Letter To The Jews / Chapter 22

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22: The Wise, Despised Servant

Now, a despised servant is spoken of again by Isaiah:

“Look! My servant will act wisely. He will be raised and be lifted up, and be highly exalted. Just as many were appalled at you, so disfigured was his appearance from any man, and his form from the sons of men, so he will spatter many nations. Kings will shut their mouths because of him; for that which had not been related to them they will see, and that which they had not heard they will consider.” 1

Who is this? Your rabbis teach that this is a description of the nation of Israel, which goes from a “disfigured” and “despised” state in the eyes of the nations, to a glorified one, in which kings are so shocked that they “shut their mouths” because of Israel.

Without a doubt, the context of this is the redemption and salvation of Zion; and while Zion is described as a woman, her description makes it clear that she is really a city. For example, apart from the fact that she is equated with Jerusalem “the holy city,” 2 she is also said to have a foundation, gates and boundaries.3

But this despised servant is not named, and his description appears in the middle of YHWH’s conversation with Zion. So is he a metaphor for the nation of Israel as a whole, or is he a description of one man who would become another form of salvation for Zion, perhaps even her king?

We have seen how Isaiah previously talked about a servant of YHWH who would be “despised in soul,” “one whom the nation abhorred,” who would be “a light of Gentiles,” and who would become YHWH’s “salvation to the end of the earth.”

So we must carefully examine this man’s description, to see whether it best fits the nation of Israel, or one man. For previously, we asked how one man could be given “for a covenant of the people,” and here we have a man spattering many nations, perhaps in the way blood was spattered by the priests, and in the way Moses spattered blood on the people to confirm their covenant with YHWH.

Isaiah continues: “Who has believed our report? And to whom is the arm of YHWH revealed?” 4

Now, who is speaking here? Many of your teachers say these are the “kings” who “shut their mouths” when they see Israel glorified. How these kings “shut their mouths” and yet make their report is unclear. However, if this servant is one man, it could be the report of those who saw him. The suggestion is that not everyone would believe the report of these eyewitnesses.

Either way, this is curious, for just a little earlier and in reference to Zion’s repurchase from the nations, Isaiah says: “YHWH has bared his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God.” 5

So if this is the same salvation performed “in the eyes of all the nations,” why would anyone not believe the report from these kings, and why would the prophet write just a few verses later, “to whom is the arm of YHWH revealed?”

On the other hand, if this despised servant brings a different form of salvation to Zion, one that is hard to believe and is revealed only to certain eyewitnesses who make the report, but is not about Zion’s repurchase from the nations, then Isaiah’s words would make sense.

Isaiah continues: “For he will grow up before him as the tender plant, and as the root out of dry land. He has no form or comeliness; and when we see him, we do not desire his appearance.

He was despised and rejected by men, a man of pains and acquainted with illness; and we hid, as it were, our faces from him. He was despised, and we did not esteem him.

Surely he bore our illnesses, and carried our pains, but we esteemed him as stricken, struck by God and humbled.” 6

Now, your teachers say this is a description of Israel’s suffering before the change to its state of glory among the nations, and many of them say the foreign kings are speaking here.

Certainly, who can deny that the people of Israel have suffered greatly, and been despised and mistreated by Gentile kings in many shameful ways? This letter would grow many times longer if we recounted all the ways.

But curiously, this description of the suffering servant does not say the kings themselves do any direct violence to him. True, they turn their faces from him, and do not esteem or value him, which undoubtedly is a form of indirect violence to a human being.

But it does not say the kings do any direct violence to him; which is strange considering the violence done to the people of Israel by many Gentile kings.

On the other hand, your rabbis teach that the anointed one will be a “twig” from and a “root” of Jesse; and David himself was also YHWH's anointed one, yet he was despised and not esteemed before becoming king of Israel.

1 Isaiah 52:13-15. 2 Isaiah 52:1. 3 Isaiah 54:11,12. 4 Isaiah 53:1. 5 Isaiah 52:10. 6 Isaiah 53:2-4.

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