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As previously noted, the covenant promises God made to Abraham and his descendants included the promise of the Messiah, first mentioned in Genesis 12:3—“in you shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” After the patriarch demonstrated faithfulness and obedience in the critical test of being willing to sacrifice Isaac, the son of promise, the covenant promises became unconditional. God could now see that Abraham would always be faithful in his obedience to Him. In Genesis 22, we read:

“[For] now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me…. By Myself have I sworn … because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son; that in blessing I will bless you, and in multiplying I will multiply your seed like the stars of the heavens, and as the sand which is upon the seashore. And your seed shall possess the gate of his enemies. And in your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice” (verses 12, 16-18).

This passage repeats the promise made in Genesis 12, adding the word seed—“in your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.” The apostle Paul identifies this “seed” as Jesus the Messiah:

“Now in the Scriptures, God … preached the gospel [of God’s redemptive kingdom] beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘In you shall all the nations be blessed.’… Now to Abraham and to his Seed were the promises spoken. He does not say, ‘and to your seeds,’ as of many; but as of one, ‘and to your Seed,’ which is [the] Christ” (Gal. 3:8, 16; also see Acts 3:25-26).

All nations have benefited materially from the abundance of physical blessings God has bestowed upon the birthright peoples of modern Ephraim and Manasseh—not to mention the invaluable global leadership provided by the Anglo-American nations. But the real significance of this statement—in your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed—is that God would make salvation available to the human family through Jesus Christ, the one unique seed of Abraham.

Thus, there is a critical duality to the Abrahamic promises.

As we have seen, the contexts of the covenant passages throughout Genesis deal with material-centered national blessings on Abraham’s multiple seed, Israel. The birthright promises in particular were to reach their ultimate fulfillment in Joseph’s sons, Ephraim and Manasseh. At the same time, the Abrahamic promises also point to a singular seed—Jesus the Messiah. As such, the “one seed” prophecy refers not only to Jesus’ role as spiritual Savior, but also to His full messianic role as the living King and Lord of the kingdom age to come. This is why Paul wrote that the gospel of the kingdom had been preached to Abraham via the “one seed” promise (Gal. 3:8). Indeed, Jesus’ life’s work and sacrifice open the way for all of the families of the earth to ultimately enjoy a relationship with the God of Abraham. But for the overwhelming majority of mankind, this opportunity for salvation through Christ will come as a result of the establishment of the millennial Kingdom of God—when anyone of any nationality or ethnic background can, through Jesus, enter into the covenant of faith as a child of Abraham: “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” of eternal life (Gal. 3:29). It is apparent that, from the very beginning, God’s objective was to use His relationship with Abraham to bring salvation—via Christ and His kingdom—to all the world.

Importantly, this spiritual dimension to the Abrahamic promises is separate from the birthright promises maintained through Joseph’s sons. Unlike the physical, material blessings of the birthright promises, the salvation-bringing promise of the Messiah was bound to blessings of rulership—symbolized by a scepter—given to the tribe of Judah. Notice again this pivotal passage:

“And … Reuben, the firstborn of Israel—for he was the firstborn [by Leah]; but since he defiled his father’s bed, his birthright was given to the sons of Joseph, the son of Israel [by Rachel], and the genealogy is [therefore] not to be reckoned according to the [original] birthright. [Moreover,] Judah [has] prevailed among his brothers, and from him came [and will yet come] the chief ruler [kingly line], but the birthright was Joseph’s” (I Chron. 5:1-2).

This passage clearly shows the two-fold division of the Abrahamic covenant—the birthright promises going to Joseph’s sons, and the scepter promise going to Judah. Thus, Judah would be the tribe from which kings would arise, ruling over the people of Israel—culminating with the Messiah taking His place as the great and final King of Israel. When the aging patriarch Jacob blessed his twelve sons, notice what was said about Judah: “The scepter [symbolizing rulership and kingly authority—royalty] shall not depart from [the tribal line of] Judah, nor a lawgiver [king] from between his feet [a phrase referring to offspring], until Shiloh come. And to Him [the Messiah] shall be the obedience of the people [in the kingdom age]” (Gen. 49:10). The term Shiloh refers to one who has ownership or a natural right to something; some (RSV, etc.) translate the phrase “until Shiloh come” as “until He comes to whom it [the scepter or throne] belongs.”

Importantly, this messianic prophecy points to Davidic offspring ruling over Israel. Israel’s first king was Saul, a Benjamite, whose dynasty was cut off because of sin and rebellion. The scepter was removed from Saul—and thus “departed” from the tribe of Benjamin (see II Sam. 3:10). In Saul’s place, God chose a “man after His own heart” (I Sam. 13:14)— David, of the tribe of Judah. Because of David’s faithfulness, God promised unconditionally that He would establish his lineage forever (Psa. 89:3-4; 28-37) —which would culminate with the Messiah sitting on David’s throne.

