Recently, we discussed the growing scope of national threats that formed the catalyst for Israel’s demand for a king. This helped us understand why they rejected God’s original model of government. In today’s post, we’ll look at the consequences of Israel’s demand: how God treated it, used it, and judged it.
God’s original plan
God’s original plan for Israel was that it should be a theocracy, with God Himself at its head, his will expressed through specific revelation and through the Law. The administrative functions of the government would be carried out by the priests and Levites, while the magisterial functions would be performed by “judges” – men and women that God raised up specifically for that purpose.
“If any case arises requiring decision between one kind of homicide and another, one kind of legal right and another, or one kind of assault and another, any case within your towns that is too difficult for you, then you shall arise and go up to the place that the LORD your God will choose. And you shall come to the Levitical priests and to the judge who is in office in those days, and you shall consult them, and they shall declare to you the decision. (Deu 17:8-9)
But God knew that they day would come when, seeking to be more like the nations around them, Israel would desire a king:
“When you come to the land that the LORD your God is giving you, and you possess it and dwell in it and then say, ‘I will set a king over me, like all the nations that are around me,’ you may indeed set a king over you whom the LORD your God will choose… (Deu 17:14-15a)
In His mercy, God provides for the eventuality of a king. The remainder of Deuteronomy 17 details the requirements for the man who would be king over God’s chosen people:
- He must not be a foreigner
- He must not “acquire many horses for himself” (he must not rely upon his own military might)
- He must not make alliances with Egypt – specifically, he should not make military alliances with them or sell the people into slavery
- He must not acquire many wives (lest they turn his heart away from God)
- He must not acquire excess silver or gold (he should not be materialistic)
- Upon taking office, he should hand-write his own copy of the Law of God – under the watchful eye of the priests – which would then serve as his own personal copy for reading and judgment. This was to keep him humble, so that “his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers.”