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Beth Lechem Ephrathah

Micha 5:2 has long been treated as a prophecy of the birth of the Messiah. When King Herod asked his scribes where the Messiah was expected to be born, they told him, “In Bethlehem of Yehudah” (Mat. 2:5), and they go on to quote that prophecy*:

  But you, Beth Lechem Ephrathah, though you be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall he come forth unto me who is to be ruler in Israel; whose places of origin have been from of antiquity—from time immemorial.  

If we go further in Matthew’s account, Herod goes on to slaughter all the male infants in Beth Lechem.  

The remains of Herod's main palace can be seen in the volcano-shaped hill in the background; in front of it is modern Beth Lechem.

The author of that account ties this event to a prophecy about Rachel:

Mat 2:17-18 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, “A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping; Rachel weeping for her children, and refused to be comforted for her children, because they are not.

Ramah is in the territory of Benjamin, who is Rachel’s son. That makes sense. But Beth Lechem is not in the territory of Rachel’s children; it was the children of Yehudah being slaughtered there. If Matthew were not the most reliable of Yahshua’s biographers, we might think he was playing fast and loose with the data and making an illogical connection.

But it turns out that there is a different kind of connection between Beth Lechem and Rachel: 

Gen 35:16 And they set out from Bethel; and while there was still a considerable stretch of land to go before they came to Ephrath, Rachel went into labor, and she had great difficulty in the delivery of her baby…
Gen 35:19 And Rachel died, and was buried on the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem.

A painting of Rachel's tomb as it appeared in 1910  

The prophecy about Rachel’s weeping is from Jeremiah 31:15, and this is how its original context continues: she is told to stop weeping, because her children will return.

16 Thus says YHWH; Refrain your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears: for your work shall be rewarded, says YHWH; and they shall come again from the land of the enemy.
17 And there is hope in your end, says YHWH, that your children shall come again to their own territory.
18 I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus; You have chastised me, and I was chastised, like a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke: so turn me, and I shall be turned; for You are YHWH my Elohim.

Rachel’s children were Joseph (father of Ephraim) and Benjamin, and here we find an inseparable connection between this lamentation of hers and her actual descendants returning.  

So if we read this passage as Messianic, then we have to also recognize that the return of these tribes in particular is central to the mission of the Messiah.

This is why Rachel’s weeping could be connected with Beth Lechem. Here is Yaaqov’s own commentary on her death:

Gen 48:7 And as for me, when I came from Paddan, Rachel died by me in the land of Canaan on the journey, when yet there was yet a little way to come to Ephrath: and I buried her there on the way to Ephrath (the same is Beth Lechem).

Ephrath means "fruitfulness", so the statement is that Rachel was cut off before she fully reached fruitfulness. But now he was speaking to none other than Rachel’s son Joseph. And look at what he was leading up to:

  And Israel beheld Joseph’s sons, and said, Who are these?
… And he blessed them that day, saying, In you shall Israel bless, saying, “May Elohim make you like Ephraim and like Manasseh.”
   And Israel said unto Joseph, Behold, I am dying: but Elohim shall be with you, and bring you again unto the land of your fatherAnd Israel said unto Joseph, Behold, I am dying: but Elohim shall be with you, and bring you again unto the land of your fathers. (Gen. 48:8, 20, 21) 

So at the very least, we must say that the purpose of Messiah’s birth in Beth Lechem is about restoring the sons of Joseph, who were exiled again, to the Land of their ancestry.

And that is in full agreement with Isaiah 49:5-6, which is clearly a Messianic prophecy:

  "So now, YHWH speaks—the One who formed Me from the womb to be a servant to Him—to cause Yaaqov to return to Him. (Even if Israel is not gathered back [into association], still I will be honored in the sight of YHWH, and My Elohim has become my strength.)
   And He says, “It was too insignificant that you should be My servant to raise up the tribes of Yaaqov and the faithfully-guarded ones of Israel; I will also appoint you as a light to the Gentiles, to be My salvation all the way to the extremities of the earth.”

This tells us that YHWH considered the “original plan”—the main point of what Messiah was to accomplish—to be bringing the scattered tribes of Israel back together. (The rest is seen as somewhat of an afterthought.)  

Ephrath is linguistically related to the name Ephraim, which means "doubly fruitful”. And Ephraim, through Jeroboam, was the tribe that led the straying of the "Lost Sheep of the House of Israel" (Jeremiah 50:6) away from their heritage. Look how Yeshua defined his own mission:

I came only for the lost sheep of the House of Israel.” (Mat. 15:24; compare Mat. 10:6) 

But could he do that job alone? Remember that parenthesis from Isaiah about the possibility that he might not succeed. The success of a prophet’s task always depends on the response of his listeners, though he may be faithful. What Y’shua started got sidetracked, though the detour does seem to be ending in our own day. And in case we might think the unfruitfulness would last forever, many other prophets still speak of the regathering of all the tribes. Compare a later part of the chapter of Isaiah quoted above with Jeremiah’s words of comfort to the weeping Rachel:

49:20. The children of whom you [were] bereaved will yet say within your hearing, “The place is too crowded for me; draw back and give me space to settle!”
21. Then you will say in your heart, “Who has brought these forth for me, since I am bereaved and [made] barren, an exile and brought to an end? So who has brought these [children] up? Behold, I was left alone; where [have] they [been]?” 22. This is what the Master YHWH says: “Indeed, I will lift up My hand toward Gentiles, and I will lift up My rallying-banner toward peoples, and they will bring your sons in their laps, and your daughters will be carried on their shoulder[s].”

