The King and His Princes
1, 2. What can be said about the text of the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah?
TOWARD the end of the 1940’s, a remarkable collection of scrolls was found in caves located near the Dead Sea, in Palestine. They became known as the Dead Sea Scrolls and are believed to have been written sometime between 200 B.C.E. and 70 C.E. Best known among them is a scroll of Isaiah written in Hebrew on durable leather. This scroll is almost complete, and its text differs very little from that of manuscripts of the Masoretic text dated about 1,000 years later. Thus, the scroll demonstrates the accurate transmission of the Bible text.
2 A noteworthy detail about the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah is that the portion making up what is today known as Isaiah chapter 32 is marked with an “X” scrawled in the margin by a scribe. We do not know why the scribe made such a mark, but we do know that there is something special about this portion of the Holy Bible.
Ruling for Righteousness and Justice
3. What administration is prophesied in the books of Isaiah and Revelation?
3 Isaiah chapter 32 opens with a thrilling prophecy that is finding remarkable fulfillment in our day: “Look! A king will reign for righteousness itself; and as respects princes, they will rule as princes for justice itself.” (Isaiah 32:1) Yes, “Look!” This exclamation calls to mind a similar exclamation found in the last prophetic book of the Bible: “The One seated on the throne said: ‘Look! I am making all things new.’” (Revelation 21:5) The Bible books of Isaiah and Revelation, written some 900 years apart, both present a glowing description of a new administration—“a new heaven,” composed of the King, Christ Jesus, enthroned in the heavens in 1914, and 144,000 corulers “bought from among mankind”—together with “a new earth,” a global, united human society.* (Revelation 14:1-4; 21:1-4; Isaiah 65:17-25) This entire arrangement is made possible by Christ’s ransom sacrifice.
4. What nucleus of the new earth is now present?
4 After seeing in vision the final sealing of these 144,000 corulers, the apostle John reports: “I saw, and, look! a great crowd, which no man was able to number, out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.” Here is the nucleus of the new earth—a great crowd now numbering into the millions, who have been gathered to the side of the few, mostly elderly remaining ones of the 144,000. This great crowd will survive the fast-approaching great tribulation and in the Paradise earth will be joined by resurrected faithful ones and billions of others who will be given the opportunity to exercise faith. All who do so will be blessed with everlasting life.—Revelation 7:4, 9-17.
5-7. What role do the foretold “princes” play in God’s flock?
5 However, as long as the present hate-filled world exists, members of the great crowd need protection. In large measure this is provided by the “princes” who “rule . . . for justice itself.” What a grand arrangement! These “princes” are described further in the glowing words of Isaiah’s prophecy: “Each one must prove to be like a hiding place from the wind and a place of concealment from the rainstorm, like streams of water in a waterless country, like the shadow of a heavy crag in an exhausted land.”—Isaiah 32:2.
6 Right now in this time of worldwide distress, there is a need for “princes,” yes, elders who will “pay attention to . . . all the flock,” caring for Jehovah’s sheep and administering justice in harmony with Jehovah’s righteous principles. (Acts 20:28) Such “princes” must meet the qualifications set out in 1 Timothy 3:2-7 and Titus 1:6-9.
7 In his great prophecy describing the distressful “conclusion of the system of things,” Jesus said: “See that you are not terrified.” (Matthew 24:3-8) Why are Jesus’ followers not terrified by today’s dangerous world conditions? One reason is that the “princes”—whether they be anointed or “other sheep”—are loyally protecting the flock. (John 10:16) They fearlessly care for their brothers and sisters, even in the face of such horrors as ethnic wars and genocide. In a spiritually exhausted world, they see to it that depressed souls are refreshed by the upbuilding truths of God’s Word, the Bible.
