| DISCOVERING JESUS IN THE OLD
Why Were the People of Jesus' Day
Excited About the Imminent Arrival of the
By Ken Williams
Copyright (c) 2012 - All rights reserved
Have you noticed that there seems to be a lot more talk among Christians these days about the soon return of Jesus Christ? Some point to "the signs of the times;" others to what is going on in Israel, and the very existence of Israel; and still others to end-time biblical prophecies. In closing the Book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ (also known as the Apocalypse), the Lord Jesus, says, "Surely, I come quickly, Amen." And John responds, "Even so, come, Lord Jesus" (Revelation 22:20 NKJV).
Christians are not the only people talking about the soon-coming end of this current age - not the end of the world - just the end of this current age. Many Orthodox Jews are also believing that their Messiah will soon appear. Go to Israel and you will see the yellow banners all over the country declaring, "Messiah is Coming!"
The same thing was true in the time of Jesus. There was great excitement among both biblical scholars and the common Israeli citizenship that Messiah was about to step on to the scene. This is verified in historical records, ancient rabbinical writings, and in the New Testament.
In the Bible we meet a man named Simeon (Luke 2:25). He is described as a good man, a devout man, a man filled with the Holy Spirit, a man expecting the Messiah to come soon. According to Luke, the Holy Spirit had revealed to Simeon that he would live long enough to see "God's anointed King" (verse 26). Luke also reports that Simeon was a resident of Jerusalem and that on this particular day he was "impelled" (LB), "prompted by the Holy Spirit" (Amplified) to go to the Temple.
As Joseph and Mary come into the Temple compound with Jesus, Simeon approaches them, takes the Baby in his arms, and begins praising the Lord. He says, "Lord, now I can die content! For I have seen Him as you promised me I would. I have seen the Savior you have given to the world. He is the Light that will shine upon the nations, and He will be the glory of your people Israel" (Luke 2:29-32 LB)! Verse 33 tells us that Mary and Joseph stood there marveling at what was being said. Simeon, however, was not fnished. Like the Old Testament Jewish prophets, Simeon sees both a suffering and a conquering Messiah. He has just praised the Lord for the conquering Messiah. But after blessing the Holy Family, he prophesies about the suffering Messiah saying, "A sword shall pierce your soul, for this child shall be rejected by many in Israel, and this to their undoing. But He will be the greatest joy to many others. And the deepest thoughts of many hearts shall be revealed" (Luke 2:34-35 LB). In this prophesy, Simeon is loosely quoting the prophet Isaiah 8:14-15.
The next person we meet is a prophetess named Anna. The criptures tell us something of her background. She was from the Jewish Tribe of Asher; she had been married only seven years; she had been a widow for 84 years (that would make her around 100 years old at the time of this encounter); she lived in the Temple; and her life revolved around "worshiping God," "praying" and "often fasting." Anna come in on the tail end of the conversation between Simeon and the Holy Family. She also recognizes the Messiah, and begins telling everyone in Jerusalem "that the Mesiah had finally arrived" (Luke 2:38b LB).
Then there is the little known story of the Netzer Clan. The Netzer's were descendants of King David. They had lived for centuries in the Bethlehem area (which is where David was born). A small group of the Netzer Clan left Bethlehem to escape the atrocities of Herod. The Romans were sun god worshipers. History tells us that during this time, Herod rounded up 2,000 young Jewish men in the Jerusalem area, chosen for no particular reason other than they were spotted by Roman soldiers, and had them crucified as an offering to his god. According to Jewish literature, the Netzer clan was poor and very much despised by much of the Jewish community. They believed that the Messiah would come through one of their families. They took that from the Prophet Isaiah, who had written, "Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a branch (netzer) from his roots will bear fruit. And the Spirit of he Lord will rest on Him, the Spirit of wisom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and strength, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord" (Isaiah 11:1-2 NKJV). Under the reign of Herod and the tyranny of the Roman Empire, this Davidic clan looked for the true Branch (Netzer), the Messiah who would be born from among one of their families. Every boy baby was the potential Netzer, the Branch, growing from the stump of Jesse. They had even named their town Nazareth (a form of the word Netzer) after their anticipation that the Mssiah would come from among them. Nazarenes were ridiculed by the rest of Israel for their audacity in thinking that this little rag-tag community could be so puffed-up as to exalt itself to being the birthplace of Messiah. As a matter of fact, in John 1:46, the Jewish leaders ridiculed Jesus saying, "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" The Netzers were expecting the appearance of Messiah, and the rest of Israel was believing that a soon-to-be-revealed Messiah would deliver them from Roman oppression.
