By Robert Walter
“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord, “When I will raise up for David a righteous Branch; And He will reign as king and act wisely, and do justice and righteousness in the land. In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely; And this is His name by which He will be called, ‘The Lord our righteousness.’”
What is in a name? In the context of Scripture, quite a bit! The biblical authors, the ancient Jewish people, and many in the ancient Near East placed a high value on one’s name. A person’s character, reputation, occupation, and family connection would all be encapsulated in their name. We can relate with this in our day. When a person has worked hard to earn a good reputation, we might say, “He has really made a name for himself.” The ancients would often take it a step further and attribute great religious or even prophetic significance to one’s name.1 Understanding this helps us grasp the significance of not only the names of individuals within Scripture but especially the many names and titles attributed to God and the Messiah throughout the Bible.
The text in Jeremiah 23 is a prime example. The broader context of Jeremiah’s prophecy has him warning of Jerusalem’s coming destruction at the hands of Babylon and specifically rebuking David’s descendants, Judah’s failed kings. The lack of godly leadership, leading to national sin, had created a void and left Judah and Jerusalem susceptible to the impending judgment. Amazingly, in the midst of the bleak and dire warnings, God gave a promise of hope. He would raise up a unique individual to fill Israel’s leadership void. From the names attributed to him, we learn of his two-fold identity. As the “righteous Branch” descended from David, he would be Israel’s long-awaited, righteous human King (2 Samuel 7:12-16). Not only that, this King would bear the holy name of God, “The Lord our righteousness.” This is the only place in the Old Testament where the full name of the Lord (the Tetragrammaton) is used for a human being, and it is utterly profound. This passage speaks to both the humanity and the deity of the coming King.
There has been only one person in history who has embodied this identity and bore these names—Jesus of Nazareth. Indeed, He is the promised Son of David,2 and the Lord our righteousness.3
1. See Genesis 29:32-30:24 and the naming of Jacob’s sons for example.
2. See Matthew 1:1, 20; 9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30-31; 21:9, 15.
3. See John 1:1, 14, 18; 14:9-11; 1 Timothy 1:17; Hebrews 1:3; Colossians 1:15-23; 1 Corinthians 1:30-31
By Dr. Mitch Glaser
“But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little
to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be
ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.”
A Ruler from the Tribe of Judah Born in Bethlehem
There were two Bethlehems, one in the south of Israel and one in the north. The adding of Ephrathah indicates that this is the Bethlehem that is approximately five miles south of Jerusalem and is the ancestral home of Ruth and King David (Ruth 1:1-2; 4:11). The word Bethlehem literally means the “house of bread,” and it is possible that the city was somehow linked to the baking of bread. Bethlehem was known as a city close to Jerusalem where animals for sacrifice were raised.
Micah alludes to the passage in Genesis 49:10 where Jacob predicts that the ruler of Israel would come from the tribe of Judah: “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.” Judah was the fourth son of Jacob, not the first. So God is apparently upsetting the usual order of inheritance by telling the Jewish people that their ultimate ruler would come from the descendants of the fourth son of Israel.
Although the Hebrew Bible uses two different terms which are translated as “ruler” in Genesis 49:10 and in Micah 5:2, the point is clear. Whoever this ruler is would profoundly impact the Jewish people since he would be the predicted ruler of Jacob’s prophecy and the royal son who would rule the Jewish people forever (2 Samuel 7:13ff). The first word, “mikedem” may be translated, “from ancient times,” and the second term, “olam,” as “eternal,” which often describes the everlasting character of the God of Israel (Psalm 25:5, 90:2, Habakkuk 1:12). The use of the term in Micah 5:2 speaks of the eternality of the coming ruler which was fulfilled in the person of the Messiah Jesus, the eternal Son of David, spoken of in the New Testament.
The New Testament Fulfillment
They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet: ‘And you, Bethlehem, Land of Judah, Are by no means least among the leaders of Judah; for out of you shall come forth a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’” (Matthew 2:5-6)
The Gospel writer indicates that Jesus is the promised ruler. He is the son of David from the tribe of Judah who was born in the traditional Davidic homeland, and He will prove Himself to be the eternal Son of God and Messianic King through His perfect character and miracles. The “bread of life” would be born in Bethlehem as He would be both the bread of life and ultimate sacrifice for our sin—born to be the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
By Dr. Gregory Hagg
“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be
with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.”
In Isaiah’s day, two enemies were conspiring against Judah: Rezin of Syria and Pekah of Israel (the northern kingdom). Isaiah comforted the terrified people of Judah by going to the king with his aptly named son, Shear-jashub (“a remnant shall return”). God will bring a remnant back to the Land. The terrorists of that day, who were mere men, would be shattered.
Ahaz was challenged to believe this prophecy. In fact, he was to ask God for a confirming sign, something really spectacular—as “…deep as Sheol or high as heaven” (Isaiah 7:11). When Ahab refused, God gave him a sign, even though he had exasperated the Lord. What is that sign? It is a son named Immanuel, which means “God with us.” God’s people needed His very presence when surrounded by the enemy. It was true in Isaiah’s time, and it is true today.
The son will be born to a “virgin,” says the prophet. Regardless of how one interprets the Hebrew word almâh, there would be nothing spectacular about her if she were impregnated normally. Something supernatural attended this birth.
What child in Isaiah’s day “fulfills” this prophecy? We do not know. Some say the “young maiden” was Isaiah’s wife, but she already had a child, Shear-jashub, and her second child was not named Immanuel but Maher-shalal-hash-baz (Isaiah 8:3). Others say she was a virgin when the prophecy was given, but she then married and had a child whose early life is described by Isaiah to show that the Syria-Israel confederacy would be defeated very soon. Neither view is too remarkable, deep, or high.
It is clear that the supernatural, spectacular component of this birth finds its fulfillment in the Person of the Messiah, born of a virgin, through the work of the Holy Spirit, before Mary and Joseph “came together” (Matthew 1:18-25). Whatever the meaning to Ahaz, which is obscure at best, the meaning to all believers around the world is that the baby who was named Immanuel was supernaturally conceived.
We have been given a sign. We have been given a Son. We know Him as Immanuel. God is always with us in the Messiah Yeshua who indwells every believer and who said “…And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
By Charlotte Machado
“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government
will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of
His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish
it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this.”
In this passage, the prophet Isaiah uses four different names for the coming Messiah, two of which indicate that this future son of David would be God in the flesh. Names in the Hebrew Bible often indicate character and these names (especially when the two verses are taken as one unit) speak to the very nature of the Davidic king.
What child in that time could live up to the name “eternal Father,” avi-ad, not to mention “Mighty God,” El-Gibbor? How could an earthly King be “Mighty God”? Literal readings of the Hebrew reveal that the titles describe the King Himself.
In Isaiah 10:21, the title “Mighty God” is reserved for God alone. Isaiah 9:6-7 explains that David’s descendant would be born of a woman, a real physical offshoot of the Davidic household, yet fully God. A common theme running throughout the Old Testament (and the New Testament) is the eternal reign of King David. In 2 Samuel, God makes His covenant with King David. The Lord says: “When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom” (2 Samuel 7:12).
Interestingly, the Hebrew word used here for descendant is z’araka, which is from the same root as zerah in Isaiah 53:10. Another gem that the Hebrew reveals is that this descendant will be “from out of the bowels” (mi-mecha), meaning a literal offspring. Verse 13 continues to describe the eternal kingdom of this descendant, and verse 14 tells us that the Lord himself says, “I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me.” There were many Davidic kings in the generations following David’s death; however, only Jesus lives up to the names “Everlasting Father” and “Mighty God.”