What is the most controversial prophecy in the Hebrew Bible, and why read it at Passover?

The Great Isaiah Scroll on display at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

The Great Isaiah Scroll on display at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

The actual Great Isaiah Scroll (source: The Israel Museum).

The actual Great Isaiah Scroll (source: The Israel Museum).

(Central Israel) — Have you ever been to the Shrine of the Book at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem? Have you ever seen the Great Isaiah Scroll on display there?

It is absolutely breathtaking. And it contains what many believe is the most controversial prophecy in the entire Hebrew Bible.

“The Great Isaiah Scroll (1QIsaa) is one of the original seven Dead Sea Scrolls discovered in Qumran in 1947,” notes the Israel Museum on its website. “It is the largest (734 cm) and best preserved of all the biblical scrolls, and the only one that is almost complete. The 54 columns contain all 66 chapters of the Hebrew version of the biblical Book of Isaiah. Dating from ca. 125 BCE, it is also one of the oldest of the Dead Sea Scrolls, some one thousand years older than the oldest manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible known to us before the scrolls’ discovery.”

So, what is this most controversial of ancient Biblical prophecies, and why read it at Passover?

The passage begins in Isaiah 52 and goes through the entirety of chapter 53.

To read the translation in the Orthodox Jewish Bible, please click here.

52:13 Behold, My servant will prosper, he will be high and lifted up and greatly exalted. 14 Just as many were astonished at you, My people, so His appearance was marred more than any man and His form more than the sons of men. 15 Thus He will sprinkle many nations, kings will shut their mouths on account of Him; for what had not been told them they will see, and what they had not heard they will understand.

53:1 Who has believed our message? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?  For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of parched ground; he has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face he was despised, and we did not esteem Him.

Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.

He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth. By oppression and judgment He was taken away; and as for His generation, who considered that He was cut off out of the land of the living for the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due? His grave was assigned with wicked men, yet He was with a rich man in His death, because He had done no violence, nor was there any deceit in His mouth.

10 But the Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief; if He would render Himself as a guilt offering, he will see His offspring, he will prolong His days, and the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand. 11 As a result of the anguish of His soul, he will see it and be satisfied; by His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities.

12 Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, and He will divide the booty with the strong; because He poured out Himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; Yet He Himself bore the sin of many, and interceded for the transgressors.

Rather than analyze it myself, let me ask you: Of whom is the Lord God of Israel speaking?

Of whom is the Hebrew prophet Isaiah describing to the nation of Israel, and to the world?

Why do you think this is such a controversial prophecy?

What relevance do you think it has to the Passover season?

I’ll write more on this soon. But first I’d like your thoughts. And share this post with family and friends through social media and get their thoughts. (Please be respectful and gracious. Not everyone agrees, and some disagree vehemently.)

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