Who is the narrator in Isaiah 53? Who is to be astonished by the ascendancy of he who was formerly despised? Let’s find out.
This is clarified in chapter 52:15, in which God, whose particular message concerning the servant began with verse 13, poignantly targets the narrator’s identity. That verse declares: “So shall he startle many nations, kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which they had not been told them shall they see, and that which they had not heard shall they perceive.” The words “their” and “they” here refer to “many nations” and “kings.” It is neither Isaiah nor Israel, but the “many nations” which are startled and left dumbfounded by what they shall see and come to realize concerning the servant.
This will occur in the day of God’s vindication of Israel when the nations, astonished and in terror, will feel ashamed for their oppression of the Jewish people. Of this new perception the prophets declared: “As in the days of your coming out of the land of Egypt will I show to him marvelous things. The nations shall see and be put to shame for all their might; they shall lay their hand upon their mouth, their ears shall be deaf” (Micah 7:15-16) and “Behold all those who were incensed against you shall be ashamed and confounded; those who quarreled with you shall be as nothing and will perish” (Isaiah 41:11).
At that juncture in time the startled nations personified here as a Gentile spokesman ask the opening Question of Isaiah 53:1: “Who has believed our report?” and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?” The prophet, himself, as stated above, is merely a channel for transmitting the divinely given statement which foretells the Gentile confession of guilt as they realize the servant’s proper role in history. An abrupt change in speakers from God to a Gentile spokesman takes place in verse 1. The prophetic text utilizes the literary device of the Gentile spokesman to narrate this Gentile admission of unjust mistreatment of the servant. Written in poetic style there is use of metaphorical language throughout the entire passage.
© Gerald Sigal