THE RISE OF THE MONARCHY IN ANCIENT ISRAEL
Samuel was born of Elkanah and Hannah. Hannah was unable to bear children. In her sadness, she prayed to God for a child. God answered her prayers with a son whom she dedicated to God in thanksgiving. The son’s name was Samuel. Samuel is what we call a “bridge person”. He stands between the era of the Judges and the era of the Kings. Some say Samuel is the last of the judges. Others say he is the first of the prophets. Samuel’s great contribution to Israel’s history is he appointed and anointed the first two kings of Israel.
The people of Israel come to Samuel and ask him to appoint a king. This is done mainly because the sons of Samuel, Joel and Abijah had begun to take bribes and pervert justice. Samuel is deeply saddened by this. He feels Israel is rejecting him. God speaks to Samuel and tells him that Israel is not rejecting Samuel but rejecting GOD as their king. HE goes on to tell Samuel to give Israel a king BUT also issues a warning. The warning was that a king will overtax the people, use the sons of the people in war, take the best of the harvests for himself.
The first king of Israel is Saul. Saul was anointed three times in the scriptures: First, when he met Samuel while looking for his father’s ass; Second was during a time whereby Samuel gathered all the tribes of Israel and cast lots which in the end, fell on Saul and thus he was anointed; Third was when Saul for the first time had won a war against the Ammonites for Israel, he was then anointed and declared king at Gilgal. Saul is judged by history as a tragic king. He starts out well. He wins wars and is faithful to the wishes of God. However later in his career he begins to disobey God and do his own will.
Samuel is directed by God to find a successor to Saul. Samuel finds the next king in the family of Jesse. David, the youngest, will be the next king and Samuel anoints
him. Saul does not know of this. Later Saul and David meet. There are two traditions on this meeting. One tradition holds that David met Saul when Saul hired David to play the harp to soothe his troubled moods. The second tradition holds that Saul met David on the day David slew Goliath.
In either case David was brought into the royal court of Saul and was well regarded by all. Including Saul’s son Jonathan. Saul became jealous of David’s popularity and even tried to kill him. His attempts failed and Saul began to realize that this young man was protected by God! After Saul’s death, David was proclaimed king. David unifies the kingdom, brings the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem and begins the Psalm literature.
David’s great sin is his affair with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband. But once he realizes the gravity of his sin, through the famous parable of Nathan his prophet, he repents before God and Israel. The first child of this affair dies. And David and Bathsheba would have understood this as a punishment from God. Why? We do not believe that God punishes us with illness or death. Why did these ancient Israelites?
At this time in Israel’s theology there was no clear concept of an afterlife. So, they believed that sin had to be punished in the here and now. And sin could be punished immediately or in future generations. Hence the saying “the sins of the fathers is visited on the sons”. But a great promise had been made to David by God through the prophet Nathan.
David had realized he was living in a lovely palace and the Ark of the Covenant was still in a tent! So, David wanted to build a temple for God. But God told David that the temple would be built by his son (as indeed it was). God was so pleased with David’s concern that he told David that from his house would come an everlasting dynasty. A king from David’s line would always sit on the throne of Israel….and so it came to pass…Jesus Christ is from the house of David! David further ruled both at Hebron and Jerusalem for seven and a half years and thirty-three years respectively.
After the loss of the first child there is a second born and his name is Solomon. And at David’s death becomes the third king of Israel.
Solomon’s contributions to Israel’s life are: He built the temple, made Israel an international power in military might and finance and started what we call wisdom literature.
Solomon’s great sin was when he began to worship false gods. And for this sin, his kingdom would be split! But the punishment will fall to his son. Others of his unwise policies include The enactment of forced labor, forceful conscription of the people into the army, high taxation, his marriage to many foreign wives, exploitation of the Israelite people. It should be further noted that these sins of Solomon led to the division of the kingdom of Israel.
This effectively chronicles the rise of Monarchy in Israel. For better study or academic purpose, it would be important to have a deep insight into the lives of these monarchs and Samuel inclusive. The above given is just a summary of the concept as a whole.
The signs of Saul’s confirmation as first monarch in Israel
Samuel then revealed three signs to Saul to affirm he was the man whom the LORD had chosen to rule Israel.
The first : sign Saul would encounter two men, and they would tell him his father had recovered the donkeys and was worried about him (1 Samuel 10:2).
A second sign : would be three men, bearing three baby goats, three loaves of bread, and a bottle of wine, and they would salute him and give him two loaves of bread.
The third : sign would follow as Saul neared a Philistine garrison, and there he would “meet a company of prophets…[and] the Spirit of the Lord [would] come upon [him], and [he would]prophesy with them, and…be turned into another man”