Conundrum

By Rabbi Dr. Hillel ben David (Greg Killian)

 


I. Introduction. 1

II. Elohim Translated as ‘God’ 2

III. Who is Elohim?. 4

IV. The King is God’s Son. 4

V. Hakhamim = Elohim.. 5

VI. HaShem is also Elohim.. 6

VII. Understanding the Meaning of Elohim.. 6

VIII. The Speaker and His Word. 6

IX. B’ne Elohim - The Sons of God. 7

X. My Teacher’s Thoughts. 8

XI. Names Shared with HaShem.. 8

Bibliography: 10

 

 

In this study I would like to examine a couple of issues, related to Mashiach,[1] that are often perceived as conundrums. The dictionary defines a conundrum as:

 

I. Introduction

 

Conundrum: A paradoxical, insoluble, or difficult problem; a dilemma:

 

The first conundrum that I would like to address is in the form of a question that I received by email:

 

Shalom,

I have a Jewish friend. He believes that Yeshua must be the Messiah because it matches prophesy, but does not believe that He is God, only a good man that HaShem uses and will use to deliver His people. He tells me there is scripture that says man cannot be “God”, therefore, since Yeshua was a man, he could not be God. I always thought that the “trinity” theory was what made it difficult for Jews to accept Messiah because the Torah teaches that there is only one God. This is a new angle to me, but I doubt it is to you. Thank you for your help.

 

To put it succinctly, there are three parts to this question:

 

  1. Is Yeshua God? (Yes!)
  2. Is Yeshua HaShem (yod hey vav hey - יהוה)? (Impossible!)[2]
  3. Is Yeshua Elohim? (Yes!)

 

The conundrum of this question stems from one of the thirteen articles of Jewish faith, as stated by Maimonides:

 

1.      Belief in the existence of the Creator, be He Blessed, who is perfect in every manner of existence and is the Primary Cause of all that exists.

2.      The belief in HaShem’s absolute and unparalleled unity.

3.      The belief in HaShem’s non-corporeality, nor that He will be affected by any physical occurrences, such as movement, or rest, or dwelling.

4.      The belief in HaShem’s eternity.

5.      The imperative to worship Him exclusively and no foreign false gods.

6.      The belief that HaShem communicates with man through prophecy.

7.      The belief that the prophecy of Moses our teacher has priority.

8.      The belief in the divine origin of the Torah.

9.      The belief in the immutability of the Torah.

10.   The belief in divine omniscience and providence.

11.   The belief in divine reward and retribution.

12.   The belief in the arrival of the Messiah and the messianic era.

13.   The belief in the resurrection of the dead.

 

The conundrum faced by Christians is that they believe that Yeshua is HaShem (The yod hey vav hey, The Eternal One), yet the third article of our faith states that HaShem is non-corporeal. Yeshua was corporeal, He was “The Word made flesh”. The Nazarean Codicil agrees with our assertion that HaShem is non-corporeal.

 

Yochanan (John) 1:18 No man hath seen God (HaShem) at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.

 

We need to keep in mind that the Tanakh never shows HaShem in a corporeal state. Those passages that are often incorrectly cited to show HaShem’s corporeality will be dealt with individually.

 

One example that is often cited by Christians is the visitation of HaShem, to Avraham, after Avaraham circumcised himself.

 

Bereshit (Genesis) 18:1 And HaShem appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day; 2  And he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground, 3  And said, My Lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant: 4  Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree: 5  And I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts; after that ye shall pass on: for therefore are ye come to your servant. And they said, So do, as thou hast said.

 

A careful reading of the above pasuk reveals that HaShem “appeared” unto Avraham. Did Avraham see flesh and blood? Go back and carefully read the whole parasha. Notice that in addition to HaShem, three ‘men’ also visited Avraham. Notice that these men eat and are treated like men, even though our Sages teach that these were angels: Michael, Gavriel, and Raphael. Notice also that ONLY these three angels appear to eat. HaShem never eats.

 

It is also instructive to note that the Hebrew word (raah), translated as ‘appear’, is also used for a vision, as in Ezekiel 8:4 and Daniel 8:1.

