WAS ISRAEL’S MONARCHY OF GOD OR OF MAN?
By Dr. Thomas S. McCall
Jesus asked the Jewish leaders if the baptism of John was of human or divine origin.
“The baptism of John was from what source, from heaven or from men?” And they began reasoning among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say to us, ‘Then why did you not believe him?’ (NASB)
As our Lord Jesus indicated, it is important to know whether any event or institution is of God or of man. Many believe that the Israeli monarchy was of human origin and that God did not intend for Israel to have kings. It is the purpose of this article to demonstrate that it was the direct will of God that Israel would have kings. This purpose was partially fulfilled in the inauguration of:
David and his lineage, and is ultimately fulfilled in David’s descendant, the Lord Jesus Christ, the King of kings.
Those who deny the validity of the monarchy point to the episode in which the leaders of Israel asked Samuel to anoint a king.
1 Samuel 8:5
And they said to him, “Behold, you have grown old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint a king for us to judge us like all the nations.” (NASB)
Samuel was greatly disappointed over their request, and went to the Lord with the people’s desire to have a king. God also was displeased with the request, said they were rejecting Him and His rule over them, and warned against the dangers of having a king. Nevertheless, He appointed Saul, of the tribe of Benjamin, to be their king.
1 Samuel 8:6-10
6 But the thing was displeasing in the sight of Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the LORD. 7 And the LORD said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them. 8 “Like all the deeds which they have done since the day that I brought them up from Egypt even to this day– in that they have forsaken Me and served other gods– so they are doing to you also. 9 “Now then, listen to their voice; however, you shall solemnly warn them and tell them of the procedure of the king who will reign over them.” 10 So Samuel spoke all the words of the LORD to the people who had asked of him a king. (NASB)
The people of Israel were dissatisfied with having Judges. They wanted a king so that they would have stability like the other nations, and a standing army that could deal with their enemies that beset them on every side. When they came to Samuel about this he asked the Lord and the Lord replied that they were not only rejecting Samuel but also Himself as king. He furthermore warned them that having a king brought many onerous problems, such as taxes and conscripted service in the king’s army and service in the court. They might well in time regret having ever asked for a king.
From this episode many have assumed that the Israelite monarchy was of man and that God was opposed to Israel having a monarchy. Furthermore, many of them think that the whole idea of Israel having a future Messianic kingdom would be unthinkable as well.
However, whose Idea was it that Israel should have a monarchy in the first place? The Lord Himself is the first to broach the idea of Israel having kings, as he promised kings to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Judah.
And I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come forth from you. (NASB)
God also said to him, “I am God Almighty; be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come forth from you. (NASB)
The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples. (NASB)
Not only does God promise kings to Israel, He even designates Judah as the tribe through whom the kings and King Messiah (Shiloh) would come. Therefore, we must pay close attention to the tribe of Judah. After this prophecy about Judah, some 400 years pass before God was ready to bring Israel out of Egypt through a deliverer. Who was that deliverer and where did that deliverer come from. Of course, it was Moses and Moses was from Levi, not from Judah. What happened to the promise to Judah?
The next leader and successor to Moses was Joshua, who would lead Israel in the conquest of the Promised Land. However, he also was not from Judah, but from the tribe of Ephraim. Why not a leader from the tribe of Judah?
In Judges, the first Judge was Othniel (the brother of Caleb), who was of the tribe of Judah, and he defeated the Mesopotamian king, He then served as Judge for 40 years. He is the only Judge from the tribe of Judah, and there is no indication that he ruled over the 12 tribes or wielded a scepter over Israel.
All the rest of the Judges were from various other tribes, and the writer laments that there was no king in Israel, and that every man did what was right in his own eyes. Judah is not prominent during this 400 year period. The absence of the prominence of the tribe of Judah all during the hundreds of years after the death of the patriarch Judah is problematical. Judah was prophesied to be the ruling tribe, the tribe from whom the Messiah was to come. Yet no enduring leadership arose during the Egyptian exile, the Exodus, the Wilderness Journey, the Conquest of Canaan or the period of the Judges. Why was Judah essentially passed over for some 700 years?
To find the answer to this, we must first look at the life of the founder of the tribe of Judah, Judah himself. In Genesis 38, we find the unusual story of Judah and his daughter-in-law, Tamar. As it turns out, they had an incestuous relationship that had enormous ramifications for centuries to come.
