By now, you already know that the mysterious “hidden prophecy” I am talking about has to be looked for in the 53rd chapter of Isaiah. Of course, you all know these verses; yet let me remind you that in this chapter, Isaiah describes “God’s servant, who will be exalted and honored even by kings and yet is subjected to intense humiliation and suffering like a social outcast.” We read that it is by the will of God that he bears his suffering on account of the sins of the people—“in effect he functions as a guilt offering; he suffers without complaint and is eventually killed and buried. Somehow, he will see the result of his suffering and will be vindicated by God.”
I have no doubt that all my readers know this chapter very well – yet I am still quite confident that I can show you something new today. In the Hebrew text of Isaiah 53:3, we read:
נבזה וחדל אישים
וכמסתר פנים ממנו
נבזה ולא חשבנהו
A literal translation of this verse would go like this: He was despised and rejected by men, a man of pains and knowing disease. And like the one hiding his face, he was despised and we did not consider him. However, instead of “like the one hiding his face” (an action referring to the Suffering Servant himself), in translations we read: “and we hid our faces from Him”. Thus, the Suffering Servant is transformed from the object to the subject of this action: it is no longer his action, but something that the people around him did. The result, of course, is very different, and the original meaning of the Messianic Suffering Servant hiding his face is completely lost in translation. How did this happen?
The LXX matches the MT’s וכמסתר “and like hiding…” with οτι απεστραπται: “for [his face] was turned away“. The active form: [he] was like hiding, is replaced here by the passive form: [his face] was turned away; the “and” is rendered by “for”. This translation transforms the meaning of Isaiah 53:3b: “Through the insertion of οτι, the reader of the LXX is led to conclude that the marginalized state of the servant resulted in his being despised and disregarded.” The servant’s humiliated condition is depicted by the perfect passive απεστραπται ([his face] “was turned away”). The Greek verb αποστρεφω is important in the LXX and is broadly used there. It describes someone or something physically turning or turning away. At the same time, it often refers to the Lord, whose anger is not turned away from his people or who has Himself turned away from his people because of their sin. For instance, we read in the book of Job: God will not withdraw (απεστραπται) his anger. However, even though the verb απεστραπται here is in a passive form, it is important to note that it is still in the singular form of the 3rd person, which means that in LXX, it is still the face of the Servant that is turned away, and in this sense, it is still his decision and his action: because his face was turned away, we dishonored and did not consider him (literal translation).
How, then, in later translations of Tanach into different languages, did the general meaning of this verse become: we turned our faces from him? We have explained how the change from “hide” to “turn” took place; now we need to understand how the switch from the 3rd person singular to 1st person plural happened.
The explanation of this switch might be found in the Hebrew grammar, in particular in the Hebrew word .ממנו The meaning of this word in Hebrew can be double – either “from him” or “from them”. In the Hebrew Scriptures we find both cases: for instance, in Genesis 3:3, 3:5 ממנו לא תאכל means “from him” (from it, in English: from the tree); but in the same chapter, in Genesis 3:22 –כאחד ממנו – the same word clearly means “from us”: like one from us. Here lies the root of the problem: when a certain translation reads this word in Isaiah 53:3 it as from him, not from us, it gives a very different meaning to the whole sentence. Thus, it becomes: we turned our faces from him – and that is what we find in most translations of Isaiah 53—instead of the original: and like one hiding his face from us…
Thus, this original meaning of this verse: as though hiding his face from us… became completely lost in translation, and the prophecy itself became the “hidden prophecy”. As you may have already realized, the very title of my last book came from this verse. Now we know that, according to Isaiah 53:3, the hiding of the face had to become an important step in the Messianic program—a prominent feature in the “Messianic Servant” image. The “Hidden Messiah” motif we find in Second Temple Jewish literature had, in all probability, been developed under the strong influence of this verse: since the messianic program of Isaiah included “hiding his face”, if somebody considered himself to be a messiah, he had to be silent about his messiahship until the appointed time. If Jesus was the Messiah, he had to fulfill every single step of this messianic program, and therefore, the hiding of the face in Isaiah 53:3b was possibly one of the main reasons for him to hide his messiahship: He was supposed to hide the face; His messianic dignity had to be concealed during his life and his ministry.
The Second Temple Jewish texts are very important witnesses to the ideas current in the pre-Christian Jewish world, and in themselves become the proof that the concept of Hidden Messiah was already an integral part of this world at the turn of the era. Undoubtedly, we might also expect this concept to be present in the New Testament, and if we read the New Testament in the light of the “hidden prophecy”, we will clearly see that the messiahship of Jesus was understood, not only by Himself but also by those describing his life and his ministry, in terms of a Messiah “hidden and revealed”—a Messiah whose messiahship is hidden till the appointed time, only to be revealed later. Next time, we will witness this drastic transition from Hidden Messiah to Messiah revealed in the New Testament.
If you liked this article, you might enjoy also my book As Though Hiding His Face, discussing in depth the issue of the Hidden Messiah. To get this and my other books, click here: all Books by Julia
 G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson. Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (p. 574). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition
 Eugene Robert Ekblad Jr, Isaiah’s Servant Poems According to the Septuagint (Peeters 1999) , p.209
 Job 9:13