The Lord Talks About a King

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In this week's reading, we come across 1 Sam 8 wherein "The Samuel Principle" is shewn. 

We discover an awful lot of detail that is very interesting.  Let's see if you can detect anything familiar.

1) It starts with the children of Israel saying that they don't think they can trust the Prophets, Priests, and Judges because "Hey, Samuel!  Look at your sons! We'd rather have a king!"

2) Then Samuel goes to the Lord and the Lord immediately tells him:

a) They haven't rejected you.  They've rejected me (The Lord).
b) Go ahead and give them a king.  But with a king comes some rules and responsibilities.

3) The people don't like this idea, so they reject the rules for good government but want a king anyway. 

4) Samuel goes to the Lord again, and the Lord says,"Hey, go ahead." (with an implied: "You'll be sorry.")


First, the people think they have a valid complaint.  Samuel's own sons were corrupt.  The prophet, himself, appointed these boys to be judges!  And they're this corrupt?!?! 

Obviously this entire system is broken.  We want a different system.  Hey, everyone else has a king.  Why can't we just have a king?  Everyone else is doing just fine.  So, we'll be better of without God ruling over us.  We'll let a man rule over us instead.

(I don't see any problems with that.  heh-heh).

The Lord knows Samuel's sons are corrupt.  But He still lets us know that the rejection wasn't ever about Samuel's sons.  It was just an excuse.  Their real motivation was that they didn't like this lifestyle anymore. They wanted to be like other nations.  They wanted to reject the Lord while maintaining plausible deniability.

Then the Lord outlines a very scant constitution for good government.  He doesn't bother with the convention and a lengthy document because... the people reject that too and want to be just like all other nations.

Imagine, you're the strongest most powerful nation in the world (as far as the know).  They've won every military encounter based on miracles obviously wrought by God.  But they're tired of it and want to be like other nations who do not have God behind them...

Then we get a response from the Lord which brings to mind the phrase "Be careful what you ask for.  You may get it."

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So, the basic problem with Saul was that he kept trying to usurp priestly authority.  While he agreed that he was only King because the Lord annointed him as such, he tends to have this idea that being king gave him certain religious privileges.

1 Sam 13 -- Saul offers burnt offerings even though he is not a priest.

1 Sam 14 -- Saul randomly declares a fast for the entire army.  This leads people to forget Koshering the food and feasting on non-Kosher foods.

1 Sam 15 -- After being told to kill every living thing, Saul decides to spare Agag and the choice animals "for sacrifice".

Each time, he feels that he has authority simply because he feels like it.  First, it's impatience.  Second, to gain attention and tout his authority.  Then because he feared the people.

What kind of man can he be described as?  He was a large and mighty man.  He was an accomplished warrior.  He was anointed as a king.  Yet, he keeps wanting to do things to boost his image among the people?  And this is not even megalomania (i.e. power corrupting him).  It seems more like a completely ineffective leader who was thrust into the position of king. 

A strong man who gains power will use that power to force/encourage people to follow him (whether for good or evil).
A weak man who gains power will use that power to boost his own image.
A man of God who gains power will use his power to provide freedom and security for his people and encourage them to follow the Lord.

This last test (kill everything) was not a light commandment.  To give such a commandment to Saul meant that this was the last straw for the Amalekites.  And, it appears, it was the last test for Saul.  

Verse 8 says "Saul" took Agag alive.

Verse 9 says "Saul and the people" spared Agag and the choicest animals.

Verse 15: Saul blames "the people" for sparing them.  He continues this lie all the way until v.21.

Then when Samuel calls his bluff, Saul tears Samuel's apron (I'm guessing it was his ephod).  Again a fourth time, he did a sacred no-no.  Priestly robes were not to be touched by non-priests.

Finally:  Even when sentence is pronounced upon him, even as he begs for forgiveness, he isn't sorry about failing in the eyes of the Lord.  He's sorry for being weak in the eyes of the people.

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It should probably be noted that in 1 Samuel 13, Saul is in a desperate situation —he and his 3000 men have just picked a fight with the Philistines, they respond with 30,000 men, Saul wants to offer sacrifice before the battle and Samuel is nowhere to be found.  (And Samuel isn’t even a Levite anyways; if an Ephraimite judge can offer sacrifice, then why not a Benjaminite king?  All other near eastern kings were seen as having a priestly role, and basically being a sort of junior partner with the nation’s god.  By the standards of every culture in the region, Samuel should be completely extraneous at this point.)

Similarly, Israel has spent the last couple of centuries basically being the punching bag of every other nation in the region (not to mention ongoing genocidal internecine warfare).  There was real suffering and desperation, and a craving for stability and certainty and safety; and sometimes when we are in that emotional state we just don’t make very good decisions.  Israel’s challenge, and Saul’s, and ours, is whether we have the patience and courage to “stand still and see the salvation of the Lord”, or whether we will yield to the panicked shrieks of those who demand that we use the secular channels available to us in order to Do Something™.


Edited by Just_A_Guy
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11 hours ago, Just_A_Guy said:

All other near eastern kings were seen as having a priestly role, and basically being a sort of junior partner with the nation’s god.  By the standards of every culture in the region, Samuel should be completely extraneous at this point.

This was, as you say, perfectly logical and reasonable given the circumstances -- according to the customs of men.  And that is exactly why it was wrong.

What happens when God says one thing and the customs of men say another?  Saul (and the more part of the Israelites at the time) kept choosing the customs of men instead of the ways of God.  And as innocent as some of the practices may sound, it wasn't the practices themselves, but the willingness to cleave to the customs of men and despise the ways of the Lord.

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