by Dr. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum


  • Before Abraham was born, I am ~ John 8:58

  • I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no one cometh unto the Father, but by me ~ John 14:6

  • He that hath seen me hath seen the Father ~ John 14:9

Few doctrines can be considered more fundamental than the nature, character and works of Messiah; and few teachers are able to convey such truths with the thoroughness, detail, accuracy, clarity and fluidity that so characterizes Dr. Fruchtenbaum. So fasten your seatbelts, and let's begin! - ed.


Study 1: Ariel Ministries' Messianic Bible Study # 012:


by Dr. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum

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If the Old Testament only spoke of the Messiah in terms of His suffering, it would hardly give us enough to go on, but there is much more to the Old Testament picture of the Messiah than that which is found in Isaiah 53. In other passages, there is often less conflict, if any at all, than the conflict over Isaiah 53. These other passages, taken along with Isaiah 53, go a long way to show how the Messiah was to be a thoroughly unique Person.


A. Genesis 3:15
Following the account of the Creation, the Old Testament continues with the story of Adam and Eve. In the guise of a serpent, Satan deceives Eve and causes her to break the one commandment of God. Adam follows suit. The result is that sin enters the human family and the human experience. Man now stands under the righteous judgment of God.

Nevertheless, at the time of the Fall, God provides for future redemption. As He addresses Satan, God says in Genesis 3:15: I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed: he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.

The key note of this verse is the statement: seed of the woman. In and of itself, this statement may not seem unusual, but in the context of biblical teaching, it is most unusual. Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, lineage was never reckoned after the woman, but only after the man. In all the genealogies we have in the biblical record, women are virtually ignored because they are unimportant in determining genealogy. Yet the future Person who would crush Satan’s head, while only suffering a slight wound Himself, would not be reckoned after a man, but after a woman. In the biblical pattern, this is highly unusual. In spite of the normal biblical pattern, we have a clear statement that the future Redeemer comes from the “seed of the woman.” His birth will take into account His mother only. For a reason that is not explained here, the father will not be taken into account at all. Yet this goes totally contrary to the whole biblical view regarding genealogies. That this verse was taken to be messianic is clear from the “Targums of Jonathan” and the “Jerusalem Targums.” Furthermore, the Talmudic expression, “Heels of the Messiah,” seems to have been taken from this verse. But Genesis itself does not explain how or why this Redeemer can be labeled “seed of the woman” when it goes contrary to the biblical pattern.

B. Isaiah 7:14
Centuries later, Israel had a great prophet in the person of Isaiah. It was left to this prophet to explain the meaning and reason why the Messiah would be reckoned only after the seed of the woman. Isaiah writes in Isaiah 7:14: Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

The very fact that the birth of the Person spoken of in this passage is described as a sign points to some unusual circumstance regarding the birth. In other words, the birth could not be normal, for that would not fulfill the requirement of the word sign. It had to be unusual in some way, perhaps miraculous or, at least, attention-getting.

The very existence of the Jewish people is derived from a sign of a birth. The Scriptures make it clear that both Abraham and Sarah were beyond the point of being able to bear children; Abraham was ninety-nine years old, and Sarah, eighty-nine. She had, of course, already undergone menopause when, in Genesis 18, God promised that Sarah would have a son within one year! This would be the sign that God will keep his covenant with Abraham and will make a great nation from him. A year later, this sign took place with the birth of Isaac, through whom the Jewish people came. It was the sign needed to authenticate the covenant. This was a miraculous birth.

The birth of the son in Isaiah 7:14 was also to be a sign, to be unusual in some way. But this time, the unusual nature of the birth was not going to be due to the great age of the mother. It would be a sign by virtue of the fact that this son would be born of a virgin.

Right at this point, another conflict often ensues. Rabbi’s today claim that the Hebrew word almah does not mean “virgin,” but “young woman.” But what they fail to explain is how this would be used as a sign. A young woman giving birth to a baby is hardly unusual, in fact, it happens all the time!

In other passages where this word is used, almah clearly means “virgin.” It is used in six other places in the Old Testament outside of Isaiah 7:14. In all six other places, no one argues that the word means a “virgin.” If it means a “virgin” in those six other passages, there is no way it could mean a “non-virgin” in Isaiah 7:14.

About 250 B.C., seventy Jewish rabbis translated the Greek version of the Old Testament, called the Septuagint. These seventy rabbis all made almah to read parthenos, which is the simple Greek word for “virgin.”

Even if almah is allowed to mean “young woman,” it still must be admitted that the word can refer to a “virginal young woman.” It must not be ignored that this birth was to be a sign, an unusual birth. This is best seen if taken to mean a “virgin birth.”

