The Suffering Servant of Second Isaiah: A Non-Penal Consideration | Matthew Distefano


With our sacrificial glasses put to the side for a moment, what seems fairly clear here is not that the servant gives up his life to satisfy the wrath of God—that would have to be read into the text—rather, the servant willingly gives up his life (nefesh) non-violently (Isaiah 53:9) for the very people who put him to death. He sees the profundity of what he is suffering through and so, gains an understanding and a knowledge that makes “many” righteous (Isaiah 53:11). The knowledge that the servant earns is a recognition of both God’s desires and of what it means to be human. Anthony Bartlett calls it a “new theological-anthropological truth.” To be righteous—that is to say, to be like God—is to be like the suffering servant, the one who has no violence in him (Isaiah 53:9). James G. Williams drives this point further home in the following: “It wasn’t God who caused suffering, it was the oppressors. As the divine voice says in an oracle found in chapter 54: ‘If any one stirs up strife, it is not from me; whoever stirs up strife with you shall fall because of you.’ ‘Strife’—the conflict of mimetic rivalry that results in violence—does not come from God.”

Source: The Suffering Servant of Second Isaiah: A Non-Penal Consideration | Matthew Distefano