Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

How the Hebrew Bible Falsifies Islam Pt. 2

The Messiah’s Exalted Status

Sam Shamoun

In this part (for Part 1 please click here) we are going to examine what the prophet Isaiah wrote by inspiration from the Holy Spirit concerning the exalted status of the Messiah in order to see how this fits in with the Islamic assertions concerning God and Christ.

According to Isaiah, Yahweh’s Messianic Servant will be highly exalted and lifted up:

“See, My Servant will act wisely; He will be high and lifted up and greatly exalted (yarum wa'nissa wa'gabah). Just as many were appalled at You—His appearance was so disfigured that He did not look like a man, and His form did not resemble a human being—so He will sprinkle many nations. Kings will shut their mouths because of Him, For they will see what had not been told them, and they will understand what they had not heard.” Isaiah 52:13-15

The language that the prophet uses to describe the Servant’s exalted and lofty status is identical to that which he applies in relation to Yahweh’s exaltation and enthronement.

For instance, it is Yahweh who is exalted in justice,

“But the LORD of Hosts is exalted (wayyigbah) by His justice, and the holy God is distinguished by righteousness.” Isaiah 5:16

It is Yahweh’s throne that is high and lofty:

“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty (ram wa'nissa) throne, and His robe filled the temple.” Isaiah 6:1

Yahweh is also said to be the exalted One who dwells on high and inhabits eternity:

The LORD is exalted, for He dwells on high (marom); He has filled Zion with justice and righteousness… ‘Now I will rise up,’ says the LORD. ‘Now I will lift up (‘eromam). Now I will be exalted (‘ennase).’” Isaiah 33:5, 10

“For the High and Exalted One (ram wa’nissa) who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy says this: ‘I live in a high (marom) and holy place, and with the oppressed and lowly of spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and revive the heart of the oppressed.’” Isaiah 57:15

In fact, the day is coming when all who are high and lofty will be humbled and brought low since Yahweh alone shall be exalted:

“Human pride will be humbled, and the loftiness (rum) of men will be brought low; the LORD ALONE will be exalted on that day. For a day belonging to the LORD of Hosts is coming against all that is proud and lofty (wa’ram), against all that is lifted up (nissa)—it will be humbled—against all the cedars of Lebanon, high and lifted up (ha'ramim wa'hannissa'im), against all the oaks of Bashan, against all the high (ha'ramim) mountains, against all the lofty (hannissa'ot) hills, against every high (gaboha) tower, against every fortified wall, against every ship of Tarshish, and against every splendid sea vessel. So human pride will be brought low, and the loftiness (rum) of men will be humbled; the LORD ALONE will be exalted on that day.” Isaiah 2:11-17

The preceding makes it quite clear that the language of Isaiah 52:13 means that the Servant shall be exalted to share in Yahweh’s own unique sovereign rule over the entire creation!

That this is clearly referring to the exalted reign of the Messiah is not only supported by the NT, since it alludes to the language of this text to describe Christ’s enthronement:

Being therefore EXALTED at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at My right hand, until I make Your enemies your footstool.’ Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Acts 2:33-36

God EXALTED Him at His right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.” Acts 5:31

“and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His great might  that He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, FAR ABOVE ALL rule and authority and power and dominion, and ABOVE EVERY name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things under His feet and gave Him as head OVER ALL THINGS to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him Who fills all in all.” Ephesians 1:19-23

“For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a High Priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for His own sins and then for those of the people, since He did this once for all when He offered up Himself. For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son Who has been made perfect forever. Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a High Priest, One who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a Minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man.” Hebrews 7:26-28, 8:1-2 – cf. 1:3, 13; 10:12; 12:2

“Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, Who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to Him.” 1 Peter 3:21-22

“And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth… She gave birth to a male Child, One Who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her Child was caught up to God AND TO HIS THRONE… And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, ‘Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.’” Revelation 12:1-2, 5, 10 – cf. 1:5-6; 3:21; 11:15; 20:6; 22:1-3

It is also confirmed by specific Jewish sources which interpreted it in respect to the Davidic Messiah:

d. Yalqut.

