Messiah in the Hebrew Bible
by Michael Rydelnik
How can someone be convinced that Jesus truly is who He claimed to be the Messiah of Israel and the world? One of the ways that Jesus Himself proved this was by citing the Hebrew Bible’s prophecies of the Messiah and how He fulfilled them. For example, Jesus said, “These are my words that I spoke while I was still with you that everything written about Me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms must be fulfilled” (Luke 24:44).
So to what prophecies was He referring? Probably Jesus meant not merely individual, messianic texts, but the Hebrew Bible as a whole. Even so, there are numerous specific predictions about the coming of the Messiah that Jesus fulfilled. In fact, the entire life of the Messiah can be found in the Hebrew scriptures, demonstrating that Jesus is actually the Promised One.
The Hebrew Bible contains several predictions of the Messiah’s birth. Micah foretold that Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, when he wrote, “Bethlehem Ephratah, you are small among the clans of Judah; One will come from you to be ruler over Israel for me” (Micah 5:2).
Also, Genesis 49:10 predicted that the Messiah would come in the first century. It says, “The scepter will not depart from Judah or the staff from between his feet, until He whose right it is comes and the obedience of the peoples belongs to Him.” Besides plainly stating that the Messianic King would come from the line of Judah, additionally it says that He would come before the “scepter” and “staff” depart from Judah. The word “scepter” in Hebrew, as used here, refers to tribal identity (note the same word is translated “tribe” in 49:16). The word “staff” means a “judge’s staff” and refers to judicial authority. The prediction is that Messiah would come before Judah would lose its tribal identity (lost in A.D. 70 with the destruction of the Temple) and judicial authority (lost in A.D. 6/7 when the Romans replaced Herod Archeleus with a Roman governor). Based on these two elements, the Messiah needed to come by the first century.
Additionally, Isaiah predicted that the Messiah would be born of a virgin. King Ahaz and Judah were under a threat from two northern kingdoms that wanted to remove the Davidic king and thereby jeopardize the Messianic promise. Isaiah brought both his son Shear Jashub and a message of hope to King Ahazan offer that Ahaz rejected. At this point, Isaiah gave two predictions. The first, a far prophecy (7:13-15), assured the enduring nature of the Davidic house until the coming of the Messiah. Isaiah wrote, “Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive, have a son, and name Him Immanuel.” The sign of hope would be the Messiah’s supernatural birth by a virgin in the distant future. The second prediction (7:16-17), related to the near situation, and predicted that by the time “the boy” Shear Jashub reached an age to know right from wrong, the imminent threat of the two northern kings would be removed. So, the Hebrew Bible predicted that the Messiah would be virgin born in Bethlehem by the time of the first century…
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