The Tanakh is rich with messianic prophecy. Many passages link together as they speak across time and space of the coming Messiah and Messianic age. In this article we will examine a few of the key texts and see both the expectation these passages speak of and they find completion in the in person, work and life of Yeshua.
For the major passages below there is a very brief description (including reflections on rabbinic understandings of these texts) and some footnotes that link the reader to related passages and the reference to the same text or concept in the Brit Hadashah.
This is, of course, a huge topic. This article is intended only as an introduction to this topic.
Adonai your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your midst—from your brothers. To him you must listen.
This is the most explicit Messianic prophecy found in the Torah. It occurs in the Torah portion Parshat Shoftim, which tells us that God will one day send a prophet like Moses. It is also one of the two clear texts that identify Moshe (Moses) as a prophet in the Torah. Therefore, Jewish expectation understood that the life and ministry of Moshe serve as a Messianic prototype which the Messiah was expected to reflect
Some of these are that both have birth narratives where they escaped death from a paranoid oppressor of the Jewish people. Both were born as saviors at at a time of national bondage for Israel. Both served in the office of prophets, priests and leaders of Israel. Both taught Torah from a mountain.
Another parallel may be found in the deaths of Moses and Yeshua. Jewish midrash sees the death of Moses as required for the redemption of Israel – a prerequisite for the people to enter the promised land. One tradition about the death of Moses relates that the sun darkened at noon (the sixth hour) on the day Moses died. Another tells us that his time of death was at the time of Minchah (the evening sacrifice, typically during the 9th hour).
Luke describes, in his account of the Transfiguration, that Yeshua the topic of discussion in the miraculous meeting with Moshe [Moses] and Eliyahu [Elijah] is “…his exodus, which he was soon to accomplish in Yerushalayim [Jerusalem].”
Isaiah Chapters 9 to 11
Prophecies from the following chapters 9 and 11 of the book of Isaiah contain some of the most significant Messianic prophecies in the Tanakh as they focus on the birth and supernatural reign of the coming Davidic king (Messiah).
In the book of Matthew the author sees these prophecies apply to Yeshua as the promised one in Isaiah. He understands these promises as predicting a worldwide, glorious reign Yeshua as the expected Davidic king, that was not yet fully realized.
Modern rabbinic teaching is that when King Messiah comes he will bring world-wide peace, this is not the teaching of Scripture. No explicit Scripture teaches this. Rather, Scripture presents a broader picture of the Messianic Age where the Messiah will ultimately bring a time of peace at the end (see Isaiah 2:1-5 – note that Messiah is not mentioned here as inaugurating this at his coming). Dr Michael L. Brown states:
Jewish tradition, however, has forgotten that this Davidic Messiah will be like David, both priestly and royal, while there are other significant biblical prophecies that speak of the Messiah’s sufferings and his atoning death on our behalf…The bottom line is this: The Messiah first came to make peace between God and man, bringing the hope of reconciliation and forgiveness to the world. The ultimate effects of his first coming will lead to his return and an era of complete peace on earth. Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus – Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus – Volume 1 (Baker Book House, 2000)
So, the Brit Hadashah shows us that Yeshua fulfilled most the messianic prophecies but some, such as Isaiah 2:1-5 and Isaiah 11:1-9 which predict global peace, are still not completed. While the good news of Yeshua has indeed brought peace to both individuals and communities since His coming, clearly it is not universal. It teaches that these will be completed in His second coming.
5 For to us a child is born,
a son will be given to us,
and the government will be upon His shoulder.
His Name will be called
My Father of Eternity,
Prince of Peace.
6 Of the increase of His government
and shalom there will be no end—
on the throne of David and over His kingdom—
to establish it and uphold it
through justice and righteousness
from now until forevermore.
The zeal of Adonai-Tzva’ot
will accomplish this.