 

Meam Loez[3] tells us the appearance of HaShem was the “Divine Presence”. It does not indicate flesh and blood. To further this thought, it is noteworthy that HaShem, in this ‘appearance’, never says anything. This would be very odd behavior for flesh and blood while they are seated at your dinner table!

 

Another example: at the covenant between the parts, HaShem was represented by a smoking torch, even though Avraham ‘saw’ Him. At Sinai, HaShem specifically tells us that we did NOT see Him:

 

Devarim (Deuteronomy) 4:15-19 Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves—for ye saw no manner of form on the day that HaShem spoke unto you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire— 16  lest ye deal corruptly, and make you a graven image, even the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female, 17  the likeness of any beast that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged fowl that flieth in the heaven, 18  the likeness of any thing that creepeth on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the water under the earth; 19  and lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when thou seest the sun and the moon and the stars, even all the host of heaven, thou be drawn away and worship them, and serve them, which HaShem thy Elohim hath allotted unto all the peoples under the whole heaven.

 

Now if HaShem did not reveal any form at the REVELATION at Sinai, how much more should we expect that we would NOT see a form at any other time! HaShem has no corporeality!

 

II. Elohim Translated as ‘God’

 

Keep in mind that the English word “God” is ambiguous and is used to translate both Elohim and HaShem in the Nazarean Codicil. One has to use contextual clues to distinguish which word is meant. The Jews during Temple times had no difficulty with men being Elohim,[4] and they knew that men could NOT be HaShem. The Rambam spells this out for us:

 

The term elohim signifies “judges” : comp. “The cause of both parties shall come before the ‘judges” ‘ (ha-elohim; Exod. xxii. 8). It has been figuratively applied to angels, and to the Creator as being judge over the angels.[5]

 

Now the problem we have is: How do we prove, from the Nazarean Codicil,[6] that Yeshua is NOT HaShem? We have to use the Nazarean Codicil because there is no direct mention of Yeshua, by name, in the Tanach.[7] I’d suggest that we start with John chapter 10:

 

Yochanan (John) 10:30-36 I and my Father are one. 31 Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him. 32 Yeshua answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me? 33 The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God. 34 Yeshua answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods (Theos)? 35 If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; 36 Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemes; because I said, I am the Son of God?

 

How could Yeshua possibly tell these Jews that they are all Gods? If Yeshua said it, then it must be true! Thus it is that all the Children of Israel are called by HaShem to be Gods, i.e. Torah Judges. Torah Judges are called Rabbi by the Ashkenazi Jews and Hakham by Sephardi Jews.

 

For those who do not realize it, Yeshua (in Yochanan [John] 10:30-36) is quoting Psalm 82:6:

 

Tehillim (Psalm) 82:1 <<A Psalm of Asaph.>> God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judges among the gods. 2 How long will ye judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked? Selah. 3  Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy. 4  Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked. 5  They know not, neither will they understand; they walk on in darkness: all the foundations of the earth are out of course. 6   I have said, Ye are gods (Elohim); and all of you are children of the most High. 7  But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes. 8  Arise, O God, judge the earth: for thou shalt inherit all nations.

 

In the above passage, the Septuagint translates Elohim as Theos! This demonstrates that our Sages understood that the Greek Theos is an accurate translation of the Hebrew Elohim. Here, as well as in other places in the Tanakh, HaShem calls all male Israelites to become Torah Judges and their name as Torah Judges, is Elohim. Torah Judges are better known as Rabbis or Hakhamim.

 

The Greek word is Theos. Thus in John 1:1 “The Word is God (Theos)”:

 

Yochanan (John) 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (Theos).

 

Elohim is translated as God in Bereshit 1:1.

 

Bereshit (Genesis) 1:1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

 

This suggests that in Yochanan 1:1, God = Theos = Elohim. With this in mind, lets retranslate Yochanan 1:1:

 

Yochanan 1:1 In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with Elohim and the Word was Elohim.

