C Piepenbring.

Theology of the Old Testament online

. (page 17 of 26)
Online LibraryC PiepenbringTheology of the Old Testament → online text (page 17 of 26)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


1 Zech. iv. 6 f.

2 Zech. ix. 10 ; Isa. ix. 6 ; xi. 3 f. ; Mic. v. 2, 4 ; Jer. xxiii. 5 ;
XXX. 21 ; xxxiii. 15 ; Ezek. xxi. 32.

3 Isa. xi. 10. ^ Zech. ix. 10 ; Isa. ix. 6 f. ; Mic. v. 5.

5 Zech. ix. 13 ff. ; xii. 1 ff.; Isa. xi., xiv. ; Mic. v. 5-9.

6 xlv. 17, 22 ff. ' xlvi. 2 ff.


The character and qualifications of the Messiah
should correspond with his functions. Being called to
govern an ideal kingdom, in which all the imperfec-
tions of this world will have disappeared, he should
himself have an ideal character, and possess extraordi-
nary qualifications. But w^e should do violence to the
teaching of the Old Testament, if we tried to find in it
the doctrine of the divinity of the Messiah for the pur-
pose of making it conform to the Christian dogma of
the divinity of Christ. Zechariah distinctly represents
the Messiah as a man.i Micah says that Jehovah is
his God. 2 We have seen that in a number of passages
he is called servant of Jehovah. We know that, sprung
from the family of David, he will perpetuate his stock
in a natural Avay. He is everywhere, as respects his
nature, placed on the same level as the other Israelites
of the Messianic kingdom. Isaiah, who gives him the
most sublime titles, says distinctly that the great quali-
fications with which he will be clothed will be communi-
cated to him by the spirit of Jehovah, ^ which, we have
seen, is promised to all Israel. Thus the Messiah
will have all the intellectual, moral, and religious
qualifications necessary for governing and judging his
people.* Isaiah ix. 6 f. means nothing else, in spite
of the extraordinary titles that we there encounter.

In this passage the Messiah is called Counsellor-
prodigy, Wonderful Counsellor; this term denotes a
qualification essential in a king who, like this one, is
to procure for his people an exceptional degree of pros-
perity. He is called Hero-god, or, according to Brus-

1 vi. 12. 2 V. 4. 3 xi. 2. 4 xi. 2-5.


ton, Valiant Warrior.^ The title El does not authorize
us to attribute to him a divine nature, since this same
title is given to the king of Babylon. ^ We know that
other kings and judges are called gods, without any
intention of attributing to them a divine nature. The
Messiah is called, according to some, Everlasting
Father; according to others. Father of Booty. Both
translations are grammatically possible (Reuss). If
the second, which agrees very well with the title pre-
ceding, be adopted, it attributes to the Messiah victory
over his enemies. The first represents him as the father
of his people. 3 If eternity is attributed to him this
"means that he will effect something everlasting; cause
his kingdom and his dynasty to be everlasting."^
Finally he is called Prince of Peace, not because he
will not make war, but because, as a valiant hero, he
will obtain victory over all his enemies, and thus give
" increase to the empire, and a peace without end to the
throne of David and his kingdom," as the passage in
question says.

Micah represents the Messiah especially as a glorious
king who will govern with the support of Jehovah, and
render his people happy, procuring them peace by vic-
tory over his enemies, and particularly over the Assyr-
ians, so formidable to Israel in the time of the prophet.^
Attempts have been made to find the eternal preexist-
ence of the Messiah in the declaration of Micah that
"his origin dates from ancient times, from the daj^s of
eternity." But this latter expression is explained b}^

1 Literature Prophetique, p. 141 ; [G. A. Smith, Book of Isaiah, pp.
136 ff.]. 2 Ezek. xxxi. 11. 3 "isa. xxii. 21.

4 Bruston, p. 142 ; [Scliultz, II. p. 403]. 5 v. 4 ff.


tlie parallel expression "from ancient times." The
prophet simply means that the Messiah will be a de-
scendant of the ancient family of David. ^ The word
eternity or eternal has a merely relative signification in
the language of the Old Testament.

