Zabur Closes – with Promise of the Coming Preparer

The coming of the Prophet Yahya (PBUH) Foretold

We saw in the Sign of the Servant that the Servant was promised to come. But the whole promise of his coming balanced on an important question. Isaiah 53 began with the question:

Who has believed our message …? (Isaiah 53:1a)

Isaiah (PBUH) was predicting that this Servant would not be readily believed, and the problem was not with the message or the Signs of the Servant because they would be precise in timing by cycles of ‘Sevens’ as well as by name and specifying that he would be ‘cut off’. The problem was not that there were not enough signs. No, the problem was that the hearts of people were hard. So someone needed to come before the Servant came to prepare people for his coming. Therefore the prophet Isaiah (PBUH) gave this message about the one who would prepare the way for the Servant. He wrote this message in his book of the Zabur in the following way

A voice of one calling:

“In the wilderness prepare

the way for the LORD;

make straight in the desert

a highway for our God.

Every valley shall be raised up,

every mountain and hill made low;

the rough ground shall become level,

the rugged places a plain.

And the glory of the LORD will be revealed” Isaiah 40:3-5

Isaiah (PBUH) wrote about someone who would come ‘In the wilderness’ to ‘prepare the way for the LORD’. This person would smooth out the obstacles so that the ‘glory of the LORD will be revealed’. But Isaiah did not specify in what way this would be done.

The Prophet Malachi – Last Prophet of Zabur

The Prophets Isaiah, Malachi and Elijah (PBUT) shown in historical timeline
The Prophets Isaiah, Malachi and Elijah (PBUT) shown in historical timeline

About 300 years after Isaiah came Malachi (PBUH) who wrote the last book of the Zabur. In this last book Malachi (PBUH) elaborates on what Isaiah had said about a coming Preparer. He wrote:

“I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty. (Malachi 3:1)

Here again the messenger who would ‘prepare the way’ is predicted. After this Preparer comes then ‘the messenger of the covenant’ will come. What covenant is Malachi (PBUH) referring to? Remember that the prophet Jeremiah (PBUH) had predicted that Allah would make a new covenant by writing it in our hearts. Only then would we be able to quench our thirst which always leads us to sin. This is the same covenant that Malachi (PBUH) is referring to. The giving of that covenant will be signaled by the coming of the Preparer.

Malachi (PBUH) then closes the entire Zabur with the last paragraph of his book. In that last paragraph he again looks to the future and writes:

“See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.” Malachi 4:5-6

What did Malachi (PBUH) mean by ‘Elijah’ would come before the great day of the LORD? Who was Elijah? He was another prophet whom we have not looked at (we cannot look at all prophets of Zabur since it would make this too long but see him in timeline above). Elijah (PBUH) lived around 850 BC. He was famous for living in the wilderness and wearing garments of animal hair and eating wild food. He probably looked quite peculiar. Malachi (PBUH) wrote that in some way The Preparer who comes before the New Covenant will be like Elijah (PBUH).

And with that statement, the Zabur was completed. This is the last message in the Zabur and was written about 450 BC. The Taurat and the Zabur were full of promises of things to come. Let us review some.

Reviewing the Promises of Taurat & Zabur that were still unfulfilled

So with the close of the Zabur in 450 BC the Jewish people lived in anticipation of the fulfillment of these wonderful promises. And they kept waiting and waiting. One generation replaced another and then still others would come – with no fulfillment of these promises.

What happened after the Zabur was completed

As we saw in the History of the Israelites, Alexander the Great conquered most of the known world in 330 BC and from these conquests the peoples and civilizations of the world adopted the Greek language. As English today has become a universal language for business, education and literature, in that time Greek was similarly dominant. Jewish teachers translated the Taurat and Zabur from Hebrew into Greek around 250 BC. This translation was called the Septuagint. As we saw here, this is where the word ‘Christ’ comes from and we saw here that this was where the name ‘Jesus’ also comes from.

The Prophets Isaiah, Malachi and Elijah (PBUT) shown in historical timeline
The Prophets Isaiah, Malachi and Elijah (PBUT) shown in historical timeline

During this time (300 – 100 BC which is the blue period shown in the timeline) there was an ongoing military rivalry between Egypt and Syria and with the Israelites dwelling right between these two empires they were regularly caught up in the battles. Some specific Syrian kings sought to impose the Greek religion (a religion of idol worship) on the Israelites and to eradicate their worship of One God. Certain Jewish leaders led an uprising to defend their monotheism and restore the purity of worship instituted by the Prophet Musa (PBUH). Were these religious leaders the fulfillments of these promises that the Jews awaited? These men, though faithful followers of worship as instructed in the Taurat and Zabur, did not fit the Prophetic Signs. In fact they themselves did not even claim to be prophets, just pious Jews defending their worship against idolatry.

Historical books about this period, describing these struggles that preserved the purity of worship were written. These books provide historical and religious insight and are very valuable. But the Jewish people did not regard them as being written by prophets and so these books were not included in the Zabur. They were good books, written by religious men, but they were not written by prophets. These books were known as the Apocrypha.

But because these books were useful they were often included alongside the Taurat and Zabur to give a complete history of the Jewish people. After the Injil and the message of Isa al Masih (PBUH) was written the books of Taurat, Zabur and Injil were combined into one book – al kitab or Bible. Some Bibles today will even include these books of Apocrypha, though they are not part of Taurat, Zabur or Injil.

But the promises given in Taurat and Zabur were still fulfillment. Following the Greek influences the powerful Roman Empire expanded and replaced the Greeks to rule over the Jews (this is the yellow period that comes after the blue in the timeline above). The Romans ruled efficiently but harshly. Taxes were high and the Romans tolerated no dissent. The Jewish people longed ever more for the fulfillment of the promises given in Taurat and Zabur, though in their long wait their worship became very rigid and they developed many extra rules not from the prophets but from traditions. These extra ‘commands’ seemed like good ideas when they were first suggested but they quickly replaced the original commands of the Taurat and Zabur in the hearts and minds of the Jewish teachers.

And then finally when it looked like perhaps the promises were long forgotten by Allah, the mighty angel Gabriel (Jabril) came to announce the long awaited birth of the Preparer.  We know him today as the Prophet Yahya (or John the Baptist – PBUH) . But that is the beginning of the Injil, which we look at next.

Sign of the Coming Servant

In our last post we had seen that the prophet Daniel had predicted that the Masih would be ‘cut off’.  This seemed to contradict other prophets who wrote that the Masih would rule.  But the contradiction is resolved when we realize that the prophets were looking at two different comings of the Masih.  One coming to be ‘cut off’ and the other to ‘rule’.  The Jewish nation, by and large, missed this because they did not know all the scriptures.  This should be taken as a warning for us that we do not do the same.

We come to the close of our journey through the Zabur.  But we have a little more to learn.  The Prophet Isaiah (see him in the timeline below) had prophesied

When Isaiah lived
Historical Timeline of Prophet Isaiah (PBUH) with some other prophets in Zabur

about the coming Masih usng the image of a Branch.  But he also wrote about a coming person whom he called the Servant.  He wrote a long passage about this coming Servant.  Who was this ‘Servant’?  What was he going to do?  We look at the passage in detail.  I reproduce it exactly and in full here below, insert some comments to explain.

The Coming Servant predicted by the Prophet Isaiah.  The complete passage from Isaiah 52:13-53:12)

See, my servant will act wisely;
he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted.
14 Just as there were many who were appalled at him
his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being
and his form marred beyond human likeness—
15 so he will sprinkle many nations,
and kings will shut their mouths because of him.
For what they were not told, they will see,
and what they have not heard, they will understand.

We know that this Servant will be a human man because Isaiah refers as a ‘he’, ‘him’, ‘his’.  When Harun (PBUH) would give his sacrifice for the Israelites he would sprinkle the people with the blood – and then their sins were covered and would not be held against them.  When it says that the Servant will ‘sprinkle’ the prophet Isaiah means that in a similar way this Servant will sprinkle people of their sins like Harun (PBUH) did for the Israelites when he made the sacrifices.

