International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
KING OF THE JEWS
The title applied in mockery of Jesus, and put by Pilate on His cross (Matthew 27:29, 37 parallel Mark 15:26, etc.).
See JESUS CHRIST; KING, CHRIST AS.
KING, CHRIST AS
" I. THE REALITY OF CHRIST'S KINGSHIP
1. The Old Testament Foreshadowings
In the Psalms and Prophets
2. The Gospel Presentation
(1) Christ's Claim to Be King
(2) Christ's Acceptance of the Title
(3) Christ Charged and Condemned as King
(4) The Witness of the Resurrection and of Apostolic Preaching
(5) The Testimony of the Epistles and Apocalypse
II. CHRIST'S TITLE TO KINGSHIP
1. By Birth
2. By Divine Appointment
3. By Conquest
4. By the Free Choice of His People
III. THE NATURE OF CHRIST'S KINGSHIP
(1) Kingdom of Grace, of Power
(2) Kingdom of Glory
I. The Reality of Christ's Kingship.
There can be no question but that Christ is set before us in Scripture as a king. The very title Christ or "Messiah" suggests kingship, for though the priest is spoken of as "anointed," and full elucidation of the title as applied to Jesus must take account of His threefold office of prophet, priest and king, yet generally in the Old Testament it is the king to whom the epithet is applied.
1. The Old Testament Foreshadowings:
We may briefly note some of the Old Testament predictions of Christ as king. The first prediction which represents the Christ as having dominion is that of Jacob concerning the tribe Of Judah: "Until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the obedience of the peoples be" (Genesis 49:10); then kingly dignity and dominion are suggested by the star and scepter in Balaam's prophecy (Numbers 24:15-17). As yet, however, Israel has no king but God, but when afterward a king is given and the people become familiar with the idea, the prophecies all more or less have a regal tint, and the coming one is preeminently the coming king.
In the Psalms and Prophets
We can only indicate a few of the many royal predictions, but these will readily suggest others. In Psalm 2 the voice of Yahweh is heard above all the tumult of earth, declaring, "Yet I have set my king upon my holy hill of Zion." So in Psalms 24; 45; 72; 89 and 110 we have special foreshadowings of the Messianic king. The babe that Isaiah sees born of a virgin is also the "Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6, 7), of the increase of whose government there shall be no end, and as the prophet gazes on him he joyfully exclaims: "Behold, a king shall reign in righteousness" (Isaiah 32:1). Jeremiah, the prophet of woe, catches bright glimpses of his coming Lord, and with rapture intensified by the surrounding sorrow cries: "Behold, the days come, saith Yahweh, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land" (23:5). Ezekiel, dwelling amid his wheels, sees in the course of Providence many revolutions, but they are all to bring about the dominion of Christ: "I will overturn, overturn, overturn.... until he come whose right it is; and I will give it him" (21:27). Daniel sees the rise and progress, the decline and fall of many mighty empires, but beyond all he sees the Son of man inheriting an everlasting kingdom (7:13). Hosea sees the repentant people of Israel in the latter days seeking Yahweh their God, and David (the greater David) their king (3:5). Micah sees the everlasting Ruler coming out of Bethlehem clad in the strength and majesty of Yahweh, who shall "be great unto the ends of the earth" (5:4). Zechariah, exulting in His near approach, cries: "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy king cometh unto thee" (9:9), and he follows His varied course through gloom and through glory, until the strong conviction is born in his heart and expressed in the glowing words: "Yahweh shall be King over all the earth" (14:9). The more extreme higher critics would, of course, deny that these are direct predictions of Jesus Christ, but most, if not all, would admit that they are ideal representations which were only fully realized in Jesus of Nazareth.
2. The Gospel Presentation:
The Gospels present Christ as king. Matthew, tracing His genealogy, gives special prominence to His royal lineage as son of David. He tells of the visit of the Magi who inquire for the newborn king of the Jews, and the scribes answer Herod's question by showing from Micah's prophecy that the Christ to be born in Bethlehem would be a "governor," and would rule, "be shepherd of my people Israel" (Matthew 2:5, 6). Luke's account of the Nativity contains the angel's declaration that the child to be born and named Jesus would occupy the throne of David and reign over the house of Jacob forever (Luke 1:32, 33). In John's account of the beginning of Christ's ministry, one of His early disciples, Nathanael, hails Him as "King of Israel" (John 1:49), and Jesus does not repudiate the title. If Mark has no such definite word, he nevertheless describes the message with which Jesus opens His ministry as the "gospel" of "the kingdom of God" (1:14, 15). The people nurtured in the prophetical teaching expect the coming one to be a king, and when Jesus seems to answer to their ideal of the Messiah, they propose taking Him by force and making Him king (John 6:15).
