October 19, 2019 | Articles | Old Testament Survey | Old Testamant Orientation by Mike Prah
During the time of Samuel, why did the people of Israel desire a king? Why was Saul chosen, and, ultimately, why was he rejected? What attribute did David display that made him a better king than Saul?
During the time of Samuel, why did the people of Israel desire a king?
1. The Desire for a King
The reasons for the people of Israel wishing to have a king is found in 1 Samuel 8.
“When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as Israel’s leaders … But his sons did not follow his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice. So, all the elders of Israel gathered and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have” (1 Samuel 8:1-5).
The first reason the people of Israel wanted a king was that Samuel was getting old, and his sons were corrupt and wicked. (I Samuel 8:3). “Samuel’s sons, who had been serving as judges … no doubt reminded Israel of the sons of Eli. Probably the people were afraid that they might return to the wicked days the nation had known before Samuel had been raised by the Lord” (Walvoord and Zuck, Bible Knowledge Commentary, 439). The second reason the people demanded a king was because they wanted to be “like all the other nations” (I Samuel 8:5) (Hindson: Essence of the Old Testament, 164).
God viewed their demands for a king as a rejection of God himself. “The Lord, the God of Israel, says, ‘I brought you out of Egypt and rescued you from the Egyptians and all the other peoples who were oppressing you. I am your God, the one who rescues you from all your troubles and difficulties, but today you have rejected me and have asked me to give you a king.” (I Samuel 10:1-19).
Why was Saul chosen, and, ultimately, why was he rejected?
2. Saul Chosen and Rejected
Saul was chosen primarily because of his appearance, instead of his character. I, Samuel 9:2 says, “Saul was the most handsome man in Israel—head and shoulders taller than anyone else in the land.” However, in the eyes of the Lord, Saul was disqualified. The prophetic word of Jacob was that the kingship would not depart from Judah (Genesis 49:10), Saul as a Benjaminite, could not, then, meet the essential requirement of lineage (Walvoord and Zuck: Bible Knowledge Commentary, 439).
The first mistake that led to Saul’s fall was when he impatiently when to the Temple and offered the sacrifice, which was the sole duty of priests. “This caused God to vow that He would remove the kingdom from Saul” (Hindson: Essence of the Old Testament, 164). The Bible says: “Saul demanded, “Bring me the burnt offering and the peace offerings!” And Saul sacrificed the burnt offering himself. Just as Saul was finishing with the burnt offering, Samuel arrived … but Samuel said, “What is this you have done?” Saul replied, “I saw my men scattering from me, and you didn’t arrive when you said you would, and … ‘The Philistines are ready to march against, and I haven’t even asked for the Lord’s help!’ So, I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering myself before you came.” “How foolish!” Samuel exclaimed. “You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you. Had you kept it; the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom must end, for the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart. The Lord has already appointed him to be the leader of his people because you have not kept the Lord’s command.” (I Samuel 13:9-15).
The second reason Saul was rejected was that he disobeyed the command of God to destroy the Amalekites and their king, Agag. “By opposing the command of God to destroy Agag and his city, it marked the total rejection of Saul by God” (Wilmington: Wilmington’s Guide to the Bible, 105). The Bible records this episode as follows:
“Samuel said to Saul … Now listen to this message from the Lord! This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies has declared: I have decided to settle accounts with the nation of Amalek for opposing Israel when they came from Egypt. Now go and completely destroy the entire Amalekite nation—men, women, children, babies, cattle, sheep, goats, camels, and donkeys … Saul and his men spared Agag’s life and kept the best of the sheep and goats, the cattle, the fat calves, and the lambs—everything that appealed to them. They destroyed only what was worthless or of poor quality. Then the Lord said to Samuel, “I am sorry that I ever made Saul king, for he has not been loyal to me and has refused to obey my command.” (1 Samuel 15: 1-3,9-11)
The third reason Saul was rejected was that he ordered the death of his son., Jonathan, after he had made a decree that no one should eat until the Philistines were destroyed. Jonathan did not know of this decree, and he ate some food. “His silly order for the army to abstain from food, and his senseless death sentence for Jonathan, showed the people what a fool they had for a king” (Halley’s Bible Handbook, 208). The people refused to let Saul carry out this decree. The Bible says: “The people broke in and said to Saul, “Jonathan has won this great victory for Israel. Should he die? Far from it! As surely as the Lord lives, not one hair on his head will be touched, for God helped him do a great deed today.” So the people rescued Jonathan, and he was not put to death” (I Samuel 14:45).
