In this study we are going to take a more detailed look at the birth of Yeshua at Sukkot. The passages concerning his birth have been read many times by people who just read the passages without knowing what they mean. We are going to look at the same passages in more detail and glean the missed “fruit” concerning his birth. We are spending so much time on this subject because we want you to know the truth about his birth and to give you more insight into these Scriptures. We are going to get into details, but before that we need to talk about the Jewish expectations of the Messiah.
There are 13 Principles of the Faith in Judaism. Number 12 says “I believe with perfect faith in the coming of the Messiah; and though he may tarry, I will wait daily for his coming (Hertz Daily Prayer Book, p. 255).” What are these “expectations?” The Messiah must be a descendant of David (2 Sam 2.4-16). He must descend through Solomon (1 Chr 22.9-10, 28.6-7). He must be from Judah (Gen 49.9-10). There are prophecies that the Messiah will be from different tribes (Gen 49.22-24=Joseph). In the prophecies where he is from Judah he is the conquering king, whereas those from Joseph describe him as a suffering servant. We also have Scriptures that say the Messiah will come from a priestly line (Zech 6.12-13). The “tzemach” or branch is a term for the Messiah. It says a “king” sits on his throne with the crown of a priest.
In the Jewish Encyclopedia, there is an article called “The Messiah” and it says, “Messiah Ben Joseph-Finally, there must be mentioned a Messianic figure peculiar to the Rabbinical apocalyptic literature, that of Messiah Ben Joseph. The earliest mention of him is in the Talmud, Sukkah 52a,b, where their statements occur in regard to him, for the first of which R. Dosa (250 AD) is given authority, but the first two speak of the fate which he is to meet, namely, fall in battle (as if alluding to a well-known tradition).” This concept is important because it is an old tradition already established (that Messiah Ben Joseph will die). The article goes on, “according to these, Messiah Ben Joseph will appear prior to the coming of Messiah Ben David, he will gather the children of Israel around him, march to Jerusalem, and there, after overcoming the hostile powers, reestablish the Temple worship and set up his own dominion. There upon, Armilius ( a term for Rome and a term for the false messiah) according to one group of sources, or Gog and Magog, according to another, will appear with their hosts before Jerusalem, wage war against Messiah Ben Joseph and slay him.” The article continues, “His corpse will lie unburied, according to one group, in the streets of Jerusalem, according to another, it will be hidden by the angels with the bodies of the Patriarchs, until Messiah Ben David comes and resurrects him.”
In another article in the Jewish Encyclopedia on “Eschatology” it says, “The Messiah from the tribe of Joseph-The origin and character of the Messiah of the tribe of Joseph, or Ephraim, are rather obscure. It seems that the assumed super-human character of the Messiah appeared to be in conflict with the tradition that spoke of his death and therefore the figure of a Messiah who would come from the tribe of Joseph, or Ephraim, instead of Judah and who would willingly undergo suffering for his nation and falls victim in the Gog/Magog war was created by the Haggadists.”
The common stand in Orthodox Judaism “anti-missionaries” is that they say there never was a concept that there was going to be a suffering Messiah or that Messiah would die. They say this to counter the teaching that Yeshua was the Messiah, because he suffered and died according to the Scriptures. These anti-missionaries say that the Tanach doesn’t teach that concept. What we are trying to establish is that these were the beliefs 2000 years ago. We will look at why they switched this belief later. The average Orthodox Jew will not know all the details. We are looking into documents that were the norm in the time of Yeshua.
Again, we will pick up in the article on “Eschatology” in the Jewish Encyclopedia where it says, “To him was referred the passage ‘They shall look unto him whom they have pierced and mourn for him (Zech 12.10; Sukkah 52a)’ as well as the 53rd chapter of Isaiah (compare Sanhedrin 98b). The Messiah’s name is “The Leper (compare Isa 53.4, Bereshit Rabbah, 1888, p. 26).” Again, the anti-missionaries will claim that Isa 53 has nothing to do with the Messiah, but we are reading out of the Jewish Encyclopedia that quotes the Talmud.
An older Haggadah referred to the “wild ox” who with his horns “will push the people to the ends of the earth (Deut 33.17) to the Ephramite Messiah (Genesis Rabbah, LXXV, Num R XIV). The Messiah from the tribe of Ephraim falls in the battle with Gog/Magog. Whereas the Messiah from the House of David kills the super-human hostile leader (Angro-Mainyush) with the breath of his mouth. Then he is universally recognized as king (Sukkah 52a, compare Targum to Exo XL 9,11, Targum to Isa 11.4, Ecc 4.5, Sefer Zerubbabel, “BH” 2.56, where he is introduced with the name of Nehemiah Ben Hushiel, compare 1.c 60 ct seq, III, 80 et Seq). Great will be the suffering of the Messiah of the tribe of Ephraim has to undergo for several years at the hands of the nations, who will lay iron beams upon him to crush him so that his cries reach heaven. But, he willingly submits for the sake of his people, not only those living, but also the dead, for all those who died since Adam and God places the four beasts of the heavenly throne-the chariot at his disposal to bring about the great work of resurrection and regeneration against all the celestial antagonists. The Patriarchs will rise from their graves in Nisan and pay homage to his greatness as the suffering Messiah, and then the nations (104 kingdoms) put him shackles in the prison house and make sport of him, as is described in Psa 22.8-16.”
Now, we have the “wild ox” mentioned and other things that those who have not read the Jewish writings before will not be familiar with. This is called “Haggadah” and “Midrash” which are legends and tales, like the parables. They are not to be taken literally but present idea’s and concepts. Continuing on, “God will address him with the words, ‘Ephraim, my dear son, child of my comfort. I have great compassion on you (Jer 31.20)’ assuring him that ‘with the breath of his mouth he shall slay the wicked one (Isa 11.4).’ The Haggadists, however, did not always discriminate between the Ephraimite Messiah, who falls victim, and the Son of David, who is glorified as a victor and receives the tributes of the nations (Midrash Tehillim 18.5). Where the former is meant as being the one “insulted” according to Psa LXXXIX.51 (52) and Midrash Tehillim LXXXVII.6, where the two Messiahs are mentioned together.”
We know from the gospels that Yochanon Ha Matvil (John the Immerser) is in prison and he sends some talmidim (students) to ask Yeshua if he was the “coming one” or shall we look for another (Matt 11.2-3). We have heard ministers say John was going through a hard time, or he was doubting. That is not the case at all. What he was asking is “Will you fulfill all the prophecies about the Messiah, the suffering servant who will be slain and then resurrected and be the conquering king (Messiah Ben Joseph and Messiah Ben David) or will there be another after you?” He knew Yeshua was the suffering servant Messiah Ben Joseph because God told him to prepare the way for him. What he was asking was an eschatological question based on all the teachings about the two messiahs in the first century.
In Part 43, we will pick up here and look at more expectations of the Messiah in the first century and how these concepts relate to the birth of Yeshua.