The Rabbis Speak
About The Messiah
by Rachmiel Frydland
People long for perfection in an imperfect world and for vindication of the righteous in a world of righteousness. This is a basic ingredient of the human heart, mind, and spirit. The whole Tanakh
(1) is full of this conviction. The prophets of Israel were vehement in denouncing perversion and injustice. while looking forward to the time when a:
King shall reign in righteousness, & princes shall rule in justice. And a man shall be like an hiding place from the wind, & a covert from the tempest; like rivers of water in a dry place, like the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.
(2) How is this longing for perfection to be fulfilled? The biblical view taught by the prophets was that Messiah would accomplish it. The prophets foretold a time when Messiah would make final atonement for the sins of both Jew and Gentile.
(3) The Hebrew word Mashiach (Messiah) means, "the Anointed One" and relates to the One whom God chose to redeem his people. The Tenach teaches that this "go'el (kinsman redeemer) shall come to Zion, and unto those who turn from transgressions in Jacob."
(4) The prophecies inspired by the Ruach Hakodesh (the Holy Spirit) reveal that Israel and mankind will be redeemed by faith in Messiah.
The Traditional Views
Orthodox rabbis of past centuries considered Messiah to be the center of the whole creation. The Messiah is discussed in the context of the "light" in the Genesis creation account."
(5) According to the Rabbis, this special light was created before the sun, moon and stars. The Yalkut, a rabbinic medieval anthology, says:
'And God saw the light, that it was good.' This is the light of Messiah ...
to teach you that God saw the generation of Messiah and His works before
He created the universe, and He hid the Messiah ... under His throne of glory.
Satan asked God, Master of the Universe: 'For whom is this Light under
Your Throne of Glory?' God answered him, 'It is for ... [the Messiah] who
is to turn you backward and who will put you to scorn with shamefacedness.'
(6) In another rabbinic reference we are told that:
All the prophets who prophesied have only made predictions regarding the Messiah. As regards eternity, it is said in Isaiah 64:4
'neither hath eye seen, O God, beside Thee, what He hath prepared for him who waiteth for Him.
(7) The rabbis also were aware the Tanakh predicted that Messiah would be both humiliated and exalted. They tried to resolve this apparent contradiction in three different ways.
The first possibility developed in the Talmud was that Messiah existed from before: the creation of the world and came to earth when the Second Temple was destroyed.
Rabbi Shemuel bar Nehmani said: On the day when the Temple was destroyed Israel suffered much for their sins ... . And from whence do we know that on that day [when the Temple was destroyed] Messiah was born? For it is written, 'Before she travailed, she brought forth' [the Messiah].
(8) Various reports are then offered as to his whereabouts after his birth. The Babylonian Talmud says that He sits "at the gates of the city of Rome" and suffers affliction with his people. There he awaits God's call to step out as exalted Savior and bring about Israel's salvation. He will do it as soon as Israel hears God's voice and repents.
(9) This view eventually was abandoned, perhaps because it too closely resembled the view of Jewish believers in Yeshua (Jesus), who believed that the Messiah had first come as Suffering Savior and would return in glory as King-Redeemer.
A second explanation of the seemingly contradictory portrayals of Messiah as one both humiliated and exalted appears elsewhere in the Talmud:
R. Alexandri said that R. Joshua bar Levi combined the two paradoxical passages; the one that says. 'Behold, one like the Son of Man came with the clouds of heaven' (Daniel 7:13) [showing Messiah's glory] and the other verse that says, 'poor and riding upon a donkey' (Zechariah 9:9) [showing Messiah's humility]. He explained it in this manner: If they are worthy, He will come 'with the clouds of heaven;' if they are unworthy He will come 'poor and riding upon a donkey.'
(10) A third solution is found in the Babylonian Talmud.
(11) Here, the two different roles of Messiah are fulfilled in two different Messiahs. The first one is Messiah-Ben Joseph who fights, suffers extreme humiliation, and is pierced, fulfilling Zechariah's prophecy, they shall look unto Me whom they have pierced.
(12) The second one is Messiah Ben David, who comes later and to whom God says:
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 nations for thine inheritance.
(13) The Messianic View
The rabbis failed to recognize one other possibility -- that the Messiah was to atone for the sins of the people first and then return as the Exalted One to establish his Kingdom. This view, of course. inevitably leads to Yeshua(Jesus) as the Messiah, a truth that escaped the rabbis of past and present. Supported by the Tanakh. this view resolves the dilemma faced by most Talmudic rabbis.
The rabbis strove to resolve the two distinct threads of prophecies in the Tanakh. As a man standing afar off looking at two mountain peaks in direct line, they were unable to discern the "time gulf" that existed between those peaks. With the hindsight of a quarterback, and the additional revelation of the Brit Hadasha (New Covenant) the theory which best resolves the paradox is that one Messiah was to come in two different eras for two distinct purposes. He was to come first as the Suffering Savior to atone for the sins of the people and to bring peace to those who repented and received the atonement in faith. He is to come next as the Exalted King to reign judgment upon the unjust and to establish his Messianic Kingdom forever. With this model in mind, it is appropriate to begin to identify this Messiah promised to Eve, in the beginning.
1 The Tenach is a shorthand reference for the Holy Scriptures, consisting of the Books of Moses. the Prophets and the Writings. 2 Isaiah 32:1-2 3 E.g., Isaiah 52:15- 53:12; Daniel 9:24-26 4 Isaiah 59:20 5 Genesis 1:4 6 Yalkut on Isaiah 60; see Alfred Edersheim. The life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (Wm. B. Eerdmans 1977) p. 728. 7 Sanhedrin 99a; Berachot 34b; Shabbat 63a 8 Bereshit Rabbati 133 (Isaiah 66:7) 9 Sanhedrin 98a 10 Ibid. 11 Sukkah 52b 12 Zechariah 12:10 13 Psalm 2:7
What The Rabbis Know About the Messiah by Rachmiel Frydland
Reprinted With Permission of the Messianic Literature Outreach
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