Mitch Glaser. Isaiah 53 Explained. New York: Chosen People, 2010. Print.
This book is not what I expected. That is not necessarily a bad thing. Chapter 53 of the Bible’s Book of Isaiah and some surrounding verses contain one of the most direct prophecies about the ministry of the Jewish Messiah. It describes a man called the suffering servant.
Believers in Jesus have always pointed to this passage as foretelling Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for the sins of the world. Jews are often not familiar with it or explain it by referring to the suffering of the Jewish people at the hands of many different people groups over the centuries.
Though anyone can benefit from this book, Isaiah 53 Explained is aimed at contemporary Jewish readers. Glaser notes that a majority of Jews identify with their ethnicity but do not believe in any God. Still, most observe Jewish holidays and are aware of some of their culture. A minority are to varying degrees diligent to observe the Jewish Law.
Approximately the first third of the book explains why the Hebrew Scriptures are reliable and worth reading. One chapter also presents the idea that, whether or not the reader considers it inspired, the New Testament is historically reliable.
Once these things are established, then Glaser begins taking a look at Isaiah 52:13 through the end of Chapter 53. First, he takes a look at what the Bible generally means by the word servant since these verses describe in detail a man called God’s servant.
Finally, Isaiah 53 Explained shows the remarkable connection between these words and the life of Jesus. More than one testimony of a Jewish person in the Appendix expressed surprise when the writer found that it was part of the Hebrew Bible written some 700 years B.C.E.
The primary argument against these verses applying to Jesus is that they apply to the Jewish people in general. The book makes five major points to deal with that objection. Interestingly, Glaser even quotes some traditional Jewish sources that interpret this prophecy applying to one person, not a group, and referring to the Jewish Messiah.
The reader should note the brief testimonies near the end of the book that tell of Jews who came to believe that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah partly under the influence of Isaiah 53. One perhaps described it best when describing Jesus as Isaiah’s suffering servant:
He seemed to me to be the embodiment of Jewish experience for all time—destined to suffer at the hands of the world, yet finally to be vindicated by God. (132)