A review of the November 2013, Watchtower study edition
The main body of the Watchtower material presents an informative account of the historical developments leading up to the invasion of Judah by the Assyrians under their king, Sennacherib.
The article points out that the king of Israel joined forces with Syria and was intent on removing the king of Judah – and most likely, the royal linage of David and the ancestral line of the Messiah.
No doubt the Israelites were mere pawns of a satanic scheme to derail Jehovah’s purpose to produce a messianic king at some point in the future. After all, the Hebrew word translated as “satan” means resister – opposer. Everything the Devil does is motivated by his opposition to the establishment of the kingdom of God.
But as is typical of the Watchtower Society their interpretation of prophecy is not so straightforward as their presentation of biblical history. It is, in fact, deceptive. How so?
Consider the comments the Watchtower article makes as regards the meaning of Micah 5:5 under the subheading – Lessons for Today:
“What ‘secret weapon’ does Micah’s prophecy indicate Jehovah would raise up against that implacable foe—“the Assyrian”? A very unlikely one—“seven shepherds, yes, eight dukes”! The shepherds and dukes (or, “princes,” NEB) in this implausible army are the congregation elders. Today, Jehovah certainly has provided an abundance of spiritual men to shepherd his precious sheep, to strengthen his people for the future attack of the modern-day “Assyrian.” Micah’s prophecy states that they will “shepherd the land of Assyria with the sword.” Yes, among ‘the weapons of their warfare,’ you will find “the sword of the spirit,” God’s Word.”
First, it is somewhat odd that the article under consideration uses the word “dukes” even though the new edition of the NWT has replaced “dukes” with “princes.” Despite that fact, the article makes reference to the New English Bible because it uses the word “princes.” Perhaps the article was written some time ago and was not revised to reflect the change in their own translation.
Whatever the case, it is not that “duke” is an unacceptable English language term. Dukes in the modern peerage system are the highest order of rank and may or may not also be princes.
But, it is noteworthy that in the NWT the word “princes” is more common than dukes. And more importantly, the word “princes” is used in prophecy to describe the anointed sons of the King. For example, at Daniel 8:25 the NWT uses the expression “Prince of princes.”
The Watchtower, though, wrongly interprets the “Prince” as being Jehovah, whereas the series of prophecies in Daniel depict Christ conquering the last king in various ways, under varying guises; such as the Son of man, Prince of princes and Michael, the great prince. But, the princes – plural – in that prophecy are obviously the same as the holy ones who are brought to ruin by the king fierce in countenance.
But the question is, are the princes or dukes referred to in Micah really congregation elders, as the Watchtower claims? And do they merely wield the metaphorical sword of the spirit, or something else? And if the symbolic dukes are actually Christian elders, in what way are they a “secret weapon”?
It is always a good idea to familiarize oneself with the context of any passage cited. In this instance please read the entire 5th chapter of Micah.
Briefly, the prophecy spans the period from the time of the Assyrian attack on Judah, through the birth of the Messiah in Bethlehem, alluding to his torturous death (being struck on the cheek), and continuing on to the reign of the heavenly kingdom and the end of the Devil’s entire kingdom, which is what is signified in the last verse of the fifth chapter: “In anger and wrath I will execute vengeance on the nations that have not obeyed.”
Assyria has relevance to the time of Christ’s return by reason of the fact that the Assyrian kingdom comprises one of the heads of the seven-headed beast of Revelation. Because there is only one political beast that has been in existence for several thousand years, which Satan has used to oppose Jehovah’s purpose on earth, and the eighth king springs from the seven, depending on the context the Assyrian may also typify the last kingdom in its opposition to the incoming kingdom of Christ. To place a finer point on it, Jesus was also put to death by the same beastly apparatus, which was then manifest as the Roman Empire. So, that is why it is appropriate to place the assault on the Messiah in the context of the invasion of the Assyrian, seeing that the conflict is ongoing – spanning centuries, only reaching a culmination during the conclusion.
And because Christ sprang from Israel, at least in the flesh, (Israel is also known as Jacob) and the anointed are spiritual brothers of Christ, they are also known as “Jacob” – even though very few of the remaining ones now are actual Jews.
Now consider the context.
The opening verses of the 5th chapter make reference to the “daughter under attack.” And the daughter under attack is prophesied to give birth – the 3rd verse saying: “So he will give them up until the time that she who is to give birth has given birth. And the rest of his brothers will return to the people of Israel.”
The pronoun “he” is referring to the Messiah – “the ruler of Israel,” “whose origin is from ancient times, from the days of long ago.”
Although verse two is in reference to the earthly birthplace of Jesus, the daughter under siege who is to give birth is not the human mother of Jesus. She is the symbolic woman who gives birth to the seed. That birth relates to the birth of the kingdom outlined in the 12th chapter of Revelation, which also depicts a woman giving birth while under siege by the Devil.
“The rest of his brothers” who are to return to the people of Israel are the “remaining ones of her offspring” (the woman), as the new NWT words Revelation 12:17. That expression – “the remaining ones of Jacob” occurs twice in the 5th chapter of Micah. Verses 7-8 read:
“The remaining ones of Jacob will be in the midst of many peoples like dew from Jehovah, like showers of rain on vegetation that do not put hope in man or wait for the sons of men. The remaining ones of Jacob will be among the nations, in the midst of many peoples, like a lion among the beasts of a forest, like a young lion among flocks of sheep, that passes through and pounces and tears in pieces; and there is no one to rescue them.”
Any sensible reading of this chapter connects the seven dukes of mankind with “the remaining ones.” That being the case, are the elders of Jehovah’s Witnesses comparable to a lion among flocks of sheep that “pounces and tears to pieces” with no savior? Or are Christian elders properly designated as the “brothers” of Christ?
What, then, is the meaning of this prophecy? Are the gentle sons of the kingdom any more comparable to “a lion among the beasts of a forest”?
This portion of prophecy is depicting something extraordinary; something of which the Watchtower has no insight into; something which Jehovah has held in reserve, which the new NWT appropriately refers to as “guarded secrets” – scheduled to be revealed at the “present time,” which is to say, during the revelation of the Christ, when the sacred mystery of God is brought to a “grand climax” – to borrow a phrase from the Watchtower Society.
And coinciding with the revealing of Christ is the revealing of the sons of God, about which Paul wrote in the 8th chapter of Romans. What is the revealing of the sons of God? Be assured it is something beyond wonderful. Keep in mind what Paul wrote to the Colossians, saying to those anointed by God: “For you died, and your life has been hidden with he Christ in union with God. When the Christ, our life, is made manifest, then you also will be made manifest with him in glory.”
Even with all of their ballyhoo about Jesus having returned invisibly in 1914, not even the Watchtower is so unreasonable as to claim that Jesus has already been made manifest. And we may be certain that the manifestation of the glorious Prince of princes will not be a commonplace event. That being the case, what is involved with the manifestation of those who are in union with Christ – or the revealing of the sons of God, as it is also worded? The manifestation of the sons of the kingdom must likewise be a supernatural phenomenon. It is, then, those who are presently hidden in Christ who are the secret weapons. They will be a blessing to the friends of God and a bane to the enemies of Jehovah.
Jesus referred to this phenomenon when he said: “At that time the righteous ones will shine as brightly as the sun in the Kingdom of their Father. Let the one who has ears listen.”