Isa. 42:3

John Ronning ronning at
Sun Dec 17 16:01:09 EST 2000

Liz Fried wrote:
> I think Cyrus
> is the Servant in 42 and 49 -- and 61.
> 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).

I see now why you wanted to read berith `am in 42:6 as
"covenant people," which is not Hebrew (in Hebrew covenant
people would be `am berith - reminds me of the cult that
thinks anglo saxons are the lost tribes of Israel based on
reading British as "covenant man").

The view that Cyrus is the servant in 42:1ff suffers from
numerous impossibilities and improbabilities.  Obvious clues
point to identifiying him as the Messiah son of David:
42:1 I have put my Spirit upon him.
11:1 The Spirit of YHWH shall rest upon him (similarly 61:1
[the Spirit of the Lord YHWH is upon me] points to the
Messiah son of David, not Cyrus)

42:1 he will bring forth justice (mishpa+) to the nations/v.
3 in faithfulness he will forth justice
11:3-4 in righteousness he will judge the poor, not by the
appearance of his eyes he will judge
9:6/7 on the throne of David ... to establish it in justice
and righteousness

In addition, mishpa+ can be a judicial verdict, which fits
the preceeding context where the Lord summons his people to
a trial where the idols are required to furnish evidence
that they are real - he calls on them to furnish evidence
that they have predicted the future as he has (exhibit A,
the coming of Cyrus [41:25]).  The mishpa+ of this trial is
that YHWH is the only true God, and the Servant is to bring
forth this verdict to the nations.  Cyrus himself (an
enthusiastic idolator) is the last person on earth to bring
forth such a verdict.  Indeed how could 41:24, "He who
chooses you (the idols) is an abomination" be followed by a
statement that the Lord's soul delights in Cyrus the
promoter of all of the gods?  Note how "behold, my Servant"
follows "Behold, all of them [the idols] are false [41:29].

The relationship between Cyrus and the Servant is one of
typology, not identity, as is clear from the former
things/new things contrast in 42:9.  This contrast shows up
two other places.  In 43:18 the Lord says to forget the old
things (he has just described the passing through the Red
Sea), because he is going to do new things (the return from
exile) - one of many places where he return from exile is
depicted as a new exodus.  In 48:3 he says I foretold the
former things (the restoration from exile) long ago (lest
you should say my idol did it), then in v. 6 From now on I
tell you new things.  Just as the restoration from exile is
"new" compared to the exodus, so the work of the Servant is
"new" compared to the work of Cyrus, which obviously shows
that the servant is not Cyrus.  (Similarly in 42:9).

I'll pass on chapter 49 for now but siffice it to say your
argument is just as impossible there.

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

Interesting concept of allegory you have.  I remember
reading the fourth servant song to an unbeliever and asking
him where he thought it came from.  "The New Testament" was
his immediate reply.  Maybe you could identify which of the
following is allegorical (and why it should be considered

50:6 "I gave my back to those who strike me / my cheeks to
those who pluck out the beard / I did not cover my face from
humiliation and spitting"
Allegorized (?) as "They spat in his face and beat him with
their fists; others slapped him" (Matt 26:67) They spat on
him and took the reed and began to beat him on the head
(Matt 27:30) 

53:5 He was pierced through for our transgressions 
allegorized (?) as he was crucified for our sins?

53:8 by oppression and judgement he was taken away is
allegorized (?) as a judicial sentence of death on a man
known to be innocent?

53:9 His grave was assigned with wicked men, yet he was with
a rich man in his death  allegorized (?) as Jesus being
buried in a rich man's tomb, saved from a criminals common

53:10 he will prolong days and perform the Lord's good
pleasure (after being put to death) is allegorized (?) as
the resurrection of Jesus Christ?
etc. etc.

On the other hand we should believe that you are engaging in
sober exegesis, not allegory, to say that Cyrus is the one
who says "[God] said to me, You are my servant Israel, in
whom I shall show my glory" (49:3).

> The use of the hen, behold, in 42:1 and everywhere else in the OT
> is used to intruduce the present tense.
> 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.

You give the impression that you've actually studied the use
of hinneh/hen.  If you had, you should have noted that
"behold" often introduces the future, and of course in
prophecy that can be any future, including the end of the
world.  E.g. Isa 24:1; 26:21, 65:17; 66:15.

> I would like to vet the paper and obtain reactions if possible.  
> It was very well received at SBL.

Says something about SBL, doesn't it.  The hermeneutic for
identifying the servant is "anybody but Jesus of Nazareth."


John Ronning

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