Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Muhammad and the Jewish Messiah Revisited Pt. 1

Sam Shamoun

There are some Muslim apologists that just never learn their lesson, no matter how many times they have been refuted and/or have had their arguments turned against them. Take, for instance, Paul Bilal Williams who will keep rehashing the same objections over and over again, even though he has been refuted over and over again.

Williams republished an article written by another Muslim polemicist Sami Zaatari, concerning the concept of Messiah within Judaism, Islam and Christianity. Zaatari attempts to show that the Islamic understanding of the Messiah is more compatible with Judaism and that the Christian position is actually incompatible with the message of the Jewish Bible. Here is what he writes:

“Jews, Christians, and Muslims agree in the concept of there being a Messiah. A man who would be a king, a leader, a man of great standing, a man of honor, and a man of God. In the Jewish Bible we read about how the Messiah will usher in a kingdom of God, a kingdom in which the Messiah shall ruler over as the leader, a kingdom in which people will serve God, and a kingdom in which there will be peace and security. In the Gospels of the New Testament we read about how Jesus preached about the upcoming kingdom of God. What about Islam? How does the belief in the Messiah relate to Islam? This is a topic that is not often touched upon, Muslims often say yes Jesus is the Messiah according to the Quran, and often leave at that failing to fully appreciate what this actually means and entails.

“Within the texts of Islam we are also told of this kingdom that will be ruled by the Messiah, namely Jesus, and that this kingdom will in fact be ushered in when Jesus returns in his second coming and that this would be a major sign of the end times. Just like how the Jewish Bible teaches, this will be a great kingdom, which will serve God, and a kingdom in which peace and security shall reign.” (Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and the Messiah)

In light of Zaatari’s appeal to the Jewish Bible to support his position, and his candid admission that the Messiah will usher in a (sic) kingdom of God, we have therefore decided to quote the Hebrew Bible to see if in fact Islam is compatible with the Jewish Scriptures.

In this particular section we will not only cite references from the Old Testament concerning the Messiah, we will also quote from rabbinic sources to see how some (if not most or all) of the Jewish rabbis and scholars interpreted these specific texts.

Unless stated otherwise, we will be quoting from the 1917 version of the Jewish Publication Society (JPS) of the Tanakh or Hebrew Bible.



“A Psalm of Solomon. Give the king Thy judgments, O G-d, and Thy righteousness unto the king's son… May he have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the River unto the ends of the earth. Let them that dwell in the wilderness bow before him; and his enemies lick the dust. The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall render tribute; the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts. Yea, all kings shall prostrate themselves before him; all nations shall serve him (ya'abduhu)May his name endure for ever; may his name be continued (yinnon) as long as the sun; may men also bless themselves by him; may all nations call him happy.” Psalm 72:1, 8-11, 17 

Composed by Solomon, uttered in prophecy. O God, give your just rulings to the King Messiah, and your righteousness to the son of King David… May his name be invoked for ever; and before the sun came to be his name was determined; so all the peoples will be blessed by his merit, and they shall speak well of him. (Targum Psalms, An English Translation by Edward M. Cook, 2001; bold and underline emphasis ours)

Midrash Alpha Betot states that all the kings of the world will serve him and bring him presents:

Midrash Alpha Betot:

“The Messiah will arise over Israel, will gather the exiles of Israel to Jerusalem, and will rebuild Jerusalem. …And all the kings of the world will come to the door of the Messiah and will serve him and bring him presents.”4

Moshiach’s dominion to be greater than Solomon’s:

Midrash Rabbah Numbers, Seder Naso, 14:

“He offered the dish and the basin as symbols of the kings of the house of David who would in time to come spring from him and would reign supreme on sea and land, kings like Solomon and the King Messiah. How do we know it of Solomon? Because it is written, ‘For he had dominion over all the region of this side the River, from Tipsah even to Gaza.’ (1 Kings 5:4) … How do we know the same of the King Messiah? Because it is written [Psalm 72:8], ‘He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the River unto the ends of the earth.’2 (Douglas Pyle, What The Rabbonim Say About Moshiach [No Publisher Given, Third edition, paperback, published 2010], pp. 4-5)