But the Servant will sprinkle ‘many nations’.  So the Servant is not coming for the Jews only.  This reminds us of the promises to Ibrahim (PBUH) when Allah said (Sign 1 and Sign 3) that ‘all nations’ would be blessed through his offspring.  But in doing this sprinkling the ‘appearance’ and ‘form’ of the Servant will be ‘disfigured’ and ‘marred’. Though it is not clear what the Servant will do to be disfigured like this, one day the nations ‘will understand

53 Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
He [The Servant] grew up before him [The LORD] like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

For some reason, though the Servant would sprinkle many nations, he would also be ‘despised’ and ‘rejected’, full of ‘suffering’ and ‘familiar with pain’.

Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,

yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.

The Servant will take ‘our’ pain.  This Servant will also be ‘pierced’ and ‘crushed’ in ‘punishment’.  This punishment will bring us (those in the many nations) ‘peace’ and make us ‘healed’.

We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

We saw in the Sign of our Thirst, how easily we go to our own ‘broken wells’ to satisfy our thirst instead of turning to Allah.  We have ‘gone astray’ each of us ‘turned to our own way’.  This is sin (= iniquity).

He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth

With the prophets Abel, Noah, Ibrahim, Musa and Harun (PBUT) they brought lambs to be given in sacrifice.  But The Servant himself will be like a lamb going to the ‘slaughter’.  But he will not protest or even ‘open his mouth’.

.By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was punished.

This Servant was ‘cut off’ from the ‘land of the living’.  Is this what the prophet Daniel meant when he said that the Masih would be ‘cut off’?  The exact same words are used!  What does it mean to be ‘cut off from the land of the living’ except that one will die?

He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth.

If he was assigned ‘a grave’ this Servant must have died.  He died condemned as a ‘wicked’ man even though ‘he had done no violence’ and no ‘deceit was in his mouth’

10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand

This whole cruel death was not some terrible accident or misfortune. It was explicitly ‘the LORD’s will’ to ‘crush him’.  But why?  Just like Harun’s sacrifice was an ‘offering for sin’ so that the person giving the sacrifice could be held blameless, here the ‘life’ of this Servant is also an ‘offering for sin’.  For whose sin?  Well considering that ‘many nations’ would be ‘sprinkled’ (from above) it must be the sin of the peoples in the ‘many nations’.

.11 After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.

Though the prophecy of the Servant is gruesome here it changes tone and become very optimistic and even triumphant.  After this terrible ‘suffering’ (of being ‘cut off from the land of the living’ and assigned ‘a grave’), this Servant will see ‘the light of life’.  He will come back to life?!  And in so doing this Servant will ‘justify’ many.

To ‘justify’ is the same as giving ‘righteousness’.  Remember that to get ‘Righteousness’ from the Law of Musa one had to keep ALL the commands ALL the time.  But the prophet Ibrahim (Sign 2) was ‘credited’ or given ‘righteousness’.  It was given to him simply because of his trust.  In a similar way this Servant will justify, or credit righteousness to ‘many’.  Is righteousness not something that we both want and need?

12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.

This Servant will be among ‘the great’ because he volunteered (‘poured’) out his life ‘unto death’.  And he died as one who was numbered as a ‘transgressor’, that is as a ‘sinner’.  Because the Servant did this he can make ‘intercession’ on behalf of the ‘transgressors’.  An intercessor is an intermediary between two parties,  The two parties here must be the ‘many people’ and ‘the LORD’.  This “servant’ is sufficiently worthy to interceded or plead on our behalf to Allah himself!

Who is this Servant?  How would all these things happen?  Can and will he ‘intercede’ on behalf of ‘many’ from different ‘nations’ to Allah himself?  We conclude the Zabur by looking at the last prophecy and then we go to the Injil itself.

The Masih: Coming to rule … or be ‘cut off’?

In our last articles we have seen how the prophets gave signs predicting the name of the Masih (the prediction was Jesus) and predicting the time of his coming. These are amazingly specific prophecies, recorded and set in writing hundreds of years before the coming of Jesus (Is al Masih – PBUH) and they correctly predicted him. These prophecies were written down, and are still there(!), in the Jewish scriptures – not in the Injil or the Qur’an. The question then arises as to why the Jewish people did not and still (mostly) do not accept Jesus as Christ (the Masih) since this is written in their book.

Before we look at this question, I should clarify that asking the question in the way that I did is not quite accurate. Many Jews in the lifetime of Jesus (Isa – PBUH) did accept him as the Masih. And today there are also many who accept him as the Masih. But the fact remains, as a nation, they did not accept him. So why?

Why do the Jews not accept Isa (PBUH) as the Masih?

The Gospel of Matthew (Injil) records an encounter between Isa (PBUH) and the Jewish religious teachers (called Pharisees and Sadducees – they had a similar role as imams have today). They had posed a trick question to him and here is Jesus reply:

Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. (Matthew 22:29)

This exchange gives us an important clue. Though these were leaders who taught the Taurat and Zabur to the people, Jesus accused them of not knowing the scriptures and not knowing the power of God. What did he mean by this? How could the experts not ‘know the scriptures’?

The Jews did not know ALL the scriptures

When you study what the leaders talked about and referenced in the Taurat and Zabur you will notice that they were very aware of only certain prophecies – and not other ones. So we saw, for example, in the Sign of the Virgin’s Son, that the experts knew the prophecy that the Masih would come from Bethlehem. Here is the verse that the experts in the Law quoted to King Herod at the birth of Isa to show where the Masih was to be born:

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,

though you are small among the clans of Judah,

out of you will come for me

one who will be ruler over Israel,

whose origins are from of old,

from ancient times.” (Micah 5:2)

You will see that they knew the verse that referenced the Christ (= Masih – see here for why these terms are the same) and that this verse refers to him as the ‘ruler’. Another passage, well-known to the Jewish experts, was Psalm 2, inspired by Dawood (PBUH) which first introduced the title ‘Christ’ and which said that the ‘Christ’ would be ‘installed as King in Zion” (= Jerusalem or Al Quds) as we see in the passage.

The kings of the earth take their stand … against the LORD and against his Masih … The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them… saying, “I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill … (Psalm 2 of Zabur)

The Jewish teachers were also well aware of the following passages from Zabur

O Lord, … For the sake of Dawud your servant, do not reject your Masih. The Lord swore an oath to Dawud, a sure oath that he will not revoke: “One of your own descendants I will place on your throne— … “Here I will make a horn grow for Dawud and set up a lamp for my Masih. (Psalm 132:10-18 of Zabur)

The Jews did not know the power of God by limiting it by their logic

So they knew certain passages, all of which pointed in one direction – that the Masih would rule with power. Given that in the time of Isa (Jesus – PBUH) the Jews lived under Roman occupation in the land of Israel (see here for history of Jews) this was the only kind of Masih that they wanted. They wanted a Masih that would come with power and repel the hated Romans and set up the powerful Kingdom that King Dawud had established 1000 years before (see here for background to King Dawud). This yearning to have a Masih shaped from their own desires rather than from the plan of Allah kept them from studying all their scriptures.

Then they used their human reason to limit the power of God in their thinking. The prophecies said that the Masih would rule in Jerusalem. Jesus did not rule with power from Jerusalem. So he could not be the Masih! It was simple logic. They limited the power of God by confining Him to their linear and human logic.

The Jews to this day largely do not know the prophecies of Zabur. Though it is in their book, called the Tanakh (=Taurat + Zabur) but if they read anything they just read the Taurat. They are ignoring God’s commands to know ALL the scriptures and are therefore ignorant of the other prophecies, and by limiting God with their human logic, they reason that since the Masih is to rule, and Isa did not rule, he cannot be the Masih. End of story! No need to investigate the question further! To this day most Jews do not look further into the issue.