And this is where we return to that prophecy from Micha 5:2 about the ruler to be born in Beth Lechem. This is what immediately follows it:

Therefore will he give them up, until the time that she who is in labor has brought forth: then the remnant of his brothers shall return to the children of Israel.
4 And he shall stand and feed in the strength of YHWH, in the majesty of the name of YHWH his Elohim; and they shall remain: for now shall he be great unto the ends of the earth.

He shall stand.” Daniel 10 and 12 say Mikha’el is one of the chief princes—a ruler indeed--who will “stand up” in the last days. Daniel 7 calls him the “son of man”, which turns out to be a whole group of people, not just one man. So it appears that these are parallel prophecies. And notice the theme of being in labor—like Rachel at Beth Lechem.

So putting all of this together, it is up to those who see themselves as Yeshua’s heirs to finish the job he was given: that of gathering the remnant of “his brothers” back into Israel, back into covenant with YHWH through the Torah. That means abandoning the agendas of what Christianity has become and instead following the directives of the real Yeshua.

Whoever takes up his task is then living out the role of Messiah. There have been many “anointed ones” throughout history, and some say there is to be such a deliverer in every generation.

Is the Messiah for our day one man—or a group of people acting “as one man”?  

That remains to be seen, but which possibility can you do something about?  

That is where your focus must lie.

*It is quoted incorrectly in Greek as “Bethlechem of Judah”, which does not even follow the Septuagint, but it is quoted correctly in the Hebrew version of Matthew.
This removes any basis for equating Yeshua with YHWH, since he was seen by many. But his actions show us exactly what YHWH is like. “The Word was made flesh” can also mean he embodied the Torah by living it out. The “word” was fleshed out and brought “down to earth” for us when Yeshua showed us how YHWH intended the Torah to be walked out. So he can say, "He who has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9) without contradicting the fact that he is separate entity sent by the Father, who also worships the Father as his Elohim (20:17—even after his resurrection!) and prays to Him (John 17, etc.) Yeshua is like "glasses" by which we can focus on YHWH. But the glasses, while crucial to someone with limited vision, are not themselves the focus. Most legends begin with someone real – Davy Crockett, Paul Bunyan--even demi-gods like Vulcan originated with Tuval-qayin (Gen.4:22), someone who made such a huge technical advance that he later came to be worshipped.

And that is also what occurred with Yeshua. 

A rapidly-growing number of people who grew up in the Church are recognizing that
we inherited many lies there. (Jeremiah 6:16) At the time the New Testament was written,                                 superstitions that were common in the Greco-Roman world had influenced the 
                                Jewish world too. (Where in the Torah or the prophets do we see so many 
                                demons?They are real but maybe some things got blamed on them that they                                 weren’t responsible for. But maybe they were also trying to gang up on the one                                 who came to defeat them.) Much Hellenism crept into the Judaism of that day                                 too.  )   Study of the book of Daniel had brought Messianic fervor to 
                                fever pitch, because they were living in the time frame he had predicted*, and 
                                all the more so when the destruction of the Temple ended the window in which 
                                Messiah had to appear on the scene (Daniel 9:25-26). But apocalyptic ideas                                 went  far beyond what Daniel said, and the language of the visions came to be 
                                interpreted as literal rather than symbolic.  Then there were explanatory but 
                                opinionated scribal notes that were integrated into texts copied later as if they                                 were part of the original and therefore were taken as being as authoritative as it.  
                                Having realized this, we are divesting ourselves of pagan ways and returning to                                 Torah, the rock-solid foundation on which an intimate relationship with YHWH                                  depends. And since the Jews by and large do not believe Yeshua is the Messiah,                                 it’s easy to wonder if he might be just another part of the paganism.

                                But just as St. Nicholas, a truly honorable man, has had the idea of Santa Claus                                 linked with his name, though they have never had much in common, if we 
                                look  into the real Yeshua within his Jewish context that his first followers knew 
                                before there ever was a “Christianity”, this man is worth learning about. 

In Zechariah 3:8, Messiah is again called "My Servant the Branch". (Compare Jeremiah 33:15)  In Zech. 6:11-12, as Y’hoshua the high priest is being crowned, YHWH says of him, "Behold a man; his name is [the] Branch!" Ezra 3:2, speaking of the same man, uses the shortened, Aramaic form of his name: Yeshua. So it is not at all a stretch to conclude that the Messiah's name was to be Yeshua. 

The Hellenized “Jesus” is a caricature of the real Jewish Yeshua, but if we strip away Gentile misunderstandings of what he said, and see him in his original form, we notice that every significant event in his life fell on one of the biblical festivals. A strong argument can be made that he was born on Sukkoth. He made it clear that he had no respect for anyone who tried to deny the importance of even one letter of the Torah. (Mat. 5:17-19) Until A.D. 196, Yeshua's resurrection was always commemorated on the Firstfruits of the Barley Harvest, by the Hebrew calendar, not on a formerly-pagan holiday calculated according to the Vernal Equinox. 

It was his later followers who “changed the times and seasons”, not Yeshua. So we need to clarify just who he is and who he is not, based on Hebraically-oriented evidence. Tradition made him larger than life, but the terms that Christians have used to justify interpretations that fit more with paganism than the Torah actually have very different, and much simpler, connotations—yet still apply very neatly to Yeshua once we divest him of roles he never intended to have.

He never tried to break the continuity with the Torah, as many suppose (based on how they read Paul’s description of what Yeshua was about, but Peter warns us that Paul’s writings are easily misconstrued by “unstable and unlearned men”--but this implies that with a proper understanding, they will not be abused). Yeshua was trying to make it easier to find the simple, unencumbering Torah by removing the clutter that even by his day obscured it. How much more, today, when it’s also been covered up by two more millennia of rubble, does this need to be done?

