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Bible Dictionaries

Fausset's Bible Dictionary


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Moses (Deuteronomy 17:14-17) contemplated the contingency of a king being set up in Israel as in all the adjoining nations. The theocracy and the law could be maintained under kings as under a commonwealth. God's promise was," kings of people shall be of Sarah" (Genesis 17:16). Other allusions to kings to come occur (Genesis 36:31; Numbers 24:17; Deuteronomy 28:36). The request of the people (1 Samuel 8:5, etc.), "make us a king to judge us like all the nations," evidently is molded after Deuteronomy 17:14; so Samuel's language in presenting Saul to the people (1 Samuel 10:24) as "him whom the Lord hath chosen" alludes to Moses' direction (Deuteronomy 17:15), "thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee whom the Lord thy God shall choose." It was not the mere desire for a king which is blamed, but the spirit of their request and the circumstances under which they made it.

They set aside Samuel, though appointed by the heavenly King, on the pretext "behold thou art old," though he took a leading part in state affairs for 35 years afterward (1 Samuel 8:5), "they have not rejected thee but ... Me that I should not reign over them"; they distrusted God's power and will to save them from Nahash (1 Samuel 12:12), though He had delivered them from the Philistines (1 Samuel 7). Samuel's sons were corrupt, but that did not warrant their desire to set aside himself, whom none could accuse of corruption (1 Samuel 12). Impatience of God's yoke (the laws of the theocracy), eagerness to imitate the nations around, and unbelief in trial, instead of seeking for the cause of their misfortunes in themselves, were the sin of their request. God in retribution "gave them a king in His anger" (Hosea 13:10-11).

Samuel by God's direction warned them of the evil results of their desire, the prerogative to dispose of their property and their children at will, which he would claim; yet they refused to obey: "nay, but we will have a king, that we also may be like all the nations, and that the king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles." The sacred record of Solomon's multiplying horses and chariots from Egypt, and foreign wives who turned away his heart, alludes to the prohibition (Deuteronomy 17:16-17; compare Deuteronomy 7:3-4; Exodus 34:16), and proceeds to verify the prediction of the results of disobedience to it. God saves not by horses and horsemen, but by the Lord His people's God (Hosea 1:7). Moses' caution against "returning to Egypt" accords with his experience (Numbers 14:4). After the kingdom was set up in Israel the danger was no longer of a literal (but see Jeremiah 42:14) but of a spiritual backsliding return to Egypt (Hosea 11:5; Isaiah 30:1-2; Isaiah 36:9; Ezekiel 17:15).

Solomon's multiplication of horses and chariots from Egypt entailed constant traffic with that idolatrous nation, which the prohibition, Deuteronomy 17:16, was designed to prevent. The king when set up, as the judge previously, was but God's viceroy, enjoying only a delegated authority. The high priest, priests, and Levites, as God's ministers, were magistrates as well as religious officers. Saul was elected by the divine oracle from an obscure family, so that all saw his authority was held solely at God's pleasure. The king had the executive power under God; God reserved to Himself the executive. The words "Jehovah is our Judge, Jehovah is our Lawgiver, Jehovah is our King," embody the theocracy (Isaiah 33:22). The land itself was His (Leviticus 25:23-42; Leviticus 25:55); and the people, as His servants, could not be permanently bondservants to men.

The king was closely connected with the priesthood, and was bound to "write (i.e. have written for him) a copy of the law out of that before the priests and Levites; he should read therein all his life, to keep all the words, that his heart might not be lifted up above his brethren, to the end that he might prolong his days in his kingdom" (Deuteronomy 17:18-20). Instead of being, like Eastern kings, of a distinct royal caste, he was simply to be first among equals, like his subjects bound by the fundamental law of the nation (compare Matthew 23:9). None of the Israelite kings usurped the right to legislate. The people chose their king, but only in accordance with God's "choice" and from their "brethren" (1 Samuel 9:15; 1 Samuel 10:24; 1 Samuel 16:12; 1 Kings 19:16; 1 Chronicles 22:10). The rule ("one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee," Deuteronomy 17:15) that no stronger should reign gives point to the question (See JESUS CHRIST), Matthew 22:17, "is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar?" (Jeremiah 30:21).

