EDITOR’S NOTE: This groundbreaking series is being offered in celebration of a previously top-secret project and now unprecedented new 3-Volume book series (over 10-years in the making) from best-selling scholar Dr. Thomas Horn and biblical history and theology majors Donna Howell and Allie Anderson: THE MYSTERY OF JESUS FROM GENESIS TO REVELATION—YESTERDAY, TODAY, AND TOMORROW
The two-volume books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles track the history of Israel from the time of the service of Samuel the prophet through the age of kings and onward through the exiles (the Babylonian and Assyrian exiles; the point when Israel fell into the hands of captors and was no longer a united nation or kingdom). Because these books streamline into one longer story, they are grouped together here. However, here is a snapshot of the focus of each one:
- 1 Samuel: Israel demands the installation of a king, an idea that turns out to be just as bad as God said it would.
- 2 Samuel: David, a crucial character in the history of God’s messianic promises, rules over Israel, setting the standard of the ideal king.
- 1 Kings: David’s son, Solomon, takes the throne, and Israel enjoys a time of prosperity and peace, but it doesn’t last long; the nation splits into two kingdoms: Northern and Southern.
- 2 Kings: Israel refuses to listen to God and ignores the warnings of His prophets, which leads to the exiles.
- 1 Chronicles: From Adam to David, this book starts at the beginning and covers again the history of Israel, spending nine chapters outlining genealogies.
- 2 Chronicles: During Solomon’s reign, the Temple is built, but because of Israel’s unfaithfulness, the Temple is destroyed and the people are exiled.
Why do 1 and 2 Chronicles simply rehash what has already been described in more detail in the books preceding the accounts of the exiles? The short answer is that the approach and purpose are different. The information recorded in 1 Samuel through 2 Kings was written while Israel was approaching and facing the exiles, with a focus on the despair that results from disobedience to God, while 1 and 2 Chronicles were written while Israel was recovering from the exile with a focus on God’s grace and the faithful restoration that results from obedience to God. Unlike other history books that simply tell “what happened,” one major goal of the Chronicles is to use the histories of the Old Testament up to the exile in such a way as to revitalize hope for Israel’s future and tell “what should happen now.” By using the nation’s brightest moments as models of ideal servitude to God and the nation’s lowest moments as warnings to help keep folks in line, the generations of God’s people following the writing of these books would have a picture to compare to as they move forward in their faith, awaiting the king promised to one day come through the line of David. It’s the CliffsNotes, or study guide, of the prior books, so to speak. Therefore, in a way, it resembles an ancient commentary that also happened to be included in the canon.
Many are familiar with most of what’s covered in these books, but like many biblical narratives, the robust tension within the text is often overlooked by those who believe they’ve heard it all before. In order to see—no, in order to feel—the Christ of the Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles books, let’s see if we can bring a certain scene to life…
You know that moment at a public gathering when one person starts to chant something rhythmic and everyone else shortly joins in? Sometimes, the message is obvious. If you’re waiting for a Michael W. Smith concert to start and people start chanting, “We want Michael! We want Michael!” you know exactly who the people want to see and what he’s going to bring to the stage. In the fun of the moment, you might join the chorus as well. But common sense recognizes that if a group starts demanding something you don’t fully understand, joining in is foolish.
Here’s an illustration. Donna Howell was walking with her husband, James, along a street in Branson, Missouri, recently when they heard a group around the corner from them shouting something that sounded like “All wives matter, too! All wives matter, too!” The Howells needed to get to a destination beyond the crowd, and they were in a hurry, so they reluctantly proceeded on their route, which took them in the direction of the outcries. They simply hoped they wouldn’t be delayed by whatever was going on. At first, Donna thought it was probably a social or political demonstration by what sounded to be a female group, but after the group came into closer view, they saw a few animated men pumping signs in the air and making eye contact with uncomfortable passersby who tried to avoid them at the major crosswalk. A step even closer and some lip-reading revealed that the crowd wasn’t saying “wives”—despite a distinct “w” sound—but “lives”: “All lives matter, too.” Then, a few of the activists saw the Howells coming and turned their signs toward them. The posters of unborn babies with words scrawled across the top brought clarification, and the message now became clear: “Small lives matter, too.”
It was a pro-life demonstration.