8. How is Jehovah training and using the “princes” who are of the other sheep?
8 During the past 50 years, the “princes” have come clearly into view. “Princes” who are of the other sheep are being trained as a developing “chieftain” class so that after the great tribulation, qualified ones from among them will be ready for appointment to serve in an administrative capacity in the “new earth.” (Ezekiel 44:2, 3; 2 Peter 3:13) By providing spiritual guidance and refreshment as they take the lead in Kingdom service, they are proving themselves to be “like the shadow of a heavy crag,” bringing relief to the flock in its realm of worship.*
9. What conditions show the need for “princes” today?
9 In these perilous last days of Satan’s wicked world, dedicated Christians sorely need such protection. (2 Timothy 3:1-5, 13) Strong winds of false doctrine and twisted propaganda are blowing. Storms are raging in the form of wars between and within nations as well as direct assaults against faithful worshipers of Jehovah God. In a world parched by spiritual drought, Christians badly need the streams of water of pure, unadulterated truth in order to quench their spiritual thirst. Happily, Jehovah has promised that his reigning King, through his anointed brothers and supportive “princes” of the other sheep, will provide encouragement and guidance to despondent and discouraged ones in this time of need. Jehovah will thus see to it that what is righteous and just will prevail.
Paying Attention With Eyes, Ears, and Hearts
10. What provisions has Jehovah made so that his people can ‘see’ and ‘hear’ spiritual things?
10 How have the great crowd responded to Jehovah’s theocratic arrangement? The prophecy continues: “The eyes of those seeing will not be pasted together, and the very ears of those hearing will pay attention.” (Isaiah 32:3) Over the years, Jehovah has provided for the instruction and bringing to maturity of his precious servants. The Theocratic Ministry School and other meetings operating in the congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide; the district, national, and international conventions; as well as the specialized training of the “princes” to treat the flock with loving care have all contributed to the building up of a united, global brotherhood of millions. Wherever these shepherds are on earth, their ears are wide open to adjustments in understanding of the advancing word of truth. With Bible-trained consciences, they are ever ready to hear and to obey.—Psalm 25:10.
11. Why are God’s people now speaking with confidence, not stammering with uncertainty?
11 The prophecy then cautions: “The heart itself of those who are overhasty will consider knowledge, and even the tongue of the stammerers will be quick in speaking clear things.” (Isaiah 32:4) Let no one be overhasty in drawing conclusions about what is right and what is wrong. The Bible says: “Have you beheld a man hasty with his words? There is more hope for someone stupid than for him.” (Proverbs 29:20; Ecclesiastes 5:2) Before 1919, even Jehovah’s people were tainted with Babylonish ideas. But starting in that year, Jehovah has given them a clearer understanding of his purposes. They have found the truths he has revealed to be, not overhasty, but well thought out, and they are now speaking with the certainty of belief, not stammering with uncertainty.
“The Senseless One”
12. Who are ‘the senseless ones’ today, and in what way do they lack generosity?
12 Isaiah’s prophecy next draws a contrast: “The senseless one will no longer be called generous; and as for the unprincipled man, he will not be said to be noble; because the senseless one himself will speak mere senselessness.” (Isaiah 32:5, 6a) Who is “the senseless one”? As if for emphasis, King David twice supplies the answer: “The senseless one has said in his heart: ‘There is no Jehovah.’ They have acted ruinously, they have acted detestably in their dealing. There is no one doing good.” (Psalm 14:1; 53:1) Of course, confirmed atheists say that there is no Jehovah. In effect, so do “intellectuals” and others who act as if there were no God, believing that they are accountable to no one. The truth is not in such ones. There is no generosity in their hearts. They have no gospel of love. In contrast with genuine Christians, they are slow to provide for needy ones in distress or fail to do so entirely.
13, 14. (a) How do modern-day apostates work what is hurtful? (b) Of what do apostates try to deprive the hungry and the thirsty, but what will be the final outcome?
13 Many such senseless ones come to hate those who champion God’s truth. “His very heart will work at what is hurtful, to work at apostasy and to speak against Jehovah what is wayward.” (Isaiah 32:6b) How true this is of modern-day apostates! In a number of countries in Europe and Asia, apostates have joined forces with other opponents of truth, speaking outright lies to the authorities, with a view to having Jehovah’s Witnesses banned or restricted. They manifest the spirit of the “evil slave,” of whom Jesus prophesied: “If ever that evil slave should say in his heart, ‘My master is delaying,’ and should start to beat his fellow slaves and should eat and drink with the confirmed drunkards, the master of that slave will come on a day that he does not expect and in an hour that he does not know, and will punish him with the greatest severity and will assign him his part with the hypocrites. There is where his weeping and the gnashing of his teeth will be.”—Matthew 24:48-51.
