double AA
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 22:13
  • 1
    Why transform spam into non-spam? I would say just delete. Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 22:15
  • 2
    It is a serious question,who is the suffering servant in Isaiah 53?How is this spam?
    – Aigle
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 22:19
  • 4
    I don't see a lot of value in quoting an entire chapter, especially when the rest of the question is one sentence. Perhaps you could focus on some key verses and add anything you've already learned on the subject. Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 22:27
  • 1
    This was not asked in a tone of "why don't you believe such." It only stated that someone else believes one thing, and asked for the Jewish understanding. Perhaps it could be stated "Christians believe or understand this to be Jesus" rather than "in Christianity this is Jesus." Perhaps rather than quoting the whole passage, you could select the verse that speaks directly of the "suffering servant," and provide a link to the chapter. Also, for your own reference, Chabad has the Jewish translation up with Rashi commentary: chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/15984#showrashi=true
    – user2411
    Commented Jul 21, 2016 at 14:18

2 Answers 2


The nation of Israel. http://outreachjudaism.org/gods-suffering-servant-isaiah-53/

As per that website, that has been the position of Jews for a long time

Origen, a prominent and influential church father, conceded in the year 248 CE – eight centuries before Rashi was born – that the consensus among the Jews in his time was that Isaiah 53 “bore reference to the whole [Jewish] people, regarded as one individual, and as being in a state of dispersion and suffering, in order that many proselytes might be gained, on account of the dispersion of the Jews among numerous heathen nations.”

Origen, Contra Celsum, Chadwick, Henry; Cambridge Press, book 1, chapter 55, page 50

Some other resources http://www.aish.com/sp/ph/Isaiah_53_The_Suffering_Servant.html

A longer discussion


Some other stuff http://www.whatjewsbelieve.org/prooftext10is53.html

and this entire chapter dissects the quotes:


sorry for the loose links, but there is too much to quote.

  • 4
    @Eagel but just to give you an understanding, the idea that the entire nation of Israel is the suffering servant is based on a verse a few chapters before: Isaiah 41:8-9 "But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, my friend; you whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners, saying to you, “You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off.”" So when the proper context is clearly that Israel as a nation is the servant, the real question is: Why would anyone think the servant is anyone else?
    – Aaron
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 22:55
  • Yet Tractate Sanhedrin 98b says it is about the Moshiach to come and Sotah 14a says it is Mosheh Rabbeinu. Not to forget that Isaiah 53:8 says that this servant bears the iniquity of God's people (Israel). So it is unlikely for the suffering servant to be Israel
    – mil
    Commented Apr 15, 2018 at 9:32
  • The Ibn Ezra disagrees with your last point "For the transgression of my people was he stricken. Every nation will think: Israel was stricken because of our sins; comp. he was slain for our transgressions (ver. 5). The construction of the sentence is: For the transgression of my people plagues came over them. להם═למו To them, that is, to the Israelites. "
    – rosends
    Commented Apr 15, 2018 at 12:32
  • Sotah 14a simply shows that the logic God uses in promising to apply the credit of performance without actual performance is supported textually as the Isaiah passage demonstrates, and can be applied to Moses' situation. This does not mean that he is the subject of Isaiah 53, only that it is a proof text in a different case.
    – rosends
    Commented Apr 15, 2018 at 12:38
  • Sanhedrin includes a discussion of the Messiah's name and the text cites a variety of opinions citing passages which hint to a situation and extrapolating a possible name from the analogous situation. "The leper of the house of Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi is his name, as it is stated". Unless you are also saying that Psalm 72:17 which is explicitly about Solomon is actually about a future messiah. Applying wordplay isn't the same as saying that the particular text is "about" something.
    – rosends
    Commented Apr 15, 2018 at 12:49

The answer is: the people of Israel, and specifically the righteous remnant of Israel . See Abravanel, Alshich, Even Ezra, Malbim, Metzudos Dovid, Metzudos Tzion, Rashi, Radak, Ramban, Shadal, etc...

A detailed article by Prof. Uri Yosef's on this can be found online here.

For further reading: Isaiah 53: Who is the Servant? by Gerald Sigal

  • Yet Tractate Sanhedrin 98b says it is about the Moshiach to come and Sotah 14a says it is Mosheh Rabbeinu
    – mil
    Commented Apr 15, 2018 at 9:31

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