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Zechariah 12:1-14 – Is it Yahweh who is pierced?

Zechariah was one of three prophets, along with Haggai and later Malachi, who ministered (about 520 B.C.) to the Jewish exiles returning from Babylon to Jerusalem, to rebuild the temple. By Zechariah’s day, Judah was no longer the kingdom that it was before, under David or Solomon. In a sense, the exiles who returned were all that was left of Israel, and they were always under siege from hostile forces, and threatened with extinction. However, Zechariah explains that God’s people will triumph one day. Zechariah is writing at a time when the Old Covenant was active. We must keep in mind that he uses old covenant imagery, shadows, and symbols, that the first readers understood, to communicate coming restoration of God’s people. With that in mind, lets dive into a verse-by-verse study of Zechariah 12:1-14 to see what it teaches us about “restoration” of God’s people and a coming Messiah.

The burden of the word of the Lord concerning Israel. Thus declares the Lord who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him (Zechariah 12:1 NASB 1995)

The burden of the word of the Lord concerning Israel. Zechariah characterizes the entire message in chapter 12-14 as “the burden of the word of the LORD concerning Israel.” It is a burden because it brings heavy tidings and burdens the prophet with a sense of urgency to deliver it to God’s people who need hope and encouragement after their return from exile.

The oracle is concerning Israel. Since what had once been the nation of Israel, composed of the twelve tribes of Israel, is no more, it looks forward to the time when the exiled and scattered people of God will return to become the people of God once more. The use of ‘Israel’ to refer to God’s people (instead of Jerusalem or Judah mentioned in verse Zechariah 12:2), gives this prophesy an eschatological thrust. Who is Israel? 

This message is delivered to its first readers, who are ethnic Jews. It is given for their comfort and encouragement. However, when Christ entered human history, He established a new covenant with His people (as Old Covenant prophet Jeremiah prophesied in Jeremiah 31:31-34), rendering the Old Covenant obsolete (Hebrews 8:13). Since there is a New Covenant in effect, Gentiles have been included in the commonwealth of Israel and are as much “true Jews” as are believing ethnic Jews today and in Zechariah’s day. Paul says in Ephesians 2:11 that believing Gentiles are now equal members of the “commonwealth of Israel” (Ephesians 2:12) and are “fellow citizens with the saints and are of God’s household” (Ephesians 2:19). This is not replacing ethnic Israel but including and fulfilling what God always predestined through Abraham.  If anyone belongs to “Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise” (Galatians 3:29). Hence, according to New Testament revelation, “true Israel” must include all Abraham’s descendants, comprised of believing Jews and Gentiles (Galatians 6:16; Ephesians 2:15).

But does Israel as corporate entity also have a future? Paul appears to answer this question in Romans 11 with a “yes.” Paul presents Israel as a corporate entity, comprised of an elect remnant and a hardened majority. Paul goes on to say that while God never promised to save every Jewish citizen (Romans 11:6), he did promise to save the people-group, the corporate entity, the nation. Paul’s answer, of course, isn’t comprehensive. It doesn’t say anything, for example, about Israel’s land or about a temporal future (millennial) kingdom. But what it does say is that (1) Israel will be saved, (2) this salvation is taking place now [from his day] and will conclude at Jesus’ return, (3) it will lead to the resurrection from the dead, (4) it happens as a result of the Gentile mission, and (5) it is a re-grafting of unbelieving Jews into their own tree (in concert with a grafting in of Gentiles to the same tree).2 The restoration of Israel will mean their becoming part of the “true Israel” by faith in Jesus Christ the Messiah. Though Romans 11 may be interpreted differently, such a view is not uncommon among non-dispensationalist adherents.4 Continuing on from the rest of the verse.

Thus declares the Lord who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him. The power that guarantees the coming restoration is seen in the threefold description of Yahweh. 1) He stretches out the heavens, 2) He founded the earth, 3) He formed the Spirit within man. The mention of the creation of heavens, and earth implies a new act of creation that is coming with establishment of the Kingdom promised to David. The mention of the creation of the “spirit” of man implies a further work in man, a work of “new creation” that would result from a “pierced” One (Zechariah 12:10).

Behold, I am going to make Jerusalem a cup that causes reeling to all the peoples around; and when the siege is against Jerusalem, it will also be against Judah (Zechariah 12:2)

Behold, I am going to make Jerusalem. Jerusalem was the only holy City of God that Zechariah ever knew. So, he uses earthly Jerusalem and Judah as a representation of God’s holy city and His people (just like Micah 5:5 represents the “Assyrians“, as all enemies of the Messiah and His people). It is from Jerusalem that salvation spread to all the nations and families of the earth. Hence, Zechariah’s oracle displays the centrality of Judah and Jerusalem to this restoration of God’s people. 

If we did not have the New Testament, and there was no new covenant in effect, we would have concluded that the earthly Jerusalem was still God’s holy city. In the past God spoke to His people through “the prophets” (Hebrews 1:1) but in these last days, He “has spoken” (Hebrews 1:2) to us through the Messiah and His apostles the essential meaning of the Old Testament [Law and Prophets]. God’s Jerusalem is no longer an earthly city, but it has become the eternal “heavenly Jerusalem”, the “city of the living God” (Hebrews 12:22), where both Jew and Gentile believers’ “citizenship” have been established and included (Philippians 3:20). Abraham who was promised an earthly “land” (Genesis 17:8) understood that what God ultimately had in mind for him, and his descendants was something much “better” (Hebrew 11:16), a heavenly “city” whose architect and builder is God (Hebrews 11:10). Therefore, Jerusalem here must refer to “Jerusalem above” (Galatians 4:26), hence, God is worshiped “neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem . . . but . . . in spirit and truth” (John 4:21–23).