Rabbi Yose the Galilean said:
“The name of the Messiah is Peace, for it is said, Everlasting Father, Prince Peace (Isa. 9:5) . . .” R. Yose the Galilean said: “Great is peace, for in that hour in which King Messiah is revealed to Israel, he begins with peace, for it is said, How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger of good tidings who announceth peace (Isa. 52:7).”
1 Then a shoot will come forth out of the stem of Jesse,
and a branch will bear fruit out of His roots.
2 The Ruach of Adonai will rest upon Him,
the Spirit of wisdom and insight,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge
and of the fear of Adonai.
3 His delight will be in the fear of Adonai.
He will not judge by what His eyes see,
nor decide by what His ears hear.
4 But with righteousness He will judge the poor,
and decide with fairness for the poor of the land.
He will strike the land with the rod of His mouth,
and with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked.
1 ‘Who has believed our report?
To whom is the arm of Adonai revealed?
2 For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot,
like a root out of dry ground.
He had no form or majesty that we should look at Him,
nor beauty that we should desire Him.
3 He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief,
One from whom people hide their faces.
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
4 Surely He has borne our griefs
and carried our pains.
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
struck by God, and afflicted.
5 But He was pierced because of our transgressions,
crushed because of our iniquities.
The chastisement for our shalom was upon Him,
and by His stripes we are healed.
6 We all like sheep have gone astray.
Each of us turned to his own way.
So Adonai has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
Quotes here is a part of the broader prophecy sometimes called The Fourth Servant Song (Isaiah 52: 13-53:12). While some modern rabbis deny this passage speaks of Messiah, many of the sages clearly believed otherwise. For example Rabbi Moishe Al-Shekh (16th century CE) wrote of this passage: “Our Rabbis with one voice accept and affirm the opinion that the prophet is speaking of the King Messiah, and we shall ourselves also adhere to the same view.” A few centuries earlier, Rabbi Levi Ben Gershon 14th century CE) identified the prophet of Deuteronomy 18 (above) as Messiah linking the same to this passage stating:
“A Prophet from the midst of thee.” In fact, the Messiah is such a Prophet as it is stated in the Midrash of the verse, “Behold my Servant shall prosper” (Is. 52.13)…. Moses, by the miracles which he wrought, brought a single nation to the worship of God, but the Messiah will draw all peoples to the worship of God.’… “
30 “Behold, days are coming”
—it is a declaration of Adonai—
“when I will make a new covenant
with the house of Israel
and with the house of Judah—
31 not like the covenant
I made with their fathers
in the day I took them by the hand
to bring them out of the land of Egypt.
For they broke My covenant,
though I was a husband to them.”
it is a declaration of Adonai.
32 “But this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days”
—it is a declaration of Adonai—
“I will put My Torah within them.
Yes, I will write it on their heart.
I will be their God
and they will be My people.
33 No longer will each teach his neighbor
or each his brother, saying: ‘Know Adonai,’
for they will all know Me,
from the least of them to the greatest.”
it is a declaration of Adonai.
“For I will forgive their iniquity,
their sin I will remember no more.”
This passage connects the idea that the Messiah – a prophet greater than Moshe (see Deuteronomy 18:15 above) – will also bring in a new covenant with the Jewish people (“ house of Israel and with the house of Judah”). The ancient rabbis commenting on Jeremiah 31:31-32 understood exactly this:
“When the time of the advent of the Messiah will be near, then the blessed God will say to him: ‘With him I will make a new covenant. And this is the time I will acknowledge Him as my son, saying `This day have I begotten thee.`’”
Indeed, this rabbi also noted that the Messiah would be, in some special sense, God’s own son. Another ancient rabbinical commentary on Jeremiah 31:31-32 stated: “He will sit and expound the new Torah which He will give through the Messiah.”
In the Talmud, it is taught (based on the images in this passage) that the Messiah will be a heavenly figure who will be served and worshiped by all peoples and nations from his throne in the heavens.
