singular and plural for Isaiah's servant
Dan.Wagner at datastream.net
Fri Jan 19 18:04:58 EST 2001
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Liz Fried [mailto:lizfried at umich.edu]
> Sent: Friday, January 19, 2001 17:09
> To: Biblical Hebrew
> Cc: B-Hebrew
> Subject: RE: singular and plural for Isaiah's servant
> > > Dear Dan, et. al.
> > > I'm working on the thorny problem of trying to understand
> Isaiah 45:1
> > > which identifies Cyrus as YHWH's messiah.
> > Thanks for your imput--i'm glad to have it to think
> through, although i
> > don't agree...
> My feelings exactly! ;)
> > >
> > >
> > > > 1. Isaiah 49:3 refers to the Servant as clearly a singular
> > > individual in
> > > > this context, but calls Him "Israel" (vocative or
> apposition?) as
> > > > if He were
> > > > in some way equivalent to or representative of the nation.
> > > I snip "Israel" in opposition to most manuscripts. It
> makes no sense
> > > in the context.
> > Most??
> Ah, well, according to BHS, one manuscript omits it.
> Majority of MT alone is not necessarily impressive. It's in LXX,
> > 1QISAa, and of course some MT MSS, so i would have to make
> a preliminary
> > conclusion that you don't have good basis for this.
> No textual basis whatsoever, actually.
> Also, if
> > it is difficult to make contextual sense (which i accept,
> on the surface),
> > then it would typically be more likely to have been
> original and been
> > intentially overlooked by the scribe (althogh it makes wonderful
> > contextual
> > sense with my theological take on it!). That's a standard rule for
> > intentional scribal variants, and it's hard to imagine a scribe
> > accidentally
> > (or intentionally) inserting "Israel" in this context.
> I think it was inserted by Trito-Isaiah, before the book was
OK, i did not catch on that you were basing your decision uniquely on
speculation rather than the textual evidence. That was my
misunderstanding/mistake, though of course i think the speculation is yours!
[Why would your "Trito-Isaiah" insert it, anyway?]
I certainly would not want to assume that this one singular MT MSS omitting
"Isreal" represents anything going back to an actual recension (or
redaction) of the text. If DSS, majority of MT, and LXX all agree, then any
emendation of the text is pure speculation and should not claim any support
from the singular MT MS. The (pre)-Massoretic standardization of the text
would make this unlikely, and ommission (accidental or intentional) by a
scribe is my guess.
> 3rd-I doesn't like Cyrus being called the Servant, Messiah, etc.
> But it makes no sense, without a great deal of juggling, to
> have Israel bring Israel back.
> > > >
> > > > 2. Isaiah 43:10 is clearly of the nation's individual
> people, yet is
> > > > significant in its interchange of the plural in MT, "you
> > > [2MS]
> No, this is atem, you, masc. plural.
Oops, my blunder. Thanks for catching that.
> are my
> > > > witnesses" (plural in both MT pointing and LXX) with the
> > > singular, "My
> > > > servant whom I have chosen," and back to the indisputable
> > > plural "that you
> > > > may know ... believe ... and understand" (2MP for all 3
> > > verbs). Corporate
> > > > Israel was chosen for the purpose of knowing and believing
> > > > Yahweh, something
> > > > foundational to their mission but which many individuals
> > > failed to do.
> > > Israel (plural)
> > > is witness to the acts of the servant (singular).
> > But it says "you (singular) are my witnesses (plural)."
> NO, you *plural* atem.
> So your analysis
> > does not go to the level of the text i'm presenting here. Then this
> > "you/witnesses" is further defined as "even My servant..."
> No, you (plural) are my witnesses. My servant whom I have chosen
> [is] so that you may know and and believe me, and understand
> that I am he...
By your supplied "[is]" do you mean to indicate: "My servant ... *exists* so
that ..."? That seems a strange way to deal with this syntax to me.
> But, I admit your reading is possible as well.
> There are many situations in Isaiah in which Israel is called servant.
> But I don't buy the "corporate Israel" stuff. When a single person
> is spoken of (in chapters 40-49), it is Cyrus, imo.
> It is also Cyrus in 55 & 61.
Just a side note here: There is a distinct break in the use of "servant"
from 40-53 and from 54-66. In the latter section, it is 100% used in the
plural of the faithful remnant individuals in Israel; whereas in the former
section, it is always in the singular and alternates back and forth between
individual/collective identifications (the part we are discussing). I think
this is signifant to keep in mind regarding the division point(s) of the
books and the progession of the "servant concept" in the entire section of
> I think 50:4-9 is the prophet who follows the voice of the servant
> in 50:10. I think 52:13 goes with 52:1-12, not with the following
> and refers to Cyrus.
> 52:13ff refers to the prophet.
> Them's my thoughts at the moment.
I just can't see dividing up the Servant Songs like that. I think there is
much to be said for their unity... I guess i won't go there now though.
> Feel free to dash them to bits.
> I'm expanding a paper I gave at SBL.
> I got side-tracked for a while,
> but am back to it.
I think the singular/plural interchanges (excepting that one; i still stand
by two of them) must be telling us something about the identification of the
servant, and is perhaps the key to deciphering the long-standing debate as
to whether it's singular or "corporate" (whatever term is fine, but it
clearly references the nation or else the plurality of the people in those
several contexts i listed). I think a "both/and" view works well on the
levels both of macro-analysis (the big picture, comparison of all contexts
[and the NT!]) and micro-analysis (the singular/plural interchanges). But
thanks for your input, especially catching that mistake.
> > > The servant is Cyrus who is bringing Israel and Jacob back to YHWH
> > > by permitting them to return to Jerusalem.
> > In this context, the servant refers to the people. This is
> also consistent
> > with the many other references identifying the
> nation/people with the
> > servant (41:8-9; 43:10; 44:1, 2, 21, 26; 45:4; 48:20).
> > > Cyrus does this so that Israel (plural) may know and
> > > understand and believe
> > I'd prefer to take the servant as the people and translate
> "and my servant
> > whom i have chosen in such a way that [_LM(N_] you [i.e., the
> > servant-people] might know and believe."
> > > that the covenant with them still holds,is unbroken.
> > >
> > > >
> > > > 3. Isaiah 44:26 shows that the servant (Israel's) ministry
> > > > obligation was to
> > > > get out the true prophetic word (in contrast to the
> false message
> > > > of v. 25).
> > > > Again note the interchange between plural "messengers"
> and singular
> > > > "servant."
> > > Messengers are prophets, the servant is Cyrus,
> > In this context it's parallelism, is it not? So,
> > "confirms" = "performs"
> > "the word of" = "the counsel of"
> > "His servant" = "His messengers"
> > right? Thus, it looks to me like an unambiguous example of
> > parallelism.
> > > see the rest of 44:26.
> > > The word is that Jerusalem will be repopulated,
> resettled, the temple
> > > rebuilt.
> > Yes, but the antecedent to "who" of "who says to Jerusalem,
> 'You shall be
> > inhabited...'" is not the servant (i.e., not your "Cyrus")
> in this verse,
> > but Yahweh back from v. 24 (as is true for the supplied
> "who" of the MS
> > participle throughout vv. 24-26).
> > Dan Wagner
> > >
> > > >
> > > > Regardless of one's theology, am i pressing too much on the
> > > > singular/plural
> > > > interchange? Any comments?
> > > No, the singular/plural shows who is being addressed
> > > the servant or the people.
> > >
> > > liz
> > > >
> > > > Dan Wagner
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