Summary: Making a single nation out of a dozen tribes was not easy. Unity came hard for Israel; it also came for the United States. U.S. history may shed light on I Samuel’s story.
THE DANGER IN ASKING
Making a single nation out of a dozen tribes was not easy. Unity came hard for Israel; it also came for the United States. U.S. history may shed light on I Samuel’s story.
Most people think George Washington was the first president of the United States, but that honor actually belongs to Samuel Huntington. He never achieved fame because the states he presided over weren’t united. They had no Constitution, only Articles of Confederation that made them 13 independent nations loosely linked together.
Two years after Huntington took office, on June 21, 1783, 500 unpaid federal soldiers laid siege to Congress in Philadelphia, tearing the town to pieces and attempting to physically hurt Congress, which was supposed to pay them, had no money. The independent States had not paid the soldiers nor had they intended to pay them. Forced out of town by anger unpaid soldiers, Congress became a traveling Government, meeting on Princeton, Annapolis, Trenton, and New York City. That same June, George Washington wrote, " It is yet to be decided whether the Revolution must ultimately be considered a blessing or a curse."
Troubles continued. In Shay’s Rebellion, 1,500 hostile farmers surrounded courtrooms, refusing to let courts meets. The army should have quickly dispersed them, but the national army consisted of only 700 men. Shay’s Rebellion made obvious the need for a stronger central government. The next year a constitutional convention met in Philadelphia to hammer out the document that still unifies Americans. Washington was elected president.
Why did Israel need a king? The 12 tribes of Israel, like the 13 states, were a nation in name only. They had no central government at all. Since conquering Palestine, they had worked together only during emergencies, when inspired "judges" -military heroes like Gideon, Deborah, and Samson came forward to lead them into battle.
In Samuel’s time, though, the Philistines’ military threat wouldn’t go away. Israel needed superior leadership, but Samuel was an old man. His sons made unappealing successors. What could be done? Looking around them, the tribes noticed that virtually every other country had a king. A king offered two advantages: first, he provided central government; second, since his sons would normally succeed a king, the nation did not have crisis of leadership every time its leader got old. So the leaders taught it would be wise to have Samuel appoint a king. It seemed like Israel needed a king. It seemed to be the only logical thing to do? Well there were those Hebrew boys, Daniel, Job, and Jesus.
The Idea seems to have been popular with everyone except Samuel and God. Samuel may have been displeased that he and his sons were being rejected, but God had a deeper objection: Israel was rejecting his leadership. God told Samuel to warn the elders that a king would oppress his own citizens. Samuel warned of the military draft, of high taxation, of the king’s power to make people into slaves. (8:10-18)