Was Kingship a Step Forward?

I. The Importance of Samuel

1.  Shifts in the Book of 1 Samuel

Bruce Waltke[footnote]Old Testament Theology (Grand Rapids:  Zondervan, 2007) , 624.[/footnote]notes “three tectonic shifts in God’s structuring of his kingdom” according to the book of Samuel:

The shift of worship from Shiloh to Jerusalem

The shift from “charismatic” judges to the “dynastic” house of David

The shift from a tribal league to a unified kingdom with imperial capacity.

2.  The Orders – Old and New

The shift from Eli to Samuel

The shift from Samuel to Saul

The shift from Samuel to David

3.  The Problem of Kingship
The impression exists that Israel’s request for a king was sinful.  The logic is as follows:  The people rejected God’s divine theocracy over Israel by demanding a human king.  An appeal is made to selected passages: “They have rejected me that I should not reign over them” (1 Sam. 8:7).  “But a king shall reign over us:  when the LORD your God was your king” (1 Sam. 12:12).  If this were true, it would pose a problem for other passages of Scripture.

  1. Deut. 17:14-15 allows for the appointment of a king, albeit, one whom the Lord will choose;  not a foreign king;  nor one who will follow the policies of foreign kings.
  2. Moreover, there is every indication that the kingship of David was a divine gift which would be typical (Gen. 49:10), and not a concession.
  3. The period of the Judges shows what misery resulted from lacking good, godly, leadership in the theocracy under God.
  4. Hannah and an unnamed prophet prophesy of the coming of a king (1 Sam. 2:10; 1 Sam. 2:35).
  5. Moses was a king of sorts (Deut. 33:2).

Kingship itself was not bad;  in fact, it was foreordained.  In order to view this aright, we must pay attention to the details of the text:  The people’s request is for “a king to judge us like all the nations (1 Sam. 8:5).  This desire to be like the nations was tantamount to rebellion to the express command of God not to become like the other nations.  The specifics of this request were a real rejection of God’s wisdom as commander of his people.  Therefore, God says:  “Shew them the manner of the king that shall reign over them” (1 Sam. 8:9).  Samuel illustrates that the problem is with the manner of kingship and not the matter of kingship.

Note: G. Vos: “At first, when the people asked for a king, Jehovah disapproved of the un-theocratic spirit in which the request was made, and declared it tantamount to rejection of Himself.”

Note: Goldswothy:  “The request for a king, which Samuel at first refuses, is born of a desire to imitate the pagan nations.  This was indeed a rejection of the covenant model and therefore, a rejection of God’s rule (1 Sam. 8:4-8) … They are not interested in the covenant so much as in safety, security and strength.  They forget that God has committed himself in the covenant to give them those things in a way that no pagan ruler could” (According to Plan, 165).

A better framework within which to understand the monarchy as gift is that there were different phases of the theocracy – a Mosaic phase, a Joshaic phase, a judicial phase, and a monarchic phase.  God would have undoubtedly provided for kingship through David, but because of the base and compromised character of the people’s request, God gives them the kingship of Saul, and the oppressive character of the later kings, to fulfill their request, and give them a taste of the fruit of their own imagination.  If the people had waited for the Lord and kept to the strictly defined character of the king under God, who can tell, what the glory days of Israel would have been.

II.  The Suffering and Rise of David

We should not underestimate this time of adversity in David’s life. He went about as a deer escaping from the hunters; with no resting place for the sole of his foot; he was betrayed by Doeg and by the children of the wilderness of Ziph. David confessed that there was but a step between him and death (1 Sam. 20:3). He was an outcast and a byword. He helped many, but few gave him assistance. “And every one that was in distress, and very one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented, gather themselves unto him” (1 Sam. 22:1-2). He spared Saul in the cave of Adullam, but Saul in turn tried frequently to kill anointed one of the Lord.
Add to this the persecution under Absalom, and the spiritual assaults he faced recorded in the Psalms, we have a portrait of a man of sorrows, one who suffered much. The Bible tells us also however, of his turmoil for the house of God. “Lord, remember David, and all his affliction …” (Ps. 132:1-5).
For his pain, however, he received double. David was anointed three times. He was anointed by Samuel in Bethlehem. He was anointed in Hebron by the men of Judah (2 Sam. 2:2). He was anointed by all the elders of all the tribes in Hebron (2 Sam. 5:3). They came to him and said: we are thy bone and thy flesh (2 Sam. 5:1). And in this he was anointed by God: I have found David my servant; with my holy oil have I anointed him (Ps. 89:20). He had victory of his enemies. What is more, God remembered his efforts for the sanctuary. He gave him a house forever more. He promised that his seed would sit upon his throne for evermore (2 Sam. 7; Ps. 89; Ps. 132). The Lord chose Zion and desired it for his habitation. The Lord blesses Zion and provides for her, and satisfies her poor with bread; he clothes her priests with salvation, and her saints shall shout aloud for joy. He ordained a lamp for his anointed.
Conclusion: David was a type of the great anointed one, who was obedient in what He suffered, and whom God anointed with oil of gladness above his fellows (Heb. 1:9).

III.  The Covenant with David

Palmer Robertson: “In the Davidic Covenant God’s purposes to redeem a people to himself reach their climactic stage of realization so far as the Old Testament is concerned. Under David the kingdom arrives.  God formally establishes the manner in which he shall rule among his people” (Christ and the Covenants, 229).
Kaiser:  “…[S]o the ancient promise of blessing to all mankind would continue; only now it would involve David’s dynasty, throne, and kingdom. Indeed it was a veritable ‘charter’ granted as God’s gift for the future of all mankind” (“The Blessing of David:  Humanity’s Charter,” in The Law and the Prophets, ed. Skilton, p. 313).
Dynasty and Dwelling-place
David’s desire to build God a house becomes the occasion for God to promise David a house.  Robertson:  “David wishes to establish for God a permanent dwelling-place in Israel. God declares that he shall establish the perpetual dynasty of David” (232). Robertson goes on:  In his gracious words to David, God indicates that these two ‘permanencies’ shall be linked together.  He shall establish David’s dynasty, and David’s dynasty shall establish his permanent dwelling-place.  But the order of grace must be maintained.  First the Lord sovereignty establishes David’s dynasty; the dynasty of David shall establish the Lord’s dwelling-place” (v. 13)” (232-233).
Verse 14 of 2 Sam 7 makes clear that the relationship between God and the king will be unique.  God characterizes it in terms of sonship.  This has a connection already for David and his descendants, but “The relation established between ‘son of David’ and ‘son of God’ at the inauguration of the Davidic covenant finds consummation at the coming of Messiah.  Jesus Christ appears as ultimate fulfillment of these two sonships.  As son of David he also is Son of God” (Robertson 233).  See Rom. 1:3-4.
A House for God’s Name (1 Kings 8:17ff).
God’s Worship receive a major solidification – Mt. Zion will be a house of prayer for all nations. The Queen of Sheba says it best: “The half was not told me” (1 Kings 10). Connected with this is the rise of Wisdom, as codified in Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes.

IV.  Conclusion

The Davidic period in biblical theology is a great height from which God never turned back. Indeed, men fell from this height – all but a few kings were void of this experience. Yet, the prophets continued to point to hope in God’s promise, which He would fulfill, for his servant David’s sake – I will give thee the sure mercies of David.