In Part 29, we completed a basic understanding of Isa 52.13 to Isa 53.12. It clearly refers to the Messiah and Yeshua, without question. There are many texts that existed before the death of Yeshua (approximately 130 years prior) that deal with this chapter. Not only will we have the Talmud, but the Pseudo-pigrapha, the Apocalyptic writings, the Midrashim and even the Zohar talk about Messiah Ben Joseph. They will have texts that will say there will be a Suffering Servant Messiah who would die, who would be a redemption for the people, who would be resurrected, and quote Isa 52.13 through Isa 53.12.
So, if you ever hear Jewish teachers and anti-Messianic people say there is nothing in the Jewish writings that support the concept of a Suffering Servant Messiah, it is deceptive. When you check this out, you will see how deceptive this is. Here are some sources you can use to follow thru with: “Messiah Ben Joseph” on Wkipedia; “Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs” by R. H. Charles; Jerusalem Talmud, Ber.2.4a,b to 5a and Sukkah 5.2; Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 98b and Sukkah 52a,b; Targum to Zech 12.10; Targum Pseudo-Jonathan to Exo 40.9-11; Targum Song of Songs 4.5; Sefer Zerubbabel; Otot Ha Mashiach; Midrash Pesiktade-Rav Kahana 5.9; Song of Songs Rabbah; Pesikta Rabbati 15.14-15; Genesis Rabbah 75.6; Pirke de-Rabbi Eliezer; Tanna Devei Eliyahu; Alphabet of Akiba Ben Joseph; Midrash Tehillim; Midrash Aggadot Ha-Masiah; Midrash Wayosha; Numbers Rabbah 14.1; Yalkut Shimoni 569; Midrash Tanhuma; Bet ha Midrash.
The Zohar (a part of Kabbalah, teachings based on Temple terms, etc) mentions the Messiah Ben Ephraim, and the Kol Ha-Tor by Rabbi Hillel Rivlin also does. Rivlin was a disciple of the Vilna Gaon (200 years ago) and it deals with the redemption and the “999 Footsteps of the Messiah Ben Joseph.” You can go to the book called “The Messiah Texts” by Raphael Patai to the “Suffering Messiah” chapter, beginning on p. 104, and you will find much information concerning the Messiah Ben Joseph. This chapter will show that Isa 53 applies to the Messiah. Some say “no Jewish text attributes Isa 53 to the Messiah”, but this will show that from before the time of Yeshua, through various Jewish writings, it was seen as being about the Messiah. This does not mean that every Jewish scholar saw it that way, but it shows that many did, based on the quantity of the material.
There wasn’t one “messianic belief” in the first century, but many “messianic beliefs in many messianic characters. That meant there were many “expectations” as well. The Pharisees were looking for several messiahs, and in some cases as many as three (Messiah Ben Joseph; Messiah Ben David; Ha Navi-The Prophet). The Essenes were looking for “The Teacher of Righteousness.” All of these are mentioned or alluded to in John 1.21, 1.45, 11.28 and Matt 1.1-16 for example. The Sadducees and the Boethusians were not looking for a Messiah at all. They didn’t believe in one. So, we had various groups with various expectations.
When we talk about Isa 53, we have presented a lot of information that shows there was a contrast on how the Jewish people saw it in the first century, and how some see it today (Some see it today as Israel being the suffering servant). In the non-Jewish Torah world, the contention is this chapter refers to the Messiah, but there is good reason for this. Acts 8.26-35 clearly shows that Jews in the first century saw Isa 53 as pertaining to the Messiah, and specifically Yeshua. In Orthodox Judaism today, when they reference the Messiah, they are referencing what would have been called in the fist century the “Messiah Ben David”, who was a conquering king, a builder of the Temple and who would bring the exiles back after he has delivered Israel.
In the first century, the primary belief in the Messiah would have been around two characters, the Messiah Ben Joseph (also known as “Ephraim”) and the Messiah Ben David. The book “The Messiah Texts” has much information on the Jewish understandings of the Messiah. In Orthodox Judaism today, they do not recognize that there was a “Suffering Servant” but there is a chapter in the “Messiah Texts” that deals with this concept called “The Suffering Messiah.” That is important because today they only recognize the concept of Messiah Ben David, the conquering king. It also has a chapter called “Messiah Ben Joseph” and JUdaism today does not deal with the concept of the “Messiah Ben Joseph.” They say that was a concept from yesterday. When we deal with the Scriptures, you can’t deal with how they are dealt with “today.” You have to deal with how they were viewed and understood by the people that those Scriptures were addressed to, in that context. Raphael Patai, the author of the “Messiah Texts”, is not a believer in Yeshua but he simply reports on the Jewish texts he found about the Messiah. This would be a good book to have in your library.
Another good source for information on Messiah Ben Joseph is from Wikipedia. There is a section called “Messianic Tradition” and it mentions four messianic figures called the “Four Craftsmen.” This concept is based on Zech 1.20, with each character playing a role in ushering in the Messianic Age. In Hebrew, there are three words for “congregation.” The first is “Kahal” and this means the “congregation at large.” The second is “Adat” and it is usually used for a “specific or localized congregation.” The third word is “Sowd” and you will seldom see it used. However, the word is usually used for the fourth level of interpretation (Pardes), meaning “mystical or hidden, a deeper meaning.” It is also used for “assembly” or a “congregation” being built into the Kingdom of Heaven (Ezek 13.9). It is the foundation of the mystical building (Matt 16.18; Psa 89.7, 111.1; Jer 15.17; Prov 3.19; Amos 3.7; Prov 11.13; 1 Cor 3.10; Matt 7.25-26). So, we have this concept with the word “congregation” and that is “building it.”
When Nebuchadnezzar came down, the Assyrians had already deported the ten northern tribes. Then the Assyrians declined and Babylon rose. He carries three groups off to Babylon at different times. The first “deportation” took away the wise men, the scholars, the carpenters and the locksmiths (builders). The terms “carpenters and locksmiths” were terms for “scholars” in the commentaries because they were “building the congregation of God. These were the “teachers” and not necessarily “carpenters” or “locksmiths” in the literal sense. The “carpenters” built and the “locksmiths” unlocked the secrets of God in the Torah. They “built the congregation of God.” There is a book called “Jesus the Jew” by Geza Vermes. He is not a believer but a Jewish historian who has read the Gospels. He makes a statement in the book saying that Joseph, the husband of Miriam and Yeshua’s step-father, was a carpenter and this may have meant a “rabbi.”
So, these four figures in Zech 1.20 are messianic figures and called “craftsmen” because they are building the congregation of God. These craftsmen have been identified as Zerubbabel, Joshua the High Priest, Ezra and Nehemiah. They have also been identified as Messiah Ben Joseph, Messiah Ben David, Elijah (the “voice” of Isa 40.3) and the Righteous Priest. Their job: to throw down the power of the four Gentile “horns” which have scattered Judah, Israel and Jerusalem (Zech 1.18-21).
In Part 31, we will pick up with a quote from “Jesus the Jew” by Geza Vermes about the word “carpenter” being a reference to being a rabbi. Then we are going to further develop the concept of “craftsmen” from Zech 1.20 also being a reference to scholars and learned individuals.