David's Kingdom Falling Down, Falling Down, Falling Down...
Editor's Note: Apologist Jacob Michael presents a succinct Catholic Apologetic based on the Holy Scriptures. He has chosen to call his column Quid Dicit Scriptura? - What Saith the Scriptures? He utilizes the approved and superior Douay-Rheims Roman Catholic version in his apologia and holds to the Council of Trent's decree to "accept Sacred Scripture according to the meaning which has been held by Holy Mother Church and which She now holds. It is Her prerogative to pass judgment on the true meaning and interpretation of Sacrd Scripture and will not accept or interpret it in a manner different from the unanimous agreement of the Fathers." Jacob continues with the second installment of a multi-part treatise on the meaning of the Gospel as the title indicates - "The Gospel is the Kingdom."
Some passages below are highlighted in blue bold for emphasis.
Near the end of his reign, Solomon had grown oppressive and greedy, imposing a "heavy yoke" on his subjects. When his son took the throne, the first thing the citizens of the kingdom wanted to know was, "are you going to be any different?" In 3 Kings 12, we read the story:
And they sent and called him: and Jeroboam came, and all the multitude of Israel, and they spoke to Roboam, saying: Thy father laid a grievous yoke upon us: now, therefore, do thou take off a little of the grievous service of thy father, and of his most heavy yoke, which he put upon us, and we will serve thee. (3 Kings 12:3-4)
Roboam responded to this by seeking counsel, first from his father's advisors, then from his own friends. The older advisors wisely told him to lighten the load if he wanted to keep the kingdom intact. But his younger advisors pushed him to increase the load on his subjects. We read what happened next:
And the king answered the people roughly, leaving the counsel of the old men, which they had given him, and he spoke to them according to the counsel of the young men, saying: My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to your yoke: My father beat you with whips, but I will beat you with scorpions. (3 Kings 12:13-14)
Predictably, the people did not respond favorably. In fact, they revolted completely, and the ten northern tribes seceded from the kingdom, leaving only the tribes of Judah and Benjamin remaining in the Davidic Kingdom (vs. 16-17). Jeroboam, who had been employed in Solomon's royal cabinet, became the king over the ten northern tribes (this very thing had been prophesied in 3 Kings 11:28-39). Thus began a terrible civil - if cold - war, a rift among brothers - the sons of Jacob - a rift that remained unhealed all the way up to the birth and life of Jesus.
After the initial rupture, things got worse, and very quickly. No sooner had the northern tribes rebelled than they snuffed out their light to the nations. The new king, Jeroboam, reasoning in his mind that, if his northern subjects continued to go down to Jerusalem to worship, they would soon soften towards Roboam and turn on their new king, decided to head them off at the pass:
And finding out a device, he made two golden calves, and said to them: Go ye up no more to Jerusalem: Behold thy gods, O Israel, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt. And he set the one in Bethel, and the other in Dan: And this thing became an occasion of sin: for the people went to adore the calf as far as Dan. And he made temples in the high places, and priests of the lowest of the people, who were not of the sons of Levi. And he appointed a feast in the eighth month, on the fifteenth day of the month, after the manner of the feast that was celebrated in Juda. And going up to the altar, he did in like manner in Bethel, to sacrifice to the calves, which he had made: and he placed in Bethel priests of the high places, which he had made. (3 Kings 12:28-33)
Thus began a long and sustained descent into spiritual harlotry for Israel (the northern tribes, as opposed to Judah, the southern tribes), and it soon became clear that, no matter how many prophets God sent to the northern tribes, they were not going to repent until they were punished. And so punish them He did, with the Assyrians as His rod (in 722 BC), who sent them into exile, never to return. When they did return to their land, it was as Samaritans, half-breeds without pure Israelite blood in them.
You see, some tyrants try to erase a nation from the face of the earth by pure bloodshed: simply exterminate them all. Other tyrants, like the Assyrians, knew that it was much easier to blot a nation off the face of the earth by merely killing off the males, taking the females as wives, and ensuring that within a few generations the blood-lines will be wholly distorted.
