Bible Question:

Could you explain what Isaiah 53:12 means? I believe that “him” in this verse is Jesus, but why would Jesus only receive a portion of whatever is being spoken about? Who are the “great”? What are the “spoils” and who are the “strong”?

Bible Answer:

Isaiah 53 is about Jesus Christ. You might be interested in a previous question and answer which explains that the entire chapter describes Jesus’ life. Since the chapter describes both His life and ministry, we should understand that verse 12 is talking about events near the end of His earthly life. So, let’s start by looking at Isaiah 53:12 which reads as follows:

Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, and He will divide the booty with the strong; because He poured out Himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet He Himself bore the sin of many, and interceded for the transgressors. (NASB) Isa. 53:12

“Poured Himself Out”

At first the verse seems confusing; but if we start with the phrase “poured out Himself to death,” we will discover that the verse is talking about His death on the cross. Jesus predicted His own death in Matthew 12:40. On numerous occasions He reminded His disciples that He would die. In Matthew 26:21-25 we discover that Jesus knew that Judas would betray Him but He did not try to stop him. He did not attempt to protect Himself because he had come to this earth to die. Jesus told His disciples that He could call for twelve legions of angels to rescue Him, but He did not call them (Matt. 26:53). We know from Matt. 27:13-14 that Jesus did not defend Himself before Pilate when He was falsely accused. He allowed Himself to die. Jesus willingly died on the cross for you and me. Isaiah summarizes this fact with the short phrase “poured out Himself to death.”

“Numbered”

When Isaiah says that Jesus was numbered with the transgressors, the prophet isaiah, by the Holy Spirit, refers to the fact that Jesus died between two thieves (Mark 15:27-28). In the end, Jesus died for all the world even though only some will actually repent of their sins and believe in Him.

“Him”

Now let’s go back to the beginning of the verse to the word “Him.” This word refers to Jesus Christ, and the phrase “allot Him a portion with the great” is a promise that Jesus will some day be honored in the future as a great one. In fact, Philippians 2:9 tells us that God has already honored Him as a great person, and He will be honored above every name – visible or invisible.

For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, (NASB) Phil. 2:9

Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords now, even though the world does not recognize Him (Revelation 19:16). When we are told that “He will divide the booty with the strong,” we need to remember that every Christian will reign with Him over the world during the 1,000 year earthly kingdom (Rev. 20:6). We will share the “booty” or the spoils of the war described in Revelation 19.

Conclusion:

This is a wonderful passage about Jesus Christ. It is a prophecy about Jesus. It reveals God’s love for us. It predicts the fact that we will share in Jesus’ glorious reign and future. Isaiah 53 exalts Jesus. Praise the Lord.