The fourth reason God rejected Saul was his mistake of killing eighty-five priests of God, including their families and animals. The Bible records this shameful, wicked act of Saul in 1 Samuel 22:17-19. “Saul ordered his bodyguards, “Kill these priests of the Lord, for they are allies and conspirators with David! They knew he was running away from me, but they didn’t tell me!” But Saul’s men refused to kill the Lord’s priests. Then the king said to Doeg, “You do it.” So Doeg the Edomite turned on them and killed them that day, eighty-five priests in all, still wearing their priestly garments. Then he went to Nob, the town of the priests, and killed the priests’ families—men and women, children and babies—and all the cattle, donkeys, sheep, and goats.”
What attribute did David display that made him a better king than Saul?
3. The Difference in David
The quality that David showed that made him a better king than Saul was his obedience towards God and his faithfulness in doing the will of the Lord. One stark contrast was the heart difference. David and Saul both sinned and rebelled against God. However, David repented and turned from his wicked ways, but Saul would make excuses for his transgressions and never return to the Lord. The Lord had made a promise to Saul that his reign would remain forever, but he forfeited this generational blessing to David because of his disobedience and lack of repentance. The prophet Samuel said this Saul: “You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you. Had you kept it, the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom must end, for the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart. The Lord has already appointed him to be the leader of his people because you have not kept the Lord’s command” (I Samuel 13:9-15).
David sought the Lord for counsel. On the contrary, Saul went to the witch of Endor and was killed on the battlefield (I Samuel 28, 31). While the Spirit of the Lord was upon David, inspiring him to write over half of the Psalms in the Bible, Saul instead was possessed by an evil spirit. 2 Samuel 23:1-2 says: “These are the last words of David … “The Spirit of the Lord speaks through me; his words are upon my tongue.” On the contrarily, the Bible says this about Saul: “Now the Spirit of the Lord had left Saul, and the Lord sent a tormenting spirit that filled him with depression and fear” (I Samuel 16:14)
Both Saul and David had some dangerous failures in their life. David repented and turned to God. Saul, on the other hand, rebelled and turned his back on God. As a result, David was mightily blessed, and God rejected Saul.
What sin did Solomon commit that ultimately led to the division of Israel after his death?
4. The Sin of Solomon
Many years before Solomon, God spoke through Moses and ordained that all future kings of Israel should obey this ordinance. “After you have taken possession of the land that the Lord your God is going to give you and have settled there, then you will decide you need a king like all the nations around you. Be sure that the man you choose to be king is the one whom the Lord has chosen. He must be one of your people; do not make a foreigner your king. The king is not to have a large number of horses for his army, and he is not to send people to Egypt to buy horses, because the Lord has said that his people are never to return there. The king is not to have many wives, because this would make him turn away from the Lord; and he is not to make himself rich with silver and gold” (Deuteronomy 17:14-17).
“But Solomon disobeyed all three areas. (a). He had much silver and gold (I Kings 10:14-27), (b). He owned thousands of horses (I Kings 4:26), and (c). He married hundreds of wives and concubines”  (Wilmington: Wilmington’s Guide to the Bible, 115).
The sin that ultimately brought down Solomon and caused the division of Israel after his death was his marriage to many foreign wives. The Bible says: “Solomon had seven hundred royal wives and three hundred concubines; his wives had a powerful influence over him.” (1kings 11:3) This influence drew his heart away from the Lord to worship the pagan gods of his wives.
“As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David, his father had been. He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molek, the detestable god of the Ammonites. So, Solomon did evil in the eyes of the Lord; he did not follow the Lord completely, as David his father had done. On a hill east of Jerusalem, Solomon built a high place for Chemosh, the detestable god of Moab, and Molek, the detestable god of the Ammonites. He did the same for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and offered sacrifices to their gods.” (1 Kings 11:4-8).
With the introduction of many foreign wives, a spirit of infidelity and idolatry invaded the nation of Israel. God confronted Solomon, but He disobeyed and continued to carry on his evil. Consequently, God dealt with Solomon’s defiance with this punishment.
“The Lord was very angry with Solomon, for his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. He had warned Solomon specifically about worshiping other gods, but Solomon did not listen to the Lord’s command. So now the Lord said to him, “Since you have not kept my covenant and have disobeyed my decrees, I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your servants. But for the sake of your father, David, I will not do this while you are still alive. I will take the kingdom away from your son. And even so, I will not take away the entire kingdom; I will let him be king of one tribe, for the sake of my servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem, my chosen city” (1 Kings 11:9-13).
Halley, Henry H. Halley’s Bible Handbook. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000.
Walvoord, John, and Roy B. Zuck. Bible Knowledge Commentary. Colorado Springs, C0: David C. Cook Publishing, 1985.
Wilmington, H. L. Wilmington’s Guide to the Bible. Wheaton, Ill: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1984.