Israel Desires a King


After the conquest of the Promised Land through Joshua and Caleb, Judges were raised up by God to lead the people back to Him.  In Hebrew, Judges (Shophet) “not only carries the idea of maintaining justice and settling disputes, but it is also used to mean liberating and delivering.”[1]  However, at the close of this period, Israel is marked with the failure of Samson juxtaposed against a ray of hope in Ruth.  The lineage of God’s eternal covenant is highlighted and fixated on the upcoming monarchy.  The people of Israel continued to be victimized by their enemies, and the Philistines were the most feared.  The advanced military strength of the Philistines surpassed the Hebrews, and “during this time made Israel long for a king who would fight their battles for them (1 Samuel 8).”[2]

Although the coming monarchy was the next, necessary step for Israel after the tumultuous period of the Judges, the decision to choose a king was “vastly different from the vision the people had espoused.”[3]  As prophesied by Jacob, the tribe of Judah was the promised lineage to the eternal covenant where he said, “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be his” (Genesis 49:10, NIV).  Instead of relying on attributes that God desired in a monarch, the people of Israel sought out characteristics in their leader which demonstrated “that he was the people’s choice, more than God’s choice for a king.”[4]

The people of Israel chose Saul based on factors that were not entirely God’s desire for a king.  “Kish had a son named Saul, as handsome a young man as could be found anywhere in Israel, and he was a head taller than anyone else” (1 Samuel 9:2, NIV).  Saul was good looking, taller than most, and a victorious leader who defeated Nahash the Ammonite which “solidified Saul’s authority as Israel’s first king in the eyes of the people.”[5]  Unfortunately for Saul, his kingdom did not last.  His consistent disregard for God’s theocratic institution inevitably brought on his tragic fall from grace.  From the undermining and overthrow of the priests at Gilgal, to his desire for revenge against the Philistines; his indifference to his men’s needs which caused him to “make a rash vow”[6] that took the life of his son, or the blatant insubordination of God’s specific instructions to eradicate the Amalekites, God finally rejected Saul as His appointed King of Israel. “But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7, NIV).

Not only was David from Bethlehem, but he was also from the tribe of Judah, the prophesied line to the Messiah.  When Samuel anointed David, “from that day on the Spirit of the LORD came powerfully upon David” (1 Samuel 16:13b, NIV), and this “made clear that David represented God’s choice as king.”[7]  God’s decision to anoint David as the king of Israel is further enforced when he defeats Goliath the Gath.  It is here that David cries out to Goliath, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.” (1 Samuel 17:45, NIV).  David relied on the Lord’s strength, and not his own, to defeat the enemies of Israel, “standing alone with God and winning a dramatic victory because he believed that “the battle is the Lord’s.”[8]

Throughout David’s monarchy we continuously see the attributes of a repentant, Godly king who was after God’s heart.  Luke writes, “After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do” (Acts 13:22, NIV).   David was God’s man, a man who at first, “refused to kill Saul, showing his respect for the office of the king and the significance of God’s anointed.”[9]  Saul said to David, “I know that you will surely be king and that the kingdom of Israel will be established in your hands” (1 Samuel 24:20, NIV).  Among the many instances where David exemplifies the characteristics of a proper king for Israel, he is continuously “presented in a positive light as one who is still concerned with the proper treatment of the Lord’s anointed.”[10]

David’s heir Solomon, was glorified in his kingdom with the building and dedication of the temple of God, and who also pursued David’s calling and abolition of threats against his reign.  Because of his “covenant obedience,”[11] Solomon was able to fortify and strengthen the nation of Israel, and the “kingdom was now established in Solomon’s hands” (1 Kings 2:46b, NIV).  However, his covenant rebellion seen in his “proliferation of wives (11:1-8) turned him away from wholeheartedly following the Lord.”[12]  Through his engagements with foreign women, his heart turned towards other gods, honoring them in many ways, forsaking the covenant and statutes he had made with the Lord.  God closes His judgment on Solomon saying, “I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates.” (1 Kings 11:11, NIV).

Even though the people of Israel desired a king that did not meet the standards God had intended, inevitably, God’s will had been fulfilled in the reign of David and Solomon, the ancestral lineage to the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ.  Regardless of whether the free will of mankind may not meet the criteria of the purpose and will of God, in the end, He is sovereign, and will use both good and bad instances to bring about His overarching plan.

[1] Wilkinson & Boa, The Talk Thru Bible (Nashville, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2002), 59.

[2] Hindson & Yates, The Essence of the Old Testament (Nashville, B&H Publshing, 2012), 161.

[3] Ibid, 165.

[4] Ibid, 164.

[5] Ibid, 165.

[6] Ibid, 165-166.

[7] Ibid, 166

[8] Ibid, 166.

[9] Ibid, 167.

[10] Ibid, 169.

[11] Ibid, 180.

[12] Ibid, 181.

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