Messiah As King in a Modern World?!
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| Published: September 24, 2021
I’m a bit confused over how the Messiah will be King according to Jewish sources. Kingship is becoming less and less common, and modern man apparently prefers democracy, so how will this take place, practically speaking?
0. Is there a “Coat of Arms” for the House of David?
1. Will there be something like a “coronation” ceremony?
2. Will he (and his family, if he has one) live in something like a “castle” or a mansion, or simply a humble house or apartment?
3. Is it said that he will be rich or will he be poor?
4. Will there be a fully functional Monarchy where only King Messiah is in control of Israel, or will there be something like a shared governance like how Britain has the Queen as well as the Prime Minister?
5. Will the current government of Israel cease to exist with the emergence of The King? If Messiah is to reign supreme over all of Israel, than wouldn’t it stand to reason that the current government would be rendered useless?
6. If there is no more need for a government the way it is, would they (the gov’t) try to selfishly stop the emergence of Messiah or even try to assassinate him?
7. Once Messiah is here, what does that mean for Jews and gentiles around the world who have not been fortunate enough to afford to make it to Israel yet?
8. If the Palestinian Authority succeeds in gaining UN support for a “state” of their own, and move in to “claim” territory, then what will happen to them, once Messiah emerges?
9. Does the Holy Temple in Jerusalem come before Messiah or vice versa?
10. Once the Temple is rebuilt, and Messiah emerges, what becomes of the Mosques on the Temple Mount? Would we have them removed or let them stay? Would God perhaps level them?
First of all, allow me to admire your interest in the details of the messianic age- for it shows true, even pragmatic, belief, something very important for all people. In general, it is important to look ahead, to keep constant eye-contact on the eventual goal, nevertheless, the Rambam (Maimonides) stresses that the main point is to live a Godly life in the present, and that way, slowly but surely, we will merit that better and ideal future.
That being said, regarding your questions:
0. Our tannaic rabbis (in Bamidbar Rabba 2, written about 1800 years ago), recount the tradition that each of the 12 tribes had a flag with the symbol which their forefather received in the blessing from their father Jacob at the end of the book of Genesis. Accordingly, David, from the tribe of Judah probably used the flag with his tribal symbol, the lion, which, as the medieval commentator Rabbi Isaac Abarbanel explains, was given the symbol (“King of the Jungle”) befitting a king, on a sky-blue backdrop (either consciously or ironically, very similar to the version of the Israeli flag suggested by the first president, Chaim Weitzman). Especially after the secession of the ten tribes who rebelled and left the kingdom of Judea to found the Kingdom of Israel (which were subsequently exiled and lost), it is logical that the flag of Judah took on that much more significance (hence the oft-used term: Jew) and this could be a type of coat-of-arms or flag of the Messiah who stems from Judah, the tribe of King David.
1. There will definitely be a coronation ceremony for that is the literal meaning of the term Mashiach (=transliterated as Messiah=the anointed one), although his succeeding son would not need such a service. It will probably be by the Shiloach fountain, about a 10 minute walk down the hill from the Temple, right by where David’s palace has been uncovered by archeologists, and where his great-great grandfather David was himself anointed.
2. With all his humility, as the head and international representative of the Chosen People of Israel, he must command respect and live respectfully according to the norms accepted in the modern world. As I wrote in the past, he must be addressed respectfully as is accepted in each generation, and as is the custom in the Jewish world (for example, in yeshivas today), he would clearly be spoken to in Hebrew in the third person (“What does the King feel about…?”, and not “What do you feel about…?). No one is allowed to sit on his throne, ride on his horse (or motorcade), nor use his utensils, even after his death. His widow can’t remarry. He is the only one allowed to sit in the Temple in Jerusalem. He must be immaculately groomed, and has his hair cut every day to: “see the king in his beauty” (Isaiah 33, 17). In addition, one must stand when the King enters a room, and bow before him. The king may not even voluntarily forego this, or any of the other aforementioned honors, for they are not personal tributes, but represent the honor of Israel. On the other hand, in his heart, he must be extremely humble and he must not act arrogantly towards others, just according to the necessary protocol, “so that he shouldn’t be haughty before his brothers” (Deuteronomy 17, 20). He must be merciful to small and great alike, and must serve Israel responsibly, and address them as brothers.
3. He must find the delicate balance, between the obligated necessary wealth needed to command respect and receive the gentile leaders, run the army and state of the world super-power, but he isn’t allowed to amass more wealth than is necessary, for this can lead to arrogance (ibid 17, 17). He cannot amass extraneous personal wealth in his treasury, and if he does so, the Sanhedrin must punish him (see next paragraph).
4. The government will clearly not be a dictatorship, and he must confer with advisors and specialists in each respective field (the Hebrew word for king- melech- is from the verb “confer”, differentiated from the Hebrew word for dictator- moshel, as stressed by the Malbim and Vilna Gaon). The Netziv (on Deut. 17, 14) raises the possibility that it may be some form of democracy, if that’s what the people prefer. The checks and balance system for example, calls for the king to answer to the rabbinical Sanhedrin. His pastime should be spent studying the Bible, Oral Tradition, Jewish Thought, etc., and he obviously must be in constant contact with the Sanhedrin and Torah scholars, even though he possesses the power to enact special laws, even applying the death penalty to masses (for the national or international needs), even temporarily circumventing the Torah itself, when necessary. Similarly, he must respect and listen to the prophet, and should stand before the High Priest, nevertheless, the Priest must tell him to sit (unless he has come to ask the Priest to confer with God via his Urim v’Tumim breastplate) and himself should stand in honor of the king. Similarly, the king must honor Torah scholars, especially the heads of the Sanhedrin (Rabbinical Supreme Court of the 71 top rabbis), and must stand before them, and seat them by him. The above is true in privacy, but in public when seen by the people, the king may not stand in honor of anyone, may not speak gently, and may not refer to anyone by any respective title, only by their name, so that all will revere him, thus giving honor to Israel.
