Ever hear the parental refrain, “You’ll get your answer when the Messiah comes” And to the response, “When will the Messiah come, Dad?” the answer is, “Who knows?”
But we can know the answer, in detail. It is in the book of Daniel. This prophet who lived during the time of our exile in Babylon received a vision that the Messiah would come 483 years after the command to restore Jerusalem and the rebuild the Temple
:…that from the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublesome times. (Daniel 9:25)
The “clock” on the 69 “weeks” (units of seven years) began ticking when Artaxerxes issued a decree to Nehemiah to rebuild the Temple and restore the holy city of Jerusalem (see Nehemiah 2:1-8).
While other decrees went forth, this was the only one that involved both the Temple and Jerusalem. History records this took place in Nisan(March/April) of 444 B.C.E.(see sidebar on this timeline). That would mean the Messiah would appear by 33 C. E. History does not record anyone, other that Y’shua (Jesus), who was from that time period and claimed to be the Messiah.
Daniel predicted that after the appearance of Messiah “…the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary” (v.26). We know that occurred when Titus’ Roman legions marched on Jerusalem in 70 C.E., destroying both the city and the Temple. The Talmud teaches that at that time people believed that the Messiah had already come. But His appearance was concealed from the Jews until they were rendered more worthy of His appearance.(1)
Other passages support the understanding that Messiah would come while the Temple was still standing. For example, the rabbis recognized that Psalm 118 would be sung to the Messiah when he arrived.(2)
Hoshienu—Save now, I pray, O Lord; O Lord, I pray, send now prosperity. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! We have blessed you from the house of the Lord (italics mine). (vv.25, 26)
The only way that they could bless the Messiah from the house of the Lord was if the Temple was still standing!
Haggai, who was in Jerusalem as the Second Temple was being built, made the messianic prediction that the “glory of this last temple is to be greater than that of the first” (2:9).(3) And Malachi confirmed it: “Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his Temple; the messenger of covenant whom you desire, will come” (3:1). Twelfth century Jewish scholar, Rabbi David Kimchi, referred to the Malachi verse, saying, “The Lord, the angel of the covenant, is the Messiah.”(4)
According to Daniel, the Temple would not only be standing at Messiah’s appearance, but it would then soon be destroyed. That Temple, the Second Temple which was originally built by Ezra and beautified by Herod, was where Y’shua (Jesus) did most of his teaching and made startling claims for himself. The New Testament records the painful words of Jesus to those who spoke of how beautiful the Temple looked after its refurbishing under Herod; “These things which you see—the days will come in which not one stone shall be left here upon another that shall not be thrown down.” (5) Was Jesus pointing to Daniel’s prophecy being fulfilled? Less than 40 years later the destruction of the Temple was so thorough that, to this day, the exact location of the sanctuary is unknown.
The coming of the Messiah had another time constraint: it was connected to his descent from the tribe of Judah. Genesis 49:10, a well-recognized messianic prophecy,(6)indicated that Judah was to retain its identity until Shiloh (one of the names for the Messiah) was to come.
The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes; (emphasis mine) and to Him shall be the obedience of the people. (Genesis 49:10)
According to the book of Ezra(1:5-8), Judah’s position was maintained throughout the 70 years’ captivity in Babylon. It was also intact back in the Land, until the Romans made the kingdom of Judah a Roman province.(7) At that time the Sanhedrin was stripped of its authority and, according to Josephus, they (the members of the Sanhedrin) “covered their head with ashes and their bodies with sackcloth exclaiming, “Woe unto us, for the scepter has departed form Judah and the Messiah has not come.”(8) While there was a provincial government in place, about 50 years later (in 70 C. E.) that too ended.
Not only was the Messiah to be from the lineage of Judah, but more specifically from the house of David: “I have made a covenant with My chosen, I have sworn to My servant David: your seed I will establish forever, and build up your throne to all generations.”(9) This messianic prophecy clearly refers to a descendent of David. Proof of such linage was destroyed when the Temple was sacked. And while we do not have the Temple records, we do have the record of Y’shua’s family tree in the accounts of his life by both Luke and Matthew, They both identify that he is from the house of David. We don’t know anyone else who lived at that time and claimed to be the Messiah, who is descended from the tribe of Judah and the house of David, apart from Y’shua.
The Daniel prophecy (v.26) says that after the seven weeks and sixty-two weeks, the Messiah would be cut off, but not for himself. This phrase “cut off” means to be killed or die a violent death. Some of the Talmudic rabbis understood this: “In Daniel is delivered to us the end (the time of His appearance and death—Rabbi Jarchi) of the Messiah.”(10)
The idea that the Messiah would die was not new to Judaism. Isaiah wrote of one who would suffer and die for the sins of the people: “…For He was cut off from the land of the living; For the transgressions of My people He was stricken.”(11) Psalm 22 graphically portrays death by crucifixion, a method of execution not known to the psalmist writing 1000 years before Y’shua was crucified.
Could it have happened just as Daniel so carefully predicted? Counting 483 years after Artaxerxes’ decree would bring us to 33 C. E. The Temple was destroyed in 70 C. E. That leaves a window of 37 years in which the Messiah from the tribe of Judah and the house of David could come. Not only that, but he was to die a violent death at that time.
Other links of interest include:
Jews 4 Jesus (Issues Newsletter) Volume 13.2 (original article is longer)
Miscellaneous End Notes: (From Article)
1). John Ankerberg,The Case For Jesus The Messiah, c.1989 Chattanooga, as cited in Franz
2). Risto Santala, The Messiah in the Old Testament in light of Rabbinical Writings(Jerusalem: Keren Ahvah Meshihit, 1992), p. 103
3). Haggai 2:6 is applied to the Messiah in Deb. R. 1 (ed.Warsh. P. 4b, line 15 from the top)according to Alfred Edersheim, List of Old Testament Passages Messianically Applied in Rabbinic Writings (Grand Rapids: Eedmans, 1976) p.735
4). Santala, p.102,103
5). Luke 21:6
6). Ber.R.98, ed.Warsh. p.174b; Sanhedrin 98b
7). Josephus’ Antiquities 17, chapter 13:1-5
9). Psalm 89:3,4
10). Ibid.Ankerberg, p.226
11). Isaiah 53:8