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Yeshua in Context » Background to Gospels, Kingdom Present, Spectacular Commentary, Teaching of Yeshua » Notes: Background to Yeshua’s Kingdom Talk

Notes: Background to Yeshua’s Kingdom Talk

The following is not really a blog post, but more like notes or source information to help grasp the background of “kingdom of God” as it might have resounded in the ears of Yeshua’s generation.

Anne Moore, “The Search for a Common Understanding of God’s Kingship,” in Wayne O. McCready and Adele Reinhartz, ed., Common Judaism: Explorations in Second Temple Judaism (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2008).

Marc Zvi Brettler, God is King: Understanding an Israelite Metaphor (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1989).

What are the underlying beliefs of people in Israel in Yeshua’s time about God’s kingship that resonate when he speaks of the “kingdom of God”? What does Yeshua’s generation think of when God’s rule is raised as an issue?

Anne Moore’s thesis: “I propose that there was a common understanding of the kingship/kingdom of God arising from the common Scripture of Second Temple Judaism — the Hebrew Bible.”

Marc Zvi Brettler writes about the metaphor of God as a king, like the human rulers people were familiar with. The Hebrew Bible uses this metaphor in three ways:

1. God as absolute king of the people of Israel.
2. God as eternal-emperor of all the people of the nations of the world.
3. God as monarch-shepherd caring for the disadvantaged and marginalized.

Examples in the Hebrew Bible

1. God as absolute king of the people of Israel. Exodus 15:1-18, God as a warrior who fights on Israel’s behalf, the liberator-God whose rule is established on the mountain in the midst of the people of Israel. Numerous other examples, including: Exod 19:3-6; Deut 33:2-5; 1 Sam 8-12; Jer 10:1-16; Isa 41-44. God claims Israel’s allegiance as his special people, chosen for a close covenant relationship. The Exodus event is critical. Torah is the requirement of allegiance. Israel is viewed as unique, separate from the nations.

2. God as eternal-emperor of all the people of the nations of the world. Psalm 9:8-9 (7-8 in Christian Bibles), God’s throne is forever and from it he judges the peoples of the world with fairness. Other examples come from the poetic and prophetic literature: Jer 10:7; Dan 4:31; Psa 22:26; 47; 96:10; 103:19. God is comparable in these texts to emperors who rule not only their own nation, but others. The nations are subject to God’s judgments. People in the nations are called to praise and worship God. In some texts (Moore does not mention this), the relationship between God and non-Israelite peoples is described with intimacy similar to God’s relationship with Israelites.

3. God as monarch-shepherd caring for the disadvantaged and marginalized. Psalm 145, God is “my king,” a compassionate monarch who is personally involved in the worshipper’s life, who upholds the fallen and marginalized who call on him. Other examples include the shepherd verses of the Hebrew Bible (shepherd was a royal metaphor for one of the roles of a monarch), the image of God as “shield,” and royal verses expressing the personal relations between people and God: Psa 5; 9; 10; 22; 102; 103; 146; Isa 40:10-11. God is a king and protector (shield) of all the people, including the prisoner and the oppressed.

Examples in Second Temple Jewish Literature

1. God as absolute king of the people of Israel.

…Tobit 13:1, 3-5, 11, 17, Blessed be the God who lives for ever, because his kingdom lasts throughout all ages . . . acknowledge him before the nations, O children of Israel . . . his is our Father . . . he will afflict you for your iniquities but he will again show mercy on all of you. He will gather you from all the nations among whom you have been scattered . . . A bright light will shine to all the ends of the earth. Many nations will come to you from far away . . . bearing gifts in their hand for the king of heaven . . . The gates of Jerusalem will sing hymns of joy.

…Judith 9:12, 14, God of the heritage of Israel . . . there is no other who protects the people of Israel but you alone!

…Philo, Special Laws 4.164, Other kings bear scepters in their hands, and sit upon thrones in royal state, but my scepter will be my copy of the book of the Law; that shall be my boast and my incontestible glory . . . created after the image and model of the archetypal royal power of God.

…Jubilees 50:9, You shall not do any work on the day of the Sabbath . . . a day of the holy kingdom for all Israel is this day among their days always.

2. God as eternal-emperor of all the people of the nations of the world.

…Testament of Moses 10:1, 5, 7, This his kingship will appear throughout the whole creation. Then the devil will have his end. Yea, sorrow will be led away with him . . . the sun will not give light and in darkness the horns of the moon will flee . . . for God Most High will surge forth, the Eternal One alone. In full view will he come to work vengeance on the nations. Yea, all their idols he will destroy.

…Psalms of Solomon 17:34, He [Messiah] will be compassionate to all the nations who reverently stand before him.

…Sybilline Oracles 3:46-47, But when Rome will also rule over Egypt guiding it toward a single goal, then indeed the most great kingdom of the immortal king will become manifest over men.

…Targum on Zechariah 14:9a, And the kingdom of the Lord will be revealed among the dwellers of the earth.

3. God as monarch-shepherd caring for the disadvantaged and marginalized.

…Psalms of Solomon 5:1-2, 5, 8, 16, 19 Lord God, I will joyfully praise your name among those who know your righteous judgments. For you are good and merciful, the shelter of the poor. When I cry out to you, do not ignore me . . . when we are persecuted, we call on you for help, for you will not turn away from our prayer . . . for if I am hungry, I will cry out to you, O God . . . Happy is the person whom God remembers with a moderate sufficiency, for if one is excessively rich he sins . . . May the glory of the Lord be praised, for he is our king.

…Judith 9:11-12, For you are the God of the lowly, helper of the oppressed, upholder of the weak, protector of the forsaken, savior of those without hope . . . King of all creation, hear my prayer!

Examples in Yeshua’s Teaching

God, absolute king of the people of Israel

…Mark 1:15, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel.

…Luke 11:20, If I cast out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has already overtaken you.

God, the eternal-emperor of the people of all the nations

…Matthew 8:11-12, I tell you, many will come from east and west and sit at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.

…Matthew 13:37-39, He who sows the good seed is the Son of man; the field is the world, and the good seed means the sons of the kingdom; the weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the close of the age, and the reapers are angels.

God, shepherd-monarch of the fallen

…Luke 10:9, Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’

…Matthew 5:3, Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

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Filed under: Background to Gospels, Kingdom Present, Spectacular Commentary, Teaching of Yeshua

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