Until that moment, as far as the Howells could tell, this group of folks could have been communicating their views on anything from battered wives, feminism, racial equality, domestic violence against children, or abortion to any of several other sociopolitical possibilities. It would be more than silly if a person some distance away heard the voices and started chanting in support for “wives” because he or she hadn’t investigated the demonstration more carefully. From a “fools rush in” standpoint, even if a person heard the words correctly, joining in on the demands of the crowd would still be ill-advised if a person didn’t know: 1) where the group had come from; 2) who they were and what they stood for in other important, related areas of belief; 3) how they arrived at the conclusions they were presenting at the street corner; and 4) what the long-term effects upon the community would be if the demonstration succeeded in provoking societal change.
Generally speaking, if we don’t know all the layers behind what we’re supporting—if we haven’t thought it through—prudence is wise. Otherwise, we could find ourselves making demands that, once satisfied, become costly.
Such a thought was amusing to Donna as she and James crossed the street. That’s kinda what Israel did in First Samuel, Donna thought. They had no idea what they were petitioning for.
As stated before, a judge in ancient Israel was appointed by God, Himself, and became the conduit through whom He iterated His divine will for the people. Essentially, though God’s will was spoken through a human, the authority on all earthly matters as it was delivered by the judges was the Lord’s. This is true whether or not it was followed perfectly by Israel, and regardless of the imperfection of the human vehicle through which God’s directives were driven. The emphasis here is that only God, Himself—not voting campaigns or one’s bloodline—designated the authorities; every order of the judge was from God. This type of “rule,” if you want to call it that, wasn’t the same as the governments of Israel’s neighbors.
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Breaking from this divine-appointment tradition, Judge Samuel decided to appoint his own sons as judges (1 Samuel 8:1). Because this wasn’t typically allowed, it has long been a subject for scholarly speculation. Some sources, like the Faithlife Study Bible of Logos Software, say that Samuel knew he wasn’t supposed to take this liberty but did anyway, which makes it “unsurprising that this move was not successful.”[i] Others say he didn’t intend for his sons to be “supreme” judges, because Samuel held that office his whole life (1 Samuel 7:15); they suggest instead, he simply meant to have his sons’ help as “deputies,” of sorts, who would report to him before finalizing any decisions.[ii] Whatever his reason, it didn’t work out well. Samuel’s sons did not inherit their dad’s pious nature, and, like other wicked leaders of Israel’s past, they perverted judgment and corrupted their positions of power for the sake of lining their pockets with gold (1 Samuel 8:3). This is the backdrop for the launch of 1 Samuel’s meaty parts.
Israel then demanded the installation of a king—not God, not another judge, not a brilliant prophet who could utter the mysteries of God and offer guidance…they insisted upon having a king, a regular, human man who would sit on a literal throne and lead Israel the way the pagan nations around them did it.
Imagine what this moment would be like today. If you close your eyes and listen hard enough in your imagination, you can hear the crowd of demonstrators rising up from the elders of Israel in 1 Samuel 8:5 shouting, “We want a king! Give us a king!” You can kinda see the picket signs arriving throughout—pumping demands for a human royal the people can see and speak to in person because judges are “old news” and God is incorporeal—as the elders holler their petition: “We want a king! Give us a king!” First peppered here and there, then arriving in droves, signs and voices crunch inward against Samuel, all insisting that he step aside, forget about his sons, and put a king in charge of their holy nation. Never before has a king sat over God’s people, but the folks in neighboring countries are doing it, so it must be a grand idea (good grief…), and it is now Samuel’s job to see to the inauguration of the first crown.
We can imagine Samuel’s hasty response: “No, hang on! You don’t understand! You don’t know what you’re asking for! A king sounds good to you, but you don’t comprehend the fullness of your demand. You’re joining the chant and waving the signs, but you don’t know—you can’t know—what this will do to your families, your land, your national identity under God!”
We don’t know, of course, Samuel’s immediate response to the demands—as the Bible only states he was very upset and went to the Lord with his concerns (1 Samuel 8:6), but we do know God gave Samuel ample warnings to take back to the people.
Generally, Samuel says in his demoralizing conclusion, the king will see that everyone not covered on the list up to this point will be socially and politically enslaved. The people will cry out to the Lord with complaints about all this horrible dictator has done to them, but the Lord will not answer them in that day, because it’s what they petitioned for—what they demanded—and they wouldn’t listen to reason (1 Samuel 8:10–18).
Keep that image of the picketing elders in your mind and consider the Israelites’ response to such a strong warning:
Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, “Nay; but we will have a king over us; That we also may be like all the [pagan] nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles.”
