We want a king!
July 1 — 1 Samuel 7:3-17 July 8 — 1; Samuel 23:1-7, 1 Chronicles 18:14By Regina Shands Stoltzfus
In the Old Testament (the Hebrew Scriptures), Joshua through Esther make up what are known as the historical books. 1 and 2 Samuel tell the story of the origin and development of ancient Israel’s monarchy, beginning with the birth of Samuel and the story of Samuel’s career.
Samuel, the last of the judges and the prophet who anoints Saul as Israel’s first king, bridges the transition from the leadership of judges to the leadership of kings. 1 Samuel eventually becomes the story of the house of David. It recounts the struggle for power between Saul and David, the rejection of King Saul and the rise of King David, the man after God’s own heart.
Samuel’s life is dedicated to God (I Sam. 1:28), just as Abraham’s was before him and David’s after him. As a judge and prophet, Samuel is a moral leader who is tasked with the maintenance and proper performance of religious rituals. The rise of his leadership happens as Israel experiences a downward spiral in its political, military and religious life.
1 Samuel finds the nation in a state of desperation. Eli, the priest who raised Samuel, is old and ineffective, and his sons are corrupt (1:22-23). The Philistines have captured the Ark of the Covenant — the shrine indicating the presence of God among the people (4:11).
As prophet, priest and judge, Samuel tends to the relationship between Israel and God. In the religious capital of Judah, he gathers all of Israel together for prayer, fasting and confession (7:6). Once again they meet the Philistines in battle, and Israel prevails (7:10-11).
Samuel sets up a stone he names Ebenezer, commemorating the Lord’s help in preserving the people and saving them from their enemies (7:12). The stone is a reminder of the people’s relationship with God and their obligations to God. Victory is won, peace is restored, and God dwells with the people.
At the people’s request and seemingly against his better judgment (1 Sam. 8:10-18) Samuel anoints Saul as the first king of Israel (10:1). Samuel warns, and the Lord concurs, that the people should put their trust first and only in God (1 Samuel 12).
But the people demand a king like the other nations have, though their call since the time of the patriarch Abraham was to be different from other nations. If they are to have a king, the king himself should also be distinct from others and model his leadership after loyalty and obedience to God.
The Lord regrets making Saul king because of his disobedience (15:11), and the spirit of the Lord departs from Saul (16:14).
David is introduced into the narrative as a skilled musician able to soothe Saul when he is tormented by spirits and as a fearless warrior capable of remarkable deeds.
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