The Kingdom of God in Scripture by Scott Hahn Part 1
'He Must Reign': The Kingdom of God in Scripture
A Throne Established Forever
• To begin to appreciate the significance of God's covenant with David for understanding the content and meaning of the New Testament
• To understand the biblical idea of the monarchy and the Old Testament background for the Davidic covenant.
• To understand the basic outlines of the promises made to David and the shape of the Davidic kingdom under both David and Solomon
Readings for This Lesson
• Matthew 1:1
• Mark 10:11
• Mark 12:35-37
• Luke 1:26-35
• Luke 1:67-79
• Revelation 22:16
• 2 Samuel 7:8-16
• 1 Chronicles 17:7-14
I. David's Covenant in Context
• David and Moses
• For the Sake of Abraham
II. The Rise of David
• Israel in the Era Before Kings
• Restoring the Ark
• The Oracle of Nathan
III. The Shape of the Davidic Monarchy
• Eight Elements of the Kingdom
• Unconditional Promises, Divided Kingdom
IV. Discussion Questions
David's Covenant in Context
David and Moses
The drama in the Gospels turns on a single question: Is Jesus the long awaited Messiah, the son of David come to restore the everlasting monarchy promised by God to David?
Underlying this drama - which continues through the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles and even into the final chapters of Revelation - are centuries of rival interpretations of the Scriptures.
In the Bible and in religious writing outside the Bible, we can see that there were sharply competing expectations about who the Messiah was to be, the "signs" that would accompany his coming, and the shape of the kingdom he would establish.
Through a close reading of the New Testament and key Old Testament passages, we will look at this clash of expectations. We will explore the biblical testimony in context, comparing it with the extra-biblical literature of the period, including the Dead Sea Scrolls and various intratestamental writings. We will see how the proclamation and work of Jesus, as recorded in the New Testament, reflects and reacts to the messianic hopes of his contemporaries.
This study has implications for questions that modern scholars have long debated - How did Jesus understand His mission and work? What were the historical reasons for his condemnation and death on the Cross?
This study also addresses an imbalance in the scholarly and pastoral study of the New Testament. Researchers have tended to focus on the importance and influence of Moses and the covenant at Sinai on the shape of the New Testament. By contrast there has been a relative scholarly neglect of the Davidic covenant.
However, it could be argued that the figure of David and his kingdom is more central - not only to the New Testament - but to the direction and meaning of the Old Testament.
David is generally acknowledged as a defining figure in the Psalms, with more than 70 psalms attributed to him. What is not widely recognized is his prominence throughout the Old Testament.
Indeed, while the name Moses occurs a little over 720 times, David is mentioned almost 1,020 times. David's career is the subject of 42 chapters, or nearly 30 percent of what scholars call the "Deuteronomistic History" (Joshua-2 Kings).
In the Chronicles, a review of
David is mentioned 37 times in the prophets, Moses only seven times. And as we will focus on in our next lesson, the eschatological hopes of the prophets are frequently concerned with the return of a Davidic king and the restoration of his capital,
David's imprint will be especially felt when we consider key Old Testament concepts and institutions that become central in the New Testament - the Temple, Zion, the “Son of God,” and the “Anointed One” (Messiah).
For the Sake of Abraham
We will see, however, that the Law of Moses and the sacrificial system are critical to the understanding and legitimacy of David's kingdom. But before we can consider the specific character of David's kingdom, we need to begin with some background.
God’s covenant with David comes as the last in a sequence of covenants found in the Old Testament. These covenants - with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and David - form the narrative structure of the Old Testament.
(For a thorough review of these covenants and their significance, see our on-line class, Covenant Love: An Introduction to the Biblical Worldview).
The background to the covenant with David, and indeed the entire story of Israel, is God's three-part promise to Abraham - to give him and his descendants their own land, to make them a great and blessed nation, and to make the children of Abraham the source of divine blessing for all the families of the earth (see Genesis 12:1-4).
Each of these promises was "upgraded" to a covenant by God (see Genesis 15; Genesis 17:4-8; 22:15-18).
It was for the sake of this covenant with Abraham that the Israelites were brought out of
In Nathan's oracle, God repeats three times that He is making this covenant with David for "for My people
Later, in the psalmist's reflections, the Davidic monarch is seen fulfilling God's promise to Abraham: "In him shall all the tribes of the earth be blessed, all the nations" (see Psalm 72:17; compare Genesis 12:3;22:18).
