Day of Atonement to Isaiah 53 to Jesus

The Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur = יום כפר ) of Leviticus 16 is an amazing parallel to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ!  Jesus also fulfilled the Passover the Sacrifice, and the New Testament teaches just that.  (John 1:29; 1 Corinthians 5:7)  Jesus fulfilled the passover lamb also, as “not a bone of him was broken”. (see Exodus 12:46 and John 19:33, 36)  One of the most amazing things that many Rabbis today say is that the Passover sacrifice has nothing to do with sin!  Really?  The idolatry and the false gods of Egypt was not sin?  The Passover sacrifice was a judgment against the idolatry and false gods of Egypt. (Exodus 12:12)  Only by the substitutionary sacrifice of an innocent lamb and the blood applied to the doorposts would the judging angels of the wrath of God be stopped.  This is also a further development of what Abraham said when Isaac asked him, “Where is the lamb for the sacrifice?” Abraham answered, “God will provide for Himself the lamb”. (see Genesis 22:7-8)

Rabbinic Judaism and Muslims claim that a substitutionary sacrifice of blood is not necessary always for forgiveness; rather they claim that the main thing is repentance and contrition over sin, not the sacrificial system or substitutionary atonement by giving up life- by death by a violent, bloody death.

Of course Christians agree that just going through the motions of a religious ritual, without inward heart repentance is empty and to no avail.  Both the OT and the NT require both – the bloody substitutionary sacrifice and repentance on the part of the sinner.  Genesis 22, Exodus 12 (Passover), Leviticus chapters 1-7 and 16-17, 1 Kings 8, Psalm 50:5; Isaiah 53, Psalm 22, and other passages all point to the necessity of blood sacrifice.   Leviticus 17:11 is still teaching the necessity of blood sacrifice, despite the Rabbi’s argument against it, and is what Hebrews 9:22 is referring to – “without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins.”

One should read all of Leviticus chapter 16 and 17 and see the context, the two goats – one was slaughtered for atonement and one was sent away for atonement, after the priest confessed all the sins of the people of Israel onto the goat.

Here are the most relevant verses of Leviticus 16 concerning the Day of Atonement and the scapegoat:

20 “When he finishes atoning for the holy place and the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall offer the live goat. 21 Then Aaron shall lay both of his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the sons of Israel and all their transgressions in regard to all their sins; and he shall lay them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who stands in readiness.22 The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to a solitary land; and he shall release the goat in the wilderness.  (Leviticus 16:20-22)

34 Now you shall have this as a permanent statute, to make atonement for the sons of Israel for all their sins once every year.” And just as the Lord had commanded Moses, so he did. (Leviticus 16:34)

A very important point I want to make is about the word “bear” or “carry” in verse 22.  This is the Hebrew word Nasa’ = נשא and it also used several times in Isaiah 53.

Surely our griefs He Himself bore [Hebrew: נשא]
And our sorrows He carried;
Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten of God, and afflicted.  (Isaiah 53:4)

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 [ נשא ] the sin of many,
And interceded for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53:12)

There is also another Hebrew word for “carry” and “bear” or “take away” [ סבל – “sabal” ]  used in Isaiah 53:4 and 53:11, that would emphasize the taking away aspect of the scape-goat (literally:  “the goat of sending away”, or “the goat of escaping” = עז-  אזל = “Az” = goat; “azel” [ אזל ]  = sending away or escaping)

Isaiah 53 really starts in 52:13, according to context, as the chapter divisions were a later invention.  “Behold, My servant, will act wisely and succeed, and He will be high and lifted up and greatly exalted.”  Note, the Hebrew word Nasa’ [ נשא ]  is also used in this verse, but in this context, it means, “lifted up”.  This may be pointing to the “lifting up” of the Son of Man on the cross (John 3:14, 12:32) or the lifting up of the Son of Man in the resurrection and ascension to heaven.   Almost every verse in Isaiah 52:13 to 53:12 is either quoted in the NT or alluded to the NT (see examples at end); and many aspects are alluded to back to earlier parts of the TaNakh. (the Hebrew Bible – T = Torah; N = Nabi’im = prophets; “Kh” = Ketuvim = writings (the Psalms, poetry, wisdom, and historical books.  These are the three sections of the Hebrew Bible that Jesus also affirmed in Luke 24:44.)

The whole section, beginning in Isaiah 52:13-15 and 53:1-12 has several indicators that Isaiah 52:13-53:12 is about atonement aspects of both goats in the Day of Atonement of Leviticus 16.  Because the suffering servant (52:13 – “My servant”; and 53:11 – “My servant, the righteous one, will justify the many”) both bears our sins and is slaughtered, He is fulfilling both aspects of the Day of Atonement.   By both aspects, I mean both goats – one was slaughtered and one was “sent away”, representing 2 aspects of atonement.   Because He is also called “a lamb”, He is fulfilling the aspect of the Passover lamb of Exodus 12, which turned God’s wrath away from those that had the blood on the doorposts, and He is the lamb that Abraham said “God will provide for the lamb for the sacrifice” in Genesis 22.