 

III. Who is Elohim?

 

So, who is this Elohim? Elohim is a plual word that is used in connection with HaShem, with Moshe (Moses), with Mashiach, and indeed with all Hakhamim (Rabbis). Lets review a few pasukim to verify this:

 

Of HaShem:

 

Bereshit (Genesis) 2:4 These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that HaShem Elohim made the earth and the heavens,

 

Of Moshe:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 4:16 And he shall be thy spokesman unto the people; and it shall come to pass, that he shall be to thee a mouth, and thou shalt be to him as Elohim.

 

Of Mashiach and of Hakhamim:

 

Tehllim (Psalms) 82:1-6 A Psalm of Asaph. Elohim standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the Elohim. 2  How long will ye judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked? Selah. 3  Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy. 4  Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked. 5  They know not, neither will they understand; they walk on in darkness: all the foundations of the earth are out of course. 6 I have said, Ye are Elohim; and all of you are children of the most High.

 

Yochanan (John) 10:33-36 The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself Elohim. 34  Yeshua answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are Elohim? 35  If he called them gods, unto whom the word of Elohim came, and the scripture cannot be broken; 36  Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest;

 

Now, in Yochanan 1:1, The Word (Yeshua) is Elohim. Yeshua is God (Elohim). Additionally, we can see that HaShem is also Elohim in this passage because there are two separate entities, that created the world, mentioned.

 

HaShem is God (Elohim), certain Jews are God (Elohim), and that Yeshua is God (Elohim). How can this be? Once this is resolved we will clearly understand the answer to our conundrum.

 

Tehillim 82, quoted in Yochanan 10:34, shows us that the Hebrew word for God is Elohim. Additionally, from the construction of John 1:1, we can clearly see a connection with Bereshit (Genesis) chapter 1. This gives us an enormous clue as to the Hebrew word underlying the word God in John chapter one. Thus we see that Yeshua, in John chapter 10, is calling these Jews, Elohim.

 

HaShem also called Moses, God:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 7:1 And HaShem said unto Moses, See, I have made thee a God (Elohim) to Pharaoh: and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet.

 

In this next passage, Samuel is called Elohim:

 

I Shmuel (Samuel) 28:11  Then said the woman, Whom shall I bring up unto thee? And he said, Bring me up Samuel. 12  And when the woman saw Samuel, she cried with a loud voice: and the woman spake to Saul, saying, Why hast thou deceived me? for thou art Saul. 13  And the king said unto her, Be not afraid: for what sawest thou? And the woman said unto Saul, I saw Gods (Elohim) ascending out of the earth. 14  And he said unto her, What form is he of? And she said, An old man cometh up; and he is covered with a mantle. And Saul perceived that it was Samuel, and he stooped with his face to the ground, and bowed himself.

 

IV. The King is God’s Son

 

The king held a very special position of honor. He was referred to as God’s “son”[8] in this capacity.

 

2 Samuel 7:8-14 Now therefore so shalt thou say unto my servant David, Thus saith HaShem of hosts, I took thee from the sheepcote, from following the sheep, to be ruler over my people, over Israel: 9  And I was with thee whithersoever thou wentest, and have cut off all thine enemies out of thy sight, and have made thee a great name, like unto the name of the great men that are in the earth. 10  Moreover I will appoint a place for my people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in a place of their own, and move no more; neither shall the children of wickedness afflict them any more, as beforetime, 11  And as since the time that I commanded judges to be over my people Israel, and have caused thee to rest from all thine enemies. Also HaShem telleth thee that he will make thee an house. 12  And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. 13  He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever. 14  I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men.

 

Psalm 2:6 Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. 7 I will declare the decree: HaShem hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.

 

In this sense, Yeshua was God’s “Son,” partly because He was / will be God’s appointed King. The king was “God’s anointed”.

 

V. Hakhamim = Elohim

 

In this next passage we see an explicit use of the Hebrew Elohim as referring to Hakhamim[9] or Rabbis (judges):

 

Shemot (exodus) 22:7 If a man shall deliver unto his neighbour money or stuff to keep, and it be stolen out of the man’s house; if the thief be found, let him pay double. 8  If the thief be not found, then the master of the house shall be brought unto the judges (Elohim), to see whether he have put his hand unto his neighbour’s goods.9  For all manner of trespass, whether it be for ox, for ass, for sheep, for raiment, or for any manner of lost thing, which another challengeth to be his, the cause of both parties shall come before the judges; and whom the judges (Elohim) shall condemn, he shall pay double unto his neighbour.

