Guest post by Joseph of the Yeshuanikim
When thinking about Moshiach, Jewish people generally find the idea of the Messiah both suffering and also achieving glory, hard to cope with. If he suffers he can’t be Moshiach, he must have failed! But is this really the case?
As Hannukah ended, and with Christmas approaching, I was reading about Jacob and Esau in the Torah. I reached Genesis 35:16-20, about what Jacob did after escaping from Esau and then returning to Bethel, heading towards Eprath:
Then they journeyed from Bethel. When they were still some distance from Ephrath, Rachel went into labor, and she had hard labor. And when her labor was at its hardest, the midwife said to her, “Do not fear, for you have another son.” And as her soul was departing (for she was dying), she called his name Ben-oni [Son of Sorrow]; but his father called him Benjamin [Son at my Right Hand]. So Rachel died, and she was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem), and Jacob set up a pillar over her tomb. It is the pillar of Rachel’s tomb, which is there to this day. Genesis 35:16-20 ESV
Interestingly, on the way to Bethlehem, a son is born, who is named Son of Sorrow, but is renamed by the father as “Son at my Right Hand.” Isaiah 53 speaks of a “man of sorrows” acquainted with grief, yet later on in the chapter we are told that God will give him a portion among the great. Elsewhere, Psalm 2 promises the future king of Israel and Son of God that he will sit at God’s right hand.
Here early on in Genesis, we see a fusion of these ideas already, before Isaiah and David are even alive!
At this place, on the way to Bethlehem, death gave way to life. The death of Rachel facilitated the life of Benjamin. In a way, we can think of Yeshua, who had to die to bring us life.
The prophet Micah (verse 5:2) tells us that a ruler will come out of Bethlehem Ephrath, though the place is “small among the tribes of Judah.” This ruler will be “from eternity”:
וְאַתָּה בֵּית-לֶחֶם אֶפְרָתָה, צָעִיר לִהְיוֹת בְּאַלְפֵי יְהוּדָה–מִמְּךָ לִי יֵצֵא, לִהְיוֹת מוֹשֵׁל בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל; וּמוֹצָאֹתָיו מִקֶּדֶם, מִימֵי עוֹלָם
This ruler, Yeshua, would eventually be the Son at God’s Right Hand. Like Benjamin, He was also a Son of Sorrows, and also to be born in Bethlehem. He would be renamed, in effect, also by his father, “Son at the Right Hand.”
So there you go, if you were wondering how Moshiach could both suffer and be glorified, and also be born in Bethlehem, well – your answer is already in the Torah!