Early Jewish rabbinic literature shows that rabbis during the two hundred years before the time of Jesus had decided that there would be two Messiahs. They could not rationalize the prophets' predictions of a Messiah who would suffer and die for the sins ("iniquity") of His people; and the conquering, victorious Messiah who would deliver His people from their oppressors. So they decided that there must be two Messiahs: a Suffering Messiah, and a victorious, kingly Messiah. Because of the terrible oppression suffered under their Roman rulers, most Jews had long forgotten about the Suffering Messiah, and were looking only for the conquering Messiah who would deliver them from the Romans.
The fact is that there are four prophecies in the Old Testament which predicted exactly when the Promised Messiah would come. It is true that two of them could not have been understood by the people of Jesus' day. They indicated that Messiah would come before the Temple was destroyed. So, if Jesus was not Messiah, then the Bible predictions must have been wrong since the Temple was destroyed about 40 years after Jesus' crucifixion. On the other hand, the other two prophecies were understood by the religious leaders and the people, and they are one of the reasons the people of Jesus' time were anticipating the Messiah to come during their lifetimes.
In this study we want to look at each of these four prophecies which pinpoint the exact time God's Messiah is set to appear on the earth.
THE FIRST PROPHECY is found in Genesis 49. Jacob is near the end of his life, and he has taken the opportunity to bring his children before him, beginning with the oldest and going through the youngest. Beginning in verse 8 he blesses his son Judah. Coming to verse 10, he says, "The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet until Shiloh comes; and to Him shall be the obedience of the people. Binding his donkey to the vine, and his donkey's colt to the choice vine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes. His eyes are darker than wine, and his teeth whiter than milk." Jewish scholars before the time of Jesus all believed that this was a Messianic prophecy; the first one to identify from which Israeli tribe Messiah would come. But there is a great deal more in this short verse than just the declaration that Messiah will come from the Tribe of Judah.
There are three terms in this verse we need to understand. Let's look at each carefully.
First is the word "Scepter." This word is also translated "rod" in some passages of the Old Testament. The scepter was a spear-like instrument which was carried in front of a family or clan as they traveled. When they camped it was stuck in the ground in front of the father's tent, with the rest of the clan camped around the father's tent. It was the tribal staff. It contained the family designation (in the case of Judah that would be "the lion") with the history and genealogies of the tribe carved into it. The posessor of the scepter was the father, the leader, the king of the group he headed.
You may remember an incident in the life of David. King Saul was chasing David and his men through the wilderness wanting to kill him. David and his men camped inside a large cave. Saul and his soldiers, not knowing David was inside, camped near the entrance to the cave. During the night, David's men snuck into Saul's camp and stole his spear (his septer). It was stuck into the ground at his head as he slept. It was the indication that he was the king. When Saul arose in the morning, David called to him and said, "Look King Saul! I have your spear (scepter). That means I am king." (Paraphrase). David returned the spear to Saul, indicating that he was not trying to take the kingdom away from Saul; and Saul returned home.
Notice that "the One to whom the scepter belongs" will come (or appear) before two historical events take place. "The One to whom the scepter belongs" will appear before Judah loses its genealogies (which are carved on the scepter). When did that happen? That happened in 70 AD when the Romans destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem, about 40 years after Jesus was crucified and rose from the dead.
