See, my servant will act wisely; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted. Just as there were many who were appalled at him -- his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human and his form marred beyond human likeness -- so will he sprinkle many nations, and kings will shut their mouths because of him. For what they were not told, they will see, and what they have not heard, they will understand. -- Isaiah 52:13-15
THE THEME IS of suffering and vindication. Many difficulties, a multitude of them, hem in the figure of the mysterious servant, as well as the nature and source of his suffering.
To compound things, we have no inkling as to the servant's identity. Or if he is intended as more than a type. Someone, anyone, we might conclude, who lives and dies for the sake of truth-telling.
We have, so to speak, no "second opinion" at hand. Whereas, for example, in the accounts of four evangelists each offers a nuance, flavor, emphasis, as to the character, deeds, and at times, the firsthand words of one and the same Christ.
This servant, however, never once speaks for himself. We are told various things about him. He will endure extraordinary suffering with patience. He will undergo (perhaps most difficult of all) the scandal of the pusillanimous -- those who at one time placed a certain immature trust in him and his vocation. (Somewhat like Job's friends, concluding he must be cursed of God, since awful things befall him.)
We are told, moreover, that the sufferings of the servant are a form of intercession on behalf of others. And finally, we are assured that the servant will be vindicated, though too late to save his life. A cold comfort.
Thus the oracle unfolds on two or three vertical stages. First God speaks briefly. Then the form of the song is clarified; it is partly (though in small part) a biography.