Beaten In His Face

In ancient history, when a writer was seeking to contrive a story that was not true, create a myth, or deceive the reader; they would make certain that every detail of their tale was precise. In cases where a writer would determine that he would demonstrate that a particular prophecy was fulfilled, when in fact it was not, he would ensure that every detail of the prophecies that he claimed were true, had a specific fulfillment.

When we examine this next prophecy of Isaiah 50:6b, the prophet describes the plucking out of the beard of the Messiah. When we examine the entire testimony of all four gospels, we do not see any reference in the text that specifically states that Jesus beard was torn from His face. The critic would point to this omission as evidence that the prophecy was not fulfilled. The intelligent person would understand that this omission could have been left out, on purpose—for the specific reason of proving the veracity of the story. In this chapter, we will explore this possibility and determine whether or not Isaiah told the truth; did the New Testament writers omit this fact by accident, or on purpose?

Isaiah predicts that the Messiah will be beaten in His face and have His beard pulled out by His revilers.

Isaiah 50:6b I gave My back to those who struck Me, And My cheeks to those who plucked out the beard…

Matthew records this evert; minus the beard being plucked from Jesus face.

Matthew 26:67 Then they spat in His face and beat Him; and others struck Him with the palms of their hands.

Although there is no specific reference in the New Testament to anyone pulling Jesus’ beard out with their hands as Isaiah described, it is for certain that this took place. In actuality, the fact that it is omitted from the New Testament is further proof that the New Testament account of Jesus and His crucifixion are not only true but also accurate.

If someone were intending to falsify the account of Jesus’ life to make it match the clear Old Testament prophecies of Isaiah 50:6, it is for certain that they would include a description of Jesus having His beard pulled out. Scholars agree that Isaiah’s description is intended for the Messiah. It would have been very easy to add a description of Jesus having His beard torn from His face, if the writers of the gospels were seeking to convince any reader that Jesus was the Messiah. By their absence of this description, it appears as if it was simply an oversight that occurred in the midst of recording the other events described in the New Testament. Such omissions of facts are often the case in actual eyewitness accounts.

John wrote that there were many other things that Jesus did which were not recorded in the New Testament. In fact, John stated that there were so many things Jesus did, that all the libraries of the world could not contain them.

John 21:25 And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen.

If there were a compilation of accounts for what occurred during the death of a person by individual witnesses, it would logically be possible that each person who observed the event would record different facts from their own unique perspective. Some of these descriptions would be identical; others would be similar but have additional details not found in the other accounts. Still others would have important items missing entirely. Finally, it is completely reasonable that some things that would seem to be important to a person doing an investigation of the facts, after the event happened, such as pulling out the beard; would be missing from the record of all eyewitness accounts of every person who watched Jesus’ crucifixion.

It is a matter of the historical record that those who suffered the scourge and were crucified, often had their beards pulled out by their accusers.[1] It was considered a part of the humiliation that was levied against a condemned man, that his beard would be torn out—as a sign of the total disdain the torturers had for the condemned man’s crimes.

Men of this time period, considered their beards a mark of honor. There was no greater dishonor or insult to inflict upon a man than to pull-out or cut-off; all or part of his beard.

When the king of Ammon died, David sent his servants to comfort the king’s son, Hanun; in his grieving. The “princes” of Hanun advised the king’s son that David’s intentions were not honorable, and in-fact he was sending spies to search out the city so that David could attack and overthrow Hanun’s kingdom.

Believing the advice of his princes to be correct, this young king took the servants of David and shaved off their beards, cut off their garments to expose their buttocks and sent them back to David. These actions were meant as the highest insult to David and his kingdom. The fact of their complete humiliation is understood by the final words of 2 Samuel 10:5, where David instructs the men to wait in Jericho until their bears have grown back.

2 Samuel 10:4-5 Therefore Hanun took David’s servants, shaved off half of their beards, cut off their garments in the middle, at their buttocks, and sent them away. 5 When they told David, he sent to meet them, because the men were greatly ashamed. And the king said, “Wait at Jericho until your beards have grown, and then return.”

History records the removal of the beard as dishonor:

It is a record of antiquity that to pull out the beard of any man, for any reason, was viewed as degrading and dishonorable.[2] For this reason, it is certain then that during the crucifixion of Jesus, the Roman soldiers, who were known for their brutality; pulled out Jesus’ beard in handfuls rather than take the time to cut it with the sharp edge of a knife. Since it was the goal of His tormentors to inflict as much suffering on Jesus as possible—to insult and degrade Him as a man before the people who were observing the crucifixion; they must have done exactly as this prophecy of Isaiah 50:6 predicts: I gave my cheeks to those who plucked out the beard. This defines this prophecy as even more astounding; as God provides a detail that even the men who wrote these accounts, did not record.

A further area of interest in Isaiah’s prophecy is observed by the reality of death by crucifixion, described six-hundred years before it was invented. The first Crucifixion recorded in the Bible is described King Darius about 520 B.C., as noted in the book of Ezra chapter 6:1-11.

