The Old Testament Teaching on the Kingdom

When I was recently in the hospital for a week, I took on a rather extensive research project since I had basically nothing to do for the 20 hours a day I wasn’t sleeping.  I had wanted to read Alva J. McClain’s book The Greatness of the Kingdom, which is an exhaustive look at the concept of “the kingdom” throughout the entire Bible.  I didn’t have the book, so I basically decided to write it.  I had an English concordance and I looked up every single usage of the word “kingdom” in both the OT and the NT, and started refining my understanding of the kingdom.  I’ve heard a lot of talk about “the kingdom” in the NT, but I’ve rarely ever heard anyone explain the setting up of the kingdom promises in the OT.  In Matthew, Jesus just shows up and starts talking about “the kingdom” and it appears that everyone knows what he’s talking about.

I must admit that I wasn’t totally sure what he was talking about, and so here’s my gleanings from my survey of the Old Testament.  I list the usages of the word “kingdom” according to their meaning, and I’ve written some notes about references that are either important or may be slightly confusing:

The Kingdom: OT Usage –

1. Human empires & reign (national).

Gen. 10:10, 20:9; Ex. 19:6; Num. 24:7, 32:33; Deut 3:4, 10, 13, 21, 17:18, 20, 28:25; Josh. 11:10, 13:12, 21, 27, 30, 31; 1 Sam. 10:16, 18, 11:14, 13:13-14, 15:28, 18:8, 20:31, 24:20, 28:17; 2 Sam. 3:10, 28, 5:12, 16:3, 8; 1 Kings 2:12, 15, 2:22, 46, 4:21, 10:20, 11:11, 13, 31, 34-35, 12:21, 26, 14:8, 18:10, 2 Kings 19:19; 1 Chron. 10:14, 11:10, 12:23, 14:2, 16:20, 28:5, 7; 29:11, 30; 2 Chron. 1:1, 9:19, 11:1, 17, 12:8, 14:5, 17:5, 10, 20:29, 21:3, 22:9, 29:21, 32:15, 33:13, 36:20, 22; Ezra 1:1-2, 7:13; Neh. 9:22, 35; Esther 1:14, 20, 2:3, 3:6, 8, 4:14, 5:3, 6, 7:2, 9:30, Ps. 46:6, 68:32, 79:6, 102:22, 105:13, 135:11; Ecc. 4:14; Is. 10:10, 13:4, 13:19, 14:16, 17:3, 19:2, 23:11, 7, 34:12, 37:20, 47:5, 60:12; Jer. 1:10, 15, 15:4, 18:7, 9, 24:9, 25:26, 27:8, 28:8, 29:18, 34:1, 34:17, 49:28, 51:20, 27; Lam. 2:2; Ez. 17:14, 29:14-15, 37:22; Dan. 1:20, 2:37, 39, 40, 41, 42, 4:17-18, 25-26, 31, 36, 5:7, 11, 16, 5:21, 26, 28-29, 31, 6:1, 3-4, 7, 26, 7:23-24, 8:22-23, 10:13, 11:2, 17, 20-21; Hos. 1:4; Amos 6:2, 7:13, 9:8; Ob. 1:21; Nah. 3:5; Zeph. 3:8; Hag. 2:22

a. In Exodus 19:6, the phrase “kingdom of priests” pictures a literal human kingdom where every subject of the kingdom has direct access to God, akin to a priest.  This is not talking about something esoteric or metaphorical.

b. In 1 Chron. 29:11, when David says “Yours is the kingdom, O Lord”, David is referring to the fact that his kingdom was actually given him by God.  “The kingdom” was a synonym for the empire of Israel.

2. God’s universal empire and rule.

2 Kings 19:15; 1 Chron. 29:11; 2 Chron. 13:8, 20:6, 36:23; Ps. 45:6, 103:19, 145:11-13; 37:16; Jer. 10:7; Dan. 2:37-44, 4:3, 17, 25-26, 32, 34, 5:21

a. In 1 Chron. 29:11, David recognizes that “all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours” (God’s universal reign), and thereby “yours is the kingdom” refers to David’s kingdom in Israel; a sub-kingdom under God’s universal kingdom.

