Monday, August 4, 2014

King Of Zion

"Turn us to You, O Lord, and we will return. Renew our days as of old."
[Lamentations 5:21]

The following is an essay I penned for my Religions of the Western World class taken under Rutgers University conducted by Professor James Pavlin.

The definition of the Messiah in Judaism, in stark contrast to the idea of the Messiah in Christianity, is vastly different. The Hebrew word for Messiah, Mashiach, derives from the root "Mem-Shin-Chet" meaning "to smear or to anoint." This anointment was a ritual performed by the Israelites to sire a new king for their kingdom: the head of the one elected to be king was smeared with oil. On the other hand, the Christian concept of the Messiah, which Christendom, and right now most of the world, refers to as savior, stems from the Hebrew word "Moshiah" deriving from the root "Yod-Shin-Ayin" which means "to save." It is important to note here that the Hebrew name of Jesus, Yeshua, is what actually translates to Savior.

Basically, when speaking of the Messiah or "the Anointed One", Jews refer to a future king of their people who shall emerge and take back the Kingdom of David from their oppressors restoring its dominion for them, the elected People of the Covenant — the Children of Israel. If we are to broaden this concept using the narratives of the Bible then we can say that the Jews believe this Messiah will be a great political leader descending from the bloodline of King David as per the words from the Book of Jeremiah, Chapter 23, Verse 5,
"The days are coming" declares the Lord "when I will raise up from David a Righteous Branch, a King who shall reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land."
The Book of Jeremiah also reiterates this in Chapter 33, Verse 15, where the Lord, Yahweh says,
"In those days and at that time I will make a Righteous Branch sprout from David's line; he will do what is just and right in the land."
Jews believe that this descendant of David, who is also sometimes referred to as "Mashiach ben Dah'veed" literally meaning "Messiah, Son of David," will be a charismatic leader, a military general, a political figure who shall charge forward the Israelites into battle and win back the Promised Land. Judaism does not speak of the Messiah as a supernatural being, a god or a demigod but rather a very human king well versed in the Law or Torah and its Commandments bestowed upon the people by God Himself.

Initially, the idea of the messiah was used to refer to any king of the Kingdom of Israel since they were all anointed upon election and "messiah" literally means "the anointed one." The notion arose when the Israelites asked Yahweh to appoint for them a king — a plea Yahweh initially refused but later relented and agreed upon. A tribal king was first chosen in the form of Saul but then it was David who forged the Kingdom of Israel together by uniting all its twelve tribes. The story of the Children of Israel now had reached a tentative form of closure with the establishment of a unified kingdom, and consolidated symbols and traditions.

However, the concept of the Messiah among the Israelites has undergone and evolved much over time, most of it coming off about due to the result of invading foreign forces who eventually wrested away the kingship of the Promised Land from the Children of Israel. At this point in time they believed that the Messiah — a chosen king from the House of David — shall come, restore their land that had been taken away from them and then Israelites shall live within in peace and harmony under the just reign of the Mashiach. Now, here, the Messiah can be seen as a savior but not a savior of mankind from sin who shall lead us to salvation, yet more of a savior for the Jews who shall lead them back to sovereignty of their Holy Land.

Orthodox Jews look up to these prophetic promises outlined in the Torah about a king rising up from the bloodline of David in a literal sense, believing that a physical, human ruler shall come from the lineage of David who shall rule over the Israelis upholding the Judaic Law of the Torah and the Commandments of God; on the other hand, liberal Jews perceive the promise of the Messiah to be an allegorical metaphor delineating the progress of the Israelite people towards peace, harmony and justice.

— Fahim Ferdous Promi

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