The Rise of David
Israel in the Era Before Kings
The idea of the monarchy is sown throughout the Old Testament. In one of his promises to Abraham, God tells him: "Kings shall stem from you" (see Genesis 17:6).
In his deathbed blessing upon his sons,
Nevertheless, when the Bible is read canonically – that is, as a single book with a certain unity of content, edited for use in the worship and reflection of the Christian community – we see tension and ambivalence about the idea of a monarchy for God's people.
We see this ambivalence already in Deuteronomy. There, Moses reluctantly predicts the people will desire a king. He even writes legislation to govern the king's conduct and policies (see Deuteronomy 17:14-20).
On the one hand, the moral and political chaos of the pre-monarchial period is attributed to
But there is also a strong sense in the Old Testament that an earthly monarch contradicts God's sovereignty over
These tensions come to a head in the people's request for a king in the time of Samuel.
In seeking a king "as the other nations have," the people are seen as rejecting the kingship of God (see 1 Samuel 8:7; 12:12,17,19-20).
Though their ends are earthly - the people want a king to fight battles and conquer territories for them - God consents to their request and "uses" it to fulfill His own covenant plan for
The ideal of
David, especially as portrayed in the early days of his reign, is presented as the ideal king.
His capital at
David's first act as king is to restore the Ark of the Covenant, the defining symbol of God's election of Israel and the site of His real and living presence among the people during the wilderness period (see Exodus 25:8-22; Joshua 3:8-11).
The Ark contained signs of God's covenant with Moses (see Hebrews 9:4) - the tablets of the 10 commandments (see Exodus 40:22), Aaron's priestly staff (see Numbers 17:25) and some of the manna upon which the Israelites fed in the desert (see Exodus 16:32-33).
The procession to the tent pitched by David is a joyous religious feast, complete with liturgical dancing and songs of exultation and much rejoicing, led by David and the priests (see 1 Chronicles 15:1-16:3; 2 Sam. 6:11-19).
David is garbed in priestly robes of fine linen and wears a priest's ephod (see Judges 8:28; 1 Samuel 14:3; 21:9; 22:18; 23:9). As the
What we witness here is
David's actions reestablish the presence of God among the people (see 1 Chronicles 23:25). To ensure the purity of
He also, reestablishes the Levitical priests "to minister before the Ark of the Lord - to celebrate, thank and praise the Lord, the God of Israel" every morning and evening, and also on feast days (see 1 Chronicles 16:4;23:25-32).
At the culmination of his monarchy, David, like Moses, is given a divine "pattern" or "plan" for the Temple that will house the Ark of His covenant permanently (see 1 Chronicles 28:19; Exodus 25:9).
The Oracle of Nathan
Only after the Ark is established, does God renew His covenant with Israel through an oracle delivered by the prophet, Nathan (see 2 Samuel 7:8-16; 1 Chronicles 17:7-14)
Nathan's original oracle does not include the word "covenant." But David describes it as an "eternal covenant" (see 2 Samuel 23:5) and this "covenant" is celebrated in the Psalms (see Psalm 89:4-29; 132:12).
God's promises in Nathan oracle - the themes of divine sonship, temple building, and everlasting dynasty - will resound throughout the remainder of the Old Testament and, as we will see, converge in the Gospel of Jesus.
Let us look in detail at the divine promises that Nathan delivers:
First, he tells David that "the Lord will establish a house for you." In biblical terms, "house" means royal dynasty. This means that David's kingdom will be a dynasty, one that endures for generations.
Next God promises that David's son will assume his throne: "I will raise up your heir...and make his kingdom firm." The "firmness" of his kingdom is another indicator that the kingdom will remain.
David's son will also, according to the promise, "build a house for My name." In other words, David's son will build a temple as a permanent home for God's presence in the Ark of the Covenant.
Of this royal son of David, God further promises: "I will be a Father to him and he shall be a son to Me." This is the language of "covenant-adoption." The son of David will be adopted as God's own son. This marks the first time in Scripture that the idea of divine sonship is applied to one individual. While God had referred to
God's promise is unconditional, according to Nathan. The royal son is expected to keep God's Law and will be punished for transgressions against the Law. But God will never disown David's heir or dissolve his kingdom. Nathan conveys this message: "If he does wrong, I will correct him...with human chastisements, but I will not withdraw my favor from him."
