The Descent of the Messiah
By Moreh Paul L. Dunteman
The greatest hope of the religious Jews throughout the ages has been the hope of the Messiah, a Jewish man who is to bring peace on earth and set Israel at the head of the nations. In the Talmud, a collection of traditions and commentaries from the Post-Biblical period (from about 300 B.C.E. until about 500 C.E.), there are two messiahs mentioned--one who suffers and is rejected by his people and another who reigns gloriously. The Suffering Messiah is called Messiah Son of Joseph (Mashiach Ben-Yosef) because, like Joseph, he is rejected by his brothers. Thus, this Messiah is rejected by Israel. The Glorious Messiah is called Messiah Son of David (Mashiach Ben-David) for two reasons. First of all, like David he will reign gloriously over Israel and subjugate the other nations under Israel. The second reason that he is called Messiah Son of David is that he must be a physical descendant of David, according to the Tenach (Old Testament). For the purposes of this study, we are going to talk about the descent of the Messiah Son of David.
The first mention that the Glorious Messiah must come from David is found in II Samuel 7:12-16:
When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with the rod of men, with floggings inflicted by men. But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever (NIV).
In this Biblical passage, God is promising that the Davidic dynasty would be eternal. If the Davidic king were to commit sin, he would be punished in things of this world, but the dynasty would never be cut off. Beginning with this promise, Israel's Messianic expectation was to have the blessing of God by living under the "Lord's Anointed" (Messiah comes from the Hebrew Mashiach, which means "anointed one"). This expectation increased under Solomon, the king who built the First Temple. Every king of Israel was the Messiah for his generation, including even Saul (I Sam. 24:9-10, etc.). Also, the High Priest was called "the priest that is anointed" (Heb. Haccohen Hammashiach, Lev. 4:3,5,16). Sometimes, even a prophet was anointed to begin his ministry (I Kings 19:16).
After the reign of Solomon, with all the peace and prosperity that accompanied it, the hopes of the people for a lasting peace were dashed by the division of the kingdom into Israel (the 10 northern tribes) and Judah (the kingdom of the South, with Judah and Benjamin, the Temple, the Levites from the whole country, and Rehoboam, the Davidic King; cf. II Chronicles 11:5-14). For all the years up to the Babylonian captivity, the Messianic hope was that the Davidic King would eventually reunite the two kingdoms and restore the glory that existed in the days of Solomon.
By the time of Isaiah, it was obvious that there was going to be a great punishment from God, instead of the awaited glory. The kings of Judah became worse and worse, in spite of the strong warning of seeing Israel taken captive by Assyria in 722 B.C.E. Since the reign of Manasseh (II Kings 21:1-18), it was certain that the captivity of Judah would occur, as threatened by God in Deuteronomy 28:36-48. For this reason, in chapters 40-66, Isaiah stops exhorting Judah to repent (because they wouldn't listen), and focuses on the Suffering Messiah, the Glorious Messiah, and the glorious future for Israel way beyond the coming captivity (see chapters 42,53,60,61,65,66).
Isaiah 40-66 is not the work of another author, but rather of the same author in other circumstances. The sins are similar, but worse: perverting the case of widows and orphans (10:1-2, cf. 59:4-9), religious hypocrisy (29:13, cf. 58:2-4), etc. The idolatry condemned is worse than in the first part of the book. In 57:4-5, Isaiah condemns idolatry in high places, religious prostitution, and the sacrifice of infants to Molech, practices common in the reign of Manasseh (II Kings 21:6; II Chronicles 33:6). In 57:7 Isaiah condemns worship in high places (Hebrew, bamot), a practice common before, but not during the captivity. During the captivity it was not possible because Babylon is flat and has no mountains. In fact, none of the above condemned practices existed during the exile in Babylon. Thus we see that Isaiah 40-66 refers to the period of Manasseh.
After Manasseh there was an almost continuous chain of bad kings up until the Babylonian captivity: Amon (II Kings 21:19-26), Jehoahaz (23:31-35), Jehoiakim (23:36--24:7), Jehoiachin (24:8-16), and Zedekiah (an uncle of Jehoiachin, not in the royal line, 24:18-25:7). The only exception was Josiah (22:1--23:30), a good king who took away idolatry (23:24-27). However, the sin of Manasseh had been definitive in bringing on Judah the exile (23:26) in spite of these reforms.