3 Rabbi Shlomo Aharon Wertheimer, Batei Midrashot (Jerusalem: KTAB Waspher, 1968; Twenty-five Midrashim published for the first time from manuscripts discovered in the genizoth of Jerusalem and Egypt), Vol. 2…

4 Raphael Patai, The Messiah Texts, Midrash Alpha Betot 2:438-42 (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1979; English translation), p. 153 (Ibid., p. 4)

1 Moshe Ariyeh Mirkin, ed., Midrash Rabbah Numbers (Tel Aviv: Yavneh Publishing House, 1960), Seder Naso, 14.

2 Rabbi Dr. H. Freedman and Maurice Simon, eds., Judah J. Slotki, trans., Midrash Rabbah Numbers (London, New York: Soncino Press, 1983), Vol. II, XII. 14, pp. 527, 528. (Ibid., p. 5)

“A Psalm of David. HaShem saith unto my lord: 'Sit thou at My right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.'” Psalm 110:1 

Shimon ben Yochai states that moshiach will sit at the right hand of HaShem (Psalm 110):

T’fillat R. Shimon ben Yochai:

“Armilus will hear a king arose for Israel, and he will gather armies of all the nations of the world, and they will come to King Messiah and to Israel. And the Holy one, blessed be He, will fight for Israel and will say to the Messiah: ‘Sit at my right.’ [Psalm 110:1] And the Messiah will say to Israel: ‘Gather together and stand and see the salvation of the Lord.’1 (What The Rabbonim Say About Moshiach, pp. 5-6)

3 Aharon Jellinek, “T’fillat R. Shim’on ben Yochai,” Bet haMidrash (Jerusalem: Wahrmann Books, 1967), part 4, p. 125 . (Ibid., p. 5)

1 Patai (English translation), T’fillat R. Shimon ben Yohai (BhM 4:124-26), p. 159.  (Ibid., p. 6)

This next Psalm,

“I will tell of the decree: HaShem said unto me: 'Thou art My son, this day have I begotten thee. Ask of Me, and I will give the nations for thine inheritance, and the ends of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.'” Psalm 2:7-9 

Was also interpreted in reference to the Messiah:

In Sukkah 52a, we are told that all the nations of the world are to be given to Moshiach as an inheritance (in commentary on Psalm 2:7,8):

Talmud, Sukkah 52a:

“Our Rabbis have taught us in a Mishna with reference to the Messiah who is about to be revealed quickly, that the Holy One, blessed be He, says to him, ‘Ask of Me,’ for it is said [Psalm 2:7-8], ‘I will declare the decree. Ask of me and I will give the nations for thine inheritance.’” (Ibid., p. 4) 

1 Rabbi Dr. I. Epstein, ed., Babylonian Talmud (London: Soncino press, 1979). Sukkah 52a.

2 Ibid. (Ibid.)



For a child is born unto us, a son is given unto us; and the government is upon his shoulder; and his name is called Pele-joez-el-gibbor-Abi-ad-sar-shalom; That the government may be increased, and of peace there be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it through justice and through righteousness from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of HaShem of hosts doth perform this.” Isaiah 9:5-6[Eng. 6-7] 

Here is another rendering of Isaiah 9:6:

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God (el gibbor), The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” Authorized King James Version (AV)

“And it shall come to pass in that day, that the remnant of Israel, and they that are escaped of the house of Jacob, shall no more again stay upon him that smote them; but shall stay upon HaShem, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. A remnant shall return, even the remnant of Jacob, unto G-d the Mighty (el gibbor).” Isaiah 10:20-21 

The prophet said to the house of David, For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given, and He has taken the law upon Himself to keep it. His name is called from eternity, Wonderful, The Mighty God who liveth to eternity, The Messiah, whose peace shall be great upon us in his days. (The Chaldee paraphrase on the prophet Isaiah [by Jonathan b. Uzziel], translated by Rev. C. W. H. Pauli [London: London Society's House, 16, Linclon's Inn Fields, 1871], pp. 30-31; bold and underline emphasis ours)

