A Look at Messianic Prophecy: Hints and Signs of the Coming King in the Old Testament
One of the most prominent themes throughout the Bible is the reign of God. The framework of Israel’s existence and self-understanding was formulated from God’s covenant with Israel and Israel’s servant to God the King. Israel is the people of the king, and the holy land is the land of the king’s rule. Given the Messiah is supposed to be the ideal representative of his people, He has a kingly role as well. Let’s look at some of the messianic texts in the Tanakh that speak about the kingly role of the Messiah.
Judah, your brothers shall praise you; Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; Your father’s sons shall bow down to you. “Judah is a lion’s whelp; From the prey, my son, you have gone up. He couches, he lies down as a lion, And as a lion, who dares rouse him up? “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples. (Gen 49:8-12)-NASB
In the previous context (Gen. 49: 1-7) we see the following issues:
1. Jacob, prophesied various details as to the fortunes and fates of the descendants of these men.
2. God is revealing to Jacob the future history of his descendants.
3. The older brothers are disqualified from the birth-right (i.e., Reuben, Simon, Levi).
4. Jacob foretold a future for the tribe of Judah that pictures him as the preeminent son – the prominent tribe.
5. Judah: is the name of the son of Jacob/or the name of the southern kingdom of the divided nation of Israel. (1)
We see the following about this passage:
1. The Messiah has already been declared to be a man, descended from Abraham (Gen. 22:18)
2. His descent is now limited to being a son of Judah
3. He is going to be a King
4. The rule of Judah is envisioned by Jacob as extending beyond the borders of Israel to include the entire world.
We see in the prophecy that “Scepter” is a “symbol of kingly authority” and will remain in Judah’s hand until “Shiloh comes.” In the minds of the Jewish people, “Scepter” was linked with their right to apply and enforce the law of Moses upon the people, including the right to adjudicate capital cases and administer capital punishment. The prophecy declares that Judah will finally lose his tribal independence, and promises a supremacy over at least some of the other tribes until the advent of the Messiah. See more on this here:
The Davidic Covenant
While God promised that Israel would have an earthly king (Gen. 17: 6; 49:6; Deut.17: 14-15), he also promised David that one of his descendants would rule on his throne forever (2 Sam.7:12-17; 1 Chr.17:7-15; Ps.89:28-37). In other words, David’s line would eventually culminate in the birth of a person whose eternality will guarantee David’s dynasty, kingdom, and throne forever.
As seen in 2 Sam. 7:1-4, David wanted to build a “house” (or Temple) for the Lord in Jerusalem. God’s response to David was one of rejection. The desire for the restoration of the Davidic dynasty became even more fervent after the united kingdom of the Israelites split into two kingdoms, Israel and Judah, at the time of King Rehoboam.
The Davidic King in Isaiah
As we look at Isaiah, he speaks more about a powerful descendant of David, the Messiah with a capital “M”:
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse [David’s family], from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him [an “anointing”] — the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of knowledge and fear of the LORD — and he will delight in the fear of the LORD. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes or decide by what he hears with his ears, but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. . . . In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him. (Isaiah 11:1 – 10).
It isn’t a huge challenge to relate this messianic expectation with the ministry of Jesus. For example:
“How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.”
” And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.”
Also, regarding the ability of the Davidic figure to be a light to the nations, a careful reading of the four servant songs has nonetheless led many scholars to argue that the servant refers to an individual who fulfills in himself all that Israel was meant to be. If we look at Isa. 49:1-7, we must take some things into consideration. First, in vs 3, the Servant is Israel, while in vs 6, the Servant is an individual. The Servant will be powerful, bringing God’s “salvation to the ends of the earth,” and yet he will be “despised and abhorred by the nation” of Israel, although rulers of the gentiles will “bow down” to him. So let us keep the following things in mind:
Has there ever been any Jewish person who fits these words, having begun a world religion of Gentiles? With the backdrop of Genesis 12:1-3 in mind, we see in Isaiah 49:6 that the enlarged mission to the Gentiles climaxes the Servant’s commission from God—“I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth” (v. 6b). “Light” is here parallel with “salvation” (cf. Isa. 42:6). How does one calculate the probability that a Jewish person would found a world religion that mostly consists of non-Jewish people.
But now we go to read the rest of the chapter:
“In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious. In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the surviving remnant of his people from Assyria, from Lower Egypt, from Upper Egypt, from Cush, from Elam, from Babylonia,from Hamath and from the islands of the Mediterranean. He will raise a banner for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel; he will assemble the scattered people of Judah from the four quarters of the earth. Ephraim’s jealousy will vanish, and Judah’s enemies will be destroyed; Ephraim will not be jealous of Judah, nor Judah hostile toward Ephraim. They will swoop down on the slopes of Philistia to the west; together they will plunder the people to the east. They will subdue Edom and Moab, and the Ammonites will be subject to them. The Lord will dry up the gulf of the Egyptian sea; with a scorching wind he will sweep his hand over the Euphrates River. He will break it up into seven streams so that anyone can cross over in sandals. There will be a highway for the remnant of his people that is left from Assyria, as there was for Israel when they came up from Egypt.” –Isa. 11: 10-16.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize none of this has taken place yet.
