Isaiah 7:14 – A Virgin Birth Prophecy?

Of all the Isaiah prophecies about the Messiah, Isaiah 7:14 is probably the most controversial. Why? Because Judaism and some others say the prophecy is not about a virgin birth, yet Matthew’s Gospel says Jesus was born of a virgin fulfilling this prophecy.

One single Hebrew word – `almah – is the source of the controversy.[1] Most Christian Bibles translate the word as “virgin” whereas Jewish Bibles and a few Christian Bibles translate it as “young woman.”

“Virgin” vs. “young woman” – those who believe that Isaiah 7:14 is a messianic prophecy pointing to a miraculous virgin birth of a son versus those who believe it is a short-term prediction about a young woman, not necessarily a virgin, who was to bear a son.[2]

Translation of ancient Hebrew text into English is not an exact science where there is not a word-for-word translation equivalent. Hebrew words can serve as either a noun or a verb requiring the translator to take a more wholistic view of the text to understand the context.[3]

Language analysis is a scientific study of word usage by the speaker or author.[4] Word choice and its intended meaning are determined by the speaker (or writer) which may not necessarily be the same meaning applied by the listener (or the reader or translator). The key is unlocking the word definition code of the speaker or writer.

Four Hebrew words come into play in deciphering the meaning of `almah. Lowest common denominator is na`arah meaning “girl” or “young woman” where there is no specific implication of virginity. To say “the girl (na`arah) is wearing a pink blouse,” for example, does not specifically indicate virginity unless additional clarification is added.

Just the opposite of na`arah is betulah explicitly meaning “virgin.” It commonly appears as a metaphor of a virgin in judgements, lamentations, or blessings. A separate category of betulah is used in a legalistic context in the Law always used in the strictest sense of a virgin.

In the remaining few instances, betulah is always used as an adjective or in an adjective clause to clarify na `arah or a noun within the sentence; or immediately prior to the sentence within the context of na `arah. For example: “the girl [na `arah] was a very beautiful virgin [betulah]” or  “Tamar [noun], for she was a virgin [betulah];” or “my virgin [betulah] daughter [noun].”[5] 

Just as important is when betulah is not used. The word is not found as the direct subject of a sentence who initiates a present or future tense action nor does it appear as a standalone noun to represent a specific female subject in the sentence. For example, there are no instances that say something like “betulah shall call;” “betulah plays;” “betulah shall bear;or “betulah loves.”[6]

Last of the three Hebrew words referring to a young female is the rarest –`almah – appearing only 7 times in the entire Bible. It is the feminine version stemming from the Hebrew word `elem meaning “something kept out of sight.”[7]

Unlike betulah, none of the instances of `almah are used in metaphors, legalistic definitions, as adjectives or in adjective clauses. Instead, the word is used exclusively to make reference to a special class of virgins only in a royal context – of God or Hebrew royalty.

As a standalone noun, `almah does not need further clarification from an adjective or adjective clause. Similarly, it is never used as an adjective or in an adjective clause to define the subject. For example, there are no instances such as “the girl [na `arah] was a very beautiful `almah; “Tamar, for she was an `almah;” nor “my `almah daughter”.

In five instances, `almah is the direct subject who initiates an action only in the present or future tense:  “`almah playing tambourines”, “`almah went and called”, “`almah love you”, “`almah comes out to draw water,” and “`almah shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call.”[8]

In the two remaining instances, one is where the virgins available to the King are being quantified:  “`almah without number.”[9] In the other, the King expresses wonderment of “the way of a man with `almah” when it comes to love.[10]

By contrast is the word `ishshah used in reference an adult female, a woman, a wife or even an adulteress. With the use of this word, virginity is no longer assumed or expected.[11]

Only one place in the Bible contains all four words in reference to the same female figure, Rebekah, and it is the earliest appearance of `almah. The passage in Genesis 24 makes it the codex for unlocking the meaning of all four Hebrew words.

