Prophet Muhammad in the Bible

The Prophet Muḥammad and Isaiah 42

ponderingislam.com

INTRODUCTION

The Qurʾān makes reference to Biblical prophecies that supposedly predict the coming of the Prophet Muḥammad. One such reference is found in Sūra al-aʿrāf v.157, where the coming of an ʾummī prophet is said to have been prophesied in the Jewish Bible. The Qurʾān states that this prophet, who is Prophet Muḥammad, is found “written with them” (ie. with the Jews) in al-Taurāt. That the Qurʾān is appealing to a contemporary biblical text is obvious- the question is, what is it?

This essay argues in favor of the hypothesis that Q7:157-158 is a probable allusion to the text of 2nd Isaiah. The book of Isaiah has traditionally been ascribed wholly to the prophetic figure of Isaiah, the 8th Century BC prophet active during the Assyrian crisis, during which Judah was reduced to a vassal state under the Assyrian empire. Modern biblical scholarship, however, has uncovered at-least three separate authors on the basis of linguistic, thematic and historical distinctions therein. By scholarly consensus, most of of chapters 1-39 can be reasonably attributed to of the historical Isaiah of the 8th Century BC, while chapters 40-55 belong to an anonymous prophet active amidst one of the Jewish community that was forcefully settled in Babylon after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Neo-Babylonians in 587BC.

Second Isaiah predicts the restoration of Israel and the return of the Israelites back to Jerusalem following the conquests of Cyrus the Persian1. The prophecy is intermingled with strong polemic against the worship of idols2 and oracles predicting the fall of Babylon3. The prophet looks to a future where Israel has an “everlasting” covenant with Yahveh4.

ISAIAH IN EARLY MUSLIM TRADITION

There seems to have been an early Muslim effort to identify the Prophet Muḥammad as the coming servant of Isaiah 42. Al-Bukhārī in his Saḥiḥ records the following tradition5:

أَنَّ هَذِهِ، الآيَةَ الَّتِي فِي الْقُرْآنِ ‏‏ قَالَ فِي التَّوْرَاةِ يَا أَيُّهَا النَّبِيُّ إِنَّا أَرْسَلْنَاكَ شَاهِدًا وَمُبَشِّرًا وَحِرْزًا لِلأُمِّيِّينَ، أَنْتَ عَبْدِي وَرَسُولِي سَمَّيْتُكَ الْمُتَوَكِّلَ لَيْسَ بِفَظٍّ وَلاَ غَلِيظٍ وَلاَ سَخَّابٍ بِالأَسْوَاقِ وَلاَ يَدْفَعُ السَّيِّئَةَ بِالسَّيِّئَةِ وَلَكِنْ يَعْفُو وَيَصْفَحُ وَلَنْ يَقْبِضَهُ اللَّهُ حَتَّى يُقِيمَ بِهِ الْمِلَّةَ الْعَوْجَاءَ بِأَنْ يَقُولُوا لاَ إِلَهَ إِلاَّ اللَّهُ فَيَفْتَحَ بِهَا أَعْيُنًا عُمْيًا وَآذَانًا صُمًّا وَقُلُوبًا غُلْفًا‏.‏

This biblical identification of the Prophet present in this ḥadīth is an opinion attributed to the companion ʿAbdullah bin ʿAmr bin Al-ʿĀs. Some of the descriptions spoken of by ʿAbdullah bin ʿAmr are taken almost verbatim from Isaiah 42: The Prophet is “not a noise-maker in the markets”, just like the servant in Isaiah 42:2 “will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street.” The Prophet is addressed as ʿabdi wa rasūli (my slave and messenger), and this could easily be the ʿavdi (my slave) of Isaiah 42:1, and perhaps even the ʿavdi and malʾachi6 (my slave and my messenger) spoken of in 42:19, albeit this latter identification is only possible if one disregards the context in which these two terms occur,- this very same figure is said to be a blind ʿavd and a deaf malʾach in the same verse7.

Other descriptions provided by ʿAbdullah bin ʿAmr are not verbatim but can reasonably be understood to be his own interpretations of the text of Isaiah. The Prophet is the “guardian of the gentiles,” perhaps echoing the role of the servant to the gentiles in Isaiah 42:6. This servant’s mission, according to ʿAbdullah, will be successful- “Allah will not let him die until he makes straight the crooked…” seems to be in the spirit of the promise of “[the servant who] will not grow faint or be crushed until he has established justice in the earth.” The monotheistic mission of this servant is strongly implied in Isaiah’s vision: the author believes that Yahveh will guide nations through this servant (Isa 42:6) and elsewhere asserts that those who worship idols fail to comprehend the futility of their beliefs (Isa 44:18). ʿAbdullah may have reasonably concluded that the coming servant who Isaiah refers to must be one that corrects these beliefs, thus his own exegesis of the prophecy to be that the Prophet will not fail until “[the people] say that there is no God but Allah.” Consequently, ʿAbdullah continues, “he opens the eyes of the blind,” echoing Isaiah 42:7 “[I have called you] to open the eyes that are blind.”

Some of ʿAbdullah’s identifications are puzzling, if authentic. His quotation, <<يا أيّها النبي إنا أرْسلْناك شاهدا ومبشر >> is suspect. The ḥadīth suggests that this is supposed to be a verbatim quotation of the bible, as it is framed as an actual statement said by God in previous scripture in address to the Prophet. No such address occurs in Isaiah8. Furthermore, the language employed here is distinctly Qurʾānic in origin, identical to Q48:8 and 33:45. This could reflect a later development in the transmission of this ḥadīth. The clear Qurʾānic provenance of this quotation naturally discounts the view that this was found in the Isaiah text available to the 7th Century Arabs and was somehow subsequently erased. Certainly, such a thing is not impossible9, but if one were to assert this to be the case, they would have to explain why this line is not found anywhere in the Isaiah scrolls before the 7th century, such as the dead sea scrolls10.

The rest of the ḥadīth does not match the text of bible, and is not Qurʾānic in origin. ʿAbdullah could be quoting unique biblical variants present only with the Medinan Jews, although the difficulties with this stance have already been discussed. Concluding that the prophecies quoted in this ḥadīth are the result of uncertain transmission history of the ḥadīth is too hasty of a conclusion, as ʿAbdullah could be making references to Jewish oral tradition, apocrypha or Rabbinic sources.

One other non- Qurʾānic text containing echoes of Isaiah is found in the Sīra of ʾibn Isḥāq. In scene the monumental revelation to the Prophet in the cave of Hira, Gabriel addresses the Prophet, ordering him to recite11:

فقال اقرأ [قال] قلت ما أقرأ ؟

So he said, “recite!” [and the Prophet said] I replied, “what should I recite?”

faqāla iqraʾ qultu mā aqraʾ

Isaiah 40 contains this same dialogue, albeit in a completely different context:

אֹמֵר קְרָא וְאָמַר מָה אֶקְרָא

[A voice] says, “cry out!”, and I said, “what should I cry out?”

ʾōmēr qĕrā wʾāmar māh eqrāʾ

It must be admitted that this could be a coincidence. Nevertheless, both texts use the semitic root q-r-ʾ which exhibits the same range of meaning in both languages, with the interrogative particle mā/māh. The Hebrew verb ʾāmar (to say) derived from the root ʾ-m-r is identical in meaning to the Arabic qāla. This correlation between the text of Ibn Isḥāq and Isaiah was noted by Sean Anthony13. Isaiah 40 is not a prophecy of a coming gentilic prophet, nor does Ibn Isḥāq claim it to be, but that is hardly relevant. What is evident here is conscious posturing of the Prophet in accordance with Isaian dialogue by early Muslims14, perhaps with the intention to invoke the themes of Isaiah in the eyes of the biblically literate audience.

What should be made of these early allusions to Isaiah present in Hadīth and Sīra? We may conclude that some early Muslims were appealing to this text with the goal of proving Qurʾānic claims about biblical prophecy as exemplified in Q7:157. By the 7th Century, the servant songs of Isaiah had been subject to a long tradition of individual interpretation15 by both Jews and Christians16. This, and the fact that such a habit was picked up by some individuals among the early Muslims, warrants a further investigation on possible links between Qurʾānic references to the Torah as a predictor of the Prophet Muḥammad, and the text of 2nd Isaiah.

SECOND ISAIAH AND THE QURʾĀN

The Qurʾān alleges that the appellation ʾummī is associated with the Prophet Muḥammad in the Jewish bible. In Sūra al-aʿrāf v. 156-157:

I shall ordain My mercy for those who are conscious of God and pay the prescribed alms; who believe in Our Revelations; who follow the Messenger–– the unlettered prophet they find described in the Torah that is with them, and in the Gospel–– who commands them to do right and forbids them to do wrong, who makes good things lawful to them and bad things unlawful, and relieves them of their burdens, and the iron collars that were on them. So it is those who believe him, honour and help him, and who follow the light which has been sent down with him, who will succeed.’

The Qurʾān does not elaborate which biblical book it is referring to other than “the Torah”, and “the Gospel.” As this essay is only concerned with mentions of the Prophet Muḥammad in Isaiah 42, New Testament prophecies shall not be discussed here.

In Jewish tradition, the term tōrah (תוֹרה) is usually synonymous with the Pentateuch17 traditionally ascribed to Moses, but can refer to the entirety of the Jewish Bible (the Tanakh). Previous attempts to take 7:157 as a cross-reference to Isaiah 42 have been made by Muslims. Abu Zakariya, author of the ‘Many Prophets One Message’ website18 interprets this verse as such:

“It’s true that in its most limited sense, the Torah refers to the five Books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy). However in a broader sense, Torah actually includes all Jewish law and tradition. The Hebrew word “torah” just means instruction or law, and so in Judaism it is also used in a general sense to refer to the entire Old Testament which includes Isaiah. It’s interesting to note that Jesus does exactly this in the New Testament:

Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? [John 10.34]

Here Jesus has quoted Psalm 82:6 from the Old Testament:

I said, ‘You are “gods”; you are all sons of the Most High.

Clearly, Jesus refers to the Psalms of David as Torah (‘law’) even though technically it is not part of Torah. In the same way, when the Qurʾān refers to the Torah in verses such as 7:157 it could just be a reference to the complete collection of scriptures that the Jews had at the time of Muḥammad, which included the Book of Isaiah. So for the sake of convenience it is referred to as Torah collectively. Even if we accept the technical, narrow definition of Torah, then this does not refute that the Qurʾān could be referring to Isaiah, because the Qurʾān doesn’t state that he can only be found in the Torah.”

Abu Zakariya’s argument requires further elaboration. John 10:34 does not actually use the word “Torah”, which is a Hebrew word, but rather nomos, as John was written in Greek. Nomos simply means “law” or “custom”. A possible objection would thus be that Jesus is not really applying the term “Torah” to the Psalms, and that the intended meaning of nomos is other than the Hebrew term Torah. However, such an objection fails to account for the Greek usage of nomos in the same Gospel19. John 1:17 makes unambiguous reference to the Torah of Moses:

The law (ho nomos) indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

Clearly, the intended meaning here is nothing other than the Mosaic Torah.

Nomos was typically used in translation from the Hebrew term Torah in Greco-Jewish texts outside the New Testament. The Septuagint (LXX), a Greek translation of the Jewish bible written in the 2nd Century BC, usually translates “Torah” as “nomos”. One example from the LXX is Nehemiah 8:1-

ΚΑΙ ἔφθασεν ὁ μὴν ὁ ἕβδομος -καὶ οἱ υἱοὶ ᾿Ισραὴλ ἐν πόλεσιν αὐτῶν- καὶ συνήχθησαν πᾶς ὁ λαὸς ὡς ἀνὴρ εἷς εἰς τὸ πλάτος τὸ ἔμπροσθεν πύλης τοῦ ὕδατος. καὶ εἶπαν τῷ ῎Εσδρᾳ τῷ γραμματεῖ ἐνέγκαι τὸ βιβλίον νόμου Μωυσῆ, ὃν ἐνετείλατο Κύριος τῷ ᾿Ισραήλ.

The LXX translator has chosen to render the original Hebrew, “sefer Torah Moshe” (The book of law of Moses) as “to biblion nomou Mōusē.” Nomos is present here in the genitive case, declined according to appropriate syntax. The translator believed that nomos is an appropriate translation of Torah. This does not, however, mean that every instance of nomos must mean Torah: Only that references to the Torah made in Greek use the word nomos. Having said that, however, it is difficult to imagine that anything other than Torah could be meant in John 10:34. This very term is not just restricted to Mosaic law in the Jewish bible: often times, the intended usage is as a collective reference to Judaic teaching. Examples of this sort are found in Deuteronomy 17:11 and Isaiah 1:10. The latter reference is particularly significant because the prophet Isaiah himself is calling divine proclamation in general the “Torah of the Lord”.

Revelation other than of the Mosaic sort can thus be called the word Torah. It is expected that the Qurʾānic usage of Torah would encompass such a definition, although further study of the word in the Qurʾān must be done before coming to any firm conclusions.

The word al-Taurāt (التوراة) occurs 18 times in the Qurʾān20. Remarkably, there is no mention of al-Taurāt being revealed to Moses. Certainly, Moses was given a scripture, yet when recounting its revelation to Moses, the Qurʾān always uses the generic al-kitāb (see. Q25:35, Q2:87, Q11:110 for examples). Nevertheless, al-Taurāt is synonymous with the revelation of Moses in other contexts: it is equated with al-kitāb in Q3:48 and Q5:110 by way of linguistic parallelism21.

There is one place in the Qurʾān where the term “al-taurāt” is applied to an allusion to a biblical non-Pentateuchal text: Q7:157. The Taurāt which the Qurʾān is alluding to in this verse may be the Old Testament, a part of which is the book of Isaiah itself. A reading of this verse in light of Isaiah 42 bears some interesting results.

The verses Q7:157-158 assert that the Prophet Muḥammad is the ʾummī (gentile) messenger who is spoken of in the Bible. This theme is present in Isaiah 42- the servant of God is brought forward to be a “covenant to the people, a light to the nations”. His calling is universal: the goyim (Isaiah 42:6), meaning nations, are the objects of his mission, thus clearly encompassing all the people, and not just Israel. This universality is stressed in Q7:158- “Say, ‘Oh Mankind, I am truly the Messenger of God to you all.” The Prophet brings light to the people by God’s own doing (al-nūr aladhī ʾunzila maʿahu), and so does the servant in Isaiah 42- “I [Yahveh] have given you… [as] a light to the nations.” The Prophet is an ethical teacher “who commands them to do right and forbids them to do wrong,” an idea embedded in the servant’s establishment of “mishpāṭ”, which refers to ethical justice as argued in the exegetical section of this essay, while the Prophet’s role as a liberator, “he relieves them of their burdens, and the iron collars” finds parallels in Isaiah 42:7, where the servant is explicitly tasked “to bring out prisoners from the dungeon.” The Isaian prophet pauses between his description of the coming servant to declare the praise of Yahveh, and even this praise does the Qurʾān in 7:157-158 echo. The Qurʾān praises “Him who owns the heavens and the earth.” – compare to Isaiah 42:5, Yahveh “created the heavens… spread out the earth.” Life-giving power is associated with God in Q7:158; “There is no God but Him; He gives life and death,” and in Isaiah 42, Yahveh “gives breath to the people who walk upon [the earth].” Finally, monotheism is expressed both in Isaiah 42- “I am Yahveh, that is my name… I give glory to no other, nor my praise to idols”- and the call of the Prophet in Q7:158, “There is no God but Him.” There is certainly good reason to believe that the Qurʾān in 7:157-158 is actually referring to this chapter of Isaiah, as every theme in these two verses is found in Isaiah 42. This cannot be a mere coincidence.

Contrarily, these verses do not fit any prophecy from the Pentateuch. We previously saw that that in other sections of the Qurʾān, the term is equated to what was given to Moses, and that the Pentateuch is also sometimes intended by this appellation22. Here in Q7:157 al-taurāt cannot mean either of these. Due to the strong similarities between these verses and Isaiah, the Qurʾān is probably alluding it under the ambiguous epithet al-taurāt. This is not entirely a surprise- we already know that for the Jewish audience, al-taurāt may include divine instruction in general, and thus it would not be inaccurate to call Isaiah by this name.

EXEGESIS

PRELIMINARY THOUGHTS

Searching for the Prophet Muḥammad in the writings of Isaiah is not an endeavor new to Muslims. From the insights of ʿAbdullah ibn ʿamr, companion of the Prophet, to reflections of medieval scholars such as Ibn Rabban and Ibn Qutayba23, Isaiah is often thought to be a predictor of the Prophet Muḥammad. This trend continues even in contemporary times, and a closer reading of Isaiah 42 will reveal exactly why this is the case. This essay will, at points, quote modern apologetic interpretations of this chapter of Isaiah wherever they share interesting insights (see bibliography for exact references).

This essay shall take an approach that accounts for contemporary biblical scholarship on Isaiah 42. Current scholarly exegeses oppose the identification of the Prophet Muḥammad in Isaiah and must be accounted for if any serious case is to be made.

VERSE 1

a. Here is my servant, whom I uphold,

The first servant song (v.1-4) of Second Isaiah declares the coming of a servant of Yahveh chosen by Him. He is called ʿavdi, my servant, precisely analogous to the arabic عبدي. In Second Isaiah this term is used both for Israel as a nation (see 42:19 for example) and for individuals (54:17)24.

Exegetes have proposed both identifications- the servant was commonly interpreted as the nation of Israel, although there is a recent trend towards a personal designation. John McKenzie in his commentary on Second Isaiah writes:

“The oldest form of this interpretation saw in the Servant a personification of the people of Israel. In modern scholarship since the early nineteenth century this was the prevailing opinion. Most of the works written since 1920 have abandoned the collective interpretation or have modified it…”

It is tempting to resort to a personal identification to the servant, but I am personally not convinced, and reading Isaiah 42:19 will explain why.

Isa 42:19 Who is blind but my servant (ʿavdi),

or deaf like my messenger whom I send?

Who is blind like my dedicated one,

or blind like the servant of the Lord (kʿeved Yahveh)?

Israel is explicitly described as the servant and messenger of Yahveh in Isaiah 42:18-25. One may say that this is not the same ʿabd of Isaiah 42:1, because the servant there is a guide to others and opens blind eyes, while the servant here in Isaiah 42:19 is himself blind. This argument assumes that a (metaphorically) blind and deaf servant cannot be a guide to others. This assumption does not account for the possibility that Isaiah is speaking about an ideal Israel, one that has reformed so as to become the servant of Yahveh spoken of in this servant song.

In the light of the previous chapter, Isaiah 41, the Israelite identification of the servant becomes all the more possible, as the same language in this servant song is applied to Israel. It is also worth noting that Isaiah 41 has already made possible the restoration of Israel (and thus the possibility of them being the guiding servant of Isaiah 42).

Compare:

Isaiah 41 – to Israel

Isaiah 42 – to the servant

41:9 You are my servant (ʿavdi), I chose you (bĕḥartîka), and I have not rejected you.

42:1 Here is my servant (ʿavdi), whom I uphold, my chosen (bĕḥîrî)

41:13 I clasp you by your right hand

42:6 I have taken you by the hand

What legitimate arguments can be made against the collective identification of the servant? Arguments do exist for a possible individual identification, but many of these rely on taking the oracle out of context, sometimes with support of subjective textual criticism, the usage of which “is ultimately a critical judgment based on subjective taste,” writes McKenzie, “and it cannot be made into anything stronger25”. McKenzie’s own abandonment of the collective interpretation is partly contingent upon the authorship of the servant songs being different to that of the responses that follow26 in the book of Isaiah, which he admits cannot be decisively proven. Goldingay and Payne, both authors of the International Critical Commentary on 2nd Isaiah, have maintained that the servant is Israel, due to the literary context27 of the song, employing arguments similar to those made here.

The collective interpretation finds good cause to be accepted. How, then, is it possible that the servant is the Prophet Muḥammad? A novel interpretation is to be argued for here28. The key to this question lies in the appreciation of the conditional nature of the prophetic office of Israel. The prophecy will certainly actualize – “before [this prophecy] springs forth, I (Yahveh) tell you of them.”29, and Israel is to be that servant mentioned. This is almost indisputable in the literary context. What is also clear from an honest reading of the text is that Yahveh himself declares that Israel is unfit for this task, in the verses following the oracle:

18 Listen, you that are deaf;

and you that are blind, look up and see!

19 Who is blind but my servant,

or deaf like my messenger whom I send?

Who is blind like my dedicated one,

or blind like the servant of the Lord?

20 He sees many things, but does[c] not observe them;

his ears are open, but he does not hear.

21 The Lord was pleased, for the sake of his righteousness,

to magnify his teaching and make it glorious.

22 But this is a people30 robbed and plundered,

all of them are trapped in holes

and hidden in prisons;

Yahveh had wanted the prophecy to go ahead: “The Lord was pleased, for the sake of his righteousness, to magnify his teaching and make it glorious.” Yahveh has already sent this messenger – Israel – and he has failed: Israel is “blind” and “deaf.” We cannot conclude anything other than that this prophetic office is contingent upon Israel’s obedience to Yahveh. Blenkinsopp, although does not accept that the servant is Israel31 suggests that if it were, Israel would have to reform to realize their vocation: “ [these verses] could be said of Israel in either projecting an ideal Israel or an Israel in the guise of one of the great figures from its past.32

Does that then mean that the prophecy shall not ever be fulfilled? If Israel is given as a ‘light to the nations,’ a ‘covenant to the people,’ through whom all the people (with special mention for the Arabs in Isa 42:11) would forsake idolatry and have a special relationship with Yahveh himself, but cannot perform their function, what then? Presumably, the people shall be kept waiting indefinitely for Israel to reform for their own calling. The only other option is that Yahveh shall realize His prophesy through other means. There is no third option.

Which of these two possible options find historical support? It is clearly the latter. The Kedarites (Isa 42:11) certainly did leave idolatry, indicating that Yahveh did indeed fulfill the prophecy, but it was not Israel that guided them out of it. It was the Prophet Muḥammad, who, as we shall see in the remainder of the exegesis section, fits the rest of the prophecy so well that we are forced to accept that Yahveh has “re-elected” the servant of Isaiah 42:1-17. This is exactly why the Qurʾān appeals to Isaiah 42 in support of the Prophet Muḥammad’s authenticity.

