My Servant the Chosen One…

I was still in a vacation when I saw brother Paul’s post here entitled “Calling all hebraist…” about the translation of Isaiah 42:1 which the Hebrew word אתמך atmak could originally have been אחמד Ahmad, my apology for the delayed response. This short post is my two-cents…


Dead Sea Scroll (DS)S Manuscript Evidence

Here is the lines extrapolated from Dead Sea Scroll (DSS) manuscript portion also known as Great Isaiah Scroll (1QIsa) at column 35) [1]

1QIsa Isa 42-1

Most scholars render 1QIsa into modern hebrew alphabet as the following:
DSSI Isa 42-1Hen avdi atmak bo, bechiri ratzetah nafshi; natatti ruchi alav, mishpat laggoyim yotzi

However as we can see here the word in question is not legible with high degrees certainity. Here we also see spelling peculiarities compared to masoretic rule where ה”he” is appended to the end of word and ו “waw” is employed to stand for qamets vowel sound unlike the masoretes holam male and shuruq mater lectionis rule. Nevertheless because of the very close similarities between He He and Taw Taw  as well as Dalet Dalet  and Kaf Sofit Screen Shot 2019-01-01 at 14.21.04  in hand-written Qumran scripts, there is always a possibility that the scribes got it mixed-up.  By by looking at the manuscript evidence at hand (1QIsa), Im not entirely certain, that it is decisive what the scribe intended to write whether it is atmak אתמך or rather Ahmad אחמד.

 

The Question of the Servant of God

It is obvious that Isaiah 42 talk about the figure of the servant of God. It describes athe character of the servant, while emphazising God greatness over idols.  Even the Gospel of Matthew sees this as a prophecy (Matt 12:18–21).

However if we have ever noticed that in all beginning chapters in Isaiah, whenever God address His servants it is always referenced by their names:

…וַיֹּ֣אמֶר יְהוָ֔ה כַּאֲשֶׁ֥ר הָלַ֛ךְ עַבְדִּ֥י יְשַׁעְיָ֖הוּ

“And the LORD said, Like as my servant Isaiah…” (Isaiah 20:3)

…וְהָיָ֖ה בַּיֹּ֣ום הַה֑וּא וְקָרָ֣אתִי לְעַבְדִּ֔י לְאֶלְיָקִ֖ים

“On that day I will call for my servant, Eliakim ” (Isaiah 22:20)

וְגַנֹּותִ֛י עַל־ הָעִ֥יר הַזֹּ֖את לְהֹֽושִׁיעָ֑הּ לְמַֽעֲנִ֔י וּלְמַ֖עַן דָּוִ֥ד עַבְדִּֽי

“For I will defend this city and rescue it because of Me and because of My servant David.” (Isaiah 37:35)

…וְאַתָּה֙ יִשְׂרָאֵ֣ל עַבְדִּ֔י יַעֲקֹ֖ב

“But you, Israel, My servant, Jacob…” (Isaiah 41:8)

There are other examples in which God references His messiahs and His servants by proper name [2].

Isaiah 42  begins with the words: “Here is my servant (abdi עבדי) …” I can’t help to wonder why there is no mention here about the servant of God name here in contrast with the other passages.

It is also worth noting that the Hebrew root corresponding to the word is atmak אתמך which is tamak תָּמַך appears totally 21 times in TaNaKH but only once takes a form of. “atmak” אתמך.  Although, as a verb, it is gramatically correct as a first person imperfect singular masculine pa’al form but it seems like disjointed word as a sentence especially with the a preposition with 3rd person masculine singular pronomial affix bo בּוֹ (meaning: “in him”) following it.

The following literal translation of the opening sentence from the masoretes text (MSS)

isa 42-1 etmak

Hen avdi atmak bo, bechiri

Behold, my servant I will support in him my chosen

Now consider to replace the “atmak” אתמך with “Ahmad” אחמד:

isa 42-1 ahmad

Hen avdi atmak bo, bechiri

Behold, my servant Ahmad in him my chosen

I personally think the latter construct make more sense.

Now if we compare the Isaiah 42:1 in Hebrew bible with its corresponding Greek Septuagint 42:1 (LXX) thing gets more interesting:

Ιακωβ ὁ παῖς μου, ἀντιλήμψομαι αὐτοῦ· Ισραηλ ὁ ἐκλεκτός μου, προσεδέξατο αὐτὸν ἡ ψυχή μου· ἔδωκα τὸ πνεῦμά μου ἐπ᾿ αὐτόν, κρίσιν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν ἐξοίσει.

