Sunday, April 13, 2014

4 similarities between Solomon and Jesus: the triumphant entry to Jerusalem

Palm Sunday: "See, your king comes; seated upon an ass's colt." (Jn 12:15)
Palm Sunday: "See, your king comes; seated upon an ass's colt." (Jn 12:15)

Today is Palm Sunday.  And the story of Jesus' triumphant entry to Jerusalem is narrated in the Gospel of Luke (19:28-48).  To understand the significance of this story, we go back to 1 Kings (1-2) which tells the story of the coronation of Solomon.  As we shall see, there are many similarities between the two events.

1. Jesus's Colt and David's Mule

Jesus told his disciples to fetch him a colt from a man who appears to have arranged with Jesus his use of the colt using the cryptic password: "The Master has need of it (Lk 19:34).  And the Gospel continued: "So they brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks over the colt, and helped Jesus to mount." (Lk 19:35). If you are a Jew in the time of Christ, you cannot miss the meaning of Jesus' actions: Jesus is proclaiming himself the Son of David and heir to his throne, just like Solomon.

When King David was dying, Solomon's older brother, Adonijah, proclaimed himself as king without the knowledge of King David.  Adonijah was supported by Abiathar the priest and Joab, commander of the army.  Upon hearing this, Bathsheba went to David and told him about what happened.  Nathan also told him the same thing.  And David said:
As the LORD lives, who has redeemed my life from all distress, 30 this very day I will fulfill the oath I swore to you by the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Your son Solomon shall be king after me and shall sit upon my throne in my place.’...Call Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah, son of Jehoiada....Take with you the royal officials. Mount my son Solomon upon my own mule and escort him down to Gihon. 34 There Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet shall anoint him king over Israel, and you shall blow the ram’s horn and cry, ‘Long live King Solomon!’ 35 When you come back up with him, he is to go in and sit upon my throne. It is he that shall be king in my place: him I designate ruler of Israel and of Judah.” (1 Kgs 1:29-35)

It is interesting to note that David reigned in Jerusalem for 33 years before he died, the same number of years Jesus lived.

2. The Shout of the Multitude

The Gospel continued:
As [Jesus] rode along, the people were spreading their cloaks on the road; 37 and now as he was approaching the slope of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of his disciples began to praise God aloud with joy for all the mighty deeds they had seen. 38 They proclaimed: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord.* Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.”n (Lk 19:36-38)
 This shout of the multitude is similar to that for King Solomon:
 Then Zadok the priest took the horn of oil from the tent and anointed Solomon. They blew the ram’s horn and all the people shouted, “Long live King Solomon!”40 Then all the people went up after him, playing flutes and rejoicing so much the earth split with their shouting. (1 Kgs:39-40)
Notice the phrase: "rejoicing so much the earth split with their shouting."  This is similar to what Jesus said to the pharisees who asked him to rebuke His disciples: "I tell you, if they keep silent, the stones will cry out!" (Lk 19:40)

3. Cleansing of the Temple and of the Throne

After his triumphant entry in Jerusalem, Jesus cleansed the Temple area of merchants.  To put this thing in a context, remember that Jewish Law in the Old Testament requires animal sacrifices.  If people are far from Jerusalem and they want to go to the Temple to make an atonement for sin or give an thanksgiving offering, it is very inconvenient to bring your bull, sheep, or pigeons with you as you walk on foot.  It is therefore more convenient if they just bring your money and buy the animals that they need when they reach near the Temple.  Merchants, seeing a business opportunity, occupied the entrance area of the Temple and sold their stuff there, most likely with the approval of the High Priest and the Sanhedrin to whom the merchants have to pay rent.  The merchants are not only animal sellers but also coin changers, because you cannot use the Gentile's money with the image of the Emperor to pay your Temple tax; you need to convert it into a coin approved for the Temple.  So when Jesus entered the Temple and saw all these merchants, he drove them away:
Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all those engaged in selling and buying there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves.* f 13 g And he said to them, “It is written: ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’* but you are making it a den of thieves.” (Mt 21:12-13)
By cleansing the Temple, Jesus made it into a house of prayer, just as it was intended to be when Solomon dedicated the Temple to the Lord (1 Kgs 8)

