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How was Jesus’ name prophesied long before his birth?

Sign of the Branch Part 2: The Branch named ‘Jesus’ hundreds of years beforehand

In Part 1 we saw how Isaiah started a theme using the image of The Branch. Someone coming from the fallen dynasty of David, possessing wisdom and power was predicted by Isaiah to come. Jeremiah followed on this theme by stating that this Branch would be known as the LORD (ie as in the Old Testament personal name for God) himself.

Zechariah continues The Branch

zechariah in historical old testament timelineZechariah lived 520 BC, just after the Jewish people returned to Jerusalem from their first expulsion into Babylon, but while they were being ruled by the Persians. At that time the Jewish people were working to rebuild their destroyed temple and re-institute the Mosaic religious system. Zechariah’s contemporary was a man named Joshua, who was High Priest at that time, and was working to re-start the whole priestly system. Zechariah the prophet was working in tandem with his colleague Joshua the High Priest to provide leadership for the Jewish people. Here is what the LORD – through Zechariah- in a prophetic riddle, said of this 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! Building on the image started by Isaiah about 200 years before, and continued by Jeremiah 60 years earlier, Zechariah picks up this theme of ‘The Branch’. But this time the Branch is also called ‘my servant’.  In some way the High Priest Joshua in Jerusalem at 520BC, colleague of Zechariah, was symbolic of this coming Branch, but in what way? It says that in ‘a single day’ the sins will be removed by the LORD (“I will remove…”). This connects with obtaining ‘righteousness’ noted in the previous post. We will gain ‘righteousness’ by having the LORD remove our sins ‘in a single day’. How will that happen?

The Branch: Uniting Priest with King

We continue on three chapters in Zechariah and learn something astounding. To understand the following prophetic riddle, we need to know that the roles of Priest and King were strictly separated in the Old Testament. None of the Davidic Kings could be priests (some of them got into trouble by trying), and conversely, some of the priests got in trouble by dabbling in kingly intrigue. The job of the priest was to mediate between God and man by offering animal sacrifices to God for forgiveness of sins, and the job of the King was to rule with justice from the throne. Both were crucial; both were distinct. Yet Zechariah wrote that in the future:

‘The word of the LORD came to me: “…Take the silver and gold and make a crown, and set it on the head of the high priest Joshua. Tell him this is what the LORD Almighty says, ‘Here is the man whose name is the Branch, and he will branch out from his place and build the temple of the LORD… and he will be clothed with majesty and will sit and rule on his throne. And he will be a priest on his throne. And there will be harmony between the two’’ (Zechariah 6:9-13)

Once again our Branch is here. But now, against all previous precedence, the high priest in Zechariah’s day (Joshua) is to (symbolically) put on the kingly crown. Remember that in Zechariah 3 (above) Joshua was ‘symbolic of things to come’. Could it be that Joshua, the High Priest, in putting on the crown was ‘symbolic’ of a coming merger of the Kingly and Priestly roles? Into one person? And notice that Joshua, his very name, is the name of the Branch. What did that mean?

The name ‘Joshua’ IS the name ‘Jesus’

To understand this we need to review how the Old Testament was translated through history. I have written how around 250 BC the Hebrew Old Testament was translated into Greek. This translation is today still in use and is called the Septuagint (or LXX). We saw that the title ‘Christ’ was first used in this Greek translation, and that ‘Christ’=’Messiah’=’Anointed One’. (If you do not follow this please review here since this is crucial to what will follow).

