Adam and Eve had passed down the notion of “dominion” so that all those who heard their story and regarded themselves as a continuation of that story must have pondered their own lives in something of that light. As human beings and, more specifically, as those descended from Adam and Eve through Abraham, many among the people of Israel would have understood that they had a duty to learn as much as they could, to work at ordering, managing, and developing their places and possessions, and to guard these against corruption or loss.
It should not surprise us that those who received and acted on this story – from Seth and Noah to Abraham and the patriarchs – became fruitful and wealthy in all their endeavors.
Moreover, from Abraham the idea of a rule characterized by righteousness and peace – like the rule of Melchizedek – and a heritage of kings and nations in which God’s blessings would be known, began to inform and shape the story of God’s covenant people.
It thus seems perfectly in line with this growing trajectory that Jacob should prophesy of his son, Judah, that a King would descend from him, One for whom dominion and rule had been prepared, and He would exercise that dominion and rule not only over the covenant people but all the nations of the earth as well (Gen. 49.8-11).
Israel’s growing prosperity during those early years in Egypt must have fueled the thoughts and hopes of those who clung to these ideas. But their hopes would be eroded by the cruelty of a king who cared not a whit for their history or aspirations, and who saw them only as a means to realize his own selfish ambitions.
A vision recovered
By the time Moses appeared to lead Israel out of captivity in Egypt, the people of God understood well the kind of power an earthly king could wield. It would fall to Moses to help them put away their fears of such human rulers and begin to recover their vision of the kingdom God was preparing for them.
By codifying the Torah (Law) into a preserved body of literature, and instructing the fathers of Israel to teach this Law to their children, Moses helped to restore in the minds of God’s covenant people what years of slavery and oppression had obscured: They were to be a kingdom, a kingdom belonging to God. Their future hopes and the promises of God’s covenant would be bound up in Moses’ vision of their relationship with God and the way He intended to bring them into the fullness of His precious and very great promises.
A kingdom of priests
First, however, God would have to deliver His people from the fear of earthly kings, and to reorient their thinking about kings and kingdoms within a different framework. What God intended for them, what He was preparing them to be, would require of them a measure of trust, courage, and hope that Israel, in captivity to Pharaoh, had long since abandoned.
The destruction of Pharaoh and his army, and the later defeat of the Canannite kings encountered en route to the plains of Moab must have persuaded Moses, Joshua, and the people of Israel that no earthly king could stand in the way of what God intended for His people. He had taken Israel as His kingdom, and He would rule them for righteousness, peace, and abundant blessing, as long as they dwelled within the safe parameters of His covenant and Law. Every Israelite would be a priest unto God, observing His rule and honoring Him with sacrifices and daily lives of justice, righteousness, and love.
Thus the early ideas of dominion and rule, given to Adam and Eve and carried forward through Abraham and the patriarchs, became bound up in the covenant struck at Sinai and in the idea of Israel’s being a kingdom ruled by God Himself. Israel was to understand that the Lord “was king in Jeshurun,/ When the leaders of the people were gathered, /All the tribes of Israel together” (Deut. 33.5).
Dominion, covenant, and kingdom: With Moses these ideas are brought forward and expanded, and with them, a vision of God’s Kingdom that would be greatly enlarged and enhanced.
Meditate on Romans 14.17, 18; 7.12; and 3.31. Does the Law of God have a place in the covenant and Kingdom of God? In the church? In your life? What should that place be? Talk with some Christian friends about this exercise.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.