[b-hebrew] Isaiah 53 read within the book as a whole

Harold R. Holmyard III hholmyard at ont.com
Tue May 25 09:21:54 EDT 2004

Dear Liz,

>  > HH: But I believe that the Servant passages
>>  describe the coming Messiah.
>You're right!
>But the Messiah in Isaiah is Cyrus!

HH: Cyrus is anointed, not the Messiah. The 
Messiah is a technical term for a particular 
individual. A lot of people are anointed.

>There are quite a
>>  number of these passages, and some short texts
>>  may belong to this grouping despite lacking the
>>  word "servant" (e.g., Isa 48:16).

HH: I don't think so, Liz. Cyrus did not really 
know the Lord, and these verses show a person who 

>  Some of these
>>  passages have the Servant speak in the first
>>  person. In other places the Lord addresses the
>>  Servant as present. Yet I believe he is a figure
>>  of prophecy.
>He speaks to him as if he were present because he is

HH: There is prophecy elsewhere that speaks 
either in the first or second person of the 
Messiah as if he is present, even though he is 
not yet so:

Psa. 110:1 ¶ The LORD says to my Lord:  "Sit at 
my right hand until I make your enemies a 
footstool for your feet."
Psa. 110:2 The LORD will extend your mighty 
scepter from Zion; you will rule in the midst of 
your enemies.
Psa. 110:3 Your troops will be willing on your 
day of battle. Arrayed in holy majesty, from the 
womb of the dawn you will receive the dew of your 
Psa. 110:4 The LORD has sworn and will not change 
his mind:  "You are a priest forever, in the 
order of Melchizedek."
Psa. 110:5 The Lord is at your right hand; he 
will crush kings on the day of his wrath.

Psa. 2:7 ¶ I will proclaim the decree of the 
LORD: He said to me,  "You are my Son; today I 
have become your Father.
Psa. 2:8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations 
your inheritance, the ends of the earth your 
Psa. 2:9 You will rule them with an iron scepter; 
you will dash them to pieces like pottery."

>  > >  >> HH: A second possibility for Isaiah 55:5 might be that the second
>>  >>  person masculine singular addressee is the nation Israel.
>>  >
>>  >What would the point of that be? That a nation that Israel doesn't
>>  >know comes running to it? This is royal imagery, as we see
>>  >in the psalm.
>>  HH: Well, if israel were the ruling nation, then
>  > this would seem to be a meaningful assertion:

>Not unless Israel is the Servant and redeems itself.
>Then you don't have a redeemer or a messiah, just

HH: But no one is called the Servant in this 
passage (Isa 55:5), and there are other passages 
talking about the Servant. So you wouldn't lose 
the Servant or the Messiah. You could be right 
that it must be an individual (the two "beholds" 
could point that way), but I haven't looked at 
the passage closely enough to decide between the 
two possibilities ("you" in verse 5 as either 
Israel or the Servant). Herbert M. Wolf 
(translator of Isaiah for the NIV) in his 
commentary seems to take the "you" as Israel. So 
does Delitzsch in his commentary on Isaiah. John 
Oswalt gives both views but sees the "you" in 
verse 5 as the Davidic Messiah. Oswalt says that 
most recent commentators have taken the view that 
the "you" is Israel (e.g., Muilenburg, Whybray, 
Eissfeldt), but he sides with the older 
commentaries, most of which took the "you" as the 

Is. 55:5 Behold, thou shalt call a nation that 
thou knowest not, and nations that knew not thee 
shall run unto thee because of the LORD thy God, 
and for the Holy One of Israel; for he hath 
glorified thee.

HH: Oswalt, Delitzsch, and Wolf all hold the Servant to be the Davidic Messiah.

>But it was Cyrus who rescued the Jews, returned them
>to YHWH physically by returning them to the temple
>and YHWH to the temple.
>This is the task of the Messiah, of the redeemer.
>We await another one to do the same as Cyrus did.

HH: It's interesting that you hold this view, 
since that is the position I took in my 
dissertation. Yesterday I quoted a couple of 
sentences from it comparing the Servant and 
Cyrus. Here is the next sentence after those:

Isaiah used Cyrus to point ahead to the Servant, 
whose glory comes at the final restoration of 
Israel from Babylonian enslavement (Isa 

HH: My dissertation assumes that God and Isaiah 
use the Babylonian Captivity of 587 B.C. as a 
type of another "Babylonian Captivity" of God's 
people that will occur at the end of the age. Of 
course, in the New Testament the Book of 
Revelation describes the ruling city at the end 
of the age as Babylon. Isaiah's prophecies 
clearly extend to the end of the age, to a new 
heavens and earth where things are different and 
far better.

				Harold Holmyard

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