(1) Christ's Claim to Be King
Christ Himself claimed to be king. In claiming to be the Messiah He tacitly claimed kingship, but there are specific indications of the claim besides. In all His teaching of the kingdom it is implied, for though He usually calls it the "kingdom of God" or "of heaven," yet it is plain that He is the administrator of its affairs. He assumes to Himself the highest place in it. Admission into the kingdom or exclusion from it depends upon men's attitude toward Him. In His explanation of the parable of the Tares, He distinctly speaks of His kingdom, identifying it with the kingdom of God. "The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that cause stumbling, and them that do iniquity..... Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father" (Matthew 13:41-43). He speaks of some seeing "the Son of man coming in his kingdom" (Matthew 16:28), of the regeneration, "when the Son of man shall sit on the throne of his glory" (Matthew 19:28), of Himself under the guise of a nobleman who goes "into a far country, to receive for himself a kingdom," and does receive it (Luke 19:12-15).
(2) Christ's Acceptance of the Title
When the mother of John and James comes asking that her two sons may occupy the chief places of honor in His kingdom, He does not deny that He is a king and has a kingdom, while indicating that the places on His right and left hand are already determined by the appointment of the Father (Matthew 20:21-23). He deliberately takes steps to fulfill the prediction of Zec: "Behold, thy king cometh," and He accepts, approves and justifies the hosannas and the homage of the multitude (Matthew 21:1-16 Mark 11 Luke 19 John 12). In His great picture of the coming judgment (Matthew 25), the Son of man sits upon the throne of His glory, and it is as "the king" that He blesses and condemns. The dying thief prays, "Remember me when thou comest in thy kingdom" (Luke 23:42), and Jesus gives His royal response which implies full acceptance of the position.
(3) Christ Charged and Condemned as King
His claim throughout had been so definite that His enemies make this the basis of their charge against Him before Pilate, that He said that "he himself is Christ a king," and when Pilate asks, "Art thou the King?" He answers, "Thou sayest," which was equivalent to "yes" (Luke 23:2, 3). In the fuller account of John, Jesus speaks to Pilate of "my kingdom," and says "Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end have I been born" (John 18:37). His claim is perpetuated in the superscription of the cross in the three languages: "This is the King of the Jews," and although the priests wished it to be altered so as to detract from His claim, they yet affirm the fact of that claim when they say: "Write not, The King of the Jews; but, that he said, I am King of the Jews" (John 19:21). The curtain of His earthly life falls upon the king in seeming failure; the taunt of the multitude, "Let the Christ, the King of Israel, now come down from the cross" (Mark 15:32), meets with no response, and the title on the cross seems a solemn mockery, like the elaborate, cruel jest of the brutal soldiers clothing Him with purple, crowning Him with thorns and hailing Him King of the Jews.
(4) The Witness of the Resurrection and of Apostolic Preaching.
But the resurrection throws new light upon the scene, and fully vindicates His claims, and the sermon of Peter on the day of Pentecost proclaims the fact that the crucified one occupies the throne. "Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly, that God hath made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom ye crucified" (Acts 2:36). The early preaching of the apostles, as recorded in the Acts, emphasizes His lordship, His kingship; these men were preachers in the literal sense-heralds of the king.
(5) The Testimony of the Epistles and Apocalypse.
We need not consider in detail the testimony of the Epistles. The fact that Christ is king is everywhere implied and not infrequently asserted. He is "Lord of both the dead and the living" (Romans 14:9). He is risen "to rule over the Gentiles" (Romans 15:12). "He must reign, till he hath put all his enemies under his feet" (1 Corinthians 15:25). He is at the right hand of God "above all rule, and authority," etc. (Ephesians 1:20-22). Evil men have no "inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God" (Ephesians 5:5), and believers are "translated into the kingdom of the Son of his love" (Colossians 1:13). He has been given the name that is above every name "that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow," etc. (Philippians 2:9-11). Those who suffer with Christ are to "reign with him" (2 Timothy 2:12), at "his appearing and his kingdom" (2 Timothy 4:1), and He will save them "unto his heavenly kingdom" (2 Timothy 4:18); "the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 1:11). Of the Son it is said: "Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever" (Hebrews 1:8), and He is a King-Priest "after the order of Melchizedek" (Hebrews 7:17). In the Apocalypse, appropriately, the predominant aspect of Christ is that of a king. He is the "ruler of the kings of the earth" (Revelation 1:5), "King of the ages" (Revelation 15:3), "King of kings" (Revelation 17:14; Revelation 19:16), "and he shall reign for ever and ever" (Revelation 11:15). The reality of Christ's kingship is thus placed beyond all doubt.
