“Princes Shall Rule in Justice”
“Behold, a king shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall rule in justice.”—Isa. 32:1, AS.
1. What did Jehovah foresee regarding human governments, and so what did he promise in Eden?
JEHOVAH God is the organizer of the only government of righteousness for mankind. Long in advance he knew that the systems of rulership which men would set up over themselves would all be imperfect and would turn out unrighteous and fail. How could imperfect men be expected to give mankind a government of absolute righteousness and justice, without partiality and oppression? God knew that, besides man’s inborn tendency toward sin and unrighteousness, there was a mighty, superhuman force that was exercising an invisible influence upon mankind for unrighteousness, namely, Satan the Devil. The Lord Jesus Christ calls this wicked one “the ruler of this world”. Besides ruler, he is “the god of this system of things”, and the apostle Paul so designates him. (John 12:31; 16:11; and 2 Cor. 4:4, NW) This fact has furnished added cause for all governments by sinful men to fail, turning out unrighteous and corrupt. Foreseeing how all human rule in this world of Satan the Devil would turn out, Jehovah God made known his purpose to set up a kingdom of flawless righteousness which will succeed. His promise given in the garden of Eden immediately after man had entered into sin was in perfect harmony with this Kingdom purpose. The Seed of the woman who was there promised was to be the King in this royal government and, as such, he was to crush the head of the great Serpent, Satan the Devil.—Gen. 3:15.
2. What is announced at Isaiah 32:1, and who is the king there?
2 “Behold! a king will reign in righteousness, and princes will rule with justice.” (Isa. 32:1, AT) With these words of good cheer through his prophet Isaiah, Jehovah God announced the coming righteous government for all mankind, for all the earth. By Isaiah’s time he had revealed that this King of righteousness was to be a royal descendant of David, the king of Jerusalem. Earlier, by this same prophet, the Most High God had declared that he would be born of a virgin and would succeed to the throne of King David: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of Jehovah of hosts will perform this.” (Isa. 7:14; 9:6, 7, AS) These thrilling words were fulfilled in Jesus Christ. By Jehovah’s miracle he had a virgin birth at King David’s home town Bethlehem-judah, and he proved his right to the Kingdom by dying faithful to Jehovah God, the Author and Founder of the everlasting kingdom. There is absolutely no question as to who the king is who is to reign in righteousness. But the question has often come up, Who are those “princes” who are promised to rule in justice at the same time with him? The occasion has apparently now come, within God’s providence, to answer this question.
TOWARD IDENTIFYING THEM
3. To what time period did Isaiah 32:1 use to be applied? Why?
3 This text, “and princes shall rule in justice,” has long been associated with Psalm 45:16, which reads: “Instead of thy fathers shall be thy children, whom thou mayest make princes in all the earth.” Those to be made princes according to this text were long understood to be the faithful witnesses of ancient times before Christ who were to become the children of Christ the King by being resurrected from the dead. Then they were to be installed as princes over the rest of mankind and act as visible representatives of the heavenly kingdom of Christ Jesus. (The Harp of God [of 1921], ¶ 556) Because Isaiah 32:1 mentions princes and connects them with the King of the new world it was thought that these princes were the same as those mentioned at Psalm 45:16. And so the verse, Isaiah 32:1, was applied to the thousand-year reign of Christ Jesus after the battle of Armageddon. However, from and after 1947 the columns of The Watchtower have not been quoting Isaiah 32:1 and applying it in that way.
4. Need fulfillment of Isaiah 32:1 be delayed till after Armageddon begins or earthly resurrection starts? Why your answer?
4 Please note that Isaiah does not say that these princes under the King of righteousness are his children or are limited to his children, the way Psalm 45:16 does. Consequently, Isaiah’s prophecy need not necessarily be confined to those who will become children of Christ Jesus, the “Everlasting Father”, and who as children of this royal Father are entitled to become princes by virtue of their birth from a royal ruler. Hence, too, fulfillment of the prophecy need not be delayed till after the battle of Armageddon when the Devil’s organization and its rulers and princes have been destroyed from the earth; nor till the resurrection of the faithful witnesses of ancient times, like Abel, Abraham, Moses and David, takes place.
