In this third post on the roots of the papacy in Scripture, I want to highlight that Joseph’s high position in Egypt is actually significant for understanding the administrative structure of the Kingdom of David, and therefore of the Church which is the fulfilled Davidic Kingdom.
After the people of Israel have entered the Promised Land, they eventually ask Samuel for a king to rule over them: “appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have” (1 Samuel 8:5, NIV). And this is exactly what happened. First under King Saul, and then under King David, the people of Israel became a kingdom. The Kingdom of David became an everlasting kingdom, and in the New Testament, was transformed into the Church.
Moreover, the Davidic Kingdom was called the Kingdom of YHWH, e.g. in 1 Chronicles 28:5 and in 2 Chronicles 13:8. Thus, in a very real way, the Kingdom of David was the Kingdom of God, what is meant by the New Testament phrase, Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew’s Gospel) or Kingdom of God (Matthew, Mark and Luke). Moreover, in the Davidic Kingdom, the worshipping community of Israel was often called (in 1 and 2 Chronicles) the qahal (in Hebrew), which was translated in the Greek Septuagint as ekklesia (the word for Church in the New Testament).
And it should not surprise us that the Kingdom of Israel patterned itself on other ancient Near Eastern kingdoms—“as all the other nations.” Indeed, it was common in the ancient Near East, as we have already seen with Egypt, for rulers to have various administrators (royal officials) to assist them in carrying out their rule, and often a single royal steward in a Joseph-like position. We will reflect more on the royal steward aspect in a forthcoming post, but for now, I want to take a quick look at the royal officials in the Davidic Kingdom under Solomon, who like Jesus was a true “Son of David.”
In 1 Kings 4:7 we read, “Solomon had twelve officers over all Israel, who provided food for the king and his household” (ESV). Although it is unclear the relation between these officials and the eleven high officials already mentioned (including the one “over the house,” al-habayit, 4:6), the number 12 here is probably significant (as it was in Exodus 24) and relates to the 12 tribes of Israel (just as later Jesus’ 12 apostles would represent the 12 tribes). Notice too that these officers, like Joseph in Egypt, were responsible for feeding Solomon’s “household,” that is, his kingdom. This theme of feeding will take on an added importance in the New Testament, particularly with the Eucharist, as we shall see. Jesus’ apostles will form the new, transformed royal ministers of the kingdom, with Peter standing as royal steward and high priest on earth, representing Jesus the heavenly king and high priest.
de Vaux, Roland. Ancient Israel: Its Life and Institutions. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1997 (1958 & 1960).
Hahn, Scott W. “Christ, Kingdom, and Creation: Davidic Christology and Ecclesiology in Luke-Acts.” Letter & Spirit 3 (2007): 113-138. Available online at: http://www.salvationhistory.com/documents/scripture/LSJ3%20Hahn.pdf
Hahn, Scott W. “Kingdom and Church in Luke-Acts: From Davidic Christology to Kingdom Ecclesiology.” In Reading Luke: Interpretation, Reflection, Formation, ed. Craig G. Bartholomew, Joel B. Green, and Anthony C. Thiselton, 294-326. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2005. Available online at: http://www.salvationhistory.com/documents/scripture/KingdomChurchInLukeActs.pdf
Ishida, Tomoo. The Royal Dynasties in Ancient Israel: A Study on the Formation and Development of Royal Dynastic Ideology. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1977.