The demand of the nation for an earthly king was a virtual abandonment of this Theocratic Kingdom by the nation.
PROPOSITION 27. The demand of the nation for an earthly king was a virtual abandonment of this Theocratic Kingdom by the nation.
This is explicitly stated; for when (1 Sam. 8:4–9) the elders of Israel desired a king, God told Samuel, “they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them,” and entered against it a “solemn protest.” On the day of presentation (1 Sam. 10:17–19), Samuel protested: “Ye have this day rejected your God,” in this matter of asking for a king. To show the nation “the great wickedness” it was guilty of “in the sight of the Lord in asking you a king,” to Samuel’s word was added (1 Sam. 12:16–19), by way of attestation, a severe thunder-storm in harvest time. The sinfulness consisted (1 Sam. 12:12) in saying that “a king shall reign over us, when the Lord your God was your King.”[*]
Note. This desire for a King, like other earthly kings, was expressed before, but regarded as sinful. Gideon’ (Judg. 8:22, 23) was offered the Kingship a hereditary monarchy, but he, appreciating the honor of the instituted Theocratic ordering, refused it, saying: “the Lord shall rule over you.” Kitto’s Bible His., M’Clintock and Strong’s Cyclop., make Abimelech the first King of Israel. The question was proposed to the Ch. Union, and it correctly replied (Aug. 22, 1877) that Abimelech exercised authority during the anarchic days described by Judges, but that in no proper sense could he be called King of Israel, being a mere chieftain, a Judge, and that Saul was the first of the Kings who exercised royal authority.
Obs. 1. No deeper insult could scarcely be offered to God than such a request indicated. This is seen by considering the Being who condescended to be their Ruler, the blessings that He promised, and the design He had in view in thus becoming, in a direct manner, King over the nation. The only extenuation for such “wickedness,” as Samuel intimates, is found in their distressed circumstances, also brought upon them by unbelief.[*]
Note. Schlegel (Philos. of His., Lec. 6), speaking of the Jewish Theocracy, says: “This constitution has been called a Theocracy, and so it was in the right and old signification of that word, by which was meant a government under the special and immediate Providence of God.” This, excellent as it is, is only a half-truth, for the Providence of God is thus exerted in behalf of the nation because it is a government of which He Himself is the acknowledged Ruler. This is proven by our Propositions. This, too, seems to be Schlegel’s idea in the phrase quoted, for he correctly rejects the interpretation (now even used by many respectable writers) which gives such a latitude to the word as to make it a priestly dominion, or which confines it too much, or even exclusively, to the priesthood (saying that Moses was no priest, etc.). Then, justly, he regards the desire of the Hebrews to have a king like other nations, “a wish which, in the higher views of Holy Writ, was regarded as the culpable illusion of a carnal sense.” The student, therefore, will keep in view the fact that a Theocracy is far more than the exercise of a special and immediate providence; it is an earthly relationship of Kingship over a nation in which the honor and glory of the King is deeply concerned.
Obs. 2. Some writers when adverting to this point are not sufficiently precise in their language. Burt (Redemp. Dawn, p. 242) says: “The idea of an earthly monarchy does not seem to have entered the Mosaic constitution,” and “the idea of a monarchy did not enter the Mosaic system, and cannot be regarded as a natural development of that system.” Jahn and others declare that an “earthly monarchy was out of harmony with the Mosaic economy.” Such views are the result of stopping short at Samuel’s protest and not carefully noticing what followed. On the other hand, Hengstenberg and others maintain that the monarchy was a necessary development of that constitution or system. Such plainly ignore the protest of God, which, if it means anything, certainly denotes that God did not deem it necessary. Hence neither party are correct, although both have a portion of the truth. Notice: 1. The Theocracy was a monarchy, but God was the monarch. This is so clearly evidenced by the facts that it is now acknowledged by talented writers, as e.g. Wines (Com. on the Laws of the Anc. Heb.), who says that God was accepted by the nation as their “Civil Ruler, Monarch, and Political Head;” “the Sovereignty of the nation was vested in Him.” 2. It was a monarchy over a nation here on earth—the kingdom was here and not elsewhere, as the rule, decisions, etc., were administered here, so that while divinely constituted it also sustained an earthly relationship. 3. While the idea of a monarchy was bound up with the Theocracy (“the Lord your God was your King”), it was not requisite, nor was it a natural development of the Theocratic idea, that this style of monarchy should be yielded up for another merely human, or for one acting in conjunction with the other; this the express language and rebukes of Samuel forbid. 4. But while the yielding of God to the desire of the Jews does not evince a natural or legitimate outgrowth (His protest being sufficient to indicate this), yet we shall show, step by step, how, by not conceding His authority to another, etc., He could, in mercy and forgiveness, engraft even such a kingship into the Theocracy itself. 5. God, foreseeing this very sin of the nation, made provision for it already through Moses (thus evidencing both His foreknowledge and a Divine Purpose to be accomplished). To avert the evil, and overrule it for good, He gave express directions (Deut. 17:14–20) that the choosing of such a King should be under His exclusive control, and that such a King must acknowledge the Theocracy as existing—i.e. God’s supremacy in the Kingdom—making his rule subordinate in all respects to that of the Chief Ruler. 6. God could do this the more consistently and engraft this Kingship into the Theocracy, because the Theocracy contemplated its latest and most glorious manifestations to be a Rulership of God in the man Jesus. Thus, at some future time, in the line of the kingly race selected, the Theocratic idea would be openly exhibited, and the two elements be perfectly blended in one, enhancing the glory and majesty of the King. The contemplation of such a Plan ought to produce the most profoundly reverent and grateful feelings.[*]
Note. Newman, in his His. of the Hebrew Monarchy, passes by the Theocracy, and begins, as the starting-point of connected history, at the election of Saul. He entirely overlooks the essential part of a Theocracy, viz.: God ruling over the nation as an earthly king, and that, as we shall show, this Theocratic idea was enforced over the kings. Hence his work is vitiated by a fundamental error, nullifying his destructive criticism. The same is true of numerous works, otherwise able, that have a moulding influence over many.