Finally, God states the conclusion that all of these promises point to: "Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever." This means that David's dynasty will never end; there will always be an heir of David seated upon his throne.
The Shape of the Davidic Monarchy
Eight Elements of the Kingdom
God's covenant with David is initially and partially fulfilled with the birth of Solomon. Solomon is the "son" who builds the Lord a house or temple.
And while we see the outlines of the godly kingdom begin under David - especially with the organization of the Levites and the worship before the
Based on the promises of Nathan, the reflections on the Davidic covenant found in the Psalms and the prophets, and the organization of the kingdom under Solomon, we can eight characteristics of the Davidic monarchy:
• First, the Davidic monarchy was founded upon a divine covenant. No other human kingdom in the Old Testament can boast of such a privilege.
• The Davidic monarch was the Son of God. Solomon's is a monarchy ruled over by God's son (see Psalm 2:7), who is both a priest and a king (see Psalm 110:1,4). The identity of the monarch as God's son implies this priestly prerogative. The king is to be a priestly mediator between the human and divine. At the right hand of the king is his mother, the Queen, who intercedes for the people with the king and is a trusted adviser to the king (see 1 Kings 3:19-20; Proverbs 31).
• The Davidic monarch was the "Christ," i.e. the "Messiah" or "Anointed One." The anointed status of the Davidic king was so integral to his identity that he is frequently referred to simply as "the anointed one" or "the Lord’s anointed."
• The Davidic monarchy was inextricably bound to Jerusalem, particularly Mt. Zion, which was the personal possession of David and his heirs (see2 Samuel 5:9), and would have had no significant role in Israelite history had not David made it his capital (see Joshua 15:63; Judges 1:21; 19:10–12; 2 Samuel 5:6–12).
• The Davidic monarchy was inextricably bound to the temple. The building of the temple was central to the terms of the Davidic covenant from the very beginning, as can be seen from the wordplay on "house" ("temple" or "dynasty") in 2 Samuel 7:11–13. Even after its destruction, the prophets remained firm in their conviction that God would restore His temple to its former glory as an international place of worship.
• The Davidic monarch ruled over all twelve tribes. It was only under David and Solomon, that both Judah and all the northern tribes were united as one kingdom and freed from foreign oppression (see 2 Samuel 5:1–5; 1 Kings 4:1–19). For this reason the prophets associate the reunification of the northern tribes of
• The Davidic monarch ruled over an international empire. David and Solomon ruled not only over
• The Davidic monarchy was to be everlasting. One of the most prevalent emphases in the Psalms and Deuteronomic history is that the Davidic dynasty will be eternal (see 2 Samuel 7:16; 23:5; Psalm 89:35–36). Not only the dynasty but the lifespan of the reigning monarch himself was described as everlasting (see Psalm 21:4; 72:5, 110:4).
In the lessons ahead, we will see how these elements of the Davidic kingdom and the promises to David will be decisive for understanding the debates in the Gospels.
But these debates take place against a historical backdrop - that the Davidic kingdom was divided shortly after Solomon's reign, and later destroyed.
As presented in Scripture, Solomon's sin had led to the destruction of the kingdom. He overtaxed the Israelite tribes to finance great building projects and to build up a huge army (see 1 Kings 9; 12:3); he took many foreign wives and concubines and "his wives turned his heart...to strange gods" (see 1 Kings 11:1-3).
When Solomon died, his son Rehoboam refused the re-negotiate Solomon's tax policies and the tribes rebelled. Ten of the twelve tribes, led by Jeroboam, split-off and established a
Eventually, both houses of the divided kingdom were captured and led into exile. The
Even when the people were restored from exile, centuries continued to pass without any sign of the great Davidic king that God had promised. At the time when Jesus was born, there was no kingdom to speak of, no Davidic heir in the wings.
But the intervening centuries had produced a body of prophecy and reflection on the meaning and fulfillment of God's covenant with David. That literature - both biblical and extra-biblical - will be the subject of our next lesson.
• How could it be argued that David and his kingdom are more important for understanding the Old Testament than Moses and the Sinai covenant?
• In what ways might the Old Testament's attitude toward monarchy be characterized as ambivalent, prior to the Davidic kingdom?
• Explain the significance of the Ark of the Covenant for the
• What were the promises made to David in Nathan's oracles.
