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Expectation of the Messiah in the Tanakh

Some theologians argue that the Messianic expectancy in the Old Testament came up in the time of
David and that this expectation in the rest of the Old Testament is undergoing a development and it
becomes clearer and clearer. Judaism still expects this Messiah. Is it true that the Messianic
expectancy only came up in the time of David? What does the Tanakh say about the promised
The word Messiah means ‘the anointed one’. The Greek translation is Christ. In the Tanakh priests,
prophets and kings were anointed to fulfill their special office. But when David in Psalm 2 sings about the
Anointed One, the Messiah, he means more than an earthly king. He prophesies about an Anointed One
Who will be king upon Zion and Who calls Himself the Son of God. Whosoever refuses to kiss this Son,
will perish on the road. David ends this Psalm with the words: “Blessed are all they that put their trust in
Him.” David is expecting a divine Savior, Who will judge His enemies, but Who will save His people.
This divine Anointed will be prophet (Deut. 18:15), priest (Ps. 104:4) and king (Ps. 2:6)!
The Mother Promise
Already in the first book of the Tanakh God speaks in Genesis 3: 15 about the Seed of the woman, that
would crush the head of the snake. God speaks these words as a judgment against the snake, but in this
judgment Adam and Eve hear the promise of a Redeemer, which would come from the woman.
Several Jewish commentators refer with this promise to the Messiah. Targum Jonathan, an Aramaic
translation of the Tanakh, talks about the time of King Messiah. Rabbi David Kimchi said about this text
that 'the victorious Messiah will bring salvation, by wounding the head of Satan'.
After the Fall the Lord Himself has instituted the substitutional sacrifices. He killed animals, to dress
Adam and Eve with skirts of animal skins. Would the Lord have given no explanation about the great
substitutional sacrifice that His Son would bring? About the righteousness of His Son with which His
people would be covered?
The Bible is silent about it, but the sacrifice that Abel later brings and that was acceptable to the Lord was
from the "firstborn of his sheep" (Gen. 4: 4). Would Adam not have told his children about the
substitutional sacrifice of THE Lamb?
At the birth of Cain Eve says: “I have gotten a man from the LORD" (Genesis 4: 1). In Hebrew, the word
'of' is not in the text. It is also possible to translate: “I have gotten a man, the LORD”. It is quite possible
that Eve thought that Cain was the promised Seed. This also indicates the Palestinian Targum, which
gives Eva the words in the mouth: "I have obtained the man of the Lord, the Angel of the Lord." But soon
it became apparent how much Eva was mistaken. Cain murdered his brother. He was not the promised
Savior. He was not the promised Seed.
This word ' seed ' runs as a red line through Scripture. Eva could say by faith at the birth of Seth, "for God
hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel, whom Cain slew." (Genesis 4: 25). In Genesis 6 the Lord
says to Noah: "But I will establish My Covenant with you" (Gen. 6: 18). After the flood Noah blesses
Shem: "Blessed be the LORD God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. God shall enlarge Japheth,
and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant” (Gen. 9: 26, 27).
From the descendants of Shem Abraham came. The Lord speaks to Abraham: “And in thy Seed shall all
the nations of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 22:18). About this Paul is very clear in Gal. 3:16: “Now to
Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one,
And to thy Seed, which is Christ.”
This promise is even called the Gospel! “And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen
through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed” (Gal.
From Abraham the line is extended to Isaac: “For in Isaac shall thy Seed be called” (Gen. 21:12). Isaac
gets from the Lord the same promise as his father Abraham: “And in thy Seed shall all the nations of the
earth be blessed” (Gen. 26:4). From Isaac the line extends to Jacob. Isaac thought when Jacob cheated
him, that he gave the birth right blessing to Esau, but he didn’t give him the blessing of the promised
Savior. This blessing he kept for Jacob. Even after Isaac knows of the cheating, he still gives Jacob this
blessing: “And He give thee the blessing of Abraham, to thee, and to thy seed with thee” (Gen. 28:4).
Not Esau, but Jacob got the blessing of Abraham. The Lord Himself confirms this in Gen. 28: 14: “and in
thee and in thy Seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.”
When Jakob knows he is going to die, he calls Joseph, the son of his favorite wife Rachel, with him. But
Joseph does not get the blessing of the promised Savior. He does get the birthright blessing, a double
portion in the distribution of the land, for his two sons. The author of the Chronicles mentions that the
birthright blessing did not go to Ruben, but to Joseph (1 Chronicles 5: 1,2).
Jakob certainly will have told his children many times about the promises of God, which the Lord first
promised to Abraham, later to Isaac and then lastly to himself. Anxiously the brothers wait at Jacob’s
deathbed who will get this blessing. Reuben not: “Thou shalt not excel”. But also Simeon and Levi not.
Then it sounds like a mighty exclamation: “Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise” (Gen.
49:8). And Jacob continues in verse 10: “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from
between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.” Judah will be the
royal tribe until Shiloh comes.
