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Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Part VI: Fulfillment: Jesus Christ

There is another thing that Herbert Armstrong was right about - not only did the patriarchs NOT receive what God had promised them, but they were also NEVER fulfilled by the Israelites. For Armstrong, this delay was explained by twisting a scripture in the book of Leviticus and employing some very sketchy math to arrive at the notion that God intentionally withheld fulfillment of the promises for 2520 years! Armstrong read: "And if ye will not yet for all this hearken unto me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins" (26:18, KJV) and interpreted that to mean that he should multiply 360 (the number of days in the Hebrew calendar year) by seven. Then, using the day for a year principle, he determined that this would be the period which God would withhold fulfillment of the promises to Israel!

Now, I realize that many of you will read that and respond with: "SAY WHAT!" However, for those who are tempted to attribute great spiritual insight into this calculation, READ ON. First, as any good student of the Bible knows, context is the most important component in trying to understand/interpret any passage of Scripture, and this one is no exception to that rule. In this case, the context is PUNISHMENT for failing to obey God's commandments and breaking his covenant (Leviticus 26:14-15) Hence, the eighteenth verse is suggestive of the INTENSITY of the punishment to be administered for this failure, NOT the duration of it. This same passage (verse 18) is translated "seven times over" in both the NIV and NLT. In the ESV, we read: "And if in spite of this you will not listen to me, then I will discipline you again sevenfold for your sins." Moreover, that this is the correct sense of this verse is confirmed by three subsequent verses which complete this thought (Leviticus 26:21, 24, 28) Thus, once again, this passage simply makes clear that God made Israel's inheritance of the promises given to their forebearers conditional, it has NOTHING to do with putting a hold on their inheritance of them!

In this context, we need to ask ourselves some questions: Why didn't God fulfill his promises to the person(s) to whom he made them? Why did their children live in bondage in Egypt for hundreds of years? Why did the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah never receive those promises? Why didn't any of the generations between the fall of those kingdoms and the arrival of Jesus Christ inherit those promises? For that matter, why haven't any of the generations since then inherited the promises made to Abraham? We've seen Herbert Armstrong's flimsy explanation for the delay, but is there some other reason that NONE of those folks inherited the promises made to their forefather, Abraham?

Yes, there was a reason that none of those folks inherited those blessings, and that reason was/is JESUS CHRIST! As we demonstrated in Part I of this series, the promises to Abraham were made with only ONE of his descendants in mind. Remember what Paul wrote to the saints of Galatia? In that epistle we read: "Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, 'And to seeds,' as of many, but as of one, 'And to your Seed,' who is Christ." (Galatians 3:16, NKJV) Still, what about all of those other folks?

The answer to that question is found in the epistle to the Hebrews! After listing several biblical examples of faith in God (11:1-7), the author comes at last to Abraham. We read: "It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going. And even when he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith—for he was like a foreigner, living in tents. And so did Isaac and Jacob, who inherited the same promise. Abraham was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God." (Verses 8-10, NLT) In other words, Abraham was looking forward to something that transcended a material fulfillment of the promises made to him! He simply BELIEVED that God would fulfill those promises to him someday - PERIOD!

Abraham's faith transcended the physical circumstances in which he and Sarah found themselves. After all, they were both very old people when God made his promises to them. Sarah was long past the age of childbearing, and Abraham had to have known that he couldn't have had many years left to enjoy any kind of life on this earth. Indeed, continuing with the account in Hebrews, we read: "It was by faith that even Sarah was able to have a child, though she was barren and was too old. She believed that God would keep his promise. And so a whole nation came from this one man who was as good as dead—a nation with so many people that, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore, there is no way to count them." (Verses 11-12) In short, they had confidence in something beyond this physical life - beyond this temporary existence that we enjoy for a season. This is made even clearer by what follows. We read: "All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did NOT receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth. Obviously people who say such things are looking forward to a country they can call their own. If they had longed for the country they came from, they could have gone back. But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them." (Verses 13-16)

In other words, Abraham (and all the other examples of faith) knew that his (their) death was NOT an impediment to God fulfilling his promises to him (them). Continuing, we read: "It was by faith that Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice when God was testing him. Abraham, who had received God’s promises, was ready to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, even though God had told him, 'Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted.' Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again. And in a sense, Abraham did receive his son back from the dead." (Verses 17-19) The narrative continues in the same vein. In the verses which follow (20-34), we read of Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh, Moses, and the people of Israel (including David), and the faith which they all exhibited. We are also informed that many of these folks were tortured, ridiculed, beaten, imprisoned, stoned, sawed in half, murdered, abused, destitute, and spent their lives on the run (verses 35-38). In other words, these folks continued to believe in God's ability to keep his promises to them even after experiencing some awful things in this life. Indeed, the chapter finishes with: "All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet NONE of them received all that God had promised. For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us." (Verses 39-40) So, them not receiving the promises had something to do with us?

YES! Remember, the chapter and verse designations were added centuries after these documents were originally written. Hence, the author's thought continues into the next chapter. We read: "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin." (Hebrews 12:1-4) So, the Christians to whom this epistle was addressed were to take heart from these examples of faith and live out their lives as Christians - never allowing anything to quench their faith in God and what he had promised! And, if this was the message for those folks (who have been dead now for almost two thousand years), doesn't that suggest that we (Christians in 2023) should be doing the same thing? In other words, whatever Christians have to endure in this life, we shouldn't lose faith in what God has promised!

But how did we become heirs of the promises made to Abraham? We've already answered that question in a previous post. Remember Paul's letter to the Galatians? We read there: "For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you." (Galatians 3:26-29) Now, that makes sense! We (Christians) are the heirs of the promises made to Abraham because we belong to Jesus Christ - the SEED to whom the promises were made (according to Paul)!

And Jesus Christ is able to make us Abraham's children and heirs of the promises made to him in the same way that he made Abraham and the patriarchs worthy of receiving those promises! That way was prophesied by the prophet Isaiah many years before Christ was born as a human! In the fifty-third chapter of that book, we read: "He was despised and rejected— a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all." (Verses 3-6) This is how Christ made us (and them) right with God and worthy to receive those promises! Continuing, we read: "He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth. Unjustly condemned, he was led away. No one cared that he died without descendants, that his life was cut short in midstream. But he was struck down for the rebellion of my people. He had done no wrong and had never deceived anyone. But he was buried like a criminal; he was put in a rich man’s grave. But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have many descendants. He will enjoy a long life, and the Lord’s good plan will prosper in his hands." (Verses 7-10) And, in carrying all of our sins and making us clean in God's sight, Christ also fulfilled God's promise to make Abraham a blessing to all of the peoples of the earth! 

In other words, there was/is no need for a physical people to receive material blessings. Scripture clearly indicates that both the physical and spiritual promises to the patriarchs were/are/will be fulfilled in Jesus Christ - the descendant of Abraham. As the book of Hebrews suggests, the promises will only be finally and fully fulfilled in the FUTURE - within the context of being made right with God through Jesus and receiving a full welcome into his Kingdom! Alright, but what about the promises that were made to David?

There are numerous prophecies in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) about Jesus Christ being the fulfillment of that promise made to David. We will look at only a few of those - enough to establish this fact beyond dispute. In the book of Isaiah, we read: "For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!" (9:6-7) Did you catch that? The Messiah would inherit "the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity."

Unfortunately, Herbert Armstrong couldn't understand how a throne (as a symbol of the office and authority of the king) could continue to exist even if there was no one currently available to occupy it. In his infamous booklet referenced earlier in this series, he asked: "But how could Jesus Christ, when He returns again to earth, take over and sit upon a throne that long ago ceased to exist?" After comparing Israel to a faithless wife, the prophet Hosea explained: "Israel will go a long time without a king or prince, and without sacrifices, sacred pillars, priests, or even idols! But afterward the people will return and devote themselves to the Lord their God and to David’s descendant, their king. In the last days, they will tremble in awe of the Lord and of his goodness." (3:4-5) Herbert simply couldn't understand that a fallen tabernacle could be righted (Amos 9:11). He obviously forgot about Nebuchadnezzar being restored to his throne after an absence of seven years (see Daniel 4). Although Jeremiah does refer to the King of Judah sitting on David's throne (Jeremiah 22:2), Zedekiah didn't occupy David's throne in the strictest sense of that term. David ruled over a united Israel. Zedekiah ruled over the Kingdom of Judah - the throne he inherited from his ancestor, King Rehoboam! Yes, this line of kings was of David's house/dynasty, but they had not inherited the same authority and territory which David had exercised/possessed during his reign.

Returning to Isaiah, we also read: "Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot— yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root. And the Spirit of the Lord will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. He will delight in obeying the Lord. He will not judge by appearance nor make a decision based on hearsay. He will give justice to the poor and make fair decisions for the exploited. The earth will shake at the force of his word, and one breath from his mouth will destroy the wicked. He will wear righteousness like a belt and truth like an undergarment. In that day the wolf and the lamb will live together; the leopard will lie down with the baby goat. The calf and the yearling will be safe with the lion, and a little child will lead them all. The cow will graze near the bear. The cub and the calf will lie down together. The lion will eat hay like a cow. The baby will play safely near the hole of a cobra. Yes, a little child will put its hand in a nest of deadly snakes without harm. Nothing will hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain, for as the waters fill the sea, so the earth will be filled with people who know the Lord. In that day the heir to David’s throne will be a banner of salvation to all the world. The nations will rally to him, and the land where he lives will be a glorious place. In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to bring back the remnant of his people—those who remain in Assyria and northern Egypt; in southern Egypt, Ethiopia, and Elam; in Babylonia, Hamath, and all the distant coastlands. He will raise a flag among the nations and assemble the exiles of Israel. He will gather the scattered people of Judah from the ends of the earth." (11:1-12) Could it be any clearer who is the heir to David's throne?

