Question: You stated (TBC, May ’04) that the Hebrew noun chabburah…is singular in Isaiah:53:5, indicating one blow from God….” I pointed out to you that this very word is unmistakably plural in the Hebrew, which means that both your statement and the inferences you drew from it are false….You are very quick to point out errors of scriptural fact to others. If you are unwilling to retract an obvious and provable error which has certain theological consequences possibly uncomfortable to you, I cannot see that you are in a different category from the dozen or so “teachers” I have already left with my sandal dust on their wingtip shoes. A cover-all, “We’re not perfect,” is not sufficient when you have misled people on a matter of fact. Please either retract your error publicly, prove to me that I am in error, or remove us from your mailing list. He that is not faithful in little things may not be trusted to be faithful in much.
Answer: I know nothing about Hebrew. My comment was based upon the word of someone who I presume does know Hebrew, John MacArthur. You will find this statement re Isaiah:53:5 on p. 1038 of his The MacArthur Study Bible: “by his stripes we are healed. The stripe (the Hebrew noun is singular) that caused His death has brought salvation to those for whose sins He died [a Calvinistic statement, by the way, indicating that Christ did not die for the sins of the world, but only for the sins of the elect predestined to salvation]….”
Let’s assume that MacArthur in his study Bible is wrong and that chabburah is plural, meaning a number of blows. That would not change the fact that the bruising that effected our salvation was from God, not from men. The context is clear. Verse 4 contains the clause, “stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.” Verse 5 declares that He was “wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities….” Verse 5 itself declares that the wounding, bruising, chastisement, and “stripes” were for our sins and effected forgiveness and peace with God. A beating from men could never do that. Verse 6 explains that this wounding and bruising was because “the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Verse 7 refers to what men did. It is clear that He was stricken “for the transgression of my people” (v. 8)—again, something man could not do. Verse 9 refers to His burial, and verse 10 clearly says that “it pleased the Lord to bruise him,” and that the Lord made “his soul an offering for sin.” Verse 11 refers to the “travail of his soul,” obviously because of his soul being made “an offering for sin.” And verse 12 again declares that “he bare the sin of many.”
Clearly, the entire context of Isaiah 53 is about God punishing Christ spiritually for the sins of the world. Surely Peter gives the proper interpretation of Isaiah:53:5, when in quoting “by whose stripes ye were healed,” he explains, “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree” (1 Pt 2:24). Christ was not bearing the sins of the world when men were scourging Him. It was only when God laid our sins upon Him and made His soul an offering for sin that the penalty for the sins of the world was paid – and that was on the cross. Christ did not receive blows from men on the cross, but from God for our sins, which is why He cried out in agony, “My God, my God! Why hast thou forsaken me?” (Ps:22:1; Mt 27:46; Mk 15:34).
So I was mistaken in putting too much emphasis upon MacArthur’s view that chabburah is singular in Isaiah:53:5. But it doesn’t matter. The blows, single or plural, by which we are healed of our sin’s penalty, were clearly from God and not from men. It is neither biblical nor rational that sinful Roman soldiers could possibly mete out God’s righteous judgment in holy wrath for sin. Much less could physical punishment at the hands of men possibly pay the infinite penalty for sin that billions of sinners would otherwise endure for eternity in the lake of fire.