2. Dominion

R.J. Rushdoony • Mar, 18 2024

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  • Series: Aspects of Systematic Theology
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Our Scripture is from the book of Numbers 24:17-19, and our subject: ‘dominion.’

I shall see him, but not now:

I shall behold him, but not nigh:

There shall come a Star out of Jacob,

And a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel,

And shall smite the corners of Moab,

And destroy all the children of Sheth.

And Edom shall be a possession,

Seir also shall be a possession for his enemies;

And Israel shall do valiantly.

Out of Jacob shall come he that shall have dominion,

And shall destroy him that remaineth of the city. 1

These words are the prophecy of Balaam. When Israel was passing through the neighboring countries to enter into the Promised Land, Balak, king of Moab, or rather Midian, asked or commanded Balaam, a false prophet, but one who to a degree knew the God of Israel, and ordered him to come saying:

“Come, curse this people for me.” 2

The prophecy of Balaam is one of the great prophecies concerning our Lord. The fact that we have hear a false prophet, a man who dies as an enemy of God, prophesying concerning Christ should not surprise us. In one sense, we are all prophets in spite of ourselves. Romans 1:17-18 tells us that all of us hold the truth of God in unrighteousness, we suppress it; but all the things visible and invisible of God are known in the heart of every man, but it is sin that clouds them. When in eternity we are perfectly sanctified and the darkness of sin totally removed from the Redeemed, we shall all of us speak forth the truth of God clearly and be prophets.

Balaam prophesied in spite of himself. He had been sent for by Balak. Balak knew first of all that Israel was plainly and obviously blessed by God. The deliverance from Egypt was a relatively recent fact, it was common knowledge. We must remember also that the Messianic prophecies made known to Abraham and others were also known rather generally. Moreover, the memory of the Flood was not too remote.

As a result, the peoples of the time knew that the God of Scripture existed. They feared Him, but they regarded Him as a kind of absentee God who was an occasional God. They felt that only at times did He come near to the world, into history, in such events as the flood and the Tower of Babel. Apart from the occasional appearances of this occasional God, everyday forces, everyday agencies were seen by the peoples of antiquity as more relevant.

Now, in Israel they were faced again with the threat of this occasional God. They could not forget what had happened at the Red Sea. Very obviously this occasional God was again stirring Himself, and was using Israel; and so Balak was afraid. Second, Balak and others knew that Balaam apparently had some connection with this occasional God, some power with Him, or over Him. Hence the summons given in Numbers 22:6 “Come, curse this people for me.”

Then, next, it was known that this occasional God would someday enter history to rule it. The Messianic prophecy of Genesis 3:15 was known to all men. Hence the heart of Balaam’s prophecy is the Messianic Kingdom; its king and His dominion. Thus the heart of the curse was to prevent precisely this: Balak wanted to forestall the rule of that occasional God. The power of Israel was obviously an alien, a supernatural power, and it could not be allowed to coexist or to pass by in peace.

Now in spite of himself, Balaam, possessed of God, gave not a curse but a blessing and prophesied the coming of the Messiah. The heart of that prophesy by Balaam is in these verses, Numbers 24:17-19. First of all Balaam’s literal words are:

I shall see him, but not now:

I shall behold him, but not nigh:

There hath come forth a Star out of Jacob 3

The tense in the Hebrew is the prophetic past, the historic tense of prophecy. The events are so sure that it is not only past and present, but still future; fulfilled and yet to come. The Messianic King is thus He who is and who was, and is to come; the Almighty.

Then second, this Messianic King is described by Balaam as ‘the star,’ ‘the scepter.’ These are ancient symbols of kingship and of dominion. Behind Israel’s present power therefore, Balaam sees the king of the ages, the Messiah, working. Moab’s problem thus is only superficially Israel, it is the Messianic King. And this great king shall smite both sides of Moab, shall destroy it and break down all the sons of tumult, of the sons of pride or ‘the sons of Sheth.’

