A Synopsis of the Rise and Fall of Israelite Kingship

SaulAndDavidGUERCINO1646 Desperate to be like other nations, the people of Israel determined to establish a monarchy.  Despite God’s forewarning, the Israelites positioned Saul as king and endured the consequences of their blasphemy. Undeterred, God anointed a shepherd boy named David to succeed Saul. As king, David contrasted Saul through faithful service to God that resulted in prosperity for Israel. When David’s son Solomon succeeded, his reign corresponds with the parameters of God’s will; however, Solomon’s covenantal sin initiates the division of Israel. A concise overview of Saul, David, and Solomon’s moral instability yields a clearer understanding of God’s unwavering mercy. The books of Judges and 1 Samuel recorded the inability of Judges to rule over Israel, validating the need for a monarchy. Hindson and Yates comment, “Throughout this section (the final chapters of Judges) the author emphasizes ‘there was no king in Israel’ and chaos reigned because ‘everyone did whatever he wanted.’” [1] Assertion for a monarchy reached its climax when the elders of Israel confronted Samuel, “Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.” [2] After praying for guidance, God depicts a horrifying scenario that would ensue if Israel crowned a king. Samuel cautiously advises the Israelites of God’s response; however, the unified voice of the headstrong Israelites replied, “‘No! But there shall be a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations.’” [3] The Israelite’s arrogance protruded and they defiantly searched for a king. The Israelites vetted potential rulers superficially, suitably choosing a narcissistic leader. Saul became the “people’s choice” due to his “outward appearance rather than his heart.” [4] Subsequent to Saul’s anointing, Samuel professed to the Israelites, “But today you have rejected your God.” [5] Despite this unheeded warning, Saul’s kingship was secured due to his “resounding victory over Nahash.” [6] Saul’s fame resounded throughout Israel and bolstered the people’s decision to appoint a king. However, Saul’s popularity swiftly dissipated due to, “poor choices that caused his kingdom to deteriorate rapidly.” [7] These ill-advised decisions led to God asserting, “Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has also rejected you from being king.” [8] David, God’s anointed, succeed to the throne after God and the Israelites rejected Saul. In contrast to Saul, David encapsulates faithful service to God.  The first ten chapters of 2 Samuel are brimming with stories of David’s victories. However, David’s categorical triumph is his unswerving faithfulness to God and willingness to repent of his sins. The most well-known instance of David’s faithfulness is when he battled the Philistine giant Goliath. Attempting to persuade King Saul into battling Goliath, David said, “‘The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.’” [9] David knew the extent of God’s divine power and courageously entered combat. Though David accomplished much through faith, the inherent sinful nature of humanity never left him. David committed “…adultery and murder as well as a host of deceptive acts committed in an attempt to cover up these sins.” [10] However, confronted with his sins David genuinely repented, “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.” [11] David’s life is a powerful illustration of faithful service to God, an attribute which he attempted to pass down to his son Solomon. Similar to the aforementioned kings of Israel, Solomon began his reign powerfully. Hindson writes, “Solomon began on the right track as he followed David’s exhortations and purged the nation of those who posed a threat to Solomon’s power and the covenant.” [12] Solomon focused his monarchal authority on protecting God’s covenant and constructing God’s temple. However, after the temple was built and dedicated, Solomon broke God’s covenant by impiously offering sacrifices to the gods of his foreign wives. Immediately God condemned Solomon, “…you have not kept my covenant and my statues that I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you and will give it to your servant.” [13] Idolatry led to the “disintegration of Solomon’s empire.” [14] Solomon’s wavering faith in God led to the division of the Israelite kingdom and to tremendous pain and sorrow. The trespasses of Israel’s monarchs demonstrates God’s supreme forgiveness and mercy. Despite Saul, David, and Solomon’s numerous sins, God leniently offered multiple opportunities for the monarchy to rule Israel.  It was not until Solomon committed the abhorrent sin of idolatry, the third infringement of God’s covenant by the monarchy, that God disbanded the kingdom of Israel. This ancient Israelite monarchy illustrates the generous nature of God while concurrently denoting the repercussions of sin.  

 Reference

Hindson, Ed, and Gary Yates. The Essence of the Old Testament: A Survey. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2012.


 

[1] Ed Hindson and Gary Yates, The Essence of the Old Testament: A Survey (Tennessee: B&H Publishing, 2012), 147.
[2] 1 Sam. 8:4 (English Standard Version).
[3] 1 Sam. 8:19-20.
[4] Ibid., 164.
[5] 1 Sam. 10:19.
[6] Hindson and Yates, The Essence of the Old Testament: A Survey, 165.
[7] Ibid.
[8] 1 Sam. 15:23.
[9] 1 Sam. 17:37.
[10] Ibid., 169-170.
[11] Ps. 51:2.
[12] Hindson and Yates, The Essence of the Old Testament: A Survey, 180.
[13] 1 Kgs. 11:11.
[14] Ibid., 181.