II. Christ's Title to Kingship.
1. By Birth:
After the analogy of earthly kingships it might be said that Jesus Christ is a king by birth. He was born a king. His mother, like His reputed father, "was of the house and family of David" (Luke 2:4). The angel in nouncing His birth declares that He will occupy the throne of His father David. The Pharisees have no hesitation in affirming that the Christ would be Son of David (Matthew 22:45 Mark 12:35 Luke 20:41). Frequently in life He was hailed as "Son of David," and after His ascension, Peter declares that the promise God had made to David that "of the fruit of his loins he would set one upon his throne" (Acts 2:30) was fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth; while Paul declares that the gospel of God was "concerning his Son, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh" (Romans 1:3). So that on the human side He had the title to kingship as son of David, while on the Divine side as Son of God He had also the right to the throne.
2. By Divine Appointment:
David was king by Divine choice and appointment, and this was the ideal in the case of his successors. The figment of "Divine right"-by virtue of which modern kings have claimed to rule-was, in the first instance, a reminiscence of the Biblical ideal. But the ideal is realized in Christ. Of the coming Messianic King, Yahweh said: "Yet I have set my king upon my holy hill of Zion" (Psalm 2:6), and the great proclamation of Pentecost was an echo of that decree: "Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly, that God hath made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom ye crucified" (Acts 2:36), while the apostle declares that "God highly exalted him, and gave unto him the name which is above every name" (Philippians 2:9), and again and again the great Old Testament word of Yahweh is applied to Christ: "Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies the footstool of thy feet" (Hebrews 1:13).
3. By Conquest:
Often in the olden times kingship was acquired by conquest, by superior prowess. According to one etymology of our word "king," it means the "able man," "the one who can," and everyone remembers Carlyle's fine passage thereon. In the highest sense, this is true of Christ, who establishes His sway over men's hearts by His matchless prowess, the power of His infinite love and the charm of His perfect character.
4. By the Free Choice of His People:
Except in the most autocratic form of kingship, some place has been given to the suffrage of the people, and the other phases of the title have been confirmed and ratified by the voice of the people as they cry, "God save the king!" and no king is well established on the throne if he is not supported by the free homage of his subjects. Christ as king wins the love of His people, and they gladly acknowledge His sway. They are of one heart to make Him king.
III. The Nature of Christ's Kingship.
We know that the Jews expected a material kingdom, marked by earthly pomp and state; a kingdom on the lines of the Davidic or Solomonic kingdom, and others since have made the same mistake.
The Scriptures plainly declare, Christ Himself clearly taught, that His kingship was spiritual. "My kingdom," said He, "is not of this world" (John 18:36), and all the representations given of it are all consistent with this declaration. Some have emphasized the preposition ek here, as if that made a difference in the conception: "My kingdom is not of this world." Granted that the preposition indicates origin, it still leaves the statement an assertion of the spirituality of the kingdom, for if it is not from this kosmos, from this earthly state of things, it must be from the other world-not the earthly but the heavenly; not the material but the spiritual. The whole context shows that origin here includes character, for Christ adds, "If my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews." Because it is of an unworldly origin, it is not to be propagated by, worldly means, and the non-use of worldly means declares it to be of an unworldly character. So that to assert that Christ means that His kingdom was not to arise out of this world, but to come down from heaven, is not at all to deny, but rather, indeed, to declare its essential spirituality, its unworldliness, its otherworldliness.
Throughout the New Testament, spirituality appears as the prevailing characteristic of Christ's reign. Earthly kingdoms are based upon material power, the power of the sword, the power of wealth, etc., but the basal factor of Christ's kingdom is righteousness (Matthew 5:20; Matthew 6:33 Romans 14:17 Hebrews 1:8, etc.). The ruling principle in earthly kingdoms is selfish or sectional or national aggrandizement; in the kingdom of Christ it is truth. Christ is king of truth. "Art thou a king then?" said Pilate. "I am," said Christ (for that is the force of "thou sayest that I am a king"). "To this end have I been born, and to this end am I come into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth," and He adds, "Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice" (John 18:37). Elsewhere He says: "I am the.... truth" (John 14:6), and at the head of the armies of heaven He still wears the title "Faithful and True" (Revelation 19:11); but if righteousness and truth occupy such a prominent place in His kingdom, it follows that it must be distinguished by its spirituality. His immediate subjects are spiritual men and women; its laws are spiritual; its work is spiritual; all the forces emanating from it, operating through it, centering in it, are spiritual.