We discover from this brief tangent that this, then, is how an individual interpretation of the prophecy is possible. If we can agree that the 2nd Isaiah is a genuine prophet, receiving revelation from Yahveh33, then it is not unreasonable to suggest that the prophecy was fulfilled, yet not by the original agent (Israel) due to their disobedience, but by another singular individual who matches the description of the prophecy eerily well.

The appellation ʿabd quite easily applies to a prophet in the bible, as evidenced in Jeremiah34, Ezekiel35 and even the narrative history of 2 Kings36 among others instances. The quoted verses use the formula “ʿavāday ha-n’vīʾīm,” (in arabic ʿibadī al-nabiyyīn) meaning, “my servants, the Prophets…” The Qurʾān applies both terms to the Prophet Muḥammad and prophets in general. One of many such verses that exemplify this dual role of the Prophet as ʿabd and nabī in Q18:1- Praise be to God, who sent down the Scripture to His servant (ʿabdihi) and made it unerringly straight. As the servant song continues it becomes clear that the vocation of this ʿabd is as a prophet.

b My chosen, in whom my soul delights;
c I have put my spirit upon him;

The noun bĕḥīr, translated as “My chosen”, comes from the b-ḥ-r root, which is to choose the best of several choices37. The Qurʾān seems to use the verb iṣṭafā and its participle form similarly to describe prophets, such as in Q7:144. By nature, God has chosen Prophets (Q22:75 yaṣṭafi… rusul min al-nās), and also the Prophet Muḥammad specifically as the seal of the Prophets and a Messenger of God (Q33:40). At the surface, all Isaiah is saying is that this prophetic figure is chosen for a special mission. Yahveh Himself finds him pleasing, the verb used here is analogous to the Arabic root رضى 38. Not too much shall be read into these descriptions, it would only be expected that a genuine prophet would be the object of such positive attributions.

“I have put my spirit(rūḥī) into him” requires further explanation. In the Islamic sense of the term, the “spirit of God” is the angel Gabriel, but there is no evidence in Isaiah that the “spirit of God” refers to Gabriel. In this context the “rūaḥ” of God seems to indicate divine help or inspiration39.

The way it is formulated here in line c is almost identical to Numbers 11:29, where contact with the rūaḥ of Yahveh is strongly linked to prophecy40:

But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit (rūaḥ) on them!”

Here, and in many other biblical verses, the spirit is the means through which humans receive divine inspiration. This does not necessarily entail prophet-hood, as warriors fighting for Yahveh can also receive the “spirit of Yahveh”41. Here however the correlation between the way the spirit of Yahveh is given to the servant of Yahveh and Moses’s exclamation in Numbers strongly indicates prophet-hood, especially in the wider context of the servant as a teacher.

In the Qurʾānic sense the equivalent term rūḥ can denote a heavenly messenger (Q19:17) but in some contexts it does not seem to be. God blows His rūḥ into ʾĀdam (Q15:29). In other places it is linked to divine command, such is the case in Q17:85, although mufassirūn have interpreted this verse as simply a negation of a question posed by the Jewish interlocutors of the Prophet. If the verse is taken literally, then the Spirit of God as related to the “command of God” is a concept also found in First Isaiah:

Isa 34:16 Seek and read from the book of the Lord:
Not one of these shall be missing;
none shall be without its mate.
For the mouth of the Lord has commanded,
and his spirit has gathered them.

Most significantly, and matching the meaning of Isaiah 42, the rūaḥ brings divine revelation to prophets in general (Q16:2), and explicitly to the Prophet Muḥammad (Q26:193).

d He will bring forth justice to the nations.

The key term in this verse is mishpāṭ, a word with a variety of meanings in the Bible. It can denote legislation (Exod 24:3, Exod 21:1) but also justice in the generic sense (Psa 33:5- God loves justice – mishpāṭ). What could it mean here? Commentators express a variety of opinions: Blenkinsopp tells us that “the term here has a broader reference and refers to a social order based on justice that originates in the will and character of the deity,” while Goldingay and Payne express that the formulation here suggests simply that “the passage declares that the servant has the commission to make God’s decision known to and for the nations,” but in absence of what exactly this “decision” could be, and the allusion to Moses42, Blenkinsopp’s interpretation seems most reasonable. Whatever the case, all these could easily encompass the Prophet Muḥammad. It is tempting to interpret mishpāṭ in the sense of the Islamic sharīʿah but there is nothing to suggest an exclusively legalistic meaning from the context.

If the term here broadly means a just social order based on divine will, then the Prophet’s mission in the Qurʾān declares the same thing-

Q6:151 Say, ‘Come! I will tell you what your Lord has really forbidden you. Do not ascribe anything as a partner to Him; be good to your parents; do not kill your children in fear of poverty’–– We will provide for you and for them––‘ stay well away from committing obscenities, whether openly or in secret; do not take the life God has made sacred, except by right. This is what He commands you to do: perhaps you will use your reason. 152 Stay well away from the property of orphans, except with the best [intentions], until they come of age; give full measure and weight, according to justice’

Ethical justice and monotheism are dominant themes in the Qurʾān. Isaiah himself declares the oneness of Yahveh in this very same chapter, and if mishpāṭ here means justice but not in a strict legal sense, it can only mean ethical justice43, a very Qurʾānic concern, and thus exactly what the Prophet Muḥammad is to deliver to the people.

VERSE 2

a He will not cry or lift up his voice,
b and make it heard in the street;

The companions of the Prophet seem to have interpreted this verse quite literally. Revisiting the Isaian quotation present in the Ḥadith of ʿAbdullah we read that he readily applies this to the Prophet Muḥammad, presumably due to his quiet composure. This quietness would be contrary to obnoxiousness, a quality that is warned against in the Qurʾān (Q31:19). There is not a whole lot of evidence to reject the literal meaning44, although one may argue that such frankness is hardly Isaian style45.

Presently, a figurative meaning is accepted. The verb yiṣʿaq – “to cry out” – in the basic sense means to call out loudly. In the bible the word is used for crying out in distress46. Thus, as Goldingay and Payne interpret the verse47 as such- the servant will not shout and cry out of grief. This implies a stoic personality, or one that possesses confidence of deliverance. The Qurʾān consoles the Prophet, promising him that victory will certainly come-

Q61:8 they wish to put His light out with their mouths. But He will perfect His light, even though the disbelievers hate it;

Q93:3 your Lord has not forsaken you [Prophet], nor does He hate you, 4 and the future will be better for you than the past; 5 your Lord is sure to give you so much that you will be well satisfied.

There is also strong imperative in the Qurʾān for the Prophet to rely on God, for example in Q9:129-

If they turn away, [Prophet], say ,‘God is enough for me: there is no god but Him; I put

my trust in Him; He is the Lord of the Mighty Throne.’

A different interpretation of the verse was offered by McKenzie. He postulates that “the servant will not impose his words on his listeners.” If the verse is read carefully then this can only be true in the sense that the servant would not make people hear if they are not willing to listen. Such a reading would ignore how yiṣʿaq is used here, that is, of crying out for help- whether or not the servant announces his teachings forcefully is irrelevant to this word48. Goldingay and Payne’s commentary is simply more convincing, and incidentally fits the figure of Biblical prophets as well as the Prophet Muḥammad better. A prophet that is confrontational in his teaching is typical of the Bible and the Qurʾān.

VERSE 3

a A bruised reed he will not break,
b and a dimly burning wick he will not quench;

Line 3a is tricky to interpret. The “bruised reed” is somewhat of a biblical idiom. Egypt is described as a flimsy reed that breaks when leaned upon in Ezekiel 29:6-7. The employment of the term is primarily political.

It is also elaborated in Isaiah 36, as pointed out by Mushafiq Sultan49:

Isa 36:4 The Rabshakeh said to them, “Say to Hezekiah: Thus says the great king, the king of Assyria: On what do you base this confidence of yours? 5 Do you think that mere words are strategy and power for war? On whom do you now rely, that you have rebelled against me? 6 See, you are relying on Egypt, that broken reed of a staff, which will pierce the hand of anyone who leans on it. Such is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who rely on him. 7 But if you say to me, ‘We rely on the Lord our God,’ is it not he whose high places and altars Hezekiah has removed, saying to Judah and to Jerusalem, ‘You shall worship before this altar’?

The meaning conveyed by it here and in Ezekiel is that of unreliability, as Sultan has alluded to in good sense50. The king of Israel is censured for choosing to ally with Egypt in Isaiah 30 rather than relying on Yahveh. The unreliability of the “bruised reed” is therefore understood to be a political flimsiness.

Sultan however matches this reference to the Prophet’s engagements with the so-called “hypocrites”, writing that “this expression refers to the hypocrites who apparently believed in the Prophet Muḥammad (pbuh), but in reality were collaborating with his opponents to harm him and the believers.” Therefore, the Prophet Muḥammad does not “break” the “bruised reed” by having an “affectionate regard for them51,” and because he is not “harsh towards them.” While Sultan is correct in referencing Isaiah 36 to understand the idiom, we disagree that this could be a reference to the hypocrites. A flimsy reed-staff would only break if it is leaned upon for support. This is exactly how the idiom is used in Isaiah 36: Israel is to avoid allying itself with Egypt because the Pharaoh shall fail them, not that Israel is to be affectionate towards Egypt despite their flimsiness: this does not make any sense and is certainly not relevant to Isaiah 36.

Thus, the servant here does not rely upon flimsy political support. He is to rely on God instead of allies who could fail him, exactly as the king of Israel is advised in first Isaiah. How does this compare to the Prophet Muḥammad’s own experience? This very same message is present in the Qurʾān. The believers (and the Prophet by extension) are to not take the disbelievers as protectors in preference to each other and to rely on God:

Q5:51 You who believe, do not take the Jews and Christians as allies: they are allies only to each other. Anyone who takes them as an ally becomes one of them–– God does not guide such wrongdoers––

Q5:55 Your true allies are God, His Messenger, and the believers–– those who keep up the prayer, pay the prescribed alms, and bow down in worship.

Certainly, kindness and mutual encouragement to goodness is ordered, such as in Q3:64, yet ultimately God is the walī of the believers (Q4:45). For the Prophet himself, unfailing and exclusive dedication and reliance (tawakkul) is demanded:

Q 8:61 But if [the disbelievers] incline towards peace, you [Prophet] must also incline towards it, and put your trust in God: He is the All Hearing, the All Knowing. 62 If they intend to deceive you, God is enough for you: it was He who strengthened you with His help,

Such sentiments can be found in many Qurʾānic verses, usually those which comment upon the relationship between the disbelievers and the Prophet.

The “dimly burning wick” is a metaphor for the weak. McKenzie believes that it “signi[fies] the poor and the helpless, so often mentioned in prophetic literature as the victims of oppression by the wealthy and the powerful52.” Goldingay and Payne find the meaning analogous to the flimsiness of the bruised reed in 3a, although McKenzie’s interpretation seems truer to the metaphor. While a weakened reed breaks only if leaned upon, a weakly burning wick is prone to be extinguished whether or not someone is relying upon its light. If the servant does not cause a barely-alight candle to be extinguished, it implies that he actively goes through measures to keep it alight, or at the very least does not do anything that may put it out.

The Prophet Muḥammad is essentially a philanthropist, his message as expounded in the Qurʾān is deeply concerned with the weaker members of society. The Qurʾān censures those that do not make considerations for the needy-

Q107:1 [Prophet], have you considered the person who denies the Judgement? 2 It is he who pushes aside the orphan 3 and does not urge others to feed the needy.

The Prophet himself is ordered to show compassion to the weak:

93:9 So [Prophet], do not be harsh with the orphan 10 and do not chide the one who asks for help; 11 talk about the blessings of your Lord.

And supporting the weak is essential to faith itself, mentioned alongside with belief in God:

4:36 Worship God; join nothing with Him. Be good to your parents, to relatives, to orphans, to the needy, to neighbors near and far, to travelers in need, and to your slaves. God does not like arrogant, boastful people,

The Qurʾān would not repeatedly command kindness to the poor and weak unless the Prophet Muḥammad himself embodied this very commandment in an exemplary fashion – it would only be expected of him.

c He will faithfully bring forth justice.

Once more, justice– mishpāṭ – is invoked. There is no evidence here that this mishpāṭ is any different to the one in 42:1d, ie. a general sense of ethical justice, so further discussion on it is redundant. How this verse does differ from 1d is the mention that he will carry out his mission ‘faithfully’, or literally for faith, le-ʾĕmet53. The servant does not change his message, but delivers it effectively54 so that people may have faith in it.

Such is commanded to the Prophet-

Q10:15 When Our clear revelations are recited to them, those who do not expect to meet with Us say, ‘Bring [us] a different Qurʿān, or change it.’ [Prophet], say, ‘It is not for me to change it of my own

accord; I only follow what is revealed to me, for I fear the torment of an awesome Day, if I were to disobey my Lord.’

VERSE 4

a He will not grow faint or be crushed

b until he has established justice in the earth;

c and the coast-lands wait for his teaching.

Here we encounter an interesting play on words. In 3a, we saw that the servant will not break a reed that is bruised (rāṣūṣ), and here he himself shall not be crushed (yārūṣ) – the same root is present. Similarly, the servant in 3b will not extinguish a dimly burning (kēhāh) wick, while here he himself shall not grow faint (yik·heh). It is reasonable to assume that this chiasm has implications on the interpretation, which means that the servant is the direct opposite of a bruised reed and a dimly burning wick- thus, he can be trusted for the mission he is sent to achieve, and is strong enough to bear it. The Prophet Muḥammad continues to be a good fit- in mere decades the Prophet Muḥammad was able to unite Arabia under the distinctly religious movement of Islam. Once more, mishpāṭ is what the servant shall establish on the earth, and the Qurʾān as the primary text of this nascent religious movement embodies the divinely revealed ethical laws which are implied in the term mishpāṭ here.

The coast-lands wait for the servant’s tōrah (teaching). There is strong reason to believe that the servant in Isaiah 42 is being postured as Moses-like. McKenzie suggests this idea:

“If the mission of the Servant in this poem is to be summed up in one word, the word would be prophecy. But the word is not used; and in fact the words “judgment” [mishpāṭ] and “law” [tōrah] are associated with priestly revelation rather than prophetic revelation. But it is never suggested that the Servant is a priest. It seems that we encounter the idea of covenant law, a tradition that went back to the pre-monarchic period of Israel. Just as Yahweh by the revelation of covenant law established the people of Israel and the Israelite way of life, so the Servant will make Yahweh known beyond Israel. In the poem the Servant, it is suggested, is rather another Moses than another prophet55.” [p. 38 Anchor Bible Commentary]

McKenzie’s passing references to covenant law bear the need of further elaboration. One of the climactic moments of the Pentateuch is Yahveh’s formation of the covenant to the Israelites at Mount Sinai. It is here that Yahveh finally brings about the covenantal promises to the patriarchs, and it is here where Moses is given a ‘priestly revelation’: tōrah (Exod 24:12) and mishpāṭ (Exod 21:1- Moses is told to set “ha-mishpāṭim” for Israel). Moses is the messenger through which the covenant between God and Israel is exacted:

Then Moses went up to God; the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the Israelites: 4 You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant (b’rīt), you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples.

Isaiah invokes a Mosaic figure in his oracle: The servant of Isaiah 42 is a b’rīt (Isa 42:6) to the people. This is why the interpretation that the servant is “moses-like”, as McKenzie suggests, finds good cause to be accepted. Goldingay and Payne disagree with this, on the basis that individuals are able to bring tōrah and mishpāṭ as well56, but the strength of McKenzie’s argument rests on the fact that the servant is a covenant to the people, just as Moses brought a covenant to Israel.

A close reading of the life of the Prophet Muḥammad finds many parallels with Moses, but in keeping with the theme of this essay we shall only glean similarities between the two personalities through the Qurʾān.

The Qurʾān consistently typesets the Prophet Muḥammad as another Moses. In the Qurʾān, Moses is given al-kitāb (eg. Q2:53, Q17:2, Q25:35): the appellation al-Taurāt is avoided in the context of what God “sent down” to Moses, even though one would expect that it applies to his revelation. God also sends down al-kitāb to the Prophet Muḥammad(Q18:1, Q7:196). Clearly, both revelations are subsumed under al-kitāb to draw parallels between the two prophets57. Moses prays to God for help and confidence so that he may deliver his message to Pharaoh58:

Moses said, ‘Lord, lift up my heart

and ease my task for me.

Untie my tongue,

so that they may understand my words, Q20:25-28

This is similar to Sūra 94:1-5 which is aimed at the Prophet Muḥammad:

Did We not relieve your heart for you,

and remove the burden

that weighed so heavily on your back,

and raise your reputation high?

So truly where there is hardship there is also ease;

The Qurʾān orders the Prophet to recite clearly(Q75:16), a possible link to Moses’s own prayer for a clear speech. The audience of the Qurʾān are asked whether they intend to question the calling of the Prophet as Moses was questioned before (2:108). Such parallels are countless: Brill’s Encyclopedia of the Qurʾān provides a cogent summary:

“The Qurʾān has its own point of view and its own interpretation of the older narrative material. The essential feature of the allusions to the past is a typological interpretation of the earlier narratives, by which the biography of Moses is seen in the light of the biography of Muḥammad. The Qurʾān reminds its audience of Moses’ deeds and the events connected with him, associating these deeds and events with the circumstances in Muḥammad’s life. There are two major themes that emerge in the story of Moses: God as creator and lord, and a typological pattern that draws parallels to Muḥammad. As in all of the qurʾānic stories of the prophets, emphasis is placed upon Moses’ monotheism and his role as a divine messenger: he has to endure accusations of lying, as well as oppression and hostility at the hands of the unbelievers and evildoers to whom he is sent until he and his followers are rescued and his enemies destroyed by God. In the Qurʾānic purview, such details of the story of Moses prefigure Muḥammad’s biography.” Encyclopedia of the Qurʾān, entry for “Moses”.

Is this prefiguring of the Prophet in light of Moses justified when we read the biblical account? The answer is in the affirmative. The Prophet’s own revelation, similar to Moses, and unlike any other biblical prophet, contains legal and ritual instruction, for example in Sūra an-Nisā and Sūra al-Baqara. This by itself is rather significant, as a prophet who brings law is not the norm in the history of biblical prophecy, the only such prophet to do this is Moses. A law-bearing prophet would be unusual indeed, and certainly one that is “Moses-like.” Both prophets also deliver their message to tyrants who are stubborn and their “hearts are hardened”59, then subsequently escape oppression with their followers to another place (Q 16:41, Q59:8, compare to the Exodus narrative). They encounter military resistance- physical fighting is evidenced in several places in the Qurʾān, see for example Q:9 and Q4:9, and in the Exodus narrative, eg. Exod 17:11.

The most significant of these parallels is that both Moses and Muḥammad are covenant-bearers. The original covenant to the Israelites were a list of ordinances which they were to live by in order to have a relationship with God. Now, in Isaiah, the new prophet is literally a covenant to nations (Isa 42:6), which we could understand to mean that he is the path through which God establishes a special relationship with the people at large, just as Yahveh did with the Israelites through Moses’s ordinances. This is essentially the very message of the Qurʾān – all the people (Q7:158), not just the Israelites, are ordered to follow the Prophet to maintain this relationship with God – Q3:31- Say, ‘If you love God, follow me, and God will love you and forgive you your sins; God is most forgiving, most merciful,’ just as Yahveh declares in Exod 20:6 that He shows “steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love [him] and keep [his] commandments.” The Qurʾān, as the Prophet Muḥammad’s message, is the guidance through which people live by God’s laws and therefore grow close to Him.

VERSE 5

Thus says God, the Lord,

who created the heavens and stretched them out,

who spread out the earth and what comes from it,

who gives breath to the people upon it

and spirit to those who walk in it:

The first servant song of Isaiah has concluded, and the prophet pauses here to tell us that it is Yahveh Himself who has declared it. Goldingay and Payne call this the “messenger formula” – that is, the Isaian prophet has received the song from Yahveh and is simply repeating it60. Yahveh’s creative power is praised, for His creation of the “heavens and the earth”61 and of people. The “spirit” that Yahveh gives to the inhabitants of the world is not in the sense of prophecy62 but instead seems to be in the generic sense of the breath of life63, given the object of this “spirit” is unqualified and parallels the previous line, “who gives breath to the people upon it.”

VERSE 6

a I am Yahveh, I have called you in righteousness,
b I have taken you by the hand and kept you;

Yahveh now turns back to the servant in address to him. The description of the servant continues after an interim in praise of Yahveh. He declares that He has “called” the servant “in righteousness” – b’ṣedeq. The International Critical Commentary notes that term exhibits a range of meanings, among these are ‘truth’, ‘power,’ and even ‘grace,’64 but that hardly clarifies the meaning. It will be useful to compare to Isaiah 41:10, where the same word is used and closely paralleled here:

Isaiah 41:10

Isaiah 42:6

I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my right hand of my ṣidq.

I am the Lord, I have called you in ṣedeq,
I have taken you by the hand and kept you;

The context of Isaiah 41 is as a comfort to a very anxious Israel in exile, and promise of deliverance through Cyrus the Persian king. It would make a lot of sense if “ṣidq” in Isaiah 41:10 is used in the sense that the promise of deliverance shall truly happen: Yahveh has vouched for His promises, saying that the “right hand” of his ṣidq – truthfulness65.

Thus, if the meaning is imported to Isaiah 42:6, Yahveh has truly called the servant: It will certainly happen, and Yahveh has furthermore promised that the servant will surely persevere: “I have taken you by the hand and kept you.”

If the servant is Prophet Muḥammad, there are still no interpretive issues present that could be an obstacle to that identification. Yahveh shall safeguard his servant here, holding him by the hand and ‘keeping him.’ The Prophet Muḥammad is promised exactly that in Q5:67 -“God will protect you from people,” a promise that was fulfilled, and its realization is recorded in one of the last Sūras to be revealed: al-Fatḥ-

1 When God’s help comes and He opens up a your way [Prophet],

2 when you see people embracing God’s faith in crowds, 3 celebrate

the praise of your Lord and ask His forgiveness: He is always ready

to accept repentance.

It is possible that this could be an early Sūra and is in fact a promise of the Prophet Muḥammad’s victory, but that would not explain why God would ask for the Prophet to wait until victory actually comes to him to “ask His forgiveness” and “celebrate the praise” of God. Even if it is a promise, then it is in the same vein of Isa 42:6 “I have taken you by the hand and have kept you.”