This, then, is the explanation of the mystery of Genesis 3:15. The Messiah would be reckoned after the seed of a woman because He would not have a human father. Because of a Virgin Birth, His lineage could be traced only through His mother and not His father. Thus, Isaiah 7:14 clarifies the meaning of Genesis 3:15: the Messiah will enter the world by means of a Virgin Birth.


Not only was the means of the Messiah’s birth prophesied, but also the place of His birth was prophesied. This was done by the Prophet Micah, a contemporary of Isaiah. In chapter 5 of his book, we read in verse 2: But you, Beth-lehem Ephrathah, which are little to be among the thousands of Judah, out of you shall one come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.

Concerning this verse, there is far less disagreement among Orthodox rabbis, since they generally take this to mean that the Messiah will originate from Bethlehem. This is the view taken by “The Soncino Books of the Bible,” which is the Orthodox Jewish commentary on the Old Testament and which takes as its source some earlier Jewish commentaries.


Another point that is uncontested is that the Messiah would be a descendant of King David. From this comes the rabbinical ascription of the title, “Messiah, the Son of David.”

Of the numerous passages that might be cited, we will limit ourselves to the following two, both from Isaiah. The first passage is Isaiah 11:1: And there shall come forth a shoot out of the stock of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots shall bear fruit.

And the second passage is Isaiah 11:10: And it shall come to pass in that day, that the root of Jesse, that stands for an ensign of the peoples, unto him shall the nations seek; and his resting-place shall be glorious.

Jesse was the father of David, thus, these passages show that the Messiah will come from the House of David. To this, all Orthodox Judaism agrees. Other passages regarding this same point will be cited later in a different context.


A. Isaiah 53
That the Messiah will suffer and die was something upon which all early rabbis agreed. They referred to the Suffering Messiah as “Messiah, the Son of Joseph,” making Him distinct from Messiah, the Son of David. The central passage, which supports this view, is Isaiah 53.

B. Psalm 22:1-21
This is another passage dealing with the suffering of the Messiah.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, and from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry in the daytime, but you answer not; And in the night season, and am not silent. But you are holy, O you that inhabit the praises of Israel. Our fathers trusted in you: They trusted, and you did deliver them. They cried unto you, and were delivered: They trusted in you, and were not put to shame. But I am a worm, and no man; A reproach of men, and despised of the people. All they that see me laugh me to scorn: They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, Commit yourself unto Jehovah; Let him deliver him: Let him rescue him, seeing he delights in him. But you are he that took me out of the womb; You did make me trust when I was upon my mother’s breasts. I was cast upon you from the womb; You are my God since my mother bare me. Be not far from me; For trouble is near; For there is none to help. Many bulls have compassed me; Strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round. They gape upon me with their mouth. As a ravening and a roaring lion. I am poured out like water And all my bones are out of joint: My heart is like wax; It is melted within me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd; And my tongue cleaves to my jaws; And you have brought me into the dust of death. For dogs have compassed me: A company of evil-doers have inclosed me; They pierced my hands and my feet. I may count all my bones; They look and stare upon me. They part my garments among them, And upon my vesture do they cast lots. But be not you far off, O Jehovah: O you my succor, haste you to help me. Deliver my soul from the sword, My darling from the power of the dog. Save me from the lion’s mouth; Yea, from the horns of the wild-oxen you have answered me.

To summarize this passage, we find that the Messiah is forsaken by God; is ridiculed and tormented by the people; and His clothes are gambled away by His tormentors. He suffers such agony that all His bones come out of joint; His heart breaks with a mixture of blood and water; and His hands and feet are pierced. In many ways, this Psalm is very similar to Isaiah 53, providing even more detail as to the type of suffering and agony that the Messiah must undergo. The rabbis in the Yalkut also understood this passage to refer to Messiah, the Son of Joseph.


In all the passages discussed so far, the Messiah was portrayed as a man, but as a man of sorrows; He was to suffer and die. The earlier rabbis all recognized that these passages speak of the Messiah and called Him Messiah, the Son of Joseph. For as Joseph the Patriarch suffered at the hands of his brethren, the Messiah would also suffer.

But other Old Testament passages speak of another kind of Messiah: not a sufferer, but a conqueror; not a dying Messiah, but a reigning One. This One was called “Messiah, the Son of David” by the rabbis. Most of what is said about the Messiah in Moses and the Prophets revolves around the Messiah’s coming to bring peace and to establish the Messianic Kingdom in Israel.

