Old Testament and Jewish Conceptions of the Messiah

Monday, June 14, 2004


Thomas Storck, in his article, "The Old Testament Messianic Hope" (http://www.catholic.net/rcc/Periodicals/Faith/1112-96/index.html), in the periodical The Catholic Faith, Nov/Dec 1996, states:


The Messianic expectation of ancient Israel consisted of several strands, some of which were highlighted or stressed more at one time or by one prophet than others, but all together they introduce this multifaceted Messianic hope, which God presented in a more and more definite way over the course of the salvation history of the Old Covenant. It is important to realize that God did not inspire the prophets of the Old Testament with one single concept of a coming Messianic figure who would be born at Bethlehem, preach a new covenant, suffer and die from crucifixion, rise again, thus gloriously defeating Satan, establish a spiritual kingdom on earth, the Catholic Church, and a kingdom of the just in Heaven. Though all these things are foretold in the Old Testament, the manner in which God chose to reveal His plan for the rescue of the human race was not as simple as announcing beforehand exactly what would be done, how, when, and by whom.

Storck goes on to detail many messianic passages, and concludes:

It is easy to understand why the picture of the Messiah as Suffering Servant did not seem to harmonize well with that of the conquering Anointed One, and thus why our Lord's earthly contemporaries expected that the Messiah would be a military leader. This, again, shows how most of the key Messianic passages could not have been entirely understood beforehand. Who could have known that the victories of the Anointed One would be against spiritual enemies or that it would be a victory accomplished in suffering on a cross? But in fact, when they are rightly understood, all the different strands in the Messianic hope do harmonize exactly and beautifully. Jesus Christ conquered, but conquered through His suffering, and only by His sufferings could His conquests have been made.

We must be careful, then, not to attribute to the hearers of the Messianic verses, or even to their human authors, too clear an idea of how these texts would be fulfilled, i.e., that God Himself would assume human nature, suffer, destroy the power of God's one true enemy, the devil, and establish a spiritual kingdom over all the earth. The exact relationship between Yahweh of the Old Testament and the Messiah was not clear, nor the manner of destruction of God's enemies, nor the nature of the kingdom He was to rule. But we can see that the Old Testament texts, in hindsight, point clearly to Christ, the Messiah, the ideal Son of David, the Anointed of God, the Suffering Servant, who comes both as Babe in the manger and as Divine Judge.

I have laid out in great detail biblical passages which I believe to be related to the notion of the Messiah - as fulfilled in the life of Jesus Christ our Lord, in these papers:

Jesus is God: Biblical Proofs 

The Holy Trinity: Biblical Proofs 

Yet however clear these biblical indications might seem to the Christian (blessed with the hindsight to now "see" clearly what the prophecies meant), it is true that they were not nearly so obvious or even very plain at all to the hearers at the time, and virtually all followers of God/YHWH prior to Jesus Christ, the New Testament and the Christian era.

Way back in 1982, when I was an evangelical Protestant highly interested in Judaism (an interest I retain today, as a Catholic), I did a study of the Jews and their attitudes towards Jesus, and also their own notion of what the Messiah was to be like; what he would do, etc. I utilized many Jewish primary sources. I was particularly interested in what they thought about the Messiah prior to Christ (so that Jewish-Christian polemics and controversies would not be a factor), and which Old Testament passages they regarded as messianic, and how they specifically interpreted them. I will proceed now to recount some of the fascinating results I found in my studies, with regard to the above factors (unfortunately I didn't record many individual page numbers of citations, but passages in quotes are direct quotes; the rest is a paraphrase of the author's conclusions). All sources are Jewish unless otherwise noted:

1) The Messianic Idea in Judaism, Gershom Scholem, NY: Schocken Books, 1971:

Historically, there were two types of messianism: restorative and utopian. Restorative messianism became more prominent within Judaism with the rise of the rational philosophies of the Middle Ages, of which the chief proponent was Maimonides (d. 1204). But the Middle Ages also gave rise to Jewish mysticism, as taught in the Kabbalah and Zohar. Utopian messianism was prominent there. After the Enlightenment, rational utopianism prevailed and was secularized to form the notion of the inevitability of progress, but this development was largely restricted to the more "liberal" facets of Judaism.

"In the 19th century, apocalypticism seemed finally liquidated, and possessed, at least for the Jewish rationalists, no urgency or force whatever. For them it had become meaningless, empty nonsense."