And Samuel heard all the words of the people, and he rehearsed them in the ears of the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, “Hearken unto their voice, and make them a king.” (1 Samuel 8:19–22a)
In other words, God said, “You may as well just give them what they asked for.” Once digested, you can’t put potato chips back in the bag. Some decisions are irreversible. The Israelites got themselves a king, and this system of monarchy wouldn’t easily come to an end. Israel was about to find out that you can’t simply ask kings to step down so the nation can reinstate judges or prophets like the good ol’ days. The former system wasn’t broken, therefore didn’t need fixing, but they “fixed” it anyway and ushered in a new era of leadership that, regardless of its success in the neighboring countries, would not function well for Israel.
Furthermore, God said, it wasn’t that the request for a king was inherently wrong. It was an issue of internal attitude and heart. To ask that one man in Israel be given the same power as the foreign kings, with the intent that he would use that power to lead righteously under Yahweh’s moral codes, could have meant that the installation of kings resulted in strengthening the judicial, political, and social climates throughout the tribes. But righteousness and pleasing Yahweh was not the motive behind this king-installation maneuver, which was what made it wrong. God privately shared with Samuel that the internal motive was truly to reject God as King (1 Samuel 8:7–8). The goal of the majority, scholars believe, was to forsake their theocratic and monotheistic government and bring in a human leader who would loosen their moral obligation to the Mosaic Law, forget about the stringent priestly functions that had been such a fundamental part of their daily lives, bring in the blessings of other gods, and act as a military leader who would see to the protection of the people and their land.[iii] At no point can we feasibly determine that Israel demanded a king because they wanted to strengthen their bond with God. No. Israel saw a human king as a means of booting God from His rightful place as the Leader they already had and raising up a progressive leader who would replace the old ways with a system they believed to be superior and more promising under the gods of a pagan world.
In short, they wanted a “king” to replace the “King.” Their ideas were better than God’s…they thought. God saw this, and it appears that He and Samuel were the only ones who ever saw the trouble coming. But, whatever their fate, the damage was done, as God allowed Samuel to grant the request.
Samuel was the last judge who held authority over all of God’s people as a united, single nation, and it was now a new era, for better or for worse.
What followed was a short window of reprieve, what some historians and Bible researchers call the “Golden Age” of Israel under the reigns of Saul, David, and Solomon. It’s likely that these more peaceful years bolstered the Israelites’ confidence that the right decision had been made in replacing Yahweh with men. Those prosperous years certainly weren’t without any hiccups (everyone at least remembers the David-and-Bathsheba debacle), but they were smooth enough that Samuel probably heard more than a few “we told you so” comments from some of the elders who had petitioned for a king.
However, the cautionary predictions of God did come to pass as He had warned…and in surprisingly close proximity to the day the warnings were issued. Using only the first warning from God as an example, we can show how His prophetic words started coming to pass even before the end of the Golden Age: In 1 Samuel 8:11, Samuel reiterated that a king would “take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots.” Just a skip over to 2 Samuel 15:1, we see that King Absalom—King David’s disappointing son who demonstrated his rightful position on the throne by having a public sex demonstration with his father’s concubines on the roof “in the sight of all Israel” (2 Samuel 16:22)—had “prepared him chariots and horses, and fifty men to run before him.” King David’s fourth son was guilty of the same thing: “Then Adonijah the son of Haggith exalted himself, saying, ‘I will be king’: and he prepared him chariots and horsemen, and fifty men to run before him” (1 Kings 1:5). And King Solomon, despite the good he did for Israel (including his massive contributions to both collecting and the composing the wisdom literature), had the largest assemblage of men and animals in his horses and chariots department. “Solomon had forty thousand stalls of horses for his chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen” (4:26) “and he had a thousand and four hundred chariots” (10:26). Though these verses appear to be linked to some of the “blessing” verses in the story of King Solomon after he asked God for wisdom, the number of men the king “took” (or “drafted,” or “enlisted”) in his choice to impose forced labor upon Israel was “thirty thousand men” (5:13). Though we know the “horsemen” included twelve thousand men (4:26), some of the remaining thirty thousand Israelite sons who were absorbed into the forced labor numbers (5:13) may have been given jobs related to building the stalls and chariots, maintaining the buildings, training the animals, and so on.
This more than fulfills the first of God’s many warnings about the king taking what he wants with little regard to its impact on the Israelites. This one example should suffice to show that God certainly knew what He was talking about when He spoke to His people through Samuel.
