Rabbi Rashi and the Messiah Prophecies

Rashi, one of Judaism’s greatest interpreters of the Talmud, emerged at a time when the Dark Ages were transitioning from rule by barbarian tribes like the Huns, Goths and Franks into the feudal era when kings, queens, knights & lords ruled Europe.[1] In the year 1040, Shelomoh Yitzha was born in Troyes, France.[2]

As a Rabbi, Rashi was renowned for his wisdom and interpretation of the Talmud in simple terms. Jewish academies widely accepted and valued Rashi’s commentaries mostly captured and documented by his students.[3]

Commentaries of Rashi include some Messiah prophecies which are also recognized by Christian authorities. One of the earliest is Jacob’s blessing of Judah, his son:

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.” The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary

Rashi’s interpretation of Jacob’s prophecy included three prophetic aspects. Judah like a lion foreshadowed David who would become like a lion when the people made him their king. The scepter represents the royal lineage of “David and thereafter.” Shiloh refers specifically to the “King Messiah, to whom the kingdom belongs.”[4] The Rabbi also commented on other well-known Messiah prophecies.

Moabite King Balak repeatedly pressed the Gentile prophet Balaam to place a curse on the approaching Hebrew nation as an alternative means to military confrontation. Balaam’s response was a prophecy doing just the opposite:

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

Hebrew text translations vary between Christian and Jewish Bibles.  “I see him, but not now” is translated as in the Jewish version as “I see it, but not now.”  Hebrew text does not contain the pronoun for “him” which is inferred by the remainder of the prophecy of a king, a male.[5] Rashi’s commentary says the opening phrase refers to the “greatness of Jacob” at a future time.

Hebrew word shebet is translated in the Jewish version as “staff” whereas the same word is translated as “scepter” in Jacob’s prophecy.[6] Consistently, the Rabbi’s commentary likewise says shebet represents “a king who rules dominantly.” While Balaam’s prophecy has strong Messiah implications, Rashi does not explicitly say it such as he did in his commentary on Jacob’s prophecy.

Micah 5:2 appears as verse 1 in the Jewish Bible, a prophecy making specific reference to Bethlehem Ephrathah, home town of King David, and a future ruler of Israel:

Mich 5:1 (or v.2) “And you, Bethlehem Ephrathah – you should have been the lowest of the clans of Judah-from you [he] shall emerge for Me, to be a ruler over Israel; and his origin is from of old, from days of yore.” The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary

Micah’s prophecy is understood by Rashi to mean the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem Ephrathah in the royal lineage of King David which stands opposed to some critics, including Jewish, who challenge the interpretation.[7] His remarkable phrase-by-phrase breakdown:

“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.”

“you should have been the lowest of the clans of Judah”: [Rashi]: You should have been the lowest of the clans of Judah because of the stigma of Ruth the Moabitess in you.

“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).

The Rabbi expressed his distaste of Ruth, a Gentile, being in the prophetic lineage of the Messiah, facts unsavory to a Hebrew lineage.[8] He cites “the stigma of Ruth the Moabitess” as the reason Bethlehem is called “the lowest of the clans of Judah.”

Another Gentile appears in the lineage of David and the Messiah. Rahab, the prostitute, was spared from death after she helped the two Hebrew spies escape the Jericho King’s posse.[9] Rahab then married a Hebrew, their grandson being Boaz who married Ruth, the Moabite daughter-in-law of Naomi whose inheritance was redeemed by Ruth’s marriage. Boaz and Ruth were the grandparents of Jesse, great grandparents of King David.

Leaving no doubt his interpretation is that of a messianic prophecy, Rashi explicitly said the future ruler of Israel would be “the Messiah, Son of David” citing Psalms 118:22 as another messianic prophecy. The Messiah’s divine characteristic, “and his origin is from of old,” is called Yinnon by Rashi, a Hebrew epithet meaning “be continued.”[10]

Zechariah 12:10 is a prophecy foretelling the Messiah’s manner of death, according to Rashi. Siding with the split view of Talmud contributors in Sukkah 52, he commented, “And our Sages expounded this in tractate Sukkah (52a) as referring to the Messiah, son of Joseph, who was slain.”[11]

Christianity’s relatively close agreement with Rashi on the Messiah prophecies of Jacob, Balaam, Micah and Zechariah parts company on another prophecy, Isaiah 7:14.[12] Rashi taught Isaiah’s prophecy was not about a virgin birth, rather it referred to Manoah’s wife, mother of Sampson, the Biblical strongman.[13]

As a Rabbi, Rashi obviously did not believe Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah due in part to a particular disqualification – the fact that Jesus was killed. Specifically, according to JewishEncyclopedia.com citing Rashi, it is the circumstances of his death:

“The very form of his punishment would disprove those claims in Jewish eyes. No Messiah that Jews could recognize could suffer such a death; for “He that is hanged is accursed of God” (Deut. xxi. 23), ‘an insult to God’ (Targum, Rashi).”[14]

Crucifixion of Jesus as a historical fact is undisputed by Judaism. The birth of Jesus in Bethlehem in the royal lineage of the House of David are also undisputed facts by Judaism. The ultimate question between Christianity and Judaism remains…what are the odds Jesus was a fulfillment of the Messiah prophecies?

