From Servant to Servants: Continuing the Legacy of the Exile in the Post-Exilic Era

Exile was the most formative event in Ancient Israel’s history and provided the context in which, and for which, the majority of the Old Testament was written and edited. Certainly one can speak of an exilic theology or exilic theologies. What is striking is how such influential literature arose from such a short period of time. Consequently this theology was largely lived out in a post-exilic/2nd Temple context. Not only does the Old Testament narrate how the Jews put into practice these texts, but it also demonstrates how they adapted theologically to a new situation. This paper aims to describe how the theology of the Servant in Second Isaiah (SI) defined the identity and the mission of the community of Servants in Third Isaiah (TI), and how this community put into practice their theology as narrated in Ezra-Nehemiah. Isaiah’s Servant theology was born in exile, and TI and Ezra-Neh describes how this theology was transferred to a different context. This Servant theology provides a religious challenge to Israel by calling her to re-evaluate what it means to be the people of God. By observing how the post-exilic community continued the exilic legacy of the Servant into a new era, hermeneutical suggestions can be drawn regarding how the people of God ought to read Scripture afresh in new contexts. Since the theme of the Servant reappears in the New Testament, suggestions will be made as to how to this theology contributes to the missio Dei revealed in Jesus Christ, and announced through the apostles. Isaiah and Ezra-Neh, then, may provide a template by which the Church today may faithfully read and obey the Scriptures in light of great social-cultural shifts.