Anticipating the Messiah
Messiah is the special title of the Savior promised to the world through the Jewish race. The Hebrew word, Mashiach, is in every instance of its use (thirty-nine times) rendered in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) by Christos (Anointed One), which becomes so illustrious in the New Testament as the official designation of the Savior. He is introduced in Scripture very early, as part of the curse against the serpent in Genesis 3:15: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel." The fulfillment of this prophecy is described in Galatians 4:4-5: But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.
To understand the Old Testament perception of Messiah, not one verse can define Him, but rather a holistic view of the entire Old Testament is necessary. Ultimately, God's manifestation of Himself to men and the establishment of His kingdom on the earth becomes more and more distinct and centralizes itself more and more completely in the Person of the coming King, the Messiah. As implied in Genesis 3:15, man’s fall and growing sinfulness demand deliverance. The sinfulness of sin, the possibility of a divinely appointed method of deliverance from sin, and the realization of a kingdom of righteousness lie at the very basis of the Jewish economy. God’s chosen people were the bearers of this deliverance for the sake of the entire world. Upon condition of fidelity to the covenant, the promise was given: "You shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (Exodus 19:6). The highest glory of Israel was that One was to come in whom these noble relations to God and man, symbolized to a large extent by the nation itself, should be perfectly fulfilled. The covenant with Abraham introduced faith in God as the basis for experiencing God’s righteousness (Genesis 15:6). The religious system represented by the Law of Moses would become a temporary holding tank; Israel was under the protective custody of the Law until faith in the person and work of the Messiah would bring everything back to the Abrahamic covenant: justifying faith (Galatians 3:23-24).
My Redeemer Lives
For I know that my Redeemer [goeel - Vindicator] lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God. Whom I myself shall behold, and whom my eyes will see and not another. My heart faints within me! Job 19:25-27
Many scholars believe that Job lived at the same time as Abraham, suggesting that the Book of Job was the first book of the Bible written. In his despair, Job had a sense that the Redeemer, the Messiah, would come to his aid at some point. In Job 9, he expressed the need for an umpire, one who decides between individuals, and in Job 16, an Advocate. He is clearly referencing the work of the Messiah as one who reconciles and that he will see it while in his flesh. The Jewish Targum, which is unaffected by the Christian interpretation, says, "I know that my Redeemer lives, and hereafter His redemption will arise (become a reality) over the dust (into which I shall be dissolved); and after my skin is again made whole, this will happen, and from my flesh I shall again behold God." Job had a spiritual expectation of his Redeemer.
A Limited Concept of Messiah
The Jewish expectation of a coming Messiah was deepening in the centuries preceding the Christian era so that at the time of our Lord's appearing, it seemed to await its immediate fulfillment. Yet the Jewish people were not prepared to recognize Jesus as the Christ. The fatal mistake of the Jews was not in rejecting the Scriptures but in giving them a narrow and unspiritual interpretation. In John 5:39-40, You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.
According to Alfred Edersheim, the concept of Messiah embraced "such doctrines as the premundane [eternal] existence of the Messiah; his elevation above Moses, and even above the angels; his representative character; his cruel sufferings and derision; his violent death, and that for his people; his work in behalf of the living and of the dead; his redemption and restoration of Israel; the opposition of the Gentiles, their partial judgment and conversion; the prevalence of his law; the universal blessings of the latter days; and his kingdom." But this same interpretation left out certain elements of importance. The doctrines of original sin and of the sinfulness of man's whole nature were greatly reduced from their Scriptural meaning and were nearly omitted from the prevalent Jewish teaching. Consequently, the deepest thought of the messiahship, the salvation of the world from sin, was lacking. In keeping with this, the priestly office of the Messiah was also lost sight of, as was the prophetic office of the Messiah. The all-absorbing ideas were those of kingship and deliverance. And these were chiefly of national significance. The restoration of national glory was the great hope of Israel. All else was subordinate to that. As Number 24:17-19 relates,
"I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; a Star shall come out of Jacob; a Scepter shall rise out of Israel, and batter the brow of Moab, and destroy all the sons of tumult. "And Edom shall be a possession; Seir also, his enemies, shall be a possession, while Israel does valiantly. Out of Jacob, One shall have dominion and destroy the remains of the city."