The prophet Jeremiah also made this very clear. In the thirty-third chapter of that book, we read: "The day will come, says the Lord, when I will do for Israel and Judah all the good things I have promised them. 'In those days and at that time I will raise up a righteous descendant from King David’s line. He will do what is just and right throughout the land. In that day Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this will be its name: ‘The Lord Is Our Righteousness.’ For this is what the Lord says: David will have a descendant sitting on the throne of Israel forever. And there will always be Levitical priests to offer burnt offerings and grain offerings and sacrifices to me." (Verses 14-18) Once again, could this be any clearer?

If the Old Testament is not enough for some folks, we also have more than enough passages of Scripture from the New Testament which equally demonstrate this truth! In the Gospel of Luke, we are informed that the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her that she would give birth to the Messiah. We read: "'Don’t be afraid, Mary,' the angel told her, 'for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!” (1:30-33) Also, two of the Gospel accounts show Christ's descent from both David and Abraham (Matthew 1 and Luke 3). Moreover, Jesus is continually referred to throughout the Synoptic Gospels as the "son of David." (Matthew 1:1, 9:27, 12:23, 15:22, 20:30-31, 21:9, 15, 22:42, Mark 10:47-48, Luke 18:38-39) Clearly, from the perspective of both testaments of the Judeo-Christian canon, Jesus Christ was the one who would fulfill the promise to David!

Still, Herbert claimed that Christ must return to this earth to assume David's throne. What about that? In the book of Daniel, we read: "As my vision continued that night, I saw someone like a son of man coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient One and was led into his presence. He was given authority, honor, and sovereignty over all the nations of the world, so that people of every race and nation and language would obey him. His rule is eternal—it will never end. His kingdom will never be destroyed." (7:13-14) In other words, Christ would receive his throne from God in heaven, NOT on the earth!

This is also consistent with a parable that Jesus told his disciples during his earthly ministry. In the nineteenth chapter of Luke, we read: "A nobleman was called away to a distant empire to be crowned king and then return." (Verse 12) Notice that the nobleman (who obviously represents Christ) goes to a distant place (heaven) to receive a crown and return. Likewise, in the book of Revelation, we read of Christ's return to this earth (still future): "Then I saw heaven opened, and a white horse was standing there. Its rider was named Faithful and True, for he judges fairly and wages a righteous war. His eyes were like flames of fire, and on his head were many crowns. A name was written on him that no one understood except himself. He wore a robe dipped in blood, and his title was the Word of God. The armies of heaven, dressed in the finest of pure white linen, followed him on white horses. From his mouth came a sharp sword to strike down the nations. He will rule them with an iron rod. He will release the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty, like juice flowing from a winepress. On his robe at his thigh was written this title: King of all kings and Lord of all lords." (19:11-16) Notice, that Christ is portrayed as coming from heaven as "King of all kings" before he actually arrives back on earth!

The supporters of Anglo-Israelism, however, also point out that the "son" referred to in the promise to David was to build a Temple to God (and Solomon certainly did build the first Temple). In this connection, there is a compelling story in the Gospel of John about Jesus forcing some money changers to leave the Temple which was then standing in Jerusalem (2:13-17). Continuing with the account, we read: "But the Jewish leaders demanded, 'What are you doing? If God gave you authority to do this, show us a miraculous sign to prove it.' 'All right,' Jesus replied. 'Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.' 'What!; they exclaimed. 'It has taken forty-six years to build this Temple, and you can rebuild it in three days?' But when Jesus said 'this temple,' he meant his own body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered he had said this, and they believed both the Scriptures and what Jesus had said." (Verses 18-22) Isn't that interesting, Christ referred to his resurrection from the dead as him rebuilding the Temple! By the way, this narrative is backed up by some of the charges that were hurled at Christ by his enemies (Matthew 26:61, 27:40, Mark 14:58, 15:29).

In this connection, we should also note that the Apostle Paul continually referred to a Christian's body as the Temple of the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 3:16-17, 6:19, II Corinthians 6:16, Ephesians 2:21-22). And, finally, in the New Jerusalem, we read that John "saw no temple in the city, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple." (Revelation 21:22) Hence, we see that Christ has built, and is building, a new and more permanent Temple for God through himself and his followers.

Now, we have seen how Jesus Christ represents the fulfillment of the promises made to Abraham and David. Jesus said that he came to this earth to FULFILL the law and the prophets (Matthew 5:17), but how many of the supporters of Anglo-Israelism really believe that? How many of those folks actually understand that the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) was the ONLY Bible the First Century Church had access to, and that they preached Jesus out of THAT BOOK? They literally saw Jesus everywhere in those writings, and the New Testament is FULL of references to passages from the Old Testament which Jesus fulfilled! So, YES, Jesus of Nazareth really was the fulfillment of the Torah and the Prophets, and the promises made to Abraham and David so long ago really do/will find their fulfillment in HIM!

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Part V: Failure, Punishment, and Redemption

Now, in Part III of this series, we underscored the fact that the children of Israel's participation in the promises made to Abraham was conditional (based on the terms of the covenant/agreement which God made with them. Likewise, in Part IV of this series, we underscored the fact that Solomon's and his descendants' participation in the promises made to David was conditional. In both cases, their participation in those blessings was made contingent upon their good behavior - whether or not they were faithful to God and were obedient to the instructions which he had given them in the Torah. However, the promises to/covenants with Abraham and David were unconditional and immutable. In other words, there was NO question that they would be carried out and fulfilled by God. The ONLY question, then, was whether or not these other people would qualify to share in the commitments which God had originally made to those two men!

Unfortunately, Scripture is very clear about the fact that ALL of those other folks FAILED to meet the criteria which God had established for their participation in the promises made to their ancestors! So, we can see that the how and why of their failure is critical to refuting the larger premise of Anglo-Israelism. In other words, we must establish that they did indeed fail and were, consequently, NOT entitled to share in those blessings! Thus, in this part of the series, we will examine the moral failings (sins), both individual and collective, which led to their disqualification and punishment. However, we will also look at yet another promise which God made to these same folks - that, someday, he would mercifully redeem them from their fallen state and eventually allow them to fully participate in those same blessings!

Even so, we begin with the failures, and they were both egregious and numerous. Indeed, in the case of the children of Israel, the ink wasn't even dry on the contract between them and God when they started violating its terms! In the thirty-second chapter of Exodus, we read that the people grew impatient waiting for Moses to return from the mountaintop and asked Aaron to make them a golden calf! Keep in mind, that God had just given them these commands as part of his covenant with them: "You must not have any other god but me. You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods." (Exodus 20:3-5) Next, Aaron's sons failed to follow God's instructions for the priesthood (Leviticus 10). And the children of Israel never grew tired of complaining (Numbers 11-12). They also failed to follow God's instructions about exploring and taking possession of the Land of Canaan (Numbers 13-14). A short time later, we are informed that a man named Korah incited a rebellion against the leadership of Moses and Aaron (Numbers 16). That settled, Moses himself failed to follow God's instructions at the Waters of Meribah (Numbers 20). Next, some of the Israelites were seduced by Moabite women and were drawn into the worship of their gods (Numbers 25). In other words, the children of Israel were violating the terms of their covenant with God straight out of the gate! Notice that ALL of these examples are from the Torah!

Moreover, as we will demonstrate, the Scriptural narrative which follows makes clear that the sinning NEVER stopped! The people of Israel sinned during the period of their conquest of the land of Canaan (Joshua 7:1-15). Likewise, we read that the children of Israel continually violated the terms of their covenant with God throughout the time that God's judges were leading them (Judges 2:11, 3:7, 12, 4:1, 6:1, 10:6, 13:1, I Samuel 2:12-17, 8:1-8). What's more, the wickedness and covenant breaking only seemed to intensify after Israel became a kingdom!

Indeed, throughout the various books which cover the history of their kingdoms (I & II Samuel, I & II Kings, and I & II Chronicles), we see that the children of Israel and their monarchs were partners in sin! We have already mentioned Saul's failure and Israel's subsequent defeat in previous sections of this series, but Scripture informs us that most of the men who succeeded him in the kingship also failed in their duties to God and their people! In fact, even David, the man to whom God made the promise of an eternal throne, failed repeatedly to live up to God's standards. In graphic and painful detail, Scripture informs us that David committed adultery and murdered the woman's husband to cover up his misdeeds (II Samuel 11, 12). Likewise, we read in the twenty-fourth chapter of the same book that David failed to follow God's instructions about taking a census of Israel. And, the sinning wasn't confined to the king, we read in the same account that David's children also dabbled in sin from time to time (II Samuel 13-18).

In similar fashion, we have already read about Solomon's idolatry, and the Lord's decision to allow his enemies to trouble the latter part of his reign over Israel and tear most of the kingdom away from his son (Rehoboam). Even so, as we continue reading, we see that all of this was only the beginning of the tale of sinning and covenant breaking! For instance, we are informed that the very first king of a separate Israel (Jeroboam) created two golden calves for his people to worship and led them into sin (I Kings 12:25-33). Indeed, after the new king was warned about the consequences of his behavior, we read: "But even after this, Jeroboam did not turn from his evil ways. He continued to choose priests from the common people. He appointed anyone who wanted to become a priest for the pagan shrines. This became a great sin and resulted in the utter destruction of Jeroboam’s dynasty from the face of the earth." (I Kings 13:33-34)

Unfortunately, Scripture informs us that Jeroboam's wicked behavior was repeated by ALL of the men who followed him on the throne of Israel! Continuing in this account, we read that: "Nadab son of Jeroboam began to rule over Israel in the second year of King Asa’s reign in Judah. He reigned in Israel two years. But he did what was evil in the Lord’s sight and followed the example of his father, continuing the sins that Jeroboam had led Israel to commit. Then Baasha son of Ahijah, from the tribe of Issachar, plotted against Nadab and assassinated him while he and the Israelite army were laying siege to the Philistine town of Gibbethon. Baasha killed Nadab in the third year of King Asa’s reign in Judah, and he became the next king of Israel." (I Kings 15:25-28) Indeed, that phrase, "he did what was evil in the Lord's sight," would be repeated over and over again throughout this account of the kings of Israel (I Kings 15:34, 16:19, 22:52, II Kings 13:2, 11, 14:24, etc.) And it wasn't just that kings like Jeroboam, Ahab, and Jehu were personally wicked - it was the fact that they had caused the children of Israel to sin!

