I Samuel 8 — Israel Rebels against God
That this is rebellion is hinted at here but is stated explicitly in I Sam. 10 and I Samuel 12
17 ¶ And Samuel [k]assembled the people unto the Lord in Mizpah, 18 And he said unto the children of Israel, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, I have brought Israel out of Egypt, and delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hands of all kingdoms that troubled you. 19 But ye have this day cast away your God, who only delivereth you out of all your adversities and tribulations: and ye said unto him, No, but appoint a king over us. Now therefore stand ye before the Lord according to your tribes, and according to your thousands. (Compare I Samuel 12:6-18)
I.) The Turn Away From God To the Nation (I Samuel 8:4-9)
What Israel is rejecting here is not Samuel so much as it is God. God had been their King as was made evident in God’s triumph over Pharaoh. The Exodus account tells of how God’s Kingship over Israel was mightier that Pharaoh’s Kingship over Egypt. That the Hebrew children recognized this is seen from their acclimation of God’s rule over them in Exodus 15:16-18.
17 “Thou wilt bring them and plant them in the mountain of Thine inheritance, The place, O LORD, which Thou hast made for Thy dwelling, The sanctuary, O Lord, which Thy hands have established. 18 “The LORD shall reign 24 forever and ever”
But now as the I Samuel 8 text teaches, “they have cast me away, that I should not reign over them.”
And so not desiring God to reign over them they desire a King like all the pagan Nations around them.
We need to keep in mind that this turn away from God’s Kingship was at the same time a turning away from God’s law. The Hebrews of Samuel’s time had no desire to be ruled by God and His Law Word. They desired a different standard by which to be ruled.
Now we want to make clear here that it is not the idea of having a King that is a problem. We know this because in Dt. 17 God speaks about the coming day when there will be a King and he lays down certain provisions for that Kingship.
15 Then thou shalt make him King over thee, whom the Lord thy God shall choose: from among thy brethren shalt thou make a King over thee: thou [j]shalt not set a [k]stranger over thee which is not thy brother. 16 In any wise he shall not prepare him many horses, nor bring the people again to [l]Egypt, for to increase the number of horses, seeing the Lord hath said unto you, Ye shall henceforth go no more again that way. 17 Neither shall he take him many wives, lest his heart [m]turn away, neither shall he gather him much silver and gold. 18 And when he shall sit upon the throne of his Kingdom, then shall he write him this [n]law repeated in a book, by the [o]Priest of the Levites. 19 And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, and to keep all the words of this Law, and these ordinances to do them: 20 That his heart be not lifted up above his [p]brethren, and that he turn not from the commandment, to the right hand or to the left, but that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he and his sons in the midst of Israel.
II.) The Consequences of that Turn From God to the Nations
A.) The consequences that Samuel lists are basically a move to centralization.
The Hebrew children are going to move from a decentralized Government (Judges) to a Centralized Government. Another way of saying this is that they are going to be ruled in a viciously top down fashion.
Calvin puts it this way,
Samuel warned them “that the King who will reign over them will take their sons for his own purposes and will cause much plundering and robbery.”
In this description Samuel gives we recognize that what the Hebrews have before them is the promise of being enslaved to the State.
I Sam. 8:17 “… and ye shall be his servants.”
The whole Nation will be organized so that instead of being the servants of Yahweh they will become the servants of the King. Each person becomes an agent for the State. What develops then is what a Political leader of the 20th century coined,
All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.
Along the way Samuel mentions the issues of Taxation, (8:15-17)
Now either what is happening here is that this tenth is being taken by the King from what belongs to the Lord,
Leviticus 27:30-32 / / Dt. 14:22, 28
30 Also all the tithe of the land both of the seed of the ground, and of the fruit of the trees is the Lord’s: it is holy to the Lord…. 32 And every tithe of bullock, and of sheep, and of all that goeth under the rod, the tenth shall be holy unto the Lord.
Now if the King is not stealing from the Lord then what he is doing is creating a Tax Burden for the people.
In short the King will steal from them so what they think is their property is not really their property but instead belongs to the State.
1st edition of “The Institutes” Calvin commenting on Taxation,
“Taxes are not so much private revenues as the treasury of the whole people, or rather the blood of the people and aids of public necessity; to burden the people with which without cause would be tyrannical rapacity.”
Samuel’s point to the people is that they are turning away from the Liberty that comes from having God and God’s law as their King to the taxation Tyranny that comes from throwing off God.
Calvin in his sermon on this text noted,
“A tyrant rules only by his own will and lust, whereas legitimate magistrates rule by counsel and by reason so as to determine how to bring about the greatest public welfare and benefit.”
Calvin decried the oppressive custom of magistrates’
“taking part in the plundering to enrich themselves off the poor.”
Of course what the Hebrew Children are demanding in a Centralized system stands in contrast to the decentralized system that they previously knew.
In the Book of Judges we see that there is no king, no palace, no standing army. When Israel is attacked, a volunteer army is assembled. In part, this army is supplied by the families of those who fight (see 1 Samuel 17:17-22). There is no superfluous court bureaucracy to support or a administration that specializes in redundancy for which to pay. The previous system was decentralized and comparatively cheap. The new pagan system that they were demanding was to make slaves of them.
I hope that you note as we move through this that today we have now much of what was promised in I Samuel 8. We ourselves, not being satisfied with God’s reign, have broken down and dispatched the kind of decentralized Government that we once had. We ourselves have demanded, both in years long past and still today, that we have a Government that is tyrannical and that taxes to the point wherein the 10% tax the Hebrew children were forced to pay would be met with shouts of joy by us today were we to return to that level of taxation.