There were also warnings God, for whatever reason, did not share with Israel that fateful day through Samuel. For instance, He mentioned the daughters of Israel would be taken and turned into cooks, bakers, and perfume-makers (1 Samuel 8:13), but some commentators note there was a far worse fate for some daughters, considering the kings’ evident penchant for collecting concubines.[iv] Yet the Lord didn’t see that detail as necessary to state that day (possibly because He knew they wouldn’t listen to that bit, either).
To ramp it up to a more alarming illustration, Israel couldn’t foresee that, at the conclusion of King Solomon’s reign, God’s people would face a massive and long-lived split over who the next ruler would be.
Around 922 BC, after the time of King David and King Solomon, the nation of Israel split into what became known as the Northern and the Southern Kingdoms. After receiving a word from the Lord, the prophet Ahijah tore his robe into twelve pieces to represent the twelve tribes of Israel, then gave ten of those pieces to Jeroboam to signify that he would rule over those ten (1 Kings 11:30–33). This prophecy came to pass when the people stoned to death the messenger of the currently reigning Rehoboam and claimed Jeroboam as their king (1 Kings 12:18–20). This became the Northern Kingdom. The remaining two tribes, Benjamin and Judah, remained loyal to Rehoboam, forming the Southern Kingdom (1 Kings 12:17).
This was more than just a political move, and the ramifications would be painful. Benjamin and Judah gave up their inheritance, and the nation they seceded from had always been their family and their national identity. Brother turned against brother, splintering the nation of God in half, weakening their numbers and increasing their vulnerability to the surrounding pagan military forces—all because of the earthly king God had warned them never to install in the first place. And it doesn’t end there.
God made sure His people knew from the beginning that they were asking for a dictator (though they didn’t listen). They shouldn’t have been surprised when their plans went terribly awry. What followed after their decision to disregard God’s warnings is an incredibly lengthy, dirty-laundry list of future evil kings who would commit atrocious acts of wickedness, often imposing their sacrilege upon the people, who would therefore share the king’s guilt when God’s wrath came to knock them down from their profane pedestals. To name only a few on the side of Israel:
- King Jeroboam erected golden calves and forced Israel to commit the ultimate blasphemy by worshipping them as the gods that brought them out of Egypt (1 Kings 12:28).
- King Ahab allied with Phoenicia via the marriage to the Sidonian king’s daughter, Jezebel. This ushered in Israel’s dark era of Baal worship, Asherah poles, and the building of Baal’s temple in Samaria (16:31–33).
- King Ahaziah led Israel into worship of Baal after Ahab and Jezebel’s example. Ahaziah is one of several kings noted to have “walked in the way of…Jeroboam,” no doubt referencing the continued practice of worshipping the golden calves as well (1 Kings 2:51–53). Idolatry was now the norm, and Yahweh was only one of many gods they worshipped, all in only a few short generations of earthly kings.
You shouldn’t replace a King with a king.
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Remember the God-angering cycle from the book of Judges, when the people kept turning their back on Yahweh, falling into despair from their sin, then begging for help until God sent a judge to pull them back into a season of prosperity and peace? The cycle is similar from the Northern-Southern split forward, throughout the two books of Kings and into the two books of Chronicles. The loop in these parts is, basically, “King So-and-So did evil in the sight of the Lord, followed in the ways of [insert wicked ruler’s name here] and made Israel sin. And the anger of the Lord was kindled…” Usually, after mentioning the wrath of God, something horrible happened to the earthly kingdom, though, throughout this period of delusional leadership by earthly kings, God remembered His covenant with Abraham and kept His promise to preserve the bloodline, thereby keeping His people Israel from extinction during all the warring throughout this part of history. Despite their being allowed to continue existing on the planet, however, there was much death, heartache, and oppression in major seasons of turmoil—all of which might have been greatly diminished (or entirely avoided) had the Israelites simply been happy with God as their King.