Extra-Qurʾānic sources for the eventual success of the Prophetic mission are readily available, and the spread of Islam is well attested in the 7th century both in Muslim oral tradition (later recorded in maghazī literature) and non-Muslim documentary sources66.

c I have given you as a covenant (b’rīt) to the people,
d a light to the nations,

As we had seen earlier, the servant of Yahveh is the means through which “all the people” – ʿām- will be able to have a special relationship with Yahveh. The significance of this has already been discussed; the Isaian prophet is appealing to memories of Moses in description of this coming servant. The basic function of the biblical covenant to the Israelites is that they were to fulfill Yahveh’s commandments and would receive favor in return. A covenant must be kept by both parties. If the servant is sent to teach “mishpāṭ and tōrah”, as foretold by Isaiah 42, a natural conclusion would be that the nations must take to these teachings and obey them to keep their part of the covenant (b’rīt), just as the Israelites had to obey the mishpāṭ (21:1) and tōrah (Exod 24:12) of Yahveh in keeping with their covenant (b’rīt) as exemplified in Exod 19:5. This, too is the message of the Qurʾān: “Q3:31- Say, ‘If you love God, follow me, and God will love you and forgive you your sins; God is most forgiving, most merciful.‘”

Thus, Yahveh gives the servant as “a light to the nations,” but they must choose to follow this light to receive the benefit of its relationship. This “light” used here is indeed a light of guidance, this is obvious once more in the context of a servant that teaches. Goldingay and Payne write that “a light of nations suggests both blessings and guidance for them.”

Such is also the mission of the Prophet Muḥammad:

Q5:15 People of the Book, Our Messenger has come to make clear to you much of what you have kept hidden of the Scripture, and to overlook much [you have done]. A light has now come to you from God, and a Scripture making things clear, 16 with which God guides to the ways of peace those who follow what pleases Him, bringing them from darkness out into light, by His will, and guiding them to a straight path.

Puzzlingly, Goldingay and Payne write that “the addressee of the prophecy does not need to become some sort of missionary.” We have seen previously that the language in Isaiah 42 describes one of a prophetic vocation. A biblical prophet has always delivered warning and oracles to the Israelites, whether they are willing to obey or not. This is the definition of a missionary. That is how this servant shall be to the people at large. Furthermore, Yahveh enacts a b’rīt through the servant to all the nations. They are thus required to follow him or suffer the consequences of a damaged relationship with Yahveh. There is no question of choice in this matter: Surely, people may turn away, but this shall lead to punishment by Yahveh, as was the case in the original covenant. It is not as if all people will actively come to him to learn- indeed, some shall reject his message (Isa 42:17). Coupled with ideas of “teaching” in this chapter, there is strong reason to believe that the servant shall be a preacher that announces this new covenant.

VERSE 7

a to open the eyes that are blind,
b to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
c from the prison those who sit in darkness.

Later in the chapter Israel is described as imprisoned (Isa 42:22) and blind (Isa 42:18). This cannot be taken to mean that here that the servant is actually a savior to Israel, simply because the author’s community was a people in exile. Goldingay and Payne67 write that “Verses 6-7 hardly address an Israelite servant ministering to an Israelite people,” this is because even the gentiles are said to be in darkness in Isa 47:5 as well. The context also makes clear that vocation of the servant is a guide to not just the Israelites (Isa 42:6), and that he shall interact with the idol worshipers (Isa 42:17).

If the imprisonment is therefore not literal (ie. Israel in exile), then it must be metaphorical. This incarceration is a spiritual one, for if the servant is a “light” of guidance to the nations then the “darkness” of imprisonment shall logically be a removal from Yahveh’s ordinances and guiding teachings. McKenzie writes that “the blindness and captivity, in view of the general context, must be taken as figurative rather than literal; it is the blindness and captivity of ignorance of Yahveh and service to false gods.68

Such metaphors of darkness and blindness are found in the Qurʾān too:

Q14:1 This is a Scripture which We have sent down to you [Prophet] so that, with their Lord’s permission, you may bring people from the depths of darkness into light, to the path of the Almighty, the Praiseworthy One,

Q18:100 We shall show Hell to the disbelievers, 101 those whose eyes were blind to My signs, those who were unable to hear.

Even the idea of imprisonment is present in the Qurʾān, but is far scarcer: it is found in 36:7-8 and Q7:157, although this last reference is probably due to a deliberate allusion to Isaiah 42.

VERSES 8-9

I am the Lord, that is my name;
my glory I give to no other,
nor my praise to idols.


See, the former things have come to pass,
and new things I now declare;
before they spring forth,
I tell you of them.

It is now we see something new in the oracle. Yahveh has declared His singularity, denigrating idolatry. In light of the previous oracle there is good reason to believe that the instructions of the servant is a declaration of this oneness: McKenzie noted previously that the darkness that the people shall be led out of must be the misguidance of idolatry. Yahveh has “called” his servant… to lead people out of darknesses… and does not give His praise to idols: The servant is the agent through which this shall be actualized.

Monotheism is the central message of the Qurʾān, the term lā ʾilāha illa hū is one of the most oft-repeated formulations in it and the very core of its message. Idolaters were present and a significant portion of the Qurʾān’s immediate audience, as evidenced by the constant polemic against polytheistic belief and worship throughout the text.

Verse 9 is an affirmation of the prophesying intent of the author. There are multiple such declarations present in second Isaiah, usually when a prophecy is made, stressing that Yahveh is the one who has said these things, and he shall prove his potency through bringing them about. For example, in the prediction of Cyrus’s freeing of Israel from their exile and the destruction of Babylon, Yahveh in affirmation of His promise in Isa 43:19says, “I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” This prediction actually did come true- Blenkinsopp writes that the author “is affirming that Cyrus has a historic mission to conquer Babylon (stated more directly in 45:1-3 and 48:14),” and that this act is “truly historic,” and that “earlier victories of Cyrus” were “successfully predicted by the author.”69 Likewise, Yahveh definitely intends to bring about his promises in Isaiah 42.

VERSES 10-12

10 Sing to the Lord a new song,

his praise from the end of the earth!

Let the sea roar and all that fills it,

the coastlands and their inhabitants.

11 Let the desert and its towns lift up their voice,

the villages that Kedar inhabits;

let the inhabitants of Sela sing for joy,

let them shout from the tops of the mountains.

12 Let them give glory to the Lord,

and declare his praise in the coastlands.

A new section begins. In the immediate context of the prophecy this can only be understood to be praise to Yahveh for the prophecy he is to bring about. It is the nations as a whole, not just the Israelites, who are the sing in praise of Yahveh: This is indicated by the fact that the objects of the exhortations of praise are “the coastlands and their inhabitants,” “the desert and its towns,” and the “villages of Kedar.” These are not descriptions of Israel, especially when gentile people – the Kedarites – are mentioned. These peoples are to “sing to the Lord a new song,” suggesting “different, unexpected, wonderful70.”

Verse 11 is perhaps the most significant part of the oracle when discussing Prophet Muhammad in the bible, primarily because of the mention of the Arabs. Both Mushafiq Sultan and Abu Zakariya have discussed this aptly, but as we had previously shown that the servant was originally supposed to be Israel, it may be useful to discuss why the Arabs are mentioned here as recipients to the teachings of Israel.

The bible traces the genealogy of the Arabs back to Ishmael in Genesis, listing his descendants in Genesis 25:12-18, among whom Kedar is mentioned. The term “Ishmaelite” is attested in Assyrian sources around the 8th-6th century BC, all referring to groups in Arabia71, and more specifically even Kedar is found in these texts a dominant tribe among them around the 7th century72. In the 6th century BC, when Second Isaiah was written, such was their political sphere:

The Qedarites remained in power between the Euphrates and the Gulf of Aqaba well into the 5th century B . C . In 599/598 B . C ., Nebuchadnezzar campaigned against them in the Syrian desert. In the middle‎ of‎ the ‎5th ‎century,‎ a‎ shaykh‎ of‎ Qedar,‎ Guśam‎ bin‎ Sahr ‎(the‎ biblical ‎Geshem)‎ruled‎ over S Palestine, the Sinai to the borders of Egypt, Transjordan and NW Arabia, all areas under Persian control.73

Perhaps if Israel is the original servant of the song, then the author would be implying that Israel was expected to guide these Kedarites after being freed, who were at this point immediate neighbors to Palestine where Israel would have been expected to return to after the exile. This did not happen74.

Kedar is also, however, a generic term for the people of Arabia in Isaiah 21:13-1775, where it is associated with the ancient town “taymā” (Arabic تيماء‎‎), approximately where the modern city now stands76. The site is roughly 350km from Yathrib, the city of the Prophet Muḥammad (also named Medina). The Kedarites would have been active in this whole region.

The next line, in continuation with the declarations of praise, say that “let the inhabitants of Sela sing for joy, let them shout from the tops of the mountains.” Traditionally the place “Selaʿ” has been identified as the Nabataean city of Petra in Jordan. This identification cannot be correct, as there is no evidence of any inhabitants there until the 4th century BC77 while the second Isaiah was written in the 6th century BC. Ehud Ben Zvi notes that “The traditional identification of Selaʿ with Petra has been generally abandoned78.”

Without any further specification we cannot be certain which Selaʿ Isaiah is speaking of. Exegetes simply assume an Edomite Selaʿ, due to its mention elsewhere in the bible. However, there is also a Selaʿ in Judah (Judges 1:36) and Moab (Isaiah 16:1). The Selaʿ here could be Edomite, or any of these other places, and it could even be Kedarite. Selaʿ as a place-name in the Near East is not uncommon79. Given these things, one would expect that the prophet specify which Selaʿ he is speaking of. This could be why there is a mention of Kedar. This Selaʿ is an Arabian one.

The prophecy continues to fit the Prophet Muḥammad, and in this case precisely so. Selaʿ is a mountain in Medina. Abu Zakariya writes:

“Whilst it’s true that Saudi Arabia represents a wide geographic region, the use of the word ‘Selaʿ’ pinpoints an exact location. The place being spoken of is actually the city of Madinah because ‘Selaʿ’ is the name of a famous mountain in Madinah. Madinah was the city of Prophet Muḥammad. The following ḥadīth narrations are a few examples that mention this mountain:

…while I was sitting in the condition which Allah described (in the Quran) i.e. my very soul seemed straitened to me and even the earth seemed narrow to me for all its spaciousness, there I heard the voice of one who had ascended the mountain of Sala’ calling with his loudest voice, ‘O Ka’b bin Malik! Be happy (by receiving good tidings).’ I fell down in prostration before Allah, realizing that relief has come…80

…by Allah, we did not see any cloud or any patch of it, and there was neither any house or building standing between us and Sala’…81

The famous Arab geographer and historian Al-Hamdani, who lived 150 years after Prophet Muḥammad, mentioned in his book “Geography of Arabian Peninsula” that the mountain Sela was part of Madinah city.”

One possible objection is that Medina and its vicinity is simply outside the biblical geography: The audience of 2nd Isaiah would not have been thinking of it when this Selaʿ is mentioned. This is factually incorrect: we already mentioned that the biblical authors were aware of Taymāʾ which was very close to Medina. Furthermore, as the audience were the Israelites in Babylonian exile, and the author was prophesying about the military defeat of Babylon, it is not unexpected that his audience would be seeking news on the battles of the Neo-Babylonian king Nabonidus (ruling 556-539BC). This same king invaded Medina around the time the prophet Isaiah was writing- news of his conquest of “Yathrib” would have reached him- the conquest on Yathrib is mentioned in a cuneiform inscription from Haran82– this same inscription notes that Nabonidus stayed in the vicinity for ten years. The audience of Isaiah, from listening to the prophecy of Cyrus’s victory over Babylon, may have been anxiously waiting for Nabonidus’s defeat, and thus it is certainly likely that they sought information on his campaign in the Yathrib region where he spent a whole decade in – it is certainly plausible that the Israelite audience of second Isaiah were aware of the Yathribite Selaʿ.

Verse 13 further continues the exhortation to praise Yahveh, the peoples previously spoken of are ordered to praise Him, and now the coast-lands too are invited, following the general theme of the servant as a light to all the nations. They are told to give glory (“kavōd”) and to declare his praise (“tehillāt”), like the Qurʾānic phrases subḥān and ḥamd respectively.

VERSE 13

The Lord goes forth like a soldier

like a warrior he stirs up his fury;

he cries out, he shouts aloud,

he shows himself mighty against his foes.

The image of a warrior-deity is invoked here in Verse 13- Yahveh “goes forth like a soldier.” Isaiah 42 “does not turn its back on the theme of Yhwh’s involvement in war83”, the theme invoked here is clearly of battles: Yahveh is “a soldier, a man of war”- ka-gibbōr, k-ʾīsh milḥāmōt. A very natural reading of this in its literary context is that there shall be war involved in the bringing about of this prophecy. It seems the phrase is a literal one, as in chapter 3:2, where the “warrior and man of war- gibbōr wa-ʾīsh milḥāmōt” are among the list of peoples who shall be withdrawn from the country of Israel. Yahweh is also named gibbōr in Exodus 15, in praise for his literal destruction of the army of Pharaoh.

The Prophet Muḥammad was involved in several battles in his lifetime, a historical fact attested to several times in the Qurʾān84, and his victories are credited to God in the Qurʾān, in confirmation of the image of Yahveh the warrior of Isaiah 42:

Q8:17 It was not you who killed them but God, and when you threw it was not your throw [that defeated them] but God’s, to do the believers a favour: God is all seeing and all knowing–

War was certainly a reality in the Prophet Muḥammad’s mission, and ultimately necessary due to the violent resistance put up by the Prophet’s opposition. Q2:217 is one verse that alludes to this:

Q:217 They ask you [Prophet] about fighting in the prohibited month. Say, ‘Fighting in that month is a great offence, but to bar others from God’s path, to disbelieve in Him, prevent access to the Sacred Mosque, and expel its people, are still greater offences in God’s eyes: persecution is worse than killing.’ They will not stop fighting you [believers] until they make you revoke your faith, if they can…

The domination of Yahveh over his enemies is predicted- “he shows himself mighty against his foes.” The military success of the Prophet Muḥammad actualized this prediction.

VERSE 14-15

14 For a long time I have held my peace,
I have kept still and restrained myself;
now I will cry out like a woman in labor,
I will gasp and pant.
15 I will lay waste mountains and hills,
and dry up all their herbage;
I will turn the rivers into islands,
and dry up the pools.

This metaphorical self-description of Yahveh proclaims that He is soon to act in history, now the metaphor transfer from warrior to a “woman in labor”. It seems this simile is confined only to the second half of v.14, the first half of v. 14 is a continuation of the warrior theme in v.13. As for v.15, “the imagery is traditional and in itself points to no specific temporal or political context.” Not too much shall be read into this for now, although perhaps the “turning of rivers into islands” (lit. “into shores”) could be a passing reference to the end of the exile of the Israelites and their return to Judah85 but cannot be anything more than a passing reference- in the context, it is shown that the prophecy is a universal salvation, not just an Israelite one. The theme of universality returns in the following verses.

VERSE 16

a I will lead the blind

b by a road they do not know,

c by paths they have not known

d I will guide them.

e I will turn the darkness before them into light,

f the rough places into level ground.

g These are the things I will do,

h and I will not forsake them.

Yahveh is to “lead the blind” by “paths they have not known.” Who are these unnamed blind people? Of course, the context of the earlier verses shows that they are not just Israelites but include the gentiles. The proclamation insists that the recipients are previously unaware of the paths by which they are to be guided, and this makes sense: Earlier we saw that the mission is to the gentiles, and to the Israelites this is unprecedented- idolatry is all around them, and Israel has traditionally been Yahveh’s chosen nation.

This theme is also found in the Qurʾān- the book mentions the novelty of prophesy to Arabs contemporary to the Prophet Muḥammad:

Q32:2 Yet they say, ‘He has made it up.’ No indeed! It is the Truth from your Lord for you [Prophet], to warn a people who have had no one to warn them before, so that they may be guided.

This mission is not only for the Arabs, but include the whole of humanity (Q74:36, Q7:158, Q6:19).

The “light” in 16e must be the result of the teachings of the servant, that is, awareness of Yahveh as the one God and the instructions present in the tōrah and mishpāṭ that the servant brings with him: Therefore, darkness must be the lack of these things. Such a duality is present in the message of the Prophet Muḥammad, too. Q2:257 exemplifies the metaphor of the light of revelation as opposed to the darkness of idolatry: “God is the ally of those who believe: He brings them out of the depths of darkness and into the light. As for the disbelievers, their allies are false gods who take them from the light into the depths of darkness, they are the inhabitants of the Fire, and there they will remain.”

The Qurʾān guides “to the straight path”, ṣirāṭ al-mustaqīm, an oft-present metaphor in the Qurʾān for the way to righteousness, as in Isaiah 42, “by paths they have not known… I shall guide them.” Yahveh turns the “rough places” into level ground so that they may take the path to the light.

Finally, Yahveh once more insists that He shall not forsake them. He will certainly bring about His promise, and will not leave the gentile nations without any guidance86.

VERSE 17

17 They shall be turned back and utterly put to shame—
those who trust in carved images,
who say to cast images,
“You are our gods.”

Structurally, there is strong reason to believe that verse 17 is the final verse of the literary unit of the section beginning at v.1087, and provides even more clarity on the office of the coming servant. Earlier we saw that the oracle paints the reaction to the servant as overwhelmingly positive – “the coastlands wait for his teaching”. Now, however, Second Isaiah also paints a picture of abject humiliation and “turn[ing] back”- the verb here typically used for an army breaking morale and taking flight. It is the idolaters, who presumably resist the message of the servant, that are “utterly put to shame.” From here we understand that the reaction to the message of the servant is therefore not completely positive- why would the gentiles that follow the servant and his “light” be humiliated? Why is there a picture of a warrior-God also present in the oracle? Just as Moses was met with both obedience (by the righteous Israelites) and rejection (by Pharaoh), so too shall the servant find ambivalent reception. Those who “trust in carved images” will find no fruitful recourse to their gods but are humiliated by Yahveh.

The Prophet Muḥammad’s prophetic career exemplifies this. Many had accepted his message, but some did not. The Qurʾān records the tensions between him and his opponents, at first starting at mockery in response to the message:

Q74:10They will have no ease. 11 [Prophet], leave Me to deal with the one I created helpless, d 12 then gave vast wealth, 13 and sons by his side, 14 making everything easy for him––15 yet he still hopes I will give him more. 16 No! He has been stubbornly hostile to Our revelation: 17 I will inflict a spiralling torment on him. 18 He planned and plotted––19 devilishly he plotted! 20 ferociously he plotted!––21 and looked 22 and frowned and scowled 23 and turned away and behaved arrogantly 24 and said, ‘This is just old sorcery, 25 just the talk of a mortal!’

This escalated to even oppression of the Muslims, and then fighting in retaliation, but eventually the idol-worshiping people that the Prophet Muḥammad belonged to either converted to Islam, or were defeated, just as some of the idol-worshipping gentiles followed the “light to the nations,” and others were “turned back” and “put to shame.” The oracle terminates at v.17 and the following verses, v.18-25, are a lamentation on the poor state of Israel.

CONCLUSION

The mission of the Prophet Muḥammad, as we have seen, fulfills the promises of Isaiah 42 very closely. He is the means through which the non-Israelite gentiles gain guidance, starting with the Arabs – the Kedarites of Selaʿ, and he comes with instruction on ethical justice and law – mishpāṭ and tōrah. He is a covenant to the people, a means through which the gentiles may have a relationship with Yahveh. This Moses-like figure, certainly a description of the Prophet Muḥammad, is both one that defends the rights of the disenfranchised, and relies wholly on God, as he is commanded to in the Qurʾān. The people receive his teaching well – the whole of the near east submitted to this new way of life by his death – but not without some military campaigning: Yahveh promised that He would “go forth like a warrior.” “Those who entrust in idols” and turn away from the light of his teaching, are “utterly put to shame.” All these promises were actualized through the Prophet Muḥammad: The Qurʾān itself references Isaiah 42 in support of Prophet Muḥammad, and is justified in doing so. There is no other figure in history that could possibly claim to be the servant of Yahveh in Isaiah 42, other than the Arab prophet of Yathrib. It is thus no wonder that the Qurʾān appeals to Isaiah 42.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Secondary sources

Boneschi, Paulo. ‘Is Malak an Arabic Word?’ In Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 65, No. 2. American Oriental Society (1945).

Harris, Stephen and Platzner, Robert. The Old Testament: An Introduction to the Hebrew Bible (2nd ed). New York: McGraw-Hill (2008)

Blenkinsopp, Joseph. The Anchor Bible: Isaiah 40-55: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, Vol 19A. New York: Doubleday ( 2000).

McKenzie, John. Second Isaiah: Introduction, Translation and Notes. The Anchor Bible Commentaries. New York: Doubleday (1973).

The Anchor Bible Dictionary. Edited by Freedman, David. New York: Doubleday (1992).

Goldingay, John and Payne, David. Isaiah 40-55: Volume I and Volume II. The International Critical Commentary. London: T&T Clark International (2006).Boneschi, Paulo. ‘Is Malak an Arabic Word?’ In Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 65, No. 2. American Oriental Society (1945).

Harris, Stephen and Platzner, Robert. The Old Testament: An Introduction to the Hebrew Bible (2nd ed). New York: McGraw-Hill (2008)

Blenkinsopp, Joseph. The Anchor Bible: Isaiah 40-55: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, Vol 19A. New York: Doubleday ( 2000).

McKenzie, John. Second Isaiah: Introduction, Translation and Notes. The Anchor Bible Commentaries. New York: Doubleday (1973).

The Anchor Bible Dictionary. Edited by Freedman, David. New York: Doubleday (1992).

Anthony, Sean. “Muḥammad, Menaḥem, and the Paraclete: New Light on Ibn Isḥāq’s (d. 150/767) Arabic Version of John 15:23-16:1,” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 79.2 (2016).

Encyclopedia of the Qurʾān, edited by McAuliffe, Jane. Leiden: Brill, (2001-2006). Accessed online.

Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition, Edited by: P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel, W.P. Heinrichs. Leiden: Brill (2012). Accessed online.

Brill’s New Pauly, Antiquity volumes edited by: Hubert Cancik and , Helmuth Schneider. Leiden: Brill (2006). Accessed online.

Sultan, Mushafiq. Muḥammad in the Bible: An exposition on Isaiah 42. 2016.

