PURPOSE OF MESSIAH'S COMING:
TO MAKE ATONEMENT FOR SIN
I. THE HISTORICAL SETTING OF ISAIAH 53
IN the latter section of Isaiah¹ (chapters 40-66) appear the great Servant Passages which reach the highest peaks of glory of the revelation contained in the Tenach.II. THE TEXT OF THE GREAT SERVANT PASSAGE
These twenty-seven chapters divide into three sections of nine chapters each. In the first section (chapters 40-48) Israel is seen in Babylonian captivity and Cyrus, the king of Persia, appears upon the historical horizon as the one chosen of God through whom deliverance shall be brought to the captive exiles. In the same section also appears "the servant of the Lord" who, in a very limited and imperfect way, Cyrus typifies. In the second section (chapters 48-57) appears this Servant of the Lord as the principal actor upon the stage. Here Israel in the white light of spiritual illumination which comes from the Spirit of God is seen to be in a captivity of a far more serious nature than of being in exile in a foreign country, i.e., in the bondage and servitude to sin and unrighteousness. Here also the Servant of the Lord in the three central chapters of this middle division appears as the great deliverer of his people from this spiritual bondage. In the last section (chapters 58-66) the glorious result of the work of the Servant of the Lord has appeared, Israel has been delivered from her severe bondage to sin and is enjoying the covenant relationship with her God under the personal rule and power of the Servant of the Lord.
In the central chapter of this central section of the second half of Isaiah the Servant stands forth in all His glory and beauty. This great passage (52:13-53:12) is the highest mountain peak of God's prophetic revelation.
הִנֵּה יַשְׂכִּיל עַבְדִּי יָרוּם וְנִשָּׂא וְגָבַהּ מְאֹד׃ כַּאֲשֶׁר שָׁמְמוּ עָלֶיךָ רַבִּים כֵּן־מִשְׁחַת מֵאִישׁ מַרְאֵהוּ וְתֹאֲרוֹ מִבְּנֵי אָדָם׃ כֵּן יַזֶּה גּוֹיִם רַבִּים עָלָיו יִקְפְּצוּ מְלָכִים פִּיהֶם כִּי אֲשֶׁר לֹא־סֻפַּר לָהֶם רָאוּ וַאֲשֶׁר לֹא־שָׁמְעוּ הִתְבּוֹנָנוּ׃
מִי הֶאֱמִין לִשְׁמֻעָתֵנוּ וּזְרוֹעַ יְהוָה עַל־מִי נִגְלָתָה׃ וַיַּעַל כַּיּוֹנֵק לְפָנָיו וְכַשֹּׁרֶשׁ מֵאֶרֶץ צִיָּה לֹא־תֹאַר לוֹ וְלֹא הָדָר וְנִרְאֵהוּ וְלֹא־מַרְאֶה וְנֶחְמְדֵהוּ׃ נִבְזֶה וַחֲדַל אִישִׁים אִישׁ מַכְאֹבוֹת וִידוּעַ חֹלִי וּכְמַסְתֵּר פָּנִים מִמֶּנּוּ נִבְזֶה וְלֹא חֲשַׁבְנֻהוּ׃ אָכֵן חֳלָיֵנוּ הוּא נָשָׂא וּמַכְאֹבֵינוּ סְבָלָם וַאֲנַחְנוּ חֲשַׁבְנֻהוּ נָגוּעַ מֻכֵּה אֱלֹהִים וּמְעֻנֶּה׃ וְהוּא מְחֹלָל מִפְּשָׁעֵנוּ מְדֻכָּא מֵעֲוֹנֹתֵינוּ מוּסַר שְׁלוֹמֵנוּ עָלָיו וּבַחֲבֻרָתוֹ נִרְפָּא־לָנוּ׃ כֻּלָּנוּ כַּצֹּאן תָּעִינוּ אִישׁ לְדַרְכּוֹ פָּנִינוּ וַיהוָה הִפְגִּיעַ בּוֹ אֵת עֲוֹן כֻּלָּנוּ׃ נִגַּשׂ וְהוּא נַעֲנֶה וְלֹא יִפְתַּח־פִּיו כַּשֶּׂה לַטֶּבַח יוּבָל וּכְרָחֵל לִפְנֵי גֹזְזֶיהָ נֶאֱלָמָה וְלֹא יִפְתַּח פִּיו׃ מֵעֹצֶר וּמִמִּשְׁפָּט לֻקָּח וְאֶת־דּוֹרוֹ מִי יְשׂוֹחֵחַ כִּי נִגְזַר מֵאֶרֶץ חַיִּים מִפֶּשַׁע עַמִּי נֶגַע לָמוֹ׃ וַיִּתֵּן אֶת־רְשָׁעִים קִבְרוֹ וְאֶת־עָשִׁיר בְּמֹתָיו עַל לֹא־חָמָס עָשָׂה וְלֹא מִרְמָה בְּפִיו׃ וַיהוָה חָפֵץ דַּכְּאוֹ הֶחֱלִי אִם־תָּשִׂים אָשָׁם נַפְשׁוֹ יִרְאֶה זֶרַע יַאֲרִיךְ יָמִים וְחֵפֶץ יְהוָה בְּיָדוֹ יִצְלָח׃ מֵעֲמַל נַפְשׁוֹ יִרְאֶה יִשְׂבָּע בְּדַעְתּוֹ יַצְדִּיק צַדִּיק עַבְדִּי לָרַבִּים וַעֲוֹנֹתָם הוּא יִסְבֹּל׃ לָכֵן אֲחַלֶּק־לוֹ בָרַבִּים וְאֶת־עֲצוּמִים יְחַלֵּק שָׁלָל תַּחַת אֲשֶׁר הֶעֱרָה לַמָּוֶת נַפְשׁוֹ וְאֶת־פֹּשְׁעִים נִמְנָה וְהוּא חֵטְא־רַבִּים נָשָׂא וְלַפֹּשְׁעִים יַפְגִּיעַ׃