The second word, and the second historical event to look for is the word "Lawgiver." The Lawgiver of each family or group is the "father." The father ruled with an iron hand. He ruled over his entire family, including two, three, four and sometimes five generations. His word was final. No one was allowed to question his decisions. He not only made all the decisions regarding the family and its business; he also made all the rules (or laws) under which the family lived. This passage indicates that "the One to whom the scepter belongs" will appear on the scene before "the lawgiver departs from between Judah's feet." When did Israel lose the right to make its own laws under Roman rule? According to the Jewish Talmud (a commentary on the Old Testament and Jewish religious activity) the Jews lost the right to make their own laws about 40 years before the destruction of the Temple by the Romans. That would have been 30 AD, the same year Jesus was crucified.
If these two things are going to be lost to Judah before Shiloh appears, who is "Shiloh?" The word "Shiloh" is an untranslated Hebrew word meaning: "The One to Whom it Belongs." Ancient Hebrew scholars believed this was a reference to Messiah. Their history, their genealogies, the entire nation belonged to Messiah, they believed. This term "Shiloh" is also used in other passages of the Old Testament to refer to Messiah.
But, let's notice the description of Shiloh in the next verses. "Binding his donkey to the vine, and his donkey's colt to the choice vine" (verse 11), a reference to the disciples going to get the foal of a donkey for Jesus to ride into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Notice also the reference in verse 12 to Him being washed in blood and His teeth being whiter than milk.
The promised Messiah (Jesus) had to come prior to the time Israel lost its genealogies when the Temle was destroyed in 70 AD. The promised Messiah (Jesus) had to come prior to the time the Romans revoked the Jews right to make laws; and according to the Jew's own history, that happened in about 30 AD. That is exactly when Jesus came to fulfill the Old Testament prophecies about Messiah. If Jesus was not Messiah, then the Old Testament must have been wrong; because the door of opportunity for this fulfillment closed at the time He was crucified and resurrected.
It is true that the Jews of Jesus' day could not have figured this out, because those two events had to take place, and Messiah would have already been on earth. However, the next prophecy which dates the coming of Messiah was known and understood by Jewish scholars; and was one of the reasons Jews in Jesus' day were so sure that the arrival of Messiah would occur during their lifetimes.
THE SECOND PROPHECY takes us first to the New Testament where Jesus is, on a number of occasions, called "the only begotten Son of God" (four times in John alone: John 1:14 & 18 and John 3:16 & 18). Did God the Father create the Son? Some people who call themselves Christians think so. Many Christians seem to be confused at this point. Let me emphatically state here that God, as God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, has co-existed from eternity past and will continue into eternity future. The Bible teaches that! Without going into lengthy detail to answer this question, let me suggest that you read my book "Finding Jesus in the Old Testament - (The Jewish Scriptures)." This subject is covered in great detail beginning with the very first verse of Genesis.
Why, then, is Jesus (God the Son) called in the Scriptures, "the only begotten Son of God?" Look at some of the examples:
* John 1:14 - "...the only begotten of the Father..."
* John 1:18 - "...the only begotten Son..."
* John 3:16 - "...His only begotten Son..."
* John 3:18 - "...the name of the only begotten Son of God."
The Bible tells us that Jesus voluntarily gave up His heavenly position to fulfill God's plan for His creation. Jesus, "who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, BUT made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a servant, and coming in the likeness of men; and being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross (Philippians 2:6-8 NKJV).
The Bible tells us, "Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: ...Before... (Mary and Joseph) ...came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 1:18 NKJV). In the Old Testament, in biblical lingo, we read, "Adam begat...," Enoch begat...," "Noah begat...," and so forth. In the case of Jesus, "God begat..." Now, I don't know how God brought this to pass. The Bible does not tell us. But somehow, God, through His Holy Spirit fertilized that specially chosen egg in Mary's body, and caused Jesus (God come in human flesh) to be born into the human arena. So, Jesus is therefore the "only begotten Son of God."
"But," you say, "Aren't Adam and Eve the son and daughter of God? God made them!" The key word in that question is "made." God did not cause Adam and Eve to be born. He formed Adam out of the dust of the earth, then took a rib from Adam's side and formed Eve from it. They were not born, or "begotten." Jesus is "the only begotten Son of God."
