Isa. 42:3

Liz Fried lizfried at
Fri Dec 15 08:59:18 EST 2000

Dear All,
I am working on an article which elaborates a paper
I recently gave at SBL entitled "Cyrus the Messiah?
The Historical Background of Isaiah 45:1."
In it I address Isa 42:3, and the issue of the Servant.
I don't agree that the servant disappears. I think Cyrus
is the Servant in 42 and 49 -- and 61.
He is not the servant in 50. I think he is referred to in
Isaiah 52:13, but thereafter the poem refers I believe to the prophet,
 who is the subject of 50 as well.
I comment more below.

I would like to vet the paper and obtain reactions if possible. It was
very well received at SBL, but this is a longer version.
Is anybody interested?
What would be a good mechanism for this?

> -----Original Message-----
> From: John Ronning [mailto:ronning at]
> Sent: Friday, December 15, 2000 8:11 AM
> To: Biblical Hebrew
> Subject: Re: Isa. 42:3
> John,
> In looking for the significance of the Servant not breaking
> a bruised reed, etc., I think it's helpful to look at the
> numerous and detailed parallels between Cyrus and the
> Servant in this section of Isaiah.  In chapters 41-48, Cyrus
> is prominent, but after 48 Cyrus disappears and the Servant
> and his work become prominent.  Comparison of the two makes
> it evident that the Servant is what we might call a
> spiritual Cyrus, i.e. he is a world conquorer who delivers
> God's people from spiritual bondage.  The first Servant song
> (Isaiah 42:1-9) "intrudes" into the Cyrus section as if to
> make this point in the beginning.  Note the following:
> Impact upon the nations:
> 	Cyrus - God delivers up nations before him (41:2)
> 	Servant - He will bring forth justice to the nations (42:1)
> 	[note - mishpat perhaps in the general sense of justice
> (elsewhere part of the messianic work), but in context, the
> verdict of the preceeding courtroom proceedings, namely, the
> verdict that the God speaking through Isaiah is the one true
> God]
> Similarly, the coastlands:
> 	Cyrus - The coastlands have seen and are afraid (41:5)
> 	Servant - the coastlands will wait expectantly for his
> 	teaching (42:4)
> 	[here also a contrast between the military conqueror and
> 	the spiritual conqueror]
> Called in righteousness:
> 	Cyrus - whom God calls in righteousness to his feet
> 	(i.e. as his personal servant) (41:2)
> 	Servant - I have called you in righteousness (42:6)
> Taken by the hand:
> 	Cyrus - Whom I have taken by the right hand (45:1)
> 	Servant - I will also hold you by the hand (42:6)
> Mission - freedom for God's people:
> 	Cyrus - He will ... let my exiles go free (45:13)
> 	Servant - To bring out prisoners from the dungeon;
> 	to those who dwell in darkness from the prison (42:7)
> In this connection I think Isa 42:2-3 serves to emphasize
> that the Servant is not simply like Cyrus, the military
> conqueror who rolls over nations (41:2 he turns the nations
> to dust with his sword, to windblown chaff with his bow).
> In contrast to what Cyrus does to the best armies the
> nations can throw against him, the Servant does not even
> attack the most defenseless (does not break the already
> bruised reed, or extinguish the already smoldering wick).

I argue Isa. 42:3 also refers to Cyrus.

Cyrus executes justice quietly and calmly, but effectively (42:2-4). This
was evidently his reputation. I quote Herodotus:

The Persians have a saying that Darius was a shopkeeper, Cambyses a master
of slaves, and Cyrus a father.  What they mean is that Darius kept petty
accounts for everything, that Cambyses was hard and contemptuous, and that
Cyrus was gentle and contrived everything for their good. (III: 89).

> In his first coming, his is a spiritual conquest.  The
> citation in Matthew serves to refute the expectation that
> the Messiah was going to come and simply provide military
> victory and relief from physical suffering.

The Christian authors allegorize everything. The Servant in Isaiah is not
but political, actual, present.

> Quite a story Isaiah predicts - that through the work of the
> Spirit of God (42:1) an obscure Jewish preacher would make
> known to the whole world the one true God, who in his time
> is only known in a tiny patch of land surrounded by hostile
> powers. All this after being abhored, mistreated, even
> killed by his own people.  Who would imagine it?  Who would
> believe it?
The use of the hen, behold, in 42:1 and everywhere else in the OT
is used to intruduce the present tense.
As my teacher, Prof. C. Krahmolkov would say: the word means:
"Present tense coming up." He wouldn't let us translate it.
The word means, right now, here, in the narrative present of the writer
is the  Servant. He exists in the time of Deutero-Isaiah, in the time
of Cyrus the Great. Indeed, he is Cyrus the Great.

Liz Fried

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