Abraham had sent his servant back to his previous homeland to find a bride for Isaac, but he did not give the servant any qualifications for her except that she had to willing agree to marry Isaac. The servant had no idea how to go about finding the bride in an unfamiliar land so he prayed for a sign that led him to find Rebekah.

Gen. 24:16 “Now the young woman [na ‘arah] was very beautiful to behold, a virgin [betulah]; no man had known her.”

v. 43 “behold, I stand by the well of water; and it shall come to pass that when the virgin [`almah] comes out to draw water, and I say to her…”

v. 44 “let her be the woman [`ishshah] whom the LORD has appointed for my master’s son.” (NKJV)

Rebekah is first described in the past tense using the combination of na ‘arah with betulah. Her virginity is further emphasized by saying that “no man had known her.” Later, when recounting his story to her brother, Laban, and Rebekah’s family, the servant used a present tense narrative, now referring to Rebekah as the `almah.

With triple, yet different, references to Rebekah’s virginity, there can be no doubt that she is being described as a virgin. Josephus, a Pharisee expert, wrote in Antiquities saying Rebekah viewed Laban as the “guardian of my virginity” after her father had died.[12]

At the end of the passage, the servant refers to Rebekah in the future tense as `ishshah saying he hopes that she will become the wife of Isaac. In this context, she would be an adult woman who is not a virgin where the use of na ‘arah, betulah nor `almah would not be accurate.

Comparing the Genesis codex definition of `almah as “virgin” to the other 6 uses of `almah in the Bible, in all instances `almah is always used as a standalone noun in the context of a virgin in a royal setting.  The language analysis conclusion:  the meaning of `almah exclusively means “virgin” – no adjectives or further clarifications is needed.

Was Isaiah 7:14 a prophecy of a virgin birth of a son or was it a prediction about a young woman known to Isaiah and King Ahaz to whom he was speaking?

 

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

REFERENCES:

[1] Net.bible.org. Isaiah 7 Hebrew text.
[2] Nahigian, Kenneth E. “A Virgin-Birth Prophesy?” Skeptic Tank Files. n.d. <http://www.skeptictank.org/files/sr/2virgi93.htm> Cramer, Robert Nguyen. “The Book of Isaiah.” The BibleTexts.com. 1998 <http://www.bibletexts.com/verses/v-isa.htm>  Cline, Austin. “Who Was Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus? Was She Really a Virgin?” <http://atheism.about.com/od/biblepeoplenewtestament/p/MaryVirgin.htm>  Yosef, Uri.  “Isaiah 7:14 – Part 1: An Accurate Grammatical Analysis.” 2011. <http://thejewishhome.org/counter/Isa714_1.pdf>  Bratcher, Dennis. “Isaiah 7:14: Translation Issues.” The Voice. 2014. <http://www.crivoice.org/isa7-14.htmlThe Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary. Yeshayahu- Isaiah 7:14.  “Who is the Almah’s son?”  Teshuvas HaMinim. 2011. <http://web.archive.org/web/20120425022737/http://www.teshuvashaminim.com/isaiah714.html>  Robinson, B.A. “Isaiah 7:14 “Behold, a virgin shall conceive…”” 2007 <http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_proi.htm> “Isaiah 7:14-Deception In The Name Of Jesus.” Agnostic Review of Christianity. 2011.  <http://ihuanedo.ning.com/group/religiousskeptism/forum/topics/isaiah-7-14-deception-in-the-name-of-jesus>
[3] Benner, Jeff A.  “Introduction to the Hebrew Bible.” Ancient Hebrew Research Center. 2013.  <http://www.ancient-hebrew.org/2_bible.html
[4] Sapir, Avinoam. LSI Laboratory for Scientific Interrogation. Language analysis courses.  <http://www.lsiscan.com/id37.htm>  “Scientific Content Analysis (SCAN).” Personal Verification LTD. Updated 15 November 2016. <http://www.verify.co.nz/scan.php>  Last accessed 7 Dec. 2016.
[5] Genesis 24:16; 2 Samuel 13:2.  Soncino Babylonian Talmud. Ed. Isidore Epstein. 1935 – 1948. Yebamoth 61b.  <https://israelect.com/Come-and-Hear/yebamoth/yebamoth_61.html>
[6] “the.” Merriam-Webster. #1a, b, i, m; #4.  <https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/the>
[7] BibleHub.com. Isaiah 7:14 Hebrew text. 2018. <https://biblehub.com/text/isaiah/7-14.htm>  “5959. almah” BibleHub.com. 2018. <https://biblehub.com/hebrew/5959.htm>; “5958. elem” <https://biblehub.com/hebrew/5958.htm>; “5956. alam.” <https://biblehub.com/hebrew/5956.htm>.  “`almah  <5959>” Lexicon-Concordance. n.d. <http://lexiconcordance.com/hebrew/5959.html>  “`elem <5956>” Lexicon-Concordance. n.d. <http://lexiconcordance.com/hebrew/5956.html>
[8] Psalms 68:25; Song of Solomon 6:8; Exodus 2:8; Genesis 24:43; Isaiah 7:14
[9] Song of Solomon 1:3
[10] Proverbs 30:19.
[11]“802. נָשִׁים (ishshah) BibleHub.com. 2018. ” <https://biblehub.com/hebrew/strongs_802.htm> “H802.” Lexicon-Concordance. n.d. <http://lexiconcordance.com/hebrew/080.html#02>
[12] Josephus, Flavius. Antiquities of the Jews. Trans. and commentary. William Whitson.  The Complete Works of Josephus. 1850.  Book I, Chapter XV.2. <http://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false>

