Waiting For the Messiah
By Rabbi Shlomo Nachman © 10.23.2013 (most recent update July 31, 2019)
There are certain verses in the Tanach that are sometimes inaccurately cited as evidence that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah. In this study we will consider one of these texts. Identifying the Messiah is very important. Recognizing and avoiding false Messiahs is just as important because millions have been led astray. Even such luminaries as Rabbi Akiva (born in Caesarea, Israel in 50 CE, died: 137 AD in Caesarea Maritima, Israel) have been fooled into accepting false claimants. In his case, Rabbi Akiva followed the failed Messiah Simon Bar Kokhba (died 135 CE) in what is known as the Bar Kokhba revolt against the Roman Empire in 132 CE. Bar Kokhba came MUCH closer to fulfilling the prophetic requirements than Yeshua/Jesus by establishing an independent Jewish state, which he ruled for three years as Nasi (or "Prince"). Reborn Israel was then conquered by the Romans again in 135 CE following a two and half-year war. The Bar Kokhba revolt marked a time of high hopes followed by violent bitter despair. At that time the Jews had high expectations of a Torah-based kingdom and a third Beit HaMikdash (Hebrew: "House of the Holy" or Holy Temple), but in the end they were persecuted and once again sold into slavery. The Jews did not yet merit HaMashiach ben David and his theocratic rule. The final battle of Bethar saw their complete destruction.
Sabbatai Zevi (August 1, 1626 – circa September 17, 1676) was another would be Messiah. He was a famous Kabbalist who was active throughout the Ottoman Empire for a time. He too came much closer than Yeshua/Jesus to donning the Messianic crown with his Sabbatean movement. However in February of 1666 CE he arrived in Constantinople and was imprisoned under the Islamic blasphemy laws. Given the choice between life as a Muslim and execution by ordeal as a Jew, Sabbatai Zevi chose conversion to Islam and thus became a heretic.
To date everyone who has reached for the Messianic crown has failed, including the widely honored Chabad tzadik, Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson (shown to the left) and the Nanach Rebbe, Rabbi Israel "Saba" (shown below). Both were honorable and righteous Jews but neither was the Mashiach ben David. Most of the Messianic claimants died as honorable Jews, some became heretics like Sabbatai Zevi, but in all cases they have all failed to meet the prophetic requirements.
In Yeshua's case, he too failed to meet the requirements. He was executed by the Romans for treason. After his death his followers created a Rabbinically rejected reform sect of Judaism which, within a hundred years, became unquestionably heretical and, within another hundred years became a completely separate religion and the biggest enemy of the Jewish people in history.
Since the rebirth of Israel in 1948 many Christians have changed their attitudes and now support the Jewish people and their secular country. Sadly however many of these supposed friends of Israel use support as a pretext to seek to genocide Yiddishkeit through assimilation, replacement theology, and conversion. This fact brings us back to our current consideration.
Needless to say, Jews today are very wary of all Messianic claimants and Missionary attempts. History has taught us well and yet still today there are claimants accepted by some Jews as the Messiah despite the clear requirements established by our holy prophets and underscored by history. HaShem has given us plenty of evidence to identify the Messiah. All who have died have failed. No text of prophecy grants the Mashiach a do-over. Messiah has not yet come.
But he will!
Let's look at our text. First, remember that Micah was a contemporary of Isaiah, living during the reign of King Hezekiah of Judah during the Assyrian attack on Jerusalem. Klal Israel was under siege and like Isaiah, Micah was addressing this imminent concerns.Micah 4:13 Arise and thresh, O daughter of Zion, for I will make your horn iron, and I will make your hooves copper; and you shall crush many nations, and you shall devote their plunder to the Lord, and their wealth to the Lord of all the earth.It is true that "they" [i.e. the Assyrians] had laid siege against Klal Israel and against Jerusalem, this is the context. Israel will be victorious under the leadership of the person referenced next -- Of course Babylon, not the Jews, took out Assyria as I will comment on below -- this is the assurance.
4:14 Now you shall gather yourself in troops, O daughter of troops; he has laid siege to us. With a rod they strike the judges of Israel on the cheek.
The natural context of this section therefore is not addressing the coming of THE Messiah (HaMashiach ben David), nor the End of Days, but rather concerns a messiah who would rescue the Jews under discussion. This mashiach (anointed one) was Cyrus the Great, who is called "messiah" in Scripture, and who later freed the enslaved Jews (i.e. the Southern Kingdom of Judah) from Babylon, see Isaiah 45:1 and Ezra 5:13.So said the Lord to His anointed one [Hebrew: mashiach], to Cyrus, whose right hand I held, to flatten nations before him, and the loins of kings I will loosen, to open portals before him, and gates shall not be closed.
