servant

servant

A term used to refer to both slaves and hired attendants. In both the OT and the NT, “servant” is a frequent translation of terms (Heb. ebed, Gk. doulos) the literal meaning of which is “slave.” English readers, therefore, must bear in mind that the institution of slavery often lies behind the translation “servant.” In the OT, a servant is a person who belongs to another and so has no legal rights. Nonetheless, the servant does share in Israel’s cultic life with regard to circumcision (Gen 17:12), the Sabbath (Exod 20:10), sacrifice (Deut 12:18), and the Passover (Exod 12:44). But the term is also used to express humble self-designation (2Kgs 8:13) and, in a religious sense, the righteous were called servants of the Lord (Exod 32:13; Deut 34:5; Judg 2:8; 1Sam 3:9; 2Sam 7:5; 1Kgs 3:7; Job 1:8). The most striking usage occurs in the four “servant songs” found in Isaiah (Isa 42:1-4; Isa 49:1-6; Isa 50:4-9; Isa 52:13-53:1). In the NT servants frequently appear as characters in parables (Matt 18:23-35; Matt 21:33-44). For Jesus the concept of “servanthood” becomes a way of expressing humankind’s relationship to God (Matt 6:24; Matt 10:24; Matt 24:45-46; Luke 17:10). Jesus presents himself as a servant (Mark 10:45; cf. John 13:1-20), and Matthew (Matt 12:18-21) quotes from the first servant song (Isa 42:1-4) to describe Jesus. Likewise, Paul, quoting from an early Christian hymn, says that although Jesus was in the form of God, he “emptied himself, taking the form of a servant” (Phil 2:7; NRSV: “slave”). On the basis of his own example, then, Jesus encourages his disciples to be servants to each other (Mark 10:44; John 13:14). Obedient to this exhortation, Christians refer to themselves as “servants of God” (1Pet 2:16) and “servants of Christ” (1Cor 7:22; Eph 6:6; NRSV: “slaves”).

Gen 17:12

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Exod 20:10

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Deut 12:18

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Exod 12:44

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2Kgs 8:13

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Exod 32:13

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Deut 34:5

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Judg 2:8

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1Sam 3:9

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2Sam 7:5

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1Kgs 3:7

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Job 1:8

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Isa 42:1-4

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Isa 49:1-6

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Isa 50:4-9

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Isa 52:13-53:1

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Matt 18:23-35

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Matt 21:33-44

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Matt 6:24

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Matt 10:24

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Matt 24:45-46

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Luke 17:10

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Mark 10:45

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John 13:1-20

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Matt 12:18-21

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Isa 42:1-4

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Phil 2:7

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Mark 10:44

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John 13:14

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1Pet 2:16

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1Cor 7:22

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Eph 6:6

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