The passage, Zech. xii. 8, which says that the house
of David will be like the Deity, makes a simple com-
parison, meaning that the royal house, at the head of
the Israelites, who will all be heroes, will be as it were
a divine power, repelling the enemy. Finally the
attempt has been made to find the divinity of the
Messiah in Jer. xxiii. 6, where he is called " Jehovah
our righteousness." But Oehler himself opposes this
interpretation. 2 He shows that it is said, not that the
Messiah will be Jehovah our righteousness, but that he
is simply called by this name ; that Jerusalem receives
the same title, ^ and that an altar is called "Jehovah my
standard. " * It might be added that there are many Isra-
elitish proper names, of which the name of God forms a
part, yet those who bore them are not believed to have
been partakers of divinity. It may even be that the
name in question was not applied to the Messiah at all,
but to Israel.^


During the captivity in Babylon, when the royal
house had fallen with the Israelitish nationality,
deutero-Isaiah based the hope of the Messianic king-

1 Bruston, p. 256 ; [Schultz, II. pp. 415 f.]. ^ § 231.

3 Jer. xxxiii. 16. * Ex. xvli. 15.

5 Schultz, II. p. 418 ; Reuss on Jer. xxiii. 6.


dom no longer on a descendant of David, a glorious
and triumphant king, but upon the faithful and un-
happy portion of the people to which he gives the name
servant of Jehovah. He speaks of them more particu-
larly in the following passages : xli. 8 ff. ; xlii. 1-7,
18 ft'.; xliii. 1-10; xliv. 1 f., 21-26; xlv.4; xlviii. 20;
xlix. 1-9: I, 4-10; lii. 13-liii. 12.

Traditional theology has seen in the servant of Jeho-
vah the Messiah, and has regarded the passages that
speak of him as predictions relating to Jesus Christ.
What is true is that Jesus fulfilled the most sublime
predictions that relate to the servant of Jehovah. But
modern historical interpretation has had no difficulty
in demonstrating that our prophet says not a single
word about the Messiah ; that he assigns to the servant
of Jehovah a character and role entirely different from
those that are attributed to the latter; that he regards
him as existing in the present, as having suffered in
the past, and as having a mission to fulfil among the
exiled people ; that finally he identifies the coming of
the Messianic kingdom with the return from the Exile,
and represents it after a manner in many respects
entirely different from that of the gospel.

All this is supported by evidence that any one who
does not insist upon shutting his eyes to it must con-
sider unanswerable. It was easy enough to make
this result clear. It was more difficult to say who, to
the thought of the prophet, the servant of Jehovah
really was. To this question modern exegetes give very
divergent responses. Some have seen in the servant of
Jehovah the people Israel taken in their concrete reality;
others, the ideal people ; still others, prophetism.


These divergencies are readily explained. Deutero-
Isaiah actually gives the title servant of Jehovah to the
people Israel taken in their historical reality, the blind,
sinful, captive people. ^ In so doing he only adopts the
language used in Jeremiah and Ezekiel.^ But while
these last two prophets, like the majority of their pred-
ecessors, condemn Israel in the mass, and accuse
them of being completely corrupt, the first distinguishes
two parts among the peoj)le, the one faithful, the other
unfaithful. He knows righteous and faithful Israel-
ites, he knows a great multitude who have the law of
God in their hearts, who follow the right way and shun
evil.^ These righteous he carefull}^ distinguishes from
the unfaithful part of the people; he even contrasts
them with the latter; in the second part of our book
he calls them the servants of Jehovah in contrast Avith
the wicked.* As far as chapter liii., on the contrary,
this faithful part of the people, like the entire nation,
is frequently called the servant of Jehovah.^ This
alone, in fact, formed the true Israel, and was really
the servant of Jehovah, while the whole of Israel could
receive this title only in a potential sense, inasmuch as
its vocation was to serve God.