'Joshua' = 'Jesus'. Both come from the Hebrew name 'Yhowshuwa'

‘Joshua’ = ‘Jesus’. Both come from the Hebrew name ‘Yhowshuwa’

In exactly the same way we can follow the derivations of the name ‘Joshua’. As you can see in the figure above Joshua is an English transliteration of the original Hebrew name ‘Yhowshuwa’ which was a common Hebrew name that meant ‘Jehovah saves’.  This (shown in Quadrant #1) is how Zechariah wrote his name in 520 BC.  This word was transliterated to ‘Joshua’ when the Old Testament was rendered into English (bottom half labelled #3). The translators of the LXX in 250 BC also transliterated that name when they translated the Old Testament into Greek. Their Greek transliteration was Iesous (Quadrant #2). Thus ‘Yhowshuwa’ of the Old Testament was called Iesous in the LXX. Jesus would have been called Yhowshuwa by his contemporaries but when the New Testament writers wrote his name in the Greek New Testament, they used the familiar ‘Iesous’ of the LXX. When the New Testament was rendered from the Greek to English ‘Iesous’ was transliterated (again) to our well-known ‘Jesus’ (bottom half labelled #3). Thus the name ‘Jesus’ = ‘Joshua’. Both Jesus of the New Testament, and Joshua the High Priest of 520BC were called ‘Yhowshuwa’ in their native Hebrew. In Greek, both names were ‘Iesous’. A Greek reader of the Old Testament LXX would recognize the name of Iesous (Jesus) as a familiar name in the Old Testament. We lose that ready connection since the name ‘Jesus’ appears out of the blue as it were.  But the name Jesus does have an Old Testament equivalent – Joshua.

Jesus of Nazareth is the Branch of Isaiah, Jeremiah & Zechariah

But now that we know this context, the prophecy of Zechariah should hit us like a bolt of lightning. Here we see a prediction, made in 520 BC, that the name of the coming Branch will be ‘Jesus’! When I saw this, I just had to sit up and take notice. This was just too ‘coincidental’ for me. Here was (and still is) a prophecy which named the coming Branch, and the name points directly to Jesus of Nazareth.

And this coming Jesus, according to Zechariah, would merge the roles of King and Priest. What was it again that the priests did? On behalf of the people they offered animal sacrifices to God for their forgiveness of sins. Just like Abraham did with his sacrifice on Mount Moriah, and Moses with the Passover lamb sacrifice, the priest covered the sins of the people through animal sacrifice. The coming ‘Jesus’ was going to perform a similar role so that the LORD could ‘remove the sin of this land in a single day’ – the day that this coming Priest Jesus would offer himself as a sacrifice, already pictured in the place of Mount Moriah and the time of year at the Passover. Sometime after fulfilling that role as Priest, this Branch Jesus would take up his throne (as per Psalm 2) and would thus be ‘a Priest on his throne’ – as stated exactly, precisely and verifiably by Zechariah about 500 years before Jesus walked this earth.

This interconnected degree of prophetic foretelling is nothing short of fantastic. Can you think of anyone else in all of history whose life was even as remotely foretold as Jesus of Nazareth’s was by the diverse Old Testament prophets? Zechariah’s naming of the Branch to be Jesus evades all the conspiracy theories of critics like Spong and Ehrman (who argue that the gospel writers made things up to fit the Old Testament) since the name of ‘Jesus’ of Nazareth is recorded outside the gospels. The Jewish Talmud, Josephus and all other writers about Jesus, both friend and foe, have always referred to him as ‘Jesus’ or ‘Christ’. I think that the only option open to us, if we do not accept this as a bona fida prophetic sign, is to ignore it and hope others do too. I have read plenty of critics like Spong and Ehrman who try to rationalize away the Old Testament prophecies in one way or another. They all just ignore this set of Branch prophecies.

Now I suppose they could rationalize that ‘Jesus’ was a reasonably common Jewish name, there certainly were other Jesus’s in Jewish history, so the name coincidence could possibly be due to chance. But let us think through the career of this Jesus of Nazareth. He certainly, as we saw, claimed to be a king; The King in fact. But everything that he accomplished while on earth was in fact priestly. The job of the priest was to take a lamb on behalf of the worshiping Jewish person, offer it to God, kill it, and the death and blood of that lamb would atone for the sin and guilt of that Jewish person. Even a superficial knowledge of the significance of the death of Jesus was that, it also, was an offering to God, on our behalf. His death atones for the sin and guilt for any willing person. The sins of the land were literally removed ‘in a single day’ – the day Jesus died. In his life he alluded to his coming role as King while fulfilling all the requirements as Priest. He has brought harmony and unity to the two roles. The Branch, the one that David long ago called the ‘Messiah’, is in fact the Priest-King.

