by Dr. Arthur Michelson
Dr. Arthur Michelson, born in 1887, grew up in a strict orthodox-Jewish family. Although being familiar with the Talmudic scriptures, a New Testament changed his life. He discovered in ‘that Man’, of whom all prophets witness, the Messiah of Israel. The following article is an abbreviated version of his brochure ‘Jesus before the Sanhedrin’ in which Michelson explains various prophecies of the Old Testament concerning the Lord Jesus. Prophecies that often got a different meaning within the rabbinical Judaism.
Looking up to heaven with longing
In every orthodox-Jewish family, children often hear about the coming of the Messiah. Both my father and our rabbi often told me about Him Who will come to deliver the Jews from their suffering and Who will bring peace to the world. Many times I saw my father standing in the yard, longingly looking up to heaven from which he expected the Saviour to come. “Oh, that Thou wouldest rend the heavens, that Thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow down at Thy presence” (Isa 64:1). Tears ran down his cheeks while he prayed: “O God, be merciful to us and send us the Messiah”.
The expectation of the Messiah
The signs that will herald the coming of the Messiah can only be recognized from the Biblical prophecies. Those prophecies begin the first time that the Saviour was promised. After the man’s fall in Eden, God spoke to the serpent: “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her Seed; It shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise His heel” (Gen. 3:15). That the coming Saviour is named the ‘Seed of the woman’, shows that He would be a man and not an angel! It is remarkable that the expression ‘Seed of the woman’ is not found anywhere else. In the Bible, the descent is always being given via the masculine line and never via the feminine. The fact that God named Him ‘Seed of the woman’ proves that there is something that distinguishes Him from all other people. The Conqueror of the most deadly enemy would be the ‘Seed of the woman’. Satan brought death and destruction through misleading a woman, but God, in His mercy and infinite wisdom, involved a woman to bring Life and Salvation through the Messiah who was to be born from a woman. In the Talmud, this promise is being declared as following: “I will put enmity between thee and the woman and between the seed of thy sons and the seed of her sons. When the sons of the woman will keep the commandments of the Law, they will be able to bruise thy head. But when they do not obey the Law, thou shalt bruise their heel. For them there will be a cure and they will find healing in the days of King-Messiah”.
Promises to the patriarchs
Many centuries later, the promise to Abraham followed: “in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Gen.12:3). And later: “for in Isaac shall thy seed be called” (Gen. 21:12).This indicates that the Seed, promised to Eve, would come forth from Isaac, not from Ishmael. God said to Isaac “And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 26:4). He carried the promise on to Jacob (Gen. 27:29; 28:14). In a dream Jacob saw a ladder, reaching from the earth to heaven, a reference to the Messiah Who one day will reunite heaven and earth and reconcile mankind with God. Jacob carried the promise on to his son Judah and indicated a time line in his prophecy, in which one could expect the Messiah: “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet until Shiloh come; and unto Him shall the gathering of the people be” (Gen. 49:10). Well known Jewish Scholars agree that with ‘Shiloh’, the Messiah is indicated. The Talmud interprets the words “until Shiloh comes” with “until King Messiah comes”. But Shiloh had to be arrived earlier, because the sceptre had departed from Judah already. The world wide dispersed Jews are no longer being ruled by the house of David. The majority cannot even prove from whom they descend. The sceptre had to be found in the hand of David’s legal Successor, the Lord Jesus.
Prophecy of Moses
Moses said: "The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, from thy brethren, like unto me. Unto Him ye shall hearken, according to all that thou desired of the LORD thy God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, neither let me see this great fire any more, that I die not.’ And the LORD said unto me: ‘They have well spoken that which they have spoken. I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren like unto thee, and will put My words in His mouth; and He shall speak unto them all that I shall command Him. And it shall come to pass that whosoever will not hearken unto My words which He shall speak in My name, I will require it of him” (Deut. 18:15-19). Many rabbi’s paraphrase this prophecy as following: “The Lord your God will give you a true Prophet, a Prophet from among thy brethren, like I am, filled with the Holy Spirit, the Lord thy God will raise unto you. Thou shalt obey Him. Through miracles Moses led only one nation to serve God. The Messiah will make all nations bow down for God”. Other Jewish writers say that this prophecy has nothing to do with the Messiah, but with Moses’ successor Joshua. God however, did not promise that this Prophet would come immediately. On the contrary, after Moses had laid his hands on Joshua, it is written: “And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face” (Deut. 34:10). God neither said that He would send two or more, but One!
Who is that One?
Although there are many servants and prophets of God mentioned in the Bible, there is just One particularly emphasised! Who is He? We have seen that Joshua was neither the Prophet, nor Elijah, nor Elisha. Was it Isaiah with his mighty prophecy or other men of God like Jeremiah and Ezekiel? It is Him, the ‘Seed of the woman’, the Saviour of the world, born from the tribe of Judah. The One of Whom Peter witnessed: “For Moses truly said unto the fathers, ‘A Prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you from your brethren, like unto me; Him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever He shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass that every soul who will not hear that Prophet shall be destroyed from among the people.’ Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those who follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days” (Ac 3:22-24).