"Behold, my servant will deal wisely, he will rise and be exalted, and be very high. Just as many were astonished at thee,--so disfigured, his appearance was not like that of a man, and his form not like that of the children of men,--so will he make many nations tremble; kings will shut their mouths at him, for they see what has not been told them, and perceive what they have not heard. Who has believed what we have heard? And the arm of the Lord,--over whom hath it been revealed? And he came up like a layer-sprig before him, and like a root-sprout out of dry ground; he had no form and no beauty, and we saw him and there was no appearance that we could have found pleasure in him. He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and familiar with sickness, and like one from whom men hide their face, despised, and we esteemed him not. Verily our sicknesses he hath borne, and our pains--he hath laden them; but we considered him as one stricken, one smitten of God, and afflicted. Whereas he was pierced because of our transgressions, bruised because of our iniquities; the punishment for peace to us lay upon him, and through his stripes came healing to us. We all like sheep went astray; we had each turned to his own way, and the Lord caused to fall on him the iniquity of us all. He was ill-treated, while he suffered willingly, and opened not his mouth; like the lamb that is led to the shambles, and like a sheep that is dumb before her shearers, and he opened not his mouth. Out of prison and out of judgment was he taken; and of his contemporaries, who considered this: 'He was snatched out of the land of the living, seeing that, on account of the transgression of my people, vengeance fell on him?' And his grave was assigned to him with transgressors, and with a rich man was he in his death, because he had committed no unrighteousness, nor was there deceit in his mouth. And it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he afflicted him with disease: if his soul were to pay a trespass-offering, he should see posterity, live long days, and the purpose of the Lord should prosper through his hand. Because of the travail of his soul he will see, will refresh himself; through his knowledge will he obtain righteousness, my righteous Servant, for the many, and their iniquities will he take upon himself. Therefore I give him a share with the great, and with the strong will he share spoil; because he poured out his soul unto death, and let himself be numbered among transgressors, while he bare the sins of many, and interceded for the transgressors" (Isa. 52:13-53:12).
The English translation quoted above is from the Fourth Edition of "Commentary on Isaiah" by the late Franz Delitzsch, one of the greatest Hebrew scholars of modern times. In order to approach the study of this great "servant passage" in a thoroughly scientific manner, it becomes necessary to investigate the other "servant passages" and to study it in the light gleaned from them.
