Old Testament Prophesies in the New Testament
Concerning the Promised Messiah
An important key to understanding the prophecies of the Jewish Bible (the Old Testament) which are quoted in the Christian Scriptures (the New Testament) concerning the promised Messiah, is simply to place ourselves in the shoes of those to whom they are spoken. Those prophesies were not delivered to today's Church-goers who have rarely if ever read the Jewish Bible. The audience of Yeshua and His disciples were generally men who had been taught the oracles of GOD since they were old enough to reason. To them, the Jewish Bible was not an important book which they intended to someday read. Nay, it was their only book. It was the book most of them would come to know by heart, some to even memorize. So when some particular prophecy is spoken or referred to by Yeshua or His disciples, their audience instinctively recalled not the passage only, but also the entire context in which the passage was set.
To a lesser extent, we today may have a similar experience. If we hear someone declare "All men are created equal", or perhaps, "I have a dream" most of us will reflect back to the incident that reflects the times in which those statements were first immortalized. Or if we hear a single line from some old song it can take us back in time to our youth, and then we begin to recall things which we may not have thought about for years. It was even more so for the Palestinian Christian when he heard or read many of the prophecies from the Jewish Bible, which were quoted by the apostles and disciples of Yeshua.
The citizens of Israel had more than once been conquered by an invading army and carried off into bondage. Each Israelite longed for the realization of the promises spoken by the ancient prophets for their nation's return to greatness. They earnestly desired for the coming of their Messiah, their Savior, their Deliverer. Two thousand years ago many of them passionately believed that that time had finally arrived and their expectations were at a fever pitch. Whenever some particular passage concerning their nation's return to greatness was uttered, many Jews had a wave of emotions and memories sweep over them.
Howbeit, the prophecies of the Jewish Bible which were recalled in the Christian Scriptures are rarely what we might refer to as predictions. It is more the case that they run parallel to each other, or perhaps mirror or echo each other, rather than one predict the other. Back in the sixties the phrase The British are Coming was often tossed around. It referred to the arrival into America of the many British rock bands, but it mirrored or echoed the literal invasion by Britain during our Independence around 1776. This is in essence what many of the quotations in the Christian Scriptures represent, a reflection, an image of the original event, but not necessarily a fulfillment of a prediction.
We today are so accustomed to thinking that the word prophecy always means prediction that we are too often misled when we try to make sense of many of the quotations from the Christian Scriptures which refer to the promised Messiah. A prophecy is simply an utterance or oracle purported to be from GOD. It could be fore-telling, but more often it is simply forth-telling. When reading a quotation from the Christian Scriptures we should ask ourselves, Is this passage the accomplishment of a verse presumed to be a prediction, or simply a proclamation, or an elucidation upon it? The Jewish Bible and incidents from the Christian Scriptures often mirror one another, but rarely does one predict the other. Concerning the meaning of the word prophecy, the reader may want to refer to the book John the Baptist, by Henry Robert Reynolds, page 204f.
Another common and parallel misconception concerns what it means for a prophecy to be fulfilled. A prophecy from the Jewish Bible being fulfilled in the Christian Scriptures, doesn't always mean that it was the accomplishment of a prediction. Fulfilled (pleroo in the Greek) does not necessarily mean that something has been accomplished. It literally means to fill in. One might fill in a hole with dirt or fill in a net with fish, or he might fill in his work quota by executing his job or office (ACTS 13:25), or he might fill in his understanding by reading or listening. Thus, it often means simply "to expound, declare or make known", "to give the true or complete meaning of something", "to relate fully the content of a message" (Louw-Nida). Consider ROMANS 15:19, where this word pleroo is translated fully preach.
Through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached [pleroo] the gospel of Christ.
Any place from Jerusalem to Illyricum where the preaching of the gospel had been lacking, Paul filled it in. It wasn't in the sense that he accomplished a prediction, but rather that he completed a mission, a feat, or a calling.
When we take time to read so as to realize and appreciate the context and environment in which the prophecies of the Bible were first made and then later recalled, then we will more fully understand for what purpose the prophecy was quoted. Very few quotations of the Jewish Bible which are found in the Christian Scriptures are what we might today refer to as prophetic predictions. Generally, when they are referenced by the Christian writer, it was for the simple purpose of echoing or mirroring some kinship or likeness to the original passage.
A prophet was first and foremost a preacher who was inspired by GOD to speak unto the stiff-necked and rebellious people. Often in his preaching he would necessarily fore-tell the consequences of the people's disobedience, which in one sense would have been a prediction. But that was only a small part of his message, ministry and mission. He was primarily commissioned to forth-tell, to speak forth doctrine, reproof and correction to the wayward and rebellious nation.
Having said that, ever since the prediction in GENESIS 3:15 that the promised Seed would have His heal bruised while crushing the serpents head, GOD was continually moving all to this final conclusion. Each promise and prophecy, though spoken to and often about just common men, often had in view the final Servant, the great Messiah. Even though the prophet may have pointed to some hill in the distance, GOD would have had in view a far off mountain. For example, when the psalmist wrote that David became GOD's son on the day of his coronation (PSALM 2), GOD had in view HIS greater Son and His coronation on the day of His resurrection. We must learn to be able to grasp the Jewish Bible as a whole, a complete package of revelation, to fully see these truths.
We will go through the Scriptures and look at these passages from the Jewish Bible which were quoted in the Christian Scriptures concerning the promised Messiah. To get an idea of their true intent and importance we must take the time to read the context, the setting in which they were spoken and later recalled. We must do our best to recognize the mindset of the original reader of the Gospels and epistles of the Christian Scriptures. We must place ourselves in their shoes, we must sit in their pews, so to speak, if we ever hope to fully understand the writer's intent.
More often then not, when a scripture from the Jewish Bible is quoted by a Christian writer, its being fulfilled simply means that it has been recalled so as to make a point and teach a truth applicable to the writer's intent. Consider the first occurrence of the occasion of a scripture from the Jewish Bible being fulfilled in the Christian Scriptures; concerning Joseph's dream.
MATTHEW 1:20-23 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS [YESHUA]: for he shall save his people from their sins.
Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled [pleroo, expounded] which was spoken of [by] the Lord by the prophet, saying,
Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.
The stated reason for Joseph's dream was twofold; to reveal to him personally that the child was of the Holy Spirit and further that the child would eventually save His people from their sins.
This being the case, the primary purpose for the dream was not simply to reveal to Joseph that Mary was pregnant by the Holy Spirit, but more to reveal to him the special mission of the unborn child. For Joseph, a descendant of David, this would no doubt mean that the child was to be the long awaited and hoped for Messiah, which certainly must have caused him to have deep deliberations. We today cannot imagine the emotions that must have welled up within him.
Howbeit, after reading what Matthew wrote, we might be led to expect that when we go back and read the verses from the Jewish Bible relating to this incident, that we shall find it written that someday a child was to be born from a virgin which would then save his people from their sins; but that is not at all what we find.
Matthew quotes from ISAIAH.
ISAIAH 7:10-17 Moreover the LORD spake again unto Ahaz, saying, Ask thee a sign of the LORD thy God; ask it either in the depth, or in the height above. But Ahaz said, I will not ask, neither will I tempt the LORD.
And he [Isaiah] said, Hear ye now, O house of David; Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will ye weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin [young woman] shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel [GOD is with us].
Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good. For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings. The LORD shall bring upon thee, and upon thy people, and upon thy father's house, days that have not come, from the day that Ephraim departed from Judah; even the king of Assyria.
When we read the context in which this passage is set and spoken by the prophet Isaiah, we learn that in Isaiah's mind it was anything but a prophetic prediction of a coming Messiah. It had to do with a child being born from some young woman which was to be a sign that was to be given to king Ahaz. The purpose of this sign was to strengthen Ahaz's confidence in the LORD so that he wouldn't rely on foreign armies to help defend Judah.
We should probably recall the history with which this passage is set. The nation of Israel had long before split into two nations, the ten tribes of the northern kingdom (sometimes referred to as Ephraim) and the two tribes of the southern kingdom (referred to as Judah). Ahaz was king of the southern kingdom from about 741-722 B.C. Not only was his tiny nation continually threatened by the northern kingdom, but there was the ever present foreign armies of which they were always fearful. For Ahaz it was Assyria and Egypt.
Isaiah was endeavoring to reassure king Ahaz that he needn't fear, for before this promised child was old enough to "know to refuse the evil, and choose the good" both of the kings threatening Ahaz would be no more.
Because the original text of verse fourteen is in doubt, there has long been a theological debate as to whether Isaiah meant virgin or young woman. But if he had told king Ahaz that the sign GOD would give him had to do with a virgin who would give birth to a son, then Mary was not the only virgin impregnated by the holy spirit, which we can not accept.
The record in ISAIAH doesn't suggest anything unusual about the mother of the child, and if she was indeed a virgin, that would have been such an extraordinary miracle that surely a big to-do would have been made of it. The idea of her being a virgin and still giving birth to a son, would have surely overshadowed anything else about the promised sign. I don't see any way of getting around the fact that Isaiah told king Ahaz that some young woman would bear this son which was to be the sign, otherwise you have all kinds of problems to work your way out of.
Some theologians suggest that in the Christian Scriptures the Holy Spirit interprets for us the true meaning of scriptures which have been quoted from the Jewish Bible. In this incident about a virgin being pregnant, they try to tell us that Isaiah was really predicting the future birth of Christ, but that he just didn't know it. And beyond that, even though the verse doesn't say that, or anything like it, this is its true meaning.
But if the Hebrew Bible is going to be thus understood and interpreted, so that a verse intends something entirely different than that which was originally spoken, why even reference it? Why say that a verse from the Jewish Bible really meant such and such, instead of what it plainly said? What does it matter that it was ever written at all, if that when it was written it didn't mean anything like what it was understood and intended to mean? Why even tell us that all this was being done so as to accomplish the prophet's words, if to the prophet his words meant nothing of the sort?
When we consider and ponder the context in which Isaiah spoke and Matthew recalled his words in this account, we must conclude that the passage was not an accomplishment of a prediction at all. In ISAIAH the sign included the child being called Emmanuel, which means GOD with us. In MATTHEW the angel's instruction included the naming of the child Yeshua, which means Yahweh saves. If Isaiah's words were a prediction of Yeshua's conception and birth, then why didn't Isaiah get the name right? Why did Isaiah say that the child's name would be Emmanuel and not Yeshua? He evidently predicted the name of another future deliverer of his nation when he named Cyrus (44:28), so why not here with Yeshua?
To Joseph, surely the most important aspect of his dream was realizing that this unborn child was the promised Messiah who was to save His people from their sins. Matthew recalls the similarity of the two incidents of Isaiah's prophecy and Joseph's dream, but he doesn't mean that one predicts the other. They were simply both signs, the one reflecting the other. Isaiah's words were to assure king Ahaz that GOD was still with them and would deliver them from their enemies, and the angel in Joseph's dream was likewise assuring him that the unborn child was Yahweh's salvation. Just as GOD's saving power was made known to king Ahaz through an unborn child of that young woman, so HIS saving power would once again be known through the unborn child of the virgin Mary. Therefore, Joseph went ahead and took Mary as his wife and raised the child as his own.
Thus, when the Bible speaks of a scripture being fulfilled, we learn that it does not necessarily mean that some prediction has been accomplished. Fulfilled also means to expound or declare, to fully proclaim by filling in. There is actually another Greek word which does indeed mean to accomplish, and it is curious that we happen to find it in this very passage with which we have been dealing.
MATTHEW 1:22 Now all this was done [ginomai, accomplished], that it might be fulfilled [pleroo, expounded] which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet....
All this; Mary being impregnated by the holy spirit and Joseph's dream of a child being born who was to save His people from their sins, all this was done, was accomplished, so that it might be expounded and proclaimed, so that it might be understood that GOD was indeed still on HIS throne, that HE had not abandoned them, that HE was still with them, and that HE was indeed still intent upon saving them from their sins. Many centuries had passed with each generation longing for the coming of this promised Messiah. We today can't imagine the thrill, the disbelief, the utter explosion of emotion that must have swept over these believers as they each began to realize that that day had finally arrived.
Out of Bethlehem
We are told in scripture that Yeshua was indeed born in Bethlehem, but we are never told that there was ever any prophecy predicting this. The chief priests and the scribes told king Herod that this is where they expected the Messiah to be born (MATTHEW 2:4-6), and many of the people thought this also (JOHN 7:42), but Yeshua or His apostles never stated this to be the accomplishment of some prediction.
MATTHEW 2:6 And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes [thousands] of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.
The passage in the Jewish Bible from which this assumption arose was MICAH 5:2.
MICAH 5:1-5 Now gather thyself in troops, O daughter of troops: he hath laid siege against us: they shall smite the judge of Israel with a rod upon the cheek. But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting [days of old].
Therefore will he give them up, until the time that she which travaileth hath brought forth: then the remnant of his brethren shall return unto the children of Israel. And he shall stand and feed in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God; and they shall abide: for now shall he be great unto the ends of the earth. And this man shall be the peace, when the Assyrian shall come into our land: and when he shall tread in our palaces, then shall we raise against him seven shepherds, and eight principal men.
Clearly, this individual was going to stand against the Assyrian army, when they came into the land of Israel. This is a prediction which Micah looked to be accomplished in the near future. This may mirror that which Yeshua accomplished, but it can't be a prediction of His life and times.
Out of Egypt
The next occurrence of this idea of scripture being fulfilled has to do with Joseph and Mary fleeing into Egypt to escape the wrath of Herod.
MATTHEW 2:14-15 When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: and was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled [pleroo, expounded] which was spoken of [by] the Lord by [through] the prophet, saying,
Out of Egypt have I called my son.
Out of Egypt have I called my son. What did this phrase mean to the Jewish listener? Of course we today think of the incident of the Exodus, where Moses was sent by GOD to free the nation of Israel from the heavy burden of the task masters in Egypt. But Matthew's quote is not from the book of EXODUS nor any of the writings attributed to Moses. It is from the Prophet Hosea, who lived more than seven centuries after Moses and that Exodus.
HOSEA 11:1-12 When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt. As they [I] called them, so they went from them [me]: they sacrificed unto Baalim, and burned incense to graven images.
I taught Ephraim [the ten northern tribes] also to go, taking them by their arms [teaching them to walk]; but they knew not that I healed them. I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love: and I was to them as they that take off the yoke on their jaws [freed them from slavery], and I laid meat unto them.
[but despite all of that]
He [Ephraim, representing the northern tribes of Israel] shall not return into the land of Egypt, but the Assyrian shall be his king, because they refused to return [to GOD's ways]. And the sword shall abide on his cities, and shall consume his branches, and devour them, because of their own counsels. And my people are bent to backsliding from me: though they called them to the most High, none at all would exalt him.
How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee, Israel? how shall I make thee as Admah [buried beneath the dead sea]? how shall I set thee as Zeboim [destroyed along with Sodom and Gomorrah]? mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together. I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger, I will not return to destroy Ephraim: for I am God, and not man; the Holy One in the midst of thee: and I will not enter into the city.
They shall walk after the LORD: he shall roar like a lion: when he shall roar, then the children shall tremble from the west. They shall tremble as a bird out of Egypt, and as a dove out of the land of Assyria: and I will place them in their houses, saith the LORD.
Ephraim compasseth me about with lies, and the house of Israel with deceit: but Judah yet ruleth with God, and is faithful with the saints.
Clearly, Hosea was not predicting here a future incident in which the Messiah would be called out of Egypt to save Israel. He was instead recalling the long history which indeed began with GOD calling the nation of Israel out of Egypt, but he then went on to describe how after that, they turned to worship false gods. The passage in HOSEA is not a prediction of a future event but it is rather a recollection of a long history of Israel's failure to walk with GOD, and GOD's enduring mercy and forgiveness and compassion towards them. And this is also what Matthew is doing, recollecting the history of his nation and people, and the fact that GOD has not forgotten them.
When Matthew quoted what Hosea wrote, that Out of Egypt have I called my son, his Jewish audience would naturally recall how Hosea wrote of the whole miserable history of their nation. They would remember how their forefathers were indeed called out of Egypt, but then they began to worship false gods and subsequently they were decimated by enemy invaders. But also his audience would recall how GOD had given their nation a hope of redemption, which Matthew was then announcing.
Ever since GOD had sent Moses to rescue the people out of Egypt, Israel had so often fallen short of their calling. Time and time again they had turned from the GOD of their deliverance unto false gods. Time after time GOD had given them up to their passions only to accept them back again after they had repented and realized their error. It all came to a terrible head when in the days of Hosea, the ten tribes of the northern kingdom were completely over-run by the treacherous armies of Assyria and finally carried off as slaves to a distant land. During the days leading up to this catastrophe, the Prophet had pleaded with them to forsake their false gods and return to their Savior GOD but they would pay him no heed.
A couple of centuries later, some would be allowed to return to the homes of their ancestors and try to rebuild their temple, and nation and lives. But then during the next five centuries they were again and again under a foreigner's thumb, subservient to some invader, whether it was Egypt, Greece, Syria or Rome.
This is the setting of the verse we are considering. This is the history that Matthew is recalling in quoting the passage. This is the history that Matthew's listeners are all too familiar with. Now, after so many centuries of Israel waiting for their Redeemer, their Savior, He has finally arrived. At long last the remnant will come to know the LORD. Once again they are being called out of Egypt, out of the land of bondage, but this time, instead of going through the wilderness to the Land of Canaan, they will be entering into the Kingdom of Heaven. With this one sentence from HOSEA Matthew is recalling all of their long history; all of their failings and heartbreaks, all of their turning away and turning back. No longer need the people be destroyed for a lack of knowledge (HOSEA 4:6), for now all shall know HIM, all shall be taught of HIM, for unto them the Savior from GOD is born.
This idea of GOD calling Israel out of Egypt was a huge concept for the people. Practically the whole of the Hebrew Bible touched upon it. Their entire history was wrapped up in it. GOD calling HIS son out of Egypt was not the fulfillment of a prediction written ages before in the scriptures of the Hebrew Bible. Rather, it was the end of a long journey for these sojourners. It was the final destination of many centuries of wandering. It was them finally going home. It was the final boarding call, the last flight out. It wasn't a prediction, it was a recollection. Perhaps we might think of it as an echo or a reflection of the single episode in the Jewish Bible when they came to fully believe GOD.
Joseph and Mary evidently believed that Yeshua was the long awaited Messiah. As they were returning from Egypt after the death of Herod, what might we suppose that they were thinking? What was crowding their minds as they trekked through the desert sand? No doubt their thoughts were filled with what lie ahead. They were indeed carrying back to their beloved homeland its Savior and Deliverer.
And what of the heavenly host? What excitement must have filled their ranks as the family returned from Egypt. The entire cosmos was no doubt filled with electricity as they watched GOD's purposes being unfolded and accomplished. And what of the Jew's enemy? What dread and anguish must have overcome him and his host of evil spirits as the Royal family of David approached.
This march of Joseph and Mary and Yeshua out of Egypt was as real and powerful as was the march of Moses and Miriam and Joshua almost fifteen centuries earlier. Out of Egypt have I called MY Son had come full circle. Long before, Moses had led the young nation towards the Promised Land of Canaan. This time, still as a young child, Yeshua was advancing towards them, to lead them into His heavenly kingdom. Thus, the long centuries of trials and tribulations for the chosen people was fast coming to an end.
Rachel Weeping for her Children
The third reference to scripture being fulfilled is concerning the incident of king Herod slaying the children of Bethlehem and then Matthew quoting Jeremiah's prophecy of Rachel weeping for her children.
MATTHEW 2:16-18 Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men. Then was fulfilled [expounded] that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying,
In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.
Matthew's quotation of this prophecy is not a prediction from the Jewish Bible that someday a king Herod would kill these children in Bethlehem, but was again a recollection and remembrance, an echo of the history of their nation.
JEREMIAH 31:15-17 Thus saith the LORD; A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping; Rahel weeping for her children refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not.
Thus saith the LORD; Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears: for thy work shall be rewarded, saith the LORD; and they shall come again from the land of the enemy. And there is hope in thine end, saith the LORD, that thy children shall come again to their own border.
The prophet Jeremiah is not only recalling the past but he is also predicting the not so distant future for his listeners. Many citizens of the northern kingdom, represented by Manasseh and Ephraim, had been brutally killed by the invading armies of the Assyrians a hundred years before, around 721 B.C. Now in Jeremiah's time, the Babylonians were fixed to do the same thing to the southern kingdom of Judah. Howbeit, Jeremiah predicted a future where someday their people would be allowed to return to their homeland and rebuild their cities and Temple.
The prophet is speaking of and predicting a new exodus for the nation of Israel. They were soon to be over-run and carried off as slaves to a foreign land, but Jeremiah is foretelling of a day when they shall be brought back, which occurred in 536 B.C. He recalls the terrible incident of the slaughter of the northern kingdom, but then adds in the next verse, "Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears", for "they shall come again from the land of the enemy". This whole context of the nation's complete destruction and later return to the promised land is what Matthew's readers will be remembering and considering by his quotation of this passage.
Again, it is not on Jeremiah's mind to predict the slaughter of the infants in Bethlehem, but Matthew quotes the verse knowing that his readers will recall the context in which it is set, that another great exodus was to occur wherein all the exiles would be allowed to return. And this is again what the coming of the Messiah meant for the nation. They would finally regain all that which they had lost, and enter into their new heavenly kingdom.
Called a Nazarene
Usually a mistake is here made between being a Nazarene, which Yeshua was, and being a Nasserite, which He wasn't. Though the two words are similar in English, they are not similar in Hebrew nor Aramaic.
MATTHEW 2:21-23 And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee: and he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.
The whole point of the passage is to stress the fact that Joseph did not return from Egypt with his family, to then dwell in Bethlehem or even Jerusalem, two familiar and prestigious places, but he was instead directed to go to despised Galilee, and further into doubly despised Nazareth.
In his work, A Practical Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, in a note on pages 25-26, James Morison sums up nicely the meaning and method of the Evangelist in this passage.