Maimonides sought to minimize apocalypticism, miracles, and other signs. The Messiah must prove his identity not by miracles, but by historical success. The messianic age is a public event and has nothing to do with salvation of individuals. He doesn't recognize a causal relationship between the coming of the Messiah and human conduct. He did hold that Zech 9:9 and Is 11:1-5 were messianic.

The Apocalyptists, on the other hand, read messianic and Last Days connotations into a great number of passages, while their opponents denied same. Many passages, like Isaiah 53, are interpreted by one group to refer to the Messiah, and by the other as predictions regarding the destiny of the entire Jewish people. The rationalists stood in the forefront of the theological defenses mounted against the Church. This motive was a major factor in explaining their prominence.

"The more biblical exegesis could reduce the purely Messianic element, the better it was for the defenses of the Jewish position. But the apocalyptists were not in the least interested in apologetics . . . they are not concerned with fortifying the frontiers. This is no doubt why the statements of the apocalyptists often appear freer and more genuine than those of their opponents who often enough must take into account the diplomatic necessities of anti-christian polemics. In rare individuals the two tendencies come together."

"The most important codifications of the Messianic idea in later Judaism are the writings of Isaac Abravanel (c. 1500) and The Victory of Israel, by the Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel of Prague (1599). The authors endeavor to embrace the legacy of ideas as a whole which have been transmitted in such contradictory traditions. They richly avail themselves of the apocalyptic traditions."

2) The Messianic Idea in Israel, Joseph Klausner, NY: Macmillan: 1955 (orig. 1921):

"The elements of the belief in the Messiah were continually changing under the influence of historical events. In times of national freedom, the worldwide universalistic hope was the basic element, but in times of trouble and distress the nationalistic element was stressed much more."

The figure of Moses was the forerunner and first example of the Messiah. Moses delivered Israel from bondage, from its material troubles, political servitude, and also its spiritual ignorance and bondage. He was also a prophet and lawgiver. The Judges were "messiahs" of a sort, but lacked the spiritual-ethical characteristics of Moses. Samuel, the last judge, had the spiritual characteristics but not the political. Saul did not qualify as a Messiah-type. David was the true prototype. He had great political talents, heroism, courage, and spirituality, like Moses (Hos 3:5). In the Talmud. it is written that the Messiah would be David, or at least have his name.

Hosea develops the messianic theme. "Birth pangs of the Messiah" is derived from Hos 13:13, as well as Is 13:8. Hosea mentions a personal Messiah, "David their king" (3:5; cf. Jer 30:9), earthly bliss (14:5-7) spiritual bliss (2:19-20), and changes in nature (2:18). Klausner says that most scholars (even liberal ones) regard Is 9:6 and 11:1-5 as messianic. Is 2:2-4 is regarded as the quintessential prophecy of the Kingdom. Klausner, however, interprets the "servant" passages (Is 40:1-9, 42:1-7, 50:4-9, 52:13-15, 53:1-12) as referring to Israel, which collectively suffers for mankind and becomes the redeemer of the world. He regards Zech 9:9-10 as a messianic passage.

"The Jewish Messiah, no matter how noble and how spiritual, is nevertheless a human being, a king of flesh and blood."

Around the 2nd century A.D. evolved a doctrine of two Messiahs: Messiah ben David and Messiah ben Joseph. The latter was primarily a warrior who would evntually be slain in battle. Psalm 2:7-8 is regarded as messianic in Sukkah 52a. In the same passage the detah of Messiah ben Joseph is mentioned matter-of-factly. Messiah ben Joseph would fight and defeat Gog and Magog. After he was killed, Messiah ben David could become the sole king of the earth.

"This inner contradiction between the political and the spiritual Messiah was inherent in the Jewish conception of the Messiah from the earliest times. But as long as the political tendency dominated, this contradiction was not readily apparent. Thus it came about that Rabbi Akiba could join himself to a Messiah (Bar-Kochba) who was distinguished for no spiritual qualities whatevr. Only after the political hope of redemption by war had been dashed by historical events themselves - only then was the contradiction felt with full force. Then the spiritual and religio-ethical tendency in the messianic faith inevitably gained the upper hand."

3) The Messiah Idea in Jewish History, Julius H. Greenstone, Philadelphia: Jewish Pub. Society, 1906:

Most Jews regard belief in the Messiah as a dogma of Judaism, even though the conception and nature of the dogma varies widely. Greenstone regards Is 7:14, 9:5, and 11:1-5 as messianic passages.

