The difficulty with the Book of Isaiah Part 7

This ennead (nine chapters) is some of the most controversial of all. One note: Yeshua bin Yosef el Judah is my own 21st century name for Jesus (Yeshua son of Joseph of the tribe of Judah).

ISAIAH 49-57

               The second ennead, according to Kaiser, speaks concerning the Servant who is the redeemer of all.[1] Bruce K. Waltke believes Isaiah’s unique contribution to Old Testament theology is his anonymous suffering servant’s songs. He further points out that, just as Cyrus is the political savior of Israel, so also the suffering servant is the spiritual savior of Israel.[2] E. W. Hengstenberg echoes this position, “As the Prophet had before plainly described Cyrus, the author of the first deliverance . . . he introduces the author of the second deliverance, the Messiah.”[3] Brueggemann counters that notion by stating, “The Old Testament has much to say about God, but not much to say about Jesus Christ.”[4]

Brueggemann does not see the Old Testament as the product of a divine inspiration, but rather the result of the exilic human experience. He further believes a large portion of the Old Testament to be a post-exilic document.[5] Brueggemann makes his position clear, “My own perspective, against that of Childs, suggests that such an overtly Christological reading of the Old Testament is not credible or responsible.”[6] Notwithstanding these thoughts and positions of an outstanding and reputable scholar, this ennead goes to great lengths to describe the actions of the Servant believed by many to be the Messiah.

The pinnacle of this ennead is Isaiah 52:13-53:12. This passage has long been a point of debate for Orthodox Judaism. Even for the Orthodox Jew, it must be clear that unless an alternative is identified, Yeshua bin Yosef el Judah was the suffering servant of Isaiah. However, the nation of Israel, rather than an individual, is sometimes viewed as the suffering servant.

Kaiser sees this portion as being a song with five verses (strophes).[7] The first strophe (52:13-15) details the shock of the people at seeing the servant following his severe punishment. They are stunned that a human being could receive so much punishment, to the point where he no longer even looks like a man. Kaiser believes verse 14 depicts his first advent of lowliness and sacrifice. Verse fifteen depicts his second advent of such glory it will cause kings to shut their mouths in astonishment.[8]

The second strophe (53:1-3) describes the rejection of the servant, “He was despised and rejected by men” (Isaiah 53:3). Kaiser points out the terms: rejected, forsaken, despised, thought of as an offense, and considered to be of little value, to high light the rejection of the servant.[9] The third strophe (53:4-6) speaks to the servant’s atonement, “We all went astray like sheep; we have all turned to our own way; and the Lord has punished him for the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). Paul states this very similarly, “For if by the one man’s trespass the many died, how much more have the grace of God and the gift overflowed to the many by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:15). It is by the sacrifice of the servant that so many today have access to the grace and mercy of God.

The fourth strophe (53:7-9) speaks to the willing surrender of the servant. Kaiser points out the five illegal trials that took place the night Jesus was arrested, and yet he stayed silent.[10] The important point here is Isaiah 53:9, “. . . He had done no violence and had not spoken deceitfully.” This eliminates the possibility that the servant is the nation of Israel. Israel has surely done wrong and spoken deceitfully. This is strong evidence that the servant is an individual, not a nation.

The final strophe (53:10-12) speaks to the exaltation of the servant. “He is exalted to prosperity, to satisfaction, and to compensation. He will have many offspring and will see the plan of God completed successfully.”[11] Verse 12 gives the reasons God placed his seal of approval on the servant: He submitted himself to death, was counted among the rebels, bore the sins of many, and interceded for the rebels. The resurrection is literally the completion of the promise found in this final strophe.[12] The resurrection proved God had placed his seal of approval on Jesus. Surely the servant is Yeshua bin Yosef el Judah!

[1] Walter C. Kaiser Jr., The Christian and the Old Testament (Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 1998), p. 189.

 [2] Bruce K. Waltke, An Old Testament Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: 2007), p. 845.

[3] E. W. Hengstenberg, Christology in the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1970), p. 217.

 [4] Brueggemann, p. 92.

 [5] Ibid., p. 74.

 [6] Ibid., 93.

 [7] Walter C, Kaiser Jr., The Messiah in the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing, 1995), pp. 178-181.

 [8] Ibid., p. 179.

 [9] Ibid.

 [10] Ibid., p. 180.

[11] Ibid., p. 181.

 [12]Willis J. Beecher, “The Servant,” Classical Evangelical Essays in Old Testament Interpretation,” ed. Walter C. Kaiser Jr. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker House Books, 1972), p. 189.

 

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