Psalms – Are Any Messiah Prophecies?

Psalms are quoted in the New Testament more than any other book from the Old Testament, the Tenakh.[1] Often associated with King David such as praises, songs, travails, salvation; some describe characteristics of God; others are considered parallels to the Messiah – are any Psalms prophecies about the Messiah?[2]

Psalms identified by Jesus of Nazareth as prophecies to be fulfilled by him raises the bar to the highest level – he must fulfill them if his claim to be the Messiah is credible.

MT: 5:17-18 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. (NRSV) [*] [3]

Pharisees had been watching and listening to Jesus since early in his ministry. At one point, Jesus took an opportunity to engage them directly asking, “”What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?”[4] Thinking the question was simple, they answered, “The son of David.” Jesus pointedly quoted from Psalms 110:1:

MT 22:43-45 …”How then does David in the Spirit call Him ‘Lord,’ saying: ‘The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool’? If David then calls Him ‘Lord,’ how is He his Son?” (NKJV)

PS 110:1 ‘The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool”’? (NKJV)

No answer came from the Pharisees, according to Matthew. They were unable to debunk Psalms 110:1 as a Messiah prophecy.

Visiting Bethany days just before entering Jerusalem for the last time, curiously the Pharisees warned Jesus to leave because Tetrarch Herod Antipas wanted to kill him. Ignoring the warning, Jesus said he was busy casting out demons and performing cures, then finished with a prophecy quoting from Psalms 118:26:

LK 13:35 “I say to you, you shall not see Me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’” (NKJV)

PS .118:26 “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! We have blessed you from the house of the LORD.” (NKJV)

Days later, known in Christianity as “Palm Sunday, Jesus rode into the city seated on the unbroken colt of a donkey with the people of the crowd chanting and placing palm branches in his path:[5]

JN 12:12-13  “… a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out: “Hosanna! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’ The King of Israel!””[6]

All four Gospel authors write about that triumphal day when Jesus entered Jerusalem. Citing the Gospel of John, JewishEncyclopedia.com states: [7]

“According to John xii. 13…which has the story preserved in its original form, the same cry was raised by the multitude on the occasion of Jesus’ arrival at Jerusalem. They “took branches of palm-trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord”—that is, the verse following “Anna Adonai hoshi’ah-nna” in the Hallel psalm— and then called him “the King of Israel.”

Judaism regards Psalms 118 as the concept of salvation pointing to the arrival of the Messiah recited in the Hallel during Festival holidays.[8] JewishEncyclopedia.com articulates, “The Psalm verses recited have been interpreted by the Rabbis also as referring to the advent of the Messiah (see Midr. Teh. to Ps. cxviii. 17, 21, 22; comp. Matt. xxi. 42).”[9]

MT 21:42 “”Have you never read in the scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes’?” (NRSV)

PS 118:22-23 “The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes” (NRSV)

Jewish sage Rabbi Rashi viewed Micah 5:1 (5:2 in Christian translations) as a prophecy predicting the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. Breaking down the prophecy phrase by phrase, he commented “from you shall emerge for Me the Messiah, son of David, and so Scripture says (Ps. 118:22): ‘The stone the builders had rejected became a cornerstone.” Intriguingly, Rashi did not provide a similar commentary for Psalms 118:22.

Teaching in the Temple just 3 days before he would be crucified, the Pharisees again questioned Jesus by what authority he was teaching. His answer included one of the few parables common to Mathew, Mark and Luke.[10]

Payment was due for the lease of his tenant’s crops so the owner of the vineyard sent one, then a second servant to collect the debt. Both were beaten and stoned by the tenants even killing the last one. The vineyard owner then sent his own son to collect the debt thinking surely they would respect him, but they killed his son, too.

“Bring those wretches to a wretched end!” responded the Pharisees.[11] For the second time in a week, Jesus then quoted from Psalms 118:22. Realizing the parable was about them, “They wanted to arrest Jesus, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet.”[12]

Passover meal became “The Last Supper” for Jesus.[13] As they were eating, Jesus identified a prophecy soon to be fulfilled and he didn’t want there to be any question about it. He quoted Psalm 41:9 as a prophecy of duplicity foretelling he would be imminently betrayed by one of his own Disciples.[14]

JN 13:18-19 “I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfil the scripture: ‘He who shares my bread has lifted up his heel against me.’ “I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am He. (NIV)

PS 41:9 Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me. (NIV)

