Interpretations of the Rabbis – the Messiah Prophecies

 

Hebrew texts serve as the basis for both the Tenakh and Old Testament Scriptures, but when it comes to Messiah prophecies, interpretations vary. Christianity and Judaism disagree on some Messiah prophecies, especially those deemed to be fulfilled by the life of Jesus of Nazareth.

Judaism’s interpretations are based primarily on the views of the Rabbi sages who are not always in agreement among themselves on which prophecies point to the Messiah. Differences in Christianity are no exception on such topics as baptism, worship, confessions – even salvation.

Some Rabbi sages became known for their prophecy interpretations documented in commentaries, letters or published works. Other views of Rabbis are expressed in contributions to Gemaras in the Talmud.

Rabbi Rashi is one such renowned Jewish sage esteemed for his Scriptural commentaries. So much so, a mainstream Jewish Bible is named the Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary.[1]

One of the oldest Messiah prophecies is Jacob’s blessing of Judah in Genesis 49:9-10. Jacob foretold that Judah’s descendants would become a “like a lion” and the “scepter” will not depart from them until Shiloh comes. The blessing is recognized by Rashi as a prophecy establishing the foundation for the future Messiah.[2]

Gen. 49:8-10 “Judah, your brothers shall praise you; Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; Your father’s sons shall bow down to you. “Judah is a lion’s whelp; From the prey, my son, you have gone up. He couches, he lies down as a lion, And as a lion, who dares rouse him up? The sceptre will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his.” (NASB)

Rashi identified “Shiloh” as the “King Messiah, to whom the kingdom belongs.” The Hebrew word shebet is translated as “scepter” or “staff” and, according to Rashi, refers to the future royal lineage of “David and thereafter.”[3] The word shebet appears again in Balaam’s prophecy and Rashi interpreted it to mean “a king who rules dominantly” from the future lineage of David.[4]

Another prominent Jewish sage is Rabbi Maimonides, also known as Rambam, who authored the Mishneh Torah revered for formulating the Law into the 13 principals of Jewish faith.[5] His work is also regarded for codifying the halakhah or Jewish Law.[6]

Maimonides interpreted Balaam’s prophecy to be referring to “King Moshiach” (Messiah) who would come from the lineage of David.[7] Rashi believed this to be a prophecy about King David commenting he is one who “shoots out like an arrow” from Jacob and uproots the sons of Sheth or Seth (the son of Adam).[8]

Num 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.” (NASB)

Micah 5:2 seemingly unambiguously predicts the birthplace of the future ruler of Israel, yet the prophecy is challenged by some Jewish authorities.[9] Rashi interpreted the verse to be foretelling the Messiah would come from Bethlehem in the lineage Jesse and King David, then quoted Psalms 118:22, “The stone the builders had rejected became a cornerstone.”[10]

Some Rabbis in the Talmud Gemara Sukkah 52a believed the  Zechariah 12:10 prophecy refers to the death of the Messiah, others disagreed saying it had nothing to do with the Messiah. Rashi offered a third interpretation saying the prophecy is about Zerubbabel.[11]

Psalms 22 is a prominent Messiah prophecy recognized by Christianity as predicting in detail the circumstances of the death of Jesus of Nazareth consistent with a Roman crucifixion. Judaism focuses solely on the question in the second verse, “Why have you forsaken me?” as the interpretation basis for the Psalm being about the nation of Israel.[12]

My Servant” in the Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12 parashah or passage is viewed by Christianity as predicting the suffering, death and Resurrection of the Messiah fulfilled by life of Jesus of Nazareth. Judaism generally treats “My Servant” as a metaphor of a single man representing the nation of Israel.[13]

Rabbi sages going back to the days of the Talmud, pointed to 6 different Messiah prophecies within the parashah: Isaiah 52:15, 53:2, 3, 5, 7, 15. Talmud tractate Sanhedrin 98b quotes Isaiah 53:3 as the basis for one of the names of the Messiah.[14]

