In the Prophetic Writings of Ancient Israel
What is a Messiah?
"Messiah" comes from the Hebrew word "masiah" meaning "Annointed." In the religion of ancient Israel the one who was annointed was especially blessed, chosen, and strengthened by God to serve Him. Kings, High Priests, and Prophets were annointed to serve God throughout the ancient history of the Hebrew people.
From the time of Adam, God sent prophets to teach the Hebrew People the truth about Himself and the Messiah He would send to save all mankind. That God would in fact send a Messiah is one of the fundamental tenents of Judaism. For example, the twelfth article of the profession of faith written by Moses Maimonides, a famous medieval Rabbi, reads: "God will send the Messiah announced by the prophets."
The Messianic Prophecies
There are more than 300 passages in the collection of ancient religious writings of the Jewish People (known commonly as the Old Testament) which refer to the Promised Messiah. Only the most important of these will be considered here.
This First Prophecy: Genesis 3:15
The first prophecy God gave was to Adam and Eve. This prophecy they preserved and passed on to their children. Their descendants in the line of Abraham kept knowledge of this prophecy intact.
"I will put emnity between you and the woman, between your offspring and hers. He will crush your head ..."
In this passage, God clearly promised that a descendant of Adam would overthrow the Devil, who had become prince of this world in virtue of Original Sin. He also promised an eternal hatred between the Devil and the Mother of the Messiah.
The Second Prophecy: Genesis 22:18; 26:4; 28:14
Speaking to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, God said:
"And in your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed."
In these three passage God indicated that the Messiah, the savior of all mankind, would be a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
The Third Prophecy: Genesis 49: 10
"The scepter shall not be taken away from Juda, nor a ruler from his thigh, till he come who is to be sent, and he shall be the expectation of the nations."
This prophecy is spoken by Jacob in the presences of his twelves sons, the fathers of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. It it the Messiah is clearly foretold to be of the lineage and tribe of Juda, that the Tribe of Juda shall reign over the people of Israel until the Messiah comes, and that even the Gentile nations will await him.
The Fourth Prophecy: Deuteronomy 18:15
"The Lord your God will raise up to thee a prophet of your nation and of you brethren like unto me: him you will hear: this is what you desired of the Lord at Horeb, when the assembly was gathered together, and said: Let me not hear any more the voice of the Lord my God, neither let me see any more this exceeding great fire, lest I die."
In this passage Moses, through whom God gave the Law to the Hebrew People, foretells that God will send them the Messiah, who will be the fulfillment of their desires to have a mediator with God. This Messiah is now revealed to be a prophet and teacher.
The Fifth Prophecy: 2 Kings 7:11-16
"And the Lord foretells to you, that the Lord will make you a house. And when your days shall be fulfilled, and you shall sleep with your fathers, I will raise up your seed after you, which shall spring from your womb, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house to My Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to Me."
In this passage God fortells, through King David's prophet Nathan, that the Messiah will be of the house and lineage of David: one of his own sons, and a king. By describing the Messiah's origin as "sprung from your womb" God indicates that his generation will be unique among men. And God now reveals that the Messiah will not only be a savior and prophet, but also a king whose kingdom will never end.
The Sixth Prophecy: Isaiah 7:14
Isaiah was one of the greatest prophets in ancient Israel. He wrote the Book of Isaiah about the time of Hezechiah (727-698 B. C.). To Isaiah God revealed more about the Messiah to come than any other prophet. Isaiah wrote down the revelations God gave him in the Book of Isaiah. This book gives the clearest sketch of the Messiah and the era of salvation that He would bring about, the foundation of the Church, the condemnation of the Jews who would reject Him, the exaltation of the Gentiles who would accept Him, and the events surrounding the end of the world, when the Messiah would be vindicated in the sight of all peoples. As in the days of Jesus Christ, so today, those who reject the unitity and authority of Isaiah, ended up rejecting the Messiah he prophesied.
He was commanded by God to give this prophecy to Achaz, the King of Judea. He was to assure him that if he believed in the Messiah to come from his house and lineage, since Achaz was a descendant of King David, then God would deliver him and his people in the present conflict with the Empire of Assyria.