A cup that causes reeling to all the peoples around. The figure of Jerusalem as a cup that causes people to ‘reel’ or stagger (as though drunk), draws on traditional prophetic language about ‘the cup of judgment’ that God will cause his enemies to drink when they come against His people (Jew or Gentile), who belong to “heavenly Jerusalem”. “All the peoples around” implies enemy forces of global proportions who will come against God’s people.

When the siege is against Jerusalem, it will also be against Judah. Here, the prophet tells his readers that God will not only be the guardian of His city, but also of the whole land. When Jerusalem shall be besieged, the Lord will put impediments (causes reeling) everywhere, which will hinder and prevent the assault of enemies. The promise of protection is thus extended to all people when the enemy comes.

It will come about in that day that I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples; all who lift it will be severely injured. And all the nations of the earth will be gathered against it. (Zechariah 12:3)

It will come about in that day. It will come about in “that day”, a time in the future. When is “that day”? It was on “that day” Zechariah 12:11 says that there was great mourning in Jerusalem, because of the “pierced” one (Zechariah 12:10). John says Zechariah 12:10 was fulfilled in the days of the Messiah, when Jesus was crucified (John 19:37). Hence, “that day” refers to the days of the Messiah. In the New Testament, “that day” refers to the “last days” – the whole period beginning with the first coming of Christ to make atonement for sin, and his second coming in glory to judge the world. Peter in Acts 2:17, and the writer of Hebrews in Hebrews 1:1-2, declare the last days to be the days of the Messiah.

Many, particularly those of a dispensational tradition, have understood Zechariah chapter 12–14 to be all about the events at the end of this age, during a 1000 year millennial reign. But the problem is the New Testament understands “that day” foremostly with the crucifixion of the Messiah, and secondarily with His return.

That I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples; all who lift it will be severely injured. And all the nations of the earth will be gathered against it. Here imagery shifts from cup to a heavy stone, and from reeling to injury caused by those who try to move an immovable foundation. God will place His people as a stone of offense before all peoples, when enemy nations will come against His people. “All nations” like “all the peoples around” implies enemy forces of global proportions. However, what is implied is, when enemies come against God’s people, unlike the Babylonian siege in 586 B.C, God will act to repel the nations and give victory to His people.

Moreover, the reference to “All nations” is prophetic hyperbole which do not necessarily mean that all the 190 plus nations on this planet in the 21st century would be coming against God’s people, but the attack will come from a global scale. Since “that day” encompasses the days of Messiah, then we could expect these words to have fulfillment during the days of Messiah. The New Testament is explicit that all the Old Testament promises about the coming kingdom of God find their fulfilment (ultimate meaning) in Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:16). This means (among other things) that the fulfilment would come in His first coming, and consummated with His second coming.

In that day,” declares the Lord, “I will strike every horse with bewilderment and his rider with madness. But I will watch over the house of Judah, while I strike every horse of the peoples with blindness (Zechariah 12:4)

So God will cause those who come against His people to stagger (verse 2) and injure themselves (verse 3), and now, he will confuse their cavalry (verse 4). Horses were pivotal in battle, and ancient battle strategies often included plans to try to panic the enemies’ horses. Using Old Testament horse riding warlike imagery, God promises to watch over His people so that the enemies of God’s people shall be astonished at the failure of their attempts. That is the kind of thing that happened when the Lord overthrew the army of Pharaoh at the Red Sea, when Joshua led the Israelites into battle against the Canaanites, when Rome turned its attention away from hunting Christians (AD66).3

The expression the house of Judah, may be a general term for the people as a whole or for their leaders. Again, Zechariah’s words will be fulfilled “in that day”, the last days which began with Christ’s first coming and end with His second coming. God has fought for his people before. But this appears to be last battle – the battle of that day which will usher in the kingdom of God, after His second coming.

Then the clans of Judah will say in their hearts, ‘A strong support for us are the inhabitants of Jerusalem through the Lord of hosts, their God.’ (Zechariah 12:5)

Clans of Judah, meaning leaders (under God) are shown as playing a key role in the victory. And the people who support them will be strong because the Lord Almighty is their God.

“In that day I will make the clans of Judah like a firepot among pieces of wood and a flaming torch among sheaves, so they will consume on the right hand and on the left all the surrounding peoples, while the inhabitants of Jerusalem again dwell on their own sites in Jerusalem. (Zechariah 12:6)

In these images the enemy is the wood and sheaves, which are entirely consumed (“right and left”). These verses appear to describe thoroughness of God’s victory over the enemy through His people. When the battle is over and the victory complete, all the inhabitants of Jerusalem (now expanded to include heavenly Jerusalem) will dwell securely in their own eternal homes (John 14:1-4).

The Lord also will save the tents of Judah first, so that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem will not be magnified above Judah. (Zechariah 12:7)

The statement that the Lord will “save the tents of Judah first, so that the glory of the house of David may not be magnified above Judah,” contains the simple thought that the salvation will take place in such a manner that no part of God’s people will have any occasion to lift itself up above another, and that because the salvation is effected not by human power, but by the omnipotence of God alone.

In that day the Lord will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and the one who is feeble among them in that day will be like David, and the house of David will be like God, like the angel of the Lord before them. (Zechariah 12:8)

On that day, not only the Lord will protect his people. Even the one who is weak will be like David who on many occasions saved Israel by defeating its enemies through God’s power. It was the ‘angel of the Lord’ who was responsible for leading Yahweh’s people on many occasions and providing protection, particularly in the exodus. Therefore, the house of David will be victorious because the Messiah himself is the “a descendant of David” (Romans 1:3) who will go before His people like He did as the “Angel of the Lord” (1 Cor. 10:4).

