Tag Archives: Isaiah

Jesus as the Cursed One on a Tree

15 Nov

Crucifixion
Occasionally we see an obscure directive that doesn’t seem to be something we can’t relate to. This is one of those ordinances. Under the Torah, a man proven guilty of a capital offense and put to death by stoning was displayed in public. It did not refer to strangulation or crucifixion, which were not allowed under the Torah nor practiced in Israel at the time. The reference was strictly to public exposure of the one executed. It was a grim object lesson and warning to the community that such a crime was a disgrace and not to be repeated. It also demonstrated the curse of God on the individual.
“If a man has committed a sin deserving of death, and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain overnight on the tree, but you shall surely bury him that day, so that you do not defile the land which the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance; for he who is hanged is accursed of God.” Deut. 21:22,23
But they were not to leave it exposed overnight. They were to bury the person the same day. Leaving it longer would bring defilement on the community. Here are two examples.
“And the king of Ai he hanged on a tree until evening. And as soon as the sun was down, Joshua commanded that they should take his corpse down from the tree, cast it at the entrance of the gate of the city, and raise over it a great heap of stones that remains to this day.” Joshua 8:29
“And afterward Joshua struck them and killed them, and hanged them on five trees; and they were hanging on the trees until evening. So it was at the time of the going down of the sun that Joshua commanded, and they took them down from the trees, cast them into the cave where they had been hidden, and laid large stones against the cave’s mouth, which remain until this very day.” Joshua 10:26,27
Like the rest of the Old Testament, we understand its significance when the light of the New Testament shines on it. Isaiah prophesied about the Messiah as a suffering servant.
“He was taken from prison and from judgment,
And who will declare His generation?
For He was cut off from the land of the living;
For the transgressions of My people He was stricken.
And they made His grave with the wicked—
But with the rich at His death,
Because He had done no violence, Nor was any deceit in His mouth.
Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him;
He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, And the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand.” Isa. 53:9,10
In this chapter it says Messiah would die a cursed death with the wicked (plural in this passage). But the words, “at his death”, meaning after death, referred to a burial with the rich (singular in this passage). He would be slain as a criminal but buried as a wealthy man.
During Jesus’ time, the prophetic requirements were somewhat difficult to fulfill. Under Roman domination the Jews didn’t have the right to execute capital punishment. And the Sanhedrin as a rule was opposed to execution. Jewish criminals were executed by Rome, usually by crucifixion. But the likelihood of proper burial following such a death was very slim. Criminals were usually left unburied, disgraced by interment in an unclean place, or carted off to be cremated in the valley of Gehenna.
Nevertheless, Jesus’ death fulfilled both Isaiah’s prophecy and the requirements of the Torah. He was hanged on a tree, receiving the curse of the Torah. And he was executed between two criminals, and buried in a rich man’s tomb.
“…who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.” 1 Pet.2:24
“And He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha, where they crucified Him, and two others with Him, one on either side, and Jesus in the center.” John 19:17,18
“Now when evening had come, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be given to him. When Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb, and departed.” Matt. 27:57-60
“After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took the body of Jesus. And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds. Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury. Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid.” John 19:38-41
Joseph showed great courage in approaching Pilate for the body. As a friend and disciple, he desired to give Jesus a proper burial; as a Pharisee, he was obedient to the Torah’s injunction to remove the body before sundown. Nicodemus collaborated with Joseph by supplying one hundred pounds of burial spices, while Joseph purchased the linen shroud and donated his own garden tomb. Love guided them to do this for Jesus. Burial is to be with dignity because of the value of the body and belief in the resurrection. They ensured that in spite of Jesus’ illegal and cursed death, His burial was timely, according to the Torah, and richly performed. They would not have realized they were fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy.
Jesus suffered the shame of public exposure on a tree, as Peter refers to it, but His body was given burial before evening, fulfilling the Torah’s requirement. Paul makes the connection with Jesus taking our punishment, becoming cursed by God on our behalf.
“Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree).” Gal.3:13
He was cursed so we could receive the favour of God.
“For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” 2 Cor. 5:21

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