The Masih: Coming to be … ‘cut off’

But if they did examine the scriptures they would learn something that we are now about to learn. In the last article we saw that the prophet Daniel (PBUH) correctly predicted the time of the coming of the Masih. But now notice what else he said about this Messiah (= Anointed One=Masih=Christ)

So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah (or Anointed One) the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress. Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined. (Daniel 9:25-26)

Notice what Daniel says will happen to the Masih when he arrives. Does Daniel predict that the Masih will rule? That he will occupy the throne of his ancestor Dawud and destroy the occupying Roman power? No!  In fact it says, quite clearly, that the Masih will be ‘cut off and will have nothing’. Then it says that foreign people will destroy the sanctuary (the Jewish Temple) and the city (Jerusalem) and that it would become desolate. If you look at the history of the Israelites you will see that this indeed happened. Forty years after the passing of Jesus the Romans came and burned down the Temple, destroyed Jerusalem and sent the Jews into worldwide exile so that they were driven from the land. Events happened in 70 AD exactly as prophesied by Daniel around 537 BC, and predicted previously by the Prophet Musa (PBUH) in the Curses.

So Daniel predicted the Masih was not going to rule! Instead he would be ‘cut off and have nothing’. The Jewish leaders missed this because they did not ‘know the scriptures’. But this raises another problem. Is there not a contradiction between the prophecy of Daniel (‘cut off’) and those that the Jews were familiar with (the Masih would rule). After all, if all the prophets had messages from Allah, all of them would have to come true as specified by Musa (PBUH) in the Taurat. How could it be possible that the Masih would be cut off AND that he would rule? It seemed that their human logic had outsmarted the ‘power of God’.

Contradiction between ‘Rule’ and ‘Cut off’ explained

But of course their logic was not stronger than the power of God. They were simply, as we humans do, not recognizing an assumption they were making. They assumed that the Masih was to come only once. If that were the case then there would indeed be a contradiction between the rule of the Masih and his being ‘cut off’. So they limited the power of God in their minds because of their logic, but in the end it was their logic that was faulty. The Masih was to come two times. In the first coming he would fulfill the ‘cut off and have nothing’ prophecies and only in the second coming would he fulfill the ‘ruling’ prophecies. From that perspective the ‘contradiction’ is easily resolved.

Do we also miss ALL the scriptures and limit the power of God?

But what did it mean that the Masih would be ‘cut off and have nothing’? We will look at this question soon  But for now perhaps it would be more useful to reflect on how the Jews missed the signs. We have already seen two reasons why the Jews did not see the signs of the Masih. There is also a third reason, which is recorded for us in the Gospel of John (Injil) in another exchange between Jesus (Isa – pbuh) and the religious leaders where he says to them.

You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life…. How can you believe since you accept glory from one another but do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? (John 5: 39-44)

In other words, the third reason that the Jews missed the signs of the Masih was because they simply ‘refused’ to accept them because they were more interested in winning the approval of each other rather than approval from God!

The Jews are not more misguided and wrong-headed than other people. Yet it is easy for us to sit in judgment over them for missing the signs that Jesus was the Masih. But before we point our fingers at them perhaps we should look at ourselves. Can we honestly say that we know ‘all the scriptures’? Do we not, like the Jews, simply look at the scriptures that we like, are comfortable with, and understand? And do we not often use our human logic to limit the power of God in our minds?  Or do we even sometimes refuse to accept the scriptures because we are concerned about what others think more than what God has said?

The manner in which the Jews missed the signs should be a warning to us. We dare not limit ourselves to only the scriptures that we are familiar with and that we happen to like. We dare not limit the power of God by our human logic. And we dare not refuse to accept what the scriptures teach. Armed with these warnings from how the Jews missed the signs of the coming Masih we now turn to understand the coming of a key person – The Servant.

The Coming Masih: In Signs of ‘Seven’

As we have explored the prophets we have been learning that though they were sometimes separated from one another by hundreds of years – so they could not humanly coordinate their prophecies with each other – yet their prophecies developed a central theme of the coming Masih (= Christ). We saw that the prophet Isaiah (PBUH) had used the Sign of the Branch from a stump, and then the prophet Zechariah (PBUH) had prophesied that this Branch would have the name Hebrew name Yhowshuwa, which in Greek was Iesous, which is Jesus in English and Isa in Arabic. Yes, the very name of the Masih (= Christ) was prophesied 500 years before Isa al Masih – Jesus (PBUH)– ever lived. This prophecy is written down in the Book of the Jews, (not in the Injil), which is still read and accepted – but not understood – by the Jews.

The Prophet Daniel

We now come to the prophet Daniel (PBUH). He lived in the exile in Babylon and was a powerful official in the Babylonian and Persian governments – as well as a prophet. The timeline below shows where the prophet Daniel (pbuh) lived in the history of the prophets.

 The Prophets Daniel & Nehemiah shown in timeline with other prophets of Zabur
The Prophets Daniel & Nehemiah shown in timeline with other prophets of Zabur

In his book, the prophet Daniel (PBUH), receives a message from the angel Gabriel (Jabril). Daniel and Mary, the mother of Jesus (Isa – PBUH), are the only ones in the whole Bible (al kitab) to have messages given by Gabriel. So we should pay particular attention to this message. The angel Gabriel (Jabril) told him that:

Gabriel … came to me in swift flight about the time of the evening sacrifice… and said to me, “…Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy.

“Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble.  After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed. (Daniel 9:21-26)

We see that this is a prophecy of the coming of the ‘Anointed One’ (= Christ = Masih as we saw here). The angel Gabriel gave a timetable of when the Masih was to come. Gabriel said there would be a counting down that would begin with ‘the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem’. Though Daniel was given this message (around the year 537 BC) he did not live to see the start of this count-down.

The Issuing of the Decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem

In fact it was Nehemiah, who lived almost one hundred years after Daniel (PBUH), that saw the start of this countdown. He was the cup-bearer to the Persian Emperor Artaxerxes and thus lived in Susa which is in present-day Iran. See when he lived in the timeline above.  He tells us in his book that

In the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, … The king said to me, “What is it you want?”

Then I prayed to the God of heaven,  and I answered the king, “If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my fathers are buried so that I can rebuild it.”…

I also said to him, “… And may I have a letter to Asaph, keeper of the king’s forest, so he will give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel by the temple and for the city wall and for the residence I will occupy?” And because the gracious hand of my God was upon me, the king granted my requests.  So I went to the governors of Trans-Euphrates and gave them the king’s letters…

I went to Jerusalem, … (Nehemiah 2:1-11)

This records the “issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem” that Daniel had prophesied would one day come. And we see that it occurred in the 20th year of the Persian Emperor Artaxerxes, who is well-known in history as starting his reign in 465 BC. Thus his 20th year would place this decree in the year 444 BC. Gabriel had sent a message to the prophet Daniel (PBUH) and given a sign for the start of the countdown. Almost a hundred years later, the Persian Emperor, not knowing about this prophecy of Daniel, issues this decree – setting in motion the countdown that had been written would bring the Anointed One – the Masih.

The mysterious Sevens

The message of Gabriel given to the prophet Daniel indicated that it would take “seven ‘sevens’ and sixty-two ‘sevens’” and then the Masih would be revealed. So what is a ‘Seven’?  In the Taurat of Musa (PBUH) , there was a cycle of seven of years. Every 7th year the land was to rest from agriculture so that the soil could replenish its nutrients. So a ‘Seven’ is a 7-year cycle. With that in mind we see that from the issuing of the decree the countdown would come in two parts. The first part was ‘seven sevens’ or seven 7-year periods. This, 7*7=49 years, was the time it took to rebuild Jerusalem. This was followed by sixty-two sevens, so the total countdown was 7*7 + 62*7 = 483 years. In other words, from the issuing of the decree of Artaxerxes, there would be 483 years until the Masih was revealed.

360-day year

We have to make one little calendar adjustment. As many nations did in ancient times, the prophets used a year-length that was 360 days long. There are different ways to designate the length of a ‘year’ in a calendar. The western one (based on solar revolution) is 365.24 days long, and the Muslim one is 354 days (based on cycles of moon), and one that Daniel used was half-way at 360 days long. So 483 ‘360-day’ years is 483*360/365.24 = 476 solar years.