The Talmud (Sanhedrin 98a) asks the often taught question (and basis of many stories):
Will the Messiah, the son of David, come with the clouds of heaven, as indicated in Daniel 7:13-14, or will he come riding on a donkey, as written in Zechariah 9:9?
The answer it gives is that if the Jewish people are worthy then he will come in the clouds, otherwise he will come riding on a donkey. Lovely sentiment, but the facts of the matter are that the Tanakh does not actually present these as alternative options, let alone ones based on some earthly trigger.
Rather, Scripture here builds on the teachings we have seen in the above passages in presenting another revelation (prophecy) about the coming Messiah.
Some Additional Messianic Passages
Be the “seed of the woman that would “bruise ” the serpent’s “heel”
Genesis 3:15 Galatians 4:4 1 John 3:8
Be the “seed of Abraham”
Genesis 12:3 Matthew 1:1 Acts 3:25; Acts 18:18-22; Galatians 3:16
Be the “seed of Isaac”
Genesis 17:19; Genesis 21:12 ; Matthew 1:2 ; Luke 3:34 ; Hebrews 11:17-19
Be the “seed of Jacob” and the “star out of Jacob” who will “have dominion”
Genesis 28:14; Numbers 24:17,19 ; Matthew 1:2 ; Luke 3:34 ; Revelation 22:16
Be a descendant of Judah
Genesis 49:10 ; Matthew 1:2-3 ; Luke 3:33 ; Hebrews 7:14
Be a descendant of David and heir to his throne
2 Samuel 7:12-13 ; Isaiah 9:6-7 ; Isaiah 11:1-5 ; Jeremiah 23:5 ;
Matthew 1:1,6 ; Acts 11:23 ; Romans 1:4
Have eternal existence
Micah 5:1(2) ; John 1:1-14 ; John 8:58 ; Colossians 1:15-19 ; Ephesians 1:3-14 ; Revelation 5:11
Be the Son of God
Psalm 2:7 ; Proverbs 30:4 ; Matthew 3:17 ; Luke 1:32
Have God’s own name, YHVH (Adonai) applied to him
Isaiah 9:5-6(6-7) ; Jeremiah 23:5-6 ; Romans 10:9 ; Philippians 2:9-11
Come at a specific time, 483 years after the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem
Daniel 9:24-26 ; Matthew 2:1; Matthew 2:16 ; Matthew 2:19 ; Luke 3:1 ; Luke 3:23
Be born in Bethlehem, in Judah
Micah 5:1(2) ; Matthew 2:1; Luke 2:4-7
Be born of a virgin
Isaiah 7:14 ; Matthew 1:18-2:1 ; Luke 1:26-35
Be adored by great persons
Psalm 72:10-11 ; Matthew 2:1-11
Be preceded by one who would announce him
Isaiah 40:3-5 ; Malachi 3:1 ; Matthew 3:1-3 ; Luke 1:17 ; Luke 3:2-6
Be anointed with the Spirit of God
Psalm 45:8(7) ; Isaiah 11:2 , Isaiah 61:1 ; Matthew 3:16 ; John 3:34 ; Acts 10:38
Be a prophet like Moses
Deuteronomy 18:15 -18 ; Acts 3:20-22
Have a ministry of binding up the broken-hearted, proclaiming liberty to the captives and announcing the acceptable year of the Lord
Isaiah 61:1-2 ; Luke 4:18-19
Have a ministry of healing the Gospels
Isaiah 35:5-6 ; Isaiah 42:18 ; Matthew 11:5
Have a ministry in the Galilee
Isaiah 8:23-9:1(9:1-2) ; Matthew 4:12-16
Be tender and compassionate
Isaiah 40:11 ; Isaiah 42:3 ; Matthew 12:15,20 ; Hebrews 4:15