There are far too many such passages to even begin to list them here, but two such passages will be quoted in full. It should be noted how differently this Messiah is portrayed in comparison with all the previous passages thus far discussed. It is little wonder that the early rabbis were confused and so devised the Theory of the Two Messiahs, with each Messiah coming only once.

A. Isaiah 11:1-10

And there shall come forth a shoot out of the stock of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of Jehovah shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of Jehovah. And his delight shall be in the fear of Jehovah; and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither decide after the hearing of his ears; but with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth; and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. And righteousness shall be the girdle of his waist, and faithfulness the girdle of his loins. And the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of Jehovah, as the waters cover the sea. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the root of Jesse, that stands for an ensign of the peoples, unto him shall the nations seek; and his resting-place shall be glorious.

Both the ancient and modern rabbis agree that this passage speaks of the Messiah and the Messianic Age. But unlike the previous passages, there is no picture of a dying Messiah being rebuked and despised by His people. The picture we get here is of a reigning Messiah who brings peace and prosperity to the entire world; peace extends down to the animal kingdom; the wicked are removed in judgment; and differences between the nations are settled by the Messiah’s authoritative word. The knowledge of the God of Israel spreads until it covers the entire world. Now that the reigning Messiah has brought peace and prosperity to it, the whole world has an intimate knowledge of the God who created it.

B. Psalm 72:1-19
This is a second passage, which gives the same picture.

Give the king your judgments, O God, And your righteousness unto the king’s son. He will judge your people with righteousness, And your poor with justice. The mountains shall bring peace to the people, And the hills, in righteousness. He will judge the poor of the people He will save the children of the needy, And will break in pieces the oppressor. They shall fear you while the sun endures, And so long as the moon, throughout all generations. He will come down like rain upon the mown
grass, As showers that water the earth. In his days shall the righteous flourish, And abundance of peace, till the moon be no more. He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, And from the River unto the ends of the earth. They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him; And his enemies shall lick the dust. The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall render tribute: The kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts. Yea, all kings shall fall down before him; All nations shall serve him. For he will deliver the needy when he crieth, And the poor, that has no helper. He will have pity on the poor and needy, And the souls of the needy he will save. He will redeem their soul from oppression and violence; And precious will their blood be in his sight: And they shall live; and to him shall be given of the gold of Sheba: And men shall pray for him continually; They shall bless him all the day long. There shall be abundance of grain in the earth upon the top of the mountains; The fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon: And they of the city shall flourish like grass of the earth. His name shall endure for ever; His name shall be continued as long as the sun: And men shall be blessed in him; All nations shall call him happy. Blessed be Jehovah God, the God of Israel, Who only does wondrous things: And blessed be his glorious name for ever; And let the whole earth be filled with his glory. Amen, and Amen.

This Psalm is applied as speaking of the righteous reign of the Messiah in the Talmud. The Targums make the first verse to read as follows: “Give the sentence of your judgment to the King Messiah, and your justice to the son of David the King.”

The Midrash on the Psalms follows suit and connects this Psalm with Isaiah 11:1, which was quoted previously. Furthermore, among the many different names given to the Messiah by the rabbis of the Talmud, the name Yinnon was taken from the Hebrew rendering of verse 17 in this very Psalm. So this passage also presents a different view of the Messiah than the others discussed earlier in this study.

This, then, is a twofold picture presenting a major problem to anyone trying to formulate what the Old Testament has to say about the Messiah.


Other passages that deal with the kingship of the Messiah give us two other aspects of the Person of the Messiah. One of these is the Sonship of the Messiah with God, and the other involves the God-Man Concept. In order to get a complete picture of the Old Testament’s concept of the Messiah, it is necessary to discuss these two points, which we will touch on briefly.

A. The Sonship of the Messiah with God
Two passages make the point that the Messiah is also, in some way, the Son of God.

1. Psalm 2
The first of these is Psalm 2, which deals primarily with the Kingship of the Messiah, but which also brings out the Messiah’s Sonship with God. The twelve verses of the Psalm read as follows:

Why do the nations [Gentiles] rage, And the peoples meditate a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, And the rulers take counsel together, Against Jehovah, and against his anointed [Messiah], saying, Let us break their bonds asunder, And cast away their cords from us. He that sits in the heavens will laugh: The Lord will have them in derision. Then will he speak unto them in his wrath, And vex them in his sore displeasure: Yet I have set my king Upon my holy hill of Zion. I will tell of the decree: Jehovah said unto me, You are my son; This day have I begotten you. Ask of me, and I will give you the nations for your inheritance, And the uttermost parts of the earth for your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel. Now therefore be wise, O ye kings: Be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve Jehovah with fear, And rejoice with trembling. Kiss the son, lest he be angry, and ye perish in the way, For his wrath will soon be kindled. Blessed are all they that take refuge in him.