• Name and explain the elements of the Davidic monarchy.
Looking for the 'New David'
• To understand the basic outline of
• To appreciate how the collapse and disappearance of the
• To understand how God's covenant promises were interpreted by
Readings for This Lesson
• Hosea 3
• Micah 5:1-4
• Isaiah 8:23; 9:5-6; 11:1-16; 55:3-5
• Jeremiah 23:5-7; 30:8-9; 33:15
• Ezekiel 34:24-30; 37:12,21-28
I. The Kingdom That Did Not Come
• Promise and Division
• An Everlasting Throne Unseen
II. According to the Prophets
• A New Exodus
• From Zebulun and Naphtali
• David in Exile
III. Between the Testaments
• Raising the Son of David
• From the Caves of Qumran
IV. Discussion Questions
The Kingdom That Did Not Come
Promise and Division
In our first lesson we looked at the origins of the Davidic covenant.
We saw how God's promise to David, first delivered by an oracle of the prophet Nathan and later celebrated and meditated upon by the psalmists and prophets, marks the culmination of the salvation history told in the Old Testament.
The Davidic monarchy was the ultimate expression of
It was to fulfill His covenant promise to Abraham that God raised up Moses to lead
But historical events quickly overtook and called into question the meaning of God's covenant with David. Within a generation after David's death, the "everlasting kingdom" he was promised had vanished.
God's promise seemed to have been clear - He would punish David's sons should they prove unfaithful, but He would never withdraw His favor from David's line (see 2 Samuel 7:5-15; 1 Kings 2:2-4: 8:25; 9:4-5; Psalm 132:12).
However, the abuses of David's son, Solomon - who had been the immediate focus of Nathan's promises - led to rebellion shortly after Solomon's death in 930 B.C.
As depicted in Scripture, Jeroboam's rebellion was God's punishment for Solomon's sin (see 1 Kings 11:31-39). The Northern tribes almost immediately went into apostasy, building altars and worshipping false gods (see 1 Kings 12:28-29). In 722 B.C., the Assyrians invaded the
The Southern Kingdom, too, fell into corruption. In 586, King Nebuchadnezzar of
An Everlasting Throne Unseen
By the sixth century B.C., then, there was no
This remained true even when
Throughout this "Second Temple" period and on into the last period recorded in the Old Testament - the period of the Maccabeean revolt and the Hasmonean dynasty circa 100-200 B.C. - we see little evidence that Israel hoped for any imminent return of the Davidic Kingdom.
The Maccabeean revolt was about covenant faithfulness - not the restoration of the
Mattathias, one of the early heroes of the movement, affirmed his belief that "David, for his piety, received as a heritage a throne of everlasting royalty" (see 1 Maccabees 2:57).
But the revolt and the later Hasmonean dynasty did not invoke David.
The Hasmoneans were led by priests - not descendants of David. Yet the Israelites agreed to live under this form of priestly, theocratic rule "until a true prophet arises" (see 1 Maccabees 14:41). This was a reference to Moses' ancient prophecy - that God would raise up a prophet like him (see Deuteronomy 18:15-19).
The Book of Sirach, written during this period, also affirms God's promise to David, saying that God "exalted his strength forever....established his throne in
Though we find no Davidic expectations in the latest Old Testament texts, such as Sirach and Maccabees, we know from the writings of the rabbis and others in the "intertestamental" period - the years between the writings of the Old and New Testaments - that there emerged a lively messianic hope based on God's covenant with David and the promises of the prophets.
According to the Prophets
A New Exodus
In the eighth century, amid the confusion of a shattered monarchy, foreign invasion, and forced exile,
Though these prophecies were delivered over the course of many centuries, their "format" is often very similar. In fact, often the prophecies seem deliberately patterned to evoke and recall
In the "new Exodus" foretold by the prophets, God, out of compassion for His suffering people, will raise up a new David-like king to lead the people out of exile and restore them once again in the land under a reunified Northern and Southern Kingdom.
Hosea, writing from the
The people of "
This echoes God's actions in the Exodus, where He called
In Hosea's prophecy we also hear an echo of the divine oath sworn to Abraham. Like the descendants of Abraham, the restored
Prophesying during this same period in the Southern Kingdom, Micah did not mention David by name, but spoke of a new ruler to be born in Bethlehem Ephrathah; this ruler would "shepherd" Israel and lead "the rest of his brethren" to "return to the children of Israel" (see Micah 5:1-4).