Now, in the accounts of these kings, we read that God raised up prophets like Elijah and Elisha to warn them about the consequences of their evil deeds (I Kings 17-19, 21, II Kings 1-8, 13). However, we also see that God sent other prophets to warn the people of Israel and Judah about the consequences of their sins (see the major and minor prophets of the Old Testament). As we will demonstrate, these prophets repeatedly warned both the kings and their subjects about their sinning/covenant breaking, but Scripture also informs us that the children of Israel and their monarchs refused to heed those warnings and continued down the path to their own destruction!

In the book of Isaiah, we read: "Listen, O heavens! Pay attention, earth! This is what the Lord says: 'The children I raised and cared for have rebelled against me. Even an ox knows its owner, and a donkey recognizes its master’s care—but Israel doesn’t know its master. My people don’t recognize my care for them.' Oh, what a sinful nation they are— loaded down with a burden of guilt. They are evil people, corrupt children who have rejected the Lord. They have despised the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him." (1:2-4) In other words, the children of Israel had proven themselves to be both ungrateful and wholly committed to doing the exact opposite of what God had commanded them to do when he had made his covenant with them. God had NOT failed, Israel had failed! A little later, in the same book, we read that God instructed Isaiah to "Shout with the voice of a trumpet blast. Shout aloud! Don’t be timid. Tell my people Israel of their sins!" (58:1)

Moreover, these prophets whom God had raised up made it very clear that both kingdoms had failed miserably in this regard - both the kings of Israel and their people AND the kings of Judah and their people! In the book of Jeremiah, we read: "Listen to the word of the Lord, people of Jacob—all you families of Israel! This is what the Lord says: 'What did your ancestors find wrong with me that led them to stray so far from me? They worshiped worthless idols, only to become worthless themselves...Has any nation ever traded its gods for new ones, even though they are not gods at all? Yet my people have exchanged their glorious God for worthless idols! The heavens are shocked at such a thing and shrink back in horror and dismay,' says the Lord. 'For my people have done two evil things: They have abandoned me— the fountain of living water. And they have dug for themselves cracked cisterns that can hold no water at all! (2:4-13) Jeremiah then proceeded to talk about the people of Judah's hypocrisy relative to their religious practices (7), and their idolatry (10).

Likewise, in the book of Ezekiel, we read: "'Son of man,' he said, 'I am sending you to the nation of Israel, a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me. They and their ancestors have been rebelling against me to this very day. They are a stubborn and hard-hearted people. But I am sending you to say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says!’ And whether they listen or refuse to listen—for remember, they are rebels—at least they will know they have had a prophet among them.'" (2:3-5) Then, a little later in the same book, we read a passage about Ezekiel's commission to warn Israel about the consequences of their sins that is reminiscent of the commission given to Isaiah that we referenced earlier. Ezekiel recorded that God told him: "Now, son of man, I am making you a watchman for the people of Israel. Therefore, listen to what I say and warn them for me. If I announce that some wicked people are sure to die and you fail to tell them to change their ways, then they will die in their sins, and I will hold you responsible for their deaths. But if you warn them to repent and they don’t repent, they will die in their sins, but you will have saved yourself. Son of man, give the people of Israel this message: You are saying, ‘Our sins are heavy upon us; we are wasting away! How can we survive?’ As surely as I live, says the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of wicked people. I only want them to turn from their wicked ways so they can live. Turn! Turn from your wickedness, O people of Israel! Why should you die?" (33:7-11)

In the book of Hosea, we read: "Hear the word of the Lord, O people of Israel! The Lord has brought charges against you, saying: 'There is no faithfulness, no kindness, no knowledge of God in your land. You make vows and break them; you kill and steal and commit adultery. There is violence everywhere— one murder after another." (4:1-2) Also, in the next chapter, the prophet makes plain that Israel's rulers have been full partners in the promulgation of all of this sinning. We read there: "Hear this, you priests. Pay attention, you leaders of Israel. Listen, you members of the royal family. Judgment has been handed down against you. For you have led the people into a snare by worshiping the idols at Mizpah and Tabor. You have dug a deep pit to trap them at Acacia Grove. But I will settle with you for what you have done. I know what you are like, O Ephraim. You cannot hide yourself from me, O Israel. You have left me as a prostitute leaves her husband; you are utterly defiled. Your deeds won’t let you return to your God. You are a prostitute through and through, and you do not know the Lord." (4:1-4) And, in the tenth chapter of that book, we read: "The Lord says, 'O Israel, ever since Gibeah, there has been only sin and more sin! You have made no progress whatsoever. Was it not right that the wicked men of Gibeah were attacked? Now whenever it fits my plan, I will attack you, too. I will call out the armies of the nations to punish you for your multiplied sins.'" (Verses 9-10)

Too much? Do you begin to weary with the subject? Brethren, this is only a SMALL sampling of the Scripture which is available to us on this subject! The TRUTH is that the Bible makes VERY CLEAR that Israel, Judah, and their kings did NOT meet the conditions which God had established for them to participate in the blessings which had been promised to their ancestors! Moreover, these passages make plain the why and how of Israel's failure, and the fact that God repeatedly warned them away from their bad behaviors before he decided to punish them for those sins! Believe me, I know that this is a lot of reading and quoting, but I felt that this deep dive into the pertinent scriptures was necessary to counteract Armstrong's "here and there" prooftexts for his thesis about Anglo-Israelism!

Now, having established that Israel and Judah failed (violated the terms of their covenant with God), we are ready to talk about the punishment which God decreed for those peoples. In this vein, we have already discussed in some detail the downfall of the Kingdom of Judah, and how the Babylonians overthrew the Solomonic line of kings which had reigned over it. We have not, however, discussed God's punishment of the Kingdom of Israel - the larger and northern most kingdom of the children of Israel. And, in terms of Anglo-Israelism, this is critical to refuting that teaching.

In the fifteenth chapter of II Kings, we read that the King of Assyria invaded the Kingdom of Israel, and King Menahem scraped enough silver together to buy him off and cause him to withdraw (verses 19-20). Then, a few years later, the Assyrians returned during the reign of King Pekah, "and he captured the towns of Ijon, Abel-beth-maacah, Janoah, Kedesh, and Hazor. He also conquered the regions of Gilead, Galilee, and all of Naphtali, and he took the people to Assyria as captives." (verse 29). Now, this is an important point to note as this relates to Anglo-Israelism. According to Scripture, it was the custom of the Kings of Assyria to carry the native inhabitants of the lands which they conquered and transplant them to other regions within their empire. In the following chapter, we read that King Pekah of Israel and King Rezin of Aram made an alliance to invade the Kingdom of Judah and attacked Jerusalem together (16:1-6). As a consequence, King Ahaz of Judah appealed to the King of Assyria and paid him a handsome sum to rescue him and his kingdom from their enemies (verses 7-8). The Assyrians responded by invading Damascus and forcing the combined armies of Israel and Aram to withdraw (verse 9). This, of course, set the stage for the ultimate destruction of the Kingdom of Israel.

As the narrative continued in the next chapter, we have what is probably the most comprehensive summary of what happened to the Israelites - and the reasons for their failure and downfall. We read: "King Shalmaneser of Assyria attacked King Hoshea, so Hoshea was forced to pay heavy tribute to Assyria. But Hoshea stopped paying the annual tribute and conspired against the king of Assyria by asking King So of Egypt to help him shake free of Assyria’s power. When the king of Assyria discovered this treachery, he seized Hoshea and put him in prison. Then the king of Assyria invaded the entire land, and for three years he besieged the city of Samaria. Finally, in the ninth year of King Hoshea’s reign, Samaria fell, and the people of Israel were exiled to Assyria. They were settled in colonies in Halah, along the banks of the Habor River in Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes. This disaster came upon the people of Israel because they worshiped other gods. They sinned against the Lord their God, who had brought them safely out of Egypt and had rescued them from the power of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. They had followed the practices of the pagan nations the Lord had driven from the land ahead of them, as well as the practices the kings of Israel had introduced. The people of Israel had also secretly done many things that were not pleasing to the Lord their God. They built pagan shrines for themselves in all their towns, from the smallest outpost to the largest walled city. They set up sacred pillars and Asherah poles at the top of every hill and under every green tree. They offered sacrifices on all the hilltops, just like the nations the Lord had driven from the land ahead of them. So the people of Israel had done many evil things, arousing the Lord’s anger. Yes, they worshiped idols, despite the Lord’s specific and repeated warnings. Again and again the Lord had sent his prophets and seers to warn both Israel and Judah: 'Turn from all your evil ways. Obey my commands and decrees—the entire law that I commanded your ancestors to obey, and that I gave you through my servants the prophets.' But the Israelites would not listen. They were as stubborn as their ancestors who had refused to believe in the Lord their God. They rejected his decrees and the covenant he had made with their ancestors, and they despised all his warnings. They worshiped worthless idols, so they became worthless themselves. They followed the example of the nations around them, disobeying the Lord’s command not to imitate them." (II Kings 17:3-15)

Now, while all of this is consistent with the narrative and thesis advanced by this series, Armstrong and his followers chose to focus on the fact that the Assyrians had carried the people of Israel away and settled them in other lands. This is where the notion arose that the ten tribes which constituted the northern Kingdom of Israel were "lost" to history. Is that, however, consistent with what Scripture reveals about what happened to these people? In this connection, we must also note that the Babylonians later did the same thing to many of the inhabitants of the southern Kingdom of Judah. In short, what happened to the children of Israel after these two kingdoms ceased to exist?

