Israel’s Kings as Messiahs or Christs

In a previous post, I pointed out that in the Hebrew Old Testament Scriptures Israel’s kings are spoken of as God’s anointed ones. In the Hebrew texts the word for “anointed one” is mashiach (משיח), which is anglicized as “messiah.” And in the Septuagint (LXX), the ancient Greek translations of the Hebrew Scriptures used by early Christians, mashiach was rendered christos (χριστος), which is anglicized as “christ.” Here are some examples of this usage of the term mashiach in the Hebrew texts and christos in the Greek translations. This usage, of course, is critical for rightly understanding Jesus as mashiach or christos. Against the background of Israel’s kings as mashiach or christos, it is evident that the claim Jesus is the Messiah or Christ is the claim that Jesus is the king appointed by God.

1 Samuel 2:10

YHWH shatters his adversaries; he thunders against them from the heavens. YHWH executes judgment to the ends of the earth. He will strengthen his king [i.e. the kings whom God was soon to install in Israel as narrated later on in the books of 1 and 2 Samuel] and exalt the power of his mashiach (LXX: christos).

1 Samuel 12.1-3

Then Samuel said to all Israel, “Behold, I have listened to your voice in all that you said to me and I have appointed a king [i.e., Saul, whom Samuel has just anointed in the previous chapter of the narrative] over you. Now, here is the king walking before you, but I am old and gray, and behold my sons are with you. And I have walked before you from my youth even to this day. Here I am; bear witness against me before YHWH and his mashiach (LXX: christos). Whose ox have I taken, or whose donkey have I taken, or whom have I defrauded? Whom have I oppressed, or from whose hand have I taken a bribe to blind my eyes with it? I will restore it to you.” They said, “You have not defrauded us or oppressed us or taken anything from any man’s hand.” He said to them, “YHWH is witness against you, and his mashiach (LXX: christos) is witness this day that you have found nothing in my hand.’ And they said, ‘He is witness.”

1 Samuel 16.1-12

Now YHWH said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and go; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have selected a king for myself among his sons.” But Samuel said, “How can I go? When Saul hears of it, he will kill me.” And YHWH said, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to YHWH.’ You shall invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint (mashach) for me the one whom I designate to you.” So Samuel did what YHWH said, and came to Bethlehem. And the elders of the city came trembling to meet him and said, “Do you come in peace?” He said, “In peace; I have come to sacrifice to YHWH. Consecrate yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.” He also consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice. When they entered, he looked at Eliab and thought, “Surely YHWH’s mashiach (LXX: christos) is before him.” But YHWH said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but YHWH looks at the heart.” Then Jesse called Abinadab and made him pass before Samuel. And he said, “YHWH has not chosen this one either.” Next Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “YHWH has not chosen this one either.” Thus Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. But Samuel said to Jesse, “YHWH has not chosen these.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Are these all the children?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, and behold, he is tending the sheep.” Then Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.” So he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, with beautiful eyes and a handsome appearance. And YHWH said, “Arise, anoint (mashach) him; for this is he.” Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed (mashach) him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of YHWH came mightily upon David from that day forward. And Samuel arose and went to Ramah.

1 Samuel 24.1-10

Now when Saul returned from pursuing the Philistines, he was told, saying, “Behold, David is in the wilderness of Engedi.” Then Saul took three thousand chosen men from all Israel and went to seek David and his men in front of the Rocks of the Wild Goats. He came to the sheepfolds on the way, where there was a cave; and Saul went in to relieve himself. Now David and his men were sitting in the inner recesses of the cave. The men of David said to him, “Behold, this is the day of which YHWH said to you, ‘Behold; I am about to give your enemy into your hand, and you shall do to him as it seems good to you.’” Then David arose and cut off the edge of Saul’s robe secretly. It came about afterward that David’s conscience bothered him because he had cut off the edge of Saul’s robe. So he said to his men, “Far be it from me because of YHWH that I should do this thing to my lord, YHWH’s mashiach (LXX: christos), to stretch out my hand against him, since he is YHWH’s mashiach (LXX: christos).” David persuaded his men with these words and did not allow them to rise up against Saul. And Saul arose, left the cave, and went on his way. Now afterward David arose and went out of the cave and called after Saul, saying, “My lord the king!” And when Saul looked behind him, David bowed with his face to the ground and prostrated himself. David said to Saul, “Why do you listen to the words of men, saying, ‘Behold, David seeks to harm you’? Behold, this day your eyes have seen that YHWH had given you today into my hand in the cave, and some said to kill you, but my eye had pity on you; and I said, ‘I will not stretch out my hand against my lord, for he is YHWH’s mashiach (LXX: christos).’