5. What does Isaiah, chapter 32, say of the princes in verse 2?
5 Furthermore, note what Isaiah says about these princes in the next verse. The King James Version of Isaiah 32:2 reads: “And a man shall be as an hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers [streams, AS] of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.” Who the man here is has long been a question of interpretation. But now this is understood to be the Hebrew expression meaning “each one” or “everyone”, and so modern translators render it this way. An American Translation reads: “And princes will rule with justice; and each of them will be like a hiding-place from the wind, and a shelter from the storm, like streams of water in a dry place, like the shade of a great rock in a wearisome land.” (Isa. 32:1, 2, AT; also Crampon and Bover-Cantera) Similarly Moffatt reads: “With princes that rule uprightly, each like a shelter from a storm,” etc. And Rotherham’s Emphasised Bible reads: “Yea, even princes with equity shall bear rule. So shall each one become as a hiding-place from the wind and a covert from the storm, as channels of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a massive cliff in a weary land.”—Also Luther.
6. When is it we need protection from such things as Isaiah 32:2 describes, and to whom must we turn for such protection?
6 In the Messianic millennium, when Satan and all his demons will be bound and be in the abyss and when his visible organization will be in ashes, mankind will not need protection from such things as Isaiah here figuratively described. It is now, in this perilous “time of the end” of Satan’s wicked world, that we sorely need such protection, because we do not get it from the official element of Satan’s organization. It is now that heavy winds of false doctrine and twisted propaganda are blowing, not only able to swing infants in a cradle but powerful enough to sweep a full-grown man or woman off foot. It is now that the great storm of hot and cold wars of worldly nations is raging as well as assaults by the Devil’s visible hosts against the faithful people of Jehovah God. It is now that we find ourselves in a worldly land parched with spiritual drought and where we badly need the streams of water of pure, theocratic truth in order to quench our thirst for God’s revealed Word. It is now that the ruling elements, political, commercial and religious are trying to shine as the sun to illuminate this darkening world but they are blazing down upon mankind with oppressive heat, and especially upon Jehovah’s witnesses with the fire of persecution. So we need the great rock of God’s kingdom to get in between and to shade us in a wearisome land. And since we do not get the desired hiding-place and covert and refreshment and shade from the ruling element of the Devil’s organization, we must turn to the official servants in Jehovah’s organization. He promises that his King and his princes will each one of them be such desirable things to us in this time of need. They will see to it that we get what is righteous and just.
7. Where do the King and princes bear rule, and to protect whom?
7 The righteous King and his princes will bear rule in the land picturing Jehovah’s theocratic organization, and all those within or under that organization will get the benefits of their righteous and just rule. Those who stay outside in the world will not.
8. In what king’s time was the prophecy delivered, and under what foreign threat?
8 Therefore now in this “time of the end” prior to Armageddon it is that we properly look for the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy (Isa 32:1, 2). It appears that the prophecy was delivered in the time of King Hezekiah at Jerusalem in the eighth century before Christ. In Hezekiah’s time the Assyrian empire, the second world power of Bible history, was dominating the world and threatening it with its cruel, greedy aggressions. First it carried on a cold war of frightful propaganda and big lies against the small kingdom of Judah over which King Hezekiah ruled, sitting on the typical “throne of Jehovah” on Mount Zion. There was great inducement for Hezekiah to look southward and go down to Egypt for help by its chariots and horsemen, but Hezekiah refused to do so. That would have been mistrusting Jehovah the great Author of salvation and failing to seek His help. But now the war turned hot, and the Assyrian ruler, King Sennacherib, invaded the territory of Judah, took many of its cities, and laid siege to others. While besieging Lachish, about thirty miles southwest of Jerusalem, Sennacherib sent a message to Jerusalem insulting Jehovah God and demanding the city’s unconditional surrender. Jehovah by his prophet Isaiah strengthened Hezekiah to refuse this wicked demand. Unable to take Lachish, Sennacherib moved closer to Jerusalem and laid siege to Libnah not quite twenty-five miles away, and again he sent a presumptuous demand to Hezekiah, belittling Jehovah’s power to save.