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REFERENCES:

[1] “Dark Ages.” New World Encyclopedia. 2013. <http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Dark_Ages>  “Middle Ages,” “Feudalism,” & “Renaissance.”  Encyclopædia Britannica.  2017. <https://www.britannica.com/event/Middle-Ages> <https://www.britannica.com/topic/feudalism> <https://www.britannica.com/event/Renaissance>  “feudal system.” Vocabulary.com. n.d. <https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/feudal%20system>
[2] “Rashi (Solomon Bar Isaac).” Jewish Encyclopedia.  2011. http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/12585-rashi-solomon-bar-isaac>  “Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (Rashi).”  Chabad.org. 2017. <http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/rabbi-shlomo-yitzchaki-rashi> Segal, Eliezer.  “Rashi’s Commentary on the Talmud.”  University of Calgary.  n.d.  <http://people.ucalgary.ca/~elsegal/TalmudMap/Rashi.html>
[3] “Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (Rashi).”  Chabad.org.
[4] Rashi. The Compete Jewish Bible – with Rashi Commentary. Gensis 49. <http://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/9952#showrashi=true>  “Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki).”  Jewish Virtual Library. 2017.  Mindel, Nissan. “Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (Rashi).”  Chabad.org.
[5] Net.bible.org. Hebrew text. <http://classic.net.bible.org/bible.php>
[6] Net.bible.org. Hebrew text shebet <07626>  Rashi. The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary  Commentary.
[7]  “Jesus of Bethlehem.” MessianicJewishTruth.com. n.d. Archive.org. 2013.  <http://web.archive.org/web/20131103080951/http://www.messianicjewishtruth.com/Jesusbethlehem.html>      “Who will emerge from Bethlehem.”  Teshuvas HaMinim.  2011.  Archive.org. 2012.  <http://web.archive.org/web/20120902023316/http://www.teshuvashaminim.com/michah51.html>
[8] Mendel. “Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki).”
[9] Joshua 2.
[10] Yinon (Yinnon).” eTeacherHebrew.com.  2016. <http://eteacherhebrew.com/Hebrew-Names/yinon-yinnonInterlinear Bible.  Psalms 72:17. BibleHub.com.  2014. <http://biblehub.com/interlinear>
[11] The Compete Jewish Bible – with Rashi Commentary. Zechariah 12:10  <http://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/63255/jewish/The-Bible-with-Rashi.htmSoncino Babylonian Talmud. Sukkah 52a. <http://www.halakhah.com/rst/moed/16b%20-%20Succah%20-%2029b-56b.pdf>
[12] The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary.  Isaiah , Chapter 7.  “Who is the Almah’s son?” Teshuvas HaMinim. 2011.  Archive.org.  2012.  <http://web.archive.org/web/20120425022737/http://www.teshuvashaminim.com/isaiah714.html>  Robinson, B.A. “Isaiah 7:14 “Behold, a virgin shall conceive…””  Religious Tolerance. 2007. <http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_proi.htm>  Gill, John.  John Gill’s Exposition of the Whole Bible.  Isaiah 7:14.  2017. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb.html>
[13] The Compete Jewish Bible- with Rashi Commentary.  Isaiah 7:14. CR Judges Chapter 13.
[14] “Jesus of Nazareth.”  Jewish Encyclopedia.  2011.;

Bethlehem – An Amazing Small Town Story

Bethlehem, one of the oldest cities in the world, should be as anonymous, if not forgotten, as nearly all the other small Judean towns of ancient Palestine. But a string of connected events over hundreds of years would not allow that to happen. It became the home town of a king, the subject of a very famous prophecy, and the town where the Gospels say Magi came to worship the child Jesus.

Sometimes called Bethlehem Ephrathah in the Old Testament or Tanakh, Bethlehem means “house of bread” or “the dwelling of bread” while Ephrathah means “fruitful.”[1] Practically a suburb of Jerusalem, it is located just 5 miles to the south.[2] Today’s Bethlehem in many ways seems to be no different than it was while under Roman rule:

“…Bethlehem, today as it was 2,000 years ago, grottoes are used as livestock pens.  Mangers are carved out of rock.  Here, in the bulls-eye of this volatile place, ringed by Jewish settlements, imprisoned within a wall, encircled by refugee camps, hidden amid a forest of minarets, tucked below the floor of an ancient church, is a silver star.  This, it’s believed, is where Jesus was born.” – National Geographic[3]

By the time Judea came under Roman rule, Bethlehem had already been a town for over a 1000 years.[4]Jacob’s wife, Rachel, died there some 2500 earlier while giving birth to Benjamin, Israel’s 12th son, and was buried in the district of Ephrath just outside of Bethlehem.[5]

Seven generations removed from another of Jacob’s son, Judah, was born Boaz of Bethlehem, famous in Hebrew lore for his story of redemption, a goel.[6] The story involved another Bethlehem resident, Naomi, and her Gentile Moabite daughter-in-law, Ruth.