This is not a new concept to the Bible. Much Jewish theology changed after the time of Jesus because the traditional Jewish rabbis did not want to believe that Jesus was the Messiah of God. But, if you go to the writings of ancient Jewish rabbis before the time of Jesus, there was an understanding that God had a Son.
Psalm 2 is a Messianic Psalm. God is speaking to His promised Messiah. He says, "'Yet I have set My King (God is looking into the future) on My holy hill of Zion.'" "I will declare the decree: 'The LORD said to Me (Messiah), 'You are My Son, Today I have begotten You'" (Psalm 2:6-7). Then God goes on to tell His Son that He will give Him the nations and the ends of the earth for His possession, and God will set Him up as King in Jerusalem. Notice that God calls the Messiah, the "Son" that He has "begotten." This is not the only place in the Old Testament that Messiah is spoken of as being God's Son. There are many other passages, principally in the Prophets, in which Messiah is described as God Himself come down to intervene in human affairs.
There is something else that we must address here in Psalm 2. That is the statement that, "Today (NKJV) I have begotten You," or "This day (KJV) have I begotten you" (Psalm 2:7b). In II Peter, Peter is quoting from Psalm 90, and he writes, "Do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day" (II Peter 3:8). We have the idea that this refers to a God who does not have a hard and fast time-line. But the ancient Jewish rabbis, before the time of Jesus, interpreted this passage in Psalm 90 to say that a day was a thousand years wth God and a thousand years was a day. They wrote that there would be 6,000 years of human history and then 1,000 years when Messiah, God's "begotten Son," would reign in righteousness and purity. This would correspond to the six days of creation, and then the seventh day God rested.
In Genesis, God warned that "In the day that you eat of it (the fruit of the forbidden tree) you will surely die." But Adam lived to be over 900 years of age. Did God not carry out His warning? But look more closely. Adam did die before the first day of human history was over. Adam did die before the first thousand years of human history had passed. He did die before the end of God's first day.
Malachi hints at this teaching of the rabbis when he writes that the "Sun" would come with "healing in his wings." The rabbis taught that since the "sun" was created near the end of the fourth day of creation, the "Sun" (God's promised Messiah) would come near the end of God's fourth day. Jesus did indeed come about 4 BC at the very end of the fourth 1,000 year period - the end of God's fourth day.
David wrote Psalm 2, somewhere around 900 BC. That would have been near the beginning of God's fourth day. And God declares that "TODAY have I begotten you." Yes, before the fourth 1,000 year day of God had expired, Mary found that she was "with child of the Holy Spirit." Because of this teaching of the rabbis concerning Old Testament predictions of the coming Messiah, there were people in Israel expecting Him to come during their lifetime, realizing that there were only a few years left in the fourth day of God.
Having reviewed the beliefs of the ancient rabbis which caused many in Israel to be looking for the Messiah; I must add two important thoughts. First, there is no reference to this theolory of the rabbis in the New Testament, other than Peter's quick quote of Psalm 90. Polycarp was one of the early church fathers. He was a disciple of the Apostle John, and eventually became pastor of one of the seven churches referred to in the Book of the Revelation. Polycarp wrote that the Apostle John believed this "Thousand Years is a Day" theory, and taught it to him. However, that is second hand, and John did not so much as mention it in any of the five New Testament books which he wrote.
The second thought is for those who may have difficulty with a six day creation. There are numerous references to it in the Old Testament, not just the Creation Story in Genesis. The Jews believed it throughout the Old Testament. The secular history known as "The Book of Jasher" (used as a footnote reference in both Joshua and II Samuel), gives a complete timeline, so the Jews knew exactly how many years had passed. Today, our thinking has been so skewed by our western way of thinking, that we cannot even follow the rational of the people to whom the Bible was originally written. If you are one who has been brainwashed by the theory known as evolution; may I suggest that you take a hiatus here and click on Creation/Evolution located elsewhere on this website, to get a clearer understanding of what this is all about.
