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IV. Isaiah 52:13-53: The Song of the Suffering Servant

Isaiah 52:13-53 describes the Messiah as God's Servant whose soul becomes a sacrificial "guilt offering," after which the Messiah resurrects and rules.

IV.(A) The Lord's Servant as the Messiah


The Book of Isaiah refers to both Israel and the Messiah as the Lord's "servant." In Isaiah 37:35, God says He will save Jerusalem "for the sake of My servant David," whom Isaiah 55:3-4 describes as a future Messiah: "I will make for you an everlasting covenant, the dependable mercies of David. Behold, a witness to nations have I appointed him, a ruler and a commander of nations."

 Isaiah 44:1 also calls Israel God’s "servant". On the other hand, in Isaiah 20:3 God refers to "my servant Isaiah." And Isaiah 49(JPT) says:
1. listen closely, you nations, from afar; the Lord called me from the womb,
3. And He said to me, "You are My servant, Israel,”
5. And now, the Lord, Who formed me from the womb as a servant to Him, said to bring Jacob back to Him, and Israel shall be gathered to Him, and I will be honored in the eyes of the Lord, and my God was my strength.
6. And He said, "It is too light for you to be My servant, to establish the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the besieged of Israel, but I will make you a light of nations, so that My salvation shall be until the end of the earth."

 But Isaiah distinguishes himself, the “servant Israel”, from Israel itself by immediately adding: “the Lord, Who formed me from the womb as a servant to Him, said to bring Jacob back to Him, and Israel shall be gathered to Him” (49:5-6). As in Zechariah 11, where Zechariah prophetically envisions himself as the Good Shepherd, it appears that in Isaiah 49, Isaiah propheticially envisions himself as the Servant who plays a Messianic role, not only of gathering Israel to God, but of being a light to the nations.

 Isaiah 53:2(JPT) speaks of a Servant who "came up like a sapling before [the arm of the Lord], and like a root from dry ground." A better translation would be that the servant "came up like a 'suckling twig' ("yoniq" - a twig that sucks water from a stem, as in Ezekiel 17:22), and like a 'root's twig' (a "verashoresh," as opposed to a "shoresh" in Hebrew) from dry ground."
 Isaiah 11(JPT) describes the Messiah as a root's twig who rises with God's spirit from the root of David's father Jesse.
1. And a shoot shall spring forth from the stem of Jesse, and a twig shall sprout from his roots.
2. And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, a spirit of wisdom and understanding, a spirit of counsel and heroism, a spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord.
3. And he shall be animated by the fear of the Lord, and neither with the sight of his eyes shall he judge, nor with the hearing of his ears shall he chastise.
4. And he shall judge the poor justly...
5. And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faith the girdle of his loins.
6. And a wolf shall live with a lamb, and a leopard shall lie with a kid; and a calf and a lion cub and a fatling [shall lie] together, and a small child shall lead them.

 Later, Isaiah 53:1-2(JPT) would specify that the twig will rise up before the arm or "hand" of the Lord. Similarly, Isaiah 11(JPT) describes the twig's sprouting and then describes the Lord's hand:
11. And it shall come to pass that on that day, the Lord shall continue to apply His hand a second time to acquire the rest of His people, that will remain from Assyria and from Egypt and from Pathros and from Cush and from Elam and from Sumeria and from Hamath and from the islands of the sea.
12. ...and He shall gather the lost of Israel, and the scattered ones of Judah He shall gather from the four corners of the earth.

 In Jeremiah 23:5(JPT), God likewise says: "I will set up of David a righteous shoot, and he shall reign a king and prosper, and he shall perform judgment and righteousness in the land." Further, the 12th century Rabbi Mainonides explained in his "Letter to the South" that the root's twig in Isaiah 53:2 refers to the Messiah: 
"for the Almighty... says, `Behold a man whose name is the Branch, and he shall branch forth out of his place’ (Zech. 6:12)... And Isaiah speaks similarly of the time when he shall appear, without father or mother or family being known, He came up as a sucker before him, and as a root out of dry earth." (S. R. Driver and A. Neubauer, editors, "The Fifty-third Chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters", Ktav Publishing House, 1969, Volume 2, pages 374-5).

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