And in that day I will set about to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.  (Zechariah 12:9)

On that day, when all the nations of the earth gather against Jerusalem, appears to refer to the day when God will establish his kingdom on earth in glory (Revelation 19:11). While God defending His people is applicable through out the last days (like He preserved His people during Neronic persecution (AD64-66), its position at the end of this prophetic snapshot suggest here the Spirit is mainly looking ahead to the Day of the LORD, His Second Coming.

How is it that eschatological Jerusalem will become a cup of reeling to the nations (12:2); how is it that God will so zealously come to her aid (12:4, 9); how is it that his people will find such great strength for the battle (12:5-7)? Zechariah’s next prophetic snapshot supplies the answer: They will enjoy these blessings because “in that day” God will grant them deep, Spirit-wrought repentance and faith in the Messiah (Zechariah 12:10-14).

“I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn. (Zechariah 12:10)

I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication. Yahweh speaks and says He will be poured out, conveying grace to the leadership (house of David) and people (inhabitants of Jerusalem), thereby enabling them to offer repentant prayer. This is similar to what Joel prophesied in Joel 2:28, which is quoted by Peter in Acts 2:17 as fulfilled in the days of Messiah, And it shall come to pass in the last days, God says, that I will pour forth My Spirit on all mankind.” 

So that they will look on Me. “They” in context refer to the house of David and inhabitants of Jerusalem – the offspring of Abraham. “Look on” is the idea of looking in faith just as Israel looked upon the bronze serpent in faith to receive healing (Numbers 21:9). “Me” is the object of their look of faith. Yahweh is the speaker (the “Me”), so He identifies himself as the one who is pierced. The oldest and best Hebrew manuscripts read “me”. Since it appears inappropriate to speak Yahweh as pierced, many scholars have doubted the integrity of the oldest Hebrew text.

Whom they have pierced. The verb “pierce” (daqar) means to pierce or thrust through. In the case of the one pierced here, it is certain that death happened, given the subsequent reference to mourning and cleansing. Yet if it refers only to the piercing of God, this seems inappropriate – how can God be pierced?

Since in immediate context, “house of David” or “David” is mentioned several times, it is natural to identify the pierced one was the Davidic King, the Messiah (instead of persons like Zerubbabel, the prophet Jeremiah, Onias III or ‘the true prophets of Yahweh, as some have suggested). The New Testament confirms this to be Messiah Jesus (John 19:37; Revelation 1:7). It is significant that a number of Jewish rabbis also interpreted this verse in terms of a pierced Messiah, though, as per Jewish tradition, it is their second Messiah, ben Joseph/Ephraim, who is killed, rather than the triumphant Messiah ben David, who will rule as King6,7.

The great irony is that the death of the king comes at the hands of his own people (‘whom they pierced’). This is not surprising given the history of the people of God in rejecting Yahweh as their shepherd.

Why is the king pierced? This becomes clearer in Zechariah 13:1, “In that day a fountain will be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for impurity. The piercing of Yahweh and the Messiah served as a type of sacrifice for sin. This is supported by Isaiah’s suffering servant, where the servant is made an offering for sin (Isaiah 53:10). Forgiveness of sin and cleansing from impurity are two key fruits of Jesus’ atoning sacrifice.

Quick summary: Zechariah 11 portrayed God’s rejection of his people for their rejection of him, but chapter 12 reveals that God’s ultimate purpose for his people is salvation. Yet the path to this outcome is not without cost to God’s people, and Messiah himself. In Zechariah 12:10–14, the prophet reveals that accompanying this salvation from external forces will be an internal renewal of the people as God transforms their affections to seek him in repentance.

And they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn. 

They will mourn for Him. The association of the pierced one with the future Messiah (Davidic King) provides a reasonable explanation for the abrupt shift here from the first person “look on Me” to third person “mourn for Him” in reference to the pierced one. How was Yahweh pierced? To pierce the Messiah is also to pierce Yahweh, the Father.

As one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn. They will “mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve as one grieves the death of a firstborn”, are expressions that convey the depth of anguish and sorrow. The implication appears to be that those who have pierced the Messiah have offended Yahweh, and that they understand that they are deserving of His judgment. Yet Yahweh in his grace has restored relationship and moved them to grieve because of their sin and pray for mercy. Firstborn was synonymous with the most beloved. The title “firstborn” was used of David (Psalm 89:27), as well Messiah Jesus (Colossians 1:8). At his return, Jesus Christ will again be seen by ‘those who pierced him’, and they will ‘mourn because of him’. But this time it is not just Israel (when Messiah was crucified), but ‘all peoples of the earth’ who are in view (Revelation 1:7).

In that day there will be great mourning in Jerusalem, like the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the plain of Megiddo.  (Zechariah 12:11)

This sorrow will be widespread. Mourning of Hadadrimmon may refer to the mourning over King Josiah’s death (2 Kings 23:29; 2 Chronicles 35:20-25). He was such a godly king that the whole nation wept bitterly at his death.

 The land will mourn, every family by itself; the family of the house of David by itself and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Nathan by itself and their wives by themselves; 13 the family of the house of Levi by itself and their wives by themselves; the family of the Shimeites by itself and their wives by themselves; 14 all the families that remain, every family by itself and their wives by themselves. (Zechariah 12:12-14)

This mourning is clearly universal in the land and certain families are singled out. It may be representing the entire leadership caste of the community (royal, David; prophetic, Nathan; priestly, Levi; sapiential, Shimei), or the list represents two specific lines within the royal (David/Nathan) and priestly (Levi/Shimei) houses. Notably women and men are separated for this activity, an action probably related to ancient mourning customs. The ‘mourning’ and ‘wailing’ for him by ‘a large number of people’ was fulfilled in the days of Messiah as Luke 23:27, 48 shows. Zechariah 12:10-14 is fully fulfilled, neither in Jewish converts alone, nor in Gentile converts alone, but in all converts; in the One New Man and the One New Nation that is the Spirit-filled Body of Christ, comprised of believing Jews and Gentiles (Ephesians 2:15; 1 Peter 2:9).