Jesus to Inherit David’s “Throne”

As King David’s forty-year reign came to a close, he passed on the throne to Solomon, his son by Bathsheba. It is vital to understand the actual source of that throne. In I Chronicles 29:23, we read: “And Solomon sat upon the throne of the LORD as king in place of David his father. And he prospered, and all Israel obeyed him.”

The “throne” of David was established by God Himself. A throne is but a symbol of sovereign power, dominion, authority to rule; as such it points to an office or position. The physical throne-seat itself, usually made of wood or stone, is irrelevant. Thus, the “throne of David” derives its authority from God. Ultimately, Jesus is to inherit this very throne: “He [Jesus] shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God shall give Him the throne of David, His forefather; and He shall reign over the house of Jacob into the ages, and of His kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke 1:32-33).

The “throne” of David was established by God Himself. A throne is but a symbol of sovereign power, dominion, authority to rule; as such it points to an office or position. The physical throne-seat itself, usually made of wood or stone, is irrelevant. Thus, the “throne of David” derives its authority from God. Ultimately, Jesus is to inherit this very throne: “He [Jesus] shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God shall give Him the throne of David, His forefather; and He shall reign over the house of Jacob into the ages, and of His kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke 1:32-33).

As we will see, the key aspect of God’s oath to David is that his lineage would never die out or be cut off—so that the Messiah could be born of the “fruit of David’s loins.” Indeed, Jesus could inherit David’s throne only if He was of David’s lineage. This Davidic-messianic covenant is first promised in II Samuel 7:

“And when your [David’s] days are fulfilled, and you shall sleep with your fathers, I will set up your seed [Solomon] after you who shall come forth from your loins. And I will make his kingdom sure. He shall build a house [temple] for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.

“I will be to him for a father, and he shall be to Me for a son. If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the sons of men. But My mercy shall not leave him, as I took it from Saul whom I put away before you. And your house [David’s lineage] and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever” (II Sam. 7:12-16).1

This passage is dual in nature, applying initially to Solomon and, ultimately, to the Messiah. It is readily apparent that Solomon fulfilled this passage: 1) he was of David’s seed; 2) he built a house or temple for God; 3) because of sin, he was chastened with the “rod of men”; 4) his kingdom was not only established, it represented the “golden age” or zenith of the nation of Israel—as a type of the Kingdom of God.

With Jesus in mind, the writer of the book of Hebrews quotes part of II Samuel 7:14—showing that the passage is indeed also messianic. “For to which of the angels did He [God] ever say, ‘You are My Son; this day I have begotten You’? And again, ‘I will be a Father to Him, and He will be a Son to Me’?” (Heb. 1:5). The fact is, only Christ can ultimately fulfill what is described here in II Samuel 7. Notice: 1) Jesus is of the seed of David (Rom. 1:3); 2) Jesus built (and is building) a spiritual house, made of living stones (I Peter 2:5); 3) God is truly His father, and Jesus is God’s son; 4) Jesus was chastened with the “rod of men”—not for His sin, but for our sins; 5) in the Messiah, David’s throne and kingdom will literally be established forever.

Because of sin, Solomon’s kingdom came to a tragic end. But what of his lineage—the exclusive dynasty God Himself “set up” on David’s throne? Has it also come to an end?

Solomon’s Dynasty Not Perpetual

It was apparently God’s intent to establish a “royal dynasty” through Solomon—one that would ultimately fulfill God’s promise to David. But the promises made to Solomon were conditional—his dynasty could be cut off for sin and rebellion. “And of all my [David’s] sons (for the LORD has given me many sons), He has chosen Solomon my son to sit upon the throne of the kingdom of the LORD over Israel. And He said to me, ‘Solomon your son shall build My house and My courts, for I have chosen him to be My son, and I will be his Father. And I will establish his kingdom forever if he continues resolute in keeping My commandments and My ordinances, as he is today’ ” (I Chron. 28:5-7). Notice the conditional if.

Speaking directly to Solomon, God warned: “And you, if you will walk before me as David your father walked, and will do according to all that I have commanded you, and shall observe My statutes and My ordinances, then I will make the throne of your kingdom sure, as I have covenanted with David your father, saying, ‘There shall not fail you a man to be ruler in Israel’ ” (II Chron. 7:17-18).