וְאַתָּה יִשְׂרָאֵל עַבְדִּי יַעֲקֹב אֲשֶׁר בְּחַרְתִּיךָ זֶרַע אַבְרָהָם אֹהֲבִי׃ אֲשֶׁר הֶחֱזַקְתִּיךָ מִקְצוֹת הָאָרֶץ וּמֵאֲצִילֶיהָ קְרָאתִיךָ וָאֹמַר לְךָ עַבְדִּי־אַתָּה בְּחַרְתִּיךָ וְלֹא מְאַסְתִּיךָ׃ אַל־תִּירָא כִּי־עִמְּךָ אָנִי אַל־תִּשְׁתָּע כִּי־אֲנִי אֱלֹהֶיךָ אִמַּצְתִּיךָ אַף־עֲזַרְתִּיךָ אַף־תְּמַכְתִּיךָ בִּימִין צִדְקִי׃ הֵן יֵבֹשׁוּ וְיִכָּלְמוּ כֹּל הַנֶּחֱרִים בָּךְ יִהְיוּ כְאַיִן וְיֹאבְדוּ אַנְשֵׁי רִיבֶךָ׃ תְּבַקְשֵׁם וְלֹא תִמְצָאֵם אַנְשֵׁי מַצֻּתֶךָ יִהְיוּ כְאַיִן וּכְאֶפֶס אַנְשֵׁי מִלְחַמְתֶּךָ׃ כִּי אֲנִי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ מַחֲזִיק יְמִינֶךָ הָאֹמֵר לְךָ אַל־תִּירָא אֲנִי עֲזַרְתִּיךָ׃
אַל־תִּירְאִי תּוֹלַעַת יַעֲקֹב מְתֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אֲנִי עֲזַרְתִּיךְ נְאֻם־יְהוָה וְגֹאֲלֵךְ קְדוֹשׁ יִשְׂרָאֵל׃ הִנֵּה שַׂמְתִּיךְ לְמוֹרַג חָרוּץ חָדָשׁ בַּעַל פִּיפִיּוֹת תָּדוּשׁ הָרִים וְתָדֹק וּגְבָעוֹת כַּמֹּץ תָּשִׂים׃ תִּזְרֵם וְרוּחַ תִּשָּׂאֵם וּסְעָרָה תָּפִיץ אוֹתָם וְאַתָּה תָּגִיל בַּיהוָה בִּקְדוֹשׁ יִשְׂרָאֵל תִּתְהַלָּל׃
"But thou, Israel, my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend, thou whom I have taken hold of from the ends of the earth, and called from the corners thereof, and said unto thee, Thou art my servant, I have chosen thee and not cast thee away; fear thou not, for I am with thee; be not dismayed, for I am thy God; I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. Behold, all they that are incensed against thee shall be put to shame and confounded: they that strive with thee shall be as nothing, and shall perish. Thou shalt seek them, and shalt not find them, even them that contend with thee: they that war against thee shall be as nothing, and as a thing of nought. For I, the Lord thy God, will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee. Fear not, thou worm Jacob, and ye men of Israel; I will help thee, saith the Lord, and thy Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel. Behold, I have made thee to be a new sharp threshing instrument having-teeth; thou shalt thresh the mountains, and beat them small, and shalt make the hills as chaff. Thou shalt winnow them, and the wind shall carry them away, and the whirlwind shall scatter them; and thou shalt rejoice in the Lord, thou shalt glory in the Holy one of Israel" ( Isa. 41:8-16).
הֵן עַבְדִּי אֶתְמָךְ־בּוֹ בְּחִירִי רָצְתָה נַפְשִׁי נָתַתִּי רוּחִי עָלָיו מִשְׁפָּט לַגּוֹיִם יוֹצִיא׃ לֹא יִצְעַק וְלֹא יִשָּׂא וְלֹא־יַשְׁמִיעַ בַּחוּץ קוֹלוֹ׃ קָנֶה רָצוּץ לֹא יִשְׁבּוֹר וּפִשְׁתָּה כֵהָה לֹא יְכַבֶּנָּה לֶאֱמֶת יוֹצִיא מִשְׁפָּט׃ לֹא יִכְהֶה וְלֹא יָרוּץ עַד־יָשִׂים בָּאָרֶץ מִשְׁפָּט וּלְתוֹרָתוֹ אִיִּים יְיַחֵלוּ׃ כֹּה־אָמַר הָאֵל יְהוָה בּוֹרֵא הַשָּׁמַיִם וְנוֹטֵיהֶם רֹקַע הָאָרֶץ וְצֶאֱצָאֶיהָ נֹתֵן נְשָׁמָה לָעָם עָלֶיהָ וְרוּחַ לַהֹלְכִים בָּהּ׃ אֲנִי יְהוָה קְרָאתִיךָ בְצֶדֶק וְאַחְזֵק בְּיָדֶךָ וְאֶצָּרְךָ וְאֶתֶּנְךָ לִבְרִית עָם לְאוֹר גּוֹיִם׃ לִפְקֹחַ עֵינַיִם עִוְרוֹת לְהוֹצִיא מִמַּסְגֵּר אַסִּיר מִבֵּית כֶּלֶא יֹשְׁבֵי חֹשֶׁךְ׃ .... הַחֵרְשִׁים שְׁמָעוּ וְהַעִוְרִים הַבִּיטוּ לִרְאוֹת׃ מִי עִוֵּר כִּי אִם־עַבְדִּי וְחֵרֵשׁ כְּמַלְאָכִי אֶשְׁלָח מִי עִוֵּר כִּמְשֻׁלָּם וְעִוֵּר כְּעֶבֶד יְהוָה׃ רָאֹית רַבּוֹת וְלֹא תִשְׁמֹר פָּקֹחַ אָזְנַיִם וְלֹא יִשְׁמָע׃ יְהוָה חָפֵץ לְמַעַן צִדְקוֹ יַגְדִּיל תּוֹרָה וְיַאְדִּיר׃ וְהוּא עַם־בָּזוּז וְשָׁסוּי הָפֵחַ בַּחוּרִים כֻּלָּם וּבְבָתֵּי כְלָאִים הָחְבָּאוּ הָיוּ לָבַז וְאֵין מַצִּיל מְשִׁסָּה וְאֵין אֹמֵר־הָשַׁב׃ מִי בָכֶם יַאֲזִין זֹאת יַקְשִׁב וְיִשְׁמַע לְאָחוֹר׃ מִי־נָתַן לִמְשִׁוסָּה יַעֲקֹב וְיִשְׂרָאֵל לְבֹזְזִים הֲלוֹא יְהוָה זוּ חָטָאנוּ לוֹ וְלֹא־אָבוּ בִדְרָכָיו הָלוֹךְ וְלֹא שָׁמְעוּ בְּתוֹרָתוֹ׃ וַיִּשְׁפֹּךְ עָלָיו חֵמָה אַפּוֹ וֶעֱזוּז מִלְחָמָה וַתְּלַהֲטֵהוּ מִסָּבִיב וְלֹא יָדָע וַתִּבְעַר־בּוֹ וְלֹא־יָשִׂים עַל־לֵב׃
