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He is despised and rejected by men;
a man of suffering, and one who knew sickness.
Like one from whom men hide their faces,
he is despised and we did not respect him. Bible

“man.” The Hebrew is ’iysh (#0376 אִישׁ) man. The Old Testament prophesied that the Messiah would be a man, and this is one of those places, although there is no extant written record that the ancient Jews considered Isaiah 53:3 to be a Messianic prophecy, even though Christians today know it is, and verses like Matthew 8:17 confirm that it is. The Old Testament prophecies about the coming Messiah foretold that he would be a human being. He would be the offspring of Eve (Gen. 3:15); a descendant of Abraham (Gen. 12:3; 18:18; 22:18), a descendant of Judah (Gen. 49:10); a prophet like Moses (Deut. 18:15); a son of David (2 Sam. 7:12-13; Isa. 11:1); a king ruling under Yahweh (Ps. 110:1); and a ruler from among the people of Israel (Jer. 30:21).

“one who knew sickness.” The Hebrew word translated “knew” is the common Hebrew word for “know,” which is yada (#03045 ידע), which occurs over 900 times in the Old Testament and often refers to knowing something by experiencing it. Jesus “knew” sickness in many different ways. One was that he ministered to the sick and infirm. Another was that he bore our sicknesses on the cross, and even did so in a certain sense when he healed the sick, and this is the likely emphasis in this passage, as Matthew 8:17 says.

However, there is every reason to believe Jesus also got sick. Although he did not have a sin nature, he was a fully human being who lived in a fallen world that was full of things that made people sick. Thus, it is extremely unlikely that he lived for 30 years without once getting sick, even if by such things as food poisoning, which was common since the modern ways of preserving food and/or preventing it from being spoiled were mostly not available. We agree with the essence of the translation in the Word Biblical Commentary: “a man of pains who was visited by sickness.” Also, the Bible says that Jesus was tempted in all points like we are, yet without sin, and sickness is one of the huge temptations common to humankind, and leads to many kinds of sin, such as denying God, cursing, stealing, lying, and even suicide.

In large part due the doctrine of the Trinity and the belief that Jesus is “God the Son,” there has been teaching that Jesus could not get sick, but that is not a valid argument; Jesus was fully human. But it is in large part due to the belief that Jesus did not or could not get sick that the Hebrew the REV translates as “knew sickness” gets translated in many versions as “acquainted with sickness;” that is, he was familiar with it but never experienced it himself.


Commentary for: Isaiah 53:3