Jesus symbolically took his seat in the Temple , because the Davidic dynasty was cut off like a stump and the Temple is the seat of government of the Jews through the Sanhedrin.  On the other hand, when Solomon ascended the throne of David, he cleansed his kingdom of his potential rivals, and two of his cleansing was done on the Temple, on the very altar itself where the priest dash the blood of lambs and bulls during the offerings for sin.  Two persons died after going to the altar to seek asylum: Joab, commander of the army, and Adonijah, Solomon's older brother.  Both of them grasped the horns of the altar in fear of their lives.  Joab was killed on the spot, while Adonijah was pardoned but was later killed when he asked for the beautiful Shulamite who took care of David in his old age:
King Solomon answered his mother, “And why do you ask that Abishag the Shunamite be given to Adonijah? Ask the kingship for him as well, for he is my older brother! Ask for him, for Abiathar the priest, for Joab, son of Zeruiah!” 23 And King Solomon swore by the LORD: “May God do thus to me and more, if Adonijah has not spoken this word at the cost of his life. 24 h And now, as the LORD lives, who has established me and set me on the throne of David my father and made for me a house as he promised, this day shall Adonijah be put to death.” 25 Then King Solomon sent Benaiah, son of Jehoiada, who struck him dead. (1 Kgs 2:22-25
29 King Solomon was told, “Joab has fled to the tent of the LORD and is by the altar.” He sent Benaiah, son of Jehoiada, with the order, “Go, strike him down.” 30 Benaiah went to the tent of the LORD and said to him, “The king says, ‘Come out.’” But he answered, “No! I will die here.” Benaiah reported to the king, “This is what Joab said to me in reply.” 31 The king answered him: “Do as he has said. Strike him down and bury him, and remove from me and from my father’s house the blood which Joab shed without provocation. 32 k The LORD will bring blood upon his own head, because he struck down two men better and more just than himself, and slew them with the sword without my father David’s knowledge: Abner, son of Ner, commander of Israel’s army, and Amasa, son of Jether, commander of Judah’s army. (1 Kgs 2:28-32)
There are two other persons Solomon took care of to cleanse his Kingdom.  He removed the Priest Abiathar from his office as priest and placed Shimei under house arrest--he can't leave his village. Abiathar sided with Adonijah, while Shimei cursed David at Mahanaim (c.f. 1 Kgs 2:8):
The king said to Abiathar the priest: “Go to your estate in Anathoth. Though you deserve to die, I will not put you to death at this time, because you carried the ark of the Lord GOD before David my father and shared in all the hardships my father endured.”* 27 j So Solomon dismissed Abiathar from the office of priest of the LORD, thus fulfilling the word the LORD had spoken in Shiloh against the house of Eli. (1 Kgs 2:26-27)  
The king summoned Shimei and said to him: “Did I not have you swear by the LORD and warn you clearly, ‘The day you leave and go anywhere else, be certain you shall surely die’? And you answered, ‘I accept and obey.’* 43 Why, then, have you not kept the oath of the LORD and the command that I gave you?” 44 l And the king said to Shimei: “In your heart you know very well the evil that you did to David my father. Now the LORD is bringing your own evil upon your head. 45 But King Solomon shall be blessed, and David’s throne shall be established before the LORD forever.” 46 The king then gave the order to Benaiah, son of Jehoiada, who went out and struck him dead. (1 Kgs 2:42-46)
And Solomon's kingdom was firmly established.

4. Lamentation over Jerusalem

Jesus made a lament over Jerusalem because the Jews rejected his kingship:
As he drew near, he saw the city and wept over it,p 42 saying, “If this day you only knew what makes for peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes.q 43 * For the days are coming upon you when your enemies will raise a palisade against you; they will encircle you and hem you in on all sides.r 44 They will smash you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave one stone upon another within you because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.”s (Lk 19:41-44)

And true enough, the Romans destroyed the Temple during the Siege of Jerusalem in 70 AD.  The temple was never rebuilt.  Today, the Temple is also considered as a holy site by the Muslims and to rebuild the Temple would mean war:
After the Muslim conquest of Jerusalem in the 7th century, Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan ordered the construction of an Islamic shrine, the Dome of the Rock, on the site of the Temple. The shrine has stood on the mount since 691 CE; the al-Aqsa Mosque, from roughly the same period, also stands in the Temple courtyard. The mount bears significance in Islam as it acted as a sanctuary for many Hebrew prophets. Islamic tradition says that a temple was first built on the Temple Mount by Jacob and later renovated by Solomon, son of David. In addition, it is considered to be the site of the Prophet Muhammad's Night Journey[citation needed] (Isra and Mi'raj) and his ascent into Heaven - one of the most significant events recounted in the Qur'an. (Wikipedia: Temple in Jerusalem
On the other hand, Solomon was also warned by God in a dream that his kingdom will only be secure if he Solomon were faithful and would not worships other gods; otherwise, his kingdom will also be destroyed:
I have heard the prayer of petition which you offered in my presence. I have consecrated this house which you have built and I set my name there forever; my eyes and my heart shall be there always. 4 As for you, if you walk before me as David your father did, wholeheartedly and uprightly, doing all that I have commanded you, keeping my statutes and ordinances, 5 b I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever, as I promised David your father: There shall never be wanting someone from your line on the throne of Israel. 6 But if ever you and your descendants turn from following me, fail to keep my commandments and statutes which I set before you, and proceed to serve other gods and bow down to them, 7 I will cut off Israel from the land I gave them and repudiate the house I have consecrated for my name. Israel shall become a proverb and a byword among all nations, 8 c and this house shall become a heap of ruins. Every passerby shall gasp in horror and ask, “Why has the LORD done such things to this land and to this house?” 9 And the answer will come: “Because they abandoned the LORD, their God, who brought their ancestors out of the land of Egypt, and they embraced other gods, bowing down to them and serving them. That is why the LORD has brought upon them all this evil.” (1 Kgs 9:3-9)
But Solomon's marriage with foreign women turned his heart from God and worshiped Pagan gods.  His kingdom was divided:
Since this is what you want, and you have not kept my covenant and the statutes which I enjoined on you, I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to your servant. 12 d But I will not do this during your lifetime, for the sake of David your father; I will tear it away from your son’s hand. 13 Nor will I tear away the whole kingdom. I will give your son one tribe for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem, which I have chosen. (1 Kgs 11:11-13)
The kingdom left to Solomon's sons was the Kingdom of Judah and that is why we now call the Jewish people the Jews. The last king was Zedekiah who was blinded and sent to exile by Nebuchadnezzar.  The Temple was destroyed.

(Word count: 2,387)
Giotto di Bondone (1267-1337), Cappella Scrovegni a Padova, Life of Christ, Entry into Jerusalem (Wikipedia)
Giotto di Bondone (1267-1337), Cappella Scrovegni a Padova, Life of Christ, Entry into Jerusalem (Wikipedia)

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