The verb “to empty” is used elsewhere in the Pauline Epistles four times (Rom 4:14; 1 Cor 1:17; 9:15; 2 Cor 9:3), and in each instance it is used metaphorically in the sense of “to bring to nothing,” “to make worthless,” or “to empty of significance.” Context should always determine the meaning; and in the present context the verb refers back to what immediately precedes and its action is explained by the words which immediately follow. Instead of holding onto his privileges, Christ gave up his divine rank by taking on the nature of a servant. The Today’s English Version rendering brings out this meaning, he gave up all he had (Goodspeed “but laid it aside”; Phillips is even more explicit, “but he stripped himself of every advantage”). What was given up is not simply the opportunity to become equal with God, but the equality with God itself, namely Christ’s divine status or rank of dignity and glory (John 17:5). Unless one is careful in the translation of he gave up all he had, the implication may be that Jesus lost completely all of his divine attributes. Accordingly, some translators prefer to use as a substitute for the phrase all he had such a phrase as “his status” or his high position.
Loh, I.-J., & Nida, E. A. (1995). A handbook on Paul’s letter to the Philippians (p. 59). New York: United Bible Societies.