5. The Maharal (Gvurot Hashem 18) and the Malbim (on Micah 4, 8), explain that the messianic kingdom will be preceded by “the first government” (ibid) which will be a small, non-religious republic (like what we call today: democracy) out of which will eventually grow the religious spiritual kingdom of the messiah. The Talmud (Megilla 17a) written about 1,600 years ago, recounts the tradition that after a long exile (it was about 1,900 years), there will be an agricultural revival of the Holy Land where the desert will bloom, followed by the ingathering of the exiles (statistically, about 7 million Jews, comprising most of world Jewry, already resides today in Israel, for the first time since the exile of the ten tribes almost 3,000 years ago!). The third stage will be the return of the Jewish State to religious law. Just as in the aforementioned first stages, the revival of the Holy Land and mass Jewish immigration, this spiritual transition will also be natural & gradual (!), with the people, and subsequently the State of Israel, becoming more and more religious and spiritual. In a recent poll, initiated by the largest daily in Israel, Yediot Achronot, they found that 17% of Israeli Jewish adults have described themselves as coming significantly closer to religion over the past five years. Every year sees a higher percentage of Israelis enrolling their children in religious kindergartens, and in the very near future, most (!) 5 year olds will be enrolled in religious education, and accordingly, sooner than we realize, most voters- and subsequently the government, will be religious. This is extremely noteworthy when taking into account the difficult changes involved in one’s eating and dress, and withdrawing from most activities every Sabbath (Saturday), as required by Jewish observance.
6. We don’t know exactly how it will come about, but we pray that the transition will be natural and peaceful. In fact, the democratic process is ideal for such changes to be made according to the pace chosen by the electorate. The legendary Chief Rabbi A.I. Kook explained in this context, that true improvement is the result of educating each generation better and better, and certainly not through religious coercion, which causes animosity rather than identification. As long as man has (thank God) free will, inevitably some will be disappointed with any change, but that’s what democracy is about. Assassination, overthrow or any sudden artificial intervention or upheaval is good for the childish imagination, but in reality, almost always cause more harm than good. The gradual democratic and educational process is by far the most natural, real and long-lasting, and that’s exactly what we (and God) all want.
7. Regarding Jews, the State of Israel already offers free airfare and a generous “basket” of benefits which have already aided millions of Jews to come Home, even from economically problematic countries like Russia, Ethiopia, Algeria, Iraq, Venezuala, etc. Regarding the masses of gentiles who will want to visit, I’m not familiar with any sources, but my educated guess is that at that time, the world will be so enamored with the Holy Land, it shouldn’t be complicated to establish scholarship or loan funds for the less fortunate and youth.
8. The entire world, even Moslems, will believe in peace and international brotherhood. International economic and/or military sanctions will eventually clarify to all, that violence is counterproductive and will not be tolerated by the civilized and moral world. Unfortunately, the present “Palestinian” leaders have yet to mature and still believe, like the immature or primitive man, in the law of the jungle. Their educational system and even street names glorify suicide bombers according to the number of innocent Jewish citizens which they murdered, and the only way to rectify that is to stand strong and together in order to deter them. The world will definitely not condone their present behavior.
9. Some sources (like the aforementioned Megilla 17a) say that the third Temple in Jerusalem precedes the coming of Messiah, while the Talmud in Sanhedrin 98a indicates that if there is a mass Jewish repentance, then the Messiah may come first. But if we choose the slower and more natural path (which seems to be the present situation), the Temple will be man-made and will pave the way for the Messiah.
10. The Bible, Talmud and early rabbinical sources obviously don’t refer to what to do with the mosque, because it’s only been around for about 1,300 years and that’s relatively recent as far as Judaism is concerned. What is clear is that although God can do anything, already in the Book of Esther, about 2,500 years ago, He clearly prefers not doing super-natural miracles, but rather working through nature (like the Six-Day War in ‘67), thus enabling us to believe in Him through our free will and not through miraculous coercion. My educated guess is that being that the Messiah is for the entire universe, the Moslems themselves will want to participate and help us build the Temple, to atone for their multitude of violent crimes and terrorism which they will surely eventually regret. In the foreseeable future, no Israeli government (and hopefully no individual) would risk opening up a world war by leveling the mosque, so it seems more likely that the incessant Arab shelling and bombing which has been going on for about 100 years, may perhaps mistakenly blow it up by themselves. As we well know, the L-rd works in many ways and we can’t know for sure but, as in the time of Haman, God often helps the evil destroy itself (Yalkut Shimoni, Yirm. 319), so that we don’t have to get involved in international problems.
In short, we hope that all this will come about in the most peaceful, natural and democratic way possible, speedily and within our lifetime!