YHWH had told Moses,

  "You cannot see My face, for man may not see Me and live." (Exodus 33:20)

That seems pretty straightforward. Even the man whom YHWH “knew by name” could not see His face and survive. But how, then, could anyone claim that people literally saw YHWH Himself when they saw Yeshua? 

How Did Yeshua Come to be Thought of as a Deity?

When doubting Thomas was able to see and touch Yeshua again, though he had died, he bowed down to him and said (as typically translated), 'My Lord and my God!" But wouldn’t it be blasphemy to say this to a man? The Torah, the part of Scripture that has the highest authority, says, “El is not a man...” (Numbers 23:19)  We are not to worship any elohim we or our ancestors have not known. (Deut. 13:1-6)  Any interpretation of the New Testament must agree with the Torah. (Cf. Isaiah 8:20)  So Thomas cannot be speaking to or about Yeshua here, but rather simply expressing his amazed praise to the One who raised Yeshua from the dead. (Acts 13:30; 17:31; Rom. 10:9; Gal. 1:1; Eph. 1:20; Col. 2:12) 

Or there is another possibility. No distinction is made in Greek between YHWH and Elohim; both are translated theos, causing even more ambiguity. But he was not speaking Greek. “Elohim” is used in other ways in Hebrew; it does not always refer to YHWH. He Himself told Moses, “I have made you an elohim to Pharaoh.” (Exodus 7:1) Thomas may have been using “elohim” in the more basic sense of a judge (Psalm 82:1-6)—for indeed Yeshua had by his reappearance judged his doubtfulness to have been wrong. He was admitting that he stood corrected.  Elohim is pretty much the equivalent of what we would categorize as a “spiritual being” nowadays, and tended to have the sense of “superhuman”—either an angel, demon, judge (who holds unusual power over ordinary humans), or, as in Yeshua’s case, a return to the original humanity, which is far superior to its present normal form. There is no problem with Thomas’ calling him “my elohim”, because in that particular instance, he was his judge.

Another big part of the confusion results from the Greek term rios (usually translated “Lord”) being used of both YHWH and Yeshua. But the term really means “Master” and often it would be best translated simply as “sir”. So when Yeshua is addressed as Kürie, it does not imply that he is YHWH, but one worthy of being at least addressed as “sir”! 

But an ambiguous passage is very shaky ground on which to build a doctrine. If the trinity idea was so important, why is it not explicit even in the New Testament? On the other hand, we have countless warnings to avoid worshipping anyone but YHWH, and He has left no doubt at all about this. So since equating Yeshua with Yahweh at least borders on idolatry, we would be safer to choose the interpretations that incline us away from it rather than putting us in a possible position of serious compromise. 

A mystical understanding of Judaism “breaks” YHWH’s nature into ten aspects for easier understanding. These ten are sometimes grouped into clusters known as “Father”, “Mother”, and “Son”, and pre-Nicene Christian writings indeed call the Holy Spirit “our mother”. From this triad the Christian concept of the “trinity” was misconstrued. The book of Proverbs personifies wisdom in much the same way that the Holy Spirit (Yahweh’s power working in an individual to accomplish a certain task) is personified in Acts 5:3, 9, 32; Rev. 2:7, etc. But we also read of the “seven spirits of Elohim”. Should we then say there are seven or ten “persons” in YHWH as Trinitarians say there are three? 

This doctrine was framed by people who had not grown up in a Hebraic context and therefore did not know much of the idiomatic usage of Hebrew terms, and interpreted them according to Gentile categories they were more familiar with. So it accrued many elements of pagan pantheism. There were trinities of gods in Egypt, Babylon, etc., and this motif was borrowed by the church at precisely the time that, for political reasons, it was trying to distance itself from all things Jewish.

In the first century the Jews understood what it meant when Yeshua was called "the Word of YHWH". It was an idiom used in all the Aramaic targums (interpretive translations from the centuries just before Yeshua). In Isaiah 63, where the Hebrew text speaks of Yahweh as Savior, the targum says, "the Word [Memra--"living word"] was their Redeemer." (v. 8) This personification of what YHWH speaks is seen again when it says, "His Memra…fought against them"--an action ascribed directly to YHWH in the original Hebrew.  Memra essentially means “living word”.

Philo of Alexandria, a Jew who was Yeshua’s contemporary, wrote that man was patterned in the image of YHWH's own uncreated Word (for which he used the Greek equivalent, logos): "Man was made a likeness and imitation of the Word." (On the Creation, XLVIII: 139) This Word contains all the qualities of Elohim: "The model or pattern [used in creation] was the Word that contained all His fullness--light, in fact." (On Dreams, I: 75) The first chapter of the Gospel of John is clearly in this very same genre.

Anywhere the Hebrew text speaks of YHWH being seen, the targums substitute "the Word of YHWH"—a logical deduction since no one can see YHWH and survive. Philo explained, “Just as those unable to see the sun itself, see the gleam of the perihelion and take it for the sun…, some regard the image of YHWH, His messenger, the Word, as His very self." (On Dreams, I:239)

That is exactly what occurred when Yeshua was viewed through Gentile filters several centuries later: he was confused with the Father. This was not the intent of the authors who knew him personally. This was a common literary style of Yeshua’s day. Granted, it is more like the complicated pattern of Greek philosophy than the more straightforward Hebrew. But no one thought Philo was inventing a new religion.

How is the “Word made flesh”?

"The logos is to YHWH as the corona is to the sun...which man can look upon when he cannot look directly on the sun itself,” wrote Philo. “The logos is that alone which can be seen of YHWH...