Each kingdom offended God repeatedly during the nine hundred years between this time and the arrival of Christ, but the Northern Kingdom was far more given to wickedness than the Southern, thus was subjected to higher levels of God’s wrath than its counterpart. Around 725 BC, Assyria invaded the Northern Kingdom. (After this defeat, the conquerors left their own people stationed throughout the land to maintain Assyrian rule, and subsequent generations interbred with Israelites, resulting in the Samaritan race. This is why, most scholars assert, these individuals were hated by their non-Samaritan peers in the New Testament; they were a reminder of God’s wrath bestowed as a result of idolatry, and they were an installation resulting from defeat. Because they often clung to religions on both sides of parental lineage, their practices often reflected a pagan-infiltrated version of traditional Jewish principles, fueling the hatred they endured from surrounding cultures.) Approximately one hundred years later, Babylon rose to power and overtook the Southern Kingdom. It invaded Jerusalem and sacked the Temple, looting its treasures and returning to Babylon with the plundered goods and many captive, enslaved Jews, who were then exiled in Babylon for the next seventy years.
But here is the climax of this arc of books (1 Samuel through 2 Chronicles): God kept every promise He made to His covenant people (Joshua 21:44–45; 1 Kings 8:56). In the face of humanity’s ever-increasing spiritual infidelity, whoring after other gods, and disregarding any vow made to Yahweh, God was faithful, always. This divine grace and patience could never have been earned or deserved in the first place, but in light of the people’s unfaithfulness, God’s gift of grace in keeping His end of the covenant was absolutely, emphatically, undeserved.
So why did God keep His word? Why didn’t He send a flood or a plague or something that would wipe out everyone and let Him start over with new, more appreciative, loyal people? If your immediate answer is because God is all good and, therefore, only faithful when it comes to His promises, you would be correct as it pertains to the theology of God’s immutability (the concept that God’s nature and characteristics do not and cannot change). And yes, God’s immutability and unquestionable holiness is a solid, reliable, and always-correct answer to this question and many others like it that inquire about why He does what He does. However, at least as it relates to this series of books, there is an additional reason we want to hone in on…so don’t miss it.
God was faithful throughout the seasons of the kings and kingdoms “for the sake of David” (read the repetition of this reference in 1 Kings 11:11–13, 32, 34; 2 Kings 8:19; and 19:34; see also God mentioning it again later in Isaiah 37:35).
See, the Lord promised more than just the offspring of Abraham. Though the bloodlines of Abraham were later carried on through David (and therefore represent the same biological descendants, ultimately fulfilling the promise made to both of them in the end), a more specific prophetic element in the history of Israel was revealed upon King David’s rule, and its theme ran heavily from 2 Samuel through 2 Chronicles. God’s promise to David was:
When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. (2 Samuel 7:12–14a)
Note that this prophecy, like many Old Testament prophecies, had a dual fulfillment (discussed again in our discussion of Revelation). Most immediately, the “offspring” from David’s “body” was Solomon, and his kingdom was certainly established. Then, midway through verse 13, the emphasis switches from a temporal kingdom to an eternal one, from a soon-to-be-born descendant to a future one beyond the scope of Solomon (but still in his lineage): “I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” The next words from the Lord are intense: “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son.”
This prophecy is, without a doubt, given within the contextual framework of the subject of kings and kingdoms, but the eternality of God’s words here shifts meaning to a King and Kingdom God would establish “forever.” The King God is alluding to in 2 Samuel 7 is none other than the Anointed One of Israel, referred to in Matthew 1:1 as “Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” Paul, during his sermon in Antioch in Acts 13:22b–23, notes this was directly fulfilled through Christ: “He raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave their testimony, and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will.’ Of this man’s seed hath God according to his promise raised unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus.” This is even more astounding considering that one devious character, Athaliah, the mother of Ahaziah, attempted to kill the entire royal family (2 Kings 11:1–2). Had this attempt been successful, it would have cut off David’s seed forever and there never would have been any Jesus, Son of David. By God’s intervention, one person from David’s line was saved and eight centuries later, Baby Jesus arrived.
But it’s so much more than the carrying on of a bloodline just so Jesus could one day be born. God’s Son could have been delivered by a stork in an anonymous baby bundle, as could have been His prerogative (and, considering the baby Moses, who was in a basket delivered by river current, it wouldn’t even be far-fetched). Jesus could have, in a way perhaps even more grandiose to our finite imaginations, been delivered through rays of sunshine and descending angels from on high whose voices never held a more impressive, otherworldly harmony than the day they brought the wriggling bundle of joy through a brightly lit window of the home housing the holiest man in Israel to raise. For that matter, at the Father’s beckoning, the universe could have pulled a Wizard of Oz storyline, popping Baby Jesus into a pink bubble that floated gently to the earth, “Glinda style,” where the Messiah would have been carried in Dorothy’s basket on the yellow brick road to a city of emeralds and raised by a man behind a curtain. God could have linked the Messiah to any historical origin-story He saw fit. Yet He chose the lineage ties He selected, and these stories are not it. (That would have certainly made for a fascinating ending to the Judy Garland classic, though…)
The Lord linked the bloodline of the Son to the bloodline of Israel’s kings. He did this near the same point in history that: 1) His people rejected Him as their King; and 2) His people were shown through extreme disappointment, pain, oppression, repetitious cycles of war, death, and dictatorial monarchs, that, just as God and Samuel warned, the kings were not better than the King. They had rejected the King and fell into a pit they seemingly didn’t have a way out of.
