The Suffering Servant: Part IV "Who shall declare his generation?"

The Suffering Servant: Part II
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In the fourth article in the series on the Suffering Servant, we go with our Divine Redeemer as He, who was perfectly pure, takes upon Himself my sins and yours.

“All we, like sheep, have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquityies of us all.” Isaiah 53:6

“All we, like sheep, have gone astray.” The Targum (????) has, “All we like sheep have been scattered.” The LXX (????) reads, “We all like sheep had strayed.”

Alexander explains: “The original expression is like the sheep (or collectively the flock) i.e. not sheep in general, but the sheep that wander, or that have no shepherd.—The idea of a shepherd, although not expressed, appears to have been present to the writer’s mind, not only in the first clause but the last, where the image meant to be presented is no doubt that of a shepherd laying down his life for the sheep. This may be fairly inferred not merely from the want of connection which would otherwise exist between the clauses, and which can only be supplied in this way, nor even from the striking analogy of Zechariah 13:7, where the figure is again used, but chiefly from the application of the metaphor, with obvious, though tacit, reference to this part of Isaiah, in the New Testament to Christ’s laying down his life for his people (see John 10:11–18, and 1 Peter 2:24–25).

“The figure of wandering, or lost sheep is common in Scripture to denote alienation from God and the misery which is its necessary consequence (see Ezekiel 34:5; Matthew 9:36) … a comparison with scattered sheep, whose running off in different directions [springs] from confusion, ignorance, and incapacity to choose the right path … [Theodoret] understands it to denote the vast variety of false religions …” “We have turned every one to his own way.”

Elder Charles W. Penrose taught, “That is what is the matter with the Christian world. They are not walking in the Lord’s way. They are walking in the ways that men have invented. Any student of the Scriptures who is willing to receive truth when it is presented before him can see by perusing the sacred books of the Old and the New Testaments, that the condition of the world at the present time was anticipated by the ancient prophets and apostles. They all saw that the time would come when the people would turn away from the truth; when they would walk in their own ways; when they would build up churches to themselves; when they would hire men to preach to them things which were wise and good in their own eyes; they would not be very anxious to find out the will of God, or that He might declare it to them, but would have preachers to teach them doctrines which seemed good to their ‘itching ears.’”[1]

President Brigham Young shared: “Before I heard the gospel I searched diligently to know and understand whatever could be learned among the sectarians respecting God and the plan of salvation. It was so with the majority of the Latter-day Saints. But very little can be learned among Christian professors; they are ignorant about God and His kingdom, and the design He had in view in the formation of the earth and peppering it with His creatures… My brother Joseph [i.e., Joseph Young who also joined the Church] once said to me (and we were both Methodists at the time), ‘Brother Brigham, there is not a Bible Christian in the world; what will become of the people?’ For many years no person saw a smile on his countenance, in consequence of the burden of the Lord being upon him, and realizing that the inhabitants of the earth had all gone out of the way and had turned every man to his own views. I am … speaking now of … their ignorance of the gospel of the Son of God and of the way to be saved in the celestial kingdom of our Father.”[2]

And the Lord hath laid on him the iniquities of us all.” The Targum (????) says, “It pleased the Lord (literally, ‘it shall be the pleasure of the Lord’) to forgive the sins of all of us for His sake.” Instead of iniquity, the Peshitta (????) has sins.

The principle of Divine Investiture is found here. Even some of the Gentile authors, such as Birks, recognize this: “The question. Who speaks in this chapter? has received various answers … The view which alone explains the whole, without requiring any abrupt change of person, is that it is ‘the Spirit of Christ, which was in’ the prophet, who here speaks by his lips.”

Keith says: “The marginal and literal meaning of the last clause, ‘The Lord caused the iniquity of us all to meet on him,’ is more expressive. It appears to refer to the act of the elders of Israel laying their hands on the head of the sacrifice, which was symbolical of the transference to it of the guilt of the people. It all met on the head of the victim.” Wordsworth has: “As the Apostle says, ‘He made Him to be sin for us. Who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him’ (2 Corinthians 5:21). And again, ‘Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us’ (Galatians 3:13); ‘He was once offered to bear the sins of many’ (Hebrews 9:28).”

