The kings of earth and their affair with gold

After the mention of its presence in an ancient place named Havilah gold disappears only to reappear as the obsession of kings as esthetically superior and the most valuable object of currency.  Pharaoh’s surrounded themselves with it in life and death.  At least one Babylonian king built a monument of gold to be worshipped by all in his realm.  Meanwhile silver rises as the common “money” but gold is not really forgotten.

SILVER and GOLD

Genesis 13:2 details Abram’s wealth (his KABOD, glory, weight or significance) as livestock, silver, and gold (and likely in that order of volume). 

Now Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver and in gold. 

This patriarch acquired servants with silver (Genesis 17) no doubt in conformity to common practice.  Servants were “family” but were to be distinguished by the fact that they were bought. Abram’s wealth, a few years later, is counted in livestock (flocks and herds), silver, gold, and serving girls, camels and donkeys, as reported by his steward.

The Lord has greatly blessed my master, so that he has become rich; and He has given him flocks and herds, and silver and gold, and servants and maids, and camels and donkeys.

Genesis 24:35

Gold objects and jewelry appear in Canaan and Egypt (Genesis 24 and 41:42).  By the time of the closing narratives in Genesis “put your silver where your mouth is” might have been part of the vernacular.

GOLD, GOD, AND HOLINESS

When Yahweh instructed Moses to set up the levitical kingdom the amount of gold was staggering.  The items of gold are clearly chosen for their extraordinary ranking in the innermost processes of the sacred tent.  

Gold almost everywhere one looks

What do we mean by innermost?  The tabernacle was a tent encircled by a wall, separating the tribes from the sacred tent.  The tent had two rooms. We distinguish the innermost room by the rare –  once a year – access to it, and then only by the high priest.  The golden items in that room were golden cherubim, the kapporet or mercy-seat (a kind of lid for the ark), the gold-covered ark, gold rings for the gold-overlaid poles for carrying the ark.  The ark was really a wooden box, overlaid with gold, and built to contain the two stone tablets on which God and Moses wrote the covenant.   

In the other room, used every day, with the need for lamps and incense and bread to be resupplied, were the golden lampstand, the golden incense altar, golden snuffers and trays for the lampstand, and the gold-covered bread table, golden dishes, pans, jars and bowls for the bread table.  The lampstand and the table also had gold-covered acacia poles for transporting them.

From tent to temple

David’s preparation for the temple, which he was not allowed to build, was extensive. He had been dedicating bronze, silver, and gold to the Lord which he had been hauling away from the Edomites, Moabites, Ammonites, Philistines, Amalekites (1 Chronicles 18:11, NASB).

Solomon appears to have was pulled out all the stops, but he could not seem to duplicate the all-gold cherubim.  

“Also in the inner sanctuary he made two cherubim of olive wood, each ten cubits high.”

1 Kings 6:23, NASB

“He also overlaid the cherubim with gold.”

1 Kings 6:28, NASB

But get this:

“He overlaid the whole house with gold, until all the house was finished. Also the whole altar which was by the inner sanctuary he overlaid with gold.”

1 Kings 6:22, NASB

A Warning to the princes

While the people of Judah were in Babylon the Lord issued an indictment against the Babylonian king, Belshazzar, who had decided that he and his court could use the golden vessels stolen from the Jerusalem temple for purposes other than what they were designed for.  A drinking binge in the palace ended badly.

“but you have exalted yourself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of His house before you, and you and your nobles, your wives and your concubines have been drinking wine from them; and you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which do not see, hear or understand. But the God in whose hand are your life-breath and all your ways, you have not glorified.”

Daniel 5:23, NASB

“That same night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was slain.” (Daniel 5:30, NASB)  

Priestly Refuge shattered

There should be no doubt that gold, as the most valued currency, was devoted to the national centrepiece.  The priests were not only fully supported by the tithes from the people; they grew wealthy through the redemption processes regarding property.  They also lost sight of the values of the things they handled.  These were the reasons for Yahweh to remind the people of his ownership and issue a riveting prediction concerning the second temple.  Both were riveting because no-one instructed in the temple processes had an excuse for confusing the sanctified with the sanctifier, and anyone who could remember Solomon’s temple would have to admit that Ezra’s temple was nothing to write home about.

“‘I will shake all the nations; and they will come with the wealth of all nations, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the Lord of hosts.”

(Haggai 2:7, NASB)

The priests came to see the purpose of the temple services as unlikely.  They had clearly forgotten that the purpose of the priesthood was to restore balance in the community and to provide (as promised) atonement for violations of the covenant.  In answer to the question about the resulting transfer of holiness from a person carrying the holy flesh (of an animal) to bread, cooked food, wine, etc. they did not make the grade.

“‘If a man carries holy meat in the fold of his garment, and touches bread with this fold, or cooked food, wine, oil, or any other food, will it become holy?’” And the priests answered, “No.””

(Haggai 2:12, NASB)

When asked the corresponding question about the transfer of uncleanness the priests missed the mark by responding that uncleanness gets transferred from an unclean person touching bread, cooked food, wine, etc. 