Meanwhile, the southern kingdom did not fare much better, and the rest of the books of 3 and 4 Kings tell the sad tale of king after king in the Davidic line who displeased the Lord with his evil ways:
Now in the eighteenth year of the reign of Jeroboam, the son of Nabat, Abiam reigned over Juda. He reigned three years in Jerusalem: the name of his mother was Maacha, the daughter of Abessalom. And he walked in all the sins of his father, which he had done before him: and his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God, as was the heart of David, his father. (3 Kings 15:1-3)
In the fifth year of Joram, son of Achab, king of Israel, and of Josaphat, king of Juda, reigned Joram, son of Josaphat, king of Juda. He was two and thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eight years in Jerusalem. And he walked in the ways of the kings of Israel, as the house of Achab had walked: for the daughter of Achab was his wife: and he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord. (4 Kings 8:16-18)
In the twelfth year of Joram, the son of Achab, king of Israel, reigned Ochozias, son of Joram, king of Juda. Ochozias was two and twenty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned one year in Jerusalem: the name of his mother was Athalia the daughter of Amri king of Israel. And he walked in the ways of the house of Achab: and he did evil before the Lord, as did the house of Achab: for he was the son in law of the house of Achab. (4 Kings 8:25-27)
In the seventeenth year of Phacee, the son of Romelia reigned Achaz, the son of Joatham, king of Juda. Achaz was twenty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem: he did not that which was pleasing in the sight of the Lord, his God, as David, his father. But he walked in the way of the kings of Israel: moreover, he consecrated also his son, making him pass through the fire, according to the idols of the nations which the Lord destroyed before the children of Israel. He sacrificed also, and burnt incense in the high places, and on the hills, and under every green tree. (4 Kings 16:1-4)
Manasses was twelve years old when he began to reign, and he reigned five and fifty years in Jerusalem: the name of his mother was Haphsiba. And he did evil in the sight of the Lord, according to the idols of the nations, which the Lord destroyed from before the face of the children of Israel. And he turned, and built up the high places, which Ezechias, his father, had destroyed: and he set up altars to Baal, and made groves, as Achab, the king of Israel, had done: and he adored all the host of heaven, and served them. And he built altars in the house of the Lord, of which the Lord said: In Jerusalem I will put my name. And he built altars for all the host of heaven, in the two courts of the temple of the Lord. And he made his son pass through fire: and he used divinations, and observed omens, and appointed pythons, and multiplied soothsayers, to do evil before the Lord, and to provoke him. (4 Kings 21:1-6)
Two and twenty years old was Amon when he began to reign, and he reigned two years in Jerusalem: the name of his mother was Messalemeth, the daughter of Harus, of Jeteba. And he did evil in the sight of the Lord, as Manasses, his father, had done. And he walked in all the way in which his father had walked: and he served the abominations which his father had served, and he adored them. And forsook the Lord, the God of his fathers, and walked not in the way of the Lord. (4 Kings 21:19-22)
As can be seen, the Davidic kings grew progressively worse, until finally, in the reign of Joakim (who also "did evil in the sight of the Lord," see 4 Kings 23:36-37), God put an end to the wickedness by sending the king of Bablyon in to conquer Jerusalem in 586 BC. Sedecias ascended to the throne, rebelled against the Babylonian king, and was promptly punished. 4 Kings 25:1-6 tells the story of how Sedecias was captured, made to watch as all his sons were slaughtered in front of him, and then had his eyes gouged out. Not a pretty ending to the Davidic dynasty.
From that point on, Judah lived under the rule of various nations. Bablyon first, then Persia, then Greece, and finally, Rome. This was the scenario into which Jesus was born. There had been no Davidic king on the throne for some 500 years. But there was still God's covenant promise to David, that David's sons would always sit on the throne, and through those years of exile, the prophets continually reminded the people of this.
It is here that we approach the heart of my argument. The prophets foretold that a Messiah - which, remember, was a term for the anointed king - would soon come and deliver his people. They foretold that God would remember His covenant with David and would restore the kingdom, that the Law for Man would once again come out of Jerusalem, and that the nations would once again stream to the Holy City to learn the ways of Wisdom and Righteousness.
This is where, shockingly enough, we find very little of the kind of "gospel" that is so well known to American Christianity today. There is very little in the prophets to point us to a "personal relationship with Jesus," although that certainly is part of it. There are many clues as to the Messiah's nature as a suffering servant, and His crucifixion is foretold in many ways, but this is not the central theme of the prophets. Rather, they serve as clues to help identify the Messiah, who, as the focus of His mission, would restore David's kingdom to its former glory. Let us examine a few of these prophets, and see for ourselves the basic sketch of the gospel (lit., "good news") presented by them:
We begin with the prophet Isaiah:
And in the last days the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be prepared on the top of mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go, and say: Come and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob, and he will teach us his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall come forth from Sion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. (Is. 2:2-3)
In this passage we see a prophesied restoration of "the way things used to be," or at the very least, "the way things should have been." In the "last days," as it should have been (and was, for a time) in the former days, "all nations shall flow" to Mount Sion in Jerusalem, and "the law shall come forth from Sion."
