Qeren: A Prophetic Word for the Messiah – Part 2

Gabriele Monacis

The Bible is rich in symbolic imagery that conveys a vivid message to the reader. We all love the Psalms describing God as our “rock”—for example, the Psalmist says, “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer” (Ps 18:2). When we read this verse, we understand without much thought that God is like a rock: strong, secure, absolutely reliable, and trustworthy. This deep message about God is conveyed to us through the simple use of the word “rock,” which represents God’s nature in this verse.

In the New Testament, John the Baptist uses a powerful symbolic image to introduce the Lord Jesus to his hearers: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Lambs are generally considered to be thoroughly benign animals, if not outright “innocent.” In the Temple period they were used as sacrificial animals. So when John the Baptist referred to Jesus as a “lamb,” it was clear to all his listeners that he meant Jesus came into the world as a sacrificial lamb, to offer up His innocent life for the sins of the world.

I'd now like to draw our attention to the Hebrew word qeren (קרן). It literally means “horn,” and like “rock” and “lamb,” it is used in Scripture both literally and figuratively. When used figuratively, it isn’t describing animal horns, but depicts human strength and power. In our translations of the Bible, qeren is sometimes translated literally as “horn,” and sometimes as “power” or “strength.” Thus, in Psalm 92:10, the Psalmist uses qeren symbolically to describe the power he has received from God: “But you have exalted my horn like that of the wild ox.”

The symbolic meaning of “horn” as a depiction of human power, derives from the beauty of God’s creation, where some animals have beautiful horns or antlers, such as the wild ox of Psalm 92, the stag, and many others. They are animals of special power, and their horns give them an advantage in battles with other animals. They make a magnificent, regal impression, and this is due to their horns.

In the Old Testament, qeren designates not only horns or antlers or (symbolically) human strength, but also the corners of the altar for burnt offerings (Ex 27:2 et al.). Additionally, it can refer to the horn of anointing which, when filled with oil, was used to anoint a king (as in 1 Samuel 16:1, where God instructs Samuel to anoint David as king of Israel).

In a series of articles, we intend to take a journey through the Bible, looking at most of the passages where the word qeren appears. As we do so, we’ll examine the different contexts of this word, to better understand the life of our Lord Jesus Christ and what He accomplished for those who believe in Him. We will see that qeren can be used as a prophetic word that predicts what the promised Messiah will do to save many from their sins and give them life.

There is a verse in the New Testament that confirms the word qeren was also understood prophetically by those who awaited the Messiah prior to His first coming. At the end of Luke 1, we find a song of praise by Zechariah, father of John the Baptist. A few months before Jesus’ birth, Zechariah, filled with the Holy Spirit, prophesied:

“[God] has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old” (vv. 69-70).

With these words, Zechariah praises God for sending the Messiah, the scion of the house of David, whom He had promised through the mouth of His prophets and who will and must come to redeem His people, Israel. In the original Greek of Luke’s Gospel, Zechariah calls Jesus the keras sōtērias (κέρας σωτηρίας), an expression that can be literally translated as “horn of salvation.” Zechariah is representative of the people of God in his day who were awaiting the coming of the Messiah. When these people read the Hebrew word qeren in the Old Testament, they most likely understood it as a prophetic word that could be connected with the person of the Messiah and His work of salvation.

News from Israel - 11/2022

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