The people were unimpressed with the old system of judges or prophets over Israel, so they asked for a king—that much we’ve covered. But let’s take a second, prepare our eyes to be those that will see, and look at where this is going.
Historically and biblically, prophets were recognized not by an inheritance of office, through the accumulation of wealth and power, or by any means other than the recognition that the word of the Lord had “come to” them (see, for example, Nathan in 2 Samuel 7:4; Isaiah in 2 Kings 20:4; Jeremiah in his book 1:4; and Ezekiel in his book 3:16.), and they delivered it. In the New Testament, the word of the Father had come to the Son in the same way as the prophets of old (John 7:16; 8:28; 17:8). Jesus prophetically told of events nobody could have guessed would happen (and that signs of the times didn’t yet point to, such as we read in Matthew 16:21, wherein Jesus warned His disciples of His upcoming trials and death; these things were fulfilled in Matthew 27–28; Mark 15–16; Luke 22–24; and John 18–20). Jesus not only called Himself a prophet (Mark 6:4), but others also frequently recognized Him as a prophet of the Lord (Matthew 21:11; Luke 7:16; John 4:19). It’s pretty clear, then, that Jesus was a prophet because He fulfilled the requirements and duties of the office. But, because He is perfect and therefore is not subject to error, Christ would have carried the words and will of the Father with far superior delivery and execution than even the greatest of Old Testament prophets who appear in the books of Joshua through 2 Chronicles.
The Son of David was, therefore, the ultimate Prophet over Israel.
Jesus’ New Testament story is often linked to great news of salvation for all, and that is, without argument from us, the main theme of His First Advent (John 3:16). However, another purpose of His coming was to be the Father’s definitive Judge. One of the very reasons He was sent to this world was to carry out fair judgment, both upon people (John 9:39) and upon forces of darkness (John 12:31–33). It was prophesied that the Messiah would be a Judge (Isaiah 11:3–4; Psalm 37:6). At the Judgment Seat of Christ, He will evaluate Christians to establish rewards based upon their works of their faith in this life (1 Corinthians 4:5; 2 Corinthians 5:10). At the Great White Throne, He will judge those who never believed in Him (Revelation 20:11–15). At the separation of the “sheep” from the “goats” (the “Sheep and Goats Judgment”), Jesus will decide who the “sheep” (true followers of God) are and who the “goats” (religious fakers) are, and He will determine their respective places in eternity (Matthew 25:31–46). But, again, because He always will be perfect and therefore not subject to error, Christ’s role as Judge will be more precise, appropriate, and fair than any that of any of His Old Testament counterparts. Since He is one with the Father, it makes sense that His judgments and the Father’s are one and the same, as Jesus stated: “As I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me” (John 5:30b; also see John 8:15–16).
The Son of David was, therefore, the ultimate Judge over Israel.
The Hebrew term hammashiach, or, mashiach YHWH (the lengthier version of the term involving the tetragrammaton, the unspeakable name of God), means “Yahweh’s aointed.” It is from the truncated appearance of this term, mashiach, that we derive “messiah.” After the anointing of Israel’s first king, Saul, hammashiach gained an added layer of meaning. Though there were certainly evil kings—and though Israel most definitely served other gods—hammashiach was the moniker for any reigning king of Israel.
When the Hebrew Scriptures were translated into Greek (the translation known today as the Septuagint), the term hammashiach became the Greek christos, which simply means “anointed.” The Greek christos did not originally have anything to do with the Risen Jesus of Nazareth…at least not in human history (God was not surprised). It would not be until after the New Testament writers reflected on Israel’s back story and considered Jesus in that framework that He would be called “the Anointed,” and it’s important to remember this name was, for Israel, always linked to Yahweh (“the Anointed of YHWH”).