Isaiah Messiah Prophecies – Any Exceptions?

Isaiah is the greatest of all the prophets regarded by Rabbis as second in importance only to Moses, according to the Jewish Encyclopedia.[1] Prophecies of Isaiah, who lived 300 years after the reign of King David, appear throughout his writings foretelling of the Messiah.

Many of Isaiah’s prophecies are referenced in the Babylonian Talmud reinforcing their significance.[2] In Sanhedrin 98a alone, six Rabbis make 11 references to Isaiah’s Messiah prophecies.[3]

Dead Sea Scrolls discoveries in 1947 yielded one of the most treasured finds, the Great Isaiah Scroll. Dated to about 125 BC, it is the oldest known, nearly complete Hebrew text of the Book of Isaiah.[4] Secured in the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, the scroll is 1000 years older than the Masoretic texts that serve as the source for today’s Jewish Bible, the Tenakh.[5]

Translating ancient Hebrew text has its challenges consisting of an alphabet with only 22 consonants that are used to form a root word which could be either a noun or a verb. Translators must rely on the broader context to fill in the vowels, tenses and other words to form a complete sentence in English.[6]

Subjective translations obviously open the door to variation which, in turn, impacts interpretations of prophecy meanings.[7] No surprise, Jewish interpretations are not always in agreement with Christian beliefs, some differences being less clear than others.[8]

A section of verses on a specific topic, known as a parashah or pericope, is found in Isaiah 52-53 about “My Servant.” Quoted excerpts from The Complete Jewish Bible includes “kings shall shut their mouths because of him;” “despised and rejected;” “no deceit in his mouth;” “from imprisonment and from judgment he is taken;” “cut off from the land of the living;” “poured out his soul to death, and with transgressors he was counted; and he bore the sin of many, and interceded for the transgressors;” and “from the toil of his soul he would see, he would be satisfied.”[9]

Retrospectively, Christians see these depictions of life, torment, death and life-after-death satisfaction as prophecies foretelling the Messiah fulfilled by the trialcrucifixion, burial and Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Jewish theology, however, generally treats the parashah as a metaphor of a man referring to the nation of Israel, the house of Jacob.[10] But not all Jewish authorities are in agreement.