Another text is the following:
“For a child is born to us, a son is given to us; dominion will rest on his shoulders, and he will be given the name Pele-Yo’etz El Gibbor Avi-‘Ad Sar-Shalom [Wonder of a Counselor, Mighty God, Father of Eternity, Prince of Peace], in order to extend the dominion and perpetuate the peace of the throne and kingdom of David, to secure it and sustain it through justice and righteousness henceforth and forever. The zeal of ADONAI–Tzva’ot will accomplish this.” (Isa 9:5-6 CJB)
Every prophecy in the Tanakh has an immediate context. For the audience in Isaiah’s time, a prophecy about a Davidic King would be worthless if that is something coming hundreds of years later. They needed a hope at that time. So when Isaiah writes it, there is a type. Hence, it is a literal Davidic king at that time period. In observing the immediate context of this passage, one might assert that this passage is referring to Hezekiah’s reign. But it is pointing to the anti-type, the literal Davidic King (the Messiah).
This passage speaks to the everlasting rule of the Davidic King. The figure is called “Wonderful Counselor” (Pele-Yoeitz) which is used only of God and what God does. This is never used of what God does. “Mighty God” (El-Gibbor) is never used of a mere man. We read in Isaiah 10:21 that “A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God.” The word ‘el’ always refers to a deity. “Everlasting Father”- “Father” is here in a pre-Trinitarian sense. Jesus is not literally the Father but he can play the role of a Father in that he cares, protects, etc. “Prince of Peace”- is sometimes used of men in the Hebrew text. In Isaiah, the work of peace is of God only. The significance of this passage is the phrase “there will be no end.” In observing the immediate context of this passage, one might assert that this passage is referring to Hezekiah’s reign. This assertion is problematic since Hezekiah’s reign was one that was rather limited in an international sense.
The Davidic King in the Royal Psalms
Why are the nations in an uproar And the peoples devising a vain thing? The kings of the earth take their stand And the rulers take counsel together Against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying, “Let us tear their fetters apart And cast away their cords from us!” He who sits in the heavens laughs, The Lord scoffs at them. Then He will speak to them in His anger And terrify them in His fury, saying, “But as for Me, I have installed My King Upon Zion, My holy mountain.” “I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to Me, ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You. ‘Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, And the very ends of the earth as Your possession. ‘You shall break them with a rod of iron, You shall shatter them like earthenware.’” Now therefore, O kings, show discernment; Take warning, O judges of the earth. Worship the LORD with reverence And rejoice with trembling. Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way, For His wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him! (NASB)
What do we see here?
1. Psalm 2 should be read as a coronation hymn, (similar to 2 Kings 11:12) and today marks the moment of the king’s crowning.
2. God tells the person to whom he is speaking that He is turning over the dominion and the authority of the entire world to Him (v 8).
3. David did have conquest of all the nations (Edom, Moab, Ammon, Philistia, Amalek, etc-1 Chron. 14:17; 18:11).
4. Vs 11-12: One day God will subjugate all the nations to the rule of the Davidic throne.
We see the following:
1. The Davidic King will be elevated over the rivers and seas (v.24- 25).
2. Just as God is the most exalted ruler in heaven (vv.6-9), the Davidic King is the most exalted ruler on earth (v. 27).
3. The Davidic King will be the “firstborn” and enjoy the highest rank among all earthly kings.
4. God promises to establish David’s throne and continue his dynasty from one generation to the next for perpetuity (vv.28-29).
The rule of the King as the Son of Man
It should be noted that “Son of Man” is a messianic title. As we see in Daniel 7: 13-14:
I kept looking in the night visions, And behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, And He came up to the Ancient of Days And was presented before Him. “And to Him was given dominion, Glory and a kingdom, That all the peoples, nations and men of every language Might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion Which will not pass away; And His kingdom is one Which will not be destroyed.
John Sailhamer notes that there is a thematic correlation between Gen 49:8-12 and other passages in the Old Testament. He says:
The plural word “nations” rather than singular suggests that Jacob had a view of Kingship that extended beyond the boundaries of the Israelites to include other nations as well. In any case, later biblical writers were apparently guided by texts in formulating their view of the universal reign of the future of the Davidic king. For example, “Psalm 2:8 “Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance”; Daniel 7:13-14, “There was one like a son of man, he was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations, and men of every language worshiped him.” (see John H. Sailhamer, The Pentateuch As Narrative A Biblical-Theological Commentary (Grand Zondervan, 1995), 235.
The reign of God is one of the most pertinent themes in biblical theology. God has extended His mercy and grace to the human race by allowing us to glance at the role of the kingdom of Godin His plan for the redemption of the entire world. God took the initiate by revealing to mankind a fuller part His kingdom program through the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus’ miraculous deeds, healings, and power over nature as well as His role as a Suffering Servant was another stage of inaugurating the kingdom of God. Jesus also fulfills the role of the inaugurator of the kingdom of God by being honored and demonstrating the authority to execute judgment. Jesus currently rules over the cosmos at the right hand of the Father (Acts 2:24-33; 5:31; 7:55-56; Eph.1:20-21; Col.3:1; Heb. 1:3; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2; 2 Peter 3:22). Jesus, being the divine Messiah exhibits the same attributes as the God of Israel. One day, Jesus will return to fulfill the promise of completing the earthly aspect of His kingdom work. May all of us as wait with eager anticipation. As the Apostle Peter said,
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat (2 Peter 3:10-12).
 Michael Rydelnick, The Messianic Hope: Is The Hebrew Bible Really Messianic? (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2010), 47-48.
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