Monday, January 15, 2007

Jesus and the Restoration of the Davidic Kingdom (1.2. Part 1: The Prophetic Hope)

1.2. David: A Neglected Element of First-Century Expectations
While Third Quest scholars have come to recognize the importance of the restoration within Second Temple eschatological expectations, they are more reticent about Davidic messianism. This is due in large part to the growing tendency to stress a plurality of eschatological frameworks in first-century works. Here we cannot discuss all of the various sources. Here I simply want to make the case that in seeking to stress the diversity of thought reflected in second-temple hopes, scholars have often neglected the prevalence and influence that Davidic expectations had in Jewish eschatological programs.

Dating the origins of Davidic expectations is a notoriously controversial endeavor. The issue is further complicated by the question of the rise of “messianism”.[1] Some like Fitzmeyer haved argued that the explicit concern for a future eschatological messiach is a later development of an ancient tradition which was principally oriented—not specifically on a single ideal figure—but on the permanence of the Davidic kingdom.[2] Regardless of whenever scholars date the beginnings of “messianism,” it seems clear that the prophetic hope of restoration was originally linked to the belief that God had sworn a covenant oath to give David’s descendants the throne. John Goldingay writes that God’s promise to David, “…encourages the conviction that the deposing of the last Davidic king in 587 cannot be the end of the story. The drive of messianic expectation in Israel issues from Yhwh’s promise to David.”[3]

Here therefore we will bracket the question of “messianism” per se. The fact is, one cannot ingore the early prophetic tradition which linked the return from exile with the restoration of the Davidic Kingdom. In fact, although historical-critics suspect later additions, it is noteworthy that every prophetic book bearing the name of an eighth-century prophet contains a vision for the restoration of Israel under a Davidic king.[4] Whenever scholars date these books, it is clear that first-century readers accepted them as authentic. We will only look at a few passages here.
One of the most influential prophecies in first-century hopes is contained in Amos 9. In Amos 9:11 the Lord promises: “In that day I will raise up the booth of David that is fallen and repair its breaches.” This restored kingdom will include the Gentiles (v. 12) and the re-gathering of Israel in the land (v. 14-15). It is important to note that this book primarily addresses the exile of the northern Israelites.[5]

Do to its popularity in the first century, we might also highlight the book of Isaiah, which also contains many references to a future Davidic King through whom Israel would be re-gathered from exile. Isaiah 9 describes a future return from exile with the coming of one who will be “upon the throne of David, and over his kingdom” (9:7; cf. 16:5). Likewise, Isaiah 11:1 describes a future descendant of David with the imagery of a “branch” growing from the stump of Jesse—a motif picked up in other prophetic visions of restoration (cf. Jer 23:5-8; 33:14-26; Zech 3:8; 6:11-13). The reign of this king will be accompanied with the return and reunion of all the tribes of Israel: “He will raise an ensign for the nations, and will assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather the dispersed of Judah… Ephraim shall not be jealous of Judah and Judah shall not harass Ephraim” (11:12, 13b). The reign of this Davidic king will also extend to the Gentiles (“him shall all the nations seek,” 11:10).[6]

[1] Joseph A. Fitzmeyer, The Dead Sea Scrolls and Christian Origins (Studies in the Dead Sea Scrolls and Related Literature; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2000), 73-82.
[2] Fitzmyer, The Dead Sea Scrolls, 78.
[3] John Goldingay, Israel’s Gospel (vol. 1 in Old Testament Theology; Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 560. Fitzmyer, The Dead Sea Scrolls, 73-82.
[4] Amos 9:11; Hos. 3:5; Mic. 5:2-3; Antti Laato, A Star is Rising: The Historical Development of the Old Testament Royal Ideology and the Rise of the Jewish Messianic Expectations (University of South Florida, International Studies in Formative Christianity and Judaism; Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1997), 109.
[5] Laato, A Star, 114: “The only possibility for the northern kingdom to have a future is to join to the Davidic dynasty and return to Zion. The Zion and David traditions have divine legitimation (1:2; 9:11-12).” See also Joseph Blenkinsopp, A History of Prophecy in Israel: From the Settlement in the Land to the Hellenistic Period (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1983), 117-8: “Isaiah himself thought of the monarchy as an institution through which God mediated salvation to his people.”
[6] Due to the limited scope of this paper we cannot detail every example of Davidic expectations and restoration hopes in the prophets. Ezekiel’s vision, for example, also connects “restoration” with Davidic aspirations, cf. Ezek. 34:11-16 (deliverance from exile) and 34:24 (“I the Lord will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them”). One might also mention Jeremiah 23:5-8: "Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: `The LORD is our righteousness.' "Therefore, behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when men shall no longer say, `As the LORD lives who brought up the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt,' but `As the LORD lives who brought up and led the descendants of the house of Israel out of the north country and out of all the countries where he had driven them.' Then they shall dwell in their own land."

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