Therefore I will assign him a portion with the many, and he will portion out the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul even to death, and was counted with the transgressors, and carried the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” 1
The ancient scrolls found near the Dead Sea say “he will see the light” instead of “he will see.” Why the words “the light” are not in other scrolls is unclear. But the suggestion is that death is “darkness,” and by being raised up, he is brought out from darkness into “the light.”
It is plainly YHWH speaking in these verses, and the foreign kings do not seem to be in the picture at all. YHWH speaks of “the many” being made righteous, and his servant carrying the sins of “many,” which would make sense if this one is to be YHWH’s salvation to the end of the earth. Furthermore, he does not simply “bear their iniquities” upon death, but also after his death and resurrection.
Now, if this is speaking about Israel, how can the nation still bear the iniquities of people after it is raised up to glory? Is it to be perpetually destroyed and restored, to pay for the sins of foreigners? It is true that Israel has been appointed to be as a nation of priests, but it is the sacrificed animals that provide the blood of atonement, rather than the nation’s own blood.
But not only is this man’s sacrifice of himself like a guilt offering as well as the goat offerings made on Yom Kippur, he is also like the blood itself, since he “poured out his soul even to death.”
And he is even like the priest, because he “made intercession for the transgressors.” But if he is a priest, then he must surely fulfill the description given through Malachi of the perfect priest, of whom it is said, “iniquity was not found on his lips” and “he restored many from sin.” This despised, suffering servant is therefore the true “messenger of YHWH of hosts.”
He is described by YHWH as “my righteous servant.” But if it is Israel, to crush the nation when it is righteous would be a violation of the covenant mediated by Moses, and a blatant contradiction of the curses and blessings he wrote about, that said the nation would be blessed when it is righteous, and cursed and eventually crushed when it is unrighteous.
Now, Ezekiel talks about the restoration of Israel, and how it bears the shame of the nations. “Look! In my jealousy and in my fury I speak, because you have borne the shame of the nations. Therefore this is what my Lord YHWH says: 'I raise my hand in an oath, that the surrounding nations will bear their own shame. But you, mountains of Israel, will produce branches and bear your fruit for my people Israel, for their return is at hand.'” 2
But bearing the shame of the nations is not the same as bearing the iniquity of the nations, carrying their sin and having them laid on him, like the goats on the day of atonement.
Furthermore, even after being crushed and restored, the nation itself cannot be YHWH's righteous but suffering servant described by Isaiah, for YHWH also says through Ezekiel: ”I am not doing this on account of you, house of Israel, but rather for my holy name, which you profaned among the nations where you went.” 3
And again: “Then you will remember your bad ways, and your deeds that were not good, and you will be disgusted by yourselves for your iniquities and for your abominations. Not on your account am I doing this, says my Lord YHWH. Let it be known to you. Be ashamed and humiliated because of your ways, house of Israel.” 4
And YHWH will also make sure the nations know the true reason for Israel’s exile, for after an invasion upon the restored house of Israel by Gog of Magog, he says: “And the Gentiles will know that the house of Israel went into exile for their iniquity, because they were unfaithful to me. Therefore I concealed my face from them, and I gave them into the hand of their enemies, and all of them fell by the sword. According to their uncleanness and according to their transgressions I did to them, and I concealed my face from them.” 5
Therefore, the nation of Israel, both before and after its restoration, is disqualified from being YHWH’s “righteous servant” who is crushed on behalf of others; for this despised servant is righteous both before he is crushed, as well as after.
Instead, Israel the nation is crushed for its own sins, just as Isaiah says as well: “'Comfort, comfort my people,' says your God. 'Speak to the heart of Jerusalem, and proclaim to her, that her time of service has been fulfilled, that her iniquity has been paid for. For from the hand of YHWH she has received double for all her sins.” 6
Now, in the case of the nation’s exile to Babylon, this “double” was certainly Babylon making Israel's punishment worse than YHWH intended. But afterward, Babylon was judged and punished for its treatment of Israel. Israel was certainly not crushed for Babylon’s sins, otherwise there would be no need for Babylon to be judged later.
The principle is always that the mistreatment of YHWH's people by foreigners comes back upon the heads of the ones doing the mistreating, and there is no basis in the Torah for crushing Israel for the transgression of foreign kings.
However, it would certainly be legal for one man to choose to die on behalf of others. For Moses, even though he presented the Law to the nation, and knew there was no provision in it for one man to die on behalf of Israel, was willing to offer himself as such before YHWH, when the nation sinned against YHWH. 7
And so Moses set the pattern for all good men, who are willing to sacrifice their own life to save others; and in that respect, YHWH’s suffering servant is like Moses, a man described as “humble, far more than any man who was on the face of the earth.”8
Therefore, quite apart from who or what this despised servant is, we could say that his name is omitted so it can also be a parable for good people to imitate and follow, while they live in the midst of bad people.
And if only a remnant of Israel “will not commit iniquity, nor speak a lie; neither will a tongue of deceit be found in their mouths,” then it is only the remnant who even qualify to fulfill this parable and prophecy.
But since the remnant are, by definition, preserved alive, then this parable and prophecy surely has its ultimate fulfillment in one man, who dies on behalf of others, and who becomes a model for the remnant of Israel to follow.