In the times of Jeremiah, just as Israel was going into exile, God made two declarations that appeared contradictory about the last Davidic King over Judah, Jehoiachin (or Coniah). The first declaration was that, of his physical descendants, no one would ever sit upon the throne of David, in spite of the fact that they would continue to inherit the rights to sit on it. In Jeremiah 22:28-30 God says:
Is this man Jehoiachin a despised, broken pot, an object no one wants? Why will he and his children be hurled out, cast into a land they do not know? O land, land, land, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Lord says: "Record this man as if childless, a man who will not prosper in his lifetime, for none of his offspring will prosper, none will sit on the throne of David or rule anymore in Judah (NIV)."
Nebuchadnezzar took Jehoiachin to Babylon, where Shealtiel was born and continued the royal line, but no one from this line ever sat on the throne of David again because of this curse -- even Shealtiel's son Zerubbabel, who was a prominent leader of the return from exile.
The second declaration by God through Jeremiah, which appears to contradict the first, is in chapter 33:14-17:
"In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David's line; he will do what is just and right in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The Lord Our Righteousness." For this is what the Lord says, "David will never fail to have a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel (NIV)."
As we put together the two declarations, we note that, from Jehoiachin onward, the heirs of the Throne of David cannot sit on it, but that the line will not lack a man to sit upon the throne. There was also promised a "Righteous Branch," a man who would raise up the Throne of David and who would also sit upon it. Beginning, then, with the deportation into Babylon, the expectation of the Messiah, Son of David, became a longing for the appearance of a future figure. The Israelites could see the descendant of David in each generation, but he was not anointed (Messiah for his generation) nor did he reign, because of the curse of Jehoiachin.
How could this dilemma be resolved? How could one be born in the royal line of David and inherit the rights to the Throne of David without being a descendant of Jehoiachin and inheriting the curse also?
The answer is found in the three origins of Yeshua (Jesus) of Nazareth. In Matthew, chapter 1, we find the genealogy of Yosef (Joseph), the legal, but not physical father of Yeshua. This genealogy is the royal line of Israel. Jesus was conceived during the engagement period of Yosef and Miriam (Mary), before they had had sexual relations. Thus, Jesus inherited the rights to the Throne of David through Joseph, as the firstborn in the family. Since he was not a physical descendant of Joseph, Jesus did not inherit the curse of Jehoiachin and really could sit upon the Throne of David. Matthew says (1:18-21):
This is how the birth of Jesus came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."
The second part of the origin of Jesus is, as noted above, the Holy Spirit. The reference is to the fact that the Holy Spirit of God created a human male seed and placed it in the womb of Mary to fertilize an egg of hers, thus beginning the life of Jesus. Why all the bother? Beside the need to avoid the curse of Jehoiachin, there are two more reasons: God wanted to be the King of Israel again and the Messiah must be without sin.
From the beginning, God considered Himself the King of Israel. In the time of Samuel, though, the people cried out for a king "such as all the other nations have (I Samuel 8:5)." Samuel did not like this demand of the people, and so went to consult the Lord, Who answered (v.7), "Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you that they have rejected, but they have rejected Me as their king." The Lord was upset with Israel for demanding a king "such as all the other nations have," and for about a thousand years, beginning with the coronation of Saul, He was no longer the King of Israel. At the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, the Lord becomes the King of Israel again.
To some people it would seem difficult to believe that God should become a man, but there are other examples of His appearing in human form in the Tenach (Old Testament). Joshua saw a man standing before him in Joshua 5:13-15, fell face down in reverence, and took off his sandals, as Moses did before the burning bush in Exodus 3:4-6, recognizing that it was God Himself appearing in the flame. Also Isaiah in chapter 6:1-5 sees God and recognized Him as God (v.5): "My eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty."
Also, God explains through the prophet Micah (5:1 in Hebrew, 5:2 in English) that when this person would be born "who will be ruler over Israel" in Bethlehem Ephrathah, he had already existed, "from old, from ancient times." This person already existed from before his birth. This Person was the very God of Israel.
The third reason why the Messiah had to be born of a virgin is because He had to be without sin. The Messiah was to be a priest, according to Psalm 110:4: "The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind: 'You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.'" Since he is from the family of David, the Messiah cannot be a Levite, and is made a priest after another order. At this point we must mention that Yeshua taught that He had to die for the sins of all of humanity, as priest and sacrifice. The Jewish people of his time, including His own disciples, were only looking for the Glorious Messiah, but Jesus claimed to be both the Suffering Messiah and Glorious Messiah. He taught that He had to come to the earth two times to complete everything. In Isaiah 53:9 we read about the Suffering Messiah (Mashiach Ben-Yosef), "he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth."
