Eschatology and Freedom
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Eschatology and Freedom
Copyright © December 22, 2013 Douglas W. Jerving.
All Rights Reserved.
And Ittai answered the king, and said, As the Lord liveth, and as my lord the king
liveth, surely in what place my lord the king shall be, whether in death or life, even
there also will thy servant be.
2 Samuel 15:21
Beyond the seemingly surprising statement that Ittai anticipated entrance into heaven along with
David if he were to die with him (an interpretation easily refuted because it assumes Christian
theology in the Old Testament) we find some intriguing attitudes about how we choose to live
Ittai was one of the most honorable men in Biblical history, and yet most of us have never thought
twice about him. Ittai was a mercenary general in David’s army, commanding 600 men who were, like
him, Philistines. Ittai was from Gath in Philistia, Israel’s western neighbor. In 2 Samuel 15 we
read about the insurrection and ultimate coup d’etat of David’s son Absalom against the throne of
his father. Not being an Israelite, Ittai owed no allegiance to David except the kind that is bought
with the spoils of war. Ittai was a professional soldier. David knew that if his kingdom was lost,
he could not retain the services of Ittai.
Ittai however, was committed far more deeply to the Davidic kingdom, and to David himself. After
years of service to the king, he must have keenly known David. Ittai knew who David really was:
the brutal war-lord, the slayer of ten-thousands, the political “usurper” of the throne from the
house of Benjamin that established the house of Judah and the Davidic Dynasty. He knew that the
confederacy of Israel, which consisted of twelve tribal families, was tenuously held together by
a thread. Virtually all the northern “states” still considered the house of Benjamin the rightful
heir to the throne, and regarded David as an illegitimate ruler. David was for most of the northern
tribes a dictator who had bigger guns than them, and the best they could hope for was a change in
the political climate. They anticipated, in Absalom’s rebellion the opportunity for the north to
get off its knees and regain autonomy.
Ittai the Philistine from Gath knew more about David than most of David’s own subjects. He knew
David as the man who valiantly supported Philistian interests during the imperialistic reign of
Saul of Tarsus, a Benjamite. He had come to an understanding of David as a man who’s commitment
to God was more important than commitment to his own kingdom. Ittai understood David, believed
in David, and knew that David was a man of absolute integrity. Most likely he even saw how
grieved David was on a personal level with the insurrection of Absalom, and how, despite that
fact, David still loved and prayed for his son. Ittai saw in David a man who could always be
counted on, a trusted friend, a confidant who would lay down his life for his compatriots.
Although the northern side of the Israelite confederacy despised David and the house of Judah,
their political leaders knew the same things about David that Ittai knew, and they hoped to use
those things against him. They also knew that the character of the father was not the same as the
son. All Israel must have known that they were being smooth-talked by Absalom. They understood that
Absalom was not a man of integrity; that he was not like his father. They knew, like Ittai, that
Absalom was politically powerful, but he did not have the capacity to retain the kingdom should
he assume it. Absalom would be a weak king. The northern section of the confederacy would easily
dominate him or overthrow him. That is probably why they supported him. The northern “states”
supported Absalom’s ascendance to the throne (first in northern Hebron, and later in Jerusalem,
no less!) They were certain that they could make him a puppet dictator and gain control over all
Israel, including the political Judah faction.
Ittai uses the standard oath of allegiance when he commits himself and his troops to David. He
declares his determination to live and die alongside David: “As YHWH lives, and as you [or “I”]
live…” I will do this or that. This was a formal oath in ancient Israel; a legally binding
commitment of oneself in covenant to another individual. It is a phrase used repeatedly throughout
the Old Testament. Ittai takes the covenantal statement to its ultimate position in ancient near-
eastern thinking. “By my oath, I will fight and live with you, or I will die with you.”
Ittai makes clear to David that his allegiance now goes well beyond any mercenary bond. He regards
David as a brother in a common struggle, and one for whom he would gladly give his life. “If you die,
David, it is because I have died defending you.” “It is not about monetary gains anymore. It is
because I believe in you, and love you.”
Eschatology is the study of what happens when you die. Most Bible students would correct that to
be the study of “end-time events”. In so doing, they push the concept of death into a future event
that can be conveniently ignored. But end times become very personal when we are the ones who are
dying. The terminal cancer patient is absolutely aware of his own eschatology, although he would
probably call it death. Ittai certainly was aware of his own eschatology should the kingdom of
David fall to Absalom. His awareness of death is acutely recognized in his oath unto death before
David. Ittai was not a theologian, but he knew that if he was going to die, he had better die for
the truth. His theology, which included his ideas about the end of his own life, was based upon his
ethics. “Should I support the politically expedient regime of Absalom.” (That would have led to the
ascendancy of the northern states’ faction). “Should I take advantage of the demise of David to
factionalize Israel, and thereby empower my Philistia against them?” (An imperialist assault against
Israel that would have been no less horrible than Saul’s attempts against Philistia). “Should I
support and defend David even though we have no chance of success? Despite his failures, David is a
man of integrity. I know him. I love him. And we fear and love the same God.” (The ethics of love,
fidelity [faith], and covenantal commitment win the argument for Ittai).
Ittai chooses to live and die for David. He could have chosen another way. He was free to choose,
and David himself allowed Ittai that choice. You may think that “Atlas shrugged” a second time.
However, I suspect Ittai made the decision that best determined his freedom: the freedom of the
individual as opposed to the state. Remember, the “state” represented by David at that point in
history was nearly crushed. Ittai was not choosing the politically best. He chose the ethical
imperative based on love.