The Jewish idea of the Messiah's reign was a narrow national one. For them it meant the glorification of the sons of Abraham, the supremacy of Judaism over all forms of faith and all systems of philosophy; the subjection to Jewish sway of the haughty Roman, the cultured Greek and the rude barbarian. The Messiah was to be a greater king than David or Solomon, but still a king after the same sort; much as the limits of the kingdom might extend, it would be but an extension on Jewish lines; others might be admitted to a share in its privileges, but they would have to become naturalized Jews, or occupy a very subordinate place. The prophetic ideal, however, was a universal kingdom, and that was the conception endorsed and emphasized by Christ. (For the prophetic ideal such passages may be noted as Psalms 2; 22; 72; Isaiah 11:10 Daniel 7:13, 14, etc.) Of course, the predictions have a Jewish coloring, and people who did not apprehend the spirituality might well construe this amiss; but, closely examined, it will be found that the prophets indicate that men's position in the coming kingdom is to be determined by their relation to the king, and in that we get the preparation for the full New Testament ideal. The note of universality is very marked in the teaching of Christ. All barriers are to be broken down, and Jews and Gentiles are to share alike in the privileges of the new order. "Many shall come from the east and the west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 8:11), and stranger still to the Jewish ear: "The sons of the kingdom shall be cast forth into the outer darkness" (Matthew 8:12). In the parables of the kingdom (Matthew 13), the field, in which is sown the good seed of the kingdom, is the world, and the various other figures give the same idea of unlimited extent. The same thought is suggested by the declaration, "Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold" (John 10:16), also by the confident affirmation: "I, if I be lifted up, from the earth, will draw all men unto myself" (John 12:32), and so with many other statements of the Gospels.
The terms of the commission are enough to show the universal sovereignty which Christ claims over men: "Go ye therefore," He says, as possessing all authority in heaven and on earth, "and make disciples of all the nations" (Matthew 28:19), coupled with the royal assurance, "Ye shall be my witnesses.... unto the uttermost part of the earth" (Acts 1:8). The Book of Acts shows, in the carrying out of the commission, the actual widening of the borders of Christ's kingdom to include believers of all tions. Peter is taught, and announces clearly, the great truth that Gentiles are to be received upon the same terms as the Jews. But through Paul as the apostle of the Gentiles this glorious truth is most fully and jubilantly made known. In the dogmatic teaching of his Epistles he shows that all barriers are broken down, the middle wall of the fence between Jew and Gentile no longer exists. Those who were aliens and strangers are now made nigh in Christ, and "are no more strangers and sojourners, but ye are fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God" (Ephesians 2:19). That household, that commonwealth, is, in Pauline language, equivalent to the kingdom, and in the same epistle, he describes the same privileged position as being an "inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God" (Ephesians 5:5). The Saviour's kingdom cannot be bounded by earthly limits, and all attempts to map it out according to human rules imply a failure to recognize the true Scriptural idea of its universality.
(1) Kingdom of Grace, of Power.
Most of what we have said applies to that phase of Christ's kingdom which is generally called his kingdom of grace; there is another phase called the kingdom of power. Christ is in a special sense king in Zion, king in His church-that is universal in conception and destined to be so in reality-but He is also king of the universe. He is "head over all things"; Ephesians 1:22 Colossians 1:18, and other passages clearly intimate this. He rules over all. He does so not simply as God, but as God-man, as mediator. It is as mediator that He has the name above every name; it is as mediator that He sits upon the throne of universal power.
(2) Kingdom of Glory.
There is also the phase of the kingdom of glory. Christ's reign now is truly glorious. The essential spirituality of it implies its glory, for as the spiritual far surpasses the material in value, so the glory of the spiritual far transcends the glory of the material. The glory of worldly pomp, of physical force, of human prowess or genius, must ever pale before the glory of righteousness, truth, spirituality. But Christ's kingdom is glorious in another sense; it is a heavenly kingdom. It is the kingdom of grace into which saved sinners now enter, but it is also the kingdom of heavenly glory, and in it the glorified saints have a place. Entrance into the kingdom of grace in this earthly state secures entrance into the kingdom of glory. Rightly does the church confess: "Thou art the King of Glory, O Christ." The kingdom is yet to assume an externally glorious form. That is connected with the appearing of Christ (2 Timothy 4:1), the glory that shall be revealed, the heavenly kingdom. The kingdom in that stage cannot be entered by flesh and blood (1 Corinthians 15:50), man in his mortality-but the resurrection change will give the fitness, when in the fullest sense the kingdom of this world shall have "become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ" (Revelation 11:15).
It would be easy to multiply quotations in proof of this. The great passage in Daniel 7 emphatically declares it. The echo of this is heard in the angel's announcement: "He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end" (Luke 1:33). The reign of 1,000 years which so greatly occupies the thoughts of so many brethren, whatever we may decide as to its nature, is but an episode in the reign of Christ. He is reigning now, He shall reign forever. Revelation 11:15, above quoted, is often cited as applying to the millennium, but it goes on to say "and he shall reign (not for 1,000 years simply, but) for ever and ever." So, many of the glowing predictions of the Old Testament, which are often assigned to the millennium, indicate no limit, but deal with the enduring and eternal.