"Behold, my servant, whom I uphold; my chosen, in whom my soul delighteth: I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the Gentiles. He will not cry, nor lift up his voice, nor cause it to be heard in the street. A bruised reed will he not break, And a dimly burning wick will he not quench: he will bring forth justice in truth. He will not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set justice in the earth; and the isles shall wait for his law. Thus saith God the Lord, he that created the heavens, and stretched them forth; he that spread abroad the earth and that which cometh out of it; he that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein: I, the Lord, have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thy hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; to open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison-house .... Hear, ye deaf; and look, ye blind, that ye may see. Who is blind, but my servant? or deaf, as my messenger that I send? who is blind as he that is at peace with me, and blind as the Lord's servant? Thou seest many things, but thou observes not; his ears are open, but he heareth not. It pleased the Lord, for his righteousness' sake, to magnify the law, and make it honorable. But this is a people robbed and plundered; they are all of them snared in holes, and they are hid in prison-houses: they are for a prey, and none delivereth; for a spoil, and none saith, Restore. Who is there among you that will give ear to this? that will hearken and hear for the time to come? Who gave Jacob for a spoil, and Israel to the robbers? did not the Lord? he against whom we have sinned, and in whose ways they would not walk, neither were they obedient unto his law. Therefore he poured upon him the fierceness of his anger, and the strength of battle; and it set him on fire round about, yet he knew not; and it burned him, yet he laid it not to heart" (Isa. 42:1-7 ... 18-25).
וְעַתָּה כֹּה-אָמַר יְהוָה בֹּרַאֲךָ יַעֲקֹב וְיֹצֶרְךָ יִשְׂרָאֵל אַל־תִּירָא כִּי גְאַלְתִּיךָ קָרָאתִי בְשִׁמְךָ לִי־אָתָּה׃ כִּי־תַעֲבֹר בַּמַּיִם אִתְּךָ אָנִי וּבַנְּהָרוֹת לֹא יִשְׁטְפוּךָ כִּי־תֵלֵךְ בְּמוֹ־אֵשׁ לֹא תִכָּוֶה וְלֶהָבָה לֹא תִבְעַר־בָּךְ׃ כִּי אֲנִי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ קְדוֹשׁ יִשְׂרָאֵל מוֹשִׁיעֶךָ נָתַתִּי כָפְרְךָ מִצְרַיִם כּוּשׁ וּסְבָא תַּחְתֶּיךָ׃ מֵאֲשֶׁר יָקַרְתָּ בְעֵינַי נִכְבַּדְתָּ וַאֲנִי אֲהַבְתִּיךָ וְאֶתֵּן אָדָם תַּחְתֶּיךָ וּלְאֻמִּים תַּחַת נַפְשֶׁךָ׃ אַל־תִּירָא כִּי־אִתְּךָ אָנִי מִמִּזְרָח אָבִיא זַרְעֶךָ וּמִמַּעֲרָב אֲקַבְּצֶךָּ׃ אֹמַר לַצָּפוֹן תֵּנִי וּלְתֵימָן אַל־תִּכְלָאִי הָבִיאִי בָנַי מֵרָחוֹק וּבְנוֹתַי מִקְצֵה הָאָרֶץ׃ כֹּל הַנִּקְרָא בִשְׁמִי וְלִכְבוֹדִי בְּרָאתִיו יְצַרְתִּיו אַף־עֲשִׂיתִיו׃ הוֹצִיא עַם־עִוֵּר וְעֵינַיִם יֵשׁ וְחֵרְשִׁים וְאָזְנַיִם לָמוֹ׃ כָּל־הַגּוֹיִם נִקְבְּצוּ יַחְדָּו וְיֵאָסְפוּ לְאֻמִּים מִי בָהֶם יַגִּיד זֹאת וְרִאשֹׁנוֹת יַשְׁמִיעֻנוּ יִתְּנוּ עֵדֵיהֶם וְיִצְדָּקוּ וְיִשְׁמְעוּ וְיֹאמְרוּ אֱמֶת׃ אַתֶּם עֵדַי נְאֻם־יְהוָה וְעַבְדִּי אֲשֶׁר בָּחָרְתִּי לְמַעַן תֵּדְעוּ וְתַאֲמִינוּ לִי וְתָבִינוּ כִּי־אֲנִי הוּא לְפָנַי לֹא־נוֹצַר אֵל וְאַחֲרַי לֹא־יִהְיֶה׃