THE THIRD PROPHECY, while telling us today when Jesus would come, did not open that revelation to the people of Jesus' time. For this prophecy we go to several passages of Scripture. The City of Jerusalem had been destroyed by the Babylonian armies, and most of the population had been carried away, captive to Babylon. In the meantime the Medo-Persians had conquered Babylon and were now ruling the empire. Seventy years of captivity had gone by when the Jews were permitted to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls of the city, and to rebuild the Temple of God. There were actually two separate returns to resettle the land and rebuild the Sanctuary of God. You can read the story in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah in the Old Testament.
As the Temple was going up there were two widely divergent reactions. "But many of the priests and Levites and heads of the fathers' houses, who were old men, who had seen the first house, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice; and many shouted aloud for joy" (Ezra 3:12 NKJV). One group wept; the other group shouted for joy. The group that wept were people who had been alive when Jerusalem was captured and destroyed. They had lived the past 70 years in Babylon. Now, as very old people, they had traveled back from the Persian Gulf area to Jerusalem - a very long and hard trip. They had seen the splendor of Solomon's Temple, which the Babylonians had destroyed. Now, looking at the modest effort to build a new Temple, they were brought to tears. The other group was made up of people who had been born during the captivity, in Babylon. They had never seen Solomon's Temple in its resplendent glory. As the new Temple went up, they shouted for joy.
Among those who returned with the people from Babylon, were two Old Testament prophets - Haggai and Zechariah. Haggai wrote, under God's direction, that this new meager, post-captivity Temple would be greater than Solomon's Temple, because the promised Messiah would walk through its doors. "I will shake all nations, and the Desire of All Nations shall come to this Temple, and I will fill this place with my glory says the Lord of Hosts" (Haggai 2:7 NKJV). Then God, speaking through Haggai, went on to say, "The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former" (Haggai 2:9 NKJV). Just 40 years after Jesus the Messiah completed His ministry with His final visit to Jerusalem and the Temple, the Temple was destroyed by the Romans.
THE FOURTH PROPHECY is what brought the Wisemen to see Jesus. This passage was also known among the religious leaders of Jesus' day; another of the reasons people in that time were looking for the arrival of Messiah. Here is the passage we want to consider: "Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; the street shall be built again and the wall, even in troublesome times. And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; and the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary" (Daniel 9:25-26).
Daniel was a young man, perhaps no more than a teenager, when he was carried away from Jerusalem, captive to Babylon. The Book of Daniel tells some of the events of his life as a captive, and his eventual rise to a high level official in the Babylonian government. He rose to an even higher position when the Persians took over. In chapter 9, Daniel is praying. One of his requests had to do with his concern that Jerusalem and the Temple Mount lay desolate. While he was praying, the Angel Gabriel came to him with a message - the "Seventy Weeks" message we quoted above.
First, we must understand the meaning of the word "weeks" in this passage. There is no word for "week" in the language in which Daniel wrote. The word translated "weeks" in our English Bibles is pronounced "Sha-boo-ahs," and it means "times." Daniel is writing about 7 times and 62 times. These times could be a combination of days, weeks, months or years. I believe this is speaking of week of years. That would be consistent with Hebrew culture. The seven weeks, then, would be seven weeks of years, or 49 years. The 62 weeks would equal 434 years.
Next, we need to determine when this count begins. Verse 25 says it begins with the command to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple. From the time of the decree to rebuild Jerusalem to the time of the completion, we know from history was 49 years. That is the seven weeks of years. Then Daniel says it will be another 62 weeks (or 434 years) till Messiah is "cut off." That takes us to Passover in the year 30 AD, the very time Jesus was crucified.
Why, according to Daniel, will Messiah be "cut off?" He gives the answer in verse 24:
* For the transgression of God's people to reach its fullness.
* For Messiah to make an end of sins (through His sacrifice).
* For Messiah to make "reconciliation for iniquity."
In other words, Messiah would be dying for the sins of the people - taking upon Himself the guilt of us all.