Abu Zakariya. “Muḥammad (pbuh) and Madinah in the Bible” from Many Prophets One Message website. URL: <http://www.manyprophetsonemessage.com/2014/06/28/Muḥammad-pbuh-and-madinah-in-the-bible/>, accessed July 2016.

Adang, Camilla. Muslim writers on Judaism and the Hebrew Bible from Ibn Rabban to Ibn Hazm. Leiden: Brill (1996).

Orlinsky, Harry and Snaith, Norman.. Studies on the Second Part of the Book of Isaiah. The So-Called “Servant of he Lord” and “Suffering Servant” in Second Isaiah and Isaiah 40 – 66: A Study of the Teaching of the Second Isaiah and its Consequences. Supplements to Vetus Testamentum Volume XIV. Leiden: Brill (1967).

Ben Zvi, Ehud. A historical critical study of the book of Obadiah. Berlin : de Grutyer (1996).

Mason, Rex. “Micah, Nahum, and Obadiah”. T&T Clark Study Guides. London: Sheffield Academic Press (1991).

Gadd, C.J. “The Harran Inscriptions of Nabonidus”. Anatolian Studies, Vol 8. Ankara: British Institute at Ankara (1958).

Retso, Jan. The Arabs in Antiquity: Their History from the Assyrians to the Umayyads.Routledge: 2002.

Robinson, Neal. Discovering the Qurʾan: A contemporary Approach to a Veiled Text. 2nd Ed. London: SCM Press (2003).

Language tools:

Lane, Edward William. An Arabic-English Lexicon. London: Willams & Norgate (1863). Accessed from URL: http://www.tyndalearchive.com/tabs/lane/.

Gesenius, Friedrich Wilhelm. Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament. 1846. Accessed from URL: http://www.tyndalearchive.com/TABS/Gesenius/

Abdel Haleem, Muḥammad and Badawi, Elsaid. Dictionary of Qurʾānic usage. Leiden: Koninklijke Brill (2008).

Brown, Francis; Driver, Samuel and Briggs, Charles. A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament. England: 1906. Accessed from URL: biblehub.com.

Strong, James. The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. New Jersey: 1890. Accessed from URL: biblehub.com

The Quranic Arabic Corpus. URL: http://corpus.quran.com/

Translations

The New Revised Standard Version of the Bible (NRSV).

Abdel Haleem, Muḥammad. The Qurʾān: A New Translation. Oxford: Oxford University Press (2005).

Elpenor’s Bilingual Old Testament, Septuagint Text and Translation. URL: http://www.ellopos.net/elpenor/greek-texts/septuagint/default.asp

 

 

 

 

1Isa 44:26-28, 45:1-4

2Eg. Isa 44:9-18

3Isa 43:14

4Isa 55:3

5Sahih al Bukhari, Kitab al-Tafsir.

6The hebrew term malʾach (מלאך) corresponds to the Arabic word ملك. Both terms usually refer to angels, although malʾach in the bible can also refer to human messengers, including those sent by Yahveh (see: Malachi). Thus, in Isaiah 42:19, where an individual figure is spoken of (in metaphor for all of Israel), the definition is identical to the arabic rasūl.

7We cannot assume that ʿAbdullah read the text with complete consideration for its integrity or with full access to it. His reference could still be an interpretation of 42:19 rather than 42:1, especially as this same servant is called “mushollam” here, analogous to Muslim. Such a mention may have inspired his identification.

8Does it occur elsewhere in the bible? Nothing verbatim comes to mind.

9This stance has been held by some Muslim scholars, such as Yasir Qadhi, on biblical oracles containing the prophet Muḥammad. Presently, we hold that this stance is both unnecessary and difficult to substantiate with proof.

10See entry for the Isaiah Scroll (1QIsa) in the Anchor Bible Dictionary.

11From ʾibn Hishām’s compilation of the sīrā of ʾibn ʾisḥāq. Accessed from URL:<http://library.islamweb.net>

13Anthony, Sean. “Muḥammad, Menaḥem, and the Paraclete: New Light on Ibn Isḥāq’s (d. 150/767) Arabic Version of John 15:23-16:1, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 79.2 (2016).”

14Perhaps this dialogue is actually original to the Prophet. Ibn Isḥāq’s version differs from Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, where the Prophet says “what shall I read/recite?” rather than, “I cannot read!” Both cannot be authentic.

15An interpretation of the servant songs of Isaiah which posits that the Servant of God in Isaiah an actual individual, as opposed to being a metaphor for all of Israel, which scholars aptly call the “collective interpretation.”

16Blenkinsopp, Joseph. “Chapters from History of Interpretation” in The Anchor Bible: Isaiah 40-55: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, Vol 19A. New York: Doubleday . 2000.

17The “five books of Moses”- these are Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.

18Abu Zakariya also noted the strong correlation between the ḥadīth of Abdullah and Isaiah 42, although his attempts to find parallels differ slightly from what was argued in the present essay.

19Ho nomos often refers to Mosaic law elsewhere in the New Testament (see Thayer’s Greek lexicon entry for νόμος).

20According to corpus.quran.com word concordance

21This was argued by 19th century exegete Hamiduddin Farahi

22The lex talionis is alluded to in Q5:45. The lex talionis is the well-known “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” formula found in but not limited to the legal books of the Pentateuch (eg. Exodus 21:24, Leviticus 24:20, Deuteronomy 19:21).

23Adang, Camilla. Muslim writers on Judaism and the Hebrew Bible from Ibn Rabban to Ibn Hazm. Leiden: Brill (1996). For examples see P146-149

24Here the plural is employed, thus “servants of God”. The usage here is unlike 42:19 where the word is employed in singular to refer to a collective – here plural is used for a collection of individuals. Therefore, one of these servants would be called ʿeved.

25McKenzie, John. Second Isaiah: Introduction, Translation and Notes. The Anchor Bible Commentaries. New York: Doubleday, 1973.p. XL

26In the case of Isaiah 42, verses 5-20.

27Goldingay, John and Payne, David. Isaiah 40-55: Volume I. The International Critical Commentary. London: T&T Clark International, 2006. p. 212

28At this point the essay becomes considerably more theological in nature. If we are to assume that prophecy is even possible, we must not operate under a naturalistic framework.

29Isa 42:9

30This must be Israel, see v.24.

31He believes it to be Cyrus, but there are far too many problems with this identification for it to be correct, the most significant being being that Isaiah speaks about Cyrus in Isaiah 45, but describes him that are different to the role of the teacher and prophetic figure that shall guide people in Isaiah 42. From the context, it is clear that the servant is not Cyrus (see p.228 of the International Critical Commentary, Isaiah 40-55 Vol 1).

32Blenkinsopp, Joseph. The Anchor Bible: Isaiah 40-55: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, Vol 19A. New York: Doubleday ( 2000). P. 211

33On that note, some of 2nd Isaiah’s prophecies are famously accurate. He predicts the fall of Babylon at the hands of Cyrus and the return of the exiles to Israel.

34See Jer 7:25, 26:5, 29:19, 35:15 and 44:4

35See Ezek 38:17

36See 2 Kings 17:23, 21:10, Kings 24:2;

37Gesenius’s Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon entry for בָחַר

38Brown-Driver-Briggs entry for רָצָה

39Blenkinsopp suggests that the servant is “endowed with divine charism (“spirit”), as were so many judges, rulers and prophets before him.”

40This was pointed out by Goldingay and Payne in their commentary. They also mentioned Num 11:25, where contact with the rūḥ caused people to prophesy. John Mckenzie agrees: he writes “the choice of the word here suggests the growth of spirit in man under the revelation of Yahweh” in p40 of his anchor bible commentary.

41For example, Samson in Judges 14

42This shall be demonstrated later in the essay.

43Abu Zakariya on his part shares some interesting insight on the term mishpāṭ, quoting exegete North: “Most commentators remark that mishpat is here used absolutely, without the definite article, and that it has the comprehensive sense of the Islamic din (‘’judgement’), which embraces both faith and practice.” If North’s identification is correct, then it matches the Prophet Muḥammad’s teaching just as well as what was discussed here, and how this is the case does not really require elaboration.

44Its simplicity is also attractive.

45“the line can scarcely mean that the servant will not speak except in quiet personal conversation.” McKenzie, John. Second Isaiah: Introduction, Translation and Notes. The Anchor Bible Commentaries. New York: Doubleday, 1973.p.37

46Genesius entry for the root צעק. For examples see: Deut. 22:24. In Isaiah itself it usually denotes a cry of grief, see. Isa 19:20, 33:7 and 46:7.

47The International Critical Commentary on Second Isaiah P216-217. Sometimes the word is used to cry out in celebration. Goldingay and Payne argue that this cannot be the case here- why would the servant repress a joyful cry?

48It is possible that 2b. is disconnected from 2a, but taking line b out of the context of yiṣʿaq is not advised. Later on we see that the servant shall probably meet some resistance in his mission. Even if McKenzie is correct, then this description find some parallel with the statements of religious choice in the Qurʾān. Islam is not to be imposed but chosen (Q2:256).

49“Isaiah 42: Verses 1-4” in “Muḥammad in the Bible: An exposition on Isaiah”.

50Ibid, “Thus, ‘a bruised reed’ is something which is not reliable and which would hurt the hand of one who leans on it.’

51Abu Zakariya also understands the verse similarly: “this description is very characteristic of the Prophet Muḥammad’s gentle nature which the Qurʾān bears testament to…”

52McKenzie, John. Second Isaiah: Introduction, Translation and Notes. The Anchor Bible Commentaries. New York: Doubleday, 1973.p 38

53ʾĔmet is the contracted form of ʾĕmenet (Brown-Driver-Briggs), from the semitic root ʾ-m-n, from which the arabic ʾīmān arises.

54Goldingay, John and Payne, David. Isaiah 40-55: Volume I. The International Critical Commentary. London: T&T Clark International, 2006. p220.

55The Muslim reader must keep in mind that McKenzie is speaking in biblical terminology. The Jewish prophets never brought their own laws, while Moses did: He is a biblical prophet in the sense that he received divine revelation, but he is not just a biblical prophet, because of the unprecedented legal nature of his revelation.

56Goldingay, John and Payne, David. Isaiah 40-55: Volume I. The International Critical Commentary. London: T&T Clark International, 2006. p. 222

57This insight was shared to me by my friend Sharif Randhawa.

58Robinson, Neal. Discovering the Qurʾan: A contemporary Approach to a Veiled Text. 2nd Ed. London: SCM Press (2003). p. 158

59There is no singular verse in the Qurʾān that encapsulates this fact but a holistic reading shall reveal that the Prophet’s opponents were guilty of cruelty to the believers. To mention a few examples- see Q85:1-10: Here stories of earlier believers going through persecution are mentioned because they are obviously relevant to the Prophet’s contemporary situation. The Muslims are forced out of their homes (Q59:8), and that can rarely be because the Prophet’s opponents are warm and welcoming individuals. “Hardness of the heart” is elsewhere a common idiom for stubbornness towards the Prophet’s message (eg. Q2:74), cf. Exod 9:12.

60Goldingay, John and Payne, David. Isaiah 40-55: Volume I. The International Critical Commentary. London: T&T Clark International, 2006. p.223

61ha-shmāyim wa hāʾaretz- A common duality in the bible, see Gen 1:1, Deut 32:1, Psa 116:3, also in the Qurʾān formulated as as-samāwāt wal-ʾarḍ (Q57:4, Q2:255)

62McKenzie, John. Second Isaiah: Introduction, Translation and Notes. The Anchor Bible Commentaries. New York: Doubleday, 1973. p.40

63Rūaḥ is used this way in the bible, see for example Gen 6:17.

64Goldingay, John and Payne, David. Isaiah 40-55: Volume I. The International Critical Commentary. London: T&T Clark International, 2006. p. 226

65The exact meaning is mostly inconsequential for the purposes of this essay, as all possibly expressed meanings would not take away from the identification of Prophet Muḥammad here in any way. Nonetheless, thoroughness cannot hurt.

66See Hoyland’s “Seeing Islam as Others Saw it.”

67Goldingay, John and Payne, David. Isaiah 40-55: Volume I. The International Critical Commentary. London: T&T Clark International, 2006. p. 230 ICC

68McKenzie, John. Second Isaiah: Introduction, Translation and Notes. The Anchor Bible Commentaries. New York: Doubleday, 1973. p40

69Blenkinsopp, Joseph. The Anchor Bible: Isaiah 40-55: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, Vol 19A. New York: Doubleday ( 2000). p. 227.

70Goldingay, John and Payne, David. Isaiah 40-55: Volume I. The International Critical Commentary. London: T&T Clark International, 2006. p. 236

71See “Ishmaelite” In Anchor Bible Dictionary for discussion.

72Ibid.

73ibid

74See “prophetic re-election” discussion earlier.

75Goldingay, John and Payne, David. Isaiah 40-55: Volume I. The International Critical Commentary. London: T&T Clark International, 2006. p. 238

76See http://saudi-archaeology.com/sites/tayma/ “The modern town is built on top of about one-third of the ancient settlement of Tayma, which has an estimated area of some 950 hectares.

77New Pauly entry for “Petra”.

78A historical-critical study of the book of Obadiah, p. 60

79Rex Maxon writes that “there must have existed in the Early Iron Age in Eastern Palestine numerous sites built on more or less isolated prominences and known by the name Sela’. We add that this is a common name even outside Palestine evidenced by the existence of the Medinan selaʿ, spelt sin-lam-ʿayn, exactly as the biblical one is.

80This is referring to Bukhari Kitab al-Maghazi (Book of Expeditions led by the Prophet) Chapter 80, ḥadīth 702.

81The reference is Muslim, Book 4, Chapter 169 (Supplication in prayer for rain), ḥadīth 1955.

82See “The Harran Inscriptions of Nabonidus”, p59 of Anatolian Studies, Vol 8. 1958.

83Goldingay, John and Payne, David. Isaiah 40-55: Volume I. The International Critical Commentary. London: T&T Clark International, 2006. p.242

84Some references discussed earlier.

85Goldingay, John and Payne, David. Isaiah 40-55: Volume I. The International Critical Commentary. London: T&T Clark International, 2006. p. 246-247

86This reinforces my point about “re-election” of the prophetic role. If Israel is not capable of guiding the gentiles, then Yahveh will still keep His promise.

87Goldingay, John and Payne, David. Isaiah 40-55: Volume I. The International Critical Commentary. London: T&T Clark International, 2006. p. 249

88I shared this with Abu Zakariya on a private forum- he agrees and has since amended his article in light of these new facts.

89Q: 17:15 “No soul will bear another’s burden” cf. Q35:18, Q53:38.

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29 thoughts on “Prophet Muhammad in the Bible

  1. Bro,

    Could not the islands be referring to the numerous islands of Indonesia?…interestingly Indonesia is the most populated island of the world and which the people to converted to Islam completely peacefully.

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  2. I don’t mean for Second Isaiah to know specifically of Indonesia per se but only that I believe Indonesia geographically certainly fits the use of the term islands or coastlands as mentioned in the text in this Isaiah passage.

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    • For good exegesis we must always ask the question, “what did the text intend to convey to its original audience?”

      This is crucial in uncovering the intended meaning(s) behind the text. Otherwise it would be possible to read anything into the text in front of us. Isaiah must have been talking about things that were actually understandable by the Israelite audience. A passing reference to “islands” by itself would not have been understood by the Israelites as Indonesia (since they probably didn’t know of it)- for them, “islands” and “coastlands” may has well have been those situated in/near asia minor (but not necessarily so). It could also have been a general literary device with the intention that all would hear the teaching – those on islands being an extreme example, in which case you could say that this prophecy was fulfilled through the conveyance of Islam to indonesia, but still it would not be the intended meaning of the text

      Good question

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  3. I see what you mean and your argument makes sense.

    However, with a Divine text, it can become a little more complicated.

    If I wrote a letter to my mom, then to correctly interpret my letter would require that what I say would be intended for my mom.

    In God’s revelation, I think it is clear that the immediate audience of a Prophet should be able to make some sense of the verse(s) in a passage but a deeper understanding may not be fully unfolded until generations to come afterward.

    After all, God’s revelation to a prophet is not just for the immediate generations but usually for all generations.

    But your point is important for if we can read anything into a text, then it is as if the text becomes void of useful content. Eisegesis should always be avoided.

    I have seen the word translated as islands in a different translation and that’s why I thought of as Indonesia, the most populated island country of the world with about almost 1000 inhabited islands.

    I agree that it may not mean Indonesia.

    Is the word “island” or “coast” or both or either?

    If the word is “coastlands,” then to an 8th century Israelite, it would more likely mean the coast of Israel, Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Egypt, or perhaps the coast of the land where they were in captivity in the 8th century…the coast of Babylonian Empire (which would be today’s Persian Gulf coastal areas of Iraq, Kuwait, and Iran which are also of course all Muslim.

    It is interesting that a lot of the population throughout the world and likely a higher proportion of the population in the middle east lives at coastal areas because much of the land’s interior is too arid to support large populations.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. There is absolutely no doubt that Isaiah 42 has no relevance to the life of Muhammad, as is universally agreed upon by modern scholars with absolutely no variation in scholarship. The case is non-existent, and not only is it incomprehensibly vague, the entire correlation in its nature is fictitious.

    This post topples ad hoc vagueness on vagueness, and ignores the obvious. Isaiah 42:18ff is about the disobedient Israelite’s, whereas Isaiah 42:1-9 has no relevance to Muhammad, but directly correlates to Jesus. We are told this person will be a new covenant to the people — that’s exactly what it means, a new covenant, the one placed by the death and sacrifice of Jesus replacing the old covenant on Israel. All of Isaiah 42 is about Israel and someone who will come to the people of Israel, which rules out any possibility of Muhammad being prophesied. The simple thing Muslims have to understand is that there is simply no prophecy of Muhammad in the Bible, it doesn’t exist and is not there. These tactics show you a round Earth and proceed to argue it’s flat.

    Like

    • “There is absolutely no doubt that Isaiah 42 has no relevance to the life of Muhammad, as is universally agreed upon by modern scholars with absolutely no variation in scholarship. The case is non-existent, and not only is it incomprehensibly vague, the entire correlation in its nature is fictitious.”

      Well, modern scholars are either christian – in which case they would deny that Muhammad is a prophet – or they’re secular, in which case they don’t think it’s speaking about jesus either (they don’t believe that biblical prophecy would pinpoint an unknown figure from the future).

      “This post topples ad hoc vagueness on vagueness, and ignores the obvious. Isaiah 42:18ff is about the disobedient Israelite’s, ”

      It could be a different servant, because the description from 1-17 is different to that of 18-20.

      “whereas Isaiah 42:1-9 has no relevance to Muhammad, but directly correlates to Jesus”

      It absolutely does not.

      “He will not grow faint or be crushed
      until he has established justice in the earth;
      and the coastlands wait for his teaching.”

      There is a continuous motif of “bringing justice” upon the earth, God himself is described as warrior-like (v. 13). This doesn’t seem to correlate with jesus at all.

      “The simple thing Muslims have to understand is that there is simply no prophecy of Muhammad in the Bible, it doesn’t exist and is not there. These tactics show you a round Earth and proceed to argue it’s flat.”

      Okay…?

      Like

      • “Well, modern scholars are either christian – in which case they would deny that Muhammad is a prophet – or they’re secular, in which case they don’t think it’s speaking about jesus either (they don’t believe that biblical prophecy would pinpoint an unknown figure from the future).”

        Wouldn’t matter, because either way no critical scholar whatsoever has made the connection with Muhammad. There is simply no reminiscence between Isaiah 42 with Muhammad, and the entire passage is about Israel in the first place.

        “It could be a different servant, because the description from 1-17 is different to that of 18-20.”

        This is a large part of the confusion in your post — there precisely *is no messenger* in verses 18-20 (although there is one before that). This is what the verses say:

        Isaiah 42:18-20: “Hear, you deaf;
        look, you blind, and see!
        19 Who is blind but my servant,
        and deaf like the messenger I send?
        Who is blind like the one in covenant with me, blind like the servant of the Lord?
        You have seen many things, but you pay no attention; your ears are open, but you do not listen.”

        The word ‘messenger’ appears, but it’s not talking about some coming prophet or anything alike that. If it was, it would be very problematic for you, as it refers to this ‘messenger’ as both blind and deaf — I’m sure you don’t think Muhammad is blind and deaf. But besides that, God is speaking of a ‘servant’ and a ‘messenger’ in covenant with Him — who is in a covenant with God at this time? Well… Israel! God made a covenant with Abraham and promised that his descendants would inherit the promised land, the people of Israel are technically in a covenant with God. This is not a single person, it’s a people. The ‘servant’ or ‘messenger’ is the people of Israel. But, despite the fact that God sends many prophets and messengers to Israel to warn its people of God’s laws and commands, the people of Israel are blind and deaf to what God is saying to them, they are being ignorant, ignoring God. They are sinning against the Lord (Isaiah 42:24). Read the entire chapter. Read the subsequent chapters. Read the chapters that come before it. In fact, read all of ‘Second Isaiah’ as a unit, rather than trying to focus on individual verses, and understand the context in its entirety.

        In ‘Second Isaiah’ (I don’t accept Isaiah was originally in two units, but that’s besides the point), there IS a described messenger, a servant. The suffering servant. The prophecy culminates, in my opinion, in Isaiah 53. Isaiah 53 takes about one who will carry our sins, who will die for our iniquities and through his bruises we will be healed. This is Jesus. And even if you don’t think this self-sacrifice is Jesus (because you are a Muslim), it most certainly isn’t Muhammad.

        You then quote this verse and comment;

        “He will not grow faint or be crushed
        until he has established justice in the earth;
        and the coastlands wait for his teaching.”
        There is a continuous motif of “bringing justice” upon the earth, God himself is described as warrior-like (v. 13). This doesn’t seem to correlate with jesus at all.

        The verse says the person will establish justice on the whole Earth. Muhammad didn’t do that. If anything, this seems to be most comparable to the Second Coming of Jesus. In the first one, Jesus fulfills Isaiah 52, 53, and in the second one, He wholly establishes justice in the whole world. He’s the only one who works. Besides, Isaiah is talking about the Messiah — Muhammad was not the Messiah, as even the Qur’an admits — the Qur’an says Jesus was the Messiah.

        So, if anything, it all comes around to Jesus. You think Jesus is a prophet (I think He is also the Son of God), but as a prophet and the Messiah you should have no problem with prophecies about Jesus. However, this is absolutely not about Jesus. Muslims also believe that the Old Testament was revealed, no? So, God revealed the Old Testament. Are you comfortable intentionally skewing God’s Word? And if God did *not* reveal Isaiah, then why are you looking to Isaiah for prophecies about Muhammad in the first place?

