The ancient rite of kingship

In his wonderful book, “Old Testament Theology”, Gerhard Von Rad notes this about the ascension of David and Solomon to the throne after centuries of judges.

I. David’s thhrone did indeed very soon receive direct sacral legitimation, in the prophecy of Nathan (II Sam VII). Not only have recent investigations revealed a very 0ld kernel in this tradition, namely vss. 1-7, 11b, 16, 18-21, 25-29, but form-critical comparison has also established striking similarities to the Egyptian royal record. From the incidental remark “sitting in his palace” at the beginning, and continuing with the king’s expressed intention to build a temple, right down to the divine declaration of the filial relationship granted to the king and the endorsement of his rule–all these, in nearly every feature, can be shown to be borrowing from, and indeed almost copies of, ceremonial texts long stylised in the court of Egypt.In the ancient Egyptian protocol, a document listing the king’s throne-name, attesting his divine sonship, his commission as ruler, the promise that his dominion would endure for ever, etc,: this document, allegedly written by the deity himself, was handed to the king at his accession….for the Hebrew way of thi nking, the royal protocol could only be a covenant made by Jahweh (Jehovah) with the king. And his very term does occur in the very old “Last Words of David” (II Sam XXIII. 5) and in Psalms CXXXII. 12 which is undoubtedly pre-exilic….The kind is God’s son–though in Israel certainly not in the physical mythological sense, but per adoptionem: he is commissioned to rule by God himself, he governs with perfect justice and wisdom, he is the great benefactor and sheperhd of his people, which flourishes under his rule; yes, even the natural fertility of man, beast, and field increases through the blissful effect of this rule….Oddly enough, this Jerusalem court-theology assigned to the king the priestly office as well (Psalm CX. 4)).

It is interesting that instead of adopting a Canaanite form of kingly rule, David and Solomon’s reflected the methods of the Egyptian court. David was a king-priest, called of God to be his adopted son.  He received a new name upon ascending the throne. They received a document or revelation that declared the covenant God made with the king.

Here we see some interesting connections with LDS temple theology. In the temple, we become “kings and priests, queens and priestesses” of God. Our line of authority is traditionally given to all who receive the priesthood. For Lehi, Joseph Smith, and others, a document was given them in personal revelation, which established their position as prophet/priest (and later as ruler of their own people).

That the king/priest was viewed as a child of Yahweh is significant.  Many Jews and Christians have lost the concept of divinization of mankind. Yet it is very apparent in the scriptures.  When we read the stories of the righteous kings of Israel and the Nephites, we should consider their lives, roles, and teachings as guiding us to our real relationship with God.

3 thoughts on “The ancient rite of kingship

Comments are closed.