Virtually Hidden – the Significant, Rarest of Hebrew Words

Appearing only three times in the entire Hebrew text of the Tanakh, the Old Testament, is a virtually hidden Hebrew word and yet it may be the most significant – ha-almah. Only two Bible versions translate all three instances using this exact Hebrew text, the Orthodox Jewish Bible and Young’s Literal Translation.[1]

Commonly written as Hmleh, hmle and hā-‘al-māh, it is comprised of ha and `almah translated into two English words.[2] Easiest to translate is “ha” or “Hey” which means “the,” a definite article used to make a clear and specific reference.[3] Hebrew has a special difference; it is much more dramatic.[4]

Original ancient Hebrew script for the consonant “h” is one single pictograph letter.[5] Hebrew language expert Jeff A. Benner describes the original pictograph character in this way:

“The Hey has a “h” sound and is a picture of a man with his arms raised up, shouting and pointing at a great site as if to say “behold, look at that”.  This letter means “the” in the sense of pointing to something of importance.”[6]

Translation of `almah is one of the most controversial in the Jewish-Christian discourse. One side claims that `almah means “young woman,” “maid” or “damsel” which does not necessarily mean “virgin.”[7] The other side asserts `almah always specifically means “virgin” as seen in some Bible versions translations.[8]

Strong’s Concordance of Hebrew defines `almah is “a lass (as in veiled or private): – damsel, maid, virgin.”[9] In those days a “maid” or “damsel” was a young woman or girl who was typically presumed to be a virgin by implication of her age and single marital status whereas a “virgin” is explicitly self-explanatory.[10]

Commonly, `almah is translated in both Jewish and Christian Bibles as “young woman.” Those two words are not part of the formal Strong’s definition exacerbating the issue. How the word is or is not intended by its authors to be understood requires textual analysis.

Some critics contend that since the Hebrew word for “virgin” is bethulah, then `almah cannot refer to a virgin.[11] Indeed, bethulah (bə-ṯū-lāh, bthuwlah , b@thuwlah or hlwtb) means “virgin” appearing 50 times in Biblical Hebrew texts.[12] It is occurs in the contexts of metaphors for peoples or nations in judgements, lamentations or blessings; legalistic references; or to describe the virginity of an actual female subject.

Focusing only on references where bethulah involves an actual female subject, three usage rules emerge. One, the word is always used as an adjective noun or in an adjective clause to clarify na `arah (girl) or another female noun within the context of na `arah (girl). Examples: “the girl [na `arah] was a very beautiful virgin [bethulah];” “Tamar [proper noun], for she was a virgin [bethulah];” or “my virgin [bethulah] daughter [noun].”[13]

More significantly, bethulah is not used as a standalone noun for a specific female subject. Nor is bethulah the subject who initiates a present or future tense action. There are no instances that say something like “bethulah shall call;” “bethulah plays;” “bethulah shall bear;nor “bethulah loves.”[14]

Appearing only 7 times in Biblical Hebrew text is the Hebrew word `almah. Its word usage rules are strikingly different, based as much on circumstantial setting as it is on sentence structure.

As a standalone noun, `almah, like “virgin,” is self-evident – it does not need further clarification with an adjective or adjective clause. Conversely, the word is never used as an adjective noun nor in an adjective clause to define the subject. For example, there are no instances such as “a na `arah who is an `almah;” “Tamar who is an `almah;” nor “my `almah daughter.”

As the direct female subject of a sentence, `almah is used to initiate 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.”[15]

Five instances of `almah occur in texts after the defining moment when the Law was given to Moses at Mt. Sinai. Perhaps most revealing is that `almah always appears in royal circumstances – virgins in the king’s harem, in a king’s presence, a king’s perspective, and the royalty of God’s musical worship.[16]

Remaining are the two instances that occurred before the Law centuries before the first Hebrew king involving two Hebrew matriarchs, Rebekah and Miriam.[17] According to Phillip E. Goble, Editor of The Orthodox Jewish Bible, Rebekah is revered as the “mother of the Nation of Israel” and Miriam is “the savior of the Exodus” (Moses) – Hebrew royalty.[18]

Rebekah’s story in Genesis 24 is the only passage in the Bible that contains both `almah and bethulah plus the two related Hebrew words `ishshah (woman) and na ‘arah (girl) making it the codex for all four words. Most noteworthy is that bethulah is used to define `almah as “virgin.”  

