Oct 11, 2012

Daniel and the Times of the Gentiles (Part 2)

Tony GarlandBy Dr. Tony Garland

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Davidic Rule Judged

God was duty bound by His own Word to Solomon to discipline any Davidic son who's rule abused the throne (2 Chr. 7:17-22). An important passage in the prophet Ezekiel predicted God’s judgment against the ruling scepter of David (Eze. 21:10-27) from which several key verses appear below: [1]

Son of man, prophesy and say, ‘Thus says the LORD!’ Say: ‘A sword, a sword is sharpened And also polished! Sharpened to make a dreadful slaughter, Polished to flash like lightning! Should we then make mirth? It despises the scepter (šebet) of My son, As it does all wood. (Ezekiel 21:9-10)

‘Because it is a testing, And what if the sword despises even the scepter? The scepter shall be no more,’ says the Lord God. (Ezekiel 21:13)

Now to you, O profane, wicked prince of Israel, whose day has come, whose iniquity shall end, ‘thus says the Lord GOD: “Remove the turban, and take off the crown; Nothing shall remain the same. Exalt the humble, and humble the exalted. Overthrown, overthrown, I will make it overthrown! It shall be no longer, Until He comes whose right it is, And I will give it to Him.”’ (Ezekiel 21:25-27)

The passage concerns God’s sword of judgment which is poised to strike. This sword of judgment despises the scepter of My son. The passage calls the ruler of Israel at that time, Zedekiah, profane and wicked and teaches that the Davidic rule, whose righteous scepter he was supposed to uphold (Jer. 22:3), would be terminated, “It shall be no longer, until He comes whose right it is, and I will give it to Him.” This is a clear reference to the promised ruler in the line of Judah:

The scepter (šebet) shall not depart from Judah, Nor a lawgiver from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes; And to Him shall be the obedience of the people. (Genesis 49:10)

Rabbinic interpretation associated the title “Shiloh” with the Messiah: a Midrash takes “Shiloh” to refer to “King Messiah” (Genesis R. 98.13), the Babylonian Talmud lists “Shi’loh” as one of the names of the Messiah (Sanhedrin 98b), and Medieval Jewish Biblical expositor Rashi makes the following comment: “Shiloh—i.e. King Messiah whose is the Kingdom.” The term “Shiloh” denotes, “to whom it belongs/pertains.” [2]

Ezekiel is telling us that in the judgment of the Davidic throne, [3] Zedekiah [4] will be the last ruler to sit on the Davidic throne until it is occupied by Messiah. [5] This same message concerning judgment of the ruling scepter occurs in another of Ezekiel’s warnings given to Zedekiah [6] (Eze. 19:4-14), which concludes:

‘Your mother was like a vine in your bloodline, Planted by the waters, Fruitful and full of branches Because of many waters. She had strong branches for scepters of rulers. She towered in stature above the thick branches, And was seen in her height amid the dense foliage. But she was plucked up in fury, She was cast down to the ground, And the east wind dried her fruit. Her strong branches were broken and withered; The fire consumed them. And now she is planted in the wilderness, In a dry and thirsty land. Fire has come out from a rod of her branches And devoured her fruit, So that she has no strong branch—a scepter for ruling.’ This is a lamentation, and has become a lamentation. (Ezekiel 19:10-14) [emphasis added]

Judgment of the Davidic throne is also the subject in Psalm 89 where very strong promises to uphold the throne are followed by a passage speaking of the throne being cast to the ground (Ps. 89:44ff).

This is a most important point to understand when considering the implications of the prophetic dreams and visions which are the subject of the book of Daniel because the sequence of Gentile kingdoms which are predicted therein begin with Babylon (Dan. 2:32, 38; 7:4) and continue until the reign of Messiah (Dan. 2:44-45; Dan. 7:14, 22, 27). From the fall of Zedekiah to the enthronement of Messiah is a time which is characterized by Gentile dominion and especially by the lack of a Davidic ruler in Israel seated on the throne of David. This is the period which Jesus referred to as the “Times of the Gentiles” which will not come to an end until the second coming of Christ: “And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” (Luke 21:24) [7] During this period when the throne of David is unoccupied, the glory of God is also absent from His “house,” the temple. [8]

The “Times of the Gentiles” do not come to an end whenever Israel enjoys a period of relative autonomy and self-rule. [9] The key factor which determines the period of this time is that the throne of David remains unoccupied by a legitimate ruler in the line of David. Thus, the nation may be reconstituted and the city or temple restored (as in the return from the Babylonian Captivity), but this would not end the “Times of the Gentiles” because no legitimate Davidic monarch seated on the Davidic throne has ruled since the Babylonian overthrow of Judah. During the return from Babylonian captivity, although Zerubbabel was of Davidic descent, Scripture never describes him as occupying the throne of David as a true king. This is not a mere accident of history, but is a direct result of Ezekiel’s prophecy which specified that the Davidic scepter would not be restored until “He comes Whose right it is” (Eze. 21:27)—that is, King Messiah. [10]

(To be continued...)