It is, therefore, wrong to claim, as has been done,
that deutero-Isaiah gives the title servant of Jehovah
exclusively either to the entire people Israel or to the
faithful fraction of the people. The truth is that he
gives it by turns to both of them. He presents this

1 xli. 8 ff. ; xlii. 19 ff.; xliv. 1 ff., 21 f. ; xlv. 4 ; xlviii. 20.

2 Jer. XXX. 10 ff. ; xlvi. 27 f. ; Ezek. xxviii. 25 ; xxxvii. 25 ; comp.
Ps. cxxxvi. 22.

3 li. 1, 7 ; Mi. 1 f. ; lix. 15. * liv. 17 ; Ixiii. 17 ; Ixv. 1-lxvi. 14.
6 xlii. 1-7 ; xliii. 10; xliv. 26 ; xlix. 1-9 ; 1. 4-10 ; lii. 13-liii. 12.


fraction in an ideal light, but it has for him a real ex-
istence, so that it is equally wrong to hold that the
servant of Jehovah is only an ideal people, as opposed
to the real people. Finally, since the faithful portion
of the people possesses certain characteristics and fulfils
in part the mission of the prophets, the servants of God
par excellence^ it has been possible to maintain with
some show of reason that the servant of Jehovah is Isra-
elitish prophetism; but this is only apparently the

Our prophet, to whom the return from the Exile and
the restoration of Israel are equivalent to the inaugu-
ration of the Messianic kingdom and universal salva-
tion, thinks that the servant of Jehovah will contribute
to this grand end, by bringing the captives forth from
prison, 1 by bringing back the remnant of Israel, by rais-
ing up the tribes of Jacob, and by distributing among
them the desolate heritages. ^ He will contribute to the
work of restoration above all by producing among the
people the disposition required, that God may grant them
forgiveness and salvation. This prophet, in fact, like
the others, insists that it is necessary for the people to
turn to God, and practise righteousness, in order that God
may be able to forgive them, make a new and everlast-
ing covenant with them, and bestow upon them his
blessings. 2 The chief office of the servant of Jehovah
is to serve as mediator between Israel and their God in
establishing this covenant.* For the old covenant has
been broken through the sin of Israel, who are like a

1 xlii. 7 ; xlix. 9. 2 xlix. 6, 8.

3 xliv. 22 ; Iv. 1 ff., 6 ff. ; Ivi. 1 f. ; Iviii. 1 ff. ; lix. 20.
* xlii. 6 : xlix. 8.


woman divorced by her husband.^ Jehovah, in his great
mercy, is ready to make a new covenant of peace with
his rejected spouse. ^ But she must be equally disposed
thereto. It is the office of the servant of Jehovah to
open the eyes of the blind people,^ to bring them back
to God, from whom they have departed;* it is his
office also to stimulate the courage of those who are not
rebellious but downcast.^

That he may fulfil this mission God has clothed him
with his spirit ; ^ he has given him a ready tongue ;
he has waked him every morning, and opened his ear
that he may docilely hear the divine instructions.'' He
has made his mouth like a sharp sword, and he has
made him a sharpened arrow. ^ Thus prepared the ser-
vant of Jehovah fulfils his ministry with docility,^ with
gentleness and perseverance,^^ and yet this ministry is
not an easy matter; it seems to produce no effect. ^^
The servant of Jehovah is despised by his people, he
is even an object of abhorrence to them.^^ Ug endures
persecutions the most ignominious ; but he bears them
patiently, relying on the assistance of God, and assured
that his enemies are on the way to destruction. ^^ He
knows that God will glorify himself in him ; ^^ he knows
that he is honored in the eyes of Jehovah, and that his
God is his strength, ^^ that kings will rise before him
and princes prostrate themselves at his feet.^^ This
extraordinary humiliation of the servant of Jehovah and
his glorious exaltation, so unexpected that it will fill

1 1. 1 ; lix. 2. 2 liv. 1-10. 3 xlii. 7, 18 ff. * xlix. 6.