Yochanan says, “the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us”—and this after saying “the Word [logos] was elohim” (1:1-2). You can see why this causes much confusion! As we saw above, elohim can have quite a range of meanings. But even the Greek makes a distinction between theos as describing the Word and ho theos (“the God”) as describing the Father. Verse 18 of the same chapter places strict parameters on how we interpret this:

        No one has ever seen YHWH, but the only-begotten Son, who is close at the Father's side—he has made         Him known.

This removes any basis for equating Yeshua with YHWH, since he was seen by many. But his actions show us exactly what YHWH is like. “The Word was made flesh” can also mean he embodied the Torah by living it out. The “word” was fleshed out and brought “down to earth” for us when Yeshua showed us how YHWH intended the Torah to be walked out. So he can say, "He who has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9) without contradicting the fact that he is separate entity sent by the Father, who also worships the Father as his Elohim (20:17—even after his resurrection!) and prays to Him (John 17, etc.) Yeshua is like "glasses" by which we can focus on YHWH. But the glasses, while crucial to someone with limited vision, are not themselves the focus.  

If he says, “I and the Father are one”, it means they are in full agreement. I and my wife are one, also, so you could say she is me and I am her, but not in every sense. He speaks of the glory he had with the Father before the world began (John 17:5). Yet when he said this he was praying; why would he need to pray if he were “God”? And in this very passage, he makes a clear distinction between his will and the Father’s. So his oneness with the Father was still a choice, not something he had innately; it was something he could lose, which is why his temptation was such a struggle; but even the Renewed Covenant says "YHWH cannot be tempted with evil" (Yaaqov/James 1:13); this precludes the idea that Yeshua could be deity.

The Law of Agency

When Yeshua performed his miracles, the multitudes were amazed, saying, “What kind of person is this?” Yet every type of miracle that he did had been done by the prophets before him—even raising the dead. Of course, they all converged in Yeshua because the time was right. But were any of the prophets considered to be Yahweh in the flesh just because YHWH empowered them in the same way? Look at the people’s response to his miracles: they "gave honor to YHWH, who had given such power to men". (Mat. 9:8)

It was the Gentile mindset that would see such power and consider the men themselves to be gods. (Acts 14:11-12) Such tales of demigods and incarnations of deities in Greco-Roman mythology are what led to the doctrines which were questioned and often strongly opposed by most of the eastern churches before Constantine required everyone to agree on the interpretation his personal friend favored rather than the one that fit better with the more ancient writings in the minds of the churches more familiar with the Middle Eastern way of interpreting the sayings and actions of Yeshua.  (This is detailed in Richard Rubenstein’s When Jesus Became God.)

Philo said YHWH rules creation through his eternally-existing Word: "I alone... sustained the Universe to rest firmly upon the Mighty Word, who is My viceroy." (On Dreams, I:241)

Yeshua constantly speaks of being “sent”. This means he is a messenger, which in the ancient Israelite context meant he was endued with the full authority of the One he represents. As Yahweh's prime agent, he speaks on the father's behalf as if he were Him. One’s agent may speak for him and act “as him” in any given situation where he represents “the one who sent him”—a phrase Yeshua applies to himself on so many occasions, especially in the book of Yochanan. It is the antidote right within the same book which, if interpreted wrongly, can appear to lead to the idea that Yeshua is a deity. 

Yeshua calls YHWH his Elohim.  In fact, a king who was just called "Elohim" is told, "Elohim--your Elohim--has anointed you wit the oil of joy above your fellows". (Psalm 45:6-7)

The servant represented the one who had sent him. This is how we must understand Yeshua’s words, “He who has seen me has seen the Father.” (Yochanan 14:9) This does not mean he is the Father. We cannot look at his words with a Greek mind. It is the same as when he told his students, “He who receives you receives me.” (Mat. 10:41ff) This does not mean they are him, but that whenever they go anywhere, they are representing him and either upholding or ruining his reputation. 

In Egypt, Joseph was powerful. He had his own chariots! (Yeshayahu 22:15ff) But everyone in an ancient king’s court, no matter how highly placed, is still called “servant of the king”. To the people, he is a ruler, but to the king, he is still a servant. This one simple important principle helps us understand so many things related to Yeshua’s position that would otherwise be confusing. 

When Uziyahu became leprous and had to be quarantined though still officially the king, his son Yotham held this position and essentially ruled for him. The son of the king usually did not hold nearly this much power while the king was still alive, but because of other circumstances he was made “officer of the house”. (2 Chron. 28:7) He was considered a “father” to Yehudah and the inhabitants of Yerushalayim. He sounds much like a king in his own right. This is considered a Messianic passage by the rabbis. To YHWH, Yeshua is “the one over the house”--one of many subordinates, though the highest--but to those beneath him, he carries heavy authority. This may explain why, in Ezekiel’s vision of the Temple during the Kingdom, there is no king, but only a prince; ultimately, Yahweh alone is King in Israel. Yet because He cannot be seen, there is one who is “king” on his behalf.

Understanding the King’s Titles

So why are we told that people “worshipped him” (Mat. 2:11; 8:2 et al)? In our modern, Western world where we seldom even have kings, this confuses people into equating Yeshua with Yahweh. But the word thus translated by King James means to bow in homage or prostrate in reverence for someone of superior rank, such as a teacher or king. 

People who did their homework recognized that Yeshua, as firstborn in his family, was next in line to be king in David’s dynasty should the throne be recovered. In this sense he had the right to be bowed down to. Even Daniel and Mordekhai, both famous for their refusals of idolatry, bowed down to kings of other nations. They knew the difference. 

