Isaiah 52:13-53:12

Discussion with Leen suggests that Isa 53 is part of a 5×3 unit of scripture beginning in Isa 52:13 known as the Fourth Servant Song.   A and A’ give the Lord’s appraisal of the “servant”, and speak of his elevation. B and B’ contrast the life (a tender plant) and death (as a lamb) of the servant (he). The centre C is the confession (we/our) of sins that explains the reason for the Lord’s suffering. This structure seems solid to me so the next question is how repeating words map on to this. 

A. (13) Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled (nasa), and be very high. (14) As many were astonied at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men: (15) So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider.

B. (1) Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed? (2) For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. (3) He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

C.(4) Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.(5) But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. (6) All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way;  and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

B’.(7) He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. (8) He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. (9) And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.

A’.(10) Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.(11) He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. (12) Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare (nasa) the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

Mark Allfree has suggested:

A)   (13) Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled (nasa), and be very high. (14) As many were astonied at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men: (15) So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider.  (1) Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed? (2) For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.

B)  (3) He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.(4) Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows:

C) 5) yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.(5) But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

D)  (6) All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way;

E. and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

d) (7) He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth:  He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, (53:7) and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.

c)   (8) He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. (9) And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.  (10) Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him;

b)   he hath put him to grief: 

a)  when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. (11) He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. (12) Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare (nasa) the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

 

One thought on “Isaiah 52:13-53:12”

  1. We have posted several attempts to see the fourth servant song as a chiastic structure but it looks like we have been swimming in deep water. In some ways this is a test case of the criteria we might apply.

    One writer – JETS 40/2 (June 1997) 177–188, The rhetorical role of reiteration in the suffering servant poem (Isa 52:13–53:12), Ronald Bergey – points out that there are multiple repetitions of words, but interestingly, he says that there are five synonymous parallel word pairs “Curiously each pair reappears in a different stanza or strophe and inverted order. In order of appearance they are: maråeh//toåar (“appearance//form,” 52:14bc; “form//appearance,” 53:2cd), makåobôt//holî (“sorrows//grief,” 53:3bb; “griefs//sorrows,” 53:4ab), n¶å//sbl (“bear//carry,” 53:4ab; “carry//bear,” 53:11d, 12e), hll//dkå (“pierce//crush,” 53:5ab; “crush//pierce” [hll, 1QIsaa],11 53:10a), psç// çawôn (“transgressions//iniquities,” 53:5ab; “iniquities//transgressors,” 53:11d, 12d,f )”.

    Despite these and other smaller inverted patterns the overall structure appears to follow the changing voices rather than the chiastic parallels.

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