The execution of the command that a king be set over the people had to be preceded by a solemn protest, “Now therefore hearken unto their voice: howbeit protest solemnly against them (Hebrew, “Thou shaft certainly witness against them,”) and shew them the manner of the king that shall reign over them,—the manner of the king, that is, his customary way of acting, normal behavior, what he will do as king in the throne. This is what he will do. He will take their sons for himself, for his chariots and horsemen, to cultivate his fields, and manufacture his implements of war. He will take their daughters to work in his kitchens as confectionaries, cooks and bakers. He will take the best of their fields, and vineyards, and olive yards and give them to his servants. He will take their men-servants, and their maid-servants, and their finest young men, and their asses to do his work. And he will take the tenth of their seed, and their vineyards, and give to his officers and to his servants. And he will take the tenth of their sheep: and they shall be his bondmen. And they will cry out in that day because Of their king, which they will have chosen them; and the Lord will not hear them in that day. Such will be the forbidden practices, of the king of Samuel’s witness. He will behave as though he were the people’s lord.
It is plain that the king of Samuel’s witness is a tyrant, who usurps the Lord’s place in the Israelitish commonwealth. Firstly, he takes the people’s sons and daughters for himself. He might not do that. The nation belonged to Jehovah, He being its redeemer God, Lord, and King invisible. The king of Samuel’s witness takes the best of the peoples’ vineyards, olive yards, and fields and gives them to his servants. This, too, was a forbidden practice. Jehovah being Israel’s absolute Lord, all the people’s possessions—their fields, vineyards, olive yards, asses and sheep—belonged exclusively to Him, were held by the people as a permanent inheritance and trust—trust, for they were but stewards in God’s house—and therefore could not lawfully be appropriated by Israel’s kings. The wicked king Ahab was destroyed on account of his having appropriated by violence the inheritance of Naboth. The king of Samuel’s witness takes the tenth of the people’s sheep. But the tenths belonged not to Israel’s kings but to Jehovah, He being their Lord. The king of Samuel’s witness is a usurper indeed. Besides, he is a cruel king. His yoke is so grievous that the people of Israel cry out. Being a usurper, he is godless and therefore cruel. He enslaves his subjects, makes them his bondmen. “And ye shall be his bondmen,” reads the text.
The sole right of Israel’s kings was to rule the nation in the capacity of Jehovah’s vicars according to His law, the promulgation of which had taken place at Mt. Sinai. These kings were no legislators with the right to impose upon the nation their own will as embodied in a code of laws of their own making. Israel’s sole legislator was Jehovah. Accordingly, Israel’s king, when he sat upon the throne of his kingdom, had to make him a copy of the law—Jehovah’s law—in a book out of that which was before the priests the Levites: and this copy had to be with him, and he had to read therein all the days of his life: that he might learn to fear the Lord, and keep all the words of the law and those statutes, to do them, that his heart be not lifted up above his brethren,. And he might not multiply wives unto himself, that his heart turn not away: neither might he greatly multiply silver and gold (verse 17). Such was Moses admonition to the kings of Israel.
Israel’s kings had so to rule that the kingship in Israel reflected the glories of Israel’s King Invisible.
They had so to rule that as kings they preindicated Christ in His kingdom at the right hand of God. Hence, their reigns had to be characterized by strictest justice. They had to be saviors of the nation and shepherds of Israel as the Lord’s servants. Be it imperfectly, for they were but sinful men, David was that kind of king and likewise Solomon in his glory. They did not enslave God’s people and rob them of their inheritances as does the king of Samuel’s witness. With the full consent of Araunah, David bought at a price the threshing floor of this subject of his and there he built an altar and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings that the plague might be stayed,ff. The text at indicates that David had large possessions in lands. However these lands formed not a confiscated property of dispossessed Israelites, but they were possessions that David had lawfully acquired in his wars with the heathen nations, as is evident from their location in the maritime plain. And these lands he had cultivated not by Israelites but by the strangers that were in the land of Canaan, who labored as the tillers of the king’s fields under the supervision of overseers chosen from among the people of Israel. Solomon, too, employed the strangers that were in the land of Israel for all his heavy work, . At the number of these strangers is given as 158,000—Hittites, Amorites, Perizites, Hevites, and Jebusites, all dwelling in the land of Israel and bondmen of Solomon. “But of the children of Israel did Solomon make no bondmen, but they were all men of war and his servants (not bondmen pressed into service), and his princes, and his captains and rulers of his chariots, and his horsemen,” . As subjects of David and Solomon, the people of Israel were free and happy. “Judah and Israel were many, as the sand which is by the sea in multitude, eating and drinking, and making merry . . . .” and they “dwelt safely, every man under his vine and under his figtree, from Dan to Beersheba, all the days of Solomon,” .