Virgin or young woman
God promised that the Messiah would be from the ‘Seed of the woman’. This has been fulfilled through His birth from a virgin, as we can read in Isaiah 7:14: “Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign: Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel (God with us)” (Isa 7:14). According to the rabbi’s this verse is not related to the Messiah, but to Hezekiah, the son of king Ahaz. For this reason they say that Matthew wrongly related this verse in his Gospel to Jesus (Matt. 1:23). They translate the Hebrew word ‘almah’ with ‘young woman’ instead of ‘virgin’.
In Isaiah 7 we read about the circumstances in which Ahaz, the king of Judah, found himself when God gave him this sign. He was under attack by the king of Syria and the king of Israel (700 b. C.) Anxious not to lose the battle against those united powers, Ahaz decided to call for the help of the king of Assyria. He understood very well that the kingdom of Judah would lose its independence and that the throne of David would be totally be destroyed. In fact that was what Ahaz considered in his unbelief! But then God sent him the message through Isaiah that he should not fear the two kings who came up to him to conquer Jerusalem. Because Ahaz was an offspring from David out of the tribe of Judah. And God had promised that the sceptre would not depart from Judah before Shiloh would come! And because the Messiah had not come yet, Ahaz could have felt safe instead of trembling “as the trees of the wood are moved with the wind” (Isa 7:2). His fear was the result of unbelief. That is why God repeated his promise to him that He had given once to Adam and Eve about the ‘Seed of the woman’, but this time in a much clearer way. First, God spoke to Ahaz: "Ask thee a sign of the LORD thy God”. When the king refused this offer in his unbelief, Isaiah said: “Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign: Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a Son” In other words: ‘Even though thou, O king, dost not believe that God will save the throne of David from destruction until the Messiah comes, He will fulfil His promise about the ‘Seed of the woman’ and about the ‘sceptre of Shiloh. Even though thou dost not wish a sign, God will give one by the birth of the Messiah from a virgin; the greatest sign that the world has ever seen!’
After Ahaz’ refusal it seems as if God turns away from him, to address Himself to the house of David with the words: "Hear ye now, O house of David! Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will ye weary my God also?” (Isa 7:13). It is as of God wants to say: ‘Fear not, the two kings will not destroy the throne of David, for My Anointed One will be borne from a virgin and the sceptre will rest in His hand’.
Isaiah continues his prophecy about the Messiah with beautiful words: “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” (Isa 9:2). This Light is the Son of David, born from a virgin, the Immanuel, destined for the throne of David, which was occupied by the non-believing king Ahaz in the time of Isaiah. This Immanuel is the hope of Israel! The prophet continues: “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” (Isa 9:6-7).
When Matthew in his gospel related Isaiah 7:14 to the birth of the Lord Jesus from a virgin, he, being filled with the Holy Spirit, explained the old prophecy in the right way (Matt. 1:23).
The Hebrew word ‘almah’ in Isaiah 7:14 is correctly translated with ‘virgin’. In six other passages of the Old Testament the word ‘almah’ can be found with the meaning of ‘pure unmarried young woman’ (Gen. 24:43; Ex. 2:8; Ps. 68:26; Ecc. 30:19; Song of Sal. 1:3; 6:8). Reading those passages, we will see that the word ‘almah’ everywhere simply means ‘virgin’. That is why we don’t have to hesitate about what the prophet says: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel”. If he would have meant a married woman, it would not have been a ‘sign’ at all. The ‘sign’ of the conceived virgin had to prove that “with God all things are possible”.
Finally, we would like to point to the Septuagint. Around 275 years before Christ seventy two Jewish men came together in Alexandria to translate the Old Testament from Hebrew into Greek. In this ‘Septuagint’, ‘almah’ is translated with ‘parthenos’, which means ‘pure virgin’. In the first churches they used this argument from the Septuagint against those who opposed the truth that Immanuel was born from a ‘parthenos’, a virgin in the true sense of the word.
The work of the Godhead
We know that “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16). The entire plan of salvation was born in the heart of the Father, but performed through His Son. The Lord Jesus not only accomplished our salvation, He is our Salvation. But He is also the eternal God. Listen to the testimony of the prophet Micah about Him: “But thou, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall come forth unto Me He that is to be ruler in Israel, whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting".
And finally it is the Holy Spirit, Who witnesses of this salvation. When the Lord Jesus prepares His disciples for His Ascension, He says: "But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of Truth who proceedeth from the Father, He shall testify of Me” (John 15:26). So, it is not our testimony. The Lord Jesus even says: “But I receive not testimony from man…” (John 5:34). If the Holy Spirit is not speaking through us, our witnessing is of no value. The Holy Spirit shows and explains us the accomplished work of Christ. He shows us how we, being sinners, can be justified and sanctified through Him. The Spirit does not glorify people and does not come into our lives to boast in ourselves. His only purpose is to glorify Christ. The Lord Jesus says: “He shall glorify Me, for He shall receive of Mine, and shall show it unto you” (John 16:14). The more we are filled with the Holy Spirit, the less we think of ourselves. His purpose is to glorify the Messiah, so that the prayer of our heart shall be: “Send us the Messiah”.