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The Secret Codes in Matthew: Examining Israel’s Messiah, Part 16: Matthew 21:1-46, by Kevin M. Williams

Yeshua, falls back on his strongest defense, the Word of God: Psalm 8:2. The New American Standard Bible renders it this way:

From the mouth of infants and nursing babes Thou hast established strength, Because of Thine adversaries, To make the enemy and the revengeful cease.

The verse reads a little differently. The Greek in Matthew 21:17 does not match the quote of Psalm 8:2. Somehow “established strength” literally a “bulwark”—a wall to stand against attackers—in Psalms becomes “praise for Thyself” in Matthew. The New King James Version renders it “you have perfected praise.” The Jewish Publication Society speaks similarly, “From the mouths of infants and sucklings You have founded strength on account of Your foes, to put an end to enemy and avenger.”

There is no clear reason why the differences between the Old and New Testaments passages exist. If Yeshua were going to quote the Bible, certainly the Word made flesh would quote it correctly.

From the way this reads in Psalms 8:2, Yeshua’s intent seems to be that these children—even so young as infants and babes, too weak and immature to even help themselves—were proclaiming Him the Messiah. If this is the correct understanding, then it was said for the purpose of bringing to an end hostilities between Himself and the “enemy and the revengeful”—between the Messiah and the chief priests and scribes. Had they taken its meaning this way, and stopping to consider all that they had seen before their very eyes, then things might have turned out differently. In fact, it may have turned out the way the New Testament reads, having “prepared praise for Thyself.” True peace, therefore, might have existed between them all, and together this “bulwark” might have produced perfect praise. It may have been Yeshua’s way of offering peace to both the chief priests and the scribes. Ultimately, however, they rejected all: they refused His peace, they did not recognize Him as the bulwark, and they rejected Him as being the “chief corner stone” (Matthew 21:42).

Now in the morning, when He returned to the city, He became hungry. And seeing a lone fig tree by the road, He came to it, and found nothing on it except leaves only; and He said to it, “No longer shall there ever be any fruit from you.” And at once the fig tree withered. And seeing this, the disciples marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither at once?”

And Jesus answered and said to them, “Truly I say to you, if you have faith, and do not doubt, you shall not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ it shall happen. And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive” (Matthew 21:18-22).

In some instances the fig tree has come to represent the nation of Israel and sadly, there are those today who would say that Yeshua is metaphorically prophesying against and even cursing Israel. Given what we read happened just the day before, with the multitudes of his disciples praising and worshiping him, proclaiming him to be the Son of David, this is indeed an unfortunate interpretation. It is in fact, anti-Semitic.

Yeshua’s words to the tree, “No longer shall there ever be any fruit from you,” is used by some as a theological justification for the regular, century-after-century oppression the Jewish people have faced among the nations.

Rather, it would be wiser to examine the events within the overall context of the Word itself. In the book of Matthew alone, we have 7:16-20; 12:33, 13:4-9, and 18-23, which all talk about good trees producing good fruit and unproductive branches being thrown into the fire. The message therefore, would be that we all must be mindful of the fruit we are bearing—and that we actually bear fruit—or we are of no value to the King of kings.

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Category: Biblical Studies, Pneuma Review, Winter 2005

About the Author: Kevin M. Williams, Litt.D., H.L.D. has served in Messianic ministries since 1987 and has written numerous articles and been a featured speaker at regional and international conferences on Messianic Judaism.

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