14 In the meantime, the apostate causes “the soul of the hungry one to go empty, and he causes even the thirsty one to go without drink itself.” (Isaiah 32:6c) Enemies of truth try to deprive truth-hungry people of spiritual food, and they try to keep thirsty ones from drinking the refreshing waters of the Kingdom message. But the final outcome will be what Jehovah declares to his people through another of his prophets: “They will be certain to fight against you, but they will not prevail against you, for ‘I am with you,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘to deliver you.’”—Jeremiah 1:19; Isaiah 54:17.
15. Today, who particularly are “unprincipled,” what “false sayings” have they promoted, and with what result?
15 From the middle years of the 20th century, immorality has openly run riot in the lands of Christendom. Why? The prophecy foretold one reason: “As for the unprincipled man, his instruments are bad; he himself has given counsel for acts of loose conduct, to wreck the afflicted ones with false sayings, even when someone poor speaks what is right.” (Isaiah 32:7) In fulfillment of these words, many of the clergy in particular have adopted a permissive attitude toward premarital sex, cohabitation of the unmarried, homosexuality—indeed, “fornication and uncleanness of every sort.” (Ephesians 5:3) Thus, they “wreck” their flocks with their false sayings.
16. What makes genuine Christians happy?
16 In contrast, how refreshing is the fulfillment of the prophet’s next words! “As regards the generous one, it is for generous things that he has given counsel; and in favor of generous things he himself will rise up.” (Isaiah 32:8) Jesus himself encouraged generosity when he said: “Practice giving, and people will give to you. They will pour into your laps a fine measure, pressed down, shaken together and overflowing. For with the measure that you are measuring out, they will measure out to you in return.” (Luke 6:38) The apostle Paul too pointed to the blessings that come to generous ones when he said: “Bear in mind the words of the Lord Jesus, when he himself said, ‘There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.’” (Acts 20:35) Genuine Christians are made happy, not by gaining material wealth or social prominence, but by being generous—in the same way that their God, Jehovah, is generous. (Matthew 5:44, 45) Their greatest happiness is found in doing God’s will, in generously giving of themselves in order to make known to others “the glorious good news of the happy God.”—1 Timothy 1:11.
17. Who today are like the “careless daughters” referred to by Isaiah?
17 Isaiah’s prophecy continues: “You women who are at ease, rise up, listen to my voice! You careless daughters, give ear to my saying! Within a year and some days you careless ones will be agitated, because the grape picking will have come to an end but no fruit gathering will come in. Tremble, you women who are at ease! Be agitated, you careless ones!” (Isaiah 32:9-11a) The attitude of these women may remind us of those today who claim to serve God but who are not zealous in his service. Such ones are found in the religions of “Babylon the Great, the mother of the harlots.” (Revelation 17:5) For example, members of Christendom’s religions are very much as Isaiah describes these “women.” They are “at ease,” complacent as to the judgment and agitation that will soon engulf them.
18. Who is instructed to “gird sackcloth upon the loins,” and why?
18 The call goes forth, then, to false religion: “Undress and make yourselves naked, and gird sackcloth upon the loins. Beat yourselves upon the breasts in lamentation over the desirable fields, over the fruit-bearing vine. Upon the ground of my people merely thorns, spiny bushes come up, for they are upon all the houses of exultation, yes, the highly elated town.” (Isaiah 32:11b-13) The expression “Undress and make yourselves naked” does not appear to mean total disrobing. The ancient custom was to wear an outer garment over an undergarment. The outer garment was often a means of identification. (2 Kings 10:22, 23; Revelation 7:13, 14) The prophecy is thus commanding members of false religions to remove their outer garments—their pretended identity as servants of God—and to put on instead garments of sackcloth, symbols of mourning over their imminent judgment. (Revelation 17:16) No godly fruitfulness is to be found among the religious organizations of Christendom, which claims to be God’s “highly elated town,” or among the rest of the members of the world empire of false religion. Their domain of operation brings forth “merely thorns, spiny bushes” of neglect and abandonment.