5 xlii. 3 ; 1. 4. 6 xlii. 1. M. 4 f . 8 xlix. 2.

9 1. 5. 10 xlii. 3 f. 11 xlix. 4. 12 xlix. 7.

13 1. 6-9. 14 xlix. 3. 15 xlix. 5. le xlix. 7.


kings with astonishment, are also described in lii.
13-15, i.e. the beginning of the most original passage
bearing on our subject, which, however, has been very
variously interpreted. ^

The prophet, after having indicated the general sub-
ject that he is going to treat, — the extreme humiliation
and the extraordinary exaltation of the servant of Jeho-
vah, — complains that such preaching has generally met
with unbelief among his people. ^ Then the Israelites,
guilty but repentant, are represented as speaking.
They first testify to the wretched condition of the ser-
vant of Jehovah: he is like a weak plant, a wretched
shoot, that springs from a parched soil,^ or like a man
sick Avith a horrible disease.* It will be easy to un-
derstand what has just been said, and what is said a
little later, ^ if we do not lose sight of the passages
already cited, and others in which appears the express
declaration that the faithful portion of Israel endure
contempt, abuse, persecution, such as no one else has to
endure,^ and that though the righteous perish, no one
lays it to heart.' But what is new is that the guilty
Israelites recognize that the servant of Jehovah has
borne their sufferings, that he has been wounded for
their sins, and smitten for their iniquity, and that the
punishment that has overtaken him procures them peace
and salvation.^ The prophet, speaking in his turn, be-
ginning with verse 7, confirms the conviction of the
guilty people; he, too, declares that the servant of
Jehovah has been smitten for the sins of his people,
that it has pleased God to crush him with suffering in

1 lii. 13-liii. 12. 2 nii. 1. 3 lui. 2. * liii. 8.

6 liii. 7. ^ xlix. 7 ; 1. 6 ff. : li. 7. ^ lyii. 1. s im. 4-6.


spite of his innocence, that he has surrendered his life
as a sacrifice for sin.^ These sufferings, willingly ac-
cepted, and innocently endured, redound to the pros-
perity of the work of God in the hands of his servant. ^
With this work we are already acquainted. But it is
once again described; it consists in henceforth making
men righteous by instruction, and bearing their iniqui-
ties.^ Indeed, if the servant of Jehovah was clothed
with the divine spirit and instructed by God, that he
might fulfil his high mission,* his seed will enjoy the
same privilege ; the spirit of God will rest on them, and
his words will ever be in their mouths,^ evidently in
view of the mission that will hereafter devolve upon
the true Israel. But the sufferings of the servant of
Jehovah will bring the sufferer to glory; he will see a
posterity, and prolong his days; freed from troubles of
soul, he will feast his e^^es on the success of his work ;
God will give him his part with the great, he will share
the booty with the strong.^ These last words and the
parallel passages in our book '' show clearly that even
in this remarkable chapter, in which one at times be-
lieves one's self on evangelical ground, the view of
the Old Testament is maintained, and that here also
the servant of Jehovah is a collective term for faithful
Israel, who, after having innocently endured many
sufferings, and thus contributed to the salvation, the
deliverance, of their people, will enjoy the extraordi-
nary glory, greatness, and prosperity of the same.

The above result finds its partial confirmation and
explanation in chapter Ixv. vv. 8-10. Here, indeed,

1 liii. 8-10. 2 liii, 10. 3 liii. 11. 4 xlii. 1 ; xlix. 2 ; 1. 4 f.

5 lix. 21. 6 liii. 10-12. 7 xlix. 7 ; lii. 15.


