It has often been noticed as remarkable, that none of the prophets in Judah or Israel, from the time of Solomon down to the time when the prophets began to write their prophecies, or for near two centuries, made any mention, so far as recorded, of the Messiah or the Messianic kingdom. Why was this? Why was not this kingdom held up as an object of hope to encourage the hearts of the people in those dark and troubled days? To this it may be answered, that by no means all the utterances of the prophets during this period are preserved: they may have spoken of the Messiah and His kingdom to the faithful, though their words are not reported.
But there is another answer: our brief historical survey shows us that at no time after the division of the kingdom could the coming of the Messiah have been to the nation at large an object of true spiritual desire or hope. The moral conditions were wanting. The promises respecting Him appealed to faith, and His kingdom in its higher characteristics could not be an object of mere intellectual apprehension. It has been already observed, that only as the people were faithfully fulfilling their duties to Jehovah as the theocratic King, could they understand the nature of the higher blessings of the future kingdom, and truly desire them. That in a time of general unfaithfulness, affecting both king and people, there should have been no true expectation of the Messianic Kingdom, and no mention of it by the prophets, need not, therefore, surprise us. The prophets could not speak of future spiritual blessings to those who had no ear to hear. It was their immediate duty to make the people see their unfaithfulness in their present relations to Jehovah, to convince them of their sins, and, if possible, to bring them to repentance. God sent by their lips many messages to His people, but they had special reference to present transgressions and perils and judgments. In the Northern kingdom, Elijah and Elisha and their companions warned the wicked princes and people of God's anger, and in some cases inflicted by His command severe punishments, but were silent as to Him that was to come. How, indeed, could they speak of Him as the representative of Jehovah, and the Son of David, to those who were openly worshipping Baal, and fighting against the house of David! The first step was to repent, and return to Jehovah, and walk in His ways, and thus be brought into that spiritual condition in which they could hear with joy of the holy Kingdom He had promised.
In the kingdom of Judah, also, the prophets of this period may have been silent as to the Messiah, and, if so, probably from the same cause. Obedience under the Theocracy was the indispensable condition of preparation for the Messianic Kingdom; and this obedience was not simply of individuals, but of the nation headed up in its kings. As the sin had been national, so must be the repentance. Idolatry from the first was tolerated, and afterward sanctioned by royal authority, and thus found entrance into the hearts of the people. (2 Chron. xii. 1.) The images of idols and their impure rites defiled Jerusalem, the city of the great King. In the palace of David was not found that pure and holy atmosphere in which could be nurtured Jehovah's promised Deliverer, the Righteous One; oppression, greed, luxury, were seen everywhere in the land; and the efforts of the occasional faithful kings to stay the flood of evil were unavailing.
Thus it was that to neither kingdom from the time of the division was the promise of God respecting the Messiah as His righteous and holy King, an object of hope, and, therefore, could not be made a subject of prophetic exhortation. The higher stage of Divine revelation and of holiness could not be desired by those who were unfaithful in the lower. That there were individuals who discerned its purport, and ardently desired its fulfillment, we may well believe; and the witness which the Psalms bear to the Messianic hopes of this time will be later considered.