You may have noticed that 7 weeks to the completion of Jerusalem, and 62 weeks to the time Messiah is "cut off," adds up to 69 weeks. What happened to the 70th week? Like all of the other Old Testament Jewish prophets, Daniel saw a suffering Messiah, and a victorious Messiah, and there is no indication that the Old Testament prophets saw the difference of some 2,000 years between them. Verse 27 tells us about the final week of years. I believe this week is still in the future. When will it begin? Verse 26 says it will begin when there is an "end of war," and when God determines "the desolations." Obviously that has not yet happened. When it does begin, it will start (according to verse 27) with a covenant (a treaty) which will last for 7 year (this is Daniel's 70th week). The treaty will be broken in the middle of the week (3 1/2 years) and end Jewish worship at a rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem. At this point, Israel comes under extreme persecution. When the nation is at the brink of extinction, Messiah returns, delivers His people, and sets up His kingdom on the throne of His father David. That, I believe, is still in the future.
But what does this have to do with the Wisemen who "came from the east seeking the newborn King?" Under the Persians, Daniel was elevated to the head of the group of highly educated people (today we might call them a "think tank") who advised the King on everything from internal and foreign policy to interpretting dreams. Jewish tradition says that Daniel inculcated this group of highly trained advisors in the Law of Moses, and the Old Testament prophets. This resulted in their advice to the King being very much Judeo-centric (based on biblical ethics). Daniel, of course, never returned to Israel. He died in the foreign land to which he had been taken against his will. But he left with the sages he mentored the message of God's 70 weeks. So, some 400 years later, when the King's Star appeared in the sky, these sages were well aware of the Messianic prophecy, and that Messiah would be cut off in another 33 years. Therefore, this star must signify His birth; triggering their six to nine month trip from the Persian Gulf area to Jerusalem, looking for the King. This is also likely the reason their three gifts (gold, frankincense and myrrh) included a burial spice.
Here we have a prophecy that tells us the exact time the Messiah will be "cut off." Just as prophesied, Jesus was crucified - cut off - at the very time predicted, in the City of Jerusalem.
I did not come here today just to share with you some wonderful stories from the Bible. True, these things do help to bolster our faith. They do help us know that the Bible is true. They do teach us about our Creator. But my prayer is that we will all go from this place today with a renewed determination to follow Him. My purpose in bringing this study to you today, is the desire to be able to lead you into an intimate, personal relationship with your Creator. This is not just my desire; it is God's desire also. This is why He gave us the Bible. It is why He sent His Son to be our substitute, taking upon Himself the judment that rightfully was yours and mine. Jesus took my place. He died for my sin. And that truth demands a response from you and from me. What will your response be?
Links for more information...
"Finding Jesus in the Old Testament
(The Jewish Scriptures)"
Discovering the Jewish Roots of Our Faith
By Ken Williams
This 212 page books traces the prophecies of the promised Messiah through each of the 39 books of the Old Testament. You will see both the prophecies of the predicted "Suffering Messiah" and the coming "Conquering, Victorious Messiah." We touch on how the ancient Hebrew scholars understood these passages, as well as how they fit into the New Testament teachings.
Someone has said that there are more than 300 Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament. Ken found 10 in the Book of Genesis alone. Systematically, Ken goes through each book of the Old Testament to prove without doubt that Jesus fulfilled each prophecy to the very smallest detail. The book also contains introductions to the Books of Moses, the Prophets and the Writings (the three divisions of the Jewish Scriptures) with insight into our Jewish roots.
While there have been several books written on this subject, mostly as Bible College textbooks, this book is unique in that it is more complete and is written in layman's language and easy to understand. In addition, there are many cultural practices which are brought out to help the reader understand the passage: everything from the method of making covenants or agreements in Bible times, to the scepter which had each family's or tribe's history carved on it, to the uniqueness of the Hebrew language.
This book is a "must read" for anyone interested in discovering the Jewish roots of the Christian faith, and in finding the link that joins both the Old and New Testaments into one united, cohesive, integrated revelation from God.
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