Friday, January 22, 2010

Messianic Portraits in the Hebrew Bible and in the Dead Sea Scrolls

A Suggested Relationship between Messianic Portraits in the Hebrew Bible, The Diarchic Messianism of the Qumran Community, and the Nature of God as Revealed in Exodus 34:6-7

A Paper presented at the Qumran, Dead Sea Scrolls, and Biblical Interpretation Conference at the Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary by R. Kirk Kilpatrick
Dean of the Masters and Associates Programs
Professor of Old Testament and Hebrew
April 23, 2009

"What do you think about Messiah, whose son is he?"
(Matthew 22:42)

According to the Gospel of Matthew, this question was asked long ago in the temple court by Jesus Himself. After Jesus had answered many questions from various quarters (from Sadducees, Pharisees, Herodians, etc.), he asked this one question and, according to the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, it put an end to the stream of questions for the time being.

The religious leaders responded to Jesus’ question by indicating that the Messiah was to be the “son of David” focusing on genealogy. But what other “son” could they have considered? Jesus’ question implies that there were other “son of” portraits that were discussed in the first century. “Son of David,” “son of Aaron,” a prophet like Moses, a “son of Joseph,”[1]—several of these messianic portraits may be seen in the text of the Hebrew Bible and in the Dead Sea Scrolls. One of the texts from Qumran even mentions a “Son of God.”[2]

As early as 1956, with regard to interpretive problems associated with such messianic material from Qumran, F. F. Bruce wrote:
"Among the many fascinating aspects of the study of the Dead Sea Scrolls few, if any, are so important as the lines of prophetic interpretation accepted by the Jewish community to which these manuscripts belonged. And among the various aspects of their prophetic interpretation none has been the subject of more debate (and, it must be added, more confusion) than their messianic expectation."[3]

From the time that Bruce made this comment it seems that little has changed. Though messianism is a broad, controversial area; there is, however, a measure of consensus regarding the two messianic figures at Qumran. Describing the understanding of the Dead Sea community, Lawrence Schiffman wrote, “According to the dominant view in the sectarian texts from Qumran, two messiahs were to lead the congregation in the End of Days, one priestly, and the other lay.”[4] Of this broad area of consensus among Scrolls scholars, Craig Evans noted:

"In the wake of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, a great deal of attention focused on Qumran’s expectation of the appearance of two messiahs. Several times the Damascus Document speaks of a time when the 'anointed of Aaron and of Israel' will appear (e.g., CD 12:23-13:1). It is on this basis, though not exclusively, that scholars began to speak of a diarchic or binary messianism at Qumran. However, recently some scholars have challenged this near consensus. For example, Michael Wise and James Tabor have argued that Qumran’s messianism is monarchic. But the diarchic view remains widely held, and in my opinion is correct."[5]

While Evans spoke of near consensus on diarchic messianism at Qumran, what of the relationship between the Qumran community’s brand of messianism and the scriptures themselves. Are these messianic portraits of a priestly and of a royal messiah merely disparate pictures that should be understood as mutually exclusive offices as at Qumran; or was there a link between these portraits in the Hebrew Bible that would help to explain their existence in the biblical text and in the Dead Sea Scrolls? This paper will suggest a relationship between the messianic portraits in the Hebrew Bible, the diarchic messianism of the Qumran Community, and the nature of God as revealed in Exodus 34:6-7.

1) Two Messiahs Mentioned in the Dead Sea Scrolls
To speak of “the” Messianic hope of the Jews during the second temple period, as though it were a singular idea, would be a na├»ve approach to the topic. Just a casual look at the Genesis Rabbah or the Exodus Rabbah brings an awareness of the many interpretations that were debated in the past. Just as there are varying interpretations between Christian groups today and also varying interpretations between sects of Judaism today, there were also many interpretations within Judaism of that day. If interpretations can be gauged by the number of adherents or by the number of ancient witnesses to an interpretation, then the community attested in the Dead Sea Scrolls seems to have held a minority view.