Israel is compared to a cluster of grapes, which is not to
be destroyed on account of the juice that it contains.
"I will do thus," says Jehovah, "for the sake of my
servants, in order that all may not be destroyed. I
will cause my posterity to come forth from Jacob, and
from Judah an heir to my mountains ; my chosen shall
possess the country, and my servants dwell in it.
Sharon shall serve as pasture for the flocks, and the
valley of Achor as an abode for the herds, for my people
who shall have sought me." Thus the faithfulness of
a portion of Israel will prevent God from destroying
the entire nation. The gross sinners, the idolaters,
the impenitent, will doubtless be exterminated. ^ But
those who seek God, after having confessed their faults
will be saved for the sake of the faithful portion of
Israel, and with them. And salvation will consist in
the possession of the country and great material

We have seen that the servant of Jehovah fulfils
his mission, in part at least, by his sufferings, by be-
coming an expiatory victim, both in the eyes of the
people and in the eyes of God. He gives to the offended
God the satisfaction that is due him, and procures
for the guilty and repentant people assurance of the
forgiveness of God. Hence the establishment of a new
covenant between Israel and their God becomes possible,
and in consequence of this covenant of peace and sal-
vation, the deliverance and restoration of Israel also. It
should be observed that the prophet gives the promise
of the covenant immediately after having shown in
chapter liii. that the sins of the people have been expi-
1 Ixv. 11 ff. ; comp. vv. b-1 ; Ixvi. 4-6, 14, 17, 24 ; 1. 11.


ated.i To the thought of the prophet there was evi-
dently a real connection between these two ideas.

How did deutero-Isaiah attain this original idea, that
the faithful part of Israel atones for the sins of the
unfaithful portion ? It meets, in reality, a want that
must have made itself keenly felt in the land of exile.
It was not possible to offer to Jehovah victims to ap-
pease him, and to obtain his forgiveness there, far from
the only lawful sanctuary. How then was assurance of
his forgiveness to be obtained? This was possible if
the faithful part of Israel was regarded as an expiatory
victim. Now this conception would naturally enough
present itself to the mind of the prophet. It was
always believed in Israel that faults could be expiated
by persons other than those who committed them.
Thus the family of Korah, and that of Achan had to
expiate the faults committed by their heads ;2 the
people Israel had to suffer for the faults of King David ^
and King Manasseh ; ^ and the descendants of Saul for
that of their ancestor.^ We have already seen that, as
a rule, the Israelites believed that the merit and the de-
merit of one person or generation could be imputed to
another, and those of one part of the community to the
entire community.


It clearly follows from the above, and from a consid-
eration of all the docuraents of the first two periods,
that the Israelites believed only in an earthly retri-

1 liv. 1-10. 2 ;N"uin. xvi. 25 ff. ; Josh. 7. 3 2 Sam. xxiv.

* 2 Kings xxiii. 26 ; xxiv. 3 f. ; Jer. xv. 4. 5 2 Sam. xxi. 1-14.


bution for human actions. There is not, in the writings
of the prophets, where the punishment of sin on the
one hand and the hope of future salvation on the other,
play so great a part, the least trace of the idea that sin
can be punished and virtue rewarded in another life.
According to the general opinion of the Hebrews God
rewards good and punishes evil in this world; all mis-
fortune is a divine penalty, incurred by unfaithfulness,
and all blessing a divine reward, merited by faithful-
ness ; in a word, there is an exact ratio between mis-
fortune and guilt, between happiness and merit.

For a long time these conceptions seem to have
aroused no serious opposition ; for there is none to be
met in the oldest documents. But in proportion as the
events of individual life and of history were more
clearly observed, and more thoughtfully studied, it was
perceived that experience constantly contradicted this
theory of retribution, that many who were wicked were
happy, and many who were righteous were unhappy.
Hence arose great perplexity for the one who did not
close his eyes to evidence, a snare that might cause be-
lie v^ers to stumble, and throw them into doubt. ^ This
difficulty made itself felt especially from the Exile
onAvard.2 Yvoni that time also the most serious efforts
were made to overcome it.