VER. 23. And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: The construction is somewhat complicated in the original, inasmuch as, instead of in a city, the evangelist's expression is to or into a city. The idea however is obvious: And having come to or into a town called Nazareth, he settled there. Nazareth was an insignificant Galilean town or village, never mentioned in the Old Testament Scriptures or in Josephus. It lay, nestlingly, among the hills that constitute the southern ridges of Lebanon, just before they sink into the plain of Esdraelon. It derives all its significance from its connection with Christ. That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene: The expression by or through the 'prophets' should be noted. It indicates that the evangelist is not referring to any one prediction in particular; he is rather gathering together several prophetic statements, and translating their import into the peculiarly significant phraseology of his own time and locality. To be called a Nazarene was to be spoken of as despicable. Galilee, in the days of the evangelist, was the Boeotia of the Jews. And the Galilean element of contemptibility was regarded as reaching its climax, or rather its bathos, its inmost and utmost intensification, in Nazareth. When Nicodemus said to the chief priests and Pharisees, Does our law judge any man before it hear him, and know what he is about? he got cast in his teeth the scornful retort, Art thou also of Galilee? Search and look; for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet. (John vii. 52.) And even the ingenuous Nathanael, when accosted by Philip, who said to him, We have found Him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph, instantaneously retorted, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? (John i. 46.) So utterly despicable was Nazareth; so thoroughly did the idea suggested by the word Nazarene run down into the idea that is embodied in the word despised and despicable. The very name indeed of Nazareth was suggestive of insignificance; in Hebrew it meant sprout (nezer). And, remarkable to note, this same Hebrew name, with all its inherent insignificance of import, is the designation that is prophetically given to the Messiah in Isa. xi. 1, where He is represented as a lowly Sprout or Sucker from the stump of Jesse. The stately tree of the great royal house had been cut down to the ground; and thus, when the Messiah appeared, He had to grow up as an humble sprout- a Nezer- from the roots of Jesse. Hence when He professed to be the long promised Son and Heir of David, His profession was treated with the utmost scorn. The very fact that He grew up at the Galilean Nazareth, a town that was but as an insignificant sprout by the side of other towns, and that was inhabited only by insignificant people, people who were extremely poor and extremely illiterate, was sufficient reason, in the estimation of the great body of the chief priests and scribes and Pharisees, why He should be despised and rejected. Hence when it was predicted by the prophets that He should be despised of the people, despised and esteemed not, a reproach of men, a proverb to men, a root out of a dry ground (see Ps. lxix. 11, 19, etc.), their prophecies were but a peculiar way of saying, He shall be called a Nazarene. In the fact therefore that He was brought up at Galilean Nazareth we have at once a fulfillment of the prediction that He was to be, not a lofty branch on the summit of the Davidic tree, but as a lowly sprout from the roots of Jesse, and at the same time a corresponding fulfillment of all those other and kindred predictions that depict the meanness of His outward condition, and the consequent and involved contempt that was poured upon His head and broke His heart (Ps. lxix, 19, 20). This interpretation of the evangelist's reference to what was spoken through the prophets is much to be preferred to the interpretation espoused by Calvin, Grotius, Wetstein and others, who suppose that in the word Nazarene there is a covert reference to the word nazarite, which means a separated, holy, self-sacrificing one. Jesus, it is true, was, when viewed in a lofty plane of things, a nazarite indeed; though, when viewed in a lower plane, He came eating and drinking, and acting in all such matters as men in general, and not as a nazarite. But whether we view Him in the one plane, or look at Him in the other, there is no connection whatsoever between the word nazarite, or more properly nazirite, and Nazareth. In English they are similar, but in Hebrew they are radically different.
Thus we have here in this passage a reference to what the prophets expected their Messiah to be; a stone set aside, cast aside, only at last to be fount just right, just perfect for the keystone of the archway.
The Voice of One Crying in the Wilderness
Now we come to a reference of John the Baptist and his calling.
MATTHEW 3:1-3 In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, and saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying,
The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. (see also MARK 1:2-3 LUKE 3:4-6 JOHN 1:23)
We might be led to suppose that Esaias (Isaiah) had predicted the future calling of John, who was to preach and thereby prepare the way for Yeshua's ministry, but that is not at all what this passage from the Jewish Bible refers to. Remember, prophecy can be either fore-telling or forth-telling.
ISAIAH 40:1-5 Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD'S hand double for all her sins.
The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: and the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.
The orientalism involved in Isaiah's quote is describing the visiting of a foreign ruler to some particular province. The roads in those days were practically non-existent and so when the king was approaching, the locals would be recruited to clear his way, by removing the rubble, filling in again what the rains had washed out and generally making his journey more pleasant.
The exact situation of Isaiah's prophecy is that we have the heavenly hosts in council, with GOD instructing his messenger to cry forth the announcement of the coming release and exodus of HIS people.
The doubling of their sins meant this: when a person owed debts which he couldn't pay, then the judge would have all of these debts listed on a sheet of papyrus paper and then fasten it to the city gate where all who passed by could see his sins and debts listed. If some benefactor saw fit to pay his debts for him, then they would take the paper and fold it in half, doubling it. Then they would reattach it to the gate leaving only his name visible, so that all could see that his sins and debts had been absolved. This is what Isaiah was referring to in the prophecy. Israel's sins, her debts, were to be fully redeemed, thus doubled. (see also ISAIAH 43:25 and 44:22)
Isaiah's prophecy was mirroring the original exodus from Egypt and comparing that with the anticipated exodus back from Assyria to Jerusalem when someday his nation would be freed from the heavy hand of its oppressors. John the Baptist was echoing both of those previous exoduses with the great and final exodus he saw on the horizon, the way back from sin unto the kingdom of heaven. That kingdom, John declares, is at hand! That Way was GOD's own Son, Yeshua the Messiah, for He plainly and boldly declared, I am the Way! (JOHN 14:6).
Cast Thyself Down
Here we have a passage purported to refer to Yeshua, yet alleged only so by His adversary. Yeshua has been tempted to turn a stone into a loaf of bread, and now is tempted to prove Himself to be the Messiah by casting Himself down from the precipice of the temple into the courtyard below.
MATTHEW 4:5-7 Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, and saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.
The devil tried to do with Yeshua what many try to do with Christians today. A scripture which might mirror or allude in some way to our lives, they tell us that it was written specifically to us. One such passage might be 3rd JOHN 2 where John wrote to a certain Gaius that he wished above all things that Gaius would prosper and be in health. Then our teachers proceed to try and tell us that this is GOD's will for us. That may or may not be the case, but this passage certainly doesn't say that. It was from John to Gaius, not from GOD to us.
The passage from which the adversary quotes in his temptation is from the 91st psalm.
PSALM 91:1-16 He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust. Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence. He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.
Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday. A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.
Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked. Because thou hast made the LORD, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; there shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.
For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone. Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet.
Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name. He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him. With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation.
Clearly this psalm was not written as a prediction of Yeshua's temptation in the wilderness, but can apply to any believer who puts his trust in GOD. Let's consider a few defining comments on this passage from James Morison, again in a footnote in his A Practical Commentary on the Gospel according to Matthew, pages 47-48. This might help us to understand the injury that can be caused when one misapplies scripture.
VER. 6. And saith to Him, If Thou be GOD's Son: The tempter holds on to the declaration from on high, made at the Savior's baptism, a declaration that had probably unfolded the infolded self consciousness of our Lord into the sublimest aspirations and resolves. The tempter as it were suggested to our Lord, when perched upon the precipitous wing of the temple, No doubt Thou art confident that Thou art God's Son. Well; verify Thy confidence to Thyself. Make full proof of it. It was befitting, perchance, that Thou shouldest not demonstrate Thy Divine Sonship by turning stones into bread. It was right, it was seemly, it was beautiful, to trust in Thy Heavenly Father that He would sustain Thy body by other than ordinary means. Such unwavering trustfulness is worthy of sonship and Thyself. Trust still. Go on trusting. Thou canst not trust too much. Make full proof of Thy Sonship. Such we may suppose to have been the diabolic preparation for the second temptation, a preparation involved in the very attitude of our Savior on His perilous perch. Cast Thyself down: And trust. Then Thou shalt have full proof of Thy Divine Sonship; and not only Thou, but Jerusalem too. What a glorious start for an illustrious career! What! doth Thou hesitate? Does Thy trust now falter and grow less? Surely not. Cast Thyself down. For it is written- it has been written, it stands written- that He will give His angels charge concerning thee; and on their hands they will bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. The quotation is from Psalm xci. 11, 12. It is as if the tempter had said, What danger can there be? Is there not good ground for trusting in Thy Father's protecting care? Will He not give His angels charge concerning Thee? Why distrust? Thou hast quoted Scripture to vindicate Thy trust in reference to sustenance without bread. It was well. There is Scripture to warrant Thy reliance in casting Thyself down from this height. If it is a promise that is applicable to every good man, much more must it be applicable to Thee, if Thou be indeed God's peculiar and Messianic Son. Such was the temptation. It was a temptation to presumptuous trust, trust for protection and immunity from evil, when danger is tampered with. It is a temptation that ruins many of the more aspiring sons of men. It is felt often in reference to merely physical achievements and feats. It is felt more fatally in commercial daring and venture. But its most lamentable consequences are experienced on the field of morals....The passage quoted brings into view the tender care of God over "him who dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High." It was eminently applicable to Jesus, though of course not in the way that was suggested by the tempter. The ministering angels do act by God's direction like tender nurses who, when the little one committed to their charge is learning to walk, lift him up as he comes to stone places, and bear him forward supported by their hands, lest he should dash his foot against a stone, and stumble, and be hurt and fall. The inapplicability of the passage to the case suggested by the tempter will appear on considering Christ's reply.
VER. 7. Jesus said to him, It stands written again: Viz. in Deut. vi. 16. The word again doubles back on the quotation from Scripture adduced by the tempter: It stand written on the other hand. It is as if Jesus had said,- True there is the precious promise which you quote; but it was never intended to be of absolutely unconditional application. Its applicability to Me must be contingent on My observance of the laws or rules that are elsewhere laid down for the regulation of human life. The sons of God are to trust in God for protection when they are in the way of their duty, but not when, without any call of duty, they recklessly choose to expose themselves to danger.
Thus we have here a powerful example in this passage concerning Yeshua's temptation, perhaps an example of our own temptation. Are we tempted to stand firm upon a passage which was never written to or for us? Are we tempted to misapply scripture to ourselves or our circumstances, when they were never intended to be thus interpreted? The words of GOD are life indeed, but never outside of the context in which they were intended. That is a dangerous course to pursue and one that has hurt, even destroyed many a new believer.
The Zeal of THINE House
Yeshua had not long before turned the water into wine in the company of His mother and disciples. Some time later He and His disciples went up to Jerusalem for the annual Passover. We should expect that His brothers followed along as they had been with Him just prior. Howbeit, we know from other records that His brothers did not believe in Him, so they were no doubt skeptical as they watched His shocking and most unprecedented manner.
JOHN 2:13-17 And the Jews' Passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem, and found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: and when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers' money, and overthrew the tables; and said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father's house an house of merchandise. And his disciples remembered that it was written,
The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.
So we ask, What did the disciples think about when remembering this psalm? Did they remember a prediction from the Jewish Bible which was being accomplished in that Temple that day? Let us read and consider for ourselves.
PSALM 69:5-9 O God, thou knowest my foolishness; and my sins are not hid from thee. Let not them that wait on thee, O Lord GOD of hosts, be ashamed for my sake: let not those that seek thee be confounded for my sake, O God of Israel. Because for thy sake I have borne reproach; shame hath covered my face. I am become a stranger unto my brethren, and an alien unto my mother's children. For the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up; and the reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me.
The psalm concerns a man who evidently is of some repute among those who seek the Lord GOD, for he is concerned that his suffering might damage their faith in some way. He admits to his own foolishness and sins, but that it is because of his service to GOD he has borne reproach. Notably, the psalm mentions that he has become a stranger unto his brethren and an alien unto his siblings.
We know from other scriptures that Yeshua was thought to be off His rocker by His relatives (MARK 3:21), so we would not be surprised if here, at this most intense and radical Temple scene, that His family began to wonder if they really knew Him at all. He had violently driven from the Temple enclosure all those merchants and traders, along with their animals. That certainly took a great deal of force. When He was called to answer for His deeds by the authorities, His brethren would no doubt have shrunk back and attempted to conceal themselves and may very likely have withdrawn into the crowd.
When John tells us that His disciples remembered a passage from the sixty ninth psalm, we can be assured that they remembered more than just a portion of a verse. Surely they called to mind the entire psalm and reflected all the parallels and images, all the echoes it had with that which was transpiring before them that day. "The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up, and I am therefore become a stranger to my brethren, and an alien to my family." What they no doubt noticed was the cowardly actions of Yeshua's brethren.
We notice that the Greek of JOHN places the quote from the Jewish Bible in the future tense, but the original passage in the psalm is in the past tense. We can only expect that a later Christian translator changed the tense in John's Gospel to make the original passage appear as a prediction? Notably, another portion of the same verse is quoted by Paul in ROMANS 15:3, but there the tense is not changed to the future but is preserved as in the original.
The Acceptable Year of the LORD
One of the most enlightening passages that Yeshua quoted from the Jewish Bible is in His first recorded reading of the scriptures, which occurred in the synagogue at Nazareth.
LUKE 4:17-21 And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written,
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord....
And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.
There is little doubt but that in first century Palestine, the scriptures were always read in Hebrew. After the reading they may have been expounded or interpreted in Aramaic, but they were first read in the original Hebrew. Howbeit, Luke's quotation is closer to the Greek version than it is to the Hebrew which has been preserved for us today in the Masoretic text. Evidently, there was another Hebrew text then in existence from which Yeshua read. We will give below both the King James version which is from the Hebrew Masoretic text, along with a Greek version of the passage.
ISAIAH 61:1-2 [from the Hebrew Masoretic text] The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God....
LXE ISAIAH 61:1-2 [from a Greek text] The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me; he has sent me to preach glad tidings to the poor, to heal the broken in heart, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind; to declare the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of recompence....
The reader can see that there are several substantial differences between the two texts. Incidental to both though, is the fact that Yeshua closed the book without finishing the passage by reading, "and the day of recompence", because that day would not come for another forty or so years. His first coming was the day of healing, of freedom from sin, of good tidings. However, His second coming was to be a day of wrath, of vengeance, of binding and casting into outer darkness (see LUKE 21:22).
The prophet Isaiah had been speaking to the Jewish exiles in Assyria, promising them a future release from their bondage and eventual return to their homelands. Yeshua justly adapts the passage to His own calling, to His own mission and ministry. Thus, even in a more dramatic way than when GOD freed HIS people from the land of bondage, so HE now, by way of HIS own Son, will free HIS people from their sins. The parallels and echoes are unavoidable.
The portion of ISAIAH which Yeshua stopped short of reading had to do with GOD's vengeance upon the enemies of Israel. No doubt Yeshua's audience had often consoled themselves with the knowledge of how GOD was going to someday lower the boom on the heads of Israel's antagonists. When Yeshua failed to include that section in His reading, I'm sure His listeners were eager to know why. But then He speaks of a couple of incidents in there history when these foreigner invaders, these evil aliens, were to be blessed rather than cursed by GOD (LUKE 4:25-27). Thus with ferocious anger they thrust Him out of their synagogue.
Another important detail to notice in this account, is that the record says that "the scripture was fulfilled in their ears" (LUKE 4:21). What does it mean when it says that the scripture was fulfilled in their ears? One commentator suggests that it means, "in the fact that they were hearing Jesus at that very time". Perhaps, but if fulfilled doesn't actually mean accomplished here but rather expounded or fully related, we have an entirely different perspective to consider. The phrase may simply mean that they were being given an opportunity to get their minds around it.
Light is Sprung Up
Next we find another quote from ISAIAH, which is an extremely close parallel or echo of the Messiah's coming.
MATTHEW 4:12-17 Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, he departed into Galilee; and leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim: that it might be fulfilled [expounded] which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying,
The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; the people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.
From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
This quote is from the ninth chapter of ISAIAH, which incidentally is from the same original group of prophecies quoted above when Isaiah spoke concerning the birth and naming of his children being signs for king Ahaz; that he not turn to foreign armies for his defense but depend instead upon Yahweh.
ISAIAH 9:1-2 Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grievously afflict her by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations. The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.
Zebulun and Naphtali were the first provinces of Israel to be invaded when Tiglath-pileser III overran the northern tribes of Israel in the year 733 B.C. Many of the Israelites were killed while many others were exiled, destined to endure the heavy yoke of their new masters till the day of their death. This is the context of Isaiah's quote. But he quickly turns the terrible tragedy into a future hope when he sees a day when light would again shine upon them. That light finally came in all of its fullness seven centuries later with the arrival and preaching of Yeshua, but we should not be too quick to assume that this prophecy is indeed a prediction accomplished by Yeshua. Let us consider the verses following, which are all too familiar.
ISAIAH 9:6-7 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.
Many theologians are confident that these verses are a prediction which was accomplished in the life of Yeshua, but after considering them more deeply this assumption becomes increasingly difficult to accept. The reference here of a child being born is not speaking of the birth of an infant, but rather to the day of a king's coronation. On the day of his crowning, the new king would be declared an adopted son of GOD; thus the day of his heavenly birth. Isaiah is speaking of a new king being crowned, a new kingdom being initiated, a new government being administered.
Yeshua is never referred to in Scripture as The Mighty God, nor is it even remotely logical to think of Him as everlasting Father. He is the Son, never the Father. What throws many readers off the scent is the word everlasting, which when connected with the phrase "a child is born" suggests to some that it is referring to the Son of GOD. Howbeit, the word everlasting is translated from the Hebrew word `ad, which doesn't necessarily mean without end, but more precisely it means perpetually. Consider the following occurrences of the word in the Jewish Bible.
JOB 20:4 Knowest thou not this of old [`ad], since man was placed upon earth,
PSALM 61:8 So will I [David] sing praise unto thy name for ever [`ad], that I may daily perform my vows.
PROVERBS 29:14 The king that faithfully judgeth the poor, his throne shall be established for ever [`ad].
AMOS 1:11 Thus saith the LORD; For three transgressions of Edom, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because he did pursue his brother with the sword, and did cast off all pity, and his anger did tear perpetually [`ad], and he kept his wrath for ever.
HABAKKUK 3:6 He stood, and measured the earth: he beheld, and drove asunder the nations; and the everlasting [`ad] mountains were scattered, the perpetual hills did bow: his ways are everlasting.
Thus the use of `ad in ISAIAH 9:6 could very easily be referring to some particular person who happened to have the characteristics of a mighty godlike individual, a perpetual father and a prince of peace. It is curious that Yeshua is never referred to as any of these. Cyrus however, could qualify as a possible candidate; for he was indeed considered a mighty god and father to his subjects, as well as a prince of peace to the known world of his day. He it was whom GOD used to re-establish the throne of David in Jerusalem (see ISAIAH 44:28) after their exile in Babylon ended.
The phrase from henceforth even forever in ISAIAH 9:7 is from the Hebrew word olam, and does not really mean an endless eternity. It more so has the meaning "a time long before the immediate knowledge of those living", or it can refer to "most distant times". It is either times in the past or times into the future, but not a time without end or beginning. No doubt, it is because the English translators had it implanted so deeply in their minds that this passage was referring to the Son of GOD that they so poorly interpreted this verse in their version.
Our passage from MATTHEW is the stage when Yeshua actually began His ministry in earnest. Not long before He had swept from the temple at Jerusalem those who were selling their goods (JOHN 2:15). He had just recently been thrust out of Nazareth after announcing the day of their salvation, the acceptable year of the LORD (LUKE 4:21). Now He was at Capernaum on the Sea of Galilee, "teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom" (MATTHEW 4:23). It was here that the new light began to dawn. Here first, the believers of that age were being freed from the heavy yoke placed upon them by their religion, "teaching for doctrines the commandments of men". Here first they were set at liberty from the bondage of Pharisee-ism. All of this and more is what Matthew meant with his likening what was happening in his day to what the prophet Isaiah spoke concerning his day.
Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses
Here is a most familiar quote from the Jewish Bible which has for ages been interpreted as a prediction of Yeshua' ministry.
MATTHEW 8:16-17 When the even was come, they brought unto him many that were possessed with devils: and he cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying,
Himself took our infirmities, and bare [bastazo] our sicknesses.
Yeshua was to remove from the people their sins by teaching them how to live righteously. He was able to relieve them of their sins because, first John had taught them, preparing the way for the Lord, and then Yeshua had personally taught them just previous to this incident. We can suppose that He taught them the truth about the consequences for their sins, and the judgment that awaited them, which would no doubt go far in leading them to repentance.
One might wonder why Yeshua bothered traveling around the countryside healing people? Why didn't He just snap His finger so that the whole world would instantly be healed? Is it not because there is a purpose for pain and suffering? Pain and suffering are useful, if they awaken us to some greater danger ahead. The pain from touching a hot stove is an apt example. If the consequences of our sin is sickness and pain, so as to awaken us to the realization that we are moving away from GOD's will for our lives, is not the pain necessary and good?
Sometimes we need something to slap us on the face and wake us out of the delusion we have slipped into. Once we have realized our sin and repent, the pain is no longer necessary and can then be removed. Thus, after Yeshua had taught them the truth and they responded by repenting, then He could remove from them their infirmities and sicknesses. The key is that before He healed them He had taught them truth, and they had then responded by believing what He taught. Later we are told that Yeshua could not do "many mighty works" in His own country because of their unbelief (MATTHEW 13:58). He could not heal them because they would not believe His teaching, they would not accept His doctrine, reproof and correction, thus they would not repent.
But back in the incident of MATTHEW 8 we are told that these listeners "pressed upon Him to hear the word of GOD". They were evidently meek to receive His teaching and therefore they opened their hearts to Him. They gladly received what Yeshua taught them, took an inventory of their lives and accepted His reproof and correction where it applied. Then, after that, they were in a place where He could heal them.
The healing was easy once the obstacle was removed. We are reminded of the psalm, "He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions" (PSALM 107:20). Once the word was taught and they accepted and believed that word, then the consequences of their sin could be removed and Yeshua could heal them.
It is noteworthy that John announces that Yeshua was to baptize (cleanse) them with fire and holy spirit. Baptizing them in fire meant that if they were stubborn and hardhearted, pain and suffering would needs be used to purify them, hence the fire (1 PETER 1:7). Howbeit, if they gladly received His reproof and correction, then holy spirit could be used to cleanse them; in other words, His words (JOHN 15:3 1 PETER 1:22).
