THE MESSIAH IN THE OLD TESTAMENT: PART 2
MANY NAMES FOR MESSIAH
by Doug Ward
It is a tradition in our household to listen to selections from Handel's Messiah each year on the Feast of Trumpets. The majestic strains of ``For Unto Us a Child is Born'' and the ``Hallelujah Chorus'' lift our minds to consider the mighty acts of God on our behalf, particularly the coming of Christ and His promised return. Our old cassette tape of highlights from Messiah has served us well over the years; it is now twenty years old, but somehow it still works. Whether we hear it on the old tape or on a new compact disc,the timeless message of the Gospel depicted in Handel's masterpiece continues to inspire us.
The Gospel can be presented in a number of different ways. One wonderful summary of the Gospel is given in Handel's famous oratorio; God provided another in the annual cycle of festival days. In this series of articles, we are undertaking a study of a more detailed account of the Gospel: God's advance revelation of the Promise of the Messiah in a series of remarkable prophecies. With the aid of the careful research of Dr. Walter C. Kaiser [1,2], we will follow the story of the Promise from Genesis to Malachi.
In part one (Grace and Knowledge, Issue 2, page 9), we noted that at three times when mankind strayed far from God and faced judgment for its sins-at the Fall, the Flood, and the Tower of Babel-God followed punishment with a message of hope. A special male descendant of Eve, Shem, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob would defeat Satan, be a divine dweller in the tents of Shem, and bring a blessing to all nations (Gen. 3:15; ; 12:3; 26:4; 28:14-15). As we proceed through the Pentateuch, we will see that the promised Seed (Gen. 3:15; ) also is designated by several other names, revealing further aspects of His great character and mission.
At the end of his life, Jacob pronounced blessings upon his twelve sons, indicating what would lie in store for each of the tribes of
For our purposes here, Jacob's blessing for
shall not depart from
Who is ``
``The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his.''
The NIV's translation is supported by Ezekiel , an apparent reference to Gen. 49:10 in which the Hebrew is spelled out more fully. It alsoagrees with the renderings given in the Greek Septuagint translation and in the Targum Onkelos, an Aramaic paraphrase of the Pentateuch that probably dates from the second century A.D.
The evidence thus points to
As with many of the prophecies in this series, Gen. 49:10-12 appears to span a wide stretch of history. We know that
a line of kings from the tribe of
We conclude, then, that
Star and Scepter: Numbers 24:15-19
Jacob's blessings must have seemed like just a distant memory to the twelve tribes during their years of slavery in
Near the end of the forty years' wandering in the wilderness,
Upon reaching Pethor, Balak's
messengers may have been surprised to learn that
Balaam was taking orders from none other than the God of Israel! When
God told Balaam not to accompany the messengers back to
Balak, however, did not give up easily. He
soon sent a larger and more prestigious delegation back to Balaam with the promise
of an even greater reward for cursing
Following God's instructions, Balaam proceeded to disappoint Balak by blessing
``I see him, but not now; I behold
him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob;a scepter will rise out of Israel.He
will crush the foreheads of
There is a long tradition identifying the great, conquering ruler described in Numbers 24:17 as the Messiah. For example, Hasmonean king Alexander Jannaeus in around 100 B.C. had stars imprinted on coins in an apparent suggestion that the Messiah had or would come from the Hasmonean dynasty. Later Simeon Bar Kosiba, leader of the second Jewish revolt against Rome (132-135 A.D.), was renamed Simeon Bar Kochba (``Simeon son of the star'') by Rabbi Akiba, who believed that Bar Kosiba would fulfill Balaam's prophecy. An ancient Christian tradition says that the Magi of Matthew 2 looked for the sign of a star because of Num. 24:17; however, the fact that Matthew makes no mention of Num. 24:17 casts doubt on this tradition.
Balaam's prophecies against Moab and Edom (Num. 24:17-18) received a preliminary fulfillment under King David, a forerunner and type of Messiah (2 Sam 8:2, 14). In addition, there is still further fulfillment ahead, as indicated in Jer. 48-49; Isa. 63:1-6; Amos 9:11-12; and Ezek. 25 and 35.
