Messiah is everything. In today’s DAILY PORTION email, I address the long debated issue of Matthew seemingly misinterpreting Isaiah 7:14. Those who have become used to ancient ways of interpreting texts, such as the midrashes of the Jewish sages, are not surprised by what Matthew has done. It’s a Jewish thing. (Note: a midrash is a creative interpretation of a scripture text that makes for a sermon-like application and the classical midrashes were written from the 3rd through 10th centuries by the Sages of Judaism).
Messiah, Whose Birth Means Liberation
If the words of a prophet 2,700 years ago, about the timing of peace and the end of a threat being signified by the birth of a child, was significant, how much more then the birth of the divine Messiah? Matthew is not talking about some prophecy that a virgin would miraculously conceive. It is true that the LXX’s (Septuagint’s, the Greek translation of the Torah) choice of parthenos παρθένος in Isaiah 7:14 (translating the Hebrew almah, עַלְמָה, young woman) does allow for a comparison to the fact that Mary was a virgin who miraculously conceived. But Matthew is talking about something more than a crude misinterpretation of Isaiah. He means that Yeshua’s life is comparable to the great events of Israel’s history and that he is the true child whose birth brings salvation.
ve’davak וְדָבַק is the Vav-conversive Qal Perfect from the root דבק. To cling. “… and clings to his wife.” In Judaism devekut דבקות is the practice of clinging to God emotionally and in our daily thoughts. Whether we apply this word to our marriage or our relationship with God, it is a powerful idea.
plei-roh-thei πληρωθῇ from plei-ro-oh πληροω. Fill. “This happened so that what was spoken by the prophet would be filled full.” Does not mean “fulfill.” It is the simple verb for filling something up. Matthew uses it with key texts where he gives a midrash-like interpretation. For example, here, Isaiah was referring to a young bride who would soon become pregnant (non-miraculously) as a timing marker for peace in Judah and the end of the Aramean-Israelite threat against Judah. Matthew makes a midrash, comparing the prophetic announcement of the birth of a child whose arrival symbolizes salvation and the angelic announcement of Yeshua whose birth is actual salvation.
Today’s Torah Portion and Commentary: Genesis 2:20-3:21.
Scripture Text: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis%202:20-3:21&version=CJB
Commentary Text: http://DerekLeman.com/Genesis#genesis3
Today’s Gospel and Commentary: Matthew 1:18-25.
Commentary Text: http://DerekLeman.com/Matthew#matthew3
Shalom, perceptive readers,
As you can tell from today’s comments and thoughts, I care about reading Matthew 1:20-21 correctly. I think its actual meaning is more inspiring than the erroneous “prophecy fulfilled” view. The takeaway from a text like this is simple. Yeshua is more important than we know.
When I led a congregation, there was a period of time when I downplayed the importance of Messiah. Over time I came to realize Messiah is what makes Messianic Judaism and, more than that, Messiah is everything.
Though most people, Jewish or not, are unaware of the centrality of Messiah, it is a fact of the universe we will all discover. He is the Lord before whom we will all be changed, to whom we will gladly bow in joy and peace.
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