The fate of Israel was summarized again at the conclusion of this narrative: "For when the Lord tore Israel away from the kingdom of David, they chose Jeroboam son of Nebat as their king. But Jeroboam drew Israel away from following the Lord and made them commit a great sin. And the people of Israel persisted in all the evil ways of Jeroboam. They did not turn from these sins until the Lord finally swept them away from his presence, just as all his prophets had warned. So Israel was exiled from their land to Assyria, where they remain to this day." (Verses 21-23) Obviously, this account was written sometime after the fall of both kingdoms, sometime during or after the Babylonian captivity, and we are explicitly told that the people who had been carried away remained among the Assyrians at the time the account was written.

In addition to the obvious aspect of hindsight, recounting past events from the perspective of the present - these scriptural accounts also mention a number of historical sources which are no longer available to us (The Book of the Acts of Solomon, The Book of the History of the Kings of Israel, The Book of the History of the Kings of Judah, The Record of Nathan the Prophet, The Record of Iddo the Seer, The Record of Jehu the Son of Hanani, etc.). In other words, we know of a certainty that these scriptural accounts of the two kingdoms were written many years after the fact. In this connection, it is reasonable to conclude that the people of Israel who were carried away into captivity remained in the places where they were settled in Assyria for HUNDREDS of years!

Nevertheless, we should also note that Scripture reveals that NOT all of the Israelites were carried away to Assyria! How do we know this? King Hezekiah reigned over the Kingdom of Judah when the Kingdom of Israel finally fell to the Assyrians. Remember too, that some of the Israelites had already been carried away to Assyria many years before Hezekiah even came to the throne (II Kings 15:29). And, although we cannot be precise about the timing, it appears that the final Assyrian invasion of Israel was already underway when Hezekiah became king (compare II Kings 17:1-6 with 18:1). In the parallel account in the book of II Chronicles, we read in the twenty-ninth chapter that Hezekiah reopened the Temple and rededicated it soon after becoming king.

Then, in the thirtieth chapter of that book, we read: "King Hezekiah now sent word to all Israel and Judah, and he wrote letters of invitation to the people of Ephraim and Manasseh. He asked everyone to come to the Temple of the Lord at Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover of the Lord, the God of Israel. The king, his officials, and all the community of Jerusalem decided to celebrate Passover a month later than usual. They were unable to celebrate it at the prescribed time because not enough priests could be purified by then, and the people had not yet assembled at Jerusalem. This plan for keeping the Passover seemed right to the king and all the people. So they sent a proclamation throughout all Israel, from Beersheba in the south to Dan in the north, inviting everyone to come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover of the Lord, the God of Israel. The people had not been celebrating it in great numbers as required in the Law." (Verses 1-5) Hence, there were obviously still Israelites living in those lands - there wouldn't have been any reason to invite them to Jerusalem to keep the Passover if they were all living in Assyria at that time!

Indeed, a little later in the same account, we read that the king's "runners went from town to town throughout Ephraim and Manasseh and as far as the territory of Zebulun. But most of the people just laughed at the runners and made fun of them. However, some people from Asher, Manasseh, and Zebulun humbled themselves and went to Jerusalem." (Verses 10-11) Continuing in this account of Hezekiah's remarkable Passover, we read that: "Since many of the people had not purified themselves, the Levites had to slaughter their Passover lamb for them, to set them apart for the Lord. Most of those who came from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun had not purified themselves. But King Hezekiah prayed for them, and they were allowed to eat the Passover meal anyway, even though this was contrary to the requirements of the Law. For Hezekiah said, 'May the Lord, who is good, pardon those who decide to follow the Lord, the God of their ancestors, even though they are not properly cleansed for the ceremony.'" (Verses 17-19) Clearly, then, there were Israelites attending this feast!

Moreover, after the king had finished the celebration of his glorious Passover, we read: "When the festival ended, the Israelites who attended went to all the towns of Judah, Benjamin, Ephraim, and Manasseh, and they smashed all the sacred pillars, cut down the Asherah poles, and removed the pagan shrines and altars. After this, the Israelites returned to their own towns and homes." (31:1) Hezekiah, however, didn't stop there. In the same account, we read: "In addition, he required the people in Jerusalem to bring a portion of their goods to the priests and Levites, so they could devote themselves fully to the Law of the Lord. When the people of Israel heard these requirements, they responded generously by bringing the first share of their grain, new wine, olive oil, honey, and all the produce of their fields. They brought a large quantity—a tithe of all they produced. The people who had moved to Judah from Israel, and the people of Judah themselves, brought in the tithes of their cattle, sheep, and goats and a tithe of the things that had been dedicated to the Lord their God, and they piled them up in great heaps." (Verses 4-6) So, it is clear from these Scriptures, that even in the midst of the Assyrian invasion and deportation, a large number of Israelites continued to be loyal to the temple in Jerusalem, and at least some of them even moved to the kingdom of Judah!

Later still, we read that King Josiah of Judah celebrated an even more impressive Passover at Jerusalem. In the thirty-fifth chapter of the same book, we read: "The entire ceremony for the Lord’s Passover was completed that day. All the burnt offerings were sacrificed on the altar of the Lord, as King Josiah had commanded. All the Israelites present in Jerusalem celebrated Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread for seven days. Never since the time of the prophet Samuel had there been such a Passover. None of the kings of Israel had ever kept a Passover as Josiah did, involving all the priests and Levites, all the people of Jerusalem, and people from all over Judah and Israel. This Passover was celebrated in the eighteenth year of Josiah’s reign." (Verses 16-19) So, many years after the King of Assyria had ended the Kingdom of Israel and carried many of those people away to his own lands, we see large numbers of former subjects of the kings of Israel keeping this pilgrimage festival at Jerusalem!

Now, we have already mentioned the fact that the King of Babylon later invaded the Kingdom of Judah and carried many of its inhabitants into captivity - just as their Israelite brethren had been carried into captivity by the Assyrians many years before them. Nevertheless, we read that many of these folks were later allowed to return to their homeland under the reign of the Persians (see II Chronicles 36:22-23, Ezra, Nehemiah, etc.) Admittedly, many of these folks were probably former inhabitants of the Kingdom of Judah, but the language of these accounts suggests that at least part of them were descendants of the people of the Northern kingdom (Israel).

Also, any suggestion that either the Israelites who remained in their homeland, or who lived "in Halah, along the banks of the Habor River in Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes," later migrated en masse to any other location is purely speculative - and is NOT supported by ANY Scripture. Moreover, there are numerous references to the peoples of both Israel and Judah being scattered across the earth, NOT concentrated and existing in large communities anywhere (Jeremiah 30:11, 31:10, 50:17, Ezekiel 11:16-17, etc.) It is also very instructive that we read in the book of Amos: "'I, the Sovereign Lord, am watching this sinful nation of Israel. I will destroy it from the face of the earth. But I will never completely destroy the family of Israel,' says the Lord. 'For I will give the command and will shake Israel along with the other nations as grain is shaken in a sieve, yet not one true kernel will be lost.'" (9:8-9) Finally, if the identity of the other tribes had been completely wiped out and lost, then why do we read in the pages of the New Testament that the prophetess Anna belonged to the tribe of Asher? (Luke 2:36) Hence, from a strictly biblical perspective, the notion that ten tribes of Israel were lost is shown to be impossible!

And that last passage from the prophet Amos provides us with the perfect segue into the fact that Scripture teaches that ALL of the children of Israel would one day be redeemed from their fallen state. Indeed, the books of the major and minor prophets are literally FULL of predictions that God would redeem the children of Israel in the future. And, while we will certainly look at a FEW of those passages, we must first go back to the foundation of God's covenant with Israel in the Torah!

You will recall that we referenced the blessings and cursing found in the book of Deuteronomy, and how God promised to punish the Israelites if they didn't live up to the terms of the covenant which he had outlined for them in the Torah. We did not, however, examine the passage which followed that one - where God promised to redeem the children of Israel after their punishment had been completed. In other words, God knew that the Israelites would FAIL, and he made the necessary provisions to rescue them from that failure at the beginning - long before they had actually failed! We read there: "In the future, when you experience all these blessings and curses I have listed for you, and when you are living among the nations to which the Lord your God has exiled you, take to heart all these instructions. If at that time you and your children return to the Lord your God, and if you obey with all your heart and all your soul all the commands I have given you today, then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes. He will have mercy on you and gather you back from all the nations where he has scattered you. Even though you are banished to the ends of the earth, the Lord your God will gather you from there and bring you back again. The Lord your God will return you to the land that belonged to your ancestors, and you will possess that land again. Then he will make you even more prosperous and numerous than your ancestors!" (Verses 1-5)

As we have already suggested, this promise of rehabilitation and restoration was echoed in the writings of the prophets. In the book of Isaiah, we read: "But as for you, Israel my servant, Jacob my chosen one, descended from Abraham my friend, I have called you back from the ends of the earth, saying, ‘You are my servant.’ For I have chosen you and will not throw you away. Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand." (41:8-10) Continuing, Isaiah proclaimed God's message to the children of Israel: "Though you are a lowly worm, O Jacob, don’t be afraid, people of Israel, for I will help you. I am the Lord, your Redeemer. I am the Holy One of Israel.’" (Verse 14) Hence, we see that Isaiah assured the Israelites that God would NOT abandon them to their fallen state.

