Continuing in our Advent Prophecy series, we are going to look at a prophecy about the death of the Messiah. But before we do, let’s recap the three criteria we are using to establish strong evidence for the validity of these prophecies being fulfilled in Jesus.
 
1.  Jesus did not manipulate His situation to fulfill prophecy.
2. The Old Testament prophecies did in fact predate His fulfillment of them.
3. The fulfillment of these prophecies could not be mere coincidence.
 
With these criteria in mind, we turn to our prophecy from Isaiah 53:9
 
His grave was assigned with wicked men,
Yet He was with a rich man in His death,
Because He had done no violence,
Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.
 
  Just as a person does not choose where they are born, it is difficult for them to choose where they will die and in what manner they will be buried. This prophecy speaks of a person who was assigned a grave with the wicked, but was instead with a rich man in His death. This prophecy was fulfilled by Jesus in that He was crucified along with criminals, yet Joseph of Arimathea, a rich man, asked Pilate for Jesus’ body, removed it from the cross, and laid it in his own tomb (Matthew 27:57-60Mark 15:42-46). Thus we have the fulfillment of a man condemned to a grave with wicked men being buried in a rich man’s tomb. The fact that this prophecy is so specific about the rich man’s tomb calls for some reflection. If you remember, Jesus was not at all rich, and never had been rich being the son of a carpenter. How would Jesus, being poor, secure for Himself a burial in a rich man’s tomb? It seems very unlikely that He did. In addition to this, how could Jesus manipulate His condemnation to die with wicked men when He had not been deceptive or violent? It seems that Isaiah 53:9 meets the first criteria, in that Jesus could not have manipulated His situation in order to fulfill this prophecy.

  There are three ways that the body of crucified victims were treated after death.[1] The first, and most gruesome, was that the bodies were left on the cross for birds and other animals to eat. The second option was that the corpse would be taken down from the cross, dragged through the streets, and then thrown in a mass grave with other criminals. However, we learn from the ancient historian Josephus that the Romans had allowed the Jews to remove and bury the bodies of crucified victims prior to the sun going down.[2] By doing this Rome was allowing the Jews to follow the commands of God found in Deuteronomy 21:22-23. This, then brings us to the third way a crucified corpse was treated, which was being given over to family or friends to be buried. Not only are there ancient documents stating this, but archeologists discovered a tomb in Jerusalem which contained the bones of a crucified man.  This discovery reinforces the claim that crucifixion victims were allowed a proper burial.
           
   In order to meet our second criteria, we look again to the Dead Sea Scrolls. One of the greatest discoveries found among the Dead Sea Scrolls is what has come to be known as The Great Isaiah Scroll. This scroll contains almost the entire book of Isaiah in Hebrew, and fortunately for us, it contains Isaiah 53:9 (click here). The Great Isaiah Scroll dates to 125 B.C., proving that this prophecy about Jesus was not fabricated after Jesus’ death and burial, but that it had been prophesied long before Jesus was even born. In addition to validating the prophecies about Jesus, the Great Isaiah Scroll also gives us great insight into the accuracy of the transmission of the Bible. Prior to the Great Isaiah Scroll being discovered, our oldest Hebrew manuscript of the book of Isaiah was the Aleppo Codex which dates to the 10th century A.D. When the Aleppo Codex and the Great Isaiah Scroll were compared, they showed remarkable similarity, almost being identical. This means that over the one thousand years that separated these two manuscripts, the copying of the text was remarkable.
            Now, some may still claim that our prophecy from Isaiah 53:9 is nothing more than a coincidence. The question that we now need to be asking is how many of these prophecies that meet criteria 1 and 2 are needed to show that coincidence is not a possibility? It seems to me that a coincidence would be one person fulfilling one of the prophecies, and then a different person fulfilling a different prophecy. What are the odds of the same person fulfilling both prophecies while meeting criteria 1 and 2? The more prophecies that are fulfilled by the same person, the less likely coincidence can be used as the explanation.
            Next week we will continue to investigate another prophecy that was fulfilled by Jesus.


[1] Fiensy, D. A. (2016). Crucifixion. In J. D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, … W. Widder (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[2] Josephus, F. Wars of the Jews 4.137