Daniel's Messiah, the World's Only Hope

Who can quote a verse of scripture containing the word Messiah? Messiah (pronounced maw-she-ach) only appears twice in the entire Bible, both times in Daniel 9:25-26.

What does Messiah mean? (anointed or anointed one).

In Daniel 9, the word is closely associated with the word "prince" (na-si) which indicates a highly exalted position, both politically (prince= son and thus legal heir of the king and his throne) and spiritually (Messiah or Christ= anointed by God). "Nasi" was the Hebrew title given to the President of the Sanhedrin.

The Scribes, Rabbis and Pharisees were very familiar with the prophecies pointing to the Messiah or Christ. The first biblical prophecy pointing to Christ is generally accepted as Genesis 3:15, Where God speaks to Satan: And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

That is why the Greek word for anointed, "Christ" (Kris-tus) was so familiar to the Jews. We find the word "Christ" 569 times in the Greek New Testament. There are of course many other names for the Messiah (Isaiah 9:6 for example), but none more common than "Christ."

Thanks to the teachings of the Rabbis, the entire nation of Israel was expecting the imminent arrival of the Christ. Jews were familiar with Old Testament prophecies regarding the promised Messiah, Daniel's in particular, and they were teaching people that the time for the Christ's arrival was close at hand. Even King Herod knew about these prophecies. Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Matthew 2:1-3 Herod then called all the key religious leaders into his palace for consultation. He didn't ask if or when the Messiah should come, but WHERE? They replied, "in Bethlehem." He took that so seriously that he had all male babies in Bethlehem and surroundings slaughtered! He was a believer just like the Scribes and Pharisees, but they all cooperated to kill the Christ!

Jewish leaders sent Levites out to ask John the Baptist if he was the Christ. Luke 3:15-16  And as the people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ, or not. John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose… (see also John 1:19-27). Simeon, Anna and Joseph of Arimathea, a wealthy member of the Sanhedrin, were just a few of those expecting the Messiah (Mark 15:43).

Most Bible expositors believe that the wise men came from the region of Chaldea (Babylonia, Nineveh…). Archaeologists unearthed a huge library in Nineveh containing over 100.000 clay tablets, 30,000 of which are in a British museum. Most have to do with stars. That is not surprising, considering the barren landscape of Chaldea. Studying stars in the cool of night would certainly be preferable to studying sand by the heat of day!

What made the wise men so certain that a future king of the Jews had been born? They saw "His" star in the East (probably weeks before their departure).

How did they know what that star indicated? Who prophesied the appearance of this special star?

Baalam or Bileam (Numbers 24:17)

King Balak of Moab hired him to curse Israel, but every time he opened his mouth, blessings came forth!

Chaldea or Babylon (now Iraq) was famous for its sorcerers, astronomers and astrologers. Balaam lived and prophesied about 1,400 years before Christ. According to Nahum 1:11, Balaam was from Nineveh. “Pethor” means “sorcerer” or “diviner,” so this passage should probably be rendered, “...sent to the city of sorcery, which lies on the Euphrates River”.

It is possible that the Edomite king, whose territory was to the south of Moab and north of Midean (Genesis 36:32), was Balaam’s brother. The names Mideanite and Moabite were often used interchangeably (see Num. 22:7, 31:2 and 25:1-6). The Moabite king kept Mideanite priests as his advisors, and it was perhaps these who referred him to Balaam. Remember when the Father-in-law of Moses came to visit and gave Moses some advice? He was a Mideonite priest!

In Numbers 21, we find Israel wandering through the desert as punishment for listening to faithless spies instead of Joshua and Caleb. In their quest for food, water and pasture for their flocks, they meander from one place to another, gradually moving northward. As they draw near to the countries of Moab and Amon, Moses requests permission to pass through these kingdoms, and even promises to pay for food and water needed for their journey. But the kings refuse to grant passage. Consequently, Israel circles around these nations, doing them no harm.

The Moabite and Ammonite kings must have felt rather smug in this seeming cowardice to their display of power, but they didn’t realize WHY Moses had not declared war on them. In Deuteronomy 2, God warned Moses not to declare war against Seir, Moab and Amon. He had promised Esau and the children of Lot a territorial inheritance just as he gave Canaan to Israel.

Later, Moses sends messengers from Israel’s camp in Jahaz to the king of the Amorites in Hesbon (about 20 miles to the North). He requests permission to pass through his land just as he had requested of Moab and Amon. He even makes reference to the fact that their journey around these countries was without incident. The Amorites had only recently taken this territory in conquest from Moab (Numbers 21:25-30) but the Amorite king stubbornly refuses to allow passage through his territory (Deuteronomy 2:26-37). This time, however, Israel declares war and easily defeats the Amorites. The nation is virtually exterminated (verse 34) in the devastating battle.

King Og of Basan hears of Israel’s victory and fears that he could be next. He sends his armies to fight Israel, perhaps surmising that Israel would be weak and tired after fighting the Amorites. But Og experiences the same fate as the Amorites.