Likewise, the prophet Jeremiah conveyed God's promise of future redemption for the people of Israel. Indeed, in that book, we read that the people of Judah wouldn't have to remain in captivity for very long. Jeremiah wrote: "This is what the Lord says: 'You will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again. For I know the plans I have for you,' says the Lord. 'They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,' says the Lord. 'I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.'” (29:10-14) Even so, the prophet also predicted a time when the children of Israel's fortunes would be fully restored. Jeremiah wrote: "The Lord gave another message to Jeremiah. He said, 'This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Write down for the record everything I have said to you, Jeremiah. For the time is coming when I will restore the fortunes of my people of Israel and Judah. I will bring them home to this land that I gave to their ancestors, and they will possess it again. I, the Lord, have spoken!'" (30:1-3)

Now, isn't that interesting? In almost the same breath that these prophets were warning the people of Israel about the consequences of their many sins, they are predicting their eventual redemption and restoration! In the book of Ezekiel, we read: "Therefore, tell the exiles, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Although I have scattered you in the countries of the world, I will be a sanctuary to you during your time in exile. I, the Sovereign Lord, will gather you back from the nations where you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel once again. When the people return to their homeland, they will remove every trace of their vile images and detestable idols. And I will give them singleness of heart and put a new spirit within them. I will take away their stony, stubborn heart and give them a tender, responsive heart, so they will obey my decrees and regulations. Then they will truly be my people, and I will be their God." (11:16-20)

And, in the thirty-sixth chapter of that same book, we read: "Therefore, give the people of Israel this message from the Sovereign Lord: 'I am bringing you back, but not because you deserve it. I am doing it to protect my holy name, on which you brought shame while you were scattered among the nations. I will show how holy my great name is—the name on which you brought shame among the nations. And when I reveal my holiness through you before their very eyes, says the Sovereign Lord, then the nations will know that I am the Lord. For I will gather you up from all the nations and bring you home again to your land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.'" (Verses 22-27)

Likewise, in the book of Zephaniah, we read: "Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout aloud, O Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! For the Lord will remove his hand of judgment and will disperse the armies of your enemy. And the Lord himself, the King of Israel, will live among you! At last your troubles will be over, and you will never again fear disaster...On that day I will gather you together and bring you home again. I will give you a good name, a name of distinction, among all the nations of the earth, as I restore your fortunes before their very eyes. I, the Lord, have spoken!” (3:14-20) Growing weary again? That is only a FRACTION of the prophecies related to the redemption and restoration of the children of Israel! Even so, it is enough to conclusively demonstrate that that is exactly what your Bible has to say on this subject!

Now, in Part VI of this series, we will examine the pivotal role which Jesus Christ has played/will play in the fulfillment of God's promises to the patriarchs, David, and the children of Israel. In that final section, we will see how everything that we have already explored culminates in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. We will see that he really was the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. Unfortunately, many of the advocates of Anglo-Israelism have so materialized these promises and prophecies that they have unintentionally relegated Christ to a secondary or peripheral role in a story in which HE is the central character! We must NEVER forget that the only Scriptures that the Christian Church had access to for the first fifty to one hundred years of its existence was the Hebrew Bible - what we now refer to as the Old Testament. Hence, the apostles and early Christians preached Christ out of those scriptures. How did they do that? By interpreting EVERYTHING in them through the lens of Jesus Christ. Thus, for Christians, the Bible isn't about Israel - it is ALL about Jesus of Nazareth, and the salvation for both Gentiles and Israelites which is available through HIM! Stay tuned!

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Part IV: The House of David

In his booklet The United States and Britain in Prophecy, Herbert Armstrong wrote: "If the throne of David ceased with Zedekiah, then it does not exist today. And if it does not exist, how shall Christ sit upon a nonexistent throne? (See Luke 1:31-32.) And, since it was to continue through all generations, how about those many generations between Zedekiah and the birth of Jesus?" For Armstrong, the answer to his questions were found in his reinterpretation of some ancient Irish folklore and legends. In other words, outside of the Bible. In that same booklet referenced at the beginning of this paragraph, he wrote: "The son of this later king Herremon and Hebrew princess continued on the throne of Ireland and this same dynasty continued unbroken through all the kings of Ireland; was overturned and transplanted again in Scotland; again overturned and moved to London, England, where this same dynasty continues today in the reign of Queen Elizabeth II."

Now, as a lifelong Anglophile and romantic (with a documented descent from British royalty), this is one part of the teaching of British-Israelism that I wish had a Scriptural foundation. Sadly, for me (and the proponents of Anglo-Israelism), however, this is probably the weakest component of the teaching from a Scriptural perspective! Once again, we will ignore the mountain of historical and scientific evidence which contradicts this notion and focus entirely on its supposed foundation in the Bible. Indeed, like the promises made to Abraham, we will demonstrate that the promises made to David find their fulfillment in the person of Jesus Christ! And, not only will we hit all of Armstrong's "prooftexts," we will take a very deep dive into almost all of the biblical texts which relate to this topic. Finally, as in the previous posts in this series, we will build on the material in those posts and lay the groundwork for what is to follow - using only Scripture and a good concordance.

First, it important that we understand that God's promise to (covenant with) David was an outgrowth of his promise to (covenant with) Abraham. You will remember from Part I of this series that God promised Abraham that kings would descend from him (Genesis 17:6). Hence, we can see that the Scriptures relating to God's promise to David should also be seen as an explanation of how God intended to fulfill one of his promises to Abraham! With this background and understanding, we are ready to examine God's covenant with David.

We will resume our narrative where we left it at the conclusion of Part III of this series - David had finally assumed the throne over all of the Israelites, Israel and Judah (II Samuel 5:1-5). As the story continued, we read that the very first act of the newly minted monarch was to conquer the city of Jerusalem and make it his capital (II Samuel 5:6-9). As the narrative continues, we will see that David's decision to capture Jerusalem and make it his headquarters was crucial to everything which followed that event. For, as soon as David was settled in his new capital, he made the decision to bring the Ark of the Covenant there and build a temple for the God of Israel (II Samuel 6 and 7:1-3). Prior to this, of course, the Ark had been housed in the Tabernacle and had moved around with the Israelites on their various journeyings - until finding a semi-permanent home at Shiloh under the last two judges (I Samuel 1-3). Hence, David's decision to permanently locate "God's house" in Jerusalem had important ramifications for both the religious and political life of the nation of Israel, and it would also have significant implications for Jesus Christ and his Kingdom in the future.

However, while we read that God was pleased that David wanted to do this, he instructed Nathan to inform the king that he would NOT be the one to build God's Temple (II Samuel 7:4-7). Even so, we are also informed that God told Nathan to convey to the king certain promises or guarantees. We read: "Now go and say to my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies has declared: I took you from tending sheep in the pasture and selected you to be the leader of my people Israel. I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have destroyed all your enemies before your eyes. Now I will make your name as famous as anyone who has ever lived on the earth! And I will provide a homeland for my people Israel, planting them in a secure place where they will never be disturbed. Evil nations won’t oppress them as they’ve done in the past, starting from the time I appointed judges to rule my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies." (II Samuel 7:8-11, NLT - see also I Chronicles 17:11-14). So, after reminding David about his humble origins and everything that he had already done for him, God promised to make David famous all over the world, provide a secure homeland for the Israelites, and prevent attacks by his enemies.

As pertains to Anglo-Israelism, however, an understanding of what came next is critical. Continuing in that same chapter, we read: "Furthermore, the Lord declares that he will make a house for you—a dynasty of kings! For when you die and are buried with your ancestors, I will raise up one of your descendants, your own offspring, and I will make his kingdom strong. He is the one who will build a house—a temple—for my name. And I will secure his royal throne forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. If he sins, I will correct and discipline him with the rod, like any father would do. But my favor will not be taken from him as I took it from Saul, whom I removed from your sight. Your house and your kingdom will continue before me for all time, and your throne will be secure forever." (II Samuel 7:11-16) So, we see that God promised David: 1) a dynasty of kings, 2) to raise up ONE of his descendants to rule over a strong kingdom, 3) that this descendant would build a temple for God, 4) that this descendant's kingdom and throne would be secured forever, 5) that God would be his father, and he would be God's son, and 6) that God would be merciful to him in the event of sin and would not withdraw his favor as a consequence.

Now, the question is: To whom did this apply? Was this speaking about Solomon, Jesus Christ, or both? For Armstrong and his followers, the answer to this question seemed obvious - it must be talking about Solomon. However, as we will soon see, this interpretation of the promise involves a very superficial understanding of the passage and its context, and it ignores a great many related passages of Scripture.

Indeed, a comprehensive review of all of the pertinent passages of Scripture will reveal that Solomon could NOT be the descendant of David referred to in this promise! First, although Solomon did produce a line of kings (or dynasty) which ruled over the Kingdom of Judah, we will see that the Bible clearly records that both that line of kings and the kingdom which they ruled over came to a cataclysmic end. Second, although Solomon did construct a Temple for God at Jerusalem, we will see that that Temple was repeatedly polluted and neglected, and that it was, finally, completely destroyed by the Babylonians. Next, we will see that, like the Israelites before him, Solomon's participation in the promises made to his father was made conditional - and that God DID eventually withdraw his favor from Solomon and his descendants. Finally, we will see that Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled ALL of these promises in a way that NO other human descendant of David could ever fulfill them! Hence, in the language of Armstrong and his followers, the best that we can say about Solomon is that he served as "a type" of Jesus Christ!

So, as we just indicated, we will begin with the story of the line of kings (dynasty) that Solomon produced. In the book of I Kings, we learn that Solomon accumulated seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines during the course of his reign over Israel, and that they persuaded him to worship their gods (11:1-8). Moreover, as part of the same narrative, we learn that God was very displeased with Solomon, and that God decided to withdraw his favor from the wicked king (verses 9-10). Continuing with the account, we read: "So now the Lord said to him, 'Since you have not kept my covenant and have disobeyed my decrees, I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your servants. But for the sake of your father, David, I will not do this while you are still alive. I will take the kingdom away from your son. And even so, I will not take away the entire kingdom; I will let him be king of one tribe, for the sake of my servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem, my chosen city.' Then the Lord raised up Hadad the Edomite, a member of Edom’s royal family, to be Solomon’s adversary." (Verses 11-14) Later still, we read that "God also raised up Rezon son of Eliada as Solomon’s adversary" (verse 23), and "Jeroboam son of Nebat, one of Solomon’s own officials." (Verse 26) Hence, we see that God definitely withdrew his favor from Solomon before he died, and we would do well to ask ourselves: How does this fact square with God's promise to David? To be very clear, it does NOT!

