This concludes our series on the title, Son of God. Understandably, it has not provoked the kind of discussion that political, economic, social, and ethical posts tend to on this site. However, I hope it has been of some benefit to our readers, and encouraged people to think a little more deeply about the nuances of this term as applied to Jesus in the New Testament and as used in Intertestamental literature.
The King of Israel
-2 Samuel 7:12-16
He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
In many ancient cultures, the king was held to be the son of the patron god of the state. In Egypt, the Pharaoh was the embodiment of the god Horus, who was the son of Osiris and Isis. Some Phoenician and Canaanite states appear to have viewed their ruler as a son of Baal. In many cases, descent was ancestral. Thus many of the Greek and Roman rulers and noble families claimed descent from a god and a hero who was a son of a god. For example, it was common to claim some form of descent from Heracles, the son of Zeus.
These claims allowed kings to inspire awe in their subjects, and to argue that they ruled in the name of their god, attributing holiness, righteousness, and wisdom to their reigns. In Israel, Nathan’s prophecy to David, cited above, and the offices of prophet and priest, put a brake on heedless extravagance and arrogance. The kings of Judah were not literal descendants of YHWH, and their actions could be rebuked by reference to oracles from YHWH or unfavourable comparison with the Torah.
Following the Babylonian Exile, the descendants of David lost much of their political power. Zerubbabel was a governor of Yehud, but it is not clear that all subsequent governors were descendants of David. The Hasmonaeans, who later claimed the title of king, were Levites and Aaronides, and the Herodian dynasty was of Idumaean (Edomite) descent. Thus hopes of a new David clustered around the concept of the Messiah, a special figure who, like David, would be a man after YHWH’s own heart – holy, righteous, wise, strong, and compassionate.
When Jesus the Son of God and Son of David came, He showed the people what a true Davidic ruler could be like and as the incarnation of the Second YHWH, was true link between the people and their God, combining the offices of prophet, priest, and king. He was a second David, and a second Solomon: David conquered the powers, and Solomon ruled in the golden age. The Millennium, conceived as a kind of Sabbath-like and Edenic rule, is an echo of the description of the time of Solomon. But peace and order must be fought for: as the ancient kings in their religious festivals re-enacted the stories of their gods fighting the powers of death and chaos (chaoskampf), so Jesus actually fought the powers of darkness and defeated death – the ultimate warrior and shepherd king.
“Are you the King of the Jews?”
“That is how you would say it, yes.”