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The Rabbis Affirm the Divine Prehuman Existence of the Messiah!

In this short post, I am going to cite the rabbinic interpretation of particular OT texts in order to show that even specific rabbis believed in and affirmed the divine, prehuman existence of the Messiah.

For instance, the rabbis understood that the following Psalm, which speaks of the Davidic Ruler enduring even before the sun,

“May his name be forever; before the sun, his name will be magnified, and [people] will bless themselves with him; all nations will praise him.” Psalm 72:17 (The Complete Jewish Bible With Rashi Commentary https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16293#v17; italicized and underline emphasis mine)

Refers to the coming Anointed One as having existed with God from before the creation of the sun, and that his name was established or created even before the cosmos came into being:

Yet was the fire of the Gehenna created on the eve of the Sabbath? Surely it was taught: Seven things were created before the world was created, and these are they: The Torah, repentance, the Garden of Eden, Gehenna, the Throne of Glory, the Temple, and the name of the Messiah. The Torah, for it is written, The Lord made me [sc. the Torah] as the beginning of his way. Repentance, for it is written, Before the mountains were brought forth, and it is written, Thou turnest man to contrition, and sayest, Repent, ye children of men.27 The Garden of Eden, as it is written, And the Lord planted a garden in Eden from aforetime.28 The Gehenna, for it is written, For Tophet [i.e., Gehenna] is ordered of old. The Throne of Glory and the Temple, for it is written, Thou throne of glory, on high from the beginning, Thou place of our sanctuary. The name of the Messiah, as it is written, His [sc. the Messiah’s] name shall endure for ever, and has exited before the sun! — I will tell you: only its cavity was created before the world was created, but its fire [was created] on the eve of the Sabbath. (Pesachim, 54a http://halakhah.com/pdf/moed/Pesachim.pdf; bold emphasis mine)

Resh Lakish said: Where is visiting the sick indicated in the Torah? In the verse, If these men die the common death of all men, or if they be visited after the visitation of all men etc. How is it implied? — Raba answered: [The verse means this:] If these men die the common death of all men, who lie sick a-bed and men come in and visit them, what will people say? The Lord hath not sent me for this [task]. Raba expounded: But if the Lord make a new thing: if the Gehenna is already created, ‘tis well: if not, let the Lord create it. But that is not so, for it was taught: Seven things were created before the world, viz., The Torah, repentance, the Garden of Eden, Gehenna, the Throne of Glory, the Temple, and the name of the Messiah. The Torah, for it is written, The Lord possessed me [sc. the Torah] in the beginning of his way, before his works of old.6 Repentance, for it is written, Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world . . . Thou turnest man to destruction, and sayest, Repent, ye sons of men. The Garden of Eden, as it is written, And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden from aforetime. Gehenna, as it is written, For Tophet is ordained of old. The Throne of Glory, as it is written, Thy Throne is established from of old. The Temple, as it is written, A glorious high throne from the beginning is the place of our sanctuary. The name of the Messiah, as it is written, His name [sc. of Messiah] shall endure for ever, and [has existed] before the sun! — But Moses said thus: If a mouth has already been created for it [sc. Gehenna], ‘tis well; if not, let the Lord create one. But is it not written, There is no new thing under the sun? — He said thus: If the mouth is not near to this spot, let it draw near. (Nedarim, 39b http://halakhah.com/pdf/nashim/Nedarim.pdf; bold emphasis mine)

Composed by Solomon, uttered in prophecy. O God, give your just rulings to the King Messiah, and your righteousness to the son of King David… May his name be invoked for ever; and before the sun came to be his name was determined; so all the peoples will be blessed by his merit, and they shall speak well of him.” (Targum Psalms: An English Translation, by Edward M. Cook http://targum.info/pss/ps2.htm; bold emphasis mine)

Here is another version of the foregoing Targum:

“May his name be remembered forever, his name which was made ready even before the sun came into being.” (Samson H. Levey, The Messiah: An Aramaic Interpretation [Hebrew Union College, New York 1974], Targum to the Hagiographa, p. 117; bold emphasis mine)

The rabbis also taught that the Messiah is the light that has been with God from the very beginning:

“In the beginning of God’s creating…” – Six things preceded the creation of the world; some of them were created and some of them were decided to be created. The Torah and the Throne of Glory were created. How do we know the Torah was? As it says (Proverbs 8:22): “God made me at the beginning of his way.” How do we know the Throne of Glory was? As it says (Psalms 93:2): “Your throne is established as of old etc.” The Patriarchs, Israel, the Temple, and THE NAME of the Messiah were decided to be created. How do we know the Patriarchs were? As it says (Hosea 9:10): “Like grapes in the wilderness etc.” How do we know Israel was? As it says (Psalms 74:2): “Remember your congregation, whom you purchased from old.” How do we know the Temple was? As it says (Jeremiah 17:12): “Your throne of glory, on high from the beginning etc.” How do we know the name of the Messiah was? As it says (Psalms 72:17): “May his name exist forever etc. [his name shall be Yinnon as long as the sun].”… Rabbi Yehudah Bar Simon opened with (Daniel 2:22): “He reveals the deep and secret. He knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with Him.” “He reveals the deep”–this is Hell, as it says (Proverbs 9:18): “He does not know there are spirits there,” and it says (Isaiah 30:33): “deep and large”. “And secret”–this is Paradise, as it says (Isaiah 4:6): “for a cover and refuge from storm and rain,” and it says (Psalms 31:21): “You hide them in the cover of Your presence.” Alternatively, “he reveals the deep and secret”–these are the acts of the wicked, as it says (Isaiah 29:15): “Woe to the ones who seek deep from God to make their counsel secret.” “And secret”–these are the acts of the wicked, as the verse states. “He knows what is in the dark”–these are the acts of the wicked, as it says in Isaiah: “Their acts are in the dark.” “The light dwells with Him”–these are the acts of the righteous, as it is written (Proverbs 4:18): “The path of the righteous is like the light at dawn,” and it says (Psalms 97:11): “Light is sown for the righteous.” Rabbi Abba Srungia said: “The light dwells with Him”–THIS IS THE MESSIAH, as it says (Isaiah 60:1): “Arise, shine, for your light has come.”… (Bereshit Rabbah https://www.sefaria.org/Bereishit_Rabbah.1.4?lang=bi; capital and underline emphasis mine)

