After the OT was written, possibly in the third or second century BC, “messiah” became increasingly associated with an eschatological king. There a number of potential reasons for this. First, oppressive Greek and Roman rule gave a longing for a godly ruler of old like David. Second, the Maccabean revolt (167 BC) made the desire for an Israelite king even more pronounced. Unfortunately, the subsequent establishment of the Hasmonean dynasty did not fulfill the longing for a godly king since this line of kings resembled Greek rulers more than the Davidic monarcy (1 Macc 8.17–32; 12.1–23; 13.34–40; 2 Macc 11.16–38; Josephus Ant. 13.249, 374–378; J.W. 1.65, 89–93). Following the Hasmoneans, Herod the Great (37 – 4 BC) was easily one of the most oppressive tyrants seen in Israel. All of this would have given the people of Israel a longing for a king anointed by God—a “Messiah.” In light of repeated historical failures, that hope would have become more and more eschatologically focused. Also, Daniel 9.25–26, one of the most confusing passages in the OT, mentions an “anointed prince” who will come. This cryptic reference could have increased messianic expectations, but it is difficult to know how this passage was interpreted. Still, it is clear that in the third or second century BC there was an increasing expectation of an eschatological messiah.
By the first century AD there were three passages of scripture that were frequently cited to refer to a Messiah. First, Genesis 49.10 was often cited to refer to the “Branch of David” (4Q252 5.1–7). Also, it is explicitly messianic in all four Targums to the Pentateuch. Targums are Aramaic paraphrases and interpretations of the Old Testament. These interpretive paraphrases were written anywhere from 200 BC to AD 700. Still, it is likely they often reflect Jewish interpretations around the time of Jesus. In the New Testament, an explicit connection to Jesus is never made with Genesis 49.10, but Judah does appear in Jesus’ genealogy (Mt 1.3; Lk 3.30) and is connected with the location of Jesus’ birth (Mt 2.5). In addition, the author of Hebrews points out that Jesus is a descendent of Judah (7.14), though it is not connected with his role as Messiah. Jesus as the eschatological messiah in Revelation is referred to as the “lion of the tribe of Judah” (5.5). So, at least John made a roundabout connection to Genesis 49.10. The idea that the Messiah was divine was unique to Christians. This passage was understood to refer to a Messianic figure who would rule as God’s chosen king and this is reflected in Christian teaching about Jesus even if the passage is never explicitly quoted.
The second frequently cited “Messianic” passage of the OT is Numbers 24.17. It too was paraphrased in Messianic terms by the Targums. Not to mention the fact that messianic interpretations of the Numbers passage are found in numerous first century, and earlier, references like the Qumran community and others (T. Jud. 24.1–6; CD 7.20; 1QSb 5.27–28; 1QM 11.4–9; 4Q175 1.9–13; cf. Philos Vit. Mos. 1.52 §290). Also, it is likely that the Jewish historian Josephus is referring to this prophecy when he refers to an oracle that the ruler of the world would come from Israel (JW 6.312–313; cf. JW 3.400–402). The Numbers passage also helps makes sense of the star at Jesus’ birth (Mt 2.2). After the disastrous destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, another revolt against the Romans occurred (AD 135). The leader of the revolt, Simon Bar Kochba, probably gets his name from Numbers text. Simon Bar Kochba means “Simon son of the star.” We also know that Simon was proclaimed, by himself or someone close to him, to be a kingly Messiah (cf. y. Ta‘an 4.5; b. Sanh 93b). Clearly, this was an important prophecy about the Messiah—a kingly figure—that Christians’ connected with Jesus
The third most quoted messianic passage of the OT was Isaiah 11.1–6 which makes reference to the Messiah in the Isaiah Targum. Also, in Qumran literature it is used to refer to the Messiah (1QSb 5.21–26; cf. 4Q285 5.1–6). According to Qumran this would be a warrior king who would arise in the last days to confirm the covenant of the community. Other Jews writings used the passage to refer to the Messiah as well. This messiah is sometimes a priestly ruler (T. Levi 18.7) or an almost angelic warrior (4 Ezra 13.2–10). Paul applies this passage to Jesus (Rom 15.12) as well as other NT writers (Acts 13.23; Rev 5.5; 22.16). Again, it is clear that this passage of scripture was used by Jews with different beliefs to refer to a Messianic figure who rules in and/or is an agent of inaugurating the eschatological kingdom of God.
What exactly the “Messiah” would do depends on the group that cited the passage. For example, the Qumran community mentions two Messiahs, one kingly and one priestly (1QS 9.11; CD 12.23–13.1; 14.19). Jesus refers to himself as Messiah and his disciples seem to understand this primarily in kingly terms (Mt 16.13–16; Mk 8.27–29; Lk 18.20). So, there were certain expectations of the “Messiah” or “anointed one of God” that at least seem to include kingly connotations, but the expectations were somewhat ambiguous. It is at least clear that multiple Jewish groups expected an eschatological ruler and they expected the rule to do what earthly rulers do—make war. The difference between the eschatological ruler and earthly ones was the anointing of Yahweh, which would give them supernatural power to defeat Israel’s enemies. Jesus takes on the title “Messiah” but looks drastically different than the hodge-podge of expectations usually associated with it.