The Function of the Messianic Monarch

A partial translation of Ezekial 37:21-25: (See the whole thing here.)

[G-d instructs Ezekial saying,] Say to them, So says the Lord God: Behold I will take the children of Israel from among the nations […] I will gather them from all around, and I will bring them to their land […] I will purify them, and they shall be to Me as a people, and I will be to them as a God […]

(verse 24) My servant, David, shall be king over them […] and they shall walk in My ordinances, observe My statutes and perform them […] They shall dwell on the land that I have given to My servant, to Jacob, wherein your forefathers lived; and they shall dwell upon it, they and their children and their children’s children, forever.

(verse 25) […] And David, My servant, shall be a Nasi unto them forever.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe points to several differences between the prophecy’s two descriptions of the awaited Jewish monarch (verse 24 and 25, respectively):

In 24 the Monarch is described as “Melech”, or “king” in the English, while in 25 he is described as “Nasi”, a term not only connoting Kingship, but also Wisdom. Indeed, the title Nasi was conferred on the leader of the Sanhedrin who, in the words of the Rambam, “stands in the place of Moshe our teacher”.

In 24 the King is described as being over the people–“ shall be king over them”–while in 25 the Nasi is described as relating to the people–“shall be a Nasi unto them.”

While verse 25 says explicitly that he shall be a Nasi unto them forever, 24 makes no such statement regarding his being King over them.

The Rebbe explains how all the differences can be accounted for when bearing in mind the dual nature of the role of the awaited Monarch:

The Rambam, in his “laws of Kings”, speaks of two functions of the Messiah:

1. The Messiah as a King, who “will force Israel to go in the ways of the Torah…..” , “ wage the wars of G-d”, “build the Temple in its place and gather in the dispersed Jewish people” and “bring the entire world to serve G-d together.”

2. And The Messiah as Sage, prophet and teacher of Torah to the people: “that King… from the seed of David, will be more wise than Solomon and a prophet close in stature to Moses our teacher. Therefore, he shall teach the entire nation and show it the way of G-d. And all the nations shall come to learn from him”.

The two verses speak of these two roles, respectively.

Referring to his role as sovereign, verse 24 speaks of the Messiah as “King”, characterizing his kingly relationship with his subjects as one of exaltedness and distance–he “shall be king over them”. Referring to the Messiah’s role as teacher, verse 25 describes him as Nasi–the title held by the head of the Sanhedrin–characterizing his standing as being unto his subjects, as a teacher who must bring knowledge down to the level of his students.

Indeed it is only this relationship that is described as persisting forever. For while Messiah’s role as King over the people is mainly relevant to the beginning of the messianic era, when the children of Israel need be “forced” to go in the way of the Torah and “the entire world” need be “brought” to serve G-d together, the Messiah’s role as prophet and teacher is eternal.

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One Response to The Function of the Messianic Monarch

  1. Dean's World says:

    The Function of the Messianic Monarch

    The two roles of the Messiah.

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