Isaiah also speaks of the Messiah’s exalted status by describing it in language which is used elsewhere in regards to Yahweh’s exaltation over creation:

“Behold, My servant shall prosper, he shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall be very high.” Isaiah 52:13

Behold, my servant the Messiah shall prosper, He shall be exalted and extolled, and He shall be very strong. (Rev. C. W. H. Pauli, Targum Jonathan b. Uzziel; bold and underline emphasis ours)

Now compare this with what Isaiah says of Yahweh’s status:

“In the year that king Uzziah died I saw the L-rd sitting upon a throne high and lifted up, and His train filled the temple. Above Him stood the seraphim; each one had six wings: with twain he covered his face and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one called unto another, and said: Holy, holy, holy, is HaShem of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory. And the posts of the door were moved at the voice of them that called, and the house was filled with smoke. Then said I: Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for mine eyes have seen the King, HaShem of hosts.” Isaiah 6:1-5 

“For thus saith the High and Lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” Isaiah 57:15 – cf. 2:11-17; 33:5, 10

It is clear that the language employed to describe the Messiah’s exaltation is intended to show that the Messiah shall be exalted to share in Yahweh’s sovereign rule over all creation.

Thus, the Messiah is the Mighty God coming to reign on David’s throne forever as King over all the earth.



Jeremiah is another prophet who identifies the Messiah as a King who bears the name of God himself, and whom everyone must worship in the same way that God is worshiped:

“Behold, the days come, saith HaShem, that I will raise unto David a righteous shoot, and he shall reign as king and prosper, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely; and this is his name whereby he shall be called, HaShem is our righteousness (YHWH tsidqenu).Jeremiah 23:5-6

“And it shall come to pass in that day, saith HaShem of hosts, that I will break his yoke from off thy neck, and will burst thy bands; and strangers shall no more make him their bondman; But they shall serve (wa'abadu) HaShem their G-d, AND David their king, whom I will raise up unto them.” Jeremiah 30:8-9

Midrash Tehilim 21:12

“God will call the King Messiah after His own name, for it is said of the King Messiah This is his name whereby he shall be called: the Lord our righteousness (Jeremiah 23:6). Jerusalem also shall be called after the Lord’s name, for it is said of Jerusalem The name of the city from that day shall be the Lord…

Rabbi Joseph Albo:

Rabbi Joseph Albo:

“In the same way the Bible calls the name of the Messiah, ‘The Lord our righteousness’ (Jeremiah 23:5, 6), because he is the medium through whom we obtain justice from God. For this reason he is called by the name of God. Similarly Jerusalem is called, ‘The Lord is there.’ Because it is a place where the glory of the Lord was revealed more constantly than anywhere else.” (What The Rabbonim Say About, p. 23)

1 Braude, p. 294.

2 Isaac Husik, Sefer Ha’Ikkarim, Book of Principles (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1946), Vol. 2, p. 176.

3 Ibid. (Ibid.)

Yemenite Midrash (Geulah)

Yemenite Midrash:

“In the future, the Holy one, blessed be He, will seat Messiah in the supernal Yeshiva [House of Study], and they will call him ‘Lord,’ just as they call the Creator [Jeremiah 23:6]…

“And the Messiah will sit in the Yeshivah, and all those who walk on the earth will come and sit before him to hear a new Tora and new commandments and the deep wisdom which he teaches Israel…”1 (Ibid., pp. 32-33)

1 Patai (English translation), pp. 256, 257. (Ibid., p. 33)



“I saw in the night visions, and, behold, there came with the clouds of heaven one like unto a son of man, and he came even to the Ancient of days, and he was brought near before Him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.” Daniel 7:13-14

Rashi states that the one who “came up to the Ancient of Days” in the above passage whom “all nations and tongues shall serve” is King Moshiach:…


