What is the Jewish View of the Messiah?

In Blogs by David M. Levy8 Comments

Savior. Healer. Lord. King. Messiah.

Christians associate these names with one Man: Jesus Christ. He is the culmination of our hopes and the fulfillment of the Hebrew Scriptures. Jesus the Messiah is our greatest hope and joy in this life! 

Jewish people also believe the Scriptures speak about a Messiah. Their interpretation of messianic prophecy differs significantly. As believers in Jesus, I believe it is important for us to know why the Jewish people believe Jesus did not accomplish everything the Messiah promised to do. So what exactly is the Jewish belief of the Messiah?

Extensive Expectations

The term Messiah (Heb. Mashiach) means “anointed one.” It was customary for Jewish people to consecrate their priests and kings by pouring anointing oil over them (cf. Aaron (Ex. 30:30); Saul (1 Sam. 10:2); David (1 Sam. 16:13)). The oil was symbolic of being set apart by and endowed with the power of God for special service.

During the prophetic period of Israel’s history, the Jewish people were promised that God would raise up a redeemer from the seed of David who would bring the physical deliverance from their Gentile enemies, restore the Temple, and reestablish the kingdom rule of David (cf. 9:6–7; 11:1–2; Jer. 23:5).

Second Temple Suffering

In the time of the second Temple (Herod’s Temple), messianic hope was very strong. The Jewish people looked for a political Messiah who would deliver them from the iron heel of Roman occupation and oppression. It was during this time that Jesus Christ lived, but according to Jewish teaching He did not fit the description of the promised Messiah. For the Jew, Messiah was to be from the family of David; a military and political leader who would rule as king; and he was to bring everlasting peace to Israel. Jesus, on the other hand, was born into a poor family; with no known physical father, never became king of Israel; nor did He bring peace to Israel but was crucified by the Romans.

The Jewish people looked for a political Messiah who would deliver them from the iron heel of Roman occupation and oppression.

After the second Temple was destroyed in A.D. 70, Jewish people were scattered throughout the world. Suffering discrimination and persecution in Asia, Europe, and Africa, the Jewish people clung to the hope that a personal Messiah would soon come and bring redemption from their suffering, reestablish them in the land of Israel, and bring everlasting peace.

A Man or a Kingdom?

Traditional Judaism (Orthodox and Conservative) has never viewed the Messiah as a God-Man, but only a man with unusual power from God who will manifest the qualities of a prophet, priest, and king in Israel. They have described the Messiah in a dual role. First, there would come the “suffering servant” (Messiah ben Joseph) who would die in battle against the enemies of Israel preparing the way for the second Messiah. Secondly, there would come a descendant of King David who would secure the land of Israel for the Jewish people; bring peace and blessing to Israel and the world; rebuild the Temple on its historical site; and reinstitute the sacrificial system.

Modern Judaism (Reform branch) has reinterpreted the messianic hope. Instead of a “personal Messiah” there will come a “Messianic Age” that is brought about through the humanist progression of world leaders negotiating for peace. When universal peace, righteousness, and justice is established in the world, then Israel will enjoy peace in her land forever.

Throughout their long history the Jewish people have renewed the messianic hope during times of persecution and suffering, but that hope becomes dim when Jewish people live in peace and security.

Will the Real Messiah Please Stand Up?

Many pseudo-Messiahs arose throughout the long history of Judaism. There have been over 60 pseudo-Messiahs in Israel’s history. Here are a few notable ones:

Theudas (A.D. 44) – Israel

Menachem ben Jair (A.D. 66) – Israel 

Simon Bar Kokhba (A.D. 135) – Israel 

Moses of Crete (440) – Crete

Screne of Syria (720) – Syria

Abu Isa Isfahani (755–756) –Persia

Yudgham (Alra’i) (8th century) – Persia

David Alroy (1160–1247) – Persia

Abraha ben Samuel Abulafia (1240–1292) Spain

Nissim ben Davie (End of the 13th century) – Spain

David Reubeni (1491–1535) – Arabia 

Asher Laemmlein (1500) – Germany

Solomon Molcho (1500–1532) – Portugal

Isaac ben Solomon Luria (1534–1572) – Palestine

Hayin Vital (Hayin Calabrese) (1543–1620) – Palestine

Sabbatai Zevi (1626–1676) – Smyrna, Turkey

Abraham Miguel Cardosa (1630–1710) – Portugal

Judah Chasid Halevi (1638–1700) – Podelia

Nathan Benjamin Halevi Ghazzati (1644–1680) – Gaza/Jerusalem

Jonathan Eyebeschutz (1690–1764) – Poland

Jacob Querido (1690) – Turkey

Berachiah (1695–1740) –Turkey

Moses Chayim Luzzatto (1707–1747) – Italy

Jacob Frank (1726-1791) – Poland

Loebele Prossnitz (1750) – Moravia

All met a very sad end. Some were imprisoned or killed, while others converted to various religions to escape punishment or death. None met the requirements of the Messiah. Christians believe Jesus met these standards, but the Jewish people continue to wait for their Messiah. Will you pray with me that as anyone seeks to find hope that is only found in the Messiah that they will look to God’s Word and that He will reveal to them the true Savior, Healer, Lord, King?