This passage indicates that God had purposed to always maintain a Davidic ruling line—and God would do so through Solomon if he remained faithful. Thus, if Solomon turned from God, it would eventually mean an end to his dynasty. As the Bible records, Solomon’s heart was turned to following other gods (I Kings 11:4, 9). Looking again at II Samuel 7, God says that if Solomon fell into sin, “My mercy shall not leave him, as I took it from Saul” (verse 15). Unlike what God did to Saul—taking his throne and kingdom while he was still reigning—Solomon would go to his grave in peace, for David’s sake. Only then would God rend the kingdom from Solomon’s son (I Kings 11:11-12).

This promise of mercy applied to Solomon himself—not to his royal dynasty. Because of sin, his dynasty would ultimately fail; eventually, the royal authority invested in Solomon would be transferred to another Davidic line. Indeed, David had many sons—any one of which could have been used to preserve the throne via a new dynasty.2 However, as long as God saw fit to prolong Solomon’s dynasty, no other “line” of David was entitled to the throne. All of the kings of Judah were of Solomon’s line—even up to the fall of the nation to Babylon—making it apparent that God has been willing to continue to use the Solomonic dynasty. As we will see, the Davidic throne has been preserved, active through all generations, even to today, occupied by a royal descendant of Solomon’s line.

But again, Solomon’s dynasty must eventually come to an end. At that time, God’s promise to David of a messianic heir to his throne will be fulfilled through the lineage of another of David’s sons—Nathan. Thus, the perpetuity of David’s throne does not depend on Solomon or his lineage. God’s unconditional promise to David is sure—“And your house [David’s lineage] and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever” (II Sam. 7:16).3

David’s Lineage Perpetually Established

Ultimately, these divine promises will find fulfillment in Jesus as the Messiah—born of Mary, a literal descendant of David, of the tribe of Judah—ruling over the Kingdom of God. It is in this key sense that David’s kingdom and throne are to be “made sure forever” and “established forever.” Anticipating the establishment of the messianic kingdom—when both Israel and Judah, facing utter destruction, will have again been scattered in national captivity—the prophet Jeremiah wrote:

“ ‘Behold, the days come,’ says the LORD, ‘that I will raise [up] to David a righteous Branch [Jesus the Messiah, as a descendant of David], and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall do justice and righteousness in the earth. In His days [Jesus’ millennial reign] Judah shall be saved [from end -time destruction], and [all] Israel shall dwell safely. And this is His name by which He shall be called: The LORD [is] Our Righteousness’ ” (Jer. 23:5-6).

Notice a similar prophecy in chapter 33:

“ ‘Behold, the days come,’ says the LORD, ‘that I will establish the good thing which I have promised to [both] the house of Israel and to the house of Judah. In those days, and at that time, I will cause the Branch of righteousness [Jesus] to grow up to David [to spring forth as David’s seed]. And He [as King over Israel and ultimately the entire world] shall execute judgment and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah shall be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely. And this is the name with which she shall be called: The LORD [is] Our Righteousness’ ” (Jer. 33:14-16).

Before going further in this passage, it is important to understand the context. Much of the nation of Judah had already succumbed to invasion by the Babylonians; now, Nebuchadnezzar was poised to destroy Jerusalem and the few cities remaining under Jewish control. Jeremiah was led of God to warn the Jews to not resist the Babylonians—or face total destruction. Either way, Jerusalem was going to be taken.

Facing exile, the Jews were gravely concerned about their link to the house of David and the Levitical priesthood. Should either of these key lineages be cut off, the nation of Judah would never be the same.4 In His mercy, God inspired Jeremiah to encourage the Jews by foretelling of their glorious future under the Messiah—and by reaffirming His commitment to preserving both the line of David and the line of Aaron.

“For thus says the LORD, ‘David shall never lack [fail to have] a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel, nor shall the [Aaronic] priests, [who are of] the Levites, lack a man before Me to offer burnt offerings, and to kindle grain offerings, and to do sacrifice continually.’

“And the Word of the LORD came to Jeremiah, saying … ‘If you can break My covenant of the day and My covenant of the night [God’s promise that day and night would continue forever], and that there should not be day and night at their appointed time, then also My covenant with David My servant may be broken, that he shall not have a son to reign on his throne, and My covenant with the Levites, the priests, My ministers. As the host of the heavens cannot be numbered, nor the sand of the sea measured, so I will multiply [in order to preserve] the seed of David My servant and [will multiply in order to preserve] the Levites who minister to Me’ ” (Jer. 33:17-22).

Again, the Jews were quite despondent about the potential loss of their kingly Davidic line and the Aaronic priesthood. God said to Jeremiah, “Do you not consider what this people are saying, ‘The two families [Davidic and Aaronic] which the LORD has chosen, He has even cast them off’? [Thus,] they have despised My people, that they should be no more a nation before them” (verse 24).5

The people were fearful that God would cast off these two family lines. Indeed, if the Davidic and Aaronic lines were to fail, the very integrity of the nation would be in question. Thus, God reiterates His promise: “If My covenant is not with day and night, and if I have not [established] the ordinances [natural physical laws] of the heavens and the earth, then I will cast away the seed of Jacob, and David My servant, so that I will not [be able to] take any of his seed to be rulers over the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But I will bring them [the nation of Judah] back from their captivity, and have mercy on them” (verses 25-26)—by restoring both the nation and the lines of David and Aaron.

