Can Isaiah 53 Be A Distant Prophecy?

It’s no secret. Ask a Rabbi about Isaiah 53. He will tell you it is a prophecy about the righteous remnant in the end times. Ask a pastor, and he will tell you it’s a prophecy about Jesus. However, if you ask me I will tell you about the problems of viewing Isaiah 53 as a distant prophecy. The problems start in Jeremiah.

Scholars tell us that Isaiah has at least 2 authors. Second Isaiah starts in chapter 40. You may have noticed, this is where we started in our last article. This would mean that Isaiah 40-53 were written during the Babylonian exile, not a century earlier. Even if this view were rejected, one has to accept that it is written about the time of the exile. Hence, we need to look to Jeremiah, who was writing during this time.

Jeremiah’s cup of staggering.

15 Thus the Lord, the God of Israel, said to me: “Take from my hand this cup of the wine of wrath, and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it. 16 They shall drink and stagger and be crazed because of the sword that I am sending among them.”
17 So I took the cup from the Lord’s hand, and made all the nations to whom the Lord sent me drink it: 18 Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, its kings and officials, to make them a desolation and a waste, a hissing and a curse, as at this day;

Jeremiah 25:15–18 (ESV):

Do these words sound familiar to you? Let’s go back to Isaiah and refresh our memories.

22  Thus says your Lord, the Lord,
your God who pleads the cause of his people:
“Behold, I have taken from your hand the cup of staggering;
the bowl of my wrath you shall drink no more;
23  and I will put it into the hand of your tormentors,
who have said to you,
‘Bow down, that we may pass over’;
and you have made your back like the ground
and like the street for them to pass over.”

Isaiah 51:22–23 (ESV):

This concept of the cup of staggering and the bowl of wrath definitely ties these two passages together. However, at this point we have to consider a third passage.

Daniel 9, desolation, and 70 years.

18 O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by your name. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy.

Daniel 9:18 (ESV):

This desolation that Daniel speaks of is the desolation of Jerusalem following the Babylonian destruction. But what is this period of 70 years he starts off with earlier in the chapter?

Daniel’s Prayer for His People
9 In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, by descent a Mede, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans— 2 in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet, must pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years.

Daniel 9:1–2 (ESV)

Jeremiah’s 70 years

For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place.

Jeremiah 29:10 (ESV):

Jeremiah prophesied repeatedly that Israel would return from the Babylonian exile in 70 years. In fact, they returned in 48 years. That’s important, so remember that. However, Jeremiah also prophesied things that would happen when they returned.

9 But they shall serve the Lord their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them.

11 For I am with you to save you,
declares the Lord;
I will make a full end of all the nations
among whom I scattered you,
but of you I will not make a full end.

18  “Thus says the Lord:
Behold, I will restore the fortunes of the tents of Jacob
and have compassion on his dwellings;
the city shall be rebuilt on its mound,
and the palace shall stand where it used to be.

Jeremiah 30:9, 11, &18 (ESV):

There are several obvious problems here. Israel did return from exile. However, they did not all return, and the nations who oppressed them were not destroyed. Moreover, while the city was rebuilt, the promise of the Davidic king was left unfulfilled. These details required a reinterpretation of the prophecy. Now, remember how the exile was 48 years instead of 70? Let’s go back to Daniel 9 and see if this detail makes it into the reinterpretation of Jeremiah’s 70 years.

Daniel 9, Isaiah, and Jeremiah.

The author of Daniel is looking back at the prophecy of Jeremiah, and asking why it didn’t come true. He assumes, logically, that it is due to the sins of the people. However, Gabriel appears to inform him that he’s actually misunderstanding the prophecy.

21 while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the first, came to me in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice. 22 He made me understand, speaking with me and saying, “O Daniel, I have now come out to give you insight and understanding.

Daniel 9:21–22 (ESV):

Gabriel informs Daniel that the prophecy wasn’t actually for a period of 70 years, as it appears in Jeremiah.

24 “Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place.

Daniel 9:24 (ESV):

So it’s not a prophecy for 70 years. Rather, it is a prophecy for 70 weeks of years, or 70 periods of 7 years. Therefore, it is 490 years. And remember how the exile was actually for 48 years? Well, our reinterpretation of the prophecy here in Daniel fixes that problem, too.

25 Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time.

Daniel 9:25 (ESV):

Who is this “anointed one,” this Messiah, who comes after 7 weeks, or here 49 years? You guessed it. Isaiah already told us, it’s Cyrus the great (Isaiah 45:1). Daniel then breaks down this period of weeks of years to match events that have unfolded since then, leading all the way to the period of the Hasmonean Dynasty.

The problem with pushing Isaiah 53 out.

And this is, for me, the ultimate deal breaker on reading Isaiah’s prophecy in relation to Jesus or the end times. Isaiah and Jeremiah were speaking about the triumphant return of Israel to Zion. However, their respective prophecies failed. Daniel then reinterpreted these prophecies to apply them to his time. This also failed. Therefore, when we reinterpret Daniel to fit our current theology, we are reinterpreting the reinterpretation of two other prophecies that we are likewise reinterpreting to fit our agenda. The following conclusion is a much more fitting and logical interpretation of the data. Isaiah and Jeremiah had a beautiful dream for Israel. However, it failed to come true. Move along.


I was raised a Christian, turned atheist as a teenager, and became a Noahide in my 40's. Here I will share what I have learned, and look forward to what you can teach me. Thank you for stopping by Biblical Anarchy. Feel free to leave a comment.

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