David, as all who heard Micah's prophesy would know, was born in Bethlehem Ephrathah and was a "shepherd" (see Ruth 4:11,17; 1 Samuel 16:1,11). The promise of a reunion with the "children of
From Zebulun and Naphtali
Amos, who ministered in Judah circa 750 B.C., also foresaw the "restoration" of God's people and the raising up of "the fallen tent [kingdom] of David" (see Amos 9:11,14).
During the chaos of the eighth century, the prophet Isaiah likewise evoked the image of a new David.
He recalled the beginning of the end of the
"First He degraded the
As the initial hearers of his prophecy would have known, that part of the kingdom where the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali lived was first attacked by the Assyrians and the tribes were hauled off into captivity (see 2 Kings 15:29; 1 Chronicles 5:26).
This area, then, marked the beginning of the kingdom's end. The final end of the kingdom, as we saw above, came in the sixth century B.C., when Jerusalem was seized by Babylon and the remaining tribes were driven into exile (see 2 Kings 24:14).
Isaiah prophesied that Zebulun and Naphtali, the lands first to fall into the darkness of degradation, would be the first to see the light of God's salvation.
That salvation would come, he said, with the birth of an heir to David's throne. The new king's dominion would be vast and would endure "both now and forever," Isaiah said (see Isaiah 9:5-6).
Elsewhere, Isaiah prophesies the sprouting of a new shoot from the root of Jesse (see Isaiah 11:1-16; see also Isaiah 55:3-5). Jesse, of course, was the father of David (see Ruth 4:11,17; 1 Samuel 16:1,11). Isaiah, then, is prophesying the coming of a new son of David.
As the Spirit rushed upon David when he was consecrated by Samuel (see 1 Samuel 16:13), "the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon" this new shoot of Jesse (see Isaiah 11:2).
This new David will lead a new Exodus, Isaiah foretells - drying up the
This new Exodus is envisioned as not only a restoration but a reunification of the
Jeremiah, who prophesied amid the corruption of
David in Exile
The prophet of the Exile, Ezekiel, also promised a new David.
Ezekiel sees this new David as a "shepherd" who would gather the scattered sheep of the flock of Israel
He, too, sees this David figure delivering
He sees too that this restoration to the land will announce a permanent reunification of the kingdom. "I will take the Israelites from among the nations to which they have come and gather them from all sides to bring them back to their land....Never again shall they be two nations, and never again shall they be divided into two kingdoms" (see Ezekiel 34:24-30; 37:12,21-28; 16:59-63).
Ezekiel said that God would in those days make a new covenant with the people, an everlasting covenant of peace, and would dwell forever among them in the sanctuary. Isaiah, too, had looked forward to the day when God would "renew the everlasting covenant, the benefits assured to David" (see Isaiah 55:3-5; 42:6; Jeremiah 31:31-34).
Between the Testaments
Raising the Son of David
As with all of these prophesies, Isaiah here recalls the original Davidic promise and covenant (see 2 Samuel 7:11-16; 23:5; Psalm 89).
And these promises, mediated by the writings of the prophets and the psalmists, animate a number of the texts written during the "intertestamental period."
For instance, the Psalms of Solomon, composed in the late first century B.C., express anger at the corruption of those who set up a "worldly monarchy" and "laid waste the throne of David in tumultuous arrogance" (see Psalms of Solomon, 17:5-9, 19-22).
The sins of this worldly monarchy are blamed for a foreign invasion of
In light of these developments, the psalmist petitions the Lord to "raise up unto them their king, the son of David...that he may reign over
All the Davidic promises are present in the psalmists' appeal - most prominently the expectation of
It is hoped that the new Davidic king will purge foreign invaders from
Here, and throughout this collection of psalms, we find echoes of and allusions to the Davidic promises (compare Psalms 2,18,104,101; Isaiah 42).
From the Caves of
Similar hopes for a Davidic Messiah are found in the Dead Sea Scrolls. The scrolls, too, reflect the views of Jewish believers opposed to both the Roman occupiers and the Hasmonean priests.
The scrolls use Davidic titles for the Messiah drawn from Scripture (for example, Isaiah 11:1-5; 2 Samuel 7:11-14; Jeremiah 23:5-6; 33:15-17;Ezekiel 34:23-24; 37:24-25).