The fact that Crucifixion had not been invented at the writing of Isaiah’s words, gives us even greater pause and reason for astonishment, regarding this Isaiah’. By prophecy; the Lord demonstrates for us, that He knows all things. See the chapter: Crucified, for details regarding this brutal form of execution.

Further details of the Messiah’s crucifixion:

The common picture given of Jesus’ crucifixion is that He was lifted up on the cross, very high above the crowd below. In reality, history records that the crucified were usually a foot or two above the ground. It should be understood that the entire purpose of crucifixion was to humiliate the condemned by making their execution a visible horror. Those who were placed upon the cross were stripped of all of their clothing, exposing their genitals and allowing the watching crowd to witness the condemned relieving themselves by urination or defecation.[3]

The results of this horrible torture brought insects that further tormented the dying and added to their shame before the watchful eyes of those who often hated and despised the condemned criminal.[4]

A part of the punishment for those who were placed upon the cross was their close proximity to the crowd who were watching them die. The cross itself was only one or two feet above the ground, placing the faces of the condemned near the eye level of their tormentors.

The nearness of the cross to the ground is confirmed in the Jewish writings of Yev. 120b, which describes the official method for determining the actual moment of death for the condemned so that the body could be taken down from the cross. Certain ancient Hebrew writings describe that one of the ways that death was determined to have occurred was by the presence of feral animals in the area who would come and began to feed on the flesh of the feet and legs of the person crucified. These animals were able to gain access to the dead on the cross because of their near proximity to the ground. [5]

It would be quite normal for any condemned person who was on a cross just two feet from the ground below to have a Roman soldier come near and rip the beard from the face of the dying criminal as an act of contempt.

Isaiah also speaks of the Messiah as struck in the face by His accusers, in this prophecy, as well as Isaiah 52:14, the next section of this chapter. Under normal circumstances, when a human being sees a blow coming towards his face, a natural mechanism in the brain will cause the person to recoil his head backwards in anticipation of the strike to his head, which lessens the effects of the blow. If a person has had his vision obstructed, as was the case with Jesus, when they blindfolded Him and then struck His face; there would be no opportunity to recoil and lessen the severity of the blows. Jesus experienced the full force of the punches which were targeted at His face and suffered grievous damage to His appearance.

Luke 22:64 And having blindfolded Him, they struck Him on the face and asked Him, saying, “Prophesy! Who is the one who struck You?”

Isaiah 52:14 Just as many were astonished at you, So His visage was marred more than any man, And His form more than the sons of men

Oh Lord, how much You suffered for us, how great was Your pain, and by the exhibition of these things before us, You have shown us how great is Your love!

*******

By this time, you are either awestruck by the clarity of these prophecies which were written for the Messiah—hundreds and thousands of years before the events took place; or your abiding lack of desire to believe, has propelled you into deeper doubts. Evidence never has the result of convincing those who do not want to believe. Facts only confirm the faith of those who sincerely want to discover the truth. The God who made the universe, never asked anyone to believe what He has said, apart from compelling evidence. This book was written for the purpose of providing credible proof, so that the reader might believe the truth.

Who would write a myth about a man who claimed to be the Savior and King of the universe, only to end the story with a beating and crucifixion that left Him—unrecognizable as a human being?

Isaiah’s prediction that the Messiah would be beaten so severely that He would barely be identifiable as a man, is compelling evidence of truthfulness. When we consider how likely a person would be to allow these horrific events to be thrust upon themselves, just so they could fulfill several prophecies—only to deceive a great number of people, is preposterous.

The Messiah shall be so severely beaten and tortured that He will be barely recognizable as a man.

Isaiah 52:14 Just as many were astonished at you, So His visage was marred more than any man, And His form more than the sons of men…

New Testament Fulfillment:

Matthew 26:67 Then they spat in His face and beat Him; and others struck Him with the palms of their hands…

Unimaginable Torture

It is clear that after Jesus suffered through the scourging, beating in His face, and crucifixion, His body was torn to shreds. It was well known that 39 lashes from the scourge would leave a man with a body that was a medical catastrophe. As the flesh has been torn from the body, the muscles and ligaments are visible, often leaving vital internal organs exposed to the outside elements. Many a man died after just 10 or 15 lashes from the scourge. The fact that Jesus survived all 39 lashes is an indication of His strength, but also sure proof that His body was barely recognizable as a human being.[6]

Thomas

We know that after Jesus rose from the dead, He bore scars from the torture He suffered against His body. When the frightened disciples gathered together after His death; suddenly the Lord appeared in the room where they were hiding, in fear of the local authorities. Thomas was apparently not with the other men when Jesus appeared, and so one of the disciples told Thomas later that Jesus had appeared alive before them. Thomas was skeptical that the Lord could be alive after such a horrific death that He had suffered. Later, as Thomas is with the other disciples, Jesus appears again, a second time, and asks Thomas to touch the scars which are still in His body to confirm that He is in fact Jesus.