Yet in a purely formal sense, David and Solomon were that king of Solomon’s witness. Like that king, David and Solomon, and of course all the kings in Israel, had to be obeyed. Like that king but unlike the Judges in Israel of the preceding period—and we should not fail to observe this—they, the kings in Israel, had also to be served, waited on and supported. For they were kings. All the heavy work connected with the building of the temple and of Solomon’s palaces and cities was done by the strangers, it is true. But Solomon’s captains and overseers, whose number was large, and the soldiers of his standing army, and most of his skilled workmen were Israelites; and likewise the personnel of his magnificent court, no doubt—the chief bakers and cooks and confectionaries that worked in his kitchens. What is more, the people of Israel had also to contribute to the support of his unusually large household, as is indicated by the text at. Verse 7 reads, “And Solomon had twelve officers over all Israel, which provided victuals for the king and his household: each man in his month in a year made provisions,” But much of these victuals came from peoples that had been rendered tributary by David, as is indicated by the text at . Here the statement of the amount of Solomon’s provisions for one day is followed by the notice, “For he had dominion over all the region on this side of the river.” It is certain therefore that, as long as Solomon’s heart was right with God, the yoke that he laid upon the nation was not heavier than it with ease could bear. Yet it was a new yoke that the nation in the period preceding, during the reign of the judges, had not to bear. But the people of Israel had asked for that yoke. They had insisted that Samuel make them a king to judge them like the nations. And when the throne in Israel was occupied by wicked kings that yoke was crushingly heavy like the yoke of the king of Samuel’s witness. But even Israel’s God-fearing kings brought the nation no little grief. In their carnal moments they fell into gross sins and the punishment meted out to them involved the whole nation. For the satisfaction of his lust David took to himself Bathsheba and thereupon had her husband killed in battle in order that the sin might not become known. David’s punishment grievously affected the nation. It was torn by a civil war. It deserved that stroke however. In repudiating David and in following after the godless Absalom, the nation once more rejected Christ, At another time, as blown up with pride, David had the people counted. In punishment of his sin the Lord sent a pestilence upon the people and there died 70,000 men. But the text at II Samuel 24 reveals that the nation deserved also this stroke. Like the king of Samuel’s witness Solomon multiplied unto himself horses and chariots. But that equestrian might was a thing in Israel. Like that king in Samuel’s witness Solomon multiplied unto himself wives and concubines even to the number of one thousand. Many of those women were heathen princesses for whose gods he built high places in the very sight of Jerusalem. In punishment of this atrocious sin the Lord stirred him up adversaries. They did him much mischief. Israel became an object of abhorrence to the nations, . It can only mean that one after the other of the kings over which Solomon reigned withheld their tribute. To offset the loss, the burdens of the people of Israel would have to be increased. It is a good conjecture therefore that as the troubles of Solomon multiplied he became more and more despotic and his yoke insufferable. No sooner was he dead than the people petitioned Rehoboam to make the grievous burden of his father lighter. Yet the purely historical evidence contained in the book of kings—all the days of Solomon the people “were eating and drinking and making merry”—should caution us against giving too much credence to the complaint of the people that Solomon’s yoke was grievous. The tribe who led in that revolt was proud and jealous Ephraim. In all likelihood it was glad that conditions were such as would allow it to complain, as it was in the need of. a pretext for breaking away, not, to be sure, from the kingship—having rejected Rehoboam they chose as their king Jehoboam—but from the house of David and so from Christ. But how abjectly foolish had been the people’s wanting to exchange Jehovah for human kings! The best of these kings were but sinful men who in their carnal moments exhibited more than a mere formal resemblance to that king of Samuel’s protest..
Yet these God-fearing kings, despite their lapses, were not properly, to be sure, that king of Samuel’s witness. As has been said, David and Solomon did not rob, Israelites of their inheritances and take God’s people for themselves, making bondmen of them. Properly the king of Samuel’s witness are all the kings that ruled the ten tribes, none of whom feared God, and all the wicked kings of Judah. In the discourses of the prophets one over and over comes upon statements indicating that during the reign of some of these kings the common people in Israel were oppressed in every way. The princes ate up the vineyards; the spoil of the poor was in their houses. They beat God’s people to pieces, and grinded the faces of the poor,. The poor were cast out of their houses, . Shallum, the son of Josiah, king of Judah, was accused of the prophet of building his house in unrighteousness. He used his neighbor’s service without wages, and gave him not for his work. He did not judgment and justice, but his heart and eyes were for his covetousness, for shedding of innocent blood, for oppression, and for violence, to do it, . The righteous were sold for silver and the poor for a pair of shoes. The poor were crushed and the needy were tread upon. Their wheat was taken from them, . Men of power, the princes, the heads of the people, the godless kings, devised iniquity, worked evil upon their beds, and when the morning was light, they practiced it. They coveted fields and took them by violence, and also houses. They joined house to house, laid field to field (houses and fields that had been taken by violence) till there was no place, that they might be placed alone in the earth. So did they oppress a man and his house, even a man and his heritage, ; . They “seized the inheritance which I have caused my people Israel to inherit,” . The heads of the people, “the princes of the house of Jacob” abhorred judgment, perverted all equity, “built up Zion with blood, and Jerusalem with iniquity, and judged for reward. The priests taught for hire and the prophets divined for money, . The good man perished out of the earth: and there was none upright among men: they all lay in wait for blood; they hunted every man his brother with a net. They did evil with both hands earnestly. The prince and the judge asked for a reward, and the great man uttered the mischief of his soul. The best of them was like a brier, the most upright was sharper than a thorn hedge, .