אָנֹכִי אָנֹכִי יְהוָה וְאֵין מִבַּלְעָדַי מוֹשִׁיעַ׃ אָנֹכִי הִגַּדְתִּי וְהוֹשַׁעְתִּי וְהִשְׁמַעְתִּי וְאֵין בָּכֶם זָר וְאַתֶּם עֵדַי נְאֻם־יְהוָה וַאֲנִי־אֵל׃ גַּם־מִיּוֹם אֲנִי הוּא וְאֵין מִיָּדִי מַצִּיל אֶפְעַל וּמִי יְשִׁיבֶנָּה׃
"But now thus saith the Lord that created thee, 0 Jacob, and he that formed thee, 0 Israel: Fear not, for I have redeemed thee; I have called thee by thy name, thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned, neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour; I have given Egypt as thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba in thy stead. Since thou hast been precious in my sight, and honorable, and I have loved thee; therefore will I give men in thy stead, and peoples instead of thy life. Fear not; for I am with thee: I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west; I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back; bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the end of the earth; every one that is called by my name, and whom I have created for my glory, whom I have formed, yea, whom I have made. Bring forth the blind people that have eyes, and the deaf that have ears. Let all the nations be gathered together, and let the peoples be assembled: who among them can declare this, and show us former things? let them bring their witnesses, that they may be justified; or let them hear, and say, It is truth. Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen; that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. I, even I, am the Lord; and besides me there is no saviour. I have declared, and I have saved, and I have showed; and there was no strange god among you: therefore ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, and I am God. Yea, since the day was I am he; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand: I will work, and who can hinder it?" (Isa. 43:1-13).
וְעַתָּה שְׁמַע יַעֲקֹב עַבְדִּי וְיִשְׂרָאֵל בָּחַרְתִּי בוֹ׃ כֹּה־אָמַר יְהוָה עֹשֶׂךָ וְיֹצֶרְךָ מִבֶּטֶן יַעְזְרֶךָּ אַל־תִּירָא עַבְדִּי יַעֲקֹב וִישֻׁרוּן בָּחַרְתִּי בוֹ׃ כִּי אֶצָּק־מַיִם עַל־צָמֵא וְנֹזְלִים עַל־יַבָּשָׁה אֶצֹּק רוּחִי עַל־זַרְעֶךָ וּבִרְכָתִי עַל־צֶאֱצָאֶיךָ׃ וְצָמְחוּ בְּבֵין חָצִיר כַּעֲרָבִים עַל־יִבְלֵי־מָיִם׃ זֶה יֹאמַר לַיהוָה אָנִי וְזֶה יִקְרָא בְשֵׁם־יַעֲקֹב וְזֶה יִכְתֹּב יָדוֹ לַיהוָה וּבְשֵׁם יִשְׂרָאֵל יְכַנֶּה׃
"Yet now hear, 0 Jacob my servant, and Israel, whom I have chosen: Thus saith the Lord that made thee, and formed thee from the womb, who will help thee: Fear not, 0 Jacob my servant; and thou, Jeshurun, whom I have chosen. For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and streams upon the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring: and they shall spring up among the grass, as willows by the water courses. One shall say, I am the Lord's; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the Lord, and surname himself by the name of Israel" (Isa. 44:1-5).
