Questions From Readers

Isaiah chapter 53 contains a famous Messianic prophecy. Isa 53 Verse 10 says: “Jehovah himself took delight in crushing him; he made him sick.” What does this mean?

It is easy to see why a question might arise about Isaiah 53:10. True Christians do not think that our compassionate and tender God would take delight in crushing or making anyone sick. The Bible gives us the basis for confidence that God does not take pleasure in tormenting the innocent. (Deuteronomy 32:4; Jeremiah 7:30, 31) Over the centuries Jehovah may on occasion have permitted suffering for reasons consistent with his wisdom and love. But he certainly did not cause his beloved Son, Jesus, to suffer. So, what is this passage really saying?

Well, we can be helped to grasp the import if we consider the verse in its entirety, noting the two occurrences of the word “delight.” Isaiah 53:10 reads: “Jehovah himself took delight in crushing him; he made him sick. If you will set his soul as a guilt offering, he will see his offspring, he will prolong his days, and in his hand what is the delight of Jehovah will succeed.”

The overall message of the Bible indicates that “the delight of Jehovah,” mentioned at the end of the verse, centers on carrying out his purpose by means of the Kingdom. Jehovah’s doing this will vindicate his sovereignty and will allow for inherited sin to be removed from obedient humans​—our sins. (1 Chronicles 29:11; Psalm 83:18; Acts 4:24; Hebrews 2:14, 15; 1 John 3:8) The key to all of this is that God’s Son had to become a human and provide the ransom sacrifice. As we know, in the process Jesus did suffer. The Bible tells us that he “learned obedience from the things he suffered.” So Jesus did receive benefit from that suffering.​—Hebrews 5:7-9.

Jesus knew in advance that the noble course that he would take would involve some agony. That is plain from his words recorded at John 12:23, 24, where we read: “The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified. Most truly I say to you, Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains just one grain; but if it dies, it then bears much fruit.” Yes, Jesus knew that he would have to keep his integrity even to the point of suffering death. The account continues: “‘Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? Father, save me out of this hour. Nevertheless, this is why I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.’ Therefore a voice came out of heaven: ‘I both glorified it and will glorify it again.’”​—John 12:27, 28; Matthew 26:38, 39.

It is in this context that we can understand Isaiah 53:10. Jehovah well knew that his Son’s experience would involve being crushed in a sense. Yet having in mind the glorious and extensive good that would result, Jehovah took delight in what Jesus would have to experience. In that sense Jehovah “took delight in crushing,” or the crushing of, the Messiah. And Jesus too took delight in what he could and did accomplish. Truly, as Isaiah 53:10 concludes, ‘in his hand what is the delight of Jehovah did succeed.’