9. Then how did Assyria cease to be a threat to Judah?
9 Then Jehovah by his prophet Isaiah hurled defiance at the boastful, blasphemous Assyrian aggressor and predicted his disgraceful defeat and the deliverance of Jerusalem, the city where Jehovah had placed his name. Isaiah himself writes us what followed, saying: “And the angel of Jehovah went forth, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred and fourscore and five thousand; and when men arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies. So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed, and went and returned, and dwelt at Nineveh. And it came to pass, as he was worshipping in the house of Nisroch his god, that Adrammelech and Sharezer his sons smote him with the sword; and they escaped into the land of Ararat.” (Isa. 37:36-38, AS; 2 Ki. 19:8-37) After that the Assyrian never became a threat to the kingdom of Judah again.
10. Whom did Hezekiah picture, and whom Sennacherib?
10 The apostle Paul tells us that the things of ancient Jewish history happened to them for types or warning examples to us who live in the time of the end of the old systems of things. Hezekiah at the time of this threat against Jerusalem and its deliverance pictured Christ Jesus who sits with Jehovah in His heavenly throne and at His right hand. (1 Cor. 10:6, 11, NW) The Assyrian aggressor, King Sennacherib, pictures the one who defames Jehovah God and who opposes Christ Jesus, namely, Satan the Devil, “the god of this system of things.” Hence if the verses, Isaiah 32:1, 2, have King Hezekiah in view, it is only with him as a type, and their fulfillment upon him was only typical and partial.
11. In whose days does complete fulfillment of the prophecy come, and how does Isaiah 31:5-9 describe it?
11 The complete fulfillment comes in the days of the Greater Hezekiah, Christ Jesus, when the Greater Assyrian, Satan the Devil, is threatening Jehovah’s visible organization on earth and blaspheming his almighty power. In order to give those who cling to his theocratic organization in these tense days strong comfort, Jehovah God says to us in the preceding chapter and its closing verses: “As birds hovering, so will Jehovah of hosts protect Jerusalem; he will protect and deliver it, he will pass over and preserve it. Turn ye unto him from whom ye have deeply revolted, O children of Israel. For in that day they shall cast away every man his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which your own hands have made unto you for a sin. And the Assyrian shall fall by the sword, not of man; and the sword, not of men, shall devour him; and he shall flee from the sword, and his young men shall become subject to taskwork. And his rock [his protective god] shall pass away by reason of terror, and his princes shall be dismayed at the ensign, saith Jehovah, whose fire is in Zion, and his furnace in Jerusalem.”—Isa. 31:5-9, AS.
WHEN APPLICABLE AND HOW
12. Why is there nothing to argue against applying Isaiah 32:1 now since A.D. 1914?
12 After recording these words, which now near their complete fulfillment, the prophet Isaiah begins the next chapter, Isa 32:1 saying: “Behold, a king shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall rule in justice.” There is nothing to argue against the application of this now in these days when the Greater Assyrian, Satan, is on the rampage against Jehovah’s visible organization, the remnant of the seed of God’s “woman”. We are now thirty-seven years past 1914, and, behold, Jehovah’s anointed King does reign! He reigns in righteousness since the end of the “appointed times of the nations” in that year. There is no need for us to look beyond the battle of Armageddon for this feature of the prophecy to go into fulfillment. It is in effect now. Because the King now reigns rightfully and for doing righteousness to Jehovah’s name, that is why the Greater Assyrian, Satan the Devil, storms and wages war against the faithful remnant and their good-will companions on earth. If anyone knows, Satan the Devil knows that the King reigns, for the King has defeated him in the war in heaven and has thrust him and his demons down to God’s footstool the earth, beneath the feet of the reigning King.—Luke 21:24; Rev. 12:1-17, NW.
