Maggid ben Yoseif / Jerusalem Torah Voice in Exile

3 HESHVAN 5752 (October 11, 1991)

Redefining the job

of the messiah

The two-pronged mission

of the servant figure in Isaiah 49

Yeshayahu (Isaiah) 49 is part of the suffering servant passages. The rabbis traditionally identify this "suffering servant" as the nation of Israel. Yeshayahu 40-66 was written AFTER the split of the two Kingdoms and AFTER the judgments were pronounced against the Northern Kingdom of Israel but before this kingdom's actual exile. We can with some confidence then, propose that the suffering servant referred to in Isaiah 49 as Israel, may in fact, define these same exiles to the North of the Kingdom of Judah. Possibly Judah is even excluded in the description of the suffering of these exiles.

Historically this same text has been identified as messianic and referring to the mission of messiah to at least initiate the regathering of the exiles, which this passage identifies as the preserved of Israel. This was understood by the Jewish sages referred to as the Chazal and the identity of the suffering servant as one other than the messiah was, the justifiable (I believe) outgrowth of a backlash against Christian persecution and forced conversion.

If, as we submit in this writing, the messiah's mission in his role of suffering, is limited to the restoration of the preserved of Israel and some function among the Gentiles, again contextually, it does not apply at all to the Kingdom of Judah.  Also, it is possible that as often is the case with Scripture, the role of suffering servant applies to both the Assimilation of Israel and the messiah.  These are the presuppositions we bring into this study as we explore the two-pronged mission of the messiah and Israel:

1 Listen, O isles, unto me; and hearken, ye people, from far; Hashem hath called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name.

This is refreshing to know since the first mention of the name Israel in the Torah comes from the mouth of the ruling spirit of Esau with whom Jacob wrestled. In other words something was going on in the womb of Rebecca related to the name Israel (literally defined "He (it) will be a SAR (prince) of G-d.)

2 And he (Hashem) hath made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of His hand hath He hid me, and made me a polished shaft; in His quiver Hath he hid me;

The role the House of Israel will yet play in vanquishing Esau out of Israel's possessions may here be hinted. The reference to a quiver may also refer to offspring or descendants or SEED.

3 And said unto me, Thou art my servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified.

The simple meaning of the servant being Israel is here identified but this again may limit the servant to the Northern Kingdom, known as Israel.  Then again, this could refer to a reunited Israel, which would include the House of Judah, except that the mission spelled out in verses 5-8 does not extend to Judah, who is not severed from the original covenant with Hashem.

4 Then I said, I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nought, and in vain: yet surely my judgment is with Hashem, and my work with my God.

I believe this VANITY is the feeling of much of the Assimilation who have awoken to the realization that only the obedience to Hashem and Torah satisfies.

5 And now, saith Hashem Who formed me from the womb to be His servant, to bring Jacob again to Him, Though Israel be not gathered, yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of Hashem, and my God shall be my strength.

Verse one above would appear to clarify that the servant here is Israel except the servant's mission is to regather Israel.  How does Israel regather itself? This may define the mission of the messiah to bring back Jacob by regathering Israel and only Hashem can empower this to take place.

6 And He said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be My servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be My salvation unto the end of the earth.

This defines the two-pronged mission of either Israel or the Messiah more concisely:

First, raise up the tribes of Jacob and restore the preserved of Israel.

Then, be a LIGHT and Hashem's Y'shua (salvation) to the Goyim or Gentile nations.

While the Church has prided itself on being the vehicle to accomplish the latter, it has done little if anything to accomplish the former, which should have been the EASIEST or LIGHT thing to accomplish among the two missions.

7 Thus saith Hashem, the Redeemer of Israel, His Holy (set-apart) one, to him whom man despiseth, to him whom the nation abhorreth, to a servant of rulers, Kings shall see and arise, princes also shall worship, because of Hashem Who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, and He shall choose thee.

As with every other mention of Redemption in the Torah and Tanach, it comes solely by the hand of Hashem.  The "one" set-apart who is despised and abhorred by the nations and who is a servant to rulers is either Israel as defined above or the Messiah.  Both are BECHAR (chosen) after the spiritual status of the Firstborn (BECHOR) is done away with when Jacob wrestles it away from Esau.  It is not reinstated until Hashem makes His sovereign choice of Ephraim as His BECHOR, we submit in the role of the servant who must be planted into the Gentile world.  Y'shua is also addressed as the "FIRSTBORN among many brethren." This is another identity which limits his mission to the House of Israel, (since only the FIRSTBORN (the BECHORAH or Ephraim) are redeemed in the Torah), and not the House of Judah, the tribe of the sceptre not the birthright. 

