John T. Willis

Friday, November 11, 2005

The People of God--God's Kingdom--IV

2. A second term the Bible uses for the king of Israel is "prince" [Hebrew nagid]. Some English versions translate this word "leader" or "ruler," but it seems to me that "prince" is the preferable translation. The point is that this word is not the Hebrew word for "king," which is melek. God is the king of Israel; the earthly king is the "prince" serving under him as his representative. Notice these passages.
a. Concerning Saul: 1 Samuel 9:16 [God speaking to Samuel the day before Saul comes to him]: "About this time tomorrow I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin. Anoint him PRINCE over my people Israel." 1 Samuel 10:1: "Then Saul took a flask of oil and poured it on Saul's head and kissed him, saying, 'Has not the Lord anointed you PRINCE over his people Israel?" Three things stand out in these passages: (1) "Prince" is closely associated with the verb "anoint," Hebrew mashach, from which we get the English word "messiah." The anointer (God) is superior to the one anointed (the messiah, the anointed one, the earthly king); in fact, God anoints this person as his delegate to carry out a certain mission he has for him. (2) "Prince" is not the Hebrew word for "king." God alone is the real king of Israel. (3) The earthly king is "prince" not over his own people, but over "God's people," Israel. The Israelites are God's people, not the people of some human leader.
b. Concerning David: 1 Samuel 13:14 [God speaking to Saul when he rebukes him for offering the sacrifice before Samuel arrives]: "Your [Saul's] kingdom shall not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him PRINCE of his people." 1 Samuel 25:30-31 [Abigail trying to persuade David not to kill her husband Nabal]: "When the Lord has done for my master every good thing he has promised concerning him and has appointed him PRINCE over Israel, my master will not have on his conscience the staggering burden of needless bloodshed or of having avenged himself." 2 Samuel 5:2 [the North Israelites speaking to David]: "In the past, when Saul was king over us, you were the one who led Israel on their military campaigns. And the Lord said to you, 'You shall be shepherd of my people Israel, and you will become their PRINCE.'" 2 Samuel 6:21 [David speaking to Michal]: "It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me PRINCE over the Lord's people Israel--I will celebrate before the Lord."
The earthly ruler is not really the king--God is! The earthly ruler is PRINCE under the king, whose responsibility is to carry out the king's [God's] will in every way as God's representative.
[More to come]

John Willis