God and Samuel response to the Ancient Israelites request for a King seem to suggest that God & Samuel preferred the Israelites to be seen in God's eyes as a simple nation of shepherds, fisherman, farmers, etc., led by Judges who are inspired by God to lead Israel. Basically, God preference was to view the Israelites as sheep who are guarded, protected, loved, but also disciplined and punished by the Shepherd(s) ( God via His Prophets ). Basically, it's more a nation's citizens viewing themselves as a simple, humble nation as opposed to a powerful nation-state with an official government with a military. It's more about Simplicity & Humility as opposed to manly macho-ism, manly patriotism

1 Samuel 8 (NASB)
.......... 2 Now the name of his firstborn was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah; they were judging in Beersheba. 3 His sons, however, did not walk in his ways, but turned aside after dishonest gain and took bribes and perverted justice. 4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah; 5 and they said to him, “Behold, you have grown old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint a king for us to judge us like all the nations.” 6 But the thing was [a]displeasing in the sight of Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the Lord. 7 The Lord said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them. 8 Like all the deeds which they have done since the day that I brought them up from Egypt even to this day—in that they have forsaken Me and served other gods—so they are doing to you also. 9 Now then, listen to their voice; however, you shall solemnly [b]warn them and tell them of the [c]procedure of the king who will reign over them.”  10 So Samuel spoke all the words of the Lord to the people who had asked of him a king. 11 He said, “This will be the [d]procedure of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and place them for himself in his chariots and among his horsemen and they will run before his chariots. 12 He will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and of fifties..............................................................................................................................................................15 He will take a tenth of your seed and of your vineyards................................................................................................ 17 He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his servants. 18 Then you will cry out in that day because ..................................................... but the Lord will not answer you in that day.” 19 Nevertheless, the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel, and they said, “No, but there shall be a king over us, 20 that we also may be like all the nations, that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.”

Is the aforementioned assessment correct?

1 Answer 1


Perhaps we can look to the character Jacob/Israel in Genesis 25-35 for an idea of the identity of the nation. I imagine that this narrative was written and drawn from oral traditions in the time of Solomon. This narrative would look back to define the group identity of the people.

Judges seems to be a progression of increasingly degenerate Judges that end up demonstrating the need for a monarch. It ends up with almost total chaos in the end of the book. Body parts of an unnamed concubine are sent to all the twelve tribes and Benjamin is almost entirely wiped out.

In genesis, there is this fulcrum point around the center of the book on Jacob. Before Jacob, the blessing was being passed from person to person, and it could only pass to one child (e.g. Abraham to Isaac (not Ishmael, not Lot - Isaac to Jacob, not Esau). After Jacob, the blessing flows to all of his children (the twelve tribes). It seems that Adam and Eve speak to the condition of all of humanity. Abraham and Isaac represent shared parents (things in common) with neighboring people. Jacob/Israel represents the identity of the Hebrew people.

There is a narrative here of classically unworthy or trickster characters receiving the blessing. Isaac seems to have some mental health issues, and Jacob is the second born, effeminate trickster who follows the direction of his mother to scam his brother out of the blessing. And God rewards him for it.

Then Jacob does some really interesting things. For example, bargaining with God using conditional statements:

Genesis 28:20-21 (NRSV)

Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God..."

Not only does God participate in this conditional statement, he validates the blessing. It even seems that he wrestles God's blessing out of a mysterious magical figure:

Genesis 32:26

Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.”

It was exactly then that he received the name "Israel" which means "struggles with God." (according to the text). After all this, God doubles down and validates Jacob's blessing, received in trickery and as the second born, who his father did not prefer. I read this as God affirming trickery, guile, and bargaining.

Remember, this character is the anthropomorphization of the self-identity of the Hebrew people. And we are left with a kind of gender fluid result. First we have Jacob, the effeminate, manipulative trickster Father of the Hebrew Tribes, and then Israel, the repeatedly unfaithful Bride of Yahweh (in the prophets - Isaiah, Hosea, etc). I read this as a spectrum of identity. I think many jewish people today continue the conversation of whether they identify with Israel or Jacob, but that seems to be where their identity sits.