Though in the Targums and in the Talmuds (Babli and Yerushalami) the regular reference is to “King Messiah” or simply “the Messiah,” the Qumran Community looked for the diarchic reign of the Messiah of Aaron (priestly) and the Messiah of Israel (royal). Occasionally this is true also in the Pseudopigrapha where two figures are mentioned in the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs. This is further evidence that among some there was an anticipation of two special rulers: a priestly ruler and a kingly ruler. This is evident in the Testament of Simeon (7.1-2); in the Testament of Judah (21.2-4); and in the Testament of Levi (18:2f).[6]

Thus, unlike messianic references in the Targums and the Talmuds which far outnumber the Dead Sea Scroll messianic references, at Qumran two annointed figures stand out. The Damascus Document spoke of a time of “ungodliness until the appearance of the messiahs of Aaron and of Israel (Damascus document 12.23-13.1; see also, 14.18-19). The Damascus Document indicated that a time of salvation and judgment was coming:

“Those who heed Him are the poor of the flock; they will be saved at the time of visitation. But others will be delivered up to the sword at the coming of the messiah of Aaron and of Israel” (Damascus document 19.9-11; see also, 19.33-20.1).

The Manual of Discipline spoke of “the coming of the prophet and the anointed ones of Aaron and Israel” (Manual of discipline 9.9b-11). And there are several others from the scrolls in this vein.

2) Messiah as Priest and King in the Hebrew Bible

While prophets, priests and kings were all anointed in biblical times, priests and kings in Judah were chosen from carefully traced genealogical lines. The priests were from Aaron. The kings descended from David. The “son of David” was anointed by the priest upon ascension to the throne as the rightful heir of David. As David was a warrior, a king, and a judge, so this “son of David” would share these traits. As David lay dying, he spoke of his hope of the promised kingdom:

"Now these are the last words of David. David the son of Jesse declares, The man who was raised on high declares, The anointed of the God of Jacob, And the sweet psalmist of Israel,
The Spirit of the LORD spoke by me, And His word was on my tongue. The God of Israel said, The Rock of Israel spoke to me, 'He who rules over men righteously, Who rules in the fear of God, Is as the light of the morning when the sun rises, A morning without clouds, When the tender grass springs out of the earth, Through sunshine after rain.' Truly is not my house so with God? For He has made an everlasting covenant with me, Ordered in all things, and secured; For all my salvation and all my desire, Will He not indeed make it grow? 6 But the worthless, every one of them will be thrust away like thorns, Because they cannot be taken in hand; But the man who touches them Must be armed with iron and the shaft of a spear, And they will be completely burned with fire in their place." [2 Samuel 23:1-7, NAS]

Salvation and Judgment were in David's last words that focused on the promised kingdom.
This focus was messianic. His rhetorical question in verse five concerning the future of his throne ("For all my salvation and all my desire, Will He not indeed make it grow?) calls for the unreserved affirmative response, "Surely He will." It is the root of the verbal "cause it to grow" (yatsmiach) in Hebrew that lays the foundation for later messianic allusions by way of the noun tsemach and it’s partial synonym “netser.”

Through the centuries the Branch prophecy would grow with each successive prophecy. The psalmist in 132:17 and the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Zechariah all contributed to the development of this important motif. In one of these allusions to this messianic vein of prophecy, Isaiah used the word netser, meaning “branch, shoot, sprout” to refer to the Messiah (Isaiah 11:1).

In Isaiah 6:13, as the Lord called the prophet Isaiah, He indicated that the kingdom of Judah would be cut down like a tree leaving only a stump of what once was a much greater kingdom. The hope then was the birth of a future son of David, described as a coming Branch, the rightful heir to the throne. In the ninth chapter four epithets were given: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. The enigma presented was of a child who would be both king (counselor and prince as synonyms of melek) and God. As his contemporary Micah left a similar mystery, one dealing with time, regarding the one to be born at Bethlehem whose goings forth were from the days of eternity. The Branch would come from Jesse; yet, the Branch (netzer) would also be the root (shoresh) of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1, 10); thus leaving again the enigma, “How can the descendant of Jesse also be the source of Jesse?”

