by Dan Bergman
Andrew, the son of Jonah, sat and listened intently as a wildly bold preacher proclaimed to his people a message of repentance and the coming Messiah. This expectation of the Messiah’s advent was most likely ingrained in Andrew’s mind by his parents, and differed very little from the twelfth principle of the Jewish faith, “I believe with perfect faith in the coming of the Messiah; and even though he may tarry, nonetheless, I wait every day for his coming.”1 The preacher was the son of Zechariah the priest – John the Baptist.
Andrew is surely startled by John’s booming voice, “Behold the Lamb of God!”2 Immediately, Andrew and his fellow disciple flock to Jesus. After spending only half a day with Him, Andrew is burning in his heart with a message for his brother. Finding Simon Peter, he yells, “We have found the Messiah!”3
Two thousand years later, there are two groups of Jews: those who recognize, like Andrew did, that Jesus is indeed the Messiah, and those who are expecting an altogether different person, with a different background and a different agenda. These two opposing views must cause us to examine the Hebrew Scriptures, asking ourselves two questions: “What can we determine about Messiah’s arrival?”, and, “What will be the actions of the Messiah?”
QUESTIONS REGARDING MESSIAH’S ARRIVAL
1. Who would the Messiah come from?
The promised Messiah was to be a descendant of Abraham through Isaac, Jacob, Judah and David.4 Speaking of the Messiah, Isaiah prophesied,
“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, 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 forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.” Isaiah 9:6-7
This is in fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant given to David (2nd Samuel 7:8-17). Even the Pharisees of Jesus’ day affirmed the Davidic ancestry of the Messiah (Matthew 22:41-46).
Jesus’ lineage is traced through Joseph in Matthew chapter 1, and through Mary in Luke chapter 3. Luke 3:23 lists “Joseph son of Heli”, which makes one ask if the Luke genealogy is through Joseph as well. “Son” is not in the Greek. The only logical way that Joseph’s father could be Jacob in Matthew 1:16, and Heli in Luke 3:23, is Luke referring to Joseph as Heli’s son in-law, Heli being Mary’s father. This mindset of referring to a son-in-law as “son” can clearly be seen in 1 Samuel 24:16. Matthew’s record goes back to Abraham, and Luke’s goes all the way back to Adam. No one else can verify their own Davidic ancestry today, seeing that Jewish tribal records are only assumed based on the individual’s last name and word of mouth.
2. When would the Messiah come?
“The world is to exist six thousand years. In the first two thousand there was desolation; two thousand years the Torah flourished; and the next two thousand years is the Messianic era, but through our many iniquities, all these years have been lost.”5
“Since the calculated time has arrived but Mashiach has not come, he will never come.”6
One does not need to be a mathematician to clearly see that the Messiah’s time of arrival, according to this Talmudic quote, has come and gone. The ancient rabbis of the Talmud (Jewish oral law) realized this. Daniel received a timetable for the coming, and even the death of the Messiah.
“Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.” Daniel 9:24-26
The weeks spoken of are not weeks of days, but weeks of years (this is the correct understanding in light of the teaching of sabbatical years in Leviticus 26:34,35,43 as well as the judgment spoken upon Israel in Jeremiah 25:11; 29:10, and 2nd Chronicles 36:21). According to this prophecy, we should expect the Messiah to arrive 69 weeks of years, or 483 years from the date that Jerusalem was decreed to be rebuilt. This happened in Nehemiah 2, which is widely accepted to be March of 445 B.C. This would make it a Biblical necessity for the Messiah to die in April of A.D. 32. Even if there are questions about the exact date, clearly, the Messiah would have to come after Jerusalem was rebuilt, but before its destruction in A.D. 70.
3. Where would the Messiah come from?
The Messiah would not be just anyone from anywhere as modern Jewish speculation erroneously teaches.7 It is not only clear from the scriptures, but even from the ancient Jewish writings that Messiah would come from the “little town of Bethlehem”.
“But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.” Micah 5:2
“The King Messiah… from where does he come forth? From the royal city of Bethlehem in Judah.” (Jerusalem Talmud, Berakoth 5a)
QUESTIONS REGARDING MESSIAH’S ACTIONS
1. What are the key accomplishments of the Messiah?
The Messiah was to be born of a virgin, as promised in Isaiah 7:14. He was to live a righteous sinless life, as seen in Isaiah 53:9-11 and Jeremiah 23:5, 6. He was to be a prophet like unto Moses.8 He was to be zealous for the Lord.9 He will one day establish a government in Israel that will be the center of all world government for both Jews and Gentiles as described in Isaiah 2:2-4, Isaiah 9:6,7 and Jeremiah 33:15. He would bring the Gentiles to know the God of Israel.
