The Hebrew Bible, known to Christians as the Old Testament, introduces the concept of a messiah, an anointed one of God who will come to usher in an era where all people of earth will live together harmoniously and righteously. The Jews believe that this idea is implied in the story of Creation. According to Rabbinical thinking, God wanted us to live with Him in a paradise, so He created the Garden of Eden. Human sin required us to be expelled; yet, when Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden, God did not destroy Eden. Rather, He maintained it and is awaiting a time when we will be worthy of returning.
According to Judaism, the Messianic Age is the time when the Messiah will bring us back to the kind of world that God originally intended. This time is described by a number of the prophets, and further references to the Messiah can also be found in the Psalms. A large number of these have to do with the future birth of the Messiah – which Christians recognize to be Christmas!
Before reviewing some of these, let us engage in an imaginary exercise to help us appreciate both the astonishing accuracy of these writings and the equally astonishing unlikelihood of them all coming to pass.
Imagine that in Waco, Texas, ancient scrolls are uncovered which were written 600 to 1,000 years ago. Some were written before the discovery of America by Columbus, and all were written before the American Revolution. The scrolls predict that someone in our generation will be born who is of the direct lineage of George Washington. This person would be descended from a long line of important founders of America, all of whom were known to be from Virginia. The scrolls further reveal that the person would be born in Tarrant County, Texas in the town of Azle. Miraculously, his mother would be a virgin. At the time of his birth, dignitaries from other countries would mysteriously know about him and would come to worship him and present him with precious gifts, believing he was a special envoy from God.
In addition, our imaginary prophecies would also reveal that as a result of this child being born, local ruling tyrants would make an attempt to murder him. This would result in the deaths of many other innocent children whose mothers would weep over their loss. To protect this special child from the tyrants, his father would take him to another country, later bringing him back. This future child would grow up to lead a religious revolution.
Now, imagine that all this came to be true in our lifetime, fulfilling the predictions of these centuries-old scrolls. As astronomically unlikely as the creation, preservation and fulfillment of these written prophecies might seem, this is a fair parallel to what we have in the ancient Hebrew Scripture prophecies about Jesus!
Let us take a look at the prophecies concerning the birth of Jesus.
We know Jesus was of Jewish descent and therefore was the seed of Abraham. In Genesis 22:18 we are told that through Abraham’s offspring “all nations on earth will be blessed.” Christians believe Jesus is the fulfillment of this promise.
We also know that He is from the line of Jacob, Abraham’s grandson. Numbers 24:17: “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel.”
From Isaiah 11:1 we know He is from the line of Jesse, the father of King David: “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a branch will bear fruit. The spirit of the Lord will rest on him.”
From Jeremiah 23:5-6 we know He is from the line of King David: “The days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land … This is the name by which he will be called: the Lord our righteous savior.”
Reaffirming that Jesus is from the line of King David, we have this prophecy from 2 Samuel 7:12-13, which was actually spoken by Samuel to King David: “When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.”
From the prophecy of Micah, 5:2 we know He was born into the tribe of Judah in the region of Ephrathah, in the town of Bethlehem: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”
From Isaiah 7:14 we know that He was born from a virgin: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and you will call him Immanuel.” The name Immanuel means “God with us” and indicates the divinity of Jesus.
That Jesus would be worshipped by shepherds from the desert, and that foreign kings would present gifts to Him is revealed in Psalm 72:9,10: “May the desert tribes bow before him and his enemies lick the dust. May the Kings of Tarshish and of distant shores bring tribute to him. May the Kings of Sheba and Seba present him gifts. May all Kings bow down to him and all nations serve him.”
When Jesus was born, King Herod slaughtered a number of children in an attempt to kill Him. This is predicted in Jeremiah 31:15: “A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”
In response to this attempt on the life of Jesus, Joseph is warned in a dream to take Jesus to Egypt, where they stayed until Herod died. This is predicted in Hosea 11:1: “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.”
We conclude our review of these ancient writings by marveling at them collectively. These biblical prophecies are astonishing because of their accuracy alone. Yet, they become all the more astonishing when we consider the unlikelihood of all of these prophecies being fulfilled … but they were!
Dr. David Teitelbaum