David – the Iconic King of Israel

Prophecies say the Messiah would come from the House of David. Who was this iconic king of Israel and why would the Messiah need to be born in his lineage?

Red-headed David as the youngest of 8 boys drew the short straw assigned to be the shepherd of his father’s sheep.[1] Alone in the wilderness, he became an expert with a slingshot and singlehandedly killed lions and bears who threatened the flock.[2]

Summoned by his father, Jesse, one day to come back home in Bethlehem, much to David’s surprise the prophet Samuel was there waiting. He anointed David as God’s choice to be the next King of Israel.[3] David’s legendary fame would begin and grow soon thereafter.

Three of David’s brothers were fighting in Israel’s army supported by their father who routinely sent David to them with supplies. During one visit to the battle front, David was astonished to see Israel’s army afraid of a giant Philistine ace warrior named Goliath who challenged and taunted the army daily.

Asking King Saul’s permission to battle Goliath, the shepherd boy was ridiculed by his older brothers and Saul tried to talk him out of it, but the King relented. David defiantly announced to Goliath he will kill him in the name of the Lord and cut off his head. And he did just that – with a slingshot and a single stone then using Goliath’s own sword to cut off his head. That very day David was placed in the service of King Saul.[4]

David’s fame eventually made Saul jealous who tried to hunt down and kill him.[5] Failing to seek and obey God’s guidance would cost Saul his own life and that of his sons in battle. After his death, the people of Israel anointed David as their king, but he had no throne.[6] The fortified city of Jebus seemed the perfect place.

As a skilled formidable warrior serving in King Saul’s army, David had become well-known to his enemies.[7] Equipped with this savvy and fame, he gathered people of Israel, formed an army and advanced toward Jebus.

Hurling insults at David’s approaching army, the Jebusites yelled “the blind and the lame” could fight off Israel while arrogantly positioning lame and blind people on the city walls in mockery.[8] Taking great offense, David offered the army’s commanding general position to whomever led the army to victory over Jebus.[9] Joab became that commanding general.

Soon after taking the city, it expanded to encompass the Mounts Moriah and Zion. Jebus, formerly known as Salem, now was called by a new name – Jerusalem, the City of David.[10] 

More good news came from God through the prophet Nathan saying David’s future son would be the one to fulfill promises God made to Moses to build the House of God and to Jacob that the scepter would never leave his family:[11]

2 Sam 7:12-13  “When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom.  He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” [12]

Basking in the glory of his kingdom, David decided to take a census contrary to God’s past instructions.[13] General Joab pressed the King not to do it, but David persisted.[14]

Punishment for David’s sin was heavy upon the nation and the King pleaded with God to punish only himself and his family because Israel was innocent. The prophet Gad delivered God’s response instructing David to build an altar on the threshing floor of Araunah on Mount Moriah and offer an atonement sacrifice for the people of Israel.[15] 

David purchased the threshing floor, the oxen and materials, then built the altar himself. To his astonishment, God sent fire down from heaven to consume the sacrifice.[16] Moved deeply, David declared:  “This is the house of the LORD God, and this is the altar of burnt offerings for Israel.”

The promised House of God, the Temple, was to be built on Mount Moriah, the place where a 1000 years earlier Abraham took his only son, Isaac, to be sacrificed, then spared at the last moment with a substitute sacrificial ram.[17] Incredible coincidence?

Lord Acton’s quote “absolute power corrupts absolutely” applied even to David.[18] Using his celebrity and power, the King lured the married beautiful Bath-Sheba into his palatial bedroom, seduced her and she became pregnant. Her husband, Uriah, was one of David’s top military officers away fighting a war – how would Bath-Sheba explain away her pregnancy? David devised a cover-up plan.

Uriah was summoned by the King from the battlefield under the pretense of some R&R, but in reality to allow an opportunity for him to have marital relations with his wife to provide cover for her pregnancy. It backfired when the loyal Uriah thought it would not be fair to his troops back on the battlefield if he enjoyed the pleasures of Bath-Sheba.

