by Stuart Gathman

The Sceptre Shall Not Depart From Judah

What is Fascism?

Are you wondering how this question is going to tie in to our Bible lesson?

Today, everyone of every political stripe has been called a “Nazi” by someone. This is not a new development. In 1944, at the height of World War II, George Orwell described this behavior in his essay, “What is a Fascist?”. Youtube personality, “The Black Pigeon”, argues that World War II has given the West an anti-ideal - Nazi Germany. Instead of aspiring to positive ideals, we aspire to be as unlike our anti-ideal as possible. Humans do not do well with negative role models. The man who strives to be unlike his alcoholic father, becomes him.

The Literal Meaning of Fascism

There are academic definitions of economic and cultural fascism - but nobody cares or uses them except academics. There is no consistent popular meaning, other than “people we don’t like are fascists”. No one uses or cares about the literal meaning either, but it is historically, and Biblically instructive.

What is a Scepter?

The dictionary defines “scepter” as “an ornamented staff carried by rulers on ceremonial occasions as a symbol of national sovereignty.” Egypt used a “sekhem”, Rome used a fasces. The Roman fasces was a bundle of rods with an axe in the middle. As a child of the Roman Empire, the United States depicts a bundle of arrows carried by a great eagle on its Seal, which resembles the Roman fasces.

In Genesis 9, God gives the authority and responsibility to every government since the flood to take the life of murderers. From Egypt to Rome, the power to carry out capital punishment was the practical mark of national sovereignty - and the sceptre was its symbol. From Noah to the present, the right of an individual to self defense is the mark of individual sovereignty. Throughout history, only slaves have been denied that right.

The Scepter shall not depart from Judah

In Genesis 49 Jacob prophesies on his deathbed that “The scepter shall not depart from Judah until Shiloh come.” Shiloh is the Messiah, and the scepter did not depart from Judah until AD 9, when repeated massacres by a corrupt Herod Archelaeus (Wars of the Jews 2:8) led Rome to banish him to Gaul and remove the power of capital punishment from Judea, making Judeah a Roman province, appointing Caponius Procurator (around 7 A.D.):

“But in the tenth year of Archelaus’ government, both his brethren, and the principal men of Judea and Samaria, not being able to bear his barbarous and tyrannical usage of them, accused him … Caesar, upon hearing what certain accusers had to say… both banished him, and appointed Vienna, a city of Gaul, to be the place of his habitation, and took his money away from him…Caponius also, a man of the equestrian order, was sent…to have the supreme power over the Jews” (Josephus, Antiquities, Book 17; chapter 13 verse 2 and Book 18; chapter 1 verse 1).

By that decree, the Sanhedrin was restricted and adjudication of capital offenses was lost. The Jews went about mourning for they thought (but see Luke 2:42-52):

“Woe unto us for the scepter has departed from Judah and the Messiah has not come!” (Babylonian Talmud, chapter 4, folio 37).

The Word of God had apparently failed. But Messiah had certainly been born, and apparently (given current date of 4 BC for his birth) had also presented himself to the Jewish leaders in the temple.

Twenty some years later, when the Jewish leaders arrested Jesus and Pilate reviewed the case, Pilate tells them to judge him according to their own laws. “It is not lawful for us to put a man to death.” they respond - for the scepter had departed from Judah, and they must kill their Messiah as the Lamb of God even as they killed the Passover lambs during the coming day.

The Scepter and National Sovereignty

Why was it such a disaster for the Jews when the Scepter departed from Judah? The scepter was a symbol of national sovereignty. Even when under the yoke of Babylon, Persia, or Greece, the Jews were self governing - as long as they paid their taxes and tribute. The departure of the scepter meant a loss of sovereignty.

Self Defense and Individual Sovereignty

Over that same 4000 years, there was one common feature of slavery: slaves could not carry a weapon for self defense. (They were of course often required to carry one for their masters as “cannon fodder”.) This is why losing the right of self defense is a big deal.

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