13. What question then arises as to the princes mentioned?
13 What, then, about the other part of the prophecy: “And princes will rule with justice; and each of them will be like a hiding-place from the wind”? How could this also be true now, and who are these princes who are to rule justly and as a protection to Jehovah’s people? We answer Scripturally as follows:
14, 15. (a) What is the word translated “prince”, and whom does it designate? (b) How is this word otherwise translated and applied?
14 The Hebrew word here translated “princes” is sarím, the singular of which is sar (feminine sarah). As stated in The Watchtower of last November 1, 1950, in the article “Beginning the New World Society” (¶ 14), this Hebrew word sar does not always mean the son of a king or the son of a political prince, nor is this word always translated “prince” or used with that political flavor in the Holy Scriptures. It designates the first, the chief or the foremost in any class, the head of a company or group. For instance: The word sar occurs 419 times in the Hebrew Scriptures, from Genesis to Zephaniah. Out of all these times the King James Version renders it prince 208 times, but also captain 125 times, chief captain 3 times, captain that had rule 1 time, ruler 33 times, chief 33 times, governor 6 times, keeper 3 times, principal 2 times, and general, lord, master, steward, and taskmaster 1 time each. So it is translated more times by these other words than by prince. At Genesis 21:22, 32 the military general of the Philistine king is called chief captain (sar). The officer of Pharaoh to whom Joseph was sold in Egypt was called the “captain” (sar) of the guard or chief marshal. (Gen. 37:36, margin; Ge 39:1, 21-23) Pharaoh’s butler and baker who were imprisoned with Joseph were called the chief butler or chief (sar) of the butlers and the chief baker or chief (sar) of the bakers. (Gen. 40:2, 9, 16) In course of time Pharaoh made Joseph’s brothers rulers (sarím) over the royal cattle.—Gen. 47:6.
15 After Joseph’s death the new Pharaoh set taskmasters (sarím) over the Hebrews to act as slavedrivers to them. (Ex. 1:11) When the Israelites in Palestine asked the prophet Samuel to set up a human king over them, Samuel warned them that their king would conscript men to be captains (sarím) over groups of a thousand, a hundred, and fifty. Their first king Saul made his cousin Abner captain (sar) over his army. Later he made David a captain (sar) over a thousand troops.—1 Sam. 8:12; 14:50; 17:55; 18:13; AS, AT.
16, 17. (a) What shows whether Israel had princes (sarím) before a king? (b) Also after their king was overthrown?
16 Mark this, however: Before ever the Israelites asked and had a human king set over them, they had those who were called princes or sarím. Out in the wilderness of Sinai Moses at the advice of his kinsman Jethro appointed rulers (sarím) over groups of a thousand, a hundred, and fifty, and even ten, to act as assistant judges to him. (Ex. 18:21; Num. 31:14, 48, 52, 54; Deut. 1:15) Moses was instructed by Jehovah God to have captains (sarím) over the armies of Israel to lead them. And when Dathan and Abiram rebelled against Moses in the wilderness they accused him of making himself a prince over the Israelites.—Deut. 20:9; Num. 16:13.
17 In the land of promise, when the judges still ruled and there was as yet no human king over Israel, the twelve tribes had each their princes. We read of “princes of Issachar” in the days of Judge Barak and Deborah; of “princes of [the city of] Succoth” in Judge Gideon’s day, and “princes of Gilead” in Judge Jephthah’s day. (Judg. 5:15; 8:6; 10:18) There were also “princes of Judah” and “princes of Zebulun” and “princes of Naphtali”, as David later says at Psalm 68:27. Even after the kingdom of Israel was overthrown in two phases by Assyria and Babylon and the Israelites returned from Babylonian captivity to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple of Jehovah there, they had princes over them, though they had no reigning king of David’s line. Both the priest Ezra and the Jewish governor Nehemiah tell us of the princes and rulers (all sarím) over the restored remnant of Jehovah’s faithful worshipers. (Ezra 9:1, 2, 14; Neh. 3:9-19; 4:16; 11:1; 12:31, 32) But note this fact, too: there were also chiefs (sarím) of the priests and Levites, just as in the days of the kingdom there had been a “chief of the Levites” and priestly “governors of the sanctuary, and governors of the house of God”.—Ezra 8:24, 29; 10:5; 1 Chron. 15:22; 24:5.
