The hope of Israel, as expressed in the Old Testament, was the establishment on earth of the Kingdom of God under the kingship of an anointed (messiah) at his ONE and ONLY appearance.
After the Exodus, YHVH was seen as a 'deliverer' who had saved his people through his human agent, Moses.
Throughout subsequent centuries and manifold troubles, an idea arose that YHVH would one day send another 'deliverer' - one like Moses - who would save his people from their enemies. The prophets, each building and enlarging upon the expectations of his predecessors, finally developed a complete picture of this 'deliverer', this 'messiah'.
He would be a descendant of King David; he would usher in the Kingdom of God on earth; he would rule as its King in the name of YHWH.
On the basis of the suggestions, shadows and prophecies of the Old Testament, the following expectations constituted some criteria which the anointed one had to satisfy on his appearance:
- he would be a deliver like Moses who would save the Israelites from their enemies
- he would be descended from King David
- he would sit on the earthly throne of his father David
- he would usher in the Kingdom of God on earth
- he would rule as King over this Kingdom
- he would cleanse the world by fire
- he would gather the scattered tribes of Israel into one
Yet, in spite of this seemingly exalted status, the role of the 'messiah' spoken of by the prophets is not one of grandeur but of humiliation. They spoke in terms of grief, humiliation, suffering, and death.
This is hardly the kind of role one would choose for oneself!
In forthcoming posts we will compare these Old Testament criteria with their New Testament fulfillments.