Naomi’s husband and both sons had all died leaving Naomi and Ruth as widows.[7] Boaz discovered Ruth gleaning in his barley field and, through this encounter, Hebrew law allowed Boaz to redeem Naomi’s lost inheritance through marriage to Ruth.[8] To Boaz and Ruth was born Obed who would have a son named Jesse mentioned in two messiah prophecies by the prophet Isaiah.[9]

Samuel, the prophet, some 3000 years ago was sent by God to Jesse’s house in Bethlehem. His mission was to anoint one of Jesse’s sons as the king-in-waiting to replace King Saul who had rejected God.[10]

Jesse’s youngest son, David, was anointed as God’s choice to be the next king of Israel. The giant slayer went on to become the most famous king in the nation’s history. Six prophecies by three prophets would say the future Messiah would come from House of David.[11]

Generations after David’s reign Micah, the prophet, would again shine the spotlight on Bethlehem Ephrathah prophesying the future Messiah would come from that little town of the tribe of Judah. Translations of the Micah prophesy in both English and Jewish Bibles are in harmony…

Micah 5:1 (5:2) 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[12]

A 1000 years after King David’s rule, in his royal lineage Jesus of Nazareth was born in Bethlehem under bizarre, unforeseen circumstances. His parents were compelled by decree of Roman Caesar Augustus to travel 90 miles on foot from Nazareth to Bethlehem just days before his mother was to give birth. Coincidentally or not, the prophet Micah’s prophecy said the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.

Today, some 2000 years later, the famed little town of Bethlehem is the backdrop for the Christmas Nativity scene described in Matthew where Jesus was born in a stone enclave used as a barn and laid in a manger for his crib, according to Luke.

Bethlehem – an unbelievable small town story with a legacy going back three millennia. Home town of King David, the place of a messianic prophesy and the birthplace of Jesus of Nazareth, the most controversial personage in human history. An improbable coincidence or a fulfillment of prophecy?

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

REFERENCES:

[1] Ryrie Study Bible.  Ed. Ryrie Charles C.  Trans. New American Standard.  Moody Press. 1978. Footnote on Micah 5:2.   The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi’s Commentary.  Micah – Chapter 5 commentary.
[2] Map of Israej (untitled)l.  Google Maps.  n.d.  <https://www.google.com/maps/@31.743205,35.21307,13z?hl=en>  Josephus, Flavius.  Antiquities of the Jews. Book VII, Chapter XII. The Complete Works of Josephus. 1850.  <http://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false>
[3] Finkel, Michael.  “Bethlehem 2007 A.D.” National Geographic.  December, 2007.
[4] Matthew 1:5; 1 Chronicles 2:10; Ruth 4:21.
[5] Genesis 35:10; 48:7. “The Story of Abraham.”  The History of Israel.  n.d.  <http://www.israel-a-history-of.com/story-of-abraham.html>  Pratt, John P.  “Divine Calendars Testify of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”   JohnPratt.com. <http://www.johnpratt.com/items/docs/lds/meridian/2003/abraham.html> “Rachel’s Tomb.” Chabad.org. n.d. <http://www.chabad.org/special/israel/points_of_interest_cdo/aid/602502/jewish/Rachels-Tomb.htm>
[6] “Salvation” and “Hosanna.”  Jewish Encyclopedia.  2011.  link Isaiah 44:6,  23, 48:20, 52:9, 59:20.   NKJV. Net.bible.org. Ruth 2:20 Hebrew text “wnlagm.” <http://classic.net.bible.org/strong.php?id=01350>
[7] Ruth chapters 1-4.  Ryrie. “Introduction to the Book of Ruth.” Matthew 1:1-5.
[8] Net.bible.org..Ruth 2:20 Hebrew text. “goel.” Dictionary.com.
[9] Isaiah 11:1-2; 10.
[10] I Sam. 16: 4. 2 Samuel 16:11-13. I Chronicles 2:13.
[11] Isaiah 7:14; 9:6; Jeremiah 23:5; 33:14-17; 33:20-26; Zechariah 12:10-12.
[12] Jewish Publication Society (JPS) translation. 1917. “Micah.” <http://www.breslov.com/bible/Micah5.htm#3>