Then third, Edom, another great power is to be destroyed. Now both Edom and Moab were peoples who were related to Israel, they had a common ancestry. Both of these peoples were aware of the Messianic prophecies. Very definitely Edom claimed that those prophecies were to be fulfilled in Edom. Because Esau or Edom was the elder son, they felt that the prophecies belonged to Edom rather than to Jacob or Israel. We find of course in the New Testament that belief very clearly; King Herod, an Edomite, presented himself before Israel as the true Messiah. We read about that in Acts 12:20-23.

Like many churches of today, Edom and Moab saw themselves as the bloodline of promise, and like the churches of today, Edom and Moab faced destruction. Because judgment begins at the house of God, Peter tells us in 1 Peter 4:17. Thus the historic, the ancient claim of Edom as well as of Moab, to be of the line of promise, meant nothing; because it is not the bloodline but the faith-line that is basic.

Then fourth we are told that this Messianic King “shall destroy him that remaineth of the city.” This is a very interesting promise, because ‘city’ is a collective noun, it refers to all cities in general, so that what we are told here is that the Messianic king shall wipe out every survivor in the cities. What shall we make of that prediction? Well, it is a very obvious one when we look at cities in terms of the ancient world. The cities were the centers of civilization, they were the fortified, the protected areas. They thus represented the ongoing, surviving civilization that rose above battles. The prophecy, thus, means that the Messiah destroys all the centers of the enemy, all the centers of humanism, all the visible symbols of rule, of power, which the kingdom of man possesses; they are wiped out. “And Israel shall do valiantly,” or “acquire great power or wealth.”

Thus we have a tremendous statement here concerning the fact that when Christ comes it will be the beginning of the end of humanism; that it is to be destroyed.

Then finally, we are told that the Messiah or King, or Christ, is He who shall have dominion. Now this prophecy is echoed again and again in Scripture, most notably in Psalm 72, a Psalm of David, in which we read:

He shall have dominion also from sea to sea,

And from the river unto the ends of the earth. 4

The nature of this dominion is further described in Psalm 72, it means justice and peace for all the peoples of the earth. It means that the oppressors are destroyed and the poor and the needy are saved. It means further, David tells us, that the fear of the king shall restrain all men, and the blessings of the king shall come down like rain from His throne.

Fertility and prosperity shall even prevail to the tops of the mountains. Moreover, verse eleven of Psalm 72 tells us all kings shall fall down before Him, all nations shall serve Him. For:

Out of Jacob shall come he that shall have dominion,

And shall destroy him that remaineth of the city.

Thus this great prophecy tells us very plainly that dominion is basic to Christ, to His salvation, and to His kingdom. Remember, the sign that marked the coming of our Lord was a sign referred to in this prophecy, a star. And the wise man saw His star in the east and came; 5 they came knowing that it heralded the birth of the great Messianic King, and when they spoke of His star and His coming to Herod and the court, we are told that Herod and all Jerusalem with him was troubled, was fearful. 6 They knew what it meant, that the dominion of the King had come, and their dominion, their sway was threatened.

This is an amazing fact! Today we have the pietists in the church denying the fact of dominion, presenting us with a Christ who is only a victim. But Herod and Balaam knew more than most churchmen know today, they knew that Christ shall have dominion to the uttermost parts of the earth, in history, before His coming again; total dominion.

Moreover, they saw it as a present fact: “I see Him. I behold Him. He hath come, a star out of Jacob and a scepter out of Israel.” They saw briefly that behind all the events of history stands the king, and as Paul tells us in the latter part of Hebrews, now the “things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may [alone] remain.” 7 Because He has, even now, dominion.

It is a deadly heresy to limit Christ’s kingdom, to deny His dominion. Balaam saw Christ as the present King in the year 1452 approximately, before Christ. If we say it is a future thing we do not see as well, nor as far as Balaam. Christ is king, the scepter and the dominion are His, and He reigns in time and in eternity. If we insist on seeing Him only as the future king, we cannot have Him as a present savior, because then He does not rule; then He is not omnipotent against sin and death. Then He is for us only an occasional God, as He was for Balak and for the other pagans of his time. And as He is unfortunately to all too many churchmen- an occasional God, who is out there, and is real, but only once in a while does He wake up and strike out in history; at the Flood, the Red Sea, a few times off and on throughout the Old Testament and in Christ. But by and large like Baal of old, they see Him as a God who can sleep, and who spends centuries at a time in slumber.

