The Servant of Chapter 49

The Servant of Chapter 49

 

“Listen to me, O islands, and hearken O distant regimes: the Lord summoned me from the belly; He mentioned my name from my mother’s womb. He made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of His hand He hid me; He made me like a smooth arrow, in His quiver He concealed me. He said to me: “You are My servant, Israel, in whom I take glory.” But I said, “I have toiled in vain and used up my strength for nothingness and naught; however, judgment is with the Lord and (the reward for) my accomplishments is with my God.” And now the Lord, who formed me from the belly to be a servant to Him, to restore Jacob unto Him, and Israel will be gathered unto Him and I was honored in the eyes of the Lord and my God was my strength. He said: “It is insufficient that you be a servant for Me to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the ruins of Israel; I will make you a light for the nations, so that My salvation may extend to the ends of the earth.” 

Who is this servant?

At first glance, we would say that this is Isaiah. The prophet is described as one who is called from the womb (Jeremiah 1:4). The mouth of the prophet is the implement that God uses to accomplish His purpose (Jeremiah 1:9,10). Isaiah was first called to restore Israel to God (when he spoke to the Jews of his own generation), but ultimately, it is Isaiah who is the primary prophet called to bring the message of the Messianic era to all of mankind. It is Isaiah’s words that are written on the side of the U.N. building expressing man’s hope for a future of peace. And it is Isaiah’s metaphor of the lion lying with lamb that is most often used to describe the glorious plan that God has for all of humanity. Furthermore; the servant in this passage speaks for himself in the first person without being introduced in any way, which also leads us to believe that it is Isaiah who is talking.

However; the servant is identified as “Israel” (verse 3). Israel is also called from the time of their formation (43:21; 44:2, 21, 24; 46:3). The servant of this passage is described as a “sword” and an “arrow” just as Israel is called the “armor-bearers of the Lord” (52:11) and they are set by God to be a “threshing board of many blades” (41:15). Just as this servant is sheltered in the shade of God’s hand so is Israel likewise sheltered (51:16). Just as the servant fears that his toil has been in vain so does Israel fear that their toil has been in vain (40:27). Just as the servant will bring light to the nations so will Israel bring light to the nations (60:3). And this passage is placed in the midst of a series of prophecies which are spoken for the encouragement of Israel (48:20; 49:14).

The lines between the prophet and the nation are intentionally blurred. The encouragement to Israel is that in a certain sense they are the prophet of God. Just as the prophet carries God’s word so does Israel carry God’s word and just as the prophet is granted the strength of God’s word so is Israel granted the strength, the power and the eternal nature of God’s word (40:8).

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Thank You

Yisroel C. Blumenthal

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7 Responses to The Servant of Chapter 49

  1. Dina says:

    Thanks for this inspiring article. Isaiah gives us hope and assurance.

    • LarryB says:

      I think I have made a grave error surely this verse talks about being in his mothers womb, and we can agree I hope that a nation is not in a woman’s womb, it does not have a hand and it does nit have a mouth, but not only that it immedeatly afterward it calls out the servant by name, ” You are my servant Jesus” where is the confusion?:).

  2. Tsvi Jacobson says:

    Great, simple explanation. Christians say it ils Jesus while the New Testament states that it refers to believers in Jesus. Can it refer to Isaiah whose message in verse 5,6 exhorts Israel to return to Hashem, and through their return one day the final servant Moshiach will then come?

  3. Reblogged this on Noach ben Avraham and commented:
    The Servant of Chapter 49

    “Listen to me, O islands, and hearken O distant regimes: the Lord summoned me from the belly; He mentioned my name from my mother’s womb. He made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of His hand He hid me; He made me like a smooth arrow, in His quiver He concealed me. He said to me: “You are My servant, Israel, in whom I take glory.” But I said, “I have toiled in vain and used up my strength for nothingness and naught; however, judgment is with the Lord and (the reward for) my accomplishments is with my God.” And now the Lord, who formed me from the belly to be a servant to Him, to restore Jacob unto Him, and Israel will be gathered unto Him and I was honored in the eyes of the Lord and my God was my strength. He said: “It is insufficient that you be a servant for Me to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the ruins of Israel; I will make you a light for the nations, so that My salvation may extend to the ends of the earth.”

    Who is this servant?

  4. Three things I’d like to highlight here:
    ‘ It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.’
    This clearly distinguishes him from Israel. The Gentiles seem to be given to Him by way of temporary consolation till His primary but postponed (hence the sense of despair v.4-5) task is fulfilled.

    Second he is despised and abhorred by the nation.( לִבְזֹה-נֶפֶשׁ לִמְתָעֵב גּוֹי) – is the nation there plural or singular? Was this always true of Isaiah – was he not the joy of his whole nation at the defeat of Sennacherib?

    Finally, He is given a covenant of the people, to establish the earth (the land promise being in mind, לְהָקִים אֶרֶץ not I suggest the whole earth), to cause to inherit the desolate heritages;

    No blurring of the lines- it seems to me to fit Someone else much better, representative of and substitute for Israel.

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