Narrowing it down further are the three instances where the Hebrew text delineates “behold, look at that” when ha precedes `almah “pointing to something of importance.” The first two appear in reference to the Hebrew matriarchs, before God’s Law legally defined the purity of virginity for marriage.

For Rebekah and Miriam, ha-almah places focus on the significance of their state of virginity before entering their adult lives of greatness.[19] Only one other instance of ha-almah, “the virgin,” occurs in the entire Bible; the only time after the Law at Mt. Sinai.

Appearing identically in both The Great Isaiah Scroll and the Masoretic text is ha-almah.[20] Isaiah responded to King Ahaz’ refusal to accept God’s offer to name any sign between Heaven and Hell as proof of God’s promise to protect the kingdom from their enemies. God’s own chosen sign issued through the prophet:

IS 7:14 “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin [ha-almah] shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.”(NKJV)

Isaiah wrote the rarest of Hebrew words – did the renowned Biblical prophet of Judaism and Christianity make a mistake delivering God’s response when he said ha-almah would give birth to a son whom would be called Immanuel meaning “God with us”? [21]

If the sign was intended to refer to a female without any expectation of virginity, Isaiah would have been expected to use either na ‘arah or `ishshah; however, he didn’t. Nowhere in Isaiah’s writings is the appearance of na ‘arah (girl). Variations of `ishshah occurs 11 times in reference to an adult woman, wife, mother, or even an adulteress where in all senses virginity is neither assumed nor expected.

Isaiah used bethulah in 5 instances, always as a metaphor or judgement of a city or nation. The word does not fit the prophecy with a female subject and would have violated the Hebrew usage rules.

Instead, Isaiah chose ha-almah in a dual royal context – King Ahaz and God. Whomever he referenced in the prophecy, the ha-almah female is in the highest echelon of Hebrew importance, on the same level as the matriarchs Rebekah and Miriam.

Textual analysis confirms the use of ha-almah in God’s chosen “sign” bounded only by Heaven and Hell was the prophecy of a virgin birth to a boy to be called Immanuel. Was Isaiah 7:14 a Messiah prophecy fulfilled by the Mary’s virgin birth of Jesus of Nazareth?

 

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

ASB = Amercian Standard Bible
BSB = Berean Study Bible
CSB = Christian Standard Bible
DBT = Darby Bible Translations
ESV = English Standard Version
HCS = Holman Christian Standard Bible
ISV = International Standard Version
JUB = Jubilee Bible 2000
NHE = New Heart Christian Bible
NIV = New International Verson
NKJV = New King James Verson
NLT = New Liviing Translation
OJB = Orthodox Jewish Bible
WEB = World English Bible
YLT = Young’s Literal Translation

REFERENCES:

[1] The Orthodox Jewish Bible. 2002. BibleHub. <https://biblehub.com/ojb/genesis/1.htmYoung’s Literal Translation. 2019. <https://biblehub.com/ylt/genesis/1.htm>
[2] Isaiah 7:14. Hebrew text transliteration. BibleHub. 2019. <https://biblehub.com/text/isaiah/7-14.htm> hā·‘al·māh. Hebrew text. BibleHub.com. n.d. <https://biblehub.com/hebrew/haalmah_5959.htm>
[3] Isaiah 7:14. Hebrew text. NetBible.org. <http://classic.net.bible.org/verse.php?book=Isa&chapter=7&verse=14> ‘almah <05959>. NetBible.org. 2019. <http://classic.net.bible.org/strong.php?id=05959> “the.” Merriam-Webster. 2019. <https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/the>  “the.” Cambridge Dictionary. n.d. <https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/the
[4] Goble, Phillip E, ed. “The Translator to the Reader.” The Orthodox Jewish Bible. 2002. Artists for Israel International. 2012. p vii. <http://www.afii.org/ojbible/ix.pdf
[5] Benner, Jeff A. “Introduction to Ancient Hebrew.”  Ancient Hebrew Research Center. 2019. <https://www.ancient-hebrew.org/introduction.htm>
[6] Benner. “Introduction to Ancient Hebrew.”
[7] 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?” About.com|Agnosticism/Atheism. n.d. <http://atheism.about.com/od/biblepeoplenewtestament/p/MaryVirgin.htm>  Yosef, Uri. “Isaiah 7:14 – Part 1: An Accurate Grammatical Analysis.” The Jewish Home. 2011. <http://thejewishhome.org/counter/Isa714_1.pdf>  Bratcher, Dennis. “Isaiah 7:14: Translation Issues.”  The Voice. 2014. <http://www.crivoice.org/isa7-14.html>  Gill. The Complete Jewish Bible – with Rashi Commentary. n.d.   <http://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/63255/jewish/The-Bible-with-Rashi.htm>  CR Judges Chapter 13. John Gill’s Exposition of the Whole Bible.  Isaiah 7:14 commentary. <https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/genesis-24.html
[8] Genesis 24:43 – ESV, NKJV, KJV, HCS, OJB; Exodus 2:8 – OJB; Isaiah 7:14 – NIV, NLT, ESV, BSB, NKJV, CSB, HCS, DBT, ISV, JUB, NHE, WEB, OJB; American Standard Version, 1901 Edition. Perseus.Tufts.Edu. <http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.01.0156:book=Isaiah:chapter=7&highlight=virgin> Robinson, B.A. “Isaiah 7:14 “Behold, a virgin shall conceive…”” Religious Tolerance. 2007 <http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_proi.htm
[9] “almah.” Strong’s Concordance with Hebrew and Greek Lexicon. Eliyah.com. n.d. <http://www.eliyah.com/cgi-bin/strongs.cgi?file=hebrewlexicon&isindex=almah
[10] Net.bible.org. Hebrew text. Reference: TWOT – 1630b.  Strong. “`almah  <5959>  “damsel.”  Merriam-Webster. 2019. <https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/damsel
[11] Nahigian.  “A Virgin-Birth Prophesy?” Cramer. “The Book of Isaiah.”  Cline. “Who Was Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus? Was She Really a Virgin?” Yosef.. “Isaiah 7:14 – Part 1: An Accurate Grammatical Analysis.” Bratcher. “Isaiah 7:14: Translation Issues.”
[12] “bthuwlah.” Strong’s Concordance with Hebrew and Greek Lexicon. Eliyah.com. n.d. <http://www.eliyah.com/cgi-bin/strongs.cgi?file=hebrewlexicon&isindex=bthuwlah>  Strong The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. “ bethulah <1330>.” <http://classic.net.bible.org/strong.php?id=01330> Genesis 24:16. Net.bible.org. Hebrew text. “b@thuwlah <01330>;” footnote 1.  <http://classic.net.bible.org/verse.php?book=Gen&chapter=24&verse=16
[13] Genesis 24:16, 2 Samuel 13:2. Soncino Babylonian Talmud. Ed. Isidore Epstein 1935-1948. Yebamoth 61b. Soncino Babylonian Talmud. <https://israelect.com/Come-and-Hear/yebamoth/yebamoth_61.html > CR 2 Samuel 13:18; I Kings 1:2.  “na`arah <05291>” NetBible.org. 2019. <http://classic.net.bible.org/strong.php?id=05291>  
[14] CR Isaiah 7:14; Psalms 68:25; Song of Solomon 1:3.
[15] CR Genesis 24:16; Psalms 68:25; Song of Solomon 1:3, 6:8; Isaiah 7:14.
[16] CR Psalms 68:25; Proverbs 30:19; Song of Solomon 1:3, 6:8; Isaiah 7:14;
[17] Genesis 24:43; Exodus 2:8.  Goble. “The Translator to the Reader.” p vii.  Net.bible.org. Hebrew text. “`almah  <5959>” <http://classic.net.bible.org/strong.php?id=05959>  Strong. The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. “almah.”
[18] Goble. “The Translator to the Reader.” p vii.
[19] Goble. “The Translator to the Reader.” p vii.
[20] Miller. Fred P.  “The Translation of the Great Isaiah Scroll.” Book of Isaiah. 2001. Column VI Isa 6:7 to 7:15.   <http://www.moellerhaus.com/qa-tran.htm “hmleh.” Net.bible.org. <http://classic.net.bible.org/search.php?search=hebrew_strict_index:hmleh> BibleHub.com. Interlinear Bible Hebrew text. Isaiah 7:14. “5959 [e] hā·‘al·māh”.  <http://biblehub.com/interlinear/isaiah/7-14.htmOrthodox Jewish Bible (OJB). Isaiah 7:14.
[21] “`Immanuw’el <06005>. NetBible.org. 2019. <http://classic.net.bible.org/strong.php?id=06005> Isaiah 7.14. BibleHub.com. Strong’s Lexicon. “Immanuel.” <https://biblehub.com/parallel/isaiah/7-14.htm

