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Isaiah 53:5

But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.

Is this about physical healing or spiritual healing or both?

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There are three main things to consider in answering this question,

a) the meaning of רפא ,

b) the context within the poetic structure of the verse, and

c) the context of the previous and the next verse immediately following,

  1. The senses of how רפא is used in the MT (generated with Logos Bible Software):

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  1. The poetic structure of verse 5 are synonymous parallels.

         But he was pierced for our transgressions; 
    he was crushed for our iniquities; 
               upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, 
    and with his wounds we are healed. (ESV)
    

This means רפא is a synonym with שָׁלֹום (translated peace). However, this word has a much richer meaning that our English word peace.

Senses of the word שָׁלֹום in the MT.

enter image description here

In the Law שָׁלֹום is used to mean restitution, that restitution for the wrong has been made right and the penalty paid. See Tetelestai - What did Jesus really say in John 19:30 assuming he spoke Aramaic or Hebrew?

While the concept of physical healing is included, the full meaning is that we are restored and made whole.

  1. Verse 4 hints at including mental healing. Verse 6 is the illustration of a sheep gone astray, which again point to restoring the relationship with God. It doesn't exclude physical healing. For, a stray lamb often needed wounds healed. But, the primary focus is on a restored relationship and forgiveness of sin.

P.S.

The ultimate healing, when physical and mental as well as spiritual healing is guaranteed to be complete, is when we are in heaven.

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Perry gave an excellent answer already. Here I'll supplement a little.

Is Isaiah 53:5 talking about physical healing or spiritual healing?

Mostly and primarily spiritual.

Isaiah 53:5 is not a proof text for guaranteed physical healing.

1 Timothy 5:

23 Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.

There is no guarantee that believers will always be physically healed by His stripes. There is 100% guarantee that by His stripes, our relationship with God is always restored if we believe.

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  • +1 Good point. I added a P.S. that hopefully helps with this.
    – Perry Webb
    Oct 21 at 14:03
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Is Isaiah 53:5 talking about physical healing or spiritual healing?

The apostle Peter refers to this Messianic prophecy in 1 Peter 2:24

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. (NKJV)

It is through the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ that we have our sins forgiven and can have a righteous standing before Jehovah God. This is in effect the spiritual healing.

Note how this is applied via the explanation in the topic "Azazel" in the Insight on the Scriptures:

As the apostle Paul explained, by Jesus’ offering of his own perfect human life as a sacrifice for the sins of mankind, he accomplished far more than had been achieved by “the blood of bulls and of goats.” (Heb 10:4, 11, 12) He thus served as “the scapegoat,” being the ‘carrier of our sicknesses,’ the one “pierced for our transgression.” (Isa 53:4, 5; Mt 8:17; 1Pe 2:24) He ‘carried away’ the sins of all who exercise faith in the value of his sacrifice. He demonstrated the provision of God to take sinfulness into complete oblivion. In these ways the goat “for Azazel” pictures the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

Jesus' ransom sacrifice will also be for physical healings. Jesus taught us to pray for God's will be done here on earth. (Matthew 6:10) When God's kingdom is established here on earth, Jesus the king of that kingdom will fulfill the prophecies of physical restoration of mankind (Isaiah 33:24; 35:5,6) The miracles Jesus did while here on earth will pale in comparison to what he will do for mankind in the future.

For additional information about God's kingdom, see the web article "What Will God’s Kingdom Accomplish?"

[Except where noted, all scripture quotations from the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (Study Edition)]

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Fortunately, Jesus himself answered that question in Matthew by quoting the previous verse, Isaiah 53:4.

Mt. 8:16When evening came, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed; and He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were ill. 17This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: “HE HIMSELF TOOK OUR INFIRMITIES AND CARRIED AWAY OUR DISEASES.”

As Perry’s Logos chart illustrates, the word “rapha” has a strong association with physical healing. If Isaiah wanted to emphasize the salvation aspect, he could have used a word like “yeshuah” or even “arukah” which carries a connotation of restoration.

Psalm 103:3 provides a typical example of the use of הָ֝רֹפֵ֗א (hā·rō·p̄ê).

Who pardons all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases;

While it is true that Isaiah 53:5 is talking about transgressions and iniquities, peace and physical healing can be by products of saving grace. Jesus often linked salvation and healing together.

Mt 9 5“Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, and walk’? 6“But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—then He said to the paralytic, “Get up, pick up your bed and go home.”

For God, physical and spiritual healing are equally easy to perform as they serve his purposes, but it is likely that physical healing is being emphasized in the passage in question.

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    I too thought that Matthew 8:17 settled this - Thanks for referencing this. +1 (What ever happened to scripture interpreting scripture?)
    – Dave
    Oct 27 at 19:25
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    @Dave It gets lost into a battle of proof texting, where all that is said about a matter is not considered. It also gets lost in the Greek mis-identification of apparent contradiction and it's resolution, vs. the Hebrew concept of contradiction being riddle.
    – Bob Jones
    Oct 28 at 13:00
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The Word of faith movement latches on to this verse to prove that physical healing is guaranteed in the Atonement. They even go so far as to say God redeemed us from sickness.

To support their position they love to quote 1 Peter 2:24. "and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and have righteousness; for by His stripes you are healed."

Peter said that by Christ's "stripes" (molopi,) bruise, bloody wound) they were "healed" (from iaomai, heal, make whole). Usually (iaomai) does denote physically healing but not in this case.

The next verse, 1 Peter 2:25, "For (or because) you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and guardian of your souls." From this verse common sense dictates we are not straying away from physical healing.

Moreover at Isaiah 53:6 it says, "All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him." Context, context!

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  • As Mr. Bond pointed out, certain groups are giving preference to physical healing aspect in this verse! It is always good to follow the "reference to the context or else it may turn into a "pretext". Here or in NT the primary meaning is not of the physical healing though the word "healing" may mean so; but the overal lesson we get is to do with "restoration" of the wayward people. Earlier comment by Perry is quite useful in all respects.
    – Joe Ratnam
    Oct 27 at 2:22

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