See also:

  • Our chapter-by-chapter, verse-by-verse, commentaries on the book of DanielRevelation.

References

1. Anthony R. Petterson, Apollos Old Testament Commentary

2. https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/essay/the-future-of-ethnic-israel/

3. https://adammaarschalk.com/2014/12/24/zechariah-12-fulfilled/

4. https://www.monergism.com/noted-theologians-history-who-believed-future-conversion-nationalethnic-israel

5. OTTC ZECHARIAH 12:10 “look upon him whom they have pierced,” OR “look upon me whom they have pierced”? – Christian Publishing House Blog

6. https://jewsforjesus.org/answers/jewish-messianic-interpretations-of-zechariah-12-10

7. https://www.oneforisrael.org/holidays/pierced-messiah-zechariah-1210/

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Micah 5:1-15 – Will the Messiah come from Bethlehem?

Micah prophesied during the reigns of the Judean kings Jotham (750–735 B.C.), Ahaz (735–715), and Hezekiah (715–687). Like his contemporary Isaiah, Micah prophesied about the Assyrian destruction of the Northern Kingdom and the later defeat of the Southern Kingdom by the Babylonians. Though the theme of judgment is prominent in each of Micah’s messages, the prophet also stressed restoration. He was confident that someday the Lord would restore the people of Israel to a place of prominence in the world under the Messiah. This is a verse-by-verse study of Micah 5:1-15 to see what Micah says about the coming Messiah.

“Now muster yourselves in troops, daughter of troops; They have laid siege against us; With a rod they will strike the judge of Israel on the cheek (Micah 5:1 NASB 1995)

Now muster yourselves in troops, Daughter of troops. Things will be so bad within the city of Judah that the people will have to muster themselves as a band of defenders. These words appear to be Micah’s encouragement to the people to resist the siege, an effort which proved to be unsuccessful. Jerusalem may be referred by the term “daughter of troops” because wherever the prophet looks he sees people and troops with anxious faces crowding together in terror.

They have laid siege against us. This may be the Assyrian siege of Jerusalem in 701 BC, as Micah includes himself in the siege, however, Sennacherib (the Assyrian King) didn’t have Hezekiah in his power like this. Alternatively, this siege may refer to Jehoiachin’s capitulation to Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon in 597 BC (2 Kings 24:10–12) or Zedekiah’s downfall in the siege of 587 BC (2 Kings 25:1–7).1 The prophet identifies himself, perhaps because he is of the people who were to be attacked, destroyed, and dispersed. 

With a rod they will strike the judge of Israel on the cheek. The “judge of Israel” spoken of here is its leader.  Striking upon the cheek is a gross insult (Job 16:10; 1 Kings 22:24). The complaint of the prophet is that the enemies have been and still are insulting the representative of Jehovah ruling in Jerusalem. What is subtly being hinted in this verse is that Israel would continue to suffer terribly at the hands of their foes until the coming of Messiah.

But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will come forth for Me to be ruler in Israel (Micah 5:2)

But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah. Here, Micah shifts his focus from weak kings to the victorious Messiah. Ephrathah refers to Bethlehem, which is in the land of Judah. The reason for including the name Ephrathah was to ensure this Bethlehem was not the Bethlehem of Zebulon (Joshua 19:15), but the Bethlehem of Judah, also known as Ephrath or Ephrathah. People of Bethlehem were known as “Ephrahthites” (Ruth 1:1-2; 1 Samuel 17:12).

Too little to be among the clans of Judah. Bethlehem is little in size, as compared to other areas in Judah, but by no means the least in significance, since the Messiah was born there.  From the clans come the rulers, so this ruler would not come from the glorious, metropolitan city of Jerusalem, but from a tiny town, one of the smallest towns in Judah. God chooses the small and lowly for his saving acts “so that no one may boast before him” (1 Cor 1:27–30). 

From you One will come forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. Out of an insignificant and backwater town, there is One coming who would be a mashal, or ruler, in Israel, who will come on Yahweh’s behalf.

His times of coming forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity (Micah 5:3)

His times of coming forth are. His times of coming forth could indicate His origins, or that the Messiah made multiple appearances since ancient times, indicating He pre-existed. This fits well with the appearances of the Angel of the Lord (Exodus 23:20-23) in the Old Testament, who speaks as Almighty God himself. Some Jewish authors such as Rabbi Bachya Ben Asher, and Rashi saw something divine about this Angel of the Lord.2

From long ago. This ruler comes from “qedem” meaning “of old” or from “ancient times”. Qedem is used of God Himself elsewhere in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 33:27; Habakkuk 1:12). It is also used elsewhere in Micah to refer back to God’s promises to the patriarchs, which He made ‘from days of qedem’ (Micah 7: 20).

From the days of eternity. From “yemei ha Olam,” meaning “from everlasting” or “ancient times”.Since, Messiah reprises the career of David, “who was the son of an Ephrathite named Jesse, who was from Bethlehem in Judah” (1 Sam 17:12). This may refer to the fact that “his origin is from long ago, from ancient times”, referring to the time of David.

However, the Hebrew words for “from long ago, from the days of eternity” are the strongest Hebrew words ever used for eternity past.4 They are used of God in Psalm 90:2. Hence, “olam” could be translated as eternal (Micah 2:9, 4:5,7); it also may be used in a non-eternal sense (see also Micah 7:14), but the context would determine the meaning.