The sum and total of these quotations set forth a doing on the part of the men of power in Israel—men of power: kings, princes, corrupt priests and false prophets—the wickedness of which is truly amazing. When this doing was actual the land of Israel was easily the most wicked spot on all the earth. We have to do here with a condition of things that prevailed nowhere else at that time, at least not on that scale. The likes of those men of power was nowhere else to be found. As compared with the period in which this terrifying wickedness rioted, the times of the judges, when every man did that which was right in his own eyes in that there was no king in Israel, were tranquil times. If there be such a thing—but there is no such thing—as a common grace staying through its operations in men’s hearts the development of sin in men and nations, the reprobated Israel was completely devoid of it.
When was this astonishing wickedness actual? During the reigns of which kings? This can easily be determined. The prophetic activity of the prophets from whose discourses the above-cited sentences were taken, took place during the reigns of the following kings: Isaiahho—Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah; Jeremiah—Josiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiahim, Jehoiachin, Zedekiah, kings of Judah; Amos—Uzziah, king of Judah and Jeroboam II, king of Israel. Uzziah king of Judah, was contemporary of Jeroboam II Zechariah, Shallum, Menahem, Pekahiah, Pekah, kings of Israel of the ten tribes. It was during the reign of these five kings that the ten tribes and particularly Samaria was that house of wickedness that the prophets Amos and Hosea describe it to be in their discourses. Immoralities, crimes and vices of every description were practiced openly by these kings, and the princes and the heads of the nation,ff. The people were robbed of their inheritances and driven into actual slavery, . The women urged their husbands to greater cruelties, . The courts in the land were notoriously corrupt, . The dispossessed poor could get no hearing. Justice was bought at a price, . And the leaders in crime and vice were the heads of the people, . Those who raised their voices in protest against the wrong were despised and persecuted, . These same conditions prevailed in Judah and particularly in Jerusalem especially during the reign of that monster of iniquity, king Ahaz.
The command of God to Samuel was that he shew the people the manner, doings, of the king that would rule over them. Samuel did so; and it was verily a prophecy to which he gave utterance on that occasion, a word put into his heart by the Lord. And this is what he saw and heard i:i his prophetic vision:—his people plundered, enslaved, and killed, by the king that they would choose them. That would be the wrath of God revealed over their great sin. They were rejecting Christ. He heard also the cry of the people in that day. What he saw and heard he told them. Let us grasp the awful implication of their reply. It is verily this: “Let it be as thou sayest. God’s anger consume us and our children. His curse pursue us through the years. But do as we bid thee. Set over us a king.” Such was the tenor of their speech, for they believed not. It was a cry not unlike that which they uttered some centuries later, when Christ stood before them in the flesh:—His blood be upon us and our children. And their choosing that king of Samuel’s witness in rejection of Jehovah was not unlike the choice they made when Christ stood before them in the flesh:—They chose Barabbas and cried for Christ’s crucifixion.
The Lord hearkened unto the voice of the people in all that they said unto Him. He set over them a king. And Samuel’s prophecy went into fulfillment through all the years and especially during the reigns of those wicked kings that occupied the throne in the days of Hosea, Amos, Micah, and the other prophets of that century. That king of Samuel’s witness sat only in Israel’s throne. The likes of him was nowhere else to be found; for that king was Ahaz and Shallum and his spiritual kin. Then did the people cry. And among those who cried in that day were also God’s elect, the oppressed people, the poor in the land, the dispossessed, the enslaved, the widows and the orphans who put their trust in the Lord and cried day and night unto Him in their distress. And He heard their cry. He sent them deliverance in that day even through some of those wicked kings, the king of Samuel’s witness. The very tyranny of that king worked for their good. It drove them into the arms of Christ.
In that terrible day the Lord gave unto the poor and the oppressed in the land, who put their trust in Him, also a promise by the mouth of His prophet,—the promise of the King, the rod out of the stem of Jesse, Jesus Christ, upon whom the Spirit of the Lord shall rest. . . .and shall make him quick of understanding in the fear of the Lord: and shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears: but with righteousness shall he judge the poor and argue with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked,”.
Thus the King will save the poor in the land, God’s poor, the eternal objects of ‘His love. They trust in God. By nature, apart from grace, they, too, reject the Lord, for in themselves they are dead in sin like the others. But therefore God gave them David; therefore He gave them the King, the Christ; they must be saved unto Him.