        My conclusion is that Muhammad is not prophesied in Isaiah (or anywhere else in the Bible, for that manner). The Bible tells one, large story. It begins with the fall of humanity in the Garden of Eden. Humanity becomes more and more evil, more and more corrupt. So God wipes us all out (flood). But right after the flood, what happened? Noah got drunk in his tent. So humanity multiplies again, but they become corrupt again. Until God makes a covenant with Abraham, and says to Abraham his descendants will inherit the land. Over the coming centuries, God delivers the Israelite’s out of Egypt through Moses, God establishes David as the ancestor of the coming Messiah. The entire point of the Old Testament is to tell the story about God’s people and establish the introduction of the coming of Messiah.

        And that’s what is fulfilled with the coming of Jesus. Jesus comes and is rejected by His own people, so the message of God expands beyond the boundaries of Israel and into the whole world. The New Testament concludes the Old Testament, and the very final book of the New Testament (Revelation) is devoted to telling us the Second Coming of the Messiah. The Old Testament tells us of the First Coming, and the New Testament the Second Coming. Together, they describe God’s plan. And at the Second Coming, God will judge the world. That’s the end of it. No Muhammad. No Hinduism. One message. God, the Father of the world and His One and Only Son.

        Like

      • “Wouldn’t matter, because either way no critical scholar whatsoever has made the connection with Muhammad. There is simply no reminiscence between Isaiah 42 with Muhammad, and the entire passage is about Israel in the first place.”

        You seem unaware of how scholars do things. Critical exegesis does not assume any sort of supernatural phenomenon like prophecy to even be possible. That’s why they don’t ever touch upon who could be a “potential fulfillment” of a biblical prophecy. I don’t know why you keep repeating this, I could keep on going and just say the same thing for nearly every christian claim- that it’s “unsupported” by “critical scholarship”.

        “This is a large part of the confusion in your post — there precisely *is no messenger* in verses 18-20 (although there is one before that). This is what the verses say:

        I cut this quote short but my reply goes for a lot of what follows.

        It seems that you have not read my article fully or carefully. I already mentioned that it is originally Israel, but because Israel did NOT fulfil the prophecy present in 1-17 there is no reason as to why God could not “re-elect” the messenger here.

        Isaiah 42 precludes any possibility that the messenger here is Jesus. Here’s why:

        – The Qedarites are to celebrate.
        – The description associated with this coming includes a fighting God.
        – Jesus envisioned himself as a jewish prophet to the jewish people. It is after his death did his movement grow into something of a gentilic phenomenon. This is what “critical scholarship” [sic] argues. Muhammad on the other hand fully intended to be a prophet to the world.

        “The verse says the person will establish justice on the whole Earth. Muhammad didn’t do that.”

        No it doesn’t say that – nowhere does the text say “whole earth”, but rather, “the earth”

        לֹ֤א יִכְהֶה֙ וְלֹ֣א יָר֔וּץ עַד־ יָשִׂ֥ים בָּאָ֖רֶץ מִשְׁפָּ֑ט

        ” this seems to be most comparable to the Second Coming of Jesus”

        Now THIS is ad-hoc. It’s not enough for you to say “he’ll fulfil the prophecy later!” – as it stands, Jesus does not fulfil this prophecy.

        “Besides, Isaiah is talking about the Messiah — Muhammad was not the Messiah, as even the Qur’an admits — the Qur’an says Jesus was the Messiah.”

        Which is it- is God speaking about the Messiah, or about Israel?

        Anyway, there is no mention of the Messiah here.

        As for the rest of your post- I am aware of what Christians feel about the old testament. There’s nothing for me to respond to here, because I don’t think Christianity is true and there is no clear reason for me to think otherwise.

        Like

      • “It seems that you have not read my article fully or carefully. I already mentioned that it is originally Israel, but because Israel did NOT fulfil the prophecy present in 1-17 there is no reason as to why God could not “re-elect” the messenger here.”

        That’s quite an astonishginly strange claim to be made here, so astonishing and, perhaps convoluted, that it must be rejected. God is omniscient. God *already knows* whether or not Israel will fulfill the prophecy when He makes it. You admit the prophecy is about Israel. In other words, you claim that God’s prophecy about Israel failed and so He had to work around this by making someone else fulfill it in Israel’s place. Not only does this require God’s prophecy to utterly fail, so that He may ‘re-elect’ the prophecy to mean for someone else, but it makes a whole complicated mess out of something so simple: If God *knew* Israel would fail and that Muhammad would have to get the thing done in the end, *why didn’t God just make a clear prophecy about Muhammad in the first place?* Your hypothesis requires that God made a prophecy about Israel, it failed, and without telling anybody, He re-elected the prophecy to be fulfilled by someone completely different, and you being the genius that you are, figured out God had decided to elect Muhammad to do it all.

        This is far too convoluted to take seriously — God is not the author of confusion, hence the entire thing falls apart (nor does He make failed prophecy).

        “Which is it- is God speaking about the Messiah, or about Israel?”

        It’s clear enough Isaiah 42 is being delivered to the people of Israel, and the people of Israel will see it come to pass, whereas the ‘servant’ popping up throughout this chapter is the same as the servant in Isaiah 52, 53, etc. And any reading of any of those chapters, or just the general reading of the entirety if ‘Second Isaiah’ in general will make it abundantly clear that this servant has nothing to do with Muhammad. If so, Muhammad utterly failed to fulfill these prophecies… Hence requiring God’s prophecy to fail *again* on your view.

        Just another note, vv. 23-25 are about God Himself, I’m sure you’d agree on this.

        “No it doesn’t say that – nowhere does the text say “whole earth”, but rather, “the earth””

        Isaiah 42:4: he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth…
        https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isaiah+42&version=NIV

        It’s more then obvious that ‘earth’ in this context refers to the entire world, not some villages around Saudi Arabia. More then that, verse 1 says the servant will bring justice to “the nations”, as in plural, *multiple* nations. Not only did Muhammad fail to conquer entire nations in his lifetime, when we are told about “the earth” and “the nations”, we are best left understanding it as ALL the earth, ALL the nations, ALL of humanity.

        “Isaiah 42 precludes any possibility that the messenger here is Jesus. Here’s why:
        – The Qedarites are to celebrate.
        – The description associated with this coming includes a fighting God.
        – Jesus envisioned himself as a jewish prophet to the jewish people. It is after his death did his movement grow into something of a gentilic phenomenon. This is what “critical scholarship” [sic] argues. Muhammad on the other hand fully intended to be a prophet to the world.”

        Three points are made here. The third one immediately shatters, as Jesus specifically told His followers to bring His message to the entire world.

        Mark 16:15: And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.

        So, Jesus very much intended this message to get around to the entire world. As for “fighting”, there is not one verse in Isaiah 42 referring to someone ‘fighting’. As for Kedar, there is absolutely no connection in the chapter between the servant and Kedar, Isaiah 42:10-17 is not even talking about the servant, in fact it is just a song of devotion to God. It literally says so in verse 10.

        Finally, as I noted before, the chapter specifically says this servant will make a covenant ‘for the people’ — did Muhammad became a covenant for the people… Or was it Jesus? This is a smoking gun in favor of Isaiah 42 being for Jesus and not Muhammad. There is nothing in all of Isaiah 42 being anything near reminiscent of Muhammad. It’s all about Jesus, because all of ‘Second Isaiah’ is about the ‘servant’ — Jesus.

        There is simply no prophecy of Muhammad in the Bible. This is a problem in and of itself if you’re not a Christian (but Muslim). But an even bigger problem that the Muslim does not realize is that they have to misconstrue God’s words to make this claim.

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      • “Not only does this require God’s prophecy to utterly fail, so that He may ‘re-elect’ the prophecy to mean for someone else, but it makes a whole complicated mess out of something so simple”

        There’s absolutely nothing wrong with believing this, given that you as a Christian also believe that Israel is a failure itself. Why not send Christ immediately? Why even bother with the Torah?

        I don’t see anything incoherent about God first applying laws and ordinances to Israel, then having them fail, then shifting His favor to another people. It does not mean that God didn’t “know” what His creatures would do, it’s that His creatures keep their part of the mutual covenant between Him and them.

        Note what has happened in the old testament: God giving laws to Israel that they could not keep. This is attested to in Ezekiel.

        “It’s more then obvious that ‘earth’ in this context refers to the entire world, not some villages around Saudi Arabia. More then that, verse 1 says the servant will bring justice to “the nations”, as in plural, *multiple* nations. Not only did Muhammad fail to conquer entire nations in his lifetime, when we are told about “the earth” and “the nations”, we are best left understanding it as ALL the earth, ALL the nations, ALL of humanity.”

        The Muslims broke Persia and Byzantium by his own command, had he not come then it would not have happened. Jesus on the other hand did not command any sort of military expansion, or according to you, any sort of *law* at *all*.

        “we are best left understanding it as ALL the earth, ALL the nations, ALL of humanity.”

        The language here is too general to conclude totality. Let me put it this way: Isaiah, if he meant ALL, he would have simply used that word. But he did not.

        “Three points are made here. The third one immediately shatters, as Jesus specifically told His followers to bring His message to the entire world.
        Mark 16:15: And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.”

        This is not what critical scholars say. They don’t think this is historical.

        “So, Jesus very much intended this message to get around to the entire world. As for “fighting”, there is not one verse in Isaiah 42 referring to someone ‘fighting’.”

        YHWH applies these descriptions to Himself (42:13)

        “As for Kedar, there is absolutely no connection in the chapter between the servant and Kedar, Isaiah 42:10-17 is not even talking about the servant, in fact it is just a song of devotion to God. It literally says so in verse 10.”

        Right so, this whole chapter is a hodgepodge with no actual flow and we are supposed to look at everything in isolation.

        This is not how the commentaries I read treated the verses in Isaiah 42. Respectfully I find your methodology very lacking.

        “Finally, as I noted before, the chapter specifically says this servant will make a covenant ‘for the people’ — did Muhammad became a covenant for the people… Or was it Jesus? ”

        Read the section on this verse in my article.

        “This is a smoking gun in favor of Isaiah 42 being for Jesus and not Muhammad. There is nothing in all of Isaiah 42 being anything near reminiscent of Muhammad. It’s all about Jesus, because all of ‘Second Isaiah’ is about the ‘servant’ — Jesus.”

        You can keep repeating this, doesnt make it any more true.

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      • “There’s absolutely nothing wrong with believing this, given that you as a Christian also believe that Israel is a failure itself. Why not send Christ immediately? Why even bother with the Torah?”

        Ridiculous question. The Torah is an integral part of the New Covenant, even though Christ eroded some things like the annual sacrifices and the dietary laws. Read Matthew 5:17-18.

        And again, it’s absolutely ridiculous to claim God failed to properly predict the future. This would require God not have omniscience. If God *knew* Israel wouldn’t fulfill it… Why didn’t He simply predict Muhammad in the first place? Secondly, how come it is that you, thousands of years after the prophecy, ‘suddenly figured out’ that God had re-elected Muhammad for the prophecy the entire time? This is not even regarding the fact that Muhammad doesn’t fit Isaiah 42.

        “The Muslims broke Persia and Byzantium by his own command, had he not come then it would not have happened. Jesus on the other hand did not command any sort of military expansion, or according to you, any sort of *law* at *all*.”

        Again, Muhammad did not conquer the world or several nations in his lifetime. Simply saying “the Byzantine empire was weakened within a century of Muhammad’s dynasty” is not enough of course — the Byzantine remained for centuries thereafter. Persia wasn’t conquered in Muhammad’s lifetime either.

        Again, nothing in this prophecy is anything reminiscent of Muhammad in the slightest way, and Muhammad simply did not bring a covenant to his people (unlike Jesus). Trying to force Isaiah 42 to fit Muhammad is similar to how some Muslims try to force the “seven heavens” of the Qur’an to actually be referring to the “seven layers of the atmosphere” to make up a scientific miracle (they also somehow forget the part where the atmosphere has six layers, not seven). The fact is that the data doesn’t support your claim in the smallest possible way, and you must create these rationalizations to make it work out.

        “This is not what critical scholars say. They don’t think this is historical.”

        Please find evidence of critical scholarship in its entirety dismissing Mark 16:15 from being historical. And by the way, ‘critical’ is not the same as ‘skeptical’ — many of the leading scholars in the field we’re discussing *are Christians*. The fact is that Christians are leading these fields, simply because Christians overall are making more contributions to the advancement of this field then they’re competitors. Simply search up the big names, F.F. Bruce, Bruce Metzger, N.T. Wright, James Charlesworth, almost all Christian. Is Charlesworth not a critical scholar?

        The problem is, the most well known ‘Muslim scholar’ in any relevant field is Reza Aslan — who pushes the crackpot theory that Jesus was actually some militant revolutionary. I’ve seen scholars dismiss Aslan’s book ‘Zealot’ in a footnote.

        And it’s interesting to see you appeal to ‘critical scholarship’ to dismiss the historicity of a certain segment of the Gospels… And ignore critical scholarship when it dismisses your claims about Isaiah 42. Double-edged sword, no?

        Again, you have;

        1) not shown any indicators that Isaiah 42 is specifically about Muhammad, or reminiscently about Muhammad
        2) not shown that it is more logical for God to create a prophecy, have it fail, and then re-elect Muhammad to do it, instead of just predicting Muhammad in the first place (and then letting it fail a second time when Muhammad didn’t take over the world or bring a new covenant)
        3) not shown how Muhammad fits better with Isaiah 42 then Jesus does

        Jesus 1) brought a new covenant and 2) is strongly reminiscent with the ‘servant’ of Second Isaiah, and of course, is from Israel (Muhammad isn’t).

        There are simply too many problems with trying to interpret Isaiah 42 as mentioning Muhammad. I don’t think I even need to point out how many prophecies of the ‘servant’ Muhammad didn’t accomplish in the rest of Second Isaiah, let alone simply Isaiah 42.

        Like

      • “Ridiculous question. The Torah is an integral part of the New Covenant, even though Christ eroded some things like the annual sacrifices and the dietary laws. Read Matthew 5:17-18.”
        But it’s not, merely claiming that Jesus came to “fulfil the law” doesn’t make it true- whatever that even means.
        “And again, it’s absolutely ridiculous to claim God failed to properly predict the future.”
        I never said that. I said the prophecy is contingent upon Israel’s actions. This is not a new concept to the old testament. YHWH makes certain promises to Israel which later on do not happen due to their disobedience.
        Most of my article seems to have gone over your head.
        “This would require God not have omniscience. If God *knew* Israel wouldn’t fulfill it… Why didn’t He simply predict Muhammad in the first place? Secondly, how come it is that you, thousands of years after the prophecy, ‘suddenly figured out’ that God had re-elected Muhammad for the prophecy the entire time? This is not even regarding the fact that Muhammad doesn’t fit Isaiah 42.”
        Why should God ever command laws at all when He “knows” that Israel won’t fulfil them?
        You’re hung up over a non-issue. God instructs and orders His servants according to His will, even though they might not complete those tasks.

        “Again, Muhammad did not conquer the world or several nations in his lifetime. Simply saying “the Byzantine empire was weakened within a century of Muhammad’s dynasty” is not enough of course — the Byzantine remained for centuries thereafter. Persia wasn’t conquered in Muhammad’s lifetime either.”
        Setting forward a political system to establish justice on earth is exactly what Muhammad did. Jesus did not do that, he didn’t leave us with any sort of legal system at all – according to Christians. And the destruction of these two empires by Muhammad’s command still counts as conquest according to his will.

        “Again, nothing in this prophecy is anything reminiscent of Muhammad in the slightest way, and Muhammad simply did not bring a covenant to his people (unlike Jesus).”

        You don’t have to keep repeating this.
        “This is not what critical scholars say. They don’t think this is historical.”
        “Please find evidence of critical scholarship in its entirety dismissing Mark 16:15 from being historical. And by the way, ‘critical’ is not the same as ‘skeptical’ — many of the leading scholars in the field we’re discussing *are Christians*.”
        Oh right, so now you want consensus! Now we’re shifting goal posts here. Please provide consensus of critical scholarship that says Isaiah 42 is about Jesus.
        “And it’s interesting to see you appeal to ‘critical scholarship’ to dismiss the historicity of a certain segment of the Gospels… And ignore critical scholarship when it dismisses your claims about Isaiah 42. Double-edged sword, no?”
        Stop confusing two different issues. The very idea that prophecy even exists is rejected in critical works, even critical Christian scholars will not use any sort of supernatural explanation in the exegesis.
        Again, you have;
        “1) not shown any indicators that Isaiah 42 is specifically about Muhammad, or reminiscently about Muhammad”
        Read through my article

        “2) not shown that it is more logical for God to create a prophecy, have it fail, and then re-elect Muhammad to do it, instead of just predicting Muhammad in the first place (and then letting it fail a second time when Muhammad didn’t take over the world or bring a new covenant)”
        There’s no problem here, if you take the prophecy as contingent upon the obedience of Israel. You also keep shoe horning a particular interpretation that’s not there, and you have failed to read my article where I clarify how this is a “new covenant”.

        “3) not shown how Muhammad fits better with Isaiah 42 then Jesus does”
        This isn’t difficult, because the prophecy doesn’t fit jesus at all.

        That will be my final response unless you have something new to say.

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      • “But it’s not, merely claiming that Jesus came to “fulfil the law” doesn’t make it true- whatever that even means.”

        You’re shifting goalposts here. You said “why did God send the Torah? Why not just send Jesus right away?” — I answered the question, and you tried to shift this to simply you claiming “but I don’t really believe Jesus fulfilled the law”. Not relevant.

        “I never said that. I said the prophecy is contingent upon Israel’s actions. This is not a new concept to the old testament. YHWH makes certain promises to Israel which later on do not happen due to their disobedience.”

        I found no promises in Isaiah 42. There are no promises made to Israel or whatnot. Isaiah 42 is about the ‘servant’. There is also no evidence from the entirety of the Bible that God ‘re-elects’ failed prophecies, or that God’s prophecies are ‘contingent’ — there’s nothing contingent about them, God specifically states that he ANNOUNCES EVENTS before they happen, not that he makes contingent promises. In fact, this very point is repeated… Right there in Isaiah 42.

        Isaiah 42:9: The past events have indeed happened. Now I declare new events;
        I announce them to you before they occur.”

        The amount of reinterpretation your claims require astounds me.

        “Setting forward a political system to establish justice on earth is exactly what Muhammad did. Jesus did not do that, he didn’t leave us with any sort of legal system at all – according to Christians. And the destruction of these two empires by Muhammad’s command still counts as conquest according to his will.”

        Actually, that’s precisely what Jesus did — Jesus brought a new covenant (as required by Isaiah 42:6) for the entire world so that it may follow, and the New Testament makes a huge deal about the fact that on the Second Coming, Jesus will *conquer* the entire world and everyone who failed to obey the message He brought. Muhammad did not conquer the Earth. Again, you must create another rationalization to explain this away. There are other problems with Muhammad and Isaiah 42 I was able to catch, and all these ‘problems’ disappear, in fact make perfect sense if the subject is Jesus.

        Isaiah 42:4: “… The coasts and islands will wait for his instruction.”

        Apparently, the ‘coasts and islands’ wait for the instruction of the servant. I don’t know about you, but when I am reading through the Old Testament, I’m showered by imagery of God commanding the natural features of our world, the mountains, the seas, the oceans, the islands, etc. Instructing the very natural orders of the Earth is something reserved for divine power, not a mere human being — the Son of God has this authority, but no mere prophet does. Muhammad doesn’t instruct the islands and the coasts, but Jesus has this authority.

        Isaiah 42:7: “… to bring out prisoners from the dungeon…”

        There seems to be redemptive imagery going on here — this person will be *redeeming* the wicked (we know the subject is the wicked here, because it talks about the ‘prisoners from the dungeons’). Who redeemed the wicked? Jesus.

        “You don’t have to keep repeating this.”

        I’m going to repeat it as many times as I need to. God doesn’t throw around vague prophecies. If Muhammad has no reminiscence with Isaiah 42, then Muhammad fulfilling it (while simultaneously missing a few parts) is pure speculation. You then must sandwich together speculation with speculation when you require that God’s prophecy failed in some sense and He had to re-elect it without telling anybody.

        We know from the rest of Second Isaiah and many features about this ‘servant’ that certain Muslims would try to get at you if you tried to apply them to Muhammad. From Isaiah 42, we know;

        1) eventually, this servant, just this servant, must establish justice on Earth
        2) bring a new covenant for the people
        3) instruct the coasts and islands
        4) redeem the unrighteous and weak
        5) and everything else about the servant we know from the rest of Second Isaiah (such as that very nice 53rd chapter)

        Really, when we just take a look at all the speculation required for this claim, on top with the fact that it’s very hard to make Muhammad fit with this prophecy in the first place, we can understand a MUCH simpler, MUCH easier solution here.

        The prophecies above all fit with Jesus. Jesus was a Jew from Israel. Jesus fits amazingly well with the rest of the prophecies in Second Isaiah. No speculation, no assumptions, Jesus fulfilled Second Isaiah.

        And the very last thing I’m concerned with is this: as far as I understand it, Muslims don’t believe in the Book of Isaiah. Muslims think that the Psalms of David, Gospel (John, Matthew, Mark, Luke) and Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy) were inspired from God from the Bible, but not other New Testament books (like Paul’s epistles) or other Old Testament books (like Isaiah, Song of Solomon, etc).

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      • “You’re shifting goalposts here. You said “why did God send the Torah? Why not just send Jesus right away?” — I answered the question, and you tried to shift this to simply you claiming “but I don’t really believe Jesus fulfilled the law”. Not relevant.”

        It’s entirely relevant. The reason I mentioned this is that the God of the old testament often works in ways that shift according to humans not working according to His will. We see this in the Torah and the Deuteronomistic History as well.

        Here’s what I proposed in the article:
        The original “servant of God” in Isaiah 42 is indeed Israel as a nation. This is what we know BEST from the context, but an individual servant is still plausible. If it is the latter, which you believe- because you think it’s Jesus- then your qualms are not really valid.