So exploring the theme of the Branch through the Old Testament should fill us with wonder. But it does not end there. Another Old Testament writer, sandwiched between Jeremiah and Zechariah in history predicted the time of his coming. We will look at that next time.

11 thoughts on “How was Jesus’ name prophesied long before his birth?”

  1. Thank you so much for this! You have a gift in presenting Old Testament prophecy and fulfillment in a way that’s engaging and easily understood. I must read your other posts! God bless.

  2. Yes but did you know that the hebrew name Benjamin means branch. This may be just too simple but we will see as 100k has been raised on the first day of the sabbath year just commenced in Sept.

    1. Ladelle thanks for your comment. But it seems that “benjamin’ means ‘son of the right hand’ in Hebrew. At least that is what a website dealing with names states (link here)

  3. Only problem with this theory is the fact that Jesus of Nazareth didn’t build a temple and was crucified. There is nothing in the bible about the Branch dying. This is the problem.

    1. Hi Larry. Thanks for your comment on this fascinating topic. You make two points 1) temple, and 2) Branch dying. Re. the issue of the Temple it is only fair to let the Biblical context help us understand what is meant by ‘temple’. When we do that we see two issues. First, ‘temple’ is where God dwells, it is not just a specific building in a specific place. In that regard, because of the sacrifice of the Branch there is now another kind of Temple – where God dwells in human hearts. See the following:

      Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? (1 Co 6:19)

      So even now there is a temple, and it is here because of the work of the ‘Branch’. This temple is the redeemed human heart. Furthermore, in the future there is anticipation of yet another Temple

      I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. (Rev 21:22)

      So for both the Present and looking to the future the Temple has been built – and it was built by the Branch. To only look for Jesus to build a building in his earthly life at the Temple site in Jerusalem is to miss his wider work. In the same way some of his contemporaries also misunderstood.

      19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”
      20 They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” John 2:19-20

      Re. the issue of the Branch dying… There is ample theme of a coming sacrificial death in the Old Testament. See my following post and the one after that as well.

  4. Everything you argue seems to insinuate that Jesus was indeed the prophetic Branch. But there is a big problem with this theory. Jesus specifically states that his followers are the Branch and that he is the Vine.

    “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
    John 15:5

    According to the Bible, the Branch is going to build the temple of God. From a biblical point of view, the Temple (Body of Christ, Olive Tree, Kingdom of God, Mount Zion; as well as all the other veiled terms depicting a collective whole of God’s followers) will someday include the Jewish nation (according to the writings of Paul). The very fact that Judaism still sees Jesus of Nazareth as a false messiah suggests the “Temple” still needs to be rebuilt. The person that will lead this charge in converting those of the Jewish faith to Christianity will be the Branch. In the book of Revelation, the Two Witnesses are depicted as the Two Olive Branches, the Two Olive Trees, and the Two Lampstands. The Lampstand is a veiled term for a Christian church, the Olive Tree is a veiled term depicting what type of church that Lampstand will be. It will be a church that includes both Jew and Christian that can see the unveiled truth of what Jesus is revealing.

    After all, if you (gentiles) were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree (Judaism), how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree! I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel (Judaism) has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in,.
    Romans 11:24-25 (written by Paul)

    So the question becomes, what type of knowledge that is currently in the world, will be able to convince those of the Jewish faith that Jesus was in fact the Jewish messiah? It all revolves around the following messianic prophecy; a prophecy about a raised prophet that would resemble Moses; a prophecy Judaism is waiting to be fulfilled.