Clearly, the entire context of Jeremiah 33 centers on God’s absolute promise of preserving the family lineages of David and Aaron—so that in a future restored nation, both the Davidic throne and the Levitical priesthood could resume to function. Judah was returned to Palestine after 70 years of captivity in Babylon—and the Levitical priesthood was, at least for a time, reestablished with a functioning “second” temple.

David’s throne, however, was not reestablished. No royal king of the Davidic line has since ruled in Judah. Why? Did God fail in His promise to preserve the line of David following Judah’s captivity?

Davidic Throne Established in All Generations

Admittedly, Jeremiah 33:17-18 has presented a problem for some— but only because the passage is misunderstood. It is important to understand what these verses actually say—and what they do not say. Many assume that in this passage God is promising that there will perpetually be a descendant of David ruling at all times from a literal throne. If that is true, we must ask, “Where are the Aaronic priests offering burnt offerings and sacrifices before God?” Clearly, no such temple or functioning priesthood exists—yet what is promised in this passage concerning the Davidic line is equally promised concerning the Aaronic line. If we are to be fair with the Scriptures, the two cannot be treated differently. Moreover, this passage cannot be conveniently “spiritualized away” when its context clearly argues for a literal fulfillment.

The problem is that many have “read into” this passage the idea of an actual functioning throne—with complete disregard for the fact that there is no corresponding functioning temple.6 But the passage promises neither. Rather, as the context of Jeremiah 33 clearly shows, God was reassuring the Jews that both the Davidic and Aaronic lines would be preserved.

It is vital to understand what is actually promised in this passage. The Jewish Publication Society’s Tanakh adds clarity: “There shall never be an end to men of David’s line who sit upon the throne of the House of Israel. Nor shall there ever be an end to the line of the Levitical priests before Me, of those who present burnt offerings and turn the meal offering to smoke and perform sacrifices” (verses 17-18).7 As a more literal translation, Stern’s Complete Jewish Bible reads: “There will never be cut off from David [i.e., David’s lineage] a man to occupy the throne of the house of Israel. Nor will there ever be cut off from the cohanim [priests] who are L’vi’im [Levites] a man before me to offer burnt offerings, burn grain offerings and offer sacrifices every day” (verse 17-18).8

Again, this specific passage does not actually promise a perpetually functioning Davidic throne—because if it does, there must also exist a perpetually functioning temple and priesthood. However, as brought out below, other key biblical passages do promise a perpetually functioning Davidic throne.

Essentially, this passage in Jeremiah promises that David’s seed would not fail or be cut off—so that the “righteous Branch” could one day claim David’s throne (Luke 1:31-33). Likewise, God has promised to preserve the Aaronic line across all generations—but not necessarily a functioning temple. Thus, when the Temple of God is rebuilt in the future— whether in the final days or in the age to come—there will be those of the tribe of Levi qualified to administer the necessary rituals.

Concerning the Davidic-messianic line, the genealogies of Matthew and Luke show that this promise has been fulfilled in that Jesus’ blood line can be traced through Mary back to David; moreover, Jesus’ legal line can be traced through Joseph back to David (see Appendix 3.) All that remains is for the Messiah to return to claim David’s throne.

But what has become of David’s “throne”? Does it still exist? Who today possesses royal, Davidic authority? How can Jesus inherit David’s “throne” unless it has been preserved? Several passages (such as II Samuel 7:16) imply that the throne would in fact be preserved—forever. However, the pivotal passage in this regard is found in Psalm 89, where God promises that David’s throne—not just his lineage—would be actively established across all generations. Indeed, whereas Jeremiah 33 promises only a perpetual Davidic lineage, Psalm 89 promises both—a continuous lineage and a perpetually functioning Davidic throne:

“I have made a covenant with My chosen [one]; I have sworn to David My servant, ‘Your seed will I establish forever, and build up your throne to all generations.’…

“I will keep My steadfast love for him forever, and My covenant shall stand fast with him. Also will I make his seed to endure forever, and his throne as the days of heaven....

“I will not break My covenant, nor change the thing that has gone out of My lips. Once I have sworn by My holiness, I will not lie to David. His seed shall endure forever, and his throne as the sun before Me. It shall be established forever like the moon, and like a faithful witness in the heavens” (Psa. 89:3-4; 28-29; 34-37).9

The royal authority of the Davidic line through Solomon is ordained of God; moreover, God promises here that the Davidic throne will be active, ruling in all generations. In other words, not a single generation would go by during which a royal descendant of David failed to bear rule over some part of the people of Israel.