The quote in MATTHEW 8 is again from the prophet Isaiah.
ISAIAH 53:4 Surely he [GOD's servant, see 52:13] hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
I count over twenty times that Isaiah refers to a servant or servants of the LORD in his book. He speaks of GOD's servants Eliakim, David, Israel, Jacob and himself. We should not just assume that whenever Isaiah is referring to GOD's servant that he means the Messiah. This suffering servant of ISAIAH could be a number of individuals. Matthew uses this passage to liken or echo what had occurred in Isaiah's day to what was beginning to transpire in his own. We will consider the suffering servant of ISAIAH with the life of the Messiah in more detail later.
Search the Scriptures
Yeshua had just healed the cripple at the pool of Bethesda on the Sabbath, for which cause the Jews were seeking to kill Him (JOHN 5:16). Yeshua responded by a somewhat lengthy description of what it will be like for them after the Resurrection. He begins by exclaiming that it is He to whom the Father has entrusted the act of raising the dead (5:21), and further that the Father hath committed all judgment into His hands (5:22). He explains that whosoever hears that which He teaches, and then believes it, that they have passed from death unto everlasting life and shalt therefore escape judgment (5:24). Yeshua then reiterates all of this in the most forceful words by exclaiming,
5:25-29 Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; and hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man. Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation [judgment].
He thus spells it out to them in words most plain and easily understood, if they so chose to understand, that even then some of them might be saved (5:33). Yeshua reminds them that the proof of the truth of what He claimed, which was even greater than the testimony of John the Baptist, was His works, such as that healing of the cripple which He had just performed.
And so what was their problem; what was the great stumbling block which prevented them from acknowledging Him as Savior? Their great error was that they had found, so they thought, their salvation in their Bible.
RSV JOHN 5:39-40 You search the scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness to me; yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.
They had so diligently studied and researched the Jewish scriptures that they were blindly confident that they had obtained some sort or form of salvation from them; and so they believed that that which Yeshua was attempting to palm off on them was against all which they trusted to be true. They believed only Moses, so they thought. Yet Yeshua boldly declared that they did not believe Moses, for Moses wrote of Him (5:46).
We might do well to quote here Frederic Godet, in his Commentary on John's Gospel, page 487. Paraphrasing Yeshua, he writes,
"You search the Scriptures with so much care; you scrutinize the externals of them with the most scrupulous exactness, hoping to make eternal life spring forth from this minute study; and at the same time you obstinately reject the one to whom they bear testimony!"
We fear that this is near where many modern Commentators of the scriptures are today. They have so assiduously studied and tirelessly researched the Bible that they have come to conclude that it is not much more than hogwash. Of course they don't quite put it in those words, but that is pretty much what they end up saying. When they suggest that the Gospels were not written by eyewitnesses of the events, but by other hands perhaps many years later, who were editing and re-editing the text so as to fabricate a Church doctrine necessary for their times, that to my ears is very dangerous thinking, and teaching.
According to our MATTHEW, Yeshua taught His followers that "He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me" (MATTHEW 10:40). Purportedly, Yeshua taught Matthew and John. So if one rejects what Matthew and John wrote, then they are rejecting Yeshua; and if they are rejecting Yeshua then they are rejecting GOD himself. It seems to me that if you are going to reject the testimony of these ancient witnesses, then you had better have a damn good reason for doing so. Your eternal life may hang in the balance of that decision.
It is an absolute miracle that we have any of these records at all! They should naturally all have been lost to time and decay, as nearly thousands of equivalent documents of that age were. It is only by the hand of GOD that these few have been spared. And why should they not have been spared? Why would GOD send HIS Son to die such an horrendous death for us, for our salvation, that all who believe should be saved, and then let the history of the event be forgotten? It was as important for GOD to preserve a record of those events as it was for HIM to bring them to pass.
So what are we to understand that Yeshua meant when He declared that the Jewish scriptures bear witness of Him. Where are we to look to see where Moses wrote of Him? We needn't guess. We should simply look to the witnesses to whom Yeshua had entrusted His teachings. We must look to the sayings and writings of the apostles and first disciples of our Lord.
In ACTS, both Peter and Stephen agreed that Moses wrote of Yeshua when he stated that, "A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you" (ACTS 3:22 and 7:37). They were both quoting DEUTERONOMY 18:18-19, which Yeshua no doubt had taught referred to Him. Thus, they also believed, unlike many modern Commentators, that Moses did in fact write DEUTERONOMY.
Which shall Prepare Thy Way before Thee
Next we come to another prophecy concerning John the Baptist.
MATTHEW 11:10 For this is he, of whom it is written,
Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.
As found written here, the prophecy seems to be addressed to the coming Messiah, promising Him that a messenger will be sent ahead of Him to prepare the way. Howbeit, the verse from the Jewish Bible puts it a little differently.
MALACHI 3:1-5 Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me (see also LXE ISAIAH 40:3).
The Greek reads the same as the Hebrew here, that the LORD was to send the messenger before HIS own coming. As MATTHEW, MARK and LUKE all read alike (though each on different occasions), but differently from the Jewish Bible, they most likely were quoting the same source, perhaps an Aramaic version which might have been understood as a Messianic prediction. At any rate, Yeshua Himself in both MATTHEW and LUKE indicates it to be an accurate rendering by saying that the passage as written was concerning John the Baptist preparing His way.
When a Monarch was traveling through his dominion, there would always be an individual who would ride ahead to announce his coming. This is the meaning also in a parallel incident when Pharaoh had made Joseph the top man in his kingdom.
GENESIS 41:42-43 And Pharaoh took off his ring from his hand, and put it upon Joseph's hand, and arrayed him in vestures of fine linen, and put a gold chain about his neck; and he made him to ride in the second chariot which he had; and they cried before him, Bow the knee: and he made him ruler over all the land of Egypt.
Joseph riding in the second chariot didn't mean that he was second in command, but rather that the individual in the first chariot rode ahead to announce Joseph's coming. That incident mirrors both the prophecy in MALACHI as well as the passage in the Gospels. GOD made Yeshua ruler just as Pharaoh did Joseph. And just as Joseph was announced by the fore-runner in the first chariot, so was Yeshua announced by John the Baptist. Thus the Gospel account is also an echo of the incident in GENESIS.
Yeshua was GOD's representative, always doing His Father's will. As such we can have confidence that when John the Baptist announced Yeshua's coming, it was representative of announcing GOD's coming. GOD sent Him in HIS stead. The following passages all reflect this principle.
JOHN 5:30 I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.
JOHN 6:38 For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.
JOHN 7:29 But I know him: for I am from him, and he hath sent me.
JOHN 12:45 And he that seeth me seeth him that sent me.
JOHN 12:49 For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak.
LUKE 10:16 He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth [disregards] you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me.
However we decide to look at it, we must remember that John stood at the threshold of an entirely new era. Malachi, the last prophet of the Hebrew Bible, foresaw this new age which the Messiah was to usher in. With John the Baptist that age had dawned. Yeshua was the one individual upon whom everything was revolving. His life was to change everything; it was the pivotal point with which all of his-tory turned. John was just not introducing a new religion for people to choose from. John was preparing the way for a new heaven and a new earth to be inaugurated. The kingdom of GOD was indeed at long last upon them.
A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench
We again have a prophecy from the book of Isaiah.
MATTHEW 12:14-21 Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him. But when Jesus knew it, he withdrew himself from thence: and great multitudes followed him, and he healed them all; and charged them that they should not make him known: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying,
Behold my servant, whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased: I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall shew judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory. And in his name shall the Gentiles trust.
It is not difficult to see that the passage in ISAIAH which was quoted by Matthew had little to actually do with the activities of Yeshua which he was associating with it. Yeshua had withdrawn Himself because of the plots of the Pharisees; then He healed the multitudes and instructed them not to make Him known.
There is no accomplishment here of any prediction of Isaiah concerning GOD's spirit being put on someone, nor is there any indication that Yeshua refrained from crying in the streets, nor is there any evidence that the scene had anything to do with a bruised reed or smoking flax. Again, Matthew is simply echoing or mirroring that which happened in Israel's past to what he witnessed as happening in his own time. As the servant is described in ISAIAH with various characteristics, Matthew noted the similarities with Yeshua. The quote is from the forty-second chapter.
ISAIAH 42:1-3 Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth.
There is nothing here that Matthew's account is an accomplishment of. The characteristics of this servant may apply to a number of individuals in Isaiah's time, though it also looks towards the day when the true servant, the Messiah would come and wind up the things of GOD. Whoever we might suppose this servant to be, he has been described here as having GOD's spirit upon him.
Curiously, Isaiah has already recorded for us in 11:1-2 that it is the Branch which is anointed with GOD's spirit. And further, in chapter 61 Isaiah again speaks of this individual having the spirit of GOD upon him, which is precisely the passage quoted by Yeshua about His own ministry (LUKE 4:16-21). No doubt Yeshua is indeed alluded to as the Branch, but it doesn't seem appropriate nor justified to compel the verse to be a prediction of events centuries ahead of Isaiah's time.
Three Days and Three Nights
It is so refreshing to not be entangled in Church doctrine and instead to be able to just believe what the scriptures simply say. A good example of this is the following.
MATTHEW 12:40 For as Jonas [Jonah] was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
Any thinking person knows what Yeshua meant here. Simply that as Jonah was in the fish's belly for three days and three nights, so He too would be buried for three days and three nights. That is the simple truth of what He said. Yet Church Tradition has always taught that He was buried only from late Friday afternoon to early Sunday morning, less than two days and only two nights. And most of us have mindlessly accepted our traditions and rejected Yeshua's own clear statement.
If He did in fact plainly state that He would be buried for three days and for three nights, then we need to adjust our traditions to meet these requirements, and not try to get around His plain statement by playing fast and loose with the scriptures. Why not just believe what the scriptures say? Why hold onto Church Tradition when it clearly contradicts Yeshua plain statement of fact? Why not just admit that our traditions have been wrong? Why does that seem like such an impossible task for some students.
A more sensible suggestion for the correct sequence of the events of Yeshua's death, burial and resurrection can be viewed here for the readers consideration.
So what did Yeshua mean when He alluded to His burial being the same length of time as Jonah was in the fish's belly? When I was a young lad I saw a poster of Jonah's experience in our Church. It pictured Jonah inside the whales stomach seated at a table with a lit candle giving him light to read his Bible. Somehow, I don't think this pictures the scene very accurately.
Jonah was dead inside that fish. There is no other way to figure it. That is how this incident was like Yeshua's. They were both dead for three days and three nights. Then, as the fish vomited Jonah out upon the beach, so Yeshua was likewise raised from His earthly tomb.
It should also be noted that a person in ancient times was not affirmed to be dead until after three days. This was because sometimes an individual might just be in a comma and wake back up again. Thus, it took three days to certify Him as being dead.
Lest...I Should Heal Them
Next we come to a most interesting quote from the Jewish Bible.
MATTHEW 13:10-17 And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. For whosoever hath [a passionate desire to know], to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not [a passionate desire to know], from him shall be taken away even that he hath. Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith,
By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: for this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.
But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear. For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them. (see also MARK 4:11-12 JOHN 12:39-41)
This quote is also from Isaiah.
ISAIAH 6:9-10 And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.
This passage has been fulfilled many times over in the history of this rebellious people. From the very beginning, when Moses led them out of the land of Egypt they rebelled against GOD. Then again later when they pleaded with Samuel to give them a king they were rebelling against GOD. When they took to themselves the gods of the other nations they were rebelling against GOD. Their entire history has been almost one endless string of rebellions, one after another.
In the year of king Uzziah's death in 735 B. C., GOD called the prophet Isaiah to go and tell the nation this very prophecy. And then about A.D. 30 Yeshua reminded His disciples of the prophecies continual application in His day. And again, the apostle Paul quoted the prophecy as being pertinent in his day (ACTS 28:26-27), shortly before the destruction of the Temple and Nation in A.D. 70.
We give below a quote from Charles Moule, which explains very aptly the meaning of these passages concerning those who are blind to the truth.
First, it is quite gratuitous to assume that the categories of 'those outside' and 'those inside' are meant to be rigid and 'predestined'. What about Mk viii. 18, where the disciples themselves are clearly being classed as deaf and unseeing? Surely the simplest view is that men are 'outside' or 'inside' according to their response. It is impossible to convert or persuade by mere dogmatizing or ranting. No amount of mere statement, no 'spoon-feeding' (as every teacher knows) will achieve this end. There is nothing for it but to sow 'seed-thoughts'- to set something germinating in the hearers. If they respond, they begin to be 'inside', they 'come for more'; if they pay no heed- or for as long as they pay no heed- they are self-excluded. Hence the use of parables. We are being perversely literalistic if we imagine that the free quotation from Isa. vi ('that they may look and look without seeing...lest they turn...') is really intended to mean that parables are used in order to exclude, deliberately to make the message difficult for all except the favoured few. As in its original setting in the Book of Isaiah, so here, it is most naturally taken as an arresting hyperbolical, oriental way of saying 'Alas! many will be obdurate'. (Even the most rugged of prophets might justly loose his faith, were he really summoned to preach in order to fail!) And secondly, the linguistic difficulties of this bridge-passage almost disappear if vv. 10-12 [of MATTHEW 13] are recognized as a generalization (like vv. 33 f., and, like them, using the imperfect tense): to those who did ask for explanation, Jesus used always to say, 'To you is granted the secret, which is hidden from the rest as long as they stay outside'. The Birth of the New Testament, pages 150-151
Thus again, Yeshua is not here accomplishing a prediction. When Matthew writes that in these unbelieving Jews is fulfilled or expounded the prophecy of Isaiah, he is simply saying that the same principle which Isaiah put forth is also here applicable. Those who turn from the truth, from the light, are walking into darkness, but those who turn into the light are guided into the way of peace.
I will open My mouth in Parables
Next we come to another quote in this chapter which is closely connected with the one above, concerning the parables through which Yeshua taught.
MATTHEW 13:34-35 All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying,
I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world.
We misinterpret this passage if we think that the reason Matthew quoted it was because Yeshua in some way was accomplishing a prediction from the Jewish Bible. He quoted it because the psalm contains the whole of the nation's miserable history. He quoted it because the entire psalm reveals the hard heartedness of this stiff-necked and unbelieving people.
PSALM 78:1-72 Give ear, O my people, to my law: incline your ears to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter dark sayings of old. Which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us.
We will not hide them from their children, shewing to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done. For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children: that the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children: that they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments: and might not be as their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation; a generation that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not stedfast with God.
The children of Ephraim, being armed, and carrying bows, turned back in the day of battle. They kept not the covenant of God, and refused to walk in his law; and forgat his works, and his wonders that he had shewed them. Marvellous things did he in the sight of their fathers, in the land of Egypt, in the field of Zoan.
He divided the sea, and caused them to pass through; and he made the waters to stand as an heap. In the daytime also he led them with a cloud, and all the night with a light of fire. He clave the rocks in the wilderness, and gave them drink as out of the great depths. He brought streams also out of the rock, and caused waters to run down like rivers.
And they sinned yet more against him by provoking the most High in the wilderness. And they tempted God in their heart by asking meat for their lust. Yea, they spake against God; they said, Can God furnish a table in the wilderness? Behold, he smote the rock, that the waters gushed out, and the streams overflowed; can he give bread also? can he provide flesh for his people?
Therefore the LORD heard this, and was wroth: so a fire was kindled against Jacob, and anger also came up against Israel; because they believed not in God, and trusted not in his salvation: though he had commanded the clouds from above, and opened the doors of heaven, and had rained down manna upon them to eat, and had given them of the corn of heaven. Man did eat angels' food: he sent them meat to the full.
He caused an east wind to blow in the heaven: and by his power he brought in the south wind. He rained flesh also upon them as dust, and feathered fowls like as the sand of the sea: and he let it fall in the midst of their camp, round about their habitations. So they did eat, and were well filled: for he gave them their own desire; they were not estranged from their lust. But while their meat was yet in their mouths, the wrath of God came upon them, and slew the fattest of them, and smote down the chosen men of Israel.
For all this they sinned still, and believed not for his wondrous works. Therefore their days did he consume in vanity, and their years in trouble. When he slew them, then they sought him: and they returned and enquired early after God. And they remembered that God was their rock, and the high God their redeemer.
Nevertheless they did flatter him with their mouth, and they lied unto him with their tongues. For their heart was not right with him, neither were they stedfast in his covenant.
But he, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and destroyed them not: yea, many a time turned he his anger away, and did not stir up all his wrath. For he remembered that they were but flesh; a wind that passeth away, and cometh not again.
How oft did they provoke him in the wilderness, and grieve him in the desert! Yea, they turned back and tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel. They remembered not his hand, nor the day when he delivered them from the enemy.
How he had wrought his signs in Egypt, and his wonders in the field of Zoan: and had turned their rivers into blood; and their floods, that they could not drink. He sent divers sorts of flies among them, which devoured them; and frogs, which destroyed them. He gave also their increase unto the caterpiller, and their labour unto the locust. He destroyed their vines with hail, and their sycomore trees with frost. He gave up their cattle also to the hail, and their flocks to hot thunderbolts. He cast upon them the fierceness of his anger, wrath, and indignation, and trouble, by sending evil angels among them.
He made a way to his anger; he spared not their soul from death, but gave their life over to the pestilence; and smote all the firstborn in Egypt; the chief of their strength in the tabernacles of Ham: but made his own people to go forth like sheep, and guided them in the wilderness like a flock. And he led them on safely, so that they feared not: but the sea overwhelmed their enemies. And he brought them to the border of his sanctuary, even to this mountain, which his right hand had purchased.
He cast out the heathen also before them, and divided them an inheritance by line, and made the tribes of Israel to dwell in their tents. Yet they tempted and provoked the most high God, and kept not his testimonies: but turned back, and dealt unfaithfully like their fathers: they were turned aside like a deceitful bow. For they provoked him to anger with their high places, and moved him to jealousy with their graven images.
When God heard this, he was wroth, and greatly abhorred Israel: so that he forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh, the tent which he placed among men; and delivered his strength into captivity, and his glory into the enemy's hand.
He gave his people over also unto the sword; and was wroth with his inheritance. The fire consumed their young men; and their maidens were not given to marriage. Their priests fell by the sword; and their widows made no lamentation.
Then the Lord awaked as one out of sleep, and like a mighty man that shouteth by reason of wine. And he smote his enemies in the hinder parts: he put them to a perpetual reproach.
Moreover he refused the tabernacle of Joseph, and chose not the tribe of Ephraim: but chose the tribe of Judah, the mount Zion which he loved. And he built his sanctuary like high palaces, like the earth which he hath established for ever.
He chose David also his servant, and took him from the sheepfolds: from following the ewes great with young he brought him to feed Jacob his people, and Israel his inheritance. So he fed them according to the integrity of his heart; and guided them by the skilfulness of his hands.
This is what flooded the minds of Matthew's readers when he quoted just the first verse or two of the psalm. These are the dark sayings of old, the parables. Matthew didn't intend for his quotation of the verse in the psalm to be considered by itself, for he knew that any Jew would recollect the entire psalm when the opening words were quoted. Thus, his point was that Yeshua, like the psalmist, was endeavoring to pierce the hard heart of this people and somehow pry open their understanding that they might again turn from their evil way and return unto their GOD.
The Sower and the four responses to the words sown, the tares sown by the enemy amongst the wheat, the kingdom being like a tiny mustard seed, the leaven which was hid in three measures of meal, the treasure hid in a field, the merchant seeking pearls and the net that was cast into the sea gathering every kind of fish; all of these parables are from this same chapter in MATTHEW; all likened unto the words taught to the people by the psalmist. And then the chapter slams shut with Matthew telling us that Yeshua could not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief.
Their blindness had so hardened them that they could not perceive truth even when it was so blatantly staring them in the face. Only the doctrine, reproof and correction of the scriptures could cause within them an awakening, and an enlightenment. But their prejudices, their religious judgments and their obdurate ego had blinded them to that truth. Being convinced they were self righteous, they were just beyond reach of any helping hand, of any saving grace.
Out of His Belly
This next passage has proven itself to be extremely difficult to interpret.
JOHN 7:37-38 In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.
Perhaps the greatest difficulty here, is that there is no passage in the Jewish Bible which says anything about rivers flowing out of a belly. Various Commentators have suggested that belly may represent something else, such as the person himself, or it may represent Jerusalem, or even the cavern from which the Pool of Siloam is fed, or the golden pitcher which was filled at this Pool during the feast procession, or perhaps it refers to one's heart, or even the navel. Howbeit, there is no way to know for sure for all of the opinions are just that, opinions.
Having said that, we should keep in mind that Yeshua most often taught in Aramaic; and if that was the case here, it might explain the confusion with this word belly. In his book The Aramaic Origin of the Fourth Gospel, C. F. Burney writes on page 110, "It will at once be seen that, in an unvocalized text, 'belly' and 'fountain', would be absolutely identical. He then goes on the render the passage as follows';
'He that thirsteth, let him come unto Me;
And let him drink that believeth in Me.
As the Scripture hath said,
Rivers shall flow forth from the fountain of living waters'.
Another question has been to what is Yeshua referring that the scripture hath said? It all depends on where one places the punctuation. Should the period be placed after the word drink, as the A.V. and the R.V. suggest? If so, then the next sentence would begin, "He who believes in me (as the scripture hath said) shall have rivers of water flow out of his belly"?
Or should the period be placed after the word me, with the new sentence beginning with "As the scripture hath said...."? This reading is supported by certain old Latin Manuscripts and the structure of the passage is then more balanced.
He that thirsteth, let him come unto Me;
And let him drink that believeth in Me.
The student should remember that there was no punctuation in the original texts, so adding them or subtracting them is not tampering with the original text. All punctuation is simply the translators opinion as to what he thought the verse ought to say.
C. C. Torrey in his The Four Gospels, a New Translation (from the Aramaic), represents the passage as such;
Whoever thirsts, let him come to me, and let him drink who believes on me. As the scripture says, Out of the midst of Her shall flow living water.