Even so, as the narrative continues, we see that Solomon's son, Rehoboam, did succeed him as king when he died (verses 42-43). However, just as God had promised Solomon, the Northern Tribes revolted against Rehoboam and chose Jeroboam to be their new king (I Kings 12:1-20). As a consequence, we read: "When Rehoboam arrived at Jerusalem, he mobilized the men of Judah and the tribe of Benjamin—180,000 select troops—to fight against the men of Israel and to restore the kingdom to himself. But God said to Shemaiah, the man of God, 'Say to Rehoboam son of Solomon, king of Judah, and to all the people of Judah and Benjamin, and to the rest of the people, ‘This is what the Lord says: Do not fight against your relatives, the Israelites. Go back home, for what has happened is my doing!' So they obeyed the message of the Lord and went home, as the Lord had commanded." (I Kings 12:21-24) Hence, from that point forward, Solomon's descendants would reign in Jerusalem over the Kingdom of Judah, and the Northern Tribes would be ruled over by various dynasties as the "Kingdom of Israel."

Of course, the remainder of the book of I Kings, all of II Kings, and all of II Chronicles tell the stories of these dynasties and their kingdoms in some detail. Nevertheless, for the sake of time and space, we will only make a few observations about this history that are pertinent to the thesis of this post. For instance, it is important to note that these two kingdoms were sometimes at war with each other, sometimes were allied to each other, and continued to share a reverence for Jerusalem and their shared past. This history demonstrates that two nations, Israel and Judah, existed side by side - that they were, in fact, separate nations. Even so, this history also demonstrates that these peoples continued to regard themselves as sharing a common origin and familial connections. In other words, in a real sense, they were all still the children of Israel.

Within that larger narrative, we are also obligated to tell at least a part of the story surrounding Solomon's Temple. After that edifice was completed, we know that the Temple was often abused and neglected by some of the Kings of Judah. In fact, it didn't take very long for all of this to start. In the fourteenth chapter of I Kings, we read: "In the fifth year of King Rehoboam’s reign, King Shishak of Egypt came up and attacked Jerusalem. He ransacked the treasuries of the Lord’s Temple and the royal palace; he stole everything, including all the gold shields Solomon had made." (Verses 25-26) Likewise, we read that King Asa used the Temple's furnishings to secure a military alliance with a foreign nation (I Kings 15:18). In the twelfth chapter of II Kings, we read that King Joash had to order a major renovation of the Temple because it had fallen into such a state of disrepair. We are informed that King Hezekiah emptied the temple of its silver and gold furnishings and even stripped off the gold from its doors and pillars to give as tribute to the King of Assyria (II Kings 18:13-16). During the reign of King Manasseh, we read that "he built pagan altars in the Temple of the Lord...for all the powers of the heavens in both courtyards of the Lord’s Temple." (II Kings 21:4-5), Indeed, we are told that this particular king was so wicked that he "sacrificed his own son in the fire" and "practiced sorcery and divination." (Verse 6) Moreover, we are further informed that his grandson, King Josiah, had to order the High Priest "to remove from the Lord’s Temple all the articles that were used to worship Baal, Asherah, and all the powers of the heavens. The king had all these things burned outside Jerusalem on the terraces of the Kidron Valley, and he carried the ashes away to Bethel." (II Kings 23:4) And, as we shall shortly see, the Temple itself was eventually completely destroyed by the Babylonians! 

Now, although we have just summarized a great deal of history and made a few broad observations about it, we should also note an incident which has implications for the thesis of this post. I'm speaking of the reign of Queen Athaliah over the Kingdom of Judah. The first thing that we should note about Athaliah is that she was from the same House/Dynasty as King Omri and King Ahab of Israel, and that she was the mother of King Ahaziah of Judah (II Kings 8:26 and II Chronicles 21:6, 22:2). Unfortunately, following the death of her son, we are told that Athaliah seized the throne of Judah and reigned over that kingdom for six years (II Kings 11:1-3). Thus, although one of Ahaziah's sisters had hidden one of the king's infant sons while Athaliah was busy murdering all of the Davidic heirs to the throne, and he was later restored to the throne as King Joash, we cannot escape the fact that someone other than a descendant of David occupied the throne of Judah for six years! Hence, we must once again ask the question: How does this fact square with God's promise to David? Once again, to be very clear, Athaliah's reign would have been a blatant violation of God's promise to David - if we attempt to interpret it as applying to Solomon's line!

So, we come at last to the main and decisive point about Solomon's dynasty reigning over the Kingdom of Judah - it ended! In the book of II Kings, we read that Pharaoh Neco invaded the Kingdom of Judah and overthrew King Jehoahaz, imprisoned him, and placed Jehoiakim (another prince of the House of David) on the throne (23:31-36). Continuing with this narrative, we learn King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon invaded the kingdom and made King Jehoiakim pay tribute to him, and then harassed the kingdom after he rebelled for the remained or his reign (24:1-6). Now, although his son was allowed to succeed him as King of Judah, we read that King Nebuchadnezzar "took Jehoiachin prisoner. As the Lord had said beforehand, Nebuchadnezzar carried away all the treasures from the Lord’s Temple and the royal palace. He stripped away all the gold objects that King Solomon of Israel had placed in the Temple. King Nebuchadnezzar took all of Jerusalem captive, including all the commanders and the best of the soldiers, craftsmen, and artisans—10,000 in all. Only the poorest people were left in the land. Nebuchadnezzar led King Jehoiachin away as a captive to Babylon, along with the queen mother, his wives and officials, and all Jerusalem’s elite. He also exiled 7,000 of the best troops and 1,000 craftsmen and artisans, all of whom were strong and fit for war. Then the king of Babylon installed Mattaniah, Jehoiachin’s uncle, as the next king, and he changed Mattaniah’s name to Zedekiah." (24:12-17)

In the following chapter, we read that Nebuchadnezzar invaded Judah again in the ninth year of King Zedekiah's reign and ended both his reign and the Kingdom of Judah within two years! (25:1-6) Continuing with the account, we read: "They made Zedekiah watch as they slaughtered his sons. Then they gouged out Zedekiah’s eyes, bound him in bronze chains, and led him away to Babylon." (Verse 7) Next, we are informed that the Babylonians entered Jerusalem and burned down the temple, palace, and all of the official buildings in the city (verses 8-9). Next, they broke down the walls which surrounded the city and carried away many of its inhabitants into captivity in Babylon (verses 10-24). So, we see that both David's dynasty through Solomon and the Kingdom of Judah came to a sudden an inglorious end. And, not to put too fine a point on all of this, but this BIBLICAL history makes clear that God's promises to David were NOT fulfilled by Solomon or his descendants!

All of that said, the strongest argument against Solomon being identified as the son talked about in God's promise to David is contained in two separate Divine appearances to Solomon surrounding his construction of a Temple for God in Jerusalem. While the Temple was being built, we are informed that God appeared to Solomon and told him: "Concerning this Temple you are building, if you keep all my decrees and regulations and obey all my commands, I will fulfill through you the promise I made to your father, David. I will live among the Israelites and will never abandon my people Israel." (I Kings 6:12-13) The second appearance took place after construction was finished, and Solomon dedicated the edifice to God. After the king finished his prayer, we read that: "The Lord said to him, 'I have heard your prayer and your petition. I have set this Temple apart to be holy—this place you have built where my name will be honored forever. I will always watch over it, for it is dear to my heart. 'As for you, if you will follow me with integrity and godliness, as David your father did, obeying all my commands, decrees, and regulations, then I will establish the throne of your dynasty over Israel forever. For I made this promise to your father, David: ‘One of your descendants will always sit on the throne of Israel.’ 'But if you or your descendants abandon me and disobey the commands and decrees I have given you, and if you serve and worship other gods, then I will uproot Israel from this land that I have given them. I will reject this Temple that I have made holy to honor my name. I will make Israel an object of mockery and ridicule among the nations. And though this Temple is impressive now, all who pass by will be appalled and will gasp in horror. They will ask, ‘Why did the Lord do such terrible things to this land and to this Temple?’" (I Kings 9:3-8, see also II Chronicles 7:17-22) Notice, that in both instances God makes Solomon's enjoyment of the promises made to his father contingent upon his own good behavior!

We should also note before we leave the Scriptures dealing with the Kingdom of Judah that the throne ALWAYS passed from father to son. In other words, it NEVER passed through female offspring! Hence, the contention that a daughter of Zedekiah could legitimately carry on Solomon's line doesn't find ANY support in ANY of these passages!

Now, in Part VI, we will also demonstrate that Jesus Christ fulfilled these promises to David as NO other human who has ever lived has done. After all, Jesus of Nazareth did say that he came to this earth to fulfill the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 5:17). In that section, we will also demonstrate that the unbreakable nature of God's covenant with David could only have been fulfilled by Jesus Christ. Even so, in this connection, we have a few more passages of Scripture to look at which address God's promises to David or are otherwise used by the supporters of Anglo-Israelism as prooftexts.

