We are going to continue with the article on “Eschatology” from the Jewish Encyclopedia where it says, “While the fall of the wicked kingdom (Rome) was taken to be the beginning of the rise of the Kingdom of God, the belief was that between the fall of the empire of Edom (Rome, and later a name for Christianity because it came out of Rome) and the defeat of Gog and Magog army there would be a long interval.” The following quote is from the Encyclopedia Judaica article called “Three Messianic Figures” where it says, “In the time of the Second Temple there was a greater variety of Messianic figures than later. The Old Testament book of Zechariah already makes mention of two messianic figures, the High Priest and the Messianic King.” Now, the Jewish Encyclopedia was done in the early 1900’s and the Encyclopedia Judaica was done in the 1960’s and 70’s, after the Holocaust and after the 6-day war in 1967, and after Jerusalem had been united back to the people. That is why we look at both encyclopedias. The Encyclopedia Judaica can add to what we already know from the Jewish Encyclopedia. The article goes on to say, “This idea did not disappear from the rabbinic literature where the Priest of Righteousness (Kohen Zedek) is sometimes mentioned together with the Davidic king Messiah.”
So, again we see the concept of a king who sits on a throne and a Messiah who is a priest are joined together. “These two figures, the Priest and the King, are important for the eschatology of the Dead Sea sect, the eschatological High Priest being more important than the scion of David. The third figure occurring in the Dead Sea Scrolls with the two messiah’s is the prophet of the last days.” This is why what is being said in the Encyclopedia Judaica here is important because the Dead Sea Scrolls had not been discovered when the Jewish Encyclopedia was written. The article goes on, “Thus in the Dead Sea Scrolls there are three messianic figures which correspond to the three main functions of the ideal Jewish state, in which kingdom, priesthood and prophecy shall exist (see 1 Macc 14.41).” Why is a reference in Maccabee’s important? Because Maccabee’s was written well before Yeshua, so they were looking for a Messiah to come that would be priest, king and prophet or three Messianic figures. It goes on to say, “The three eschatological figures of the Dead Sea Scrolls are therefore based upon a broader ideological concept. These three figures are reflected later in the theological concept of the ancient Jewish sect of the Ebionites (see Jewish Christian Sects) according to which Jesus united in himself the function of king, priest and prophet. The importance of the David Messiah in Judaism, who weakened or caused the disappearance of the other messianic figures, was the outcome especially of the Old testament heritage because the eschatological king is united in the Hebrew Bible.”
What this is saying is that right before, at the time and right after the time of Yeshua, there was a high messianic expectation (Luke 3.15). There were different views on how all the different messianic prophecies could be fulfilled. There were different roles and characters but many times there were those who said there would be one Messiah that would fill all these roles. That is why Yochanon ha Matvil (John the Immerser) sent the question to Yeshua while he was in prison in Matt 11.1-3. He wanted a clarification on these eschatological characters. He knew Yeshua was the Messiah Ben Joseph, the suffering servant, but he wanted to be clear about everything else. As time went on in the Jewish world, the Davidic Messiah, who was a conquering king, took precedence over the others and pushed them out of what the people expected. As a result, most Jews don’t recognize the Messiah Ben Joseph (or Ephraimite Messiah) or the Kohen Zedek (Righteous Priest). However, these roles are all over the Jewish literature.
What we have been doing is laying the ground work of the Jewish expectations concerning the Messiah. The Messiah must descend from David, through Solomon. So, we are going to discuss the birth of Yeshua in greater detail. We will begin by talking about the birth of Yochanon ha Matvil (John the Immerser) who would come in the spirit of Elijah.
There is a song that is called “Eliahu ha Navi” (Elijah the Prophet) that is sung at the end of a festival that is about his coming. At Passover, an extra plate is set and a cup, and the children are sent to the door to see if he is coming. Elijah must come before the Messiah (Mal 3.1, 4.5-6). Now, in Luke 1.5-8 we see Zechariah in the Temple. He is a kohen, and so was his wife Elisheva, but she didn’t serve as a kohen in the Temple. However, she had a right to eat the food that was reserved only for a kohen. They were both “tzeddakim” or “righteous.” We know he was from the course of Abijah (v 5) and that is the eighth course of priests that were assigned and rotated to serve in the Temple. The prists were divided into 24 courses (1 Chr 24.1-18), and so were the Levites. Each course served two weeks a year, the first in the first half of the year and the second week in the second half of the year. All the courses had to be present at the festivals.
This schedule began in Nisan and went to Adar of the religious calendar. The months according to this religious calendar looked like this:
* Zif (Iyar)
* Tishri (Ethanim)
* Bul (Chesvan)
The first course would come the first week of Nisan, that is why the new moon if Nisan is so important. It set the months for the year for the religious calendar. They all had to be there for Hag ha Matzah, Shavuot and Sukkot, or the Three Pilgrim festivals called the Shelosh Regalim. So, the course of Abijah was there the 10th week of the year, because it was the eighth course, and you had to add the weeks of Hag ha Matzah and Shavuot. This would have put Zechariah’s course about the second week of Sivan, or “in the order of his division” (Luke 1.8).
We read in Luke 1.9 that he was chosen by lot to enter into the Temple and burn incense, but what does it mean “by lot?”. This is how “lots” were chosen. The priests lived in the Temple for their week of service. They stayed in the northwest chamber called the Beit ha Moked. Early in the morning, we have the first lot of the day, and these kohanim would go out of the Beit ha Moked into the Azarah, and stand in a circle. The memunay (officer in charge of the lots) would take the mitre off of the head of a random priest. They would have a small kipa on underneath the mitre to make sure their heads were always covered in case the mitre came off. The memunay thinks of a number, which he believes the Lord placed in his mind. The kohanim in the circle put out one or two fingers. Beginning with the kohen without the mitre, the memunay begins to count fingers until he reaches the number in his head, and when he comes to that kohen, he is the one chosen for a particular job. He does this four times for all the jobs for the Temple service. Then they move to the southeastern chamber of the Azarah called the Beit Avtinas, and the lot for the incense (the second lot of the day) is done with only the priests who have never done it before. A third lot is done there also to see who would take part in the sacrificial service. To burn the incense, only a priest who has never done it before is eligible. So, we know Zechariah has never burned incense before, and he is an older kohen.
Each service had two parts, the Sacrificial service and the Ketoret Incense) service. The kohen who burned incense also began the prayers called the Shemonah Esrai, or the 18 Benedictions. These prayers are still said today, so we know exactly what Zechariah was praying after he burned the incense. Along with the priestly course, there was a Levitical course and what was called the Ma’amad, or “standing men.” These two groups also had a rotation along with the kohanim every week. Each of the 24 districts sent a delegation representing their district each week to the Temple. The Ma’amad stood in the Court of Israel within the Azarah. They are included with “the whole multitude of people” praying outside in Luke 1.10, and mentioned again in v 21. When Zechariah goes into the Heicahl (Holy Place), he prays the Shemoneh Esrai, and it has an order to it. He was alone next to the incense altar because everyone else has departed.
Now, when you are praying these prayers, you don’t add personal prayers, nor could he ask for a child. As Zechariah is praying those prayers, the Levites and the Ma’amad outside are praying right along with him, the same thing, word for word. Everyone in the Temple, in the outer courts and all of Israel pray the same thing at the same time.
In Part 44, we will pick up here with Zechariah in the Heichal, praying the Shemonah Esrai, and what happens to him next when he see’s the angel Gabriel standing right in front of him next to the Altar of Incense. What happens is very important concerning the birth of Yeshua at Sukkot.