        However, I tried to be conservative in my approach and accepted that it was originally Israel. Now then, we must admit that Israel is not *explicitly* named as the servant at the start. It is only implicit at the end- where the servant is mentioned to be blind and hopeless at performing his task. This can go two ways: Israel as a nation “rises to the task” of the servant in 1-4. This is not an automatic event but, like many prophecies from God to Israel for salvation, depend on how Israel itself behaves. In other words, we have a dual description of the servant here: One that will guide the nations, bring about God’s teaching and “lead the blind”, but there is another description: the servant himself is blind (vv. 19+).

        I find this conditional interpretation feasible because of what follows the oracle, verses 21 and onwards:

        The LORD was pleased, for the sake of his righteousness,
        to magnify his teaching and make it glorious.
        22 But this is a people robbed and plundered,
        all of them are trapped in holes
        and hidden in prisons;
        they have become a prey with no one to rescue,
        a spoil with no one to say, “Restore!”

        Note how YHWH is “pleased for the sake of his righteousness to magnify his teaching…” yet “BUT this is a people robbed and plundered, all of them are trapped in holes…” Again, reading within context, it seems that “magnifying his teaching” mentioned here is the same function of the servant at the start of the chapter, YET now Israel is juxtaposed with the ideal servant: They have clearly failed. This is the sense we get from this chapter.

        “I found no promises in Isaiah 42. There are no promises made to Israel or whatnot. Isaiah 42 is about the ‘servant’. There is also no evidence from the entirety of the Bible that God ‘re-elects’ failed prophecies, or that God’s prophecies are ‘contingent’ — there’s nothing contingent about them, God specifically states that he ANNOUNCES EVENTS before they happen, not that he makes contingent promises. In fact, this very point is repeated… Right there in Isaiah 42.

        Isaiah 42:9: The past events have indeed happened. Now I declare new events;
        I announce them to you before they occur.”

        The amount of reinterpretation your claims require astounds me.”

        As I have argued, if you read through the chapter, the prophecy is certainly contingent in the sense that Israel itself needs to rise to the occasion. Read through my article and my response above. I affirm that the prophecy shall still come about, only that the unnamed servant shall be Muhammad and not Israel as a nation.

        If you disagree you need to give a more convincing explanation of how the deaf and blind servant Israel, who has disobeyed God (v. 24) is going to guide the nations. Otherwise if you think the servant here is an individual – as you seem to – then there is no problem here to begin with, if it is an individual then there is no “re-election” needed.

        “Actually, that’s precisely what Jesus did — Jesus brought a new covenant (as required by Isaiah 42:6) for the entire world so that it may follow,”
        And so does the Qur’an, so does the Prophet. To make things easy lets just assume you are correct in your statement that Jesus indeed intended his message to be for the whole world (I don’t agree but that’s beside the point)
        “and the New Testament makes a huge deal about the fact that on the Second Coming, Jesus will *conquer* the entire world and everyone who failed to obey the message He brought. Muhammad did not conquer the Earth. Again, you must create another rationalization to explain this away. There are other problems with Muhammad and Isaiah 42 I was able to catch, and all these ‘problems’ disappear, in fact make perfect sense if the subject is Jesus.”

        This is not a viable solution to this problem. By appealing to the second coming you have not really helped solve anything. I can just make up a future figure – say, his name is “Mr X” who shall come and do all these things after he comes back (or after he’s born to begin with). We are talking about historically who best fits this prophecy, and it’s not Jesus.

        I’ve also already responded to your “whole earth” interpretation, nowhere in the oracle does כל העמימ or כל הארצ appear, so I don’t know what you’re talking about.

        Isaiah 42:4: “… The coasts and islands will wait for his instruction.”
        “Apparently, the ‘coasts and islands’ wait for the instruction of the servant. I don’t know about you, but when I am reading through the Old Testament, I’m showered by imagery of God commanding the natural features of our world, the mountains, the seas, the oceans, the islands, etc. Instructing the very natural orders of the Earth is something reserved for divine power, not a mere human being — the Son of God has this authority, but no mere prophet does. Muhammad doesn’t instruct the islands and the coasts, but Jesus has this authority.”

        It’s clearly speaking about the people in these unnamed coastlands, not natural features. Mountains and seas don’t “await teaching”. They aren’t typically “taught”. The more likely explanation is people.

        “Isaiah 42:7: “… to bring out prisoners from the dungeon…”

        “There seems to be redemptive imagery going on here — this person will be *redeeming* the wicked (we know the subject is the wicked here, because it talks about the ‘prisoners from the dungeons’). Who redeemed the wicked? Jesus.

        If your interpretation is correct then this can apply to Muhammad as well. But I don’t think it’s correct, I think the imagery here is of *guidance* here:

        “to open the eyes that are blind,
        to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
        from the prison those who sit in darkness.”

        Note how it’s coupled with “light to the nations”, opening the “eyes that are blind”. And immediately the prison is clarified to be that of “darkness”. So the imagery here is clearly of guidance. This is a theme that is very much repeated in the Qur’an- light as guidance.

        “I’m going to repeat it as many times as I need to. God doesn’t throw around vague prophecies. If Muhammad has no reminiscence with Isaiah 42, then Muhammad fulfilling it (while simultaneously missing a few parts) is pure speculation. You then must sandwich together speculation with speculation when you require that God’s prophecy failed in some sense and He had to re-elect it without telling anybody.”

        I am merely reading the chapter as it is, rather than shoehorning silly interpretations like “mountains listening to teaching” (this is literally what you said!)

        “We know from the rest of Second Isaiah and many features about this ‘servant’ that certain Muslims would try to get at you if you tried to apply them to Muhammad. From Isaiah 42, we know;
        1) eventually, this servant, just this servant, must establish justice on Earth
        2) bring a new covenant for the people
        3) instruct the coasts and islands
        4) redeem the unrighteous and weak
        5) and everything else about the servant we know from the rest of Second Isaiah (such as that very nice 53rd chapter)
        Really, when we just take a look at all the speculation required for this claim, on top with the fact that it’s very hard to make Muhammad fit with this prophecy in the first place, we can understand a MUCH simpler, MUCH easier solution here.
        “The prophecies above all fit with Jesus. Jesus was a Jew from Israel. Jesus fits amazingly well with the rest of the prophecies in Second Isaiah. No speculation, no assumptions, Jesus fulfilled Second Isaiah.”

        Actually, the different servant songs in Isaiah 2 don’t necessarily refer to the same person. That’s a valid exegesis by the way, according to the commentaries I looked at. As for 1-4, Muhammad has done this through his teaching and instruction, “mishpat” “torah”, all very legalistic and priestly words that would apply to Muhammad and not Jesus according to Christianity.

        I think you are consciously ignoring certain themes that are popping up here in the chapter: that is verses 10-20. It’s certainly connected to the first 10 verses of the chapter, because this:

        16 I will lead the blind
        by a road they do not know,
        by paths they have not known
        I will guide them.

        Pops up right in the middle of them. It also kind of goes without saying that we do not interpret verses in isolation. These verses are clearly harkening back to the oracle of the servant in 1-10
        Note that we have the motif of the Qedarites celebrating. We both know who this is, and we also know that there is a “Mount Sela” in their lands. This very explicit mention doesn’t make sense if it was Jesus, because Jesus was born amongst Jews as a Jew and not an arab, nor does mount sela have anything to do with him. So unless you think this verse is a hodgepodge of unconnected verses, which you shouldn’t, then it seems to me that you are just avoiding the obvious. You also ignore the somewhat militaristic imagery here of a warrior God, and of idol worshippers being humiliated. Neither of these seem to make sense with Jesus as the figure.

        “And the very last thing I’m concerned with is this: as far as I understand it, Muslims don’t believe in the Book of Isaiah. Muslims think that the Psalms of David, Gospel (John, Matthew, Mark, Luke) and Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy) were inspired from God from the Bible, but not other New Testament books (like Paul’s epistles) or other Old Testament books (like Isaiah, Song of Solomon, etc).”
        Qur’anic attitude is ambivalent towards the old and new testaments, here Isaiah 42 is relevant because I think the Qur’an quotes it in support of the Prophet Muhammad’s office.

        Like

      • “The original “servant of God” in Isaiah 42 is indeed Israel as a nation. This is what we know BEST from the context, but an individual servant is still plausible. If it is the latter, which you believe- because you think it’s Jesus- then your qualms are not really valid.”

        It seems that by far the best interpretation is that this servant is an individual person — in fact your interpretation requires this, because you think Muhammad is the fulfiller! Why not Saudi Arabia if this is a nation?

        Anyways, I go on to completely reject your interpretation of the ‘servant’ being Israel in any way shape or form. Not only does your own interpretaiton require it, but I find it impossible to reconcile the ‘servant’ of Second Isaiah with the nation of Israel. Rather, it looks like the prophecy of the coming servant is being delivered *to* the people of Israel. They are the object, not the subject.

        “Note how YHWH is “pleased for the sake of his righteousness to magnify his teaching…” yet “BUT this is a people robbed and plundered, all of them are trapped in holes…” Again, reading within context, it seems that “magnifying his teaching” mentioned here is the same function of the servant at the start of the chapter, YET now Israel is juxtaposed with the ideal servant: They have clearly failed. This is the sense we get from this chapter.”

        No, the sense we get that is that *because* Israel is a failure at keeping God’s laws, God must send this ‘servant’ to redeem them, to guide them, to be a light for them, etc.

        “As I have argued, if you read through the chapter, the prophecy is certainly contingent in the sense that Israel itself needs to rise to the occasion.”

        I read the full chapter, and still cannot find this ‘clear’ contingency you claim is present in the prophecy. Not a single verse states it, not a nexus of verses, not a sporadic combination of verses, etc, etc, etc. It’s nowhere there. Isaiah 42:9 specifically states that God declares the end from the beginning, God’s declarations according to Isaiah 42:9 *must* happen as they are given.

        “If you disagree you need to give a more convincing explanation of how the deaf and blind servant Israel, who has disobeyed God (v. 24) is going to guide the nations. Otherwise if you think the servant here is an individual – as you seem to – then there is no problem here to begin with, if it is an individual then there is no “re-election” needed.”

        A re-election is most certainly needed, because it’s obvious that the servant is going to come out of Israel, just like every other prophet of the Old Testament (like Isaiah himself, not to mention the other major prophets and minor prophets). Muhammad was the furthest thing from an Israelite, and so your claim still requires re-election and hence the big fat question mark on your interpretation isn’t going anywhere.

        “Actually, the different servant songs in Isaiah 2 don’t necessarily refer to the same person. That’s a valid exegesis by the way, according to the commentaries I looked at.”

        I suppose it isn’t absolutely conceivably demanded by the verses, but it’s as certain as exegesis can get as far as I’m concerned. There’s no reason to think God suddenly started talking about a different servant somewhere through the text — the servant is always someone coming out of Israel for Israel by God’s will to redeem the Israelite’s because the Israelite’s failed. All the evidence points towards a singular servant. You not only are operating on enormous ambiguity when trying to connect Isaiah 42 to Muhammad, but you now much stretch Second Isaiah itself to allow for this.

        “I am merely reading the chapter as it is, rather than shoehorning silly interpretations like “mountains listening to teaching” (this is literally what you said!)”

        If you simply “read the passage as it is”, you would admit that this ‘servant’ is Israel or someone coming out of Israel… Period. The passage never mentions re-election, contingency, Muhammad, etc. Hence, your interpretation is *certainly* the furthest thing from reading the passage as it is.

        “Qur’anic attitude is ambivalent towards the old and new testaments, here Isaiah 42 is relevant because I think the Qur’an quotes it in support of the Prophet Muhammad’s office.”

        As I said earlier, the Qur’an only claims that the Gospel, Torah, and Davidic Psalms are inspired (aside from the Qur’an itself). That means that you must even stretch the Qur’an itself to make this claim! This is crank exegesis off the rails. When an interpretation has this many shortcomings and overwhelming problems, it’s simply ad hoc to the extreme and not a serious contender for reality. The Qur’an nowhere quotes the Book of Isaiah, or even mentions it. Not even the Hadiths considering Isaiah authoritative so far as I’m concerned, let alone quote it for divine guidance.

        You’re not only getting yourself into a surging sea of difficulties with the Bible, you’re now putting yourself in the same position with the Qur’an. Your claim now requires all of this to also be true;

        1) Isaiah was a prophet from God
        2) The Book of Isaiah was inspired from God

        The Qur’an mentions neither, which is interesting, since Isaiah would hence be one of the most important Islamic documents in history (no Muslim, nor Muhammad himself seems to have gotten that cue yet). But, what would happen now if Isaiah *contradicts* the Qur’an? Indeed, what are you going to make of Isaiah 53, for example? Who exactly is going to be bearing our sins?

        As I initially stated, the entire text of Isaiah 42 makes myriads more sense if Jesus is the subject. Jesus fits perfectly with the chapter, is of Israel, brought a new covenant, and fits with the rest of the ‘servant’ passages in Second Isaiah. It’s almost too good.

        But I think I found yet another massive problem with your interpretation.

        If I were to assume that Israel was really the subject here, and that the prophecy is a contingency which Israel failed to fulfill… Then why couldn’t Jesus have been the one to be re-elected to fulfill it?

        That’s perhaps the last sword in the basket. This claim does not hold up to any scrutiny, Isaiah 42 has nothing to do with Muhammad and everything to do with Jesus.

        Like

      • “It seems that by far the best interpretation is that this servant is an individual person — in fact your interpretation requires this, because you think Muhammad is the fulfiller! Why not Saudi Arabia if this is a nation?”

        As I said, an individual servant is *plausible* but all we have from the immediate context is that it is Israel. The prophecy is obscure about this point so I can appreciate an individual servant. Infact it serves my argument better, but I avoided making it so as to be conservative.

        “Anyways, I go on to completely reject your interpretation of the ‘servant’ being Israel in any way shape or form. Not only does your own interpretaiton require it, but I find it impossible to reconcile the ‘servant’ of Second Isaiah with the nation of Israel. Rather, it looks like the prophecy of the coming servant is being delivered *to* the people of Israel. They are the object, not the subject.”

        Can you justify this? You need to show why you think this way.

        “No, the sense we get that is that *because* Israel is a failure at keeping God’s laws, God must send this ‘servant’ to redeem them, to guide them, to be a light for them, etc.”

        Right but the problem with this is that Israel is suggested to be the servant in 18-20, unless you can think of another unnamed individual who is deaf and blind. In the context only Israel is described similarly (20-25).

        “I read the full chapter, and still cannot find this ‘clear’ contingency you claim is present in the prophecy. Not a single verse states it, not a nexus of verses, not a sporadic combination of verses, etc, etc, etc. It’s nowhere there. Isaiah 42:9 specifically states that God declares the end from the beginning,”

        I have explained how I got to this conclusion, please show me where you think I’m wrong.

        “God’s declarations according to Isaiah 42:9 *must* happen as they are given.”

        I am not disagreeing.

        “A re-election is most certainly needed, because it’s obvious that the servant is going to come out of Israel, just like every other prophet of the Old Testament (like Isaiah himself, not to mention the other major prophets and minor prophets). Muhammad was the furthest thing from an Israelite, and so your claim still requires re-election and hence the big fat question mark on your interpretation isn’t going anywhere.”

        Why is the servant going to come out of Israel? There is no indication here in the chapter. And you still continue to ignore my point about Qedar being specified here, which pinpoints the location of the servant.

        “I suppose it isn’t absolutely conceivably demanded by the verses, but it’s as certain as exegesis can get as far as I’m concerned. There’s no reason to think God suddenly started talking about a different servant somewhere through the text — the servant is always someone coming out of Israel for Israel by God’s will to redeem the Israelite’s because the Israelite’s failed. All the evidence points towards a singular servant. You not only are operating on enormous ambiguity when trying to connect Isaiah 42 to Muhammad, but you now much stretch Second Isaiah itself to allow for this.”

        Well, I don’t see why this has to be the case, these servant songs are scattered apart amongst other oracles, so I don’t see why they are the same figures.

        “If you simply “read the passage as it is”, you would admit that this ‘servant’ is Israel or someone coming out of Israel… Period.”

        Please mention where this is stated

        “The passage never mentions re-election, contingency, Muhammad, etc. Hence, your interpretation is *certainly* the furthest thing from reading the passage as it is.”

        I argued how it is implicitly there, show me where you disagree

        “As I said earlier, the Qur’an only claims that the Gospel, Torah, and Davidic Psalms are inspired (aside from the Qur’an itself). That means that you must even stretch the Qur’an itself to make this claim! This is crank exegesis off the rails. When an interpretation has this many shortcomings and overwhelming problems, it’s simply ad hoc to the extreme and not a serious contender for reality. The Qur’an nowhere quotes the Book of Isaiah, or even mentions it. Not even the Hadiths considering Isaiah authoritative so far as I’m concerned, let alone quote it for divine guidance.”

        Well now I know you didn’t read my article. All this is shown inside the article.

        “You’re not only getting yourself into a surging sea of difficulties with the Bible, you’re now putting yourself in the same position with the Qur’an. Your claim now requires all of this to also be true;
        1) Isaiah was a prophet from God
        2) The Book of Isaiah was inspired from God
        The Qur’an mentions neither, which is interesting, since Isaiah would hence be one of the most important Islamic documents in history (no Muslim, nor Muhammad himself seems to have gotten that cue yet). But, what would happen now if Isaiah *contradicts* the Qur’an? Indeed, what are you going to make of Isaiah 53, for example? Who exactly is going to be bearing our sins?”

        I don’t think the suffering servant is Jesus, nor do I think that a particular agreement with Isaiah 42 means that I have to accept all of Isaiah (or 2nd Isaiah) because I don’t know the history of the text.

        “As I initially stated, the entire text of Isaiah 42 makes myriads more sense if Jesus is the subject. Jesus fits perfectly with the chapter, is of Israel, brought a new covenant, and fits with the rest of the ‘servant’ passages in Second Isaiah. It’s almost too good.”
        You have yet to show how this is the case. I noted several points where it would only agree with Muhammad and not Jesus in my last post which you have not replied to at all.

        “But I think I found yet another massive problem with your interpretation.
        If I were to assume that Israel was really the subject here, and that the prophecy is a contingency which Israel failed to fulfill… Then why couldn’t Jesus have been the one to be re-elected to fulfill it?”

        Umm… what? Yes, Jesus COULD have, but he WASN’T, we are looking at historical figures that best fit the prophecy.

        “That’s perhaps the last sword in the basket. This claim does not hold up to any scrutiny, Isaiah 42 has nothing to do with Muhammad and everything to do with Jesus.”

        It does not.

        Like

      • “As I said, an individual servant is *plausible* but all we have from the immediate context is that it is Israel. The prophecy is obscure about this point so I can appreciate an individual servant. Infact it serves my argument better, but I avoided making it so as to be conservative.”

        Good, we both prefer the servant being an individual rather than a nation. So, the default prophecy (which you think ‘failed’ somehow) is that the servant would come from Israel. But it didn’t work, so you think the servant is actually supposed to be from Saudi Arabia now.

        “Can you justify this? You need to show why you think this way.”

        You asked this in response to me stating that I find it impossible for the ‘servant’ itself to be Israel (rather must be an individual) in Second Isaiah. That’s because of Isaiah 53, which I did almost all my analysis on (I haven’t even read the Book of Isaiah yet, so the other chapters are going to have to wait). Isaiah 53 clearly says things that are incompatible with a nation, rather must reference an individual. Take for example, Isaiah 53:4 which says “he was pierced for our rebellion” — how exactly does the nation of Israel get ‘pierced’ for “our rebellion”? ‘Pierced’ alone makes ten thousand times when referencing crucifixion, but either way I find verses like these scattered throughout Isaiah 53 irreconcilable with Israel. When was Israel pierced and for whose rebellions was it pierced for?

        “Right but the problem with this is that Israel is suggested to be the servant in 18-20, unless you can think of another unnamed individual who is deaf and blind. In the context only Israel is described similarly (20-25).”

        As I explained, the ‘deaf and blind’ are the ignorant people of Israel who have rebelled against God’s commandments and the servant is the individual sent to Israel to deliver to them the truth.

        “I have explained how I got to this conclusion, please show me where you think I’m wrong.”

        I must have missed your explanation. As I repeat, I found absolutely not a figment of evidence to see where any verse in Isaiah 42 demands (or even suggests) a kind of contingency going on with God’s prophecy. Rather, I pointed out that this idea even contradicts Isaiah 42, specifically verse 9 which declares God’s prophecies to be absolute.

        “Why is the servant going to come out of Israel? There is no indication here in the chapter. And you still continue to ignore my point about Qedar being specified here, which pinpoints the location of the servant.”

        Why the servant is going to come out of Israel is ridiculously obvious.

        1) The servant is going to deliver His message *to Israel*, so He might as well come from it
        2) Every single prophet ever at that point had been from Israel or associated with Israel (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Isaiah himself, Amos, etc), no reason to think that the servant is suddenly going to be a Saudi Arabian

        As I also explained, Qedar is only mentioned in the song in Isaiah 42 which appears between the verses 10-17, not in relation to the prophecy. This song is simply mentioning some lands that will cry out to God, and presumes that the whole world is crying out to God. In fact, two places are mentioned, not just Kedar. Read the full context:

        Isaiah 42:11: Let the desert and its cities shout, the settlements where Kedar dwells cry aloud. Let the inhabitants of Sela sing for joy; let them cry out from the mountaintops.

        See that? Kedar *and Sela* as well. Sela is located in Jordan. What now?

        “I argued how it is implicitly there, show me where you disagree”

        I’ve done that by now — I pointed out that all your arguments are basically sandwhiching ambiguities upon ambiguities, making completely unwarranted assumptions (like 1) the prophecy was actually contingent, 2) it also failed, and 3) someone else was re-elected to fulfill it, 4) and this just so happens to be Muhammad, so the Qur’an wasn’t wrong about biblical prophecy mentioning Muhammad in the first place). So, not only do you stretch the Bible to crazy lengths to try to make this fit, you even have to claim that the Islamic God inspired Isaiah as a prophet and the rest of the Book of Isaiah, which has absolutely no mention whatsoever in the Qur’an let alone any of the tens of thousands of Hadiths. Muhammad seemed to have no clue about this. This is literally argumentation by convenience at every turn.

        And all of that is ignoring the fact that I have pointed out some aspects of Isaiah 42 not working at all, even contradicting Muhammad (the servant must bring a new covenant, for example), and the fact that the entire thing makes lengths more sense if it’s just talking about Jesus. Muslims accept Jesus is a prophet, so Jesus being predicted is no problem. But Isaiah (an Israeli Jew who thinks God is the God of Israel) predicting Muhammad? This has gotten out of hand. I’m having trouble even keeping memory of all these problems. I should write them out somewhere (or perhaps post a reply to your claims on my blog).

