How did the sign of the birth of the Messiah occur? We are told in Luke 2:9: … and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.
When we hear about the glory of the Lord and the people being terribly frightened, we think of the manifestation of God on Mount Sinai. When the people saw it, they trembled (Exodus 19). But here we see twice that He comes as a baby in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger. A manger was a place for cattle but now it will be for the final sacrifice.
That He would come as a baby was so clearly prophesied by Isaiah. In the first century, people knew that Isaiah 53 was the chapter prophesying about the Messiah. The targum begins this section with these words: Behold, My Servant, the Messiah (52:13)
Look at what this section tells us about the first coming of Yeshua in Isaiah 53:1-2: Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, And as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, There is no beauty that we should desire Him.
The term for tender plant in Hebrew is the word yonek, which occurs 12 times in the Hebrew Scriptures. It is translated only once as a tender plant. Do you know how it is translated the 11 other times? It is translated by nursing child or infant.
This is truly amazing. According to a Hebrew lexicon, the word is used to describe a baby who has not yet been weaned and still requires the nourishment of a mother’s breast milk. Its primary meaning is nursing infant but only here is yonek translated as a tender shoot. Perhaps the original term nursing child should have been kept. If it had, then v. 2 would read: For He shall grow up before Him as a nursing child, And as a root out of dry ground.
Even the Septuagint translated this word as child: We brought a report as of a child before him; he is as a root in a thirsty land. Perhaps the shepherds knew their Bibles well, and understanding the clear Hebrew term which was used, they did not argue, but looked for a baby in swaddling cloths.
It is how the Jewish Messiah first comes. It was the sign to the shepherds, who must have known.