Prophecies of the Branch

Isaiah 4:2 (The Beautiful Branch)
Isaiah 6:13 (The Branch from the stump of the felled tree of Judah)
Isaiah 11:1 (The Branch from Jesse's household)
Jeremiah 23:5-6 (The Righteous Branch)
Jeremiah 33:15-16 (The Righteous Branch)
Ezekiel 29:21 (The horn that will "sprout")
Zechariah 3:8 (My Servant the Branch)
Zechariah 6:12 (The man whose name is The Branch)
Psalm 132:17 (The horn of David that will "sprout")

In the New Testament the motif continues. Matthew made the connection with these prophecies when he noted that it was written that “He shall be called a Natsarene” (2:23); while in Acts 24:5, Luke referred to the way that the early Christians were called the “sect of the Natsarenes.” Far from being a recent discovery, this apparent relationship between netser and Nazareth was proposed by Eusebius (260-341 AD) in his Onomasticon and was also mentioned by Jerome (AD 345-420).[7]

Of all of the Branch prophecies, the most perplexing must have been the one in the sixth chapter of Zechariah. In 6:9-14, the prophet wrote:

The word of the Lord also came to me saying, "Take an offering from the exiles, from Heldai, Tobijah, and Jedaiah; and you go the same day and enter the house of Josiah the son of Zephaniah, where they have arrived from Babylon. "And take silver and gold, make an ornate crown, and set it on the head of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest. "Then say to him, 'Thus says the Lord of hosts," Behold, a man whose name is Branch, for He will branch out from where He is; and He will build the temple of the Lord. "Yes, it is He who will build the temple of the Lord, and He who will bear the honor and sit and rule on His throne. Thus, He will be a priest on His throne, and the counsel of peace will be between the two offices"' [NASB].

Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying:  “Receive the gift from the captives—from Heldai, Tobijah, and Jedaiah, who have come from Babylon—and go the same day and enter the house of Josiah the son of Zephaniah. Take the silver and gold, make an elaborate crown, and set it on the head of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Then speak to him, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, saying:

“Behold, the Man whose name is the BRANCH! From His place He shall branch out,  And He shall build the temple of the Lord; Yes, He shall build the temple of the Lord. He shall bear the glory, And shall sit and rule on His throne; so He shall be a priest on His throne,
And the counsel of peace shall be between them both.”[NKJV]

The word of the Lord came to me: “Take silver and gold from the exiles Heldai, Tobijah and Jedaiah, who have arrived from Babylon. Go the same day to the house of Josiah son of Zephaniah. Take the silver and gold and make a crown, and set it on the head of the high priest, Joshua son of Jehozadak. Tell him this is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Here is the man whose name is the Branch, and he will branch out from his place and build the temple of the Lord. It is he who will build the temple of the Lord, and he will be clothed with majesty and will sit and rule on his throne. And he will be a priest on his throne. And there will be harmony between the two.’ [NIV]

The word of the Lord came to me: Collect silver and gold from the exiles—from Heldai, Tobijah, and Jedaiah—who have arrived from Babylon; and go the same day to the house of Josiah son of Zephaniah. Take the silver and gold and make a crown, and set it on the head of the high priest Joshua son of Jehozadak; say to him: Thus says the Lord of hosts: Here is a man whose name is Branch: for he shall branch out in his place, and he shall build the temple of the Lord. It is he that shall build the temple of the Lord; he shall bear royal honor, and shall sit and rule on his throne. There shall be a priest by his throne, with peaceful understanding between the two of them. [NRSV]

The word of the LORD came to me: Receive from the exiled community—from Heldai, Tobijah, and Jedaiah, who have come from Babylon—and you, in turn, proceed the same day to the house of Josiahson of Zephaiah. Take silver and gold and make crowns. Place [one] on the head of High Priest Joshua son of Jehozadak, and say to him, “Thus said the LORD of Hosts: Behold, a man called the Branch shall branch out from the place where he is, and he shall build the Temple of the LORD. He shall build the Temple of the LORD and shall assume majesty, and he shall sit on his throne and rule. And there shall also be a priest h—seated on his throne—h and harmonious understanding shall prevail between them.” [JPS Tanakh]
h-hSeptuagint reads “on his right side.”

Two approaches to the translation of this text. The KJV, NKJV, NAS, and NIV take the last part of the verse to refer to peace or harmony existing between the office of High Priest and the office of King in one person enthroned. The other tradition, as evidenced by the JPS Tanakh and also followed in the NRSV, follows the reading of the Septuagint and indicates that the prophecy has two men in view, a crowned High Priest and another priest to his right side.