 

The Midrash also derives this point from Shemot 22:28:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 22:28 Thou shalt not revile the Gods (Elohim), nor curse the ruler of thy people.

 

Midrash Rabbah - Exodus XXXI:16. THOU SHALT NOT REVILE ELOHIM (XXII, 27). R. Meir said: Above all did the Holy One, blessed be He, exhort Israel concerning their judges who teach them justice and concerning their ruler, for it says, THOU SHALT NOT REVILE ELOHIM, NOR CURSE A RULER OF THY PEOPLE. You will thus find that Korah and his congregation were smitten only because they stretched out their hands against Moses and Aaron.

 

* * *

 

The Ramban, commenting on Shemot (Exodus) 21:6, says:

 

6. THEN HIS MASTER WILL BRING HIM UNTO 'HA'ELOHIM' - "to the court. The servant must take counsel with those who sold him."[10] [Thus is the language of Rashi.] And Rabbi Abraham ibn Ezra wrote that the judges are called Elohim because they uphold the laws of G-d on earth.

 

In my opinion Scripture uses these expressions: Then his master will bring him unto 'ha'elohim;' the cause of both parties will come before 'ha 'elohim'[11] in order to indicate that G-d will be with the judges in giving their judgment. It is He Who declares who is just, and it is He Who declares who is wicked. It is with reference to this that Scripture says, he whom 'Elohim' (G-d) will condemn.[12] And so did Moses say, for the judgment is G-d's;[13] so also did Jehoshaphat say, for you judge not for man, but for the Eternal, and He is with you in giving judgment.[14] Similarly Scripture says, G-d stands in the congregation of G-d; in the midst of 'elohim' (the judges) He judges,[15] that is to say, in the midst of a congregation of judges He judges, for it is G-d Who is the Judge. And so also it says, Then both men, between whom the controversy is, will stand before the Eternal.[16] And this is the purport of the verse, For I will not justify the wicked,[17] according to the correct interpretation. In Eleh Shemoth Rabbah I have seen it said:[18] "But when the judge sits and renders judgment in truth, the Holy One, blessed be He, leaves, as it were, the supreme heavens and causes His Presence to dwell next to him, for it is said, When the Eternal raised them up judges, then the Eternal was with the judge.[19]

 

Thus we see that Human judges, according to the Ramban, are also know as Elohim.

 

Therefore, while there are human Elohim, never the less, most of the passages in the Tanach which use the word Elohim, refer to the Eternal One, Blessed is He.

 

VI. HaShem is also Elohim

 

Chazal, our Sages, teach us that Elohim is a name used by HaShem when He acts with justice, it is a name given to His Mashiach when He judges, and it is also a name given to men when they are judges, that is Hakhamim or Rabbis.

 

Lets examine the comments of a few of our Sages.

 

Rashi, commenting on Bereshit 6:2, says that B’ne Elohim are the sons of the rulers, i.e. the sons of the princes and judges, for Elohim always implies rulership, as in Shemot (Exodus) 4:16 ‘and you shall be his master’

 

All of our commentators who follow the Targum, they all translate Elohim as ‘judge’ or ‘judges’. This is also the position of the Ramban and the Midrash.

 

Rabbi Abraham Ibn Ezra wrote that the judges (Hakhamim or Rabbis) are called Elohim because they uphold the laws of Elohim (The Eternal One) on earth.

 

Sforno wrote that human judges are referred to as Elohim because they judge in the image of HaShem.

 

VII. Understanding the Meaning of Elohim

 

So, what is it that connects HaShem, Mashiach, and certain men, that they should all be called Elohim? A careful study of Torah will show that Elohim is the name given to those who provide justice in the kingdom of Heaven. The men who judge in a Bet Din (court) are called Hakhamim or Rabbis. Obviously, the Mashiach will be the chief justice.

 

VIII. The Speaker and His Word

 

Many have asked me to prove that Yeshua is YHVH (HaShem). The YHVH - יהוה name is called HaShem by many pious Jews. I will be using HaShem instead of YHVH - יהוה throughout this paper.