Why is Yeshua called the “Son of Elohim”, then? Again, this was a specific title for the king of Israel. (Psalm 2) Throughout the Near East, when a king took the throne, he took on the name of his nation’s supreme deity in one way or another. These names are called “theophoric”, that is, giving tribute to the deity. It was even common for a king in the Ancient Near East to be considered to be born of his supreme deity by adoption, as an underruler. We see this in what David said at Shlomo’s coronation:

  I will declare the decree: Yahweh has said unto me, “You are My Son; today I have begotten you.” (Psalm 2:7)

YHWH promised that He had chosen to become “Father” to David’s son. (1 Chron. 22:9ff; 28:6) The title “Son of Elohim” applied to Shlomoh’s successors as well:

  "I will be his Father, and he shall be my Son… My mercy will not depart from him…and your house and your kingdom will be established for ever before you; your throne will be established for ever.” (2 Shmu’el 7:14-16)

Long before Yeshua, many of the prophets speak of the expected continuation of the Davidic kingship after a long hiatus. When Yeshua’s mother was told that her son would be called “Son of the Most High” (Lk. 1:28ff), it was an idiomatic way of saying he would be the one with the right to sit on David’s throne, it was in order to identify and proclaim him as this Davidic king.

“Messiah” means “anointed one”. The purpose of anointing with oil was to denote YHWH’s choice of who was to lead. (1 Shmu’el 10:1) Any king of Israel can therefore be called the Messiah (YHWH’s anointed). 

We never see an account of Yeshua literally being anointed with oil, though genealogically, he had the right to the throne of Yehudah and Israel if such a throne were to become available in his day. Dead Sea Scroll 4Q246 states that the Messiah

  “will be called the Son of Elohim; they will call him the Son of Elyon [the Most High]… He will judge the world in righteousness… and every nation will bow down to him… With His help he will make war, and …he will give all things into his power.” (Wise and Tabor, Biblical Archaeological Review, Nov./Dec. 1992)

So this was the common expectation of the pious as the date set by Daniel approached. The Ebionites, the strain of Yeshua’s followers who seem to have stuck most closely to his original viewpoints, saw his immersion by Yochanan, when Yahweh said of him, “This is My beloved Son” (Mat. 3:17; 17:5), as the point at which he was declared “Son of Elohim.”

But in the same context He also said,
If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men.” (2 Shmu’el 7:14)

That’s not something a god would need—unless it was a Greek one!  (Yeshua could have committed iniquity--he was genuinely tempted--but he did not. --1 Peter 2:22)

So why is the Messiah called “mighty God” and “everlasting father”? (Isaiah/Yeshayahu 9:6) The Hebrew terms are El-Gibbor and Avi-Ad. El means “mighty one” or “judge”, and is part of many Hebrew people’s names.  Gibbor means "heroic". Avi-Ad means “permanent patriarch”, indicating that he will remain the head of that household for life. From the point he was given authority forward, he is the head of all Israel. It can also be translated "father of continuity", for through him was the image of Elohim that was lost by Adam regained and allowed to continue, and we can participate in it!

The king had authority over Yahweh’s household, Israel. Do not read anything else into this; it is not saying the king becomes divine. Another of the king’s titles was “messenger of Elohim” (2 Shmu’el 14:17, 20). These titles do not equate Yeshua with YHWH, but show that He is a representative of the reign of Yahweh in the physical realm—a reminder that “Imanu-El” (Elohim is with us). 

Originally these were all names for someone born in Yeshayahu’s own day—King Hizqiyahu. But as a secondary, prophetic reference this verse was seen as Messianic long before the Christian era.   I am by no means a minimalist in this regard; indeed, a Hebraic rule of interpretation is that if a passage can, with integrity and agreement with the rest of Scripture, be taken in more than one way, it should be.  But by going immediately to the most miraculous ways of seeing these things, we often miss many of the other levels of interpretation which the Jews, "unencumbered" by the tendency to see everything as a type of Messiah, more easily notice and highlight.  We need to do both, for YHWH has messages for us at every level of interpretation.

Yahweh is the ultimate king of Israel. David’s throne, on which Shlomoh sat, is even called the throne of the Kingdom of YHWH. (1 Chron. 28:5) So when Yeshua says he will be allowed to sit on his father’s throne (Rev. 3:21; Luke 1:32), he is actually speaking of David’s throne for both reasons.  His throne is at his Father's right hand; he is not enthroned in place of his Father.

The king is said to save the needy, so he is a “savior” (2 Shmu’el 19:9; Psalm 72:4, 13) so Israel can remain free from oppressors. Yahweh raises up deliverers any time Israel cries out to Him. (Judges 3:9, 15) (2 Kings 13:4) David’s prayer for Shlomoh (Psalm 72) includes the hope that his reign will bring justice for the poor, peace, the flourishing of the righteous, that the needy would be redeemed from violence, that other nations would serve him and bring him tribute--and attributes the success he will experience to Yahweh (v. 18) 

The Order of Melkhitzedeq

David also wrote Psalm 110 for Shlomo’s coronation, as, for political reasons, his successor was installed while David was still alive. He calls him a “priest” not of the order of Aharon, but “after the order of Melkhitzedeq” (v. 4). What does that mean? In Second Temple times there were many far-fetched theories based on this phrase, but in fact the explanation is quite simple. 

Melkhitzedeq was “king of Shalem” (an early name for Yerushalayim) and “priest of El Elyon” (B’reyshith/Gen. 4:18). So He was both a priest and a king. His name also means “my king is righteous”. So his “order” (dibra--“style”, “manner”, or “reason”) is defined by these elements: a righteous king, reigning in Yerushalayim, and somehow in the role of a priest of Yahweh. The one who ruled from Yerushalayim would be of that order—i.e., he would “be a priest in the same way Melkhitzedeq was (and for the same reason).” This role was first applied to Shlomoh, the first Israelite king initially enthroned at Yerushalayim.  