"Hear therefore, O house of David: Is it a small thing for you to be weary men, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord Himself will give you this sign: Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel."
In this passage God prophesies through Isaiah, that the Messiah will be miraculously conceived by a virgin and miraculously given birth to by a virgin. And that he shall bear the Divine Name Emmanuel, which means God-is-with-us.
The Seventh Prophecy: Isaiah 9:1-7
"Land of Zabulon, land of Naphtali, way of the sea beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles: The people that have walked in darkness have seen a great light. To them that dwelt in darkness and the shadow of death a light is arisen. You have multiplied the nation and have increased its joy. They shall rejoice before You, like those who rejoice at harvest time, as conquerors rejoice over the prey, when they are dividing spoils. For the yoke of their burden and the rod upon their shoulder, and the scepter of their oppressor You have shattered as on the day of Madian. For every violent siezure of spoils in tulmult, and every cloak rolled in blood, shall be burnt as fuel for the fire.
For a child is born to us, and a son is given us, and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called: Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, Father of the world to come, the Prince of Peace.
His empire shall be multiplied, and there shall be no end of peace: he shall sit upon the throne of David, and upon his kindgom; to establish it and strengthen it with judgment and justice, from henceforth and forever: the zeal of the Lord of Hosts will do this."
In this prophecy, God clearly foretells through Isaiah, that the Messiah will liberate all mankind from the dark power of the Devil, that he will be the son and heir of King David, and that He shall bear the names and dignity of God Himself, and that His reign will never end.
The Eighth Prophecy: Isaiah 11:1-12:6
"And there shall come forth a rod out of the stump of Jesse, and a bud shall sprout from his root. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: the spirit of wisdom, and of understanding, the spirit of counsel, and of fortitude, the spirit of knowledge, and of fear of the Lord. And he shall be filled with the spirit of the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge according to the sight of the eyes, nor reprove according to the hearing of the ears. But he shall judge the poor with justice, and shall reprove the meek of the earth with equity: and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked."
The long passage continues to describe the harmony of the new era that the Messiah will bring and then returns to the person of the Messiah in verse 11:
"On that day the root of Jesse shall be set up as an standard for the nations; him the Gentiles shall beseech, and his place of rest shall be glorious. . . And he shall set up a standard unto the nations, and shall assemble the fugitives of Israel,and shall gether together the dispersed of Juda from the corners of the earth."
In chapter Twelve, at the prophetic vision of the restoration wrought by the Messiah, the prophet Isaiah cries out in song:
"And you shall say in that day: I will give thanks to you, O Lord, for you were angry with me: Your wrath is turned away, and you have comforted me.
Behold God is my Savior, I will deal confidently, and will not be afraid: because the Lord is my Strength, and my Praise, and He is become my salvation. With joy you shall draw water at the fountains of salvation, and say on that day: Praise the Lord! and you shall call upon His Name: make His works known among the people; remember His Name is exalted!"
And thus in this passage Isaiah clarifies the previous prophecy. God Himself will be the salvation of Israel.
The Ninth Prophecy: Isaiah 42: 1-13
In this passage Isaiah in prophecy describes both the person of the Messiah, his exceeding meekness, gentlesness; as well as his vocation to free not only the descendents of Israel but the peoples of all nations:
"Behold My servant, whom I uphold: My elect, the one in whom My soul delights. I have placed My Spirit upon him. He shall bring forth judgement for the nations. He shall not cry out, nor have respect for persons, neither shall his voice be heard in the streets. The bruised reed he shall not break, and smoking flax he shall not quench: he shall bring forth judgement in fidelity. He shall not be sad nor troublesome, till he set up judgement upon the earth: and the islands shall wait for his law."
And then speaking to the Messiah, God says:
"I the Lord have called thee in justice, and taken you by the hand, and preserved you. And I have given you for a covenant of the people, for a light to the Gentiles: that you might open the eyes of the blind, and bring forth the prisoner from prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house. I the Lord, this is My Name: I will not give my glory to another, nor My praise to idols."