Jonathan Targum (targum means “translation”), known as the “Official Targum to the Prophets,”  is an Aramaic translation of the Tenakh with roots going back to just after the rebuilding of the Temple in the 200 BC time frame.[11] According to the Jewish Encyclopedia, it was written “more freely, in harmony with the text of the prophetic books.”[12] The Targum was once read in Jewish worship services and is referenced in the Babylonian Talmud.[13]

Opening the parashah with Isaiah 52:13, Jonathan Targum  begins with “Behold my servant Messiah shall prosper…” Closing out the parashah, the Isaiah 53:11 Targum summarizes “…so as to cleanse their souls from sin:  these shall look on the kingdom of their Messiah…”[14]

Preeminent Jewish Scriptures authority Rabbi Maimonides once asked a rhetorical question, “What is to be the manner of Messiah’s advent, and where will be the place of his first appearance?” Answering his own question, the Rabbi quoted prophecies from the parashah – Isaiah 53:2 regarding the Messiah’s unheralded arrival and Isaiah 52:15 explaining how kings would be “confounded at the wonders” the Messiah would perform.[15]

Most controversial is Isaiah 7:14, quoted in Matthew 1:23 as a prophecy fulfilled by the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. Masoretic text of the Tenakh translates`almah as meaning “young woman” while nearly all Christian Bibles translate `almah as “virgin.”[16] Making the controversy more provocative are the few Christian Bible versions that inconsistently translate Isaiah 7:14 as “young woman” while translating it differently in Matthew as “virgin.”[17]

Matthew 1:23 Greek text quotes Isaiah 7:14 by translating `almah using the word parthenos meaning “a maiden…an unmarried daughter:  virgin.”[18] Language analysis of parthenos reveals 14 other instances by four authors of six New Testament books, all used in the context of a virgin.[19]

If Jesus of Nazareth is indeed the Messiah, how did he view Isaiah’s prophecies?  On a Sabbath in the Synagogue of his home town, Jesus read a Messiah prophecy from Isaiah 61:1-2 to publicly open his ministry:[20]

LK 4:18-19, 21 “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.”…”Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (NKJV)

Hours before his arrest during his final Passover meal with his Disciples, Jesus foretold that a scripture written about himself was yet to be fulfilled. Quoting from Isaiah 53:12 he said:

LK 22:37 “It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.”” (NIV)

Isaiah’s book of prophecies from beginning to end, as a general consensus of both Jewish and Christian authorities, point to the Messiah with the exception of those disputed prophecies mirrored in the Gospel accounts. Jesus himself called out the Messiah prophecies of Isaiah as the basis for people to see that he is the fulfillment of those prophecies.

Are the Gospel accounts of the circumstances of the birth, life, death and Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth a fulfillment of Isaiah’s Messiah prophecies?

 

