In vs. 9-11 the speaker is 1) calling for God to act (9), 2) recounting the wondrous works of God in the past (9-10), and 3) proclaiming the coming joy (11). The "dragon" could refer to Babylon, and I had to do a little searching but "Rahab" (which my Bible's margin note for Isaiah 30:7 says means 'arrogance') is not the faithful harlot from Joshua 2 but is a name for Egypt, likely derogatorily used and, as here, mentioned in the context of "her" defeat at the hands of the Lord. What makes this section interesting and/or confusing is that it reads like the cheerful bravado of a human calling God to act and then celebrating before the game's even been played, so to speak. But then vs. 12 picks right back up with the pronouns of deity, the confessions of being "the Lord your God" (15). So vs. 9-11 could be Isaiah with his input or it could still be God the Word giving us the distinction between persons within the One God; either way, I don't have much of a dog in this fight. Moving on, God the Word is the One who comforts and asks why Israel should fear a mere flesh-and-blood man (12) and so forget "The Lord your Maker" (13). In vs. 14-23 God the Word goes back and forth between God's great provision and God's anger that has brought about these difficult times for Israel. Nevertheless, Israel is still the people of God (16) and He will contend for them (22).
I would gather that God the Word is still speaking in 52:1 and following, proclaiming deliverance by God's hand, a redemption without money (3). God is concerned for His people, but this concern is inextricably tied to His concern for His name, which is being slighted by those who rule over Israel (5). Verses 6-10 is a beautifully poetic narrative of how God will deliver Israel and His fame will spread to other nations, carrying His salvation to the "ends of the earth" (10). God calls His people to be ritually pure (11) when they leave their captivity, not running like fugitives but under the direction of the God of Israel (12). In 52:13-15 through 53:12 we see a few of the qualities of God's servant. He [will/has/was]:
- be high and lifted up, greatly exalted (52:13)
- have his appearance and form will marred more than any other (52:14)
- sprinkle many nations (could be a reference to the sacrificial practice of sprinkling the blood to make atonement for sin) and shut the mouths of kings by his marring (52:15)
- no attractive appearance or majesty (53:2)
- despised, forsaken, acquainted with grief, not esteemed (53:3)
- bore our griefs and sorrows and we thought him cursed by God (53:4)
- pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities, chastened for our well-being, heals us by his scourging [i.e. whipping] (53:5)
- had the iniquity "of us all" fall on him by God's design and cause, even though we've all gone astray and our own way (53:6)
- oppressed and afflicted without opening his mouth, like a lamb led to slaughter (53:7)
- taken away by oppression and judgment -- a rhetorical question closes the verse with the implication that no one is his generation would have considered that he was "cut off out of the land of the living" (i.e. killed) for the transgressions of God's people, much less BY them (53:8)
- grouped with wicked men but "with" a rich man in death because he wasn't violent or deceitful (53:9)
- crushed by the pleasure of the Lord and put to grief; if he willingly became a guilt offering he'd see his offspring, prolong his days, and see the Lord's good pleasure prosper in his hand (53:10)
- see the many justified by the servant's knowledge and anguish of his soul, because he "will bear their iniquities, as is the Lord's pleasure from the previous verse (53:11)
- be allotted a portion with the great and strong because he died among transgressors; he bore the sin of many and interceded for transgressors (53:12)
As I read the end of Ch. 52 and all of 53, I cannot help but understand it through the lens of Jesus. What He endured, and why, has become so central to everything in my life, and the reason I continue to study the Bible. I want to understand the greatness of God as much as I can, and the past 5+ chapters have been painting a picture of God the personified Word who proclaims the will of God as much as God's judgment against those who ignore His will, and then later takes flesh and is called the Servant who bears sin on our behalf and intercedes for us. Whether John has this passage in mind or not when he writes John 1 in his gospel account, I don't know, but it would make sense. Both of these texts talk about the people who love darkness more than light, and how the light of God came in the flesh, and that light was the word of God, was in fact God. I certainly don't claim to know everything about this text or to have full knowledge, but based on what I see thus far I am struck by the depth of God's desire to redeem His people. He upholds the standard of His righteousness while holding them accountable for their sin and gives the unfathomable provision a sure-fire escape from its consequences. This isn't hitting me new right now, or even new just with regard to Isaiah, but it's hitting me afresh that this redemptive act of God is nothing new to God, not a "New Testament" invention that makes the so-called "Old Testament" worthless. What is "New" for us is not new at all, but the denouement [i.e. the outcome of a complex sequence of events] of the story that has been unfolding since the beginning of time.
We all come at life with a lens affixed and I'm not doing this blog to enforce my lens but to see if the lens is right in the first place. I'm more familiar with the New Testament but, over the past year and a half or so, I've fallen in love with the rich history revealed in the Hebrew Bible. There is so much there, and Christians only do themselves a disservice by only sticking to the texts that talk about Jesus. If we do believe that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8), then we must also believe, even if only subconsciously, that Jesus the Christ didn't just drop into the Divine story somewhere around 5 or 4 B.C. I am looking for the clues that hint to that truth, and it's exciting to see!