Liken God to the (Disabled) Servant

Approaching (Two) Bodies in Isaiah 40-55


  • Eric Wagner Saint Louis University



Isaiah 40-55 (Second Isaiah), Suffering Servant, Corporeality/Embodiment, Critical Space Theory, Disability Studies, Hebrew Bible Rhetoric


When Isaiah 40:18 asks “To whom might you liken God? What likeness might you set up for him?” readers of Isaiah 40-55 encounter potent rhetoric that invites analysis. Recognizing that corporeality is key to the rhetoric of Isaiah 40-55, spatial theory and disabilities studies offer promising hermeneutical approaches to analyze the bodies of Isaiah 40-55. By synthesizing these approaches, this study establishes a mixed-methods approach which it then applies to representations of corporeality in Isaiah 40-55. This mixed-methods analysis reveals an underlying corporeal spatial rhetoric throughout Isaiah 40-55. Characters portrayed with only a single reference to their body tend to remain insignificant. Characters with two or three references to their body typically appear in weak (straw man) arguments. Characters represented with greater corporeal complexity (i.e., more than three body parts) prove to be rhetorically complex figures. Identifying comparable complexity in God’s body and the body of the Servant, the conclusion emerges: liken God to the (disabled) Servant.


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How to Cite

Wagner, E. (2024) “Liken God to the (Disabled) Servant: Approaching (Two) Bodies in Isaiah 40-55”, Avar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Life and Society in the Ancient Near East . London, UK, 3(1), pp. 73–106. doi: 10.33182/aijls.v3i1.2845.