In God’s purpose, the elect nation of Israel was meant to be a theocracy, that is, a state governed by Him as its sole King, not as a titular Head, but as sovereign Ruler. God’s laws and com-mandments regulated all the nation’s activities. In this respect, Israel was unique among all the nations, in that whereas the latter set earthly monarchs over them, the Israelites bore a direct responsibility to God as His liege subjects. Long before Israel had a king, even before they entered Canaan, the people were involved in battles with the kings of other nations, such as Sihon king of the Amorites and Og king of Bashan, whom they defeated. As early as Abraham’s day, five confed-erate kings of Canaan sought to defend their territory against four invading confederate kings, Gen. 14. Melchizedek, who intervened between Abraham and the king of Sodom upon Abraham’s return from the rescue of Lot, was “king of Salem".
God promised Abraham that “kings shall come out of thee”, a promise that was renewed to Jacob, Gen. 17. 6; 35. 11. In this God predicted the course of events. Long before Israel asked Samuel to make them a king, God had laid down guidelines for his conduct, “When thou art come unto the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, and shall possess it, and shall dwell therein, and shall say, I will set a king over me, like as all the nations that are about me; thou shall in any wise set him king over thee, whom the Lord thy God shall choose”, Deut. 17. 14, 15. The people would demand a king, but would not choose him, for God re-served that right and the choice would be His, although in Saul’s case He would attribute the choice to them; cf. 1 Sam. 12. 13. Certain conditions were set forth which any future king must observe. Firstly, he must needs be “one from among thy brethren … not … a stranger”, Deut. 17. 15, that is, the king himself must be one of the elect people. Secondly, “he shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt, to the end that he should multiply horses”, v. 16. The Lord “delighteth not in the strength of the horse”, Psa. 147. 10, nor would He have His people do so. “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses”, but it were better to “remem-ber the name of the Lord our God”, 20.7. Thirdly, “neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away”. Long afterwards, Paul wrote, “he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife”, 1 Cor. 7. 33. Were a king greatly to multiply wives, this would increase the risk of neglect-ing his duty toward God. Fourthly, “neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold”, Deut. 17. 17. This would only incline him to luxur-ious living and costly enterprises, becoming “a root of all kinds of evil”, 1 Tim. 6. 10 r.v. Lastly, “it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book … and … he shall read therein all the days of his life; that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them ; that his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment”, Deut. 17. 18, 20. Saul, the son of Kish, a Benjamite, was Israel’s first king and, as God had foretold, was desired by the Israelites, who came to Samuel and said “make us a king to judge us like all the nations”, 1 Sam. 8.5. Samuel had made his sons “judges over Israel”, but they were not men of probity, as their father was, and “walked not in his ways, but … took bribes, and per-verted judgment”, vv. 1 -3. Samuel’s old age, and his sons’ evil ways, caused the elders of Israel to request that a king be set over them. Samuel was “displeased” when they said, “Give us a king to judge us”, but was told by the Lord to accede to their request, who significantly added, “they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them’, v. 7. It was a rejection of the theocracy. Samuel was told to warn the people of “the manner of the king that shall reign over them”; he would be a burden to them; he would take their sons for his army and for his husbandry, their daughters for his domestic service, the best of their fields, vineyards and olive yards, as also the tithe of their seed and vineyards, for his servants. Because of the king’s exactions, the people would “cry out in that day be-cause of your king which ye shall have chosen you”, vv. 11-18. Nonetheless, the people insisted upon a king, “that we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles”, vv. 19, 20. They compromised thereby their status as God’s “peculiar people”, “separated” by that fact from all the other nations; cf. Exod. 33. 16, to whose activity they now wished to conform. Their choice marked a sad day for Israel. Although Saul showed some early signs of promise, he proved to be a disaster, and was eventually superseded by David. Samuel saw their request for a king as great wickedness, 1 Sam. 12. 17,19. Saul’s transgression in offering a burnt offering, impatient at Samuel’s delayed arrival to do so, caused him to be rejected as king in favour of David, “a man after (God’s) own heart”, as “captain over his people”. Saul’s failure to exterminate all that pertained to Amaiek sealed his rejection by God, “Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king”, 15. 23. Thus it was that David, the youngest of Jesse’s sons, was chosen by God and anointed by Samuel as king, 16. 13. He was de jure, but not de facto king, while Saul continued to reign over Israel.