Now it was about three months later that Judah was informed, “Your daughter-in-law Tamar has played the harlot, and behold, she is also with child by harlotry.” Then Judah said, “Bring her out and let her be burned!” 25 It was while she was being brought out that she sent to her father-in-law, saying, and “I am with child by the man to whom these things belong.” And she said, “Please examine and see, whose signet ring and cords and staff are these?” 26 And Judah recognized them, and said, “She is more righteous than I, inasmuch as I did not give her to my son Shelah.” And he did not have relations with her again. (NASB)
Genesis 38:27 – 30
And it came about at the time she was giving birth, that behold, there were twins in her womb. 28 Moreover, it took place while she was giving birth, one put out a hand, and the midwife took and tied a scarlet thread on his hand, saying, “This one came out first.” 29 But it came about as he drew back his hand, that behold, his brother came out. Then she said, “What a breach you have made for yourself!” So he was named Perez. 30 And afterward his brother came out who had the scarlet thread on his hand; and he was named Zerah. (NASB)
Thus it was that Perez became the first born son of Judah and Tamar. We would expect the line of Perez to have the leadership role and the line of kings for the 12 tribes of Israel. But, as mentioned above, when the time came for choosing the deliverer to bring the nation out of Egypt, the chosen deliverer was not from Judah, but from the tribe of Levi, Moses.
Now a man from the house of Levi went and married a daughter of Levi. And the woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was beautiful, she hid him for three months. (NASB)
It was Moses who was miraculously spared and became the recipient of all the wisdom of Egypt in the house of Pharaoh, not a member of the tribe of Judah. He was thus prepared to later lead his people out of Egypt, and to bring Israel to the entrance to the Land of Canaan.
As Moses was about to die on Mount Nebo, he appointed Joshua to be the one to lead Israel in the conquest of Canaan. Where was Joshua from? Not the tribe of Judah, but Ephraim.
1 Chronicles 7:20-27
26 And the sons of Ephraim were Shuthelah and Bered his son, Tahath his son, Eleadah his son, Tahath his son . . 27Ladan his son, Ammihud his son, Elishama his son, Nun his son, and Joshua his son. (NASB)
Again, the question arises: Why was Judah passed over when it came time to choose the leader who would bring the Chosen People into the Promised Land? The tribe of Ephraim led the people through Joshua to conquer the Land.
Next comes the 400 difficult years of the Judges. Among the Judges only Othniel was from the tribe of Judah, and he was not a descendant of Perez the royal line. Members of almost every other tribe were chosen to be Judges throughout that period. Many of them did not lead all twelve tribes. Gideon only led 300 into battle, and Samson was a one man army. Judah was not prominent, and there was certainly no king in Israel.
Some interpreters think that the Judge system was ideal, but the writer of Judges did not think so. In fact, on several occasions the writer deplored the fact that there was no king reigning in Israel.
In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what he thought best. (NASB)
Samuel acceded to the wishes of the people, and anointed Saul as king. The Lord actually selected Saul and gave Him the blessing of the Holy Spirit, at least temporarily. God even gave King Saul significant victories, and he had the allegiance of the 12 tribes, but eventually Saul was disobedient to the Lord, so Samuel announced that the kingdom was removed from him.
1 Samuel 15:26-28
26 But Samuel said to Saul, “I will not return with you; for you have rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD has rejected you from being king over Israel.” 27 And as Samuel turned to go, Saul seized the edge of his robe, and it tore. 28 So Samuel said to him, “The LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today, and has given it to your neighbor who is better than you. (NASB)
Saul continued to rule after the Lord had taken the kingdom from him, and Samuel went home and mourned for the national condition. But the Lord remonstrated with him and told him He had work for him to do.
1 Samuel 16:1-3
1 Now the LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have selected a king for Myself among his sons.” 2 But Samuel said, “How can I go? When Saul hears of it, he will kill me.” And the LORD said, “Take a heifer with you, and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.’ 3 “And you shall invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for Me the one whom I designate to you.” (NASB)
God was now taking the initiative, not the people, and He was moving quickly to anoint a new king for Israel. Jesse brought before Samuel 6 sons beginning with the eldest, but none of them qualified as the Lord’s next king. Who, then would receive the throne? Samuel asks Jesse his host.