 

To begin my answer lets look at a very familiar passage and analyze it. As you read, remember that the English word “God” is ambiguous and is used to translate both HaShem and Elohim:

 

Yochanan (John)1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

 

In this passage, Yeshua is referred to as The Word. A word is a collection of sounds uttered by a speaker. The words of a speaker are distinct from the speaker. Who is the speaker in this passage? We can gain understanding from noting the similarity between the words and the content of our passage, with the words and the content of Bereshit (Genesis) 1:3:

 

Bereshit (Genesis) 1:3 And Elohim (God) said, Let there be light: and there was light.

 

Thus we see the speaker in Yochanan 1:1 is Elohim. This seems simple till we note what was spoken through Yeshayahu (Isaiah):

 

Yeshayahu (Isaiah) 45:5-8  I [am] HaShem, and [there is] none else, [there is] no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me: That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that [there is] none beside me. I [am] HaShem, and [there is] none else. I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I HaShem do all these [things]. Drop down, ye heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness: let the earth open, and let them bring forth salvation, and let righteousness spring up together; I HaShem have created it.

 

In this passage we learn that HaShem created everything. So who created the world, Elohim or HaShem? Are these two different names for the same entity?

 

The answer, of course, is that these are two names for HaShem. Elohim is the name used when He is judging and creating and HaShem is the name used when HaShem is exercising the attribute of loving kindness. As simple as this answer is, we have a problem:

 

Yochanan (John) 1:3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

 

In this passage it says that The Word created everything. So, what is the answer? I will make it clear. Here is what happened:  HaShem exercising the attribute of justice (using the name Elohim), spoke. The Word came out of His mouth and created that which HaShem commanded. In this way we see That HaShem created everything by His Word. The Word created that which HaShem commanded. This shows that HaShem and The Word are related, but, The Word is not the Speaker, HaShem is the speaker and The Word is that which HaShem spoke.

 

Conclusion:  HaShem is different from The Word. HaShem is The Speaker who spoke The Word.

 

Taken together, the arguments presented in this paper prove conclusively that Yeshua is NOT HaShem (yod hey vav hey).[20] Additionally, we can clearly see that Yeshua is Elohim.

 

So, let us return to our original questions:

  1. Is Yeshua God? Yes, Yeshua is Elohim.
  2. Is Yeshua HaShem (YHVH - יהוה)? Impossible, HaShem is non-corporeal.
  3. Is Yeshua Elohim? Yes!

 

IX. B’ne Elohim - The Sons of God

 

HaShem wanted to have a family with which to have fellowship. Several different entities have been called the son of God throughout scripture:

 

1. Judges or angels:

 

Iyov (Job) 2:1 Again there was a day when the sons of God [B’ne Elohim] came to present themselves before HaShem, and Satan came also among them to present himself before HaShem.

 

2. Adam:

 

Luqas (Luke) 3:38 Which was the son of Enos, which was the son of Seth, which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God.

 

3. The nation of Israel:

 

Hoshea 11:1 When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.

 

4. Yeshua:

 

Marqos (Mark) 9:7 And there was a cloud that overshadowed them: and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him.

 

5. Followers in the footsteps of Yeshua:

 

Yochanan (John) 1:12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:

 

There are ten individual classes of angels in Sefer Yetzirah: Chayot Hakodesh, Ofanim, Erelim, Chashmalim, Seraphim, Malachim, Elohim, B’ne Elohim, the Cherubim, and the Ishim. Each level of angel has a different name. The highest level consists of the Holy Chayot, then come the Ophanim, the Erelim, the Chashmalim, the Seraphim, the Malachim, the Elokim, the Kruvim and the Ishim. The highest level is that of the Holy Chayot and there is none other above it, except that of HaShem. Therefore, in the Prophecies, it is said that they are underneath HaShem’s throne. The tenth level consists of the Ishim, who are the angel who speak with the Prophets and appear to them in prophetic visions. They are therefore called Ishim - ‘men’ - for the reason that their level is closest to that of the intellect of Man.[21]

 

The Jewish Encyclopedia tells us who the B’ne Elohim are:

 