The One Undisputed Messiah Requirement

One undisputed Messiah requirement serves as common ground to Judaism and Christianity where both are in agreement. Prophecies laid the foundational requirements for the Messiah beginning in Genesis with Jacob and then in Exodus by Moses, .

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)[1]

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.[2]

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.[3]

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.[4] 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.[5]

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 who will be a king who comes from the “House of David.” [6] Building on Balaam’s prophecy, Israel’s famed King David was indeed promised by God through the prophet Nathan:

2 Sam 7:16 “Your house and your kingdom shall endure before me forever; you throne shoe be established forever.”(New American Standard Version)

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:[7]

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.[8]

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”:[9]

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)[10]

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:[11]

“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)[12]

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.”[13] 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 establishing 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. What then are the odds that Jesus of Nazareth is the fulfillment of this Messiah requirement?

 

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

REFERENCES:

[1] The Compete Jewish Bible – with Rashi Commentary. 2019. <https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/63255/jewish/The-Bible-with-Rashi.htm>
[2] Rashi. The Compete Jewish Bible – with Rashi Commentary.  Commentary on Genesis 49:10.
[3] Dueteronomy17:14-15.
[4] Net.bible.org. Numbers 24:17. Hebrew text shebet <07626>. 2019. <http://classic.net.bible.org/strong.php?id=07626>
[5] Rashi. The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary. Numbers 24:17 commentary.
[6] Maimonides.  “The Law Concerning Moshiach.” Ed. Yechezkal Shimon Gutfreund, Chapters 11 & 12. <http://www.kesser.org/moshiach/rambam.html#SIE>
[7] Rich, Tracey R. “Mashiach: The Messiah.” Judaism101. 2011. <http://www.jewfaq.org/mashiach.htm>
[8] “Isaiah.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/8235-isaiah> “Isaiah.” Biblica | The International Bible Society. 2019. <https://www.biblica.com/resources/scholar-notes/niv-study-bible/intro-to-isaiah>
[9] Rashi. The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary. Isaiah 9:6 commentary.
[10] “The Book of Yeshayahu (Isaiah): Chapter 9.” Jewish Virtual Library. 2019. <https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/yeshayahu-isaiah-chapter-9>
[11] The Babylonian Talmud. Trans. Michael L. Rodkinson. 1918. Book 5: Tractate Derech Eretz-Zuta, “The Chapter on Peace.” p 32. <http://www.sacred-texts.com/jud/t05/ere18.htm>  “Minor Tractate Zuta Rabbah: Chapter on Peace.” Jewish Virtual Library. 2019. <https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/minor-tractate-zuta-rabbah-chapter-on-peace> “Jewish Concepts: Peace.” Virtual Library. 2019. <https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/peace> “Jose the Galilean.” Jewish Encyclopedia. <http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/8788-jose-the-galilean>
[12] “The Book of Yeshayahu (Isaiah): Chapter 11. Jewish Virtual Library. 2019. <https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/yeshayahu-isaiah-chapter-11>
[13] “Tractate Sanhedrin: Chapter 11.” Virtual Library. 2019. <https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/tractate-sanhedrin-chapter-11>  CR Soncino Babylonian Talmud. Ed. Isidore Epstein. “Sanhedrin 93.” 1935-1948.  <https://israelect.com/Come-and-Hear/sanhedrin/sanhedrin_93.html#93b_12>

 

Jeremiah – (Don’t Kill) the Messenger

Jeremiah was tasked by God to deliver bad news to kings and the people of Jerusalem at a time when it was not out of the question to kill the messenger if the news was not welcome.[1] It didn’t matter that sprinkled in were reassuring prophecies about the coming Messiah and the regathering in Jerusalem of the scattered, broken nation.

