Sabbath, February 2, 2019
Lesson 5 – Israel Requested a King
“God desired His people to look to Him alone as their Lawgiver and their Source of strength. Feeling their dependence upon God, they would be constantly drawn nearer to Him. They would become elevated and ennobled, fitted for the high destiny to which He had called them as His chosen people. But when a man was placed upon the throne, it would tend to turn the minds of the people from God. They would trust more to human strength, and less to divine power, and the errors of their king would lead them into sin and separate the nation from God.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 606.
1. Describe the government that was established in Israel at the time of Moses. Where did the authority reside?
Numbers 11:16, 17, 24, 25 And the Lord said unto Moses, Gather unto me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom thou knowest to be the elders of the people, and officers over them; and bring them unto the tabernacle of the congregation, that they may stand there with thee. 17 And I will come down and talk with thee there: and I will take of the spirit which is upon thee, and will put it upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with thee, that thou bear it not thyself alone…. 24And Moses went out, and told the people the words of the Lord, and gathered the seventy men of the elders of the people, and set them round about the tabernacle. 25And the Lord came down in a cloud, and spake unto him, and took of the spirit that was upon him, and gave it unto the seventy elders: and it came to pass, that, when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied, and did not cease. Deuteronomy 16:18 Judges and officers shalt thou make thee in all thy gates, which the Lord thy God giveth thee, throughout thy tribes: and they shall judge the people with just judgment.
“The government of Israel was administered in the name and by the authority of God. The work of Moses, of the seventy elders, of the rulers and judges, was simply to enforce the laws that God had given; they had no authority to legislate for the nation. This was, and continued to be, the condition of Israel’s existence as a nation. From age to age men inspired by God were sent to instruct the people and to direct in the enforcement of the laws.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 603.
2. In the time of Samuel, what did the people think about this type of organization? What request did the elders of Israel present to the prophet?
1 Samuel 8:4, 5 Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah, 5And said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.
“When the Israelites first settled in Canaan they acknowledged the principles of the theocracy, and the nation prospered under the rule of Joshua. But increase of population and intercourse with other nations brought a change. The people adopted many of the customs of their heathen neighbors and thus sacrificed to a great degree their own peculiar, holy character. Gradually they lost their reverence for God and ceased to prize the honor of being His chosen people. Attracted by the pomp and display of heathen monarchs, they tired of their own simplicity. Jealousy and envy sprang up between the tribes. Internal dissensions made them weak; they were continually exposed to the invasion of their heathen foes, and the people were coming to believe that in order to maintain their standing among the nations, the tribes must be united under a strong central government. As they departed from obedience to God’s law, they desired to be freed from the rule of their divine Sovereign; and thus the demand for a monarchy became widespread throughout Israel.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 603.
Wanting a different ruler
3. Was he pleased with this? According to the Lord, what was behind the people’s request? What does the Spirit of prophecy say about this?
1 Samuel 8:6-8 But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the Lord. 7And the Lord said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them. 8According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even unto this day, wherewith they have forsaken me, and served other gods, so do they also unto thee.
“The prophet was reproved for grieving at the conduct of the people toward himself as an individual. They had not manifested disrespect for him, but for the authority of God, who had appointed the rulers of His people. Those who despise and reject the faithful servant of God show contempt, not merely for the man, but for the Master who sent him. It is God’s words, His reproofs and counsel, that are set at nought; it is His authority that is rejected.
“The days of Israel’s greatest prosperity had been those in which they acknowledged Jehovah as their King–when the laws and the government which He had established were regarded as superior to those of all other nations. Moses had declared to Israel concerning the commandments of the Lord: ‘This is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all
these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ Deuteronomy 4:6. But by departing from God’s law the Hebrews had failed to become the people that God desired to make them, and then all the evils which were the result of their own sin and folly they charged upon the government of God. So completely had they become blinded by sin.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 605.
4. Did the people really fathom what would result from what they were requesting? How clear was the Lord’s answer informing them about the claims a king would make?
1 Samuel 8:9, 10 Now therefore hearken unto their voice: howbeit yet protest solemnly unto them, and show them the manner of the king that shall reign over them. 10And Samuel told all the words of the Lord unto the people that asked of him a king.
“Samuel was instructed to grant the request of the people, but to warn them of the Lord’s disapproval, and also make known what would be the result of their course.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 607.
