Questions From Readers
● Did not Jacob misrepresent himself as Esau, as recorded at Genesis 27:18-30? Why was this allowed?—R.M., U.S.A.
In actuality it was not a case of misrepresentation but rather of representation. Inasmuch as Jacob had already bought the birthright from his twin brother, he could rightfully represent or take the place of his brother, who virtually blind Isaac thought still held the birthright, Jacob’s not having forced the issue. (Gen. 25:29-34) Moreover, Rebekah could properly counsel Jacob to go before his father to do what he did inasmuch as Jehovah God told Rebekah before the birth of the twin sons: “Two nations are in your belly, and two national groups will be separated from your inward parts; and the one national group will be stronger than the other national group, and the older will serve the younger.” (Gen. 25:23) Rebekah may also have known that Jacob had bought the birthright. So Jehovah directed matters, and the divine record at Genesis 28:5 speaks now of “Jacob and Esau,” putting Jacob before his older twin brother, denoting preference, which was expressed emphatically by Jehovah himself. (Mal. 1:2, 3) In the Christian Greek Scriptures Esau is set forth as a warning example to Christians so that they will not be guilty, as was Esau, of lack of appreciation for sacred or spiritual things. (Heb. 12:16) Jacob, on the other hand, is a fine example for Christians, since he showed the highest appreciation for spiritual things, having the utmost confidence in Jehovah’s promise that his father had inherited from Abraham.—Heb. 11:8-10.
● In keeping with Matthew 2:23, what Hebrew Scripture prophecy foretold that Jesus would “be called a Nazarene”?
Joseph, Mary and young Jesus settled in Nazareth after spending some time in Egypt and returning to Palestine. Matthew tells us: “So he [Joseph] got up and took the young child and its mother and entered into the land of Israel. But hearing that Archelaus ruled as king of Judea instead of his father Herod, he became afraid to depart for there. Moreover, being given divine warning in a dream, he withdrew into the territory of Galilee, and came and dwelt in a city named Nazareth, that there might be fulfilled what was spoken through the prophets: ‘He will be called a Nazarene.’”—Matt. 2:19-23.
Jesus’ being called a Nazarene evidently refers to the application to him of the Hebrew word nétser. This word means “branch” or “sprout.” It was used prophetically of Jesus at Isaiah 11:1, which reads: “And there must go forth a twig out of the stump of Jesse; and out of his roots a sprout [nétser] will be fruitful.” Noteworthy is the fact that the name of Jesus’ hometown, Nazareth, is apparently derived from this same Hebrew word, nétser, and means “Branch-town.”
Hence, while it appears that no specific statement in the Hebrew Scriptures can be cited that says the Messiah would be called a Nazarene, the prophecy of Isaiah 11:1 concerning “a sprout” was fulfilled in Jesus Christ. There is also the meaning of the name Nazareth to consider. These factors combine to give veracity to Matthew’s inspired statement at Matthew 2:23 that, according to prophecy, Jesus would “be called a Nazarene.”
● At Matthew 24:3, when Jesus’ disciples asked him about the “sign” of his presence, what did they have in mind, since later events show that they did not at that time understand that it would be an invisible presence?
When Jesus came to earth, was baptized as the Messiah and began to proclaim, “The kingdom of the heavens has drawn near,” the Jews would not accept him. They demanded that he perform the sign foretold at Daniel 7:13, 14, appearing on the clouds of the heavens to take his great kingdom power. They looked for the Messiah to deliver the Jewish nation from bondage to Rome and to display glorious power in doing so. They overlooked prophecies such as Isaiah, chapter 53, which foretold that he would suffer and be despised and rejected by men and would pour out his soul to death as a ransom. In other words, they looked for him to do at his first presence things he was actually to do at his second presence as the heavenly King. They stumbled over him.—Mark 8:11, 12.
Jesus’ disciples had been with him now during most of his ministry. They knew that this first presence among them had been marked by many identifying events—fulfillments of prophecy such as by the preaching of John the Baptist and his testimony to the Messiah’s anointing with holy spirit and the voice from heaven, by the healing of the sick, deaf, lame and blind and by the preaching of the good news. Even then it took faith to recognize him. (Matt. 11:2-6) On the other hand, they had heard him tell those who demanded to see a sign from him that their wicked generation would be given no sign except “the sign of Jonah the prophet.” They had also heard him explain to the Pharisees, when asked by them when the kingdom of God was coming: “The kingdom of God is not coming with striking observableness, neither will people be saying, ‘See here!’ or, ‘There!’ For, look! the kingdom of God is in your midst.” There the king was and the Pharisees did not know it! Also, the disciples knew that he had said that he would be killed and resurrected, and that he would go away to receive a kingdom and return. They wanted to be sure they recognized him then. But not yet having received holy spirit, they did not appreciate that he would not sit on an earthly throne; they had no idea that he would rule as a glorious spirit from the heavens and therefore did not know that his second presence would be invisible.—Matt. 12:38, 39; Luke 11:29, 30; 17:20, 21; 19:11-27; Matt. 16:21, 28.
They knew the prophecy of Daniel 7:13, 14 would be fulfilled somehow, but wondered how. Even faithful prophets before them had wondered about the Messiah’s coming to earth and as to his taking of glorious power and having followers to share with him, as Peter explains: “A diligent inquiry . . . [was] made by the prophets . . . They kept on investigating what particular season or what sort of season the spirit in them was indicating concerning Christ when it was bearing witness beforehand about the sufferings for Christ and about the glories to follow these.” Yes, even the angels wanted to know the answers, as Peter goes on to say: “Into these very things angels are desiring to peer.”—1 Pet. 1:10-12.
So the disciples in effect asked: ‘Just what will be the sign? Just how will the prophecies concerning your presence be fulfilled? What are we to look for, so as not to miss out, so as not to be blind, as the Pharisees are to your presence now, even though you are bodily present and still not recognized as the Messiah to them?’
Jesus did not answer in so many words that he would be invisibly present, but he outlined evidences that would make his presence recognizable, whether visible or invisible. He assured them that Daniel’s sign would be fulfilled in him. He knew that later, when they received holy spirit, they would appreciate that his resurrection was “in the spirit” and that his second presence would be in glorious spirit power invisible to human eyes. His answer constitutes a sure sign to Christians on earth today who exercise faith as did those disciples and who discern unmistakably his invisible presence in Kingdom power, though all Christendom is blind to this fact of utmost importance to mankind.