One like a man was coming – That is the King MessiahAnd…up to the Ancient of Days – Who was sitting in judgment and judging the nations…”2

Ramban (Nachmanides) also identifies the “one like a man” in Daniel 7:13 above as Moshiach who “all peoples, nations and tongues shall serve.” Furthermore, he states that the Moshiach would exceed all men in his knowledge of the Almighty:


“And wisdom will accompany this elevation of Messiah, and his nearness to God: for neither Abraham, whom the glorious and fearful Name speaks as his friend (Isaiah 41:8), and with whom also he made a covenant; nor Moses, who was nearer to the Deity than any man; nor the ministering angels, who ‘stand round about him on his right and on his left’ (II Kings 22:29), approaches so closely to the knowledge of the Almighty as the Messiah; for of him it is written that he ‘brought him near to him’ (Daniel 7:13).”

Malbim likewise attributes “one like the son of man” in Daniel 7:13 to the King Moshiach and states that this one chosen by God will come in human form:


“… unlike those who appeared as beast of prey, the one chosen by God will come in human form … Furthermore, the beasts emerged from the great deep, whereas the man who inherits the kingdom of Heaven will emerge from the clouds, which are composed of vapor that rises from the water and moisture … similarly, the Messiah will come through the spiritual dew … Since these are spiritual rather than material matters, his coming is attributed to the heavens rather than the great deep.”3 (What The Rabbonim Say About Moshiach, pp. 2-3)

1 A. J. Rosenberg, trans., Mikraoth Gedolot: Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah: A New English Translation (New York: The Judaica Press, 2000), pp. 67, 68.

2 Ibid., p. 67.

3 Shaval Rabbi Chaim Dov. P’nushei HaRamban al Neviim v’Ketuvim. (Jerusalem: Boys Town Jerusalem, 1963), p. 87. (Ibid., p. 2)

1 S. R. Driver, A. D. Neubauer, Edited by Prof. Harry M. Orlinsky, The Fifty Third Chapter of Isaiah According to Jewish Interpreters (New York: KTAV Publishing House, Inc., 1969), Vol. 1 (English translation), pp. 79, 80. 

2 Meir Loeb Y’hiel Mikhael (Malbim) Parush haMalbim al Mikrei Kodesh (Israel: Meshor Holy Books, 1998), Commentary on Daniel 7:13.

3 Rosenberg (English translation), p. 66. (Ibid., p. 3)

Rav Saadia Gaon speaks of the humility of Moshiach, yet accompanied by the “clouds of heaven” (Daniel 7:13):

Rav Saadia Gaon:

“… as a sign of humility, the Messiah will come riding on a donkey [Zechariah 9:9]. He will, however, be accompanied by the clouds of heaven [Daniel 7:13], i.e. the angels of heaven.” (Ibid., pp. 13-14)

1 Rosenberg, p. 67

2 Ibid. (Ibid., p. 14)

Rav Saadia Gaon:

And behold with the clouds of heaven, one like a man was coming.’ This is Messiah our righteousness.” (Ibid., p. 24; underline emphasis ours)



“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion, shout, O daughter of Jerusalem; behold, thy king cometh unto thee, he is triumphant, and victorious, lowly, and riding upon an ass, even upon a colt the foal of an ass. And I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem, and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall speak peace unto the nations; and his dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.” Zechariah 9:9-10

Rashi speaks about the humility of Moshiach in his comments on Exodus 4:20, saying that the same donkey that Abraham saddled for the binding of Isaac is the same one that Moshiach is destined to ride upon:


‘mounted them upon the donkey.’ The designated donkey. That is the donkey that Abraham saddled for the binding of Isaac, and that is the one upon whom the King Messiah is destined to appear, as it is said: ‘humble, and riding a donkey’ (Zechariah 9:9).1

Rashi, in his commentary on Isaiah 26:6, tells us that Moshiach is referred to as a poor man:


“‘The feet of a poor person.’ The King Messiah who is referred to as a poor man riding on a donkey (Zechariah 9:9).2 (What The Rabbonim Say About Moshiach, p. 13)

