What is the Jewish View of the Messiah?

In Blogs by David M. Levy20 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
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David M. Levy

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

Comments 20

  1. 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.

      1. Not so. Only a small portion of copied works have been found. It is the science of translation that brings together all the copies and compared them for accuracy which has formed our Scriptures. The KJV has nothing to do, nor it is it of any necessity. with newer translations as most of them use the fragments and copies which are available to produce the new translation.
        The translators of the KJV did not have the original manuscripts.

      2. You stated above the following, “Those original autographs were the source available to translators of the King James Version 0f the Bible.”

        While the NT writings come quite close to the originals in time. That and along with the MASSIVE amount of the copies so close to the originals, we are assured that what we have is correct.

        Getting deeper into the OT, the fact that the Greek translation, called the Septuagint, comes from a time over a thousand years before the Masoretic texts were written shows that the Masoretes did a very good job of textual reproduction. Later, with the excavations at Qumran of the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS), the discovery of a complete scroll of Isaiah approximately 1100 years older than the newer Masoretic text shows that there was no (outside of typos) change in what was received.

        The earliest OT manuscripts available to the translators was the Masoretic text written between the 7th and 10th centuries A.D.

    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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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?


    1. The Romans were the executioners, the Jews sought for Him to be killed; but He certainly came to be born here on earth for the express purpose of dying for the sins of the world. God sent Him for that reason (Jn 3:16). So it wasn’t just the Romans; it wasn’t just the Jews; it was every one of us, because we were all sinners in desperate need of the Savior. Without Him all of us are hopeless. He wasn’t forced to die; He could have brought down legions of angels to set Him free. (Mt 26:53) He willingly went to the cross to do the Father’s will (Isa 53:10) and “for the joy set before Him” (Heb 12:2). It was not a joyful event in the primary sense, but He knew all that would come of it. “He bore the sins of many” (Isa 53:12)–“He became sin who knew no sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor 5:21). All the hundreds of prophecies of the Old Testament that He fulfilled in His life, death, and resurrection point to the fact that His crucifixion was in God’s plan from the beginning; the first such prophecy is Gen 3:15, called the Protoevangelium, the “first gospel.”

    2. I agree with you entirely. The Jewish religious leaders are the catalyst for the crucifixion of Christ. They hated him almost from the beginning. He made it very clear that he considered them hypocrites who worshipped status and power not God and who saw no need for a spiritual savior. For them, Mosaic Law and their interpretation of and amendments to it were enough to provide salvation. Jesus, of course came to say otherwise.

      I think the Gospels indicate that Pilate did all he could to try to avoid executing Jesus as an enemy of Rome as the Jews wished. They were not allowed to crucify him themselves for blasphemy (or for anything else) They were determined to see him killed in one of the most cruel and barbaric manners of execution known and they were willing to settle for the charge of rebellion against Rome, a claim of kingship of Israel though all knew that Jesus’s claim was spiritual)
      Pilate held out as long as possible, just as you said. His wife, as you mentioned begged him to have nothing to do the plot. It was only when the leaders threatened to write to the Roman Emperor and describe his refusal to execute Jesus as disloyalty to Rome, a refusal to acknowledge that the only ruler of Israel was the emperor Tiberius (“We have no king but Caesar !” John 19:15) that Pilate caved. The Jewish leadership’s threat was serious and deadly. Pilate no doubt saw not just his career but very possibly his life and his family’s life as in danger. I am not trying to excuse him completely but he was not a Christian and so he would not have put the life of a Jew, even one he knew to be innocent above his own. A willingness forfeit one’s life or even career rather than condemn an innocent man, especially when that innocent man was Jesus would not have been a part of Pilate’s value system. I don’t mean anything judgemental – very few people have the courage to be martyrs for a cause they don’t understand or identify with. Christian’s even today all over the world are willing to die rather than deny Christ, but that is a different situation from Pilate’s.
      Jesus himself acknowledged that the Roman soldiers who carried out his crucifixion were only doing their duty (“Forgive them Father for they know not what they do” Luke 23:24)

      In the end, I take the view that it is immaterial really because even the Jewish leadership in their own horrible way we’re playing their parts in God’s salvation plan. However, the responsibility for the terrible manner of Jesus’s death lies solely with the jealous and evil power hungry Jewish leaders : especially the high priest, Caiaphas. Pilate would never have gone after Jesus on his own and clearly was not comfortable with condemning him. He probably was not particularly eager to do any favors for the vindictive Caiaphas and his henchmen. As I said, it took a vicious threat from them to his career and life to force him into doing so. He even asked them what they wanted done with Jesus and they demanded crucifixion even though under their Law, the penalty for blasphemy was stoning.

