A Closer Look at Isaiah 52:13- 53: 12- Who is the Servant of the Lord ? Part Two

This is our second post on this topic. To see Part One, see here:

A Look Background of Isa. 52:13- 53:12:

1. Isaiah is written against the backdrop of the Babylonian exile.  In Isa. 49-52, Isaiah anticipates the salvation of the Jewish people. Chapters 54-55 invite the people to participate in the salvation.  Isaiah 53 links these two sections.

2. Isaiah 52:13-53;12 speaks of something far greater than 45,000 Jewish people returning from Babylon in the sixth century.

3. There are two issues in the return from exile: physical return from Babylon and spiritual deliverance from bondage and slavery to sin.  There are two distinct agents of redemption: Cyrus and the Servant. Cyrus was called to  the first task which was the physical return to the land of Israel (44:24-48:22); the Servant  of the Lord  will bring about the second task which is the forgiveness of sins (49:1-53:12).

4. The writing of prophecy can refer to the past, present or future. A Biblical prophet may speak in the past tense, but the pronouncement can apply also to the future.  This is important since some critics note the prophecy is written in the past tense. But the reality is the tense switches in the entire Servant Song. We see in Isaiah 52:13 that in the future, “ my Servant will prosper.” But then it switches back to the past tense in the next verse by saying “ the Servant was marred more than any man.”  Perhaps the explanation lies in the fact that Isaiah switches tenses to differentiate the suffering and exaltation of the Servant.  When he is describing the past tense of the Servant, it is about his suffering while the future tense is used to describe the exaltation of the Servant.

Let’s look at each verse:

Isa. 52:13-14Behold, My servant will prosper, He will be high and lifted up and [greatly exalted. Just as many were astonished at you, My people, So His appearance was marred more than any man And His form more than the sons of men. Thus He will sprinkle many nations, Kings will shut their mouths on account of Him; For what had not been told them they will see, And what they had not heard they will understand.”

Remember, “high” and “lifted up” is found elsewhere as only as an attribution of God:

Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted.” Isa: 52:13

The year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.”- Isa 6:1

“For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.”- Isa. 57:15.

By the way, John refers back to the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament [LXX]) of the Suffering Servant passage in Isa 52:13. The  Greek verbs “lifted up”  and  “glorified/exalted” are seen in John’s Gospel to reference to the death of Jesus  on the execution stake:

As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up. (John 3:14)

Jesus said, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do  nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me.” (John 8:28)

“And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die. (John 12:32–33)

The “Sprinkle” feature here generally refers the Levitical offerings in that the high  priest makes an expiation (Lev. 4:6; 16:14, 19); or to sprinkle  (with water), as synonymous with purifying (Num. 19:18,21), or cleansing (Ezek. 36:25). As Peter Gentry says:

 The Servant is not only the sacrifice, he is also the priest (also clearly expressed in Jer 30:21). He makes the offering. Moreover, he is a super-High Priest. The High Priest sprinkles only Israel, but this priest sprinkles the nations who are also included in the many. His ultimate anointing leads to an ultimate sprinkling on an ultimate day of atonement![1]

[1]   Peter Gentry, “The Atonement in Isaiah’s Fourth Servant Song (Isaiah 52:13-53:12), http://www.sbts.edu/media/publications/sbjt/SBJT_2007Summer3.pdf  {accessed Januray 12, 2014}.

To see Part Three, click here:


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