CAN THE MESSIAH DIE?
Many Lubavitch Hasidim believed Menachem Schneerson was the Messiah. His death has meant great disappointment and disillusionment for them. Their hope for the imminent transformation of this world has come to an abrupt end.
Throughout Jewish history, there have been different individuals who claimed to be the Messiah or whose followers claimed that they were the Messiah. All of these Messiahs died, and their followers were left without hope. How can Messiah deliver Israel if he dies?
Different ancient Jewish writings do speak of Messiah dying. One of the
parchment fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls, according to some scholars, speaks of Messiah being pierced and put to death.1
In 4 Ezra, a first century document sometimes called the Apocalypse of Ezra, God says, "For my son the Messiah shall be revealed with those who are with him, and those who remain shall rejoice 400 years. And after these years my son the Messiah shall die, and all who draw human breath."2
The eighteenth of the Psalms of Solomon, written around the middle of the first century B.C., contains the following prayer: "May God cleanse Israel in
the day of mercy and blessing, in the day of election when he brings back His
Messiah."3 [Messiah comes once, departs this earth through death or some
supernatural means, and will come again. His coming brings cleansing, mercy,
and blessing to Israel.]
2 Baruch, written during the second half of the first century A.D., is believed to have Pharisaic-Rabbinic roots. It says, "And it shall come to pass after these things, when the time of the advent of the Messiah is fulfilled, that He shall return in glory. Then all who have fallen asleep in hope of Him shall rise again."4 [Messiah has come and gone. His return will bring the resurrection of the dead.]
The Talmud refers to Zech.12:9-14 as speaking of the death of Messiah: "It is well according to him who explains that the cause [of the mourning] is the
slaying of Messiah the son of Joseph, since that well agrees with the Scriptural verse, And they shall look upon me because they have thrust him through, and they shall mourn for him as one mourns for his only son."5 It is not clear why the rabbis spoke of Messiah as "the Son of Joseph." Perhaps because Joseph saved Israel from death through his own death. That is, Israel believed that Joseph had died, but he actually had been brought up from the pit and was very much alive. Exiled from the land and people of Israel, Joseph was exalted and became the savior of Israel. He also became the savior of the nations.
In another Talmudic tractate, the Rabbis apply Isaiah 53 to the Messiah. "The Rabbis said: His [Messiahs] name is the leper scholar, as it is written,
Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem
him a leper, smitten of God, and afflicted.'"6 The text in Isaiah continues: "But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. "We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
"He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.
"By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken.
"He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.
"Yet it was the LORDs will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and
prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.
"After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.
"Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the
spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors."7
There are other passages in Tanakh that refer to the death of Messiah, e.g. Daniel 9:24-26. The archangel Gabriel tells Daniel that Messiah will be put
to death, and after his death, Jerusalem and the Temple will be destroyed. [They were destroyed in 70 A.D.]
In the extended Kedushah for the Yom Kippur Musaf service, we read: “Let there be an advocate for the ancient people... Our righteous Messiah is turned away from us; we shudder in horror, and there is no one to justify us. He carries the load of our iniquities and the yoke of our transgressions. And he is wounded because of our transgressions. He bears the heaviness of our sins on his shoulder, that he may nd forgiveness for our iniquities. There is healing for us in his wound.” (The Hebrew text can be found in The Complete Artscroll Machzor, Yom Kippur, Mesorah Publications, 1986, Pp. 827-828)
Messiah is anointed by God to bring final salvation to His people. Why then do the Scriptures and other ancient Jewish writings speak of his death? If
Messiah must die, where is our hope?
God's Messiah does not die because of age or accident. As Isaiah prophesied, Messiah is despised, rejected, judged, and sent to death by men; but at the same time, "it was the LORD's will to ...make his life an offering for sin."
Our own sins keep us from God and His Kingdom. As Isaiah also said, "Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear,
but your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear."8
God had told Moses the one way to take away our sin: "For the life of a
creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for ones
God is Holy, and His judgment is that we deserve to die for our sins. Only
the death of an innocent other in our place can deliver us from God's judgment.
Moses himself was a type of Messiah in bringing Israel out of slavery to freedom. When Israel sinned by making and worshipping the golden calf, Moses offered himself to the Lord to die as an atonement for Israels sin.10
Many first century Jews believed in Yeshua of Nazareth as the Messiah. His death was a shock and disappointment to them, for "we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel."11 Their hope came to an abrupt end. They did not know where to turn or what to do.
Yeshua rose from the dead, appeared to them, and said, "How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory? And
beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said
in all the Scriptures concerning himself."12
Yeshua taught that he came to die to atone for the sins of Israel--even as
Moses had offered to do--and for the sins of the world. He had to die to deliver us from the enemy within our own hearts.
As King of the Jews, representing the people who have suffered and been put to death throughout the history of the world, it is appropriate that Messiah should also first suffer and be put to death by men.
Death did not defeat Yeshua, even as it has failed to defeat the Jewish
people. He rose from the dead and has given life and hope to those in every age and nation who trust in him. He will return in glory to destroy the other enemies of Israel.
King David was rejected and sent into exile by an Israel in rebellion against God. He sent a message to the elders of Judah. Yeshua sends the same message to you today: "You are my brothers, my own flesh and blood. So why should you be the last to bring back the king?."13
2. 4 Ezra 7:28-29, cited in Charlesworth, "The Concept of the Messiah in the
Pseudepigrapha," ANRW, de Gruyter, Berlin, 1979, P.202
3.Psalms of Solomon, ibid, P.199
4. 2 Baruch 30:1-2, ibid, P.200
5. Sukkah 52a, Soncino ed.
6. Sanhedrin 98b
7. Is. 53:5-12, NIV
8. Is. 59:1-2
9. Lev./Vay. 17:11
10. Ex./Shem. 32:30-32
11. Lk. 24:21
12. Lk. 24:25-27
13. 2Sam. 19:12
If you would like to send this article to a friend, please select and copy the text above, and paste into body of email message. Please replace the word "friend" with the email address of your friend . Thank you.
Send Article to Friend
"You Can't See God!"
Can The Messiah Die?
Modern Rabbis and the Virgin Birth
Seven Supernatural Jewish Sons