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

REFERENCES:
[1] “Isaiah.”  Jewish Encyclopedia.  2011. <http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/8235-isaiah>
[2] Jones, Dennis A.  “Jewish Messianic Texts.”  The Emmanuel Church of the Web. n.d.  <http://fecotw.tripod.com/id88.htmlThe Babylonian Talmud. Trans. Michael L. Rodkinson. 1918. http://www.sacred-texts.com/jud/talmud.htm#t08>  Soncino Babylonian Talmud. Ed. Rabbi Isidore Epstein. 1935 – 1948. <https://israelect.com/Come-and-Hear/tcontents.html>
[3] Soncino Babylonian Talmud.  Sanhedrin 98a & b footnotes: Isaiah XLIX:7, XXIX:21 (twice), XVIII:5, I:25, LIX:19, LIX:20, LX:21, LIX:16, XLVIII:11, LX:22; also 38a, footnote #9 to Isaiah 8:14. <https://israelect.com/Come-and-Hear/sanhedrin/sanhedrin_98.html>
[4] “The Great Isaiah Scroll.” 2018. The Israel Museum, Jerusalem. <http://dss.collections.imj.org.il/isaiah>  Miller. Library of Congress (United States). n.d. “Scrolls From the Dead Sea.” <https://www.loc.gov/exhibits/scrolls/late.html> Israel Antiquities Authority. 2012. “The Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library.”  <https://www.deadseascrolls.org.il/explore-the-archive/search#q=’Isaiah‘> Fred P. The Great Isaiah Scroll. 1998. “Qumran Great Isaiah Scroll.” <http://www.moellerhaus.com/qumdir.htm> Abegg, Jr., Martin G., Flint, Peter W. and Ulrich Eugene Charles.  The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible: the oldest known Bible translated for the first time into English. 2002. p 281.    <http://books.google.com/books?id=c4R9c7wAurQC&lpg=PP1&ots=fQpCpzCdb5&dq=Abegg%2C%20Flint%20and%20Ulrich%2C%20The%20Dead%20Dead%20Sea%20Scrolls%20Bible%2C&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q=Isaiah&f=false>  “Dead Sea Scrolls.” Archaeology. 2018. <http://www.allaboutarchaeology.org/dead-sea-scrolls.htm>
[5] Benner, Jeff A. “The Great Isaiah Scroll and the Masoretic Text.” Ancient Hebrew Research Center. 2017. <http://www.ancient-hebrew.org/bible_isaiahscroll.html> “Masoretic Text.” Encyclopædia Britannica. n.d. <https://www.britannica.com/topic/Masoretic-text>  “Jewish Concepts: Masoretic Text.” Jewish Virtual Library. 2018. <https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/Masoretic.html>  “Masoretic Text.” Textus-Receptus.Com. 2016. <http://textus-receptus.com/wiki/Masoretic_Text>  “Masoretic Text.” New World Encyclopedia. 2014. <http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Masoretic_Text> Zew, Moshe. “The Numeric System of the Bible.” 27 Dec. 2013.  WorldWide Witness by Moshe Zew.  <http://www.kolumbus.fi/gematria/numeric.htm>
[6] “The Hebrew Language.”  MyJewishLearning.com. n.d.  <http://www.myjewishlearning.com/culture/2/Languages/Hebrew.shtml>
“History of the Hebrew Language.”   B’NAI ZAQEN. 2005. <http://www.zaqen.info/hislangu.htm> Benner, Jeff A. “Introduction to the Ancient Hebrew Vocabulary.” Ancient Hebrew Research Center. 2013. <http://www.ancient-hebrew.org/2_vocab.html>  Benner, Jeff A.  “Introduction to the Hebrew Bible.” Ancient Hebrew Research Center. 2017. <http://www.ancient-hebrew.org/2_bible.html>
[7] Benner. “Introduction to the Hebrew Bible.”
[8] Neubauer and Driver. The Fifty-third Chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters. “Introduction.” pp. xxix- lxv. <https://books.google.com/books?id=YxdbAAAAQAAJ&pg=PP1&hl=en#v=onepage&q=introduction&f=false>  Sullivan, Charles A. “A History of Chapters and Verses in the Hebrew Bible.” 2012. <http://charlesasullivan.com/2693/a-history-of-chapters-and-verses-in-the-hebrew-bible>
[9] The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary. 2018. Isaiah 52-53. <https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/15983>
[10] The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary. Isaiah 53:3. Rashi commentary. Soncino Babylonian Talmud. n.d. Sotah 14a. <https://israelect.com/Come-and-Hear/sotah/sotah_14.html#14a_1> Crispin, Moshe Kohen ibn.  “Sefer ha-Musar.”  Neubauer, Driver & Rolles. The Fifty-third Chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters.  pp. 99-101.   <http://books.google.com/books?id=YxdbAAAAQAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q=advent&f=false>
[11] Neubauer, Adolf. And Driver, Samuel Rolles. The Fifty-third Chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters. 1877. “Thargum of Yonathan (Jonathan Targum)” pp. 5-7. https://books.google.com/books?id=YxdbAAAAQAAJ&pg=PP1&hl=en#v=onepage&q=Thargum&f=false>
[12] “Targum.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011.  < http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/14248-targum >
[13] “Targum.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. “Historical Jewish Sources.” n.d. “Overview:  About Targums.”  <http://www.preteristarchive.com/BibleStudies/JewishSources/Targums/index.html>
[14] Neubauer..  The Fifty-third Chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters.  “Thargum of Yonathan.” pp. 5-7.
[15] Mangel, Nissen. “Responsa.” Chabad.org. 2018. <http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/107783/jewish/Responsa.htm> Maimonides, “Letter to the South (Yemen)”. p 374. Neubauer and Driver.  The Fifty-third Chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters.
[16] Isaiah 7:14.The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary; Jewish Publication Society Bible. <http://www.breslov.com/bible/Isaiah7.htm#14>
[17] Good News Translation; Net Bible Translation.
[18] Strong. “parthenos The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. CR “parthenia meaning “maidenhood: – virginity.”
[19] Net.bible.org. Greek text for Matthew 1:23; word search “Parthenos.” <http://classic.net.bible.org/search.php?search=greek_strict_index:3933>
[20] Luke 4:16-19; Isaiah 61:1-2a.