How long is a biblical generation? Perhaps thirty or forty years—and certainly not less than a few decades. This means that there could be a brief “gap” during which the Davidic throne was “idle”—where no Davidic king was actively ruling. In fact, this has happened three times—but in each case the “vacancy” was less than a generation. The first occurred when wicked Queen Athaliah—having no royal Davidic blood—usurped the throne and ruled over Judah for six years (about 841 to 835 BC). The daughter of evil King Ahab of Israel and Jezebel (a Gentile), Athaliah married Jehoram, who ruled as king of Judah for eight years. Their son, Ahaziah, was killed after reigning for only one year. Consequently, Athaliah seized power and had all of the remaining royal heirs put to death. Six years later, she discovered she had missed one of the heirs—Joash, who had been hidden as an infant. Ultimately, Joash was installed as king and Athaliah was executed (II Kings 11). But note that this interruption in the legitimate occupation of the throne was brief—and a rightful Davidic heir was returned to the throne that same generation. God’s promise to David remained true!

The second brief vacancy of David’s throne occurred after the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon (see below). Zedekiah, Judah’s last ruling king, was taken captive to Babylon where he died—after watching the execution of his sons. The only apparent royal heirs left alive were Jechoniah and his sons. Jechoniah lived out his life in captivity and his sons were under a divine curse that excluded them from the throne. This interruption probably lasted just over a decade. A third vacancy, lasting 11 years, occurred in 1649.10

These three “interruptions” fall within the limits of God’s promise that David would have an heir—for now, through Solomon’s line—ruling in every generation. Indeed, the Davidic “throne” has continued through the Solomonic dynasty, ruling in every generation over some part of Israel.

Ultimately, however, the perpetuity of David’s throne is bound up in the Messiah. Jesus, the singular “seed” of Genesis 22:18, is of the line of David, of the tribe of Judah, and is destined to eternally inherit David’s throne. As Luke wrote, “of this man’s [David’s] seed has God according to His promise [to both Abraham and David] raised up to Israel a Savior, Jesus” (Acts 13:23)—who will establish God’s kingdom at His second coming (Dan. 2:44; Rev. 11:15). Moreover, Jeremiah writes that God will raise up David himself to once again rule over Israel in the age to come (Jer. 30:9). In the end, this is how God will fulfill His promise to David that his throne and kingdom over Israel will be established forever.

But meanwhile, where is David’s throne? How has it been preserved, active in all generations? And why has no king ever reigned in Judah since the Jews’ return from Babylon?

The Davidic Throne Ends—in Judah

Just prior to the destruction of Jerusalem, the final Davidic king of the nation of Judah, Zedekiah, was taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar; his sons—and all the nobles and princes of Judah—were killed before his eyes. Zedekiah was then taken to Babylon where he died in captivity (Jer. 39:5-7; 52:10-11). His nephew, Jechoniah, who had been king earlier, was also taken to Babylon where he lived out his life in relative comfort. Jechoniah had several living sons—any one of whom could have been used to preserve the royal line. But Jechoniah was under a God-ordained curse stating that none of his seed would ever sit on David’s throne. “Thus says the LORD, ‘Write this man [Jechoniah] down as [if he were] childless, a man who will not be blessed in his days. For no man of his seed shall be blessed, sitting on the throne of David and ruling any more in Judah” (Jer. 22:30).

Thus, as the last surviving Davidic king, Jechoniah could provide no heir to the throne; and all of Zedekiah’s sons were dead—leaving no apparent heir to the throne. The royal line established through Solomon appeared to be cut off—and the “throne” thus brought to an end.11

But as we will see, God’s promises to both Abraham and David are sure, for the royal lineage and the throne have been preserved—but not in Judah! It is most interesting that following the Jews’ return from Babylon, no royal king has ruled in Judah—even to today. Zerubbabel, who was of Jechoniah’s “cursed” line, served only as governor—not king (Hag. 1:1).

Why was the Davidic royal lineage not restored in Judah? The Aaronic priesthood was restored with a new temple—but why not the kingly line, the throne?

The answer involves a key prophecy in the book of Ezekiel, chapter 21, where God warns of the protracted suspension of the Davidic throne in Judah. The prophecy also affirms that David’s throne will yet be fully restored in Judah when it is finally claimed by its rightful heir, the Messiah. The passage begins with God’s judgment on King Zedekiah:

“And you, O wicked and profane prince of Israel [Zedekiah], whose day has come, whose iniquity shall have an end. Thus says the Lord GOD, ‘Remove the diadem, and take off the crown. This shall not be as it was. Exalt the low one, and abase the high one. I will overturn, overturn, overturn it. Also this shall not be until the coming of Him whose right it is. And I will give it to Him’ ” (verses 25-27).