Then the question arises, from who's belly or fountain was the water gushing? Was it from Yeshua, or the believer, or GOD or Jerusalem? All are put forth as suggestions. There is a good argument to be made that the scripture to which Yeshua was alluding, had to do with something like rushing water flowing out of the midst of a fountain, and not about living water flowing out of the belly of a believer. We are at once reminded of Jeremiah's statement concerning living waters.
JEREMIAH 2:13 For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.
Throughout John's Gospel Yeshua is portrayed as various sacred emblems from Israel's forty years wandering in the wilderness, just before they entered into their Promised Land. In chapter one the Baptist introduces Him as the Lamb of GOD (EXODUS 12:3). In chapter two Yeshua describes Himself as the true dwelling place of GOD (EXODUS 25:9). In chapter three He compares Himself to the serpent lifted up in the wilderness on a pole (NUMBERS 21:8). In the fourth chapter Yeshua tells the Samaritan woman the He is the giver of living water, "a well of water springing up into everlasting life" (EXODUS 17:6). In the sixth chapter He boldly declares Himself to be the true bread of life, the manna from heaven (EXODUS 16:15). In chapter eight He announces that it is He who is the light of the world, that they need not walk in darkness (EXODUS 13:21). So it should not seem unnatural here in chapter seven that He portrays himself as the rock of flint from which out of its belly the wandering Israelites quenched their thirst (DEUTERONOMY 8:15).
Thus, on the eve of their entry into a new Promised Land, a new heaven and a new earth, He is ready to go on before them, as their priest, into and through the river of death, crossing over so as to go and prepare a place for them, for those who have overcome, a land flowing with milk and honey.
REVELATION 21:6-7 And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.
Whatever Yeshua was intending to say, it definitely got a powerful response from his listeners. Many of the people seemed now convinced that He was the prophet Moses had referred to, even perhaps the Messiah himself. But others continued to reject Him because of their ignorant objection as to where He was thought to be born. Still others, the Pharisees, frantically plotted His demise. Yet even those officers which were sent to arrest Him were dumbstruck by His words, for when demanded by the chief priests why they had not apprehended Him, they could only respond by saying, "Never man spake like this man".
Their Heart is Far from ME
Next is an apt example of what we are finding in the manner and meaning of the fulfillment of prophesies from the Jewish Bible.
MATTHEW 15:7-9 Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying,
This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. (see also MARK 7:6-7)
Yeshua wasn't saying here that Isaiah had predicted centuries before that the scribes and Pharisees in His audience were going to worship GOD in vain, but He was teaching that Isaiah's words were as true in His day as they were the day in which he spoke them, seven hundred years prior.
ISAIAH 29:13-14 Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men: therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.
Religion is often the single greatest obstacle to man finding truth. If we believe we are right when we are in fact wrong, we lie just beyond reach of the helping hand. We have closed our eyes and ceased our search, because we think that we have already arrived. Hence, our doctrines become a wall of imprisonment and a cage of enslavement, rather than a shield of protection. Thus it was with the Jews and so also is it with many Christians today. We must drive ourselves to always be open to GOD's reproof and correction. Let us not be obdurate or stubborn, but meek and open to perspectives we may not have previously considered.
The Sign of Jonas the Prophet
What we may wonder was this sign? Did this sign have to do with Jonah being three days and three nights in the belly of the fish? Or was it yet another sign? Let us consider.
LUKE 11:29-30 And when the people were gathered thick together, he began to say, This is an evil generation: they seek a sign; and there shall no sign be given it, but the sign of Jonas [Jonah] the prophet. For as Jonas was a sign unto the Ninevites, so shall also the Son of man be to this generation.
It appears that the key to the verse's interpretation, as is usually the case, in its context. Yeshua refused to give that evil generation a sign, except for one, that of Jonah, the prophet to the Ninevites. When Jonah was vomited out upon that beach by the great fish, after being in its belly three whole days and nights, in what state are we to expect he was in? Did he simply stand up and brush himself off? I think not. We can imagine that he no doubt was partially digested, so to speak. The passage says that he was vomited out upon the dry land (JONAH 2:10) suggesting that he was not simply dislodged from the fish's mouth. Then, after being deposited upon the beach, in probably a few moments or so, he was then restored whole by a miracle of GOD.
And suppose we that it was a deserted beach upon which he was thrust? Would GOD choose some isolated remote location to perform this astounding miracle. Doubtful. Logic would demand a crowded beach, perhaps a shoreline where multitudes were doing their business. How else are we to account for the great repentance which was shortly accomplished in this great city? After only a single day of Jonah's preaching, we are told that "the people of Nineveh believed GOD". And not the people alone, but something very unusual and powerful persuaded even the king himself to repent in sackcloth and ashes.
JONAH 3:6-10 For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.
And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water: but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?
And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.
What could possibly have caused such a strong response from this pagan king? What was the word which he heard? Surely not that some itinerant preacher was out in the streets professing their doom? What he had heard was no doubt concerning the miracle of Jonah being brought back to life on the beach the previous day. Only something like this would account for their evident hysteria.
And so, back in LUKE Yeshua continues His preaching saying that when the queen of the south is resurrected, that she shall condemn His generation (11:31); and further He states that when the men of Nineveh shall be resurrected, that they also shall judge His generation and also condemn it (11:32). And why? What was this generation's great crime? It was that they obdurately refused to repent and acknowledge their sin, even though one greater than Solomon or Jonah had preached unto them.
The only way the Son of man could be a sign to His generation, as Jonah was to the Ninevites, was if He too was resurrected in their presence. When someone shouted ahead of Jonah that he had been raised from the dead upon their very beach, all of Nineveh believed and repented. What was it to be like when someone like Peter was to shout out from the Temple grounds that Yeshua had been raised from the dead? Would that evil city also repent? Would its king Herod cast off his robe and sit in sackcloth and ashes? The apostles could only hope so, but Yeshua evidently knew that they would not.
We go up to Jerusalem
The time had arrived for Yeshua to lay out for His disciples, in as clear of terms as possible, exactly what awaited them as they made their way to Jerusalem.
LUKE 18:31-33 Then he took unto him the twelve, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished [teleo, brought to a close]. For he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on: and they shall scourge him, and put him to death: and the third day he shall rise again. (see also MATTHEW 20:17-19 and MARK 10:32-34 for the parallel accounts)
Yeshua spelled out for them precisely what they were to expect when they got to Jerusalem, which He declared, was written by the prophets. Yet, when we go back and look, when we read and study the writings of the prophets, they say nothing about the Messiah being treated in this fashion. Sure, Isaiah writes that "with his stripes we are healed" (53:5) and that "He was oppressed, and he was afflicted" (53:7), but that is about it. Nothing else is written there about Him being handed over to the Gentiles, spit upon, or most of the rest of what Yeshua had said.
So what are we to think? What are we to suppose and presume here? I see only one of three options. Either Yeshua did not know His Bible, which is hardly plausible. Or else Luke or a later editor fabricated the whole affair, which many actually do believe. That or else we ourselves just do not understand what He meant by what He said. When we have a difficult passage, we should always start there, re-evaluating whether or not we are understanding just what was written, just what was said. We should resist any urge to rush to the conclusion that the original participants were careless or dishonest in their reporting of the incidents which were readily at their hand and familiar to them.
Perhaps when we consider and ponder the context in which this verse is set, maybe then we will have a better idea of what Yeshua was intending. Let's not cut this passage out from the rest of scripture, but let us read it as it flowed from and into the surrounding context.
It all began in verse eighteen when,
18:18-22 A certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God.
Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother. And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up. Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.
We picture an evidently sincere man who was worried about his life after death. Yeshua encouraged him to leave behind all of the trifles of life, the pleasures and treasures which this world offered, and "come and follow" Him on His way up to Jerusalem. This is exactly what His apostles had all done and were now doing.
18:23-27 And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich. And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel [rope] to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. And they that heard it said, Who then can be saved? And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.
The magnitude of what was transpiring, with Yeshua and His disciples on that steady march towards Jerusalem, was no doubt the greatest event which had ever occurred in the history of mankind. They were marching so as to accomplish all that Yeshua had lived for. Not only His whole life had prepared Him for that which awaited Him there, but GOD had prepared the ages for this event. All of history would pivot upon what was to occur there.
Yeshua had just invited this certain ruler to be a part of it, to witness it and perhaps take an active roll, but he refused. Instead he clinged to trivial pursuits; the comforts and conveniences of his petty little life seduced him and robbed him of unknown treasures in heaven, for eternity.
28-30 Then Peter said, Lo, we have left all, and followed thee. And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God's sake, who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting.
Peter and no doubt the rest of the apostle were greatly concerned by Yeshua's statement about it being nearly impossible for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of GOD. "Lo, we have left all, and followed thee" was Peter's bold reminder to his Lord. And Yeshua assured them that there was indeed a place awaiting all of His disciples, in heaven. They would be aptly and justly rewarded for their service, not only in this present life (with many spiritual brothers and sisters), but even more so they were to have life everlasting awaiting them in the new heaven and new earth.
Here then we come to our problematic verse, where Yeshua takes His apostles aside and further reassures them, for He intends, if I may paraphrase,
Don't falter, don't loose your courage now, for even though what awaits us in Jerusalem will be hard for you to understand, take courage, for it is all in GOD's hands, indeed, the prophets have written of what is about to transpire from ages gone by. I will be horribly abused and even killed, but agonize not, for I shall after three days be raised again from the dead. And if I shall be raised to eternal life, you too shall be assured that eternal life awaits you also.
That certain ruler's question about obtaining eternal life, opened up the door for Yeshua to approach this grim topic with His apostles. He took that opportunity and endeavored to open their eyes to the reality of what was about to transpire. If an individual wants eternal life, then he should not let the things of this life get in his way. Leave them behind or cast them aside and strive for the needle's eye, that straight gate. This is what He Himself had done, and this is what He encouraged them to do also.
When Yeshua told the Twelve that the prophets had written concerning that which was about to happen to Him in Jerusalem, the pivotal point which He was evidently intending them to come to grips with, was that after His death He would be resurrected. It might also strengthen and reassure them to understand that He knew many of the details of what was soon to transpire, but what it was that the prophets wrote about was His death and resurrection. Resurrection was the topic at hand. That is what all, the certain ruler as well as the twelve apostles, that is what they were all concerned about.
Evidently, Yeshua was not saying that the prophets wrote about all of the specific things which he was going to have to endure, but rather that after the stone had been cast aside, it was going to become the head of the corner. He was instructing them that after He had died, that He would be resurrected in no more than three days. They would not have long to wait in anticipation. They could all take courage in the fact that the prophets had written of it.
When considering this and any record of scripture, we must try to get into the minds of the participants. We will never understand it by cutting it out of its setting and hanging it upon a wall or sticking it to our car bumpers. We must read it in its context. Why did Yeshua choose this moment to explain to His apostles what awaited them in Jerusalem? It was because a certain ruler had breached the topic and Yeshua had a smooth transition in introducing something that was obviously much on His mind. Every step He took brought Him closer to His brutal death, but also to His resurrection. He no doubt had been waiting for the right opportunity to discuss this very difficult topic with those closest to Him.
But alas, as usual, they understood none of these things.
RSV LUKE 18:34 But they understood none of these things; this saying was hid from them, and they did not grasp what was said.
It was not until after His resurrection (JOHN 12:16; 20:9), for some perhaps not even until after they had received holy spirit on the Day of Pentecost, that they finally started to put it all together and understand what His life was all about. It was all about resurrection.
Yeshua had not acquired a house wherein to lay His head; He had left His parents and brethren; He had no wife or children; He had left all for the kingdom of GOD. And soon He was to be resurrected, and to ascend into heaven, remaining there so as to prepare a place for His followers. He was going to set up His new kingdom, returning someday only long enough to separate the wheat from the chaff and then to gather together into His kingdom those found worthy. This was what Peter and the other apostle would finally realize, and this is what they would boldly and fearlessly teach.
ACTS 2:25-31 For David speaketh concerning him,
I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved: therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope: because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell [hades, the realm of the dead, the grave], neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption....[PSALM 16:8-10]
Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; he seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption.
Here Peter quoted a psalm which was written by the prophet and king David, who distinctly prophesied that the Messiah would both die and be resurrected. The obvious reason that Peter chose this particular passage to center his first preaching around, was because it was one which Yeshua had taught them. This was in essence what Yeshua referred to when He said that the prophets wrote concerning what awaited them in Jerusalem.
No doubt Yeshua had taught the Twelve concerning other prophetical writings which foresaw the Messiah's death and resurrection, but as only this record of Peter's sermon has survived, it would be presumptuous of us to take to hand to fill in what GOD has left out. We have Peter setting forth the prophet David's testimony, and that will have to do.
Thy King Cometh Unto Thee
Next we come to a quote from the prophet Zechariah.
MATTHEW 21:1-6 And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples, saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me. And if any man say ought unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them. All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying,
Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass.
And the disciples went, and did as Jesus commanded them. (see also JOHN 12:15)
When a king rode a horse he was usually at war, but when he rode an ass, it was to indicate his peaceful intentions. Thus here with Yeshua. The ass didn't so much demonstrate His humility but rather His peacefulness. Yeshua was indeed presenting Himself as their King, but as their King coming in peace. He was not there to exact vengeance upon their enemies. He was not come to re-establish their Kingdom. He had come to bring them the peace of GOD. But they ignored His act. They instead exclaimed Him as conqueror. They shouted, "Blessed be the coming kingdom of our father David", and "Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord".
Yeshua rode into Jerusalem on an ass so that they might perceive that He was not coming to re-establish David's kingdom, but instead to save them from their sins. Howbeit, they perceived it not. So as He approached the city Luke tells us that He wept, He wailed and sobbed over it, saying, "If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes" (LUKE 19:42).
The people were blinded by the false expectation that their Messiah was coming to devastate the Roman armies and return Israel to its greatness. In an attempt to dispel that error, He obtained an ass echoing Zechariah's prophecy.
ZECHARIAH 9:9-10 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass. And I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem, and the battle bow shall be cut off: and he shall speak peace unto the heathen: and his dominion shall be from sea even to sea, and from the river even to the ends of the earth.
Zachariah wasn't predicting that someday the Messiah would come into Jerusalem riding upon an ass. He was simply predicting a peaceful future for his people, when their king would speak peace and not war. Yeshua took this prophecy and used it to communicate His intentions to the expectant crowd, but they heard Him not. They wanted only a king to re-establish the earthly kingdom to Israel, even as the apostles themselves would still hope for, shortly before His ascension (ACTS 1:6)
The Stone which the Builders Rejected
Yeshua had just finished telling the Parable of the Vineyard, where He listed three servants which were sent to receive rent payments that were due the owner of the vineyard. Each servant was violently turned away, so the owner sent his son. But thinking this son was the heir and that they might then keep the vineyard for themselves, the renters killed him. The religious leaders were boiling over when they perceived that Yeshua had directed the parable at them. As He watched them, Yeshua came up with another parable fitly suited for the situation.
LUKE 20:17 And he [Yeshua] beheld them, and said, What is this then that is written, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner? (see MATTHEW 21:42-44 & MARK 12:10 for parallel passages)
Kenneth Bailey has insightfully expounded upon this occasion of Yeshua's parable concerning the stone which the builders rejected in his book entitled, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes. We will quote from pages 422-423.
Time and again the prophets of Israel spoke of the coming destruction of the nation. In the song of the vineyard, Isaiah projected the destruction of the vineyard long before Jerusalem fell. But the parable of Jesus is much milder than its prototype. The vineyard is not criticized or in any way threatened. The renters are the problem, and thus Jesus' prophecy is directed against the temple leadership, not against the nation, which deserves better shepherds.
Naturally, the audience (which is composed of representatives of the temple leadership) gasped and said, "God forbid!" Jesus replied with a parable about a stone that appears in the center of Psalm 118:19-28. Why that particular passage, and why the parable/metaphor of the stone?
Psalm 118:19-28 contains a series of striking features that appear in the triumphal entry. These include:
1. a procession going up to and through the gate of the temple
2. the cry "Hosanna"
3. the affirmation, "Blessed be he who enters in the name of the LORD"
4. the carrying of branches in the procession
In the middle of verses that describe the festive procession lies the parable of the stone that is rejected and then endorsed as the "chief cornerstone." The text says:
The stone which the builders rejected
has become the chief cornerstone. (Ps 118:22)
Thoughtful observers of the triumphal entry could hardly miss the connections between the procession described in Psalm 118:19-28 and the special features of the parade taking place before their eyes. It is impossible to observe that connection without reflecting on the parable of the stone that is at the center of that same passage (Ps 118:22).
Thus, when we place ourselves there, when we imagine the thoughts and feelings which they were experiencing, then we get an idea of all that was transpiring in their hearts. A large crowd, when they had heard of Yeshua's approach to the city, had went out to meet Him waving palm branches and crying, "Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord" (JOHN 12:12-13). They then witnessed Yeshua's glorious entry through the city gates as the crowds shouted "Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord" (LUKE 19:37-38). Others, spreading their garments and tree branches along the way, cried, "Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest" (MATTHEW 21:8-9). All of these events ran strangely parallel to that which was written long ago in the 118th psalm.
Some time after this celebrated entry into Jerusalem, Yeshua spoke of the parable of the vineyard and its murderous renters. Yeshua then declared this second parable concerning a certain stone which the builders had inspected but thought worthless so they cast it aside. Who but the most blind and ignorant would not have connected the ancient psalm with that which was transpiring right before their eyes. Many would have been dumbfounded at the similarities. Others might have been shell shocked as they tried to get their minds around this strange sequence of events unfolding before them.
Could this ancient psalm really be relating to current events? Could these first century Jews be witnessing a realization of an ancient prophecy? What other striking events were they then in store for? What else was to come in the days ahead?
In the psalm, the stone which was rejected was described as the corner stone, but it may very well have been the keystone above the gateway into the temple, the gate of righteousness, the gate of the LORD into which the righteous shall enter. The keystone symbolizes the righteous remnant who though at first rejected and cast aside, eventually become the strength and center of the archway. In the Gospels this keystone symbolizes Yeshua. He was tossed aside, cast outside, but alas, He has now become the keystone upon which the entire opening rests.
Yeshua had just taught in His parables that the publicans and harlots would enter the way of righteousness ahead of the chief priests and elders, and that the Lord's vineyard would be let out to other husbandmen, who would indeed render the fruits unto the Lord. There is no prediction here, but rather a beautiful echo, a parallel passage, a mirror image of the one to the other.
The LORD said unto my Lord
The following is a most interesting quotation because it gives us an example of Yeshua explaining and expounding a passage from the psalms, which forced the scribes and the Pharisees to admit, if only to themselves, that they could not have understood it.
MATTHEW 22:41-46 While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, Saying, What think ye of Christ? whose son is he? They say unto him, The Son of David. He saith unto them, How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying,
the LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool? [PSALM 110:1]
If David then call him Lord, how is he his son? And no man was able to answer him a word, neither durst any man from that day forth ask him any more questions. (see also MARK 12:35-37 & LUKE 20:41-44)
The simple explanation of which Yeshua understood, but the scribes and the Pharisees did not know, was that the Messiah (the Christ) was not really David's son but GOD's Son. The passage in the psalm could only make sense if Messiah was a son above one of David's own. If he was David's Lord, he could not also be his son.
Who Hath Believed Our Report?
Here we read of another quote from the prophet Isaiah; this time it is concerning GOD's glory, which we may perceive to mean HIS favor and blessing which was upon their lives.
JOHN 12:35-43 Then Jesus said unto them, Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth. While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light.
These things spake Jesus, and departed, and did hide himself from them. But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him: that the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake,
Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed?
Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again,
He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.
These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory [doxa], and spake of him.
Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: for they loved the praise [doxa] of men more than the praise [doxa] of God.
The question we should ask is, Who's glory did Isaiah see? Did he see the glory of a pre-existent Christ, as many teach? Or was it the LORD GOD's glory which he saw, of which he repeatedly refers to (4:2 LXX, 5; 6:3; 24:23; 40:5; 42:8, 12; 43:7; 48:11; 58:8; 59:19; 60:1-2; 66:18-19)? Consider especially the following in light of the passage we are considering from John's Gospel.
LXX ISAIAH 58:8 Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thy health shall speedily spring forth: and thy righteousness shall go before thee, and the glory [doxa] of God shall compass thee.
Thus we see that this glory of GOD can at times be placed upon certain righteous individuals (60:1-2), and further that it can be seen as it compasses these servants. Of course the most favored servant was GOD's own Son, of whom John makes this connection, that just as some didn't believe even Isaiah, so also some didn't believe Yeshua.
John then distinguishes between GOD's glory or praise and that of men. This word doxa can either mean a majesty, or else it can also refer to one's favored opinion. When Isaiah saw (observed or understood) the doxa of GOD, he was more often than not observing GOD's favor which was upon HIS righteous servants.
John compares what Isaiah saw to what he himself had witnessed, when he noted the behavior of the chief rulers, who loved the opinions or fancy of men over the opinions or fancy of GOD. They were more concerned with obtaining the favor of their piers and the other religious leaders than they were of obtaining the favor of GOD. Thus, GOD did not reveal himself unto them, and instead showed HIS favor unto others.
LXE ISAIAH 60:1-3 Be enlightened, be enlightened, O Jerusalem, for thy light is come, and the glory [doxa] of the Lord is risen upon thee. Behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and there shall be gross darkness on the nations: but the Lord shall appear upon thee, and his glory [doxa] shall be seen upon thee. And kings shall walk in thy light, and nations in thy brightness.
Those who were not blinded, who were not captivated by the opinions of their religious leaders, upon these the favor and good opinion of GOD was to dwell. Even though spiritual darkness was suffocating the masses, those blessed by GOD would shine forth as lights to the nations. Upon these few humble disciples, GOD's favor was to be seen.
Yeshua was also that favored light in as much as He was GOD's pre-eminent servant. Thus, those in Yeshua's audience were encouraged to walk while that light was with them, lest darkness come upon them also. John cautioned them to not become blinded to the reality of who Yeshua was, simply because of the opinions of the religious leaders. The glory or majesty of the so-called elite has a tendency to cloud people's judgment, causing many to accept their baseless assertions as truth.
Yeshua declared that His righteous disciples were also to shine forth as that light.
