by Ken Overby
Moses’ final instructions to guide Israel into nationhood before they entered the promised land foresaw their desire for a king. God gave them divine prerequisites for a king in addition to the tribal origin from Judah in Genesis 49:10. First, God must choose the man who was to become their king, “thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee whom the LORD thy God shall choose…” Secondly he must be “one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee…” Thirdly “thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, which is not thy brother,” Deuteronomy 17:14-15.
Samuel and Saul
Years had passed since Joshua’s death and there was turmoil between tribes. The unrepelled Canaanites became the predicted thorns in their sides (Judges 2:3). Attacks mounted from marauding Philistines and Midianites but God raised up “judges” like Gideon and Sampson to defend Israel. This period was aptly summarized; “In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes,” Judges 21:25.
God raised up Samuel the prophet to guide them. At the end of his days, they confronted him with his waning ability due to age and to the wickedness of his own sons, 1 Samuel 8:1-3. Their demand that Samuel find them a king, 1 Samuel 8:4-5, grieved his heart because they had either forgotten or had decided to ignore God’s stipulations. The “LORD said unto Samuel… they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them,” 1 Samuel 8:7. God identified with Samuel’s feelings. “According 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,” 1 Samuel 8:8. Instead of further rebuking them for rebellion and idolatry, God acquiesced to their demand. “Now therefore hearken unto their voice…,” 1 Samuel 8:9.
Amazingly, their first choice, Saul, completely ignored the tribe of Judah. Saul was from Benjamin. If that were not bad enough, they did not approach God through the anointed office of prophet. They said, “Nay; but we will have a king over us; 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,” 1 Samuel 8:18-20. Just like their grandparents who died in the wilderness, who complained and demanded meat instead of manna every morning, “God granted them their request and sent leanness to their souls,” Psalm 106:15.
In spite of Israel’s rebellion, God in His sovereignty, directed their selection of Saul the Benjamite, “a choice young man, and a goodly: and there was not among the children of Israel a goodlier person than he: from his shoulders and upward he was higher than any of the people,” 1 Samuel 9:1,2. “Then Samuel took a vial of oil, and poured it upon his head, and kissed him, and said, Is it not because the LORD hath anointed thee to be captain over his inheritance,” 1 Samuel 10:1.
Saul’s weakness of character was eventually revealed. His reign as king would bring division and difficulty to the fledgling nation. The choice of the wrong person with weak character can have such disastrous consequences as is evident all through history. Saul’s life would be characterized by disobedience to the word of God. God’s instruction to destroy Israel’s irredeemable enemy the Amalekites and all their possessions, 1 Samuel 15, was ignored by Saul and his actions defended when confronted by Samuel. Saul’s rationale that he spared the animals to sacrifice them to God, as God prescribed in the Mosaic system, was rebuked by the prophet, “And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams,” 1 Samuel 15:22. As a result, Saul was told, “…for thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD hath rejected thee from being king over Israel,” 1 Samuel 15:26.
David and Solomon
God turned his mercy away from Saul and chose a man from the tribe of Judah. “And the LORD said unto Samuel, How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? fill thine horn with oil, and go, I will send thee to Jesse the Beth-lehemite: for I have provided me a king among his sons,” 1 Samuel 16:1,2. Passing over Samuel’s interest in the older sons of Jesse, God clarified the essential qualification without which, no other characteristics or abilities matter, “for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart,” 1 Samuel 16:7. God was seeking “…a man after his own heart,” 1 Samuel 13:14.
When David returned from shepherding, “The LORD said, Arise, anoint him: for this is he. Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward … But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul,” 1 Samuel 16:12-14. The anointing of oil by the prophet upon the man chosen by God to hold the office of king, initiated the presence of God’s Spirit to equip him to lead the nation.
Fast forwarding to the end of David’s colorful life and glorious reign, we see his desire to leave a legacy to God’s glory and desire to upgrade God’s accommodations from a tent to a temple. But God refused His wishes. In a stroke of amazing grace, despite the sinful relationship with Bath-Shebah, the Lord promised to let her and David’s second son Solomon, build the temple. Then God made an everlasting covenant with David which would be enjoyed by his heirs. Regardless of the failings of many royal heirs, the eternal covenant with David would remain. “Now these be the last words of David…And the man who was raised up on high, The anointed of the God of Jacob. Although my house be not so with God; Yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant,” 2 Samuel 23:1,5. The phrase, “My house be not so with God,” aptly describes the harvest of sin’s crop within his immediate family members and for the most part describes his dynasty beginning with Solomon. Despite the abundance of wealth, peace and the expanse of Israel’s domain and influence, Solomon turned his heart away from God. He took many “strange (foreign)wives…concerning which the LORD said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall not go in to them, neither shall they come in unto you: for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods: Solomon clave unto these in love,” 1 Kings 11:1,2. Despite the divine prohibition, Solomon built shrines of idolatry in Jerusalem for them.