The Arrival of the Masih predicted to the year

With this information we can calculate when the Masih was supposed to come. We will go from the ‘BC’ era to the ‘AD’ era and there is only 1 year from 1BC – 1AD (There is no ‘zero’ year). The information for this calculation is summarized in the table

Start year 444 BC (20th year of Artaxerxes)
Length of time 476 solar years
Expected arrival in Western Calendar (-444 + 476 + 1) (‘+1’ because there is no 0 AD) = 33
Expected year 33 AD

Jesus of Nazareth came to Jerusalem riding on a donkey in what has become the well-known celebration of Palm Sunday. That day he announced himself and rode into Jerusalem as their Masih. The year was 33 AD.

The prophets Daniel and Nehemiah, though they did not know each other since they lived 100 years apart, were coordinated by Allah to receive prophecies and set in motion the countdown that would reveal the Masih. And about 570 years after the prophet Daniel received his message from Gabriel, Isa entered Jerusalem as the Masih. That is a very remarkable prophecy and precise fulfillment. Along with the prediction of the name of the Masih given by the prophet Zechariah, these prophets form a truly amazing group of predictions so that all those who want to know can see the plan of Allah unfold.

But if these prophecies of Zabur are so remarkable, and they are written in the Jewish Book – not the Injil – why do the Jews not accept Isa as the Masih? It is in their book! It should be obvious we think, especially with such precise and remarkably fulfilled predictions. It is in understanding why the Jews do not accept Isa as the Masih that we learn some further remarkable things about the coming of this One foretold by the prophets. We look at this question in the next article.

The Sign of The Branch: Coming Masih named

We have seen in the recent articles about the Zabur that Allah had promised a Coming Kingdom. This Kingdom would be different from human kingdoms. Watch the news today and see what happens in human kingdoms. Fighting, corruption, atrocities, killings, the strong exploiting the weak – this happens in all human kingdoms whether they be Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu or secular Western ones. The problem in all these kingdoms is that we who live in them have a restless thirst as we saw with Prophet Jeremiah (PBUH) which leads us to sin and so many of these problems in all their various descriptions (i.e. corruption, killings, sexual harassments etc.) are the results of sin.  So the major obstacle holding back the coming of God’s Kingdom is us. If Allah set up his new Kingdom right now none of us could enter it because our sin would ruin that Kingdom as much as it ruins kingdoms today. Jeremiah (PBUH) also prophesied the day when Allah would set up a New Covenant. This Covenant would be new because it would be written in our hearts rather than on tablets of stone like the Law of Musa was. It would change us from the inside-out to make us fit to be citizens of this Kingdom.

How was this going to be done? The plan of Allah was like a hidden treasure. But clues in the messages of Zabur were given so that those who were seeking His Kingdom would understand – but the rest who were not interested would remain ignorant. We look at these messages now. The plan centered on the coming Masih (which as we saw here = Messiah = Christ). We have seen already in the Psalms of Zabur (inspired by King Dawud) that the predicted Masih had to come from the line of King Dawud (see here to review this).

The Prophet Isaiah about the Tree, the Stump … and The Branch

The Prophet Isaiah (PBUH) revealed how this plan of Allah would happen. Isaiah’s book in Zabur was written during the period of the Dawud/David’s Royal dynasty (ca 1000 – 600 BC). When it was written (750 BC) the dynasty and the entire Israelite kingdom was corrupt – due to the thirst of their hearts.

When Isaiah lived
Historical Timeline of Prophet Isaiah (PBUH) with some other prophets in Zabur
The dynasty of Dawud - like a Tree
The dynasty of Dawud – like a Tree

Isaiah (PBUH) was inspired to write a plea for the Israelites to return to Allah and to the practice and spirit of the Law of Musa. Isaiah also knew that this repentance and return would not happen and so he predicted that the Israelite nation would be destroyed and the royal dynasty would be shattered. We saw here how this happened. In his prophesy he used a metaphor or image of the dynasty being like a great tree that would soon be cut down and only a stump would remain. This happened around 600 BC when the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and since that time no descendant of King David/Dawud has ever ruled in Jerusalem.

The Tree – cut down

But along with all these prophecies of coming destruction in his book, came this special message:

“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him–the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge.” (Isaiah 11:1-2)

The dynasty of Dawud (PBUH)- now a shoot emerges from the dead stump
The dynasty of Dawud (PBUH)- now a shoot emerges from the dead stump

Jesse was the father of King David/Dawud, and thus the root of his Dynasty. The ‘stump of Jesse’ was therefore a prophecy of the coming destruction of the dynasty of kings from David/Dawud. But Isaiah, being a prophet, also saw past this time and predicted that though the stump (line of Kings) would look dead, it would not be totally so. One day in the future a shoot, known as the Branch, would emerge from that same stump he declared. This Branch is called a ‘him’ so Isaiah is prophesying about a coming man from the line of David. This man would have such qualities of wisdom, power, and knowledge it could only be from the very Spirit of God resting on him. Now remember how we saw that the Masih was also prophesied to come from the line of David – this was most important. The Branch and the Masih both from David/Dawud? Could this be two titles for the same coming person? Let’s keep exploring through the Zabur.

The Prophet Jeremiah … about the Branch

The prophet Jeremiah (PBUH), coming 150 years after Isaiah, when the dynasty of David was actually being cut down before his very eyes wrote:

The Prophet Jeremiah shown in Timeline with other Prophets of Zabur

“The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The LORD our Righteousness”. (Jeremiah 23:5-6)

Jeremiah (PBUH) directly continues from the Branch prophecy started by prophet Isaiah (PBUH) 150 years earlier. The Branch will be a King. We saw that the Masih was also to be a King. The similarity between the Masih and the Branch is growing.

The Prophet Zechariah … names The Branch

The prophet Zechariah (PBUH) continues the messages for us. He lived 520 BC, just after the Jewish people returned back to Jerusalem from their first expulsion into Babylon, but while they were being ruled by the Persians.

The Prophet Zechariah in Timeline with other prophets of Zabur

(Do not confuse this Zechariah with Zakariyah the father of Yahya/John the Baptist. The prophet Zechariah lived 500 years before Zakariyah and in fact Zakariyah is named after this Zechariah, just like today there are many people named Mohamed and they are so named after the Prophet Mohamed – PBUH). At that time (520 BC) the Jewish people were working to rebuild their destroyed temple and re-start the sacrifices of Harun (PBUH), brother of Musa (PBUH). The descendant of Harun who was the High Priest (and only a descendant of Harun could be a High Priest) at the time of the Prophet Zechariah was called Joshua. So in that time (about 520 BC) Zechariah was the prophet and Joshua was the High Priest. Here is what Allah – through Zechariah – declared about the High Priest Joshua:

‘”Listen O High Priest Joshua and your associates seated before you, who are men symbolic of things to come: I am going to bring my servant the Branch. See the stone I have set in front of Joshua!” …, says the LORD Almighty, “and I will remove the sin of this land in a single day”.’ (Zechariah 3:8-9)

The Branch! Again! But this time he is also called ‘my servant’. And in some way the High Priest Joshua is symbolic of this coming Branch. The High Priest Joshua is thus a Sign. But in what way? And what does it mean that in ‘a single day’ the sins will be removed by the LORD (“I will remove…”)? We continue on in Zechariah and learn something astounding.

‘The word of the LORD came to me: “… [about] the high priest Joshua. Tell him this is what the LORD Almighty says, ‘Here is the man whose name is the Branch … ’’ (Zechariah 6:9-10)

Notice that Joshua, his very name, is the name of the Branch. Remember what we learned about transliterations and translations of Hebrew into English. We read ‘Joshua’ here because we read an English translation. But what is the original name in Hebrew? The figure below tells us.