18. So to have sarím was a king necessary? Were all political?
18 So we see a king did not have to be reigning among Jehovah’s theocratically organized people in order for them to have princes or sarím. Neither were these limited to government rulers, but they were appointed among men who had to do with military affairs, judicial matters, and matters of worship. Isaiah, whose prophecy we are considering, uses the word sar 17 times and tells us that Christ Jesus will be called “The Prince of Peace”.—Isa. 9:6.
19. So what could our reigning King have on earth now, and where would they hold office and with what kind of service?
19 With such a breadth of meaning and variety of application of the Hebrew word sar we can appreciate how the heavenly King reigning in righteousness could have his visible servants on the earth during this perilous time and how these would occupy the position corresponding with what Isaiah 32:1 speaks of as princes (sarím). They would not hold such princely office inside the political systems of this world, because, although they are in the world, they are no part of the world. Neither would they have any such combined political, hierarchical offices such as the higher clergy of the Roman Catholic religious system hold, so that they are called “princes of the church”. The Roman Catholic cult is a part of this world and commits spiritual adultery with the political and commercial rulers of this world. But those who serve in official places on earth under Jehovah’s King of righteousness do so within the theocratic organization. They represent God’s kingdom exclusively, and in this service they handle only the interests of His kingdom, princely service indeed!
IN THE TIME OF RESTORATION
20. (a) Since beginning to reign, has the King had his sarím ruling on earth in justice? (b) Why are they not called “princes”?
20 Since Christ Jesus began reigning at the time of the Kingdom’s birth in 1914, are we to understand, then, that his princes have been visibly ruling in righteousness on earth? Yes; but from the year 1919 onward. Well, then, why is it we do not find men within Jehovah’s visible organization designated as “princes”? It is because in this world that term carries a political connection. In the original Hebrew of the Bible the word has a broader meaning and may apply to a variety of services in which a man of God is a captain, chief or foremost one in a department of service or in a group or class. In this world the word “prince” carries with it a sort of glamour so that we glorify it out of its proper proportions. But in the Hebrew text the word meant not mere loftiness of a person’s position but also heavy responsibility and hard work in carrying it out. Note now how God’s Word foretold the putting of faithful Christian witnesses of Jehovah in such responsible positions toward his kingdom and how he has fulfilled this word.
21. According to what God foretold, when was it to be that he would put men in such positions?
21 God foretold that he would do this in the time when he restored the faithful remnant of his people to the privileges of his theocratic organization. It is noteworthy that when Jehovah’s anointed King, Christ Jesus, first publicly presented himself to his chosen people the time was one of restoration for them. That is why Jesus went throughout the land of Palestine preaching, “Repent, for the kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.” If there was no repentance, there was to be no restoration for the unrepentant Jews. That was why, too, in the synagogue at Nazareth he read Isaiah’s prophecy which foretold Jesus’ anointing to “preach a release to the captives and a recovery of sight to the blind, to send the crushed ones away with a release”. (Matt. 4:17 and Luke 4:18, NW) Only a remnant of the Jews believed, fully repenting of their sins against Jehovah’s covenant, and these were restored from the Babylonish bondage into which their apostate religious leaders had forced them. They were ushered into Christian liberty and were assigned privileges of service in Jehovah’s free theocratic organization. This is also true of Christ’s second coming in his kingdom.
