The term “messiah” comes from the Hebrew word meaning “anointed one.” This term was applied to priests, prophets and kings in the Old Testament. The people given these titles were first anointed with water or oil to consecrate them for their specific mission. Sometimes even the Spirit of God anointed someone to their role.  

According to the Catholic Bible Dictionary, kings were most frequently called “messiahs” or “anointed ones.” There are several instances throughout the Old Testament where men are anointed as kings. These kings are even referred to as “anointed ones” or “messiahs.”  

Prophets were occasionally called “messiahs” or “anointed ones,” but those are rare. One instance, though, recounts how Elijah anoints Elisha to be a prophet. 

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Anointing was a critical aspect in the consecration of priests. There are several instances where the Book of Leviticus refers to “anointed priests.”  

Hard times fell upon the Israelites after the death of their beloved King David and his son, Solomon. Their once united nation broke apart into two kingdoms followed by a stream of invasions. Several other powerful nations left the Israelites’ temple destroyed, and their people scattered and in exile.  

During this tumultuous time, there arose prophecies and a new hope that God would send one great messiah to deliver them from sin, exile and death. Our Christian faith teaches us this was fulfilled in the person of Jesus, who is the true priest, prophet and king.  

The most famous biblical prophecies of the future Messiah referred to the kingship aspect of his dominion. The Messiah would be like the once-great King David and would even descend from his lineage. Both evangelists Matthew (Mt 1:1-17) and Luke (Lk 3:23-38) make a great effort to trace Jesus’ lineage back to King David to show that he fulfills that part of the prophecy.  

The greatest prophet of the Old Testament was considered to be Moses. Moses even promised that God would send a prophet like him one day in the future, and this became part of the prophecy of Jesus, the great Messiah. Jesus became the “new Moses” in many ways. He gave a new law and brought all people to a new promised land when he opened the gates of heaven. Jesus even gave us new manna in the form of the Eucharist.  

Finally, the Messiah who would become Jesus was occasionally called a priest. One noteworthy example of this is in the Book of Samuel when a prophet foretells of a “faithful priest” to come who will have authority over all the other priests and their descendants. The priests in the temple were the ones who performed the animal sacrifices to God. Jesus fulfilled this in the most significant way by sacrificing himself for our sins.  

While there were lesser “messiahs” in the forms of priests, prophets, and kings throughout the Old Testament, Jesus came to fulfill all the prophecies. He became the true Messiah: priest, prophet and king.