Zechariah 12:10 – Circumstances of the Death of the Messiah? 

Zechariah 12:10 is a short prophecy recognized by both Jewish and Christian authorities alike – but with a couple of twists. Bible translation versions of the Hebrew text are not the issue:

Zech. 12:10 “And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplication; and they shall look unto Me because they have thrust him through; and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his first-born.”
Jewish Publication Society

Zech. 12:10 “And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn.”
New King James Version

Translations of the Hebrew text word daqar as either “pierced” or “thrust him through” is the small difference of little consequence. The literal definition of daqar is:  “a prim. root; to pierce, pierce through.”[1]

To set the historical context, Zechariah authored his prophetic book by the same name soon after Zerubbabel, grandson of Jeconiah the last sitting king in the House of David, had led the Jews from Persia back to Jerusalem to rebuild the city and Temple destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar. The developing scene in Jerusalem became the backdrop for the future centuries later when the Temple would be greatly enhanced by King Herod followed by the appearance of Jesus of Nazareth.

Messiah prophecy interpretations by Christian and Jewish authorities are typically where controversies originate. This time, however, disagreement about Zechariah’s prophecy started among the ranks of the Rabbis producing the Babylonia Talmud Gemara Sukkah 52a.

Initial rabbinic discussion was centered on the topic of whether men and women should be separated during worship and mourning services. A Rabbi cited Zechariah 12:10 to support his position that men and women should be separated during services of mourning because of the “Evil Inclination,” the temptation that leads to misconduct, in this case lust.

One inquisitive Rabbi looked at the entirety of Zechariah 12:10 and asked why the people were weeping and mourning – didn’t it made more sense that if the prophesy was about the death of the Evil Inclination, they should be rejoicing? The Rabbi argued that the death of the Messiah by those who “thrust him through” was the true reason for the mourning, as deeply as a parent for the death of an only son:[2]

Sukkah (52a)

“What is the cause of the mourning [mentioned in the last cited verse]?  R. Dosa and the Rabbis differ on the point.  One explained, The cause is the slaying of Messiah the son of Joseph, and the other explained, The cause is the slaying of the Evil Inclination.

“It is well according to him who explains that the cause is the slaying of Messiah the son of Joseph, since that well agrees with the Scriptural verse, And they shall look upon me because they have thrust him through, and they shall mourn for him as one mourneth for his only son; 

“but according to him who explains the cause to be the slaying of the Evil Inclination, is this [it may be objected] an occasion for mourning? Is it not rather an occasion for rejoicing? Why then should they weep?”

With that question, the rabbinic dialog switched direction generating a new discussion around the prophetic context of the verse itself. Split on the meaning of the prophecy, several Rabbis took the side favoring the “Evil Inclination” view.[3] Another Rabbi characterized the alternative Messiah interpretation saying the Holy One would send the Messiah, the Son of David, begotten by God who would be slain but given eternal life and the inheritance of the nations.