The difficult passage in 1 Corinthians 15:24-28 must be interpreted in the light of those declarations concerning the eternity of Christ's reign. It is evidently as mediator that He delivers up the kingdom to the Father. The dispensation of mediator comes to an end. All has been done according to the purpose of redemption. All the ransomed are finally gathered home. He sees of the travail of His soul and is satisfied. Obdurate enemies are subdued. God's glory has been fully vindicated. The Son becoming subject to the Father, God governs directly and is all in all. But the Son in some sense still reigns and through Him God's glory will ever shine, while the kingdom eternally rests upon redemption. We may summarize by saying that Christ is king of truth, king of salvation (Matthew 21:5 Zechariah 9:9); king of grace; king of peace (Luke 19:38 Hebrews 7:2); king of righteousness (Hebrews 1:8; Hebrews 7:2); king of glory (Matthew 25:31-34); king eternal; king of saints, king of the ages; king of kings (Revelation 19:16). "Upon his head are many diadems" (Revelation 19:12).
See also CHRIST, OFFICES OF.
1. Etymology and Definition
2. Earliest Kings
3. Biblical Signification of the Title
1. Israel's Theocracy
2. Period of Judges
3. Establishment of the Monarchy
4. Appointment of King
5. Authority of the King
6. Duties of the King
7. The Symbols of Royal Dignity
8. Maintenance and Establishment
(2) The Royal Court
9. Short Character Sketch of Israel's Kingdom
1. Etymology and Definition:
The Hebrew word for king is melekh; its denominative malakh, "to reign" "to be king." The word is apparently derived from the mlkh which denotes: (1) in the Arabic (the verb and the noun) it means "to possess," "to reign," inasmuch as the possessor is also "lord" and "ruler"; (2) in the Aramaic melekh), and Assyrian "counsel," and in the Syrian "to consult"; compare Latin, consul.
If, as has been suggested, the root idea of "king" is "counsellor" and not "ruler," then the rise of the kingly office and power would be due to intellectual superiority rather than to physical prowess. And since the first form of monarchy known was that of a "city-state," the office of king may have evolved from that of the chief "elder" or intellectual head of the clan.
2. Earliest Kings:
The first king of whom we read in the Bible was Nimrod (Genesis 10:8-10), who was supposedly the founder of the Babylonian empire. Historical research regarding the kings of Babylonia and Egypt corroborates this Biblical statement in so far as the ancestry of these kings is traced back to the earliest times of antiquity. According to Isaiah 19:11, it was the pride of the Egyptian princes that they could trace their lineage to most ancient kings. The Canaanites and Philistines had kings as early as the times of Abraham (Genesis 14:2; Genesis 20:2). Thus also the Edomites, who were related to Israel (Genesis 36:31), the Moabites, and the Midianites had kings (Numbers 22:4; Numbers 31:8) earlier than the Israelites.
In Genesis 14:18 we read of Melchizedek, who was a priest, and king of Salem. At first the extent of the dominion of kings was often very limited, as appears from 70 of them being conquered by Adonibezek (Judges 1:7), 31 by Joshua (Joshua 12:7), and 32 being subject to Ben-hadad (1 Kings 20:1).
3. Biblical Signification of the Title:
The earliest Biblical usage of this title "king," in consonance with the general oriental practice, denotes an absolute monarch who exercises unchecked control over his subjects. In this sense the title is applied to Yahweh, and to human rulers. No constitutional obligations were laid upon the ruler nor were any restrictions put upon his arbitrary authority. His good or bad conduct depended upon his own free will.
The title "king" was applied also to dependent kings. In the New Testament it is used even for the head of a province (Revelation 17:12). To distinguish him from the smaller and dependent kings, the king of Assyria bore the title "king of kings."
The notable fact that Israel attained to the degree of a kingdom rather late, as compared with the other Semitic nations, does not imply that Israel, before the establishment of the monarchy, had not arrived at the stage of constitutional government, or that the idea of a kingdom had no room in the original plan of the founder of the Hebrew nation. For a satisfactory explanation we must take cognizance of the unique place that Israel held among the Semitic peoples.