Kaiser  notes that the identity of the ``sons of Sheth'' (v. 17) is not known with certainty. If Sheth is the same as Seth, then this could be a reference to all of humanity, since we are all descendants of Seth (Gen. 5). In any case, the nations mentioned in verses 17-24 could be seen as being representative of all nations. Moreover, Balaam's statement in verse 23 (``Ah, who can live when God does this?'') may imply an endtime setting for the final fulfillment of his prophecy, which could occur when Christ subdues all nations at his return.
Sadly, Balaam went on to rebel against God by cleverly trying to subvert the blessings that God had spoken through him. Apparently still lusting for reward and hoping to redeem himself in the eyes of the Moabites and Midianites, Balaam advised Moab to incur God's wrath upon Israel by tempting the Israelites into idolatry and perversion (Num. 25; 31:16). He was later killed when Israel conquered the Midianites (Num. 31:7-8). Today, Balaam's life stands as a warning to us not to forsake our calling (2 Peter 2:15; Jude 11; Rev. 2:14) as well as a witness that nothing can thwart God's plan and promises. (For a thorough discussion of the biblical and archaeological evidence about Balaam, see .)
Prophet Like Unto Moses: Deuteronomy 18:15, 18
At the end of his life and of Israel's forty-year journey, Moses reviewed the history of God's dealings with Israel and the details of His covenant with them. Moses' exhortations and admonitions are recorded in the book of Deuteronomy.
In the seventeenth and eighteenth chapters of Deuteronomy, Moses explains the roles of several classes of officials, including judges(17:8-13), kings (17:14-20), and priests (18:1-8). After warning the people not to imitate the practices of sorcerers (18:9-14), he makes the following announcement in v. 15:
``The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him.'' (NIV)
Moses goes on to stress that this message had come from God, who had told him at Sinai,
``I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him.'' (v. 18, NIV)
These verses are part of a discussion of true and false prophets(see vv. 19-22), so in some sense they can be seen as applying to all future Israelite prophets. However, the emphasis in Deut. 18:15, 18 is on one particular prophet of Israel who would be like Moses.
The Bible shows that Moses was in several ways unique among the prophets.He had an especially close relationship with God (Num. 12:6-8), was a deliverer and lawgiver, performed amazing public miracles, and interceded with God on Israel's behalf (e.g., Ex. 31:31-32). The book of Deuteronomy ends with these words:
``Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses,whom the Lord knew face to face, who did all those miraculous signs and wonders the Lord sent him to do in Egypt-to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.'' (Deut. 34:10-12, NIV)
As we can see, then, the promise of a prophet like Moses is a very special one, and its fulfillment was eagerly awaited. By New Testament times, Deut. 18:15 had come to be associated with the Messiah (e.g., John 1:21, 25, 45), and Jesus' miracles and teachings led many to believe that He was indeed this long-anticipated Prophet. For example,when Jesus announced Himself as the source of true living water (John 7:37-38), some were undoubtedly reminded of Moses' water miracle of Ex. 17 and said, ``Surely this man is the Prophet.'' (John 7:40; see Grace and Knowledge, Issue 5, pp. 22-27 ) Similarly, Jesus' feeding of the five thousand was reminiscent of the Exodus miracle of the manna, leading people to the same conclusion (John 6:5-15).
In sermons recorded in the book of Acts, Peter (Acts 3:22-23) and Stephen (Acts 7:37) quoted Deut. 18:15 in proclaiming that Jesus is the promised Messiah. Christians ever since have striven to``listen to him'' just as Moses instructed.
Mediator, Heavenly Advocate, Kinsman-Redeemer: Messiah in Job
The poetic book of Job is independent of the main narrative thread of the Old Testament, but it too contains some references to the coming Messiah. Since the setting of Job is an ancient one, apparently dating as far back as the times of the patriarchs, Kaiser  places his discussion of Job at the end of his chapter on the Pentateuch.