But how did he function as a priest? He built the Temple and inaugurated the use of the altar by dedicating it. So this is a king’s prerogative. Three times a year he offered ascending offerings, peace offerings, and burned incense on the altar. (1 Kgs. 9:25) He blessed all of Israel in Yahweh’s name (1 Kgs. 8:14ff; 2 Shm. 6:17-18) as the high priest also did. (Num. 6:22; 1 Chron. 23:13) 

The Torah tells us that a priest’s role is to provide judgment and justice. (Deut. 17:9-12; 21:5) David did the same. (2 Shmu’el 8:15) Two priests were part of his “cabinet” of officials, along with generals, scribes, etc. One was Tzadoq the high priest; the other was related to him, but chosen as sort of a “personal priest” to David when he was fleeing from King Sha’ul. (1 Shm. 22:20ff) He was later removed from this office by Shlomoh to fulfill a prophecy that none of Eli’s descendants would retain authority. (1 Shm. 3:12) So a king had the authority to remove a priest who held his position because of a political arrangement (as opposed to holding it by the authority of the Torah, which he could never change). 

David had some of his own sons in the role of cohanim (literally, officiators), the same word usually translated priest. (1 Shm. 8:18) They did not officiate in the Tabernacle, however. They held this second kind of priesthood. Thus it is not surprising that Shlomoh or any of his descendants can be called a priest, though they are not of the tribe of Levi. 

Yoshiyahu restored the worship of YHWH after a long period of paganism in Yehudah. He told the high priest how to spend money brought into the Temple treasury. (2 Kings 22) So the king had authority over the finances of the Temple. 

This gives us the necessary background to understand Yeshua’s driving the moneychangers out of what he called “my Father’s house”. (Mark 11:15ff; also compare 12:41-43) The religious establishment in place at the Temple now was not from the line of Tzadoq, but were priests who had bought their positions when Rome sold them to the highest bidders. The Temple officials were growing rich by “gouging” the worshippers who needed to buy animals for offerings, because they had a monopoly on the market. 

When he disrupted their commerce, the priests and scribes became afraid and began looking for a way to kill him. Why didn’t they just have him arrested and escorted away by the guards? Because undoubtedly people had kept up with who the rightful heir to the throne of David was, though no one had exercised the authority that came with it for over 600 years, and they knew a Judahite king had the right to forbid any activity in the Temple precinct that violated the Torah. He was following in the reforms of his ancestor Yoshiyahu. This was all they needed to bring the charge against him that he said he was king. No one but a king could do this. It sealed his death certificate, but they did not dispute his right to do this. They had to find a roundabout way to get rid of him.

What we never see is a king doing an ordinary task of the priests. Uziyahu tried, but was struck with leprosy for doing so when warned by the priests not to. (2 Chron. 26)  The king acts in a priestly role only on special dedicatory occasions. We see evidence in Y’hezq’el (Ezekiel) 45-46 that this will again be done in the Messianic Kingdom. This royal “priest” does not infringe on the prerogatives of the ordinary priests, but makes special occasional offerings. No one else who was not a Levitical priest had the right to do so.

The Kinsman Redeemer

The night before his Passover-day death, Yeshua announced that he had renewed the covenant. (Matt. 26:28) His blood would ratify it. What did he mean by that? This was not some mystical Mithraic ritual, though it was later used as an excuse for such elements to remain alive. Its meaning was much more down-to-earth than that.

After Yeshua’s resurrection, as he headed up the Mount of Olives, we are told that

those who had come together were confronting Him with a question, saying, “Master, is this the time when You will restore the kingship to Israel [just as it was]?” (Acts 1:6)

He had just spent 3 years teaching them, and this was the foremost question in their minds. They knew this was one of the tasks the prophesied Messiah had to fulfill. Yeshayahu/Isaiah 49:6 says it is not enough for him "to raise up the tribes of Yaaqov and the faithfully-guarded ones of Israel"; as a reward for his sacrificial faithfulness, he would be given other privileges as well. But the fact that it is an added reward indicates that his chief role was to "resuscitate" these tribes of Israel. 

Who is the Israel spoken of here? The Jews are one tribe. But after Solomon allowed his foreign wives to bring idolatry into Israel, Yahweh split Israel into two kingdoms. David's throne remained with Yehudah (the Jews), but the name "Israel" stayed with the ten tribes given to Jeroboam, from the tribe of Ephraim, who had tried to persuade Solomon's son Rehoboam to lighten their work loads. This is a distinction we must keep in mind when reading the prophets. But Jeroboam took the liberty of setting up alternatives to the dwelling place Yahweh had selected. The Northern Kingdom also kept mixing religions, and walked more and more "in the ways of the Gentiles" (2 Kings 17:8; Hos. 7:8; 8:8). They wanted to be just like other nations, so they were taken to other nations. The punishment fit the crime: the penalty was that they had to actually BECOME Gentiles!

The Jews have already returned to the Land of their heritage, having lost it only temporarily for a particular transgression. (2 Chron. 36:21) But the Northern Kingdom (also grouped under the king’s tribe, Ephraim) forsook the covenant altogether. 

Yet while He scattered Israel, still He promised to not lose even one of them. (Amos 9; Jer. 16:14) 

Yeshua constantly alluded to this in his parables. Remember the prodigal's father, who had one son still at home, looking expectantly for his other son to return? At the time Y’shua told this story, Judah was still at home, safe in the sheepfold, but though Yahweh had forsaken Ephraim "for a moment", His heart longed to have His firstborn back! "How can I give up you up, my son?" (Hos. 11:8) 

He promised to plead the case of both Ephraim and Yehudah. (Yirmeyahu 50:33ff) The Jews came back after the Babylonian captivity, and they have come back again in very recent years. But when does Ephraim ever show up again?