1. Israel's Theocracy:
It is universally recognized that Israel was a singular community. From the beginning of its existence as a nation it bore the character of a religious and moral community, a theocratic commonwealth, having Yahweh Himself as the Head and Ruler. The theocracy is not to be mistaken for a hierarchy, nor can it strictly be identified with any existent form of political organization. It was rather something over and above, and therefore independent of the political organization. It did not supersede the tribal organization of Israel, but it supplied the centralizing power, constituting Israel a nation. In lieu of a strong political center, the unifying bond of a common allegiance to Yahweh, i.e. the common faith in Him, the God of Israel, kept the tribes together. The consciousness that Yahweh was Israel's king was deeply rooted, was a national feeling, and the inspiration of a true patriotism (Exodus 15:18; Exodus 19:6 Judges 5). Yahweh's kingship is evinced by the laws He gave to Israel, by the fact that justice was administered in His name (Exodus 22:28), and by His leading and siding Israel in its wars (Exodus 14:14; Exodus 15:3 Numbers 21:14 1 Samuel 18:17; 1 Samuel 25:28). This decentralized system which characterized the early government of Israel politically, in spite of some great disadvantages, proved advantageous for Israel on the whole and served a great providential purpose. It safeguarded the individual liberties and rights of the Israelites. When later the monarchy was established, they enjoyed a degree of local freedom and self-control that was unknown in the rest of the Semitic world; there was home rule for every community, which admitted the untrammeled cultivation of their inherited religious and social institutions.
From the political point of view Israel, through the absence of a strong central government, was at a great disadvantage, making almost impossible its development into a world-empire. But this barrier to a policy of self-aggrandizement was a decided blessing from the viewpoint of Israel's providential mission to the world. It made possible the transmission of the pure religion entrusted to it, to later generations of men without destructive contamination from the ungodly forces with which Israel would inevitably have come into closer contact, had it not been for its self-contained character, resulting from the fashion of a state it was providentially molded into. Only as the small and insignificant nation that it was, could Israel perform its mission as "the depository and perpetuating agency of truths vital to the welfare of humanity." Thus its religion was the central authority of this nation, supplying the lack of a centralized government. Herein lay Israel's uniqueness and greatness, and also the secret of its strength as a nation, as long as the loyalty and devotion to Yahweh lasted. Under the leadership of Moses and Joshua who, though they exercised a royal authority, acted merely as representatives of Yahweh, the influence of religion of which these leaders were a personal embodiment was still so strong as to keep the tribes united for common action. But when, after the removal of these strong leaders, Israel no longer had a standing representative of Yahweh, those changes took place which eventually necessitated the establishment of the monarchy.
2. Period of Judges:
In the absence of a special representative of Yahweh, His will as Israel's King was divined by the use of the holy lot in the hand of the highest priest. But the lot would not supply the place of a strong personal leader. Besides, many of the Israelites came under the deteriorating influence of the Canaanite worship and began to adopt heathenish customs. The sense of religious unity weakened, the tribes became disunited and ceased to act in common, and as a result they were conquered by their foes. Yahweh came to their assistance by sending them leaders, who released the regions where they lived from foreign attacks. But these leaders were not the strong religious personalities that Moses and Joshua had been; besides, they had no official authority, and their rule was only temporary and local. It was now that the need of a centralized political government was felt, and the only type of permanent organization of which the age was cognizant was the kingship. The crown was offered to Gideon, but he declined it, saying: "Yahweh shall rule over you" (Judges 8:22, 23). The attempt of his son, Abimelech, to establish a kingship over Shechem and the adjacent country, after the Canaanitic fashion, was abortive.
The general political condition of this period is briefly and pertinently described by the oft-recurring statement in Judges: "In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes."
3. Establishment of the Monarchy:
Not until the time of Samuel was a formal kingdom established over Israel. An attempt to ameliorate conditions by a union of civil and religious functions in the hands of Eli, the priest, had failed through the degeneracy of his sons. Similarly the hopes of Israel in a hereditary judgeship had been disappointed through the corruption of the sons of Samuel. The Philistines were threatening the independence and hope of Israel. Its very existence as a distinct race, and consequently the future of Yahweh's religion, imperatively demanded a king. Considering that it was the moral decline of the nation that had created the necessity for a monarchy, and moreover that the people's desire for a king originated from a purely national and not from a religious motive, the unwillingness of Samuel, at first, to comply with the demand for a king is not surprising. Even Yahweh declared: "They have not rejected thee but they have rejected me," etc. Instead of recognizing that they themselves were responsible for the failures of the past, they blamed the form of government they had, and put all their hopes upon a king. That it was not the monarchy as such that was objectionable to Yahweh and His prophet is evidenced by the fact that to the patriarchs the promise had been given: "Kings shall come out of thy loins" (Genesis 17:6; Genesis 35:11). In view of this Moses had made provision for a kingship (Deuteronomy 17:14-20). According to the Mosaic charter for the kingship, the monarchy when established must be brought into consonance with the fact that Yahweh was Israel's king. Of this fact Israel had lost sight when it requested a kingship like that of the neighboring peoples. Samuel's gloomy prognostications were perfectly justified in view of such a kingship as they desired, which would inevitably tend to selfish despotism (1 Samuel 8:11 f). therefore God directs Samuel to give them a king-since the introduction of a kingship typifying the kingship of Christ lay within the plan of His economy-not according to their desire, but in accordance with the instructions of the law concerning kings (Deuteronomy 17:14-20), in order to safeguard their liberties and prevent the forfeiture of their mission.