For a CHILD IS BORN to us, and a son is given to us, and the government is upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, God the Mighty, the Father of the world to come, the Prince of Peace. His empire shall be multiplied, and there shall be no end of peace: he shall sit upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom; to establish it and strengthen it with judgment and with justice, from henceforth and for ever: the zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this. (Is. 9:6-7)
This text has long been recognized as an explicitly Messianic prophecy. Notice that the Messiah will be the "Prince of Peace," just as Solomon was. He will reign "upon the throne of David," and unlike the former Davidic dynasty which crumbled after a mere 80 years or so, "His empire shall be multiplied... he shall... establish it and strengthen it with judgment and with justice, from henceforth and forever." God will fulfill His covenant promise to David.
In that day the root of Jesse, who standeth for an ensign of the people, him the Gentiles shall beseech, and his sepulchre shall be glorious. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand the second time to possess the remnant of his people, which shall be left from the Assyrians, and from Egypt, and from Phetros, and from Ethiopia, and from Elam, and from Sennaar, and from Emath, and from the islands of the sea. And he shall set up a standard unto the nations, and shall assemble the fugitives of Israel, and shall gather together the dispersed of Juda from the four quarters of the earth. (Is. 11:10-12)
Here, Isaiah speaks of "the root of Jesse" (a reference to Jesus), and promises that all of those who were exiled will be gathered ("from the Assyrians, and from Egypt, and from Phetros, and from Ethiopia, and from Elam, and from Sennaar, and from Emath, and from the islands of the sea"). Notice also that both sections of the divided kingdom are mentioned, "he... shall assemble the fugitives of Israel, and shall gather together the dispersed of Juda." This is undoubtedly a double-edged promise: not only will the two divisions of the kingdom be restored from exile, but they will also be reunited, as they were under Solomon. This full restoration is at the heart of the Messiah's mission.
My fugitives shall dwell with thee: O Moab, be thou a covert to them from the face of the destroyer: for the dust is at an end, the wretch is consumed: he hath failed, that trod the earth under foot. And a throne shall be prepared in mercy, and one shall sit upon it in truth in the tabernacle of David, judging and seeking judgment and quickly rendering that which is just. (Is. 16:4-5)
Notice again the distinctly Davidic flavor of these prophecies. A throne will be established "in the tabernacle of David."
And the moon shall blush, and the sun shall be ashamed, when the Lord of hosts shall reign in mount Sion, and in Jerusalem, and shall be glorified in the sight of his ancients. (Is. 24:23)
Again, not only does the prophet say that "the Lord of hosts shall reign," but specifically that He will reign "in mount Sion, and in Jerusalem." Again and again the prophecies return to this Davidic theme, the Davidic Kingdom, Jerusalem, Mount Sion, etc.
And it shall come to pass, that in that day a noise shall be made with a great trumpet, and they that were lost, shall come from the land of the Assyrians, and they that were outcasts in the land of Egypt, and they shall adore the Lord in the holy mount in Jerusalem. (Is. 27:13)
Take note: the survivors of the exiles, both northern and southern, will return to "adore the Lord," not just any old place, but "in the holy mount in Jerusalem." Here again we see a double-promise: the exiles will return, and the kingdom, north and south, will be reunited as it was in Solomon's day.
And now saith the Lord, that formed me from the womb to be his servant, that I may bring back Jacob unto him, and Israel will not be gathered together: and I am glorified in the eyes of the Lord, and my God is made my strength. And he said: It is a small thing that thou shouldst be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to convert the dregs of Israel. Behold, I have given thee to be the light of the Gentiles, that thou mayst be my salvation even to the farthest part of the earth. Thus saith the Lord the redeemer of Israel, his Holy One, to the soul that is despised, to the nation that is abhorred, to the servant of rulers: Kings shall see, and princes shall rise up, and adore for the Lordís sake, because he is faithful, and for the Holy One of Israel, who hath chosen thee. Thus saith the Lord: In an acceptable time I have heard thee, and in the day of salvation I have helped thee: and I have preserved thee, and given thee to be a covenant of the people, that thou mightest raise up the earth, and possess the inheritances that were destroyed. (Is. 49:5-8)
Here is yet another facet to the mission of the Messiah: not only will the exiles return, and not only will the kingdom be reunited, but "I have given thee to be the light of the Gentiles." In the New Covenant, as was partially fulfilled for a time during Solomon's reign, the Gentile nations will stream to Jerusalem and learn the Lord's Wisdom through the Davidic Kingdom. But, in order for there to be any hope at all for the Gentiles, there must be a Davidic Kingdom through which the light will shine, and in order for that to happen, the kingdom must be restored. We begin to see now how the restoration of the kingdom is truly central to the gospel of the New Covenant!