In this passage God, through his prophet Isaiah, fortells that the Messiah will be a new convenant for Israel, that he shall cure the blind of their blindness and enlighten the ignorance of the nations who know not God. This passage is followed immediately by God's own explanation of prophecy:
"The things that were at the first, behold they come: and I declare new things; before they spring forth, I will make you hear them."
The Tenth Prophecy: Isaiah 49:5-6
"And now says the Lord, that formed me from the womb to be his servant, that I may bring back Jacob unto Him, and Israel who is scattered. I am glorified in the eyes of the Lord, and my God is made my strength. And He said: It is a small thing that you should be My servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to convert the dregs of Israel. Behold, I have given you to be the light of the Gentiles, that you may be My salvation even to the furthest end of the earth."
In this prophecy God clearly foretells that the Messiah will bring salvation to all the earth. In it God also refers to the vocation of the Messiah from the womb of his mother.
The Eleventh Prophecy: Isaiah 51:4-5
"Hearken unto Me, O My people, and give ear to Me, O My tribes: for a law shall go forth from Me, and My judgment shall rest as a light to the nations. My just one is near at hand, My savior is gone forth, and My arms shall judge the people: the islands shall look for Me, and shall patiently wait for My arm."
In this passage God clearly foretells that the Messiah will come from God and be like unto His own "arm" working redemption for all peoples.
The Twelfth Prophecy: Isaiah 52:6-53:12
In this long passage God foretells through His prophet Isaiah that the Messiah, the servant of Yahweh, will come from Himself like His own "arm," shall restore Israel, and bring about salvation in the sight of all the nations of the earth, and that he will accomplish this by being offered up in suffering to justify many:
"Behold My servant shall prosper, he shall be raised up, and extolled, and shall be exceedingly high. As many have been astonished at him—his face marred beyond that than of any man, and his form more than the sons of men—so shall he startle many nations; kings shall stand speechless because of him....Who has believed what we have heard and to whom is the arm of the Lord been revealed? He grows up as a tender plant befor Him, and as a root out of thirsty ground. There is no beauty in him, nor comeliness that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should look at him:
Despised and forsaken by men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with infirmity: and as one whose appearance is hidden from men and despised, whereupon we esteemed him not.
Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him as a leper, and as one stuck by God and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray, every one has turned aside to his own way; and the Lord has laid upon him the iniquity of us all.
He was offered because it was his own will, and he opened not his mouth; like a lamb led to the slaughter, like a sheep dumb before the shearer, he opened not his mouth. He was taken away by oppression and judgment; who shall declare his generation? He is cut off from the land of the living: for the wickedness of My people I have struck him.
His grave is with the wicked and with the rich man in his death, although he did not violence, and no deceit was found in his mouth. And the Lord was pleased to bruise him in infirmity: when You make his soul an offering for sin . . . by knowledge of him shall this My servant justify many and bear their iniquities . . ."
The Place of the Messiah's birth is foretold: Micah 5:2-4
"And you, Bethlehem of Ephrathah, so little among the tribes of Juda: out of you shall come forth for Me him who is to be ruler in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from days without end. Therefore He shall give them up until the time when she who is in travail has brought forth; then the rest of his brethren shall return to the people of Israel. He shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the Name of the Lord his God. And they shall be converted, for he shall be great to the ends of the earth. And He shall be peace."
The prophet Micah lived about the time of Isaiah, during the reigns of Jothan, Achaz, and Hezechiah, kings of Juda.. In this passage God clearly foretells through him that the Messiah will be born in Bethlehem, of a woman—no mention of a human father—and that the Jewish people will be under the dominion and power of others in the time of his comming.
The Prophetic Psalms
Psalm 2, 15, 21, 44, 71, 89, and 109 also contain prophesies concerning the Messiah. According to these the Messiah will be the Son of David, a fruit of his womb, and also his Lord. The Messiah will be put to death for the sins of mankind, his body will not undergo corruption, and he will be raised from the dead, and triumph over all his enemies. This mysterious combination of events finds its fulfillment only in Jesus Christ.
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