This passage is fundamental to our understanding of this subject; thus, it is incumbent upon us to consider it carefully. Unfortunately, most Bible translations grossly distort its meaning—which has led to considerable misinterpretation. (For a detailed explanation of this passage—including how it has been misused by those who teach on “British Israelism” and the origins of the Anglo-American nations—please refer to Appendix 4.)

When properly rendered, the intended meaning of this passage is quite straightforward. As always, establishing the context is the key. Here, the context is set by verse 26—i.e., that everything was about to change. The overall purpose of the passage is to proclaim that the “throne” of David was coming to an end in the land of Judah—and would only be returned when it was to be claimed by the Messiah.

The prophet begins by stating that Zedekiah’s wicked rule was fast coming to an end—emphasized by God’s command to remove the diadem (probably a kingly turban) and the crown. The next statement is key and has the meaning that “things will not remain as they have been.” Unprecedented change was coming; things were going to be turned “upside-down.” The ensuing upheaval would result in the abasement of what had been lofty or high, and the exalting of what had been lowly or humbled.

Verse 27, when properly rendered, emphasizes the severity of the change coming. Essentially, God is saying that He is going to subvert or overthrow (some translations use ruin) the throne in such a manner as had never happened in the history of Judah (the Hebrew root actually means to pervert something). This subverted state would continue until the throne was delivered to its ultimate heir, the Messiah.

To be sure, this passage does not suggest the destruction or utter demise of the Davidic throne; rather, its harsh tone—using repetition for intensity—is intended to emphasize the gravity of the situation: what was about to happen to the throne was a tragic departure from what God had intended for David and the nation of Judah. Indeed, verse 26 indicates that “everything was going to change”—and verse 27 shows that it would be unprecedented in nature. What was to change? Astonishingly, the “throne” itself was to go into an extended “exile”—outside of Judah!

That the throne of David should no longer exist in the land of Judah was almost incomprehensible. But this is precisely why there has never been a king in Judah since the Jews returned from Babylon. There would be an extended suspension of the Davidic throne in Judah—something unheard of. As we will see in related passages, the “throne” would be reestablished in another location for preservation—and where it would actively rule over a portion of the House of Israel.

Below is a paraphrased rendering that accurately captures the intent of Ezekiel’s prophecy (for details on the Hebrew text, see Appendix 4).

“Remove the turban and the crown from Zedekiah! From this time on, nothing will remain the same! I will exalt that which has been humbled, and abase that which was exalted. As for the throne, I will make it a ruin, tarnished, disgraced— indeed, such has never occurred!—until He comes Who has the right to it; then I will give it to Him.”

In turning everything “upside down,” God would abase that which was previously exalted. Who, what had been exalted? The nation of Judah and its royal elite! Now, because of the grievous sins of the people and their leaders, the Jews were being sent into exile; the temple would be destroyed; and the Davidic throne would be removed from the land—but only until the Messiah should come to claim it. Only then would it be returned to Jerusalem.

The final clause of Ezekiel’s prophecy—“until He comes to whom it rightfully belongs; to Him I will give it” (NIV)—is clearly messianic and reminiscent of Genesis 49: “The scepter [or throne] shall not depart from [the tribe of] Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until He comes to whom it [the throne] belongs; and to Him shall be the obedience of the nations” (verse 10; alternate rendering). Thus, the “throne” would be removed from the land of Judah for safekeeping—but would never be removed from the tribe of Judah.

God would also exalt that which had been abased. Who, what had been previously humbled, abased? The “lost” tribes of the House of Israel! Judah had been exalted not only because they possessed Jerusalem and the temple, but because David’s throne ruled over the nation. But what of the northern nation of Israel? Jerusalem fell in 586 BC, a mere 130 years or so after the fall of Samaria. By this time, the “lost” tribes were migrating into areas around the Black Sea. It was just as the prophet Hosea had said—“the children of Israel shall live many days with no king, and no ruler” (Hosea 3:4). Thus, the “lost” tribes of Israel were humbled through their captivity, abased as a scattered people, unable to unite under a single king or leader.

But according to Ezekiel, God was about to reverse the positions— and in terms of world history, the consequences would be far reaching and nothing short of astonishing. Judah was to be abased in losing her king and throne—never again to be reestablished in this age. “Lost” Israel, however, was to be exalted—as its Judaic ruling line, having long been established in Ireland, would be joined to a remnant of the Davidic royal line transferred from the land of Judah.