“The Lord had, through His prophets, foretold that Israel would be governed by a king. But it by no means follows that this form of government was according to His will. Though He foresees all things, He often permits men to take their own course, when they refuse to be guided by the counsels of infinite wisdom. In this instance, He instructed Samuel to grant their request, but to faithfully warn them of the Lord’s disapproval, and also make known what would be the result of their course: ‘Now therefore hearken unto their voice. Howbeit yet protest solemnly unto them, and show them the manner of the king that shall reign over them.’” –Signs of the Times, July 13, 1882.
Consequences of their choice
5. Were they informed that the kind of king they asked for would create more problems than he would solve? In addition to the risks mentioned in the Scriptures, what other problem was connected with a monarchy?
1 Samuel 8:11-17 And he said, This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots. 12And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and will set them to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots. 13And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers. 14And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants. 15And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants. 16And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work. 17He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants.
“The Lord had, through His prophets, foretold that Israel would be governed by a king; but it does not follow that this form of government was best for them or according to His will. He permitted the people to follow their own choice, because they refused to be guided by His counsel. Hosea declares that God gave them a king in His anger. Hosea 13:11. When men choose to have their own way, without seeking counsel from God, or in opposition to His revealed will, He often grants their desires, in order that, through the bitter experience that follows, they may be led to realize their folly and to repent of their sin….
“Besides all this, the king would require a tenth of all their income, the profits of their labor, or the products of the soil. ‘Ye shall be his servants,’ concluded the prophet. ‘And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king….’ However burdensome,… when once a monarchy was established, they could not set it aside at pleasure.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 605, 606.
6. Did the people realize that their request was not the best and that one day they would be very sorry for it? What reasons did they give for wanting this?
1 Samuel 8:18-20 And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the Lord will not hear you in that day. 19Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay; but we will have a king over us; 20That we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles.
“‘Like all the nations.’ The Israelites did not realize that to be in this respect unlike other nations was a special privilege and blessing. God had separated the Israelites from every other people, to make them His own peculiar treasure. But they, disregarding this high honor, eagerly desired to imitate the example of the heathen! And still the longing to conform to worldly practices and customs exists among the professed people of God. As they depart from the Lord they become ambitious for the gains and honors of the world. Christians are constantly seeking to imitate the practices of those who worship the god of this world. Many urge that by uniting with worldlings and conforming to their customs they might exert a stronger influence over the ungodly. But all who pursue this course thereby separate from the Source of their strength. Becoming the friends of the world, they are the enemies of God.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 607.
Sorrow for Samuel and the Lord
7. Can we grasp how Samuel felt when he heard the people’s conclusion? Nevertheless, what was the Lord’s response?
1 Samuel 8:21, 22 And Samuel heard all the words of the people, and he rehearsed them in the ears of the Lord. 22And the Lord said to Samuel, Hearken unto their voice, and make them a king. And Samuel said unto the men of Israel, Go ye every man unto his city.
“With deep sadness Samuel listened to the words of the people; but the Lord said unto him, ‘Hearken unto their voice, and make them a king.’ The prophet had done his duty. He had faithfully presented the warning, and it had been rejected. With a heavy heart he dismissed the people, and himself departed to prepare for the great change in the government.
“Samuel’s life of purity and unselfish devotion was a perpetual rebuke both to self-serving priests and elders and to the proud, sensual congregation of Israel. Although he assumed no pomp and made no display, his labors bore the signet of Heaven. He was honored by the world’s Redeemer, under whose guidance he ruled the Hebrew nation. But the people had become weary of his piety and devotion; they despised his humble authority and rejected him for a man who should rule them as a king.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 607.
For additional study
“Those who act a part in God’s great cause are not to follow the example of worldlings… He who depends on men for strength and influence leans on a broken reed.
“Depending on men has been the great weakness of the church. Men have dishonored God by failing to appreciate His sufficiency, by coveting the influence of men. Thus Israel became weak. The people wanted to be like the other nations of the world, and they asked for a king. They desired to be guided by human power which they could see, rather than by the divine…. They made their own choice, and the result was seen in the destruction of Jerusalem and the dispersion of the nation….
“What must have been the power of the enemy upon Solomon, a man whom Inspiration has thrice called the beloved of God, and to whom was committed the great work of building the temple! In that very work Solomon made an alliance with idolatrous nations, and through his marriages he bound himself up with heathen women through whose influence he in his later years forsook the temple of God to worship in the groves he had prepared for their idols.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, pp. 249, 250.