Context: That Isaiah, poet and prophet of the Old Testament, foretold the life and ministry of Jesus has been acknowledged for centuries. The early fathers of the Christian Church were of this opinion; later scholars puzzled over the prophetic verses and considered a number of contemporary figures Isaiah may have wished to cast in the role of deliverer. More recently it has become the belief of scholars that Isaiah's thoughts were not concerned with ordinary heroes and that he believed a Messiah would come from God to save the people of Israel in a spiritual rather than physical sense. He refers to this Messiah as the Servant, and the passages in which the Servant appears take the form of evangelical hymns. The various Messiah prophecies occur in chapters 40, 42, 49, 50, 52 and 53. The first of these chapters is a form of prelude to the other passages; here Isaiah announces in a hymn of great sublimity that Israel's suffering under foreign oppression is at an end, and that the Lord and his glory will descend on the people. He first refers to the Servant in Chapter 42: one prepared by the Lord, who will arrive quietly and teach God's religion in a gentle way; his teaching will reach everyone and be spread throughout the world. In Chapter 49 the Servant is announced dramatically as speaking to the nations, explaining his mission and exhorting them. His suffering, and the patience and determination with which he endures it, are mentioned in Chapter 50; and in Chapter 52 it is prophesied that out of this suffering will come a triumph that will astonish the nations of the earth. In Chapter 53, perhaps the most striking of the Messiah passages, it is revealed that he will suffer for the sins of others, who will be forgiven thereby, and that he will die for others as well.
He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
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.
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.
And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.
Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.