The “sons of God” are mentioned in Genesis, in a chapter (vi. 2) which reflects pre-prophetic, mythological, and polytheistic conceptions. They are represented as taking, at their fancy, wives from among the daughters of men. For the interpretations given to this statement, and Flood in Rabbinical Literature. As there stated, the later Jewish and Christian interpreters endeavored to remove the objectionable implications from the passage by taking the term “B’ne ha-Elohim” in the sense of “sons of judges” or “sons of magistrates.” In the introduction to the Book of Job (i. 6, ii. 1) the “B’ne ha-Elohim” are mentioned as assembling at stated periods, Satan being one of them. Some Assyria-Babylonian mythological conception is held by the critical school to underlie this description of the gathering of the “sons of God” to present themselves before YHVH. Another conception, taken from sidereal religion, seems to underlie the use of the phrase in Job xxxv:7.[22]

 

X. My Teacher’s Thoughts

 

His Eminence, Hakham Dr. Yosef ben Haggai has also taught us the meaning of B’ne Elohim:

 

What is the difference between ELOHIM and B’NE ELOHIM?

 

Well if I may put it this way, it is like the difference between HAKHAM (a judge and teacher) AND TALMID HAKHAM (a student),  which are often in Rabbinical literature used to denote the same person. For all Hakhamim have been Talmidim of some Hakham at one point in their lives.

 

But more precisely speaking, Hakham refers to the earlier Sages of the Sanhedrin, whilst Talmid Hakham refers to our present Rabbis. The same with Elohim. Precisely speaking Adonai (HaShem) is Elohim par excellence, He is the ultimate judge. And we judges are B’ne Elohim. On the other hand the terms are used interchangeably to denote the same thing JUDGE or JUDGES, irrespective of whether it is HaShem or His delegated agents.

 

XI. Names Shared with HaShem

 

Now that we have some understanding of Mashiach’s names, it is worth looking a bit more at the names that are shared by HaShem and men.

 

One of the things that I have learned from Chazal is that EVERY name that is one of HaShem’s names, is also a name shared by men EXCEPT HaShem (יהוה).

 

With this in mind, I would like to explore an enigmatic pasuk that is often misunderstood. This is how this pasuk is rendered by the JPS translation:

 

Yeshayahu (Isaiah) 9:5 For a child is born unto us, a son is given unto us; and the government is upon his shoulder; and his name is called Pele- joez-el-gibbor-Abi-ad-sar-shalom; {That is, Wonderful in counsel is God the Mighty, the everlasting Father, the Ruler of peace.} 6 That the government may be increased, and of peace there be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it through justice and through righteousness from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of HaShem of hosts doth perform this.

 

The JPS translation shows us what Jews understand this passage to be saying. It also shows that the child’s birth is miraculous enough to be a sign to King Ahaz, yet it is not a virgin birth, but rather an unexpected birth.

 

This child that is born is to be a sign to King Ahaz.

 

Yeshayahu (Isaiah) 7:10 And HaShem spoke again unto Ahaz, saying: 11  ‘Ask thee a sign of HaShem thy God: ask it either in the depth, or in the height above.’ 12  But Ahaz said: ‘I will not ask, neither will I try HaShem.’ 13  And he said: ‘Hear ye now, O house of David: Is it a small thing for you to weary men, that ye will weary my God also? 14  Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign: behold, the young woman shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. {That is, God is with us.} 15  Curd and honey shall he eat, when he knoweth to refuse the evil, and choose the good. 16  Yea, before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land whose two kings thou hast a horror of shall be forsaken.

 

This child is the child that is born in v9:5 as a sign to King Ahaz. This suggests that if the child that was born to King Ahaz, was born normally, then the same would apply to Mashiach’s birth. To put it another way, if Mashiach was born of a virgin, then so also was the child born as a sign to King Ahaz. Further, The Hebrew word ‘almah’ is a young woman. It is NOT the word for virgin.

 

One of the places, according to Hakham Tovia Singer, where the uncommon Hebrew word almah appears in the Tanakh is:

 

Mishlei (Proverbs) 30:18-20 There are three things which are too wonderful for me, four which I do not understand: the way of an eagle in the sky, the way of a serpent on a rock, the way of a ship in the middle of the sea, and the way of a man with a young woman [b’alma].  This is the way of an adulterous woman: she eats and wipes her mouth, and says, “I have done no wrong.”

