Messianic Prophecies: Numbers 16-19

Something for the weekend.  We Three Kings Of Orient Are.  Continuing on with our Advent look at Messianic prophecies, the earlier posts of the series may be read here, here, here ,here and here we come to Numbers 16-19:

[16] The hearer of the words of God hath said, who knoweth the doctrine of the Highest, and seeth the visions of the Almighty, who falling hath his eyes opened: [17] I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not near. A STAR SHALL RISE out of Jacob and a sceptre shall spring up from Israel: and shall strike the chiefs of Moab, and shall waste all the children of Seth. [18] And he shall possess Idumea: the inheritance of Seir shall come to their enemies, but Israel shall do manfully. [19] Out of Jacob shall he come that shall rule, and shall destroy the remains of the city.

Origen, writing in the first half of the third century tied this prophecy of Balaam to the Star of Bethlehem:

If, then, at the commencement of new dynasties, or on the occasion of other important events, there arises a comet so called, or any similar celestial body, why should it be matter of wonder that at the birth of Him who was to introduce a new doctrine to the human race, and to make known His teaching not only to Jews, but also to Greeks, and to many of the barbarous nations besides, a star should have arisen? Now I would say, that with respect to comets there is no prophecy in circulation to the effect that such and such a comet was to arise in connection with a particular kingdom or a particular time; but with respect to the appearance of a star at the birth of Jesus there is a prophecy of Balaam recorded by Moses to this effect: There shall arise a star out of Jacob, and a man shall rise up out of Israel.

The Jewish historian Josephus, who lived in the second half of the first century, applied the prophecy of Balaam to the Emperor Vespasian:

“But now, what did the most elevate them [the Jews] in undertaking this war, was an ambiguous oracle that was also found in their sacred writings, how,” about that time, one from their country should become governor of the habitable earth.” The Jews took this prediction to belong to themselves in particular, and many of the wise men were thereby deceived in their determination. Now this oracle certainly denoted the government of Vespasian, who was appointed emperor in Judea.”

Josephus earlier noted how the prophecy of Balaam had helped spark the great Romano-Jewish War in 66 AD:

“Thus it was that the wretched people were deluded at that time by charlatans and pretended messengers of the deity; while they neither heeded nor believed in the manifest portents that foretold the coming desolation, but, as if thunderstruck and bereft of eyes and mind, disregarded the plain warnings of God. So it was when a star, resembling a sword, stood over the city, and a comet which continued for a year.”

These passages indicates that the prophecy of Balaam was very much on the minds of Jews at the time of Christ and very much part of their Messianic expectations.

We three kings of Orient are

Bearing gifts we traverse afar.

Field and fountain, moor and mountain,

Following yonder star.

O star of wonder, star of night,

 Star with royal beauty bright,

Westward leading, still proceeding,

 Guide us to thy perfect Light.

Born a king on Bethlehem’s plain,

 Gold I bring to crown Him again,

 King forever, ceasing never

 Over us all to reign.  

O star of wonder, star of night,

 Star with royal beauty bright,

 Westward leading, still proceeding,

 Guide us to thy perfect Light.

Frankincense to offer have I.

 Incense owns a Deity nigh.

 Prayer and praising all men raising,

 Worship Him, God on high.  

O star of wonder, star of night,

 Star with royal beauty bright,

 Westward leading, still proceeding,

Guide us to thy perfect Light.

Myrrh is mine: it’s bitter perfume

 Breaths a life of gathering gloom.

 Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding dying,

 Sealed in the stone-cold tomb.  

O star of wonder, star of night,

Star with royal beauty bright,

 Westward leading, still proceeding,

 Guide us to thy perfect Light.

Glorious now behold Him arise,

King and God and Sacrifice.

Alleluia, alleluia!

 Sounds through the earth and skies.  

O star of wonder, star of night,

 Star with royal beauty bright,

Westward leading, still proceeding,

Guide us to thy perfect Light

2 Responses to Messianic Prophecies: Numbers 16-19

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