But, couldn't the Messiah be simply a good man? To answer this, let us see what God found when He checked out all men (Psalm 14:2-3, see also 53:2-3):
The Lord looks down from heaven on the sons of Adam to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.
God does not have limits in time in space, so He saw Adam and Eve and all their descendants, and there was not even one who was upright. All were building up Adam, as the word son (ben) means "builder" in Hebrew. If the Messiah is not a son of Adam, is it the father or mother who counts? Unlike Modern Jews, in Bible times the father counted, not the mother, in mixed marriages. This is why Pharaoh tried to annihilate the nation of Israel by killing all of the male offspring (Exodus 1:15-19). The women would then marry foreigners, and all the children of these mixed marriages would belong to the nation of their father, not Israel. The Israelites were ordered to kill every male among the Canaanites for the same reason, but spared the women, which they used to increase their population.
Even today, a Jewish person is considered a Cohen (priest) or Levy (Levite), according to his father, without taking into consideration the mother. Could a modern Jewish person be a Gentile because of his mother, but a Cohen because of his father? Many Davidic kings on the Throne of Israel had Gentile mothers. Did this make them Gentiles from the Tribe of Judah and the family of David?
Thus we see that the Messiah is not a son of Adam, but rather the Son of God, even more than every other Davidic king was son of God (II Samuel 7:14, Psalm 2:7), as each one was son of God, according to the Scriptures. Being perfect, without spot, Jesus can give His perfection to people in exchange for their sins in His priesthood. Isaiah 53 explains how the Suffering Messiah works in his priesthood. In the Aramaic translation of this passage in 52:13, it begins, "Behold my servant the Messiah." The phrase "the Messiah" is not in the Hebrew, but was supplied by the translators, demonstrating an early Jewish understanding of the one referred to in this passage. Like the first goat on Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement), "the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all." and "he poured out his life unto death (Isaiah 53:6,12)." Like the second goat on Yom Kippur, "he bore the sin of many (v.12)."
The sacrifices in the Priesthood of Levi in the Books of Moses were repeated because the animal could only give its innocence in exchange for the sin of the people. The Suffering Messiah finished all of his priestly work with only one sacrifice because he gives the people his perfection, in exchange for their sin. For this reason the Suffering Messiah has to be without sin.
The third line of the descendance of Jesus was from Mary, his mother. In Luke 3 we have Jesus' genealogy from David, but not the royal line of descent from Jehoiachin, which was cursed. The humanity of Jesus came from Mary, not Joseph. The favorite name of Jesus for himself was "the Son of Man." This name comes from Daniel 7:13-14, where it is in Aramaic Ke-bar enash, one like a son of man (man in the sense of weakness, rather than descent from Adam, which would include sin). He took the weakness of humanity upon himself, though (as we saw before in Micah 5:1) he had existed from long before he was born here.
In some groups, Mary is venerated for her part in the birth of Jesus, but we must remember that she was also a sinner, daughter of Adam, who was saved from her sins through the mercy of God. She was not perfect in order to have a perfect son. It was because she was a woman she did not pass her sin nature to her son. Neither does she merit the title "Godbearer," given her by some, as Jesus was already going around as God before He was born in Bethlehem. Mary was only the mother of the humanity that He took on. As such, she also needed salvation and called Jesus, while still in her womb "my savior (Luke 1:47)."
Joseph and Mary were living in Nazareth, far from their home tribe of Judah and town of Bethlehem when Emperor Caesar Augustus decreed that all should return to their home town for a census (Luke 2:1-7); and so many other Jews came in from other places that all of the inns, at least in Bethlehem Ephrathah. But one night, about 2000 years ago in Bethlehem, all three lines converged, and God became King of Israel again.
Many believe that Jesus could not have been the awaited Messiah of Israel because He did not bring peace to the world. We must remember that He claimed that He would come to the world two times -- first to fulfill everything concerning the Suffering Messiah, and then to come again a second time as the Glorious Messiah. At this second coming Jesus will smash the Gentile armies marching against Israel, reign from the Throne of David in Jerusalem, and place Israel at the head of the nations.
In reality there is little difference between the position of traditional Judaism -- that there are two different Messiahs -- and the Christian position that there is one Messiah who comes to the earth on two occasions. Daniel tells us that the Suffering Messiah dies in the Second Temple Period, and that his death is followed by the destruction of the Second Temple and Jerusalem, as happened in 70 C.E., not by peace on earth (Daniel 9:24-26). Verse 26 says:
After the 62 sevens (of years), the Anointed One (the Messiah) with 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 decreed.
