Following the account of the creation, the Old Testament continues with the story of Adam and Eve. Satan in the guise of a serpent deceives Eve and causes her to break the one commandment of God. Adam follows suit. The result is that sin enters the human family and the human experience. Man now stands under the righteous judgment of God. Nevertheless, at the time of the Fall, God provides for future redemption. As he addresses Satan, God says: "And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed: he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel" (Gen. 3:15). The keynote of this verse is the reference to the seed of the woman. In and of itself, this statement may not seem unusual, but in the context of biblical teaching, it is most unusual.
For throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, a man's lineage was never reckoned after the woman but only after the man. In all the genealogies we have in the biblical record, women are virtually ignored because they are unimportant in determining genealogy. Yet the future person who would crush Satan's head would not be reckoned after a man but after a woman. In the biblical pattern, this is highly unusual. In spite of the normal biblical pattern, we have a clear statement that the future redeemer comes from the seed of the woman. His birth will only take into account his mother. For a reason that is not explained here, the father will not be taken into account at all. Yet this goes totally contrary to the whole biblical view regarding genealogies. That this verse was taken to be messianic is clear from the Targums of Jonathan and the Jerusalem Targums. Furthermore, the Talmudic expression "Heels of the Messiah" seems to have been taken from this verse. But Genesis itself does not explain how or why this redeemer can be labeled "seed of the woman" when it goes contrary to the biblical pattern.Centuries later, Israel had a great prophet in the person of Isaiah. It was left to this prophet to explain the meaning and reason why the Messiah would be only reckoned after the seed of the woman. Isaiah writes,
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel (v. 7:14). The very fact that the birth of this person spoken of in this passage is described as a sign points to some unusual thing regarding the birth. In other words, the birth could not be normal, for that would not fulfill the requirement of the word sign. It had to be unusual in some way, perhaps miraculous or at least attention-getting. The very existence of the Jewish people stemmed from a sign of a birth. The Scriptures make clear that both Abraham and Sarah were beyond the point of being able to bear children. Abraham was ninety-nine years old and Sarah was eighty-nine. She had, of course, already undergone menopause when in Genesis 18, God promised that Sarah would have a son within one year. This would be the sign that God will keep his covenant with Abraham and will make a great nation from him. A year later this sign took place in the birth of Isaac, through whom the Jewish people came. It was the sign needed to authenticate the covenant. This was a miraculous birth.
The birth of the son in Isaiah 7:14 was also to be a sign—to be unusual in some way. But this time the unusual nature of the birth was not going to be due to the advanced age of the mother. This would be a sign by virtue of the fact that this son would be born of a virgin. Right at this point, another conflict often ensues. Rabbis today claim that the Hebrew word almah does not mean "virgin" but "young woman." But what they fail to explain is how this would be used as a sign. A young woman giving birth to a baby is hardly unusual; in fact, it happens all the time! Often Rashi is the one quoted as showing that almah means "young woman." It is true that Rashi interpreted Isaiah 7:14 to mean a young woman, perhaps for the same reason that he made Isaiah 53 refer to Israel and not to the Messiah. But this is not enough to prove that Rashi always made almah to mean a young woman. This Hebrew word is also found in the Song of Solomon 1:3 and 6:8. In these passages Rashi makes almah to mean "virgin!" So, regardless of how Rashi interpreted Isaiah 7:14, he elsewhere did use the word almah to mean "virgin." Furthermore, Rashi admitted that many Jewish scholars of his day made Isaiah 7:14 to refer to a virgin. It can easily be seen that Rashi was trying to counteract Christian polemics with his interpretation of Isaiah 7:14 rather than being honest with the text itself. Also, as in the case of Isaiah 53, Rashi was again going contrary to popular Jewish interpretation.
A far more authoritative source than Rashi is the judgment of the seventy Jewish rabbiswho translated the Greek version of the Old Testament, known as the Septuagint, about 250 B.C. These men lived far closer to the time of Isaiah than Rashi by about thirteen hundred years and were closer to the original usage of the word. These seventy rabbis all made almah to read parthenos, which is the simple Greek word for "virgin." Even if almah is allowed to mean "young woman," it still must be admitted that the word can refer to a virginal young woman. It must not be ignored that this birth was to be a sign, an unusual birth. This is best seen if taken to mean a Virgin Birth.
This, then, is the explanation of the mystery of Genesis 3:15. Messiah would be reckoned after the seed of a woman because he would not have a father. Because of a Virgin Birth, he could only be traced through his mother and not his father. Thus, Isaiah 7:14 clarifies the meaning of Genesis 3:15: The Messiah will enter the world by means of the Virgin Birth.
Another point that is uncontested is that the Messiah would be a descendant of King David. From this comes the rabbinical ascription of the title, Messiah the Son of David. Of the numerous passages that might be cited, we will limit ourselves to the following two, both from Isaiah:
And there shall come forth a shoot out of the stock of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots shall bear fruit. (v. 11:1) And it shall come to pass in that day, that the root of Jesse, that stands for an ensign of the peoples, unto him shall the nations seek; and his resting-place shall be glorious. (v. 11:10)
Jesse was the father of David, and thus these passages show that Messiah will come from the House of David. To this all Orthodox Judaism agrees.
Prophecy of the Messiah's suffering:
A passage dealing with the sufferings of the Messiah was Psalm 22:1-21:
To summarize the passage, we find that the Messiah is forsaken by God, is ridiculed and tormented by the people, and his clothes are gambled away by his tormentors. He suffers such agony that his bones all come out of joint, his heart breaks with a mixture of blood and water, and his hands and feet are all pierced. In many ways this psalm is very similar to Isaiah 53, providing even more detail as to the type of suffering and agony that the Messiah must undergo. The rabbis in the Yalkut also referred this passage to Messiah, the Son of Joseph.