I am neither a liberal nor a conservative. In politics (a name for nothing) I lean toward libertarian with a
Christian conscience. I believe in free minds, free economies, and the autonomy of the individual.
If that implies exalting the Darwin Awards to an annually televised event on par with the Miss
America pageant then let’s get it started. (Do what you want with your body, just don't get me
involved. Jump off the cliff? Have fun for those few seconds. Shoot some one? Start with yourself.
Abort your child? There's another "me" involved! Darwin Awards only go to the person aborting
him or her self, without involving other people).
There is a reason why God was grieved when Israel chose a king (Saul of the tribe of Benjamin) over
Him. Kings imply the forsaking of individual authority (personal autonomy always implies personal
responsibility) and a subsequent submission to the “grace” of the “State”. That “grace” includes the
ancient totalitarianism of David and Solomon, the first (and last) autocratic dictators of ancient Israel.
(Saul, David’s predecessor, was always only a tribunal regent whose authority was questioned outside
of the Benjamite community.)
It is a strange fact of history that modern day Christians identify themselves with the autocratic rule
of David and of his son Solomon as if they most perfectly represent the rule of Christ on earth in the
pre-Christian era. Essentially, modern American Christian attitudes identify Christ as the fulfillment of
the imperialist tendencies of David. Davidic war-mongering is justified as a sort of “What Would Jesus
Do”. One’s opinion of Jesus is circumscribed by how he might be similar to David. David has become
the model for who Jesus Christ is supposed to be. David, as such, for militaristic Americans,
becomes the model upon which we have built our concepts of the Prince of Peace. We re-create our
vision of who Jesus is based upon his relationship to David. As a result, we seek political,
social and military salvation, believing that that is what Jesus would do, because He is the fulfillment of
Davidic Messianism. Like the Judaizers who assassinated Jesus, we expect a political King who will deliver
us from Rome. Jesus, in that interpretation, is all about eliminating one’s enemies. He is the re-creation
of Rocko, the invisible Boondock Saint, morphed back into existence by our garlic dreams.
The only true King is Jesus, not David; not an autocratic politician like David, or his despotic son
Solomon. The despotism of their regimes ultimately led to the divided kingdom and civil war between
Jereboam and Rehoboam, and then the fall of both northern Israel (702 bc) and Judah (586 bc) to their
enemies. Those events were the direct result of the despotic reigns of David and Solomon, and their
attempts to enforce a State-run regime upon a people who had long forgotten the virtues of
self-government given by Moses at the Exodus from Egypt.
The only true King is Jesus, as I said. But that means a return to the authority of every
Believer to do what is right in his own eyes before God. Then only do we allow ourselves to be governed
by conscience as it is taught by a study of the Word of God. The Word is clear on one point: “The
wicked shall do wickedly.” Can I stop that? Should I legislate against it or should I teach Biblical
principles to those who have chosen to turn from the self destroying life-styles of wickedness?
Neo-Conservatism gets bogged down in maintaining the status quo in hopes of a few more years
before the inevitable calamity they keep predicting. They are basically premillenial. Everything is
the Apocalypse Now, with no preparation for the future that belongs to our children's children's
children. Liberalism (a misnomer) is no more than the starry eyed progressivism of utopians that
think they can change man by re-education and relocation to a better set of circumstances. But
the heart of man is “desperately wicked”. I remain a staunch Calvinist/Augustinian in theology if
not always ethics. (BTW, Calvin himself never condoned the statist utopianism of Geneva, any
more than Jonathan Edwards condoned the Salem witch trials before him or the tee-totalitarians after.)
Some would view me as an anarcho-capitalist because I reject the authority of the
over-arching State and its economic mainframe of international military-industrial monopolists
(who are not true capitalists, but socialists for the sake of a buck). If anarchy is equivalent
to a return to self-government, or small localized government is acceptable for the community that has
chosen it, then I am an anarchist. I still think the first principle of American government is
limited government, and that idea is set forth first and foremost by the Declaration of Independence,
and maybe, the Articles of Convention; not the Constitution of 1787. Proof of that is the colonies'
insistence on the incorporation of the Bill of Rights. The early nation feared the tyranny offered
by the new constitution and would not ratify it until Congress recognized, through the first ten
Amendments, the rights of the people and the enlightened consciences of individuals, over the State
(i.e., state rights and individual rights over Federalist statism).
The Declaration was an overthrow of the "divine right of kings" and an attempt to establish the
principles of the Old Testament book of Judges (local leaders). The divine right of kings doctrine
was overthrown with the demise of the Davidic Dynasty in 586 bc. The Declaration of Independence
re-established every man's ability to do what is RIGHT in his own eyes, so long as the ethical base
of the Covenant and Commandments were his guide. It assumed, like Judges does, an educated
people capable of thinking for themselves. I hope we are coming back to that place, but we have a
long way to go. More and more people are becoming disillusioned with the utopian vision and
are longing for the freedom of conscience and the knowledge base upon which such freedom is
founded. It may be a generation or more before we overcome the malaise that pre-millenial escapist
theology has palled over us as if we were already dead.
But, again, our children's children's children will not be molested by the anti-Christian
philosophy of statism. We are not waiting for the Kingdom. The Kingdom is Now, and we are its
priests and kings, co-gerant with Christ at this present time before He delivers up the Kingdom
to His Father at His return in universal judgment. The Kingdom of God is alive and well and is
still converting the Nations to Him.
Doug Jerving is the publisher of the NewEdisonGazette.com. You may contact him at
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