"The immediate success of Christianity can be accounted for only when we consider the intense messianic hope that existed among the Jewish people during the period of Roman supremacy."

Rabbi Akiba taught that the Messiah occupied a throne next to God and was rebuked by R. Jose the Galilean (Hagigah 14a; Sanhedrin 38b).

Zohar means literally "splendor" (derived from Daniel 12:3). It is a mystical commentary on the Pentateuch. In many Jewish communities, study of the Talmud was superseded by that of the Zohar, since it was regarded as a direct revelation from God and spiritually equal to the Bible. Modern scholars are convinced that the primary author was Moses de Leon of Spain (1250-1305). The influence of the Zohar was still strong in the 18th century.

"There are various references in the Zohar to the idea of a suffering Messiah. The Messiah takes upon himself all the maladies destined for Israel. In this manner, the Messiah constitutes himself the sin-offering, which can no longer be brought by Israel, since the Temple is destroyed."

"The pre-existence of the Messiah is assumed, and his almost Divine character repeatedly emphasized. He is suffering for the sins of his people, and helps them carry the burden of punishment."

Hasidism was formed as a new sect by Israel Baal-shem (1698-1759) as a reaction to Talmudic study methods. Modern Hasidic Jews are firm believers in the sanctity of the Zohar, in the powers of the Kabbalah, and in the influence exerted by their Zaddikim (wonder-working Rabbis) over the destinies of men. The aim of its founders was to free followers from excessive intellectualism, and to encourage prayer and religious emotion and sentiment.

4) A History of Messianic Speculation in Israel, Abba Hillel Silver, NY: Macmillan, 1927:

Isaac Abravanel (1447-1508) wrote three books about messianism. Onee was about Daniel, one about Talmudic passages, and the other dealing with all the messianic prophecies in Scripture. These are the most complete and thorough works of their kind in the whole field of Jewish adventism. Abravanel regarded Daniel 7:13 as messianic, and held that Daniel was a true prophet, unlike most Jews.

Rabbi Joshua ben Levi (Sanhedrin 98a) said that if Israel was found deserving, the Messiah would come swiftly (Dan 7:13), if they were not, then he would come upon a donkey (Zech 9:9):

"If they will be righteous, [the Messiah will come] on the clouds of heaven, if they will not be righteous [he will come] as a poor man riding upon an ass."

Speculations on the time of Messiah's coming were based on numerical figures in Daniel, supposed initiatory historical events, paralleles of time in Scripture, numerical value of letters and astrology.

5) The Messiah Texts, Raphael Patai, Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1979:

Concerning the suffering servant of Isaiah 42, 49, 50, 52, 53, Patai writes:

"The Aggada, the Talmudic legend, unhesitatingly identifies him with the Messiah, and understands especially the descriptions of his sufferings as referring to Messiah ben Joseph."

Patai considers Daniel 9:24-27 messianic, including the death of the Messiah:

"It is quite probable that the concept of the suffering Messiah, fully developed in the Talmud, the Midrash, and the Zohar, has its origin in the biblical prophecies about the suffering servant."

Patai also lists Isaiah 9:6-7, 11:1-12, Daniel 7:13-14, and Zech 9:9-10 as messianic passages.

"Ever since Ezekiel, 'Son of Man' has been a designation signifying special nearness to God of the person so called."

"Others applied to him the name of God."

"R. Shim'on ben Jaqish explained: 'And the spirit of God hovered over the face of the water' (Gen 1:2) - this is the spirit of King Messiah, as it is written, 'And the spirit of the Lord will rest upon him.' (Is 11:2)." (Gen Rab. 2:4)

"You find that at the beginning of the creation of the world King Messiah was born." (Pes. Rab. ed. Friedmann, p.152b)

Some rabbis named the Messiah, "The Leprous of the House of Study," based on Isaiah 53:4 (B. Sanhedrin 98b).

R. Jose the Galilean names the Messiah "Peace," based on Is 9:6 (Pereq Shalom, p. 101). He also mentions Is 52:7, concerning the messenger of peace.

"R. Nahman said to R. Yitzhaq: 'Have you perhaps heard when Bar Nifle (Son of the Clouds) will come?" (B. Sanhedrin 96b-97a).

"'Anani' (He of the clouds) is King Messiah." (Targum to 1 Chr 3:24)

"King Messiah will come with the clouds of heaven." (Pirqe Mashiah BhM 3:70)

"God will liberate Messiah ben David and make him ride on a cloud." (Midrash fragment, ed. Mamorstein, REJ 52 {1906}, p. 184).