“He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.” Isaiah 53:7

“He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth.” The Targum (????) says, “He shall pray and He shall be answered, yea, before He shall open His mouth, He shall be heard.”[3] The Douay-Rheims (????) says, “He was offered because it was his own will, and he opened not his mouth.” We have, for instance, associated with our Savior’s conviction: “And when he was accused of the chief priests and elders, he answered nothing. Then said Pilate unto him, Hearest thou not how many things they witness against thee? And he answered him to never a word; insomuch that the governor marvelled greatly” (Matthew 27:12–14). Jenour, of these verses, has: “Can anything correspond more exactly than the history and the prophecy in this case?” Schiller-Szinessy, leaning on the Targum (????) explain that all Christ could have opened His mouth and asked to be rescued and it would have been immediately done: “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53). Then, all would have been lost.

Elder Erastus Snow taught: “[Christ] waged war constantly, and was well prepared for this work, having an inexhaustible source of strength to draw from, the Spirit having been given to him without measure. But at length, the time came when the Father said, You must succumb, you must be made the offering. And at this dark hour the power of the Father withdrew itself measurably from him, and he was left to be taken by his enemies, and, like a lamb, was led to the slaughter, but he opened not his mouth because his hour had come. And when he was led to exclaim in his last agony upon the cross, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? [t]he Father did not deign to answer; the time had not yet come to explain it and tell him.

“But after a little, when he passed the ordeal, made the sacrifice, and by the power of God was raised from the dead, then all was clear, all was explained and comprehended fully. It was necessary that the Father should thus measurably forsake his Son …”[4] On this topic, see Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s most moving talk, None were with Him (April 2009 General Conference). “He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter.”

Birks has: “Messiah was the Lamb, whom God provided for a spotless offering (Genesis 22:8).” Govett points us to “The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: In his humiliation, his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth. And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man? Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus” (Acts 8:32–35).

Govett testifies: “It is therefore evidently implied in the strongest manner that Jesus is the subject of this passage.”

Urwick suggests: “The prophet’s comparison is to the sacrifice of the paschal lamb, and he says: ‘As the lamb to the slaughter He is brought’” (emphasis added on paschal lamb). Urwick reminds us that the word for sheep or ewe is also used for Jacob’s wife, Rachel, רָחֵל. “And as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.”

Govett also quotes Christ’s comment: “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 6:23), as well as His refusal to answer the accusations of the High Priest (see Matthew 27:12; Mark 15:3) and of Pilate: “Then said Pilate unto him, Hearest thou not how many things they witness against thee? And he answered him to never a word; insomuch that the governor marvelled greatly” (Matthew 27:13–14).

“He was taken from prison and from judgment; and who shall declare his generation? For he was cut off out of the land of the living; for the transgression of my people was he stricken.” Isaiah 53:8

“He was taken from prison and from judgment.” Schiller-Szinessy explains that Christ was taken “without rule and without justice.” The prophet Abinadi, in the Book of Mormon, taught: “I would that ye should understand that God himself shall come down among the children of men, and shall redeem his people … And thus the flesh becoming subject to the Spirit, or the Son to the Father, being one God, suffereth temptation, and yieldeth not to the temptation, but suffereth himself to be mocked, and scourged, and cast out, and disowned by his people. And after all this, after working many mighty miracles among the children of men, he shall be led, yea, even as Isaiah said, as a sheep before the shearer is dumb, so he opened not his mouth. Yea, even so he shall be led, crucified, and slain, the flesh becoming subject even unto death, the will of the Son being swallowed up in the will of the Father.

“And thus God breaketh the bands of death, having gained the victory over death; giving the Son power to make intercession for the children of men—Having ascended into heaven, having the bowels of mercy; being filled with compassion towards the children of men; standing betwixt them and justice; having broken the bands of death, taken upon himself their iniquity and their transgressions, having redeemed them, and satisfied the demands of justice” (Mosiah 15:1a, 5–9). McFadyen, leaning on Marti, suggests the Servant, “debarred from justice was taken away to death.” Cheyne has: “He was taken away] i.e., by a violent death.”