Misheh Torah made Maimonides famous and even in those days, he received fan mail. His response letters, known as Responsa (or Teshuvot), have become additional important texts of Maimonides’ Scriptural interpretations.[15] In one responsa letter, Maimonides, referenced Isaiah 53:2 and 52:15 predicting the Messiah would be identified by his origins and his wonders.[16]

Moshe Kohen ibn Crispin from Spain was a renowned twelfth century Rabbi and poet. He is acclaimed in Judaism for his Jewish work entitled Sefer ha-Musar, the “Book of Instruction.”[17] Rabbi Crispin believed that “My Servant” in the Isaiah parashah refers to “King Messiah” while acknowleging his interpretation is in conflict with the prevailing Jewish position. His book gave surprisingly bold verse by verse commentaries defining expectations for the Messiah.[18]

Rabbi Jose the Galilean is known both for his quoted contributions in Talmud Gemaras as well as for his independent commentaries.  He was a distinguished Rabbi leader and recognized authority on sacrifices and the Temple. The Rabbi independently wrote the Messiah would be wounded for our transgressions quoting from Isaiah 53:5 and 53.7.[19]

Frequently seen during the Christmas season in western cultures is Isaiah 9:6, deemed a Messiah prophecy in Christianity, foretelling a son who would bear the full responsibility for the government and would be known by many names. Judaism generally disagrees saying the verse it is not a Messiah prophecy:

IS 9:6 “For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (NKJV)

Rabbi Jose the Galilean declared, “The name of the Messiah is also ‘peace;'”as it is written ‘The prince of peace (Shalom); and as it is written [Is. ix. 5]: “The prince of peace.” Gemara contributor Rabbi Jehoshua concurred stating, “The name of the Holy One, blessed be He, is also “peace” (Shalom).”[20]

A person can have a different interpretation and understanding of things said in the Bible, specifically prophecies, which may or may not be what God intended. Paying close attention to the words and the fuller context can reveal true meaning. Which prophecies point to the Messiah and set the requirements and expectations for the Messiah?

 

Updated October 24, 2022.

Creative Commons License

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

REFERENCES:

[1] The Complete Jewish Bible – with Rashi Commentary. <http://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/63255/jewish/The-Bible-with-Rashi.htm>  Dev, Naaleh. Naaleh Torah Online. image. n.d. https://www.naaleh.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/understanding-prophecy.jpg>
[2] The Compete Jewish Bible – with Rashi Commentary. Genesis 49:9-10 Rashi commentary.  Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 98a. CR Gensis 17:6, NASB.
[3] Rashi. The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary. Genesis 49:10.
[4] Rashi. The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary  Numbers 24:17.  Maimonides. “The Law Concerning Moshiach.” NetBible.org.  Hebrew text shebet <07626> <http://classic.net.bible.org/strong.php?id=07626>
[5] Maimonides. Mishneh Torah. Trans. Eliyahu Touger.  <http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/682956/jewish/Mishneh-Torah.htm>  Maimonides, Moses. The Thirteen Principles of Jewish Faith. n.d. <https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/332555/jewish/Maimonides-13-Principles-of-Faith.htm>
[6] Rich, Tracey R. “Jewish Beliefs.” JewFAQ.org. n.d. <http://www.jewfaq.org/beliefs.htm>
[7] Maimonides. “The Law Concerning Moshiach.”
[8] Rashi. The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary  Numbers 24:17.
[9] “Micah, Book of.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. “Contents and Unity.” <http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/10777-micah-book-of>
[10] The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi’s Commentary. Micah 5:1
[11] The Complete Jewish Bible – with Rashi Commentary. Zechariah 6:12.  Sukkah 52a. Halakhah.com. Trans. Soncino Babylonian Talmud. n.d. pp 74-77, footnote #1-3. <http://www.halakhah.com/rst/moed/16b%20-%20Succah%20-%2029b-56b.pdf>
[12] The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi’s Commentary.  Psalms 22.
[13] The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary. Isaiah 53:3-4.  Neubauer, Driver & Rolles.  The Fifty-third Chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters. p 37.  Gold, Moshe. “Israel’s Messenger, The Suffering Servant of Isaiah – A Rabbinic Anthology.” Israel’s Messenger. 2009. Jewish Awareness Ministries. <http://www.jewishawareness.org/the-suffering-servant-of-isaiah-a-rabbinic-antholo>
[14] Isaiah 53:3. Soncino Babylonian Talmud. Ed. Isidore Epstein. Sanhedrin 98b, footnote #31. <https://israelect.com/Come-and-Hear/talmud/index.html>  CR Neubauer, Driver & Rolles. The Fifty-third Chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters. pp 12-16.
[15] Neubauer, Driver & Rolles The Fifty-third Chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters. pp XVI, 37, 374-375. <https://books.google.com/books?id=YxdbAAAAQAAJ&pg=PP1#v=snippet&q=Galilean&f=false>
[16] Maimonides. “Letter to the South (Yemen).”  Neubauer and Driver. The Fifty-third Chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters.> p 374.
[17] Crispin, Moshe Kohen ibn. “Sefer ha-Musar.” Neubauer, Driver & Rolles. The Fifty-third Chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters. pp 99-101.  Marlowe, Michael.  Editions of the Hebrew Text of the Bible. Bible Research. “The Incunabula.” 2012. <http://www.bible-researcher.com/hebrew-editions.html>  Rosenau, William. Jewish Biblical Commentators. pp 87-91 n.d. <http://www.archive.org/stream/jewishbiblicalco00rose/jewishbiblicalco00rose_djvu.txtThe fifty-third chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters. pp 99-100.  <https://books.google.com/books?id=YxdbAAAAQAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false>
[18] Crispin, Moshe Kohen ibn. “Sefer ha-Musar.” Neubauer, Driver & Rolles. The Fifty-third Chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters. pp 99-101.
[19] Jose the Galilaean. Neubauer, Driver & Rolles. The Fifty-third Chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters. pp 10-11, R.
[20] The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi’s Commentary. Isaiah 9:6.  The Babylonian Talmud. Trans. Michael L. Rodkinson. 1918. Book 5: Tractate  Derech  Eretz-Zuta, “The Chapter on Peace.”  Internet Sacred Text Archives. 2010. <https://www.sacred-texts.com/jud/t05/ere18.htm>   CR Judges 6:24. NetBible.org. Hebrew text “Y@havah shalowm”

 

Zechariah – Explicit Messiah Prophecies

 

Zechariah’s book of writings and prophecies are classified as a “Minor Prophet” in the Old Testament and Tenakh Bibles, yet the book bearing his name holds some of the most specific details of any prophetic book in the Scriptures.[1] Zechariah’s book also adds validity to the lineage of Jesus of Nazareth appearing in the Gospels.

Genealogies of Matthew and Luke list the lineage of Jesus as a descendant of King David, both including Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel, son of King Jeconiah, who was the last sitting king of Israel. Zechariah further predicted that Zerubbabel would lay the foundation for the rebuilding of the Temple.[2]

On the timeline of history, the Book of Zechariah was written during the Persian Empire under the reign of King Darius reckoned to 522–486 BC.[3] It was during a time when the Jews were receiving back their freedoms taken away during their captivity under the rule of Babylon.[4] The Biblical Books of Ezra and Haggai provide extensive details of Zerubbabel’s efforts to rebuild the Temple.[5]

Progress on the decree previously issued by Persian King Cyrus to rebuild the Jerusalem Temple destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar’s army had been hindered for years by troublesome political enemies of the Jews.[6] King Darius was compelled to issue another decree to complete the rebuilding of the Temple:[7]

EZ 6:7, 12 “Leave this work on the house of God alone; let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews rebuild this house of God on its site…”May the God who has caused His name to dwell there overthrow any king or people who attempts to change it, so as to destroy this house of God in Jerusalem. I, Darius, have issued this decree, let it be carried out with all diligence!” (NASB)

Messiah prophecies built upon each other over time revealing more specifics. From Abraham to Moses to David and the many prophets thereafter, the prophecies over the course of the previous 1500 years came in the form of a blessing, visions, trances, parables, dreams and even to Moses at Mt. Sinai.[8]

