Good to be the King

He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will do: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. Your menservants and maidservants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, and the LORD will not answer you in that day.”

But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.”
When Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated it before the LORD. The LORD answered, “Listen to them and give them a king.”

Then Samuel said to the men of Israel, “Everyone go back to his town.” (1 Samuel 8:19-22)

It’s good to be the king. It’s not so good to have one, however. The problems of the world cannot be solved just by having a government, or by changing the government, or by passing new legislation. Just adding another rule to the enormous stack of rules we already have does not fix the fundamental problem of human nature. People remain what they are: corrupt and corruptible, and putting some in charge of the others merely insures that they will take advantage of those they rule: they will take their money in taxes, their children as slaves, and their property as they see fit.

Samuel let the people know exactly what they would get if they got a king. He let them know that they would not be happy with him, that they would regret their demand, that they would wish that they could be freed from the tyranny. Despite all of that, they still insisted on having a king.

God was not surprised however. Just as God does not like divorce, he still gave Moses the rules to regulate it in the law. He didn’t like slavery, but he gave them the rules to regulate it. And he didn’t like monarchy, but he gave them the rules for how a king should reign, placing limits on his power. God worked hard to protect the less powerful from the more powerful: he sought to protect the weak: women, slaves, and ordinary citizens. People can never take the place of God and he won’t let them.

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm the interim pastor at Quartz Hill Community Church. I have written several books. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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