The rabbis believed in a seven-year tribulation (B. Sanhedrin 97a).

"The Holy One began to tell him (the Messiah) the conditions (of his mission), and said to him, 'Their sins will force you into an iron yoke, and they will render you like unto this calf whose eyes have grown dim, and they will choke your spirit with the yoke, and because of their sins your tongue will cleave to the roof of your mouth. Do you accept this?' He said, 'with gladness I accept it, so that not a single one of Israel should perish, even the dead who have died from the days of Adam until now. This is what I want.' " (Pes. Rab. pp. 161a-b)

"You have suffered because of the sins of our children, and cruel punishments have come upon you . . . you were put to ridicule and held in contempt by the nations of the world because of Israel . . . All this because of the sins of our children . . . great sufferings have come upon you on their account. And (God) says to him, 'Be you the judge over these peoples, and do to them whatever your soul wishes . . . all of them will die from the breath of your lips.' " (Pes. Rab. ch. 36)

"Elijah . . . says to him: 'Endure the sufferings and the sentence of your Master who makes you suffer because of the sin of Israel.' And thus it is written: 'He was wounded because of our transgressions.' . . . (Is 53:5) - until the time when the end comes." (Mid. Konen, BhM, 2:29)

"As long as Israel dwelt in the Holy Land, the rituals and sacrifices removed all those diseases from the world; now the Messiah removes them from the children of the world." (Zohar 2:212a)

"In the second year of King Ahazia, Elijah was hidden, and he will not be seen again until King Messiah comes. And then he will be seen but will be hidden a second time, and seen again only when Gog and Magog come." (Seder 'Olam Rabba, ch. 17)

Patai: "When the death of the Messiah became an established tenet in Talmudic times, this was felt to be irreconcilable with the belief in the Messiah as the Redeemer who would usher in the blissful millennium of the Messianic age. The dilemma was solved by splitting the person of the Messiah in two . . . "

The development of the two-Messiah doctrine also had to do with a messianic parallel to Moses, who died before entering the Promised Land.

Referring to Zech 12:10-12, "R. Dosa says: '(They will mourn) over the Messiah who will be slain.' " (B. Suk. 52a; also Y. Suk. 55b)

"A man shall arise from my seed; like unto the sun of righteousness, walking with the sons of man in meekness, and no sin shall be found in him. And he shall pour upon you the spirit of grace, and you shall walk in his commandments . . . a rod of righteousness to the nations, to judge and save all that call upon the Lord." (Testament of Judah, 24)

6) The Doctrine of the Messiah in Medieval Jewish Literature, Joseph Sarachek, NY: Hermon Press, 1932:

"In order not to expose themselves to criticism, many Jewish exegetes waived their own messianic explanations and expounded the texts as allusions to the past."

Solomon ben Isaac, or Rashi (b. 1040) was the most celebrated figure in the rabbinical schools of France in the last half of the 11th century. He is regarded as the greatest Jewish commentator on the Bible and the Talmud. Rashi applied Psalm 2 to David instead of the Messiah, but he believed Daniel 7:13-14 was messianic. The "anointed one" in Daniel 9:26 was Agrippa. Gen 49:10 (Shiloh) is was messianic, as are Zech 9:9 and Isaiah 11. He attributes Is 9:6 to Hezekiah and Is 53 to all Israel. The "anointed" in Daniel 9:25 was Cyrus.

Abraham ibn Ezra (Spain, 1092-1167) was one of the greatest Jewish scholars. He considered Gen 49:10 messianic, and also Zech 13, but he refers Zech 9:9 to Maccabean times. Is 7:14 refers only to Isaiah's son. Zech 12:10 concerns Messiah ben Joseph, and Zech 13:7 refers to the world war in his time. The "messenger" in Mal 3:1 is Messiah ben Joseph. The "son of man" in Dan 7:13 is Israel. The "anointed prince" in Dan 9:25 is Nehemiah. The "son" in Ps 2:7,12 referred to Israel.

Isaac Abravanel (1437-1508; originally from Spain) wrote more about the Messiah than any other Jew before him. He followed the Talmud and the Midrash in his messianic interpretations. The following verses are messianic: Gen 49:10, Is 11:1-5, Is 61, Micah 5:2, Zech 9:9, chs. 12-13, Malachi 3:1. Is 9:6 applied to Hezekiah. Is 53 referred to the nation of Israel, as did the "son of man" of Daniel 7:13. The "anointed" of Dan 9:25 is not the Messiah.


