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)
Was God against a king? Some scholars see the monarchy as a example of God’s using a choice made against his will. God counseled Israel against the very institution that ultimately produced King David, and through him Jesus, Kings of Kings.
Others suggest that God only opposed the motive behind the request.(Deut. 17: 14-20 Knew the Israelites would eventually want and get a king) The key is the Phrase the elders used:
"Then we will be like all the other nations" (8:20). God did not want them to be like all the other nations.
Yet God gave in to their request, bad motives and all. He not only allowed the Israelites a king, he picked out their king. He accepted the monarchy on condition that Israel still considers the Lord as its ultimate ruler (12:14). They were still different.
When I was younger and leaving at home I would ask my father if I could stay up past my bedtime and watch TV. I would beg him until he said, "yes." I would make statements like, "I will never ask you again if you let me stay up this one last time." Then I would give him a sad and deprived look. But, my father knew what the out come would be if I stayed up. You see, daddy was wise and he knew that I would not want to get up in the morning and go to school. He knew that I would not be in the best of moods if gave up those two or three hours of sleep just to watch a TV program. Then I would make the ultimate mistake; I would say, " Tony gets to stay up late and watch TV." That would drive him up a wall. And if any of you know my father, you know not to get him in a lecturing mode. It would get so bad that my mother would leave the room. She would say, "Frank I am just not in the mood for a long talk." Here I was, trying to be like everybody else. I thank God today that I have a father that was wise not to let me have everything I asked for. He was wise enough to know what was right and what was not right. A good father "brings his children up in the training and instruction of the Lord." Ephesians 6:4. You see church you can’t live like everybody else, because you’re not like everybody else.