        “Umm… what? Yes, Jesus COULD have, but he WASN’T, we are looking at historical figures that best fit the prophecy.”

        LOL! Best fits the prophecy? You’ve already admitted that there isn’t a single thing in Isaiah 42 that is reminiscent of Muhammad. But it is reminiscent of Jesus. See new covenant. See the servant prophecies in the rest of Isaiah (especially chapters 52-53). I still haven’t gotten over how you think God would let His prophecy fail instead and then re-elect it instead of just predicting Muhammad in the first place. This isn’t ever going to work out for you, is it now?

        Like

      • “Good, we both prefer the servant being an individual rather than a nation. So, the default prophecy (which you think ‘failed’ somehow) is that the servant would come from Israel. But it didn’t work, so you think the servant is actually supposed to be from Saudi Arabia now.”
        The prophecy doesn’t mention that the servant is from Israel. You have argued it is giving a couple of reasons in this response, which I’ll get to below.
        “You asked this in response to me stating that I find it impossible for the ‘servant’ itself to be Israel (rather must be an individual) in Second Isaiah. That’s because of Isaiah 53, which I did almost all my analysis on (I haven’t even read the Book of Isaiah yet, so the other chapters are going to have to wait). Isaiah 53 clearly says things that are incompatible with a nation, rather must reference an individual. Take for example, Isaiah 53:4 which says “he was pierced for our rebellion” — how exactly does the nation of Israel get ‘pierced’ for “our rebellion”? ‘Pierced’ alone makes ten thousand times when referencing crucifixion, but either way I find verses like these scattered throughout Isaiah 53 irreconcilable with Israel. When was Israel pierced and for whose rebellions was it pierced for?”
        This isn’t relevant to the discussion at the moment, Isaiah 53 is not Isaiah 42 and they are not necessarily speaking of the same servant. It’s still possible that the servant is a nation. Nevertheless whether or not the servant is a nation it is irrelevant.
        “As I explained, the ‘deaf and blind’ are the ignorant people of Israel who have rebelled against God’s commandments and the servant is the individual sent to Israel to deliver to them the truth.”
        The problem is that the servant himself is described as deaf and blind (18-19). So either the servant here is Israel throughout the chapter or there are two servants mentioned. I find the former more likely. Please explain why you think the SERVANT is explained to be blind and deaf.
        “I must have missed your explanation. As I repeat, I found absolutely not a figment of evidence to see where any verse in Isaiah 42 demands (or even suggests) a kind of contingency going on with God’s prophecy. Rather, I pointed out that this idea even contradicts Isaiah 42, specifically verse 9 which declares God’s prophecies to be absolute.”
        Please interact with my last response on this topic. I have explained why such an interpretation is plausible. It won’t help your case to ignore it.

        “Why the servant is going to come out of Israel is ridiculously obvious.
        1) The servant is going to deliver His message *to Israel*, so He might as well come from it
        2) Every single prophet ever at that point had been from Israel or associated with Israel (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Isaiah himself, Amos, etc), no reason to think that the servant is suddenly going to be a Saudi Arabian”
        Both these explanations are non-sequitur. The most obvious reason being is that the chapter mentions the servant has a mission to the world, not to Israel in particular.
        Secondly, there is no reason to think that God could not potentially choose a non-Israelite prophet. Furthermore, 1) is dubious reasoning because the servant is going to be a guide *to the nations*, not merely to Israel, so following your reasoning, the servant could also be from any of these nations.
        Qedar has already been specified here in the prophecy, so once we accept the individual-servant interpretation, there’s no reason to insist that the prophet is Israelite because Qedar’s tribe has already been mentioned.
        “As I also explained, Qedar is only mentioned in the song in Isaiah 42 which appears between the verses 10-17, not in relation to the prophecy.”
        I have explained why they are related to the prophecy in my previous response, primarily the existence of v. 16-17 tying the segment to the prophecy.
        “This song is simply mentioning some lands that will cry out to God, and presumes that the whole world is crying out to God. In fact, two places are mentioned, not just Kedar. Read the full context:
        Isaiah 42:11: Let the desert and its cities shout, the settlements where Kedar dwells cry aloud. Let the inhabitants of Sela sing for joy; let them cry out from the mountaintops.
        See that? Kedar *and Sela* as well. Sela is located in Jordan. What now?”
        Time and time again you have shown me that you have not read my article in full. There is also a mountain called Sela` in Yathrib, aka. The city of the Prophet (Muhammad). The jews there were also expecting the coming of a prophet. I have also given archaeological evidence that the audience of 2nd Isaiah probably knew about Yathrib atleast in passing.
        “I’ve done that by now — I pointed out that all your arguments are basically sandwhiching ambiguities upon ambiguities, making completely unwarranted assumptions (like 1) the prophecy was actually contingent, 2) it also failed, and 3) someone else was re-elected to fulfill it, 4) and this just so happens to be Muhammad, so the Qur’an wasn’t wrong about biblical prophecy mentioning Muhammad in the first place). So, not only do you stretch the Bible to crazy lengths to try to make this fit, you even have to claim that the Islamic God inspired Isaiah as a prophet and the rest of the Book of Isaiah, which has absolutely no mention whatsoever in the Qur’an let alone any of the tens of thousands of Hadiths. Muhammad seemed to have no clue about this. This is literally argumentation by convenience at every turn.”
        I have justified each and every one of these points you call “assumptions”. Your reasoning is so silly at times I wonder whether we are even reading the same bible.
        “And all of that is ignoring the fact that I have pointed out some aspects of Isaiah 42 not working at all, even contradicting Muhammad (the servant must bring a new covenant, for example),”
        I literally just explained how Muhammad brings a new covenant.
        “and the fact that the entire thing makes lengths more sense if it’s just talking about Jesus.”
        You keep repeating this, this doesn’t make it any truer.
        “Muslims accept Jesus is a prophet, so Jesus being predicted is no problem.”
        It’s not a problem except for the fact that the text does not fit the description of Jesus.
        “But Isaiah (an Israeli Jew who thinks God is the God of Israel) predicting Muhammad? This has gotten out of hand. I’m having trouble even keeping memory of all these problems. I should write them out somewhere (or perhaps post a reply to your claims on my blog).”
        More rhetoric.
        “I still haven’t gotten over how you think God would let His prophecy fail instead and then re-elect it instead of just predicting Muhammad in the first place. This isn’t ever going to work out for you, is it now?”
        I think you’re just selectively reading both my response and the chapter. It might work out for you but it is not going to convince people reading this conversation. Just keep that in mind.

        Like

      • “This isn’t relevant to the discussion at the moment, Isaiah 53 is not Isaiah 42 and they are not necessarily speaking of the same servant. It’s still possible that the servant is a nation. Nevertheless whether or not the servant is a nation it is irrelevant.”

        It is *unquestionably* relevant. You asked why I think that the servant cannot be the nation of Israel. I provided unambiguous evidence that the servant, whom is further discussed in Isaiah 53, has characteristics incompatible with the nation of Israel in any manifestation, and can only be a person. Again, we’ve seen there is absolutely no precedent for coming up with the idea that the ‘servant’ is actually multiple ‘servants’ scattered throughout Isaiah. It’s just another one of your fanciful ideas to try to stuff Muhammad into Isaiah. Because there is no evidence that the servant changes or becomes someone else throughout the prophecies, we can assume that all of Isaiah talks about the same servant — which, from Isaiah 53 for example, we know is an individual and not a nation. And in fact, you agree that the servant is an individual (but you must of course come up with something to try to disconnect the servant in Isaiah 42 from the one in ch. 53).

        … Upon more research, I have concluded that it is possible for the servant of Isaiah to be a reflection between two different servants being contrasted throughout the book. The first servant is Jacob (Israel) himself and his descendants, who have failed to keep God’s covenant, and the second servant is a coming individual, a coming servant who will reinforce God’s new covenant and bring the message to the blind and rebellious against God. This makes the most sense to me. As we will see, neither servant can be Muhammad.

        “The problem is that the servant himself is described as deaf and blind (18-19). So either the servant here is Israel throughout the chapter or there are two servants mentioned. I find the former more likely. Please explain why you think the SERVANT is explained to be blind and deaf.”

        As I detailed above, there is the servant that is Jacob and his descendants (made undeniable in Isaiah 41:8), and then there is the coming servant to reinstate God’s final covenant with not only the descendants of Israel but the whole world. Your insights seem to have something to them. In Isaiah 42, verses 1-9 are about the second servant, whereas verses 18ff are about Israel. So, if we want to find Jesus or Muhammad, we must focus on verses 1-9. I think you would now agree with this.

        “Please interact with my last response on this topic. I have explained why such an interpretation is plausible. It won’t help your case to ignore it.”

        Again, I do not remember the existence of any such ‘response’ you have made on this point. It either does not exist or I missed it. If I missed it, I think you’ll have to copy and paste it into your next response. As I see it, the evidence is starved for even trying to suggest a contingency in Isaiah 42, or anywhere in God’s prophecies at all (and again, this requires God letting His prophecy fail instead of just predicting Muhammad in the first place, a ridiculous idea).

        “Both these explanations are non-sequitur. The most obvious reason being is that the chapter mentions the servant has a mission to the world, not to Israel in particular.
        Secondly, there is no reason to think that God could not potentially choose a non-Israelite prophet. Furthermore, 1) is dubious reasoning because the servant is going to be a guide *to the nations*, not merely to Israel, so following your reasoning, the servant could also be from any of these nations.
        Qedar has already been specified here in the prophecy, so once we accept the individual-servant interpretation, there’s no reason to insist that the prophet is Israelite because Qedar’s tribe has already been mentioned.”

        To note before I address this, upon inquiring a Bible Dictionary, Sela is unambiguously not only part of the Edomite kingdom, but its capital.
        http://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/sela/

        Anyways, you continue to over-interpret the mention of Kedar. This is what Isaiah 42 says:

        Isaiah 42:11: Sing a new song to the Lord;
        sing his praise from the ends of the earth,
        you who go down to the sea with all that fills it, you coasts and islands with your inhabitants. Let the desert and its cities shout, the settlements where Kedar dwells cry aloud. Let the inhabitants of Sela sing for joy; let them cry out from the mountaintops.

        Reading the song in Isaiah 42:10-17, we can see that it is a devotion to God as a powerful warrior whose commands will be heard from the islands to the coasts, from Kedar to the people of Sela. The specific mention of these two places has no significance, it’s simply signifying that God’s message stretches out throughout all the lands. Sela and Kedar are not the same thing as your article incorrectly proclaims, they are mentioned separately for a reason, and even if they were the same that would simply mean we have a lot of focus on Edomite peoples here — and just to note, both Kedar and Sela are damned in the Bible as peoples/places that will become few and be destroyed (Isaiah 21:17, 16:1). These are damned places. This is not particularly surprising in fact, since the song in Isaiah 42:10-17 is directed at the Gentiles who worship idolatrous gods (like the Edomites). So, it looks like you shot yourself in the foot yet again, eh?

        As noted earlier, there are 2 unambiguous and good reasons for thinking the individual servant will be from Israel. 1) The prophecy is directed to Israel and 2) All other prophets ever, sent from God, were from Israel. Your only rebuttal is that the message that this servant will bring is directed to the whole world, not just Israel, but this doesn’t challenge any of my points, nor does it imply a prophet of non-Israelite origins.

        “I have justified each and every one of these points you call “assumptions”. Your reasoning is so silly at times I wonder whether we are even reading the same bible.”

        All your ‘explanations’ are fictitious as far as I’m concerned. Again, Isaiah is not an inspired book in Islam, there is no precedent for contingent (let alone FAILED prophecies!) anywhere in the Bible, etc, etc, etc. You go on to repeat yourself that Jesus doesn’t fit with Isaiah 42, another empty claim I have dealt with earlier, and that Muhammad (a non-Israelite) fits with Isaiah 42. You’ve, as I repeat, admitted Muhammad has no reminiscence here and that the prophecy is required to fail to even give Muhammad a chance to fulfill it here. You come up with an explanation of how Muhammad brought a ‘new covenant’, ignoring the fact that the very word ‘new covenant’ has extraordinary reminiscence with Jesus’ life and ministry. The term ‘new covenant’ is reminiscent of Jesus. Not Muhammad. I understand that you seem to be able to stretch almost anything to show that a text does not ‘rule out’ Muhammad, but you are forgetting another two important factors. 1) Reminiscence and specificity is everything when it comes to a prophecy. If the prophecy is not reminiscent or specifies something that can be understood before it is fulfilled, then claiming ‘fulfillment’ is useless. 2) Isaiah 42 has a context, one that expands on this servant, and I understand that if you even dip your toe into that context, Muhammad will become forgotten in the discussion of the servant.

        Anyways, let me ask you questions for your next response.

        1) Do you think the Book of Isaiah is inspired scripture from God?
        2) If it is, are you willing to claim that the Book of Isaiah is compatible with the Qur’an?

        Like

      • “… Upon more research, I have concluded that it is possible for the servant of Isaiah to be a reflection between two different servants being contrasted throughout the book. The first servant is Jacob (Israel) himself and his descendants, who have failed to keep God’s covenant, and the second servant is a coming individual, a coming servant who will reinforce God’s new covenant and bring the message to the blind and rebellious against God. This makes the most sense to me. As we will see, neither servant can be Muhammad.”

        Well, I’m glad you’re now putting some effort to research your responses. If you’ve accepted two servants then the contingency argument I presented shouldn’t be relevant to our discussion, nevertheless can I ask you why you don’t there’s a singular servant (Israel only)?

        “As I detailed above, there is the servant that is Jacob and his descendants (made undeniable in Isaiah 41:8), and then there is the coming servant to reinstate God’s final covenant with not only the descendants of Israel but the whole world. Your insights seem to have something to them. In Isaiah 42, verses 1-9 are about the second servant, whereas verses 18ff are about Israel. So, if we want to find Jesus or Muhammad, we must focus on verses 1-9. I think you would now agree with this.

        Again, I do not remember the existence of any such ‘response’ you have made on this point. It either does not exist or I missed it. If I missed it, I think you’ll have to copy and paste it into your next response.”
        I think attention needs to be paid to 1-17 as a whole. The reason is primarily due to verse 16:
        I will lead the blind
        by a road they do not know,
        by paths they have not known
        I will guide them.
        I will turn the darkness before them into light,
        the rough places into level ground.
        These are the things I will do,
        and I will not forsake them.
        Once more the blind receiving guidance using light are alluded to, the same theme in verse 6-7. This looks like it’s tying back to the earlier prophecy, it’s not an isolated verse. The same vocabulary is being used. It’s not far-fetched to read 1-17 as one unit (or even 1-20). The hymn starting at 10 is naturally a response to God’s prophesy of the wonderful things He will do for the gentiles, and the particular people who ought to celebrate (11) among other prophesies such as the idol worshippers being humiliated (17). Unless you’re saying that verse 16 is some other group of “blind people” being guided by light, and is unrelated to the verses in the same chapter! I find that unusual, I think we ought to try to read the text with some assumption of flow and coherence.
        “As I see it, the evidence is starved for even trying to suggest a contingency in Isaiah 42, or anywhere in God’s prophecies at all (and again, this requires God letting His prophecy fail instead of just predicting Muhammad in the first place, a ridiculous idea).”
        I’m copying my earlier response:
        “…I tried to be conservative in my approach and accepted that it was originally Israel. Now then, we must admit that Israel is not *explicitly* named as the servant at the start. It is only implicit at the end- where the servant is mentioned to be blind and hopeless at performing his task. This can go two ways: Israel as a nation “rises to the task” of the servant in 1-4. This is not an automatic event but, like many prophecies from God to Israel for salvation, depend on how Israel itself behaves. In other words, we have a dual description of the servant here: One that will guide the nations, bring about God’s teaching and “lead the blind”, but there is another description: the servant himself is blind (vv. 19+).
        I find this conditional interpretation feasible because of what follows the oracle, verses 21 and onwards:
        The LORD was pleased, for the sake of his righteousness,
        to magnify his teaching and make it glorious.
        22 But this is a people robbed and plundered,
        all of them are trapped in holes
        and hidden in prisons;
        they have become a prey with no one to rescue,
        a spoil with no one to say, “Restore!”
        Note how YHWH is “pleased for the sake of his righteousness to magnify his teaching…” yet “BUT this is a people robbed and plundered, all of them are trapped in holes…” Again, reading within context, it seems that “magnifying his teaching” mentioned here is the same function of the servant at the start of the chapter, YET now Israel is juxtaposed with the ideal servant: They have clearly failed. This is the sense we get from this chapter.

        “Sela and Kedar are not the same thing as your article incorrectly proclaims, they are mentioned separately for a reason, and even if they were the same that would simply mean we have a lot of focus on Edomite peoples here —“
        I didn’t say they’re the same thing- Kedarites are a group of people, while Sela` is a place. Even if they were, it’s not unbiblical to make a statement and repeat the same statement in different words. This occurs in Hebrew poetry and also in other parts of the bible.
        “and just to note, both Kedar and Sela are damned in the Bible as peoples/places that will become few and be destroyed (Isaiah 21:17, 16:1). These are damned places. This is not particularly surprising in fact, since the song in Isaiah 42:10-17 is directed at the Gentiles who worship idolatrous gods (like the Edomites). So, it looks like you shot yourself in the foot yet again, eh?”
        All these prophecies here are saying is that God will punish Kedar and other nations due to the evil they put forth. It doesn’t make any statement about the future generations of these peoples not being potentially having a prophet or being saved. So I have no problem accepting these. Nevertheless I’m not required to, as I don’t accept the bible to be scripture.
        “As noted earlier, there are 2 unambiguous and good reasons for thinking the individual servant will be from Israel. 1) The prophecy is directed to Israel and 2) All other prophets ever, sent from God, were from Israel. Your only rebuttal is that the message that this servant will bring is directed to the whole world, not just Israel, but this doesn’t challenge any of my points, nor does it imply a prophet of non-Israelite origins.”
        1) Doesn’t follow that just because Israel is the audience here then the servant will be Israelite
        2) Well, prophets that lived before Israel was even born are “non-Israelite”! Anyway, this point is still weak, because you’ve just described a customary trait of God. In the Qur’an there is an implication that God removed His favour to them due to their continual disobedience. This is *possible*, no? unless you want to say God can’t do that.
        “Anyways, let me ask you questions for your next response.
        1) Do you think the Book of Isaiah is inspired scripture from God?”
        I don’t know what to think. I’m open to thinking Isaiah 42 is mostly inspired, I don’t know enough about the textual history of the book of Isaiah to accept even 2nd Isaiah as scriptural.
        “2) If it is, are you willing to claim that the Book of Isaiah is compatible with the Qur’an?”

        I’ve only given it a read, I’d have to study it in detail to make that conclusion.

        Like

      • “Well, I’m glad you’re now putting some effort to research your responses. If you’ve accepted two servants then the contingency argument I presented shouldn’t be relevant to our discussion, nevertheless can I ask you why you don’t there’s a singular servant (Israel only)?”

        Sure. As I noted earlier, one servant is obviously Israel (Abraham and his descendants, in my last response I simply said Jacob and his descendants, but it might be Abraham) as is outright stated in Isaiah 41:8-9 and Isaiah 49:3. Secondly, Isaiah 42:18-25 is talking about the servant, but also must be about Israel. So, if there is only one servant, both Jesus and Muhammad prophecies are obsolete here. Nevertheless, it seems clear to me upon analysis and research on the suffering servant songs, that there is another ‘servant’. and this servant, an individual, is an embodiment of all that Israel was meant to be. The suffering servant songs tell us that this servant will be “pierced for our transgressions”, that he will be “assigned a grave with the wicked” and “bear the sins of many” — we are told he was “despised and rejected by man” and we regarded him “stricken, struck by God, and afflicted”. The servant manifests everything that God wanted for Israel, and although Israel was to prosper, in turn the servant dies in agony (hence, the ‘suffering’ servant). And it is through this intercession that the servant is made as a “light for the Gentiles”, a phrase that appears two times in Isaiah for the servant. Israel was supposed to, through God’s covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, become a light for the Gentiles by emulating what God wanted of a nation, but they failed — hence, God’s punishment manifests upon Israel, not by the destruction of Israel itself, but of the servant. And through this servant we see that others can now be redeemed.

        There is an overwhelming play on Israel’s failure when it comes to the servant in the suffering servant songs. Read this.
        http://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionaries/bakers-evangelical-dictionary/servant-of-the-lord.html

        “I think attention needs to be paid to 1-17 as a whole. The reason is primarily due to verse 16:
        I will lead the blind
        by a road they do not know,
        by paths they have not known
        I will guide them.
        I will turn the darkness before them into light,
        the rough places into level ground.
        These are the things I will do,
        and I will not forsake them.
        Once more the blind receiving guidance using light are alluded to, the same theme in verse 6-7. This looks like it’s tying back to the earlier prophecy, it’s not an isolated verse. The same vocabulary is being used. It’s not far-fetched to read 1-17 as one unit (or even 1-20). ”

        Except… It is far-fetched. The servant song in Isaiah 42 only lasts between verses 1-7. Search it up. Vv. 8-17 have nothing to do with the servant, these are talking about God Himself. In fact, it is God Himself that speaks in verse 14-17 (which includes 16), talking about Himself. This has nothing to do with the servant. In verse 14, where God starts speaking, He says “I have kept silent from ages past” — clearly this is God. The entire passage starting from verse 8 is about God. Again, the servant song ends in verse 7, hence any servant prophecy is restricted to vv. 1-7. And again, you have to take a look at all the servant songs together as a unit together, you can’t just look at one of them and try to pull Muhammad out of a hat (the other servant songs are 49:1-6, 50:4-11, and 52:13-53:12).

