A Jewish Expectation of a Royal Messiah

The roots of the expectation are clear. David had been promised a son who would secure his kingdom and throne for ever (2 Sam. 7.12-13, 16). This promise was picked up and echoed in the confidence that God would raise up a shoot from the stump of Jesse (Isa. 11.1-2), a royal 'branch' (Jer. 23.5; 33.15), a Davidic 'prince' (Ezek. 34.24; 37.25). How far the hope so expressed was eschatological or simply confidence for the continuation of the Davidic line is less clear.16 The hope is still being voiced in the difficult times of the post-exilic period (Hag. 2.23; Zech. 3.8; 6.12), but thereafter fades, presumably with the disappearance of the Da-vidic line. John Collins, in one of the most recent assessments of the evidence, concludes that there is very little evidence of messianism in Judaism in the period 500-200 bce.17

Equally, however, it is clear that the hope of a royal Messiah revived, presumably in conjunction with the reemergence of the reality of kingship in the Hasmonean period and its failure to realize the old The most striking ex pression of the hope is in Pss. Sol. 17.21-24:

See, Lord, and raise up for them their king, the son of David, to rule over your servant Israel in the time known to you, O God. Undergird him with the strength to destroy the unrighteous rulers, to purge Jerusalem from gentiles who trample her to destruction; in wisdom and in righteousness to drive out the sinners from the inheritance; to smash the arrogance of sinners like a potter's jar; to shatter their substance with an iron rod; to destroy the unlawful nations with the word of his mouth . . . (OTP).

Very interesting is the further reference to this figure as 'their king . . . the Lord Messiah' (17.32; similarly 18.5-7).19

16. So also with 1 Sam. 2.10; Pss. 2.2, 6-9; 89.49-51; 132.10-18.

17. Collins, Scepter and Star 22-48, where the many exegetical issues are indicated in regard to the texts cited. W. Horbury, Jewish Messianism and the Cult of Christ (London: SCM, 1998) 13-31, 36-63 heavily qualifies the conclusion by arguing that 'Messianism [was] a deep-rooted and long-standing influence in the community at the beginning of the Second-Temple period' (25) and throughout the Second Temple period (63).

18. It is unclear whether the Dan. 9.25 reference to an 'anointed leader (masiah nagid)' refers to Zerubabbel or Joshua the high priest; the reference in 9.26 to the 'anointed one' being 'cut off is probably to the murder of the high priest Onias III (2 Macc. 4.33-38); similarly Dan. 11.22; see further J. J. Collins, Daniel (Hermeneia; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993) 355-56; Horbury, Messianism 7-12.

19. For the translation ('Lord Messiah') see R. B. Wright's footnote in OTP 2.667-68; otherwise M. dejonge, TDNT9.5tt-U n. 107. Brock (in Sparks,AOT679, 681) translates 'the anointed Lord' for 17.32, but 'the Lord's anointed' for 18.7, although accepting the consistency of the phrase christos

More striking still is the way the older hopes have been revived in the DSS. The promise of 2 Sam. 7.14 is taken up, probably in association with Ps. 2.7, in 4Q174 (4QFlor) 1.10-12.20 The 'branch of David' and the Davidic 'prince' from Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel reappear in a number of scrolls. Equally striking is Qumran's expectation of two messianic figures, the messiahs of Aaron and Israel, that is, a priestly Messiah and a royal Messiah,22 with the 'Messiah of Israel'23 almost certainly to be identified as the royal Messiah.24

Moreover, if indeed the Psalter was given its canonical shape by about this time, then it is important to note that the royal messianic psalms (Psalms 2, 72, and 89) had been given key structural positions, thereby indicating that they were seen in some degree as a key to the psalter and its significance (a 'messianic Psal-ter').25 And not least of interest is the prayer for 'the kingship of the house of David, thy righteous Messiah' in Shemoneh 'Esreh (the Eighteen Benedictions) 14.26

To be noted here is the common assumption that the royal Messiah would be a powerful ruler executing justice for all.27 A frequent motif is his warlike character in rooting out evil and destroying Israel's enemies. 'You shall break

20. The scroll breaks off at what was probably the beginning of an interpretative reading of Psalm 2. See further W. M. Schniedewind, Society and the Promise to David: The Reception History of 2 Samuel 7:1-17 (New York: Oxford, 1999), here 157-65.

21. IQSb (lQ28b) 5.20: 1QM 5.1; 4Q161 (4QpIsaa) 3.18; 4Q174 (4QFlor) 1.11; 4Q252 5.3-4; CD 7.19-20; 4Q285; see detail and further in Collins, Scepter and Star 57-73. Elsewhere note Sir. 47.22 (picking up Isa. 11.1) and 1 Macc. 2.57 (picking up 2 Sam. 7.13, 16).

22. 1QS 9.11; cf. CD 12.23-13.1; 14.19; 19.10-11; 20.1. On the likelihood that CD's phrase ('Messiah of Aaron and Israel') refers to two Messiahs, see again Collins, Scepter and Star 74-83.

