The Rhetorical Role Of Reiteration In The Suffering Servant Poem (Isa 52:13-53:12) -- By: Ronald L. Bergey
JETS 40:2 (June 1997) p. 177
The Rhetorical Role Of Reiteration
In The Suffering Servant Poem (Isa 52:13-53:12)
The suffering servant poem (Isa 52:13–53:12) is one of the most familiar portions of the Hebrew Scriptures. “All we like sheep have gone astray” is recognized as readily as “The Lord is my shepherd.” Although couched in a context of his ultimate success, “the most striking feature of the passage is the unparalleled sufferings of the Servant.” 1 A portrait par excellence of Yahweh’s humiliated and exalted servant, the poem is also a literary chef-d’uvre. Various reiterative, rhetorical techniques are employed to structure the poem around the servant’s sufferings and supremacy and to impress upon the reader or listener the nature and extent of his humiliation and exaltation. 2
The question of the poem’s parts is debated. It is often advised that the poem is composed of five stanzas of three verses each: 52:13–15; 53:1–3, 4–6, 7–9, 10–12. 3 Such a division is usually defended on thematic grounds, since the first and last stanzas speak of the ultimate exaltation and successful mission of the suffering servant, and the middle three, distinguished by subject matter, delve into the depths of the servant’s humiliation. Thus the poem, so divided, would have three major sections: the servant’s future exaltation (52:13–15), his sufferings (53:1–9) and his ultimate triumph (vv. 10–12). A
* Ronald Bergey is professor of Hebrew and OT at the Faculté Libre de Théologie Réformée, 33, Av Jules Ferry, 13100 Aix-en-Provence, France.
JETS 40:2 (June 1997) p. 178
literary classification of the poem’s parts supports an overall threefold division. Two divine “my servant” proclamations or announcements envelop the central report or confession concerning the servant’s suffering. This refinement also points toward a more satisfactory answer to the question concerning where the second divine proclamation begins. Accordingly vv. 10–11b continue the report since Yahweh, rather than speaking, is still spoken of (v. You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
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