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) 
Hen 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 and Taw as well as Dalet and Kaf Sofit 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 .
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)
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:
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 .
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  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 . 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 ,
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.
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.
“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.” 
And thus We have revealed to you [Muhammad] a spirit (Ruuhan رُوحًا) of Our command.”…
Then We put you, [O Muhammad], a divine law , (shari’atin شَرِيعَةٍ ) , from my command; so follow it and do not follow the inclinations of those who do not know 
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.
- The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, The Great Isaiah Scroll
- Some notable examples: Assyria; Isaiah 10:5; Nebuchadnezzar; jeremiah 43:10; Koresh; Isaiah 45:1; David; Ezekiel 37:24; Hazael 1 kings 19:15)
- Matthew 12:17-18
- 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.
- History of Damascus by Ibn ‘Asakir
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)
- 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
- Sahih Al Bukhari Chapter 60, Hadith 654
- Al-Qur’an 42:52
- 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.”
- A Dictionary and Glossary of the Quran: by John Penrice
- 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 حكم
- Al-Qur’an 45:18