Once again, I am posting something I have prepared for a possible future study resource that I am in negotiations about. As with the Matthew 5:17 article I shared last week, this is one small part of a much larger work. The articles are short because of the nature of the work, which you will understand if and when it all comes together. Anyway, this article should be less controversial, but I’d be interested in feedback. Anything surprising here? Anything written in a less than clear fashion? Anything you feel should be challenged?
Matthew 1:1 is about “Yeshua the Messiah.” The term “Messiah” is subject to a variety of misunderstandings. A simplistic idea, which has no biblical basis, is that all the faithful people in the Bible, from Adam onward, looked forward to the coming of a person who would be known as “the Messiah.” The real history of the Messiah concept is far more interesting.
Early on in the scriptural tradition there are hints of the Messiah concept. Abraham knew that his “seed” would bless all the families on the earth (Gen. 22:18), though not that this could refer to one person in particular. Jacob told his sons the rulership would belong to the tribe of Judah “until he comes to whom [obedience] belongs” (Gen. 49:10). Balaam foresaw a star rising in Jacob (Num. 24:17). None of these yet could be understood as a Messiah figure.
To really understand the Messiah concept, we must follow the story of King David and God’s promise to him: “your throne will be set up forever” (2 Sam. 7:16). The end of David’s line in 586 B.C.E., the renewed hope of the returning exiles that Zerubbabel would resume the Davidic line, and the plaintive cry of Psalm 89 (“you spurned your anointed one”) led to the expectation of a coming king, a Son of David.
The prophets spoke of such a coming king who would bring justice and peace to Israel and even to the ends of the earth:
Hosea 3:5 (David, their King).
Micah 5:1-4 (A Ruler from of Old).
Isaiah 9:1-7 (Light of Galilee, Prince of Peace).
Isaiah 11:1-16 (Root of Jesse, Righteous Judge).
Isaiah 61:1-3 (Healer of the Broken-Hearted).
Jeremiah 23:5-6 (Branch of David).
Jeremiah 30:21 (The Leader in the Last Days).
Jeremiah 33:14-26 (Branch of David).
Ezekiel 21:25-27 (The One to whom it Belongs).
Ezekiel 34:23-21 (The One Shepherd).
Ezekiel 37:24-28 (David, my Servant).
Daniel 7:13-14 (Son of Man).
Zechariah 9:9-10 (The King on a Donkey).
By the time of Yeshua, there were different ideas about the Messiah. The Essenes believed in two Messiahs, a Davidic king and a Priestly teacher: “this passage refers to the Shoot of David, who will arise with the Teacher of the Law” (4Q174 3.11). Some texts from the period speak of Messiah in very human terms while a few speak of him as a supernatural figure. The concept of Messiah was so subject to interpretation, Josephus could even claim that the Roman Emperor, Vespasian, was Messiah (The Jewish War 6.312-315).
Even the disciples of Yeshua did not understand the Messiah concept the way Yeshua did. Connecting prophecies of a suffering Messiah figure with the one expected to come was not an easy concept to grasp. Scriptures such as Zechariah 12:10, Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12, and Daniel 9:25-26 were not part of the usual compendium of Messianic texts. Thus, when Yeshua spoke of his death, the disciples objected (Matt. 16:22). When Yeshua died, they were despondent and did not believe he would rise (Mark 16:1).
Thus, it is easy to see why the Jewish community today finds it difficult to accept Yeshua as Messiah. It was difficult then as well. Yet, since we believe he is truly risen from the dead, and understand in retrospect that Messiah was to suffer as well as to reign, we can assert that Yeshua is indeed Messiah. He has suffered for the transgressions of Israel and the world and he is coming again to reign as the Son of David.