[1] Unfortunately, a number of popular translations muddy this passage by translating šebet as “rod” rather than “scepter” giving the possible impression that the rod is meting out discipline when in fact it is the scepter which is the object of discipline (KJV, ESV, NASB). Interestingly, the same translations render the term as “scepter” in Genesis 49:10 which is closely related to Ezekiel 21:27. Although “rod” or “scepter” are both valid translations of the underlying Hebrew term, “scepter” is more naturally understood as referring to kingly ruling authority by many readers.

[2] “THE SCEPTRE SHALL NOT DEPART FORM JUDAH (XLIX, 10): this refers to the throne of kingship . . . Rather than transliterating into English ‘Shilo’ as though it were a proper name, the Rabbis translated the exact meaning of ‘Shilo’ as ‘to whom it belongs/pertains.’”—Tom Huckel, The Rabbinic Messiah (Philadelphia, PA: Hananeel House, 1998), s.v. “Midrash Rabbah, Genesis XCIX, 8-9”. “The transmission of dominion shall not cease from the house of Judah, nor the scribe from his children’s children, forever, until the Messiah comes. to whom the kingdom belongs, and whom nations shall obey.”—Ibid., Targum Onkelos, Gen. 49:10. “Kings and rulers shall not cease from the house of Judah, nor scribes who teach the Torah from his seed, until the time when the King Messiah shall come, the youngest of his sons, and because of him nations shall melt away.”—Ibid., Targum Pseudo-Jonathan, Gen. 49:10. See [Ibid.] for many more Rabbinical comments concerning the identity of Shiloh as Messiah with the meaning of “He whose right it is” to hold the scepter.

[3] “But when not only the people, but the king anointed of Jehovah, blotted out His very Name from the land; when His glory was given to another in His own temple, all was over for the present, and ‘Lo-Ammi’ was the sentence of God. They had become now the most bitter in their idolatry, being apostates from the living God, and, if maintained, would have been the active champions of heathen abominations. By God’s judgment, therefore, the people and the king at length passed into captivity.”—Kelly, Lectures on the Book of Daniel (3rd. ed.), 20.

[4] “With v. 25 the address turns to the chief sinner, the godless King Zedekiah, who was bringing the judgment of destruction upon the kingdom by his faithless breach of oath.”—Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2002), Eze. 21:25.

[5] “The profane and wicked prince of Israel was King Zedekiah. . . . This prophecy recalls Genesis 49:10, which speaks of ‘the scepter’ in the line of Judah. The line of David would not be restored till the righteous, God-appointed King would come. There were no valid claims till Christ rode into Jerusalem to claim His rightful rule (cf. Zech. 9:9; Matt. 21:1-11; Rev. 19:11-16; 20:4). Christ will fulfill Ezekiel’s prophecy; He will be the King of Israel.”—Charles H. Dyer, Ezekiel in John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, eds., The Bible Knowledge Commentary (Wheaton, IL: SP Publications, 1983), Eze. 21:24. “It is true the tribal ‘scepter’ continued with Judah ‘till Shiloh came’ (Gen. 49:10); but there was no kingly scepter till Messiah came, as the spiritual King then (John 18:36, 37); this spiritual kingdom being about to pass into the literal, personal kingdom over Israel at His second coming, when, and not before, this prophecy shall have its exhaustive fulfillment (Luke 1:32, 33; Jer. 3:17; 10:7; ‘To thee doth it appertain’).” [emphasis added]—A. R. Fausset, The Book of the Prophet Ezekiel in Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997, 1877), Eze. 21:27. Although the throne lasted until the overthrow of Zedekiah’s reign by Babylon, it had already lost its independence when previous rulers were made subject to Egypt and Babylon (Jer. 22:30; 36:30).

[6] “These verses seem to be addressed to the present king, Zedekiah, as a reminder that in her past Israel was fruitful and full of branches. However, her doom is so certain that it is pictured as completed: she was plucked up in fury (v. 12). The statement that she hath no strong rod is a reference to the fact that Zedekiah was the last king of the nation. Not until the millennial reign of Jesus Christ will Israel have another king.”—King James Version Study Bible, electronic ed. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1997), Eze. 19:14.