More simply, the Greek christos meant “God’s anointed one,” and this term was a nickname for the king over all of Israel.
In a literal sense, to be anointed for a special office or duty of God meant that one knelt and received a pouring-out of the sacred oil, which was brewed carefully with four fragrant substances. The initial outpouring of the sacred oil appears in Exodus 30:30–32, when Aaron, Moses’ brother, became the first priest of Israel:
And thou shalt anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that they may minister unto me in the priest’s office. And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, “This shall be an holy anointing oil unto me throughout your generations. Upon man’s flesh shall it not be poured, neither shall ye make any other like it, after the composition of it: it is holy, and it shall be holy unto you.”
Hmmm… It seems odd that God just told the Israelites to pour the oil on Aaron and his sons, and then said not to pour it on them (“Upon man’s flesh shall it not be poured”), does it not?
This is easily explained: The word “man” in this passage is the Hebrew adam, which, outside the context of the first man in the Garden of Eden whose proper name was Adam, adam simply meant “man,” generically. Although priests, prophets, and kings were also “man” in the sense of “mankind” or “human,” in the Hebrew context, “man” was a broad word referring to “men” generally. In our own terms, we might see “guy” or “chap” in its place. In other words, and meaning no disrespect to Scripture (just putting together a simplified word-picture here), God basically said, “This sacred oil is not to be poured onto the flesh of regular guys.” The English Standard Version (ESV) translation renders this: “It shall not be poured on the body of an ordinary person.” This special oil was reserved for anointing those God had justified and approved to be His utmost trusted leaders over all His people, acknowledged by all as the holders of the holiest of positions. They were consecrated, which, understandably, means to be declared before all as “sacred.”
This act of anointing marked the official beginning of service for priests and kings always, and for prophets sometimes. Therefore, it was done this way in Israel as opposed to a coronation ceremony with crowns and scepters or whatever other imagery comes to mind when we think of the start of a king’s reign. The symbolism of the act represented the indwelling of the Spirit of God. We can see this in Psalm 89:19b–21:
I have exalted one chosen out of the people. I have found David my servant; with my holy oil have I anointed him: With whom my hand shall be established: mine arm also shall strengthen him.
Some may naturally note that not every king was indwelt with the Spirit of God, both because there were wicked kings and, though it wasn’t God’s plan, the throne was passed to sons who inherited the throne by birthright, not because they were “chosen” by God. However, when David became king, as this passage shows, he was “chosen out of the people,” which was God’s plan the first place before the demands of the people messed it up. (Little wonder, when God was no longer doing the choosing, that Israel produced so many terrible leaders.) God’s ideal, therefore, is that a man “His hand has established” as king would have God’s “arm also” to strengthen his kingship; God would be “with” and “in” the king (so to speak), and the king would be indwelt with the Spirit of God.
This is why, as stated a few paragraphs earlier, hammashiach (or “messiah”), and therefore the Greek christos, gained an added layer of meaning when kings entered Israel’s history. The word “anointed” (hammashiach/christos) not only was a term meaning “one appointed by Yahweh to lead His people,” it also meant “king,” and, by extension of context, it indicated “a king indwelt with the Spirit.”
This entire etymological discussion spotlights one powerful fact: “Jesus [the] Christ” responsibly translates to “Jesus the King,” and unlike one who inherits a throne or is elected, Jesus was chosen, and is most definitely indwelt with the Spirit of God, or “Holy Spirit,” in New Testament terms (Matthew 3:13–17). (The English word “Christ” obviously derives from christos.)
But before we can celebrate Jesus as King, it’s important to understand the hope Israel had in relation to a future deliverer through the lineage of David. As discussed previously, in 2 Samuel 7:12–14, God established that there would be a King from David’s line who would rule “forever.” This is a feat no mere human could ever achieve, as our days are numbered. Now, consider 1 Samuel 16:13a: “Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward.” Of all the rulers in Israel, it’s clear that David, a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 16:13), was, despite his sins and faults, the ideal king whose Spirit-indwelling was always present. (His sin does not negate the indwelling of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit doesn’t keep us from sinning nor will it leave us when we do. There will always be a tension between the Spirit and our flesh.) When the New Testament writers reflected on who the “forever king” might be, the significance of David’s “from that day forward” spiritual anointing was enormous. It’s not a huge leap to see that David was the model of the forthcoming messianic King.
