The following study will be a comparison between the concept of Messiah as outlined in the Hebrew Scriptures and that of the Christian New Testament documents. The purpose of this exposition will be to expound upon the Jewish teaching on Messiah in contrast with that of Christianity. The Hebrew Bible gives a clear outline as to who, what, where and how the Messiah will appear. For this reason, we begin with an examination of the Hebrew Scriptures in order to see if whether the Tanakh supports the fact that the Messiah of God is both divine and human, one Person having two natures. We will also examine the Hebrew Bible for the evidence that the Messiah would not only reign as king, but also die a substitutionary death on behalf of sinners, making atonement for sin. As this is being done, we will see if Jesus fits the outline of Messiah presented to us in the Hebrew Bible.
Isaiah 9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
This verse points out the inescapable fact that the Messiah is God Almighty appearing in human form. That this passage was considered Messianic is evident from the fact that verse7 says that the Child would sit on the throne of David forever, a description which only fits the Messiah.
In the Targum of Isaiah we read: “His name has been called from old, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, He who lives forever, the Anointed One (Messiah), in whose days peace shall increase upon us.”
Pereq Shalom: R. Yose the Galilean said: “The name of the Messiah is Peace, for it is said , “Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
Midrash Mishle, S. Buber edition: The Messiah is called by eight names : Yinnon, Tzemah, Pele [“Miracle”], Yo’etz [“Counselor”], Mashiah [“Messiah”], El [“God”], Gibbor [“Hero”], and Avi ‘Ad Shalom [“Eternal Father of Peace”]
Whoever this Child is one thing remains certain – This Child must shine forth from Galilee according to Isaiah 9:1:
‘Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past He humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali but in the future He will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea along the Jordan…’
NOTE: In an attempt to avoid the impact of this passage’s significance to the divinity of the Messiah, certain Jewish Publications have translated it in a way as to suggest that the divine titles are not messianic in nature. Rather, they are descriptions of God:
For a child has been born to us, a son has been given to us, and the dominion will rest on his shoulder; the Wondrous Adviser, Mighty God, eternal Father, called his name Sar-shalom [Prince of peace]. (This appears as Isaiah 9:5 in the Stone Edition Tanakh, Arts Scroll Series, published by Mesorah Publications Ltd.; Brooklyn, NY, 1998)
The great rabbi Ibn Ezra responds: There are some interpreters who say that ‘wonderful, counselor, mighty God, everlasting Father’ are the names of God, and that only ‘prince of peace’ is the name of the child. But according to my view, the right interpretation is that they are all the names of the child . (Walter Riggans, Yeshua Ben David [Wowborough, East Sussex; MARC, 1995], p. 370)
Jeremiah 23:5-6 ‘The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘When I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a king who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. In His days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which He will be called; The Lord our Righteousness (YHVH Tseidkeynu).’ The Targums concluded that this passage was speaking of Messiah.
|For instance, the great Rabbi David Kimchi wrote in reference to this verse, ‘ By the righteous Branch is meant Messiah .’ The compilers of the Targum agreed with Kimchi since they introduced Messiah by name in this passage. (David Baron, Rays of Messiah’s Glory: Christ in the Old Testament [Grand Rapids, MI; Zondervan, 1886], p. 78)
Hebrew scholar Alfred Edersheim quotes other Rabbinic writings in reference to this passage:
Hence, we find the Hebrew Scriptures testifying to the fact that Messiah would be the Lord Himself. (Hebrew YHVH / Adonai)
Messiah would be the Son of God
Psalm 2:7-8 “I will proclaim the decree of the Lord: He said to me, ‘You are My Son; Today I have begotten thee. Ask of me and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession.’ “
The above passage tells us that the Messiah would be the Son of God.
|“Our Rabbis taught, the Holy One blessed be He, will say to the Messiah, the Son of David (may He reveal Himself speedily in our days), ‘Ask of Me and I will give to Thee,’ as it is said [Psalm 2:7-8]: ‘I will tell of the decree; the Lord hath said unto Me, “Thou art My Son; This day I have begotten Thee, ask of Me and I will give the nations for thy inheritance.” ‘ “
The Midrash reaffirms the view that Messiah is God’s Son when commenting on another messianic Psalm:
Rabbi Nathan said that God spoke to Israel saying, ‘As I made Jacob firstborn, for it is written Israel is My son, even My firstborn” (Exodus 4:22), So also will I make Messiah My firstborn as it is written, ” I will make Him My firstborn.’ (Commentary on Psalm 89:27 taken from Midrash Rabbah Shebot )
Messiah would be born in Bethlehem Ephratha
Micah 5:1 “But thou Bethlehem Ephratha, which art little to be among the thousands of Judah, out of thee shall One come forth unto Me that is to be Ruler in Israel; whose goings forth are from old, from Ancient of Days .”
This verse emphatically states that Messiah would be born in Bethlehem while also having been existing from eternity.
|The Targum Jonathan (second century A. D.):
And You Bethlehem Ephrath, you who were too small to be numbered among the thousands of the house of Judah, From you shall come forth before Me The Messiah , to exercise dominion over Israel, He whose name was mentioned from before, from the Days of Creation.
Messiah is both Priest and King
Zechariah 3:8-9 NIV ‘Listen, O high priest Joshua (Heb.- Yehoshua from which we get Yeshua [cf. Ezra 3:2; 5:2]) and your associates seated before you, who are men symbolic of things to come: I am going to bring my servant, the Branch. See, the stone I have set in front of Joshua! There are seven eyes on that stone, and I will engrave an inscription on it,’ says the LORD Almighty, ‘and I will remove the sin of this land in a single day.’”
Zechariah 6:9-13 NIV “The word of the LORD came to me: ‘Take silver and gold from the exiles Heldai, Tobijah, and Jedaiah, who arrived from Babylon. Go the same day to the house of Josiah son of Zephaniah. Take the silver and gold and make a crown, and set it on the head of the high priest, Joshua son of Jehozadak. Tell him this is what the LORD Almighty says: “Here is the man whose name is the Branch and he will branch out from his place and build the temple of the LORD. It is he who will build the temple of the LORD, and he will be clothed with majesty and will sit on his throne. And he will be a priest on his throne. And there will be harmony between the two.”‘”
Joshua is portrayed as a type of the Messiah who was to come. Hence, just as Joshua is pictured as being both a priest and king, the Messiah would also be a priest who reigns on God’s throne as king. In fact, the name “Joshua” is the same Hebrew name for “Jesus”, Yeshua!
|The fact that these passages are clearly messianic in nature can be seen in the title given to the one to come, i.e. the Branch.
The rabbis universally have held that this title refers to the Messiah-King.
“The LORD said to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet’… The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind: ‘ You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek .’ ” NIV
In fact, David’s sons were also called priests:
“David reigned over all Israel, doing what was just and right for all his people. Joab son of Zeruiah was over the army; Jehosphat son of Ahilud was recorder; Zadok son of Ahitud and Ahimelech son of Abiathar were priests; Seraiah was secretary; Beniaha son of Jehoiada was over the Kerethites and Pelethites; and David’s sons were priests (cohanim).” 2 Samuel 8:15-18
Since the Messiah is David’s son, this would indicate that he too would be a priest much like his ancestors that preceded him.
More to come in the second part: The Messiah Revealed Pt. 2.