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What does the Hebrew Bible reveal about the coming Messiah? Explore how prophecies about the Messiah’s birth, nature, life, death, and resurrection intricately converge in the person of Jesus. Understand the divine orchestration behind these predictions and their fulfillment.
The question of the Messiah is one of the most intriguing and deeply rooted themes in the Hebrew Bible. As someone committed to a rigorous historical-grammatical interpretation of Scripture, it is evident that the texts foretelling the coming Messiah are meant to be understood in a literal sense. And in the New Testament, Jesus Himself claimed to be the fulfillment of these messianic prophecies (Lk 24:44). Thus, understanding the Hebrew Scriptures is crucial for validating Jesus as the Messiah.
The Hebrew Bible provides specific markers for identifying the Messiah, including the location and nature of His birth. Micah 5:2, for example, foretells the Messiah’s birth in Bethlehem. Moreover, Genesis 49:10 suggests a timeline for the coming of the Messiah, stating that He would come before Judah loses its tribal identity and judicial authority. Both were lost in the first century C.E., aligning with the birth of Jesus. Isaiah 7:13-15 also predicts a virgin birth for the Messiah, further marking the extraordinary nature of His arrival.
When we consider the nature of the Messiah, we find clues in the Hebrew Bible indicating that He would be more than just a human king. Micah 5:2 notes that His origins are “from antiquity, from eternity,” suggesting an eternal nature. Isaiah 9:6 goes even further by assigning divine titles to the Messiah, such as “Mighty God” and “Eternal Father,” indicating His divine nature.
The prophetic texts outline various facets of the Messiah’s life and ministry. Isaiah 35:5-6 and Isaiah 61:1 depict the Messiah as a miracle-worker and healer, fulfilling a liberating and restorative role. Yet, despite these heroic attributes, Isaiah 53:3 forewarns that the Messiah would be “despised and rejected by men,” highlighting the paradoxical reception He would receive.
Daniel 9:26-27 sets a temporal boundary for the Messiah’s death, predicting He would be “cut off” before the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 C.E. Psalm 22:16 astonishingly describes a form of crucifixion, centuries before it was invented, as the method of His execution. But most poignantly, Isaiah 53:5-12 details the vicarious nature of His death, prophesying that He would suffer as a substitution for humanity’s sin.
Isaiah 53:10 and Psalm 16:10 forecast the resurrection of the Messiah. These prophecies assure that His mission would not end in death but that He would be resurrected, paving the way for the salvation of mankind.
Zechariah 12:10 depicts the two comings of the Messiah—first as a suffering servant and then as a victorious King—linking His atoning sacrifice with His future role as the deliverer of Israel.
Probability of Fulfillment
To add a numerical perspective, Peter W. Stoner calculated that the probability of one person fulfilling just eight of these prophecies would be 1 in 10^17. The odds are astronomical, suggesting divine orchestration rather than random fulfillment.
The Hebrew Bible offers a comprehensive portrait of the Messiah, providing details about His birth, nature, life, death, and resurrection. All these facets intricately converge in the person of Jesus, substantiating His claim as the promised Messiah. The incredible odds of one person fulfilling even a fraction of these predictions points toward a divine reality, which the Hebrew Scriptures painstakingly outline for us to understand. Therefore, the Hebrew Bible not only anticipates the coming of a unique Messiah but also confirms Jesus of Nazareth as the fulfillment of those ancient prophecies.