The One Undisputed Messiah Requirement
One undisputed Messiah requirement serves as common ground to Judaism and Christianity where both are in agreement. Beginning in Genesis with Jacob and then in Exodus by Moses, prophecies laid the foundational requirements for the Messiah.
First, a prophecy came in the form of a blessing when Jacob, aka Israel, gave a blessing to each of his 12 sons. One son, Judah, received the blessing that his family-tribe would become the lineage of the “scepter”:
Gen 49:8-10 “Judah, [as for] you, your brothers will acknowledge you. Your hand will be at the nape of your enemies, [and] your father’s sons will prostrate themselves to you. A cub [and] a grown lion is Judah. From the prey, my son, you withdrew. He crouched, rested like a lion, and like a lion, who will rouse him? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the student of the law from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and to him will be a gathering of peoples.”(Complete Jewish Bible)
Rabbi Rashi, one of Judaism’s most revered sages, identified Shiloh as the “King Messiah, to whom the kingdom belongs.” The“scepter” refers to the royal lineage of “David and thereafter” – the kingdom of David.
Moses at Mt. Sinai received the Law from God that appears in the books of the Law, the Torah – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy and Numbers. Much more than just the 10 Commandments, the Laws of God also included promises and prophecies. One was the promise of a future kingdom in a place where God would choose.
Leaving Mt. Sinai on their quest to reach the promised land of Abraham, the tribes of Israel were defeating one enemy after another creating dread by those kings and nations lying in their path. One enemy king, Balak, thought he could cleverly use God to prevent his Moab nation’s defeat.
Persistently asking the prophet Balaam to place a curse from God on the Hebrews, Balaam refused. In response, he instead issued a momentous Messiah prophesy saying:
Nm 24:17 “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near; A star shall come forth from Jacob, A scepter shall rise from Israel, And shall crush through the forehead of Moab, And tear down all the sons of Sheth.”(New American Standard Bible)
“Scepter” or “staff” is translated from the same Hebrew word shebet in Jacob’s blessing of Judah. Rashi again says shebet represents “a king who rules dominantly” pointing to King David in the next phrase. A star, the Rabbi describes, “shoots out like an arrow” and uproots the sons of Sheth or Seth, the son of Adam; in other words, symbolically all of mankind.
Rabbi Maimonides in his “13 Principles of Faith” that serves to define the fundamental basis of the Jewish faith, interprets Balaam’s prophecy as referring to the future King David and the Messiah. Based on this prophecy and Deuteronomy 30:3-5, Maimonides expounds that the future Messiah will be a king who comes from the “House of David.”
Multiple prophecies after the reign of King David, most notably by prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah, forewarned of judgements for disregarding God, yet they included good news of forgiveness and redemption. Jeremiah issued two commonly recognized Messiah prophecies:
Jer 23:5 “”Behold, the days are coming,” says the LORD, “That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; A King shall reign and prosper, And execute judgment and righteousness in the earth…””
Jer 33:15 “‘In those days and at that time I will cause to grow up to David A Branch of righteousness; He shall execute judgment and righteousness in the earth…’”(New King James Version)
Isaiah, regarded by Judaism and Christianity to be the greatest of all the prophets, issued multiple Messiah prophecies – which ones are Messiah prophecies is where Jews and Christians part company.
For Christians, one of Isaiah’s earliest Messiah prophecies often appears during Christmas season, Isaiah 9:6-7. Rabbi Rashi, on the other hand, viewed the prophecy as referring to King Hezekiah a few decades later, not the Messiah – regardless that two of the names for the figure in the prophecy are “Mighty God” and “Everlasting Father”:
Is 9:6-7 “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever.”(Jewish Publication Society)
Rabbi Jose the Galilean, in the Babylonian Talmud tractate on “Peace,” identifies one of the names of the Messiah as the “Prince of Peace” who would be “upon the throne of David” citing Isaiah twice in 9:5 and 52:7, then Moses in Deuteronomy 20:10:
“R. Jose the Galilean said: The name of the Messiah is also “peace” (Shalom), as it is written [Is. ix. 5]: “The prince of peace.” … When the Messiah shall come to Israel, he will begin with peace, as it is written [Is. lii. 7]: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger of good tidings, that publisheth peace, that announceth tidings of happiness, that publisheth salvation, that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth.” He also said: Great is peace, because even wars are waged for the sake of peace, as it is written [Deut. xx. 10]…”(Babylonian Talmud)
Two chapters later in Isaiah appear two more controversial prophecies referencing the “root of Jesse,” the father of King David, yet there is disagreement over its prophetic Messiah meaning. The first appears in the first two verses of Isaiah 11. While Christians view them as Messiah prophecies, Rashi teaches they again refer to King Hezekiah:
Is 11:1-2 “And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD.”(Jewish Publication Society)
Rabbi Tanhun in the Talmud interprets one of the six blessings of Ruth 3:17 as referring to the Messiah where he cites Isaiah 11:2. Quoting the Rabbi from the Rodkinson translation, “Messiah — as it reads [Is. xi. 2]: “And there shall rest upon him the spirit of the Lord, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.” The Rabbi clarifies the “rod out of the stem of Jesse,” who is his son King David, is from whom “a Branch shall grow out of his roots” – the Messiah.
Jewish Rabbi sages interpret the prophecies of the scepter, the Prince of Peace, and the Branch as referring to the Messiah. This establishes the one single Messiah requirement recognized by both Judaism and Christianity – the Messiah must born in the family lineage of King David of the tribe of Judah. The question then becomes, what are the odds that Jesus of Nazareth is the fulfillment of this Messiah requirement?
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