Prophecies of Zechariah came in the form of visions and oracles, some very straightforward and specific, others more challenging to interpret. In one of the most specific, straightforward of any Messiah prophecy, Zechariah foretold how the Messiah would come to Jerusalem riding on a colt foal donkey , an unridden male under a year old:[9]

Zech 9:9 “”Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.”” (NKJV) [10]

Branch prophecies were issued by three prophets during the span of some 200 years. Before Jerusalem was destroyed by King Nebuchadnezzar, Isaiah issued a Branch prophecy. During the Babylonian Captivity, Jeremiah delivered two more Branch prophecies. After the Babylonian captivity during rule of the Persian Empire, twice Zechariah issued Branch prophecies and confirmed the identity of “My Servant” in Isaiah’s parashah prophecy:

Zech 3:8 “…For behold, I am bringing forth My Servant the BRANCH.”(NKJV)

Zech 6:12-13 “…Thus says the LORD of hosts, saying: ‘Behold, the Man whose name is the BRANCH! From His place He shall branch out, And He shall build the temple of the LORD; Yes, He shall build the temple of the LORD. He shall bear the glory, And shall sit and rule on His throne; So He shall be a priest on His throne, And the counsel of peace shall be between them both.’” (NKJV)

Christianity views these Branch prophecies to be foretelling the Messiah; however, in Judaism there is a split on their meaning. Jewish sage Rabbi Maimonides viewed the Branch prophecies to be about the Messiah.[11] Rabbi Rashi, on the other hand, viewed them to be prophecies about Zerubbabel while acknowledging others view them to be about the Messiah.[12]

Debate in the Babylonian Talmud Gemara took place in Sukkah 52a over the meaning of the Zechariah 12:10 prophecy. One faction viewed it as referring to the death of the “Evil Inclination” and the other side believed the prophecy to be referring to the death of the Messiah. Jewish Bibles translate daqar as “thrust him through.”

Nearly unanimous consensus among Jewish and Christian authorities alike who recognize Zechariah 12:10 as a Messiah prophecy believe it to say the Messiah would be killed. Differing views on how he would be killed centers squarely on the meaning of one Hebrew word, daqar, translated in essentially two ways:  “pierced” or “thrust through.”

Zech 12:10 “…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)

Traditional Christian Bibles translate daqar as “pierced” although it is not unanimous. Contemporary, simplified Bible translations are more closely aligned with the Jewish Bibles’ interpretation of daqar as stabbed or thrust through with a spear.[13]

“… then they will look on Me whom they pierced.”(New King James Version)

“They will look at me, whom they have stabbed.” (God’s Word Translation)

“They’ll then be able to recognize me as the One they so grievously wounded–that piercing spear-thrust!” (Message)

Zechariah’s prophecies may be fewer in number, but some are very specific and have major implications to the prophetic life and death of the Messiah. Were his prophecies fulfilled by Jesus of Nazareth?

 

Updated October 17, 2022.

Creative Commons License

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

REFERENCES:

[1] Jewish Publication Society (JPS) translation. 1917. Benyamin Pilant. 1997. <http://www.breslov.com/bibleNET Bible (NET) translation.  <https://net.bible.org>
[2] I Chronicles 3:17-19; Zechariah 4:6-10; Matthew 1:1-16; Luke 3:23-38.  CR Ezra 3:2, 8, 4:2-3, 5:2; Haggai 1:1, 14, 2:20-23. Dolphin, Lambert.  “The Genealogy from Adam to Jesus Christ” Idolphin.org. 2011. <http://ldolphin.org/2adams.html>
[3] Zechariah 1:1. NetBible.org. Footnote #2. <http://classic.net.bible.org/bible.php?book=Zec&chapter=1#n2> “Darius I.” EncyclopediaBrittanica. 2022. <https://www.britannica.com/biography/Darius-I>
[4] Zechariah 1:1.
[5] Ezra 3-5; Haggai 1-2
[6] Ezra 1:2-3.  Edersheim, Alfred. The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. Book II, Chapter 4. 1883. Philogos.org. <https://philologos.org/__eb-lat>
[7] Josephus, Flavius. Antiquities of the Jews. Trans. and commentary.  William Whitson.  The Complete Works of Josephus. 1850. Book XI, Chapter III.8 and IV.1-2, 7. <http://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false>
[8] Genesis 41:1-14; Numbers 24:15-17; 2 Samuel 12:1-13; 1 Kings 20:35-42; Psalms 78:1-3; Daniel 2:27-28, 4:4-10, chapters 8 & 10; Isaiah chapter 5; Hosea 12:10.
[9] Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi commentary. Zechariah 9:9. Rash commentary. https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16213/showrashi/true>  “Understanding Donkey Behavior.” The Donkey Sanctuary. 2018. <https://www.thedonkeysanctuary.org.uk/sites/sanctuary/files/document/142-1404405754-donkey_health_and_welfare_19.pdf>
[10] Matthew 21:1-8; Luke 19:29-36; John 12:12-16. “Zechariah Texts Quoted in the New Testament Regarding Jesus’ Ministry.” ESV.org. 2020. <https://www.esv.org/resources/esv-global-study-bible/chart-38-01>
[11] Maimonides, “Letter to the South (Yemen)”. p 374.  The Fifty-third Chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters.  <https://books.google.com/books?id=YxdbAAAAQAAJ&pg=PP1&hl=en#v=onepage&q=advent&f=false>   
[12] The Complete Jewish Bible – with Rashi Commentary. Zechariah 6:12 Rashi commentary. <http://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/63255/jewish/The-Bible-with-Rashi.htm>  Plaut, Gunther. “Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi: Back in the Land.” MyJewishLearning.com. n.d. <http://www.myjewishlearning.com/texts/Bible/Prophets/Latter_Prophets/The_12_Minor_Prophets/Haggai_Zechariah_Malachi.shtml>
[13] Contemporary English Verson; Good News Translation; God’s Word translation; Zechariah 12:10. BibleHub.com. 2020. <https://biblehub.com/zechariah/12-10.htm>  The Message; Bible in Basic English. Zechariah 12:10. NetBible.org. 2020. <http://classic.net.bible.org/verse.php?book=Zec&chapter=12&verse=10>
[14] “daqar.” Net.bible.org. Hebrew text. <http://classic.net.bible.org/search.php?search=hebrew_strict_index:01856> 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>

Micah’s Unique Bethlehem Prophecy

 

Prophecies throughout the Scriptures foretell many things about the Messiah, but only one prophecy foretells the location from where he would come forth – Bethlehem Ephrathah.[1]

Micah 5:2 “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.” –New King James Version

Translations of the Micah prophecy in the Jewish and Greek Bibles are in harmony in English translations, though in Jewish Bibles prophecy appears one verse earlier: 

Micah 5:1 But thou, Beth-lehem Ephrathah, which art little to be among the thousands of Judah, out of thee shall one come forth unto Me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth are from of old, from ancient days.” – Jewish Publication Society[2]

Micah 5:2 And thou, Bethleem, house of Ephratha, art few in number to be reckoned among the thousands of Juda; yet out of thee shall one come forth to me, to be a ruler of Israel; and his goings forth were from the beginning, even from eternity.” – Septuagint LXX [3]

One noteworthy exception is the Targum Jonathan, the Aramaic Talmud translation, which uses the word Mashiach, Hebrew for “Messiah”:[4]

“Out of thee Bethlehem shall Mashiach go forth before me, to exercise dominion over Israel. Whose name has been spoken of Old from the day of Eternity.”

Hebrew text of Micah’s prophecy not explicitly saying Mashiach (Messiah) opens the door to controversy over its meaning. Counterviews, in essence, contend the future ruler of Israel would possess no messianic qualities.

Some argue the “ruler of Israel” refers to a future general or that Bethlehem Ephrathah refers to a family clan, not a town location.[5] Others claim the meaning of the “days of old” and “ancient times” refers to the golden area of David’s reign some 300 years earlier. A few even go so far as to say Targum Jonathan was mistranslated.

