Hagglund ( Isaiah 53 in the Light of Homecoming After Exile (Forschungen Zum Alten Testament) , 50-1) notes the parallels between the complaint Psalms and Isaiah 53: “The individual complaint psalms . . . begin with an invocation of YHWH. Then the complaint proper and a petition to YHWH often follow. This part often contains a description of the enemies who gather around the suffering person and mock him. Sometimes the psalm includes a protestation of innocence. A fair number of individual complaint psalms conclude on a positive note, expressing confidence in YHWH’s deliverance.”

The difference between these Psalms and Isaiah 53 is that the sufferer is the subject of the complaint songs, while Isaiah 53 focuses on “those who are complained about.” There’s a scene in Don Quixote where la belle dame sans merci is responds to the pining lover. It’s a wonderful send-up of the courtly love tradition; in a stroke of genius, Cervantes pops the bubble of a half-millennium of romantic poetry by letting the woman talk back. Isaiah 53 involves a similar shift of perspective: Instead of hearing the complaint of the Servant, the Servant is silent (as a sheep before shearers!) and we overhear the words and peer into the mind of the mob.

The mob attacks the Servant; the mob considers the Servant an enemy of the human race and of God; the mob beats and mocks the Servant. But in a sudden recognition they recognize the Servant’s innocence, and in a further flash they realize that he suffers for their rebellions and sins and not his own.

When we read Isaiah 53 like that, it sounds like a poem written by Rene Girard.