MATTHEW 5:14-16 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
If and when Yeshua's disciples obeyed GOD's word and were subservient to HIS will, then and only then did they shine as HIS lights. They radiated that glory of GOD which compassed them about.
He Hath Lifted Up His Heal Against Me
This of course is the familiar account of when Judas moved to betray the Lord.
JOHN 13:18-19 I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture may be fulfilled,
He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me.
Now I tell you before it come, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am he.
Was the psalmist predicting that the Messiah would someday in the far distant future be betrayed by one at His own table? Let us read and see.
PSALM 41:4-9 I said, LORD, be merciful unto me: heal my soul; for I have sinned against thee. Mine enemies speak evil of me, When shall he die, and his name perish? And if he come to see me, he speaketh vanity: his heart gathereth iniquity to itself; when he goeth abroad, he telleth it.
All that hate me whisper together against me: against me do they devise my hurt. An evil disease, say they, cleaveth fast unto him: and now that he lieth he shall rise up no more. Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me.
The psalm is the record of the words of a gravely ill man who is evidently bedridden. He is in despair as he sees his enemies at his bedside whom he knows are whispering and plotting his demise. Asking for his own forgiveness, he sounds his pleas to GOD, and then asks for vengeance upon his adversaries.
His chief antagonist is one who was thought to be his closest friend, his own familiar friend, whom he had evidently opened up his home to, and eaten bread with. In that culture, a person would partake bread together with only those of whom he completely trusted. Bread was almost considered sacred, even holy. And yet this liar, this traitor, this hater, had by deceit gained entrance into the trusting master's very own home, all the while wishing his destruction.
This is what Yeshua was referring to by quoting the psalm. This is what He hoped His disciples would remember later, when Judas' treason was realized. Yeshua's intention was that they would not suspect that He had been foolish or deceived in choosing Judas, but that they would realize all was overseen by the providence of GOD.
He was Reckoned among the Transgressors
It is curious that many of the versions of this passage insert the word fulfilled for accomplished.
LUKE 22:37 For I say unto you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished [teleo, brought to a close] in me, And he was reckoned among the transgressors: for the things concerning me have an end [telos, termination].
How are we ever going to understand the intent of the original writers of our Gospels when the translators and revisionists do their work in what seems to be such a haphazard way. In the sixteenth verse of this same chapter many translate pleroo as fulfilled, but then they come to this verse and they decide to translate teleo also as fulfilled (see American Standard Version, Revised Standard Version, English Standard Version., New International Version., New American Bible, New Testament in Modern English, New English Bible, and etc.). Obviously, Luke meant two different things if he used two different words, but many of the translators hide this difference for some questionable reason. Happily, the King James Version did note the difference between the two Greek words pleroo and teleo.
In Luke's account Yeshua quoted a passage from the fifty third chapter of ISAIAH, saying that He was to be reckoned among the transgressors.
ISAIAH 53:12 Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
Most of the verses in this chapter do have an amazing resemblance to the events of Yeshua's life which are recorded for us in the Christian Scriptures, but not all of them can be fairly applied to Him. In verse nine it is written, "And he made his grave with the wicked", yet we all know that He did not in any fashion make His grave with the wicked. He was buried alone in Joseph of Arimathaea's tomb, whom Mark tells us was an honourable counsellor who waited for the kingdom of GOD (MARK 15:43), and John tells us was a disciple of Yeshua (JOHN 19:38).
So if not every verse can be identified with Yeshua, we must conclude that the chapter wasn't written specifically about Him. Instead, Isaiah wrote it about GOD's servant (ISAIAH 52:13), who could have been any number of individuals over the centuries, even the nation of Israel itself.
So what then did Yeshua mean when He said that this passage was to be brought to a close with Him being reckoned with the transgressors, and that those things concerning Him have an end? We can only speculate, but it seems reasonable to say that He was meaning that these passages would find their conclusion in His life and death. Though they no doubt applied to others in the past, their application would conclude in Him. He would be the last servant of GOD which these could be applied to.
The Flock shall be Scattered
After the Last Supper, Yeshua and His disciples went to the mount of Olives. As they walked He continued to assure them that regardless of what all would happen, they needed to understand that GOD was in complete control of the events.
MATTHEW 26:31-32 Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written,
I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad.
But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee. (see also MARK 14:27)
Again, this is not the accomplishment of a prediction made long ago, but Yeshua is simply quoting an eternal truth which beautifully images their situation. Smite the shepherd and his flock shall be scattered. The quote is from Zechariah.
ZECHARIAH 13:7 Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the LORD of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered: and I will turn mine hand upon the little ones.
Zechariah is here speaking of the king of his nation being killed and the people then being driven into exile. So with Yeshua. He was saying that when He is killed, His followers will be driven into exile, or more exactly in their case, into hiding. Both the Jewish remnant of Zechariah's prophecy and the faithful disciples of Yeshua were to later return purified because of it, and therefore stand closer to GOD. The two incidents mirror and echo one another beautifully.
They Hated Me Without a Cause
JOHN 15:23-25 He that hateth me hateth my Father also. If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father. But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law,
They hated me without a cause.
Because His audience could recite so much of the scriptures by heart, all Yeshua needed to do was quote a brief statement to stir in them many thoughts and considerations. When He stated that "They hated me without a cause", many of His listeners would instinctively recall PSALM 69, which concerned the hardships of an individual whom like Yeshua had been wrongfully accused, and compassed about by many adversaries. He like Yeshua had no other option than to turn to the LORD.
PSALM 69:1-21 Save me, O God; for the waters are come in unto my soul. I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing: I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me. I am weary of my crying: my throat is dried: mine eyes fail while I wait for my God.
They that hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of mine head: they that would destroy me, being mine enemies wrongfully, are mighty....
O God, thou knowest my foolishness; and my sins are not hid from thee. Let not them that wait on thee, O Lord GOD of hosts, be ashamed for my sake: let not those that seek thee be confounded for my sake, O God of Israel.
Because for thy sake I have borne reproach; shame hath covered my face. I am become a stranger unto my brethren, and an alien unto my mother's children. For the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up; and the reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me....
They that sit in the gate speak against me; and I was the song of the drunkards. But as for me, my prayer is unto thee, O LORD, in an acceptable time: O God, in the multitude of thy mercy hear me, in the truth of thy salvation.
Deliver me out of the mire, and let me not sink: let me be delivered from them that hate me, and out of the deep waters. Let not the waterflood overflow me, neither let the deep swallow me up, and let not the pit shut her mouth upon me.
Hear me, O LORD; for thy lovingkindness is good: turn unto me according to the multitude of thy tender mercies. And hide not thy face from thy servant; for I am in trouble: hear me speedily. Draw nigh unto my soul, and redeem it: deliver me because of mine enemies. Thou hast known my reproach, and my shame, and my dishonour: mine adversaries are all before thee.
Reproach hath broken my heart; and I am full of heaviness: and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none. They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink. (see also PSALM 35:19; 109:3; 119:161)
Again, this psalm is not a prediction that the Messiah would be hated without a cause, but was an echo, an image of another servant of the LORD who had likewise put his trust in HIM. This of course is not the first time that this psalm has been recalled. In fact, seven times is this psalm referred to in the Christian Scriptures, four times in the Gospels and three times in the Church epistles. At the beginning of John's Gospel it is recalled when Yeshua had driven the traders from the Temple area. At that time His family retreated from Him. Now His mighty enemies compass Him all about, perhaps more in number than the hairs of His head.
He is boxed in with none to help. None to take pity and none to comfort. What lay ahead for Him was the crucifixion, where the vinegar waited. The parallels are numerous.
The Thirty Pieces of Silver
Here we have a quotation which is said by the evangelist to have been spoken, not necessarily written, by the prophet. Some prophecies which were spoken were also written, howbeit some were not written but only spoken and then passed down through the generations by word of mouth.
MATTHEW 27:3-10 Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that.
And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself. And the chief priests took the silver pieces, and said, It is not lawful for to put them into the treasury, because it is the price of blood. And they took counsel, and bought with them the potter's field, to bury strangers in. Wherefore that field was called, The field of blood, unto this day. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying,
And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value; and gave them for the potter's field, as the Lord appointed me.
Some scholars and theologians think that the quotation is not from Jeremiah as Matthew states, but instead from Zechariah. The reason for this conjecture, is that the quote more resembles something Zechariah wrote than it does what Jeremiah wrote. But unfortunately, the verse in ZECHARIAH doesn't have many similarities to the record in MATTHEW either.
ZECHARIAH 11:13 And the LORD said unto me, Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prised at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the LORD.
Perhaps Matthew was quoting from a verbal tradition or an Aramaic source. At any rate, we must leave it be as we don't have his source available to us.
For My Vesture They Did Cast Lots
Because His capture and crucifixion so blindsided the disciples, no doubt it was later when they began to notice the similarities of what transpired on that day to various passages found in their scriptures. Not because He hadn't warned them but because they had pinned all of their hopes on a Messiah so totally different than what He turned out to be.
JOHN 19:23-24 Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also his coat: now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout. They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be: that the scripture might be fulfilled, which saith,
They parted my raiment among them, and for my vesture they did cast lots.
These things therefore the soldiers did.
This prophecy is also from the psalms.
PSALM 22:18 They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.
We will consider this topic with the incident which follows next.
My God, My God, Why hast Thou Forsaken Me?
This may be the most important, at least the most interesting and enlightening quotation in the Christian Scriptures which is from the Jewish Bible, concerning the promised Messiah.
MATTHEW 27:46-50 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say,
My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
Some of them that stood there, when they heard that, said, This man calleth for Elias. And straightway one of them ran, and took a spunge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink. The rest said, Let be, let us see whether Elias will come to save him. Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. (see also MARK 15:34-37)
Yeshua was obviously in a very weakened state and it probably required great effort to even speak, let alone cry aloud. This is evident because some standing around the scene misunderstood what He said, while others evidently did understand. He wasn't calling for Elias to come and save Him, nor was He declaring that GOD had forsaken Him. He, as His manner was, was quoting scripture. He spoke the first verse of PSALM 22, knowing that His Jewish listeners, if attentive, would instantly recall the entire psalm. It must have been like a flood rolling over them as their minds paged down through the passages which so visually reflected the scene transpiring right before their very eyes.
PSALM 22:1-31 My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?
O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent. But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel. Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them. They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded.
But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people. All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.
But thou art he that took me out of the womb: thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother's breasts. I was cast upon thee from the womb: thou art my God from my mother's belly.
Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help. Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round. They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels. My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death. For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet. I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me. They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.
But be not thou far from me, O LORD: O my strength, haste thee to help me. Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog. Save me from the lion's mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns.
I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee. Ye that fear the LORD, praise him; all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him; and fear him, all ye the seed of Israel. For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard.
My praise shall be of thee in the great congregation: I will pay my vows before them that fear him. The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the LORD that seek him: your heart shall live for ever. All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the LORD: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee. For the kingdom is the LORD'S: and he is the governor among the nations.
All they that be fat upon earth shall eat and worship: all they that go down to the dust shall bow before him: and none can keep alive his own soul. A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation. They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this.
The psalm ends with the phrase, "That he hath done this", which is quite similar in the Greek to Yeshua's final phrase on the cross, "It is finished" (JOHN 19:30). To many of those assembled around His cross, it appeared that GOD had forsaken Him, that He was no more than a worm, despised of the people. Yet before the psalm ends we have its true testimony, that GOD "hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard".
The psalmist declares that he himself was called before he was born, while still in the womb. Howbeit, Yeshua was called even before the foundation of the world. (see JOHN 17:24 and 1 PETER 1:20)
A comment should be made concerning verse sixteen of this psalm. It reads in most English versions as,
For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced [karah] my hands and my feet.
The word translated pierced is from the Hebrew word karah which is never so translated elsewhere in the Bible. It means to excavate or dig. Howbeit, many Hebrew texts read 'ariy here, which means lion. Obvious there is great confusion and debate as to its original meaning. Evidently, Christian scribes long ago felt a need to make the verse more closely identify with the crucifixion scene and so translated it as we have it today. A better reading may be the one suggested below.
Dogs surround me, a pack of wicked ones, like a lion they circumscribe my hands and my feet.
Thus the psalmist was quite possibly saying that he was frozen with fear as he saw his adversaries as a pack of wild dogs or a stalking lion circling for the kill. Either way though, the verse cannot say what we have been so long led to believe that it said.
They Shall Look Upon Him Whom They Have Pierced
Even after His passing, the scriptures were still speaking of Him.
JOHN 19:31-37 The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.
Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs: but one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.
And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe. For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled,
A bone of him shall not be broken.
And again another scripture saith,
They shall look on him whom they pierced.
The quotation about a bone not being broken very likely concerns the Passover Lamb, which was to be prepared and eaten without a bone being broken (see EXODUS 12:46 and NUMBERS 9:12). Both John the Baptist (JOHN 1:29) as well as the apostle Paul (1 CORINTHIANS 5:7) referred to Yeshua as this Lamb, so the idea of Him not having a bone broken is of great significance. The scriptures pass over this incident almost un-noticed, with Matthew, Mark and Luke not even mentioning it.
The other scripture here referred to is concerning His side being pierced.
ZECHARIAH 12:8-10 In that day shall the LORD defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and he that is feeble among them at that day shall be as David; and the house of David shall be as God, as the angel of the LORD before them.
And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.
Any reader can see plainly and clearly that this passage is not a prediction about Yeshua being stabbed with a spear as He hung upon the cross. It has to do with a time when the LORD is defending the inhabitants of Jerusalem and destroying all the nations which are coming against it. For an unstated reason, in Zechariah's age the nation of Judah had taken up arms against its capital, the city of Jerusalem, evidently in league with an invading army. But at a critical point Judah changed sides and realigned themselves with Jerusalem. Thus, the true rendering my be closer to the one paraphrased below, which has a beautiful parallel to the incident on the cross.
ZECHARIAH 12:10 "They [the people of Jerusalem] shall exhibit a kindly and prayerful spirit; and in their sorrow for their slain brethren of Judah, shall look to ME, their GOD, for comfort." (Quotations in the New Testament)
Thus, the ancient inhabitants of Jerusalem had looked upon their brethren whom they had slain, eerily similar to what transpired in Yeshua's own day. Note Peter's charge of murder on the Day of Pentecost when thousands repented of their crime (ACTS 2:23, 36-37).
Ought not Christ to have suffered?
After Yeshua's resurrection, he appeared to two of His disciples as they were walking along the road to a village by the name of Emmaus. They were grief stricken as they discussed Yeshua's death which seemingly marked the end of their hopes for Israel's redemption. Yet lately, certain women had thought to have seen Him alive again. Though Yeshua walked with them, His identity was hidden from them.
LUKE 24:25-27 Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.
They had all expected the Messiah to come galloping up on a white horse chasing away the entrenched Roman Army from their Land, or something to that effect. Yet He came in peace, straddled across the back of an ass. During His ministry He had tried to correct their false image of Him, but seemingly to no avail.
Even John the Baptist evidently had a mistaken expectation of who the Messiah would be and what He was sent to do. As he languished in Herod's prison, he had to wonder why his cousin, whom he had believed to be the Messiah, did not overthrow the ruling establishment and thereby obtain his release. Why was it taking so long; what was Yeshua waiting for, many of them no doubt questioned. John even sent two of his own disciples to Yeshua to ask if indeed He was the one which they had awaited (LUKE 7:19).
But GOD had other plans for HIS Messiah, and now those plans had saw there completion. The Messiah was to suffer, but after that suffering He was then to enter into His glory.
Luke's phrase in our passage, all the scriptures surely doesn't mean that Yeshua read with these two disciples every single passage from their Bible. Rather it means all the scriptures pertaining to the subject matter at hand. In like manner, we can have confidence that when Luke used the phrase, all the prophets in this same passage that he didn't mean that each and every prophet spoke of Yeshua's suffering and glory. But instead, every prophet which did speak of it, from Moses onward, Yeshua expounded unto them.
A few hours after this incident on the road to Emmaus, Yeshua again appeared unto these two disciples, along with all of the apostles (except Thomas) who were assembled with some of the other disciples. Here He reminded them that He had more than once told them during their time together what was eventually going to happen unto Him.
LUKE 24:44-46 And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled [pleroo, fully expounded], which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding [nous, mind], that they might understand [suniemi, connect the dots of] the scriptures, and said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day.
One doubts that Yeshua touched His disciples on the forehead with a magic wand so as to open their understanding. Rather, we are to suppose that He once again taught them the truth concerning His calling and mission, now that they were in a frame of mind to listen. Thus, the light finally began to come on, they were starting to connect the dots. They weren't smarter then the scribes and Pharisees, they were just now reading their Bibles with an entirely new perspective.
Except where His apostles later quoted these prophecies in ACTS and in their own writings, we can only speculate as to which prophets and what prophecies Yeshua here referred to. Our best bet is to read that which His apostles said and wrote concerning His death and resurrection. A primary passage is from Peter's so called Pentecostal sermon.
ACTS 2:27 Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell [the grave], neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. (from PSALM 16:10)
Peter here attributes this psalm to David (the king and prophet), who links his own death with that of the Holy One, which Peter here interprets as the Messiah. This tells us that, according to Peter, David predicted the Messiah's death, only that His body would somehow not corrupt.
MATTHEW 21:42 Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes? (from PSALM 188:22)
Though we have no evidence that the apostles ever quoted this passage, Mathew, Mark and Luke all write that Yeshua quoted the passage. Thus, we would be surprised if they never used it themselves. Simply put, as we are to expect that the stone was referring to the Messiah, Him being rejected suggests that he was misused if not indeed abused. Yeshua even says as much when He quotes the passage right after the parable of the wicked husbandmen who killed the Landlord's son.
Now we turn to the ACTS. In the first chapter is a quotation which if not understood has to be quite perplexing. It is usually thought that Peter is quoting two psalms and declaring that the holy spirit says that these two are referring to Judas, who betrayed Yeshua. Yet, when we read the two psalms they indicate nothing of the kind.
We will need to take the time to sort out what was being said by Peter to the hundred and twenty and what was being added by the narrator as explanation for his readers of a later time. It will help if we recognize that the original text had no punctuation, so we are not tampering with the text by changing that punctuation. What I have added below is substantially different than most versions, but I think it makes good sense of this section.
[From the narrator] And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, and said, (the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty,)
[From Peter] Men and brethren, this scripture [the scripture, not this scripture] must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus. For he was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry.
[From the narrator] Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out. And it was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch as that field is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama, that is to say, The field of blood. For it is written in the book of Psalms,
Let his [their] habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein [PSALM 69:25]: and his bishoprick let another take [PSALM 109:8].
[From Peter] Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection.
[From the narrator] And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen, that he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place. And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.
Luke probably got this information from Peter or one of the other attendees, but it is not known if the narrator here would have been Luke or if it was his source. Nevertheless, he reports Peter as saying that the "scripture must needs have been fulfilled" and we have all supposed that it is Peter, in his speech to the hundred and twenty, who is referring to the two scriptures given a few verses later (PSALM 69:25 and 109:8). But after considering that assumption, we must conclude that it is the narrator inserting those verses at a later date in order to explain the why and the wherefores of Peter's speech.
Howbeit, the scripture which Peter in his speech is referring to (but not quoting), is the scripture which Yeshua had referred to some time before,
....but that the scripture [PSALM 41:9] may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me (JOHN 13:18).
....none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled (JOHN 17:12).
In Peter's speech, he is not addressing newcomers to the Church. These hundred and twenty are mostly faithful disciples who have well known Yeshua's teaching on the subject of His betrayal, as well as Judas and his pernicious ways. Thus, Peter does not need to quote scripture to substantiate his position or justify his actions, for all of his listeners are well aware of all that had transpired.
Luke however, or whoever the narrator might have been, was writing possibly years later to individuals who may have known little to nothing of Judas and his ways. Therefore, he needed scripture references to explain and support his supposition. Thus Luke's agenda was not the same as Peter's, for Peter in his speech, was looking to fill the vacancy left by Judas with another disciple. Luke on the other hand, in writing ACTS, was attempting to explain what had happened to Judas and why. Thus, the scriptures quoted by Luke helped him to explain Judas' motive and self destruction.
The quote from PSALM 69 speaks of the adversaries and persecutors of GOD's servant, that their habitation shall be desolate, which aptly applies to our context in ACTS. Howbeit, the quote from PSALM 109 requires some more thought and consideration.
It should be noticed that in PSALM 109 the psalmist's adversaries are many, for "they compassed him about" (verse 3). Yet when we come to read a few verse later of the curses, we see that they are directed at a single individual, "let him be condemned", "let his days be few", "let the strangers spoil his labour" and so on. This is because these curses (verses 6-19), these "words of hatred", are curses which are hurled at the psalmist by his adversaries, not by the psalmist against his adversaries, as is often assumed.
PSALM 109:1-13 [the psalmist says] Hold not thy peace, O God of my praise; for the mouth of the wicked and the mouth of the deceitful are opened against me: they have spoken against me with a lying tongue.
They compassed me about also with words of hatred; and fought against me without a cause. For my love they are my adversaries: but I give myself unto prayer. And they have rewarded me evil for good, and hatred for my love.
[for my adversaries say] Set thou a wicked man over him: and let Satan stand at his right hand. When he shall be judged, let him be condemned: and let his prayer become sin. Let his days be few; and let another take his office. Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow. Let his children be continually vagabonds, and beg: let them seek their bread also out of their desolate places.
Let the extortioner catch all that he hath; and let the strangers spoil his labour. Let there be none to extend mercy unto him: neither let there be any to favour his fatherless children. Let his posterity be cut off; and in the generation following let their name be blotted out.
Let the iniquity of his fathers be remembered with the LORD; and let not the sin of his mother be blotted out. Let them be before the LORD continually, that he may cut off the memory of them from the earth. Because that he remembered not to shew mercy, but persecuted the poor and needy man, that he might even slay the broken in heart.
As he loved cursing, so let it come unto him: as he delighted not in blessing, so let it be far from him. As he clothed himself with cursing like as with his garment, so let it come into his bowels like water, and like oil into his bones. Let it be unto him as the garment which covereth him, and for a girdle wherewith he is girded continually.
[then the psalmist replies] Let this be the reward of mine adversaries from the LORD, and of them that speak evil against my soul. But do thou for me, O GOD the Lord, for thy name's sake: because thy mercy is good, deliver thou me. For I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me.
