This lesson will trace the theme through the Hebrew Bible of Israel's Messianic Hope.
This theme-the One whom God promised as the Jewish Messiah (Hebrew: “Mashiach” meaning “Anointed One”) and the Savior of the human race- is central to Israel's core beliefs and world view. Belief in the Coming of the Messiah is a Basic Article of Faith in Judaism.
- Maimomides (1135 - 1204 CE) wrote, “I believe with perfect faith in the coming of the Messiah. However long it takes, I will await His coming every day.” (The Thirteen Articles of Faith).
- The Babylonian Talmud, states, “All the prophets prophesied only of the days of Messiah.”
The hope of Messiah runs through the entire Tanach. It is crucial then to recognize who He is. There have been many who claim to be the Messiah.
False Messiahs is a fairly common in Jewish history. I am unaware of a precise count, as most simply faded into obscurity over time. Three notable false messiahs:
- Simon bar Kokhba: The leader of the revolt against Rome and was hailed as Messiah-king by Rabbi Akiva. His Messianic movement ended in defeat in the Second Jewish-Roman War causing misery for the survivors.
- Sabbatai Zevi: an Ottoman Jew who claimed to be the Messiah, but then converted to Islam.
- Menachem Mendel Schneerson (1902–1994), the seventh Chabad Rabbi who tried to "prepare the way" for the Messiah. An unidentifiable number of his followers believe him to be the Messiah, though he himself never said this.
Most Jewish people think that the Messiah has not yet come. At the time of Yeshua appearance the Jewish people expected a different kind of Messiah. Let examine the Scriptures to see if only Yeshua fulfill the Messianic requirement.
We can know the Messiah by looking at Eight Passages That Answer Eight Crucial Questions
1. How Will God Redeem Humanity and By Whom? - The Seed of the Woman - Genesis 3:15.
God's first promise, “First Gospel”, is to the first man and woman after their fall into sin. God planted a beautiful Garden in Eden, where Adam and Eve lived in paradise, with two special trees - the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. God tells Adam and Even that they are not to partake of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. If they disobey him, they will die. But Satan, the fallen angel, enters into a snake and tempts them both to take the forbidden fruit. After disobeying God, the man and woman feel guilty and hide themselves among the trees. Let us listen to the conversation in which this first good news after the Fall is given:
But the LORD God called to the man, "Where are you?" 10 He answered, "I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid." 11 And he said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?" 12 The man said, "The woman you put here with me--she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it." 13 Then the LORD God said to the woman, "What is this you have done?" The woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate." 14 So the LORD God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this, "Cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. 15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel." (Gen. 3:9-15).
First God curses the physical serpent, the snake, then turns to the spiritual serpent, Satan, who is a lying tempter, and curses him. God promises that there will be a Victor over Satan who will come and put an end to his evil with a fatal blow, crushing his head or authority, but the Messiah will be wounded in the process. So we learn from this passage that God will save humans though a human agent - Seed of the Woman. The Savior of the human race, the Messiah, will be a human being, born of a woman and not an angel or a spirit. This describes Yeshua of Nazareth. “The Son of God appeared for this purpose that he might destroy the works of the Devil” (1 John 3:8). This Seed of the Woman prophecy was fulfilled as Satan was able to “strike Yeshua's heel” when Yeshua was put to death on the cross. But through His death and resurrection, Yeshua crushed the head of Satan and all his “seed,” those who follow him without repentance.
2. Who? - Seed of Abraham- Genesis 12:1-3.
We know from the first passage that the Messiah will be human, but that comprises the entire human race! A broad category! So, which human being? Who will He be? From which people group of mankind will he come?
The LORD had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. "I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."
