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Why "for our transgressions?"

Updated: Nov 11, 2020

...does it say: “for our transgressions?”

Isa 53.5 (BHS/WIVU) *

Isaiah 53:5 (ESV)

5But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.

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Every word has a semantic field, i.e. most words have not only one meaning in this semantic field but many meanings. This semantic field becomes visible in the diversity of contexts in which a word is being used. The Hebrew proposition “min” has the basic meaning of “from”, but in the sense of a partitive or an origin. At the same time, in other contexts the preposition may indicate a comparison of two things. In other contexts it may indicate the cause, consequence or reason. This seems to be the case in Isa 53:5. There are quite a number of texts where the preposition “min” has that meaning, see for example Job 14:9, 7:14; Ezk 28:18; 2 Sam 3:37; Is 6:4; Ruth 1:13. Please observe that the idea of origin or cause is very close semantically. Regarding Isa 53:5, our sins are therefore the cause or the reason, in a certain sense the origin, of the Messiah’s willful suffering. This is the reason for the translation “for” in English.

The second part of Isa 53:5 (וּבַחֲבֻרָתוֹ֖), uses another preposition, “be”, which indicates either a locative or instrumental idea. Here it seems to be the instrumental idea of the sword that is the instrument to cause the Jesus’ infliction and thus our healing by identification and trust.



John Joseph Owens, Analytical Key to the Old Testament, vol. 4 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1989), 165.

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