David’s back-up plan was to send Uriah to the frontlines where he was killed in battle. No secret to God, the murder plot was exposed through the prophet Nathan. As punishment, Bath-Sheba’s illegitimate baby died, yet while being consoled in her grief by David, she conceived another son named Solomon who would become the next king of Israel.[19]

In spite of his major human failures, God still honored His promise to David. Prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah and Zechariah over the following centuries would prophesy that the Messiah was to come from the House of David; prophecies confirmed by renowned Jewish Sages Rashi and Maimonides.[20]

David wrote many of the Psalms, some deemed to be prophetic.[21] First words of Psalms 22, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” were uttered by Jesus shortly before he died on the cross. The full 22nd Psalm depicts the dramatic image of a man dying in agony and humiliation remarkably consistent in specific detail with the circumstances of the Roman crucifixion of Jesus a millennium later.

As a mortal, Jesus would have no control over being born a 1000 years later into the royal lineage of David in his same hometown of Bethlehem, especially exceptional considering that up until the last moment Jesus was expected to be born in Nazareth, a week’s long journey away. What are the odds of improbability it was simply by chance?

REFERENCES:

[1] 2 Samuel 11, 16.
[2] I Samuel 17.
[3] I Sam. 16; Chronicles 2, 10.
[4] I Samuel 18.
[5] I Samuel 19.
[6] 2 Samuel 2, 5.  1 Chronicles 10, 11.
[7] 1Chronicles 11.
[8] I Chronicles 11; 2 Samuel 5. Josephus.  Josephus, Flavius.  Antiquities of the Jews. Book VII, Chapter III.1. <http://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false>
[9] 2 Samuel 5.  I Chronicles 11. Josephus.  Antiquity. Book VII, Chapter III.1.
[10] I Chronicles 17:1. Josephus. Antiquity. Book VII, Chapter III.1-2. Net.bible.org. Hebrew text. “Jebus <2982>”  <https://net.bible.orgLexicon-Concordance Online Bible.  Hebrew “Jebuw <2982>” (Brown-Driver-Briggs). <http://lexiconcordance.com>  Dolphin, Lambert. “Mount Moriah, Site of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.”  TempleMount.org. 1996.  <http://www.templemount.org/moriah2.html> “Zion.”  Fausset Bible Dictionary. 1878. http://classic.studylight.org/dic/fbd>  
[11] Genesis 49; 2 Samuel 5; 1 Chronicles 11, 17; Chronicles 5; 1Kings 2; Judges 1; Psalms 76.  Josephus.  Antiquities. Book VII, Chapter III.2.    
[12] NASB.  I Chronicles 17.
[13] Exodus 30.
[14] I Chronicles 21; 2 Samuel 24.
[15] I Chronicles 21; 2 Chronicles 3; 2 Samuel 24.
[16] I Chronicles 21.  2 Samuel 24. “Araunah.” Jewish Encyclopedia.  2011. <http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com> “The Site – The Temple Mount.”  Bible-History.com.  n.d. <http://www.bible-history.com/jewishtemple/JEWISH_TEMPLEThe_Site.htm>  Josephus.  Antiquities. Book VII, Chapter III.
[17] NKJV.  I Chronicles 22; 2 Chronicles 3.  
[18] “Lord Acton writes to Bishop Creighton…” Online Library of Liberty. 2017. <http://oll.libertyfund.org/quote/214>
[19] 2 Samuel 12.
[20] Isaiah 9; Jeremiah 23; 33; Zechariah 12.  The Compete Jewish Bible – with Rashi Commentary. Rashi commentaries: Gensis 49:10; Numbers 24:17; Zechariah 12:12; Micah 5:2.  
Maimonides.  Mishneh Torah.  “The Law Concerning Moshiach.” Chapter 11. <http://www.kesser.org/moshiach/rambam.html#SIE>
[21] The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi’s Commentary. Rashi commentaries on Micah 5:2 and Psalms 118:22. “Salvation.” Jewish Encyclopedia.  2011.

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The Day Jesus Was Crucified – An Appointed Time?