[Note that David refers to King Saul not only as the messiah, or anointed one, but also as his lord; and he prostrates himself and bows down to Saul, the lord. That is, he worships Saul. This is just one example of many from the Scriptures of worship or homage given to a human being. And this, of course, is important for rightly interpreting the significance of the fact that, according to early Christian proclamation, worship or homage was and ought to be paid to the man Jesus.]

1 Samuel 26.6-25

Then David said to Ahimelech the Hittite and to Abishai the son of Zeruiah, Joab’s brother, saying, “Who will go down with me to Saul in the camp?” And Abishai said, “I will go down with you.” So David and Abishai came to the people by night, and behold, Saul lay sleeping inside the circle of the camp with his spear stuck in the ground at his head; and Abner and the people were lying around him. Then Abishai said to David, “Today God has delivered your enemy into your hand; now therefore, please let me strike him with the spear to the ground with one stroke, and I will not strike him the second time.” But David said to Abishai, “Do not destroy him, for who can stretch out his hand against YHWH’s mashiach (LXX: christos) and be without guilt?” David also said, “As YHWH lives, surely YHWH will strike him, or his day will come that he dies, or he will go down into battle and perish. YHWH forbid that I should stretch out my hand against YHWH’s mashiach (LXX: christos); but now please take the spear that is at his head and the jug of water, and let us go.” So David took the spear and the jug of water from beside Saul’s head, and they went away, but no one saw or knew it, nor did any awake, for they were all asleep, because a sound sleep from YHWH had fallen on them. Then David crossed over to the other side and stood on top of the mountain at a distance with a large area between them. David called to the people and to Abner the son of Ner, saying, “Will you not answer, Abner?” Then Abner replied, “Who are you who calls to the king?” So David said to Abner, “Are you not a man? And who is like you in Israel? Why then have you not guarded your lord the king? For one of the people came to destroy the king your lord. This thing that you have done is not good. As YHWH lives, all of you must surely die, because you did not guard your lord, the YHWH’s mashiach (LXX: christos). And now, see where the king’s spear is and the jug of water that was at his head.” Then Saul recognized David’s voice and said, “Is this your voice, my son David?” And David said, “It is my voice, my lord the king.” He also said, “Why then is my lord pursuing his servant? For what have I done? Or what evil is in my hand? Now therefore, please let my lord the king listen to the words of his servant. If YHWH has stirred you up against me, let Him accept an offering; but if it is men, cursed are they before YHWH, for they have driven me out today so that I would have no attachment with the inheritance of YHWH, saying, ‘Go, serve other gods.’ Now then, do not let my blood fall to the ground away from the presence of YHWH; for the king of Israel has come out to search for a single flea, just as one hunts a partridge in the mountains.” Then Saul said, “I have sinned. Return, my son David, for I will not harm you again because my life was precious in your sight this day. Behold, I have played the fool and have committed a serious error.” David replied, “Behold the spear of the king! Now let one of the young men come over and take it. YHWH will repay each man for his righteousness and his faithfulness; for YHWH delivered you into my hand today, but I refused to stretch out my hand against the YHWH’s mashiach (LXX: christos). Now behold, as your life was highly valued in my sight this day, so may my life be highly valued in the sight of YHWH, and may he deliver me from all distress.” Then Saul said to David, “Blessed are you, my son David; you will both accomplish much and surely prevail.” So David went on his way, and Saul returned to his place.