      So, yes, you are entirely correct. I will go even further and say it stopped there. The practice of blaming the Jewish people who lived in Europe and other parts of the Christian world during the past 2 thousand years for the death of Jesus Christ is completely unjust. I don’t think any Jewish people today hold the belief that Jesus deserved what a small group of Jews in ancient Palestine condemned him to and I would be surprised if any genuine Christian today views any other Jews as guilty of the crucifixion, but I don’t know for certain. Such an attitude runs counter to the tenets of the Christian faith but…

  4. 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.

      1. And in those scrolls it is shown that the true priesthood held quite different ideas concerning the Biblical calendar verses the false lunar calendar. There were many writings concerning the future (to their perspective) coming of the Creator’s Anointed One (Messiah/Christ) and how those writings are confirmed in the New Testament (Messianic Renewed Covenant).

  5. In general i think the bible is didactic Literature. I don’t believe we can know what transpired at the trial of Jesus. What we do know is that he was tried by the Romans for sedition. Crucifiction was their usual methd of execution for this sort of crime. Down through the centuries many thousands of Jews have been killed by Christians using revenge for the Jews killing of Jesus as an excuse. Ultimately in WWII we killed 35% of the jewish population of the Planet. I think the world would be a much better place if the Jewish sect that became Christanity when they realized he didn’t fullfill the prophesies and the time wasn’t right so he coudn’t be “the” messiah so they repurposed him and the cry then was he died for our sins. They must have lost many of their adherents at this time. What may have saved the situation and something obviously did was the faith had already been taken to the Gentiles largely by Paul. When Paul came back to Jurusalem with money for the church James the Brother of Jesus insisted he go to the Temple and clense himself because he’d been denying the law in the torah. Christianity took several centuries to recover from this. In fact some “Christians” were still going to Synagogue as late as 700 AD. It is truly unfortunate that Christianity survived this. If it hadnt there’d have been no pogroms, no Juden Hass, no holcaust.

    1. You mistake Rome and the catholic church for Christianity. It has usurped the true church as Christianity was a true extension of the Biblical Hebrew (not the Rabbinic Judaism that came out of the Pharisaic apostasy that came about due to the removal of the Zadok priesthood during Greek rule) faith.

      A better name for the group that follows Rome and a lot of it’s protesting daughters would be Christo-paganism.

  6. First of all the Jewish scriptures are original and king James, well that was printed by an English king in 1611. Since the messiah is a Jewish concept how can anyone else come along and tell them what to look for? The so called new testament originated in England. Where was this so called new testament before 1611? Did everyone who existed prior to that go to hell because they didn’t hear about Jesus and the gospel? Or did they go to hell because they didn’t atone for their sins under the old law? Funny thing though the Jews don’t teach believe or be damned for all eternity. In fact they don’t even even say attendance is required. They go around trying to get people to come to church (in their case it would be a synagogue). But yeah the concept of the messiah is totally Jewish.

    1. The books of the New Testament are all traced back to the early church (1st century). The New Testament was certainly not written in 1611.

  7. According to the article, WHAT IS THE JEWISH VIEW OF THE MESSIAH?* on the Friends of Israel website, “For the Jew (of the second temple period), 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.”

    Among people of your acquaintance – Hebrews, non-Hebrews or both, approximately what percentage have a messianic expectation similar or identical to the one expressed in that article? Approximately what percentage have very different expectations? If so, please explain in what way or ways some people’s messianic expectations differ from what is described above?

    *BY DAVID M. LEVY MAY 1, 2020

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