In Scriptural use the term “kingdom” may refer to specific aspects of a royal government. It can refer to the realm or geographical area over which sovereignty is exercised. The royal realm thus included not merely the capital city but the entire domain, embracing any subordinate or tributary kingdoms.—1 Ki. 4:21; Esther 3:6, 8.
It may signify kingship, the royal office or position of the king (Luke 17:21), with its accompanying dignity, power and authority. (1 Chron. 11:10; 14:2; Luke 19:12, 15; Rev. 11:15; 17:12, 13, 17) Children of the king may be referred to as the “offspring of the kingdom.”—2 Ki. 11:1.
THE ISRAELITE KINGDOM
The Law covenant given through Moses to the nation of Israel made provision for a kingdom rule. (Deut. 17:14, 15) The individual heading the kingdom was empowered and given royal dignity, not for personal exaltation, but to serve for the honor of God and the good of his Israelite brothers. (Deut. 17:19, 20; compare 1 Samuel 15:17.) Nevertheless, when the Israelites in course of time requested a human king, the prophet Samuel warned of the demands such a ruler would make upon the people. (1 Sam. chap. 8) The kings of Israel seem to have been more approachable and more accessible to their subjects than were the monarchs of most ancient Oriental kingdoms.—2 Sam. 19:8; 1 Ki. 20:39; 1 Chron. 15:25-29.
Though the kingdom of Israel began with a king from the line of Benjamin, Judah thereafter became the royal tribe, in keeping with Jacob’s deathbed prophecy. (1 Sam. 10:20-25; Gen. 49:10) A royal dynasty was established in David’s line. (2 Sam. 2:4; 5:3, 4; 7:12, 13) When the kingdom was ‘ripped away’ from Solomon’s son Rehoboam, ten tribes formed a northern kingdom, while Jehovah God retained one tribe, Benjamin, to remain with Judah, “in order that David my servant may continue having a lamp always before me in Jerusalem, the city that I have chosen for myself to put my name there.” (1 Ki. 11:31, 35, 36; 12:18-24) Though the Judean kingdom fell to the Babylonians in 607 B.C.E., the legal right to rule eventually passed on to the rightful heir, the “son of David,” Jesus Christ. (Matt. 1:1-16; Luke 1:31, 32; compare Ezekiel 21:26, 27.) His kingdom was to be endless.—Isa. 9:6, 7; Luke 1:33.
A royal organization developed in Israel to administer the interests of the kingdom. It consisted of an inner circle of advisors and ministers of state (1 Ki. 4:1-6; 1 Chron. 27:32-34), as well as various governmental departments with their respective overseers to administer crown lands, supervise the economy and supply the needs of the royal court.—1 Ki. 4:7; 1 Chron. 27:25-31.
While the kings of Israel in the Davidic line could issue specific orders, the actual legislative power rested with God. (Deut. 4:1, 2; Isa. 33:22) In all things the king was responsible to the true Sovereign and Lord, Jehovah. Wrongdoing and waywardness on the part of the king would bring divine sanctions. (1 Sam. 13:13, 14; 15:20-24) Jehovah at times communicated with the king himself (1 Ki. 3:5; 11:11), at other times he gave him instructions and counsel or reproof through appointed prophets. (2 Sam. 7:4, 5; 12:1-14) The king could also draw upon the wise counsel of the body of older men. (1 Ki. 12:6, 7) The enforcement of instructions or reproof, however, rested, not with the prophets or older men, but with Jehovah.
When the king and the people faithfully adhered to the Law covenant given them by God, the nation of Israel enjoyed a degree of individual freedom, material prosperity and national harmony unparalleled by other kingdoms. (1 Ki. 4:20, 25) During the years of Solomon’s obedience to Jehovah, the Israelite kingdom was widely renowned and respected, having many tributary kingdoms and benefiting from the resources of many lands.—1 Ki. 4:21, 30, 34.
Jehovah God’s kingship, while visibly expressed for a time through the Israelite kingdom, is one of universal sovereignty. (1 Chron. 29:11, 12) Whether acknowledged by the peoples and kingdoms of mankind or not, his kingship is absolute and unalterable, and all the earth is part of his rightful domain. (Ps. 103:19; 145:11-13; Isa. 14:26, 27) By virtue of His creatorship, Jehovah exercises his sovereign will in heaven and in earth according to his own purposes, answerable to no one (Jer. 18:3-10; Dan. 4:25, 34, 35), yet always acting in harmony with his own righteous standards.—Mal. 3:6; Heb. 6:17, 18; Jas. 1:17; see KINGDOM OF GOD.
KINGDOM OF GOD
The expression and exercise of God’s universal sovereignty toward his creatures, or the means or instrumentality used by him for this purpose. (Ps. 103:19) The phrase is used particularly for the expression of God’s sovereignty through a royal administration headed by his Son, Christ Jesus.
The word rendered “kingdom” in the Christian Greek Scriptures is ba·si·leiʹa, meaning “a kingdom, realm, the region or country governed by a king; kingly power, authority, dominion, reign; royal dignity, the title and honour of king.” (The Analytical Greek Lexicon, p. 67) The phrase “the kingdom of God” is used frequently by Mark and Luke, and in Matthew’s account the parallel phrase “the kingdom of the heavens” appears some thirty times.—Compare Mark 10:23 and Luke 18:24 with Matthew 19:23, 24; see HEAVEN (Spiritual Heavens); KINGDOM.
The government of God is, in structure and function, a pure theocracy (from Greek the·osʹ, god, and kraʹtos, a rule), a rule by God. The term “theocracy” is attributed to Jewish historian Josephus of the first century C.E., who evidently coined it in his writing Against Apion (Book II, par. 17). Of the government established over Israel in Sinai, Josephus wrote: “Some legislators have permitted their governments to be under monarchies, others put them under oligarchies, and others under a republican form; but our legislator [referring to Moses] had no regard to any of these forms, but he ordained our government to be what, by a strained [coined] expression, may be termed a Theocracy [Gr., The·o·kra·tiʹan], by ascribing the authority and the power to God.” To be a pure theocracy, of course, the government could not be ordained by any human legislator, such as the man Moses, but must be ordained and established by God. The Scriptural record shows this was the case.
ORIGIN OF THE TERM
The term “king” (Heb., meʹlekh) evidently came into use in human language after the global flood. The first earthly kingdom was that of Nimrod “a mighty hunter in opposition to Jehovah.” (Gen. 10:8-12) Thereafter, during the period down to Abraham’s time, city-states and nations developed and human kings multiplied. With the exception of the kingdom of Melchizedek, king-priest of Salem (who served as a prophetic type of the Messiah [Gen. 14:17-20; Heb. 7:1-17]), none of these earthly kingdoms represented God’s rule or were established by him. Men also made kings of the false gods they worshiped, attributing to them the ability to grant power of rulership to humans. Jehovah’s application of the title “King [Meʹlekh]” to himself, as found in the post-Flood writings of the Hebrew Scriptures, therefore meant God’s making use of the title men had developed and employed. God’s use of the term showed that he, and not presumptuous human rulers or man-made gods, should be looked to and obeyed as “King.”—Jer. 10:10-12.