David's Greater Son
(A Jewish Perspective on the Dual Nature of the Messiah)
©January 19, 2007 Asher Intrater
The faith of ancient Israel started with one man – Abraham – and his family. That family then grew to a tribe, and ultimately to a people (at the time of Moses.) As that people found a homeland in Canaan, they began to organize themselves as a nation. The nation needed a top-ruling government official: a king.
The people demanded their own king in their own way, without submitting to the will of God. This brought about a kingdom that had a wrong base of power and authority – and, the wrong king. That first human-based monarchy, under King Saul, was doomed to failure. Yet the idea of a kingdom and a king for the nation of Israel, whose power and authority came from God, was the original plan of scriptures from before the creation of the world (see Matthew 25:34).
David's Kingdom Government
That kingdom was started with God's choice, King David. There was tension and war for many years between the "politically" based kingdom of Saul and the "spiritually" based kingdom of David. Ultimately, David's kingdom gained the upper hand, and the first stage of God's pre-destined monarchy became established. God promised David that his kingdom and his throne would last forever (II Samuel 7:13-17; Psalm 89:3-4, 19-20).
The concept of an eternal and divinely sanctioned empire became the central axis of faith in ancient Israel. It is the foundation of what we refer to today as "the kingdom of God." This ideal kingdom was to be led by an ideal king. He would embody the perfect values of this perfect society. This divinely "anointed" king was referred to as the Messiah or Mashiach (meaning anointed one in Hebrew). This Messiah was pictured as David's "greater" son.
The New Covenant scriptures start with establishing the fact that Yeshua (Jesus) is that son of David.
(Note that in Hebrew numbers are written by letters; and words are written without vowels. David is written D-V-D. D = 4 and V = 6. Therefore the name David numerically equals fourteen!)
The starting point of the New Covenant is that Yeshua is David's son, and His kingdom a continuance of David's kingdom. This connection between David and Yeshua is essential. The Messianic kingdom was promised to David and his seed. If Yeshua is not connected to David, then He cannot be the Messiah. Jewish people tend to have difficulty seeing David's kingdom continuing forward into Yeshua, while Christians have difficulty seeing Yeshua's kingdom connected back historically to David's.
Isaiah's Kingdom Vision
Although David was a righteous and inspired man of God, he was not perfect and could not fulfill all the requirements for the perfect Messiah. There was some hope that his son Solomon would rise to that ideal perfection of the Messiah. As great and wise a man as Solomon was, he too was not perfect, and eventually fell into even more sin than his father David. With Solomon's son Rechavam, the situation did not improve, but only deteriorated.
While the hope for the messianic king and kingdom was preserved within the nation of Israel, the kingdom and its kings were plagued with continual problems. Some of the prophets of Israel (such as Elijah) began to confront the people with their sin, while other prophets (such as Isaiah) began to envision a new and improved kingdom on a higher spiritual level. Isaiah 2 portrays a world of international peace and spiritual revival with its capital or center at Jerusalem.
Isaiah saw not only a spiritual improvement of David's kingdom, but also a special king who would lead that kingdom. This king would be called Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14; 8:8), Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). This special "Son" would not do away with David's kingdom, but rather extend it and improve it.
Isaiah began to picture this messianic king as David's son, yet more than David's son.
(This shows that he is a human physical descendant of David.)
(This shows that he will have a supernatural anointing, as yet unknown to any man at that time.)
So God first promised a basic kingdom government to David. Then God prophesied additional, spiritual dimensions about that kingdom through Isaiah.
Over the past hundred years, the Chassidic stream of orthodox Judaism has developed an understanding of their chief rabbis (called "rebbe") as a messianic figure with supernatural anointing. The rebbe is more than just a rabbinical leader. He is a Tsaddik - such a holy and righteous man, that some of his holiness and righteousness gets imparted to his followers who associate and identify with him. He is seen as kind of a ladder connecting man and God.
