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Scripture citations are to the King James (Authorised) Version, unless noted otherwise.
Answer: The context surrounding this request is recorded in the entire chapter of 1 Samuel 8, vs. 1-22. The nation of Israel was originally constituted as a theocracy: rule by Jehovah through a succession of Judges, of whom Samuel was the last and one of the greatest. Representatives of Israel petitioned Samuel, now elderly and close to death, for an adjustment of affairs. They wished for a government like most of the nations around them. However, it is important to note it was the bad behaviour of Samuel’s sons – whom he had appointed as administrators – which prompted their request (vs. 1-3): ‘his sons . . . turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, and perverted judgment.’
The people’s demand offended God’s authority – ‘they have rejected me’ (v. 7) – and through Samuel He warned them what they should expect: military conscription, burdensome taxation, etc. (vs. 11-18).
The fault with the people’s request has less to do with the system of rulership in view, but that by making it, Israel showed it had grown weary of the status quo. God might have been equally displeased had they demanded a president, an emperor, or a general. Subsequent events proved the warnings correct. Whether Saul or David or Solomon, or the numerous kings which followed, the people were, by turns, oppressed and troubled by their monarchs. This pattern has repeated itself throughout world history, though autocracy and overreaching are not traits confined merely to royalty.
In Britain and the western world in general, one is accustomed to think in terms of rights and freedoms – loosely styled, ‘democracy’. But this system is of relatively recent origin and is not in itself a divine right nor, perhaps, the ideal biblical model. Democracy and monarchy need not be mutually exclusive. As witnessed in the outpouring of affection at home and abroad for HM Queen Elizabeth II, on her Diamond Jubilee, not all sovereigns are perceived as villains. Indeed, this country has for several centuries enjoyed a limited monarchy, the Crown co-existing with Parliamentary democracy.
For instance, God is ‘a great King over all the earth’ (Psalm 47: 2), and Christ is ‘king of kings’ (Revelation 19: 16).
As Christians we frequently refer to Jesus as our ‘Saviour and King’. And one grand hymn begins with the exhortation to ‘Praise my soul the King of Heaven’.
The Millennial Age, that thousand years of judgement and blessing yet to come, is denoted a kingdom, not a democracy or a federal republic. Christ’s reign will be absolute, subduing ‘all rule and all authority and power’ (1 Corinthians 15: 24). Indeed, this is a description of imperial rule, however benign it may be – ‘For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet’ (v. 25).
Summing up, the essence of God’s complaint against Israel, voiced by Samuel, seems to be that in preferring someone else to ‘reign’ over them, the people voted against His authority. The nation did not thereby cease to be a theocracy, but its decision did profoundly modify its political landscape, and along the way supplied the language with some majestic figures of speech.
Copyright June 2012 by ukbiblestudents.co.uk
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