I am gone like the shadow when it declineth: I am tossed up and down as the locust. My knees are weak through fasting; and my flesh faileth of fatness. I became also a reproach unto them: when they looked upon me they shaked their heads.
Help me, O LORD my God: O save me according to thy mercy: that they may know that this is thy hand; that thou, LORD, hast done it. Let them curse, but bless thou: when they arise, let them be ashamed; but let thy servant rejoice. Let mine adversaries be clothed with shame, and let them cover themselves with their own confusion, as with a mantle.
I will greatly praise the LORD with my mouth; yea, I will praise him among the multitude. For he shall stand at the right hand of the poor, to save him from those that condemn his soul.
The reference in this psalm, "let another take his office" was a curse leveled at the psalmist by his adversaries. In that case, how do we make sense of Luke's use of this quotation, "his bishoprick let another take", as applying to Judas? Luke may not be speaking about Judas loosing his office or bishopric, but perhaps about Judas' hopes and efforts to steal the bishopric away from Yeshua. In other words, was Luke suggesting by quoting the psalm, that Judas was the one saying, "Let another take Yeshua's bishopric"?
For the psalm to be an appropriate quote, it must be referring to the hopes and maneuverings of the wicked and deceitful against the bishopric of the righteous. They are the ones who reward evil for good and hate for love. Luke's quote is quite possibly in reference to Yeshua's adversaries, who though leveling curses and hateful words at Him, eventually see it all come back on themselves. How wonderful are the scriptures when we take the time and effort to look beneath the surface to discover its hidden truths.
Note that the only other time Luke used this Greek word episkope, which is translated bishoprick in ACTS, was in his Gospel in reference to Yeshua where the same word is rendered visitation (LUKE 19:44).
Luke may be telling us that all of Judas' evil designs against Yeshua, became his own reward. He didn't get to enjoy his ill gotten fruits, but instead died a horrible death as a result of his own conspiracies. Yeshua let him go his way, and his way was to lie, steal, envy and lust. Thus, in the end he got what he deserved.
As the young ministry began to flourish, this lesson was an important one. Wherever there is money, there will be somebody trying to figure out a way of stealing it. Not long afterward, just a few chapters later, we see this play out in the lives of Ananias and his wife Sapphira.
David Speaketh Concerning Him
The apostle Peter was making the case in the following quotation, that because GOD raised Yeshua from the grave and His body therefore was not going to corrupt, that David was referring to Him in his psalm.
ACTS 2:25-27 For David speaketh concerning him,
I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved: therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope: because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell [hades, the realm of the dead], neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.
David is here stating that he believes that GOD will not leave his own self dead, and further that GOD was not going to allow HIS Holy One to even see corruption. Peter explains in this first public sermon of the early church, that the Holy One to which David refers is indeed Yeshua from Nazareth, and there is utterly no reason to believe that He was not. The text is almost word for word with the Greek Lexicon.
LXE PSALM 16:8-10 I foresaw the Lord always before my face; for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved. Therefore my heart rejoiced and my tongue exulted; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope: because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.
Christ Should Suffer
In the following passage, Peter is clearly stating that the prophets of the Jewish Bible spoke and wrote that the Messiah was to suffer in the same fashion that Yeshua did.
ACTS 3:18 But those things, which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled.
The phrase all the prophets does not necessarily mean each and every one of the prophets. Note a later occurrence of this word all in ACTS.
ACTS 4:21 So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding nothing how they might punish them, because of the people: for all men glorified God for that which was done.
Did indeed all glorify GOD for what was done? Did each and every individual glorify GOD for what was done? Evidently not, for their "rulers, and elders, and scribes, and Annas the high priest, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest" (ACTS 4:5-6) were not at all happy about what had happened. In fact, they were absolutely furious with the disciples. The word all means either all without exception, or it can also mean all those which are referred to in the context.
We might recall that after Yeshua's betrayal and apprehension in the Garden of Gethsemane, Mark tells us that all forsook Him and fled (MARK 14:50). Howbeit, we know that not each and every individual that was present fled, for the soldiers did not flee. It is Matthew who tells us that it was only the disciples which all forsook Him (MATTHEW 26:56). Thus, when Mark says that all forsook Him, the context within which he spoke must be considered, and then we understand that he meant what Matthew wrote, that all of the specific group of disciples fled, but not all who were present, without exception fled.
It is further recognized that few in Israel understood that when the Messiah came, that He would suffer. Most recognized that He would conquer, that He would judge, that He would bind up and heal, but not that He would suffer. We know this to be the case because of the two distraught disciples Yeshua conversed with on the road to Emmaus, after His resurrection. They said of the Messiah, that "we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel" (LUKE 24:21), but that the chief priests and rulers had delivered Him to be condemned to death and had crucified Him.
Then Yeshua responded with a sense of exasperation and impatience,
O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.
All the prophets and all the scriptures Yeshua referred to, was not every single prophet without exception, nor each and every verse of scripture, but He was referring to those which pertained to the context within which they were conversing. All the prophets and all the scriptures which referred to His suffering and His glory, these are the ones He expounded upon on.
We too often neglect to consider that each verse has its own context. Every passage was written as a part of a chapter, a piece of one larger puzzle. Thus it is with the whole subject of GOD's anointed, HIS Messiah or Christ.
When we hear a reference concerning GOD's anointed our minds naturally think of Yeshua. It is common to perceive of only one person being able to fulfill that calling, and the idea that there have been other Christs is a concept that may seem a little unsettling.
Let us begin by considering Peter's quotation in ACTS of a passage in the second psalm.
ACTS 4:23-28 And being let go, they went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them. And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is: who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said,
Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ [PSALM 2:1-2].
For of a truth against thy holy child [servant] Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.
It at first seems beyond question that this quotation in the psalms must be referring to Yeshua, that is, until we read the context within which the passage was set.
PSALM 2:1-12 Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.
He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.
I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.
Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.
The second verse does indeed read, "The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed" but then the third verse finishes the thought with these subservient kings and rulers saying, "Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us". After a careful reading, we can see that the context within which the verse sets tells us that this psalm is concerning a group of kings, rulers and judges who are intending a revolt against their anointed ruler.
Even though the word for anointed is the same as that for Messiah (in the Hebrew) or Christ (in the Greek), when the scriptures speak of one being anointed, it does not automatically mean that it is referring to the promised and long awaited Messiah or Christ. We so wholly think of Yeshua as being the only Christ, the only anointed, that we too often neglect to think about what the word actually means.
The word Christ means anointed, that is true, but many different people in scripture are said to be anointed. In fact, even items such as shields (ISAIAH 21:5) and houses (JEREMIAH 22:14) are said to be anointed. The verb anoint generally means "to spread a liquid".
To be anointed by GOD means simply to be endowed or empowered with some special ability or insight. Most often kings (like Saul and David) or priests (like Aaron) were anointed, but we also find occasion where a prophet is said to be anointed (see 1 KINGS 19:16). One of the most surprising individuals that scripture describes as being anointed by GOD is Cyrus, the king of Persia and conqueror of Babylon.
ISAIAH 45:1 Thus saith the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut.
Cyrus was anointed by GOD so as to accomplish HIS purpose, which, among other things, consisted of returning the people of Israel to their homeland where they could rebuild their temple and nation. Clearly then, just because a passage mentions GOD's anointed, that doesn't necessarily mean it is referring to Yeshua, or the promised Messiah.
Peter used the passage in the second psalm, which described a group of kings, rulers and judges rebelling against GOD's chosen leader, as an echo or reflection of the religious and political leaders of his day, which were also standing against another of GOD's anointed, which at that time was of course Yeshua.
This in no way belittles Yeshua or elevates Cyrus or even David to His level. This is simply letting the scriptures speak for themselves and not attempting to force our own preconceived theology into them. GOD inspired Isaiah to write that Cyrus was GOD's anointed, and this helps us to understand exactly what the word means.
Thus, Peter was not proposing that the quote from the second psalm specifically predicted that someday Herod and Pilate would have a hand in Yeshua's crucifixion, but rather, that they, just like those who lived long before them, were all aligned against what GOD had already "determined before to be done". Peter was simply saying that the same way in which the establishment tried to thwart the purposes of GOD in the Jewish Bible, so they were still attempting to do in the days in which he lived.
The Servant of the LORD
Similar to how the word Christ and Messiah have too often been commandeered to represent only Yeshua, so has the word Servant been routinely thought of as referring only to Him, especially in the prophecies from ISAIAH.
ACTS 8:26-35 And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert.
And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship, was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet.
Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him.
The place of the scripture which he read was this,
He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: in his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? For his life is taken from the earth.
And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man? Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.
The record declares that after the eunuch's question about of whom the prophecy was written, Philip "preached unto him Jesus". We then make the assumption that the prophecy must then be a prediction written about Yeshua, but that may be jumping to an flawed conclusion and reading too much into what Philip said.
Philip preached unto the eunuch about Yeshua because that was the whole reason for Philip being there in the first place. His entire purpose in life was to declare and make known the Redeemer, the Deliverer and Savior (see ACTS 8:5). Surely every opportunity which he was given would be spent preaching about the Saviour. The eunuch's question was simply an open door for him.
Even though the echoes and similarities of Yeshua with that of which Isaiah wrote in the fifty-third chapter of his book are truly remarkable, they are not necessarily predictions. No where does Isaiah say anything about his prophecy pertaining to an individual coming sometime in the future. He is simply describing a servant of the LORD, and we know that this particular servant in many respects was very much like Yeshua. Here is where the eunuch happened to be reading.
LXE ISAIAH 53:7-8 ....he was led as a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is dumb, so he opens not his mouth. In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken away from the earth: because of the iniquities of my people he was led to death.
Of course GOD knew that what Isaiah wrote would someday mirror what Yeshua was going to someday endure; and we can be sure that Yeshua often read these passages and no doubt identified Himself with this servant. Still, we can only proclaim that Isaiah is speaking specifically about the promised Messiah if we remove this passage entirely from its context and read it as an isolated prediction.
And this is what many do and teach, that we should and must take this and other verses out of their context. They justify this by thinking that this is what Philip was doing, and what Peter did, and the apostle Paul. And yet when we come to understanding and interpreting the scriptures, we are told that we must read them within the context in which they have been placed. If that rule is a true one, which I believe it is, then surely the apostles and evangelists followed it likewise.
Let us brake loose from the herd and see if we can read this section of scripture free from the tether of Church dogma and tradition. Let us consider them in the context in which Isaiah wrote these scriptures. The section begins in verse thirteen of the previous chapter.
ISAIAH 52:13-15 Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high [see 6:1]. As many were astonied at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men: so shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider.
I count almost forty times that this word servant is used in ISAIAH. Usually it refers to simple servants or messengers, but Isaiah also used the word in reference to himself, to an Eliakim, to king David and to the nation of Israel in general. It therefore behooves us to find concrete evidence that the term refers prophetically to Yeshua before we make that assumption. We should take the time to deeply consider this section before we jump to any conclusions about whom my servant is referring to.
In 52:14 the version reads that this servant's "visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men" and yet in 53:2 we read that "he hath no form nor comeliness". One has to ask, How can His form be more marred than any man if He has no form?
It is widely acknowledged that this section of ISAIAH has many irregularities in its translation. Verses which seem to make little sense in the Hebrew or Greek, the English translators have long wrestled with. Such is also the case in the next phrase of chapter 52, "so shall he sprinkle many nations". What could this possibly mean? The Greek reads "thus shall many nations wonder at him". Sprinkle or wonder? Which is it, if either?
Note that the tense also changes back and forth, from future to past and then back to future again, all in just these three verses. Chapter fifty-three is not much better. It starts out in the past tense, then abruptly changes to the future, then to the present, then back to the past, and so on. This is not because Isaiah wrote so chaotically, but because the text has evidently been often altered over the centuries.
How about the phrase in verse five, "the chastisement of our peace was upon him", what does that mean? Or in verse eight where it reads, "who shall declare his generation"? What could Isaiah have meant by that? There is much here we would like to have explained, but who can do it? It is as one scholar wrote concerning the various interpretations of this section, "One is tempted to view this curiosity as an example of the blind leading the blind", Invitation to the Septuagint, page 224.
Much has been said and written about just what was the original meaning of Isaiah in this section of scripture, and we will not attempt to put a period after what many capable scholars have only been able to put a question mark. We will instead try to confine ourselves to whether or not Isaiah intended this servant to represent the promised Messiah or some other.
The section then continues into chapter fifty three.
ISAIAH 53:1 Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?
It is curious that this verse is quoted twice by two different writers in the Christian Scriptures. It is quoted first by John in JOHN 12:38 and then by Paul in ROMANS 10:16. John quotes it as referring to the Jews unbelief despite all of the miracles that Yeshua had performed. Paul quotes it concerning the Jews unbelief despite all that the apostles had taught and done.
Thus there may be a key here in understanding of whom Isaiah is referring to as the servant of the LORD. Is he writing concerning one particular individual, or is he writing concerning the task of any individual who acts as GOD's servant? The last phrase of the final verse of chapter fifty-two and the first portion of verse one of chapter fifty-three have been variously translated below.
Shall they who had not heard believe? Who of those who have heard does?
This section of scripture was never written to be divided up between two separate chapters. It is one whole with one message. Isaiah was very possibly asking, How can those who have not heard believe, when even those who have heard don't? Evidently, the answer to his rhetorical question is, that those destined to believe are those to whom the arm of the LORD had been revealed (ISAIAH 52:10 & 53:1).
Let's consider the rest of the chapter.
ISAIAH 53:2-12 For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. (see MATTHEW 27:27-31)
He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.
Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.
He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
I don't see how this last sentence can possibly be referring to Yeshua. How can the King of kings and Lord of lords be given only a portion of the spoil? He is above all, not equal to any. Surely He is not being awarded some portion, some piece of the pie, so to speak. If anything, He is the one handing out the rewards.
Consider also the passage (verse 9) which states that this servant made his grave with the wicked. Yeshua was not laid to rest with the wicked; instead Joseph of Arimathaea placed Him in his own private tomb? Thus we may not be far off the mark if we arrive at the conclusion that this servant is not Yeshua alone but rather all of GOD's servants collectively.
There is no doubt that there are many parallels in the two accounts, many similarities or echoes, but there is no way that the two incidents from ISAIAH and ACTS are identical. One does not predict the other and the other does not accomplish the one.
It is made more difficult to understand this whole subject by the irregular and inconsistent way in which the translators have rendered various Greek words into English. ACTS 13 gives us a good example of this.
ACTS 13:22 And when he had removed him, he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave testimony, and said,
I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil [poieo] all my will.
ACTS 13:25 And as John fulfilled [pleroo] his course, he said, Whom think ye that I am? I am not he. But, behold, there cometh one after me, whose shoes of his feet I am not worthy to loose.
ACTS 13:27 For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day, they have fulfilled [pleroo] them in condemning him.
ACTS 13:29 And when they had fulfilled [teleo] all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulchre.
ACTS 13:33 God hath fulfilled [ekpleroo] the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm,
Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.
ACTS 13:40-41 Beware therefore, lest that come upon you, which is spoken of in the prophets;
Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you. (HABAKKUK 1:10)
The work of which the prophet Habakkuk spoke, was that, because the rich of Judah had robbed and plundered the poor of the land, even their own brethren, GOD was going to bring the "terrible and dreadful" Chaldeans upon them which would carry off all of the rich and noble aristocracy as exiles into Assyria. Paul used this incident from their history to warn them again that the same calamity was about to befall them. This time though, it would be the Romans which GOD would bring upon the land, but the devastation would be just as total.
Unto Our Fathers
Here is our last prophecy from the Jewish Bible which is quoted in ACTS. It had to do with when Paul met the leaders of the Jewish community in Rome and endeavored to open their eyes to the truth that Yeshua was indeed their long awaited and promised Messiah.
ACTS 28:25-27 And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers, saying,
Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive: For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.
It was indeed true that Isaiah spoke unto their fathers, and that his prophecy was directed towards and intended for them, the fathers of old. But it also had a second application and possibly a third and fourth. It applied every time the Jews closed their eyes and turned away their ears from the truth. And so it is with many of the prophecies of the Jewish Bible which are quoted in the Christian Scriptures, they were written for days of old, but they also have an additional application to the latter days when Yeshua and His disciples wrote and taught.
This prophecy from the sixth chapter of ISAIAH is also quoted by Yeshua in MATTHEW 13:14-15, where we handled it above. The only thing to be added here, is that Paul quotes it for the final time in scripture because the last days of the Jewish dispensation are at hand. The door is fast closing for the chosen nation. It is about to slam shut. In a few verses the book of ACTS ends and in a short time Israel will itself end as a nation and Jerusalem will end as a city. The judge is at the door and the books are about to be opened and justice finally handed out.
They Stumbled at that Stumbling Stone
The apostle Paul twice makes reference to this phrase from the book of ISAIAH in his epistle to the Romans, and then Peter makes reference to it in his first epistle written to Jewish Christians scattered throughout the Dispersion.
ROMANS 9:33 As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed [kataischuno].
ROMANS 10:11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed [kataischuno].
1 PETER 2:6 Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded [kataischuno].
Both Paul and Peter quoted from their Bible, that he who believes shall not be kataischuno. Our English translators rendered kataischuno as both ashamed and confounded, but a more applicable definition might be, "disappointed in one's expectations". Thayer's Greek English Lexicon defines kataischuno as such,
By a Hebrew usage one is said to be put to shame who suffers a repulse, or whom some hope has deceived; hence, kataischuno does not disappoint.
If one is disappointed in his expectations, he may have a look on his face that resembles one who is ashamed, one who is confounded, but ashamed as we generally use the term, is not necessarily a good definition of this word kataischuno. We will presently look at other places in the Bible where this word occurs to see this bear out, but in the verses quoted above, one can see that ashamed makes little sense. Was Paul writing that whosoever believes in Yeshua as the Messiah shall not be ashamed, or did he write that whosoever believes in Him shall not be disappointed in his expectations? Ashamed is defined as feeling shame or guilt, and shame is defined in The American Heritage Dictionary, as
1. A painful emotion caused by a strong sense of guilt, embarrassment, unworthiness, or disgrace. 2. Capacity for such a feeling: Have you no shame? 3. A person or thing that brings dishonor, disgrace, or condemnation. 4. A condition of disgrace or dishonor; ignominy. 5. A great disappointment.
If the fifth definition above, a great disappointment, is thought of when the word is used, then perhaps the use of ashamed in our verses above would be appropriate, but the ordinary idea of the word does not give us that sense.
In the final analysis, when we have made a full survey of the word kataischuno in the scriptures, I think that we will have learned that both Paul and Peter were saying that if someone would believe that Yeshua was indeed the Messiah, and that He was indeed the stone which the builders rejected; then that person, that believer if you will, would not be disappointed when he bases his whole life on the fact that Yeshua was to return and gather him together into heaven with the other saints. This is the hope we will read about so often as we consider the other usages in the Book of this word kataischuno.
But first let us look in the book of ISAIAH from which the apostles quoted.
ISAIAH 28:16 Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste [chuwsh].
Now we have to scratch our heads. Here we are told that he who believes, shall not make haste. Not making haste or hurrying about seems to be quite different than not being ashamed or disappointed.
Haste here in ISAIAH is from the Hebrew word chuwsh, and is defined in the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament as simply, "hurry, make haste, hasten". There is a lot of difference between not hurrying on the one hand and not being disappointed on the other. If Paul and Peter had this word chuwsh in the text from which they quoted, then why did they translate their verse as they did? They must have had a different text before them then the Hebrew one which we have, and from which our English version was translated.
An English translation of the Greek version of the text of Isaiah reads as such,
LXE ISAIAH 28:16 Therefore thus saith the Lord, even the Lord, Behold, I lay for the foundations of Sion a costly stone, a choice, a corner-stone, a precious stone, for its foundations; and he that believes on him shall by no means be ashamed [kataischuno].
We find that in the Greek version of ISAIAH this same word kataischuno is used. Thus, in this Greek Version it is written that he who believes shall not be disappointed in his expectations, and yet in the Hebrew Masoretic text we are told that he who believes shall not make haste. I see no way to reconcile these two translations except by declaring one of them as wrong. As Paul and Peter both chose the Greek here (to not be ashamed or disappointed), over the Hebrew Masoretic text (to not make haste), we should do likewise, I think.
There is a Hebrew word whose definition more closely resembles this Greek word kataischuno, and that is the word buwsh, which is defined in Old Testament Word Studies,
....most commonly that which follows upon disappointment of opinion, hope, or expectation. Its primary idea seems to lie in paleness caused by fear; it is therefore used of confusion and consciousness of disgrace and ignominy, or in respect of anything which causes a degree of disgrace, as of a son causing shame: Prov. 10:5; Is. 29:22. Applied to enemies and wicked men who are put to flight after vain attempts, and to persons oppressed with sudden calamity.
If this Hebrew word buwsh had been used in the text of ISAIAH 28:16 from which the apostles read, then we could assume that they simply translated the Hebrew buwsh into the Greek kataischuno. But as a different Hebrew word is used in the Masoretic text, chuwsh, we must conclude that they had a different source for their quotation. Either they had a different Hebrew text, that or perhaps a Greek text which had been translated from a different Hebrew text.
Let us now take the time to go through the Bible and see how this word kataischuno is used elsewhere, so as to decide for ourselves if it means not to be ashamed or to not be disappointed in one's expectations. Reading from the Greek Version, we begin in JUDGES.
LXE JUDGES 18:7 And the five men went on, and came to Laisa; and they saw the people in the midst of it dwelling securely, at ease as is the manner of the Sidonians, and there is no one perverting or shaming [kataischuno] a matter in the land, no heir extorting treasures; and they are far from the Sidonians, and they have no intercourse with any one.
Our translator's choice of the word shaming for kataischuno injects confusion into this verse. These people of Laisa were dwelling securely and at ease. We might with confidence conclude that there was justice in the land. When a citizen went about his business, he fully expected that he would reap his just rewards for his labor. There was no one who was going to rob him or force him to pay a bribe. When a damsel traveled we can conclude that she felt safe from harm. Thus, the citizens of Laisa felt secure and were not disappointed in their expectations as they went about their daily routines.