Ah, that is the question that must haunt everyone who wants to see how Scripture applies to today’s world. And that is the question that haunted those disciples of Yeshua on the Mount of Olives—the place the prophet had said the Kingdom would begin. (Z’kharyah 14:4)

Not long after this we hear the apostles raving about how many are “returning to Yahweh from among the Gentiles” (a better rendering of the Greek in Acts 15:19 than the common translation “turning”).  

To return to Yahweh, you had to have known Him at one time. This phrase “among the Gentiles” is the exact description of where the Northern Kingdom would end up as its punishment for idolatry. (Hoshea 8:8) So this is a code-phrase, a clue to what we are supposed to think of when we hear those words; they should “ring a bell”.

Why else would the apostles, sent to the “Gentiles”, begin their search in every local synagogue? Because some of those "Gentiles" (Isaiah 42:4) were feeling the pull back to their roots and had taken the first step to learn what they could about the Elohim of Israel. This was no haphazard, shotgun approach aiming at all Gentiles anywhere. They went where they expected to find the most of this type of non-Jew. They are later called "former Gentiles"! (1 Cor. 12:2; Eph. 2:11) Now they were full-fledged Israelites, never to be treated according to what they used to be.

Yaaqov (James) came right out and said what Paul only alluded to, addressing his letter directly to "the twelve tribes in the dispersion"! Kefa (Peter) describes his audience as those "who in time past ... had ‘not received mercy’ but have now received mercy." (1 Peter 2:10) This is a direct reference to Hosea chapter 1’s description of the Northern Kingdom. 

This gives a very different angle on the "New Testament"! It was specifically addressed to those whose ancestors had been party to the first covenant--and had broken it. If you consider the New Testament to be applicable to you, therefore, we could bet that you are one of their descendants. 

Because so much emphasis is put in the Church on the idea of original sin, it is easy to overlook this other reason that forgiveness of sins is so central to the Gospel's emphasis:

  "He [Yeshua] is the mediator of the new covenant, so that by … the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, those who are called might receive the promise of an eternal inheritance." (Heb. 9:15)

The covenant is with those who turn from transgression when the Redeemer comes. (Yeshayahu 59:19) But the covenant will be renewed only with the House of Yehudah and the House of Ephraim. (Yirmeyahu/Jeremiah 31:31) It can only be renewed between the same parties who participated in it the first time. That is the revolutionary “missing link” that has made many of us who were influenced by Yeshua recognize that “if you belong to Messiah, you are Avraham’s descendants”. (Galatians 3:29)

But if our ancestors broke the covenant, what gives us the right to just come back and call ourselves part of Israel? They had sold themselves to those around them, and taken on their ways. (Lev. 25:47) Now those others were their legal owners. They had to pay to get their heritage back. According to the Torah, if someone loses his connection with his inheritance and is too poor to buy it back, a relative must buy it back for him in order to keep it in the family. (Leviticus 25:25) We see an example of this law of the “Kinsman Redeemer” being lived out in the book of Ruth.

The Northern Kingdom was no longer in a position where the word was so “near to us, on our tongues and in our hearts”; we had been so long in a pagan context where the deeper things were always seen as mysterious and far away, so it was as if the word had moved back to heaven—a result of Yahweh’s hiding His face from us because of our sins. If He was not manifested again for the House of Israel, how could we ever know Him? 

Only someone with his feet firmly on solid ground can rescue someone else. The Kinsman Redeemer for the lost tribes would thus have to be someone who was still solidly within the covenant. None of the Northern Kingdom’s immediate relatives were left in a position to redeem us; the closest of kin that were still recognizable was Yehudah. (Hoshea 12:1) So redemption would have to come from Yehudah.

There are other applications of this phrase, but that is the simplest way in which Yeshua can reconcile us to YHWH through his blood. (Col. 1:20). 

If someone joined another household for honorable reasons, he was considered to have the same father as those naturally born into that house. If we can no longer clearly trace our blood connection to Israel, Yeshua can give us a “transfusion” of his blood and extend his family honor to us. It is his blood (the fact that we were blood relatives) that brought us near when once we were aliens from the covenant. (Eph. 2:11ff) 

YHWH had said, “Declare it to the far-off coastlands that He who scattered Israel will regather him and keep watch over him like a shepherd." (Yirmiyahu 31:10)

Philo wrote that “in and through [the Word], Yahweh reaches out to His creation.” So the “son” manifested Him by sending emissaries to make that declaration. 

When he said, “I am the good shepherd” , he was alluding to these specific prophecies (also in Ezekiel 34:23 and 37:24) that Yahweh would raise up a shepherd to meet this very need. He was saying, “That was referring to me. I am the one it is talking about”, because he fit the bill and made himself available to get the job done. 

Now that Messiah’s work of being a Kinsman-Redeemer was completed, the Kingdom was indeed to be restored to Israel. (Acts 1:6) He was the one who had set them thinking this way. (v. 3) But it had to all be done in the right order:

So he told them, “It is not yours to know the chronology or the critical epochs which the Father has established for Himself as His own prerogative, but you will receive [effective] power [as] the Spirit of Holiness arrives upon you, and you will be witnesses for Me, not only in Yerushalayim, [but] also in all of Yehudah, Shomron, and up to the farthest extremity of the earth.” (Acts 1:7-8)

This is not a change in subject. Shomron (Samaria) was the nearest area where there was a substantial number of "Lost Sheep of the House of Israel" (Mat. 15:24; Yochanan 4), and the former capital of the Northern Kingdom, and thus it was “shorthand” for all the House of Joseph. So he was essentially saying, “Yes, I have come to restore the Kingdom; now go do it.” An integral part of any kingdom is a population for the king to rule over, and only one of the twelve tribes was there to crown the king; that would not do. 

