JESUS’ BIRTH IN PROPHECY

Introduction

The opening chapters of Matthew and Luke describe the birth of Jesus Christ. The coming birth of Christ should not have been an unknown event in the minds of the Jews of that day. There are numerous prophecies of the Messiah throughout the Old Testament. In this article I want us to look into some of these Old Testament prophecies.

Prophecies of the Messiah

The Jews would come to know Him in New Testament times as the Messias and the Christos {khris-tos’}, Christ. Both words mean, anointed (one). But the Jews of the Old Testament knew Him as mashiyach {maw-shee’-akh}, the Hebrew word for the Messiah, the anointed one.

Because Man sinned in the garden, disobeying God’s commandment not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:16-18), the punishment of death came into effect (Gen.3:1-24). But even as Creator pronounced the deadly punishment on man, He gave the first promise of a solution to man’s self-inflicted sin problem. He told the tempter in Genesis 3:15; Also see Gal. 4:3-5), “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” This was the first of many promises of a messiah, a savior, that would reconcile man to God and take away his sins.

Luke 3:23-37

We began with a New Testament passage, Luke’s account of the genealogy of Jesus. Luke begins with Adam, the first man, and traces the genealogy through Adam’s son, Seth, Noah, Noah’s son, Shem, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Jacob’s son, Judah, David, David’s son, Nathan, Heli, Heli’s son, Joseph (the husband of Mary, the mother of Jesus), and Jesus (Genealogy abbreviated by me, LJB).

Genesis 12:1-3

In Genesis 12:1-3, God called Abraham from his country to go to another land, promising him that he would make of him a great nation. He also promised him, “And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 12:3). Keep this promise of blessing to all the families of the earth in mind. This covenant was reaffirmed in Genesis 17:4-7. It would be through Abraham’s son, Isaac (Gen. 17:19 and 21:12) and his son, Jacob (Genesis 25:22-23 and 28:13-14).

Genesis 49:10

On his deathbed, Jacob told his twelve sons, “that which shall befall you in the last days” (Gen. 49:1). He told Judah, “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be” (Gen. 49:10). Shiloh is from a Hebrew word meaning, “He whose it is, that which belongs to him,” according to Brown-Driver-Briggs. Shiloh is an epithet of the Messiah. The NET translates the verse, “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs; the nations will obey him.” The line of kings of Israel would ascend through the tribe of Judah until Jesus Christ, the ruler of all nations would come!

1 Samuel 16:1; Isaiah 11:1, 10

Saul, the first king of Israel, had been killed himself after being dealt a mortal wound in a battle with the Philistines. God tells Samuel in 1 Samuel 16:1:

How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? fill thine horn with oil, and go, I will send thee to Jesse the Bethlehemite: for I have provided me a king among his sons.

Later, Isaiah would write (Is. 11:1, 10):
And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots…And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious.

So far we have seen that the coming Messiah would bruise the head of the serpent (Satan), bless all nations, and become the ruler of all nations. Now we see that all of the Gentiles would seek Him, and He would provide a glorious rest.

2 Samuel 7:12-16; Isaiah 9:6-7

Please read 2 Samuel 7:12-16. God told David in 2 Samuel 7:13, “He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever.” Isaiah writes in Isaiah 9:6-7.
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever.

The fulfillment of these passages is found in Luke 1:32-33; 3:23-38, Matthew 1:1, 6-7. Matthew affirms that Jesus Christ was descendant of Abraham – the blessing that would come from Abraham’s seed (Gen. 12:3; 17:4-7)!

Isaiah 7:13-14

Isaiah writes in Isaiah 7:13-14:

And he said, Hear ye now, O house of David; Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will ye weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

Virgin, in Isaiah 7:14, is from a Hebrew word meaning, according to Strong, “A lass (as veiled or private):—damsel, maid, virgin.” Brown-Driver-Briggs define the word, “Virgin, young woman.” They add a comment from Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament: “There is no instance where it can be proved that this word designates a young woman who is not a virgin.” Although the word can be translated, “young woman” (As translated in NET), Matthew and Luke, in presenting the fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14, give us the inspired translation. They use a Greek word which means, according to both Strong and Thayer, virgin (See Matthew 1:23; Luke 1:27).

Robertson writes:

“Virgin-birth” is the correct and only correct designation of the birth statement contained in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke…The only statement which is sufficiently specific is “virgin-birth,” inasmuch as according to the New Testament statement Mary was at the time of this birth virgo intacta.
Isaiah also prophesied that the son born of the virgin would be named Immanuel. The word in the Hebrew means, “‘God with us’ or ‘with us is God'”(Brown-Driver-Briggs; See Matt. 1:23).

Read Matthew 1:18-25 and Luke 1:26-35 for the full description of the fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14.

Micah 5:2-3

Micah tells us where the Messiah would be born:
But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.
Luke 2:1-7 and Matthew 2:1-6 give the fulfillment of Micah’s prophecy. According to Luke, Mary and Joseph went to Bethlehem to be taxed, or registered for taxation, obeying the decree of Caesar Augustus. According to Matthew, the wise men from the East were told by the scholars of Judea that the king would be born in Bethlehem, as Micah had said.

Luke writes:

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

Numbers 24:30

As Balaam blessed Israel, he said, “I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth.

Balaam spoke of a “Star out of Jacob.” Matthew 2:1-2 provides the fulfillment of this one:

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.

These “wise men” had seen star in the east and had interpreted it to be the star of King of the Jews. They may have been familiar with the star Balaam had referred to. Perhaps the star was more than a sign and guide to these wise men. It may be that this is another way of identifying Jesus as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah.

Strong defines a “wise men,” “A Magian, that is, Oriental scientist; by implication a magician:—sorcerer, wise man.” We are not told how many of them. The tradition that they were “three kings, named Gaspar, Melchior, and Belthazar” (Smith), is without foundation. The tradition is likely based on the fact they brought three gifts, gold, and frankincense and myrrh (Matt. 2:11). But three gifts could have been brought by any number of wise men. We simply do not know.

When Was Jesus Born?

Please read Daniel 9:24-27. Adam Clarke describes how Daniel’s seventy weeks equals 490 years from the rebuilding of the temple (c. 516 BC) destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in 587 B.C. until the Messiah, by the sacrifice of himself, caused all other sacrifices and oblations to cease. The Messiah would come 483 years after the rebuilding of the temple, if you take away the “one week” (7 years), which would include the ministry of John the Baptist plus the ministry of Jesus. Michael Scheifler writes, “It can be demonstrated from the 70 week prophecy of Daniel 9 that the baptism of Jesus occurred in 27 A.D., which would place His birth about or before 3 B.C.” See his explanation of how this year is determined here.

It is not certain when the taxation, or census mentioned in Luke 2:1-6 took place. So that is not much help in establishing the when of Jesus’ birth. But it gives us a general idea. See Clarke for a discussion of the difficulties in determining when this census took place.

We cannot be sure what time of year Jesus’ birth took place. The idea that it was on “a cold winters night,” etc. is only tradition, probably arising from the establishment of the Date of December 25. That date can not be confirmed by anything in the scriptures.

We simply do not know when Jesus was born. What is more important that when He was born is that He was born, and why He was born. Paul explains in Galatians 4:3-5:

Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.

Conclusion

Paul writes in 1 Timothy 3:16:
And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.
And one day the baby born in a manger in Bethlehem who became a prophet, and high priest who sacrificed Himself for our sins, and King of Kings will come back for us. Are you ready?

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