    The Lord said to me: “What they say is good. I will raise up for them a prophet like you (Moses) from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him. I myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name.
    Deuteronomy 18:17-18

    So what can we figure out, what can we deduce about this raised prophet that will resemble Moses? Well, interestingly enough, one of the Two Witness figures is depicted as this raised prophet that would resemble Moses. As mentioned above, this Witness is said to be the Olive Branch, the Olive Tree, and the Lampstand. He is the Branch the prophecies in your blog post speak of. He will be the man that will reveal a veiled truth about Jesus of Nazareth that Judaism had been blind to and eventually lead a mass exodus of Jews to Christianity, creating the Temple you speak of in this post. This Witness will simply reveal what Jesus had revealed during his lifetime; he will reveal a truth that’s been here all along, but has been hidden by the biblical veil.

    But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away.
    2 Corinthians 3:14 (written by Paul)

    The reason the Apostle Paul was chosen to be given a special revelation was to serve as an example of this mass exodus of Judaism converting to Christianity that will someday take place.

    Prior to Paul’s conversion to Christianity, he was a devout, zealous Jewish Pharisee within the Jewish synagogue. During this time, he was absolutely convinced that Jesus was a false messiah, just as modern day Judaism believes Jesus is a false messiah. But then Paul had a revelation; he had the unveiled truth revealed to him. This revelation led him to believe that Jesus was in fact the Jewish messiah. Soon this unveiled truth, that is still partially hidden by the biblical veil, will be fully revealed. When it does, just as Paul (a previous leader in the Jewish synagogue) converted, so too will a large population of Judaism convert. Soon, “the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations” will be fully revealed; fully understood.

    I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people.
    Colossians 1:25-26 (written by Paul).

    Just my opinion.


    1. Hi Steve. You may have a point, but way at the beginning, when you quote John 15, Jesus is the Vine (singular) and we are the branches (plural). The Branch as predicted by Isaiah/Jeremiah/Zechariah was singular. It was not ‘the Branches’ but the ‘Branch’.

      1. I agree, Branches is plural. My point is the Branch will be a Christian, not Christ himself. Jesus is the source of knowledge (Vine) out of which Christians grow (Branches). By arguing that Jesus is the Branch, one is arguing that Jesus is an extension of Godly knowledge, not the source of Godly knowledge. Therefore, the Branch mentioned in these Old Testament prophecies should in theory be a person who is an extension of Christ, not Christ himself.

        According to Paul, Judaism will eventually merge with Christianity; those of the Jewish faith will suddenly see something regarding Jesus they had previously been unaware of. This revelation will cause many people of the Jewish faith to believe Jesus was in fact their messiah. When those of the Jewish faith begin to believe, when they begin to see, they will be entering into the spiritual temple of God. The person that will reveal this veiled truth that will open Judaism’s eyes will be the Branch. Hence, the Branch will help rebuild the temple of God (spiritual temple).

        This person, the Branch, will be the first Branch of many Branches to come. He will be a Christian that will see things within the Bible that others do not (Isaiah 11). He will have deep insight into what the Bible is revealing and will relay the biblical information he has unveiled to others. There won’t be anything supernatural about him, he will be normal. Just a person with tremendous biblical insight.

        Now the question becomes, how exactly will the Branch lead those of the Jewish faith into seeing and believing that Jesus was the Jewish messiah? He will first have to rationally explain how Jesus fulfilled all the Jewish messianic requirements. Then he will need to be able to rationally explain God’s ultimate plan for mankind, as well as explain how Jesus was the centerpiece to this plan. This is something Christians have been trying to do for roughly two thousand years, yet Judaism still sees Jesus as a false messiah. Whatever the Branch reveals, it will be unlike anything anyone has heard before and it will make rational, logical sense according with scriptures.

        Just my thoughts.

        1. Steve,

          Do you realize you’re arguing over the meaning of English words, when the Bible was written in other languages? The original words were neither “branch” nor “vine, and the words of Jesus were recorded in a different language than the prophecies of Zechariah. Look to the concept, not the literal meaning of the English words that were translated from another language.

          Here’s the verse again:

          Tell him, ‘This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says: Here is the man called the Branch. He will branch out from where he is and build the Temple of the LORD.

          Jesus will branch out and build the temple. How? Because we are the branches/temple branching out from his branch, which is connected to God the father.

          I mean no insult. I love you all! I’ll be with you and know you forever. Can’t wait!

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