From Plainer Words

Nation and State - Part 3

Posted in: 2014
By Tom M. Ballinger
Jun 2, 2014 - 7:42:12 PM

Plainer Words since 1968
June 2, 2014
The Judges ruled the Twelve Tribes of Israel for over four centuries.  In the days of the Judges, it was the LORD’s will that no king ruled over the Twelve Tribes. As I studied the Book of Judges, I saw that the early instruction I received concerning “The Judges” was faulty. I was taught that the reason there were major problems with the nations (i.e., Tribes) of Israel was because there was no king in Israel. Men just did as they pleased because there was no constabulary to enforce laws of personal behavior.
“In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6).
This verse teaches us that FREE MEN are not ruled by KINGS. Kings must have an effective police force, thus, preventing citizens from exercising their freedom beyond the limits of the “Kings Laws.” The Tribal Government of Israel was very good by the world’s standards since it lasted for about 16 to 18 generations.
During the Times of the Judges, some were called upon to settle strife between the Tribes. There were three occasions in which Judges were called upon to enter into war against other Tribes. The LORD brought about six invasions of foreign nations, or states as a means of punishing lack of tribal self-control and integrity.
The Israelites were not without any government before the coming of the kings. They HAD A VERY EFFECTIVE FORM OF GOVERNMENT. Men who had proven qualities of leadership were chosen to be Judges over the Tribes. The economy of the Tribesmen demanded that they follow the tradition of their forefathers—tradition supplemented the necessity in the orderly arrangement of life. Their traditions grew out of the practical experience of learning by means of trial—and—error method and proved to be beneficial.
Israel, before the coming of her kings, was a conservative society. They followed the proven customs of their society. Violation of their customs carried their own penalties. Penalties were not only for the individuals who were in violation but, also, to the group that tolerated the violations. That which was “right” in the Tribesman’s eyes was “right” by custom, and tradition and “right” by the Law of Moses. Yahweh even sanctioned the authority the Judges exercised over their Tribes. In those days, “freedom” was not “license,” nor has it ever been.
Leadership was exhibited within the Tribes. Men and women who showed skill and the temperament in leading the Tribes to the Promised Land were special people. They became the Judges. Plans had to be executed, battle plans had to be drawn up and implemented, and skilled persons had to adjudicate disputes in order to prevent chaos. There were leaders who were proven worthy to be chosen by natural selection.
It is important to understand a major factor in the rule of the Judges. It is that their office, as Judges, was not endowed with the power of coercion. “Every man did that which was right in his own eyes” meant that no man was compelled to do otherwise and, since, “in those days there was no king in Israel,” it must be presumed that there was no constabulary to enforce rules of behavior. The sole enforcement agency upon which the authority of the Judges rested was public opinion. The “So said the LORD” had the force of “so say we all.”
As the years passed, after Israel entered the Promised Land, their nomadic culture began to give way to agriculture, and the ownership of land had become an important part of Israel’s life. The economy changed from that of the nomadic life style of herding to that of an urban existence.
They became accustomed to seeing great wealth in the valleys. Baal worship was impressive, with its pomp and circumstance, and its marvelous temples. The children of Israel were struck by the austerity Yahweh imposed on them when they saw the excesses of the Canaanites. The urban areas were witness to all manner of private and public problems being settled by the omniscient and omnipotent royal establishments of the pagan States, thus, relieving the citizenry of any rigorous self-discipline. This looked good to the Israelites. The State Apparatus handled those kinds of problems which, traditionally, had been resolved by the citizens themselves. This was the State’s method of acquiring more and more power, intruding into every phase of the citizen’s life.
The State began to look very inviting as compared to the “rugged individualism” the Israelites had practiced for forty years in the wilderness and the four centuries of being ruled by the Judges.
A revolutionary demand was made by the Tribes. They were experiencing two emergencies. On the Foreign Affairs front, the Philistines had beaten them badly in battle and stole the sacred Arc of the Covenant. On the domestic front, they had lost faith of their leadership.  The two sons of Samuel, whom he had appointed as assistants, did not live up to the high standards of their office. (This is the case of so many who are sons of “a man of God”). Samuel’s sons had “turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, and perverted judgment” (1 Sam. 8:3).
The two mentioned emergencies were the “straws that broke the camel’s back.” This was the excuse the elders used to demand a king ‘like all nations.”
“Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah, And said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations” (1 Sam. 8:4-5).
Note that it was the “elders,” not the “Judges.”  The “elders” may well have thought that under a king, they would become the” King’s Apparatus”—the Ruling Elite. Samuel was displeased and immediately prayed to the LORD.  The LORD answered, saying unto Samuel:  
“Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them. According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even unto this day, wherewith they have forsaken Me, and served other gods, so do they also unto thee. Now therefore hearken unto their voice: howbeit yet protest solemnly unto them, and shew them the manner of the king that shall reign over them” (Sam. 8:7-9).
These people have been rebellious since the day they were brought out of Egypt and became free men. During the four-hundred-plus years, they served other gods. Remember, they were a “mixed multitude that came out of Egypt. As the majority usually do—they made a wrong decision—choosing to have an earthly king “judge” (reign over) them instead of the God of Heaven.
Yahweh instructed Samuel to give them what they asked for and to tell the “wise” elders “… the manner of the king that shall reign over them.” But, the “bottom line” was; the LORD was giving them a parting shot; tell them when they realize their mistake, IT WILL BE TOO LATE TO REGAIN THEIR FREEDOM!
Samuel outlined for them the order of the things as they will be under a king. (1) There will be conscription, replacing the voluntarism that had served the Tribesmen well.  The “Draft” would be instituted, replacing the volunteerism. (I was involuntarily in servitude for twenty-one months in 1954, as were thousands of others. The Korean War had ended, but I was needed in Germany. So, as a member of the 2nd Armored Division, I was placed in charge of the Sports and Recreation Office in Baumholder, Germany). (2) The Draft would not be confined to military service but would include service in the king’s household. (3) Women would be subject to involuntary servitude. (4)  The king will appoint his captains over thousands and captains of fifties. The word, “captain,” was imprecise: sometimes, it referred to men of war; sometimes, to what we would call “nobles;” sometimes, to bureaucrats. It was during the reigns of David and Solomon that “captain” took on many meanings. (5) The king would take the best of their land and “give them to his servants.” This would establish the landed aristocracy which, under the Law of Moses, was forbidden. (6) To fund the king’s establishment, “he will take a tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards:” This appears to be the first time a compulsory tax was charged. (7) The king “will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work.” (8) He will take a tenth of your sheep.  And lastly, going full circle, (9). “ye shall be his servants.” The word, “servants,” is “ebed” which means, “a slave, a servant, a man-servant;” from Brown Driver & Briggs Hebrew Lexicon.
It is suggested that 1 Samuel 8:1-21 be read in its entirety.
The Israelites didn’t heed any of Samuel’s Divine warning. They resented being different from other nations. If Chapter 8 was a novel or a play, the following three verses would be a fitting Epilogue:
“And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the LORD will not hear you in that day. Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay; but we will have a king over us; That we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles” (1 Sam. 8:18-20).
The period of The Judges provides us with superb information about how a people grow tired of self reliance, self-discipline, and personal integrity and yearn for someone to fight their battles, settle their disputes, live off of the labor of others as a bureaucrat and, willingly, surrender their freedom for security.
Most recognized Hebrew and Christian scholars believe that God, providentially, brought about circumstances during The Judges’ Era to bring the Israelites to the point of being ready for a Central Government. Notice an example of the work of a noted Scholar, “Short History of the Hebrews.”
“Need of Central Government: A great danger was needed before the people of Israel could be welded into unity and made to see the necessity of a strong central government. This came eventually from the Philistines, who twice defeated the Israelites in battle, captured the ark, and overran a large part of the country (1 Sam 4-6). In the face of such a foe as this it was clear that only a strong and permanent leadership of the whole people would suffice (1 Sam 9:15; 10:1); and thus the rule of the Judges gave way to the monarchy.”
As I studied this Era, I had to agree with Samuel. He wanted no king, he wanted no strong Central Government, he did not want a landed aristocracy, or a government of “mighty men” who would be mighty in power; not mighty in the strength of warfare but in that of the government’s ruling elite.
I saw nothing wrong with the Tribal Government if the average Tribesmen followed the tried-and-proven principles of a Godly Nation, as handed down by Moses, and established by Joshua and the Judges.
Samuel seemed to have been an astute political scientist of the first order. It was all the more remarkable in that he had no books to go by, but only his wisdom and his observation of kingship in operation. So that, when the elders said, "make us a king to judge us like all the nations," he was displeased. The story says that he took the matter up with Yahweh Who assured him that nothing could be done about saving the Israelites from themselves, since they had given up on first principles. The Lord assured Samuel that the elders did not reject him, but rather, they rejected the rule of God.

