One thing that is evident about empires that have existed on the earth is that they have all been temporary. Although some have survived for hundreds of years, none have been permanent. The kingdom God promised to David’s descendants was to be an eternal kingdom. It says of David’s son in 2 Samuel 7:13, “He shall build a house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever.”
At first, this promise seemed to apply to king Solomon, but after his death, it became apparent that God would not be able to establish an eternal kingdom with a human king. The concept of a Messiah formulated over time and was clarified in Isaiah’s prophesy about Israel’s return to the Promised Land after their captivity. As a sign of God’s faithfulness, Isaiah stated, “Behold, a Virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son , and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).
Isaiah spoke plainly about God’s judgment, but assured the people that God intended to keep his promise to establish an eternal kingdom on earth. It says in Isaiah 9:6-7:
For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to stablish it with judgment and justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.
The timing of Israel’s captivity was important because the Assyrian empire that existed from 916 – 612 B.C. was the first empire comparable to Rome in organization. The Assyrian policy under king Tiglath-pileser was to reduce the whole civilized world into a single empire. God used the king of Assyria to execute judgment on Israel because Isaiah declared “every one is a hypocrite and an evildoer” (Isaiah 9:17).
In spite of God’s indignation toward his people, he didn’t want to destroy them completely. Isaiah indicated that a remnant would be saved and “The remnant shall return, even the remnant of Jacob, unto the mighty God” (Isaiah 10:21). The use of the Messianic title “The mighty God” made it clear that God’s plan would be carried out as a result of the people returning to the Promised Land.
In one sense, Assyrian captivity was preparation for survival under the Roman government. When Isaiah said about the Messiah, “the government shall be upon his shoulder” (Isaiah 9:6), he was referring to the burden of foreign rule. Even though the Assyrian empire self-destructed in 612 B.C., other empires would rise and fall, and God’s people were intended to survive them all.