[7] Some interpreters object to the notion that Jesus was referring to the continuation of a time period which began hundreds of years prior to His statement. “This is probably one of the most misinterpreted prophecies in the Bible. The term [sic.] times of the Gentiles has been taken out of its context and given a meaning not found anywhere in the Bible. . . . Jesus is merely saying that Jerusalem will be trodden down by Gentiles until their time is up—not from the time of Nebuchadnezzar, who is not in view here at all, but from the time of the beginning of Antichrist’s invasion. Jesus was not talking about some long period of time, beginning supposedly with Nebuchadnezzar and ending when the Jews are all back in Palestine and Jerusalem is an all-Jewish city. Jerusalem will be an all-Jewish city long before the invasion of Antichrist. The four world empires of prophecy, which began with Nebuchadnezzar and which will continue until the saints possess the kingdom, are nowhere in Scripture called the times of the Gentiles. In this part of the Olivet discourse, Jesus is certainly not talking about the four world empires of Daniel. He is talking about the siege of Jerusalem by Antichrist and says that Jerusalem will be trodden down by Gentiles until their time is fulfilled. Revelation 11:2 states that the length of this time is 42 months or 3 1/2 years . . . The times of the Gentiles, then, is the last 3 1/2 years before the return of Christ, the last half of Daniel’s Seventieth Week, or the time of Jacob’s trouble (Jer. 30:7).”—Arthur E. Bloomfield, A Survey of Bible Prophecy (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany Fellowship, 1971), 162. But such an interpretation fails to recognize the significance of the emphasis given to the sequence of Gentile kingdoms in the book of Daniel along with the book’s historical context concerning the Babylonian captivity which resulted in the termination of the last vestige of Davidic rule—a rule which has never been reestablished down to our own times—which even this same author admits: “the return after the Babylonian Captivity was only a partial return, for many of the Jews remained in Babylon. Palestine never again became independent until this century. Throughout the years it was always a captive country so that the Jews never again had a reigning king. Successively, Palestine was dominated by Persia, Greece, Syria, and Rome. Finally the Jews were scattered once more among all countries, where they have remained until this day.” [emphasis added]—Ibid., 175. This lack of a reigning king began when Zedekiah was deposed by Nebuchadnezzar and continues down to our own day: “I believe that these times of ours (as also all the times of the four monarchies [Dan 2]) are the times of the Gentiles; and that Jerusalem and Israel shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, till the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.”—Horacio Bonar, “The Jew” in “The Quarterly Journal of Prophecy”, 211, cited in—Barry E Horner, Future Israel: Why Christian Anti-Judaism Must Be Challenged (Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman, 2007), 10.

[8] And the physical temple may not even exist, as is the case in our age. “In the great dream in the second chapter the period of time is revealed which in Scripture is called ‘The Times of the Gentiles.’ These extend from the time God withdrew from Jerusalem, where His Glory dwelt, until His Throne is once more established upon the earth.”—Arno Clemens Gaebelein, The Prophet Daniel: A Key to the Visions and Prophecies of the Book of Daniel (New York, NY: F. E. Fitch, 1911), 8.

[9] “The times of the Gentiles can best be defined as that long period of time from the Babylonian Empire to the Second Coming of the Messiah, during which time the Gentiles will have dominance over the City of Jerusalem. This does not rule out temporary Jewish control of the city, but all such Jewish control will be temporary until the Second Coming of the Messiah. Such temporary control was exercised during the Maccabbean period (164–63 b.c.), the First Jewish Revolt against Rome (a.d. 66–70), the Second Jewish Revolt against Rome, also known as the Bar Cochba Revolt (a.d. 132–135), and since 1967 as a result of the Six-Day War. This, too, is temporary, as Gentiles will yet tread down Jerusalem for at least another 3½ years (Rev. 11:1–2). Any Jewish takeover of the City of Jerusalem before the Second Coming of the Messiah must, therefore, be viewed as a temporary one and does not mean that the Times of the Gentiles have ended. The Times of the Gentiles can only end when the Gentiles can no longer tread down the City of Jerusalem.”—Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, The Messianic Bible Study Collection (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 1983), 29:4.