Through Abram's descendants all the peoples of the earth will be blessed. This the great plan and promise of God that will reverse the curse brought on humans through Adam and Eve's sin. The Apostle Paul later interpreted this to refer, not to the whole Jewish people, but to One individual from within the Jewish people, that is the Messiah. Paul said, “Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,” who is Messiah.” (Galatians 3:16). So, we learn that the Messiah will come from - the Seed of Abraham. The first verse of the New Testament states- “This is the lineage of Yeshua the Messiah the son of Abraham” (Matthew 1:1). This son of Abraham is the greatest of the Seed of Abraham, because through him, billions of people have come to know the God of Israel. Through him, Israel is fulfilling her mission of being a light to the Gentiles. God choose the Jews because He loved the Gentiles!
3. Who? - Seed of Judah - Genesis 49:10.
We know from Genesis 12 that the Messiah will come from the Seed of Abraham. But Ishmael was also a son of Abraham. From which of Abraham's descendants will he come? Jacob's farewell blessing over his sons states the Messiah will come from the tribe of Judah:
“The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his..”
We know from history that all the kings came from Judah. But this blessing prophesies that finally One would come from Judah to whom the promises of rule and kingdom most truly belonged. This prophecy declares that not only will Judah and Israel's tribes obey him, but all nations as well. Surely this Ruler over the nations refers to the Messiah. Yeshua’s mother was from the tribe of Judah.
Mattityahu 1:1-2 states “This is the lineage of Yeshua the Messiah, the son of Abraham. Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers ...” Yeshua is from the Seed of Judah.
4. Who? - Seed of David - 2 Samuel 7:11-16.
But does the Scripture narrow it down still further? It does. Here is the promise God gave to King David:
“When you die, I will raise up your descendant after you, ..... I will establish his kingdom I will establish his kingdom forever.... Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever.”
David was from the tribe of Judah. Now we learn that God promises David a kingdom that will last forever. So we know that the Messiah must come from the House of David. The promised Seed of the Woman, will come through the Seed of Abraham, then through the Seed of Judah, and that he will be the descendant of Israel's greatest king, David. He will be the Seed of David. This promise to David's royal descendant of a kingdom that will last forever must refer to the Messiah's kingdom, because no earthly kingdom of Judah or Israel has lasted forever. Yeshua’s resurrection from the dead and His promise to come again to the earth and set up His kingdom fulfills this promise to King David.
5. What is Messiah’s Role and Mission? - Isaiah 53.
We know that the Messiah will be from the Seed of David and will be a king. But what is He to do? Isaiah the prophet gradually realizes that several of the messages he received predict the coming of a Suffering Servant of the LORD, who will bring blessing, deliverance and salvation. A very important prophecy describing the role and mission of this Suffering Servant is recorded in Isaiah 53.
“Who would have thought God’s saving power would look like this? He was looked down on and passed over, a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand. One look at him and people turned away it was our pains and sorrows he carried - it was our sins that brought him suffering and death, that ripped and tore and crushed him-our sins! He took the punishment, and that made us whole .... He died for the sins of my people .... even though he had never hurt a soul or said one word that wasn’t true. But this is what God had in mind all along he himself carries the burden of their sins He poured out his soul in death, giving up his life, He has secured the salvation of many.” (Selections from Peterson’s “The Message” with minor free translations by Bjoraker).
This passage tells us that the Servant of the LORD is not the nation of Israel, but a sinless individual from within Israel, who sacrifices his life as an offering for the sins of Israel. His role is that of a traditional Israelite priest who offered animal sacrifices without defect. The blood of those sacrifices pointed toward the coming of this Servant of Isaiah 53, who would be both Sacrificial Sin Offering and a great High Priest, offering his own blood for atonement for the sins of Israel and the nations.