Iakōb ho pais mou, antilēmpsomai autou; Israēl ho eklektos mou, prosedexato auton hē psychē mou; edōka to pneuma mou ep᾿ auton, krisin tois ethnesin exoisei.

“Jacob is my servant, I will help him; Israel is my chosen, my soul has accepted him; I have put my Spirit upon him; he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles.”

So things seem to get more mixed up here, who is the servant whom God has chosen here? why is it Jacob and Israel both mentioned where in original MSS Isaiah 42:1 none of the words  ‘Jacob’ neither “Israel” exists?. Does it mean that the rabbis were not sure what the hebrew word “atmak” used in Isaiah 42:1 means hence the variances?

The writer of Matthew supposedly quotes Isaiah’s 42:1 prophecy as following [3].

οπως (ἵνα) πληρωθη το ρηθεν δια ησαιου του προφητου λεγοντος : Ιδου ο παις μου ον ηρετισα ο “αγαπητος μου” ον ευδοκησεν η ψυχη μου θησω το πνευμα μου επ αυτον και κρισιν τοις εθνεσιν απαγγελει

Pōs (hina) plērōthē to rēthen dia ēsaiou tou prophētou legontos : Idou o pais mou on ēretisa o “agapētos mou” on eudokēsen ē psychē mou thēsō to pneuma mou ep auton kai krisin tois ethnesin apangelei

“This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, “my beloved” with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.”

It is interesting to note the glaring differences from this quote compared to the DSS and LXX,  the phrase: “I will support” is gone, and now therein a noun [4] is introduced ie: “beloved”. To me this makes a strong argument that the original hebrew word Matthew quoted was in fact a proper name.

 

What Islamic sources tell us

There is a narration from Islamic historian from medieval era Ibn`Asakir ابن عساكر (b. 1106 AD, Damascus, Syria)  which recorded a an instance where a prominent jewish rabbi named Ka’ab كعب was aware of this servant of God name and he has confirmed that it was written in his Torah that his name is “Ahmad”, the chosen one, who is neither rude nor harsh and he would not a loudmouth  in markets [5]. The rabbi said:

.أجد في التوراة: عبدي أحمد المختار, لا فظ ولا غليظ ولا صخاب في الأسواق,

‘Ajid fil tawraat abdii ‘Ahmad al Mukhtaar, la fadhin wala ghaliidhin wala sakhkhaabin fil ‘aswaaq

I find in the Torah: My servant, Ahmad, the Chosen one. He is neither rude nor harsh. And he would not a loudmouth in markets.

Notice how rabbi named Ka’ab pronounced the servant of God name from 1200 years ago ” ‘Abdi Ahmad, al’muhtar…” in Arabic and compare this with its hebrew equivalent in the TaNaKH  “Hen abdi ahmad, bo-behiri…” if the original word is Ahmad אחמד. It is also interesting to note also that the narration goes on with sentences “He is neither rude nor harsh. And he would not a loudmouth in markets”  which is clearly a direct reference from Isaiah 42:2 [6],[7]

It is highly plausible that that the rabbi memorized the prophecy from the Jewish oral tradition not from the Masoretic text like many of ancient religious teacher do in their milieu thus such reading exists.

 

Context Matters

We will go through Isaiah 42:1 line by line and analyse it  how they relate to prophet Muhammad ﷺ. The translation is based form the Lexham English Bible  unless otherwise (my own translation) stated.

Look! here is my servant; אחמד,  my chosen one, in whom my soul delights.

 

“‏ لاَ تُطْرُونِي كَمَا أَطْرَتِ النَّصَارَى ابْنَ مَرْيَمَ، فَإِنَّمَا أَنَا عَبْدُهُ، فَقُولُوا عَبْدُ اللَّهِ وَرَسُولُهُ ‏”

“Do not exaggerate in praising me [Muhammad] as the Christians praised the son of Mary, for I am only a Servant. So, call me the Servant of God and His Apostle.” [8]

 

I have ⌊put⌋ my spirit (Ruach רוּחַ) on him;

وَكَذَٰلِكَ أَوْحَيْنَا إِلَيْكَ رُوحًا مِّنْ أَمْرِنَا ۚ

And thus We have revealed to you [Muhammad] a spirit (Ruuhan رُوحًا) of Our command.”…[9]

He will bring established law (Mishpat משפט = a divine ordinance) [10] forth to the nations.

