Angilbert (fl. ca. 840/50), On the Battle Which was Fought at Fontenoy

The Law of Christians is broken,
Blood by the hands of hell profusely shed like rain,
And the throat of Cerberus bellows songs of joy.

Angelbertus, Versus de Bella que fuit acta Fontaneto

Fracta est lex christianorum
Sanguinis proluvio, unde manus inferorum,
gaudet gula Cerberi.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Messianic and Davidic Kingship

IN OUR PRIOR POST WE REFLECTED upon the so-called "Enthronement Psalms" which provide an insight into the people of Israel and how what Voegelin called the "leap in being," that is, the revelation of Yahweh, affected their concept of kingship. For the people of Israel, no earthly king was absolute, and all temporal governing was relative and was underneath as it were, the rule of Yahweh, the King of Kings, for Yahweh malak. It is with this "leap in being" in the area of politics that the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church begins its chapter on the political community.

"At the beginning of its history, the people of Israel are unlike other peoples in that they have no king, for they recognize the dominion of Yahweh alone." (Compendium, No. 377) Yahweh malak.

But Yahweh does not come down from heaven and rule direct in some sort of theocracy. Yahweh rules through the charismatic leadership of Moses, followed by Joshua, and then through his successors in the so called "judges" (shofetim or shoftim [שופטים]--singular shofet). These judges were not judges in our usual sense, but were both political and military leaders that governed Israel after Joshua led them into Canaan. They ruled over Israel for about 350 years (between approximately 1228 B.C. to 877 B.C.) until the last such judge, Samuel, was persuaded by the people to give them a king (melek [מֶ֔לֶךְ]) like the neighboring kingdoms, and he anointed King Saul. (see 1 Sam. 9:16)

Because of Israel's sacred history, its notion of kingship was different from those of its neighbors. It is messianic. In Israel's view, the king is chosen by Yahweh (cf. Deut. 17:15; 1 Sam. 9:16), is consecrated or anointed (mesahehu, from where we get the word Messiah) by and unto Yahweh (1 Sam. 16:12-13), and, indeed is seen figuratively as "God's son," (Psalm 2:7 "my son," (beni [בְּנִ֖י]). Israel's king is not intended to glorify himself, but is meant to "make God's dominion and plan of salvation visible" to the people of Israel. (Compendium, No. 377)

Head of King David, ca. 1145.
France, Paris, Notre-Dame Cathedral

Saul, the first king, was a sort of catastrophe, and it was to be his successor, King David, who was to be regarded as the "prototype of the king chosen by Yahweh." (Compendium, No. 378) It is with David that the connection between king and priest, king and messiah, king and sonship, is most clearly developed. For all King David's faults (and they were many), and for all the faults of his successors, the reign of Israel's messianic kings somehow beckon towards a "son of David," who would be the King of kings, a Lord of lords, the Anointed of all anointed. "[T]his tradition," so central to the Old Testament, "culminates in Jesus Christ, who is par excellence 'Yahweh's anointed' (that is, 'the Lord's consecrated one'), the son of David." (Compendium, No. 378)*

Israel's kings failed "on the historical level." Indeed, Israel soon split into two kingdoms, Israel and Judah, were temporarily rejoined, and then split again between King Jeroboam of the northern kingdom of Israel and King Rehoboam of the southern kingdom of Judah. The northern kingdom of Israel lasted until it fell to the Assyrians in the 8th century B.C. The southern kingdom of Judah lasted until the 6th century B.C. when it fell to the Babylonians. But this "failure of kingship on the historical level does not lead to the disappearance of the ideal of a king who, in fidelity to Yahweh, will govern with wisdom and act in justice." (Compendium, No. 378)

This hope of a messianic king is a central theme in many of the Psalms, particularly in those psalms called the "Royal Psalms" (Ps. 2, 18 (17), 20 (19), 21 (20), 45 (44), 72 (71), 101 (100), 110 (109), 132 (131), 144 (143)) and those psalms categorized as "Messianic Psalms" which prophecy or intimate the characteristics of the Messiah (Ps. 2, 8, 16, 23 (22), 34 (33), 35 (34), 40 (39), 41 (40), 41 (40), 45 (44), 68 (67), 69 (68), 89 (88), 102 (101), 109 (108), 110 (109), 118 (117)). It is prevalent in the so-called "messianic oracles," most pointedly in the book of Isaiah (Is. 11:2-5) and in the book of Jeremiah (Jer. 23:5-6). These include some of the most beautiful and yearning words in Scripture.
The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, A spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD,
and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD. Not by appearance shall he judge, nor by hearsay shall he decide,
But he shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for the land's afflicted. He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked.
Justice shall be the band around his waist, and faithfulness a belt upon his hips.
Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; The calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them.
The cow and the bear shall be neighbors, together their young shall rest; the lion shall eat hay like the ox.
The baby shall play by the cobra's den, and the child lay his hand on the adder's lair.
There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the LORD, as water covers the sea.
On that day, The root of Jesse, set up as a signal for the nations, The Gentiles shall seek out, for his dwelling shall be glorious.
On that day, The Lord shall again take it in hand to reclaim the remnant of his people that is left from Assyria and Egypt, Pathros, Ethiopia, and Elam, Shinar, Hamath, and the isles of the sea.
He shall raise a signal to the nations and gather the outcasts of Israel; The dispersed of Judah he shall assemble from the four corners of the earth.
The envy of Ephraim shall pass away, and the rivalry of Judah be removed; Ephraim shall not be jealous of Judah, and Judah shall not be hostile to Ephraim.
(Isaiah 11:2-13)

