Servant of the Lord

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SERVANT OF THE LORD (Heb. צֶבֶד ה׳), the technical term used to designate the Servant mentioned explicitly or implicitly by Deutero-*Isaiah. In 1892 B. Duhm first published his commentary on Isaiah in which he separated four Servant songs from the rest of Deutero-Isaiah and contended that they were not the work of that prophet. From that time both Jewish and Christian exegetes have proposed many candidates to bear the title of the "Servant of the Lord." These interpretations may be divided into two basic categories: collective and individual. Collective interpretations have included collective Israel, ideal Israel, empirical Israel, pious remnant of Israel, prophets, priests, or a selective combination of the above. Individuals who have been suggested to have been the actual Servant or to have served as the prototype for the depiction of the Servant have ranged from Deutero-Isaiah, Trito-Isaiah, and Cyrus to Hezekiah, Jehoiachin, Josiah, Uzziah, Meshullam, Ezekiel, Sheshbazzar, Eleazar, Moses, Job, or an anonymous contemporary of Deutero-Isaiah. Most of these suggestions have no followers today. Other theories have suggested that the personality is corporate, messianic, or mythological. Christian tradition identified the Suffering Servant with Jesus. The pericopes of the Servant songs themselves, first identified as Isaiah 42:1–4; 49:1–6; 50:4–9; 52:13–53:12, are also subject to scholarly question, with many commentators adding verses to the first two sections and others including additional passages from Deutero-Isaiah as parts of songs. Particularly subject to debate are the questions whether the portrait of Servant is consistent throughout, whether or not the Servant described in chapter 53 died, and what was the actual mission or missions of the Servant.


bible: H.H. Rowley, The Servant of the Lord…. (19652), 3–60; C.R. North, The Suffering Servant in Deutero-Isaiah (19562); H.M. Orlinsky, in: vts, 14 (1967), 1–133; Y. Kaufmann, The Babylonian Captivity and Deutero-Isaiah (1970), 128–62. classical jewish interpretations: A. Neubauer and S.R. Driver, The Fifty-Third Chapter of Isaiah According to Jewish Interpreters, 1–2 (1969).

[Shalom M. Paul]