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More Proof that Isaiah 52:13-53:12 Cannot Be National Israel

In this short post I will provide further evidence that national Israel cannot be the suffering Servant who suffers for the sins of the world and is exalted to divine status.

According to the prophecy, the Servant is the righteous One who justifies and makes many righteous by bearing their sins and making intercession for the transgressors:

“Yet it was the will of the Lord to bruise him; he has put him to grief; when he makes himself an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand; he shall see the fruit of the travail of his soul and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous; and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out his soul to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” Isaiah 53:10-12

And yet the prophet is emphatically clear that God was unable to find anyone worthy enough to save and make intercessions for sinners, which is why God had to arise to bring salvation and judgment both for his people and for the nations by himself, using his own arm/power to do so:

“Truth is lacking, and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey. The LORD saw it, and it displeased him that there was no justice. He saw that there was NO MAN, and wondered that there was NO ONE to intervene; then his own arm brought him victory, and his righteousness upheld him. He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation upon his head; he put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and wrapped himself in fury as a mantle. According to their deeds, so will he repay, wrath to his adversaries, requital to his enemies; to the coastlands he will render requital. So they shall fear the name of the LORD from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun; for he will come like a rushing stream, which the wind of the LORD drives. And he will come to Zion as Redeemer, to those in Jacob who turn from transgression, says the LORD. And as for me, this is my covenant with them, say the LORD: my spirit which is upon you, and my words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, or out of the mouth of your children, or out of the mouth of your children’s children, says the Lord, from this time forth and for evermore.” Isaiah 59:15-21

“Who is this that comes from Edom, in crimsoned garments from Bozrah, he that is glorious in his apparel, marching in the greatness of his strength? ‘It is I, announcing vindication, mighty to save.’ Why is thy apparel red, and thy garments like his that treads in the wine press? ‘I have trodden the wine press alone, and from the peoples no one was with me; I trod them in my anger and trampled them in my wrath; their lifeblood is sprinkled upon my garments, and I have stained all my raiment. For the day of vengeance was in my heart, and my year of redemption has come. I looked, but there was NO ONE to help; I was appalled, but there was NO ONE to uphold; so my own arm brought me victory, and my wrath upheld me. I trod down the peoples in my anger, I made them drunk in my wrath, and I poured out their lifeblood on the earth.’ I will recount the steadfast love of the LORD, the praises of the LORD, according to all that the LORD has granted us, and the great goodness to the house of Israel which he has granted them according to his mercy, according to the abundance of his steadfast love. For he said, Surely they are my people, sons who will not deal falsely; and he became their Savior. In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old. But they rebelled and grieved his holy Spirit; therefore he turned to be their enemy, and himself fought against them.” Isaiah 63:1-10

As such, Israel cannot be the Servant who atones for sins and justifies transgressors, when the nation itself is in need of God to redeem them from their wickedness and rebellion.

Another problem with the nation being the suffering Servant is that the prophet states that God will exalt his righteous Servant to a high and lofty place after he offers his soul unto death as a guilt offering for the sins of the world:

“Behold, my servant shall prosper, he shall be exalted and lifted up (yarum wa’nissa), and shall be very high. As many were astonished at him—his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the sons of men—so shall he startle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which has not been told them they shall see, and that which they have not heard they shall understand.” Isaiah 52:13-15

This language of exaltation is used elsewhere in reference to God’s enthronement over creation:

“In the year that King Uzzi′ah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up (ram wa’nissa); and his train filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim; each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.’ And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: ‘Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!’” Isaiah 6:1-5

“The LORD is exalted, for he dwells on high (marom); he will fill Zion with justice and righteousness… ‘Now I will arise,’ says the LORD, ‘now I will lift myself up (eromam); now I will be exalted (‘ennase).’” Isaiah 33:5, 10

“For thus says the high and lofty One (ram wa’nissa) who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high (marom) and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite.’” Isaiah 57:15

What this shows is that God is granting the Servant to share in his sovereign rule over creation, even though the Hebrew Bible is explicitly clear that God alone reigns from on high:

“Who is like the LORD our God, who is seated on high,” Psalm 113:5

“Let them praise the name of the LORD, for his name alone is exalted; his glory is above earth and heaven.” Psalm 148:13

As such, the Servant cannot be a mere human creature but must also be fully divine in nature, a fact confirmed by his being identified as the very Arm of the Lord that God employs to do what no creature is capable of doing:

“Who has believed what we have heard? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For HE grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; HE had no form or comeliness that we should look at HIM, and no beauty that we should desire HIM.” Isaiah 53:1-2

Now compare this with the following:

The LORD has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.” Isaiah 52:10

“My deliverance draws near speedily, my salvation has gone forth, and my arms will rule the peoples; the coastlands wait for me, and for my arm they hope… Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the LORD; awake, as in days of old, the generations of long ago. Was it not thou that didst cut Rahab in pieces, that didst pierce the dragon? Was it not thou that didst dry up the sea, the waters of the great deep; that didst make the depths of the sea a way for the redeemed to pass over?” Isaiah 51:5, 9-10 – Cf. 30:30; 33:2; 62:8

In fact, this is the very Arm that God stated he would be employing bring about his redemption after failing to find any one worthy enough to do so:

“He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no one to intervene; then his own arm brought him victory, and his righteousness upheld him.” Isaiah 59:16

“I looked, but there was no one to help; I was appalled, but there was no one to uphold; so my own arm brought me victory, and my wrath upheld me.” Isaiah 63:5

Hence, Israel CANNOT be the suffering Servant unless one wants to believe that the nation is also God in essence and sits enthroned on high over creation.

The Servant must be a Divine Being that becomes man for the express purpose of procuring the salvation of the world who is then exalted to reign with Yahweh over all creation, since he is essentially one with the true God and therefore is able to do what only God can do, and worthy to rule alongside of him.

All scriptural citations taken from the Revised Standard Version (RSV) of the Holy Bible.

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