2 Samuel 1.1-16

Now it came about after the death of Saul, when David had returned from the slaughter of the Amalekites, that David remained two days in Ziklag. On the third day, behold, a man came out of the camp from Saul, with his clothes torn and dust on his head. And it came about when he came to David that he fell to the ground and prostrated himself. Then David said to him, “From where do you come?” And he said to him, “I have escaped from the camp of Israel.” David said to him, “How did things go? Please tell me.” And he said, “The people have fled from the battle, and also many of the people have fallen and are dead; and Saul and Jonathan his son are dead also.” So David said to the young man who told him, “How do you know that Saul and his son Jonathan are dead?” The young man who told him said, “By chance I happened to be on Mount Gilboa, and behold, Saul was leaning on his spear. And behold, the chariots and the horsemen pursued him closely. When he looked behind him, he saw me and called to me. And I said, ‘Here I am.’ He said to me, ‘Who are you?’ And I answered him, ‘I am an Amalekite.’ Then he said to me, ‘Please stand beside me and kill me, for agony has seized me because my life still lingers in me.’ So I stood beside him and killed him, because I knew that he could not live after he had fallen. And I took the crown which was on his head and the bracelet which was on his arm, and I have brought them here to my lord.” Then David took hold of his clothes and tore them, and so also did all the men who were with him. They mourned and wept and fasted until evening for Saul and his son Jonathan and for the people of YHWH and the house of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword. David said to the young man who told him, “Where are you from?” And he answered, “I am the son of an alien, an Amalekite.” Then David said to him, “How is it you were not afraid to stretch out your hand to destroy YHWH’s mashiach (LXX: christos)?” And David called one of the young men and said, “Go, cut him down.” So he struck him and he died. David said to him, “Your blood is on your head, for your mouth has testified against you, saying, ‘I have killed YHWH’s mashiach (LXX: christos).’”

2 Samuel 19.16-23

Then Shimei the son of Gera, the Benjamite who was from Bahurim, hurried and came down with the men of Judah to meet King David. There were a thousand men of Benjamin with him, with Ziba the servant of the house of Saul, and his fifteen sons and his twenty servants with him; and they rushed to the Jordan before the king. Then they kept crossing the ford to bring over the king’s household, and to do what was good in his sight. And Shimei the son of Gera fell down before the king as he was about to cross the Jordan. So he said to the king, “Let not my lord consider me guilty, nor remember what your servant did wrong on the day when my lord the king came out from Jerusalem, so that the king would take it to heart. For your servant knows that I have sinned; therefore behold, I have come today, the first of all the house of Joseph to go down to meet my lord the king.” But Abishai the son of Zeruiah said, “Should not Shimei be put to death for this, because he cursed YHWH’s mashiach (LXX: christos)?” David then said, “What have I to do with you, O sons of Zeruiah, that you should this day be an adversary to me? Should any man be put to death in Israel today? For do I not know that I am king over Israel today?” The king said to Shimei, “You shall not die.” Thus the king swore to him.

2 Samuel 23.1

Now these are the last words of David. David the son of Jesse declares, the man who was raised on high declares, the mashiach (LXX: christos) of the God of Jacob, and the sweet psalmist of Israel . . .

2 Chronicles 6.42

“O YHWH God, do not turn away the face of your mashiach (LXX: christos); remember your lovingkindness to your servant David.” [So King Solomon concluded his famous prayer of dedication.]

Psalm 2

Why are the nations in an uproar, and the peoples devising a vain thing? The kings of the earth take their stand, and the rulers take counsel together against YHWH and against his mashiach (LXX: christos), saying, “Let us tear their fetters apart and cast away their cords from us!” He who sits in the heavens laughs; YHWH scoffs at them. Then he will speak to them in His anger and terrify them in his fury, saying, “But as for me, I have installed my king upon Zion, my holy mountain.” I will surely tell of the decree of YHWH: He said to me, “You are my son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will surely give the nations as your inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron; you shall shatter them like earthenware.” Now therefore, O kings, show discernment; take warning, O judges of the earth. Worship YHWH with reverence, and rejoice with trembling. Do homage to the son, that he not become angry, and you perish in the way. For his anger may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!