Joshua = Jesus because both are transliterations from same Hebrew name

Going from Quadrant 1 -> 3 (like we did in understanding where the title ‘Messiah’ or ‘Masih’ came from) we see that the name ‘Joshua’ is transliterated from the Hebrew name ‘Yhowshuwa’. This name is transliterated to ‘Joshua’ when the Old Testament is translated into English. Also remember that the Taurat/Zabur was translated into Greek around 250 BC. This is Quadrant 1 -> 2. These translators also transliterated the Hebrew name ‘Yhowshuwa’ when they translated the Old Testament into Greek. Their Greek transliteration was Iesous. Thus ‘Yhowshuwa’ of the Hebrew Old Testament was called Iesous in the Greek Old Testament. When the Greek New Testament is translated into English the name Iesous transliterates to ‘Jesus’. In other words, just like Masih=Messiah=Christ=Anointed One,

‘Yhowshuwa’ = Iesous = Joshua = Jesus (= Isa)

In the same way that the name Muhammad = محمد, Joshua = Jesus. What is amazing, which everyone deserves to know, is that 500 years before Isa al Masih, the Prophet of the Injil ever lived, it was predicted by the prophet Zechariah that the name of the Branch would be Jesus (or Isa – the transliteration from Arabic). Jesus (or Isa) is the Branch! The Branch and the Masih (or Christ) are two titles for the same person! But why would he need two different titles? What was he going to do that was so important? The prophets of Zabur now explain further in greater detail – in our next article on the Zabur.

Sign of the New Covenant

We saw from the Prophet Jeremiah (PBUH) in the previous article that sin is, among other things, a sign of our thirst.  Though we know sinful things are wrong and will lead to much shame, our thirst still drives us to sin.  The Prophet Jeremiah (PBUH) lived at the end of the period of the Israelite Kings – just before the judgment of Allah – at a time when sin was abundant..

By the Prophet Jeremiah’s time (600 BC – PBUH) almost a thousand years after the giving of the Law by the Prophet Musa, the lives of the Israelites had unraveled. They had not kept the Law and were thus going to be judged as a nation. Religion had proved a  disappointment to both Allah and to the thirsty people. But the prophet Jeremiah (PBUH) who was the messenger of judgment also had a message about something … someday in the future …what was it?

“The time is coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.

It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD.

“This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.

No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”  (Jeremiah 31: 31-34)

The First Covenant – The Law given by the Prophet Musa (PBUH) – had been a failure not because the Law was not good.  No the Law of Musa was (and still is) very good.  But the problem was that the Law had simply been written on tablets of stone.  With thirst in their hearts the people had been unable to obey the Law.  The problem was not with what was written in the Law, but where it was written.  The Law needed to be written on the hearts of the people so that the people would follow it, not on tablets of stone.  The Law needed to be written inside people, so they would have the power to obey it.

But did they fail to keep the Law because they were Jews?  Many people, for a variety of reasons, are quick to blame the Jews for their failures.  But on this point it will do us well to examine ourselves first.  After all, on Judgment Day we will only be answering for our own failures and successes before Allah, we will not be concerned about other people.   As you survey your life do you feel that you keep the Law – is it written in your heart so you have the power to obey?  If you feel you are keeping the Law as required you may want consider your deeds in light of the teachings of the Prophet Isa al Masih (PBUH).  Or is it for you like it was for the Israelites in Jeremiah’s day – that the Law is Good – but it is simply written on stone tablets without giving you the power to obey?  Remember the standard that we learned from the Prophet Musa (PBUH).  It is not enough to obey most of the law often.  We must obey all of it, all the time.

If you judge yourself to fall short of the Law in some way, if you feel shame about some of your actions, take heart.  Allah, in His Mercy, in the message above has made another promise, of a New Covenant – to come in a day future from that of the Prophet Jeremiah (PBUH).  This Covenant would be different because the requirements would be written ‘inside’ the people of this New Covenant, giving them the ability to live by its decrees.

But notice that this new Covenant seems to be for ‘the house of Israel’ – the Jews.  How are we to understand that?  It seems that the Jewish people have at times the worst, and at other times the best of situations.  Here the other great prophet of the Zabur, Isaiah (the one who prophesied of the Masih coming from a virgin – PBUH) had another prophecy that links with this one from Jeremiah (PBUH).  These two prophets, though they lived 150 years apart (as you can see in the Timeline below) and thus did not know each other, were given messages by Allah that so complement each other that we can know that there messages originated with Allah.

The Prophet Jeremiah shown in Timeline with other Prophets of Zabur

Isaiah, also looking to the future, spoke of a coming Servant.  Here is what he prophesied

And now the Lord says—
he who formed me in the womb to be his servant
to bring Jacob back to him
and gather Israel to himself,
for I am honored in the eyes of the Lord
and my God has been my strength—
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 my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”  (Isaiah 49:5-6)

In other words, this coming servant, would extend the salvation of God from the Jewish people to Gentiles (ie non-Jews) so that salvation will go to the ends of the earth.  Who was this coming servant?  How would he do this task?  And how would Jeremiah’s prophecy of a New Covenant written in our hearts rather than on stone be fulfilled?  We continue looking for answers (they are there!) in the further prophecies of Zabur.

The Sign of Our Thirst

We saw in The History of the Israelites that though they were given The Law their history through the Bible (al kitab) was largely one of disobeying and sinning against this Law. I mentioned in the Introduction to Zabur that the Kings which followed Dawud and Suleiman (PBUT), though physical offspring of these godly Kings, most of them were very evil. So Allah sent the many prophets of Zabur to warn them.

Jeremiah – Prophet of Warning

The Prophet Jeremiah shown in Timeline with other Prophets of Zabur

The prophet Jeremiah (PBUH -see him in the Timeline of Prophets) lived at the close of the period of Kings, when sin and evil was very great. The sins he lists are ones that are also very common today: adultery, drunkenness, sexual immorality, idolatry, witchcraft, corruption, fighting, violence, dishonesty, the rich exploiting the poor etc. But Jeremiah starts his Book by giving a summary of their sin and groups all their many sins into just two:

“My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” (Jeremiah 2:13)

The prophet Jeremiah uses a metaphor to help us understand sin better. Allah (through the prophet) is saying that they were thirsty people. There is nothing wrong with being thirsty – but they needed to drink from good water. Allah himself was the good water which could satisfy their thirst. However, instead of coming to Him to satisfy their thirst, the Israelites, went to other cisterns (i.e. water containers) to satisfy their thirst, but these cisterns were broken and thus could not really hold any water. In other words, their sin, in all its many forms, could be summarized as turning to other things apart from Allah to satisfy their thirst – but these other things could not quench their thirst. In the end after pursuing their sin, the Israelites were still thirsty, but now without Allah, holding only their broken cisterns – i.e. all the problems and difficulties caused by their sins.

The Wisdom of Suleiman reveals our ‘broken cisterns’

In fact, this was also experienced and explained by Suleiman (PBUH). As I described in The Wisdom I learned in submission to Allah’s Mercy it was the writings of Suleiman that made a deep impact on me. He described his life as one where he had everything one could want, but in the end he was still ‘thirsty’. Here is how he describes his attempts at drinking from the ‘broken cisterns’ that are available all around.

I, was king over Israel in Jerusalem. I devoted myself to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under heaven… I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

I thought to myself, “Look, I have grown and increased in wisdom more than anyone who has ruled over Jerusalem before me; I have experienced much of wisdom and knowledge.” Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom, and also of madness and folly, but I learned that this, too, is a chasing after the wind.

I thought in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.” But that also proved to be meaningless. “Laughter,” I said, “is foolish. And what does pleasure accomplish?” I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly—my mind still guiding me with wisdom. I wanted to see what was worthwhile for men to do under heaven during the few days of their lives.

I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired men and women singers, and a harem as well—the delights of the heart of man. I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me.

I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labor. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained.

The wisdom of Suleiman and the warning of Jeremiah were written for us today. This is especially so because we live in an age with more wealth, entertainment, movies, music etc. than previous generations. Our modern society is by far the wealthiest, best educated, most traveled, entertained, happiness-driven, and technologically advanced out of any age. So we can easily turn to these things – and the other things that come in our age: pornography, illicit relationships, drugs, alcohol, greed, money, anger, jealousy – hoping that perhaps this will satisfy our thirst. We know from the Law of all the Prophets that these things are wrong, but we think that they will satisfy the thirst in our hearts so we ache for them. This was true in Suleiman’s day, in Jeremiah’s day, in the days of the other prophets, and also in our day.

The warning of Jeremiah and Suleiman are sent by Allah to cause us to ask some honest questions of ourselves.