שִׁמְעוּ אִיִּים אֵלַי וְהַקְשִׁיבוּ לְאֻמִּים מֵרָחוֹק יְהוָה מִבֶּטֶן קְרָאָנִי מִמְּעֵי אִמִּי הִזְכִּיר שְׁמִי׃ וַיָּשֶׂם פִּי כְּחֶרֶב חַדָּה בְּצֵל יָדוֹ הֶחְבִּיאָנִי וַיְשִׂימֵנִי לְחֵץ בָּרוּר בְּאַשְׁפָּתוֹ הִסְתִּירָנִי׃ וַיֹּאמֶר לִי עַבְדִּי־אָתָּה יִשְׂרָאֵל אֲשֶׁר־בְּךָ אֶתְפָּאָר׃ וַאֲנִי אָמַרְתִּי לְרִיק יָגַעְתִּי לְתֹהוּ וְהֶבֶל כֹּחִי כִלֵּיתִי אָכֵן מִשְׁפָּטִי אֶת־יְהוָה וּפְעֻלָּתִי אֶת־אֱלֹהָי׃ וְעַתָּה אָמַר יְהוָה יוֹצְרִי מִבֶּטֶן לְעֶבֶד לוֹ לְשׁוֹבֵב יַעֲקֹב אֵלָיו וְיִשְׂרָאֵל לֹא יֵאָסֵף וְאֶכָּבֵד בְּעֵינֵי יְהוָה וֵאלֹהַי הָיָה עֻזִּי׃ וַיֹּאמֶר נָקֵל מִהְיוֹתְךָ לִי עֶבֶד לְהָקִים אֶת־שִׁבְטֵי יַעֲקֹב וּנְציּרֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל לְהָשִׁיב וּנְתַתִּיךָ לְאוֹר גּוֹיִם לִהְיוֹת יְשׁוּעָתִי עַד־קְצֵה הָאָרֶץ׃ כֹּה אָמַר־יְהוָה גֹּאֵל יִשְׂרָאֵל קְדוֹשׁוֹ לִבְזֹה־נֶפֶשׁ לִמְתָעֵב גּוֹי לְעֶבֶד מֹשְׁלִים מְלָכִים יִרְאוּ וָקָמוּ שָׂרִים וְיִשְׁתַּחֲווּ לְמַעַן יְהוָה אֲשֶׁר נֶאֱמָן קְדֹשׁ יִשְׂרָאֵל וַיִּבְחָרֶךָּ׃ . . אֲדֹנָי יֱהוִה נָתַן לִי לְשׁוֹן לִמּוּדִים לָדַעַת לָעוּת אֶת־יָעֵף דָּבָר יָעִיר בַּבֹּקֶר בַּבֹּקֶר יָעִיר לִי אֹזֶן לִשְׁמֹעַ כַּלִּמּוּדִים׃ אֲדֹנָי יֱהוִה פָּתַח־לִי אֹזֶן וְאָנֹכִי לֹא מָרִיתִי אָחוֹר לֹא נְסוּגֹתִי׃ גֵּוִי נָתַתִּי לְמַכִּים וּלְחָיַי לְמֹרְטִים פָּנַי לֹא הִסְתַּרְתִּי מִכְּלִמּוֹת וָרֹק׃ וַאדֹנָי יְהוִה יַעֲזָר־לִי עַל־כֵּן לֹא נִכְלָמְתִּי עַל־כֵּן שַׂמְתִּי פָנַי כַּחַלָּמִישׁ וָאֵדַע כִּ־לֹא אֵבוֹשׁ׃ קָרוֹב מַצְדִּיקִי מִי־יָרִיב אִתִּי נַעַמְדָה יָּחַד מִי־בַעַל מִשְׁפָּטִי יִגַּשׁ אֵלָי׃ הֵן אֲדֹנָי יֱהוִה יַעֲזָר־לִי מִי־הוּא יַרְשִׁיעֵנִי הֵן כֻּלָּם כַּבֶּגֶד יִבְלוּ עָשׁ יֹאכְלֵם׃ מִי בָכֶם יְרֵא יְהוָה שֹׁמֵעַ בְּקוֹל עַבְדּוֹ אֲשֶׁר הָלַךְ חֲשֵׁכִים וְאֵין נֹגַהּ לוֹ יִבְטַח בְּשֵׁם יְהוָה וְיִשָּׁעֵן בֵּאלֹהָיו׃ הֵן כֻּלְּכֶם קֹדְחֵי אֵשׁ מְאַזְּרֵי זִיקוֹת לְכוּ בְּאוּר אֶשְׁכֶם וּבְזִיקוֹת בִּעַרְתֶּם מִיָּדִי הָיְתָה־זֹּאת לָכֶם לְמַעֲצֵבָה תִּשְׁכָּבוּן׃
"Listen, 0 isles, unto me; and hearken, ye peoples, from far: the Lord hath called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name: and he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand hath he hid me: and he hath made me a polished shaft; in his quiver hath he kept me close: and he said unto me. Thou art my servant; Israel, in whom I will be glorified. But I said, I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nought and vanity; yet surely the justice due to me is with the Lord, and my recompense with my God. And now saith the Lord that formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob again to him, and that Israel be gathered unto him (for I am honorable in the eyes of the Lord, and my God is become my strength); yea, he saith, It is too light a thing that thou shouldst be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth. Thus saith the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel, and his Holy One, to him whom man despiseth, to him whom the nation abhorreth, to a servant of rulers: Kings shall see and arise; princes, and they shall worship; because of the Lord that is faithful, even the Holy One of Israel, who hath chosen thee" (Isa. 49:1-7). ... "The Lord יְהוָה hath given me the tongue of them that are taught, that I may know how to sustain with words him that is weary: he wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as they that are taught. The Lord יְהוָה hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away backward. I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to, them that plucked off the hair; I hid not my face from shame and spitting. For the Lord יְהוָה will help me; therefore have I not been confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame. He is near that justifieth me; who will contend with me? let us stand up together: who is mine adversary? Let him come near to me. Behold, the Lord יְהוָה will help me; who is he that shall condemn me? behold, they all shall wax old as a garment; the moth shall eat them up. Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of his servant? he that walketh in darkness, and hath no light, let him trust in the name of the Lord, and rely upon his God. Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that gird yourselves about with firebrands; walk ye in the flame of your fire, and among the brands that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of my hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow" (Isa. 50:4-11).
