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Jehovah Crushed Him:

The Watchtower’s Understatement of Isaiah 53

[Quotes from Watchtower publications, including their New World Translation, are in blue.] 


Jesus Christ, God’s Son, came to earth for one reason, to “make atonement for the sins of the people”, Heb. 2:14-17; John 12:23-32; Heb. 2:9,10.

The central theme of the Greek Scriptures [NT] is the atoning death of Jesus Christ, the Messiah.  For centuries the Hebrew Scriptures [OT] had been setting the stage for his coming into the world to make this supreme sacrifice.  The central message then, in both testaments, is the sacrificial death of Messiah, the Lamb of God.  It is what we, with the NT writers, call the “Gospel”.  If John 3:16[1] is the “Gospel in a nutshell” in the NT, Isaiah chapter 53 is the “Gospel in a nutshell” in the OT.  The chapter gives a graphic account of the suffering and death of Jesus.

Yet the awful depiction of Messiah’s suffering in Isaiah 53 is lost on the WT!  This is clear from the WT’s answer to the Question from Readers in the Aug. 15, 2000 Watchtower.  The WT seems uncomfortable with this text that is so central to the Christian faith, so familiar and comforting to the simplest of true believers:

The Question from Readers is, “Isaiah chapter 53 contains a famous Messianic prophecy.  Verse 10 says:  ‘Jehovah himself took delight in crushing him [Jesus]; he made him sick.’  What does this mean?”

[Before continuing let us note that this verse in the NIV reads, “Yet it was the LORD's will to crush him and cause him to suffer…”]

The WT says, “True Christians do not think that our compassionate and tender God would take delight in crushing or making anyone sick.”  Here the WT is focusing on God’s love.  It is certainly true that “God is love” (1John 4:8).  But it is equally true that He is just and holy, a God who hates and will punish sin.[2] 


Furthermore, the verse does say specifically that it was “The LORD’s will” to crush Jesus.  The WT is vague and evasive on both points:  “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, Messiah.”  At every turn you sense the WT holding back.  It cannot bring itself to say what Isaiah 53 says so plainly:  It was God’s will (some translations, “it pleased the Lord”) to lay all our sins on his Son and to “crush” him. 

The WT is correct in this part of its reasoning, “God does not take pleasure in tormenting the innocent”, but the WT is not correct when it considers Jesus “innocent” at this point.  Therefore it cannot answer the question, why did Jehovah take “delight” in punishing Jesus?  The WT doesn’t get it!  Was Jesus “innocent”?  Verse 6 says, “the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”[3] 

It is clear that God himself laid our sins on Jesus and it is also clear that though Jesus was innocent in himself he died as a sinner:  “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree’” (Gal 3: 13 NIV) “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us,..” (2 Cor. 5:21a NIV).

The WT continues, “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.”  Then who caused it?  Didn’t Jesus say to Pilate, "You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above” John 19:11?  And doesn’t verse 4 say Jesus was “stricken by God, smitten by him”?

The WT focuses on verse 10 only, “Jehovah himself took delight in crushing him...”, but is this verse an anomaly in this chapter?  Using the NIV we highlight similar strong statements in Isaiah 53.  Please read very carefully:


Isaiah Chapter 53

1        Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?

2        He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground.  He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.

3        He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

4        Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.

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

6        We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

7        He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.

8        By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken.

9        He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.

10      Yet it was the LORD's will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.

11      After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light [of life] and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.

12      Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. (NIV)

The WT Question asked, “So what is this passage [Isa. 53:10] really saying?” Why didn’t the WT look for the answer in verse 5, where the same word, “crush” occurs, and where the answer is plainly given:  “..he was being pierced for our transgressions; he was being crushed for our errors [‘iniquities’ NIV]”? 

The WT doesn’t know what this passage means.  They say blithely, “in the process Jesus did suffer”, and, “He..‘learned obedience from the things he suffered’, so Jesus did receive benefit from that suffering.”; “the noble course that he would take would involve some agony”, and [Jesus’] experience would involve being crushed in a sense. 

Appalling understatements!! 

The WT underestimates our sin, and underestimates also the price paid for them (“some agony”).  As always, it underestimates the ransom (Jesus), a heartbreaking offense against such love!

The sins of all mankind were laid on Jesus and God poured on him the full intensity of judgment that was due!  The punishment that you and I deserve was laid on Jesus.  So to the WT’s Question, “What does this mean”, that is what it means!  Thank God for it! 


In the words of a Christian hymn:


“There was no other way a God of love could find,

To reconcile the world, and save a lost mankind.

It took the death of His Own Son upon the tree;

There was no other way but Calvary.”

There was no other way but to crush the beloved Son.  It “pleased the Lord,” for love of us!

Despise that sacrifice, as the WT does, and you go lost; embrace that sacrifice and you have forgiveness for all your sins.  “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5:21)  With all angels we adore Him, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!


Written by Greta Olsoe

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[1] John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”


[2] Eph. 2:3 states we were all “objects of [God’s] wrath”;  Gal. 3:10 states, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.";  The ultimate punishment for the Law-breaking sinner is “death”, Ezek. 18:4, eternal separation from God.


[3] the WT inserts the word “inherited”:  “Jehovah’s doing this… will allow for inherited sin to be removed from obedient humans.”  There is nothing in Isaiah 53, or anywhere else, to suggest that Jesus died only for our inherited sin.