First, while Josiah was king of Judah, Jeremiah’s prophecy foretold Jerusalem would meet the judgement of total destruction – some taken captive, many killed and treasures lost – because the people willfully and repeatedly broke the Covenant they agreed to uphold when God gave it to them at Mt. Sinai.[2] Death plots, even by his own family, were in play to kill Jeremiah.[3]

Chief of security for the priests, Passhur, had Jeremiah flogged and put in stocks near the Temple.[4] Jeremiah forewarned Passhur the manner of his death and that of his family, specifically by “the king of Babylon,” would strike terror in his friends.[5]

Continuing their defiance and evil ways, such as sex with pagan gods and sacrificing their own children to them, drew the wrath of God setting the scene for the curse of Jeconiah (aka Jehoiachin).[6] God’s message to both Jeconiah and his father Jehoiakim, son of Josiah and now king of Judah – death for Jehoaikim and for Jechoniah, it would be like he was childless, his children would not prosper and none would sit on the throne of David.[7]

Just five verses later, Jeremiah makes clear that in-spite-of Jeconiah’s curse, David’s royal lineage had not ended.[8] God explicitly promised another king would be raised up from the Branch of David:

Jer 23:5 “”Behold, the days are coming,” declares the LORD, “When I will raise up for David a righteous Branch; And He will reign as king and act wisely And do justice and righteousness in the land.”(NASB)

Nebuchadnezzar’s army attacked Jerusalem fulfilling the prophecy wreaking havoc and destruction while taking captives.[9] One of those captives with special skills and pedigree was indeed King Jeconiah…and another future high-profile Biblical figure – Daniel.[10]

Over the next 10 years, Nebuchadnezzar’s puppet king, Zedekiah, learned nothing from the judgment of his father and brother continuing to ignore and offend both King Nebuchadnezzar and God.[11] Having had enough, Nebuchadnezzar took action against Jerusalem once again.

Meanwhile, Irijah, captain of the Guards in Jerusalem, accused Jeremiah of being a traitor and was arrested, tried, flogged and thrown into a dungeon.[12] Jeremiah’s nemesis, Pashhur, along with three others approached Zedekiah advising the King that the prophet should be killed because his prophecies were demoralizing the troops.[13] The King allowed them to do as they wanted with Jeremiah whereupon the prophet was lowered into an old cistern deep with mud and left to starve to death.[14]

Ebed Melech, an Ethiopian official at the palace, heard of Jeremiah’s plight. While Zedekiah was conducting royal business at the Benjamin Gate away from the strict protocols of the palace, Ebed took the opportunity to inform the King. Zedekiah quietly instructed Ebed how to secretly rescue the prophet from the cistern. Jeremiah was then moved to an outdoor prison yard and given a scarce daily ration of bread.[15]

Zedekiah came to realize the truthfulness of Jeremiah’s prophecies when Nebuchadnezzar again besieged Jerusalem. The King secretly questioned the prophet seeking his guidance, but it was too late.[16] The King was given a choice – surrender to the Babylonians and live, or fight and die.[17]

During his confinement, to address worries that God had rejected Israel and Judah, God sent another message that the throne of David would never end. Jeremiah foretold that the nations would one day be regathered and restored while issuing a second Branch of David prophecy:

Jer. 33:14-15, 17 “‘The days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will fulfil the gracious promise I made to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah.  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… For thus says the LORD, ‘David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel…” (NASB)

A hundred years earlier, Isaiah had prophesied about “My Servant” who would sprout out of dry ground.[18] A century after Jeremiah’s Branch prophecy, the prophet Zechariah identified “My Servant” as “the Branch,” twice prophesying he would come to rebuild the Temple and rule from his throne:

Zech 3:8 “‘Listen, O high priest Joshua and your associates seated before you, who are men symbolic of things to come: I am going to bring my servant, the Branch.’”(NIV)