Messiah is God and Man
Although the Second Psalm does not identify its author within, Acts 4:25-26 gives credit to David, who would play a large role in the return of Messiah in the Millennial Kingdom. Through divine inspiration, David had a clear sense that the coming Messiah would have a divine heritage as verse 7 says, “You are My Son, today I have begotten You.” A like verse is found in 2 Samuel 7:14, I will be his Father, and he shall be My son. The promise is that the Messiah would receive authority over the nations as an inheritance and the ends of the earth as a possession (Psalm 2:8). It will be a conquest by force, breaking them with a rod of iron and dashing them to pieces like a potter’s vessel. It is important to note that the Pharisees and Sadducees believed that the Messiah would be a man, but not divine, and this perspective remains the same today in Jewish orthodox thinking.
Looking for a Deliverer
The destruction of both the Northern and Southern Kingdoms forced the prophets to re-evaluate their expectation of the primary role of the Messiah as King who would come to conquer and deliver Israel from foreign despots and usher in the Kingdom Age. It was hoped that the exiles would soon return to Palestine, but this hope was opposed most vigorously by Ezekiel, and the fall of Jerusalem confirmed his teaching. From the despair that followed, the people were rescued by the Persian King Cyrus, who became the instrument of the Lord to bring about the return of the remnant to their own land. It was from these dark years that there appeared a new type of Messianic hope, national and economic, but also profoundly religious. Yahweh would care for His people as the shepherd cares for his sheep, and the land to which they would return would be renewed (Ezekiel 34:11-31), while the nations would support Israel and fear Adonai (Isaiah 49:22-23). Yahweh would make an everlasting covenant with His people (Isaiah 55:1-6), but the new nation would be a righteous community purified by suffering. According to Ezekiel 34:14-16, the expectation of a restored relationship with the land of Israel would be fulfilled.
“I will feed them in a good pasture, and their grazing ground will be on the mountain heights of Israel. There they will lie down on good grazing ground and feed in rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. “I will feed My flock, and I will lead them to rest,” declares the Lord God. “I will seek the lost, bring back the scattered, bind up the broken, and strengthen the sick; but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with judgment.
Two Messiahs or Two Comings
From the time of the Babylonian exile, the expectation of a coming Messiah came into sharper focus, commencing with Jeremiah's and Ezekiel's vision of a Messiah who would combine the traits of royalty and priestly dignity (see Jeremiah 33:14-18 below). The Essenes, the third sect of Judaism at the time and keepers of the divine libraries, the Dead Sea Scrolls, saw clearly two Messiahs, one who would suffer as Joseph suffered and the second a kingly figure as David. The alternation between a kingly Messiah and a suffering figure is characteristic of the two centuries of early Judaism prior to the coming of Jesus. When the suffering, rejected Messiah came, they were not caught unaware of His identity.
‘Behold, days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will fulfill the good word which I have spoken concerning the house of Israel and the house of Judah. ‘In those days and at that time, I will cause a righteous Branch of David to spring forth, and He shall execute justice and righteousness on the earth. ‘In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell in safety, and this is the name by which she will be called: the Lord is our righteousness.’ “For thus says the Lord, ‘David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel; and the Levitical priests shall never lack a man before Me to offer burnt offerings, to burn grain offerings and to prepare sacrifices continually.’” Jer 33:14-18
At this point, we have to decide whether the suffering Servant of Yahweh is to be interpreted collectively as the purified and vicarious remnant of Israel; or as some individual who would stand forever as a representative of Yahweh and, through his sufferings, purify and recall Israel to that spiritual life which would be the guarantee of a glorious future; or as the suffering nation. The interpretation placed upon these ‘Servant’ passages (Isaiah 43:1-13; 49:5; 61:1-3; 52:13-15; 53) in Rabbinic thought was ordinarily not about the person of Messiah, but the nation of Israel itself. It was a suffering Israel who was not only to be gloriously redeemed but also to bring the knowledge of Yahweh and salvation to the world at large. And this is becoming the current interpretation today. The acceptance of this personification of a suffering Israel undermines the gospel message intended to minister to the Jew of the Apostles’ Day as the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16). It would be the suffering of Jesus that would circumvent this false understanding of Messiah’s first coming.