Influential medieval Jewish scholar, Rashi, interprets Micah 5:2 as a clear Messianic prophecy; and he interprets the end of the verse as pointing to the preexistence of the Messiah (or, at the least, of his name) rather than as pointing only to Bethlehem as the ancient city of David (which is made clear at the beginning of the verse).3

Christians understand Micah 5:2 to be a prophecy about the Messiah. Consistent with the expectations of the Messiah, the New Testament shows Jesus was born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2) and was a Son of David (2 Samuel 7).  Alfred Edersheim (A.D. 1825-1889) was a Jew who believed in Jesus Christ and became a follower of Him. He was educated at a Hebrew school and the University of Vienna. He wrote a book named “The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah.” In it he wrote,

As shown by the rendering of the [Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Bible, called ] Targum Jonathan, [that was made in the 2nd or 3rd centuries C.E.], the prediction in Micah 5:2 was at the time universally understood as pointing to Bethlehem, as the birthplace of the Messiah. That such was the general expectation, appears from the Talmud, where, in an imaginary conversation between an Arab and a Jew, Bethlehem is authoritatively named as Messiah’s birthplace….”6.

Therefore He will give them up until the time when she who is in labor has given birth. Then the remainder of His kinsmen will return to the sons of Israel (Micah 5:3)

Therefore He will give them up. Nevertheless, God would give up his people [the Jews] into the hands of their enemies while a promise of a Messiah still stands.

Until the time when she who is in labor has given birth. Micah already referred to Judah metaphorically as a woman in childbirth when he said: “That agony has gripped you like a woman in childbirth” (Micah 4:9). Therefore, “she who is in labor” appears to be a reference to Judah’s suffering, and “Has given birth” may be a reference to “relief” that would eventually come from Israel giving birth to the Messiah, who would gather back His people, which at the time of the Messiah refers to the people who have placed their faith in the Messiah.

Then the remainder of His kinsmen will return to the sons of Israel. If this is literal, it would mean that remainder of the tribes of Israel (upon their conversion), will join themselves together with the believing children of Israel at a future time or if this is spiritual, it must refer to Messiah’s brothers and sisters, whom Jesus defined as those who do his will (Mark 3:35), which includes the “remnant” of the believing Jews and Gentiles.

And He will arise and shepherd His flock in the strength of the Lord, In the majesty of the name of the Lord His God. And they will remain, Because at that time He will be great To the ends of the earth (Micah 5:4)

And He will arise and shepherd His flock in the strength of the Lord. After inaugurating His kingdom, the Messiah “will shepherd his flock”.

In the majesty of the name of the Lord His God. Messiah will be possessing the majesty of all Jehovah’s revealed attributes.

And they will remain, because at that time He will be great to the ends of the earth.  After inaugurating his kingdom, Messiah greatness will extend to the ends of the earth even as it does today.

This One will be our peace. When the Assyrian invades our land, When he tramples on our citadels, Then we will raise against him Seven shepherds and eight leaders of people (Micah 5:5)

This One will be our peace. It isn’t just that the Ruler from Bethlehem brings peace; He is peace. In Isaiah 9:6, one of the titles of the coming Messiah is Prince of Peace. People who are experiencing great travail, but who will ultimately be redeemed from their suffering will abide in eternal peace, because the Messiah’s kingdom will more than supplant those of enemy nations like Assyria. This promise of eternal peace is yet future, waiting to be fulfilled upon the return of the Prince of Peace.

When the Assyrian invades our land, when he tramples on our citadels. At the time Micah delivers this prophesy, the Assyrians, the only enemy he ever knew, were besieging Jerusalem. And so, he represents Messiah’s enemies as the Assyrians, which appears to be a representation of all enemies of the Messiah and His people. 1

Then we will raise against him seven shepherds and eight leaders of people. Micah identifies the restored remnant (people of faith) as having “seven”, the perfect number, and “eight” is added to indicate that there will be more than enough leaders to overcome oppression when enemies come against God’s people.

They will shepherd the land of Assyria with the sword, the land of Nimrod at its entrances; And He will rescue us from the Assyrian when he invades our land, and when he tramples our territory. (Micah 5:6)

They will shepherd the land of Assyria with the sword, the land of Nimrod at its entrances. These leaders shall not only defend their own land against the enemy, but shall carry the fight of faith into the hostile territory, conquer it, and overcome with rigour. Nimrod probably is a synonym for Assyria. True religion has always a war to wage with error and worldliness, but shall conquer in the power of Christ.  Since the time of the Messiah, the enemy is the world, flesh, and Devil (who may act through people and nations); the Shepherd is Jesus Christ; his leaders are the Spirit endowed believers (1 Pet 5:1–5); their sword is the Word of God (Eph 4:7–12).

And He will rescue us from the Assyrian when he invades our land, and when he tramples our territory. People of God have to undergo much tribulation and many struggles, but Messiah shall save them. 

 

Then the remnant of Jacob Will be among many peoples Like dew from the Lord, Like showers on vegetation That do not wait for man, Or delay for mankind. (Micah 5:7)

As the remnant of Jacob (people of faith) becomes a strong nation, it will become, on the one hand, like “dew” and “showers,” meaning, they will be signs of God’s blessing to others. The falling rain and dew is neither helped nor hindered by man, for the processes of nature go on while man slumbers; in the same way the vitalizing influences will proceed from the faithful to everyone on their path.