The unlimited polygamy of Eastern kings was forbidden. Samuel wrote down "the manner of the kingdom" (1 Samuel 10:25), i.e. the rights and duties of the king in relation to Jehovah the supreme King, and to the nation. Despotic murders were committed as that of the 85 priests at Nob, besides the other inhabitants, by Saul (1 Samuel 22:18-19); but mostly the kings observed forms of law. Even Ahab did not seize at once Naboth's vineyard, but did it with the show of a trial. David slew Rechab and Baanah because they were self convicted of Ishbosheth's murder. The king was commander in chief, supreme judge, and imposer of taxes (Menahem, 2 Kings 15:19-20; Jehoiakim, 2 Kings 23:35) and levies of men (1 Kings 5:13-15). He was "the Lord's anointed," consecrated with the holy oil heretofore reserved for the priests (Exodus 30:23-33; 1 Kings 1:39; 2 Samuel 7:14; Psalms 89:19-20; Psalms 89:26-27; Psalms 2:2; Psalms 2:6-7). It was sacrilegious to kill him, even at his own request (1 Samuel 24:5-6; 1 Samuel 24:10; 1 Samuel 26:9; 1 Samuel 26:16; 2 Samuel 1:14; Lamentations 4:20).

Type of Messiah (Daniel 9:26). The prophets were his advisers, reprovers (2 Samuel 12, 1 Kings 21) and intercessors with God (1 Kings 12:21-24; Isaiah 37:22-36; Jeremiah 37:17; Jeremiah 38:2; Jeremiah 38:4; Jeremiah 38:14-26). He was bound to consult God by the Urim and Thummim of the high priest in every important step (1 Samuel 14:18-19; 1 Samuel 28:6; 2 Samuel 2:1; 2 Samuel 5:19; 2 Samuel 5:23). He held office on condition of loyalty to his supreme Lord. Saul, failing herein, forfeited his throne; he usurped the place of God's will: "we inquired not at the ark in the days of Saul" (1 Chronicles 13:3). David, on the contrary, could not bear that God's throne, the ark, should lie neglected while his throne was so elevated, and he stripped off his royal robe for the linen ephod to do homage before the symbol of God's throne (2 Samuel 6:14).

The king selected his successor, under God's direction, as David chose Solomon before the elder son Adonijah (1 Kings 1:30; 1 Kings 2:22; 2 Samuel 12:24-25); compare 2 Chronicles 11:21-22, Rehoboam, Abijah; the firstborn was usually appointed (2 Chronicles 21:3-4). The queen mother was regent during a son's minority, and always held a high position of power at court (1 Kings 2:19; 2 Kings 24:12; 2 Kings 24:15; 2 Kings 11:1-3; Athaliah). His chief officers were the recorder, who wrote annals of his reign (2 Samuel 8:16); the scribe or secretary wrote dispatches and conducted his correspondence (2 Samuel 8:17); the officer over the house, arrayed in a distinctive robe of office and girdle (Isaiah 22:15, etc., Isaiah 36:3); the king's friend or companion (1 Kings 4:5); the captain of the body guard (2 Samuel 20:23; 1 Kings 2:25; 1 Kings 2:34; 1 Kings 2:46), who was also chief executioner; the commander in chief under the king (2 Samuel 3:30-39; 2 Samuel 20:23); his counselor (2 Samuel 216:20-23; 2 Samuel 217:1-14; 1 Chronicles 27:32). Besides demesnes , flocks, tenths (1 Samuel 8:15), levies, he enjoyed a large revenue by "presents," which virtually became a regular tax.

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These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
Fausset, Andrew R. Entry for 'King'. Fausset's Bible Dictionary. 1949.

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