of the Linage of Solomon
by Rachmiel Frydland
The essence of Nathan's prophecy is that David's son will build the Lord's house, and the Lord will establish his throne forever. (1)
Solomon, David's son from Bathsheba, fulfilled part of the prophecy by building a house for the Lord in Jerusalem. It took seven years to build this awesome structure. (2)
Although Solomon fulfilled part of Nathan's prophecy, there was undoubtedly some hope that he or his immediate descendant could fulfill the remaining part of the prophecy through the establishment of the eternal kingdom. However, those who had appended their hopes to Solomon were soon bitterly disappointed. Solomon departed from the ways of God. He not only married many wives, which the Torah forbids, but the wives that he married were mostly idol worshippers. He built for them altars and high places in the city of Jerusalem, so that they could worship, burn incense and sacrifice to their gods. (3) Then he departed from the Lord God. He began to follow after "Ashtoreth, the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom, the abomination of the Ammonites." (4) The psalmist speaks of the character of the promised Son of David, who would sit on the throne forever. "He shall judge the poor of the people, he shall save the children of the needy, and shall break in pieces the oppressor."(5) Yet, Solomon became an oppressor himself, whose burdensome taxes the people abhorred. After his death, the people approached his son Rehoboam and asked that he make their yoke lighter. (6) When Rehoboam refused, (7) the kingdom split, and he lost ten of the tribes of Israel. (8) The Promised One who would sit on the throne of David forever was the Messiah. According to the Psalmist, he is to be everlasting, (9) he is to be compassionate; (10) he is to cause joy and blessing. He is to bring peace to the hearts of the people. (11) Messiah's influence was even to be extended to the Gentile peoples, (12) and he would provide well for their physical needs. (13) His name is everlasting, appointed by God before the sun was created, (14) and his person is glorious. (15) Solomon did not fit this description of the promised One who was to sit upon the throne of David. None of his descendants who served as kings in Israel could, either. Nonetheless, the people continued to hope for the One who would.
More than two centuries passed. Prophetically, additional details were accumulated about this Son of David, Son of God. Hosea informed the people, however, that they would have a long wait: For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a --- sacrifice ---. Afterward shall the children of Israel return, & seek the Lord, their God, and David, their king, and shall fear the Lord & his goodness in the latter days. (16) The faithful ones in Israel in each generation were no doubt wondering whether the Promised One would come in their generation. While they were waiting, Ahaz, an ungodly king arose. Ahaz was challenged by God's servant Isaiah to heed God's Word and not enter into alliances with the enemies of Israel. Ahaz refused. (17) Isaiah tried hard to win over Ahaz and bring him to trust the Lord, but Ahaz refused all signs from the Lord and, with hypocritical piety, he declared: I will not ask neither will I test the Lord. (18)
God rejected Ahaz because he was unworthy of God's miracles, but God never-the-less gave a miraculous sign to the whole house of David: Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign (19) Behold, the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. 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 by both her kings. (20)
Here, God promises a sign of a supernatural child, born of a virgin (21) (Almah), who would carry the symbolic name Immanuel ---God with us. He would be the Promised King who would not make alliances with Assyria. The mighty Assyrians would not prevail because "Immanuel," and not Ahaz, would rule Israel.(22) But soon after there was a dawning of a new day. Ahaz had a son, Hezekiah, who ascended the throne. He was a righteous and good king of great piety, and obedient to the Word of God. Would Ahaz's son, the good king Hezekiah, be chosen of God to fulfill these prophecies that had accumulated through God's revelations from Adam to the prophet Isaiah Doubtless, many, if not most in Israel, hoped that Hezekiah would be that king: indeed, some thought that he was. The idea that Hezekiah was that Messiah probably prevailed for awhile. One rabbi as late as the 1st century C.E. still maintained this position: Rabbi Hillel maintained, Israel cannot expect Messiah any longer for they already enjoyed him in the time of king Hezekiah.(23) None of Rabbi Hillel's colleagues agreed with him and one exclaimed: May God pardon Hillel, since he contradicts God's prophet Zechariah [who came centuries after Hezekiah} who says, 'Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem; Behold thy king cometh unto thee...' Hence, prophets like Zechariah, who prophesied after Hezekiah's reign, looked forward to the Messiah. (24)
