Isaiah’s Servant and the Second Exodus: New Moses or New David?

Scholarly opinion is divided over the identity of the servant of YHWH throughout the four servant songs of Isaiah (Is 42:1-9, 49:1-13, 50:4-11, and 52:13-53:12). While many identify the servant as the nation of Israel, others see the servant as an individual (whether the prophet himself, a future Davidic king, or some other idealized Israelite). One major motif of Isaiah that provides illumination on this issue is the so-called “second exodus.” While various scholars have noted the presence of second exodus material in the immediate literary context of the servant songs, this has not necessarily led to consensus on the identity of the servant. Gordon P. Hugenberger recognizes the intricate influence of the second exodus motif on the servant songs and asserts that “only by recognizing the servant as predominantly a second Moses figure can justice be done both to the integrity of the servant songs with their context, which is dominated by second exodus imagery, and to the otherwise perplexing combination of… traits in the portrait of the servant” (Hugenberger, 1995, p. 139). L. Michael Morales, in his Exodus Old and New: A Biblical Theology of Redemption, likewise draws attention to the link between the second exodus motif and the servant songs. Also, like Hugenberger, Morales sees parallels between the servant and Moses (Morales, 2020, pp. 148-151). However, Morales asserts that texts such as Ps. 89, Ps. 22, and Is 11:1-16 also lead the interpreter to see the servant as a clearly Davidic figure.

The present paper builds upon Morales’s work, demonstrating how the development of the second exodus motif throughout the book of Isaiah—from its earliest occurrences in Isaiah 1-39 to its later appearances amid the servant songs—creates an inextricable link between the second exodus and an eschatological David. In particular, this paper provides detailed exegetical analyses of Is 4:2-6, Is 9:1-7 [8:23-9:6 MT], Is 10:20-27, and Is 11:1-16, showing the lexical and thematic links between these passages and the servant songs. Ultimately, this paper highlights Isaiah’s complex, typological portrait of the servant. One cannot reduce him to be merely a new Moses. The organic development of the second exodus theme throughout Isaiah reveals that the servant of Isaiah’s songs is a multifaceted figure—an eschatological Moses and an eschatological David, unrivaled in the scope and splendor of his service rendered unto YHWH on behalf of His remnant.

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