22. In what way is the kingdom by Christ a restoration? What has its establishment meant to Jehovah’s people?
22 The kingdom of Christ Jesus is itself a restoration of Jehovah’s rulership of the earth by his anointed King. It is also His means for restoring all people who desire to come into the favor of God and live eternally under his universal sovereignty. Mindful of how God had overturned his typical kingdom in Israel at the hands of the Babylonian empire in 607 B.C., the apostle Peter called to mind that Jehovah had promised to restore the kingdom with a king of David’s line. So at the temple he said to the Jews: “Repent, therefore, and turn around so as to get your sins blotted out, that seasons of refreshing may come from the person of Jehovah and that he may send forth the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven, indeed, must contain within itself until the times of restoration of all things of which God spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets of old time.” (Acts 3:19-21, NW) Consequently, since the sending forth of Christ Jesus with Kingdom power in 1914 it is a time of restoration with respect to Jehovah’s people on earth. Not just a restoration of lost truths. No; but also a restoration of the Kingdom arrangement among his people, a restoration of the theocratic organization which recognizes and submits to the universal sovereignty of Jehovah God, the King of eternity.
23. Why is it since 1919 that this restoration has taken place for them?
23 Since the Kingdom was born in 1914, why do we say that this restoration took place for his people on earth since 1919? Because during World War I, which began in 1914, Jehovah’s anointed remnant on earth did not have proper understanding. They were still tainted with Babylonish things and did not have the theocratic method in operation among them. So they yielded to fear and to unwarranted interference from the ruling elements of this world and came into a Babylonish bondage and were taken into exile from Jehovah’s organization. But in 1919 Jehovah God, for his own name’s sake, brought about their release. By his spirit he moved them to reorganize for Kingdom service in the postwar period. In this way he restored them as his active organization; and by his Word and spirit he infused courage and boldness for the Kingdom and its King into them.
24. How did this affect their eyes, ears, hearts and tongues?
24 Christ Jesus approved of his remnant as a “faithful and discreet slave” and set this slave class over all his earthly belongings. Then by the theocratic organization Jehovah led them from one truth to another, opening the eyes of their hearts and the ears of their understanding to see and hear these truths. Being taught to be reasonable and levelheaded by such truths, they no longer acted rashly or hastily, rushing into sin, but they gained true knowledge and they spoke with understanding, with a certainty of belief, and with the courage of conviction, no longer stammering in fear and unsureness. It turned out just as the third verse of Isaiah’s prophecy had said it would be when the king reigned in righteousness and his princes ruled in justice: “And the eyes of them that see shall not be dim, and the ears of them that hear shall hearken. And the heart of the rash shall understand knowledge, and the tongue of the stammerers shall be ready to speak plainly.”—Matt. 24;45-47, NW; Isaiah 32:3, 4, AS; Isa 29:18, 19; 35:3-6.
25. Because of what obstructors did God lead his people to see the need of theocratic organization, and what did he promise?
25 Because of their activities in preaching to all nations the good news that God’s kingdom was established in 1914, the Greater Assyrian, Satan the Devil, now cast out of heaven, stormed with rage against them. He tried to break up their organization by persecution, by laws framed with mischievous intent, and by the power of dictatorial and totalitarian governments. Among the remnant there still lingered ambitious persons who wanted to shine in official positions rather than to work with the Kingdom interests and who therefore acted as obstructors of the Kingdom witness. Hence God led his people to see that for their safety and for their unity and harmonious activity they must have restored among them theocratic organization. This meant carrying on their organization with God as Ruler, as he is on top, and with all creatures on earth being in subjection to him as Supreme Sovereign, rather than imitating worldly democracy or people’s rule. Jehovah had foretold this cleansing of his remnant of anointed witnesses when he said to his typical organization of old: “Ah, I will ease me of mine adversaries [get satisfaction for myself on my enemies (AT)], and avenge me of mine enemies; and I will turn my hand upon thee, and thoroughly purge away thy dross, and will take away all thy tin [alloy]; and I will restore thy judges as at the first, and thy counsellors as at the beginning: afterward thou shalt be called The city of righteousness, a faithful town.”—Isa. 1:24-26, AS, margin.