John 20:24-28 Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”

Mary

When Mary Magdalene came to the tomb where they had laid Jesus after His death, Jesus had already been resurrected. Mary did not recognize Him when He was standing near her at the tomb. Only after Jesus spoke Mary’s name did she realize that it was the Lord. This may have been due to the massive injuries that had disfigured Jesus’ face and body, resulting from the torture He had endured.

John 20:1-16 Now the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. But Mary stood outside by the tomb weeping, and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. Then they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” Now when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, “Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him, “Rabboni!” (which is to say, Teacher).

Emmaus

On one of the roads leading out of Jerusalem to the village of Emmaus, some of those who had witnessed Jesus being beaten and crucified were discussing amongst themselves the events of Jesus’ death. Suddenly, Jesus appears—unknown to these men and asks them why they are so sad. They explain that Jesus, whom they had hoped was the Messiah, had been crucified and died.

These men did not seem to realize that the one to whom they were speaking—was Jesus. It was not until the Lord took bread and broke it and handed it to the men, that they realized it was Him. As Jesus reached out His hands, they noticed the nail holes where He had been pierced. Surprisingly, they did not recognize that it was Jesus by His appearance, most likely because He had been so badly disfigured by His torture and death.

Luke 24:13-31 Now behold, two of them were traveling that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was seven miles from Jerusalem. And they talked together of all these things which had happened. So it was, while they conversed and reasoned, that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him. And He said to them, “What kind of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk and are sad?” Then the one whose name was Cleopas answered and said to Him, “Are You the only stranger in Jerusalem, and have You not known the things which happened there in these days?” And He said to them, “What things?” So they said to Him, “The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and crucified Him. But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, today is the third day since these things happened. Yes, and certain women of our company, who arrived at the tomb early, astonished us. When they did not find His body, they came saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said He was alive. And certain of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but Him they did not see.” Then He said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself. Then they drew near to the village where they were going, and He indicated that He would have gone farther. But they constrained Him, saying, “Abide with us, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent.” And He went in to stay with them. Now it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight.

The testimony of this event describes Jesus as He guided these men through the many Old Testament prophecies which describe the Messiah as beaten, crucified, and risen from the dead. Jesus applied each of these prophecies to Himself and informed these men that He is the object of all the scriptures concerning the Messiah.

John

When John describes Jesus in the Book of Revelation, he details His appearance as One like a lamb as though it had been slain. In heaven, Jesus is apparently still bearing the scars on His face and body from His torture and death, even after His resurrection.

Revelation 5:6 And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain…

It is difficult to imagine the Creator of all things—brutally butchered for us. The fact that Jesus allowed these evil men to so—disfigure Him that He was barely recognizable as a man; gives us a glimpse into how severely God hates the sin that had made it necessary for Him to die by such vicious and violent acts. God must also love us so greatly that He would permit His only Son to be beaten beyond recognition.

If anyone should ever accuse God of not loving us, all they must do is see Jesus face to face in all His disfigurement. Jesus will heal the scars of every person in heaven. We will all be perfect and beautiful, while He will bear the scars of His terrible death, for all of eternity. Jesus will heal all our scars, but He will not heal His own.

How great is His love!


[1] According to the Pulpit Commentary, the Jews often made use of ripping or shaving off the beard as the ultimate insult during punishment.
Nehemiah 13:25 So I contended with them and cursed them, struck some of them and pulled out their hair, and made them swear by God, saying, “You shall not give your daughters as wives to their sons, nor take their daughters for your sons or yourselves.
2 Samuel 10:4 Therefore Hanun took David’s servants, shaved off half of their beards, cut off their garments in the middle, at their buttocks, and sent them away.
[2] William of Tyre, an eastern archbishop, Gesta Dei, p. 802, quoted in Harmer, vol. ii. p. 359.
[3] Seneca, Dialogue “To Marcia on Consolation”, in Moral Essays, 6.20.3, trans. John W. Basore, The Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1946) 2:69
Licona, Michael (2010). The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach. InterVarsity Press,. p. 304. ISBN 978-0-8308-2719-0. OCLC 620836940.
[4] Conway, Colleen M. (2008). Behold the Man: Jesus and Greco-Roman Masculinity. Oxford University Press. p. 67. ISBN 978-0-19-532532-4. (citing Cicero, pro Rabirio Perduellionis Reo 5.16).
[5] Tosef, Git 7:1 and Git 70b, As the exact time of death was not ascertainable, the fact that a man was seen hanging on a cross was not sufficient evidence of his death (Yev. 16:3). It might be otherwise when wild beasts or birds had already attacked him at vital parts of the body (Yev. 120b).
[6] 1. Tenney SM: On death by crucifixion. Am Heart J 1964;68:286-287.
2. Bloomquist ER: A doctor looks at crucifixion. Christian Herald, March 1964, pp 35, 46-48.
3. DePasquale NP, Burch GE: Death by crucifixion. Am Heart J 1963;66:434-435.