  • Why in our modern age with so much do we struggle with depression, suicide,  obesity, divorce, jealousy, envy, hatred, pornography, addictions?
  • What ‘cisterns’ do you use to satisfy your thirst? Do they hold ‘water’?
  • Do you think you will ever get as much wisdom, love, wealth accomplishments as Suleiman? If he was not satisfied with his achievements, do you think you can satisfy your thirst through these things?

Sin is not keeping the commandments, but it is also something else – something we should pay attention to. It is a Sign of our Thirst. Once we recognize this thirst for what it is we have gained some wisdom. Allah included this in Zabur because He is fully aware of our thirst – and He desires that we be aware of it as well. Because He will quench our thirst – He wants to. And He starts in His usual way – by giving a special prophetic promise – and again through Jeremiah. We look at this in our next post

Where does ‘Masih’ of Isa & ‘Christ’ of Jesus come from?

The Qur’an refers to Isa (Jesus – PBUH) as ‘al Masih’.  What does this mean?  Where does it come from?  Why do Christians refer to him as ‘the Christ’?  Is ‘Masih’ the same as ‘Christ’ or is this some contradiction or corruption?  The Zabur (Psalms) provides the answers to these important questions.  However, to understand this article you need to first read the article on ‘How was the Bible translated?’ as this information will be used here.

The Origin of ‘Christ’

In the figure below I follow the translation process as explained in ‘How was the Bible translated?’, but specifically focusing on the word ‘Christ’ used in  the modern-day Injil or New Testament.

Translation flow of word 'Christ' from Hebrew to modern-day
Translation flow of word ‘Christ’ from Hebrew to modern-day

You can see that in the original Hebrew of the Zabur (in Quadrant #1) the term was ‘mashiyach’ which the Hebrew dictionary defines as an ‘anointed or consecrated’ person.  Certain passages of the Zabur (Psalms) spoke of a specific mashiyach (with a definite article ’the’) who was prophesied to come. When the Septuagint was developed in 250 BC (see How was the Bible translated), the scholars used a word in the Greek for the Hebrew mashiyach that had a similar meaning – Χριστός = Christos – which came from chrio, which meant to rub ceremonially with oil. Therefore the word Christos was translated by meaning (and not transliterated by sound) from the Hebrew ‘mashiyach’ into the Greek Septuagint to refer to this specific person. This is Quadrant #2.  The disciples of Isa (Jesus – PBUH) understood that he was this very person that was spoken of in the Septuagint so they continued to use the term Christos in the Injil (or New Testament). (again in Quadrant #2)

But with modern-day English (or other languages) ‘Christos’ was then transliterated from the Greek into English (and other modern languages) as ‘Christ’. This is the lower half of the figure labelled #3.  Thus the English ‘Christ’ is a very specific title from Psalms of Zabur, derived by translation from Hebrew to Greek, and then transliteration from Greek to English. The Hebrew Zabur is translated directly to modern languages and translators have used different words in rendering the original Hebrew ‘mashiyach’. Some  (like King James) transliterated the Hebrew ‘mashiyach’ to the English word Messiah by sound. Others (like New International) translated ‘mashiyach’ by its meaning and so have ‘Anointed One’ in these specific passages of the Psalms (or Zabur). In either case we do not often see the word ‘Christ’ in the English Psalms and therefore this connection to the Old Testament is not obvious. But from this analysis we know that in the Bible (or al kitab):

‘Christ’=’Messiah’=’Anointed One’

and that it was a specific title.

So where does ‘Masih’ come from in Qur’an?

We have seen how ‘Christ’=’Messiah’=’Anointed One’ which are equivalent titles that you find in different parts of the Bible (al kitab).  But what about how ‘Christ’ is referred to in Qur’an?  To answer I will extrapolate from the figure above which showed the flow of Mashiyach->Christ in the Bible (al kitab).

The figure below expands the process to include the Arabic Qur’an which was written after the Hebrew and Greek translations of the Bible (al kitab).  You can see that I have divided quadrant #1 into two parts.  Part 1a is the same as before dealing with the original ‘mashiyach’ in Hebrew Zabur as explained above.  Part 1b now follows this term into Arabic.  You can see that the term ‘mashiyac’h was transliterated (i.e. by similar sound) in the Qur’an (as مسيح).  Then, when Arabic-speaking readers of the Qur’an rendered the word into English they again transliterated it as ‘Masih’.

The translation process showing that ‘Anointed One’ = ‘Masih’ = ‘Messiah’ = ‘Christ’

With this background knowledge we can see that they are all the same title and all mean the same thing in the same way that “4= ‘four’ (English) = ‘quatre’ (French) = IV (Roman numbers) = 6-2 = 2+2.

The Christ anticipated in 1st Century

With this knowledge, let’s make some observations from the Gospel (the Injil). Below is the reaction of King Herod when the wise men from the East came looking for the king of the Jews, a well-known part of the story of the birth of Isa (Jesus – PBUH). Notice, ‘the’ precedes Christ, even though it is not referring specifically about Isa (Jesus – PBUH).

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. (Matthew 2:3-4)

You can see that the very idea of ‘the Christ’ was already commonly accepted between Herod and his religious advisors – even before Isa (Jesus – PBUH) was born – and it is used here without referring specifically to him. This is because, as explained above, ‘Christ’ comes from the Zabur (Psalms) written hundreds of years earlier by Prophet and King Dawud (David – PBUH), and it was commonly read by Jews of the 1st century (like Herod) in the Greek Septuagint. ‘Christ’ was (and still is) a title, not a name. From this we can dismiss right away the ridiculous notions that ‘Christ’ was a Christian invention or an invention by someone like the Roman Emperor Constantine of 300 AD popularized by movies like Da Vinci Code. The title was in existence hundreds of years before there were any Christians or before Constantine came to power.

Prophecies of ‘The Christ’ in Zabur

Let’s look at these first occurrences of the prophetic title ‘Christ’ in Zabur (the Psalms), written by Prophet Dawood (David – PBUH)  ca 1000 BC – far, far before the birth of Isa (Jesus – PBUH).

The kings of the earth take their stand … against the LORD and against his Anointed One … The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them… saying, “I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill….”. (Psalm 2:2-4)

Psalm 2 of Zabur in the Septuagint would read in the following way in the Greek Septuagint (I am putting it with a transliterated Christos so you can ‘see’ the Christ title like a reader of the Septuagint could)

The kings of the earth take their stand … against the LORD and against his Christ … The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them… saying, “I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill … (Psalm 2)

You can now ‘see’ Christ in this passage like a reader of the 1st century would have. And the following transliteration would have exactly the same meaning:

The kings of the earth take their stand … against the LORD and against his Masih … The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them… saying, “I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill … (Psalm 2 of Zabur)

But the Zabur (Psalms) continue with more references to this coming Christ or Masih. I put the standard passage side-by-side with a transliterated one with ‘Christ’ and with ‘Masih’  so you can see it.

Psalm 132- From Hebrew Psalm 132 – From Septuagint Psalm 132 of Zabur with Arabic transliteration
O Lord, …10 For the sake of David your servant, do not reject your anointed one.11 The Lord swore an oath to David, a sure oath that he will not revoke:
“One of your own descendants
I will place on your throne—
17 “Here I will make a horn grow for David and set up a lamp for my anointed one. ”
O Lord, …10 For the sake of David your servant, do not reject your Christ.11 The Lord swore an oath to David, a sure oath that he will not revoke:
“One of your own descendants I will place on your throne— …17 “Here I will make a horn grow for David and set up a lamp for my Christ. ”
O Lord, … For the sake of  Dawud your servant, do not reject your Masih.11 The Lord swore an oath to Dawud, a sure oath that he will not revoke:
“One of your own descendants I will place on your throne— …17 “Here I will make a horn grow for Dawud and set up a lamp for my Masih. ”

You can see that Psalm 132 specifically speaks in the future tense (“…I will make a horn for David (or Dawud)…”), like so many passages throughout the Taurat and Zabur. This is important to remember when assessing the prophecies. It is clear that the Zabur makes future-looking claims and predictions – and this is without considering the Injil. Herod was aware that the Old Testament prophets made predictions about the coming ‘Christ’ – which was why he was ready for this announcement. He just needed his advisers to explain the specifics of these predictions because he did not know the Zabur very well. The Jews are known to be waiting for their Messiah (or Christ). The fact that they are waiting or looking for the coming of their Messiah has nothing to do with Isa (or Jesus – PBUH) in the Injil or New Testament (since they ignore that) but rather has everything to do with the explicitly future-looking prophecies in the Zabur.