8 Thus saith Hashem, In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee: and I will preserve thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, to establish the ERETZ (land), to cause to inherit the desolate heritages;

The Jewish sages read this Hebrew text slightly different: "I will make you for a people of a covenant."  The most literal translation is I WILL GIVE YOU (to or for) L'BRIT 'AM (A COVENANT PEOPLE ...) The usual English rendering indicates that this messiah and/or Israel are destined to become the covenant, which is not consistent with anything previous in Torah or Tanach! The usual translation of the rabbinim is that Israel will be MADE into a people of covenant again. This is consistent with the earlier prophesies of Hosea, which ended with the promise that Hashem would again call Israel an 'AM or people in covenant with Him. Both translations have their advocates and disparagers.

Usually adjectives follow nouns in Hebrew syntax meaning that with the phrase BRIT 'AM the noun would be COVENANT and the adjective PEOPLE or a PEOPLE COVENANT.  This would indicate that either messiah or Israel, whoever this servant is, was destined to be an 'AM or people covenant.  The word 'AM (pronounced AHHM) refers specifically to the remedy of one of the three judgments against the Northern Kingdom in Hosea 1. SEE Return of the House of Joseph online newsletter..  This means that if the Messiah is intended to be a COVENANT the scope of that covenant is limited as stated in Hosea 1 and Jeremiah 31 to the Assimilation.

9 That thou mayest say to the prisoners, Go forth; to them that are in darkness, Shew yourselves. They shall feed in the ways, and their pastures shall be in all high places.
10 They shall not hunger nor thirst; neither shall the heat nor sun smite them: for He that hath mercy on them shall lead them, even by the springs of water shall He guide them.
11 And I will make all my mountains a way, and my highways shall be exalted.
12 Behold, these shall come from far: and, lo, these from the north and from the west; and these from the land of Sinim.
13 Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth; and break forth into singing, O mountains: for Hashem hath comforted His people, and will have mercy upon His afflicted.

If there has been any question about the mission of the servant, it is here clarified as reconciling the three judgments decreed by the prophet Hosea: Yizra'el (God will scatter or sow), Lo-Ruhamah (Without Mercy) and Lo-Ami (Not My People). This, to me, is the strongest evidence of both the continuity between the Torah and Tanach and the reNEWed TESTAMENT and also the key to the identity of the servant as Y'shua. These same buzz words are addressed as his mission in prophecies about him before his birth and in his infancy. (See Luke 1-2)

14 But Zion said, Hashem hath forsaken me, and Adonai hath forgotten me.
15 Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee.
16 Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before Me.
17 Thy children shall make haste; thy destroyers and they that made thee waste shall go forth of thee.

At the time of the Return, Israel's enemies leave her borders as Hashem remembers the Land and the People who should rightfully dwell in it.

18 Lift up thine eyes round about, and behold: all these gather themselves together, and come to thee. As I live, saith Hashem, thou shalt surely clothe thee with them all, as with an ornament, and bind them on thee, as a bride doeth.
19 For thy waste and thy desolate places, and the land of thy destruction, shall even now be too narrow by reason of the inhabitants, and they that swallowed thee up shall be far away.
20 The children which thou shalt have, after thou hast lost the other, shall say again in thine ears, The place is too strait for me: give place to me that I may dwell.
21 Then shalt thou say in thine heart, Who hath begotten me these, seeing I have lost my children, and am desolate, a captive, and removing to and fro? and who hath brought up these? Behold, I was left alone; these, where had they been?
22 Thus saith Hashem GOD, Behold, I will lift up mine hand to the Gentiles, and set up my standard to the people: and they shall bring thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders.

It seems obvious that the sons and daughters of Israel in verse 22 were previously unknown to whomever is speaking in verses 20 and 21.

23 And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers: they shall bow down to thee with their face toward the earth, and lick up the dust of thy feet; and thou shalt know that I am Hashem: for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me.
24 Shall the prey be taken from the mighty, or the lawful captive delivered?
25 But thus saith Hashem, Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered: for I will contend with him that contendeth with thee, and I will save thy children.
26 And I will feed them that oppress thee with their own flesh; and they shall be drunken with their own blood, as with sweet wine: and all flesh shall know that I Hashem am thy Saviour and thy Redeemer, the mighty One of Jacob.

                                                   Maggid ben Yoseif