We will explore the final two quotes the writer of Matthew draws from Isaiah in this article. In Matthew 8: 17 he quotes from Isaiah 53: 4, and in Matthew 21:13 from Isaiah 56:7.
Matthew 8:17 vs, Isaiah 53:4
Matthew 8:17 actually begins with verse 14 setting the stage. Jesus is at Peters house, and heals Peters mother in law, with a single touch. By evening, word apparently got out and several people come desiring healing. Jesus accommodates them by casting out demon’s, and heals everyone who was sick. The writer gives an explanation of this in verse 17.
“that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying:
He Himself took our infirmities And bore our sicknesses.”Matthew 8:17 NKJV
How does the NKJ translate Isaiah 53:4?
“Surely he has born our griefs, and carried our sorrows;
yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.”Isaiah 53:4 NKJV
The context of Isaiah chapter 53 which actually begins with Isaiah 52:13, is talking about “my servant”.
The question then arises, who is “my servant”? If you are a Christian your answer will likely be, Jesus. However if you are Jewish, or Bani Noah it will not be Jesus.
Isaiah starts talking about this “servant” in chapter 41verse 8. All throughout these verses preceding chapter 53, he is describing who the servant is. Isaiah 41:8 gives a good description:
But you Israel are my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the decedents of Abraham my friend. You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called from the farthest regions, and said to you, ‘you are my servant, I have chosen you and have not cast you away’.Isaiah 41:8,9
The following verses from Isaiah indicate or infer that Isaiah is referring to Israel as “my servant”:
Perhaps a good discussion question would be, why would Isaiah’s prophecy all of a sudden change in chapter’s 52 and 53 implying “my servant” to be a person in the future?
Reviewing the text:
- Matthew – He Himself took our infirmities And bore our sicknesses.
But Isaiah says:
- Isaiah – Surely he has born our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted
I would like to review this quote by comparing the four primary words that I have selected above, to see how accurately the writer is presenting it. Assuming Matthew is written in Greek, we will look at the Greek words and there meaning from the text. Then compare this information with the Hebrew from the Isaiah text.
|took||Lambano – to take||born||Nawsaw – to lift, lift up|
|infirmities||Astheniah – feebleness of health or sickness||griefs||Kholee – to be weak, feeble, grieved|
|bore||Bastadzo – to take up with the hands||carried||Sabal – to bear, to bear a load|
|sickness||Nosos – a disease or sickness||sorrows||Makobe – pain, sorrow|
It appears to me that Isaiah is describing the servant picking up the weak, feeble and grieved, and also bearing the load of those in pain and sorrow. Where as Matthews writer is describing the servant taking on sickness, and disease.
Israel as a nation, (the people of Israel) “my servant” are to lift up those that are weak, feeble, and grieved, and bear the load of those who are in pain, and sorrow. The actual Hebrew verse in context doesn’t point to a particular person in the future to be healing this sick. I think it is speaking to all of us as servants caring for those around us.
The second half of Isaiah 53:4, was left ut of Matthews quote. This leaves a question; why? The second art of verse 4 refers to “the servant king” being esteemed (regarded), and the servant is smitten (hit) of God, and afflicted (become low). If “the servant” is a person (ie.: Jesus) that is “God in the flesh”, than how can this part of the verse be true? He would then be smiting and afflicting himself.
Matthew 21:13 vs. Isaiah 56:7
The last quote we investigate of Matthew quoting Isaiah is from Matthew 21:13 quoting from Isaiah 56:7 and kind of eludes to Jeremiah 7:11. Matthew gives us the setting in Jerusalem, at the Temple Mount. Jesus sees the vendors that are present selling animals that can be purchased for use in the sacrificial practice. Jesus, possibly a Pharisee1, is strongly opposed to this practice, especially at the Temple mount area. People would travel for many miles, all over the land, and possibly outside Israel. To travel these great distances, an animal to be used for a sacrifice may leave home Kosher, but may not arrive in Jerusalem that way. Because it could become bruised along the way, this system was established to accommodate the traveler. Many of those associating with the Pharisaical beliefs did not agree with this practice at the Temple area. Jesus apparently being one of them. According to the writer of Matthew, Jesus seeing this happening, he became angry and decided to turn the vendor tables over to protest this practice. However with the Roman Garrison being in the same proximity as the Temple this may not have been a great idea.