The prophecies of Taurat & Zabur: like a lock of a lock-and-key system

The fact that the Taurat and Zabur specifically predict the future makes them like the lock of a door. A lock is designed in a certain shape so that only a specific ‘key’ that matches the shape can unlock it. In the same way the Old Testament is like a lock. We saw already in the posts on the Great Sacrifice of Ibrahim (PBUH), and the Passover of the Prophet Musa (PBUH) and the coming Sign of the Virgin’s Son (please review if they are not familiar) that there were specific prophecies of this coming person.  Psalm 132 of Zabur adds the rule that ‘the Christ’ would be from the line of Prophet and King Dawud (=David – PBUH).  So the ‘lock’ becomes more and more precise as we read the prophetic passages through the Old Testament. The Zabur does not end with these prophecies.  It tells us in much further detail what the Masih would be and do.  We continue through the zabur.

The Coming Kingdom

The prophet Isaiah (pbuh) had prophesied the coming Son of the Virgin which was fulfilled in the birth of Isa al Masih (pbuh) hundreds of years later. However, other prophecies in Zabur also predicted a coming time of peace and blessing.

In the History of the Israelites, the prophet and King Dawud (pbuh) was the first of a line of kings established by Allah to rule from Jerusalem. However, after Kings Dawud and Suleiman (pbut) most of the Kings were wicked. So living in their kingdom then was like living under the rule of the many dictators today; there was war and fighting between people and between nations – just like today; there was corruption and exploitation of the rich over the poor – just like today; there was death and misery all around – just like today. But the prophets of Zabur said that one day – in the future – a new rule would be established. This would be a Kingdom with justice, mercy, love, and peace.  The prophet Isaiah (pbuh) predicted how life would be in this rule.

He (Allah) will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation nor will they train for war anymore (Isaiah 2:4)

No more war! This certainly is not true of our world today. But even more than peace between people, the prophecies even predict a change in natural ecology.

The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child will put his hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all My holy mountain for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD. (Isaiah 11:6-9)

This certainly has never taken place (yet). But the prophecies extend even further to lifespans and personal security.

“Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years; he who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere youth; he who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed. They will build houses and dwell in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit. No longer will they build houses and others live in them, or plant and others eat … my chosen ones will long enjoy the works of their hands. They will not toil in vain or bear children doomed to misfortune; for they will be a people blessed by the LORD, they and their descendants with them. Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear. The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox…” says the LORD. (Isaiah 65:20-25)

Security, peace, immediate answer of prayers… None of these prophecies have happened – yet. But they have been Spoken and Written down. Many think that there is perhaps some mistake in these hopeful prophecies – but the literal fulfillment of the Sign of the Virgin’s Son should make us take these prophecies seriously – and watch for their fulfillment.

The Kingdom of God

If we reflect we can understand why they have not occurred yet. These prophecies were declared in the context of the Kingdom of God – the rule of God in lives and affairs of people. Read another prophecy on the coming Kingdom of God

All you have made will praise you O LORD; your saints will extol you. They will tell of the glory of your Kingdom and speak of your might. So that all men may know of your mighty acts and the glorious splendor of your kingdom. Your Kingdom is an everlasting Kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations. The LORD is faithful to all his promises and loving towards all He has made. (Psalms 145:10-14)

This was a message given by the King and prophet Dawud (pbuh) around 1000 BC (see link here when Dawud & prophets of Zabur lived). This prophecy foresees a Day when, the Kingdom of God will rule. This Kingdom will have glory and splendor, and it will not be temporary like human kingdoms – it will be everlasting. This has not been brought about yet and that is why we have not yet seen these other prophecies of peace come about – because this peace comes with the Kingdom of God.

Another prophet in the Zabur, Daniel (pbuh) who lived about 550 BC in Babylon as part of the Israelite exile there, explained further how this Kingdom would be established.

When Daniel (pbuh) lived
When Prophet Daniel (pbuh) lived compared to other prophets of Zabur

Daniel (pbuh) interpreted dreams sent by Allah to the Babylonian king to prophesy the future unfolding of kingdoms through history. Here is how Daniel interpreted a dream of this king of Babylon.

… The God of heaven has given you (i.e. king of Babylon in 550 BC) dominion and power and might and glory; in your hands he has placed mankind and the beasts of the field and the birds of the air. …After you, another kingdom will rise, inferior to yours. Next, a third kingdom, one of bronze, will rule over the whole earth. Finally, there will be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron—for iron breaks and smashes everything—…so it will crush and break all the others. … In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever. This is the meaning of the vision of the rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands…. Daniel 2: 36-45

This kingdom starts out small (‘a rock cut out of a mountain’) but will eventually rule forever, like the prophecy from Dawud (pbuh) above. So why is Allah establishing His Kingdom so slowly? Why is it taking so long? Why has it not come about yet? When you think about it, all kingdoms have the following components:

  • A King or ruler
  • Citizens
  • A Constitution or Law
  • Nature

So for example, in Canada, where I live, as a Kingdom. Canada has a ruler – which today is Justin Trudeau our elected Prime Minister. Canada has citizens – of which I am one. Canada also has a constitution or law which determines the rights and responsibilities of all its citizens. Canada also has a nature, in this case it is located in a certain part of the earth which gives it a certain physical size, climate, natural resources etc. All countries and Kingdoms, past and present, have these four components.

You and I are invited to the Kingdom of God

This is also true of the Kingdom of God. We have already seen from the prophecies above that this Kingdom will have a special Nature (glorious and everlasting) and a Constitution (of peace, fairness, harmony in nature etc.). It is the other two components that make the Kingdom of God possible: its King and its citizens. We look at the King in the next article. In the meantime you may want to ask yourself if you would want to be a citizen in this Kingdom of God. Here is how the prophet Isaiah (pbuh), through his message, invites all people who would want to be citizens in This Kingdom.

“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! … without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David… Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. (Isaiah 55:1-6)

Allah is inviting all those who are ‘thirsty’ for this Kingdom to come to it, and the love given to the ancient king Dawud (pbuh) will also be extended to all those who come for it. If you have an invitation to come to something that means you do not yet have it.  But the fact that Allah invites us, means that He wants us to become citizens in His Kingdom and live in this rule of peace. So at this point we have many questions of ‘how’ and ‘when’ regarding the coming of this Kingdom which we will continue to look at in further articles about the Zabur.  But there is one question that only you can answer: ‘Do I want to be in this Kingdom?’

The Sign of the Virgin’s Son

In the Introduction to Zabur, I mentioned that the Prophet and King Dawood (PBUH) started the Zabur with the inspired writings of the book of Psalms, and that other books were then added by succeeding prophets. A very important prophet, considered to be one of the major prophets (because his book is so long) was Isaiah. He lived about 750 BC. The timeline below shows when Isaiah lived in comparison with the other prophets of Zabur.

When Isaiah lived
Historical Timeline of Prophet Isaiah (PBUH) with some other prophets in Zabur

Though Isaiah lived so long ago (about 2800 years ago) he made many prophecies predicting future events, as prophet Musa (pbuh) had previously said a prophet should make. As explained in the Introduction to Zabur, the kings that followed Suleiman (pbuh) were mostly wicked, and this was true of the Kings in the time of Isaiah. So his book is full of warnings of coming judgment (which happened about 150 years later when Jerusalem was destroyed by Babylon – see here for history). However, he also prophesied far beyond that and looked deep into his future when Allah would send a special sign – never yet sent to humanity. Isaiah speaks to the King of Israel, who is a descendant of Dawood (pbuh), which is why this Sign is addressed to the ‘House of David’ (Dawood)

Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of men? Will you try the patience of my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. He will eat curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right. (Isaiah 7: 13-15)

This was certainly a bold prediction! Who had ever heard of a virgin woman having a son? It seemed such an incredible prediction that for many years people wondered if there had been some mistake. Certainly, a man simply making a guess about the future would not state – and write down for everyone in succeeding generations to read – such a seemingly impossible prediction. But there it was. And from the Dead Sea Scrolls that exist today we know that this prophecy was in fact written long ago – hundreds of years before Isa (pbuh) was born.