The eighty-ninth Psalm is probably the most relevant of all of these other passages of Scripture. Indeed, this Psalm of Ethan the Ezrahite (one of the choir of Levites and musicians designated to accompany the Ark of the Covenant - see I Chronicles 15:16-19) is all about God's promise to David! We read: "You said, 'I have made a covenant with my chosen one, I have sworn to David my servant, ‘I will establish your line forever and make your throne firm through all generations.’" (Verses 3-4, NIV) OR as it is rendered by the ESV: "You have said, 'I have made a covenant with my chosen one; I have sworn to David my servant: ‘I will establish your offspring forever, and build your throne for all generations.'" (The NLT is an outlier in its presentation of this passage) Notice that there is a strong sense in both of these translations that this is something that God WILL do in the future. Later, in the same Psalm, we read: "And I will make him the firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth. My steadfast love I will keep for him forever, and my covenant will stand firm for him. I will establish his offspring forever and his throne as the days of the heavens. If his children forsake my law and do not walk according to my rules, if they violate my statutes and do not keep my commandments, then I will punish their transgression with the rod and their iniquity with stripes, but I will not remove from him my steadfast love or be false to my faithfulness. I will not violate my covenant or alter the word that went forth from my lips. Once for all I have sworn by my holiness; I will not lie to David. His offspring shall endure forever, his throne as long as the sun before me. Like the moon it shall be established forever, a faithful witness in the skies." (Verses 27-37, ESV) Now, Solomon was NEVER the "highest of the kings of the earth." And, once again, the sense is that "it shall be established forever" (future).

Unfortunately, supporters of Anglo-Israelism rarely quote the remainder of this Psalm (as we will soon see, for good reason). Continuing in the passage, we read: "But now you have cast off and rejected; you are full of wrath against your anointed. You have renounced the covenant with your servant; you have defiled his crown in the dust. You have breached all his walls; you have laid his strongholds in ruins. All who pass by plunder him; he has become the scorn of his neighbors. You have exalted the right hand of his foes; you have made all his enemies rejoice. You have also turned back the edge of his sword, and you have not made him stand in battle. You have made his splendor to cease and cast his throne to the ground. You have cut short the days of his youth; you have covered him with shame." (Verses 38-45, ESV) Now, although there were definitely occasions within David's life where he might have felt like God had rejected him (think Absalom's rebellion), we know that God's promise to David was irrevocable (enduring like the sun and the moon).

Now, we have already mentioned that we will have a great deal to say about Jesus as the fulfillment of the promises made to David and the predictions of the prophets in this regard in Part VI of this series. Nevertheless, we will address some of the passages which the supporters of Anglo-Israelism employ from the books of Jeremiah and Ezekiel to support their contention that Solomon's line continued to reign in the British Isles after the Kingdom of Judah was destroyed by the Babylonians. However, before we examine those particular passages, we should point out that both prophets (Jeremiah and Ezekiel) served during the time of Judah's downfall. Hence, when we attempt to understand something which they have written, we should keep this context firmly in our minds.

The supporters of Anglo-Israelism make much of the commission which God gave to Jeremiah in the opening of the book. In the first chapter, we read: "Look, I have put my words in your mouth! Today I appoint you to stand up against nations and kingdoms. Some you must uproot and tear down, destroy and overthrow. Others you must build up and plant." (Verses 9-10) Now, while these folks admit that the tearing down, destroying and overthrowing obviously refers to what happened to the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, they claim that the building and planting mentioned here refers to a secret mission by the prophet to carry one of King Zedekiah's daughters to Ireland and replant David's royal line there! The truth, however, is that we don't need to be so imaginative or creative! If we truly desire to understand what God was commissioning this prophet to do, all we need to do is turn to the thirty-first chapter of the book! We read there: "'The day is coming,' says the Lord, 'when I will greatly increase the human population and the number of animals here in Israel and Judah. In the past I deliberately uprooted and tore down this nation. I overthrew it, destroyed it, and brought disaster upon it. But in the future, I will just as deliberately plant it and build it up. I, the Lord, have spoken!" (Verses 27-28) So, we see that God was talking about the future redemption and restoration of what the prophet had helped to tear down and destroy! We will have more to say about both in the next part of this series, and we will also discuss what this prophet had to say in the thirty-third chapter of his book about Jesus Christ in the last part of this series.

Oddly enough, the supporters of Anglo-Israelism attempt to support the notion of Jeremiah's commission by turning to another passage from the book of Ezekiel! In the twenty-first chapter of that book, the approaching destruction of Jerusalem, the kingdom, and the monarchy is discussed. In that context, we read: "Therefore thus saith the Lord God; Because ye have made your iniquity to be remembered, in that your transgressions are discovered, so that in all your doings your sins do appear; because, I say, that ye are come to remembrance, ye shall be taken with the hand. And thou, profane wicked prince of Israel, whose day is come, when iniquity shall have an end, Thus saith the Lord God; Remove the diadem, and take off the crown: this shall not be the same: exalt him that is low, and abase him that is high. I will overturn, overturn, overturn, it: and it shall be no more, until he come whose right it is; and I will give it him." (Verses 24-27, KJV) Now, supporters of Anglo-Israelism go outside of the Bible to explain this passage! They say that it refers to the turning over of David's throne to Ireland, then to Scotland, and then to England! Once again, however, we do not need to be so imaginative or creative in our interpretation of this passage! Indeed, we have already referenced what this passage refers to in the twenty-third through the twenty-fifth chapter of II Kings. We read there how an Egyptian pharaoh overthrew King Jehoahaz and replaced him with Jehoiakim (who hadn't been in line to assume the throne). Later, the Babylonian king overthrew King Jehoiachin and replaced him with King Zedekiah (another prince who hadn't been in line to assume the throne). Then, finally, the King of Babylon overthrew Zedekiah and destroyed the Kingdom of Judah. Moreover, the sense of the original Hebrew clearly argues in favor of the way that most translators have understood this passage - that is that the throne would cease to exist until the rightful heir inherited it (and, as we shall see in Part VI, that heir was Jesus Christ).

In addition to all of the other passages of Scripture which we have already cited in this section, there are a number of other passages which clearly underscore the fact that this line of Davidic kings failed. In the next part of this series, we will look at a number of Scriptures which talk about Israel's redemption and the promise of the Messiah. And we will see that there are many passages which talk about David's fallen dynasty being restored (Amos 9:11, Isaiah 11:1, Jeremiah 23:5, 33:15, Ezekiel 17, etc.)

Finally, despite the mountain of Scriptural evidence that Solomon could NOT be the "son" of God's promise to David, a further objection has been raised by some supporters of Anglo-Israelism. They point out that God said: "I will be his father, and he will be my son. If he sins, I will correct and discipline him with the rod, like any father would do. But my favor will not be taken from him as I took it from Saul, whom I removed from your sight." (II Samuel 7:14-15, NLT) And, since we all know that Jesus didn't sin, they reason that this passage MUST refer to Solomon! Well, what about that?

As I related in a previous post, the explanation is found in the basic Christian doctrine of imputation. Christ didn't personally sin, but all of the sins that we have committed were laid on/imputed to him. (Isaiah 53, I Corinthians 15:3, II Corinthians 5:21) Hence, it wasn't that God was anticipating Solomon's sins - it was more like he knew that all of those sins would be imputed to HIS Son. Thus, we have the Son chastened "with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men" for the sins that he figuratively committed. Indeed, this underscores the fact that those sins really were imputed to Christ! Moreover, this explains why God's mercy would NEVER depart from him as it had from Saul!

I would also remind my readers that we have already demonstrated that God's patience with Solomon and his descendants definitely did eventually run out! God did take the throne away from Solomon and his descendants! Once again, their participation in the promises made to David was clearly contingent upon them following in the example of their forefather's devotion to God - just as Abraham's descendants could only share in the promises made to him if they were obedient to God and followed his instructions!

Hence, this particular passage does NOT disqualify Christ as the object of the promise to David. And, as we have already mentioned, we will conclusively demonstrate that Christ is the ONLY person who could have been the Son spoken of in God's promise to David. Once again, the very best that we can say about Solomon in this connection is that he was a very feeble "type" of Jesus Christ - foreshadowing the actual and eternal fulfillment of this promise to David!

Thus, while the British monarchy has a long and interesting history of its own to draw upon, we have seen that there is NO Scriptural foundation for claiming that that line of kings is a continuation of David's/Solomon's throne. In the next part of this series, we will explore the failure of the children of Israel to abide by the terms of their covenant with God, and God's plans to eventually redeem them from that failure. Stay tuned!


Sunday, January 22, 2023

Part III: Two Nations: Israel and Judah

Prepare to be shocked - The notion that Scripture teaches that the children of Israel became two kingdoms is absolutely correct! Yes, this blogger actually agrees with Herbert Armstrong about something! If it's really in the Bible, it's really in the Bible - PERIOD. Nevertheless, even here, Armstrong twisted this fact and perverted its implications to support his own narrative about Anglo-Israelism, and we will see that Scripture does NOT support his conclusions!

At the risk of a little repetition, I think that it is necessary to revisit some of the ground in Genesis which we have already covered, but with a little more detail this time. For, if we truly desire to understand this history from a biblical perspective, the story begins there! In the thirty-fifth chapter of that book, we read: "Now that Jacob had returned from Paddan-aram, God appeared to him again at Bethel. God blessed him, saying, 'Your name is Jacob, but you will not be called Jacob any longer. From now on your name will be Israel.' So, God renamed him Israel. Then God said, 'I am El-Shaddai— ‘God Almighty.’ Be fruitful and multiply. You will become a great nation, even many nations. Kings will be among your descendants! And I will give you the land I once gave to Abraham and Isaac. Yes, I will give it to you and your descendants after you.' Then God went up from the place where he had spoken to Jacob." (Genesis 35:9-13, NLT) So, we see that the name "Israel" has its foundations in this patriarchal story in the book of beginnings.

A little later on in the same chapter, we read: "These are the names of the twelve sons of Jacob: The sons of Leah were Reuben (Jacob’s oldest son), Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun. The sons of Rachel were Joseph and Benjamin. The sons of Bilhah, Rachel’s servant, were Dan and Naphtali. The sons of Zilpah, Leah’s servant, were Gad and Asher. These are the names of the sons who were born to Jacob at Paddan-aram." (Genesis 35:22-26) As we will see later, each of these twelve sons were destined to themselves become the patriarch of a tribe of Israel. Indeed, this genealogy is so important to the narrative about the children of Israel, that it is repeated and expanded upon in the forty-sixth chapter of the same book (see Genesis 46:8-27)

Moreover, as we have already noted in the first part of this series, Israel gave his name to the two sons of Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh (Genesis 48:1-20). We should also note that, eventually, Joseph would contribute two tribes to Israel (Ephraim and Manasseh). After all, remember, the birthright was Joseph's - he was entitled to a double share of his father's estate! This, however, also presents us with thirteen tribes instead of twelve. What about that? Everybody knows that there were twelve tribes of Israel. As the narrative unfolds in the Torah, we learn that God took the tribe of Levi out of the mix and made them the foundation of the Levitical priesthood under the terms of the Old Covenant (Numbers 1:47, 50, 2:33, 3:9, 12, etc.) - taking the number of tribes back down to twelve.