One popular theory is that Jesus believing to be the anticipated messiah, believed that this act would be in Gods will. Jesus felt that his followers would accompany him onto the Temple Mount and participate with the planed uprising. The ultimate plan was that this would be the beginning of an uprising with Jesus in the leadership. We don’t have a background giving details of this event in Matthew nor in other literature, so we can only surmise. Matthews account implies that he was on his own with out help from his followers. If his disciples were to help him, perhaps it would have appeared more as a planned uprising. In any case it is believed that this action contributed to the eventual arrest by the Romans followed by the trial, conviction and being sentenced to death.
The last few verses of chapter 20 describes Jesus (Yeshua) as healing several people, apparently this created a crowd.2 The first 11 verses of chapter 21 talk about how Jesus enters Jerusalem. Verse 9 tells us that a multitude were present crying out “Hosanna to the son of David”. Based on this information, we know that a multitude was present and possibly accompanied Jesus as he entered Jerusalem and ultimately the Temple Mount. If this is the case there would be a possibility that they would be entering the Temple Mount with Jesus, and assisting him. Making the assumption they assisted protesting the vendors on the Temple Mount, this would bring the appearance of a potential uprising before both the Sadducee’s and the Roman Garrison stationed in the same location. Matthew in verse 12 states that Jesus went onto the Temple area alone and preceded to turn over the tables. However the probability of him doing this alone is extremely thin. Being alone, he would be greatly out numbered. Then in Matt 21:13, it states, And He said to them, “It is written, “My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of thieves”. It is my belief that Jesus was quoting Isaiah, not making a statement that would elude to the “Temple” actually be presumed as “his house”.
The context of Isaiah 56:7 starts with verse 6 and continues to verse 8. I see verse 6 referring to the foreigner as those that are not Jewish but believe Jewish. Today we refer to them as “Noahide”, or “Bni’ Noah”, sons of Noah3. Verse 6 tells us that this “foreigner” loves the name of the Lord, keeps the Sabbath, and holds fast to His covenant. Isaiah is prophesying (vs. 7) that God is saying, He will bring them to His “Holy Mountain” and, “make them joyful in My house of Prayer.” He says that, “their, burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on My alter.” Then the next phrase is, “for My house shall be call a house of prayer for all nations.” This phrase includes “….for all nations”. This portion is not included with the quote found in Matthew. Was Isaiah’s intent with this prophecy to communicate that The Holy Temple is a “House of Prayer” for both the Jew and the non Jew that believes in the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob as the Jewish person? I believe it was! In the dedication of the Holy Temple, King Solomon in 1Kings 8:41,42 states,
- “Moreover, concerning a foreigner, who is not of Your people Israel, but has come from a far country for Your names sake……. When he comes and prays toward this temple,…”
King Solomon makes it very clear that his hearts desire was that all people would come to worship the God of Israel, and all would know Him.
He concludes this portion of the prophecy in verse 8 with:
- “Says the Lord God, who gathers the dispersed of Israel: ‘Yet will I gather to him others to him, besides those of him who are gathered.’” Isaiah 56: 8
A question in this verse is, “who are the others to be gathered?” The original text roughly says, “od qabatz ali lnqabatzi”, we may interpret it as “yet others I will gather, to those already gathered”. However the translators interpret the verse reading that God is going to gather others to those He has already gathered. A widely accepted understanding of this portion of the verse is that God will be gathering those that are not Jews but believe Jewish with those He has already gathered, being the Jewish people.4
Jesus quoting this verse from Isaiah was correct in that the Temple was to be, “called a house of prayer”. However that verse from Isaiah had nothing to do do with money exchange, or vendors on the Temple Mount. The text in Matthew reads just that Jesus reference this verse from Isaiah, which is OK, only the second half of the statement is not in Isaiah. A person that just reads this verse in Matthew and does not reference the original text in Isaiah could be lead to believe that the entire statement is from Isaiah.
1The Mythmaker, Paul and the Invention of Christianity, by Hyam Maccoby, page, 42c; Barns and Noble Inc; Copyright 1986
2Matt 20: 29 – 34
3Noahide, Bni’ Noah, sons of Noah. A person that believes the same as a Jewish person, but has not converted to Judaism. They typically follow the 7 commandments of Noah, found in the Torah.
4Isaiah, The Soncino Press, 1949, page 275, commentary for verse 8.