[10] Scott is convinced that Zerubbabel fulfilled the predictions to restore Davidic rulership and attributes the lack of Scriptural clarity on this point to political motives. “A number of the prophets had predicted the restoration and future blessing would include the return of rule by the house of David (Isa. 9:7; 16:5; Jer. 17:25; 23:5; 30:0; 33:15, 17, 20-22; Eze. 34:23-24; 27:24-25; Hos. 3:5; Amos 9:11). Moreover, the promise to David and his descendants led to the expectation that the Messiah (the leader/king par excellence) would arise from that family. As would be expected, then, the immediate postexilic hopes for the reestablishment of the Hebrew kingship centered on the Davidic family. Two individuals are mentioned in Ezra as political leaders: Sheshbazzar the prince and governor, and Zerubbabel the rebuilder of the temple. The book of Ezra gives no lineage for Sheshbazzar, and Zerubbabel is called simply ‘son of Shealtiel’ (Eze. 3:2; 5:2; Ne. 12:1). First Chronicles 3:16-17 makes clear that Shealtiel was the son of King Jeconiah (Jehoiachin/Coniah) (see also Mt. 1:12; Luke 3:27). Hence Zerubbabel, who was himself later appointed governor in his own right (Hag. 2:21) was of Davidic descent. To this silence of Ezra about Zerubbabel’s royal heritage we must add Haggai’s assurance that Zerubbabel and Joshua the high priest would be protected in the midst of dangerous times (Eze. 2:4-5). . . . The silence in Ezra about Zerubbabel’s Davidic descent, coupled with the LORD’s reassurance to him, may indicate that some of his contemporaries viewed him as the messianic king. . . . The reason for the silence was that talk of his being a king could have placed Zerubbabel at risk in the Persian Empire. . . . The restoration of the monarchy did not come during the time of Ezra, Zerubbabel, Nehemiah, and their contemporaries. Nor in fact did it come through the Davidic family, but through the priestly Hasmonean line. Although Aristobulus I was the first of the Maccabees actually to claim the title of king, several of his predecessors held the office in all ways save the name. In them we see the joining of the offices of priest and king.” [emphasis added]—J. Julius Scott Jr., Jewish Backgrounds of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1995,2007), 162-164. As Scott observes, during the times of the Maccabees, some Hasmonean rulers claimed the title of “king.” Yet none of these had the necessary Davidic lineage to be recognized as a legitimate continuation of David’s rule. “Hyrcanus [134-104] did not claim the title of king, but acted as if he occupied that position. . . . Unlike his predecessors, Aristobulus [104-103] openly claimed the title of king. . . . Aristobulus’s widow, Salome Alexandra, released his brothers from prison and offered herself in marriage to one of them, Alexander Jannaeus [103-76]. This enabled him to become both king and high priest. . . . Antigonus, the last Maccabean ruler, was locked in a bitter struggle for control with Herod and his brother Phasael until the invasion of the Parthians in 40 B.C. In response to promises by Antigonus, the Parthians captured Phasael and Hyrcanus II. They then enthroned Antigonus as king and high priest of the Jews. Herod, however, gained Roman assistance and was given authority in the land of Israel. A return of the Parthians in 38 briefly restored the rule to Antigonus. By 37 Herod emerged the victor, theoretically an independent monarch, but in fact a puppet of Rome. It is he whom history labeled King Herod (Mt. 2:1) and Herod the Great. The execution of Antigonus ended the Hasmonean Dynasty.”—Ibid., 86-87 MacArthur understands Zerubbabel’s rulership as reestablishing the Davidic line of kings, “The pre-Exilic signet of Jehoiachin was removed by God (Jer. 22:24) and renewed here in his grandson, Zerubbabel, who reestablished the Davidic line of kings.”—John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Word Publishing, 1997), Hag. 2:23. However, MacArthur recognizes that the continuation of the Davidic line did not in any sense include an active reign upon the throne of David: “He reestablished the Davidic throne, even though it will not again be occupied until the time of Messiah (cf. Ps. 2).”—Ibid., Hag. 1:1. The divine perspective on whether the Davidic line extending from Zerubbabel following the restoration from the Babylonian Captivity can be considered as having ruled as “kings” is reflected in Matthew’s genealogy of Christ (Mt. 1:1-16). This genealogy is crafted in such a way as to highlight the break in the kingly line at the time when the scepter was judged, “Josiah begot Jeconiah and his brothers about the time they were carried away to Babylon. And after they were brought to Babylon, Jeconiah begot Shealtiel, and Shealtiel begot Zerubbabel.” (Mt. 1:11-12). All the men mentioned in the genealogy from David (Mt. 1:6) through Jeconiah and his brothers (Mt. 1:11) are mentioned in the OT as kings. However, from Zerubbabel to Joseph, the husband of Mary, none of the Davidic descendants is ever referred to in the inspired record as a king. Whoever heard of “king Abiud” (Mt. 1:13), “king Matthan” or “king Jacob” (Mt. 1:15)? Although Zerubbabel qualifies as the Davidic leader on the return from Babylon, he is only referred to within Scripture as “governor” (Ezra 5:14; Hag. 1:1, 14; 2:2) and “prince” (Ezra 1:8-9) but never “king.” Clearly, the Davidic throne remained unoccupied after the scepter was judged in the reign of Zedekiah.