Zadok the Texan

38 So Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, the Cherethites, and the Pelethites went down and had Solomon ride on King David’s mule, and took him to Gihon. 39 Then Zadok the priest took a horn of oil from the tabernacle and anointed Solomon. And they blew the horn, and all the people said, “Long live King Solomon!” 40 And all the people went up after him; and the people played the flutes and rejoiced with great joy, so that the earth seemed to split with their sound. (1 Kings 1:38-40)

As my wife and I have been telling people that we intend to name our son Zadok, it has become apparent that most our friends are rusty on certain sections of their Old Testament. It seems too that they’re rusty on their Handel and their British coronation anthems, but neither of us knew about those connections either until we started googling around the name ‘Zadok’ to see what we could see. To knock off some rust and to include as many people as we can in our hopes and prayers for our son, I thought it would be good to write out a summary of who Zadok was and how we see the name functioning for our son.

The Hebrew name ‘Zadok’ translates to English as ‘righteous’ or ‘justified,’ and there are a few Zadoks in the Bible. Jesus has a Zadok in his lineage (Matt. 1:14), and there are a number of Zadoks who return to Jerusalem with Nehemiah after the exile in Babylon (Zadok, son of Baana, in Nehemiah 3:4; Zadok, son of Immer, in Nehemiah 3:29; and Zadok the scribe in Nehemiah 13:13).

The Zadok we hear most about in Scripture, though, is Zadok the son of Ahitub. He is a member of the tribe of Levi and is one of the Aaronites who flock to David in Hebron in order “to turn the kingdom of Saul to him, according to the word of the LORD” (1 Chronicles 12: 23). After Saul is killed, David is installed as king of the tribe of Judah and rules in Hebron but he is not yet king over all Israel. He was anointed king while Saul was still alive, but there is a long war between the house of Saul and the house of David, and even after Sauls death, it takes seven-and-a-half years for David to consolidate power and receive the throne which God promised him. During those seven-and-a-half years, some Israelites who weren’t of the tribe of Judah heeded the word of the Lord to David and made a covenant with him that he should be their king. Zadok was among these Israelites and the Chronicler describes him as “a young man, a valiant warrior,” and describes this group more generally as “men of war, who could keep ranks, [who] came to Hebron with a loyal heart” (1 Chronicles 12:28; 38).

During David’s reign, Zadok serves alongside Abiathar as one of the priests (2 Samuel 8:17). We don’t hear much about him until David’s son Absalom attempts to steal the kingdom away from David. Absalom gains the hearts of the men of Israel and David has to flee Jerusalem. Again, loyal Israelites flock to David the shepherd-king (2 Samuel 5:2), and they form a procession as they leave the city. Not only does Zadok show up again at this point, but he brings all the Levites and the ark of the covenant with him.

Recall that Uzzah died because of his improper handling of the ark when the ark was entering Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6:1-8). It is a weighty thing to decide that the ark needs to be moved without a word from God. But God’s wrath breaking forth against Uzzah in the past does not deter Zadok from action. He knows that he has been ordained to serve at the ark, he trusts that God has been clear in what he’s said about how to handle it reverently, and he’s courageous to act on this confidence. In his loyalty, Zadok is eager to honor the Lord’s anointed, and he thinks it’s only fitting that if the rightful king is leaving the city, then the place where God dwells ought to go out too. David disagrees as to the fittingness of this move, tells Zadok to return to the city with the ark, and David entrusts himself to the Lord. David knows that if he finds favor in the Lord’s eyes he will return to his city (2 Samuel 15).

As it turns out, the Lord has Zadok play a pivotal role in David’s return. Having been left behind in Jerusalem, Zadok the priest becomes Zadok the spy. He listens for Absalom’s plans and then sends his son as a runner to communicate those plans to David. The king receives this intelligence in time to move his camp and regroup at a town across the Jordan River. Absalom follows his father across the river and is killed in the ensuing battle (see 2 Samuel 15-18).