The remnant of Jacob Will be among the nations, Among many peoples Like a lion among the animals of the forest, Like a young lion among flocks of sheep, which, if he passes through, Tramples and tears, And there is no one who can rescue. (Micah 5:8)

The transformed remnant will also become like a fearsome “lion among animals of the forest, like a young lion among flocks of sheep, which tramples and tears”. Nothing or no one can resist successfully the power of the remnant (people of faith).

Your hand will be lifted up against your adversaries (Micah 5:9)

All the enemies of the Messiah will not succeed.

 “And it will be on that day,” declares the Lord, “That I will eliminate your horses from among you, And destroy your chariots.  I will also eliminate the cities of your land, And tear down all your fortifications. 12 I will eliminate sorceries from your hand,  And you will have no fortune-tellers. 13 I will eliminate your carved images And your memorial stones from among you, So that you will no longer bow down To the work of your hands. 14 I will uproot your Asherim from among you, And destroy your cities.15 And I will execute vengeance in anger and wrath On the nations which have not obeyed.” (Micah 5:10-15)

Messiah will protect His people from enemies within: He “will destroy all their false confidences: war horses, strongholds, witchcraft (Isa 2:6–8), and idols (5:10–14). These idols included both sacred stones—phallic symbols of a male god—and Asherah poles—fertility symbols of the female goddess. These represent any thing that man desires more than Christ.On the other hand, he will protect it from enemies without by “taking vengeance in anger and wrath against the nations that have not obeyed Him.”

 

See also:

Referenced

1. https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/commentary/micah/

2. https://www.oneforisrael.org/bible-teachings/who-is-the-mysterious-angel-of-the-lord/

3. https://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/2016/04/18/does-micah-52-indicate-that-the-messiah-is-divine/

4. https://www.preceptaustin.org/micah_5_commentary

5. https://truthaccordingtoscripture.com/commentaries/whe/micah-5.php#.Y5v7fnbMKUk

6. https://www.neverthirsty.org/bible-studies/christmas-accounts/jewish-rabbis-believed-micah-52-is-about-the-messiah/

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Isaiah 9:1-7 Is the child about the Messiah or Hezekiah?

Some (Christian and Jewish scholars) have argued that the child in Isaiah 9:6 For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peacerefers not to the Messiah, but to Hezekiah.

Influential Jewish commentator Rashi and Abraham Ibn Ezra argues Isaiah 9:6 was a prophecy about Hezekiah. However, other Rabbinic Jewish scholars have associated those verses with the Messiah. For example a passage from the Talmud (Tractate Derekh Eretz Zuta) referred to the child of Isaiah 9 as the Messiah, and so does the famous Jewish medieval scholar, Rambam (Maimonides) in his Epistle to Yemen. Similarly, the Targum of Jonathan Ben Uzziel, an Aramaic paraphrase of the Hebrew Bible, explicitly identifies this text as speaking of the Messiah.2

This paper is a verse-by-verse study to see if Isaiah 9:1-7 is a reference to the Messiah or to Hezekiah.

To share a little bit of the background of Isaiah 9, in 722 BC, the Assyrians attacked and conquered the northern tribes known as Israel, and it was now only a matter of time until they would cross the border and attack and devastate the southern tribes known as Judah. So, the people are terrified. They know it’s coming. Isaiah is writing somewhere around 700 BC, about twenty years after the takeover of the north, and he writes that there is still hope that things will not always remain gloomy for the people of God. Starting from verse 1:

But there will be no more gloom for her who was in anguish; in earlier times He treated the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali with contempt, but later on He shall make it glorious, by the way of the sea, on the other side of Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles (Isaiah 9:1 NASB 1995)

But there will be no more gloom for her who was in anguish. The gloom carries over from the previous chapter of Isaiah 8, where Isaiah warned Judah about the coming invasion from Assyria (Isaiah 8:22).The promise is there will come a time when there will be no more gloom for this land, because of the birth of a child (Isaiah 9:6) who will realize such a state.

In earlier times He treated the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali with contempt. In the past, God humbled Israel when it was overrun and ravaged by the Syrians (1 Kings 15:20), and later He allowed the Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser III to conquer the northern kingdom, or the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali in 732 BC (2 Kings 15:29;17:24). As peripheral tribes in Israel, Zebulun and Naphtali, were on the edge of the nation. They were the first to be attacked when enemies invaded. And time and time again, they were in anguish and shamed at being unable to repel such oppression.

But later on He shall make it glorious, by the way of the sea, on the other side of Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles. “But later on,” we are not told exactly when this would happen, but the promise is that these lands, around the Sea of Galilee will one day have its fortunes changed from gloom to glory someday. [After the northern part of Israel fell to the Assyrians, they imported Gentile peoples to the area of Zebulon and Naphtali, the area of Galilee. Their descendants—the Samaritans—heavily populated Galilee in Christ’s day. Since, foreigners dominated it for centuries, the region was called “Galilee of the Gentiles.” Here, Isaiah prophesied that Galilee would witness a major part of the blessings, owing to a child being born].

The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, The light will shine on them. (Isaiah 9:2)

The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. It is not just the land that Isaiah tells us is transformed, but the people are as well. The people who dwelt in anguish and darkness are brought into the light. Who is this great light?

Some Jewish and Christian commentators say it was Hezekiah. What do we know about Hezekiah? Well, he was a son of the wicked King Ahaz. He, unlike his father, “kept the commands the Lord had given Moses. And the Lord was with him; he was successful in whatever he undertook” (2 Kings 18:6–7). When faced with the Assyrian threat, the Lord, through Isaiah, reassured the king [Hezekiah] that Assyria would never enter Jerusalem. God kept His promise to protect Jerusalem (2 Kings 19:35). Given that Isaiah is writing at a time when the Assyrians were coming, one may expect Isaiah to prophesy about deliverance from the Assyrians, and hence the first readers of this prophesy during Hezekiah’s day may have looked for a near-fulfillment and probably understood it to be Hezekiah.