The Tanakh give evidence of two Messiahs:
Is it possible that the portrayal of the Messiah as riding a donkey, lowly and humble (Zech. 9:9) and the portrayal as one coming in great triumph "in the clouds" (Dan. 7:13) refer to the same person? Could it be that one Messiah would come twice: first as ben Yosef to atone for the sins of Israel and the nations (i.e., the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53), and second as ben David to bring judgment upon the unjust and to 'restore the kingdom back to Israel'? Yeshua as ben Yosef indeed came first and suffered and died for the sake of Israel (and the nations) in the war against ultimate evil. Moreover, after his death, great calamity and tribulation indeed broke out in Israel, as the Second Temple was destroyed and the nation was forced into the long period of exile. Yet Yeshua as ben David will completely fulfill the Messianic expectation as anticipated by Maimonides and the other Jewish sages. He will come again to restore the Temple and set up his kingdom upon the earth. Moreover, he will unite all the nations in peace, raise the dead, and set up his throne in Jerusalem. Yeshua is both Mashiach Ben Yosef (the suffering servant - at His first coming) and Mashiach Ben David (the reigning King - at His second coming) [see Isaiah 52:13-15; 53:12, Psalm 22]). Like so many other prophecies given in the Scriptures, the prophecies concerning the Mashiach are "dual aspect" - with both a near and a far meaning, an "already but not-yet" fulfillment.
6. What Is Messiah’s Identity and Nature? Is He Only Human? - Isaiah 9:6-7.
From these passages we learn the Messiah will be a royal son of King David’s line, and also a priest who makes atonement for sin. Isaiah also received a word from God describing this son:
“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. 7 Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.!”
We learn two important things from this prophecy: First, this will be a Jewish son, given to the people of Israel, the royal son promised to King David. It contains the same promise given to David in 2 Samuel of an everlasting kingdom. Second, he is not only human, He is given the titles “Mighty God,” and “Everlasting Father” which unmistakably describe God. The Messiah will not be merely a son of man, but the Son of God. This child promised to “us” or the Jewish people cannot refer to a normal human baby, because he is given Divine titles, names that can only refer to God or the Son of God. Another clue this is referring to Yeshua is the promise that this child will inherit “the throne of his ancestor David.” Yeshua best fulfills this description.
7. Where will the Messiah be born? - Micah 5: 2.
Micah’s prophecy tells the people of Israel where the Messiah is to be born:
“O Bethlehem in the land of Judah, ... a ruler of Israel will come from you, One whose origins are from the distant past, from the days of eternity.”
Bethlehem is the city of David. David’s family came from there. The previous passage told us that the Messiah Son of David is a divine person, not an ordinary human being. This passage says he is “from the days of eternity.” It is a prediction that Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem. The New Testament is clear that Yeshua was born in Bethlehem. “Now after Yeshua was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king ...” (Mattityahu 2:1). Yeshua’s life showed that He was not an ordinary person, but did the works of God. His resurrection from the dead proves He is the Messiah.
8. When and How will the Messiah die? - Daniel 9:24-26.
Daniel prophesied over 500 years before Yeshua was born that the Messiah would come and be killed just before the destruction of the Second Jewish Temple:
“Seventy 'sevens' are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy. 25 "Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven 'sevens,' and sixty-two 'sevens.' It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. 26 After the sixty-two 'sevens,' the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decree.”
Daniel’s Prophecy when Messiah would come. Daniel’s words predict exactly when Messiah would come: 69 x 7 years (483 years) after the rebuilding of Jerusalem following the Babylonian destruction. 483 years is the time when Yeshua was crucified. After that an army would arise and destroy the city and the Temple. We know from history that the Roman general Titus attacked Jerusalem with his legions and destroyed the Temple in 70 AD. Daniel 9:24-27
We see here that the Messiah had to come and be killed sometime before the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD. So, if the Messiah did not come then (as rabbinic Jews say today), then Daniel was a false prophet. But we believe Daniel was a true prophet, and Messiah came then. The only person who claimed to be Messiah then, and who is still proclaimed as Messiah today by millions of people, is Yeshua.
Source: Who Is the Jewish Messiah? Can You Identify Him in the Hebrew Scriptures? By William Bjoraker, Ph.D.