Proposition #28
God makes the Jewish King subordinate to His own Theocracy.


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PROPOSITION 28. God makes the Jewish King subordinate to His own Theocracy.

According to Samuel’s statement, God pardons the nation on the conditions that it still, with the king included, acknowledges him as the continuous Supreme Monarch, and that the king chosen shall enforce the laws given by his superior in authority. In this entire transaction God’s theocratic rule is preserved intact. The earthly king was under certain imposed restrictions, and was threatened, in case of disobedience, with the displeasure of, and punishment from, the still recognized Civil Head of the nation. This was felt and freely confessed by Saul (1 Sam. 13:12, and 28:15), David (1 Sam. 6:20, and 7:13–16, etc.), Solomon (1 Kings 3:8, 9, and 6:12–14, also ch. 8, etc.), and others.[*]

Note. This submission is indicated, e.g. by building “a house unto the Lord,” in and through which the Will of the great Ruler might be obtained and confirmed. When the kings forgot their position and trust, or directly rebelled against their Head or Chief, the result was that the prosperity of the king and nation was checked, the original blessings were withdrawn, intended good was withheld, and the curses given through Moses were experienced. Solomon (2 Chron. 9:8) acknowledges this subordinate position, when he accepted of the Queen of Sheba’s expression (the knowledge of which had evidently been previously imparted), that he was, “set to be king for the Lord his God.” The reader will not fail to observe that the nation receiving Saul as king, then concurring in his rejection, and then accepting of David, clearly indicates that it realized its Theocratic position as a nation. The prompt acquiescence in Samuel’s appointments shows that it believed him to act under the divine direction of the Chief Ruler, and this was evidenced to them by the miraculous thunder-storm (a storm ridiculed by unbelief, but highly proper and Theocratic in the grave crisis). In addition to the references given under the previous Props., we add the following. M’Clintock and Strong’s Cyclop., Art. “Monarchy,” speaking of the change introduced, says: “The King, however, was only empowered to administer the Theocratic government as a Viceroy of Jehovah, the heavenly Sovereign, and was bound to this law as the highest authority, so as to exclude the idea of an independent and absolute monarch.” Wines (Com. on the Laws, p. 548, etc.) remarks on the foreseen provision of Deut. 17:14–20, that “Monarchy was permitted to the Israelites;” that the choice of a king was limited, so that the nation “was not to appoint any one as king who was not chosen of God;” and that “the law, and not the king’s own will and pleasure, was to be the rule of his administration.” The student will find in Deut. 17:14–20 express provision made by fundamental law, defining and limiting the power of future kings, obligating them to keep the law of God, thus, in the same vindicating both the supremacy of the Head of the nation as Chief Ruler, and His foreknowledge of the result when the nation was “come unto the land” which their Ruler gave it.

Obs. 1. It follows, therefore, that Josephus (Ant. 6:3 2, 3), and those who receive his view, are mistaken when they end the Theocracy with the Judges. The concession, made by the nation and earthly king, was such that God could, in equity, pardon the people and continue His august, special rule.[*]

Note. Fulton, in Government: Human and Divine, p. 20, makes this mistake, saying: “The very Kingdom of Israel was a professed Theocracy, with God as King and the man who filled the throne on earth only vice-king or deputy; we say professed Theocracy, because the real Theocracy of the Jews ceased when they chose a human king.” Now the reverse of this is the truth, as abundantly seen in God’s own words. This will be more clearly seen as we proceed. For the present, over against Fulton we quote Oosterzee (Ch. Dog., vol. 1, p. 467), who well observes that the rise of royalty (i.e. the reign of the earthly kings) was not “the end of the Theocracy,” but “rather its modification, and at the same time its development;” and “that the King over this people must not be an autocrat, but rather a theocrat, par excellence, a viceroy and minister of God.” We may add, as a hint, that this very Theocratic feeling and submission, so characteristic of David, is what pre-eminently constituted him a man after God’s heart, notwithstanding his lapses.

Obs. 2. In addition to the priesthood, the given law, and the access to God on particular occasions, a safeguard was thrown around this subordinate kingship to prevent it, either in its hereditary character (in case of wicked successors), or in its State and Religious officials (in designing, ambitious men), from interfering with the rights, laws, truths, etc., of the Supreme Ruler. This was done by what Augustine (City of God, 17:1) and Stanley (His. Jew. Ch., 1 Ser. S. 18) have called a “prophetical dispensation, which ran parallel with the monarchy from the first to the last King.” King and priest were to yield to the authority of the Prophet, simply because the latter directly revealed the will of the Supreme King.[*]

Note. This has been noticed by numerous writers, as e.g. Kurtz (in Sac. His. and His. of Old Gov.), Delitzsch, Auberlen, Hengstenberg, etc. Hence, too, Stanley (Lec. 18, His. Jew. Ch.) calls it a “vulgar error” to represent “the conflict of Samuel with Saul as a conflict between the regal and sacerdotal power,” for, as he observes, Samuel was no priest, and it was doubtful whether he was of Levitical descent. It was as a prophet that Samuel spoke, as one directly commissioned by God. The priesthood, indeed, served as a check and as directors, but as they, too, were liable to forget their allegiance and duty, the prophet was the purest revealer of the King’s will and pleasure. J. Stuart Mill (Rep. Government, p. 41) curiously observes the practical effect of this safeguard in these words: “Under the protection, generally though not always effectual, of their sacred character, the Prophets were a power in the nation, often more than a match for kings and priests, and kept up, in that little corner of the earth, the antagonism of influences which is the only real security for continued progress.”
    Dean Graves (On the Pentateuch, pt. 1. Lec. 1) has framed a strong argument (reproduced by Wines in Com., p. 180, etc.) on the ancient existence of the Pentateuch, derived from the fact that the regal form was subsequently introduced, and that it placed such restraints upon the kings, abridging prerogatives, curbing their power, so that the improbability of any king (as e.g. Josiah, etc.) forging it, or accepting it from others, with its imposed conditions, is self-evident. We may add that a form of government, such as delineated in the Pentateuch, with its peculiar code of laws, punishments, etc., is so patent a matter for a whole nation to consider, that a fabrication of the same, and its imposition upon a nation as something that had previously existed, when it is false, is simply an utter impossibility. Men are never willing to place themselves under such restraints (or to trace their disasters to a violation of them) unless they are authoritative, and they know the source and legitimacy of the same—thus confirming the testimony of Jewish quotations, commemorative rites, festivals, etc.