The Bible Argues With Itself

Herma and Herman Neutics on Biblical Interpretation

Sometimes God speaks through a clash of viewpoints on particular matters. Kingship, for example, is a pretty clear example. 1 Samuel 8-12 reads like a point-counterpoint debate: anti-king, pro-king, anti-king, pro-king. In the end God allows the people the king they want (so they can be like all the other nations - never a good reason to do something) but the anti-king rhetoric serves notice that this will not be an unmitigated good for Israel. In fact, it turned out to be almost an unmitigated evil for them!

If Israel was to have a king, as Deuteronomy 17 foresees they might, the king should NOT be like all the other monarchs of surrounding nations! A brother among brothers, one subject to and occupied with God's Law, the kind of kingship Israel might have is one "without all the fun of being king."

So does the Bible sanction kingship for Israel? Sanction's probably too strong; allowed, certainly. But not in the form the people wanted. Rather a more chastened form of leadership bound to doing God's will rather than his own is God's design for human kingship. Yet even when the people have chosen for a human king, and one not in the image of the one God wanted but rather like other people's monarchs, God still allowed it and through his covenant with David made it a apart of how he would fulfill his eternal purpose.

Of course, that means kingship need to be bent back into the design God had for it in order to serve his purposes. And that means Jesus will have to do the bending because none of Israel's kings could manage it. A few took a good run at it, but they all fell short. And, of course, king Jesus is about as far from any model of human kingship as he could be!

We've gone on at some length about this because the Bible often develops things this way. God accept or allows something he doesn't finally want or approve of in order to use that to bend it into something he can and will use for his good purposes. God places himself in a position to be associated with the most oppressive and corrupting influence in Israel's world - a monarch pursuing his own agenda for glory, wealth, and power - for the sake of his longer term purposes finally made known in Jesus Christ. This has implications, I think, for many issues, especially violence. But that's for another day and Herma and I are still arguing over which one of us will have to write that up!


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