19. What condition of apostate “Jerusalem” is exposed by Isaiah?
19 This picture of gloom extends to all parts of apostate “Jerusalem”: “The dwelling tower itself has been forsaken, the very hubbub of the city has been abandoned; Ophel and the watchtower themselves have become bare fields, for time indefinite the exultation of zebras, the pasture of droves.” (Isaiah 32:14) Yes, even Ophel is included. Ophel is an elevated part of Jerusalem that provides a strong defensive position. To say that Ophel becomes a bare field bespeaks complete desolation for the city. Isaiah’s words show that apostate “Jerusalem”—Christendom—is not watchful of doing God’s will. It is barren spiritually, far removed from truth and justice—beastlike in the extreme.
A Glorious Contrast!
20. What is the effect of God’s spirit being poured out upon his people?
20 Isaiah next presents a heartwarming hope for those who do Jehovah’s will. Any desolation of God’s own people will last only “until upon us the spirit is poured out from on high, and the wilderness will have become an orchard, and the orchard itself is accounted as a real forest.” (Isaiah 32:15) Happily, since 1919, Jehovah’s spirit has been poured out in abundance upon his people, restoring, as it were, a fruit-bearing orchard of anointed Witnesses, to be followed by an expanding forest of other sheep. Prosperity and growth are the keynotes of his organization on earth today. In the restored spiritual paradise, “the glory of Jehovah, the splendor of our God,” is reflected by his people as they proclaim his incoming Kingdom worldwide.—Isaiah 35:1, 2.
21. Where is righteousness, quietness, and security found today?
21 Listen, now, to Jehovah’s glorious promise: “In the wilderness justice will certainly reside, and in the orchard righteousness itself will dwell. And the work of the true righteousness must become peace; and the service of the true righteousness, quietness and security to time indefinite.” (Isaiah 32:16, 17) How well this describes the spiritual condition of Jehovah’s people today! In contrast with the majority of mankind, who are divided by hatred, violence, and abject spiritual poverty, true Christians are globally united, even though they are “out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues.” They live, work, and serve in harmony with God’s righteousness, doing so in confidence of enjoying, at last, true peace and security to time indefinite.—Revelation 7:9, 17.
22. What is the difference between the condition of God’s people and that of those in false religion?
22 In the spiritual paradise, Isaiah 32:18 is already being fulfilled. It says: “My people must dwell in a peaceful abiding place and in residences of full confidence and in undisturbed resting-places.” But for the imitation Christians, “it will certainly hail when the forest goes down and the city becomes low in an abased state.” (Isaiah 32:19) Yes, like a tempestuous hailstorm, Jehovah’s judgment is poised to strike the counterfeit city of false religion, debasing its “forest” of supporters, obliterating these for all time!
23. What global work is nearing completion, and how are those sharing in it to be counted?
23 This portion of the prophecy concludes: “Happy are you people who are sowing seed alongside all waters, sending forth the feet of the bull and of the ass.” (Isaiah 32:20) The bull and the ass were beasts of burden used by God’s ancient people in plowing fields and sowing seed. Today, Jehovah’s people use printing equipment, electronic tools, modern buildings and transport and, above all, a united, theocratic organization to print and distribute billions of Bible publications. Willing workers use these instruments to sow seeds of Kingdom truth throughout the earth, literally “alongside all waters.” Millions of God-fearing men and women have already been harvested, and other multitudes are joining them. (Revelation 14:15, 16) All of them are indeed to be counted “happy”!
See The Watchtower, March 1, 1999, pages 13-18, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
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In the Dead Sea Scrolls, Isaiah chapter 32 is marked with an “X”
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Each ‘prince’ is like a hiding place from the wind, shelter from the rain, water in the desert, and shade from the sun
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A Christian finds great happiness in sharing the good news with others