As previously brought out, the tribe of Dan had colonized the British Isles as far back as Solomon’s time (or much earlier). Moreover, as we will see in the next chapter, Danite excursions—by way of Greece—to the Isles led to the establishment in Ireland of certain “royal” members of the tribe of Judah. It was among these Jewish nobles that the “throne” of David was to find a new home. Thus, these “lost” Israelites would be exalted by becoming the new guardians of the Davidic throne, transferred to the British Isles.

The Riddle of the “Tender Twig”

Another prophecy in the book of Ezekiel sheds light on how God would preserve the Davidic throne in this new location. Given in the form of a “riddle,” the prophet explains how Nebuchadnezzar—described as a “great eagle”—came against Jerusalem and “broke off” the “young twigs” of the “highest branch” of a “cedar” (Ezek. 17:3-4; 12). This, of course, refers to the youthful King Jechoniah, who was taken as a prisoner to Babylon; the great “cedar” represents the royal lineage established through Solomon. The Babylonian king also took of the “seedlings of the land”—referring to Zedekiah, who was of the Davidic line (verses 5 and 13). As a vassal king, Nebuchadnezzar placed Zedekiah on the throne in place of Jechoniah. (Notice verse 14, which states that Nebuchadnezzar was to abase Judah— just as brought out in Ezekiel 21:26, where God said He would “abase that which had been exalted.”)

As the story goes, Zedekiah rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar in looking to Egypt for help (verses 15-18). Yet it was God’s will for Zedekiah and the Jews to submit to Babylon; his rebellion against Nebuchadnezzar was tantamount to rebellion against God (verses 19-21).

In light of Zedekiah’s demise, God then declares that He will do just what Nebuchadnezzar had done—He too would take a “tender twig” from the same “lofty cedar” and plant or establish it. “Thus says the Lord GOD, ‘I, even I, will also take of the top of the highest cedar and will set it; I will crop off from the topmost of its young twigs a tender one, and will plant it on a high and lofty mountain. In the mountain of the height of Israel, I will plant it…” (verses 22-23).

Nebuchadnezzar took the topmost young twigs of the cedar—took Jechoniah and all the princes of Judah, the “top” of the royal line (he also later took Zedekiah). Similarly, God Himself would take from the “top of the cedar”—from among the royal family—a tender one. The Tanakh reads, “I will pluck a tender twig from the tip” of the cedar.

Who could this “tender one” be? Zedekiah, his sons, and the royal princes were all dead—and Jechoniah’s line was accursed. Bible scholars make the assumption that this passage is messianic—that the “tender one” refers to Jesus, the “Branch” of David (Jer. 33:15; Isa. 53:2; etc.), who is to inherit David’s throne as His kingdom is established on the “high mountain” of Zion in the age to come.

This would make good sense—except for three reasons: First, this approach essentially means that the throne was destroyed with Zedekiah’s demise—yet God has promised that the Davidic throne would be active in all generations. Secondly, from a contextual point of view, God’s actions appear to be mostly concurrent with Nebuchadnezzar’s actions. Therefore, the “plucking” of both the “young twigs” and the “tender one” would have to take place at about the same time—not separated by centuries.

Third, in order for Jesus to be the “tender twig” taken by God from the “cedar,” He would first have to be of that “cedar”—of that royal line. But Jesus was not of the royal line established through Solomon. He cannot be the “tender one.” Jesus was born of Mary, who was a descendant of one of David’s more obscure sons—Nathan (Luke 3:31). Remember, because of sin, the royal dynasty established through Solomon could not be perpetual. Jesus’ blood-line right to the throne comes through Nathan. Solomon’s royal line will end when Jesus assumes the throne.12

Again, who could this “tender one” be? If Ezekiel’s “riddle” is not a messianic prophecy—and if all of the potential heirs to the throne were dead or rendered disqualified—what would become of David’s throne? Of this “tender twig,” God said He would “plant it on a high and lofty mountain. In the mountain of the height of Israel, I will plant it.” This certainly suggests the idea of royalty—of governance over a people.

Where and how has this been fulfilled?

God continues: “And it shall bring forth boughs, and bear fruit, and [become] a majestic cedar [a new dynasty]. And under it shall dwell birds of every kind; in the shadow of its branches they shall dwell. And all the trees of the field shall know that I the LORD have brought down the high tree, have exalted the low tree, have dried up the green tree, and have made the dry tree to flourish. I the LORD have spoken it and have done it” (Ezek. 17:23-24).

Notice how the wording here parallels that of Ezekiel 21, where God said He would “exalt the low one, and abase the high one” (verse 26). It is apparent that the two prophecies are interrelated—for they both deal with the demise of the Davidic throne in Judah and its subsequent relocation elsewhere for preservation. Judah was the “high tree” and Israel the “low tree.” As well, Judah had been a “green tree”—fruitful with Davidic royalty—while Israel had been a “dry tree” throughout that period.