And who shall declare his generation?” Alexander notes: “Kimhi and Hengstenberg explain it to mean, who can declare his posterity or spiritual seed?” See also Abinadi in Mosiah 15:10–14 and 15 ff., so that the declaring of this generation is intimately related to both the seed of Christ as well as the preaching of the Gospel. Elder Bruce R. McConkie instead taught: “Who shall declare his generation?] This means, ‘Who will give his genesis? Who will reveal his genealogy? Who will give the source from whence he sprang? Who will announce the divinity of the mortal Messiah?’”[5] “For he was cut off out of the land of the living.” Keith has: “By the expression ‘cut off,’ is implied the violence of his death.” In Isaiah 38:12 we will speak of, “I have cut off like a weaver my life.” While the Hebrew here is different, the idea is the same. It was the ultimate sacrifice. Cheyne says: “He drank his cup to the dregs.” “For the transgression of my people was he stricken.” The LXX (????) reads, “For the transgressions of my people he is led to death.” Whitehouse complaints about the use of עַמִּי, my people, here. Multiple exegetes wish to replace my people with peoples. While Cheyne thinks the change is possible he well notes: “Four places, it is true, are mentioned in the Massora in which the proposed substitution is possible, but this passage is not one of them.”

Although Christ died for both Jew and Gentile, we read a special pathos into the scene, as in Zechariah 12:10: “And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.”

So also: “And one shall say unto him, What are these wounds in thine hands? Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends [i.e., my people]” (Zechariah 13:6). Returning to the LXX (????), see above, Lowth suggests that in the Hebrew we are missing to death למות, based on an interesting conversation between Origen and the Jewish scholars of his time, according to a note by Kennicott (see Lowth for the details).

“And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence evil, neither [was any] deceit in his mouth.” Isaiah 53:9

“And he made his grave with the wicked.” Birks has: “Our Lord was buried among malefactors, a class, but with the rich man [Joseph of Arimathea[6]], a single person, by the appointment of the judges who condemned Him, in minute agreement with the prophecy.”

Alexander further comments: “Malefactors were either left unburied, or disgraced by a promiscuous[7] interment in an unclean place; a usage explicitly asserted by Josephus and Maimonides. As the Messiah was to die like a criminal, he might have expected to be buried like one; and his exemption from this posthumous dishonour was occasioned by a special providential interference.”

When I visited Jerusalem, I was sure I would weep at the Western Wall. Instead, I was surprised because I almost felt as if the Spirit of the Lord was saying: “I am no longer here. I have moved my Presence from what used to be the site of the Holy Temple.” On a different day, about a week later, we visited what is called the Garden Tomb. It was there that I was overcome by the Spirit, which seemed to proclaim: “Why seek ye the living among the dead?” (Luke 24:5) for “I am risen” (Matthew 26:32b).

That day, in my Scripture journal I wrote: “I read John 20:1–18 here, today Friday, 7 September 2012, to Linda, just a few meters from the tomb of Christ, at the Garden Tomb site. Indeed, ‘He is risen.’ I was overcome by the Spirit. —7 Sep 2012.” Through much of our trip our tour guide had been sending innuendos about the falseness of Christianity. I was sharing these scriptures on the bus with a few people in the front seats, when they asked I share them with all, which I did gladly. “Because he had done no evil. Instead of violence” (see KJV), the LXX (????), Peshitta (????) and Douay-Rheims (????) use a synonym to evil (as in the Book of Mormon), iniquity. Delitzsch also follows close to the Book of Mormon: “… because He had done no wrong.”

Indeed, one of the acceptations for the Hebrew חָמָס is wrong (Gesenius). TDOT has “It is already apparent here that all חָמָס is ultimately directed against Yahweh.” Urwick explains: “It [חָמָס] signifies active violation of the law. TDOT further has, “In Ezekiel 28:16, “be filled with חָמָס” is synonymous with “sin.” In other words, our Redeemer was free from any sort of iniquity, wrong or sin—thus permitting Him to expiate for ours. “Neither was any deceit in his mouth.” The Targum (????) has, “And that they should not speak folly (other copies read נִכְלִין, ‘guile’) with their mouth.” The LXX (????) reads, “Nor practised guile with his mouth.” The Savior spoke only that which His Father had Him say.


[1] Penrose, Elder Charles W., Sincerity Alone Not Sufficient, Etc. Journal of Discourses 25:44b, 20 May 1883.

[2] Young, President Brigham. “Condition of Apostates, Etc.” Journal of Discourses 12:95. [3] Allusion to Isaiah 65:24.

[4] Snow, Elder Erastus, “Rest Signifies Change, Etc.” Journal of Discourses 21:26a. October 1879.

[5] McConkie, Elder Bruce R. “Who Shall Declare His Generation?” BYU Studies, vol. 16 (1975–1976), Number 4 – Summer 1976, p.554.

[6] Matthew 27:57–60.

[7] Here, indiscriminate as to the class of people.

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