I. Who art thou, O great Mountain? (Zech. iv. 7.) This refers to the King Messiah. And why does he call him ‘the great mountain?’ because he is greater than the patriarchs, as it is said, ‘My servant shall be high, and lifted up, and lofty exceedingly’–he will be higher than Abraham, who says, ‘I raise high my hands unto the Lord’ (Gen. xiv. 22); lifted up above Moses, to whom it is said, ‘Lift it up into they bosom’ (Num. xi. 12); loftier than the ministering angels of whom it is written, ‘Their wheels were lofty and terrible’ (Ez. i. 18). And out of whom does he come forth? Out of David.

2. I will tell of the institution (Ps. ii. 7). Already are the words [concerning my servant] told in the institution of the Pentateuch, of the book of the Prophets, and of Hagiographa: in the Pentateuch where are they told? ‘Israel is my firstborn’ (Ex. iv. 22); in the Prophets where? ‘Behold my servant will deal prudently,’ and near to it, ‘My servant whom I uphold’ (xlii. 1) in the Hagiographa, where? ‘The Lord said to my lord,’ and ‘The Lord said unto me’ (Ps. cx. 1, ii. 7). (Yalqut Shim‘oni, 2:571, as quoted in The “Suffering Servant” of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters, translated by Samuel R. Driver and Adolf Neubauer, with an introduction by Edward B. Pusey [Hermon Press, New York: Reprinted in 1969], pp. 9-10; bold emphasis ours)


“I will now proceed to my exposition. 13 Behold my servant shall have understanding. From the prophet’s saying ‘understanding,’ it may be seen that all the lofty predicates which he assigns to him have their source in this attribute; in virtue of his comprehensive intelligence he will attain an elevation above that even of the most perfect men in the world. He shall be high and exalted, and lofty exceedingly. According to the Midrash of our Rabbis; he will be higher than Abraham, who was first of all a ‘high father,’ and afterwards a father of a multitude. He will be more exalted than Moses, who was ‘exalted’ above the exalted ones of Levi (cf. Num. iii. 32), who was a prophet such that ‘none arose like him in Israel,’ (Deut. xxxiv. 10), who ‘saved’ Israel ‘with a great salvation’ (cf. I Chron. xi. 14) when they came out of Egypt, and the report of whom spread into all places until ‘the dukes of Edom were confounded’ before him, and ‘trembling seized the mighty men of Moab, and all the inhabitants of Canaan melted away’ (Ex. xv. 15). But this one will be exalted far above Moses: for when he gathers together our scattered ones from the four corners of the earth, he will be exalted in the eyes of all the kings in the whole world, and all of them will serve him, and will exalt him above them, as Daniel prophesies concerning him, ‘All nations, peoples, and tongues shall serve him’ (Dan. vii. 14, 27). He will be loftier than Solomon, whose dignity was so lofty that he is said to have ‘sat on the throne of the Lord’ (I Chron. xxix. 23), and our Rabbis say that he was king over both the upper and the nether world. But the King Messiah, in his ALL-COMPREHENDING INTELLIGENCE, will be loftier than Solomon. Exceedingly above the ministering angels, because that same comprehensive intelligence will approach [God] more nearly than theirs. For it is an exceedingly high privilege, that one whose nature is compound and material should attain to a grade of intelligence more nearly Divine than that which belongs to the incorporeal; and so it is said of him that ‘his strength is greater than that of the ministering angels,’ because these have no impediment in the exercise of their intellect, whereas that which is compound is continually impeded in consequence of material element in its nature. Accordingly, the grade of his intelligence being such as this, he is said to be ‘lofty exceedingly,’ and his strength to be ‘greater than the angels.’ … And when this ‘servant of the Lord’ is born, he will continue to be marked by the possession of intelligence enabling him to acquire from God what it is impossible for any to acquire until he reaches that height wither none of the sons of men, EXCEPT HIM, have ever ascended: from that day he will be counted with his people Israel, and will share their subjugation and distress; ‘in all their affliction’ (Is. lxiii. 9) he will be exceedingly afflicted; and because of their being outcasts and scattered to the ends of the world, his grief will be such that the colour of his countenance will be changed from that of a man, and pangs and sicknesses will seize him (for great grief, as physicians know, by producing melancholy, subjects a man to many diseases); and all the chastisements which come upon him in consequence of his grief will be for our sakes, and not from any deficiency or sin on his part which might bring punishment in his train, BECAUSE HE IS PERFECT, IN THE COMPLETENESS OF PERFECTION, as Isaiah says (xi. 2f.). Truly all his pains and sicknesses will be for us…” (R. Mosheh Kohen Ibn Crispin (14th century AD), as cited by Driver & Neubauer, pp. 101-103; bold and capital emphasis ours)

