There are passages in the Bible that have stumped me for years. I'll admit I'm not the most scholarly Bible student; with six children at home with me most all the time it can be hard to find quiet moments for study. Still, I know how to use a concordance and my favorite tool is blueletterbible.com. When a passage that has tripped me up for years is finally clear- and not only that, but beautifully, gloriously clearly pointing to Messiah- it's so precious to me! Matthew 2:23 is one of those passages.
"And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled: 'He shall be called a Nazarene.'"
The obvious question is: where was it prophesied that Jesus would be called a Nazarene? And what would it mean if Jesus were a Nazarene?
I know that Samson was a Nazarene. No razor could touch his head and he could not drink wine. If Jesus were a Nazarene, he was a poor one: it was not noted that he did not shave or cut his hair and we do know that he drank wine (such as at the wedding in Cana and at the Last Supper.) It doesn't make sense to me that Jesus, who was perfectly sinless, would take vows of a Nazarene and break them. This one little verse bothered me.
Just last week, my sweet cousin sent me a new book, The Chronological Gospels, reconstructed and annotated by Michael John Rood. In the introduction, he addresses this very passage and clears up all my confusion in such a simple explanation. I'm going to try to paraphrase and quote him as I seek to understand this even more.
Several prophets stated that the Messiah would be a tzemach. A tzemach describes a role of the Messiah, a prophetic mission that he must fulfill, a characteristic or quality that he will display. In the gospels, Jesus is the Tzemach- the King, the Servant, The Son of Man, The Branch, The Son of God, The Coming Judge. The Hebrew word "tzemach" was translated into English as "BRANCH."
Isaiah 11:1,10 "And there shall come forth a rod (khoter- living shoot) out of the stem (geza- cut down tree stump) of Jesse, and a BRANCH (netzer- specific type of branch) shall grow out of his roots (shorashim)...10 And in that day there shall be a root (shoresh) of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign to the people; to the root shall the gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious." (taken from The Chronological Gospels, page 21.)
Now I see a prophesy about a BRANCH/netzer. A netzer is a very specific type of branch. Rood declares that in the Hebrew language a "netzer indicates a shoot from an olive tree that grows out of its original root system but springs up at a later time and somewhat distant from the trunk. The branch that shoots forth out of the root of the stump of the family tree of Jesse will spring forth as a netzer."
The Hebrew word netzer (specific type of branch) is similar to the word nazir (nazarite vow). While the "nazarite vow" translation tripped me up, I am in awe of a God who plans to send a Messiah as a netzer and who fulfills His plan through Jesus, a branch out of the trunk of David, revealing to us the truth of Jesus, Messiah. What love is this!
The explanation is so simple. Nazareth (in English) is really Natzeret, taking it's name from the root word netzer. The residents of Natzeret knew that they were a "shoot" out of the tree of Jesse. The town was originally established by descendants of King David, who knew that their little village was distant, and springing up at a later time, from the stump of Jesse.
The apostle John writes that if the whole of the story of Jesus were written, it could not be contained by all the books in the world. (John 21:25) Yet the things that were written in the Bible are so that we might assuredly know that Jesus of Nazareth (Yeshua of Natzeret) is The Prophet whom Moses spoke about and the promised Messiah. My heart soars in adoration at this little mystery explained, Christ as netzer. I'm searching for more quiet moments when I can read more of this wondrous good news.