Once Judas Iscariot knew his unscrupulous intentions were known by Jesus, he quickly left the Passover meal. His act of betrayal occurred just hours later.[15]

During his nighttime trial by the Sanhedrin, Jesus spoke only once. When he did, it was consequential in more ways than one. Admitting he is the Messiah, he again quoted from Psalms 110:1. “‘I am,’ said Jesus, ‘and you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand  of the Power and coming with the clouds of heaven.’”[16]

Psalms 22 is generally recognized by Christianity as either a foreshadowing or prophecy about the crucifixion of Jesus. The 1000-year older Psalm describes physical and metal effects that remarkably match an execution by Roman crucifixion as well as three specific actions by others, mocking, gambling and piercing. In his excruciating dying moments on the cross, Jesus quoted Psalms 22:1:

MK 15:34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

PS 22:1 …“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?” (NIV)

“Why have you forsaken me?” Rashi commented, “David recited this prayer for the future.” Later in verse 27 commenting on the phrase “The humble shall eat,” the Rabbi said this meant “at the time of our redemption in the days of our Messiah.”[17]

If the Psalms identified by Jesus as prophecies later matched actual events that occurred during his life and crucifixion, is Jesus then the Messiah and does it make these Psalms Messiah prophecies?

 

[*] Greek word nomos translated as “law” means “anything established, anything received by usage, a custom, a law, a command” i.e. the word includes the Law of Moses as well as other established laws, customs or traditions.

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REFERENCES:

[1] “44 Prophecies Jesus Christ Fulfilled.” Roman Catholic Church of St Thomas More, Swiss Cottage. n.d. <https://parish.rcdow.org.uk/swisscottage/wp-content/uploads/sites/52/2014/11/44-Prophecies-Jesus-Christ-Fulfilled.pdf> Kranz, Jeffrey. “Which Old Testament Book Did Jesus Quote Most?” 2014. <http://blog.biblia.com/2014/04/which-old-testament-book-did-jesus-quote-most> Morales. L. Michael “Jesus and the Psalms.” TheGospelCoalition.org. 2011. <https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/jesus-and-the-psalms>  Wilson, Ralph F. “10. Psalms: Looking Forward to the Messiah.” (Psalms 2, 110, and 22).” JesusWalk.com. 2020. <http://www.jesuswalk.com/psalms/psalms-10-messianic.htm>
[2] “Hallel.” MyJewishLearning.com. 2020. <https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/hallel>
[3] “nomos <3551>.” Greek text. Net.Bible.org. 2020. <http://classic.net.bible.org/strong.php?id=3551>  “G3551” LexiconConcordance.com. n.d.  <http://lexiconcordance.com/greek/3551.html>
[4] NET, NIV, NASB, NRSV, NKJV. NetBible.org. Greek text. <http://classic.net.bible.org/verse.php?book=Mat&chapter=22&verse=42> Lexicon-Concordance Online Bible. n.d. <http://lexiconcordance.com/greek/5547.html>
[5] CR Matthew 21:2-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-40; John 12:12-16.
[6] NKJV.
[7] “Hosanna.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/7893-hosanna>
[8] “Psalms 118.” JewwishAwareness.org. 2011. <http://www.jewishawareness.org/psalm-118>  McKelvey, Michael G. “The Messianic Nature of Psalm 118.” Reformed Faith & Practice. 2017. <https://journal.rts.edu/article/messianic-nature-psalm-118> “Hallel” EncyclopædiaBritannica. 2020. <https://www.britannica.com/topic/Hallel>
[9] “Hosanna.” Jewish Encyclopedia. <http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/7893-hosanna>  CR Mark 12:11; Luke 20:17.
[10] Matthew 21:33-41; Mark 12:1-12; Luke 20:9-19.
[11] Matthew 21:42. NIV, NASB.
[12] Matthew 21:46. NRSV.
[13] Matthew 26:17-19; Mark 14:12-16; Luke 22:7-20; John 13:1-3.
[14] CR Matthew 26:21-25; Mark 14:17-21; Luke 22:21-23.
[15] Matthew 26:46-56; Mark 14:42-52; Luke 22:47-53; John 18:1-11.
[16] Mark 14:62. NIV. CR Matthew 26:64. Luke 22:69-70.
[17] The Compete Jewish Bible – with Rashi Commentary. K’tuvim – Scriptures | Tehillim – Psalms, Chapter 22.  <http://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/63255/jewish/The-Bible-with-Rashi.htm>