Solomon, like Saul, strayed from the word of God. So, God began to reduce the power and size of the kingdom. God stirred up adversarial kings to afflict Israel. “And the LORD was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned from the LORD God of Israel…Wherefore the LORD said unto Solomon…I will surely rend the kingdom from thee, and will give it to thy servant. Notwithstanding in thy days I will not do it for David thy father’s sake: but I will rend it out of the hand of thy son. Howbeit I will not rend away all the kingdom; but will give one tribe to thy son for David my servant’s sake, and for Jerusalem’s sake which I have chosen,” 1 Kings 11:9-13. This forecast the divided Kingdom of Israel to the north and Judah to the south.
Jeroboam, “the son of Nebat of the tribe of Ephraim,” “lifted up his hand” against Solomon over the building of Millo and the repairing of the breaches in the wall in the city of David, 1 Kings 11:27. This statement about Jeroboam is interesting as the very next verse says, “Solomon seeing the young man that he was industrious, he made him ruler over all the charge of the house of Joseph.” It is unlikely that the “lifting of his hand” was a serious rebellion because Solomon promoted Jeroboam to an important place of leadership overseeing the affairs of the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. One writer says, “Their grievances were because of the burden of work. The endless building projects in the days of Solomon. And the lavish lifestyles of the royal family which made the labourers more resentful of the king.”2
Jeroboam ultimately desired to be king. This was the desire of his heart, and God would ultimately grant him his desire to be king of the northern kingdom of 10 tribes, “And I will take thee, and thou shalt reign according to all that thy soul desireth, and shalt be king over Israel,” 1 Kings 11:37.
The prophet Ahijah told Jeroboam of God’s plan: “And it came to pass at that time when Jeroboam went out of Jerusalem, that the prophet Ahijah the Shilonite found him in the way; and he had clad himself with a new garment; and they two were alone in the field: And Ahijah caught the new garment that was on him, and rent it in twelve pieces: and he said to Jeroboam, Take thee ten pieces: for thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel, Behold, I will rend the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon, and will give ten tribes to thee: (but he shall have one tribe for my servant David’s sake, and for Jerusalem’s sake, the city which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel:) because that they have forsaken me…and have not walked in my ways, to do that which is right in mine eyes, and to keep my statutes and my judgments, as did David his father. Howbeit I will not take the whole kingdom out of his hand: but I will make him prince all the days of his life for David my servant’s sake, whom I chose, because he kept my commandments and my statutes: but I will take the kingdom out of his son’s hand, and will give it unto thee, even ten tribes. And unto his son will I give one tribe, that David my servant may have a light alway before me in Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen me to put my name there,” 1 Kings 11:29-36.
The news of Abijah’s prophecy “But I will take the kingdom out of his son’s hand, and will give it unto thee, even ten tribes,” 1 Kings 11:35, resulted in Solomon trying to kill Jeroboam. “Solomon sought therefore to kill Jeroboam, And Jeroboam arose, and fled into Egypt, unto Shishak king of Egypt, and was in Egypt until the death of Solomon,” 1 Kings 11:40.
“After King Solomon’s death, Rehoboam the son of Solomon was made a king. During King Rehoboam’s reign, Jeroboam returned to Israel. Jeroboam was part of a delegation who were sent to ask King Rehoboam to reduce the high taxes his father King Solomon levied on them. But King Rehoboam rejected their petition for a reduction in taxes. In consequence of this, ten of the tribes rebelled against King Rehoboam and became independent; hence forming the northern kingdom of Israel. They then chose and made Jeroboam their king.”1
Fourteen generations after David, there was a major problem with his royal heir, Jeconiah (Jehoiachin/Jehoiakim). His descendants were banned from the Davidic dynasty by Jeremiah’s pronouncement upon Jeconiah, “Thus saith the LORD, Write ye this man childless, a man that shall not prosper in his days: for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah,” Jeremiah 22:30. Seemingly the Messianic line to establish the eternal kingdom promised to David was satanically thwarted by this curse, but a look ahead to the genealogical record of Jesus solves this problem.
In the book of Luke, Jesus’ lineage isn’t traced back through Solomon like in Matthew, but through another son of David. According to chapter 3, Jesus was the descendant of David by Mary through Heli, through Nathan. The problem of Jeconiah’s prohibited progeny was divinely circumvented.
Jesus: God’s Anointed King
The promise of an eternal King from the line of David is established in Psalm 89, “I have found David my servant; With my holy oil have I anointed him: My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips. Once have I sworn by my holiness that I will not lie unto David. His seed shall endure forever.” Ultimately Jesus, the anointed Son of God and son of David, will reign exalted above every name because only He could claim title as Israel’s royal King. “Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre. Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows,” Psalm 45:6-7.
May we, like the proclamation of the Apostle Paul, “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father,” Philippians 2:9-11, bend our knee and heart to the King of kings.
2 https://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/30718/what-were-the-grievances-jeroboam- brought-against-king-solomon