Part of Isaiah's prophecy was fulfilled in Hezekiah's time. This occurred when Damascus, the capital of Syria, was captured by the Assyrians in 732 B.C.E. The ten northern tribes of Israel lost their independence, and their capital was captured in 722 B.C.E. Hence it came to pass that: ...[B]efore the child kn[ew] to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest [Syria and Israel] [was] ... forsaken by both her kings. (25)
Another prophecy, in this same context, that the Assyrians would besiege Jerusalem and conquer Judah, yet would still be defeated, was fulfilled in the time of king Hezekiah.(26) Never the less, Hezekiah could not satisfy the sign of the virgin birth, and hence, with all his qualifications, he still comes up short. He is not the one who was to be Messiah and fulfill the "Immanuel" prophecy. The Talmudic rabbis did consider the possibility that Hezekiah was the Messiah. In one Talmudic passage it is written: 'Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end' (Isa. 9:7). One may ask why in the Hebrew in the first word lemarbe the letter mem, though in the middle of the word, is written as a final mem? The answer is that the Holy, blessed be He, considered the possibility of making Hezekiah Messiah ... .(27)
The passage goes on to imply that Hezekiah was not the Messiah, and it explains that the closed mem signifies that the
decision concerning the Messiah was closed for now and postponed to another time.(28)
RASHI also came to the conclusion that the Immanuel prophecy could not refer to Hezekiah, because "if you count up the years of Hezekiah you will find that Hezekiah was born nine years before his father [Ahaz] ascended the throne." Hence, Hezekiah was born nine years before the prophecy was given, and yet the prophet says: Behold, the virgin shall (future tense) conceive... . (29) Although the rabbis considered the possibilities that Hezekiah might be the Messiah, they decided against it. They recognized his attributes as designated by his name, Hezekiah, which means "God made him strong."(30) God indeed strengthened Israel through Hezekiah's reign. Although Hezekiah was of the seed from which Messiah would come, and though Messiah-like, he did not meet the full qualifications of the Anointed Messiah who would fulfill the Immanuel prophecy. Israel would have to wait.
References for Chapter 10:
(1) Chronicles l7:12 (2) Solomon's own palace took 13 years to build and it perhaps was even more splendid than the Lord's Temple. (I Kings 7) Israel was happy and proud of the dwelling house of the Lord. The house of the Lord even attracted the attention of foreign rulers (I Kings 8:41-43) who depleted the temple riches. (II Kings 16:8) (3) I Kings 11:8 (4) II Kings 11:5 (5) Psalms 72:4 (6) kings 12:4 (7) I Kings 12:13-14 (8) I Kings 12:16-20 (9) Psalms 72:5 (10) Psalms 72:12-13 (11) Psalms 72:6-7 (12) Psalms 72:10 (13) Psalms 72:16 (14) "His name shall endure forever; His name shall be continued as the sun" (lifnei shemesh Yinon shemo) (Psalm 72:17) The School of Yanai taught, "The name of Messiah is Yinon for it is written. lifnei shemesh Yinon shemo; his name is Yinon before the sun was created." (Sanhedrin 98b) (15) Psalms 72:18-19 (16) Hosea 3:4-5 (17) II Kings 16:5-7 (18) Isaiah 7:12 (19) The word here in Hebrew is ot which is more of a wonderful sign or a miracle. For example, the ten plagues are described as ot, as was the Rainbow for Noah. (20) Isaiah 7:14-16 (21) The word here in the Hebrew is almah. This word usually, if not always, refers to a virgin. The 70 Greek Jewish scholars who translated the Holy Scriptures into Greek in the third century B.C.E. translated almah into the Greek word parthenos which means virgin. The equivalent term in the cognate language to Hebrew, Ugaritic, also means virgin. (22) Isaiah 8:7-10 (23) Sanhedrin 99a (24) See also Haggai 2:6-10; Malachi 3:1, 4:5. (25) Isaiah 7:16 (26) Isaiah 8:7-8; 37:36-37 (27) Sanhedrin 94a (28) Another Talmudic passage discusses the possibility that the son described in Isaiah 9:6 might refer to Hezekiah. However, the rabbis dismissed the possibility. (Sanhedrin 94a) (29) RASHI actually expected the Messiah to appear in 1352 C.E. or 1478 C.E. Abba Hillel Silver, Messianic Speculation in Israel (MacMillan 1927) p. 66-67 (30) In Hebrew hazak means strong and yah means God (a short form of Jehovah).
What The Rabbis Know About The Messiah by Rachmiel Frydland
Reprinted With Permission of the Messianic Literature Outreach
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