Isaiah 53:6 also points to the scapegoat of the Day of Atonement.

“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.”  ( Isaiah 53:6)

The concept of the iniquity “falling upon” or “encountering” Him seems to allude back to the lot falling upon the scapegoat.  And that the priest placed his hands on the head of the scapegoat and confessed all the sins of the sons of Israel over the goat was a symbol of transference of sin from us humans onto the goat.

Isaiah 53:6 is alluded to in 1 Peter 2:25 – “For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and guardian of our souls.”

Also, the shepherd imagery points to Psalm 23:1, Isaiah 40; Micah 5:2-5, and Zechariah 13:7 (quoted in Matthew 26:31) Jesus makes that claim that He is the Messiah who is the good shepherd who will shepherd My people, etc. (John chapter 10)

Getting back to the idea of “bearing sin” – from Isaiah 53:4 and 11-12 – this is picked up a lot in the New Testament.

1 Peter 2:24

” and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. ”

The last phrase, “for by His wounds you were healed” is a direct reference to Isaiah 53:5; and the first part that He “bore our sins” is a reference to Isaiah 53:4, 11, and 12.  In fact, the LXX translation of “bore” in Isaiah 53:4 and 12 is the same Greek word in I Peter 2:24. (ανηνεγκεν, from ανα-φερω – to carry, to carry away, to bear, to offer up (a sacrifice).  This word is also used in Hebrews 7:27 (twice, offering up sacrifices, and Jesus offered Himself up); Hebrews 9:28, and James 2:21 about Abraham offering up Isaac.

Another argument that Jews, Rabbis, and some Muslims make is about Isaiah 53:10 – that phrase, “He would render Himself as a guilt offering . . . ” is harkening back to Leviticus 5:15-19 and the guilt offering there, but it states that it is only for unintentional sins, not intentional ones.  But if one keeps reading into Leviticus chapter 6:1-7, one can see that the “guilt offering” [ אשם ] also includes intentional sins.  (Thanks to Michael Brown for that insight! Answers to Jewish Objections to Jesus. 5 Volumes. In volume 2, “Theological Objections, on page 128 and following. ) Furthermore, the day of atonement emphasizes several times “for all the iniquities of the sons of Israel”.  (see Leviticus 16:20-22 and verse 34)  All would include both intentional and unintentional sins.

But the Lord was pleased
To crush Him, putting Him to grief;
If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, [ אשם ]
He will see His offspring,
He will prolong His days,
And the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand. (Isaiah 53:10)

Allusions or quotes in the NT:

Isaiah 52:13 – “My Servant” – Mark 10:45; Matthew 20:28.  Matthew 12:1-4 also about “My servant” which is a quote from Isaiah 42:1-4.  Jesus, as the servant who serves and “give His life a ransom for man” alludes to all of Isaiah 53, and He was clearly claiming to be the servant of Isaiah 42 and 53.  Notice the phrase “My servant” used again in Isaiah 53:11.

“He will act wisely or prudently” = the Hebrew word here is a deep word, meaning, “He will act wisely so as to succeed or prosper”, in carrying out the will of God.  This word is also used in Joshua 1:8.

“He will be high, and lifted up, and great exalted.”  This points to the numerous concepts of Jesus’ glorification and victory over sin in His resurrection, and ascension to heaven, and His taking His seat of authority at the right hand of the Father.

Isaiah 52:14 – “His appearance was marred more than any man” – refers to the beatings and sufferings of the brutal crucifixion.  He was so disfigured that the disciples did not recognize Him when He rose from the dead, because the last memories of His dis-figurement was so seared into their brains.

Isaiah 52:15 – “what had not been told them, they will see, and what they had not heard, they will understand” – this is quoted by the apostle Paul in Romans 15:20-21, that when the gospel goes to new areas and new people groups, the mission of the suffering servant is being fulfilled and accomplished.  The mission of the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 52-53 is not complete until all the unreached people groups have heard, and some of them come to  know the true God, the fulfillment when some from all the nations will be redeemed by the blood of the lamb. (see Revelation 5:9)

Isaiah 53:1 – quoted in John 12:38 and Romans 10:16

Isaiah 53:2- 3 – alluded to back in Isaiah 11:1 and as the “Netzer” [ נצר ] and the branch and tender shoot, (with Jeremiah 23:5; 33:15; and Zechariah 3:8 and 6:12) – as the “Netzer” – he was despised and rejected and this is what Matthew 2:23 is talking about when it says, “this was to fulfill the word of the prophets, He will be called a Nazarene.”  (“Netzer” or “Nazer” is the root of “Nazarene”) The Jews of the south around Jerusalem were disgusted with the area of Galilee, “Galilee of the Gentiles”, and the Samaritans, because they were half Jews, mixed with the Assyrians and others peoples (see 2 Kings 17); and so many Greeks and Romans and other foreigners were up there in around Galilee.  “can anything good come out of Galilee?” was a common saying.

