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The Secret Codes in Matthew: Examining Israel’s Messiah, Part 2, by Kevin M. Williams

Matthew dots the first chapter of his testimony with specific clues. Some obvious, some less so, and some hidden to the unfamiliar eye. To a learned Jewish man or woman, though, his clues point to only one conclusion—this Yeshua was the Son of God, the Messiah of Israel.

What do you think? Will he continue along this vein in the following chapters? Let’s find out.


Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet: ‘And you, Bethlehem, Land of Judah, are by no means least among the leaders of Judah; for out of you shall come forth a ruler who will shepherd My people Israel.’”

Matthew follows the pattern in Chapter One quite consistently. Here we are not drawing attention to the magi, nor to Herod, but to Bethlehem and the Shepherd.

Regarding Bethlehem, The p’shat5 interpretation is clear—a geographical location evident on most maps. The remetz6 interpretation is also rather clear—the birthplace was prophesied hundreds of years earlier in Micah 5:2. What about the sod7 interpretation?

Bethlehem, Bayt-lechem (סחל תיב), is two words in the Hebrew and literally means, “house of bread.” Is it a coincidence that the One called the Bread of Heaven8 would be born out of the “house of bread?” Is it really a random event, that the Bread of Life9 that comes down out of heaven, that was broken for us10, would find its beginning in Bayt-lechem?

I tend to agree with a Messianic Jewish friend of mine who says, “There is no such thing as coincidences, only God-incidences!”

Regarding the Shepherd, we have many allusions in the Tanakh of the Messiah as the Great Shepherd. One of the best is out of the book of Ezekiel (37:24), “My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd; and they will walk in My ordinances and keep My statutes and observe them.”

In John 10:1–18, Yeshua designates Himself as that “Good Shepherd” who would draw His sheep from His own flock (Israel) as well as sheep from another flock (the Gentiles) and form them into one flock. This seems to reflect the sentiment of Isaiah 56:8, “The Lord GOD, who gathers the dispersed of Israel, declares, ‘Yet others I will gather to them, to those already gathered.’”

These priests and scribes Herod gathered together give a correct answer, geographically, politically, scripturally, and whether they were aware of it or not—deeply spiritually.

For those Jewish sages with eyes that see, as the Bible says, these nuances would not have been lost on them. Matthew was revealing treasures of biblical truth that have often been buried by those unfamiliar with Jewish heritage.


As to the magi (wise men in the King James translation), many traditions have become entrenched in the collective Christian memory. Rarely is the following considered, and yet it seems fully consistent with the Tanakh and is another potential landmark on our treasure map.

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Category: Biblical Studies, Pneuma Review, Summer 2001

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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