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 that while he believed the prophecies are about Zerubbabel, he did not rule out that this second Branch prophecy was about the Messiah.[15] Jewish sage Rabbi Maimonides, on the other hand, 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?

 

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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>