All who see the God of Scripture, the living God as an occasional God will be governed day-by-day by very practical, mundane, pragmatic considerations. They will be governed by the everyday forces of politics, and of how to get along with people and to influence them. They will be governed, in other words, by humanism. They may profess belief in the God of Scripture, but the God of Scripture is not an occasional God, He is the Lord, and He has dominion. The scepter and the dominion are His, and He reigns. He neither slumbers nor sleeps. We therefore can have Christ truly as our savior, only because He is the king, Lord over all, destroyer of sin and death, and He who shall subdue our enemies under our feet.

Let us pray.

* * *

O Lord our God, we thank thee that we have a star and a scepter, Jesus Christ, and that He hath dominion unto the uttermost parts of the earth. Give us grace therefore to walk in the boldness of His rule and authority, to set forth the crown rights of our king Jesus Christ over every area of life, and to move as more than conquerors through Him that loved us, Jesus Christ our King. In His name we pray, amen.

* * *

Are there any questions now, first of all on our lesson? Yes?

[Audience Member] Should Israel under Joshua have kept the covenant with the Gibeonites when that covenant was obtained by false pretense?

[Rushdoony] A good question. Now, under normal circumstances a fraudulently obtained contract is not valid, and we are not duty bound to honor it, in other words, to give our word to and maintain it, where something is obtained by fraud. However, if there is bad faith on both sides, then neither has any justification for breaking it. And in a sense when the Gibeonites came and by craft obtained a league and a covenant with Israel, there was bad faith on both sides in that Israel failed to do what God had required of them; that He be consulted. They made the league on purely humanistic grounds, so to speak; so they were bound by it.

So only if there is deceit on one side only, only, then a contract is invalid. But if both sides enter into something with anything but fully honest considerations, well then it is another matter entirely.


[Audience Member] What is the plan of salvation, and what are the differences and changes in the Old and the New Covenants?

[Rushdoony] Now, in a sense the term ‘old’ and ‘new’ covenant are both accurate and inaccurate. They are both one and the same covenant. It is the ‘old people’ and the ‘new people’ that constitute the old and the new, Israel the people is the old covenant, and the Christian community is the new people of the covenant. It is the same God and the same covenant, and Paul uses the image of a vine with the old cut out and the new grafted in. So the covenant is the same.

Now there are many, many instances of the covenant in the Bible, and at this point the dispensationalists get into any number of covenants you see. There is the covenant at creation, there is the covenant with Noah, there is the covenant with Abraham, there is the covenant Moses, and other instances of the renewal of the covenant, before and after, so that you can wind up as some people do with umpteen covenants, and therefore if you regard each covenant as a totally new covenant, you end up with umpteen dispensations.

But when you see them as different only in that it is a different person or a different group, but one and the same God making one and the same covenant with people, then you have to say that there is one covenant throughout Scripture; therefore one plan of salvation throughout Scripture, by grace.

Now, salvation is always an act of law and an act of grace. What does that mean? Well, it is an act of law because it requires at all times atonement. God provides that atonement, in the Old Testament symbolically and typically in the animal sacrifices, which typified Christ. In the New Testament Christ, as the atonement, the sacrifice for sin. Now, that necessity is because the penalty for sin is death, the law of God requires it, and the law of God must be satisfied; there can be no salvation apart from the satisfaction of the law. So salvation is an act of law within the Trinity, the Son satisfying the legal requirements of the Trinity. But it is an act of grace towards us, in that the satisfaction rendered by the second person of the Trinity in His incarnation is applied to us, and our sin is canceled. So it is an act of grace.

Now that is exactly what the sacrificial system of the Old Testament set forth, it is exactly what the sacrifice of our Lord openly sets forth. So, you see, it is one and the same plan of salvation, one and the same covenant, but with different peoples. We must remember that fact because it is important for us to understand the events of our time, because in origin almost every modern state in Western Europe and the Americas began in some sense as a covenant-people. We as the United States began as a covenant-people, we saw ourselves as such. The very fact that the oath of office was taken on Deuteronomy 28 tells us that they saw themselves as a covenant-people.