That the "servant" refers to the entire nation in some of these passages there can be no doubt; that the same expression likewise refers to a remnant of the nation in some of them is equally certain; and that it also in some refers to an individual is beyond question. Therefore it behooves one to examine carefully all of the evidence in each passage in order to ascertain concerning which the writer is speaking. In regard to 41:8-16 the expression "Ye men of Israel" of verse 14, which is used as a parallel to the word "Jacob," shows unmistakably that the servant there is the nation. In chapter 42 recurs the same expression, "my servant." Here, however, the marks of personality are so very prominent in the first seven verses that there can be no doubt that the servant is an individual, for God makes him "a covenant of the people (the Hebrew nation), for a light to the Gentiles." This verse clearly distinguishes between the servant on the one hand, and the Hebrew nation and the Gentiles on the other. Furthermore, the servant brings forth "justice and truth" and is called "in righteousness." He in his righteousness and justice stands out clearly from the nation which suffers because of its own sins and unrighteousness (verses 6, 18-26). In 44:1-5 the context points unmistakably to the fact that the one referred to by "my servant" is the nation, for the word "Jeshurun" is used as a parallel to it and is the name of the nation as appears in Deut. 32:15. In the long passage--chapter 49:1-50:10--the servant most prominently stands aloof from the nation in that God says (49:6), "It is too light a thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light of the Gentiles that thou mayest be my salvation unto the ends of the earth." In the last verse of this passage the servant is distinguished from the nation by the words of the prophet who says, "Who is among you (i.e., who of the nation to whom he was speaking) that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of His servant?" In 65:8-16 the prophet is speaking of a godly remnant of the nation which shall survive the approaching judgments which shall come upon the nation. That this interpretation is correct is certain from the language of verse 9, "And I will bring forth a seed out of Jacob, and out of Judah an inheritor of my mountains; and my chosen shall inherit it, and my servants shall dwell there."
In order that the reader may see very clearly the relationship which exists between the nation, a purified remnant of the same, and the servant of the Lord, an individual, it is well to call attention to a statement on chapter 42:1ff from Prof. Delitzsch's commentary on Isaiah (4th Edition), Vol. 2, Page 165:
"But yet a connection must exist between the national sense in which 'Servant of the Lord' was used in 41:8 and the personal one here. The future Saviour is not described as the Son of David, as in chaps. 7-12 and elsewhere, but appears as the embodied idea of Israel, i.e., as its truth and reality in person. The idea of Servant of the Lord, to speak figuratively, is a pyramid. The lower basis is the whole of Israel; the middle section, Israel not merely after the flesh, but after the Spirit, the summit is the person of the Mediator of salvation arising out of Israel. The Mediator is the centre (1) in the circle of the kingdom of promise--the second David; (2) in the circle of the people of salvation--the true Israel; (3) in the circle of humanity--the second Adam. In these discourses, chaps. 40-66, the doctrine of salvation reaches its second stage. Israel's character as God's servant, rooted in the Lord's choice and call, and exhibited in bearing and action which harmonize with that call, is concentrated in Him, in Him alone, as its ripest fruit. God's gracious purpose in reference to humanity, which was the governing force in Israel's election, is carried by Him to full accomplishment."
III. WHO IS THIS SERVANT OF ISAIAH 52:13-53:12?
Having seen that the context in each instance must determine to whom or to what the expression "my servant" refers the reader is now invited to note carefully the context of chapters 52:13-53:12 to ascertain who is the servant here.