Concerning this Psalm, Rashi admits, “Our rabbis expound it as relating to King Messiah.” Although the majority of rabbis in earlier years also expounded this Psalm as referring to King Messiah, many rabbis today would refer it to David rather than the Messiah. But the words of the Psalm and a comparison of history would exclude David as a possibility altogether.

In this passage, God tells the Person to whom He is speaking that He is turning over the dominion and the authority of the whole world to Him (v. 8). History makes it very clear that David never had that dominion, nor was he ever able to exercise such authority. Hence, David must be excluded. Thus, the early rabbis were correct in interpreting this Psalm to speak of the Messiah who, in this Psalm, is referred to as the Son of God.

Also in this same Psalm, God warns that all must submit to the Son of God, the Messiah. Those who refuse will be punished. Those, however, who take refuge in the Messiah, that is, place their faith and trust in Him for their salvation, will receive new life.

2. Proverbs 30:4
The second passage comes from the wise king, Solomon, who compiled the Book of Proverbs. In Proverbs 30:4, we have a series of six questions. The first four questions all ask the same question of identity: “Who did it?”

The first question is: Who has gone up into heaven and come down?

The second question is: Who has gathered the wind in his fists?

The third question is: Who has bound up the waters in his garment?

And the fourth question is: Who has established all the ends of the earth?

These are four questions that Solomon is asking, indicating that the answer is very clear. When we look at the events described in these four questions, it is obvious that only one Person could possibly do all those things: God Himself.

Now we come to the fifth question: What is his name? We see that only God can do those things in the first four questions, but now, “what is God’s name?” No one really knows how to pronounce His name anymore because, throughout the centuries, we feared to take God’s name in vain and the pronunciation has been forgotten. In Hebrew, we have it in four letters: YHVH. It is the name for which we substitute the word Adonai. In English, we sometimes give it the name Jehovah. Actually, the name is YHVH, the Great I AM. So it is God, the Great I AM, who did all these things.

Now, let us go on to the sixth question, which is found in the very same verse: what is his son’s name, if you know?

Notice how Solomon is posing the sixth question. First, there were four questions asking who did all these great things. The answer was: God did all those things. The fifth questions was: “What is God’s name?” The answer: YHVH, the Great I AM, is His name. But then Solomon poses a trick question because he knows that, at this stage of biblical history, it would be impossible to answer. That is why he adds the phrase, “if you know,” to the sixth question. The question is: what is his son’s name, if you know? The obvious meaning here is that this God, the Great I AM, has a Son!

Until the time of Solomon and later, we did not know His name because it was not as yet revealed. This was not an unusual approach in the Scriptures. For instance, throughout the whole history of the Book of Genesis, no one knew God’s name, because He revealed it to Moses in the Book of Exodus first, in chapter 3:14-15 and secondly, in chapter 6:2-3. The people living during the time of Genesis knew that there was a God, they just did not know His name. By the same token, no one knew the name of the Son of God throughout Old Testament Judaism. But Old Testament Judaism did know that God had a Son, for both David and Solomon spoke of Him.

The Messiah’s Sonship with God is thus related to His Messiahship. In Psalm 2, this Sonship is related strongly to the Messiah’s Kingship.

B. The God-Man Concept and the Messiah
Another aspect of the Kingship of the Messiah is the strange God-Man Concept concerning the Messiah. Some passages which deal with the Kingship of the Messiah add a whole new dimension to the Person of the Messiah, making Him a man, and yet more than a man.

1. Isaiah 9:6-7

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of Jehovah of hosts will perform this.

Verse 6 declares that a son will be born into the Jewish world who will eventually control the reigns of government. Verse 7 identifies Him as the Messianic descendant of David; it gives a dramatic description of His reign, which will be characterized by peace and justice. But in verse 6, He is given names that can only be true of God Himself: Mighty God and Everlasting Father. Wonderful Counselor and Prince of Peace can be true of a man. This new dimension, presented by Isaiah regarding the Person of the Messiah, is that the Messiah had to be a man, a descendant of David, but He was to be God as well.

This further explains what Isaiah said two chapters earlier in Isaiah 7:14, when he stated: Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

In this passage, which we discussed earlier, Isaiah declares that there is going to be a Son born of a virgin. Then He is given a name, which is said to be Immanuel. In the Bible, when a parent names his child, it shows the thinking of the parents. However, when God gives a person a name, it actually represents the person’s very character as only God can foresee. So when this Child is named Immanuel by God, the name portrays the actual character of the Child. What does Immanuel mean? It means: “With us, God.” So here, we have a Child that is born of a virgin and who is “With us, God” or “God is among us!”