In this way, the death of Jesus of Nazareth was followed, about 40 years later, by the destruction of the Second Temple and Jerusalem. Thus the Jewish worldwide dispersion began and continued until modern times. If Jesus of Nazareth is not the Suffering Messiah then the Jewish people must find another Jewish man who died just before the destruction of the Second Temple and who succeeded in bringing the worship of the God of Israel to the Gentiles (Genesis 49:10, Isaiah 49:5-6).
It is certain that the Glorious Messiah has not appeared in his glory, but Jesus promised that it would be He, and this time He will smash the Gentiles that are marching against Jerusalem, place the Jews at the head of the nations, and judge all of the Gentiles according to how they have treated the Jewish people, His brothers (Matthew 25:31-46).
The Jewish people are looking for this Glorious Messiah to save them and bring peace to earth, but how could they recognize him if he came today? Is there someone who can prove their Davidic genealogy today? Who is the exact person in Jehoiachin's line eligible to inherit the throne today? The Glorious Messiah will arrive to the earth descending from a cloud to the Mount of Olives on the east side of Jerusalem, according to Zechariah 14:3-4. How can he be the Son of David if he arrives as an adult? Only if he has already been born here on the earth in David's line. When? When he came as the Suffering Messiah.
Jewish people call the Suffering Messiah Mashiach Ben-Yosef to describe this Messiah as being rejected by his people unjustly like Joseph in the Book of Genesis, who was sold into slavery in Egypt by his brothers. Which Jewish man in the time of the Second Temple was more rejected than Jesus?
The Glorious Messiah is called Mashiach Ben-David, because, like David, he will reign gloriously over his people. But let's look at these two lives in more detail. After a bitter life of slavery and jail, Joseph at last reigned in Egypt and his brothers had to come and bow down to him. He ruled over his brothers. Also, though David was glorious at the end of his career as king, he began by running for his life from Saul.
We see in the two names of Messiah God's plan for dealing with His followers: at first He humbles them, and later He exalts them. Jesus came first as the Suffering Messiah to be rejected, hated, and humiliated -- all of which he put up with without complaining. He taught that he would come again in glory and set up the Davidic Kingdom over the whole earth in glory. He died and was later resurrected and raised up into heaven. The language of Hebrew died and today has been resurrected. The nation of Israel has been humiliated, hated, and rejected by the other nations for thousands of years now, but at the end Jesus will place them over all the other nations. When will that take place?
The answer to that question lies in the fact that Zechariah, chapters 12-14 are in chronological order, and we must go through the events of chapter 12 before we arrive at Jesus' glorious coming in 14:3-4 and the Davidic Kingdom in 14:12-21. In Zechariah 12:10 we read:
And I will pour out on the House of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a Spirit of grace and supplication. They will look upon Me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son.
There in Jerusalem, probably in the ruins of the Third Temple (13:1), "a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity." This fountain will be the blood of the Suffering Messiah. When they receive Him, He Himself will descend from heaven to the Mount of Olives (14:3-4), enter Jerusalem through the Eastern Gate, which is currently sealed, and will bring peace on earth. But He won't come down until Israel believes in Him in His first appearing as the Suffering Messiah.
"Then I will go back to My place until they admit their guilt and they will seek My face. In their misery they will earnestly seek Me." -----Hosea 5:15
How about you, reader? Whether you are Jewish or Gentile, there is a place for you in the coming Davidic Kingdom, in which Yeshua will reign over the whole earth from Jerusalem. You can receive Him by praying a prayer like the one below to appropriate the shed blood for yourself and receive Jesus' perfection as a gift on your account before the God of Israel. Then this fountain (which will one day be opened for all Israel) will be opened for you.
Please pray the following if you would like to receive the atonement (forgiveness of sins) and eternal life that only Jesus provides:
Dear God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, I recognize that I am a sinner, like all the descendants of Adam. Please forgive me through the blood of Jesus, which He shed in my place, taking the punishment rightly due me, then rising from the dead, triumphing over the power of hell. I receive you Jesus into my life as Suffering Messiah, who will one day come as Glorious Messiah. Thank you for saving me from my sins through your priesthood and bringing peace within me, and thank you that you will one day bring peace to the earth over all men when you return. Please teach me in the way of the God of Israel through Jesus.
In Jesus' name, AMEN.