This understanding is the clear meaning of this prophecy when read in its entirety. Rashi supports this understanding:Now you shall gather yourself in troops, O daughter of troops: Now, at the time of its [Israel’s] evil decree concerning the iniquity, which has increased, you shall gather yourself in troops, O daughter of troops; O daughter of the Chaldeans [Babylonians], gather troops, for now you shall succeed with the troop that laid siege upon us.So consider:Micah 1:1 The word of the Lord that came to Micah the Morashtite in the days of Jotham, Ahaz, [and] Hezekiah, the kings of Judah, which he prophesied concerning Samaria and Jerusalem.The text therefore concerns the people of Ephraim, i.e. the Northern ten divorced houses of Israel and Judah and Benjamin, the Southern Kingdom:
"... there was none left but the tribe of Judah only" -- II Kings 17:18Micah 5:1 And you, Bethlehem Ephrathah - you should have been the lowest of the clans of Judah - from you [he] shall emerge for Me, to be a ruler over Israel; and his origin is from of old, from days of yore.
The everlasting reign of King David's lineage (Isaiah 11) is the reference here (compare Genesis 49:10). We understand that HaShem's protection of His people is not due to our own merits. Many of our forbearers pleased HaShem and so we invoke His promises to them during times of fear and persecution. 'For their sake, HaShem, please come to our defense'. Collectively we Jews are citizens of this eternal Kingdom, whether it is physically present or not. As at Isaiah 52 and 53 the reference is clearly to the people of Israel entire as the "Suffering Servant" and not to a particular king. HaMashiach ben David will one day emerge from Jewish people and from King David's lineage. David came from Bethlehem and so symbolically his lineage is from there, "from ancient times." This section offers the assurance that HaShem's blessings will continue upon David's line forever and, as we saw in 4:14, they are being called to arise for battle with these verses.
In other words, you, Jews, will be successful against your enemies due to the Covenant made with Avraham, Isaac and Ya'akov and passed forward to you and your coming leader, through David HaMelech. However, they are warned, you must arise and act like honorable sons and daughters of David!'
In this case the Jews did not defeat their enemies directly. There are important truths to be learned here. HaShem used the might of Babylon and then had the Persian ruler Cyrus free His people and return them to the Land for His Purposes (Ezra 5:13). ALL things are in the Hands of HaShem and ALL things work together for our ultimate redemption as Rebbe Nachman explains so wonderfully....then the Messiah will come, because the redemption is mainly dependent upon this [i.e. emunah], as the verse says, "Come, look from the top of emunah/faith" (Rebbe Nachman, Likutey Moharan 1.7.1).Hence we read:Isaiah 45:1 So said the Lord to His anointed one [Hebrew mashiach, messiah], to Cyrus, whose right hand I held, to flatten nations before him, and the loins of kings I will loosen, to open portals before him, and gates shall not be closed.Concerning this verse Rashi's commentary is critical to understand:to His anointed one: Every title of greatness is called anointing. Compare Numbers 18:8. "To you I have given them for greatness (לְמָשְׁחָה)." Our Sages, however, said: To the King Messiah, the Holy One, blessed be He, says, "I complain to you about Cyrus..." as it is stated in Tractate Megillah 12a.This section of Micah has nothing to do with the Messianic prophecies. It references Cyrus the great.
In his comments Rashi reminds us that certain things will have to happen to signify the coming of HaMashiach (i.e. THE Messiah). IF these verses are interpreted as talking about the Messiah, all of the other requirements must still be met for his arrival. These include:
- Isaiah 2, 11, 42; 59:20
- Jeremiah 23, 30, 33; 48:47; 49:39
- Ezekiel 38:16
- Hosea 3:4-3:5
- Micah 4
- Zephaniah 3:9
- Zechariah 14:9
- Daniel 10:14
See my What the Messiah Must Accomplish study for more specific requirements.
Thus far the principle messianic requirements obviously have not been met by anyone. Perhaps Ben Gurion came the closest and he was not even religious. When the requirements are met, everyone will know it! Like all Jewish authorities Rashi of course agrees that the Messiah has not yet come.
Perhaps the clearest evidence that Mashiach has not yet come is found at Jeremiah 31:32-34For this is the covenant that I will form with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will place My law in their midst and I will inscribe it upon their hearts, and I will be their God and they shall be My people.When Mashiach ben David arrives everyone will know it!
And no longer shall one teach his neighbor or [shall] one [teach] his brother, saying, "Know the Lord," for they shall all know Me from their smallest to their greatest, says the Lord, for I will forgive their iniquity and their sin I will no longer remember.
So said the Lord, Who gives the sun to illuminate by day, the laws of the moon and the stars to illuminate at night, Who stirs up the sea and its waves roar, the Lord of Hosts is His name.
