The Anonymous Servant

Dennis McCallum

Isaiah recorded four unique prophetic messages about one called the servant of the Lord. However, none of the messages identify the servant by name. The four passages are Isaiah 42:1-9; 49:1-13; 50:4-11; and 52:13-53:12. Therefore, they are called the "anonymous servant" passages. The New Testament identifies these passages as referring to Jesus Christ (see Mt. 8:17; 12:18-21; 27:43; Acts 8:32-33). The following analysis of the songs gathers their content together under logical headings.

  1. Person of the Servant
    1. He is a man
      1. Is. 49:1 - "called and formed from the womb"; no evidence of personification or anthropomorphism
      2. Is. 53:2,3 - The contrast is made between "he" and "him" vs. "we". The term "man" is used in vs. 3. The contrast is between the servant and the Jews. (see also v.8,11,& 52:14)
      3. Is. 53:8 - The servant dies. This is never taught of the Jewish people -- only the opposite, that they will never pass away.
    2. He is wholly obedient and righteous, unlike Israel.
      1. Is. 50:5 - "I was not disobedient"
      2. Is. 53:9 - "He had done no violence, nor was there any deceit found in his mouth"
    3. He is Spirit-filled.
      1. Is. 42:1 - "I will put my Spirit upon Him"
  2. The Ministry of the Servant
    1. He will begin His ministry in obscurity and seeming failure.
      1. Is. 49:2 - "In the shadow of His hand he has concealed me... he has hidden me in his quiver"
      2. Is. 49:4 - "I have toiled in vain"
      3. Is. 53:2 - "he has no stately form or majesty ... nor appearance that we should be attracted to him"
    2. The Servant executes a prophetic or teaching ministry.
      1. Is. 42:1,3 - "He will faithfully bring forth justice"--carries the idea of definitive decision or judgment
      2. Is. 42:4 - they "will...wait for his (oral) teaching"
      3. Is. 42:6 - "a light to the nations"--to bring God's knowledge to Gentiles (49:6)
      4. Is. 50:4 - his obedience results in the ability to teach faithfully and effectively
    3. The Servant is humiliated and persecuted
      1. Is. 50:6 smitten, beard plucked, spat upon, humiliated
      2. Is. 52:14 - appearance marred
      3. Is. 53:3 - despised, forsaken, sorrowful, grievous
      4. Is. 53:4 - afflicted, bearing grief and sorrows
      5. Is. 53:7 - oppressed, afflicted
      6. Is. 53:8,9 - killed and buried
      7. Is. 53:10 - put to grief
      8. Is. 53:5 - crushed, scourged
    4. Yet the servant is not disheartened or discouraged
      1. Is. 42:2,4 - He will not lament, be dishearted or crushed.
      2. Is. 49:4 - first part of the verse is answered by the second
      3. Is. 50:7-9 - shows his trust in God in the face of disgrace and opponents.
    5. He atones by substitutionary death.
      1. Is. 52:15 - "sprinkles nations" - ritual blood sprinkling would be the only interpretation possible
      2. Is. 53:4 - bears griefs and sorrows
      3. Is. 53:5 - pierced, wounded for other's transgressions (also, 3 more statements)
      4. Is. 53:6 - our iniquity falls on Him
      5. Is. 53:8 - dies as substitution for the Jews ("my people")
      6. Is. 53:10 - is the guilt offering for others sins
      7. Is. 53:11 - bears iniquities
      8. Is. 53:12 - bore sin
    6. His death is redemptive: on this basis the servant justifies, reconciles, heals, sprinkles, becomes a guilt offering and intercedes for "his offspring" from all nations.
      1. Is. 53:12 - He will "justify the many"
      2. Is. 53:12 - "interceded for transgressors"
      3. Is. 42:7; 49:9; 42:22 - "sets captives free" - more apt to be a spiritual "freeing" because of 42:1-4,6. Both passages are spiritual as opposed to political. However, he will a keep the captives from hunger and thirst, and will lead them. This could be a reference to a regathering of the Diaspora (49:8-12).
      4. Is. 42:6; 49:8 - He will establish a New Covenant with the Jews.
      5. Is. 49:5,6 - He will reconcile both Jews and Gentiles to God. Although there is a transition from Jews (5) to Gentiles (6), it does not revoke the Jews' covenant. According to other passages, he will still reconcile the Jewish nation as a whole.
    7. He is raised from the dead.
      1. Is. 53:10 - "He will prolong his days" - this, after the servant is dead, would be hard to explain any other way.
    8. He is glorified
      1. Is. 49:7 - "Kings shall see and rise" --standing up was (and is) a way of paying tribute. Kings never stood for a visitor -- the visitor never sat down.
      2. Is. 52:15 - "Kings will shut their mouths on account"
      3. Is. 53:12 - "I will allot him a portion with the great"


There is not one character trait or part of the ministry except B-3 which in any way applies to the Jewish nation. Most are decidedly impossible. However, every part was fulfilled by Jesus of Nazareth except the ruling-kingship, which is to come.

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