This prophecy by Zechariah added more information to earlier revelation about the “Branch.” Earlier Isaiah had prophesied the Branch would be from Jesse’s line. Jeremiah said that the Branch would be “righteous.” In Zechariah 3:8 the Branch was referred to by the LORD as “My Servant.” In Zechariah 6 the Branch is strangely represented by a High Priest from Aaron’s line named Joshua, or Yehoshua, who is crowned and sits on the throne to rule and typifies the Branch who will build the Temple of the LORD. But how could this harmonize with the promise made to David?

The rule of a priest-king in Jerusalem, however, does make a connection with the distant past. Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek who was both priest and king of the Most High God.

3) The Nature of God and Messiah as Priest and King

“He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the children of Israel.” (Psalm 103:7)

“Hear, my children, the instruction of a father, And give attention to know understanding; For I give you good doctrine: Do not forsake my law. When I was my father’s son, Tender and the only one in the sight of my mother, He also taught me, and said to me: “Let your heart retain my words; Keep my commands, and live. Get wisdom! Get understanding! Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you; Love her, and she will keep you. Wisdom is the principal thing; Therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding” (Proverbs 4:1-7).

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10).

The psalmist wrote that the LORD, “made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the children of Israel” (Psalm 103:7). This Psalm captures God’s self-revelation in the book of Exodus. His mighty works from the Nile to the Red Sea to the descent at Sinai were known to the newly formed nation; but his ways were the special interest of Moses. In Vaelleh Shemot (Exodus) the name of the mother of Moses is given, Yahchaved, “the LORD of glory.” Long after the time of Moses’ youth, his birth-mother’s influence was strong in his life. Moses’ request to see the glory of God seems too great a coincidence. In Exodus 33:12-19, during one of his audiences with God at Sinai, Moses asked the LORD, “Show me now Your way that I may know You... Please, Show me Your glory.” The LORD replied, “I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.”

The text goes on to say:

NAU Exodus 34:1 Now the LORD said to Moses, "Cut out for yourself two stone tablets like the former ones, and I will write on the tablets the words that were on the former tablets which you shattered. 2 "So be ready by morning, and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai, and present yourself there to Me on the top of the mountain. 3 "No man is to come up with you, nor let any man be seen anywhere on the mountain; even the flocks and the herds may not graze in front of that mountain." 4 So he cut out two stone tablets like the former ones, and Moses rose up early in the morning and went up to Mount Sinai, as the LORD had commanded him, and he took two stone tablets in his hand. 5 The LORD descended in the cloud and stood there with him as he called upon the name of the LORD. 6 Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, "The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; 7 who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations."
Moses grew up in Egypt and the names of gods and pharaohs were often arranged in a double cartouche. The two-part structure of the passage may be seen from the double pronouncement of the NAME to the balanced presentation of the nature of the LORD. After the double-pronouncement of the name, which occurs only here in all of the Hebrew Bible, the LORD used fifteen words to describe His mercy and grace and another fifteen words to describe His justice and wrath—or by letter count, fifty-five letters given to grace and fifty-one to justice. The words of the LORD and His presence resulted in Moses using the term Adonai twice in response, which may mark the beginning of a very old custom of divine name replacement with Adonai.

This statement was in response to Moses’ request to know the LORD’s ways. He revealed Himself as a God of mercy and grace, and also as a God of justice and wrath. Taken together, this appears to be the definition of Holy. Yet, there is an apparent contradiction in the passage. It is a contradiction in appearance only when context is taken into account. How can God “lift up” sin, transgression, and iniquity—effectively clear the guilty—while at the same time not clearing the guilty? This apparent problem is resolved when it is considered that the answer is atonement—and that this passage stands between the two sections of Exodus where the description of the tabernacle is given.

Two things were given at Sinai: the Law and the Tabernacle. The Tabernacle was the place for atonement to satisfy the gracious nature of God and the Law was the reflection of God’s justice. As Paul wrote in Romans 3, “that He might be just and the justifier…” When it comes to atonement, it stands at the center of the Torah. Not only are twice as many chapters given in Exodus to the Tabernacle design than to the Words of God and His Judgments combined; but the book of Leviticus stands at the center of the Torah.