So Yeshua sent people to find the scattered tribes of Israel, and he eventually found a stronger following among them than among Yehudah. Why?

Because Yeshua made a reparation for the mistake of his ancestor Rehav’am. While Rehav’am made the yoke heavier for the other tribes, his descendant Yeshua said, "my yoke is easy and my burden is light."  (Mat. 11:30)

In a definitive meeting at Jerusalem (Acts 15), the leaders of Yeshua's community laid down only four ground rules so that they would not be laying an oppressive burden on those returning from among the Gentiles. The bare essentials—a kosher diet, niddah, and the forsaking of idolatry and sexual immorality--were the first requirement, so they could eat at the same table with Yehudah. But most have missed the very next statement, which qualifies it: "Because Moshe (Torah) is taught every Shabbat in every city's synagogue"! I.e., "Go there and learn the rest at a pace that is not burdensome to you!"

So for all these reasons, for us Yeshua can be no marginal figure, but is an indispensable aspect of our return to covenant!

An old Southern adage tells us to “dance with the one who brung ya.” So while we are discarding some added doctrines of Christianity, we cannot “throw the baby out with the bathwater”. The core around which the barnacles grew is still solid and trustworthy.

One Man is Not Meant to Be Alone

But David’s royal seed is called “firstborn”. (Psalm 89:23ff) Philo said, "The Father who begat him constituted His Word such a Bond of the Universe as nothing can break." (Noah's Work as a Planter, I: 8-9)

“Only [begotten] son” is also a term that was used of Isaac, although Abraham did indeed have other sons. The firstborn received a double portion of the inheritance of any other sons. Yeshua is “unique” and “special” as the term “only begotten” also implies in Hebrew, and Psalm 45 highlights this way in which Yeshua is exalted beyond his fellows--yet he is called the firstfruits (incidentally, the same Hebrew term as “firstborn”). That implies there are more children or fruit more to come. And that was his point.

He said, “I am the light of the world”, and Christians made a mystery doctrine out of that. But he also said, “You are the light of the world.” His “incarnating” of the “word” was not meant to be unique. Yeshua intends to raise us to his level. “When he appears [is revealed], we will be like him.” (1 Yochanan 3:2) The New Testament speaks of Yahweh, through Yeshua, “bringing many sons unto glory”. 

Hosea specifically said the prodigal Northern Kingdom—called “not my people” at that time-- would one day be called "sons of the living Elohim"! (1:10) Sure enough, we find this phrase used to describe those redeemed by Yeshua. (1 John 3:1) 

Yeshua did not intend to remain the only “son of Elohim”, the lone focus as so many have made him, but to be the firstborn of many brothers who manifest what Yahweh is like. (Rom. 8:29) Blood gives one the right to be the redeemer, but the one who redeems also becomes our brother. The Redeemer is our kinsman! He wants us to be what he is! (Jn. 17:20ff) The Word is meant to continue to be fleshed out, with Yeshua being the Head of a whole “body”—the restored image of Elohim that Adam lost. (1 Cor. 15:21-23)

This is more powerful than having a redeemer who is like an angel. Those who saw a man succeed in loving YHWH by loving his brothers perfectly could with confidence testify that someone had already arrived in the Kingdom--and therefore the rest of us could get there as well. 

The message of one who is arguably the greatest man who ever lived was sidelined by turning him into a deity. Sheer evil genius! Let’s be sure that it stops here, so that his real agenda can be fulfilled, because it is as much needed today as it was back then. His work is not finished, because Ephraim is only beginning to wake up to his role in renewing the covenant. When we see Yeshua in his proper context, we can advance much more quickly toward getting done what he was trying to do.


*"Know and act wisely: From the issuing of the word to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the prince, [there will be] 7 weeks, then 62 weeks... Then after the 62 weeks Messiah the prince will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the coming prince will make the city and the sanctuary [into] ruins..." (Daniel 9:25-26)

So Messiah had to come before the Temple was again destroyed. That places him before 70 C.E. The term "weeks" here can mean "sets of seven (years)". 69 (7+62) sets of seven totals 483. So the Messiah also had to come 483 years after this decree was issued. So… when was it issued? 

445 B.C.E. was the 20th year of Artaxerxes, when Nehemiah said the king let him go rebuild Jerusalem, on the new moon of Nisan. (Neh. 2) 483 years from then would appear to come out at 38 C.E., but there is another factor. Prior to 701 B.C.E., a year was exactly 360 days long (which is why a circle has 360 degrees). That year, calendars around the world all had to be recalculated due to a planetary passby that changed an earth-year to 365 days. In the 19th century, Sir Robert Anderson recognized that any prophetic year has 360 days. (The Coming Prince) So we are dealing with 173,880 days, or, as we count them today, or 476 years and 25 days. 

Taking into account lunar cycles and intercalary years as measured prior to 360 C.E., Anderson calculated that this 483-year period ended in 32 C.E. on Nisan 10--the day Israel is commanded to select a lamb, four days before Passover; the very day on which Yeshua, upon seeing Jerusalem, said, 

"If only you had known on this, your day--what could lead to your peace, but... you did not recognize the time of your visitation.” (Luke 19:42-44)

This was the day anyone reading Daniel should have known the Messiah was to appear. 

The likely site of Pilate's judgment hall, where Y'shua was condemned to be crucified; below, Gulgol'tha, the "place of the skull", where the sentence was carried out