Zech 6:12-13 “Tell him this is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Here is the man whose name is the Branch, and he will branch out from his place and build the temple of the LORD. It is he who will build the temple of the LORD, and he will be clothed with majesty and will sit and rule on his throne. And he will be a priest on his throne. And there will be harmony between the two.’”(NIV)

Renowned Jewish sage Rabbi Maimonides identified “the Branch” as the Messiah citing Zechariah 6:12 further validating Jeremiah’s two Branch prophecies. Maimonides also cited from the Isaiah 52-53 parashah verses 52:15 and 53:3 as prophecies about the Messiah building a prophetic profile that the Messiah is “My Servant” who would be called “the Branch.”[19]

Remaining imprisoned in the court yard during the seige, Jeremiah was finally rescued by none other King Nebuchadnezzar! His renowned reputation as a prophet had become known to the Babylonian King.[20] Nebuchadnezzar ordered his top commander, Nebuzaradan, to find Jeremiah during their attack of Jerusalem, protect him and do whatever he asked.[21] Jeremiah was released in Gedaliah, given food and a gift.[22]

Emphasizing the trustworthiness of His promise to Israel and Judah, God did not offer a typical promise with a limited guarantee or a warranty – it was unconditionally ironclad:

Jer. 33:20-21 “”Thus says the LORD, ‘If you can break My covenant for the day and My covenant for the night, so that day and night will not be at their appointed time, then My covenant may also be broken with David My servant so that he will not have a son to reign on his throne, and with the Levitical priests, My ministers.” (NASB)

Jer. 33:25-26 “”Thus says the LORD, ‘If My covenant for day and night stand not, and the fixed patterns of heaven and earth I have not established, then I would reject the descendants of Jacob and David My servant, not taking from his descendants rulers over the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But I will restore their fortunes and will have mercy on them.’” (NASB)

An indisputable analogy was used as assurance of God’s promise – if anyone can change the fixed laws of nature that He created, such as the rising and setting of the Sun, only then should anyone worry about God breaking his promise to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and David.

The Book of Jeremiah provided many detailed prophecies to consider, many that came true in a single lifetime – are the future promises of God issued through Jeremiah reliable prophecies about the Messiah and the regathering of Judah and Israel back in Jerusalem?


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REFERENCES:

[1] Jeremiah 1; 37:17;
[2] Jeremiah 3:6; chapters 1-15.
[3] Jeremiah 11-12.
[4] Jeremiah 17-18, 20, 26.
[5] Jeremiah 20:4-6. “Jehoiakim.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/8562-jehoiakim>  “Jehoiachin.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/8543-jeconiah>
[6] CR II Chronicles 36:11-14; Jeremiah 3:2; 7:22-26, 31.
[7] CR Jeremiah 36:30-32.
[8] Irenaeus of Lyons. Against Heresies. Philip Schaf, ed. Ante-Nicene Fathers. Volume I. 2005.  Early Christina Writings. Book III, Chapter XXI.9-10, Chapter XXII.1-4.  <http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/irenaeus-book3.html>
[9] Jeremiah 24; 29; Daniel 1:4.
[10] Daniel 1.
[11] Chronicles 36:12; Jeremiah 27:20; 32:2; 37:1-2.  Bakon, Shimon. “Zedekiah: The Last King of Judah.” Jewish Bible Quarterly. Vol. 36, No. 2, 2008.   <http://jbq.jewishbible.org/assets/Uploads/362/362_zedekiah.pdf>
[12] Jeremiah 37:13-16; 38:6, 13, 24-28.
[13] Jeremiah 38:1-6.
[14] Jeremiah 14:3; 38:5-6, 9.
[15] Jeremiah 37:21.
[16] Jeremiah 37:17; 38:14. CR 37:3-10.
[17] Jeremiah 38:17.
[18] Isaiah 53:2.
[19] Neubauer, Adolf, and Driver, Samuel Rolles.  The Fifty-third Chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters. 1877. Moses Maimonides.  “Letter to the South (Yemen).” pp 374-375. <http://books.google.com/books?id=YxdbAAAAQAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q=advent&f=false>
[20] Jeremiah 40:2-3.
[21] Jeremiah 39:11-4; 40:1, 43:6.
[22] Jeremiah 40:5.