ثُمَّ جَعَلْنَاكَ عَلَىٰ شَرِيعَةٍ مِّنَ الْأَمْرِ فَاتَّبِعْهَا وَلَا تَتَّبِعْ أَهْوَاءَ الَّذِينَ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ

Then We put you, [O Muhammad], a divine law [11],[12] (shari’atin شَرِيعَةٍ )  , from my command; so follow it and do not follow the inclinations of those who do not know [13]

 

It is obvious that Isa 42:1 is a prophecy of the advent of an individual person, a God’s servant whose qualities match with Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. Even if  we carefully analyze the whole 42nd chapter it points to Kedarite Prophet, Muhammad ﷺ but that is for another post. Having said I find it very persuasive that the hebrew word אתמך etmak in Isa 42:1 could  originally have been אחמד Ahmad another name of prophet Muhammad ﷺ.

 

Footnotes:

  1. The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, The Great Isaiah Scroll
  2. Some notable examples: Assyria; Isaiah 10:5;  Nebuchadnezzar; jeremiah 43:10; Koresh; Isaiah 45:1; David; Ezekiel 37:24; Hazael 1 kings 19:15)
  3. Matthew 12:17-18
  4. Agapētos ἀγαπητός here takes the form of verbal adjective in -τός (-tós) which has the meaning of a perfect participle passive which technically can function as a noun.
  5. History of Damascus by Ibn ‘Asakir
  6. לֹ֥א יִצְעַ֖ק וְלֹ֣א יִשָּׂ֑א וְלֹֽא־יַשְׁמִ֥יעַ בַּח֖וּץ קוֹלֽוֹ

    “He shall not cry out or shout aloud, Or make his voice heard in the streets.” (Isa 42:2)

  7. In the other narration from Sahih Al Bukhari Chapter 50, prophet Muhammad ﷺ is described as having some of the qualities mentioned in the Torah that he is “neither rude nor harsh and he would not a loudmouth in markets” : “laysa bifadhin wala ghaliidhin wala sakhkhaabin fil ‘aswaaq” لَيْسَ بِفَظٍّ وَلاَ غَلِيظٍ وَلاَ سَخَّابٍ فِي الأَسْوَاقِ
  8. Sahih Al Bukhari Chapter 60, Hadith 654
  9. Al-Qur’an 42:52
  10. Strong’s Lexicon H4941 – mishpat מִשְׁפָּט; a divine law. This is a universal reign and rule of God, cf. Jer 8:7, “My people do not know the law (mishpat) of God.”
  11. A Dictionary and Glossary of the Quran: by John Penrice Sharia john penrice
  12. In arabic lexicons, shariatin is commonly defined as “لشَّرِيعةُ : ما شرعَه الله لعباده من العقائد والأحكام” ie. “What Allah has decreed in His creeds and rulings (Ahkaam)”. See also Rabbi Saadia Gaon  Attarjamah Al’arabiyya Attawrah الترجمة العربية للتوراة  in Number 27:11 on his rendering of hebrew  mishpat משפט, here he use the word Hukm حكمBemidbar 27:11
  13. Al-Qur’an 45:18


Categories: Bible, Islam, Tanakh

Tags: ,

26 replies

  1. @ Eric Bin Kisam

    Salamualakum wa rahma tu lahi wa barakatu.

    Your article was pretty interesting but to play the other side and help strengthen the argument I think an important thing that does need to be addressed is does the context support this reading? From my understanding, this is known as part of the 4 “servant” poems in the Bible. The Jews are arguing that these passages have nothing to do with prophets period (whether Christianity or Islam) and that the servants are a metaphor for the nation of Israel (for example the suffering servant is Israel’s persecution and not a Messianic prophecy).

    So I wanted to know do you have any research (whether Muslim or Christian) to refute this claim of theirs in regard to Isaiah 42? And do you know anything in regards to this passage’s textual criticism or history?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wa alaykumusSalaam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu

    To my knowledge rabbinic literature do not hold monolithic opinion who is the identity of figure  in Isaiah 42, we find that there is diverse opinions and some believe that it is prophet Isaiah himself  (See Rabbi Ibn Ezra commentary on Isa 42:1, he said: b’ani shehu hanavi בְּעֵינִי שֶׁהוּאהַנָּבִיא which meam “To me he is the prophet” ie. Isaiah himself.  Some rabbis thought that it was Cyrus (according to R’ Saadia Gaon), the future Messiah (R’ Targum and R’ Radak), and the nation of Israel (Rashi).  You may check “The Jewish Study Bible” on Isa. 42:1-9.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Okay, inshaAllah I’ll check the Jewish Encyclopedia out. I’m not trying to be difficult by the way I just want to cover bases. Personally, I do favor there is a peculiarity to this passage even from my research. It appears some Sahaba believed this was also about the Prophet ﷺ:

      Ata’ ibn Yasar said, “I met ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr ibn al-‘As and I said, ‘Tell me about the description of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, in the Torah.’ ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘By Allah, he is described in the Torah partly as he is described in the Qur’an:
      “O Prophet, We have sent you as a witness, a bearer of good news and a warner and a protection to the unlettered. You are My slave and Messenger. I have called you the trusty one who is neither coarse nor harsh nor loud in the markets. Allah Almighty will not take him until He has made the crooked community straight by him so that they say, “There is no god but Allah,” and by it they will open blind eyes, deaf ears and covered hearts.'”

      https://sunnah.com/adab/12/9

      https://sunnah.com/urn/45170

      https://sunnah.com/bukhari/34/77

      This isn’t an exact word for word quote of Isaiah 42 but it’s close. If you’re familiar with Targum this could be what the Jews of Arabia we’re using and this passage was the prophecy in which they were using when they expected a prophet to come to Medina.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Masha’ Allah, Tbarak Allah. May Allah reward you!

    //However if we have ever noticed that in all beginning chapters in Isaiah, whenever God address His servants it is always referenced by their names//
    Indeed it’s a very brilliant observation, which supports the reading we suggest even better.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Assalamu Alaykum Br. Abdullah1234

      Do you have a link to the research study, in Arabic, on Isaiah 42? if not, can you please post the name of the research study (in arabic text please) and I will try to find it online?

      Thank you!

      SB

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This is a very interesting topic which warrants further research. There is more going on here than the Christians and Jewish apologists are willing to admit.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This is far more plausible than anything the Christians have tried to use for Jesus (pbuh), such as the “Immanuel” and “Nazarene” prophecies, which no reasonable person would find impressive.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Indeed many of the so called Jesus prophecies in the Hebrew Bible fit better in Prophet Muhammad in my opinion.

        Liked by 3 people

      • Except some Jews (and they wrote it in the New Testament, the true Injeel) in the first century AD, found that Isaiah chapters 7-11 and chapters 42-53 is about the Messiah, Jesus, the Servant (Mark 10:45), the root of David, etc.

        Like

      • Ken, you have no clue who the authors of the gospels are, let alone to know whether they were jews or not.

        //the root of David//
        And that’s why they invented 2 contradictory lineages for Jesus to prove for jews that Jesus is from the line of David.

        Liked by 2 people

      • “Except some Jews (and they wrote it in the New Testament, the true Injeel) in the first century AD, found that Isaiah chapters 7-11 and chapters 42-53 is about the Messiah, Jesus, the Servant (Mark 10:45), the root of David, etc.”

        Yes, and some Jews also believed in another prophet to come. See John 1 as well as the Dead Sea Scrolls. So clearly, your idiotic argument holds no merit. Jewish interpretations have varied. Just because some Jews may have interpreted alleged “prophecies” to be about Jesus (pbuh) doesn’t mean they were. In fact, when we analyze these “prophecies”, we find no evidence linking them with Jesus (pbuh). No run away and whine like you usually do. How’s your master Fatty Shamy? 😉

        Like

      • “Ken, you have no clue who the authors of the gospels are, let alone to know whether they were jews or not.”

        Excellent point!

        Like

  5. Denis already destroyed any argument that the Hebrew text has somehow been changed. There is simply no textual evidence for your arguments, and his point about the preposition, “Bo” בו also devastates your arguments.

    https://bloggingtheology2.com/2018/12/26/calling-all-hebraists-eric-denis-et-al/comment-page-1/#comment-855

    Like

  6. And this article by Ernest Hahn also decimates your arguments and destroys the video that Abdullah1234 put up on the earlier post where Denis destroyed the textual arguments.

    https://www.answering-islam.org/Hahn/gentiles.html

    Like

  7. Eric can you also look into Isaia 40:1-6 in Hebrew. It talks about a place called Arabah and in Isaiah 40:6 it says a voice will say “Read/Qera” and he will reply “What shall I read/Mah Eqra.”

    In the English NIV/KJV Bible Arabah translated to “Desert” and Qera/Qare translated to “Cry”

    Like

  8. Poor Kenny can’t handle the truth.

    Liked by 2 people

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