A Connection – Branch Prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Zechariah?

Three Hebrew prophets over the span of 200 years – Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Zechariah – had one specific prophecy in common.[1] All foretold of the “Branch,” similarly interpreted as the “Sprout.”

Generations after King David’s reign, some 700 years before Jesus of Nazareth was born, the remnants of David’s kingdom of Israel were in a downward death spiral. For centuries, despite many warnings from numerous prophets, the Hebrews and their kings failed to abide by their contractual Covenant made with God at Mt. Sinai.[2]

Renowned as a prophet by both Judaism and Christianity, Isaiah warned kings Ahaz and Hezekiah of the consequences their nation faced. Isaiah prophesied the “King of Babylon” would one day take away their own descendants to serve as eunuchs in his palace.[3]

Warnings also came with good tidings when Isaiah prophesied about the coming future Messiah.[4] In one, Isaiah foretold of a “Branch” who would grow out or sprout from the root of Jesse:[5]

Is 11:1-2 “There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, And a Branch shall grow out of his roots.  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.”(NKJV)

A century after Isaiah’s prophecies, defiance by the Hebrews had continued leading to the fulfillment of his prophecy that judgement would come from the King of Babylon.[6] Reality came with the attack of Nebuchadnezzar and his destruction of Jerusalem.

After a devastating defeat, the Hebrew’s finest were taken captive back to Babylon where, in the Book of Daniel, at least three upstanding Hebrews served King Nebuchadnezzar. Prophet Jeremiah added more bad news prophesying that the secession of sitting kings in the House of David would end with Jeconiah aka Jehoiachin.[7]

Amidst the doom and gloom, Jeremiah also predicted good news about the coming Messiah. Twice the prophet foretold that God would raise up another King in the lineage of David, “a Branch of Righteous.” Curiously, Jewish sage Rabbi Rashi offered no commentary on either of these prophecies, perhaps because no commentary was necessary:

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…”” (NKJV)

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…’” (NKJV)

Moving ahead another century since Jeremiah’s prophecies, the 70 years of the Babylonian captivity had ended with the Medes and Persian invasion.[8] Two centuries earlier, Isaiah twice prophesied a ruler named Cyrus would rise who would allow Jerusalem to be rebuilt – Cyrus was the name of the new Persian Empire ruler who did exactly that.[9]

Darius followed Cyrus as ruler of the Persian Empire and honored Cyrus’ decree for the Hebrews to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple.[10] Zechariah 1:1 – “In the eighth month of the second year of Darius, the word of the LORD came to the prophet Zechariah son of Berekiah, the son of Iddo.” [11]

Describing his fourth vision, Zechariah was present when Joshua the Priest stood before the angel of the LORD along with Satan who was there to accuse the priest. Satan was rebuked by God and Joshua was given fine new clothes.[12] In the vision, God then spoke directly to the high Priest:[13]

Zech 3:8 “‘Now listen, Joshua the high priest, you and your friends who are sitting in front of you—indeed they are men who are a symbol, for behold, I am going to bring in My servant the Branch.’” (NASB)

God identified the Branch as “My servant.” Incidentally, the central figure of the parashah prophecy of Isaiah 52-53 is also “My servant” who is subjected to unusual cruelties consistent with a Roman crucifixion described in the Gospels.

Narrating his eighth vision, Zechariah received instructions from God to choose people from among the exiles to make a crown of gold and silver, then set it upon the head of Joshua, the high Priest. Zechariah was directed to then deliver this message to the Priest:

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)

Joshua, the high Priest, was not from the royal lineage of King David. Nor was he expected to be made a king when the symbolic crown was set upon his head, especially since the Hebrews were subservient to an accommodating ruler, Darius. Neither was Zerubbabel given the crown, technically the rightful heir to the throne being the grandson of Jeconiah, the last sitting king in the royal secession of David before the Babylonian captivity.[14]

No one person present at this event is the focus of God’s message, rather it pointed to someone else in the future named the Branch. Rabbi Rashi commented he believed the prophecies were in reference to Zerubbabel while acknowledging others viewed it as referring to the Messiah.[15] Jewish sage Rabbi Maimonides  is one who viewed Zechariah 6:12 as a Messiah prophecy.[16]

Prophecies from Isaiah before the Babylonian captivity, Jeremiah during the Babylonian captivity and Zechariah after the Babylon captivity, point to a future figure called the Branch in the lineage of King David. Viewed as Messiah prophecies, at least in part, by both Judaism and Christianity, what are the odds that Jesus of Nazareth is the fulfillment of the Branch prophecies?

 

Creative Commons License

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

REFERENCES:

[1] “Isaiah.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2019. <https://www.britannica.com/biography/Isaiah> “Isaiah.” New World Encyclopedia. 2018. <https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Isaiah>  “Jeremiah.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2019. <https://www.britannica.com/biography/Jeremiah-Hebrew-prophet>  “Jeremiah.” New World Encyclopedia. 2018. <http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Jeremiah>  “Zechariah.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2019. <https://www.britannica.com/topic/biblical-literature/The-last-six-minor-prophets#ref597798>  “Zechariah, Book of.” New World Encyclopedia. 2013. <http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Zechariah,_Book_of>
[2] Exodus 24:3-8.  CR Deuteronomy 29.
[3] Isaiah 39:7. “ben.” Netbible.org. <http://classic.net.bible.org/strong.php?id=01121>
[4] I Chronicles 2:11-13; 2 Ruth 4:17.
[5] The Complete Jewish Bible – with Rashi Commentary. Rashi commentary on Isaiah 11:1.   <https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16210/showrashi/true> CR Isaiah 9:6-7; 11:10.  CR 1 Chronicles 2:12-15, 3:16-18; Ruth 4:21-22; Matthew 1:5-16; Luke 2:4; 23-31.  Ryrie. “Introduction to the Book of Isaiah.”
[6] Jeremiah 24:10-16; 52:27-33; Esther 2:6; 2 Kings 24:6, 8, 12, 14-15; 25:27, 29
[7] Chronicles 36:8, 9; Jeremiah 22:24-30. CR Jeremiah 24:1; 27:20; 28:4; 29:2, 52:31, 33; 1 Chronicles 3:16, 17; 24:15; 2 Chronicles 36:8, 9; Esther 2:6; 2 Kings 24:6, 8, 12, 15; 25:27, 29; Ezekiel 1:2.
[8] 2 Chronicles 36:22; Ezra 2:1.
[9] Isaiah 44:28, 45:1, 13; Ezekiel 1:2-3.  CR Ezra 2:1-2; Nehemiah 7:6; Isaiah 41:2-3, 25, 27; 43:9, 21; 48:14-15.  Josephus, Flavius. Antiquities of the Jews. Book XI, Chapters I.1-2. Trans. and commentary.  William Whitson.  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>
[10] Ezekiel 1:2-3, 6:7,12. “Darius I.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2019. <https://www.britannica.com/biography/Darius-I> Josephus. Antiquities. Book XI, Chapters III.8, IV.1-2.
[11] NET, NIV. “Darius I.” Encyclopædia Britannica.
[12] Zechariah 3.
[13] 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>
[14] I Chronicles 3:17-19; Haggai 1:1, 12, 14; 2:2, 23; Ezra 3:8.
[15] The Complete Jewish Bible – with Rashi Commentary. Rashi commentary on Zechariah 6:12.   <https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16210/showrashi/true>
[16] Maimonides, “Letter to the South (Yemen)”. p374.  Neubauer and Driver.  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>

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?


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

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.