Teacher of Righteousness
23 So rejoice, O sons of Zion, and be glad in the Lord your God; for He has given you the early rain [moreh – can also be translated as “teacher”] for your vindication [tsedaqah – righteousness]. And He has poured down for you the rain, the early and latter rain as before. Joel 2:23
This passage from Joel 2 includes a reference to the early/former rains and the latter rains, speaking of two different times of the year when rains were anticipated, the early rain in October while the latter rain in the spring. A closer examination of the Hebrew in this verse indicates that another translation may be the intended meaning. The Hebrew morah tsedaqah could also refer to the Teacher of Righteousness, one who would appear as the former rain. The same application is appropriate in Hosea 10:12, Sow with a view to righteousness, reap in accordance with kindness; break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the Lord until He comes to rain [yarah – teacher of] righteousness on you. There are a number of Dead Sea Scrolls that reference this Teacher of Righteousness, including the Commentary on Psalm 37:
‘The Wicked Priest who watched the Teacher of Righteousness to kill him because of the ordinance and the law which He sent him.” And later, it says, “At the end of the forty years, they shall be blotted out, and the wicked shall no longer be found in the land of Israel.”
It appears that this reference speaks of the Messiah, the Teacher of Righteousness, who would be killed by the High Priest, the Wicked Priest, using the law as his evidence. In addition, after forty years, there would be a dispersion of the wicked ones from Israel, a clear reference to the diaspora which would take place in 70 AD, forty years after the death of the Messiah.
Former & Latter Rain
Hosea 6:3 tells us, “So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord. His going forth is as certain as the dawn, and He will come to us like the rain, like the spring rain watering the earth.” The early/former rain and the latter rain are references to Messiah’s two comings, the first in the fall and the other in the spring. Many other of the scrolls reference the Messiah as “God of Righteousness,” Sun of Righteousness,” “Unique Teacher of Righteousness,” and the “Final Melchizedekian Priest.” With these scrolls available to the priests of Jesus’s day, His coming should not have taken any of them by surprise.
For unto us, a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. and His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace, there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this. Isaiah 9:6-7
The above passage speaks of two Messiahs or one Messiah with two comings, one in the weakness of a Jewish child while the other ready to take the throne of David, establishing justice and righteousness for the sake of God’s people. The misconceptions of Rabbinic thinking regarding the Messiah are the evidence of a demonic influence that keeps the unregenerated Jew under the veil of the religious system he holds to. In 2 Corinthians 3:16, but whenever a person turns to the Lord [Jesus as Messiah], the veil is taken away.
There are many references to the coming Messiah as fulfilled by Jesus of Nazareth in the ancient Jewish scrolls managed by the Essenes and studied as necessary historical background for the priesthood. Below are a few striking examples:
Salvation hangs on the Messiah by believing in Him Enoch 40:5, 45:3, 48:7
Messiah’s shed blood is necessary for salvation Enoch 47:2,4
Son of Man existed before any created thing Enoch 48:2-3, 6
Messiah is called the “Word” Enoch 90:38
Jews will deny the Messiah Enoch 48:10
Elect One, Righteous One will resurrect from the dead Enoch 51:5, 92:3
Rapture before the Tribulation to cause repentance Enoch 50:1-5
Messiah is God incarnate Simeon 6, 7; Zebulun 9
Levi’s priesthood is only until Messiah Reuben 6, Levi 4,5
Tribes rebel against Judah & Levi Reuben 6; Dan 5
Messiah is the seed of Judah Reuben 6; Judah 24; Gad 8
Messiah is an everlasting King Reuben 6, Joseph 19
Messiah dies for us Reuben 6
Levites crucify the Messiah Levi 4, 16; Aaron 4, 6
There will be 2 expulsions Levi 15; Zebulun 9
Messiah creates a new priesthood Levi 18; Aaron 4
Messiah’s priesthood is eternal Amram 4Q547; Aaron 4