They also reflect a faith in the promises of the Davidic covenant, notably the hope for a seed who reigns forever as an adopted son of God.
A fragment from Cave IV at
"The Lord declares to you that He will build you a House. I will raise up your seed after you. I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 'I will be his father and and he shall be my son.' He is the Branch of David who shall arise...in
As in the Psalms of Solomon, in this passage we have numerous quotations from the Davidic promise tradition (compare 2 Samuel 7:11-14; Amos 9:11).
We also have evidence of some Davidic expectation in the apocalyptic literature of the period - works like 4 Ezra, 2 Baruch and 1 Enoch, which date between the late second century B.C. to the first century A.D.
In these texts we find a composite picture of the Messiah - drawn from the royal Davidic promise tradition and the prophet Daniel's visions of an everlasting kingship being given to "one like a son of man" (see Daniel 7:13-14).
These texts indicate that by Jesus' time the Messiah was expected in terms that merged the Davidic promises and the prophecies of a quasi-divine son of man.
What we see then, in this overview of Jewish thinking in the years before Jesus, is that the contours and characteristics of the
It is true that between 500 B.C. and 100 B.C. there is not to be found a consistent or predominant strain of Davidic hope. But what we learn is that even without the witness of the New Testament, it would be possible to establish that among Jews of the first century A.D. there was a general expectation of a future restoration of the
In our next lesson we will begin our study of how this Davidic hope plays out in the pages of the New Testament.
• What nation conquered the Northern Kingdom of
• What nation conquered the Southern Kingdom of
• How did the prophets depict the restoration and reunification of the
• Explain the meaning and significance of Isaiah's prophecy concerning Zebulun and Naphtali (see Isaiah 8:23).
The Son of David in Matthew's Gospel
To understand the symbolism Matthew uses to convey the truth that Jesus Christ is the perfect Son of David.
To see how the baptism of Jesus corresponds to the anointing of the Davidic kings.
To understand how Matthew sees Jesus' kingdom as the fulfillment of the promises in the prophets.
I. Beginning with the Old Testament
- The Book of the Genealogy
- The Perfect Number
- Still in Exile
II. The Lord's Anointed
- The Baptism of Jesus
- Anointing the Christ
- Son of God
- Jesus Anointed in the Jordan
III. The Kingdom
- What the Kingdom is Like
- Son of David
- The Last Instruction
IV. Discussion Questions
The very first chapter of the New Testament begins by recapitulating the Old Testament:
"The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham" (see Matthew 1:1).
A long genealogy of Jesus Christ follows.
Many readers skip over these first seventeen verses of Matthew, and with some good reason. The genealogy seems to be simply reference material: it tells no story, and it does not preserve any sayings of Jesus.
But a closer look at this passage reveals that it carries some very important messages for us.
First of all, the placement of the genealogy at the beginning of Matthew's Gospel, which later Christians placed at the beginning of the New Testament, tells us something very important about who Jesus Christ is. The first thing to know, Matthew tells us, is how Jesus is related to Old Testament Scripture.
Matthew even chooses his words to echo the Old Testament.
In the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament that the early Christians used, "the record of the descendants" in Genesis is the same as "the book of the genealogy" in Matthew.
Now notice how Matthew divides the genealogy into three parts. He sums up his method in verse 17:
"Thus the total number of generations
from Abraham to David is fourteen generations;
from David to the Babylonian exile, fourteen generations;
from the Babylonian exile to the Messiah, fourteen generations" (seeMatthew 1:17).
Ancient Jewish writers attached great symbolic value to numbers. The number seven suggested completeness and covenant: in fact, the Hebrew word for making a covenant literally meant "to seven oneself." Fourteen was doubly complete, since it was twice seven.
The number three suggested perfection. Often the two numbers are used together to signify absolute completeness: Solomon had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines from all nations, symbolizing his authority over the whole world. (Not that it was a good idea for him to have all those wives; see 1 Kings 11:1-8.)
There is another numerical significance that is less obvious to us, but that probably would have been obvious to Matthew's first audience.
Most scholars think that Matthew's Gospel was written primarily for Jewish Christians. Those Jewish Christians would have learned Hebrew as part of their education: it was essential to be able to read the Scriptures in the original.
Just as the Romans and the Greeks did, Hebrew uses letters to represent numbers. (For example, in Roman numerals we write the year 2005 as MMV.)