There is no reason for us to place a lot of the blame on Samuel because of his two sons who did not follow in the steps of their father. Even though the elders held him accountable for the waywardness of the sons and their political crookedness, I disagree with the elders.

The two sons were appointed by Samuel to be judges. They failed to live up to the standards required for judges. Their first sin that comes to mind was that they chose not to abide by the Fifth Commandment—“Honor thy father and mother: that thy days may be long upon the land thy God giveth thee” (Ex. 20:12).

“And his [Samuel’s] sons walked not in his ways, but turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, and perverted judgment. Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah, And said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations” (1 Sam. 8:3-5).

Have you known any Bible-teaching godly men whose children did not choose to walk in their ways? I have known a few. I remember how church members used to talk about how wild the preacher’s kids were. It seemed to be a common thing church members talked about. I had known pastors who wanted their sons to walk in their steps and become preachers or, at least, be a part of some ministry. Just because you’re an outstanding man of God doesn’t guarantee that your children will walk in your foot-steps.

I have tried to follow the Ephesians’ admonition in, “fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (6:4). When they were of age, it was to be their life’s choice as what endeavor they chose. I never wanted my sons to please me in their choice of life’s vocation. I didn’t want them to be “daddy’s little preacher boys.” This probably sounds strange to some ears. If they were going to be men of the Word, I wanted it to be because it was their life’s desire.

Do you remember a King of Judah by the name of Josiah? Here’s a slight refresher.

“Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned thirty and one years in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Jedidah, the daughter of Adaiah of Boscath. And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, and walked in all the ways of David his father, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left” (2 Kings 22:1-2).

Josiah is the only king of whom this is said. David never had a blood relative, except Josiah, who became king and “walked in his ways.” Josiah was the 18th generation from his “father,” David.  A generation, in those days, was considered to be 25 years. David had to wait 450 years for one of his descendants, who walked in his ways, to become a King of the Kingdom of Judah.  

Two wayward young men (sons of Samuel), who could have easily been removed from their offices, were the reason to sacrifice the God’s chosen form of government. The elders asked for one modeled after the Edomites, Moabites, Canaanites, Midianites, Ammonites, and Philistines. Some of these were developed States, and Samuel was familiar with their operations. No wonder he was opposed to the elders’ request.

It took three kings, Saul, David, and Solomon, 120 years to establish the Central Government of Israel the Scholars talked about. Solomon was the king who, finally, solidified the government and had, in place, all of the Apparatus of a full-fledged State.

Copyright© 2014 by Thomas L. Ballinger
Tom Ballinger
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