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“Not For Himself”

The conversion of Marcus Bergmann, who translated the Scriptures into Yiddish, is exceedingly interesting. His father belonged to the strictest sect of Jews in Germany, the Chasidim, and died when Marcus was only a year old. Six years later, Marcus and his mother went to live with an uncle, and he was brought up strictly. At the age of twenty, Mr. Bergmann arrived in England and established a small synagogue in London.

Because of an illness, he was admitted to a hospital, where he found a Hebrew Bible which he began to read and study. While reading the ninth chapter of Daniel, his eye caught the prophecy contained in verse 26: “And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for Himself.” Though he was very familiar with other sections of the chapter—parts of which he prayed every day—he had never noticed this expression, as the rabbis discouraged the reading of  Messianic prophecies such as Daniel 9 and Isaiah 53. In fact, the rabbis pronounced a curse upon anyone who would investigate the prophecy of Daniel’s seventy weeks.

Mr. Bergmann threw down the book, but could not rid himself of the words he had read. Why should Messiah be “cut off”? Why should He die if not for Himself? One morning he took up the Bible again, and as he read part of the 53rd chapter of Isaiah, his eyes fell upon the words, “He was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was He stricken” (Isaiah 53:8). He quickly laid hold of the soul-saving truth of the Gospel, as for the first time he understood that the Lord Jesus Christ was the promised Messiah. That day, he put his trust in the crucified One.

“He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).

—Adapted from Twice-Born Men by Henry Pickering.