It was common to take the numerical values of the letters in a name and add them up, coming up with a number that was supposed to have mystical or symbolic significance.
Hebrew has no letters for vowels, so the name David is spelled daleth-vau-daleth (DVD).
In Hebrew numerals the letter daleth (D) stands for 4, and the letter vau(V) stands for 6.
Numerically, then, David's name is 4 + 6 + 4, or fourteen.
In other words, when Matthew divides the genealogy into three groups of fourteen generations, he numerically repeats David's name a perfectly complete three times. Matthew is showing us that Jesus is the perfect Son of David, in whom all the promises God made to David are completed.
For Matthew, history falls into three important periods:
from Abraham to David;
from David to the Babylonian exile;
from the Babylonian exile to the Messiah (see Matthew 1:17).
Another historian might have thought that the restoration of
Why would Matthew see it that way?
First of all, we should remember that only a tiny remnant of
At the time of the Exile, other refugees had made their way to
And, of course, the northern kingdom of
Some remnants of the northern tribes remained: Zebulun and Naphtali, the first to be conquered, had not been entirely displaced, and we read that the prophetess Anna was of the tribe of Asher (see Luke 2:36). But most of northern
So most of the original twelve tribes were lost completely; and even of those that could be accounted for, most lived outside the Promised Land.
Yet the prophets, as we saw in the previous lesson, had promised that all the descendants of
And along with that incredible promise came the even more incredible promise that the
"Thus says the LORD: If you can break my covenant with day, and my covenant with night, so that day and night no longer alternate in sequence, then can my covenant with my servant David also be broken" (see Jeremiah 33:19-21).
Even after the
This promise was not fulfilled when
In fact, the promise seemed impossible. How could all the tribes ever be reunited? The northern tribes had been so thoroughly scattered and mixed up with other nations that they had lost all memory of being descendants of
John the Baptist was a popular and successful preacher who lived in the wilderness and called the people to repentance. As a sign of their repentance, he baptized them - that is, gave them a ceremonial washing - in the river
All kinds of people came in crowds to be baptized by John. But one of those people was a surprise to John. It was John's own cousin Jesus.
"Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the
Jesus' response is a little hard to understand. What did He mean when He said, "it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness"?
Even though Jesus had no sin himself, it was necessary for Him to be identified with sinners.
But John the Baptist was a Levite and a prophet, and his baptizing Jesus had another ceremonial significance.
All the kings of the house of David were anointed by Levite priests, and often those priests were known as prophets as well. David himself was anointed by Samuel (see 1 Samuel 16:13), a Levite priest and one of the most illustrious prophets of the Old Testament. Saul, who was king before David, had also been anointed by Samuel.
The anointing was done by pouring oil on the head of the anointed one. The effect that followed the anointing was the coming of the Spirit of the Lord:
When the king had been anointed that way, he was known as the Lord's Anointed One.
Even Saul, wicked though he was in his later years, was still the Lord's Anointed in David's eyes. In spite of years of civil war between Saul and David, when David had a chance to kill Saul, he refused.
"He said to his men, 'The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the LORD'S anointed, as to lay a hand on him, for he is the Lord's anointed' " (see 1 Samuel 24:7).
The Hebrew word for "Anointed One" is "Messiah." The Greek translation is "Christ."
In other words, every king in David's line was the Christ, the Anointed One.
David and all the kings of his line were given an extraordinary promise by God: "I will be a Father to him and he shall be a son to Me" (see 2 Samuel 7:14).
As we saw in the first lesson in this series, this is the first time in Scripture that the idea of divine sonship is applied to one individual. While God had referred to
Psalm 2 puts the promise in poetic form:
"I will proclaim the decree of the LORD, who said to me, 'You are my son; today I am your father. Only ask it of me, and I will make your inheritance the nations, your possession the ends of the earth' “(see Psalm 2:7).
Not only is the Lord's Anointed, promised that he will be Son of God, but he also has all nations to "the ends of the earth" for his inheritance.
Jesus Anointed in the
Matthew has already shown us that Jesus was the perfect Son of David, the heir to the
David and the kings that followed him were anointed by Levites. Jesus was baptized in the
When an Old Testament king was anointed, "the spirit of the LORD rushed upon" that king (see 1 Samuel 16:13).
"After Jesus was baptized, he came up from the water and behold, the heavens were opened (for him), and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove (and) coming upon him (see Matthew 3:16).