All sides agree it is a prophecy about a future ruler of Israel who will come from the lineage of David leaving the controversies to hinge on one of two scenarios. Would the future ruler come forth from the physical location of the town of Bethlehem Ephrathah or was he merely as a descendant of the Biblical person, Bethlehem Ephrathah?[6]

Detractors of the prophecy foretelling the the birth location of the Messiah are lined up against some very highly respected Jewish sages. Comments by Rabbi Rashi, revered as a Jewish sage on the Talmud and its Mishnah, appear in The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary:[7]

“Bethlehem, Looking Towards the Dead Sea” by David Roberts – 1853

And you, Bethlehem Ephrathah”: [Rashi:] whence David emanated, as it is stated (I Sam. 17:58): “The son of your bondsman, Jesse the Bethlehemite.” And Bethlehem is called Ephrath, as it is said (Gen. 48:7): “On the road to Ephrath, that is Bethlehem.”

“from you shall emerge for Me”: [Rashi:] the Messiah, son of David, and so Scripture says (Ps. 118:22): “The stone the builders had rejected became a cornerstone.”

“and his origin is from of old”: [Rashi:] “Before the sun his name is Yinnon” (Ps. 72:17).

Rashi identified the future ruler of Israel as “the Messiah, Son of David” and “Yinnon” (Yinon) has been his name “before the sun.” Reflected in the Rabbi’s commentary, Talmud Nedarim 39b says the name of the Messiah has existed before the Sun and shall endure forever.[8] Talmud Sanhedrin 98b identifies Yinnon along with Shiloh and other names for the Messiah (Moshiach) with a quote from the Isaiah 52-53 parashah considered by many to be a Messiah prophecy.[9]

Medieval era Rabbi David Kimchi (Kimhi or Radak) is highly regarded by Jewish authorities for his written comments in the margins of the Torah 1347 edition, The Prophets.[10] An excerpt of Kimchi’s commentary on the prophecy is translated from Hebrew text using Google Translate: [11]

“And this is King Christ and it means to be you avoided in the cities of thousands of young Judah now against them and though yes from you Christ came to me because of David’s seed. Who was from Bethlehem will be and that is what he said and his origins promoted from the world because the origins of the Messiah at that time would say that a long time ago were from Bethlehem it is David because there is a long time between David and the King of Christ and it is to him that he was from ancient times…”

Further evidence of a special status for Bethlehem is found earlier in the Book of Micah. A contemporary prophet to Isaiah, Micah prophesied judgment of utter destruction and singled out 10 towns or cities by name in the land of Abraham that would experience God’s wrath – Bethlehem was not one of them.[12]

Just the opposite. Micah specifically pointed to Bethlehem Ephrathah, “out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel.” Not just any ruler, but one described with divine characteristics, “whose goings forth are from of old, from ancient days.”

King Herod’s expert Jewish religious council of chief priests and scribes believed Micah’s prophecy foretold the future “King of the Jews” or Christos would come forth from the location of the nearby town, Bethlehem Ephrathah. According to Matthew, the Magi did indeed find Jesus in Bethlehem and worshiped the child while Herod sought to kill him.

Foretelling the location of the birth of the Messiah far into the future sets a standard of predictability that seems virtually impossible. In a small town of little significance in a land disdained by its rulers, Micah’s Bethlehem prophecy raises the level of difficulty of accuracy to the extreme. Impossible would be controlling the birth circumstances of one’s own birth. Chances of intentionally fulfilling this prophecy without divine intervention…extremely improbable.

Nazareth was the expected location of the birth of Jesus and it appeared nothing was be able to change that – except for a Roman Caesar. Months in the making, the decree of Augustus announced by the Town Crier set in motion the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem 90 miles away.

Meanwhile, Magi, already traveling in parallel time, were destined to arrive in the little town at a single moment in time. If Micah’s prophecy foretells the Messiah would come from Bethlehem Ephrathah, was the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem a fulfillment of that prophecy?

 

Updated September 11, 2022.