“And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious.” Isaiah 11:10
He was to die as a substitutionary sacrifice for the sins of Israel (Isaiah 53:5, 8; Daniel 9:26). His hands and feet were to be pierced in his death (Psalm 22:16; Zechariah 12:10). The Talmud is very direct in affirming that the ancient rabbis considered Zechariah 12:10 a messianic prophecy. In the section called Sukkah 52a verse ten is paraphrased: “They will look upon me, the Messiah, who they have pierced.” The rabbis went so far as to insert the word “Messiah” into the text!
2. Are there two comings of Messiah?
Isaiah describes a Messiah who continues to fulfill Messianic requirements after His death in Isaiah 52:13-15; 53:12. Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, there are prophecies that were ascribed to the Messiah by ancient rabbis of old. These passages seemed to be obviously referring to the Messiah, but some would have a victorious and royal motif, while others would mainly focus on suffering and death.
These passages were reconciled with a belief in not one, but two Messiahs (Messiah Ben-Joseph and Messiah Ben-David). The first typifying the Messiah’s suffering as exemplified by Joseph in the book of Genesis, and the later focusing on the Messiah’s kingship as typified in King David.10 What these rabbis did not realize was that the Messiah would come to earth twice – first as the suffering servant seen of Isaiah 53, who would die for the sins of the people, and second to return as the King of kings to vanquish Israel’s enemies and rule the world from the throne of His father David.11
The Babylonian Talmud teaches that the two different roles of Messiah are fulfilled in two different Messiahs. The first one is Messiah-Ben Joseph who fights, suffers extreme humiliation, and is pierced, fulfilling Zechariah’s prophecy, “They shall look unto Me whom they have pierced.”12 The second one is Messiah Ben David, who comes later, to whom God says: “I will declare the decree, The Lord hath said unto me. Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I shall give thee the nations for thine inheritance.”13
The Hebrew Scriptures often equate the troublous times of the last days with a woman being in travail with child.14 The travail of Jeremiah 30 is the same travail of Isaiah 66 – the last days, the time of Jacob’s trouble. Verse 7 of Isaiah 66 says “Before she [Israel] travailed, she brought forth; before her pain came, she was delivered of a man child.” The “man child” is Jesus, who comes before the time of trouble – the Tribulation period. The coming of the “man child” is the first coming. The “travail of Israel” is the second coming, when Messiah comes to deliver Israel from her enemies.
We know from other Scripture passages that the Messiah would come at the end of the troublous times, as seen in Zechariah 12:10 and 14:1-4. This is only possible through two distinct advents. The first coming, Messiah comes as the suffering Servant. The second coming, Messiah returns as the King of Kings.
TRUTH TO CONSIDER
It can clearly be seen through His lineage and actions that the promised Messiah is none other than Yeshua – Jesus. We should be able to confidently proclaim as Philip did in John 1:45, “We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
Will you make the same proclamation as Philip? Will you proclaim Jesus as your Messiah and Savior?
1 Moses Maimonides Avraham Yaakov Finkel, Essential MaimonidesEdition 1, (Aronson, Jason Inc., 1996), p. 237. In his commentary on the Mishnah (Sanhedrin, chap. 10), the Jewish Sage Maimonides lists thirteen principles of the Jewish faith. Principle number 12 carries with it the earnest expectation of the longing Jewish heart.
2 John 1:36
3 John 1:41
4 Genesis 12:3; 17:19; 49:10
5. Babylonian Talmud (Sanhedrin 97a)
6. Ibid. (Sanhedrin 97b)
7 Sanders, E.P. Jesus and Judaism (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1985) 298
8 Deuteronomy 18:15 and 18. Jesus ascribes this to Himself in John 5:45-47
9 See Psalm 69:9 and John 2:17
10 Patai, Raphael. The Messiah Texts (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1988) 314-316
11 Isaiah 9:7
12 Zechariah 12:10
13 Sukkah 52a (a rabbinic commentary on Psalm 2)
14 Jeremiah 30:6-10. This is in reference to the “time of Jacob’s trouble” also know as Daniel’s 70th week, the Tribulation period, and “the Day of the LORD” in which the remnant of Israel will accept Jesus as their Messiah.