[Here we see that as the king of Israel, David is mashiach and son of God. This Psalm, of course, was later applied by the early Christians (see Acts 13.29-35; Hebrews 1.5 and 5.5) to Jesus, whom they proclaimed as the ultimate king God had raised up and thus the ultimate mashiach and son of God.]

Psalm 20

May YHWH answer you in the day of trouble! May the name of the God of Jacob set you securely on high! May he send you help from the sanctuary and support you from Zion! May he remember all your meal offerings and find your burnt offering acceptable! Selah. May he grant you your heart’s desire and fulfill all your counsel! We will sing for joy over your victory, and in the name of our God we will set up our banners. May YHWH fulfill all your petitions. Now I know that YHWH saves his mashiach (LXX: christos) [the Davidic king is the referent]; he will answer him from his holy heaven. With the saving strength of his right hand. Some boast in chariots and some in horses, but we will boast in the name of YHWH, our God. They have bowed down and fallen, but we have risen and stood upright. YHWH will deliver the king; he will answer us in the day we call.

Psalm 28.6-9

Blessed be YHWH, because he has heard the voice of my supplication. YHWH is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. Therefore my heart exults, and with my song I shall thank him. YHWH is their strength, and he is a saving defense to his mashiach (LXX: christos) [the Davidic king is the referent]. Save your people and bless your inheritance. Be their shepherd also, and carry them forever.

Psalm 84.8-9

O YHWH God of hosts, hear my prayer. Give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah. Behold our shield, O God, and look upon the face of your mashiach (LXX: christos) [the Davidic king is the referent].

Psalm 89 (abridged)

“I have made a covenant with my chosen; I have sworn to David my servant. I will establish your seed forever and build up your throne to all generations.” Selah. . . . By your favor our horn is exalted. For our shield belongs to YHWH, and our king to the Holy One of Israel. . . . Once you spoke in vision to your godly ones and said, “I have given help to one who is mighty; I have exalted one chosen from the people. I have found David my servant. With my holy oil I have anointed (mashach) him, with whom my hand will be established. My arm also will strengthen him. . . . He will cry to me, ‘You are my Father, My God, and the rock of my salvation.’ I also shall make him my firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth.’” . . . But you have cast off and rejected; you have been full of wrath against your mashiach (LXX: christos). You have spurned the covenant of your servant. You have profaned his crown in the dust. . . . Where are your former lovingkindnesses, O YHWH, which you swore to David in your faithfulness? Remember, O YHWH, the reproach of your servants, how I bear in my bosom the reproach of all the many peoples with which your enemies have reproached, O YHWH; with which they have reproached the footsteps of your mashiach (LXX: christos). Blessed be YHWH forever! Amen and Amen.

[As the king of Israel, David is the mashiach whom God has made his firstborn son, the highest of the kings of the earth. So, as in Psalm 2, king of Israel = mashiach = (firstborn) son of God. It goes without saying that this Psalm is critical for interpreting the early Christian proclamation of Jesus as king, mashiach, and (firstborn) son of God. For instance, it illuminates the import of the stated purpose of the Gospel of John: “These things have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.”]

Psalm 132 (abridged)

Remember, O YHWH, on David’s behalf, all his affliction . . . For the sake of David your servant, do not turn away the face of your mashiach (LXX: christos). YHWH has sworn to David a truth from which he will not turn back: “Of the fruit of your body I will set upon your throne. . . . I will cause the horn of David to spring forth. I have prepared a lamp for mine mashiach (LXX: christos). His enemies I will clothe with shame, but upon himself his crown shall shine.”

[This Psalm, of course, is critical for interpreting the early Christian proclamation of Jesus as the ultimate king, mashiach, descended from the line of David.]