Part 3: Context (Book)

Many scholars agree that the book of Isaiah can be divided into two major sections: chapters 1-39 and chapters 40-66. Scofield, entitles the first section, “Looking toward the captivities” and the second, “Looking beyond the captivities.”[1] The second part explains in detail the ministry and mission of the Servant and seeks to comfort the people with a view of their future restoration. Within the second section, Oswalt identifies two subsections: chapters 40-55 and chapter 56-66. While the first major section of Isaiah reveals God’s plan to judge his people, Oswalt shows that “the fundamental point that chs. 40-55 address is the possibility of restoration.”[2] He also points out that within chapters 40-55, there seems to be a logical break at 52:13 that continues to 53:12. The chapters before (40-52:12) and after (54-55) serve as book-ends surrounding this interesting passage. Brendsel believes that “Isaiah 52:7-12 forms a conclusion of sorts to Isaiah 40-52. But… it is, as it were, an incomplete conclusion- a conclusion pointing forward… [to] the Servant’s suffering and exaltation.”[3] Isaiah 52:13-53:12, then, is instrumental in showing the servant’s involvement in this restoration.

Oswalt concludes that chapters 56-66 “are written to show how the theology of chs. 40-55 fits into that of chs. 1-39.”[4] Webb explains further that within chs. 56-66 there is a “double focus.” [5] On the one hand, the exiles who returned to the land “lived in the tension between the ‘now’ and the ‘not yet’. They had the beginnings of what God had promised but not the fullness of it.”[6] On the other, this final section of Isaiah “falls between the death and exaltation of the Servant of the Lord in chapter 53, and the consummation of history in the new heavens and the new earth in chapters 65 and 66.”[7]

It is also interesting to note with Webb that “four passages in Isaiah 40-55 have been singled out by the biblical scholars as “songs” celebrating the sacrificial life of a righteous servant of God who brings about the redemption of others.”[8] These four songs are found in Isaiah 42:1-4, 49:1-6, 50:4-9, 52:13:53-12. The passage at hand is the longest and last of these four songs.


[1] Scofield, Cyrus Ingerson, ed. The Scofield Reference Bible: The Holy Bible, Containing the Old and New Testaments. Oxford University Press, 1917.

[2] Oswalt, John. The Book of Isaiah, Chapters 40 66. Vol. 23. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1998.

[3] Brendsel, Daniel J. Isaiah Saw His Glory : The Use of Isaiah 52-53 in John 12, De Gruyter, Inc., 2014. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/westernseminary-ebooks/detail.action?docID=1663174. Created from westernseminary-ebooks on 2018-12-08 13:25:21.

[4] Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah, 11

[5] Webb, Barry G. The Message of Isaiah. InterVarsity Press, 1996. 219-220

[6] Ibid., 219

[7] Ibid., 220

[8] Ward, James M. “The Servant Songs in Isaiah.” Review & Expositor 65, no. 4 (December 1968): 433–46. doi:10.1177/003463736806500405.

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