4. Appointment of King:
According to the Law of Moses Yahweh was to choose the king of israel, who was to be His representative. The choice of Yahweh in the case of Saul is implied by the anointing of Saul by Samuel and through the confirmation of this choice by the holy lot (1 Samuel 10:1-20). This method of choosing the king did not exclude the people altogether, since Saul was publicly presented to them, and acknowledged as king (1 Samuel 10:24). The participation of the people in the choice of their king is more pronounced in the case of David, who, having been designated as Yahweh's choice by being anointed by Samuel, was anointed again by the elders of Israel before he actually became king (2 Samuel 2:4).
The anointing itself signified the consecration to an office in theocracy. The custom of anointing kings was an old one, and by no means peculiar to Israel (Judges 9:8, 15). The hereditary kingship began with David. Usually the firstborn succeeded to the throne, but not necessarily. The king might choose as his successor from among his sons the one whom he thought best qualified.
5. Authority of the King:
The king of Israel was not a constitutional monarch in the modern sense, nor was he an autocrat in the oriental sense. He was responsible to Yahweh, who had chosen him and whose vicegerent and servant he was. Furthermore, his authority was more or less limited on the religious side by the prophets, the representatives of Yahweh, and in the political sphere by the "elders," the representatives of the people, though as king he stood above all. Rightly conceived, his kingship in relation to Yahweh, who was Israel's true king, implied that he was Yahweh's servant and His earthly substitute. In relation to his subjects his kingship demanded of him, according to the Law, "that his heart be not lifted up above his brethren" (Deuteronomy 17:20).
6. Duties of the King:
In a summary way the king was held responsible for all Israel as the Lord's people. His main duty was to defend it against its enemies, and for this reason it devolved upon him to raise and maintain a standing army; and it was expected of him that he be its leader in case of war (1 Samuel 8:20). In respect to the judiciary the king was a kind of supreme court, or court of final appeal, and as such, as in the days of Solomon, might be approached by his most humble subjects (2 Samuel 15:2 1 Kings 3:16). Legislative functions he had none and was himself under the law (1 Kings 21:4 Deuteronomy 17:19). The king was also in a way the summus episcopus in Israel. His very kingship was of an entirely religious character and implied a unity of the heavenly and earthly rule over Israel through him who as Yahweh's substitute sat "upon the throne of the kingdom of Yahweh over Israel" (1 Chronicles 17:14; 1 Chronicles 28:5; 1 Chronicles 29:23), who was "Yahweh's anointed" (1 Samuel 24:10; 1 Samuel 26:9 2 Samuel 1:14), and also bore the title of "son of Yahweh" and "the first-born," the same as Israel did (Exodus 4:22 Hosea 11:1 2 Samuel 7:14 Psalm 89:27; Psalm 2:7). Thus a place of honor was assigned to the king in the temple (2 Kings 11:4; 2 Kings 23:3 Ezekiel 46:1, 2); besides, he officiated at the national sacrifices (especially mentioned of David and Solomon). He prayed for his people and blessed them in the name of Yahweh (2 Samuel 6:18; 2 Samuel 24:25 1 Kings 3:4, 8; 1 Kings 8:14, 55, 62; 9:25). Apparently it was the king's right to appoint and dismiss the chief priests at the sanctuaries, though in his choice he was doubtless restricted to the Aaronites (1 Chronicles 16:37, 39 2 Samuel 8:17 1 Kings 2:27, 35). The priesthood was under the king's supervision to such an extent that he might concern himself about its organization and duties (1 Chronicles 15:16, 23, 24; 1 Chronicles 16:4-6), and that he was responsible for the purity of the cult and the maintenance of the order of worship. In general he was to watch over the religious life and conduct of his people, to eradicate the high places and every form of idolatry in the land (2 Kings 18:4). Ezekiel 45:22 demands of the prince that he shall provide at the Passover a bullock for a sin offering for all the people.
