The Making of Embrace and Exclusion: Isaiah 53 in the Light of Homecoming After Exile

University dissertation from Lund University, Centre for Theology and Religious Studies

Abstract: Abstract This study attempts to understand what problem Isa 53 addresses and seeks to answer. The question is asked as an historical question and it is argued that Isa 53 address a specific historical problem, arising out of the conflicts created after the return of those who had gone into exile. At the end of the exile, there was hope that the deported people would return to the land, that the land would be rebuilt, and that Jerusalem would again flourish. This hope is most clearly expressed in Isa 40:1-52:10. However, as time went by, there was a realisation that the envisaged glorious return was in reality a rather limited return, and the joy of receiving those who returned had turned into conflicts, not least regarding the possession of land and the availability of places to live. In this situation someone probably reflected on the message of Isa 40:1-52:10 and sought to understand what had gone wrong. Isa 53 was then inserted as an explanation of how the people in the land, i.e. the "we" should have received those who returned, i.e. the servant. If this embrace had taken place, Mother Zion would have rejoiced, as described in Isa 54. Instead of these pictures painted for us in Isa 53 and 54, we encounter the reality of the conflicts described in Isa 56-66. The interpretation presented in this study is based on a hypothesis that these conflicts emerged between the people in the land and those who returned from exile. These conflicts are analysed with the help of contemporary refugee studies, other texts of the Old Testament, and also relevant passages in Isa 40-55. It is argued that the reconciliation between the "we" and the servant is more important than the aspect of atonement. Furthermore, it is by the confession that the "we"-group opens its arms to embrace the servant. The text is analysed from two major points of view. First, the discussion focuses on how the "we" understand the servant´s suffering, and the perspective includes both their past and their present perceptions. Secondly, three important contexts of Isa 53 are analysed, the literary, the geographical, and the social context in order to offer further support for the interpretation proffered in this study.

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