The Rich Man and the Suffering Servant

There is a curious presence of a rich man in the famous Suffering Servant Song of Isaiah 52:13-53:12. My NAS Bible translates Isaiah 53:9 this way:
“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.”
This would seem to suggest that, although the Messiah would go through terrible pain and humiliation, He would be accorded one consolation in that He would be associated with wealth in His burial.
I want to question this understanding by questioning such a translation. Specifically, I question the two conjunctions which begin the second and third lines.
The second line begins with a waw conjunction affixed to the preposition eth. The NAS (like most other translations) renders this as “Yet… with.” The English conjunction “yet” sets this line in a contrastive relationship with the previous line. While it is true that the waw conjunction can sometimes be seen as contrastive (i.e. ‘but,’ ‘yet,’ ‘however,’), its basic function is to serve as a connection. Most normally, it comes across like our English “and.” I see no reason to render it otherwise in this verse. This would mean that the parallel relationship of the first two lines is not antithetic (first idea contrasted by the second), but synonymous (first idea echoed by the second) or synthetic (first idea expanded by the second).
The third line of the verse begins with the preposition al. Like most other Hebrew prepositions and conjunctions, this word can be understood in a number of different syntactical ways. Given the over all context, I would suggest that this is where we have a contrastive idea. According to Ronald Williams’ Hebrew Syntax (2nd ed., p.51), al can sometimes be ‘adversative’ in force and can be translated as “in spite of” or “although.”
So with all of this in mind, let me suggest a better translation for Isaiah 53:9.
“His grave was assigned with wicked men,
And with a rich man in His death,
Although He had done no violence,
Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.”
This equates wickedness with violence and affluence with deceit. That the Messiah would be buried in the grave of a rich man was not a mitigation of the shame of His suffering. It was the cherry on top, so to speak. The final injustice was that he was placed into a posh tomb, though He had not lived the kind of deceitful lifestyle which normally affords one a huge, fancy sepulcher.
This does not mean that Joseph of Arimathea was a wicked and deceitful man (though it might give us ideas that that was how he was before he met the Lord Jesus). This Joseph has a role to play in the story of the Messiah’s life and death. He is not unlike the original Joseph who richly provided a place of “rest” for YHWH’s people in the land of death (Egypt). Similarly, another Joseph, the Lord’s earthly father, provides refuge for the young Messiah by taking Him to Egypt, a trip no doubt funded by the rich gifts just bestowed by the magi.


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