Execution of Jesus of Nazareth didn’t happen on just any day of the year…the timing is simply too hard to ignore. The day Jesus was crucified – an appointed time or simply a 1-in-365 odds happenstance incident?

Of all the days in the year for Jesus to be crucified, it occurred on the first day of the Jewish Passover commemorating the event when the sacrifice of an innocent lamb had once been required of God for salvation from slavery and tyranny. Merriam-Webster defines sacrifice as “an act of offering to a deity something precious.”

Crucifixion circumstances were completely controlled by the archenemies of Jesus and the Roman government; impossible to be controlled by anyone else – not a human messiah figure, not his Disciples nor any alleged Christian conspirators.

Does the timing at The Passover have a deeper significance, a divine parallelism? Clues to a possible answer start with a basic understanding of an appointed time in the Hebrew Law given by God at Mt. Sinai.

_ _ _ _ _

From the burning the bush at the base of Mt. Sinai, God told Moses to return to Egypt after a 40-year exile. Along with his brother Aaron, they confronted the mighty Pharaoh with the message – it was clear and succinct:

Ex 5:1 …”Thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘Let My people go, that they may hold a feast to Me in the wilderness.’”(NKJV)

Pharaoh was not initially willing to give up his slave labor force, but he paid a big price for taking that stance. Suffering through several plagues, Egypt’s Ruler was finally looking to stop their misery and commanded, “‘Go, serve the Lord your God.”

Having an afterthought he asked, “Exactly who is going with you?” Pharaoh realized he was about to make a big mistake if he let all the Hebrews leave. On the other hand, if he allowed only the Hebrew men to go have this feast, he could hold their families hostage.[i]

Moses countered with a response that ruined Pharaoh’s scheme: “We will go with our young and our old, with our sons and our daughters, and with our sheep and our cattle we will go, because we are to hold a pilgrim feast for the Lord.”[ii]

‘No way!’ was the essence of Pharaoh’s response saying “‘No! Go, you men only, and serve the Lord, for that is what you want.’ Moses and Aaron were then driven out of Pharaoh’s presence.”[iii]The plague of locusts followed making it clear that nothing less than a full release of the Israelites was acceptable to God. Next came the 9th plague of deep darkness for three full days.

Leading up to the horrible night of the 10th plague, God offered protection for the Hebrews by following a precise sacrificial ritual. Each family chose one of their unblemished lambs, sacrificed it, splashed its blood on the door posts of their homes, and roasted the lamb for a family feast at sunset.

At midnight, the angel of death passed over any home with the blood splashed on the doorposts sparing the lives of the Hebrew firstborn. For the Egyptians, the 10th plague was devastating. Every firstborn, young and old, even the livestock, died that night including the Ruler’s own son. Pharaoh’s resolve was finally broken.

Salvation from the plague of death set the stage for what would become Israel’s first legally mandated Feast observance saying, “It is the LORD’s Passover.” Every year thereafter, the Passover was to be observed as a celebration festival to remember how God delivered the Hebrews from Egyptian tyranny:[iv]

Ex 12:14‘So this day shall be to you a memorial; and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD throughout your generations. You shall keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance.(NKJV)

A few weeks later, God handed down the Law to Moses at the top of Mt. Sinai. The Law defined the observance of three annual Festivals or Feasts using similar terms as for the weekly Sabbath, each called “a holy assembly” or “holy convocation.” The Passover opened the annual festival cycle beginning with the Feast of Unleavened Bread to be observed in the place God chooses at its appointed time in the month of Abib aka Nissan 14th – 21st:[v]

Lev. 23:4-7 ‘These are the feasts of the LORD, holy convocations which you shall proclaim at their appointed times.

‘On the fourteenth day of the first month at twilight is the LORD’S Passover.

‘And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the LORD; seven days you must eat unleavened bread.

‘On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall do no customary work on it. (NKJV)

For the Passover, the primary component was the sacrifice of the paschal lamb. The feast and the week that followed were to be a time of solemn celebration in remembrance of God’s miraculous deliverance from slavery and tyranny.