And to this, the response we often get in our Pulpits today is at best deafening silence on these issue. Failing the silence we hear that we should be satisfied with our tyranny — and this by a wrong interpretation of Romans 13 that Knox, or Goodman, or Viret and any number of other Magisterial Reformers would have recognized. Sometimes what we get from the modern pulpit is so bad that it is suggested that this kind of tyranny is a positive good.
Our Reformed forefathers did not think that way.
I introduce Calvin here because I want people to see that these ideas I champion in terms of Biblical Civil Government are merely what I and we have inherited from our Reformed past. A Reformed past that had a great deal to say about Government and how it should be structured.
“the Lord does not give Kings the right to use their power to subject the people to tyranny. Indeed when Liberty to resist tyranny seems to be taken away by princes who have taken over, one can justly ask this question; since kings and princes are bound by covenant to the people, to administer law in truest equality, sincerity and integrity; if they break faith and usurp tyrannical power by which they allow themselves everything they want: is it not possible for the people to consider together taking measures in order to remedy the evil?”
Calvin was aware that there were extremes to avoid. He desperately did not want to come across as an anabaptist but he also realized that only God’s authority was absolute and because that was so he asked the question ” is it not possible for the people to consider together taking measures in order to remedy evil.”
Even when Calvin did call for submission to Governments, Calvin’s calls to submit to the governor were not without limit. God established magistrates properly
“for the use of the people and the benefit of the republic.” Accordingly, kings also had charters to satisfy: “They are not to undertake war rashly, nor ambitiously to increase their wealth; nor are they to govern their subjects
on the basis of personal opinion or lust for whatever they want.” Kings had authority only insofar as they
met the conditions of God’s covenant. Accordingly, he proclaimed from the pulpit,
“[S]ubjects are under the authority of kings; but at the same time, kings must care about the public welfare so they can discharge the duties prescribed to them by God with good counsel and mature deliberation.”
“Calvin preached that “there are limits prescribed by God to their power, within which they ought to be satisfied: namely, to work for the common good and to govern and direct the people in truest fairness and justice; not to be puffed up with their own importance, but to remember that they also are subjects of God.”
Calvin even went so far as to write in a Lecture on Daniel 6:22
”For earthly princes lay aside their power when they rise up against God, and are unworthy to be reckoned among the number of mankind. We ought, rather, to spit upon their heads than to obey them.”
Commentary on Daniel, Lecture XXX Daniel 6:22
“We ought, rather, to spit upon their heads than to obey them.”
Where would you hear that in any pulpit in America today. Instead what we get is the necessity to obey even in the face of earthly princes who are rising up against God.
“The nature of wicked princes is much like to warthogs, which if they be suffered to have their snouts in the ground, and be not forthwith expelled, will suddenly have their snouts in all the body; So they if they be obeyed in any evil thing be it ever so little will be obeyed in all at length.”
”When therefore the supreme ruler has become a tyrant, he must be deemed by his own perjury (as against the covenant document with the people) to have freed people from their oath, and not to the contrary, when the people assert their rights against him.”
Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos
(Thought to have been written by a one or two men … both of whom were Calvinists)
“As often as the Magistrate commands anything that is repugnant EITHER to the worship which we owe unto God OR to the love which we owe unto our neighbor, we cannot yield thereunto with a safe conscience. For as often as the commandment of God and men are directly opposed one against another, this rule is to be perpetually observed; that it is better to obey GOD than men.”
Calvin’s Successor in Geneva
“Resistance to tyrannical governors was, according to (Calvinist Pierre) Viret, a legitimate act of self defense. He even endorsed the use of disinformation if the tyrant were persecuting as analogous to resisting a band of robbers. If the political leader acted like a criminal, Viret thought he should be treated like a one, and the citizens were justified in resisting him.”
The Political Ideas of Pierre Viret
Robert Dean Linder — p. 131
IV.) Now as to why God relented in giving them a King
a) A first reason God gives them a King despite it being a sinful request is that this is often the way that God deals with sinners. In Romans 1 we read repeatedly that “God turned them over.” God often punishes sin by turning people over to that sin they desire as prioritized over God.
b.) As we consider a 2nd reason why God gave them a King despite the sinfulness of the request we must remember the problem here is not so much the idea of a King as the desire to have a King to be like the rest of the Nations. The sin is in their being dissatisfied with God’s Kingship not in the idea of a King in and of itself. After all, they could have asked for a King who would rule them according to God’s law word. But they didn’t. They asked instead for a King to judge them like all the nations.
Israel was supposed to be unique. It was supposed to be a nation that was a light to the Nations. It was supposed to be a theatre of God’s grace for the Nations to look to and envy. The Nations were supposed to be envious of Israel because she was ruled by God’s law. Now, Israel wants to be like the Nations around her. Here is the sin in the request for a King.
That the problem wasn’t the idea of Kingship itself we note that God had earlier made stipulation as to what Godly Kingship would look like (Dt. 17).
1.) No King allowed who did not arise from their own kin
2.) He would not be allowed horses so as to make offensive war
3.) He would not lead them back into bondage
4.) He shall not accrue to himself great hordes of gold
5.) He shall be busy attending to God’s law seeking to understand and implement it.
So even though they were rejecting God, God gives them a King determining that the role of King would be anticipatory of the coming great King Messiah. The Lord Christ would be the true King of which all previous Kings would be pale representation. The Lord Christ would be earnest for the Father’s glory. The Lord Christ would protect God’s people and lead them into safety. The Lord Christ would give Himself in order to save a people. The Lord Christ would be busy attending God’s law.
So in giving a King in the face of this rebellious request God was creating a Template that only the Lord Christ could fulfill.
Conclusion — Recap