The First King of Israel

 The first king of Israel was who? Virtually everyone will get the wrong answer to this. Let’s take a look at the kingdom of Israel and how that started.

After the death of Joshua, Israel went through about 300 years of relative disorganization with a succession of leaders referred to as judges leading them.

“In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” (Jud 21:25)

Towards the end of this time, the judge/prophet Samuel guided them under the direction of God. But Samuel got old, his sons, whom he appointed as judges, were corrupt and the people, wanting to be like the nations around them, began asking for a king.

Read the account of how God responded to their request. God gave in to their demands to have a king but since there was no established monarchy and line of succession from it, who would be king?

The First King of Israel

God knew the sort of king they desired, He made the decision and chose a man who would please them. On the day the king was presented, they were reminded again that it was not a good idea:

“And ye have this day rejected your God, who himself saved you out of all your adversities and your tribulations; and ye have said unto him, Nay, but set a king over us. Now therefore present yourselves before the LORD by your tribes, and by your thousands.” (1 Sam 10:19)

Through a process directed by God, Saul was revealed as the man chosen.

Saul for King

“And they ran and fetched him thence: and when he stood among the people, he was higher than any of the people from his shoulders and upward. And Samuel said to all the people, See ye him whom the LORD hath chosen, that there is none like him among all the people? And all the people shouted, and said, God save the king. Then Samuel told the people the manner of the kingdom, and wrote it in a book, and laid it up before the LORD. And Samuel sent all the people away, every man to his house.” (1 Sam 10:23-25)

The “manner of the kingdom” that Samuel wrote in a book was what he had told them earlier (1 Samuel 10:11-17) in which he had warned them of the consequences of having an earthly monarch.

After Saul’s first military victory as king, Samuel presented him again confirming that he was their choice:

“Now therefore behold the king whom ye have chosen, and whom ye have desired! and, behold, the LORD hath set a king over you.” (1 Sam 12:13)

Saul was their choice, not God’s – this was another accommodation on God’s part. God picked Saul but He picked a man who matched the ideals of what they – the people – wanted. If God had felt free to pick a man He wanted to be king at that point it would have been someone like David.

“And when he had removed him [Saul], he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will.” (Acts 13:22)

The People Recognized Their Sin

The very fact that He said that about David suggests that Saul was not such a man. Again, it was confirmed that what the people had done was sinful:

“And all the people said unto Samuel, Pray for thy servants unto the LORD thy God, that we die not: for we have added unto all our sins this evil, to ask us a king. 20 And Samuel said unto the people, Fear not: ye have done all this wickedness: yet turn not aside from following the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart;” (1 Sam 12:19-20)

While they had done wickedly, they had not totally turned from following God and He continued to work with them despite their choices – how gracious is God! Even when Saul didn’t work out, God continued allowing the monarchy but He personally chose the second king:

“But now thy [Saul’s] kingdom shall not continue: the LORD hath sought him a man [David] after his own heart, and the LORD hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the LORD commanded thee.” (1 Sam 13:14)

God, while not approving, worked with them within the choices they had made. We know that God did not approve of Israel having a monarchy but He continued to accommodate them. But where did it lead? Ultimately, the desire for an earthly monarchy, resulted in this:

“… Away with him, away with him, crucify him. … We have no king but Caesar.” (John 19:15)

What a change! The end result was choosing a foreign monarch when originally God was their king:

“And when ye saw that Nahash the king of the children of Ammon came against you, ye said unto me, Nay; but a king shall reign over us: when the LORD your God was your king.” (1 Sam 12:12)

So, the first king of Israel was God Himself. Did you answer correctly?

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