The Case for Jesus the Messiah – Incredible Prophecies that Prove God Exists/Part 12

By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Dr. John Weldon; ©{{{copyright}}}
Jeremiah 23:5, 6—Who Is the Righteous Branch, the Wise King, Who Will Be Called “the Lord Our Righteousness”?

Editor’s Note: This material was first published in book form in 1989 by the John Ankerberg Evangelistic Association (now known as the Ankerberg Theological Research Institute).

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The Biblical Text

Behold, the days come, says Jehovah, that I will raise to David a righteous Branch, and He will reign as King and act wisely, and shall do justice and righteousness in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely. And this is his name (by) which he shall be called, Jehovah our righteousness. (Jeremiah 23:5-6)

The Context of the Passage

In this chapter God has pronounced judgment on the false leaders and prophets of Israel who were responsible for scattering and driving the people away from God (Jer. 23:1-2). God says that the evil practices of these false and lying prophets and the evil practices of the people themselves will result in their judgment (Jer. 23:9-27). We know from history and Scripture this divine judgment was the Babylonian captivity and exile. God now declares He will gather the remnant of His flock from all the countries and bring them back where they will be fruitful and increase in number. In doing so, He will place benevolent shepherds (leaders) over them who will protect and guide them so that they will no longer be afraid (Jer. 23:3-4).

It is at this point God states the amazing words found in verses 5 and 6 about the future. Some day He 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 will live in safety. Then God specifically identifies this future Person by saying, “This is the name by which he will be called, Jehovah our righteousness.”

The Explanation of the Text

Proof that this passage is speaking about the Messiah can be seen from the following:

(1) At least four other scriptural passages refer to a “Branch” who is acknowledged by many Jewish rabbis as being the Messiah (Jer. 23:5; Jer. 33:15; Isa. 4:2; Zech. 3:8; 6:12,13). Many have agreed that “this term [the Branch] is one of the proper names of the Messiah.”[1]
(2) This person, the “Branch” is literally called “Jehovah our righteousness.” This indicates that Messiah is somehow “God” (Jehovah).
(3) The Messiah is also stated to be “our righteousness.” What this means we will see in a moment.

But first, who would dare claim to be “the Branch”? Who would dare utter he was “Jehovah”? Who would ever claim to be “Our Righteousness”?

There is only One Person in history who has claimed, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn. 14:9, NIV). That One is Jesus Christ. He also declared, “My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the One who glorifies me” (Jn. 8:54, NIV). “Before Abraham was born, I AM!” (Jn. 8:58, NIV). “‘We are not stoning you for any of these,’ replied the Jews, ‘but for blasphemy, because you a mere man, claim to be God’” (Jn. 10:33, NIV). The evidence clearly shows that men in Jesus’ day understood He was claiming to be God.

What does this passage mean when it says this “Branch” out of David will be “Jehovah our righteousness”? We agree with Dr. Laetsch who has compared other Messianic promises and concluded:

It is the righteousness which the Seed of David, who is the Woman’s Seed of Gen. 3:15, procures for mankind by bruising Satan’s head. As the Servant of the Lord, he bore the sins of man (Isa. 53:11), which the Lord laid on him (verse 6) who had done no wrong (verse 9) and who suffered all the penalties man had deserved (vv. 5-6). By his vicarious, substitutionary fulfillment of all the demands of the mandatory and punitive justice of God he became “our righteousness,” establishing this righteousness as the norm to be followed in his kingdom. Since this righteousness was procured and established by him whom God calls “Jehovah our righteousness,” it is a righteousness not only promised in the Old Testament, but as the righteousness procured by Jehovah it is as timeless as the Lord, retroactive (Heb. 9:15);… It was counted as righteousness to believing Abraham (Gen. 15:6); it became the hope and trust and joy of all believers in the Old Testament (Heb. 11:1-40)…. It is that vicarious righteousness on account of which the Righteous Servant throughout the ages justifies many (Isa. 53:12), makes them righteous by declaring them righteous, children of God, heirs of salvation for the sake of the salvation he has procured. For this reason “righteousness” is so frequently linked up with “salvation.”[2]

Let us ask, “Could all of this be true of anyone but Jesus Christ?” In Romans 3:21-26 we discover how Jehovah is our righteousness:

But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement,… to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

Was Jeremiah 23:5-6 Recognized by the Jews as Messianic?

The Targum of Isaiah reads, “I will raise up to David a righteous Messiah, a king who will reign wisely,” proving the rabbis held this passage to be Messianic.[3]

As Messianic experts have stated: “There is scarcely any contrary opinion among ancient and also modern Jews but that this is a Messianic prophecy.”[4]

The great Rabbi David Kimchi (1160-1235 A.D.) was such a great scholar of the Hebrew Scriptures that the Jews had a saying about him: “No Kimchi, no understanding of the Scriptures.”[5]

Concerning this verse, Rabbi Kimchi wrote, “By the righteous Branch is meant Messiah.”[6] Those who wrote Targum Jonathan agreed with Kimchi. They introduced the Messiah by name in this passage.[7]

Hebrew scholar Alfred Edersheim quotes another rabbinic writing:

On Jer. xxiii, 5, 6, the Targum has it: “And I will raise up for David the Messiah the Just.” This is one of the passages from which, according to Rabbinic views, one of the Names of the Messiah is derived, viz.: Jehovah our Righteousness. So in the Talmud (Babha Bathra 75b), in the Midrash on Ps. xxi. 1, Prov. xix. 21, and in that on Lamentations i. 16.[8]

In conclusion, this passage was clearly Messianic. It teaches the Messiah will be “Jehovah our righteousness” and in all of Israel’s history, only Jesus Christ fits this description.

Clues to Identify the Messiah

Whoever the Messiah is, He must fit the following descriptions:

Clue #1—He, a male child (the Hebrew text specifically uses a 3rd person, singular, masculine pronoun—”he”), will be born of the seed of the woman.

Clue #2—He will come from the race of the Jews, and specifically from the seed of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Clue #3—He will be a great prophet, with the authority to teach like Moses.

Clue #4—He will be mocked, and people will cast lots for His garments while He suffers.

Clue #5—He will be David’s Lord.

Clue #6—He will be the child born who is God, and will have an everlasting kingdom.

Clue #7—He will be wounded and bruised, smitten and spit upon, mocked, killed with thieves, bear the sins of many, be rejected by His own people, pierced for our transgressions, be buried in a rich man’s tomb, and come back to life after His death.

Clue # 8—He will be Jehovah our Righteousness.

Read Part 13

Notes

  1. Baron, Rays, pp. 78, 90, 107, 116; Theo. Laetsch, Bible Commentary: Jeremiah (St. Louis, MO: Concordia, 1965), p. 190.
  2. Laetsch, Jeremiah, pp. 191-192.
  3. The NIV Study Bible, p. 1160.
  4. Baron, Rays, p. 78.
  5. Ibid., p. 19.
  6. Ibid., p. 78.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Edersheim, Life and Times, Vol. 2, p. 731.

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