“Then Haggai said, “If one who is unclean from a corpse touches any of these, will the latter become unclean?” And the priests answered, “It will become unclean.””

(Haggai 2:13, NASB)

A stingy view of God and his gifts emerges. If the priests’ views were correct there is scant grace in the administration of God’s property; silver or gold, the clean and the unclean. 

Yahweh affirms his ownership of all things, saying, “‘The silver is Mine and the gold is Mine …” (Haggai 2:8, NASB)

Greater than the temple and all its treasures.

It is a sad story in any era when the leaders do not know what they are alking about. One has to be blind (Romans 11:7-8) not to see how dark the gold had become, how the pure gold had changed, nor how sacred things had become common. It is no coincidence that the precious sons of Zion, weighed against fine gold, are regarded as earthen jars (from Lam 4:1-2, NASB)

“But I say to you that something greater than the temple is here.”

(Matthew 12:6, NASB)

The capitalist dooms the temple

ÝWith his high regard for silver and gold the expert misled the priest and exposed their livelihood to a catastrophic encounter with Christ.  Christ was full of zeal for his Father’s house.  He saw something when he was twelve years old, and as he returned each year he saw the deepening corruption of both Mosaic doctrine and prayer.  The amazement of all who heard the young Yeshua’s questions and answers comes from the fact that the teachers (and the Sadducees) were mired in error.

The religious capitalist gets a woe

People can be more fond of money than of God. The people of the last days are clearly descendants of the Pharisees of New Testament times.

In a set of withering denunciations our Lord called the members of the most popular religious group and the scholars blind guides because they had been denigrating oaths invoking the temple, and elevating oaths invoking the gold of the temple (Matthew 23:16, NASB).

  • “For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy,” (2 Timothy 3:2, NASB)
  • “Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things and were scoffing at Him.” (Luke 16:14, NASB)

If gold was more important than the temple to the learned men of New Testament times, what is there to make the case that the capitalist systems of the twenty-first century are lined up for a catastrophic fall?  Perhaps the warning from Paul and his prediction helps to understand the relationship between standing up and falling when money or wealth is a priority.

  • “But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction.” (1 Timothy 6:9, NASB)
  • “Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.” (1 Timothy 6:17, NASB)

Despite the evidence of the millions who, hooked on the capitalist dream, continue to profess to be kingdom people, Christ, who holds the keys to who gets into the kingdom, says it is hard for a rich person to be a kingdom person.  He thought it was so hard that he illustrated the possibility with the analogy of a camel passing through the eye of a needle.

More than gold or any gem

Now that we know that gold is not the true standard of wealth and the glittering professions and achievements of the twenty-first century alliances and superpowers is just iron and tin, we should know why have the transcendent values stayed pinned to corruptible things. All things do not continue as from the beginning. The flood is God’s punctuation of the sentence that defines the creation of man. Peter says that it is shortsightedness that energizes the view of all things continuing as from the beginning and that corruptible things – even the ones declared holy in the Levitical kingdom – are capable of redeeming humanity. Yeshua’s disciples also fantasized about the restoration of the kingdom to Israel. Instead, we see the temple destroyed.

Way above the hundreds of injunctions and prohibitions stand God’s promises. First, the sovereign words concerning the land of Canaan to Abraham and his descendants fulfilled apart from compliance with the Sinai Covenant. The evidence that God provided for the certainty of his promise was the sojourn in Egypt, a event concluded four hundred years after Abraham’s decease. Secondly, Christ warns of the fan club idolizing the rich. Thirdly, there is no evidence that poor people – having neither silver nor gold – are withholding wages, dragging innocent people into court, and oppressing foreigners and visitors. If we want to see food turn instantly into feces, let us make a rich man ruler!

Skirting the city to create a hamlet

If the returning exiles needed a guiding light it was not the Sinai Covenant or the patriarch traditions. Mosaic traditions had by this time become useless – blood that cleansed nothing. Where was the crown? We do not know how the Lord inspired Cyrus to decree the return, but Cyrus could not but have been impressed by the proud attachment of a people to a palace for an invisible king; a palace built by a king whose kingdom is the opposite of his own. They celebrated and embraced the Mosaic legacy but skirted the throne and the truthful village connected to SSolomon’s dynasty.

He shall build an house for my name; and he shall be my son, and I will be his father; and I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel for ever.

1 Chronicles 22:10
No monarchy in the restoration

Cyrus learned from the records that his predecessor’s reign came to an end just as predicted. He also learned that there was a king whose kingdom was not going to end. His own name appears in prophecy stating his role in rebuilding the Province of Judea.

The return to Judea had just about everything except a Solomonic monarch. Solomon may have had an unimpeachable life as a wise ruler but he was a poor model for Mosaic orthodoxy. No conscientious disciple of Moses would rush to line up behind Solomon. The returnees chose to distance themselves from anything connected with the reason for their captivity in the first place. Solomon was the poster boy for idolatry, the classic Israelite folly. Yet the sure mercies of God to David found its legs in the Solomonic throne. David’s son will build the temple and it is his throne that  will be established for ever.

What is Jerusalem without a Davidide ruler? A desolate house.