David and the kings of his line were also were adopted as sons of God: God promised them that He would be their father.
When Jesus was baptized, a voice from heaven made the same proclamation about Him: "And a voice came from the heavens, saying, 'This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased' " (see Matthew 3:17).
All the familiar images of the Davidic king from the Old Testament come back at once in the story of Jesus' baptism. Matthew shows us that Jesus is not simply being washed in the river: He is being anointed by a Levite prophet.
Jesus is the Lord's Anointed, the Son of God - the titles that by God's unalterable promise belong to the Son of David who reigns as King of Israel.
What will this new kingdom be like?
Jesus gave his followers a good citizens' manual for life in the Kingdom. We know it as the Sermon on the Mount, the longest continuous collection of Jesus' sayings in the Bible. It stretches across three chapters, from Matthew 5:3 to Matthew 7:27.
The whole sermon begins with the kingdom:
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (see Matthew 5:3).
The poor, the mourners, the meek, the seekers of righteousness, the merciful, the pure, the peacemakers, and the persecuted - these are the people to whom the kingdom belongs (see Matthew 5:3 to 5:11).
The kingdom is also rooted in the Old Testament. "Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven" (see Matthew 5:19).
But the true citizen of the kingdom is held to an even higher standard than the law of the Old Testament. The spirit of the law, not the letter, is the guiding principle (see Matthew 5:21 to 5:48, and compare Jeremiah 31:33-34).
In this world's kingdoms, the rich and powerful rule. But the poor and forgotten will inherit the new kingdom of the Son of David.
Having started his Gospel by showing us that Jesus is the perfect Son of David, Matthew uses that title for Jesus more than any of the other Gospel writers. Usually it comes from bystanders who address Jesus as "Son of David," and almost always those bystanders are hoping for miraculous healing.
"And as Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed (him), crying out, 'Son of David, have pity on us!' "(see Matthew 9:27). The blind men call on the Son of David, and because of their faith they receive their sight.
"Then they brought to him a demoniac who was blind and mute. He cured the mute person so that he could speak and see. All the crowd was astounded, and said, 'Could this perhaps be the Son of David?' “(seeMatthew 12:22-23). Here it is the miraculous healing that causes the crowd to suspect they might be seeing the promised Son of David.
"And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out, 'Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon' " (see Matthew 15:22). In this case, a non-Israelite - a descendant of the hated Canaanites who were always leading
The emphasis on healing is not surprising. The prophets had foretold that no one would be sick in the time of the Messiah.
"No one who dwells there will say, 'I am sick'; the people who live there will be forgiven their guilt" (see Isaiah 33:24).
Matthew shows us that Israelites and Gentiles alike recognized Jesus as the Son of David foretold in the prophets.
So what do we do to get ready for the new kingdom?
When John the Baptist preached, his main theme was this: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!" (see Matthew 3:2).
When Jesus first began to preach in public, his message was exactly the same (see Matthew 4:17).
When Jesus sent the Twelve out to preach, he gave them the same message again (see Matthew 10:7).
The most important thing for followers of Jesus' way to know is how to prepare for living in the
All the promises to the Son of David are finally fulfilled after Jesus has risen from the dead.
"All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me," Jesus told his disciples (see Matthew 28:18). We recall the promise in Psalm 2:8: "I will make your inheritance the nations, your possession the ends of the earth" - a promise now finally fulfilled.
Matthew recalls it, too. The last words of Jesus that he records are these:
"Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age" (see Matthew 28:19-20).
As followers of the Son of David, we share in the responsibility for His kingdom. We have the duty to help extend it to "the ends of the earth." And we have our King's promise that the kingdom will endure forever.
In Matthew's genealogy of Jesus Christ, how many divisions does he make in the list? How many generations in each division
How are these numbers significant
In Matthew's division of history, when does the Babylonian Exile end?
According to the prophets (Jeremiah, for example), when would the covenant with David be broken?
What ceremony marked the beginning of the rule of a king of the house of David?
What spiritual effect did this ceremony have?
What equivalent ceremony did Jesus undergo? How was it equivalent?
According to Christ's teaching, what kinds of people will inherit His kingdom?
What is the most important thing we can do to prepare for the coming of Christ's kingdom?
For personal reflection:
Are you ready for the coming of the kingdom? What would it mean to be "poor in spirit" in the everyday life of today's world?