This would have perhaps been enough for one man’s story, but it is not the end. Some time later, another of David’s sons tries to seize the throne. Some who were loyal to David in the last rebellion are convinced away from their loyalty. Zadok remains faithful. Abiathar the priest, who had been a brother priest with Zadok for years and who had acted with Zadok as a spy for David, is persuaded to join with the rebellion. David’s son has recruited David’s priest and the commander of his armies, Joab. This looks bad, but it is the scene directly before the majestic coronation verses quoted at the start of this post. To fight this rebellion, David has Zadok anoint Solomon as king over Israel. The people who had been broken up in factions receive this appointment with gladness: “the people played the flutes and rejoiced with great joy, so that the earth seemed to split with the sound” (1 Kings 1:40). Solomon the Son of David receives the kingdom from his father. The people put aside their rebellion to receive their king. And heaven and nature sing.

Zadok recognized David as the Lord’s anointed as early as Hebron, and never wavered in his devotion. God had promised that David’s son would be God’s own son, and that this son—Solomon—would build a house for the name of the Lord (2 Samuel 7). Zadok anointed this Solomon as king and was the priest during the time of the construction of Solomon’s temple. The Lord had cut a covenant with David and his line. Zadok rejoiced in this and kept his “loyal heart” till the end.

It may be obvious by this point why my wife and I want to name our son Zadok. We want Zadok the Texan to be like Zadok the priest in a number of ways.

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This piece features the Hebrew of Song of Songs 6:3, which translates to “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” Liana made this for me for my birthday last year. She continues to fill our house with wonderful things.

First, we want our Zadok to be a priest like his namesake. By this we mean that we want him to serve Christ as Zadok the priest served at the tabernacle, and then at the temple. That is, we want him to be a servant and friend of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is both the temple rebuilt and the heir of the throne of David, and so devotion, service, and friendship are appropriate for his priests. We want our Zadok to play the flute and rejoice with great joy because Jesus the Son of David is seated at the right hand of the throne of God, and we want him to lead other people into this rejoicing as well. We want him to have an eager loyalty to the Lord, courageously hearing the word and doing it.

Second, we want our Zadok to receive the best of what we have to pass on to him and to reject what is useless. To be a priest, the first Zadok had to be a Levite. The Levites were descended from Levi. And Levi was a violent man. When his dad died, his dad’s last blessing to him was to curse his anger (Genesis 49:7; 28). Generations later, though, the descendants of Levi are designated the priestly tribe because of their violence. They’re zealous for the Lord and in the face of Israel’s idolatry with the golden calf, it is the Levites who take up their swords against their brothers and kill three thousand men from among the people (Exodus 32:25-29). Some time later, a descendant of Levi and ancestor of Zadok named Phineas saves the people of Israel from the wrath of God by running his javelin through the middles of a couple of idolatrous fornicators (Numbers 25). Generations later, Zadok was a priest and a warrior like his fathers and he had to learn how to be the right kind of violent. In his opposition to idolatry, he had to learn how to be zealous with the zeal of God, how to be like Phineas. In his anger, though, he should not sin. He should not become violent like Levi, bringing the curses of his fathers upon him.

Of course, we Richmonds are not Levites. But these things go along with what it means to be a man. Men must learn how to wield their strength. They must never compromise with evil or tolerate wickedness, and they must not give themselves over to their fighting spirit such that they are animated by their own zeal instead of the Lord’s. We want our Zadok to be dangerous to his enemies, and to learn to control and aim his powers so that he will be—at the same time—a valiant warrior and a gentle Christian. We also want to raise him with the ability to discern what is good and right about his own past, and what needs to be improved upon or rejected. We want him to receive his lineage with gratitude because it is a witness to him of how the Lord has been faithful to his family long before he was on the scene. And we want him to evaluate what he receives from us with a view toward refining it and passing on a more concentrated dose of faithfulness to his own sons and grandsons.

And this brings us to the third and final reason we decided upon such an unusual name: Zadok the priest was not only faithful himself, but he raised faithful sons who continued in the best of what it meant to be a priest in Israel. Generations after Zadok lived, we see the sons of Zadok appointed as the priests who are sanctified to serve in the sanctuary of the Lord because they had not gone astray like the rest of Israel and the rest of the tribe of Levi had gone astray (Ezekiel 48:11). Among the Levitical families, Zadok’s line alone remained faithful to the Lord, not veering to the right or to the left. We hope that the Lord will cause such faithfulness in the sons and daughters of our son for generations to come.

This is a lot to hope, so we have much prayer and much work to do. As always, it’s ora et labora. And though we hope he will out do us in all things, we hope to make it as hard as we can to be outdone.  Toward that end, we continue to rejoice with great joy at the life that has been entrusted to us, and we can’t wait to meet him.

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