Now, the fact that we have broken the covenant only brings judgment upon us unless we return to it; but it does not mean that if tomorrow God singles out a new group of nations in Africa or Asia to be His covenant-peoples that it is a new covenant, and a new plan of salvation. Does that help answer your question?

[Audience Member] What then of the prophecies of a New Covenant in, for example, Jeremiah 31?

[Rushdoony] Yes, Jeremiah predicts that the Holy Spirit will have a different or a fuller function in the life of the people in the time of Christ, in the time of the Messiah. What is the difference then? Because very obviously the people of the Old Testament did have the Spirit; David prays in sin: “Take not thy Holy Spirit from me” as he beseeches God’s forgiveness. It would be very wrong therefore to say that the Holy Spirit did not indwell the believer in the Old Testament, as a matter of fact we are told right back in the wilderness era that the artists were men that were filled with the Spirit, and their work of art in the preparation of the tabernacle was done with the leading of the Spirit. Now what is the difference? Well, the difference is that the Spirit then spoke prophetically, and the heart of that prophecy, the abiding, the necessary part, is incorporated in the Bible. So that the prior and basic function of the Spirit then was the giving of the Word. Now we have this Word, and the Spirit indwells us to lead us into all truth in harmony with this Word. So now the Spirit has a teaching function in our lives, and we are told that He shall teach us all truth in the New Testament.

So, the Holy Spirit now has a specific function in terms of the completed Word of God, in terms of instruction in the light of this Word; whereas in the Old Testament it had a broader function in that the Word was still being given and men were possessed by the Holy Spirit to give the Word, and to speak prophetically apart from the Word, because some of the men, the prophets, were not writing prophets, they prophesied, they declared the word in terms of purely local situations.

Any other questions? Yes?

[Audience Member] What direction might Iran take in the Afghanistan war?

[Rushdoony] Oh yes. The question is with regard to Afghanistan and Iran, I don’t know what side Iran will take, certainly it is not on our side, and is closer in these things to the Soviet Union- certainly the Marxists in Iran have a very important part in the events that are taking place there. We have seen since ’75 an increasingly troubled weather pattern. This weather pattern has meant very severe winters, droughts, floods, an unstable pattern so that some feel we are, for about forty years, in a little ice age. Very definitely this is hurting the Soviet Union. Their productivity is dropping agriculturally, this means they need the warmer agricultural areas as well as the oil of Iran and other such countries. Thus, a push southward is a must for them if they are going to continue their present course. If they followed a peaceful course of free trade and a free market, of course things would be radically different. But there are some indications that areas that were previously drier are getting more rainfall, this would push the Soviet Union all the more into the warmer areas of Iran. Afghanistan is the way to India, if they get off Afghanistan they will have a better means of controlling Pakistan and India. So, very definitely it is a move for survival on the part of the Soviet Union in terms of its Marxist economy. The alternative would be a free market economy, and then they would indeed prosper; but religiously they are opposed to anything like that. We ourselves are religiously and increasingly opposed to the free market, and are moving towards a similar control in every area of life and thought.

Judgment often does come through conquest and military ruin and havoc; but it has very often come in history through drought, or through storms, and through plagues, through epidemics. So that we could look for judgment in those ways as well in our time.

[Audience Member] What impact might this apparent trend of hostage-taking have?

[Rushdoony] Well, we have seen a peace worker taken as a hostage somewhere in Latin America recently, that was not played up much by the press, yes I think this kind of lawlessness will increase. You see, people assume that you can forsake a religious faith which requires honor among nations, and at the same time have honor continuing. We are entering into a period of international piracy. As a matter of fact the boat people of Indo China have faced pirates were are increasingly taking over in that part of the world. Why not? There is no law, humanism is anti law in essence, and the breakdown of law will become more and more accelerated. The only alternative to it is a return to a true Christian faith, one which mandates dominion.

Let us bow our heads now for the benediction.

* * *

And now go in peace, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, bless you and keep you, guide and protect you, this day and always, amen.

1 Nu 24:17–19.

2 Nu 22:17.

3 Numbers 24:17.

4 Ps 72:8.

5 Matthew 2:2.

6 Matthew 2:3.

7 Heb 12:27.

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