As mentioned above, Israel had already passed around Moab without incident, yet Balak, King of Moab, begins to fear that Moses could seek revenge for the inhospitable treatment he had shown Israel. The once peaceful Nomads were now seen as a powerful and dangerous threat. Balak feels compelled to declare war on Israel, but being a very superstitious man, he first seeks the services of a renowned sorcerer named Balaam.

Balak called for Balaam to curse the Israelites (Numbers 22-24). Balaam was warned by God in a dream not to go. Believing that Balaam was holding out for more money, Balak sent other messengers, offering to pay whatever Balaam should demand. This time, Balaam decided to go.

Isn’t it amazing, the extent to which some people will go in order to protect their wealth, health and lives when they are not even in danger? Unbelievers are usually superstitious and see everything accordingly. He who doesn’t fear God, fears everything and everyone.

After an eventful journey which included the appearance of an angel and a talking donkey, Balaam finally arrived in Moab. To the utter chagrin of the Moabite king, however, every time Balaam opened his mouth to curse Israel, blessings came out! After several futile attempts to curse Israel, Balak commanded Baalam to cease his prophesies and return home. But God commanded Balaam to prophesy just one more time. This time he foretold the appearance of an unusual star which would announce the birth of a special ruler in Israel (Numbers 24:17-24). Scribes and Rabbis understood this to refer to the promised Messiah.

I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth. And Edom shall be a possession, Seir also shall be a possession for his enemies; and Israel shall do valiantly. Out of Jacob shall come he that shall have dominion, and shall destroy him [Herod the Great was one of the last Edomites!] that remaineth of the city. And when he looked on Amalek, he took up his parable, and said, Amalek was the first of the nations; but his latter end shall be that he perish for ever. And he looked on the Kenites, and took up his parable, and said, Strong is thy dwellingplace, and thou puttest thy nest in a rock. Nevertheless the Kenite shall be wasted, until Asshur shall carry thee away captive. And he took up his parable, and said, Alas, who shall live when God doeth this! And ships shall come from the coast of Chittim, and shall afflict Asshur, and shall afflict Eber, and he also shall perish for ever.

The wise men of Matthew’s gospel obviously discovered the only yet unfulfilled prophecy of that famous Babylonian prophet, Balaam. Every prediction of this man had come to pass exactly as he had foretold, but one of his prophecies was to be fulfilled in the distant future. It concerned the appearance of a unique star that would announce the birth of a powerful Jewish ruler.

This unusual celestial appearance alone would not have provided sufficient reason for the wise men to set out on their long journey to Jerusalem. They were undoubtedly familiar with the yet unfulfilled prophecy of another famous Chaldean prophet, who lived 800 years after Baalam. The two most famous prophets of this region were Balaam and Belteshazzar.

Who was Belteshazzar? (Daniel – 600 BC). It was acclaimed of both Baalam and Daniel, that all their prophecies came to pass (Daniel 5:12 and Numbers 22:6). And each prophet had made a prediction about a great ruler in Israel that was to be fulfilled in the distant future. These two prophecies were made 1400 and 600 years earlier! The wise men obviously knew of the great rulers, David and Solomon, but these didn't fulfill Balaam's prophecies. The ruler that both Balaam and Belteshazzar prophesied would be even greater than Solomon! The wise men had all the proof they needed. The Jewish Messiah had been born! They expected to find the newborn prince in Herod's palace because they were not familiar with the prophet Micah!

Daniel’s seventy weeks prophecy (Daniel 9) has become known as the “backbone of Bible prophecy.” The 70 weeks or 490 years (the Hebrew word denotes seven units of time and virtually all Bible scholars it to mean years) was broken down into 7 weeks, 62 weeks, and a final 70th week. The counting of these weeks was to begin with the decree of King Artaxerxes to rebuild Jerusalem (445 BC). At the culmination of the 69th week, the Messiah would be “cut off.” Although there was some conjecture about what was meant by the words, “cut off,” most Jewish scribes agreed that the appearance of the promised Messiah was very near.

In a book titled The Coming Prince, Sir Robert Anderson made exact calculations of this time period, allowing for leap years, differences in the Jewish calendar and the change from BC to AD. According to Anderson, the 69th year culminated with the triumphal entry of Christ into Jerusalem shortly before his crucifixion. Because the Jews were not aware of calendar errors, their calculations were different, but the scribes and doctors of law were certain that the Messiah’s appearance was imminent. They apparently didn't expect him to come as a baby, let alone be born in a manger!

Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all, But is under tutors and governors [schoolmaster] until the time appointed of the father. Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.  Galatians 4:1-7

The Christ or Messiah was not only the Son of God, but he became payment for our sins on the cross, so that we too could receive forgiveness and become sons of God.

Romans 8:14-17 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him.

2Timothy 2:12 If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us.

Ralph V Harvey
April 15, 2018