NOTE: Now we move on to a Christian source:

7) Christology of the Old Testament and a Commentary on the Messianic Predictions, Ernst Wilhelm Hengstenberg (1802-1869; an orthodox Lutheran and eminent theologian), tr. by T. Meyer, Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 4 vols., 1854-1858):

Micah 5:2: acknowledged by the Jews as messianic at all times with perfect unanimity. This is indicated in Mt 2:4-6 and Jn 7:41-42. But they explained the "eternity" in terms of the idea of the Messiah, his name, or his descent from the ancient, royal line of David. After the death of Jesus, the rabbis stated that Bethlehem referred not to birthplace, but merely to ancestry from David. This was unheard-of before Christianity arose. Many Jews claimed that Jesus was born in Nazareth, not Bethlehem.

Isaiah 9:1-2: Some Jews believed that the Messiah would appear in Galilee. E.g., the Zoahr: "King Messiah will reveal himself in the land of Galilee."

Isaiah 9:6-7: The Jews (expectedly) say that the names refer to God, not to the child. But many held it to be a messianic passage: e.g., the commentary on Genesis known as Brehith Rabbah (Gen 41:44), Rabbi Jose Galilaeus in the book Ekha Rabbati. Ben Sira mentions Wonderful, Counselor, and Prince of Peace as names of the Messiah. Later Jews sought to attribute the passage to Hezekiah.

Isaiah 11:1-5: The messianic interpretation is the most ancient one. It is found in the Targum of Jonathan, and was defended especially by Jarchi, Abravanel, and Kimchi. The word "shoot" or "sprout" is used in other passages which are messianic beyond doubt. In verse 4, he slays the wicked with his breath, a thing which is elsewhere said of God only (cf. Ps 33:6, Hos 6:5). In general, doing by the mere word is a characteristic of omnipotence.

Isaiah 42:1-7: The Chaldean Paraphrast understood the Servant to be the Messiah, as did Kimchi and Abravanel; the latter said of the non-messianic interpretation, "all these expositors were struck with blindness." Simeon's reference at Lk 2:32 indicates that this was the common Jewish viewpoint at the time of Christ. The non-messianic defenders can only agree negatively; they don't agree on who the passage is talking about. In Is 49:5-6 the Servant is contrasted with Israel and thus can't possibly be equated with Israel. David called himself the servant of God ten times in 2 Samuel 7. The prophets are called servants of God in 2 Kings 13:3 and Jer 26:5. In Is 42:6, the Servant is a covenant to the people (Israel), thereby ruling out the possibility that "he" is Israel.

Isaiah 49:1-9: Verses 4 and 7 foretell the rejection of the Messiah. Many Jews here equate the Servant with collective Israel - an impossibility in light of verses 5, 6, and 8.

Isaiah 50:4-11: Verse 4 indicates that the Servant is speaking ("sustain the weary"). Verses 10 and 11 state that one's destiny is contingent upon acceptance or denial of the Servant - the Messiah. Verses 6 and 7 indicate the suffering and rejection by the people of the Messiah. Finally, the Servant appears as the judge of his rejectors.

Isaiah 52:13-53:12: "Shoot" and "root" in verse 2 connect this passage with other messianic descriptions elsewhere. 53:5 ("peace") is similar to the messianic Micah 5:5: "this one will be our peace." The phrase "cut off" (v. 8) occurs also in the arguably messianic Dan 9:26.

"There cannot be any doubt that the messianic interpretation was pretty generally received in earlier times by the Jews. This is admitted even by those later interpreters who pervert the prophecy, e.g., Ibn-ezra, Jarchi, Abravanel and Nahmanides."

The whole translation of the Chaldean Paraphrast, Jonathan, refers to prophecy to Messiah. He paraphrases the very first clause: "behold, My Servant Messiah shall prosper." The Midrash Tanchuma states: "This is the King Messiah who is high and lifted up, and very exalted, more exalted than Abraham, elevated above Moses, higher than the ministering angels."