Isa al Masih (pbuh) was prophesied to be born of a virgin

We today, living after Isa al Masih (pbuh), can see that it is a prophecy of his coming. No other prophet, including Ibrahim, Musa and Muhammad (pbut) was born of a virgin. Only Isa (pbuh), of all humans ever born, has come into the world in this way. So Allah, hundreds of years in advance of his birth, was giving us a Sign of his coming and was also preparing us to learn things about this coming son of a virgin. We note two things in particular.

Called ‘Immanuel’ by his mother

First, this coming son of a virgin would be called ‘Immanuel’ by his mother. This name literally means ‘God with us’. But what does that mean? It probably had several meanings, but since this prophecy was declared to the evil kings whom Allah was going to judge shortly, one important meaning was that when this son would be born it was a sign that God was no longer against them in judgment but was ‘with them’. When Isa (pbuh) was born, it seemed in fact like the Israelites had been forsaken by Allah since their enemies ruled them. The birth of the son of the virgin was a sign that God was with them, not against them. The Injil in the Gospel of Luke records that his mother Maryam (or Mary) sang a sacred song when the angel gave her the message of her coming son. This song contained the following:

“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior… His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation… He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers.” (Luke 1:46-55)

You can see that Maryam, when she was informed that she would have a son though she was a virgin, understood this to mean that the Lord was remembering his Mercy to Abraham (Ibrahim) and his descendants forever. The judgments did not mean Allah was never going to be with the Israelites again.

The son of the virgin ‘rejects the wrong and chooses the right’

The amazing part of this prophecy in Isaiah is that this son ‘will eat curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right’. What Isaiah is saying is that this son, as soon as he is old enough to make conscious decisions, will ‘reject the wrong and choose the right’. I have a young son. I love him, but certainly there is no way that on his own he is rejecting the wrong and choosing the right. My wife and I have to work, teach, remind, admonish, set an example, discipline, provide the right friends, make sure he sees proper role models, etc. to teach him to reject the wrong and choose the right – and even with all our effort there is no guarantee. As a parent while I am trying to do this, it brings back memories of my childhood when my parents were in the same struggle in teaching me to ‘reject the wrong and choose the right’.  If the parents do not spend all that effort and work, but just let nature takes it course – the child becomes one who does not ‘reject the wrong and choose the right’. It is as if we are struggling against a ‘moral gravity’ where as soon as we stop effort it goes downhill.

This is why we all lock the doors of our houses and apartments; why every country needs policemen; why we have banking encryption and passwords; and why we continually need to keep making new laws in all countries – because we need to protect ourselves against each other since we do not ‘reject the wrong and choose the right’.

The prophets even do not always reject the wrong and choose the right

And this is true even of the Prophets. The Taurat records that on two occasions the prophet Ibrahim (pbuh) lied about his wife saying that she was only his sister (in Genesis 12:10-13 & Genesis 20:1-2). It also records that the prophet Musa (pbuh) murdered an Egyptian (Exodus 2:12) and on one occasion did not exactly follow Allah’s command (Numbers 20:6-12). The prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is commanded to ask forgiveness in Qur’an (Surah 47:19) – showing that he too did not always reject the wrong and choose the right.

So know, [O Muhammad], that there is no deity except Allah and ask forgiveness for your sin and for the believing men and believing women. And Allah knows of your movement and your resting place. (Muhammad 47:19)

The following hadith from Muslim shows how earnestly he prayed for forgiveness.

Abu Musa Ash’ari reported on the authority of his father that Allah’s Apostle (may peace be upon him) used to supplicate in these words: “O Allah, forgive me my faults, my ignorance, my immoderation in my concerns. And Thou art better aware (of my affairs) than myself. O Allah, grant me forgiveness (of the faults which I committed) seriously or otherwise (and which I committed inadvertently and deliberately. All these (failings) are in me. O Allah, grant me forgiveness from the fault which I did in haste or deferred, which I committed in privacy or in public and Thou art better aware of (them) than myself. Thou art the First and the Last and over all things Thou art Omnipotent.” (Muslim 35: 6563)

This is very similar to the prayer of prophet Dawood (pbuh) when he prayed for forgiveness for his sins:

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin…Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow…. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. (Psalm 51:1-9)

So we see that these men – though they are prophets – struggle with sin and need to ask for forgiveness. This seems to be the universal human condition of all the descendants of Adam.

The Holy son of the virgin

But this son prophesied by Isaiah rejects the wrong and chooses the right naturally and right from his early age. It is instinct for him. For that to be possible he must have a different lineage. All the other prophets, through their fathers, trace back to Adam, and he did not ‘reject the wrong and chose the right’ as we saw.  As genetics passes the nature of the father to his descendants, so this rebellious nature of Adam passed to all of us and even to the prophets. But the son born of a virgin, by definition, would not have Adam in his lineage as a father. The parental line of this son would be different, and so he would be holy. This is why the Qur’an, when recounting the angelic message to Maryam about her virgin-born son, called the son ‘holy

He (the angel) said: “Nay, I am only a messenger from thy Lord, (to announce) to thee the gift of a holy son.  She (Maryam) said: “How shall I have a son, seeing that no man has touched me, and I am not unchaste?”  He said: “So (it will be): Thy Lord saith, ‘that is easy for Me: and (We wish) to appoint him as a Sign unto men and a Mercy from Us’:It is a matter (so) decreed.”  So she conceived him, (Surah 19:19-22) Maryam

The Prophet Isaiah (pbuh) was clear, and the later Books agree – there was a son coming who would be born of a virgin, thus having no earthly father and would not have this nature of sin, and would thus be Holy.

Flashback to Adam in Paradise

But it is not only the later books that speak of this coming son of the virgin. It was also there from the beginning. We saw in the Sign of Adam that Allah had Spoken a Promise to Satan. I repeat it here.

“And I (Allah) will put enmity between you (Satan) and the woman (Eve), and between your offspring and hers; he (offspring of woman) will crush your (Satan) head, and you (Satan) will strike his (offspring of woman) heel.” (Genesis 3:15)

Allah will orchestrate that both Iblis/Satan and the woman will have an ‘offspring’.  There will be ‘enmity’ or hatred between these offspring and between the woman and Satan.  Satan will ‘strike the heel’ of the offspring of the woman while the offspring of the woman will ‘crush the head’ of Satan.  These relationships are seen in this diagram.

The characters and their relationships in the Promise of Allah given in Paradise

Please note that Allah never promised the man an offspring like he promises the woman. This is quite extraordinary especially given the emphasis of sons coming through fathers through the Taurat, Zabur & Injil (al kitab/ Bible). In fact, one criticism of these Books by modern Westerners is that they ignore the blood lines that go through women. It is ‘sexist’ in their eyes because it just considers sons of men. But in this case it is different – there is no promise of an offspring (a ‘he’) coming from a man. It says only that there will be an offspring coming from the woman, without mentioning a man.

Isaiah’s ‘son of a virgin’ IS the ‘offspring of the woman’

Now from the perspective of Isaiah’s clear prophecy of a son from a virgin it is clear that what was meant even long ago in the Garden was that an offspring (son) would come from a woman only (thus a virgin). I urge you to go back and read this discussion in the Sign of Adam from this perspective and you will see that it ‘fits’. All the sons of Adam from the beginning of history suffer the same problem of not ‘rejecting the wrong and choosing the right’ as our ancestor Adam did. So Allah, right then when sin came into the world, made a promise that someone holy and not from Adam would come and ‘crush’ Satan’s head.

But how was this holy son going to do this? If it was about giving a message from Allah, the other prophets like Ibrahim and Musa (pbut) had already faithfully given messages. No, the role of this holy son was different, but to understand this we need to explore further in the Zabur.