Additionally, we see much beauty in David as a type of Christ. The list of parallels is lengthy, but we will cover a few major comparisons briefly:
- Both David and Jesus were born in Bethlehem, called the “City of David” (1 Samuel 17:12; Luke 2:11; Matthew 2:1).
- David was a shepherd prior to his kingship (1 Samuel 16:11); Jesus is the Good Shepherd (John 10:11).
- David was thirty years old when he became king (2 Samuel 5:4); Jesus was thirty years old when He started His ministry years (Luke 3:23).
- Both David and Jesus were betrayed by one of their closest and most trusted friends (Psalm 41:9; John 18:5). David’s friend (1 Chronicles 27:33) hung himself after betrayal (2 Samuel 17:23); Jesus’ friend hung himself after betrayal (Matthew 27:5).
- David had many enemies (Psalm 3:1), but he defeated them (Psalm 18:37); Jesus had many enemies (John 19:6), but He defeated them (1 Corinthians 15:25).
- David was the king of Judah (2 Samuel 2:4); Jesus is the King of all, known as the Lion of Judah (Revelation 5:5).
- David was the deliverer of Israel (1 Samuel 17:48–52); Jesus is the Deliverer of Israel (and the world; John 16:33, Romans 16:20).
Jesus was and is the fulfilment of the prophesied Son of David and King over Israel, “the house of Jacob,” literally and forever. This, the angel Gabriel made this clear to Mary: “He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke 1:32–33). This messianic kingship was prophesied in ancient times and in no uncertain terms.
Needless to say, however, Jesus’s role as King goes well beyond any limitations set by comparing His position with David’s. A king, like David, is a ruler, a top authority over his region or land territory. The region or land territory Jesus rules over is any fathomable location in the whole universe. There isn’t any higher authority than that mentioned in Ephesians 1:20–22, where we see Jesus seated at the right hand of the Father in the heavens, “Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things.” Thus, Jesus has undoubtedly proven to be King based on His authority and position. In Jesus, we see not just a ruling King but the One and Only King of kings and Lord of lords, as the Name is written on His robe and thigh (Revelation 17:14; 19:16). He has been given His own Kingdom, but it supersedes this world; it is not a part of this world at all (John 18:36) and it and won’t be until the millennial reign. To this Anointed One, Jesus the Christ, was given “dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom [is] that which shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13–14).
The Son of David was, therefore, the ultimate King over Israel.
The people asked for a king. Little did they know they were going to get the King.
King Jesus is the supreme Prophet, Judge, and King of the universe. Nobody else in Israel’s history, all throughout the testaments, has ever been all of these at once.
There is so much more to be said regarding how Jesus appears in 1 Samuel through 2 Chronicles. For instance, scholars have given much attention to the genealogies of 2 Chronicles, but it’s interesting to note the majority of the reflections—eons before Jesus was born in a human body—give specific, important attention to the tribes of Judah (1 Chronicles 2:3–4:23) and Levi (1 Chronicles 6:1–81). This hyper-focused concentration is no coincidence. In fact, these are the genealogies of the priestly and the royal bloodlines, given special treatment in history when Israel was seeking the perfect priests and kings to perform the most holy of duties and anointed leadership over the people. As we have shown, Jesus is the flawless, anointed King (Romans 1:3; 2 Timothy 2:8; Revelation 19:16), but He is also our flawless Priest (Hebrews 4:14; 5:5–6; 8:1).
No matter how “perfect” any human can ever be, there is still fault in humanity. Therefore, Israel—and the rest of the Gentile world by extension of God’s generous, merciful reach—would always be left waiting and searching for a Spotless One to fulfill our hope.
Hail to the King!
UP NEXT: Jesus In Ezra and Nehemiah
[i] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D., Faithlife Study Bible (Bellingham, WA: Lexham, 2016), “1 Sa 8:1.”
[ii] “1 Samuel 8:1,” Benson Commentary, Bible Hub Online, last accessed February 7, 2022, https://biblehub.com/commentaries/benson/1_samuel/8.htm.
[iii] Many commentaries and theological reflections list at least these, and many more reasons. As one quick example that truncates the argument, see: “1 Samuel 8:7,” Pulpit Commentary, Bible Hub Online, last accessed February 11, 2022, https://biblehub.com/commentaries/pulpit/1_samuel/8.htm.
[iv] “1 Samuel 8:13,” Pulpit Commentary, Bible Hub Online, last accessed February 11, 2022, https://biblehub.com/commentaries/pulpit/1_samuel/8.htm.
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