In Job 9, Job describes the transcendent greatness of our Creator and declares that it would be futile for him to plead his case before such an awesome God. Speaking of God, Job states in vv. 32-33 that
``He is not a man like me that I might answer him, that we might confront each other in court. If only there were someone to arbitrate between us, to lay his hand upon us both....'' (NIV)
The arbitrator for whom Job yearns could be no mere human being. These verses point to the need for a divine intercessor between us and God, a role now filled by Jesus Christ.
Later, in Job 16:19-21, Job expresses confidence that he has such a mediator or intercessor in heaven:
``Even now my witness is in heaven; my advocate is on high. My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God; on behalf of a man he pleads with God as a man pleads for his friend.'' (NIV)
This description sounds similar to the apostle John's statement that ``if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.'' (I John 2:1, KJV)
The best-known Messianic prophecy in Job is Job 19:25-27, the source of the soprano solo ``I Know that My Redeemer Liveth'' in Handel's Messiah:
``I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God;I myself will see him with my own eyes-I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!'' (NIV)
The word for ``Redeemer'' in verse 25 is goel, which in the Pentateuch signifies the close relative responsible under the civil laws of Israel for marrying the widow of a man who dies childless or redeeming a piece of property that is in danger of being lost from a family's inheritance. Boaz in the book of Ruth was such a kinsman-redeemer.
Job asserts that his Redeemer will be alive and stand on the earth to vindicate him``in the end.'' Moreover, Job looks forward to being alive himself at that time and seeing God. Christians have always understood this passage as a reference to Jesus' resurrection and the resurrection of the dead.
In Job 33:23, there is one final mention of the need for a mediator for Job, and by extension for all of us.Here Elihu says that this mediator would be ``an angel on his side ..., one out of a thousand,'' indicating someone on a level above the thousands of angels. Again, we know today that Jesus Christ fits this description (see for example Hebrews 1).
We have previously seen in the first half of the bookof Genesis that the Messiah would be a male descendant of Abraham who would defeat Satan and bring a blessing to all the world. According to the rest of the Pentateuch and the book of Job, this rightful ruler of Israel would come from the tribe of Judah; conquer all nations as the Star and Scepter; act as a special Prophet typified by Moses; and serve as our heavenly Advocate and Redeemer, a divine Mediator between God and man. In future installments of this series, we will see further development of these themes and others as we study the multi-faceted mission of Messiah.
1 Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., Toward an Old Testament Theology, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 1978.
2. Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., The Messiah in the Old Testament, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 1995.
3. Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., ``Balaam Son of Beor in Light of Deir Alla and Scripture: Saint or Soothsayer?'', pp. 95-106 in ``Go to the Land I Will Show You'': Studies in Honor of Dwight W. Young, Joseph E. Coleson and Victor H. Matthews, eds., Eisenbrauns, Winona Lake, IN, 1996.
Some Points to Ponder
from the Catechism of the Catholic Church-With Modifications From the EditioTypica, Image, Doubleday, 1995, pp. 310-311:
``1096 Jewish liturgy and Christian liturgy. A better knowledge of the Jewish people's faith and religious life as professed and lived even now can help better our understanding of certain aspects of Christian liturgy. For both Jews and Christians Sacred Scripture is an essential part of their respective liturgies: in the proclamation of the Word of God, the response to this word, prayer of praise and intercession for the living and the dead, invocation of God's mercy. In its characteristic structure the Liturgy of the Word originates in Jewish prayer. The Liturgy of the Hours and other liturgical texts and formularies, as well as those of our most venerable prayers, including the Lord's Prayer, have parallels in Jewish prayer. The Eucharistic Prayers also draw their inspiration from the Jewish tradition. The relationship between Jewish liturgy and Christian liturgy, but also their differences in content, are particularly evident in the great feasts of the liturgical year, such as Passover. Christians and Jews both celebrate Passover. For Jews, it is the Passover of history, tending toward the future; for Christians, it is the Passover fulfilled in the death and Resurrection of Christ, though always in expectation of its definitive consummation.''
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