There are different opinions about the meaning of the name Shiloh. Some translate it as ‘Whose it is’ or’
to whom it belongs’. So the legislature will be with Judah until the person comes who is entitled to it,
until Shiloh comes. Others translate it as ‘rest’, ‘bringer of rest’, ‘bringer of peace’.
Sacrificial service
It is striking that the place where the tabernacle is set up, is called Shiloh, as a constant reminder: Shiloh
is coming! After the country is conquered (Joz. 18: 1), Shiloh becomes the resting place for the ark.
Anyone who brings a sacrifice, has to go to Shiloh. Every sacrifice will remind them of the promise to
Judah. Later, the ark is brought to Jerusalem. Psalm 132 sings of this resting place: “For the LORD hath
chosen Zion; He hath desired it for His habitation. This is My rest for ever: here will I dwell; for I have
desired it.” Everything in the sacrificial service pointed to the coming Shiloh, Who would be the
fulfillment of all the sacrifices. Until Shiloh comes!
In Exodus is not literally spoken about the promised Seed, but the whole book is in fact breathed with the
promised Savior. Already in chapter 2 we read: “And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his
covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob” (verse 24). God remembered the Covenant in which
He had promised the Seed! The Lamb slaughtered at the exodus pointed to the promised Seed, which
would suffer substitutionally. The entire sacrificial service pointed to Him, the manna in the desert, the
water from the rock, the cloud and the pillar of fire, everything spoke of the coming Savior.
Balaam, Moses and Hannah
In Numbers Balaam prophesies of this Savior: “There shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall
rise out of Israel” (Num. 24:19). In ecstasy Balaam spoke about this promised Redeemer; that He as King
would come from the seed of Jacob, even though he did not want to bow for Him.
Moses prophesied about this promised Savior: “The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet
from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto Me; unto him ye shall hearken”, “I will raise them up a
Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put My words in His mouth; and He shall
speak unto them all that I shall command Him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken
unto My words which He shall speak in My name, I will require it of him” (Deut. 18:15, 18,19).
Therefore John the Baptist was asked if he was ‘the’ Prophet, the One Who was promised by Moses,
which they apparently were expecting (John 1: 21). In this way also Philip announces the promised Savior
to Nathanael: “We have found Him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus” (John
1:46). In Acts both Peter as Stephen called Jesus this Prophet about Whom Moses prophesied. But also
the Lord Jesus Himself refers to this in John 5: 46, 47: “For had ye believed Moses, ye would have
believed Me: for he wrote of Me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe My words?”
In the song of Hannah we read something quite remarkable. In those days the people Israel had not yet a
king and still Hannah sings: “and He shall give strength unto His king, and exalt the horn of His
Anointed” (1 Sam. 2:10). Here she calls the promised Savior the Anointed, the Messiah! What a
Messianic expectancy for such a simple woman!
The Messianic expectancy of David
Also David sings and prophesies about this promised Savior and Messiah, even before he knew that the
Savior would come from his seed. The book of Psalms is full of prophecies about the Savior. Read Psalm
2, a Messianic psalm par excellence, as well as Psalm 8, Psalm 16, Psalm 22 and many others that were
written by David.
When David wants to build a house for the Lord, the Lord shows him that the promised Seed will be born
out of David: “I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish
his kingdom. He shall build an house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for
ever. I will be his father, and he shall be My son” (2 Sam 7: 12-14a). David’s lasts words are about this
Savior: “He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God. And He shall be as the light of
the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springing out of the
earth by clear shining after rain. Although my house be not so with God; yet He hath made with me an
everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure: for this is all my salvation, and all my desire” (2
Sam. 23:3-5). In this last song of David we hear even already the sound of the name of the promised
Seed. ‘Salvation’ is in Hebrew ‘yeshuah’, that is just one letter more than ‘Yeshua’. Yeshua, the Savior,
He gives ‘yeshuah’, salvation. David uses here the short variation ‘yishi’, my salvation. He may sing here
of the covenant that Gode made with him, in which the Lord promised him that the Messiah would come
forth from him. This promised Seed will also be his Savior. In the Hebrew it is just an exclamation: ‘All
my salvation and desire’! With his dying eyes on the promised Seed David exclames: ‘All my salvation
and desire’!
So this shows that the Messianic expectancy did not come up in the time of David. From the first book of
the Tanakh the promise of the Seed of the woman is repeated. Adam and Eve expected already this
Savior. And time and again the Lord revived the expectancy for this promised Savior. Time and again the
Lord gave the prophets again light over this Messiah. In the labyrinth of the history every Messianic
promise is a signpost to this Messiah. In Hebrews 11 we read a list of heroes of faith, who were born long
before David. They all expected the Messiah! They all saw the promised Seed from afar and believed and
embraced Him: “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off,
and were persuaded of them, and embraced them” (Hebr. 11:13).
With the eye of faith fixed on this Messiah David sings in Psalm 13: But I have trusted in Thy mercy; my
heart shall rejoice in Thy salvation (yeshuah!). I will sing unto the LORD, because He hath dealt
bountifully with me.”
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