Creative Commons License

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

REFERENCES:

[i] Killian, Greg (Hillel ben David).  “Bethlehem – Beit Lechem – The House of Bread.”  Betemunah.org.  n.d. <http://www.betemunah.org/bethlehem.html>  “Bethlehem.” Lexicon-Concordance Online Bible.  n.d <http://www.eliyah.com/cgi-bin/strongs.cgi?file=hebrewlexicon&isindex=bethlehem>[2] Jewish Publication Society (JPS) translation. 1917. Benyamin Pilant. 1997. <http://www.breslov.com/bible/Micah5.htm#5>
[3] English Translation of the Greek Septuagint Bible. Trans. Brenton, Lancelot C. L. 1851.  <http://www.ecmarsh.com/lxx/Michaeas/index.htm>
[4] “Targum.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/14248-targum>  “Historical Jewish Sources.” The Preterist Archive. “Overview:  About Targums.”  n.d. <http://www.preteristarchive.com/BibleStudies/JewishSources/Targums/index.html>
[5] “Jesus Christ is a False Messiah.”  Ed. Chris Thiefe.  EvilBible.com. Point #8, A & B. <https://www.evilbible.com/do-not-ignore-the-old-testament/jesus-is-a-false-messiah>  “Jesus of Bethlehem.” MessianicJewishTruth.com. n.d. <http://web.archive.org/web/20131103080951/http://www.messianicjewishtruth.com/Jesusbethlehem.html>  “Who will emerge from Bethlehem.” Teshuvas HaMinim. 2011. <http://web.archive.org/web/20120902023316/http://www.teshuvashaminim.com/michah51.html>
[6] I Chronicles 2:19, 24,50; 4:4.
[7] Bolding and brackets added by author.  The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi’s Commentary. Micah – Chapter 5.  Roberts, David. The Victorian Web. “Bethlehem, Looking Toward the Dead Sea.” image. 1853. <https://victorianweb.org/painting/roberts/paintings/5.html
[8] “Nedarim 39b.” Soncino Babylonian Talmud. Ed. Isidore Epstein. 1935-1948. <https://israelect.com/Come-and-Hear/nedarim/nedarim_39.html#39b_11>
[9] Sanhedrin 98b. Soncino Babylonian Talmud. 1935-1948. <https://israelect.com/Come-and-Hear/sanhedrin/sanhedrin_98.html> “Nedarim 39b.” Soncino Babylonian Talmud.  Steinsaltz, Adin. “Masechet Sanhedrin 98a-104b.” Orthodox Union. 2010. <https://www.ou.org/life/torah/masechet_sanhedrin_98a104b>
[10] “Kimhi” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/9320-kimhi>  Marlowe, Michael.  Editions of the Hebrew Text of the Bible. Bible Research. “The Incunabula.”   2012. <http://www.bible-researcher.com/hebrew-editions.html>  Rosenau, William. Jewish Biblical Commentators. 1906. pp 87-91. <http://www.archive.org/stream/jewishbiblicalco00rose/jewishbiblicalco00rose_djvu.txt>  Mindel, Nissan. “Rabbi David Kimchi – RaDaK.” Chabad.org. 2019.  <http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/111880/jewish/Rabbi-David-Kimchi-RaDaK.htm>
[11] “Redak on Micah.” Micah 5:1. Sefaria.org. Hebrew text translated using Google Translate. <https://www.sefaria.org/Radak_on_Micah.5.1.1?lang=bi>  CR Yehoshua, Avram. “Messiah’s Diety and Micah 5:2.” Quote cited from Mikraoth Gedoloth. n.d. <http://seedofabraham.net/Messiahs-Deity-and-Micah-5.2.pdf>
[12] Micah 1: Gath, Beth Leaphrah, Shaphir, Aaanan, Beth Ezel, Maroth, Jerusalem, Lachish, Achzib, and Mareshah. Wood, Leon J. “Eighth-Century Prophets: Isaiah and Micah.” 1979. <http://www.ldolphin.org/isaiah/woodisaiah.html>  Miller, Fred P. “The Prophecy Of Micah.” 2016. <http://www.moellerhaus.com/Micah/micahcom.htm>