However, though Hezekiah was a good king, he made a serious mistake later in his life. When the Babylonians sent a gift to Hezekiah, for they had heard Hezekiah had been sick. In foolish pride, Hezekiah showed the Babylonians all of his treasures, and everything in his arsenal. There was nothing Hezekiah did not parade in front of them. Isaiah rebuked Hezekiah for this act and prophesied that all king Hezekiah had shown the Babylonians would one day be taken to Babylon—along with Hezekiah’s own descendants. If Hezekiah was that great light, it was very short lived. Hezekiah’s son, Manasseh, who ruled afterward, turned out to be the evilest king ever to reign in Judah (2 Kings 18—20; 2 Chronicles 29—32; Isaiah 36—39). Hence, Hezekiah may have partially fulfilled the words of this prophesy then, but attributing all the words of this prophesy to Hezekiah appear to be weak. Is there anyone else who may have begun to fulfill this prophesy? 

Matthew 4:13-16 quotes part of this passage of Isaiah 9:1-2, as fulfilled in the Galilean ministry of Jesus while he was on earth.

Matthew states: “Leaving Nazareth, he [Jesus] went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali— to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah: The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—16 “The people who were sitting in darkness saw a great Light..”.

Interestingly, Capernaum, which was in Naphtali, and Nazareth, which was in Zebulun were the two cities associated with Jesus’ upbringing and early ministry. The northern tribes were the first to suffer from the Assyrian invasions, so in God’s mercy, they were the first to see the light of the Messiah. However, it is true that Messiah’s earthly ministry did not end gloom for the land of Israel (interestingly, Matthew does not quote that part of the prophesy as fulfilled at that time). Many enemies including the Roman Empire continued to oppress the people of God even from the time of Jesus. But the Messiah made it clear that His Galilean ministry was just the beginning – and if this is the case, we could expect Messiah to fulfill the rest of the prophesy in the future (which the New Testament says Messiah Jesus will do). See our chapter-by-chapter, verse-by-verse, commentaries on the book of DanielRevelation.


You shall multiply the nation, you shall increase their gladness; They will be glad in Your presence As with the gladness of harvest, As men rejoice when they divide the spoil. (Isaiah 9:3)

You shall multiply the nation. God will cause Israel to grow. Instead of enemies coming against this nation, the surrounding nations will come into it. And the nation would not only increase in number, but in joy. This is in line with the promise to Abraham, concerning the multiplication of his seed, which probably will include the gathering in the Gentiles to the remnant of the Jews, and making them both one people in Christ, under a New Covenant. Under Hezekiah’s rule, Israel as a nation may have grown for a short while, but nothing may be compared to how both Jews and Gentiles have joined and become part of Messiah’s followers.

You shall increase their gladness. They will be glad in Your presence as with the gladness of harvest, as men rejoice when they divide the spoil. The ministry of the Messiah would bring joy and gladness to Israel. They will rejoice with a joy likened to the joy shared by those who have just brought in a great harvest. The kind of joy that one has when dividing the spoil after a battle. The reason for this joy is explained in the following verse.


For You shall break the yoke of their burden and the staff on their shoulders, The rod of their oppressor, as at the battle of Midian. (Isaiah 9:4)

The Jews had been under the yoke (oppression) repeatedly, to one hostile people or another, and had been sorely oppressed by them. If you know the story in Judges 7, you will remember that Gideon leads an army of 300 Israelites, many of which came from Zebulun and Naphtali, to an astonishing victory over an army of Midianites that was beyond number. Against all expectations, God delivers a victory through Gideon and 300 men. Isaiah tells us that the liberation this child brings on God’s people involves an Egypt-like slavery broken by a Gideon-like victory.

As a son of David, Hezekiah partially fulfilled this prophecy (leading Israel to temporary deliverance from Assyria and its oppression). However, Hezekiah is dead and gone. But ministry of the Messiah Jesus is not yet over, though it began in Galilee, and offered us spiritual healing from sin and oppression, the promise of eternal peace is yet future when He returns again for His people – every one who believes (Jew and Gentile).

For every boot of the booted warrior in the battle tumult, And cloak rolled in blood, will be for burning, fuel for the fire. (Isaiah 9:5)

The boots used in the battle, the garments of the warriors that are covered in blood, they will all be burnt. This victory will be so decisive, so absolute, that there will be no more battles, no more war. This liberation will last. Hezekiah achieved no such liberation. But the Messiah promises to achieve such in the “new heavens and new earth”. Who is the ultimate source of this liberation?


For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

For a child will be born to us. Here, Isaiah traces all these promises of liberation back to the birth of a child. This Messiah would appear as “child”, fully human so that He identifies with humanity. This child is born “to us” for our benefit.

Some (Jewish and Christians authors) have translated these words as “For a child has been born to us” in the past tense.  It is true that the Hebrew is in the past tense, however, it is not uncommon for prophets to speak of the future as already happened. There are multiple examples such as Isaiah 5:13 (where Isaiah speaks of the future captivity of Judah as though it had already transpired); See also: Isaiah 10:28-32; Isaiah 53:2-11; and Amos 5:2. Jewish commentator Radak (David Kimchi) confirms this:

“And in the greater part of prophecy this is found, that the speaker uses a past tense in place of a future; for it is as though the thing had already happened when it has been spoken in the Holy Spirit” (Radak on the Psalms, Psalm 3:5).

A son will be given to us. This Messiah will not only appear as a “child” pointing to his Humanity, but He is a “Son given” to us, pointing to his Divinity.