Be meek and unpretentious
Isaiah 42:2 ; Matthew 12:15-16,19
Be sinless and without guile
Isaiah 53:9 ; 1 Peter 2:22
Bear the reproaches due others
Psalm 69:10 ; Isaiah 53:12 ; Romans 15:3
Be a priest
Psalm 110:4 ; Hebrews 5:5-6 ; Hebrews 6:20 ; Hebrews 7:15-17
Enter publicly into Jerusalem on a donkey
Zechariah 9:9 ; Matthew 21:1-11 ; Mark 11:1-11
Enter the Temple with authority
Haggai 2:7-9 ; Malachi 3:1 ; Matthew 21:12-24 ; Luke 2:27-38 ; Luke 2:45-50 ; John 2:13-22
Be hated without cause
Psalm 69:5(4) ; Isaiah 49:7 ; John 7:48 ; John 15:24-25
Be undesired and rejected by his own people
Psalm 69:9(8) ; Isaiah 53:2 ; Isaiah 63:3 ; Mark 6:3 ; Luke 9:58 ; John 1:11 ; John 7:3-5
Be rejected by the Jewish leadership
Psalm 118:22 ; Matthew 21:42 ; John 7:48
Be plotted against by Jews and Gentiles together
Psalm 2:1-2 ; Acts 4:27
Be betrayed by a friend
Psalm 41:9 ; Matthew 26:21-50 ; John 13:18-21 ; Acts 1:16-18
Be sold for 30 pieces of silver
Zechariah 11:12 ; Matthew 26:15
Have his price given for a potters field
Zechariah 11:13 ; Matthew 27:7
Be forsaken by his disciples
Zechariah 13:7 ; Matthew 26:31,56
Be struck on the cheek
Micah 5:1 ; Matthew 27:30
Be spat on
Isaiah 50:6 ; Matthew 26:67 ; Matthew 27:30
Psalm 22:8-9(7-8) ; Matthew 27:31 ; Matthew 27:39-44 ; Matthew 27:67-68
Isaiah 50:6 ; Matthew 26:67 ; Matthew 27:26-30
Be executed by crucifixion, by having his hands and feet pierced
Psalm 22:17(16) ; Zechariah 12:10 ; Matthew 27:35 ; Luke 24:39
John 9:18 ; John 9:34-37 ; John 20:35 ; Revelation 1:7
Be thirsty during his execution
Psalm 22:16(15) ; John 19:28
Be given vinegar to quench that thirst
Psalm 69:22(21) ; Matthew 27:34
Be executed without having a bone broken
Exodus 12:46 ; Psalm 24:31(20) ; John 19:33-36
Be considered a transgressor
Isaiah 53:12 ; Matthew 27:38
Be “cut off, but not for himself”
Daniel 9:24-26 ; Matthew 2:1 ; Luke 3:1,23
Be the one whose death would atone for the sins of mankind
Isaiah 53:5-7,12 ; Mark 10:45 ; John 1:29 ; John 3:16 ; Acts 8:30-35
Be buried with the rich when dead
Isaiah 53:9 ; Matthew 27:57-60
Be raised from the dead
Psalm 2:7 ; Psalm 16:10 ; Isaiah 53:9-10 ; Matthew 28:1-20 ; Acts 2:23-36 ; Acts 13:33-37 ; 1 Corinthians 15:4-6
Ascend to the right hand of God
Psalm 16:11; Psalm 68:19(18) ; Psalm 110:1 ; Luke 24:51 ; Acts 1:9-11 ; Acts 7:55 ; Hebrews 1:3
Exercise his priestly office in heaven
Zechariah 6:1 ; Romans 8:34 ; Hebrews 7:25-8:2
Be the cornerstone of God’s Messianic Believing Community
Psalm 118:22-23 ; Isaiah 28:16 ; Matthew 21:42 ; Ephesians 2:20 ; 1 Peter 2:5-7
Be sought after by Gentiles as well as Jews
Isaiah 11:10 ; Isaiah 42:1 ; Acts 10:45
Be accepted by the Gentiles
Isaiah 11:10 ; Isaiah 42:1-4 ; Isaiah 49:1-12 ; Matthew 12:21 ; Romans 15:10