7. The Symbols of Royal Dignity:
The marks of royal dignity, besides the beautiful robes in which the king was attired (1 Kings 22:10), were:
(1) the diadem nezer) and the crown (aTarah, 2 Samuel 1:10 2 Kings 11:12; 2 Samuel 12:30), the headtire;
(2) the scepter (shebheT), originally a long, straight staff, the primitive sign of dominion and authority (Genesis 49:10 Numbers 24:17 Isaiah 14:5 Jeremiah 48:17 Psalm 2:9; Psalm 45:7). Saul had a spear (1 Samuel 18:10; 1 Samuel 22:6);
(3) the throne (kicce', 1 Kings 10:18-20), the symbol of majesty. Israel's kings also had a palace (1 Kings 7:1-12; 1 Kings 22:39 Jeremiah 22:14), a royal harem (2 Samuel 16:21), and a bodyguard (2 Samuel 8:18; 2 Samuel 15:18).
8. Maintenance and Establishment:
(a) According to the custom of the times presents were expected of the subjects (1 Samuel 10:27; 1 Samuel 16:20) and of foreigners (2 Samuel 8:2 1 Kings 5:1; 10:25 2 Chronicles 32:23), and these often took the form of an annual tribute.
(b) In time of war the king would lay claim to his share of the booty (2 Samuel 8:11; 2 Samuel 12:30 1 Chronicles 26:27).
(c) Various forms of taxes were in vogue, as a part of the produce of the land (1 Kings 9:11 1 Samuel 17:25), forced labor of the Canaanites (1 Kings 9:20 2 Chronicles 2:16) and also of the Israelites (1 Kings 5:13; 1 Kings 11:28; 1 Kings 12:4), the first growth of the pasture lands (Amos 7:1), toll collected from caravans (1 Kings 10:15).
(d) Subdued nations had to pay a heavy tribute (2 Kings 3:4).
(e) The royal domain often comprised extensive possessions (1 Chronicles 27:25-31).
(2) The Royal Court.
The highest office was that of the princes (1 Kings 4:2), who were the king's advisers or counselors. In 2 Kings 25:19 and Jeremiah 52:25 they are called "they that saw the king's face" (compare also 1 Kings 12:6, "stood before Solomon"). The following officers of King David are mentioned: the captain of the host (commander-in-chief), the captain of the Cherethites and the Pelethites (bodyguard), the recorder (chronicler and reminder), the scribe (secretary of state), the overseer of the forced labor, the chief ministers or priests (confidants of the king, usually selected from the royal family) (2 Samuel 8:16-18; 2 Samuel 20:23-26).
During the reign of Solomon other officers were added as follows: the overseer over the twelve men "who provided victuals for the king and his household" (1 Kings 4:5, 7), the officer over the household (1 Kings 4:6; 1 Kings 18:3) (steward, the head of the palace who had "the key" in his possession, Isaiah 22:22); the king's friend (1 Kings 4:5 1 Chronicles 27:33) is probably the same as the king's servant mentioned among the high officials in 2 Kings 22:12. It is not stated what his duties were. Minor officials are servants, cupbearer (1 Kings 10:5), keeper of the wardrobe (2 Kings 22:14; 2 Kings 10:22), eunuchs (chamberlains, not mentioned before the division of the kingdom) (1 Kings 22:9 2 Kings 8:6).
9. Short Character Sketch of Israel's Kingdom:
No higher conceptions of a good king have ever been given to the world than those which are presented in the representations of kingship in the Old Testament, both actual and ideal. Though Samuel's characterization of the kingship was borne out in the example of a great number of kings of Israel, the Divine ideal of a true king came as near to its realization in the case of one king of Israel, at least, as possibly nowhere else, namely, in the case of David. Therefore King David appears as the type of that king in whom the Divine ideal of a Yahweh-king was to find its perfect realization; toward whose reign the kingship in Israel tended. The history of the kingship in Israel after David is, indeed, characterized by that desire for political aggrandizement which had prompted the establishment of the monarchy, which was contrary to Israel's Divine mission as the peculiar people of the Yahweh-king. When Israel's kingdom terminated in the Bah exile, it became evident that the continued existence of the nation was possible even without a monarchical form of government. Though a kingdom was established again under the Maccabees, as a result of the attempt of Antiochus to extinguish Israel's religion, this kingdom was neither as perfectly national nor as truly religious in its character as the Davidic. It soon became dependent on Rome. The kingship of Herod was entirely alien to the true Israelite conception.
It remains to be said only that the final attempt of Israel in its revolt against the Roman Empire, to establish the old monarchy, resulted in its downfall as a nation, because it would not learn the lesson that the future of a nation does not depend upon political greatness, but upon the fulfillment of its Divine mission.
J.P. McCurdy, History, Prophecy and the Monuments; Riehm, Handwiirterbuch des bibl. Alterrums; Hastings, Dictionary of the Bible (five volumes); Kinzler, Bibl. Altes Testament.
S. D. Press
CHRIST AS KING, PRIEST, PROPHET
See under several titles; also CHRIST, OFFICES OF.