A. Is Israel This Servant?
In the first place, is the suffering servant a Personification of the nation of Israel? To this question some honest, conscientious scholars answer in the affirmative. To the writer, however, this position is untenable for six unmistakable reasons:
(1) The prophet speaks of the servant as "he," "him," and "his" and clearly differentiates him from the audience with which he identifies himself and of which he speaks as "we," "our," and "us" (See 53:1-6). Since it is to the nation that he addresses his discourse and since he distinguishes between the servant and the audience, the servant is not the nation.
(2) This servant suffers for the entire nation. In 53:6 the prophet declares that all Israel has gone astray, i.e., they have gone off into sin. In verse 8 he affirms that the servant "was cut off out of the land of the living for the transgression of my [Isaiah's people, the Hebrews] people to whom the stroke was due." Since, therefore, the servant suffers for the guilt of the nation, he cannot be the nation.
(3) The servant submits to the suffering heaped upon him submissively offering NO resistance. From this standpoint it is clear that one other than the nation is the sufferer. It is a well known fact that, instead of submitting to the cruelties and atrocities heaped upon her, Israel has stubbornly resisted with physical force in innumerable instances those who persecuted her, and only submitted when overpowered by superior forces. As proof of this assertion it is well to note the following summary of some outstanding historical facts in the life of the nation, which is written by an eminent Hebrew who deals with this subject historically: "Here is one described, who bears all sorts of affliction and oppression, without making the slightest resistance, without even opening his mouth to utter reproach--one who has the meekness and gentleness of a lamb, the inoffensiveness of a sheep. Surely this does not apply to the Jews. A very hasty glance at this history is sufficient to convince us of that. As long as ever they had the power, they did resist bitterly and bloodily. We freely acknowledge that their provocations were great. We have no wish to defend the wickedness of Christian nations. We grant that their treatment of the Jews is a blot and a stain. But that is not the question. The question is, Did the Jews bear all the oppression heaped upon them like lambs? Did they suffer evil-without resisting it? History answers in the negative. The history of the Jewish captivity for the first seven centuries is a history of a series of insurrections, fierce and violent, against the nations. How desperate was the resistance to the Roman power which brought on the destruction of the temple by Titus! But when that was destroyed, the spirit of resistance still remained. A.D. 115, the Jews of Cyrene rebelled and slew 220,000 Libyans; and it was not until after several bloody battles that they submitted. A.D. 132, Bar Cochba appeared in the character of the Messiah at the head of an army, ready to shake off the Roman yoke. R. Akiba, one of those looked upon by the Rabbis as most righteous, supported his resistance to the Roman authority; a bloody war was the consequence, and it was only by force that this insurrection was put down. A.D. 415, the Jews of Alexandria revolted. A.D. 522, the Jews of Persia revolted under the conduct of R. Mid, or Miz, at their head, and declared war against the King of Persia. A.D. 535, the Jews in Caesarea rebelled. A.D. 602, the Jews at Antioch. A.D. 624, the Jews in Arabia took up arms against Mahomet. A.D. 613, they joined the armies of Chosroes, when he made himself master of Jerusalem, and put thousands to death."
(4) This servant suffers VOLUNTARILY but the nation has never thus suffered. "He poured out his soul unto death." This statement shows that he suffers willingly, which position is strengthened by the fact that when he suffers he is silent and resigned to his lot. Nowhere in the pages of Jewish history can it be shown that the nation or a remnant of the nation has voluntarily suffered in behalf of others. Therefore from this consideration it is clear that the nation is not the subject of the prophecy.
(5) The servant suffers UNTO DEATH, whereas the nation is to continue. According to 53:8,12, the servant is cut off out of the land of the living, but, according to Jer. 30:11, Israel continues as a nation: "For I will make a full end of all the nations whither I have scattered thee, but I will not make a full end of thee; but I will correct thee in measure, and will in no wise leave thee unpunished." Therefore, since the servant goes to death, but the nation survives the catastrophe which blots out all other nations, Israel cannot be the servant of this passage.
¹ By rationalistic critics the book of Isaiah has been dissected and apportioned to a number of different authors, the principle of dissection being determined by supposed changes in style, diction and subject matter. A close examination of the book as a whole, and a comparison of the parts after the process of dissection has been completed, prove positively that the grounds for such a dissection are purely imaginary, there being no positive data to Justify such an apportionment of the contents to different authors who lived in a period of between 200 and 300 years. For every dissimilarity that may be discovered in the two sections, there are many more similarities. A scientific investigation of the supposed evidence pointing to various authors will cause the imaginary differences to vanish. On the contrary a sound sane exegesis of the contents of the book in its historical setting points definitely to its unity.
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