American Tract Society Bible Dictionary
In Scripture, the word king does not always imply either a high degree of power or great extent of territory. Many single towns, or towns with their adjacent villages, are said to have had kings; and many persons are called kings in Scripture, whom we should rather denominate chiefs or leaders. Somewhat in this sense, Moses is said to have been "king in Jeshurun," or Israel, Deuteronomy 33:5; he was the chief, the leader, the guide of his people, though not king in the same sense as David or Solomon. These remarks will remove the surprise which some persons have felt at seeing that so small a country as Canaan contained thirty-one kings who were conquered, Joshua 12:9-24 , besides many who no doubt escaped the arms of Joshua. Adonizedek, himself no very powerful king, mentions seventy kings whom he had subdued and mutilated. See also 1 Kings 4:21 . These kings, in many cases, were no doubt like the sheiks of Arab tribes at the present day.
The Israelites had no kings till Saul; having been governed, first by elders, as in Egypt; then by rulers of God's appointment, as Moses and Joshua; then by judges, as Othniel, Ehud, Gideon, Samuel; and lastly by kings, as Saul, David, Solomon. Being peculiarly the people of God, their form of government was essentially a theocracy. God prescribed for them a code of laws; he designated their rulers; these laws and rulers the people were to obey "in the Lord;" and in all cases of doubt, he, as the actual head of the government, was to be consulted, in the spirit of the words, "The Lord is our Judge, the Lord is our Lawgiver, the Lord is our King." Their demand for a king was offensive to him, as an unbelieving and rebellious departure from the more immediate headship of Jehovah, 1 Samuel 8:7 . Yet even under the regal government, they were still to regard him as their king. Idolatry was treason against the throne. Their code of laws was still his holy book. It was a prophet or high priest of Jehovah who anointed the king, and placed the crown upon his head and the scepter in his hand, Deuteronomy 17:15,18-20 1 Samuel 10:1 12:12-15 2 Samuel 1:14,21 1 Kings 1:39 2 Kings 9:1-6 11:2-12 Psalm 21:3 . By the instrumentality of his sacred ministers, God gave such directions concerning public affairs as were needed and sought for; and these agents of God, with their instructions and warnings, performed a most important part in the national history. So far as people and kings looked to God as their Head, they prospered; and it was for lack of this, that they were ruined. Of the two kingdoms, Judah and Israel, the latter most rapidly and fully threw off its allegiance, 2 Chronicles 13:4-12; therefore it was the first to perish, having continued two hundred and fiftyfour years from the death of Solomon, B. C. 975-721, with nineteen kings of nine different dynasties. The kingdom of Judah continued three hundred and eighty-seven years after the separation, B. C. 975-588, having been held by nineteen successive kings of the line of David.
The two BOOKS OF KINGS contain a history of the kings of Judah and Israel intermingled, commencing with Solomon and ending with Zedekiah; unlike the books of Chronicles, which give an account only of the kings of Judah. In the Septuagint and Vulgate, our two books of Samuel are also called books of Kings. The various histories comprising the two books of Kings were evidently the work of a single inspired writer, and not a mere collection. They are believed to have been written before the books of Chronicles, and Jewish tradition makes the prophet Jeremiah their author, B. C. 620. The writer probably drew a part of his materials from the records of each reign left by contemporary prophets and priests, 1 Kings 11:41 . See CHRONICLES . All these sacred annals are highly instructive. They show us the perfect fulfillment of the divine promises and warnings by Moses; and every page confirms the inspired declaration, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom."
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