The Branch

A Bible Study by Jack Kelley

The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land.(Jeremiah 23:5)

Listen, O high priest Joshua and your associates seated before you, who are men symbolic of things to come: I am going to bring my servant, the Branch.(Zech 3:8)

Here is the man whose name is the Branch, and he will branch out from his place and build the temple of the LORD.(Zech 6:12)

In that day the Branch of the LORD will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land will be the pride and glory of the survivors in Israel.(Isaiah 4:2)

King, Servant, Man, Lord

These four passages all speak of a coming Messiah and while each refers to Him as “The Branch” they all portray Him in a different way.

The Hebrew word translated branch is tsemach, which comes from a root (no pun intended) meaning to spring up. In Isaiah 11:1-2 a different word, netzer, is used to convey the same idea.

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him – the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD …

The only difference between these two words is that netzer is always used figuratively where tsemach can also be literal.

That the Israelites saw these passages as being Messianic is confirmed by the fact that early Christians were sometimes called “People of the Branch” (Netzerim). But more important is the intent hidden in each of the four modifiers; King, Servant, Man, and Lord, because they give us four views of Jesus and symbolize the four assignments He was given.


First, He came to Earth to be Israel’s King, the Lion of Judah. The Angel Gabriel told Mary that her Son was going to sit on the throne of His ancestor David, and from there to rule over the House of Jacob forever. (Luke 1:32-33) He was repeating a promise the Spirit of the Lord had given to the Prophet Isaiah 750 years earlier.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.(Isaiah 9:6-7)


But the people weren’t ready for such a King. So before He could ascend to the throne He had to humble Himself, become a voluntary servant, and accept an almost impossibly difficult assignment. This Jesus, Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross! (Phil. 2:6-8) He had do die for the sins of the people so they could be made Holy enough to receive Him as their King.

After the introduction of sin into the world, the quality of life on Earth quickly deteriorated to such an extent that mankind was no longer able to live under such a righteous King as He. Had He not chosen to die in our place, He would have had to execute us all to satisfy the debt of sin we owed Him. So it was either Him or us and He chose Him.


In order to die for us, He had to agree to become a man because God’s law stipulated that only a next of kin could redeem what man had lost. (Lev. 25:25) But being a close relative alone was not enough. The next of kin had to be able to pay the price of redemption, in this case, the blood of a sinless man. And so the perfect eternal sinless Son of God stepped down off His Heavenly Throne and forever became the Son of Man, born of woman into the human family, and gave His life to redeem ours.


And that brings us to His fourth assignment. Having given His life as a ransom for ours, He was laid in a tomb in the manner of all men. The servant’s assignment was successfully completed, the price paid by the blood of a man. To confirm this, God brought Him out of the tomb three days later as visible proof that the penalty for every sin you ever have or ever will commit was paid in full.

From the cross back to Adam and forward to the last man born, anyone accepting by faith the pardon His blood purchased would now be qualified to live in His Kingdom. What had appeared to some as a crushing defeat had really been the greatest victory of all time! And since He had restored so much more than had been lost, all mankind would realize that this Jesus is no ordinary King, He is our Lord as well.

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.(Phil 2:9-11)

A Final Confirmation

Each of the four Gospels presents a different view of Jesus, and they parallel the four modifiers of The Branch.

Matthew presented Him as Israel’s Messiah-King. There are more confirmations of Messianic prophecy fulfilled through the life of Jesus in Matthew than in any other Gospel. In fact, Matthew’s most frequently used phrase is “it was fulfilled.” His genealogy begins with Abraham and places Jesus in the line of David and Solomon, showing His Royal lineage.

Mark described events in the life of Jesus in such a way as to show Him as the obedient servant of God. Since we’re not interested in the pedigree of a servant, Mark’s gospel contains no genealogy. It’s essentially a series of verbal snapshots, showing what Jesus did in obedient service to His Master.

Luke portrays Jesus as the Son of Man and traces His heritage back to Adam, the first man. In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul refers to Jesus as the last Adam (1 Cor. 15:45) also demonstrating His connection to mankind.

John made no bones about it. He saw Jesus as the Son of God, Lord of all. John’s genealogy shows that in the beginning the Word (Jesus) was with God and the Word was God. When Thomas, who had been absent at the Lord’s first post-resurrection appearance, finally saw Him a week later, he bowed before Him exclaiming, “My Lord and my God.” Jesus didn’t dispute the claim, instead pronouncing a blessing upon all who would come to a similar conclusion by faith alone. (John 20:29)

So here’s another presentation of the Messiah from the Old Testament, fulfilled dramatically and specifically in the life of Jesus of Nazareth. It’s further testimony to the accuracy of David’s prophecy from Psalm 40 which the author of Hebrews also attributed to Jesus (Hebr.10:5-7).

Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but my ears you have pierced (I’ve become a servant for life, Exodus 21:6); burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require.
Then I said, “Here I am, I have come— it is written about me in the scroll. I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart”
(Psalm 40:6-8)

The Hebrew word translated will in the last sentence is ratsown. It’s used 15 times in the Old Testament and means a voluntary favor.” It comes from a root meaning to satisfy a debt.” It was God’s will that His Son become a servant to perform a voluntary favor for Him. In so doing He would satisfy a debt that was owed to God, a debt that could never be satisfied by sacrifices and offerings. The voluntary favor was to give His life as a ransom for sin. The debt this would satisfy was ours.

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God. (1 Peter 1:18-21) Selah 7-17-05