As a result, they deprive themselves, and those they instruct, of YHWH’s means of making Israel and the remnant righteous, which is one of the purposes of this suffering servant. But when we see the despised servant as one man, the veil is removed, and he becomes the shepherd whom the remnant of Israel follow.
Just as he is humble, so are the remnant “a humble and lowly people.” Just as “no deceit was in his mouth,” “neither will a tongue of deceit be found in their mouths,” because they are his sheep. As Zephaniah says of the remnant: “They will graze and lie down, and no one will cause them to tremble.”
But the remnant cannot model themselves after the nation of Israel, because that is appointed as YHWH’s “spiked threshing sledge” servant, which is not the role of the remnant, the “humble and lowly people.”
Now, if this despised servant is really one man, why is there a need for his sacrifice? For the Torah already makes provision for iniquities.
We have already said how there is no allowance for human sacrifice under the Law covenant, or for a national crushing on behalf of foreign kings, especially if the nation is righteous; so clearly something beyond the Law covenant is here.
Besides, sacrifices are not exclusive to the law given through Moses. Adam's children brought offerings to YHWH even though they were not under that law. When Noah came out of the Ark, he built an altar and offered some of the animals as burnt offerings. Abraham was asked to offer his son as a sacrifice, although he was stopped by the angel.
When Job's companions sinned against YHWH, they were told to bring bulls and rams to Job, and to offer up burnt sacrifices for themselves, and for Job to pray for them. YHWH accepted his prayer, and so Job became like a priest to his companions, and a mediator for sin between them and YHWH. These examples may have been a foreshadow of things to come.
Neither is sin always atoned for by means of provisions in the law of Moses. When Isaiah saw a vision of YHWH sitting on his throne, Isaiah expressed alarm and said he was as good as dead. But one of the seraphs brought a coal from the altar, placed it on Isaiah's lips, and said: “Look! This has touched your lips, and your iniquity is removed, and your sin is atoned for.” 1
Nevertheless, the covenant through Moses was given to Israel to make them a distinctive nation with distinctive laws. A person guilty under this law was to bring a guilt offering to the priest who would “make atonement for him over his error,” and “it will be forgiven him.” 2 And so the priest became a mediator for sin between YHWH and the one sinning.
The priests were mediators for Israel's sin, and for the sins of Gentiles who chose to hold fast to YHWH's covenant3, but not for Gentiles who weren’t under the covenant made between YHWH and Israel.
But the despised servant “made intercession for the transgressors,” which makes him like a priest. And not just any priest, but he fulfills the description of the perfect priest described by Malachi, even if he is not from the tribe of Levi.
And since he “carried the sin of many,” “makes his soul a guilt offering,” and is “crushed for our iniquities,” he can become the means by which atonement for sin is made also for the Gentiles. Thus he can truly become YHWH's salvation “to the end of the earth.”
Now, not all sins under the Law could be atoned for by animal sacrifices. Certain transgressions such as murder required the death of the transgressor. And this was foreshadowed by YHWH's words to Noah: “Whoever sheds human blood, by a human will his own blood be shed, for in God's image he made the human.” 4
Yet when David committed adultery with Bathsheba, and then he had her husband put to death in battle, David should have suffered the death penalty under the law of Moses. But he sincerely prayed to YHWH, and was forgiven, although his son died. Thus we see that YHWH can cause sins to be atoned for in whatever way he chooses.
Now, if we are honest, we could say that the death of the son of David seems unjust, for the boy did not commit the sin, but his father did. And yet, in truth, we are all in a similar situation.
For Adam was the human father of us all, and had access to the tree of life by which he could live forever. Yet by his sin, he and his offspring were barred from that tree, condemning his offspring to death. Now, if just one sin had the power to condemn us all to death, perhaps one righteous act could allow us all to live again.
In addition, YHWH said to Adam: “The ground is cursed because of you. In pain you will eat from it all the days of your lives.” 5 But later on, the man Noah was born, at whose birth they said, “this one will comfort us concerning our work and the pain of our hands, because of the ground YHWH cursed.” 6
The prophecy came true after the Flood, for then YHWH said to Noah: “Never again will I curse the ground because of humanity, for the inclination of the heart of the human is bad from youth, and never again will I strike every living thing like I did.”7
Now, if one man can bring rest and comfort from the curse Adam's sin brought upon the ground, and whose life symbolized the beginning of a new creation, what of the greater curse of death, which Adam also brought upon his offspring? Certainly, if one man could relieve us of that curse, we would surely call him our “Everlasting Father.”
But what man would have the authority to do such a thing? Speaking to the serpent, who was the cause of death, YHWH said: “I will put animosity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.” 8
Now, this is not merely about a like or dislike of snakes! This is a struggle between offspring, with YHWH foretelling the outcome in advance.
By saying, “he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel,” the focus is not on all of the woman's offspring, which would be everyone alive, but on one man. By striking the serpent in the head, only this man would have the authority to crush the cause of death.
This would explain why it says of the despised servant, “it was YHWH's desire to crush him and cause him to be wounded.” It is because he is YHWH's means of ending death itself! It would also explain why it says of YHWH’s servant, “in his deaths.” He dies on behalf of many, and therefore dies their deaths, so they can live. His being raised from the grave becomes a kind of token and guarantee to humanity that the means to defeat death had become available.
Now, if we go back to the earlier words of Isaiah, when YHWH spoke to “the one whom the nation abhorred,” we see a new meaning in the following words:
“And I will preserve you, and I will give you for a covenant of the people, to raise up the land, and to reapportion the allotted inheritances of the desolated ones, that you may say to the prisoners, ‘come out!’ and to those in the darkness, ‘show yourselves!’’” 9
While this is undoubtedly a reference to a restoration from exile, it is also a prophecy about resurrection to life. YHWH’s despised servant, the one whom the nation of Israel abhorred, would be given for “a covenant of the people,” for Jews and Gentiles alike, so they could ultimately be raised up, and be released from the darkness of death.
As the first man to be raised permanently from the pit of death, and to see the light of life, he would see clearly the way to help others out of the pit.