And the government will rest on His shoulders.  He will bear the responsibility of governing the people. The Judeans believed they were in immediate need of a physical savior. The kings they were afraid of were knocking on their door. They probably thought this prophecy was about Hezekiah. But as we see later on in the book (chapters 38 and 39), Hezekiah died as a grown man, while the Israelites were still in captivity. However, the New Testament presents Christ as King, who has established His Spiritual Kingdom on earth since is resurrection and ascension and is reigning from the heavens. “For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet” (1 Cor. 15:25)

And His name will be called. Not that He will be literally called by the following titles, but “His name”, meaning these are aspects of His character. While these titles may be applied to a mere human, in context, they appear to describe a greater King.

Wonderful Counselor. This Messiah is a Wonder (pele’ in Hebrew), meaning “Extraordinary”. Hezekiah though, performed no wonders. Jesus on the other hand is recorded as having performed many wonders: He healed the wounded, revived the dead, and brought good news to the poor. 

Messiah also possesses the spirit of Counsel (yoetz in Hebrew) and wisdom for the people of God. Hezekiah was not a counsellor but Jesus was. Jesus constantly gave wisdom and counsel: to rich young ruler (Matthew 16:16-23); Nicodemus (John 3:1-15), and his followers as recorded in the New Testament.

Mighty God. Messiah possesses the ability to do all things that only God can do. Jesus said, “Whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in the same way” (John 5:19). Jesus “created all things” (Colossian 1:16), He forgave sins. He commanded nature to obey him. He gave new commandments. The writers of the New Testament apply directly to Jesus verses from the Old Testament that referred only to Almighty God.

The Hebrew word for “Mighty God” is El Gibbor or literally, “God the Mighty One”. When el (God) appears together with a descriptor like Gibbor (Mighty) in the Hebrew Bible, it is always a description of God (Isaiah 10:21), and not a mere man.So, there is little precedent for translating this phrase as god-like or chief. It is sometimes alleged that the name Hezekiah means “mighty God.” However, this is quite the stretch, as the name literally means “God gives strength.” Hence, to apply this title or description to Hezekiah is weak given his shortcomings.

Eternal Father. The Hebrew word is Abi ad, and it can also be translated as “father of eternity”, meaning He is the father or author of eternity. The title “Father” also can mean the Messiah is fatherly, father-like, in his treatment of us, and does not mean Messiah is God the Father. In either case, “eternal” is a term characteristic of only God, and this description indicates the Messiah is also fully divine, just like God the Father.

Prince of Peace. The word Prince is a Hebrew word that can mean Lord, or Master. The word Peace is the Hebrew word, shalom. This Messiah is the Master of shalom. Shalom is about mutual flourishing. It’s about a kingdom where God will gather people from every tribe and tongue and nation, and they will flourish together under the Master of shalom. He is the One who makes peace, especially between God and man (Romans 5:1). However, the promise of eternal peace would have to wait for the Messiah to come in the future.


There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this. (Isaiah 9:7)

There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace. He would be the final king whose reign would result in increasing peace forever. How can this prophecy apply to Hezekiah? On the other hand, believers have peace in their hearts already because of the Messiah Jesus (Romans 5:1), though the eternal peace is yet future waiting to be fulfilled upon the return of the Prince of Peace.

On the throne of David and over his kingdom. He would be a Davidic king, a Son of David, who would sit on the throne promised to David. When Jesus was resurrected, He sat on His throne in heaven.  Peter confirms that, “God had sworn to him with an oath to seat one of his descendants on his throne, he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ… God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” (Acts 2:30-36). Jesus is already reigning now as King of Kings, “For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet” (1 Corinthians 15:24-25). However, His kingdom will be fully consummated when He returns.

To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness. Not with oppression and tyranny, by which other kingdoms are commonly managed, but He would cause it to stand, and make it firm under a rule that is just and right.

From then on and forevermore. From the beginning of it unto all eternity. Messiah Jesus has inaugurated a kingdom that will be managed with justice and righteousness, from then on, and forevermore from His second coming.

The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this. Nothing else but the zeal (passionate desire) of Yahweh would achieve all this. Hence, in Isaiah 9:6-7, we see Messiah’s human birth, divine nature, Davidic throne, the extent of His reign and the peaceful character of his rule explained. [In the entire Hebrew Bible, this phrase appears only two other times, in Isaiah 37:32 and 2 Kings 19:31, both of which refer to God’s miraculous salvation of Hezekiah and his besieged nation from King Sennacherib and his Assyrian army. However, as we have seen in context, Hezekiah does not appear to fulfill all the requirements of this prophesy].

Conclusion: Given that Hezekiah (or anyone else) have failed to fulfil what is spoken of the child in Isaiah 9, this text is either a failed prophecy or a Messianic prophecy. One could, of course, object that Jesus has not fulfilled these predictions either, since global peace has not yet been realized. However, it is plausible to view this prophecy as still awaiting its ultimate completion when Jesus returns again. Given Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, the Christian has a justified expectation that the Messiah will indeed return to finish what he has begun. This was the interpretation of Jesus and the apostles (see: Mk 13:26-27; Acts 1:11; 1 Thess 3:13, 4:13-18). 3

See also:

Isaiah 53:1-12: Israel or Messiah?

Isaiah 7:14: Is it really about Jesus or someone else?

References:

  1. Isaiah 9 – David Guzik: https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/isaiah-9/
  2. Nick Meader, Isaiah 9: https://medium.com/interfaith-now/isaiah-9-what-did-the-prophet-isaiah-say-about-jesus-83f6f002be07
  3. Jonathan McLatchie: Isaiah 9:https://crossexamined.org/does-isaiah-96-affirm-the-deity-of-israels-messiah/

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