Apocalyptic in the Testament of Judah

Image result for "Iron scepter"Testament of Judah chapters 20-25 are a mini-apocalypse. The reader is first commanded to love Levi because the priesthood is superior to anything on earth (21:2-3). Reflecting the later history of the priesthood and monarchy, Levi was given heavenly matters and Judah was given earthly matters. If the T.Judah has a Maccabean period origin, these words could to be taken as anti-Hasmonean (Kugler, 59).

In the times to come the people will be taken captive (21:6-8) and false prophets will come (21:9); there will be factions among the priests of Israel (22:1-3) until the time of salvation finally comes. Since this book is written well after the events of the biblical histories of Samuel and Kings, the writer predicts apostasy, exile and restoration.

Testament of Judah 22 The Lord will instigate among them factions set against each other and conflicts will persist in Israel. My rule shall be terminated by men of alien race, until the salvation of Israel comes, until the coming of the God of righteousness, so that Jacob may enjoy tranquility and peace, as well as all the nations. He shall preserve the power of my kingdom forever. With an oath the Lord swore to me that the rule would not cease for my posterity.

The people will become increasingly wicked (chapter 23 is a “sin list” which results in judgment of God.) After this time the Star will rise from Jacob and one of Judah’s descendants will be like the sun of righteousness. The “star from Jacob” is found in the Balaam oracles, Numbers 24:17. Note the connection between the Star and the Scepter; in a Testament context, Gen 49:10, we are told the scepter will not depart from Judah. Both the Star and the Scepter are messianic images in the Hebrew Bible.

This future ruler will be gentle, sinless, with a spirit of blessing from his Holy Father. An outpouring of the spirit of God in the eschatological age was expected: Isa 11:1, 621:11, Joel 3:1 (MT). He is the “Shoot of God Most High” and a fountain of life for all humanity. The “shoot” is a messianic title drawn from Isaiah 11:1, Jer 23:5, 33:15, Zech 3:8, 6:12, CD 1:7.

This is by far the most messianic section in the T.Judah. While some might be tempted to find Christian interpolations in the chapter, it is very much part of the fabric of Old Testament messianic prophecy. This persecution – rescue – messianic age pattern is well known in the apocalyptic literature as well, especially 1 Enoch. In short, there is no reason to see this section as anything other than a reflection of typical messianic expectations in the century or so before Christ.

Chapter 25 connects the resurrection of Old Testament “saints” to the coming messianic age. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all twelve of the sons will be raised to life and “wield the scepter” in Israel. During the period after this resurrection there “one people of the Lord” who will speak a single language. The power of Beliar will be no more because he will be thrown into the everlasting fires (25:3, cf. Rev. 2:1-3). Most significantly, “And those who died in sorrow shall be raised in joy; and those who died in poverty for the Lord’s sake shall be made rich; those who died on account of the Lord shall be wakened to life” (25:4). The first two of these lines are similar to Jesus’s beatitudes (Matthew 5:3, the poor will received the kingdom; 5:4, mourners will be comforted). The third tracks with Matthew 5:10 and Revelation 20, the ones who have lost their life for Jesus’s sake will be raised.

It is possible this section has been influenced by Revelation 20 (resurrection of dead saints and suppression of the power of evil), but Judah and the other sons of Jacob rule over this “one people of God.” But there is no explicit statement that the coming Star from Jacob will rule for a period after the resurrection. And unlike Revelation, there is no time-frame given for the new age.

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