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Interpreting the Lamb Imagery in Isaiah 53

From: Journal of Biblical Literature
Volume 132, Number 2, 2013
pp. 315-325 | 10.1353/jbl.2013.0022



Many interpretations of the servant's role(s) in Isaiah 53 depend largely on how a given scholar understands the comparison of the servant to a slaughtered lamb in v. 7. This comparison has led many scholars to ask whether the servant plays a role similar to one of the ritually sacrificed animals discussed in the Pentateuch. Arguments in favor of comparisons of the servant to a ritually sacrificed animal are typically based on the cumulative effect of a variety of images and expressions from throughout Isaiah 53 (vv. 4, 7, 8, 11, 12) that seem similar to imagery from certain pentateuchal texts. The typical arguments against such comparisons have focused on the fact that Isaiah 53 does not use much of the technical terminology found in those pentateuchal texts. Rather than argue over perceived similarities or differences between Isaiah 53 and the Pentateuch, this article approaches the issue by examining the type of lamb that the servant is described as in Isaiah 53.

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