Israel demanded a king, but their royal rulers diminished after only four generations, as we read in my last post. After Solomon’s son Rehoboam, Israel was snatched up by the Assyrians and Babylonians. What happened between the end of Israel’s monarchs and the coming of their true king?
The Psalms Point to the Shepherd
The Psalms of royal idealization do not present prophetic condemnations. Rather they offer a call to Israel’s kings to measure up to the hope and promise of their Davidic origin. They clearly and repeatedly point to one who will fulfill the promise, of one who will suffer for/with his people, and will be their shepherd.
The depression, sorrow, and bewilderment, seen in the reflection of Psalm 89 on the failure of the ideal king serve to confirm the prophetic word prior to the people’s relinquishment of their own direct relationship with God in order to get a king “to fight our battles.”
Prophets Herald a New Kind of Leader
Isaiah, a premier representative of the early (8th century) writing prophets, emphasizes God as king and the coming one as his ideal ruler in light of the failure of the Davidic monarchy and the capital city with its complement of officials, bureaucrats, and political entrepreneurs.
Hosea echoes the theme by harking back to the very beginning of the monarchical regime in Israel. Micah recognizes the need for a remedy and looks to the future.
Jeremiah and Ezekiel, during the Babylonian crisis, agree that there is no hope for the Davidic line of their time. Ezekiel is given a vision of an ideal Temple and rule to come where the “prince” will no longer cheat the people in the marketplace or steal their land. Both agree that a new kind of leader, a new people under a new covenant, and a new Jerusalem are needed.
Daniel Predicts the Fall of Pagan Governments
In contrast to the foregoing descriptions, Daniel is given visions of the “beast”-ly nature of pagan rule and its ultimate doom at the hands of God’s chosen. At this point, Daniel has already interpreted a “word” from God to Nebuchadnezzar through a dream. The word predicted the descent of the monarch into a beastly state because he would not give glory to the God of Israel for having put him on the throne of Babylon. Such an assessment of pagan governments is common to the prophets.
Israel, from Abraham’s day forward, has always found itself in juxtaposition to incipient and overpowering empires as well as petty kings. The unique character of the Hebrew Scriptures is that they unrelentingly concentrate on Israel’s failure to live up to the call and mission she has been given to exhibit justice/righteousness to the nations.
A New King
The prophets longed for Israel’s one true king, their shepherd, their leader to fight their battles. And he is about to enter the scene. We will examine Jesus Christ’s coming and his kingdom in a future post.
Editor’s Note: This article was adapted from the IFWE research paper, God and Government: A Biblical Perspective (The Bible and Limited Government) by Dr. Tom Pratt. Read the full paper here.