Rashi's comments on verse 2 make it clear that the Messiah has not yet come:Therefore, He shall deliver them until the time a woman in confinement gives birth: He shall deliver them [the people of Israel] into the hands of their enemies until the coming of the time that Zion has felt the pangs of labor and borne her children; Zion, which is now seized by the pangs of labor [as Micah is writing], is now called a woman in confinement. [i.e., now the labor pains will cease and the redemption will come about.] But our Sages state that from here we deduce that the son of David will not come until the wicked kingdom spreads over the entire world for nine months (Yoma 10b, Sanh. 98b). But, according to its simple meaning, this is the structure as I explained.A note for my Christian friends who are struggling with this idea and who hope to find support in Rashi's comments: John, the Beloved of Yeshua, used this same example of the woman in confinement giving birth in Revelation 12. As an intimate disciple of Yeshua, John understood that the Messiah had not yet come and that this and other prophecies had still not been fulfilled. The author of the Book of the Revelation clearly did not believe such verses were referring to the historic Yeshua of Nazareth. Yeshua met none of the primary Messianic requirements.
Rashi continues:... and the rest of his brothers: The brothers of the King Messiah; i. e., the rest of the brothers of the tribe of Judah.Thus far the Ten Divorced Houses (i.e. the Northern Kingdom of Israel, aka "Ephraim") remains lost and divorced by HaShem. Judah and Benjamin (i.e. the Southern Kingdom) were never lost and were restored to Land of Israel in 1948. Under the reign of Mashiach ben David all of the Houses of Israel will be restored to the Land granted them by HaShem. Neither Micah's nor Rashi's (nor John's) requirements have been met by anyone thus far. By emunah we continue to wait and to hope.
... shall return upon the children of Israel: Judah and Benjamin shall join the other tribes and become one kingdom, and they shall no longer be divided into two kingdoms.
Verse 3 tells us that this person:...shall stand and lead with the might of the Lord, with the pride of the Lord, his God: and they [the ten Houses restored and reunited] shall return, for now he shall become great to the ends of the earth.Yeshua ben Miriam was not a military leader. He did not lead the Jews anywhere. Indeed the opposite happened. Just 40 years or so after his execution by the Romans, the Jews were forcibly expelled from Israel and did not return in significant numbers -- other than during the days of Bar Kokhba -- until 1948 under Ben Gurion. This is the exact opposite of what the Messiah will accomplish according to the biblical prophets.
Prior to being exiled from their homes in 70 - 73 CE about half of the Jews were still living in Babylon. They did not return to Israel once they were freed. Likewise today nearly half of the Jews remain in the United States. The prophecies remain unfulfilled. Yeshua made no attempt to lead these Jews back to Israel as required by the prophecies. By no twisting of scripture can it be shown that Yeshua fulfilled the essential elements of the various messianic prophecies. Whoever is being referenced in Micah can not be Yeshua for this reason and Rashi would certainly agree with this.
Rashi further explains:and lead: And lead IsraelAgain nothing of the kind took place in the First Century CE nor since, despite the many failed Messianic claimants.
and they shall return: They shall return now from the exiles [under this man].
for then he shall become great: i.e., [he will be] their king.
until the ends of the earth: And they shall bring tribute to him [i.e. to the Messiah] with horses and chariots.
If Micah 5:1 is addressing the Messiah and not Klal Israel collectively as commonly accepted, and as Rashi believes, based on this text and objective evidence, the reference still can not possibly be to 'the man from the Galil' because he completely failed to meet Micah's description and those of the other biblical prophets. Whoever is being referenced in these verses, whether HaMashiach or Israel collectively, the requirements by which HaMashiach will be recognized remain unfulfilled. So, while there is some debate among the Jewish sages as to whether this verse is talking about the Messiah or not, what is abundantly clear is that thus far no one has fulfilled the role of HaMashiach ben David.From Mishna Torah, Laws of Kings and their Wars, Maimonides (Rambam), Chapter 11, Law #4.
If a king will arise from the House of David who delves deeply into the study of the Torah and, like David his ancestor, observes its mitzvahs as prescribed by the Written Law and the Oral Law; if he will compel all of Israel to walk in [the way of the Torah] and repair the breaches [in its observance]; and if he will fight the wars of G-d; - we may, with assurance, consider him Mashiach.
If he succeeds in the above, builds the Beit HaMikdash on its site [i.e. the Third Jerusalem Temple on the Holy Mount], and gathers in the dispersed remnant of Israel, he is definitely the Mashiach.
He will then perfect the entire world, [motivating all the nations] to serve G-d together, as it is written [Zephaniah, 3:9], "I will make the peoples pure of speech so that they will all call upon the Name of G-d and serve Him with one purpose."
And so... we continue to wait.
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