Leviticus may be divided into thirty-seven parts based on the structural marker, “And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying….” As Wilfried Warning pointed out in his excellent work Literary Artistry in Leviticus, the book of Leviticus, or Vayyikra, is presented as thiry-seven audiences over thirty days given at the foot of Sinai.[8] Eighteen audiences are on one side and eighteen audiences are on the other side of the Chapter that gives the service of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. So the Day of Atonement, or perhaps better “atonements,” stands at the heart of the Torah, just as the mercy-seat was the focal point for atonement on that day. The LORD is holy; and atonement is the basis for His extension of forgiveness.

Seven drops of blood from a bull and seven drops of blood from a goat were placed in view of the cherubim on the golden mercy-seat. Above the heads of the bowed cherubs was the Shekinah glory of the LORD. Beneath the drops of blood in the Ark were the unbroken tablets of the Law. The High Priest would then twice repeat the name of the LORD in that holy setting at that holy moment, calling on the LORD to forgive while the people quietly prayed for the same outside. Between the visible presence of the LORD and the tablets of His law were the seven drops of blood. As the Cohen Gadol, the High Priest, called upon the NAME of the LORD, the blood of the offering was the satisfaction of the divine nature that desired to clear the guilty, but could in no way clear the guilty—without atonement.

In that ceremony the wrath of God was satisfied, God was reconciled with His people, and the scapegoat symbolically removed the sin of the camp. Christians believe the LORD intended these things to anticipate better blood than that of bulls and goats, eternal reconciliation made possible with the LORD, and the removal of sin and guilt through the Messiah, the suffering Servant, who would be priest and sacrifice, prophet and king.

As the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 3:21-26:

"21 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus."

As Paul reflected on God’s desire to be both Just and Justifier, which is the very presentation in Exodus 34:6-7, he made reference to “propitiation” using the term that in the Septuagint is the reference to the mercy-seat on top of the Ark of the Covenant. Here, as in Exodus 34:6-7, in the face of apparent contradiction—God’s desire to Justify over against His firm commitment to never clear the guilty—the only remedy is atonement.

4) Messiah as Priest & King: The “Acceptable Year” & the “Day of Vengeance”
Isaiah 61
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, Because the Lord has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” And they shall rebuild the old ruins, They shall raise up the former desolations, And they shall repair the ruined cities, The desolations of many generations. Strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, And the sons of the foreigner shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers. But you shall be named the priests of the Lord, They shall call you the servants of our God. You shall eat the riches of the Gentiles, And in their glory you shall boast. Instead of your shame you shall have double honor, And instead of confusion they shall rejoice in their portion. Therefore in their land they shall possess double; Everlasting joy shall be theirs. For I, the Lord, love justice; I hate robbery for burnt offering; I will direct their work in truth, And will make with them an everlasting covenant. Their descendants shall be known among the Gentiles, And their offspring among the people. All who see them shall acknowledge them, That they are the posterity whom the Lord as blessed.”

In this this beautiful passage, Isaiah 61, there is One anointed by the LORD sent on a mission described with seven infinitives: 1) to preach good news, 2) to heal the broken-hearted, 3) to proclaim liberty to the captives, 4) to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD and the day of vengeance of our God, 5) To comfort all who mourn, 6) to console those who mourn in Zion, 7) to give them beauty for ashes.

At the center of seven infinitives, the phrase “to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD and the day of vengeance of our God” is the reflection of this section. Here is prophesied both an “acceptable year of the LORD” for salvation and a “day of vengeance” for the justice and wrath of God to be displayed. According to this passage, one Messiah was to announce and to accomplish both.

The verb “Nasa” and the “Acceptable Year of the Lord”
Nasa”(Hebrew, literally meaning “to lift up” and by extension meaning “to forgive”) is the key verb in the first fifteen words of God’s self-revelation in Exodus 34:6-7. The lifting up of sin required a priest and a sacrifice. In Isaiah 61, the “acceptable [ratson] year of the LORD” speaks of a time that the LORD may be approached for forgiveness. In the context of Isaiah, the noun ratson carries the idea of an acceptable time and is often found in contexts dealing with deliverance or of acceptance of persons or acceptance of sacrificial offerings:

Isaiah 49:8 Thus saith the LORD: In an acceptable time have I answered thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee; and I will preserve thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, to raise up the land, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages… [JPS]

JPS Isaiah 58:5 Is such the fast that I have chosen? the day for a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the LORD?

