But He was pierced because of our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on Him, and we are healed by His wounds. (53:5; HCSB)
Notice the contrast: But he was suffering because of us. The word “pierced” carries the meaning of being pierced through to death. Notice other instances of this word as used by Isaiah, the same Hebrew word in bold:
Isa. 22:2 You who are full of shoutings, tumultuous city, exultant town? Your slain are not slain with the sword or dead in battle.
Isa. 51:9 Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the LORD; awake, as in days of old, the generations of long ago. Was it not you who cut Rahab in pieces, who pierced the dragon?
Isa. 66:16 For by fire will the LORD enter into judgment, and by his sword, with all flesh; and those slain by the LORD shall be many.
The point is that this verse is describing the death of the servant. Hebrew scholar Delitzsch says that the word implies a violent, excruciating death. The Hebrew word for “crushed” carries the meaning of breaking in pieces. The servant would die because of our rebellious deeds. We want to explain away our mistakes and make light of our shortcomings. But God will have none of it. Death is required for rebellion. We need to stop making excuses for our sins and realize what happened because of our sins.
The “punishment for our peace” expresses a purpose that the punishment was designed for our peace. The word “peace” in Hebrew has a very full meaning. It is the Hebrew word shalom which means “completeness, soundness, safety, prosperity, wellbeing.” This suffering would make humanity complete with God. The suffering of the servant would be the way the people would be delivered from their sins. The suffering would reveal the arm of the Lord.
John N. Oswalt sums up this verse well: “This is not a matter of a raging tyrant who demands violence on someone to satisfy his fury. It is a God who wants a whole relationship with his people, but is prevented from having it until incomplete justice is satisfied. In the Servant he has found a way to gratify his life and satisfy his justice” (New International Commentary on the Old Testament, page 388). This is the concept of propitiation.