1 Samuel 16:11-13
11 And Samuel said to Jesse, “Are these all the children?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, and behold, he is tending the sheep.” Then Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.” 12 So he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, with beautiful eyes and a handsome appearance. And the LORD said, “Arise, anoint him; for this is he.” 13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon David from that day forward. And Samuel arose and went to Ramah. (NASB)
It was the 8th son, David, the youngest, who was chosen by the Lord and anointed by Samuel to be king. It was some seven hundred years since the promise was made to Judah that his would be the royal tribe, and yet no member of the tribe of Judah assumed leadership over the twelve tribe of Israel. Why did it take so long, from Judah to David, 700 years, for the tribe to produce a king? Perhaps part of the answer is found in the Law of Moses.
The Lord Himself declared in the Law a strong penalty against promiscuity and the producing of illegitimate children. No illegitimate child could enter the assembly of the Lord for 10 generations.
“No one of illegitimate birth shall enter the assembly of the LORD; none of his descendants, even to the tenth generation, shall enter the assembly of the LORD. 3 “No Ammonite or Moabite shall enter the assembly of the LORD; none of their descendants, even to the tenth generation, shall ever enter the assembly of the LORD, (NASB)
What does it mean that one could not enter the assembly of the Lord? It certainly meant that they could not join in the public worship of the people, especially the occasions that involved in the worship in the Tabernacle or later in the Temple. Furthermore, it probably precluded them from public position of leadership. The problem was, of course, that the sons of Judah and Tamar were illegitimate children because of the incestuous relationship between Judah and his daughter-in-law Tamar. Thus, Perez, the first born of the couple, could not enter into the congregation of the Lord, if this law applies to him. Actually, this law was not pronounced for several hundred years after Perez was born, during the time of Moses. It appears that the Lord bound Himself and the line of Judah to a law that He would later convey to the people of Israel.
The fact that the law applied to the line of Judah becomes clear with the story in the Book of Ruth. This beautiful love story that culminates in the marriage of Ruth and Boaz ends with the genealogy of David. Strangely enough, it did not begin with Abraham, or even Judah, but with the illegitimate son Perez.
17 And the neighbor women gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi!” So they named him Obed. He is the father of Jesse, the father of David. 18 Now these are the generations of Perez: to Perez was born Hezron, 19 and to Hezron was born Ram, and to Ram, Amminadab, 20 and to Amminadab was born Nahshon, and to Nahshon, Salmon, 21 and to Salmon was born Boaz, and to Boaz, Obed, 22 and to Obed was born Jesse, and to Jesse, David. (NASB)
Fully ten generations passed from Perez to David. David’s generation was the first generation that was able to enter into the congregation of the Lord. Indeed, his was the first generation that could assume leadership over the 12 tribes of Israel. By His own law, God waited ten generations, some 700 years from Perez to David to bring forth a king from the tribe of Judah.
Yet, just being 10 generations from Perez was not the only qualification for the new king of Israel. David had six brothers, all of whom met that qualification, but they were not chosen. God was looking for a man after His own heart. David, the seventh and last son of Jesse, was that man. He was the one the Spirit of God designated, and Samuel anointed him. He was the king of Israel, holding the scepter of the Tribe of Judah.
Once David was established as king, God did far more for the man who was a man after His own heart, He promised him an eternal dynasty, in what is known as the Davidic Covenant. This Covenant is the foundation of the royal majesty of the Messiah. The prophet Gad pronounced it to David when after he informed the king that he would not himself build the Lord a Temple, but it would be built by David’s son.
2 Samuel 7:12-17
12 “When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 “He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 “I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me; when he commits iniquity, I will correct him with the rod of men and the strokes of the sons of men, 15 but My lovingkindness shall not depart from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. 16 “And your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever.”‘” 17 In accordance with all these words and all this vision, so Nathan spoke to David. (NASB)
The Davidic dynasty plays a large role in the New Testament, which begins with the declaration of the fact that Jesus Christ is the descendant of David, which is an essential requirement of the Messiah.
The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. (NASB)
When the angel appeared to Mary, he stressed the fact that the One who would be born to her would be not only the Son of God, but also the son of David, and would sit upon the throne of David, ruling over Israel forever.
29 But she was greatly troubled at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. 31 “And behold, you will conceive in your womb, and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. 32 “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; 33 and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and His kingdom will have no end.” (NASB)
Years later, when the Apostle Paul spoke in the synagogue in Antioch in Asia Minor, he mentioned that Christ was the recipient of the sure blessings of David, which included the promise that He would be raised from the dead.