There is a remarkable passage in the very old book Pesikta, cited in the treatise Abkath Rokhel, and reprinted in Hulsii Theologia Judaica, where this passage occurs, p. 309:

"When God created the world, He stretched out His hand under the throne of His glory, and brought forth the soul of the Messiah. He said to him: 'Will you heal and redeem My sons after 6000 years?' He answered him, 'I will.' Then God said to him: 'Will you then also bear the punishment in order to blot out their sins, as it is written, "But he bore our diseases" ' (53:4). And he answered Him; 'I will joyfully bear them.' " (cf. Zohar, 2:212a)

Rabbi Moses Haddarshan states: "Immediately the Messiah, out of love, took upon himself all those plagues and sufferings, as it is written in Isaiah 53, 'He was abused and oppressed.' " In the Rabboth, a commentary, 53:5 is quoted, and referred to the sufferings of the Messiah. IN the Midrash Tillim, an allegorical commentary on the Psalms, printed at Venice in 1546, it is said at Psalms 2:7: "The things of King Messiah are announced in the prophets, e.g., in the passage Is 52:13 and 42:1, in the Hagiographa, e.g., Ps 60 and Dan 7:13."

Rabbi Alschech, in Hulsii Theologia Judaica, pp. 321 ff., comments:

"Upon the testimony of tradition, our old rabbis have unanimously admitted that king Messiah is here the subject of discourse. We, in harmony with them, conclude that king David, i.e., the Messiah, must be considered as the subject of this prophecy - a view which is indeed quite obvious."

Comparatively few Jews (i.e., those who didn't take the "servant-as-Israel" view) believed that the passage referred to a person other than the Messiah. Tha kabbalistic Jews still largely held to the messianic interpretation of the passage. The Messiah is called "servant" in Zech 3:8 - a passage which is unanimously regarded as messianic, and also in Ezek 34:23-24. As for the collective interpretation: not one sure analogous instance can be cited in favor of a personification carried on through a whole section, without the slightest intimation that it is not a single individual who is referred to. In 53:3 the subject is called a man. In 53:11-12 a "soul" is ascribed to him. "Grave" and "death" seemingly imply a singular subject. In the passages where Israel is called "Servant," all uncertainty is prevented by the presence of the names of Jacob and Israel (Is 41:8-9, 44:1-2,21, 45:4, 48:20) and the plural is used alongside the singular (Is 42:24-25, 48:20-21, 43:10-14). Several factors in the passage rule out a collective. The Servant voluntarily bears sufferings (vss. 10,12) and he suffers quietly and patiently (v. 7).

Daniel 7:13-14: In other passages it is always the Lord who appears with, or upon the clouds of heaven (Is 19:1, Ps 18:10, 97:2, Nahum 1:3). The word for "serve" is never used in any other sense than that of divine worship (whether paid to God or a false deity). See Dan 3:12,14,17-18,28 and Ezra 7:19. For "everlasting dominion," a common feature of the announcement of the Messiah, see Ps 72:5,7,17, 89:37-38, Is 9:6. The Jews were almost unanimous in agreeing that the passage is messianic. The Messiah was called :man of the clouds," a title which is espoused by the Talmud. Abravanel said: "The expositors explain these words, 'like a son of man,' as referring to the King Messiah." Jesus called himself "son of man" 55 times, not counting parallels.

Zechariah 9:9-10: The messianic interpretation prevailed among the Jews. For parallels, see Ps 72:8 and Micah 5:9.

Zechariah 12:10-12: "They will look on me whom they have pierced." Connection with Joel 2:28; se also Mt 24:30 and Rev 1:7. Some Jews sought to give "pierced" a figurative meaning, i.e., "grieved." This was the view of the Septuagint also. Similar interpretation was given to Zech 13:3, where it seems even more unlikely. Elsewhere, the verb daquar is never figurative; it is always literal: Num 25:8, Jud 9:54, 1 Sam 31:4, 1 Chr 10:4, Is 13:15, Jer 37:10, 51:4, Lam 4:9. The parallele verse Zech 13:7, with its mention of the sword, gives good reason to interpret the verse literally. The Palestinian Talmud and also the Babylonian Talmud interpret the verse messianically, as do Ibn-ezra and Abravanel. Many Jews attributed the passage to Messiah ben Joseph. The Jews eventually changed the divine "Me" to "him," even though "Me" is found in the oldest, the best, and the largest number of manuscripts.

Malachi 3:1: The allusion to Is 40:3-5 is undeniable. Ibn-ezra thought the messenger was the Messiah. Kimchi said it was an angel (see Ex 23:30), Jarchi, the angel of death. The early Christians unanimously thought it was John the Baptist. The same messenger referred to here is called Elijah in Mal 4:5. jesus fulfilled the other two parts of the prophecy, i.e., going to the Temple and bringing in the New Covenant. God is obviously referred to in the divine "Me" and the clause "His Temple." The divinity of the Messiah is logically deduced from the passage.