Here is another.
LXE RUTH 2:15 And she rose up to glean; and Booz charged his young men, saying, Let her even glean among the sheaves, and reproach [kataischuno] her not.
Here the translators decided, with amazing inconsistency, to use the word reproach for kataischuno. Boaz instructed his servants that they should not reproach Ruth, that she should be allowed to go into the fields and forage for something to eat. She was poor and hungry and had hoped that she would be able to gather what was left after the harvest was finished, as was the custom in the land. Thus Booz instructed his men that they should let her be and not harass her, that she should not be disappointed in her expectations to find food.
LXE PSALM 6:10 Let all mine enemies be put to shame [kataischuno] and sore troubled: let them be turned back and grievously put to shame speedily.
The psalmist prayed that his enemies be turned back from their expectations. Shame seems to be a terrible choice of translation in this verse. His enemies had expectations of troubling him and so he prayed that they would be disappointed and not see their hopes realized.
The PSALMS are a substantial source for the occurrences of the usage of this word kataischuno, which we give below. Notice how often that kataischuno is associated with one's expected hope.
LXE PSALM 24:2 [25:2] O my God, I have trusted in thee: let me not be confounded [kataischuno], neither let mine enemies laugh me to scorn.
LXE PSALM 24:20 [25:20] Keep my soul, and deliver me: let me not be ashamed [kataischuno]; for I have hoped in thee.
LXE PSALM 30:1 [31:1] O Lord, I have hoped in thee; let me never be ashamed [kataischuno]: deliver me in thy righteousness and rescue me.
LXE PSALM 30:17 [31:17] O Lord, let me not be ashamed [kataischuno], for I have called upon thee: let the ungodly be ashamed [kataischuno], and brought down to Hades.
LXE PSALM 33:5 [34:5] Draw near to him, and be enlightened: and your faces shall not by any means be ashamed [kataischuno].
LXE PSALM 39:14 [40:14] Let those that seek my soul, to destroy it, be ashamed [kataischuno] and confounded together; let those that wish me evil be turned backward and put to shame.
LXE PSALM 69:2 [70:2] Let them be ashamed and confounded that seek my soul: let them be turned backward and put to shame [kataischuno], that wish me evil.
LXE PSALM 70:1 [71:1] O Lord, I have hoped in thee: let me never be put to shame [kataischuno].
LXE PSALM 118:31 [119:31] I have cleaved to thy testimonies, O Lord; put me not to shame [kataischuno].
LXE PSALM 118:116 [119:116] Uphold me according to thy word, and quicken me; and make me not ashamed [kataischuno] of my expectation.
Thus we can see a clear pattern that kataischuno has to do with being disappointed in one's expectations and has little or nothing whatever to do with one feeling ashamed in some peculiar way. Let us now look at the two usages in the book of ISAIAH.
LXE ISAIAH 3:15 Why do ye wrong my people, and shame [kataischuno] the face of the poor?
LXE ISAIAH 28:16 Therefore thus saith the Lord, even the Lord, Behold, I lay for the foundations of Sion a costly stone, a choice, a corner-stone, a precious stone, for its foundations; and he that believes on him shall by no means be ashamed [kataischuno].
The reason the face of the poor might look to be shamed or confounded, is because they have been robbed of their expectations. They have had their hopes dashed. Thus, as quoted in 28:16, he who is steadfast in his belief in the Lord, will not be disappointed, for his expectation will eventually be fulfilled.
LXE JEREMIAH 7:19 Do they provoke me to anger? saith the Lord: do they not provoke themselves, that their faces may be ashamed [kataischuno]?
LXE JEREMIAH 17:18 Let them that persecute me be ashamed [kataischuno], but let me not be ashamed [kataischuno]: let them be alarmed, but let me not be alarmed: bring upon them the evil day, crush them with double destruction.
Those that would seek to persecute him he prayed would be disappointed in their expectation. We can be assured that Jeremiah cared little if they blushed or were ashamed of their evil intentions. He instead wanted them turned back and thwarted in their evil attempts to cause him harm.
LXE JOEL 2:26 And ye shall eat abundantly, and be satisfied, and shall praise the name of the Lord your God for the things which he has wrought wonderfully with you: and my people shall not be ashamed [kataischuno] for ever.
The prophet assured them that they would no longer be disappointed in their expectations.
LXE ZEPHANIAH 3:11 In that day thou shalt not be ashamed [kataischuno] of all thy practices, wherein thou hast transgressed against me: for then will I take away from thee thy disdainful pride, and thou shalt no more magnify thyself upon my holy mountain.
In that day they would no longer be disappointed in their expectations, for then they would no longer be transgressing against GOD, no longer magnifying themselves in their pride. In that day, GOD shall finally cause their expectations to be fulfilled. Now we come to the usages in the Christian Scriptures.
LUKE 13:17 And when he had said these things, all his adversaries were ashamed [kataischuno]: and all the people rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by him.
Yeshua's adversaries had hoped to foil Him, or to at least discredit Him in the eyes of the people, but their efforts were thwarted. Hence, they were disappointed in their expectations.
ROMANS 5:1-5 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope: and hope maketh not ashamed [kataischuno]; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.
Here we have it said as plainly as it can be said, I think. Hope maketh not ashamed! Paul's hope of Yeshua's imminent return gave him confidence that he would not to be disappointed in his expectations. Thus, Paul could glory in tribulations, because he knew that some day Yeshua would return and then, in that day he would be justly rewarded for all of his efforts. This had nothing to do with blushing or being ashamed, but it had to do with whether or not Paul and his readers were going to be disappointed in their expectations that Yeshua would soon return.
ROMANS 9:33 and ROMANS 10:11 we have considered above.
1 CORINTHIANS 1:27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound [kataischuno] the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound [kataischuno] the things which are mighty.
Confound is not such a bad definition for this word kataischuno, at least much better than ashamed. The wise and mighty were to be confounded, disappointed in their expectations, by the foolish and weak things.
1 CORINTHIANS 11:4-5 Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth [kataischuno] his head. But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth [kataischuno] her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven.
It is not clear here if this passage was a question by some at Corinth to Paul, or was it Paul's answer to them of a question from a previous letter. If it is a question to him then his answer might be found in verse 13. Even so, the text is not at all clear as to what is meant. We feel at this time we must pass on this one for a later time when more light is shed upon it.
1 CORINTHIANS 11:22 What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame [kataischuno] them that have not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not.
Here again Paul is clear in his usage of the word kataischuno. The poorer brethren were coming together expecting a certain degree of fellowship with the congregation, but the more wealthy brethren excluded them and ate by themselves, thus they were disappointing the expectations of the less fortunate.
2 CORINTHIANS 7:14 For if I have boasted any thing to him of you, I am not ashamed [kataischuno]; but as we spake all things to you in truth, even so our boasting, which I made before Titus, is found a truth.
2 CORINTHIANS 9:4 Lest haply if they of Macedonia come with me, and find you unprepared, we (that we say not, ye) should be ashamed [kataischuno] in this same confident boasting.
These passages have to do with the collecting from the believers their financial contributions for the poor saints at Jerusalem. Paul had boasted about the contributions which were forthcoming, and was now telling them that he did not expect to be disappointed in his expectations.
1 PETER 2:6 we have considered above.
And finally we come to our last usage of this word in the Bible.
1 PETER 3:16 Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed [kataischuno] that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.
Peter was trying to encourage his brethren that those who were falsely accusing them would eventually be disappointed in their expectations, and that the brethren would be exonerated.
The quotations in the Christian Scriptures of ISAIAH 28:16 make perfect sense if we understand two things. First that kataischuno is more appropriately translated as being disappointed in one's expectations rather than being ashamed. And second, that the apostles were not reading from the same Hebrew text from which our English Bibles were translated (the Masoretic), but either from another Hebrew text or from a Greek text which had already been translated from a different Hebrew text than the Masoretic.
Christ Pleased Not Himself
Christ pleased not Himself. That is a given. He always did the Father's will. He learned obedience, He served His own servants, He held His tongue, and He refrained from calling to His aid twelve legions of angels. Paul makes reference to all this and more in the verse quoted below.
ROMANS 15:3 For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written,
The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me.
This quotation is from the same psalm which we have quoted above, when we were considering how the family of Yeshua reacted when He drove from the Temple those corrupt merchants (PSALM 69:8).
PSALM 69:9 For the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up; and the reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me.
As noted above, this psalm has to do with the psalmist's concern that his own suffering might in some way cause his brethren to loose their faith. He laments that his enemies are more than the hairs of his head. He admits to his own foolishness and sins, but states that it is because of his service to GOD that he has borne reproach. Both the leaders of the community who sit in the gate as well as the drunks lying in the gutters antagonize him. But why specifically did Paul quote this verse? Why here and why now at the close of his letter to the Romans?
The believers at Rome had divided themselves up into at least two, if not three camps. The first group was comprised of those who adhered strictly and closely to the Mosaic Law. These were the ones who felt compelled to judge others (2:1), who thought themselves confident that they were "a guide of the blind" and "a light to them which are in darkness" (2:19).
The second group was comprised of those who felt no compulsion at all to observe the Law and routinely condemned as foolish those of the first group who did. But thinking themselves free from the Law, they too often allowed sin to reign over them (6:19-23). They were also the ones Paul referred to who had been boasting against the branches which had been broken off (11:18-22).
The third group was composed of those which either wavered between the other two groups, or else found no place in either of the other two groups. These were the ones without faith who hesitated and doubted each decision they made (14:23).
Thus, we have the weak in faith who observed every detail of the Law, the strong in faith who lived so as to be above the Law, and then we have those who wavered back and forth. This is the context of Paul's quotations found in chapter fifteen which we are considering.
The legalists, who were weak in faith, were reproaching the strong in faith, the libertarians, calling them sinners, blind and foolish. The strong in faith therefore retaliated by also calling the legalists foolish and deceived. It was tearing the Church at Rome apart, and no one probably even remembered who started it.
Paul laid it all out for them in the verses leading up to chapter fourteen, saying,
ROMANS 13:9-14 ....and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law....let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.
Then, after spelling out in detail throughout chapter fourteen how they should not despise or judge one another, Paul said in chapter fifteen that now they should consider Christ, who shared the lot of both groups. He was the object of the reproach of the Pharisees and Sadducees who were steeped in religion, and He was also daily in fellowship with sinners who saw little profit in observing any of the Law. Yet He didn't angrily lash out and belittle either of them. Instead, He suffered reproach.
Paul then summed it all up by saying,
ROMANS 15:5-6 Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: that ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God.
A Root of Jesse
After Paul rehearses with the believers at Rome about Christ's manner in dealing with the same temptations which they faced, he endeavors to bring them together under one banner.
ROMANS 15:12 And again, Esaias saith, There shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust.
To Paul, this root of Jesse could only be Yeshua. He quotes Isaiah briefly but when we read the context of Paul's quote we also are convinced that the references can only find their accomplishment in the risen Savior and Redeemer.
LXE ISAIAH 11:1-12 And there shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a blossom shall come up from his root: and the Spirit of God shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, the spirit of knowledge and godliness shall fill him; the spirit of the fear of God.
He shall not judge according to appearance, nor reprove according to report: but he shall judge the cause of the lowly, and shall reprove the lowly of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the word of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he destroy the ungodly one. And he shall have his loins girt with righteousness, and his sides clothed with truth.
And the wolf shall feed with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the young calf and bull and lion shall feed together; and a little child shall lead them. And the ox and bear shall feed together; and their young shall be together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And an infant shall put his hand on the holes of asps, and on the nest of young asps. And they shall not hurt, nor shall they at all be able to destroy any one on my holy mountain (HEBREWS 12:22): for the whole world is filled with the knowledge of the Lord, as much water covers the seas.
And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall arise to rule over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust, and his rest shall be glorious. And it shall be in that day, that the Lord shall again shew his hand, to be zealous for the remnant that is left of the people, which shall be left by the Assyrians, and that from Egypt, and from the country of Babylon, and from Ethiopia, and from the Elamites, and from the rising of the sun, and out of Arabia.
And he shall lift up a standard for the nations, and he shall gather the lost ones of Israel, and he shall gather the dispersed of Juda from the four corners of the earth.
When Paul recalls Isaiah's quote, that "He shall rise to rule over the Gentiles", he most likely is referring to Yeshua's resurrection. During His early ministry He did not rise to reign over any Gentiles, but in Resurrection, He is above all.
Scripture tells us that Yeshua was the first to rise from the dead (ACTS 26:23 and REVELATION 1:5) and then many others, Jews and Gentiles followed Him into the heavenly Jerusalem (HEBREWS 12:22-24). There, living under the New Covenant, GOD puts HIS laws into their minds and writes them in their hearts. There, they do not teach each other to know the LORD, for all know HIM, from the least to the greatest (HEBREWS 8:10-11).
I expect that the allusion to lions eating grass and children playing with deadly snakes are all set to put before us the peacefulness of the city, even the holy mountain of the living GOD. It seems doubtful that there should be a collection of animals there, but I suppose it is possible. Nevertheless, as Isaiah had just described Israel's enemies as well as their Messiah like unto trees and vines (ISAIAH 10:33-34; 11:1), it should be no surprise that he would use the animal kingdom also to describe different kinds of people.
Cursed is Every One that Hangeth on a Tree
We would do well to remember the humongous importance for the Jew to not only obtain the blessing of GOD, but even more so to avoid the curse of GOD. This is why they were so fanatical about performing all of the rituals of the Law of Moses. Many of them would rather die than bring the curse of GOD upon themselves. Paul utilizes this concept in his argument below.
GALATIANS 3:10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.
The faithful Jew therefore did everything and anything to avoid transgressing even the minutest detail of the Mosaic Law. Yet,
3:13 Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree...
The very idea that GOD might forsake an individual to the extreme degree that his corpse would be hung upon a tree, was evidence in itself that he must have been cursed by GOD. The reverent Jew had such complete confidence that GOD ruled in the affairs of man, that to be hung upon a tree was adequate proof of the individual's guilt. Likewise, any Gentile who had no relationship with the GOD of Israel and who knew nothing of the Law of Moses, was believed to be similarly cursed.
Paul's reasoning followed therefore, that if Yeshua, who was originally believed to be cursed when He was Himself hung upon a cross, could be raised from the dead, evidently therefore blessed by GOD, so also could the cursed Gentile be blessed and also raised from the dead, even without observing the Law.
3:14 That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
If Christ was cursed by GOD as He hung upon the tree, but blessed when GOD raised Him from the dead, then it only stands to reason that the Gentiles who were cursed as a result of being outside of the covenant of Israel, that they too could become blessed by GOD, through faith.
But it was not as if the Law and faith were at loggerheads with one another, for HEBREWS tells us that even Moses, the giver of the Law, even he accomplished the freeing of Israel from Egypt by faith (11:28-29). And even beyond that, when Joshua finally led Israel into the Promised Land, after receiving the Law from Moses, that the actions of Israel in conquering their enemies were by faith (11:30). Faith and the Law went hand in hand. We might say that the Law was their written guide, carved in stone, but faith was their living guide, being written on their hearts.
It wasn't the Law that prompted Yeshua to die upon the cross, it was faith. The Law had boldly proclaimed the curse of GOD upon Him. But when He was raised from the dead, faith cut the legs out from under of the curse of the Law, by revealing GOD's blessing upon His life. The Law was fine and good, but it could never hold its own against faith. Faith superseded the Law. Faith preceded the Law. Faith succeeded the Law.
DEUTERONOMY 21:23 His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day; (for he that is hanged is accursed of God;) that thy land be not defiled, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.
This was all true and applied universally across the Land of Israel, except when faith said otherwise. Those freed from the land of Egypt couldn't see faith, but they could see the Red Sea part and the walls of Jericho fall down flat. Those who witnessed the crucifixion couldn't see faith, but they could see Yeshua raised from the dead. And those of the Dispersion couldn't see faith, but they could see "what miracles and wonders GOD had wrought among the Gentiles" (ACTS 15:12).
And this was Paul's whole point in his epistle to the Galatians. Every bit as much as Yeshua was crucified but then raised from the dead, so too these Gentiles, indeed even Paul himself along with all believers, were also crucified, were cursed (according to the Law), nevertheless live by faith (GALATIANS 2:20).
To THY Seed
This verse is often used to suggest that the apostle Paul misread or perhaps even misrepresented what the Jewish Bible plainly said.
GALATIANS 3:16 Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, and to thy seed, which is Christ.
Here Paul seems to be saying that Abraham's seed to which GOD's promises applied, is speaking in the singular as if only one individual, Christ, is being referred to. Yet when we go back and read the reference in the Jewish Bible we find something entirely different.
Paul could be quoting from any number of passages in GENESIS so we'll give them all.
13:15 For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever.
17:8 And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.
17:10 This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised.
22:18 And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.
26:4 And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.
There is little doubt that the word seed as used throughout GENESIS meant offspring or descendents, one's children or even nation, but not usually a single individual (for two possible exceptions see GENESIS 3:15 and 4:25). Then why would Paul write to his contemporaries that the word seed meant only Jesus Christ? I don't think he did. If we read the verse in GALATIANS and presuppose that Paul quoted the Jewish Bible accurately, then we must consider more thoughtfully what he was saying.
Paul was trying to show the believers at Galatia that they were not heirs of the promises of GOD simply because they observed the Mosaic Law, as Paul's false brethren (2:4) were trying to convince them. Rather, these persecutors (4:29), these troublers (5:12; 6:17), these circumcisers (6:12-13) were not in fact the true heirs, the true seed. The true heirs were the spiritual seed, those who lived by faith (3:7), those who fulfilled the Law by obeying the truth (5:7), which was to love their brethren (5:14), doing good unto all men, especially those who are of the household of faith (6:10).
The Church-goers, if you will, believed that if they followed the rules and regs of their denomination, that they were guaranteed an entrance into heaven. They believed that if they were baptized at a special service, and were faithful in attendance and tithing, perhaps if they taught Sunday School or acted as an usher, that it wasn't all that important how they lived their lives during the rest of the week. Howbeit, the promises of GOD were not to such as these.
Paul says instead that "the just shall live by faith" (3:11), or perhaps better rendered, "he who through faith is righteous shall live". The were not promised life by simply observing some pre-prescribed ceremonial (4:10), but they had to live their lives in accordance to GOD's will. Thus, the visible sign of the fruit of the spirit (5:22) had to be a cohesive part of their lives if they expected to live again.
Yeshua was the head of a spiritual body (COLOSSIANS 1:18), which was the true church. The members of that church were the members of His body. Thus, when Paul states in GALATIANS 3:16 that the true seed to whom the promises were made was Christ, he very well could be speaking metaphorically of the assembly of true believers.
He says as much in the final verse of the chapter we are considering, "And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise" (3:29). Abraham's true seed were not all those belonging to the nation of Israel and whatsoever proselytes were allowed to join. The true seed to which the promises of GOD were made were those who lived by faith, who developed within their lives the fruit of the spirit.
Paul was endeavoring to make a sharp distinction between the two seeds of Abraham, those after the flesh, who trusted in the works of the flesh to save them, and those after the spirit (4:29), who trusted in obedience to the grace of GOD to save them (2:21). One seed had the promises and the other did not.
He Led Captivity Captive
Is this passage from EPHESIANS telling us that Yeshua was going to capture the Devil and his host and then parade them about as His captives, as some teach?
EPHESIANS 4:8 Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.
When we take the time to search and see, we discover that the psalm from which Paul quoted says something quite different than that which many commentators have suggested.
PSALM 68:1-18 Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered: let them also that hate him flee before him. As smoke is driven away, so drive them away: as wax melteth before the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presence of God.
But let the righteous be glad; let them rejoice before God: yea, let them exceedingly rejoice. Sing unto God, sing praises to his name: extol him that rideth upon the heavens by his name JAH, and rejoice before him.... he bringeth out those which are bound with chains: but the rebellious dwell in a dry land.
O God, when thou wentest forth before thy people, when thou didst march through the wilderness; Selah: the earth shook, the heavens also dropped at the presence of God: even Sinai itself was moved at the presence of God, the God of Israel....
Kings of armies did flee apace: and she that tarried at home divided the spoil....When the Almighty scattered kings in it, it was white as snow in Salmon.
....The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels: the Lord is among them, as in Sinai, in the holy place. Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the LORD God might dwell among them.
The psalm was sung as a tribute to GOD for the many times HE fought victoriously for the people of Israel. From the time when HE led them forth out of the chains of Egypt all the way to their victorious march through the massive gates at Jerusalem, GOD was their savior and deliverer. But for what purpose? For what reason were they set free and brought into the Promised Land? It was that they might free others also. GOD redeemed the Nation that they might go forth as priests to other nations (EXODUS 19:6). GOD taught them HIS word that they might teach others also.
Thus, we must question whether Paul's quote of this psalm in EPHESIANS is concerning the believers, or is it concerning the unbelievers? Is Paul making reference to the Devil and his host being captured and paraded around as spoil, or is Paul speaking of Christians being rescued from their bondage? When we consider the context of Paul's epistle, no doubt it will become evident that he was writing that Yeshua ascended from the grave to the right hand of GOD so as to rescue believers from the dominion of the adversary, and then send them forth to serve Him? Thus, in this way Paul's epistle is a reflection, an echo of what the psalmist wrote.
The captives in the psalm are without doubt the nation of Israel who were freed from the bondage in Egypt. They became the spoil which belonged to the victor, GOD. Paul echoes this sentiment in writing that these new captives were now those fellow-believers who were freed from the bondage of the world, formerly as slaves to sin. As the spoil of war, they now belonged to the victor, Yeshua the Messiah.
In the very context of this verse Paul says so of himself.
EPHESIANS 4:1 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called.
Paul lays the groundwork for his quote by declaring that he himself is the prisoner of the Lord. And further, that they themselves should walk worthy of the grace which has been given them (4:7). That they should put off the lifestyle of the old man and instead they were to put on the new man (4:22-24). Paul instructs them to be "therefore followers of GOD" (5:1) as they were led through the victory gates.
Not long before this letter, Paul had written unto the believers at Rome that they are either slaves to sin or slaves to righteousness (ROMANS 6:16-18). If they were rescued from their bondage to sin, then they have changed Lords. The apostle Peter wrote the same when he said, "As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God" (1 PETER 2:16). The captives are first freed from their old masters, but then they are led captive so as to be servants to others.