Was it merely a coincidence that Jesus of Nazareth, found to be innocent by rulers of Judah (Herod) and Rome (Pilate), was still crucified at the behest of the Jewish Council on the first day of Passover? Chance or a divine plan?

REFERENCES:
NKJV = New King James Version translation.
NET = NETBible translation
[i] NET
[ii] NET
[iii] Quotes from NET translation. Exodus 10[iv] Exodus 12
[iv] Exodus 13, 34.
[v] Exodus 12; Deuteronomy 16; Leviticus 23. “Abib” and “Nisan.”  Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011.

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God v. Jesus – The Trial of Jesus

Jesus of Nazareth had been arrested Thursday evening, formally the Jewish beginning of Friday, Passover Nissan 15, by a posse of the Jewish leadership in the Garden of Gethsemane outside Jerusalem. Escorted by the armed Temple Guards and their Roman captain back into the city, he was to immediately stand trial on the charge of blasphemy as defined in the Law of Moses.[i]

Prosecuting the case in defense of God’s Law was Chief Priest Caiaphas. The defendant representing himself was Jesus of Nazareth. The verdict of the trial of Jesus would have colossal implications in one of two very different ways.

Acquittal would mean, at the very least, that Jesus could possibly be the Son of God. Such a verdict would be an embarrassment for the Jewish council while posing a threat to their religious political powerbase. Rome would surely react unfavorably to any potential new Jewish figurehead who might be viewed as an insurrectionist.

Conviction would publicly label Jesus as a blasphemer worthy of death, not worship. God’s Law would be successfully defended and upheld.[ii]Trouble with Rome would be averted. As an added bonus, the subversive threat to their Jewish political powerbase would be eliminated. A Jewish Talmud Gemara would later expose another truth behind of the charge of blasphemy: 

San 49b “…thus the blasphemer and the idol-worshipper are executed.  Wherein lies the particular enormity of these offences? — Because they constitute an attack upon the fundamental belief of Judaism.”[iii]

Gravity of the situation called for a fair and thorough trial, but how likely was that reality? At stake was the defense of Judaism, a religious institution headed by the same powerbase that was responsible for rendering the verdict – the prosecution witnesses even came from among those serving as judge and jury.[iv]

Defense witnesses for Jesus were nowhere to be found. Not because there weren’t any, but being under the threat of death themselves, who would come forward in his defense?[v]Even his most stalwart disciple, Peter, upon whom Jesus had declared would build his church, would deny knowing Jesus three times that very night as the trial progressed.

Other ominous signs did not favor a fair trial since it was not conducted in accordance with Jewish law. Legal code in the Talmud defined how capital offenses were to be tried and convictions rendered. Among them: [vi]

Sanhedrin 32a Mishnah:

“Capital charges must be tried by day and concluded by day.”

“In capital charges, anyone may argue in his favour, but not against him.”

“Capital charges may be concluded on the same day with a favourable verdict, but only on the morrow with an unfavourable verdict therefore trials are not held on the eve of a Sabbath or Festival.”

Pretrial events began at the residence of Annas, a Sanhedrin power broker, former Chief Priest and father-in-law of Chief Priest Caiaphas.[vii]Annas began with cursory questions asking Jesus about his disciples and his teachings. Jesus replied that he had always spoken openly in the Temple and synagogues – there were no secrets. “Why do you ask me? Ask those who heard what I said to them; they know what I said.”(NRSV)

His response did not sit well with his captors, one of them reacted by hitting Jesus. Holding firm, Jesus challenged his captors again saying, “”If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong. But if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?””(NRSV) With this, Annas sent the posse with their blindfolded and bound prisoner to Caiaphas. By the time they arrived, Jesus had been mocked and beaten.