JPS Isaiah 60:7 All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered together unto thee, the rams of Nebaioth shall minister unto thee; they shall come up with acceptance on Mine altar, and I will glorify My glorious house.

JPS Malachi 2:13 And this further ye do: ye cover the altar of the LORD with tears, with weeping, and with sighing, insomuch that He regardeth not the offering any more, neither receiveth it with good will at your hand.

The relationship between the Tabernacle and the Law has been considered with reference to Exodus 34:6-7. But it is also important to consider the relationship of this to the frequent interchange throughout the Hebrew Bible of the themes of salvation and judgment. In the context of the whole book of Exodus, the judgments of the LORD upon Egypt and Pharaoh led to the deliverance of His people.

Anticipating this deliverance the LORD joined His NAME to what He would accomplish in Egypt:

"Therefore say to the children of Israel: ‘I am the Lord;  I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, I will rescue you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments (Exodus 6:6).

Among the minor prophets, concerning Nineveh, Jonah quoted verse six while a century later Nahum quoted verse seven. Like the balance of fifteen words between the two halves of the passage in Exodus 34, the books of Jonah and Nahum and nearly the exact same length. Jonah ends with a question dealing with grace while Nahum ends with a question that invites the wrath of God.

The holy nature of the LORD is revealed as encompassing both salvation and judgment. The verb nasa (“to lift up, to forgive”) is not only used with relation to sin, transgression, and iniquity in Exodus 34, but it also comes into view in the thirty-second psalm where David reflects on the blessed state of those who have been forgiven:

"Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven [nasa], Whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no deceit."

In Isaiah chapter one, the nation of Israel is depicted in need of a national day of atonement. Sin, transgression, and iniquity are all used in the opening verses to describe the nation’s condition. The spiritual condition of the nation is likened to a donkey or an ox that is sick, in rebellion to its owner, and has been beaten, bruised, and has untreated sores. All of these words return in the fifty-third chapter. But in this chapter a chorus sings about someone who had done no violence and was innocent as He took upon Himself the griefs, the stripes, the wounds, bruises, sins, transgressions, and the iniquity of those who sang in chorus in Isaiah’s vision.

In Isaiah 52:13-53:12, the verb nasa is used at the beginning, near the middle, and at the end of the section. In 52:13 the future, exalted state of the Suffering Servant is prophesied by the word of the LORD to be “high and lifted up” with the same description that Isaiah used in his vision in chapter six of the LORD Himself. Then in 53:4, He is depicted “lifting up” the grief’s of the singing remnant. Sin, transgression and iniquity are all dealt with by this Servant; thus framing a question that begs asking, “Who is this Servant who lifts up sin… only God can lift up sin?” Finally the Servant is said in 53:12 to “lift up the sin of many.”

The verb nasa also appears to be behind an obscure play on words in the New Testament. In Mark chapter two a paralytic is let down through a rooftop for Jesus to heal him. In response Jesus looks at the man and at his friends and says to the lame man, “Your sins are forgiven.” Upon this statement, those in the audience began to reason and murmur as they considered this potential blasphemy because they knew that the scripture said that only the LORD could forgive sin. To which Jesus responded:

“Why do you reason about these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise, take up your bed and walk’?  But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the paralytic, “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.”  Immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went out in the presence of them all, so that all were amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!"

The play on words in this section does not make the connection in Greek that it does in Hebrew. By including the literal sense of nasa, the play on words connects:

Which is easier to say… “your sins are lifted up” or “Arise, lift up your bed and walk”? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to lift up sins—He said to the paralytic—“I say to you, arise, lift up your bed, and go to your house.”

The verb Naqah and the “Day of Vengeance”
Naqah is the key verb in the second part of God’s self-revelation in Exodus 34:6-7; and in this context it signifies “leaving unpunished.” The LORD revealed Himself as the Just Judge who would surely not allow the guilty to go unpunished. In Numbers 14:18 this thought is repeated:

JPS Numbers 14:18 The LORD is slow to anger, and plenteous in lovingkindness, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, upon the third and upon the fourth generation.

