A rabbi challenged me to explain a difficult verse to prove to him that the Bible is the Word of God. Of course a difficult verse will not do this, but I perhaps foolishly took up the challenge.
Matthew 2:23 claims that “He [Jesus] shall be called a Nazarene” fulfills prophecy. However, there is no prophecy that explicitly says this. How then can we explain this? I’ve read of two possible solutions:
- Isaiah 11:1 says about the coming Messiah: “There shall come forth a shoot [“netzer;” Hebrew] from the stump of Jesse.” “Netzer” is the root word for the town “Nazereth.” Messiah, therefore, is the “netzer” who comes from the town bearing this root word.
- “Nazareth” seems to connote a place of disdain from which nothing good could come (John 1:46; 7:42, 52). Therefore, to call Jesus a Nazarene, as people had called Him, was to call Him a reject. In fact, many prophecies indicate that He would be a “Nazarene” in this sense - rejected by His own people:
· Zech. 12:10 "And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they [Israel] have pierced, and they will mourn for him [Messiah] as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son.”
· Isaiah 53:3-6 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. 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.
· Psalm 118:22-24 The stone [the Messiah] the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
· Isaiah 8:14 and he [the Messiah] will be a sanctuary; but for both houses of Israel he will be a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall. And for the people of Jerusalem he will be a trap and a snare.
· Isaiah 49:6-7 he says: "It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth." This is what the Lord says--the Redeemer and Holy One of Israel--to him who was despised and abhorred by the nation [of Israel], to the servant of rulers: "Kings will see you and rise up, princes will see and bow down, because of the Lord, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you."
Interestingly, Israel continues to despise their promised Messiah to their own detriment, as they were prophesied to do. I pray that these verse would give my errant people some reason to reconsider.