Leading Messianic Jewish scholar and apologist Dr. Michael L. Brown provides a possible reason why Jewish sources like the Yalqut ascribed such greatness to the Messianic Servant spoken of in Isaiah 52-53:

“Why did the midrash attribute such prominence to the Messiah here, based on Isaiah 52:13? It could be that elsewhere in Isaiah such terms of exaltation (raised, lifted up, highly exalted) were rightly applied ONLY TO GOD. In fact, you could argue that nowhere in the entire Book of Isaiah is anyone–INCLUDING THE LORD HIMSELF–described in such exalted terms, and so it was only natural that this would catch the attention of the midrashic preachers and writers.360

“What is more interesting than this, however, is the commentary on this midrash by leading traditional scholars. Rabbi Don Yitshaq Abravanel, the illustrious Spanish Bible commentator and philosopher, helps put this in context. Noting that the midrash explains Isaiah 52:13 with reference to ‘the King Messiah,’ Abravanel states: 

It is extremely difficult to understand how any child of man can be exalted above Moses, of whom the Law bears witness, saying, ‘No prophet ever arose in Israel like him’ (Deut. xxxiv. 10); still more so, then, how any one ‘born of woman’ can assume a position higher than the angels, whose substance admits nothing above it except the substance of the First Cause: from the latter expression, in fact, Christian teachers have attempted to establish their doctrine of the Divinity of the Messiah.

“Now, what is especially noteworthy is that even though Abravanel interpreted Isaiah 52:13-53:12 with reference to the people of Israel, he still felt obligated to explain the midrash to Isaiah 52:13 for two reasons: first, because it carried the strong weight of tradition; and second, ‘lest otherwise the heretics come and shelter themselves beneath it.’” (Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus: Theological Objections [Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI 2000], Volume Two, 3.22 Jews don’t believe in a divine Messiah, pp. 214-215; bold and capital emphasis ours)

360. God promises to judge every one who is high and lofty (see Isa. 2:12-14), whereas he deserves to be called the high and lofty one (see Isa 6:1; 57:15; cf. also Isa. 33:10; 5:16). (Ibid, p. 305)

What makes this all the more ironic is that the Quran itself testifies that Allah took Jesus to be with him where he is!

“God said, ‘O Jesus, I will terminate you, and raise you TO ME, and cleanse you of those who have rejected, and make those who have followed you above those who rejected, until the day of Resurrection; then to Me is your return so I will judge between all of you in what you were disputing." S. 3:55 Quran: A Reformist Translation (QRT

For their saying, "We have killed the Messiah Jesus the son of Mary, the messenger of God!" They did not kill him, nor did they crucify him, but it appeared to them as if they had. Those who dispute are in doubt of him, they have no knowledge except to follow conjecture; they did not kill him for a certainty. Instead, God raised him TO HIMSELF; and God is Noble, Wise. S. 4:157-158 QRT

Since Islamic theology teaches that Allah is above his throne, which is supposed to be above the seven heavens, this means that Christ also dwells above the throne alongside Allah!

Suffice it to say, all of this conflicts with Islamic theology which teaches that Allah does not share his sovereign rule over creation with anyone, nor allows any creature to sit beside him on his throne:

AND UNTO GOD belongs the dominion over the heavens and the earth: and God has the power to will anything. S. 3:189 Muhammad Asad

“and say: "All praise is due to God, who begets no offspring,’ and has no partner in His dominion, and has no weakness, and therefore no need of any aid’ - and [thus] extol His limitless greatness.” S. 17:111 Asad

He to whom the dominion over the heavens and the earth belongs, and who begets no offspring, and has no partner in His dominion: for it is He who creates every thing and determines its nature in accordance with [His own] design S. 25:2 Asad

So much for Islam being compatible with the teachings of the Hebrew Bible (or with itself for that matter)!

Lord Jesus willing, there will be more parts to this series that will be published in the near future.