Isaiah 53:4 – quoted in Matthew 8:17;

the “bearing of sin” is alluded to in 1 Peter 2:24 and other places. The word for “pain”/”sickness” is used in Isaiah 1:3-9 about the sins of the people.  Also, Jeremiah 17:9 speaks of the heart being sick and deceitful, and although a different word for “sick”, the concept points to spiritual sickness in sin.

Isaiah 53:5 – the last phrase is quoted in 1 Peter 2:24

Isaiah 53:6 – alluded to in 1 Peter 2:25

Isaiah 53:7 – 8

He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He did not open His mouth;
Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, (see John 1:29)
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 stoke was due?

Isaiah 53:7-8 is quoted in Acts 8:30-35

30 Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “Well, how could I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 Now the passage of Scripture which he was reading was this:

“He was led as a sheep to slaughter;
And as a lamb before its shearer is silent,
So He does not open His mouth.
33 “In humiliation His judgment was taken away;
Who will relate His generation?
For His life is removed from the earth.”

34 The eunuch answered Philip and said, “Please tell me, of whom does the prophet say this? Of himself or of someone else?” 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him.

Another interesting note is the phrase “cut off from the land of the living”.  This concept of being “cut off” is similar (a different Hebrew word, but similar concept of being “cut off”) to the passage about the Messiah in Daniel 9:26 – “Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary.”  Clearly this is about the death of the Messiah predicted by Daniel, and then after His death, the temple will be destroyed, in 70 AD, as Jesus predicted in Matthew 23:36-39 and 24:1-3 and 15.

Isaiah 53:9 –

His grave was assigned with wicked men,
Yet He was with a rich man in His death, (allusion to Joseph of Arimathea’s grave in Matthew 27:57)
Because He had done no violence,
Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.  (Quoted in 1 Peter 2:22)

Isaiah 53:10 –

But the Lord was pleased –  (pointing to the wrath of God being satisfied by His atonement in willingly being a guilt offering- Leviticus chapter 5 and 6) 

To crush Him, putting Him to grief;
If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, (Leviticus 5 and 6:1-7)
He will see His offspring,  (The Messiah’s “seed” is His spiritual sons and daughters by faith – also referred to later in the passage in Isaiah 54:1-4 and Galatians 3-4)
He will prolong His days,
And the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand.

Isaiah 53:11-12

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,  (Jesus alludes to this in Mark 10:45; and Romans 5:11-21 speaks of the justification of many by the death of Christ)
As He will bear their iniquities. (referred to at the beginning of the article)
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; (quoted in Luke 22:37; and also probably fulfilled by being crucified between 2 other criminals.)
Yet He Himself bore the sin of many(I Peter 2:24; Hebrews 7:27; 9:28)
And interceded for the transgressors. (see Luke 23:34; Christ continues to intercede for us now – Romans 8:34, Hebrews 7:25)

So, Isaiah 53 was a further development of the substitutionary sacrifice and the bearing of sins of the goats of the day of atonement in Leviticus 16, 17:11, (also in Leviticus 5-6) and a prediction of the Messiah to come, as almost every verse in Isaiah 52:13-53:12 is either directly quoted or alluded to in the NT.

About Ken Temple

I am a follower of Jesus Christ. I am a sinner who has been saved by the grace of God alone (Ephesians 2:8-9), through faith alone (Galatians 2:16; Romans 3:28; 4:1-16), in Christ alone (John 14:6). But a true faith does not stay alone, it should result in change, fruit, good works, and deeper levels of repentance and hatred of my own sins of selfishness and pride. I am not better than you! I still make mistakes and sin, but the Lord is working on me, conforming me to His character. (Romans 8:28-29; 2 Corinthians 3:16-18) When I do sin, I hate the sin as it is an affront to God, and seek His forgiveness in repentance. (Mark 1:15; 2 Corinthians 7:7-10; Colossians 3:5-16 ) Praise God for His love for sinners (Romans 5:8), shown by the voluntary coming of Christ and His freely laying down His life for us (John 10:18), becoming flesh/human (John 1:1-5; 1:14; Philippians 2:5-8), dying for sins of people from all nations, tribes, and cultures (Revelation 5:9), on the cross, in history, rising from the dead (Romans 10:9-10; Matthew 28, Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24; John 20-21; 1 Corinthians chapter 15). His resurrection from the dead proved that Jesus is the Messiah, the eternal Son of God, the word of God from eternity past; and that He was all the gospels say He was and that He is truth and the life and the way to salvation. (John 14:6)
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