The period of kings was short-lived and never returned after the Babylonian destruction. Throughout the Hebrew Scripture, there is a big time conversation about how God is their only leader and that kingship was a bad idea. Post-exile (second temple period), and to the time of Jesus, we get the synagogue and a governance in diaspora.

There is totally a thread of submission to God in the text as well (e.g. wandering the wilderness relying on manna, the upraised serpent of numbers 21, etc) and the poetry of Psalm 23 and 169 (to just name 2) where the narrative of total dependence on God is present (often as a Shepherd), but there is also the Jacob/Israel narrative of a people in a marriage contract as wife to the husband Yahweh and of a trickster people (affirmed by God, not something negative).

I also see another interesting dualism in the identity of the people in the text. There seem to be two conditions. First, there is governance and kingship in the world which is epitomized by separation from God and knowledge of good and evil. This knowledge was what man/woman ate "against God's will" in Eden and which separated them from the presence of God in paradise.

In 1 Kings 3:8-9, we have:

And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?”

This is how the kingdom of earth operates. But then there is a separate narrative about how to enter the kingdom of heaven/paradise/promised land. Thinking that we can do it on our own is the diagnosis of our sickness in Deuteronomy and Eden. It's also inherited in Christ.

First, the knowledge of good and bad ejects us from paradise in Genesis 3. Second, in Deuteronomy 1:37-40 we have:

"37 Even with me the Lord was angry on your account, saying, “You also shall not enter there. 38 Joshua son of Nun, your assistant, shall enter there; encourage him, for he is the one who will secure Israel’s possession of it. 39 And as for your little ones, who you thought would become booty, your children, who today do not know right from wrong, they shall enter there; to them I will give it, and they shall take possession of it. 40 But as for you, journey back into the wilderness, in the direction of the Red Sea.”

Only those who do NOT know good from evil (the same words from the tree in Eden, hebrew: tov/ra, translated as right/wrong here). Only people purged of the knowledge from the tree in eden (people who are as children - read this as Jesus's reference to only those like a child can enter paradise).

This can be viewed as a state of total dependence. These people accepted the rod and the staff (Psalm 23) of God which totally governs the bounds of their actions against their own will. The people who where prevented from entering the promised land were the ones that thought they would fail fighting the Giants (anakim) who lived there because they thought they had to do it on their own. Only the ones that faced death without protest (e.g. not seeing it as good or bad) following God's rod/staff (law), could enter the promised land.

This then manifests in the prophecy mapped onto Jesus in Matthew. Isaiah 7:14-15 has:

14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman[virgin] is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel. 15 He shall eat curds and honey by the time he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good.

Matthew quotes 7:14, but 7:15 says that this child will not know how to discern good from evil before he is in the land of milk and honey (paradise).

So there seem to be two worlds in which humans can operate (we are amphibious). The world of the knowledge of good and bad where there is suffering and governance and we stand on our own... Then there is the world/mentality of total and utter dependence on God where there is no judgment, only what is, and the rod and staff of the shepherd guide every moment of our day without any free will of our own.

  • Thanks. I know it's somewhat off-topic, but could you please provide more insight, evidence, bible scripture quotes that state and/or suggest/hint that Isaac had mental health problems? May 16, 2020 at 20:48
  • 1
    Sure, there are several cases where this is the appears. He, for example, can't get his own wife, but Abraham has to send someone to get her for him. There are several others. one reference is: Kaminsky, Joel S. "Humor and the theology of hope: Isaac as a humorous figure." Interpretation 54, no. 4 (2000): 363-375. From article: "While I make an extensive literary argument below, it should be noted that modern medical theory would also predict that Isaac, born to very aged parents and possibly was the product of an incestuous union (Gen 20:12), would have a diminished mental capacity."
    – Gus L.
    May 17, 2020 at 1:50
  • In regards to seeking a wife, you have to keep in mind that a lot of Eastern Cultures especially in ancient times, would usually have "arranged marriages" which is practice where the parents have significant influence over whom their son or daughter will marry. In fact, within the region of South Asia(i.e, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, etc.), the practice of "arranged marriages" is still common even nowadays. May 17, 2020 at 14:20

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.