        Anyways, here is your logic for suggesting a contingency in the suffering servant passages:

        “I tried to be conservative in my approach and accepted that it was originally Israel. Now then, we must admit that Israel is not *explicitly* named as the servant at the start. It is only implicit at the end- where the servant is mentioned to be blind and hopeless at performing his task. This can go two ways: Israel as a nation “rises to the task” of the servant in 1-4. This is not an automatic event but, like many prophecies from God to Israel for salvation, depend on how Israel itself behaves. In other words, we have a dual description of the servant here: One that will guide the nations, bring about God’s teaching and “lead the blind”, but there is another description: the servant himself is blind (vv. 19+).
        I find this conditional interpretation feasible because of what follows the oracle, verses 21 and onwards:
        The LORD was pleased, for the sake of his righteousness,
        to magnify his teaching and make it glorious.
        22 But this is a people robbed and plundered,
        all of them are trapped in holes
        and hidden in prisons;
        they have become a prey with no one to rescue,
        a spoil with no one to say, “Restore!”
        Note how YHWH is “pleased for the sake of his righteousness to magnify his teaching…” yet “BUT this is a people robbed and plundered, all of them are trapped in holes…” Again, reading within context, it seems that “magnifying his teaching” mentioned here is the same function of the servant at the start of the chapter, YET now Israel is juxtaposed with the ideal servant: They have clearly failed.”

        This seems to be a large and simple misunderstanding. It’s not that verses 1-7 are talking about Israel, but then Israel fails later on in verses 18-25. Instead, God never prophesied that all Israel would keep His covenant in the first place, hence there is no contingency, because the prophecy you’re looking for was never there. This is much more simply understood if vv. 1-7 is about the individual who redeems Israel but vv. 18-25 is about Israel itself that failed (hence needs the redeemer).

        “All these prophecies here are saying is that God will punish Kedar and other nations due to the evil they put forth. It doesn’t make any statement about the future generations of these peoples not being potentially having a prophet or being saved. So I have no problem accepting these. Nevertheless I’m not required to, as I don’t accept the bible to be scripture.”

        Sorry, it looks like you’re trying to have your cake and eat it too. Either you accept that the Book of Isaiah is from God and hence maintains God’s prophesy of Muhammad, or it isn’t from God and has no divine prophecies in the first place. So, you cannot simply “not believe” in Isaiah’s statements about the destruction of Kedar and Sela and its future people, and then claim that you do believe Isaiah has divine words when it talks about the suffering servant. You can’t slice and dice which parts you accept to suit your views.

        On that note, Isaiah damns both Kedar and Sela (and a ton of other places), and so to simply think that a prophet will magically come from one of these is speculative imagination at best. Also, if a prophet is to come from Kedar or Sela.. Then which one? Is he coming from Kedar… Or is he coming from Sela? It can’t be both (maybe he was born on the border or something, LOL). This suggests that Kedar and Sela themselves are totally irrelevant to the servant. The Bible usually depicts foreign lands alongside its prophecies to signify their happiness in God or their destruction at God’s hand, but they themselves have no role in the prophecies.

        “1) Doesn’t follow that just because Israel is the audience here then the servant will be Israelite
        2) Well, prophets that lived before Israel was even born are “non-Israelite”! Anyway, this point is still weak, because you’ve just described a customary trait of God. In the Qur’an there is an implication that God removed His favour to them due to their continual disobedience. This is *possible*, no? unless you want to say God can’t do that.”

        1) As I mentioned in the beginning of this response, the individual servant is an embodiment of everything that Israel was supposed to be. This suggests the prophet of Israelite origins, because quite frankly, the entirety of the suffering servant songs are juiced in Israelism.
        2) There were no prophets “before” Abraham and his descendants. All prophets are Israelite starting with God’s covenant with Abraham and his descendants. Jacob, Isaac, Moses, Jesus, Isaiah himself, David’s prophets, all the prophets of the biblical prophetic books, Jesus. So, this also suggests that the servant is Israelite.
        3) A third, perhaps knockdown reason for identifying the servant as Israelite. Isaiah *specifically identifies the servant* as a non-Gentile. Remember, a Gentile is basically a non-Israelite. You’re either Israelite or Gentile. Isaiah specifically tells us that the servant is not a Gentile, as Isaiah contrasts the servant with the Gentiles.

        Isaiah 49:6: he says: “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”

        The servant will be a “light for the Gentiles”, hence not himself a Gentile. It also cannot be claimed that the servant is Israel in this verse, because the servant here is also contrasted with the nation of Israel as a whole. Hence, the servant is obviously an Israelite being delivered to Israel that will bring a message to Israel that will also be able to guide the Gentiles (hence establishing justice to all the Earth). Muhammad was, in all regards, a Gentile. The servant is not a Gentile. Game, set, match.

        Like

      • “Sure. As I noted earlier, one servant is obviously Israel (Abraham and his descendants, in my last response I simply said Jacob and his descendants, but it might be Abraham) as is outright stated in Isaiah 41:8-9 and Isaiah 49:3. Secondly, Isaiah 42:18-25 is talking about the servant, but also must be about Israel. So, if there is only one servant, both Jesus and Muhammad prophecies are obsolete here. Nevertheless, it seems clear to me upon analysis and research on the suffering servant songs, that there is another ‘servant’. and this servant, an individual, is an embodiment of all that Israel was meant to be. The suffering servant songs tell us that this servant will be “pierced for our transgressions”, that he will be “assigned a grave with the wicked” and “bear the sins of many” — we are told he was “despised and rejected by man” and we regarded him “stricken, struck by God, and afflicted”. The servant manifests everything that God wanted for Israel, and although Israel was to prosper, in turn the servant dies in agony (hence, the ‘suffering’ servant). And it is through this intercession that the servant is made as a “light for the Gentiles”, a phrase that appears two times in Isaiah for the servant. Israel was supposed to, through God’s covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, become a light for the Gentiles by emulating what God wanted of a nation, but they failed — hence, God’s punishment manifests upon Israel, not by the destruction of Israel itself, but of the servant. And through this servant we see that others can now be redeemed.”

        Actually, commentators have mentioned that this suffering servant could also possibly Israel as a nation. The explanation here is that it seems the Isaian author expected Israel to do many of these things that the servant songs set them up to be, but because they failed – the author comes up with an alternative reason for their failure.

        I am not sure what to think of this, but there is a range of interpretations here which could possibly be true. My own question is over whether how exactly you are certain that Isaiah 42 and 53 speak of the same servant. It seems to me that you’re assuming that the subject of these songs is the same – you want them to be Jesus, but even by your own admission now you’ve accepted a two-servant theory in this very chapter.

        “There is an overwhelming play on Israel’s failure when it comes to the servant in the suffering servant songs. Read this.
        http://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionaries/bakers-evangelical-dictionary/servant-of-the-lord.html”

        Once more they don’t exactly show how Isaiah 53 could not be speaking about a nation. Also, you still need to show how there is only the one and the same servant being spoken of throughout the book. The separate oracles could easily be taken as speaking of both servants.

        “Except… It is far-fetched. The servant song in Isaiah 42 only lasts between verses 1-7. Search it up.”

        The “servant song” is technically 1-4. But this is just an artificial division, the first time this division was made was to trace the apparently separate origins of these verses which were used by the Isaian author to construct his oracle. He must have written these verses together with the rest of them for a reason. Don’t take it from me, take it from Blankensopp:

        *The psalm-like invocation in 42:10-12, inviting all and sundry to celebrate Israel’s God in song, is followed by discourse by Yahveh (w 14-16), introduced as a warrior god (v 13). After a long period of silence and inactivity, represented vividly in terms of gestation leading to childbirth (14), Yahveh is about to act both in judgment, expressed in the traditional Isaian form of ecological degradation (15), and in salvation, expressed in the equally traditional Isaian motif of “blindsight” (v 16 cf. 40:9; 45:13). The final verse deprecating idolatry gives the appearance of having been appended to the saying for the sake of completeness. We may consider the discourse a response to the preceding célébration, while also acknowledging the links of the passage as a whole with the one preceding (42:1-9). The links are abundantly in evidence: the glory and praise of Yahveh (42:8, 10), the motif of blindness and darkness (7, 16), the islands and coastlands (4, 10, 12), the abjuration of idols (8, 17), and especially the “new events” (hädäsot 9), which call for a new song (sîr hädäs 10).

        “Vv. 8-17 have nothing to do with the servant, these are talking about God Himself. In fact, it is God Himself that speaks in verse 14-17 (which includes 16), talking about Himself. This has nothing to do with the servant. In verse 14, where God starts speaking, He says “I have kept silent from ages past” — clearly this is God. The entire passage starting from verse 8 is about God. Again, the servant song ends in verse 7, hence any servant prophecy is restricted to vv. 1-7. And again, you have to take a look at all the servant songs together as a unit together, you can’t just look at one of them and try to pull Muhammad out of a hat (the other servant songs are 49:1-6, 50:4-11, and 52:13-53:12).”

        Once again you keep ignoring verse 16. It says that God will lead the blind, turn the darkness before them into light… where have we heard this imagery before? From 1-7! Within the context it is a celebration of God’s same acts which He promised he will do at the start of the chapter, ie. Send His servant!

        I have quoted a biblical exegete to support my point above, in case you missed it.

        “This seems to be a large and simple misunderstanding. It’s not that verses 1-7 are talking about Israel, but then Israel fails later on in verses 18-25. Instead, God never prophesied that all Israel would keep His covenant in the first place, hence there is no contingency, because the prophecy you’re looking for was never there. This is much more simply understood if vv. 1-7 is about the individual who redeems Israel but vv. 18-25 is about Israel itself that failed (hence needs the redeemer).”

        I feel like this discussion has come to a standstill over this one simple point. The commentaries I have read suggest that it could go both ways. I have no problem accepting your two-servant interpretation, as commentators have also mentioned this to be plausible. You don’t seem to accept how a prophecy could be contingent so you stress a two-servant solution. I don’t find your reasoning convincing at all (seems to be driven by an insistence on reading Jesus into it), but I will concede now for the *sake of argument*. Let us move on from this topic.

        “Sorry, it looks like you’re trying to have your cake and eat it too. Either you accept that the Book of Isaiah is from God and hence maintains God’s prophesy of Muhammad, or it isn’t from God and has no divine prophecies in the first place. So, you cannot simply “not believe” in Isaiah’s statements about the destruction of Kedar and Sela and its future people, and then claim that you do believe Isaiah has divine words when it talks about the suffering servant. You can’t slice and dice which parts you accept to suit your views.”

        I can, because 1st Isaiah- where you got those prophecies from – is a different to the author of 2nd Isaiah.

        “On that note, Isaiah damns both Kedar and Sela (and a ton of other places), and so to simply think that a prophet will magically come from one of these is speculative imagination at best. Also, if a prophet is to come from Kedar or Sela.. Then which one? Is he coming from Kedar… Or is he coming from Sela? It can’t be both (maybe he was born on the border or something, LOL). This suggests that Kedar and Sela themselves are totally irrelevant to the servant. The Bible usually depicts foreign lands alongside its prophecies to signify their happiness in God or their destruction at God’s hand, but they themselves have no role in the prophecies.”

        Did you read what I wrote?

        Quote: I didn’t say they’re the same thing- Kedarites are a group of people, while Sela` is a place. Even if they were, it’s not unbiblical to make a statement and repeat the same statement in different words. This occurs in Hebrew poetry and also in other parts of the bible.

        “1) As I mentioned in the beginning of this response, the individual servant is an embodiment of everything that Israel was supposed to be. This suggests the prophet of Israelite origins, because quite frankly, the entirety of the suffering servant songs are juiced in Israelism.”

        Once again, non-sequitur.

        “2) There were no prophets “before” Abraham and his descendants. All prophets are Israelite starting with God’s covenant with Abraham and his descendants. Jacob, Isaac, Moses, Jesus, Isaiah himself, David’s prophets, all the prophets of the biblical prophetic books, Jesus. So, this also suggests that the servant is Israelite.”

        Jewish tradition holds the pre-Israelite patriarchs to be prophets. If you want to stick to the bible, then your argument still doesn’t follow, because what you described is just that – a description, not a prescription. God can do whatever He likes, if He did not make explicit or clear that the servant will be Israelite then we don’t necessarily have to insist on it.

        “3) A third, perhaps knockdown reason for identifying the servant as Israelite. Isaiah *specifically identifies the servant* as a non-Gentile. Remember, a Gentile is basically a non-Israelite. You’re either Israelite or Gentile. Isaiah specifically tells us that the servant is not a Gentile, as Isaiah contrasts the servant with the Gentiles.

        Isaiah 49:6: he says: “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”
        The servant will be a “light for the Gentiles”, hence not himself a Gentile. It also cannot be claimed that the servant is Israel in this verse, because the servant here is also contrasted with the nation of Israel as a whole. Hence, the servant is obviously an Israelite being delivered to Israel that will bring a message to Israel that will also be able to guide the Gentiles (hence establishing justice to all the Earth). Muhammad was, in all regards, a Gentile. The servant is not a Gentile. Game, set, match.”

        Again, here we are with the assumption that Isaiah is speaking about the same servant throughout its songs. You keep assuming this and have not proven this. Check these two commentaries on Isaiah available online:
        – Goldingay and Payne’s
        – Anchor Bible commentary (by blankinsopp).

        Both note that there are several possible “servantS” not just one “servant” being spoken of.

        But even if we say that 49 is speaking about the same servant as 42, your conclusion still doesn’t follow though. All this segment is saying is that the servant will “restore” Israel, but also that shall not be enough – he shall be a light to the gentiles too. Note here that we still don’t have anything about the origination of the servant. Could he be gentile? Possibly. Could he be Israelite? Possibly. Even blankinsopp argues its Cyrus, but Cyrus is a gentile. Very clearly, this reading is possible, and it’s not just me – its biblical exegetes making this argument. I reject Blankinsopp’s interpretation over the basis that a clear theme of “guidance” is present, but I don’t think cyrus could have been thought of as such by the original authors.

        Also note how your argument works against you. Your logic here is that because the servant is a “light to the gentiles” he can’t be gentilic. Ofcourse this is non-sequitur, but the verse also says that the servant shall restore the Israelites (who are “Israel”), following your train of thought then he can’t be Israelite either, since apparently being the object of the servant’s actions preclude his being from the peoples as his object.

        To be honest I am getting rather bored of replying to you. Would you like to wrap this up?

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      • “Actually, commentators have mentioned that this suffering servant could also possibly Israel as a nation. The explanation here is that it seems the Isaian author expected Israel to do many of these things that the servant songs set them up to be, but because they failed – the author comes up with an alternative reason for their failure.”

        That makes no sense to me, so I’d like to know which commentaries you’re taking about. I consulted at least one commentary and a Bible Dictionary before explaining the first and second servant. Nevertheless, imagining such an ‘explanation’ exists in commentaries (which I’ve yet to see), and assuming it actually makes sense, we both reject it anyhow. We both understand that there is the servant, Israel (which is undeniable because of Isaiah 41:8 and Isaiah 49:3), and that Isaiah also speaks of a second servant as an individual. This individual is an embodiment of everything God wanted for Israel, that Israel itself did not accomplish. Hence, the servant accomplishes it in Israel’s place.

        “I am not sure what to think of this, but there is a range of interpretations here which could possibly be true. My own question is over whether how exactly you are certain that Isaiah 42 and 53 speak of the same servant. It seems to me that you’re assuming that the subject of these songs is the same – you want them to be Jesus, but even by your own admission now you’ve accepted a two-servant theory in this very chapter.”

        The way to look at this is by examining the four suffering servant songs in Isaiah, located in 42:1-7, 49:1-13, 50:4-11, and 52:13-53:12. The servant songs (and only the servant songs) are the limitations to our understanding of the servant. Upon recognition of this, your initial post becomes amazingly problematic, because you think the entire 42nd chapter is about the servant (so you do a verse by verse analysis), when in reality, verses 8-17 is about God and verses 18ff are about the ignorant people of Israel (hence they are not part of the servant songs).

        “Once more they don’t exactly show how Isaiah 53 could not be speaking about a nation. Also, you still need to show how there is only the one and the same servant being spoken of throughout the book. The separate oracles could easily be taken as speaking of both servants.”

        They couldn’t possibly be talking about both servants at once. This is amazingly obvious. Anyways, you are not the only one who has written a post about Isaiah. One of my more popular posts on my own blog has been precisely about Isaiah 53 and how it proves Christianity is true (and I confront the claim that Isaiah 53 is about the nation rather than an individual).
        https://faithfulphilosophy.wordpress.com/2017/02/20/isaiah-53-confirms-christianity/

        I explained in my previous response why Isaiah 53 cannot possibly be talking about Israel. I know you *need* it to be talking about the nation rather than the individual, otherwise not only is Muhammad thrown out of the window but the actions of Jesus, like His death for our sins, become ever more real despite their enormous conflict with Islam. But there are many reasons why we can dispatch this as talking about Israel.

        Interestingly, Isaiah 53 literally calls the servant a “man”.

        Isaiah 53:3: He was despised and rejected by men, a ***man*** of suffering who knew what sickness was. He was like someone people turned away from; he was despised, and we didn’t value him.

        Isaiah 53 tells us this servant was “pierced for our transgressions” (I wonder how Israel is supposed to have been ‘pierced’, cough cough *crucifixion*). Also, see verse 9;

        Isaiah 53:9: He was assigned a grave with the wicked, but he was with a rich man at his death, because he had done no violence and had not spoken deceitfully.

        Isaiah 53:9 tells us about the burial of the servant. Israel can’t exactly get buried, but this is in starch contrast to Jesus’ burial after His crucifixion by Joseph of Arimathea. Secondly, another knockdown point is given by this verse, as it tells us the servant “had done no violence” Israel is so full of violence that this must be talking about an individual who had done no violence. *Cough* Jesus.

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      • *CONTINUED*

        I am continuing my response here because I accidentally posted my previous reply before getting to all your points.

        “The “servant song” is technically 1-4. But this is just an artificial division, the first time this division was made was to trace the apparently separate origins of these verses which were used by the Isaian author to construct his oracle. He must have written these verses together with the rest of them for a reason. Don’t take it from me, take it from Blankensopp:”

        No, the song isn’t technically 42:1-4, it’s 42:1-7. Seriously, just search it up. Or read the passage. The quote you give from Blakensopp totally doesn’t support your claim that the servant is continually discussed after verse 7, it simply points out the rather obvious fact that the entire chapter revolves around the same theme and uses similar descriptions throughout. In fact, Blakensopp doesn’t even claim that the servant is discussed after verse 7, he just basically says that the same theme is found throughout the chapter. Blakensopp wouldn’t in a thousand years claim that verse 16, or any other after verse 7, is actually talking about the servant.

        “Once again you keep ignoring verse 16. It says that God will lead the blind, turn the darkness before them into light… where have we heard this imagery before? From 1-7! Within the context it is a celebration of God’s same acts which He promised he will do at the start of the chapter, ie. Send His servant!”

        Again, the reason why similar imagery/description is used is because we have the same author, that’s all. Verse 16 is literally God speaking in first person. How could it possibly be about the servant?

        “I can, because 1st Isaiah- where you got those prophecies from – is a different to the author of 2nd Isaiah.”

        I don’t accept that. Neither do many top Isaian scholars today, including John Oswalt and J.A. Motyer. But even if this is conceded, the problem still remains completely unchanged. You’re trying to have your cake and eat it too. Either 2nd Isaiah is inspired by God and has divine prophecies, including about Muhammad, or it isn’t inspired by God and has no divine prophecies. Pick one or the other. No other options exist.

        We now go back to the three reasons I identified for the servant being from Israel.

        1) The entire thing is about Israel, the entire topic throughout is about Israel, and so for a non-Israelite feature (such as the very servant himself, whom has everything to do with Israel) is not actually Israelite this kind of is a big bust in the context — again, if Isaiah is talking about Israel and Israelite’s the entire time, it’s simply more plausible to assume that the servant doesn’t form some random pop-up from somewhere else
        2) All prophets, all of them, are Israelite.
        3) The servant is described as a “light to the Gentiles”. Here, the Gentiles are clearly an external force that the servant is revealing himself to. If the servant is external to the Gentiles, it’s most likely that he isn’t one either.

        For point 2, you say the Bible invokes pre-patriarchal prophets — please give me a verse or two to prove this. I know of no such verses. Again, you call point 1 a non-sequitur, which is incorrect as it serves to show that the entire discussion in Isaiah is about Israel and never diverts from it, and for point 3, you basically say “yeah well God can do whatever He wants”. This doesn’t refute my point though, as all three points give reasons as to why an Israelite servant (especially since the first servant is Israel itself) is much more likely than a non-Israelite servant.

        “To be honest I am getting rather bored of replying to you. Would you like to wrap this up?”

        It looks like no ones mind is going to change much. I think I’ve demonstrated based on several points that Muhammad being an object here is patently outlandish. It requires a Muslim to believe Isaiah is inspired despite no mention in the Qur’an (completely pulled out of the hat), it requires one to believe God’s prophecy failed, it requires amazing reinterpretation here and there and everywhere (and a tricky play on Isaiah 53), etc, etc, etc. You don’t need to respond to this if you don’t want to — but it’s rather obvious to me that all scholars wouldn’t pay much of a glance to this claim. The more radical Muslims might try to get at you for claiming some sort of inspiration in Isaiah.

        Again, if you want to wrap this up, fine by me. I’ll even make you a promise — the last word is yours if you want it. Otherwise, I’m not responding again.

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      • This will be my last response to you. I just want to clarify a few things here.

        1. The “servant song” of Isaiah 42 is 1-4. Check critical scholarship before you make your claims. I “just google”-d it, and the response is the same.
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Servant_songs

        2. Blenkinsopp clearly stated that he sees the praise as a response to the preceding passage.

        Your method of exegesis is laughable. You finally acknowledge the links but refuse to extract exegetical information from that.

        3. My job here was to make a possible case as to why Muhammad being the servant of Isaiah 42 is *plausible*. I acknowledge that it’s not a 100% certainty: I don’t think the prophecy is specific enough to say for *certain* that it is Jesus or Muhammad or anyone else. But I have made a plausible case, an identification far surer than Jesus.

        Even if you isolate 10-17 away from the preceding, the beginning of Isaiah 42 still applies to Muhammad. You refuse to read 1-17 together because you want it to be about Jesus. All the thematic links of this passage being tied together are present, yet you still want to neglect one half of it, insisting that it’s “separate” without refuting my reading.

        4. Isaiah 53 is another subject altogether.

        5. On the whole your evidence for why all the songs must be the same servant has been lacking.

        6. You are still hung up about my view on Isaiah. Almost all scholars accept the three-part view of the book of Isaiah, so even if I were required to take the *whole* book that 42 belongs to, I’d only have to affirm deutero-Isaiah AT MOST. I don’t find the prophecies against Kedar and sela` in 1st Isaiah problematic even if that were not the case. I wont go into why here because I want to wrap this up.

        That’s my last response. I’ve gotten tired of this discussion.

        Like

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