The Servant in Isaiah 48:16

Just been puzzling over this passage this morning:

1st person:  Listen to me, O Jacob, and Israel, whom I called! I am he; I am the first, and I am the last.  13 My hand laid the foundation of the earth, and my right hand spread out the heavens; when I call to them, they stand forth together.  14 Assemble, all of you, and listen!  Who among them has declared these things? 

3rd person: The LORD loves him; he shall perform his purpose on Babylon, and his arm shall be against the Chaldeans.

1st person: 15 I, even I, have spoken and called him; I have brought him, and he will prosper in his way. 

1st person: Draw near to me, hear this: from the beginning I have not spoken in secret, from the time it (feminine) came to be (me-et hayiotaa) I have been there.” 16 And now the Lord GOD has sent me, and his Spirit.  17

3rd person: Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:

1st person:I am the LORD your God, who teaches you to profit, who leads you in the way you should go. Isaiah 48:12-17

  1. the Heavens and the Earth (and those that would try to determine the future by them)
  2. Israel
  3. The LORD
  4. Cyrus
  5. the Spirit of God
  6. ???

Who is the speaker in vs 16?

One candidate might be Isaiah.  But Isaiah doesn’t fit the description. The prepositional phrase, ‘merosh’, translated ‘from the beginning’ in vs 16 is only found in three other places in Isaiah – both of them in this same section of Isaiah.

Isaiah 40:21 Have ye not known? have yet not heard? hath it not been told you from the beginning [merosh]? have ye not understood from the foundations of the earth?

Isaiah 41:4 Who has performed and done this, calling the generations from the beginning [merosh]? I, the LORD, the first, and with the last; I am he.

Both verses refer to primordial beginnings. If we assume that ‘merosh‘ has the same meaning here then it must refer to someone much greater than Isaiah.  For the same reasons, the speaker cannot be Cyrus.

The one who speaks in the 1st person in vs 16 is best understood as the Servant who was introduced in 42:1ff and is again mentioned again in 49:1-6 (once again speaking in the first person), and, of course, in Isaiah 53.


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