Unto Us a Child is Born

31 May
unto us a child is born -2

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The Scripture records that Mary brought forth her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger (Luke 2:7). It was her firstborn, but the Scripture also denies that Joseph had any part in Jesus’ conception (Luke 1:34-35; cf. Matthew 1:18-20). This scene recalls to us the prophecy of Isaiah that a “virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:11). Of course many interpretations have been made of this Scripture in order to disclaim its most obvious understanding. However, it is interesting to note that the disclaimers come only after the public ministry of Jesus. Religious folks were not so unbelieving prior to Jesus coming on the scene.

Nearly two millennia prior to the coming of Jesus, Jacob prophesied over his sons, blessing them before he died. He said of Judah:

Genesis 49:10  The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.

The context of this Scripture shows that Judah would be the kingly or royal tribe. Jacob states that Judah will not lack a lawgiver, that is, one of Judah’s descendants would govern his people until the days of “Shiloh” (the Messiah). After this the people will gather around him. The problem arises in that Herod, although he was raised a Jew, was an Idumaean. While this still may allow for Jewish self-rule, certainly this cannot be the case after the banishment of Archelaus after the death of Herod. From cir. 6 AD onward the Jews were ruled directly by Rome, a foreign power. Therefore, according to Jacob’s prophecy, the Messiah must have been born or the word of God can be reasonably contradicted by history.

Later Isaiah prophesied:

Isaiah 9:6-7  For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.  (7)  Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.

Some have presumed that the child predicted in this Scripture is King Hezekiah, but it is not. Neither had it been interpreted to be Hezekiah prior to Jesus’ public ministry. Notice what the Targum Jonathan says:

“For to us a son is born, to us a son is given; and he shall receive the Law upon him to keep it; and his name is called from of Old, wonderful, Counselor, Eloha, The Mighty, Abiding to Eternity, The Messiah, because peace shall be multiplied on us in his days.”

The Targum Jonathan is an Aramaic translation/paraphrase, and was written before Jesus, before there was a desire to change the ‘jots and tittles’ or to change the tense of the verb. Here, even the word “Messiah” is supplied by the Jews who knew what this verse meant.

There is also an early Rabbinical writing on Deuteronomy that offers some insight to Isaiah 9:6. Notice:

Rabbi Samuel, the son of Nachman, said, ‘When Esau met Jacob he said unto him, “My brother Jacob, let us walk together in this world. Jacob replied: Let my Lord, I pray thee, pass over before his servant” (Genesis 33:14) What is the meaning of, “I pray thee, pass over?” Jacob said to him; I have yet to supply the Messiah, of whom it is said: “Unto us a child is born” Midrash (Deuteronomy 2;4)

Rabbi Hillel[1] indeed thought Hezekiah fulfilled these verses, but his criticism comes to us late in the 2nd century AD. The Jews looked for the coming of a Messiah to sit on David’s throne, and, moreover, one whose birth would be surrounded in mystery in the sense of it being miraculous (Isaiah 7:11).[2]


[1] According to Rabbi Aharon Hyman, this Rabbi Hillel is from the late 2nd century AD. He was the grandson of Rabbi Yehudah Ha-Nasi and younger brother of Rabbi Yehudah Nesi’ah I – see Rabbi Aharon Hyman (Toledos Tanna’im Ve-Amora’m, vol. 1 pp. 362-375). Rabbi Hyman lists 14 different people named Hillel who appear in the Talmud.

[2] See Josephus’ account of the Pharisees’ interpretation of the Messiah’s miraculous ‘virgin’ in Herod’s day: Antiquities of the Jews (17.2.4 [041-042]).

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Posted by on May 31, 2016 in Gospel of Luke


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