Chief Priest Caiaphas presided over the aberrant trial held that fateful night. The Law required two eyewitnesses to corroborate the same point of evidence to establish a fact for a conviction.[viii]Initially the proceedings were not going well for the prosecution effort with many accusers coming forward, but no two testimonies could agree.[ix]Finally, two witnesses confirmed an accusation: “We heard Him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with hands, and in three days I will build another made without hands.’”(NASB)

It was true. Jesus had made this claim after he wrecked the tables of the money changers and merchants in the Temple.[x]Was this a literal or figurative claim by Jesus? Was it really evidence he blasphemed God? Caiaphas understood the implications – he pounced on the moment with an indicting question that cut to the heart of the trial:

“Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” (ISV, NLT, NRSV)

An answer in the affirmative would be self-incriminating and condemning. It was the moment of truth – was Jesus of Nazareth willing to put it all on the line knowing that he could die if he acknowledged this to be true? The answer to Caiaphas was clear when Jesus answered:

“I am.”

To be crystal clear, Jesus added:

“’you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power’ and ‘coming with the clouds of heaven.’” (ISV, NET, NRSV)

Verdict was rendered immediately when Chief Priest Caiaphas tore his robes and said,

“He has blasphemed! What further need do we have of witnesses?”(NASB)

– – – – –

Sentencing was still not a slam dunk. Under Roman rule, the Jews were not allowed to carry out capital punishment.[xi]Would a heathen Roman government even entertain a charge of blasphemy based solely in Jewish religious law? They figured, probably not. On the outside chance that did happen, would Rome issue a death penalty verdict for blasphemy? Even more unlikely.[xii]

Considering their options, the Jewish council sought to convince Pilate that Jesus was guilty of failure to pay taxes to Caesar and insurrection to Rome for claiming to be a king. Either could result in the Roman death penalty. For Pilate, insurrection was a hot button issue with Rome having battled insurrections throughout his tenure as Procurator.[xiii]Ultimately Pilate found Jesus to have no guilt, but caved to the political pressure and sentenced Jesus to be crucified.

Was it a fair trial?

REFERENCES:

NASB = New American Standard Bible translation
ISV = International Standard Version translation
NLT = New Living Translation
NRSV = New Revised Standard Version translation
Gospel accounts:  Matthew 26-27, Mark 14-15, Luke 22-23, John 18-19.

[i] Josephus, Flavius. Antiquities of the Jews. Book XX, Chapter VIII.  NetBible.org. Greek Text. John 18:3, 12: “chiliarchos <5506>” and “speira <4686>”.
[ii] Leviticus 24:15-16. Josephus. Against Apion. Book II, #21-23. Soncino Babylonian Talmud. Ed. Isidore Epstein. 1935 – 1948. Sanhedrin 49b. <https://israelect.com/Come-and-Hear/sanhedrin/index.html>
[iii] Sanhedrin 49b.
[iv] Josephus.  Against Apion. Book II.  <http://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false>   Spiro, Ken. “History Crash Course #39: The Talmud.” <http://www.aish.com/jl/h/cc/48948646.html>  Valentine, Carol A. . “The Structure of the Talmud Files.” <https://israelect.com/Come-and-Hear/structure.html>
[v] Sanhedrin 43a.
[vi]  Sanhedrin 32a – 36b.
[vii] Edersheim, Alfred. The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. 1883. Chapter 13.  <http://philologos.org/__eb-lat/default.htm>  Josephus.  Antiquities. Book XX, Chapters IX.1 & X.1; Book XVIII, Chapter IV.   Whitson, William. The Complete Works of Josephus. 1850. Footnotes – Book XX, Chapter VIII. <http://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false
[viii] Deuteronomy 17, 19; Numbers 35.  Sanhedrin 9a, 30a.  Resnicoff, Steven H. “Criminal Confessions in Jewish Law .“  2007. <http://www.torah.org/features/secondlook/criminal.html
[ix] Sanhedrin 41a.  “Capital Punishment.” Jewish Virtual Library. http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/capital-punishment>
[x] John 2.
[xi] Sanhedrin 41a. “Capital Punishment.” Jewish Virtual Library. http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/capital-punishment>
[xii] Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. Book V, Chapter 14.
[xiii] Forsythe, Gary Edward.  “Ancient Rome – The Roman Army.” 2007.  <http://history-world.org/roman_army.htm

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