The Law of the Sword

The Patriarch Jacob gave prophecies about his twelve sons while on his deathbed. The prophecy regarding Judah is both cryptic and interesting. “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs . . .” (Genesis 49:10) Even Balaam prophesied about “a scepter out of Israel.” (Numbers 24:17) The scepter was and is a symbol of royal authority. The Queen of England has a scepter that has been handed from sovereign to sovereign for many generations.

Of course, Judah is the family from whom Messiah would descend, and this prophecy is agreed upon by rabbis and Jewish sages as referring to Messiah. The scepter, or authority, did not depart from the Hebrews or the Jews for over a thousand years. Even during the Babylonian Captivity the Jews retained the right to use their own judges. (Ezra 10:14)

With this authority came the right to prescribe capital punishment. The Jews held this right even under Roman rule. The Sanhedrin was the authority at that time, and the Sanhedrin held the power of capital punishment . . . until 7 A.D. At this time Rome finally had enough of the murderous activities of Herod and his son, Archelaus. The area governed by Archelaus was divided into the four “tetrarchs” that we find during the ministry of Jesus. The Romans took over and instituted the Jus Gladii, the Law of the Sword.

When this occurred the Sanhedrin lost their authority of capital punishment. The Babylonian Talmud (chapter 4:37) reports, “When the members of the Sanhedrin found themselves deprived of their right over life and death, a general consternation took possession of them; they covered their heads with ashes, and their bodies with sackcloth, exclaiming: ‘woe unto us, for the scepter has departed from Judah, and the Messiah has not come!’” (author’s italics).

Here is where it gets interesting.

The event of Jesus spending three days in the Temple at age twelve is only recorded in Luke 2:41-49. It is also the only event between the birth of Jesus and His ministry beginning at age thirty that is recorded in the New Testament. What is the significance of this event?

Scripture does not directly give us the year of the birth of Jesus, but the Apostle John gives us some good information in John 2:19-21. It is assumed (for many reasons) that Jesus began His ministry during the Fall Feasts. At the time of the following Passover Jesus said, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it again.” The Jews replied that the Temple had been under construction for forty-six years. History tells us that Herod began the remodeling of the Temple in 20 B.C. That would make the year of this passage 26 A.D. Jesus began His ministry at age thirty according to Luke 3:23. Following this logic, that means that Jesus began His ministry in 25 A.D. and that He was born in 5 B.C. Scholars generally agree that Jesus was born between 6 B.C. and 4 B.C.

If Jesus was born in 5 B.C. then when He went to the Temple to “be about His Father’s business” it was in 7 A.D. At the very time the Jews thought the scepter had departed, Jesus Messiah was there to claim it. The scepter had not departed. Jesus was there to claim it. That is the significance of this lone recorded childhood event. Messiah had come, but sadly, the Jews did not recognize Him.

Every name, date, place and event written in the Word has significance. If only we were wise enough to see them all. I praise the Lord for His wonderful Holy Word.

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