After the death of Saul and his sons in battle against the Philistines, David was anointed king over Judah, but was not made king over the whole nation until seven and a half years later, 2 Sam. 2. 4; 5.1 -5. He was there-after to reign for thirty-three years and although his reign was not unmarked by blemishes, under God he made Israel a great nation. God had said that He had made David “a great name, like unto the name of the great men that are in the earth”, 7. 9. David was succeeded by Solomon, his son by Bathsheba the former wife of Uriah the Hittite, despite an attempt by his half-brother Adonijah to take the throne when David was dying, 1 Kings 1. 5. Despite the conditions that God had laid down in Deuteronomy for Israel’s future kings to observe, Solomon was to break most of them. God had said “he shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt, to the end that he should multiply horses”, Deut. 17. 16. Solomon did precisely this. He “had horses brought out of Egypt” and “forty thousand stalls of horses for his chariots, and twelve thousand horse-men”, 1 Kings 4. 26; 10. 28, 29. The king had been forbidden to “multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away”, Deut. 17. 17. Solomon had seven hundred wives … and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart… after other gods”, 1 Kings 11. 3, 4. God had said, “neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold”, Deut. 17. 17. We read that “the weight of gold that came to Solomon in one year was six hundred threescore and six talents of gold”, and that he “made silver to be in Jerusalem as stones”, 1 Kings 10. 14, 27. Had Solomon read in his copy of the law “all the days of his life … to keep all the words of (the) law and (the) statutes, to do them’, he would not have turned aside from the com-mandment, as he did, Deut. 17. 19; 1 Kings 11.9.
God’s warnings through Moses might have been written specially for Solomon. Because of his departure from God, the Lord was angry with him that he should have disregarded His warning “not (to) go after other gods; but he kept not that which the Lord commanded”, 1 Kings 11. 9, 10. Because of this, God said, “I will surely rend the kingdom from thee”, but for David’s sake God deferred doing so during Solomon’s lifetime, vv. 11-13. After Solomon’s death, the kingdom was divided into two parts, the North-ern and Southern kingdoms, Israel and Judah. With but few exceptions, the kings of Judah and Israel were failures, and eventually brought the Israelites into captivity. But God had never abandoned His purpose for a theocracy. Melchizedek, “king of Salem … priest of the most high God”, Gen. 14. 18, was a type of a by-far-greater Person-age who would combine both offices. Of Joshua, the high priest of the re-storation, God said that he “shall sit and rule upon his throne; and shall be a priest upon his throne”, Zech. 6. 13. As “the man whose name is The Branch”, he prefigured Christ, the King -Priest par excellence, cf. Jer. 23. 5, 6. Psalm 2 highlights man’s final defiant opposition to God, “Why do the heathen rage, and the people im-agine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord”, vv. 1, 2. Despite their raging, God announced, “Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion”, v. 6. Psalm 110 takes up the theme, and identifies God’s king as “a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek”, who will “strike through kings in the day of his wrath”, and “rule” in the midst of His enemies, vv. 2, 4, 5.
In its heyday, Solomon’s reign typified and prefigured Christ’s millen-nial reign. Psalm 72 goes far beyond everything that Solomon ever achieved, “They shall fear thee as long as the sun and moon endure, throughout all generations … In his days shall the righteous flourish; and abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth. He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth … all kings shall fall down before him; all nations shall serve him … His name shall endure for ever; his name shall be continued as long as the sun’. These things were only dimly seen in Solomon’s reign, but, as Isaac Watts wrote,
Jesus shall reign where'er the sun
Doth His successive journeys run; His kingdom stretch from shore to
Till moons shall wax and wane no more.
Through Jeremiah, God announced “the days come … that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth”, Jer. 23. 5. God’s king, therefore, would come of David’s royal line. Gabriel, sent to Mary to acquaint her of God’s great purpose to bring Christ into the world through her, said of “that holy thing which shall be born of thee” – “the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David. And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end”, Luke 1. 32,33. /Isaiah had foretold the coming of such an One, Isa. 9. 6, 7. In the person of “the child … born” and the “Son … given”, God will restore the theocracy that Israel rejected, “who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords”, 1 Tim. 6. 15. He “must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet”, 1 Cor. 15. 25.
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