About the Author

David M. Levy

David M. Levy is the media resource specialist and a Bible teacher for The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry.

Comments 8

  1. Recently you sent an email that had an article by Steve H. I planned to read it and it was deleted. Could you please send it again. Thank you.

  2. I have been given your Sept/Oct Israel My Glory magazine. I note what you believe about the inerrancy of scripture in the “original autographs”, which is fine, but we don’t have them to refer to. So now where do you find your final authority? Where has God preserved His word for us today as he promised, He would, considering He says His word will never pass away and He magnifys it above His name? Thank you.

    1. Laurian, Since you are writing and responding to an article in english, I will assume it is your native language. Those original autographs were the source available to translators of the King James Version 0f the Bible. Over the many years that have passed since that translation(1611), other language scholars are in agreement that the job done by those translators was a faithful rendition of the original thought and intents of the language. The enormity of the person of God and his promise to provide a faithful expression of his word should give anyone understanding that thought, a reason not to trifle with the known/accepted expression of God. A suggestion that unless we fully comprehend the original languages we cannot understand the character or will of God, is to limit God in his intent to make himself known to all people. So if your native first language is Spanish, you might better understand what I have just written to you. You can understand God, because he first understands you, that’s his graciousness.

    2. In regards to where has God preserved His Word, lets consider the possibility that He insured the survival of His Holy Torah through the use of other religions such as christianity combining their believe to the Torah. Making it a challenge for those serious enough to search Him out to comb through it all and come out knowing the Truth. I throw this next thought out there not as a jab but another means of looking at the bible. If you were to separate the new from the old testament the old can and does stand on its own but the new needs the old testament to even survive. Shalom.

  3. Shalom, I am a christian and believe that Jesus is the messiah for Jews and Gentiles. As we see so many tribulations in our world please know that the USA is praying for Israel and believe that God will protect Israel. Yeshua is our savior. God bless America and God bless Israel.

  4. Very nice article, I enjoyed it very much.

    I have a few questions I thought you could help me answer; (1) I have a Jewish friend who understands it as that the Jews didn’t accept Jesus as the Messiah because they don’t believe in idol worship – meaning they don’t believe in messianism at all. How would you explain the truth of that matter to him if you were me? (2) (this is what prompted the first question between my friend and I) Were not all of Jesus followers, while he was alive and certainly all of his disciples, Jewish? I didn’t think this was controversial at all until I said it out loud, knowing full well that this isn’t the case today, and my friend took strong issue with it. And finally, is it really right to say that Jesus was crucified by the Romans? Of course, the duty itself was carried out by the Romans who were the governing body at the time; the Romans wouldn’t have various religious sects in their lands executing heretics anytime they pleased. But I believe it’s not controversial to say that the Pharisees and the high priests, who believed that Jesus was a blasphemer who channelled his miraculous powers from the devil, along with those people in the public square who condemned him to death – whether or not we think this was pretty explicitly by convincing from the Pharisees about what God’s law truly entailed – who were truly responsible for his death? To say that Jesus was crucified by the Romans is like saying that a criminal on death row is euthanized by the lethal chemical injected into him. Clearly, what’s responsible for that is the criminal justice system. This is even more stark given the fact that the Roman who was responsible for carrying this out had Jesus lashed half to death first under the pretext of hopefully scaring the people into questioning their Priests decision on capital punishment for him, then asked them again if they still wanted him crucified, and they say yes; and then subsequently brought out a known murder and lifelong criminal and had them again choose if they wanted Jesus killed, or else let this murderer go, and they still wanted him crucified.

    In other words, not only is it a very misleading or even false statement to say that “the romans crucified Jesus”, the Roman in the seat of power in question seems to have done everything in his power to prevent Jesus from being crucified, but failed in doing so. I could be telling old wives tales, but is it not true that this Roman in question was torn between upsetting his wife, who wanted Jesus spared at all costs, and upsetting the Pharisees and the High Priests and so the people of Israel who looked to them for their instruction on Gods Law and so causing an uprising which Caesar had told him to avoid – as there had been several already during his rule – lest he lose his own head?

    Sincerely,

  5. Question-How could today’s Jewish people ever verify a Messiah candidate came from David’s lineage since all those records were destroyed at the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD? UNLESS, he came before the Temple’s destruction in 70AD? I would think only Jesus would fit that bill.

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