Perhaps the difficulty had been perceived at an earlier
date, and the attempt had been made to relieve it by
saying that God visits the faults of fathers upon their

1 Comp. Isa. V. 18-20.

2 Jer. xii. 1 ff. ; xviii. 20 ; xx. 18 ; Hab. i. 2 ff., 13 ff. ; Ezek. xviii.
25, 29 ; xxxiii. 17, 20 ; Isa. xl. 27 ; Iviii. 3 ; Mai. iii. 13 ff. ; Ps. x. 1 ff. ;
XXXV. 17 ff. ; xliv. 17-26 ; Ixxiii. 1-14 : xciv. 1 ff.


children, and that he rewards children for the faithful-
ness of their ancestors.^ It must be admitted that this
principle finds support in the laws of solidarity and
heredity observed in the experience of every day: chil-
dren do often suffer for the faults of their parents, or
profit by their virtues. This principle is especially
true when it is applied to an entire people considered
collectively, as for example, the people Israel, since
succeeding generations generally suffer for the faults
of those preceding.

But this comparatively early opinion also aroused ob-
jections, and gave occasion for the sarcastic proverb,
"the fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the sons' teeth
have been set on edge. " ^ It was opposed by the thought
that each bore the penalty of his own sin.^ Thus the
traditional standpoint was maintained, and an explana-
tion that at least relieved the difficulty raised by it, dis-
carded. But how was this difficulty from that time
forward to be solved? It was taught that man has
no right to contend with God, the creature with the
creator, the work with him who made it; ^ it was
asserted that man, far from being righteous, is in
reality guilty;^ or perhaps it was maintained that
the happiness of the wicked is only fleeting, and always
comes to an unhappy end, while the misfortune of the
righteous can only be temporary;^ in some passages

1 Ex. XX. 5 f. ; Dent, v. 9 f. ; comp. Hos, iv. 6 ; Jer. xxxii. 18.

2 Jer. xxxi. 29 ; Ezek. xviii. 2.

3 Jer. xxxi. 30 ; Ezek. xviii. 3 ff. ; xxxiii. 10-20 ; Deut. xxiv. 16 ;
2 Kings xiv. 6. * Isa. xxix. 16 ; xlv. 9 f. ; Jer. xviii. 6.

5 Ezek. xviii. 29 ff. ; xxxiii. 17 ff. ; Isa. Iviii. 3 ff.

6 Ps. Ixxiii. 16-24 ; ix. 17 f. ; xxxvii. ; xlix. ; Iv. 22 f. ; Ixiv. ; xciv.
8-23 ; Prov. xxiii. 17 f.


there appears even the higher idea that misfortune has
a salutary elfect upon man, like that of correction upon
the child ; ^ finally, in deutero-Isaiah, occurs the thought
that the righteous may be called to suffer for the guilty,
and thus save these latter from merited chastisements/^
It may well be that the explanation of chapter liii. of
Isaiah should be sought in part in the preconceptions to
which the question of retribution gave rise at the time
of the Exile. Have we not in this chapter a new solu-
tion of the problem? The faithful portion of Israel
suffered innocently : how are these sufferings to be ex-
plained from the Israelitish standpoint, according to
which misfortune and sin, happiness and righteousness,
always balance each other? They are explained on the
supposition that the faithful portion of Israel expiate
the sins of the unfaithful.

The problem of which we are speaking engrossed
and perplexed Israelitish thinkers to such a degree that
one of them felt the need of giving it thorough treat-
ment, and making it the subject of an entire book, —
that of Job. The following is a rough outline of the
contents in their connection of this theodicy of the Old
Testament. Righteous Job is overtaken by great mis-
fortunes though he has not deserved them, solely that
his piety may be tested. ^ Here, therefore, is experi-
ence, in the person of Job, protesting against the old
theory of retribution. In the long conversations that
take place between him and his friends. Job gives utter-
ance to doubts concerning Providence, because he sees

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 17 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26

Online LibraryC PiepenbringTheology of the Old Testament → online text (page 17 of 26)