The ideal of the Davidic kingship is expressed in multiple places in Scripture. For example, in the Book of Ezechiel (Ezek 34:23-24; 37:24):
I will appoint one shepherd over them to pasture them, my servant David; he shall pasture them and be their shepherd.
I, the LORD, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them. I, the LORD, have spoken. . . . .
My servant David shall be prince over them, and there shall be one shepherd for them all; they shall live by my statutes and carefully observe my decrees.
It is anticipated by Zechariah:
Rejoice heartily, O daughter Zion, shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem! See, your king shall come to you; a just savior is he, Meek, and riding on an ass, on a colt, the foal of an ass.
He shall banish the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem; The warrior's bow shall be banished, and he shall proclaim peace to the nations. His dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.
(Zech. 9:9-10)

The Wisdom literature also describes the ideal of the king who is pure in heart, and who renders just judgments, abhors wrongdoing, and judges the poor with equity. Indeed, put the Proverbs together and you get, as it were, a "Mirror of a King," a speculum regale.**
The king's lips are an oracle; no judgment he pronounces is false.

Kings have a horror of wrongdoing, for by righteousness the throne endures.

The king takes delight in honest lips, and the man who speaks what is right he loves.

A wise king winnows the wicked, and threshes them under the cartwheel.

Remove the wicked from the presence of the king, and his throne is made firm through righteousness.

By justice a king gives stability to the land; but he who imposes heavy taxes ruins it.

If a king is zealous for the rights of the poor, his throne stands firm forever.
(Prov. 16:10, 12, 13, 20:26, 25:5, 29:4, 14)

"There is a gradual unfolding of the proclamation of what the Gospels and other New Testament writings see fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth, the definitive incarnation of what the Old Testament foretold about the figure of the king." (Compendium, No. 378).

As St. Augustine said, novum in vetere latet, et in novo vetus patet.*** The new is latent or hidden in the old, and the old is patent or made clear in the new.

We are now prepared to venture from the old into the new.
*Citations are omitted in the quote. The Compendium cites to 1 Sam. 2:35, 24:7, 11; 26:9, 16; and to Ex. 30:22-32 for the issue of anointment, and to Mt. 1:1-17, Luke 3:23-38, and Rom. 1:3 for the issue of the son of David.
**The mirrors for kings or princes (Latin: specula regale, or specula principum or principum specula, German: Fürstenspiegel) refers to a genre of writings that were typical in the Middles Ages and Renaissance. They are a sort of tutelary or textbook designed to instruct kings, princes, or lesser rulers on certain aspects of rule and behavior. Often, they include histories or examples intended to give models for imitation or for avoidance. The genre was also popular in Islamic circles, probably as a result of the influence of the genre which was popular with the Byzantine rulers.
***This is a paraphrase. St. Augustine actually said the following in his Quaestiones in Heptateuchum 2, 73 (the Heptateuch refers to the first seven books of the Old Testament) when discussing Exodus 20:19:
73. (20, 19) Loquere tu nobis, et non loquatur ad nos Deus, ne quando moriamur. Multum et solide significatur, ad Vetus Testamentum timorem potius pertinere, sicut ad Novum dilectionem: quamquam et in Vetere Novum lateat, et in Novo Vetus pateat.

"You speak to us, and do not let God speak to us lest we perchance die" (Exodus 20:19). This passage signifies a great and lasting truth: that fear pertains to the Old Testament just as love does to the New--even though the New lies hidden in the Old Testament, and the Old Testament is opened up in the New.

1 comment:

  1. Indeed, there is a time and season for everything under the sun.
    The time is fulfilled and the Kingdom of heaven is @ hand.
    Repent and worship YHAH TSABA of Israel-in truth, faith and understanding!

    Elyaqiym son of Chilqiyahuw