3. A singular global everlasting empire promised to a descendant of David.

Ex. 19:6; 1 Sam 13:13-14; 2 Sam. 7:12-16, 1 Chron. 17:11-14, 28: 5-7; Is 9:6-7; Dan. 2:44-45, 7:14, 18, 22, 27

a. Exodus 19:6 is the first promise of the millennial kingdom in the Old Testament.  Exodus 19:6 doesn’t mention the millennium (obviously), but the phrases “kingdom of priests” and “holy nation” are promises to national Israel that have not yet been realized in Israel.  I suspect that these promises will not be realized in Israel until all Israel is saved in the millennium.

b.  in 1 Samuel 13:13-14, when Saul loses the kingdom, it’s said that if he would have been faithful to the Lord (i.e. possess perfect righteousness) his kingdom would have been everlasting.  Saul clearly wasn’t, but that doesn’t negate the reality and legitimacy of the offer of an everlasting kingdom.  This also suggests that the idea of an everlasting kingdom in Israel (with a national Jew on the throne)was placed by God, before David, and was dependant on the faithfulness of the king.  The idea of an everlasting kingdom is an old one, and the requirement to be part of that kingdom has always been perfect righteousness. This isn’t a mention of the millennial kingdom, but it definitely makes a lot of sense when understood in the light of a millennial kingdom, established in Israel, where Jew and Gentile are both part of the kingdom and possessors of perfect righteousness.

c. 2 Samuel 7:12-16 contains several promises:

i. When David dies, someone from his line will become king.

ii. The future Davidic king will build a house for Yahweh’s name (temple).

iii. Yahweh will make his reign everlasting.

iv. Yahweh will be a father to him and he will be a son to Yahweh.

v. He will be disciplined by God “when he commits iniquity” (?!?), but Yahweh’s covenant faithfulness (hesed) will not depart from him as it did with Saul.

vi. David’s house, kingdom and throne will be everlasting.

– These promises are all also contained in 1 Chron. 7:11-14, without the line “when he commits iniquity”.

– These promises are specifically to David and deal with a kingdom that is like in manner to his kingdom.  David’s throne is, and always has been, in Israel.  David’s line refers to actual genealogical descent.  There is nothing here other than the promise of an everlasting, earthly, physical, real kingdom in the same sense as every other tangible kingdom in David’s day.  The “kingdom” promised to David wasn’t some sort of metaphor for anything.

d. 1 Chron. 28:5-7 gives strong reason to suggest that Solomon is the king that David was promised.  It mentions Solomon building a temple for Yahweh, how Yahweh says “I have chosen him to be my son, and I will be his father”, and how Yahweh promises that if Solomon remains obedient to his commandments and statutes, his kingdom will be established forever.  David would have thought that Solomon was the promised seed, and Solomon could have been if he were faithful (the offer was legitimate, just like Saul’s offer), but Solomon’s kingdom was anything but everlasting.  It is definitely worth noting that, just as Yahweh promised, Solomon was disciplined when he committed iniquity but his covenant faithfulness did not depart from Solomon.  Solomon’s royal line continued all throughout the Old Testament and continued all the way to a carpenter’s son from Nazareth whom you may have heard of; you know, the guy who created the universe?

e.  Is. 9:6-7 contains mention of the promised Davidic king who is still to come and reminded Israel that Yahweh’s promises, though looking forgotten, are never forgotten or annulled.  There still is a coming king, just like Yahweh promised, but this coming king will be called “Wonderful Counselor”, “Mighty God”, “Everlasting Father”, “Prince of Peace”.  The 2nd and 3rd titles are bizarre ones to use of one of an descendant of David.  Yet, it is promised that he will have unlimited rule and peace, and will sit upon the throne of David and rule David’s dominion (Israel) in everlasting justice and righteousness.

I hope that is somewhat helpful to narrow down what the Jews were expecting regarding “the kingdom”.  The OT promises and foundations for an understanding of the kingdom really challenge what little teaching I’ve had on the subject of the kingdom, and once I got through the OT research, I started wondering if I’d had some highly confused instruction on the kingdom from many people in my past.

I’ll post my far more extensive NT notes sometime soon enough (along with accompanying thoughts).

Feel free to toss out any thoughts or interactions, as always.

Until Next Time,

Lyndon “Longing for the day the Kingdom Comes!” Unger

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One thought on “The Old Testament Teaching on the Kingdom

  1. Pingback: Bible Bite: the Judgment of the Sheep and the Goats… | Watch Your Life and Doctrine Closely…

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