Incline your ear and come to me: hear and your soul shall live, and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, the faithful mercies of David. Behold I have given him for a witness to the people, for a leader and a master to the Gentiles. Behold thou shalt call a nation, which thou knewest not: and the nations that knew not thee shall run to thee, because of the Lord thy God, and for the Holy One of Israel, for he hath glorified thee. (Is. 55:3-5)
This prophecy speaks specifically of the Lord's intent to keep His covenant with David. As with the other prophecies, mention is made yet again of the Kingdom's role in drawing the nations to God: "nations that knew not thee shall run to thee." This is said again even more explicitly in this passage:
And the Gentiles shall walk in thy light, and kings in the brightness of thy rising... And the children of them that afflict thee, shall come bowing down to thee, and all that slandered thee shall worship the steps of thy feet, and shall call thee the city of the Lord, the Sion of the Holy One of Israel. (Is. 60:3, 14)
Isaiah goes on in this manner in chapter after chapter. To spare you a bit of redundancy, we will move on to the other prophets, with the recommendation to also look up Is. 51:3, 11; Is. 52:7-8; Is. 54:5-7; Is. 61:4; Is. 62:2, 6-7; Is. 65:8-9; Is. 66:7-8, 18. From Isaiah, we move on to the prophet Jeremiah:
Return, O ye revolting children, saith the Lord: for I am your I husband: and I will take you, one of a city, and two of a kindred, and will bring you into Sion... At that time Jerusalem shall be called the throne of the Lord: and all the nations shall be gathered together to it, in the name of the Lord to Jerusalem, and they shall not walk after the perversity of their most wicked heart. In those days the house of Juda shall go to the house of Israel, and they shall come together out of the land of the north to the land which I gave to your fathers. (Jer. 3:14, 17-18)
Therefore behold the days come, saith the Lord, when it shall be said no more: The Lord liveth, that brought forth the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt. But, The Lord liveth, that brought the children of Israel out of the land of the north, and out of all the lands to which I cast them out: and I will bring them again into their land, which I gave to their fathers. (Jer. 16:14-15)
The message of Jeremiah is the same as that of Isaiah: "I... will bring you into Sion," "all the nations shall be gathered together to [Jerusalem]," "the house of Juda shall go to the house of Israel," and "I will bring them again into their land." All of the elements are here: the return of the exiles to their land, the reunification of the northern and southern tribes as one Kingdom, and the Gentile nations learning the "Law for Man" from the Davidic King. The same is promised in Jer. 17:24-25. Later, we read:
And I will gather together the remnant of my flock, out of all the lands into which I have cast them out: and I will make them return to their own fields, and they shall increase and be multiplied. And I will set up pastors over them, and they shall feed them: they shall fear no more, and they shall not be dismayed: and none shall be wanting of their number, saith the Lord. Behold the days come, saith the Lord, and I will raise up to David a just branch: and a king shall reign, and shall be wise: and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In those days shall Juda be saved, and Israel shall dwell confidently: and this is the name that they shall call him: The Lord our just one. Therefore behold the days come, saith the Lord, and they shall say no more: The Lord liveth, who brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt: But, The Lord liveth, who hath brought out, and brought hither the seed of the house of Israel from the land of the north, and out of all the lands, to which I had cast them forth: and they shall dwell in their own land. (Jer. 23:3-8)
Notice again the key points: "I will gather together the remnant of my flock, out of all the lands," and a "just branch" from the Davidic line "shall reign." The centrality of the Davidic Kingdom in the New Covenant is hammered home again and again and again, in quite an explicit fashion. See also Jer. 30:8-9, 18 and Jer. 33:14-26 for further confirmation of these same promises. The latter of these passages (Jer. 33:14-26) hints at something even more interesting to the Catholic student, for it says, as the other prophets said, "There shall not be cut off from David a man to sit upon the throne," but in addition to this, it says, "Neither shall there be cut off from the priests and Levites a man before my face to offer holocausts, and to burn sacrifices, and to kill victims continually." This promise of "Levites" in the New Covenant is echoed by Isaiah:
And they shall bring all your brethren out of all nations for a gift to the Lord, upon horses, and in chariots, and in litters, and on mules, and in coaches, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, saith the Lord, as if the children of Israel should bring an offering in a clean vessel into the house of the Lord. And I will take of them to be priests, and Levites, saith the Lord. (Is. 66:20-21)
This is quite a devastating fact for Protestant sects, who have no ministerial priesthood to offer sacrifices. They explicitly reject such a notion, claiming instead that the only priesthood in the New Covenant is the universal "priesthood of all believers," and thus they condemn themselves, for their sects do not fulfill these prophecies.
The Prophets Persist
If you want to ask Jacob a question, you can e-mail him at email@example.com and we encourage you to visit his site A Lumen Gentleman - Lumen Gentleman Apologetics.