Even more astonishing is the rabbinic teaching that the Spirit of God who was actively involved in the creation of the heavens and earth, as mentioned in Genesis,

“In the beginning of God’s creation of the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was astonishingly empty, and darkness was on the face of the deep, and the spirit of God (ruach Elohim) was hovering over the face of the water.” Genesis 1:1-2 (The Complete Jewish Bible https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/8165; italicized and underline emphasis mine)

Is actually the Spirit of the Messiah!

  1. “‘And the spirit of God hovers’ refers to the spirit of the Messiah, in line with the following verse of Scripture: ‘And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him’ (Is. 11:2).”
  2. A. On account of what merit will the Messiah come? [It will be on account of the merit represented by the verse:] “…over the face of the water” (Gen. 1:2).
  3. It is, specifically, on account of the merit of repentance, which is compared to water: “Pour out your heart like water” (Lam. 2:19).

The same point registers once more, now with reference to the four monarchies, Babylonia, Media, Greece, Rome, the coming of the Messiah by reason of Israel’s repentance. (Jacob Neusner, A Theological Commentary to the Midrash: Genesis Rabbah (Studies in Ancient Judaism) [University Press of America, Inc., Lanham, New York, Oxford, 2001], Volume Two, p. 8 https://books.google.com/books?id=_5h11pvv0TgC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false; bold and underline emphasis mine)

What makes this so remarkable is that Genesis depicts God’s Spirit as a separate and distinct entity from all creation, and as being personally involved in making and fashioning the heavens and earth, a fact reiterated elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible:

“By his spirit he hath garnished the heavens; his hand hath formed the crooked serpent.” Job 26:13 Authorized King James Version (AV)

“The spirit of God made me, and the breath of the Almighty keeps me alive.” Job 33:4 (The Complete Jewish Bible https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16435#v4)

“Heavens be made steadfast by the word of the Lord; and all the virtue of those by the spirit (ruach) of his mouth. (The heavens were made by the word of the Lord; yea, all the host of them, by the breath from his mouth.)” Psalm 33:6 Wycliffe Bible

“You will send forth Your spirit and they will be created, and You will renew the surface of the ground.” Psalm 104:30 (The Complete Jewish Bible https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16325#v30)

For the rabbis to then identify God’s Spirit as the Spirit of the Messiah basically means that they were essentially affirming that the Messiah is a separate and distinct Being from creation!

As such, the rabbinic interpretation of Genesis 1:2 ends up equating the Messiah as God in some sense, making him both identical with and yet distinct from God himself.

Note the logical implications of the rabbinic exegesis of Genesis 1:2:

The Spirit of God in Genesis 1:2 is separate from creation, and the divine agent that God employed to make the heavens and the earth.

The Spirit mentioned in Genesis 1:2 is the Spirit of the Messiah.

The Messiah must, therefore, be separate from creation, and the divine agent that God used to make the heavens and the earth.

Moreover, the Spirit in Genesis 1:2 is of/from God (Elohim).

The Spirit is of/from the Messiah.

The Messiah must, therefore, be God (Elohim).

Amazingly, there are specific OT texts that actually call the Messianic King God!

“My heart is inditing a good matter: I speak of the things which I have made touching the king: my tongue is the pen of a ready writer… Thy throne, O God (Elohim), is for ever and ever: the sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre. Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows… so shall the king greatly desire thy beauty: for he is thy Lord; and worship thou him… I will make thy name to be remembered in all generations: therefore shall the people praise thee for ever and ever.” Psalm 45:1, 6-7, 11, 17 AV

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God (El Gibbor), The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.” Isaiah 9:6-7 AV

What makes the text from Isaiah all the more interesting is that the rabbis used Isaiah 11:1-2,

“And a shoot shall spring forth from the stem of Jesse, and a twig shall sprout from his roots. And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, a spirit of wisdom and understanding, a spirit of counsel and heroism, a spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord.” (The Complete Jewish Bible https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/15942)

To prove that the Spirit in Genesis 1:2 is actually the Spirit of King Messiah. And it isn’t a coincidence that this is the same inspired prophet who calls the Messiah the Mighty God, the very name that Isaiah attributes to Jehovah in the very next chapter:

“And it shall come to pass that on that day the remnant of Israel and the survivors of the house of Jacob shall not continue to lean on him that smote them; but he shall lean on the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. The remnant shall return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God (El Gibbor).” Isaiah 10:20-21 (The Complete Jewish Bible https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/15941; bold and italicized emphasis mine)

Therefore, a Jew should have no problem with the Messiah being identical to and personally distinct from God at the same time.

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