The Isaiah 9 passage further clarifies that this Son is a descendant of David, and He is labeled as God Himself. So Isaiah clearly portrays the Messiah as the God-Man.

2. Jeremiah 23:5-6
Nor is Isaiah alone in presenting this picture. Jeremiah echoes Isaiah in Jeremiah 23:5-6:

Behold, the days come, says Jehovah, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely; and this is his name whereby he shall be called: Jehovah our righteousness.

Here, too, a descendant of David reigns upon the throne of David, and the character of His reign is described as one of peace and security for Israel. Yet He is given the very name of God, which can only belong to God Himself, Adonai Tzidkenu, Jehovah our righteousness. This is the YHVH, the very name that God revealed to Moses as being His own personal name: I AM. So once again, the future King Messiah of Israel is seen as a man on one hand, but as God on the other. As with the Sonship Concept, the God-Man Concept is related to the Messiah’s Kingship.

3. Micah 5:2
Let’s look again at a passage we studied earlier when we talked about the place of the Messiah’s birth. We pointed out that His birth would be in Bethlehem according to Micah 5:2. Let us reread that verse: But you, Beth-lehem Ephrathah, which are little to be among the thousands of Judah, out of you shall one come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.

According to Micah 5:2 the Messiah’s human origin will be Bethlehem. But Micah states even further that: His goings forth are from old, from everlasting. This Individual, who is to be born in Bethlehem, has His origins from eternity. Only one Person is eternal from eternity past, and that is God Himself. As to His human origin, He was born in Bethlehem; as to His divine origin, He is from eternity, which means He is both God and man at the same time.

4. Zechariah 13:7
Another passage, which brings out this God-Man Concept, is Zechariah 13:7: Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, says Jehovah of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered; and I will turn my hand upon the little ones.

The Hebrew word translated as fellow means “my equal.” The verse literally reads, “Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my equal or deity, says Jehovah of hosts:” Again, the Messiah was to be both God and man.

This, then, concludes the picture of the Messiah given in the Old Testament. On the one hand, He is a suffering and dying Messiah. On the other, He is a conquering and reigning Messiah called God and the Son of God. The solution of the rabbis was to formulate the Doctrine of Two Messiahs: Messiah, the Son of Joseph, and Messiah, the Son of David.


A different kind of objection is raised over and over again: If Jesus were the Messiah, why do not the rabbis believe in him? Or it may be stated like this: If Jesus is the Messiah, why is it that very few Jews believe this? The implication here is that something cannot be true for the Jew unless most rabbis or most Jewish people accept it to be true. In other words, the implication is that truth is determined by “majority vote.”

However, truth is not determined by majority vote. If something is true, it is going to be true if everybody believes it or if nobody believes it. Truth is something that is absolute; it never changes. It is irrelevant how many people believe the truth. It is still true because of what it is in itself.

It has always been clear from the Old Testament that it was only a minority of Jewish people who believed. In the days of Elijah the Prophet, only a mere 7,000 were believers from among hundreds of thousands of Jews. Only a minority of the Jewish people have ever believed, and that is still true today. Just because a minority believes something, does not make it wrong. And because a majority believes something, does not make it right. The issue is: What do the Scriptures teach? By comparing the New Testament with the Old Testament, it is very clear that the Messiah of the Old Testament is Jesus of the New Testament.

All scriptures are in the American Standard Version unless otherwise noted.



If you enjoyed this Bible study, Dr. Fruchtenbaum
recommends the following Messianic Bible studies (mbs):

mbs 003: The Basis of the Second Coming of the Messiah
mbs 007: Jews, Gentiles, and Christians
mbs 011: The Suffering of Messiah of Isaiah 53
mbs 013: What the New Testament Says About Jesus
mbs 014: Why Did the Messiah Have to Die?
mbs 016: Nicodemus, A Rabbi's Quest
mbs 026: Zionism: What It Is and What It Is Not
mbs 087: The Book of Romans and the Jews
Also, Ariel Ministries' series on Christology

Many of Dr. Fruchtenbaum's Messianic Bible studies are available for free online reading
and listening at Ariel Ministries' Come and See. All of his materials are available
for purchase at Ariel Ministries in various formats. Other select
materials and resources are available at Ariel, as well.

Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, Th.M., Ph.D.,
is founder and director of Ariel Ministries.


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