But in order to make this monumental change, God needed an heir of Solomon’s line—or, perhaps, an heiress would do?


1. As an expression of perpetuity, it is also noted that God “gave the kingdom over Israel to David forever, to him and to his sons, by a covenant of salt” (II Chron. 13:5).

2. In II Kings 25:25, Elishama, a son of David (II Sam. 5:16), and his descendants are noted as “royal seed.” Thus, “royal status” was not limited to those of Solomon’s line. (See Note 11 below.)

3. Importantly, the kingdom over which David and Solomon reigned was a united kingdom; likewise, in Jesus’ millennial reign, the reestablished Kingdom of Israel will be reunited (Ezek. 37:15-28), forming the basis for the world-encompassing Kingdom of God. As the Davidic Messiah, Jesus must rule over all of Israel from the original place of David’s throne— Jerusalem (Psa. 132:13, 17; Isa. 2:3; Luke 1:32-33). Moreover, speaking to David, God said his kingdom would be “made sure forever before you”— that is, in David’s presence (II Sam. 7:16). This makes the promise ultimately millennial—for Ezekiel 37:24 shows that a resurrected David will once again rule as king over Israel (under the Messiah).

4. Still, while both lineages have been preserved, Judah has never been the same after its fall to Babylon. Even to today, the Jews have never been ruled over by a Davidic king; other than an occasional Jewish “governor,” the nation has been almost exclusively subjected to Gentile rulers. As for the temple, it has functioned “normally” for only brief periods and has often been subjected to the whims of Gentile rulers. Today, the “throne” of David remains in “exile” and the Temple Mount has stood bare for almost two millennia. Jews, of course, believe the Davidic throne came to an end with the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon.

5. Some see the “two families” as Judah and Israel—but Judah is of Israel. Others argue (based on verse 26) that the reference is to Jacob and David— but David’s line is of Jacob, not separate. Clearly, the context shows that the reference is to the distinct family lines of David and Aaron.

6. Just how bewildering is this passage? The author has read and studied scores of books and papers on this subject. All of them quote Jeremiah 33:17—but only two dare to even quote verse 18! In their uncertainty, they cannot explain verse 18—so they just ignore it. The two that do quote the verse give it a vague “church” application.

7. Tanakh—The Holy Scriptures, Jewish Publication Society (1985)

8. David H. Stern, Complete Jewish Bible (1998)

9. Psalm 89 continues in verse 38 with a negative lament that seems to suggest that God had reneged on His promise to David. Keep in mind, however, that God’s word is sure, and that He cannot lie (Titus 1:2). The key to this enigmatic passage (verses 38-52) is found back in Jeremiah 33. Paraphrased, verse 24 begins with God asking, “Have you, Jeremiah, not noticed what these people are saying?” The Jews were convinced that they were about to witness the end of both the Davidic and Aaronic lines. Thus, the lament found in Psalm 89 reflects the pessimistic mindset of the people—not God or Jeremiah. Some researchers believe that this passage was written by Jeremiah shortly after the fall of Jerusalem and was later added to the psalm. If so, Jeremiah was simply documenting the unfortunate perspective taken by many of the Jews at the time. Another possibility is that an unknown Levitical psalmist wrote the passage after the Jews returned from Babylon. As a lament, his intent was apparently to rehearse the history of the loss of the throne.

10. The third vacancy occurred when King Charles I of England—a descendant of David through the ancient Scottish and Irish royal lines—was beheaded in 1649 as a consequence of the English Civil War between royalists and parliamentarians. During the interim, Oliver Cromwell was appointed by parliament as “Lord Protector of the Commonwealth”—effectively ruling over England, Scotland, and Ireland. In 1660, after royalists regained control of the nation, the king’s son, Charles II, was restored to the British throne.

11. As brought out in II Kings 25:25 (and Jer. 41:1), other Davidic “royal seed” survived. But keep in mind that God originally established David’s throne through Solomon (II Sam. 7:12-16; etc.). Indeed, all of the kings of Judah were of Solomon’s line—a reality never challenged by any of David’s other sons. Unless God brought Solomon’s dynasty to an end, no other Davidic seed was eligible to assume the throne. (See Note 2 above.)

12. Interestingly, Jesus’ adoptive father, Joseph, was of the cursed line of Jechoniah. Had Joseph been Jesus’ biological father, Jesus would be disqualified from the throne—because of the curse placed on Jechoniah. But Joseph no doubt adopted Jesus (see Luke 2:48), which would have circumvented the effect of the curse. Thus, in addition to His blood-line rights through Nathan, Jesus also had a legal right under Hebrew law to the throne established under Solomon (see Appendix 3).