In the first chapter of the book of Exodus, we are told that the Israelites grew in numbers over the years that followed and were eventually enslaved by the Egyptians. Over the chapters which follow, we read the story of God's deliverance of the people of Israel from Egyptian slavery through the efforts of Moses and Aaron (Exodus 2-15). Eventually, God leads Moses and the Israelites to the foot of Mount Sinai and forms a covenant with them there (Exodus 19-24). This Covenant between God and Israel was the basis of EVERYTHING that followed in the Torah (the rest of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy), and much of what happened throughout the remainder of the Hebrew Scriptures or Old Testament. Indeed, as Armstrong himself was fond of pointing out, the twenty-eighth chapter of Deuteronomy is critical to understanding the subsequent history of Israel from a biblical perspective.

Armstrong, however, did not appear to fully comprehend the distinctions between the promises made to Abraham, and the agreement which God made with his descendants, the Israelites. Although the Israelites were certainly the physical descendants of Abraham and potential heirs of the promises made to him, the Covenant or agreement which God made with them was CONDITIONAL - if you do this, I'll do that! If the Israelites were faithful to God and obeyed him, they would receive the land and prosperity promised to their forefather. Notice too, please, that if the Israelites failed to live up to the standards which God had outlined for them in the Torah, there would be very bad consequences for them!

In this connection, we read: "But if you refuse to listen to the Lord your God and do not obey all the commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come and overwhelm you: Your towns and your fields will be cursed. Your fruit baskets and breadboards will be cursed. Your children and your crops will be cursed. The offspring of your herds and flocks will be cursed. Wherever you go and whatever you do, you will be cursed...The skies above will be as unyielding as bronze, and the earth beneath will be as hard as iron. The Lord will change the rain that falls on your land into powder, and dust will pour down from the sky until you are destroyed. 'The Lord will cause you to be defeated by your enemies. You will attack your enemies from one direction, but you will scatter from them in seven! You will be an object of horror to all the kingdoms of the earth. Your corpses will be food for all the scavenging birds and wild animals, and no one will be there to chase them away...The Lord will exile you and your king to a nation unknown to you and your ancestors. There in exile you will worship gods of wood and stone! You will become an object of horror, ridicule, and mockery among all the nations to which the Lord sends you. 'You will plant much but harvest little, for locusts will eat your crops...You will have sons and daughters, but you will lose them, for they will be led away into captivity...If you do not serve the Lord your God with joy and enthusiasm for the abundant benefits you have received, you will serve your enemies whom the Lord will send against you. You will be left hungry, thirsty, naked, and lacking in everything. The Lord will put an iron yoke on your neck, oppressing you harshly until he has destroyed you...'The Lord will bring a distant nation against you from the end of the earth, and it will swoop down on you like a vulture. It is a nation whose language you do not understand, a fierce and heartless nation that shows no respect for the old and no pity for the young. Its armies will devour your livestock and crops, and you will be destroyed. They will leave you no grain, new wine, olive oil, calves, or lambs, and you will starve to death. They will attack your cities until all the fortified walls in your land—the walls you trusted to protect you—are knocked down...Just as the Lord has found great pleasure in causing you to prosper and multiply, the Lord will find pleasure in destroying you. You will be torn from the land you are about to enter and occupy. For the Lord will scatter you among all the nations from one end of the earth to the other. There you will worship foreign gods that neither you nor your ancestors have known, gods made of wood and stone! There among those nations you will find no peace or place to rest. And the Lord will cause your heart to tremble, your eyesight to fail, and your soul to despair. Your life will constantly hang in the balance. You will live night and day in fear, unsure if you will survive."(Deuteronomy 28:15-66)

So, just as the reality of their ancestors' experience in Egyptian slavery had not negated God's promises to Abraham, their enjoyment of God's blessings did NOT fulfill them! In other words, their experience of God's blessings would be informed by their adherence to the terms of their agreement/covenant with him. God's promises to their forefather were immutable and irrevocable. However, whether or not they shared in those promises was entirely up to them! Moreover, as we have just read, the consequences of their failure would be catastrophic! They would fail as a people and a nation! Hence, we will obviously be revisiting the blessings and curses passage when we discuss the failure and redemption of Israel in Part V of this series.

Now, between twelve separate and semi-autonomous tribes eventually coming together in a kind of loose confederation, and then coalescing into a nation, there is a whole lot of biblical ground to cover. For our purposes, however, we will only hit the highlights of that narrative. To begin with, the story of Israel's conquest of the land promised to their forefathers begins in the book of Numbers, encompasses some of the material included in Deuteronomy, and runs throughout the book of Joshua. Likewise, the story of the tribes' consolidation into a loose confederation under the leadership of special "judges" designated by God himself is recounted in the book by the same name. Of particular interest to us, we read in the final verse of the book: "In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes." (Judges 21:25)

Even so, we read in the book of I Samuel, that Israel achieved a high degree of unity under the effective and decisive leadership of the judge by the same name (I Samuel 2-7). Even so, after he had judged Israel for many years, we read: "As Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons to be judges over Israel. Joel and Abijah, his oldest sons, held court in Beersheba. But they were not like their father, for they were greedy for money. They accepted bribes and perverted justice. Finally, all the elders of Israel met at Ramah to discuss the matter with Samuel. 'Look,' they told him, 'you are now old, and your sons are not like you. Give us a king to judge us like all the other nations have.'" (I Samuel 8:1-5) So, Scripture tells us that the local leaders from all over the land of Israel asked Samuel to appoint a king to rule over them. Moreover, the fact that this was NOT God's idea is made very clear in this narrative.

Continuing with the account, we read that: "Samuel was displeased with their request and went to the Lord for guidance. 'Do everything they say to you,' the Lord replied, 'for they are rejecting me, not you. They don’t want me to be their king any longer. Ever since I brought them from Egypt they have continually abandoned me and followed other gods. And now they are giving you the same treatment. Do as they ask, but solemnly warn them about the way a king will reign over them.'" (Verses 6-9) So, following God's instructions in the matter, Samuel proceeded to tell them that their new king would draft their sons to serve in his army, designate others to harvest his crops, and make their daughters to prepare food for him (verses 10-13). He went on to tell them that their king would also appropriate their lands and property for his own use and would impose burdensome taxes on them to support his administration (verses 14-17). Samuel finished by warning them that "When that day comes, you will beg for relief from this king you are demanding, but then the Lord will not help you." (Verse 18) Nevertheless, we are informed that the council of elders persisted in their demand for a king, and that the Lord instructed Samuel to give them what they wanted (verses 19-22).

In the following chapter, we learn that God chose a man from the tribe of Benjamin - named Saul - to be the new king, and Samuel then anointed him as king (I Samuel 9-10). Of course, throughout this narrative about the appointment of Saul as king, the Israelites are portrayed as being completely united in their support of the newly minted monarchy. In the chapters that follow (11-15), we read of how the new king was completely dependent upon Samuel to support and prop up his reign over Israel. Unfortunately, as the account progresses, it becomes clear to God and Samuel that Saul was the wrong choice for king (I Samuel 15:10-11).

As a consequence, we read that God eventually instructed Samuel to anoint a new king (I Samuel 16:1). Continuing with the account, we learn that God designated a young man from the tribe of Judah - by the name of David - to be the next King of Israel (16:2-13). Unfortunately for the new king-designate, we are informed that God decided to leave Saul in place as king for the time being, and that David ended up serving in the old king's household (16:14-23). And, as we might imagine, this led to a great deal of tension between the two men - which at times manifested itself as open hostility (chapters 17-30). Then, in the final chapter of the book, we learn that Saul's reign came to a catastrophic end with a massive defeat at the hands of the Philistines at Mount Gilboa. Indeed, we are informed that Saul and his heir (Jonathan) were killed in the melee.

Nevertheless, in the following book (II Samuel), we learn that David's path to the throne after Saul's death was NOT a smooth one. Indeed, in the second chapter of the book, we learn that David was proclaimed King of Judah, but a younger son of Saul (Ishbosheth) was proclaimed King of Israel! In fact, as the account continues, we learn that a battle is enjoined between the supporters of the two kings, and that David was triumphant over the forces of Israel (verses 12-17). In the third and fourth chapters of the book, we learn that the contest between the two men continued until Ishbosheth was finally murdered. Then, finally, in the fifth chapter of the book, we are told that David was proclaimed king over all of the Israelites.

Now, in the next part of this series, "The House of David," we will study the promises made to David and his descendants and learn about some of David's successors and what happened to them and the kingdom(s) they ruled over. Even so, we have established in this section that the "children of Israel" eventually came together to form a single nation under the last of the judges, Eli and Samuel. Next, we learned that the local leaders among the various tribes petitioned Samuel to appoint a king to reign over them, and that he anointed Saul to fulfill that role. The new king, however, quickly failed to measure up to the position, and Samuel anointed another young man to be king - without actually removing Saul from that position. This led to years of infighting within the kingdom, defeat by their adversaries, and the splitting of the kingdom into two nations after Saul's death, each with its own king. Hence, we see in this biblical history the seeds of the two kingdoms that would develop after King Solomon's death. As we will see, this history of unity and division would play itself out in ways that would have far reaching implications for the children of Israel, and the story that Herbert Armstrong would create for them. Stay tuned!