THREAD: Kingship in Israel and the rejection of the LORD’s anointed

In 1 Samuel 9:16, the LORD says to Samuel: ‘Tomorrow about this time [כָּעֵ֣ת ׀ מָחָ֡ר] I will send to you a man from the land of Benjamin, and you shall anount him to be prince over my people Israel.
He shall save my people from the hand of the Philistines [וְהוֹשִׁ֥יעַ אֶת־עַמִּ֖י מִיַּ֣ד פְּלִשְׁתִּ֑ים]. For I have seen my people [כִּ֤י רָאִ֙יתִי֙ אֶת־עַמִּ֔י], because their cry has come to me [כִּ֛י בָּ֥אָה צַעֲקָת֖וֹ אֵלָֽי].’
One senses echoes of the Exodus here, and God’s deliverance of his people from Egypt:

• Exod 3:7a: ‘Then the LORD said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people [רָאֹ֥ה רָאִ֛יתִי אֶת־עֳנִ֥י עַמִּ֖י] who are in Egypt…’
• Exod 3:7b: ‘…and have heard their cry [וְאֶת־צַעֲקָתָ֤ם שָׁמַ֙עְתִּי֙] because of their taskmasters.’
• Exod 3:7c: ‘I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians [לְהַצִּיל֣וֹ ׀ מִיַּ֣ד מִצְרַ֗יִם].’
• Exod 9:18: ‘Behold, about this time tomorrow [כָּעֵ֣ת מָחָ֔ר] I will cause very heavy hail to fall, such as never has been in Egypt from the day it was founded until now.’

But what sort of cry is this that has come to the LORD?
The Philistines indeed did threaten the Israelites, as we see in 1 Samuel 7, when they were gathered at Mizpah.
There, ‘the people of Israel said to Samuel, “Do not cease to cry out [מִזְּעֹ֖ק] to the LORD our God for us, that he may save us from the hand of the Philistines [וְיֹשִׁעֵ֖נוּ מִיַּ֥ד פְּלִשְׁתִּֽים].”’
Yet they were delivered by God from the Philistines in that very chapter. Why then is any further deliverance needed?
In the very next chapter we see the real answer. A new cry has arisen from the people (8:4): ‘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.’

It is this cry that the LORD is responding to.
The irony is that Israel had gone astray from the moment that they had been delivered from another king, the king of Egypt (v. 8):
'According to all the deeds that they have done, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are also doing to you’.
Samuel proceeds to warn the people that the king they desire will end up being similar in many respects to the one that their forefathers had escaped from in Egypt.
This king will ‘take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots’ (v. 11). Of course, the many chariots of Pharaoh were legendary and menacing to Israel, and were halted only by the Red sea.
The irony, of course, is that in Deuteronomy 17, the LORD instructs the future king of Israel ‘not to acquire many horses for himself’ (v. 16). One non-negotiable prerequisite for chariots are the horses that draw them.
The nations, which Israel longed to be like, boasted in their chariots and their horses, but Israel was to trust in the name of the LORD her God (Psalm 20:7).

Samuel also predicts that this king will take the best of the people’s flocks and fields and servants.
Then he concludes with the following warning: ‘You shall be his slaves’ (v. 17).

That is why the LORD speaks somewhat strangely about Saul when Samuel saw him: ‘Here is the man of whom I spoke to you! He it is who shall restrain my people [זֶ֖ה יַעְצֹ֥ר בְּעַמִּֽי].’
The constant refrain in the book of Judges was, ‘In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.’
But in 1 Samuel, instead of waiting for the promised king of Judah, from whom ‘the scepter shall not depart’ (Gen 49:10), the people chose for themselves a man of Benjamin, and for all the wrong reasons.
The book of Judges concludes with ominous foreboding about the tribe of Benjamin (chapters 17–21) in two stories filled with unimaginable cruelty and evil.
What is more, on the positive side of things, the whole book of Judges is ‘book-ended’ by an equally clear note about the leadership of Judah:
Opening of Judges (1:1–2): ‘After the death of Joshua, the people of Israel inquired of the LORD, “Who shall go up first [בַּתְּחִלָּ֖ה] for us against the Canaanites, to fight against them?” The LORD said, “Judah shall go up.”’
Conclusion of Judges (20:18): ‘The people of Israel arose and went up to Bethel and inquired of God, “Who shall go up first for us to fight against the people of Benjamin?” And the LORD said, “Judah shall go up first [יְהוּדָ֥ה בַתְּחִלָּֽה].”’
Yet, despite these signs, Israel chose one who would end up ‘restraining’ their people and styming the Lord’s anointed, David, for many years.
The people chose one who strived with all his might to murder the Messiah of God, yet another irony that would be replayed a thousand years later as Pilate brought out the true Messiah of God.
Pilate declared, ‘Behold your king!’ (John 19:15) Yet God’s people cried out, ‘Away with him, away with him, crucify him!’ At this, Pilate responds in disbelief: ‘Shall I crucify your King?’ The reply comes swiftly, ‘We have no king except Caesar!’
We must not forget the deep significance of God's people choosing for themselves an earthly king. As the LORD explained to Samuel, ‘[T]hey have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them’ (1 Sam 8:7).
Nevertheless, ‘the stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone’ (Ps 118:22).
And in the providence of God the rejection of this cornerstone becomes the very means by which the people of God are saved (Rom 9:33): ‘Whoever believes in him will not be put to shame!’

/ END

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