1 Complete Tanakh with Rashi, Commentary on Exodus, CD ROM (Chicago, IL: Davka Corporation, 1988), used by permission.

2 Commentary on Isaiah, CD ROM (Chicago, IL: Davka Corporation, 1988), used by permission. (Ibid.)


Summing up the Evidence

Our examination of the Hebrew Bible shows that the following OT texts were all interpreted in reference to the Messiah by Jewish rabbis and scholars: Psalms 2, 72, 110; Isaiah 9:6-7, 52:13; Jeremiah 23:5-6; Daniel 7:13-14; Zechariah 9:9-10.

As such, these citations not only affirm that the Messiah is a human descendant of David who reigns over all the earth forever from the very throne of God, they also proclaim him to be the Son of God who bears some of the names of his Father, such as “Mighty God” and “Yahweh is our Righteousness”.

The Hebrew Scriptures further testify that God expects and commands all the nations to worship and serve the Messiah in the same way that they worship him. In fact, compare the worship given to Yahweh in the following verses,

“Let the humble eat and be satisfied; let them praise HaShem that seek after Him; may your heart be quickened for ever! All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn unto HaShem; and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before Thee. For the kingdom is HaShem's; and He is the ruler over the nations. All the fat ones of the earth shall eat and worship; all they that go down to the dust shall kneel before Him, even he that cannot keep his soul alive.” Psalm 22:27-30 

“All nations whom Thou hast made shall come and prostrate themselves before Thee, O L-rd; and they shall glorify Thy name.” Psalm 86:9 

“And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before Me, saith HaShem.” Isaiah 66:23

“And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations that came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, HaShem of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles. And it shall be, that whoso of the families of the earth goeth not up unto Jerusalem to worship the King, HaShem of hosts, upon them there shall be no rain.” Zechariah 14:16-17 

With the verses we cited earlier in regards to the worship that shall be rendered to the Messiah (cf. Psalm 72:9-11; Jeremiah 30:9; Daniel 7:14).

In fact, here is a specific Jewish source which combines several of these OT texts together and applies them all to the Messiah:

9. I will declare of the decree of the Lord. He said unto me: ‘Thou art My son’ (Ps. 2:7): The children of Israel are declared to be sons in the decree of the Law, in the decree of the Prophets, and in the decree of the Writings: In the decree of the Law it is written Thus saith the Lord: Israel is My son, My first-born (Ex. 4:22). In the decree of the Prophets it is written Behold My servant shall prosper, he shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall be very high (Isa. 52:13), and it is also written Behold My servant, whom I uphold: Mine elect, in whom My soul delighteth (Isa. 42:1). In the decree of the Writings it is written, “Sit thou at My right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool” (Ps. 110:1), and it is also written I saw in the night visions, and, behold, there came with the clouds of heaven one like unto a son of man, and he came even to the Ancient of days, and he was brought near before Him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and languages should serve him (Dan. 7:13, 14).

In another comment, the verse is read I will tell of the decree: The Lord said unto me: Thou art My son… Ask of Me, and I will give the nations for thine inheritance, and the ends of the earth for thy possession (Ps. 2:7, 8). R. Yudan said: All these goodly promises are in the decree of the King, the King of kings, who will fulfill them for the lord Messiah. (The Midrash on Psalms, William G. Braude (translator) [Yale University Press, New Haven 1959], Yale Judaica Series, Volume XIII, Leon Nemoy (editor), Book One, Psalm 2:9; bold emphasis ours)

In this one citation, Psalm 2:7-8 is combined with Psalm 110:1, Isaiah 42:1, 52:13 and Daniel 7:13-14, all in regards to the Messiah! To say that this is remarkable would be a wild understatement since, as we shall see later on, these are some of the same references which the NT quotes in reference to the Lord Jesus!

In light of the foregoing, we can now turn to the next section of our rebuttal to see if the NT writings or the teachings of Muhammad are actually compatible with what the prophets taught concerning God’s blessed and glorious Messiah.