Centuries later, the renowned sage Rabbi Rashi, whose commentary appears in The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary, agreed with the rabbinic faction in Sukkah 52a who believed Zechariah 12:10 refers to the Messiah.[4]

“…as one mourns over an only son: As a man mourns over his only son. And our Sages expounded this in tractate Sukkah (52a) as referring to the Messiah, son of Joseph, who was slain.”[5] – Rabbi Rashi

Three characteristic facets appear in Rashi’s commentary – “the Messiah” who is “slain” followed by deep mourning likened to the death an “only son.” Added to the unambiguous first part of the prophecy saying those in the “house of David” and “Jerusalem” will be blessed by his appearance results in the 5 defining details packed into a single verse.

Rashi’s preceding commentary, however, differs on the specific reference to “thrust him through” as the manner of the Messiah’s death. The Rabbi stated that “thrust him through” was a metaphor about Israel saying:  “And they shall look to Me to complain about those of them whom the nations thrust through and slew during their exile.”

Literal interpretation views of the prophecy where the death of the Messiah who is pierced or thrust through does not, however, clearly indicate how daqar is inflicted – was it by means of nails or a weapon? The answer can be found through language analysis.[6]

Nine other times the Hebrew word daqar appears in the texts of the Old Testament or Tanakh including another in Zechariah.[7] In all instances, daqar is used in the context of wounds inflicted by a type of weapon such as a sword or spear. To be fully consistent with the word usage of daqar in all other instances, then Zechariah 12:10 specifically refers to being “thrust through” or “pierced” by a weapon.

John’s Gospel account of the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth some 500 years after Zechariah’s prophecy describes how Jesus was both pierced by nails and had a spear thrust into his side as the witnesses looked upon him hanging on the cross.[8] Later, John described the resurrected Jesus suddenly appearing in a locked room where the Disciple Thomas touched the wounds in his hands and side exclaiming in confirmation, “My Lord and my God!”[9]

Were the Gospel accounts of the Jerusalem crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth, born in the lineage of David, a fulfillment of the Zachariah 12:10 prophecy as the slain Messiah subjected to being daqar, the only begotten Son of God?[10]

 

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

REFERENCES:

[1] “daqar.” Lexicon-Concordance Online Bible. n.d. <http://lexiconcordance.com/hebrew/1856.html>
[2] Sukkah 52a.  Halakhah.com. Trans. Soncino Babylonian Talmud. n.d. <http://www.halakhah.com/rst/moed/16b%20-%20Succah%20-%2029b-56b.pdf>
[3] “Jewish Messianic Interpretations of Zechariah 12:10.” Jews For Jesus. 2005. <https://jewsforjesus.org/answers/jewish-messianic-interpretations-of-zechariah-12-issues-prophecy>  “The Hillel Sandwich.”  The MT | Messianic Times.com. 2016.  <https://www.messianictimes.com/lifestyle/ask-the-rabbi/j/item/4272-the-hillel-sandwich>
[4] “Rashi (Solomon Bar Isaac).” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/13862-solomon-b-isaac-rashi>
[5] The Complete Jewish Bible – with Rashi Commentary. Zechariah 12:10. <https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16216#showrashi=true>
[6] Sapir, Avinoam. LSI Laboratory for Scientific Interrogation, Inc. n.d. <http://www.lsiscan.com/index.htm>  “SCAN – Scientific Content Analysis (Statement Analysis).” Advanced Polygraph. 2011. <http://www.advancedpolygraph.com.au/scan.htm> “Introduction to Text Analysis: About Text Analysis.”  Duke University | Libraries. 2017. <https://guides.library.duke.edu/text_analysis>  “What Is the Definition of Textual Analysis?” Reference.com. 2018. <https://www.reference.com/education/definition-textual-analysis-a95087916fcb24cb> Pfarrer, Mike “What is content analysis?” University of Georgia | Terry College of Business. 2012. <http://www.terry.uga.edu/management/contentanalysis>
[7] Net.bible.org. “daqar.” <http://classic.net.bible.org/search.php?search=hebrew_strict_index:01856>
[8] John 19.  Net.bible.org. Greek text.  Strong. “nusso <3572>”  CR Matthew 27; Mark 15; Luke 23.
[9] John 20.
[10] John 3:16.