In some of the literature from the Lubavitch movement, Rebbe Schneerson was purported to have the anointing of Isaiah 11:2, and therefore he was more than a mere mortal man. In the Breslev movement they claim that there is redemptive and supernatural power in reciting their rebbe's name, Nachman, over and over in a mantra-like phrase ("Na Nach Nachman Meuman").
The Lubavitch and Breslev movements see their rebbes as descendants of King David and therefore as the Messiah B'cheskah. This refers to someone in the position of the Messiah; who is potentially the Messiah; the Messiah in formative stage. (The Lubavitch movement went so far as to say that Isaiah 53 was referring to their rebbe when he was sick before he died.)
So the idea that the messiah is David's son, yet more than David's son, is not strange to the Jewish world, neither in the prophets, nor even in some streams of rabbinic Judaism. This is what Yeshua referred to when He said, "How can the Messiah be both David's son and David's Lord?" – Matthew 22:42-45; Luke 20:41-44. This tension between the Messiah being a man, yet more than a man; David's son yet more than David's son, is a dramatic challenge that is left unsolved at the end of the period of the Law and the Prophets.
The Heavenly Man
Isaiah's vision of the Messiah was a major step forward in prophetic revelation from David's kingdom. The understanding of the Messiah in the New Covenant is another leap forward in the same prophetic stream. Here the fullness of the messiah's supernatural and divine nature comes to light.
Interestingly enough the New Covenant revelation of the divine nature of the messiah is explained by pointing us back to a figure in the Law and the Prophets – not King David, but the figure known as the "Angel of the Lord." Here are some examples:
Note: The Hebrew form in the phrase "the Angel of the Lord" is called s'michut. In this grammatical structure two nouns are placed together, somewhat like in the English words "book-end" or "camp-fire". It literally says Angel-YHVH. The words "the" and "of" do not appear in the original. This can mean either "an angel coming from the Lord" or simply "Jehovah Angel".
The Mystery of Messiah
How can this figure be both a messenger from God and at the same time referred to as YHVH himself? This mystery certainly plagued the rabbis. Their opinions were split. The Talmud (Tractate Shavu'ot 35:72) says that the name of these figures was Kodesh (holy), meaning they were divine. On the other hand, the Midrash according to Rashi says that they were all Chol (not holy), meaning they were mere men or angels. This mystery is not solved in the Law or the Prophets, nor in rabbinic writings.
The New Covenant begins in Matthew describing Yeshua as the son of David. It ends in Revelation describing Yeshua as the divine angel of the Lord (Revelation 1:8, 11-17). This description of Yeshua is virtually identical with the description of the YHVH angel in Daniel 10.
Yeshua is the divine angel of the Lord who appeared to all of our forefathers. We react to the divinity of Yeshua the Messiah in the same way that our patriarchs and prophets reacted to the divinity of the Angel YHVH. Our forefathers worshiped Him and cut covenant with Him. He is both an emissary from God and an epiphany of God.
Two thousand years ago, that divine angel was born in the midst of men as David's son, circumcised on the eighth day. In that way the prophecy of the miraculous birth of Immanuel (God with us) from Isaiah 7:14 was fulfilled.
The full revelation of the Messiah combines two different images from the Hebrew Law and Prophets: Davidic King and Divine Angel. (In Hebrew, "king" is melech; and "angel" is malach. Yeshua is both "melech" and "malach.") The key word in this dynamic tension is "both."
Many of the mysteries of the Bible are resolved by understanding that God puts together two things that are different, seemingly contradictory: marriage of husband and wife (Genesis 2, Ephesians 5), reconciliation between Israel and the Church (Ezekiel 37, Romans 11), giving to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's (Matthew 22:21), the uniting of heaven and earth (Genesis 1, Ephesians 1:10).
In the case of Messiah Yeshua, we have the great mystery (I Timothy 3:16) of the human and the divine coming together. Genesis 1:26-28 states that man was created to be the image and likeness of God. Only in Yeshua do we see man coming fully into the image of God, and God coming fully into the likeness of man.