24. See further C. A. Evans, 'Jesus and the Messianic Texts from Qumran', Jesus and Bis Contemporaries 83-154; Schreiber, Gesalbter und König 199-245 (conclusion 240, 245). I responded to L. Schiffman, 'Messianic Figures and Ideas in the Qumran Scrolls', in Charlesworth, ed., The Messiah 116-29, in my 'Messianic Ideas' 367 n. 2. Note also Talmon's observation that in the configurations of messianism which he examines, 'the conception of the "Age to Come" is intrinsically conceived as the memory of the past projected into the future' (87; in reference to Qumran, 104). M. O. Wise, The First Messiah (San Francisco: Harper, 1999) pushes too hard to draw out from 1QH a picture of the Teacher of Righteousness as a claimant to messianic status.

25. B. Janowski, 'Zur Bedeutung der Psalmen für eine Theologie des Alten Testaments', in E. Zenger, ed., Der Psalter in Judentum und Christentum (Freiburg: Herder, 1998) 381-420 (here 404).

26. Schürer, History2.461; this may have been part of the prayer at the time of Jesus; in the more elaborate Babylonian recension, the prayer is for the throne of David to be raised up quickly and the shoot of David to shoot forth quickly (14-15; Schürer 458, 461-62).

27. Cf. particularly F. Hahn, Christologische Hoheitstitel 133-58 (Titles ofJesus 136-48, 242-43).

them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel' (Ps. 2.9). 'He shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his mouth shall slay the wicked' (Isa. 11.4). Pss. Sol. 17 has already been cited.28 'With your sceptre may you lay waste the earth. With the breath of your lips may you kill the wicked' (lQSb [lQ28b] 5.24-25). The Prince of the whole congregation will lead in battle (1QM 5.1); 'when he rises he will destroy all the sons of Seth' (CD 20-21). Collins notes that the main features of this picture persist in the apocalypses of 4 Ezra and 2 Baruch, which are independent of the Dead Sea sect.29 Josephus reports that the military revolt in 62 was incited by 'an ambiguous oracle' in the sacred Scriptures to the effect that one of their own countrymen 'would become ruler of the world' (War 6.312). And it is worth recalling that the military leader bar Kochba was hailed as Messiah in the second Jewish revolt (132-35 CE).

So the twofold conclusion looks to be well founded that in various strands of Judaism before and after Jesus there was a lively hope for the restoration of the Davidic line and that the Davidic Messiah was widely thought of as a warrior king who would destroy the enemies of Israel.30 To this we should add the evidence marshalled by Horsley that there were several aspirants to kingship at the death of Herod (the Great) and in the first Jewish revolt (66-74).31 The term 'Messiah' does not appear, but the episodes indicate that the idea of kingship continued to have a strong appeal among the Jewish populace, and a close correlation with the more specific idea of Davidic kingship/messiahship can probably be assumed — as again Bar Kochba confirms. So we can extend Collins's conclusion with some confidence that the hope of a royal Messiah was widespread

28. Charlesworth argues that the picture here is 'nonmilitary': he conquers with 'the word of his mouth' ('Messianology to Christology' 20-21; similarly Sanders, Historical Figure 240-41). But the emphasis is on the destruction wrought by the Messiah; the distinction between military or nonmilitary is rather fine and somewhat pointless (cf. Isa. and lQSb [lQ28b] 5.24-25 [citedhere]; Matt. 3.12/Luke 3.17 [§11.4]; 2 Thess. 2.8; Rev. 1.16; 19.15, 21). See further Schreiber, Gesalbter und König 171-72, 541-42.

29. Collins, Scepter and Star 67-68.

30. To the same effect, Collins, Scepter and Star68, 95; Schreiber, Gesalbter und König 245, 541-42.

31. Initially and most fully expressed in Horsley and Hanson, Bandits ch. 3; also Hors-ley, Jesus 52-54. At the death of Herod the references are to Judas the Galilean (Josephus, War 2.56; Ant. 17.271-72),Simon (War 2.57-59; Ant. 17.271-76), and Athronges (War2.60-65; Ant. 17.278-85); Horsley and Hanson note that Josephus summarizes these various movements under the heading of 'kingship' (War 2.55) and desire to be 'king' (Ant. 17.285). In the first revolt the clearest reference is to Menahem, son of Judas the Galilean (War 2.434), and Horsley and Hanson argue that the key leader, Simon bar Giora, acted and was treated as king (citing War 7.29-31, 36, 153-54). See also C. A. Evans, 'Messianic Claimants of the First and Second Centuries', Jesus and his Contemporaries 53-81.

also among the unlettered masses. It should be observed that this finding reverses the trend noted above, consequent upon the new appreciation of the diversity of eschatological hope. For most of the second half of the twentieth century the general assumption has been that the royal Messiah was only one among several messianic figures who featured in some expressions of that hope, and that royal messianism was therefore not particularly prominent in the eschatological expectation of the period. The sounder conclusion now appears to be: one expression of a more diversely expressed hope, yes; but the most prominent and widespread of the various expressions of that hope.32

In the light of the above we can go on to ask whether Jesus would have been reckoned a credible contender for such a role. Was Jesus regarded as royal Messiah during his life? Contemporary scholarship is more split on this question than ever. The spectrum stretches from a confident Yes! to an equally confident No!

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