I was thinking about the text of Thomas Chisholm’s “He Was Wounded for Our Transgressions,” a hymn grounded in Isaiah 53. As so often is the case, a light bulb finally clicked on tonight even though I’ve sung this song many times over the years.
Chisholm in the third stanza says:
“Who can number His generation? Who shall declare all the triumphs of His cross?
Millions dead now live again, Myriads follow in His train!
Victorious Lord, Victorious Lord, Victorious Lord and coming King!”
Isaiah 53:8 says (in the KJV, which Chisholm [1866-1960] is clearly using):
He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.
Chisholm takes Isaiah’s question “who shall declare his generation?” and apparently understands it to be a sort of rhetorical question signifying that those who are “generated” from Christ—those who are born again (cf. John 3:3)—are so many as to be practically innumerable. So, he asks, “Who can number His generation?” His answer, such as it is, to this rhetorical question follows: “Millions dead now live again, myriads follow in his train.” I’ve sung that line many times, and never connected it with Chisholm’s rhetorical question a line earlier.