Nahum captured this use with regard to Nineveh:

JPS Nahum 1:3 The LORD is long-suffering, and great in power, and will by no means clear the guilty; the LORD, in the whirlwind and in the storm is His way, and the clouds are the dust of His feet.

The Gospel of Luke records a significant moment in the ministry of Jesus as He returned to His hometown after word of His miracles had spread throughout Galilee. His choice of reading and especially His chosen place to stop reading are quite interesting:

"Then Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and news of Him went out through all the surrounding region. And He taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all. So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written:
'The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.' Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. 21 And He began to say to them, 'Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.' So all bore witness to Him, and marveled at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth. And they said, 'Is this not Joseph’s son?'” [Luke 4:14-22]

According to this text they waited for Jesus’ sermon upon reading the text from Isaiah and they were not treated to a lengthy discourse. As interesting as His assertion was about that time, it is hard not to notice that he did not include the rest of the phrase connected to the infinitive. The Anointed One was to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD and the day of the vengeance of God.

Most who think of Jesus think of a meek carpenter who went around doing good. The description in 2 Thessalonians 1:6-7 is quite different. There Paul wrote of the Second Coming of Jesus:

". . . and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ."

The presentation of the Second Coming of Jesus in the Apocalypse is the same.

While the ancient references to monarchic messianism (the rule of one King Messiah) are in much greater supply in the Targums and in the Talmuds Babli and Yerushalami, a diarchic messianism (the rule of the messiahs of Aaron and Israel) appears to be the interpretation held by the community at Qumran. This prophetic interpretation of diarchic messianism at Qumran may have taken root in the difficult prophecy given in the sixth chapter of Zechariah.

In Zechariah chapter six, the High Priest Joshua was crowned and brought into the succession of “Branch” prophecies functioning by announcement and illustration as a type of a future Priest-King. In the distant past, in the days of the patriarch Abraham, a priest-king had ruled in Jerusalem. Melchizedek was both priest and king of the Most High God.

These two aspects, priestly and royal, meet in the nature of God. In Exodus 34:6-7 the LORD desires to lift up sin, transgression, and iniquity. Yet He remains the righteous, King-Judge who will not clear the guilty. Atonement is the only resolution to this apparent contradiction in His nature and is in view in the surrounding chapters that describe the construction of the Tabernacle.

As a High-Priest is crowned in Zechariah 6, so in Isaiah 61 a single Anointed-One is prophesied to proclaim both the “acceptable year” of the LORD and His “Day of Vengeance.” These two elements that follow a single infinitive align well with priestly and royal commissions.

"What do you think about Messiah, whose son is he?” (Matthew 22:42)

According to the Gospel of Matthew, this question was asked long ago in the temple court by Jesus himself. Was Messiah to be the “Son of David,” the “son of Aaron,” a prophet like Moses, the “son of Joseph,” the “Son of God?” The question is still quite relevant today.

[1] Also mentioned in the Babylonian Talmud, Sukkah 52: "the slaying of the Messiah the son of Joseph" explaining Zechariah 12:10--"they will look on him whom they pierced."
[2] 4QAramaic Apocalypse (4Q246), col. II: "He will be called the Son of God, and they will call him the son of the Most High...His kingdom will be an eternal kingdom..."
[3] F.F. Bruce, "A Second Look at the Dead Sea Scrolls: Messianic Expectations at Qumran," Eternity.
(October 1956): 14-15, 29-30.
[4] Lawrence H. Schiffman, Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls, p. 321-322).
[5] Craig Evans, “The Messiah in the Dead Sea Scrolls,” in Israel’s Messiah in the Bible and the Dead Sea Scrolls, edited by Richard S. Hess and M. Daniel Carroll R. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003) p. 94.
[6] See also: I Enoch 46.1; 48.2-10; 52.4; Psalms of Sol. 17.21f; 2 Baruch 29.3f; 30.1; 39:7; and 72:2.
[7] Ad Marcellam, Epist. 46:13. From Jerome's Letter XLVI, Paula and Eustochium to Marcella, Paragraph 13: "If only you will come, we shall go to see Nazareth, as its name denotes, the flower of Galilee."
[8] Wilfried Warning,. Literary Artistry in Leviticus. Leiden: Brill, 1999.