This is exactly what Paul is laying out for them in his letter when he writes, "But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ" (EPHESIANS 4:7). Then he goes on speaking to them about these various gift ministries; apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, all for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry and for the edifying of the body of Christ (EPHESIANS 4:11-12).
Yeshua Himself demonstrated this truth by telling His followers that freely they had received, so freely they should give.
MATTHEW 10:7-8 And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.
The purpose for our wealth and prosperity, the reason for our health and well being, is so that we may help others. We are vessels. We receive that we may give. The more we give the more we are able to receive.
This Day Have I Begotten Thee
An important key to understanding the opening chapters of the epistle of HEBREWS, is to recognize the writer's intent. To a great degree he is endeavoring to challenge the belief of some of his readers concerning the pre-eminent position they held for the angels. He repeatedly compares the glory and station of the angels to GOD's Anointed. The angels are generally ministers and messengers, but in contrast, GOD's Anointed is a Son, indeed, set in authority just under GOD himself (1 CORINTHIANS 15:27).
HEBREWS 1:5 For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee?
The writer of this epistle suggests an echo here of a psalm from the Jewish Bible (which has already been referenced above). As we shall see when we read the psalm, it cannot be a prediction of a specific promise concerning Yeshua being born; but it certainly is an echo which mirrors or shadows GOD's promise that He would be raised from among the dead.
PSALM 2:1-12 Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying,
Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.
He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me,
Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.
Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.
The LORD referred to in this psalm is of course Yahweh, GOD Almighty. The KJV from which the citation is taken, capitalizes the word Son, understanding the psalm to be referring to the Messiah, howbeit, the fact of the matter is, HIS anointed is an historical king of Israel, no doubt David or Solomon. The kings of the land and the judges of the earth are described as setting themselves in array against GOD and HIS anointed king. The psalmist writes however that Yahweh has declared this new king to be HIS son. And this is exactly what many ancient peoples believed; that their new king was established and anointed by GOD. Yet his enemies saw in this inexperienced king perhaps a weakness and therefore an opportune time to rebel. Thus the psalmist warns and encourages them to be wise and serve the LORD and kiss the son.
In early cultures the chosen royalty was often recognized as begotten by GOD, not only in Israel but throughout the ancient world. Sometimes this anointing occurred after some great victory, yet at other times simply after the previous king had died. Here is another psalm which likewise suggests the same.
PSALM 89:27 .... I will make him [David, verse 20] my firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth [land]. (see also verse 38)
The psalmist was declaring that David is going to be GOD's heir and as such all authority over Israel was to be given to his hand. As first-born, David was going to be responsible to GOD for the stewardship of his inheritance. He was appointed by GOD as king, and ruler, and heir.
We are reminded here of the episode when the prophet Nathan instructed king David as to GOD's promise concerning his son Solomon.
2 SAMUEL 7:12-14 And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou [David] shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever [olam, a long duration]. I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men.
Similarly, the writer of the epistle to the HEBREWS immediately follows the passage we are considering with the echo, "I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son". HEBREWS goes on to affirm in this same chapter, "And again, when he bringeth in the first-begotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him" (verse 6). The first-begotten of whom this writer was speaking is of course Yeshua, GOD's ultimate anointed Son.
To digress for a moment, this verse six is somewhat ambiguous. The KJV and others don't quite know what to do with the word again. According to the Greek, here is how the passage reads.
and when again he brings in the first-born into the habitual world...
Is the original writer using the word again to show that he is quoting another scripture, or is he stating that this Son was again brought into the world? But then, one is bound to ask, how was the Son again first-born into the world? Another rendering of the verse by F. F. Bruce in his The Epistle to the Hebrews, page 15, is given below.
And when he brings the firstbegotten into the world a second time...."
Very possibly the writer of HEBREWS intends to say that the second time Yeshua was brought into the world, was when He became the first-begotten from the dead. The reader may wish to refer to the others occurrences of this word again in HEBREWS (1:5, 6; 2:13; 4:5, 7; 5:12; 6:1, 6; 10:30).
Even so, many other individuals are destined to be sons of GOD. Consider this handful of verses in just the Christian Scriptures.
JOHN 1:12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.
ROMANS 8:14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
PHILIPPIANS 2:15 That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world.
1 JOHN 3:1-2 Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.
These other sons of GOD are likewise referred to in HEBREWS. They are the many sons brought unto glory (2:10), of whom He is not ashamed to call them brethren (2:11-12, 17). They are the holy brethren who are partakers of the heavenly calling (3:1), indeed they are GOD's own house (3:6). These are they who inherit the promises (6:12). These are the very ones to which the new covenant is written (8:8-12). They are the church of the first-born (12:23).
Back in the opening chapter of the epistle, the writer continues his theme of listing the dissimilarities of the glory and majesty of GOD's anointed Son to HIS angels, the messengers and ministers.
HEBREWS 1:7-9 And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire. But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.
In another Study we have endeavored to show that the writer of this passage does not intend to say that angels are indeed spirits, but rather, that they are no more than simply GOD's messengers (see Angels and Spirits).
There is no difficulty here in reading that Yeshua, as GOD's Anointed, is referred to as God in scripture. We must recognize and keep in mind that He is not GOD Almighty, for this same passage goes on to clarify for us, "God, even thy God, hath anointed thee". Yeshua's GOD, who is Yahweh, anointed Him. The two individuals, Yeshua and Yahweh, are not the same person. The Son is always subservient to His creator, His anointer. Scripture may call Yeshua God, as it has called several other individuals god, but that never makes any of them equal to the Creator, GOD Almighty.
Even so, the writer continues to hammer home his theme that the angels are in no wise on the same level as GOD's anointed.
HEBREWS 1:13 But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool?
Only GOD's anointed Son, after His resurrection, was to sit at HIS right hand; but never was one of HIS angels placed there (see LUKE 1:19). Here he again quotes from another psalm.
PSALM 110:1 The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.
In quoting various passages from the Hebrew Scriptures, the writer has made an air tight case that angels were in no way superior or even equal to the Son of GOD. Yet his quotations are not predictions but rather echoes of ages pasty which were mirroring his own time.
A Little Lower Than the Angels
The writer of HEBREWS continues his contention even into the second chapter on the distinctions between Yeshua and the angels.
HEBREWS 2:6-9 But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him? Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands....But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.
It is stated here that Yeshua was made a little lower than the angels for the purpose of death. Yeshua needed to suffer and die, as the following verses show, and evidently angels do not suffer nor die, therefore, He was made a little lower than them for that purpose.
The writer has already shown in the previous chapter that Yeshua was indeed "made so much better than the angels" (1:4), so in comparing Yeshua to the angels here in the second chapter, the writer was obviously not suggesting that Yeshua was somehow in a lower rank or caliber as they were. He was only lower in the fact that He could suffer and die and they couldn't, at least not in the voluntary way that He did.
Though the writer does not specifically mention his source for the passage, he is no doubt quoting from the eighth psalm.
PSALM 8:3-6 When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; what is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet.
There is no reason for us to jump to the conclusion that this verse is a prediction that some day Yeshua would be visited, and made, and crowned with glory and honor. This psalm is simply speaking of any man who has been so visited and crowned. It speaks of the wonders of GOD's creation, and yet even so, HE has for some unexplained reason paused to think of and consider mankind.
There has been quite a bit of controversy over the centuries concerning the word translated angels in this passage. The writer of HEBREWS most likely quoted a Greek version which does indeed use the word for angels, which is aggelos. Howbeit, the Hebrew version of PSALM 8:5 uses the word, 'elohiym, which is almost always translated God. In fact, 'elohiym is used 2,606 times in the Jewish Bible, and only this once is it translated angels in the KJV.
Thus the question has been put forth, Is man made lower than GOD (as the Hebrew has it) or is he made lower than the angels (as the Greek has it)? Of course this verse in the psalms reminds one of the record in GENESIS where it is stated that man was made in GOD's image and given dominion over all the other creatures (GENESIS 1:26). But there the word translated made is a different word than that which is translated made in PSALM 8:5 so the parallel is too loose to be seriously considered. This therefore indicates that we are probably going too far in assuming that the psalmist had GENESIS in mind when he wrote his psalm.
Whichever word the psalmist originally penned, GOD or angels, we know that man was indeed made a little lower than the angels as HEBREWS testifies, so he was obviously also made lower than GOD.
Why the Hebrew of PSALM 8:5 differs from the Greek we cannot say, but the testimony is very strong that the original text of HEBREWS 2:7 says that Yeshua was made a little lower than the angels, but only for the purpose of being able to suffer and die, "that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage" (HEBREWS 2:14-15).
So again, no prediction in the quotation but still a beautiful allusion, a wonderful echo which mirrors perfectly what Yeshua accomplished.
Thou Art a Priest Forever
After finishing with his work in showing Yeshua to be superior to the angels, the writer of HEBREWS then turns his attention to showing Yeshua to be superior to the High Priest of the earthly temple in Jerusalem, indeed even over the entire order of the Jewish priesthood.
HEBREWS 5:5-6 So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee. As he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.
The Levitical priesthood, which was set up and ordained by Moses for the nation of Israel, under the old covenant, was destined to some day be set aside. If GOD was going to initiate a new covenant, there would be by necessity a new priesthood. This priesthood was to be after the order of the king of Salem, but this time He was to be the King and Priest in the new Jeru-Salem of REVELATION 21:2.
The concept of Yeshua being ordained after the Melchisedec order of priests, is taken from the very exact psalm which is referred to elsewhere in this epistle no less than five other times (1:3, 13; 8:1; 10:12 and 12:2).
PSALM 110:1-7 The LORD said unto my Lord,
Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.
The LORD shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies. Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: thou hast the dew of thy youth. The LORD hath sworn, and will not repent,
Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.
The Lord at thy right hand shall strike through kings in the day of his wrath. He shall judge among the heathen, he shall fill the places with the dead bodies; he shall wound the heads over many countries. He shall drink of the brook in the way: therefore shall he lift up the head.
It has been well suggested that a court poet wrote the psalm in recognition of GOD granting his own lord, king David, the victory in overthrowing the rebellion of David's son Absalom (see 2 SAMUEL 15-18). Then, sometime after that victory, it was the people's desire for the king to be safely seated upon his throne (at the right hand of GOD), in Jerusalem, while his forces went out to do battle (see 2 SAMUEL 21:17).
Verse three of the psalm might be better rendered, "Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauty of their holy robes (see REVELATION 7:9-16), in all the vigor of youth, as numerous and resplendent as the dew-drops of the morning" (The Book of Praises, William Henry Alexander). David's servant would then have been writing not only of GOD's favor upon his king, but also concerning the faithfulness of his subjects and their being willing to do battle for him.
And so in verse four, the psalmist brings king Melchizedek into the picture. But why Melchizedek? In his praise of GOD for returning king David to his throne, why bring up this Melchizedek, who lived and reigned a thousand years earlier? Because Melchizedek was also, though long ago, the king of Salem (Jeru-salem), and he may very possibly have been robbed of his kingdom as also David had been of his. He too was a believer who had been a worshipper of the one true GOD (see GENESIS 14:18).
The psalmist no doubt knew that David's reign was an echo which mirrored Melchizedek's which came before him. But even more than that, the writer of HEBREWS realized that Melchizedek was mirroring and fore-shadowing the true and final Priest and King of heavenly Jeru-salem. And so, just as David was able to return and reclaim his kingdom from Absalom, so too Yeshua was to return and reclaim the kingdom which was once ruled by Melchizedek, two thousand years earlier. This time though, Yeshua would rule in the new Jerusalem, the heavenly Jerusalem.
For the writer of HEBREWS, it all echoed and shadowed (8:5) that which was fast coming upon his readers. Many of them were being pressured and threatened to abandon this new Christian heresy, and to return to the Church of their fathers. They were being told to choose which side they were on, either the Old Religion of Judaism or this new sect. A fight was brewing and the activist were cautioning them that they had better not be found standing idly by.
Yet HEBREWS warns them that they were very near the time of Christ's return when each participant would be judged according to their faithfulness. They were even then at the threshold of a new dispensation. The writer was beseeching and pleading with them to realize that this new age would commence in just a little while (10:37). Then the record books would be opened and many would be judged out of them.
Obedience not Sacrifice
The writer of HEBREWS has already shown Christ to be superior to the angels (2:16); then he demonstrated how Christ is superior to the high priest, as well as the whole of the priesthood (8:1). Now he illustrates how Christ is superior to all of the animal sacrifices of the Jewish cult (10:12).
HEBREWS 10:5-7 Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith,
Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: in burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God.
He who cometh into the world, and He who then quoted this psalm, was stated by HEBREWS to be Yeshua. Howbeit, we should not leap to the conclusion that the psalm itself was originally spoken by Yeshua as some pre-existent person of the Trinity. The writer of HEBREWS is simply using Yeshua's possible quotation of the psalm as a springboard for his argument that GOD desires obedience over sacrifice.
LXE PSALM 40:6-8 Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not; but a body hast thou prepared me: whole-burnt-offering and sacrifice for sin thou didst not require. Then I said, Behold, I come: in the volume of the book it is written concerning me, I desired to do thy will, O my God, and thy law in the midst of mine heart.
Though there are some recognizable differences between the two translations, substantially they say the same thing. Sacrifice and offering is not really what GOD was after, but rather HE desired obedience. HE didn't want or need someone to boil HIM up a large kettle of beef rump, or roast HIM some lamb chops on the open pit. HIS primary reason for instructing man to make an offering, was simply to obtain his obedience.
The phrase "a body hast thou prepared me" is probably better translated "my ears to hear and obey) thou has prepared". And instead of the book or scroll being written concerning him, the correct translation of the psalm is that it was written to him, or enjoined upon him. Thus, the psalmist was declaring his own willingness to obey GOD's word, over and above any sacrifice he might offer.
From Abel on down to Yeshua, GOD just wanted HIS people to learn obedience. Thus HE commanded them that if they wanted to make HIM an offering, they were then to bring their most prized possession. It may have been the choicest member of their flock or the best of the harvest, but it was always a way for man to prove that nothing had wormed its way in between him and his Creator.
For Abraham it was his son, Isaac. For Yeshua it was His own life. But it was always to prove one's faithful obedience. That is pretty much all that GOD wanted. It was obedience to sacrifice that GOD demanded, not the actual sacrifice. It all revolved around obedience. HE wanted a willing sacrifice, which no dumb animal could ever give. Only Yeshua fulfilled that bill completely.
Three times in the previous chapter the writer of HEBREWS so says.
9:12 Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.
9:14 How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
9:25 Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others.
He offered Himself. This is what so many for so long had missed. GOD wasn't interested for them to mindlessly bring choice animals to some ceremonial slaughter. HE wished for them to open their ears and train their hearts to hear and obey HIS voice. HE wanted their obedience. The Jewish Bible is replete with such reproofs and encouragements.
ISAIAH 1:11, 16-17 To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats.
Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.
MICAH 6:6-8 Wherewith shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?
(see also DEUTERONOMY 6:1-9 PSALM 50:9-15 ISAIAH 50:4-5 JEREMIAH 7:3-11 HEBREWS 13:16)
Thus we see again that our quotation from the Hebrew Scriptures was not a prediction fulfilled, but rather an echo mirroring the writers own days.
Unto Living Fountains of Waters
In the book of REVELATION, there are no particular verses which specifically state that they are quotations from the Jewish Bible which were pertaining to the Messiah, nevertheless there is one passage which does pertains to our study.
REVELATION 7:9-17 After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; and cried with a loud voice, saying,
Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.
And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, saying,
Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.
And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.
This great tribulation of which these in white robes came out of, is no doubt that which was alluded to by Yeshua, pertaining to the sign of His coming and the end of that era, as recorded in MATTHEW 24:21. This is the great gathering together of the first century saints, into heaven itself, concerning which the apostle Paul wrote of in his epistles to the Corinthians and Thessalonians (1 CORINTHIANS 15 and 2 THESSALONIANS 2).
In the last phrase of this passage from REVELATION, about them being led unto the living fountains of waters, there is an allusion to and an echo of the promised exodus from Babylon and Assyria which was prophesied of in the books of ISAIAH and JEREMIAH, where GOD had promised the captives and exiles a freedom and return to the Promised Land.
ISAIAH 49:8-10 Thus saith the LORD, In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee: and I will preserve thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, to establish the earth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages; that thou mayest say to the prisoners,
To them that are in darkness,
They shall feed in the ways, and their pastures shall be in all high places. They shall not hunger nor thirst; neither shall the heat nor sun smite them: for he that hath mercy on them shall lead them, even by the springs of water shall he guide them.
The prisoners of ancient days were often held in dark, cold and wet dungeons, thus the exhortation to those in darkness to show yourselves. And thence, after their glorious release, HE shall guide them by the springs of water.
Then another example of this promised exodus from the prophet Jeremiah.
JEREMIAH 31:7-10 For thus saith the LORD; Sing with gladness for Jacob, and shout among the chief of the nations: publish ye, praise ye, and say, O LORD, save thy people, the remnant of Israel.
Behold, I will bring them from the north country, and gather them from the coasts of the earth, and with them the blind and the lame, the woman with child and her that travaileth with child together: a great company shall return thither.
They shall come with weeping, and with supplications will I lead them: I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble: for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn.
Hear the word of the LORD, O ye nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock.
They were promised that the remnant would be brought together again from distant lands, and that then they shall be led "by the rivers of waters".
For the nation of Israel and believers in the one true GOD, there were three Exoduses spoken of in scripture. The original one is of course when Moses led the nation out of Egypt across the river of death, the Red Sea. After forty years of proving and purifying them, Joshua led the remnant of them into the Promised Land. The second Exodus was when, after the nation's exile into Babylon and Assyria, another Yeshua (EZRA 2:2) along with Zerubbabel and others, led the exiles back across the river Jordan and into their Promised Land. The third and final Exodus was when Yeshua, the only begotten Son of GOD, having Himself crossed the literal river of death, and after another forty years of proving and purifying His followers during events recorded in the book of ACTS, He led them into another Promised Land, into heaven itself.
This last and final Exodus is that whereof John sees, and writes, in REVELATION. It is interesting that in John's vision, the elder reveals to him that these saints serve GOD day and night in his temple. To what temple is the elder referring?
The first reference in REVELATION to this temple is in 3:12, where those saints who are able to overcome are made the pillars of this temple. Oftentimes in scripture believers are referred to as the temple of the Lord. We must at least ponder if this is not to what the elder is referring to, that the temple wherein those in white robes served, was indeed the body of believers? In the final usage of temple in REVELATION, we read this.
REVELATION 21:22 And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.
John saw no physical temple, but he surely saw something. That something which he saw may have been that this new temple is the entire body of believers, from Yeshua as the head, the chief corner stone, to the saints being the different members of His body.
Originally, when GOD led the nation of Israel out of Egypt, HE instructed Moses to build a tent structure called a tabernacle. Here is where the people were to find and worship their Deliverer and Savior. Here, is where GOD's presence, GOD's shekenah glory was to be found.
Moses was instructed to overlay the entire structure with animal skins (EXODUS 26:14), thus GOD's presence was within a covering of flesh. But in later years it came within king David's heart to build a Temple of wood and stone for GOD to dwell in. Howbeit, the prophet Nathan was sent to correct in David this wrong notion.
2 SAMUEL 7:5-7 Go and tell my servant David, Thus saith the LORD, Shalt thou build me an house for me to dwell in? Whereas I have not dwelt in any house since the time that I brought up the children of Israel out of Egypt, even to this day, but have walked in a tent and in a tabernacle.
In all the places wherein I have walked with all the children of Israel spake I a word with any of the tribes of Israel, whom I commanded to feed my people Israel, saying, Why build ye not me an house of cedar?
Thus, GOD originally intended to make HIS presence known in a tent, under skins of flesh. Howbeit, Solomon instead built HIM a temple made of wood and stone. And then after Israel's exile and return to the land of promise, so did Zerubbabel. And then in Yeshua's day, Herod the Great build a magnificent temple which it was supposed housed the glory of the LORD.
But when Yeshua began His ministry, GOD revealed that HIS presence, HIS glory dwelt in HIS only begotten Son, and not in a building made with hands. GOD once again was to be found under skin, in the flesh.
JOHN 1:14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
That temple which had been built by king Herod was not the dwelling place of GOD but rather, it was no more than a house of prayer. This is why Yeshua taught that He was greater than that temple (MATTHEW 12:6). He had taught that Herod's temple was to be destroyed and a new one, not made with hands, was to replace it (MATTHEW 27:40 JOHN 2:19-21 ACTS 6:13).
This new temple which was to replace the old, or better said, it was to take up where the original one left off, was to be the body of believers. Paul in his epistle to the Ephesians lays this out most succinctly.
EPHESIANS 2:19-22 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.
Clearly, the believers were to be this new temple in which GOD was to dwell.
1 CORINTHIANS 3:16-17 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.
2 CORINTHIANS 6:16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Thus GOD would no longer dwell in temples of wood and stone, but HE would dwell in a temple made up of believers, human tabernacles which had been cleansed by a baptism of fire and spirit. GOD was to dwell in men and women of righteous character and circumcised hearts. This is the true tabernacle, the more perfect tabernacle, of which we find spoken about in HEBREWS.
HEBREWS 9:11 But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building.
And so, after His resurrection, in His new body, in the New Jerusalem, there was to be a new temple. One not made with hands, but eternal in the heavens.
Thus we have concluded our study concerning the prophecies of the Hebrew Bible found in the Christian Scriptures concerning the promised Messiah. We trust that the reader has seen that just because a passage from the Hebrew Bible is referred to in the Christian Scriptures, that doesn't necessarily mean that it is an accomplishment of a prediction. If that were the case, that the quotations are always predictions, then many passages make no sense at all.
The writers of the Christian Scriptures were no fools. They probably knew their Hebrew Bibles better than most of us do, so we can be assured that they would not make mindless mistakes when quoting it in their writings. If we note an apparent contradiction or inconsistency, then we should first look at ourselves. Do we understand what they were trying to say? Do we have an accurate text in front of us? Are we placing ourselves in their pews, listening as if we were their students or their congregation? Only after we have acquired all of the facts concerning some passage, can we begin to see what the ancient writer intended.