 

In the above three verses, King Solomon compares a man with an almah to three other things: an eagle in the sky, a serpent on a rock, and a ship in the sea.  What do these three things all have in common?  They leave no trace.  After the eagle has flown across the sky, determining that the eagle had ever flown there is impossible.  Once a snake has slithered over a rock, there is no way to discern that the snake had ever crossed there (as opposed to a snake slithering over sand or grass, where it leaves a trail).  After a ship has moved across the sea, the water comes together behind it and there is no way to tell that a ship had ever passed through there.  Similarly, King Solomon informs us that once a man has been with an almah there is also no trace of the fornication that had occurred between them.  Therefore, in the following verse (verse 20) King Solomon explains that once this adulterous woman has eaten (a metaphor for her fornication), she removes the trace of her sexual activity by exclaiming, “I have done no wrong.”  The word almah clearly does not mean virgin.

 

In the same way that in the English language the words “young woman” have no bearing on whether virginity is present or not, in the Hebrew language there is no relationship between the words almah and virgin.  On the contrary, it is usually a young woman who bears children.  Had Isaiah wished to speak about a virgin birth, he would have used the word bethulah[23] not almah.  Bethulah is a common word in the Tanakh, and can only mean “virgin.”

 

If this passage is used to demonstrate that Mashiach is Deity, then we must conclude that the child born as a sign to King Ahaz was also Deity. This posses many problems.

 

Because of the duality of these pasukim, we must conclude that the child born as a sign to King Ahaz was not a virgin birth, nor was the child, Deity. Additionally, we must conclude that Mashiach was not born of a virgin, nor is He Deity.

 

Bibliography:

 

The Guide For The Perplexed By Moses Maimonides, Translated from the original Arabic text by M. Friedlander, PH.D.

 

* * *

 

This study was written by

Rabbi Dr. Hillel ben David

(Greg Killian).

Comments may be submitted to:

 

Rabbi Dr. Greg Killian

4544 Highline Drive SE

Olympia, WA 98501

 

Internet address:  gkilli@aol.com

Web page:  http://www.betemunah.org/

 

(360) 918-2905

 

Return to The WATCHMAN home page.

Send comments to Greg Killian at his email address: gkilli@aol.com


 



[1] I will be using Mashiach (Messiah) as it is normally used by Christians. When Christians use the word Mashiach in an unambiguous way, it always pertains to Mashiach ben Joseph. When Jews use the word Mashiach in an unambiguous way, it always pertains to Mashiach ben David.

[2] See Yochanan (John) 1:18

[3] The Torah Anthology, Meam Loez, book II – The Patriarchs, pg. 158.

[4] C.f. The Guide For The Perplexed By Moses Maimonides, Translated from the original Arabic text by M. Friedlander, PH.D.

[5] Ibid.

[6] New Testament

[7] the Old Testament

[8] See 2 Samuel 7:14; Psalm 2:7-9

[9] This is the Hebrew word that is used by Sefardi Jews to refer to their Rabbis.

[10] This section speaks here of one who was sold by the court for a theft which he had committed and was not able to pay for (further, 22:2). On refusing to go free at the end of his six years of service, the servant is to take counsel with his vendors [the court] "and they will advise him to go free, for when he is free he can serve G-d in more ways than he could as a servant etc." (Zeh Yenachmeinu commentary on the Mechilta).

[11] Further, 22:8.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Deuteronomy 1:17.

[14] II Chronicles, 19:6.

[15] Psalms 82:l.

[16] Deuteronomy 19:17.

[17] Further, 23:7.

[18] Shemoth Rabbah 30:20.

[19] Judges 2:18.

[20] See Yochanan (John) 1:18

[21] Hilchot Yesodei Hatorah

[22] The Jewish Encyclopedia, God, children of

[23] In fact, although Isaiah used the Hebrew word almah only one time in his entire corpus (7:14), the prophet uses this word virgin (betulah) five times throughout the book of Isaiah (23:4; 23:12; 37:22; 47:1; 62:5).