Isa. 42:3

John Richards jhr at
Mon Dec 18 16:11:44 EST 2000

----- Original Message -----
From: "John Ronning" <ronning at>
> 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.

This really does not mean a thing! Lots of people have heard these
quotations in works like the Messiah, in Carol Services, etc. and so
identify them with Jesus. Even the fact that the early Christian writers
consciously modeled the Jesus narrative on Isaiah and Psalm 22 does not mean
that these originally had Jesus in mind when written. In the same way
Matthew's use of "Out of Egypt did I call my son" does not mean that Hosea
11.1 was originally intended to refer forward to Jesus. The context makes it
abundantly clear that it did not. "When ISRAEL was a child, then I loved
him, and called my son out of Egypt." Most modern scholars agree that this
fact, taken with Matthew's evident love of often rather far-fetched "proof"
text quotations from the Hebrew scriptures, and the impossibility of
squaring Luke/Matthew nativity chronology indicate that the "flight to
Egypt" almost certainly never took place but has been created precisely to
be able to use the "proof" text. The same pattern applies to many if not all
of the Psalm 22 quotations. The "Chief Priests" would hardly have quoted
with approval the words the psalmist puts in the mouth of the ungodly "Let
him deliver him, if he delight in him, etc.". It suits the purpose of the
Gospel writers to make them do so nonetheless. Your quotations from Isaiah
in parallel with Gospel quotations come in the same category.They prove
nothing - except to already committed Christians who believe that the Isaiah
passages in question were intended from the beginning as "prophecies" of
Jesus, and look no further.

In its original context, Isaiah 42 looks far more likely to be dealing with
Israel and its mission to spread the knowledge and worship of (in ITS eyes)
the one true God among the "godless" gentiles - a mission not anulled in the
prophet's eyes by Israel's failure to live up to its commission, nor by
Israel's evidently broken and powerless position in current Middle Eastern
politics. "Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him." How else to maintain the
claim to a unique mission and explain Israel's present situation at the same

Cyrus is clearly seen by the writer as specially commissioned (anointed) by
God to an important but limited role - to free Israel to take up its own
commission again - but no more. Later full-blown Messianism was a growth of
Apocalyptic. To read it back into every earlier use of the word "anointed"
is anachronistic.

John Richards

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list