God’s Original Plan for Monarchy
God promised to give His people a godly monarchy.
Government by Kings was God’s plan from the beginning.
God is the first to bring up the subject of Israelite kings, and He promises to bless Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Judah with royal descendants:
I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. (Genesis 17:6)
Also God said to him: “I am God Almighty. Be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall proceed from you, and kings shall come from your body. (Genesis 35:11)
The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to Him shall be the obedience of the people. (Genesis 49:10)
In Deuteronomy, God reveals His plan for the behavior of godly kings. God wanted kings who would read Scripture daily, and who would obediently follow God when ruling the affairs of state. By ruling in a godly way, a king was encouraged to “prolong his days”, both for his own reign, and also for the reigns of his children who would follow him in the royal dynasty:
Also it shall be, when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write for himself a copy of this law in a book, from the one before the priests, the Levites. And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God and be careful to observe all the words of this law and these statutes, that his heart may not be lifted above his brethren, that he may not turn aside from the commandment to the right hand or to the left, and that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he and his children in the midst of Israel. (Deuteronomy 17:18-20)
During the time of Eli, one of Israel’s righteous judges, God looks forward to blessing His people with a godly monarchy. God opens the womb of righteous Hannah, causing her to conceive Samuel, a future judge of Israel. In response, Hannah joyfully prophecies of the coming kings, the first of whom would be anointed by Samuel himself:
“He will give strength to His king,
And exalt the horn of His anointed.”
(1 Samuel 2:10)
In all of these Scriptural contexts, monarchy is presented in a positive light. Godly kings were intended to rule the nation, and to care for God’s people. Monarchy was God’s original plan.
Sexual Sin Delays the Monarchy
God promised that Judah’s descendants would carry the royal scepter, ruling as kings. Yet Moses was from the tribe of Levi, not Judah. And Joshua was from the tribe of Ephraim, not Judah.
Throughout the book of Judges, we rarely hear anything of Judah. The only judge from the tribe of Judah was Othniel, and he was not a descendant from the royal line of Perez. As a judge, he was merely a military leader. He did not rule the twelve tribes of Israel, and he did not have the royal scepter of a king.
Since the time of the Israelite Patriarchs, God had promised that Israel would have a king from the tribe of Judah. Yet nearly 700 years passes between the time of Judah, and the time of his descendant, King David.
Why wait seven centuries to crown a king?
According to God’s command, illegitimate children were excluded from the assembly of the Lord. They could not participate in Israel’s public worship of God. Thus, they also would have been disqualified from ruling the nation.
One of illegitimate birth shall not enter the assembly of the Lord; even to the tenth generation none of his descendants shall enter the assembly of the Lord. (Deuteronomy 23:2)
And, sure enough, Judah had illegitimate children.
The book of Genesis records the incest of Judah and Tamar:
When Judah saw her, he thought she was a harlot, because she had covered her face. Then he turned to her by the way, and said, “Please let me come in to you”; for he did not know that she was his daughter-in-law. . . . Then he said, “What pledge shall I give you?”
So she said, “Your signet and cord, and your staff that is in your hand.” Then he gave them to her, and went in to her, and she conceived by him . . .
And it came to pass, about three months after, that Judah was told, saying, “Tamar your daughter-in-law has played the harlot; furthermore she is with child by harlotry.” . . .
Now it came to pass, at the time for giving birth, that behold, twins were in her womb. And so it was, when she was giving birth, that the one put out his hand; and the midwife took a scarlet thread and bound it on his hand, saying, “This one came out first.” Then it happened, as he drew back his hand, that his brother came out unexpectedly; and she said, “How did you break through? This breach be upon you!” Therefore his name was called Perez. Afterward his brother came out who had the scarlet thread on his hand. And his name was called Zerah. (Genesis 38:15-30)
Perez was the son of Judah, through whom God would bring the line of Israel’s kings. But because Perez was an illegitimate child, God would not put him or any of his descendants on the throne until a full ten generations had been born.
This is precisely what we see in the book of Ruth. The book records the famous love story between Boaz and Ruth, and concludes with the genealogy of King David. Interestingly, the genealogy does not begin with Abraham or Judah, but with the illegitimate son Perez:
So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife; and when he went in to her, the Lord gave her conception, and she bore a son. . . . And they called his name Obed. He is the father of Jesse, the father of David.
Now this is the genealogy of Perez: Perez begot Hezron; Hezron begot Ram, and Ram begot Amminadab; Amminadab begot Nahshon, and Nahshon begot Salmon; Salmon begot Boaz, and Boaz begot Obed; Obed begot Jesse, and Jesse begot David. (Ruth 4:13-22)
A full ten generations passed from Perez to King David. As some commentators have noted, David’s generation was the first generation permitted to enter into the congregation of the Lord, and was the first generation that was qualified to assume leadership over the 12 tribes of Israel. In accordance with His own law, God waited ten generations from Perez to David to bring forth a king from the tribe of Judah.
From the beginning, God had planned on blessing Israel with a godly King. But that plan was delayed by several centuries, because of Judah’s sin with Tamar. His single act of incest brought about hundreds of years during which there was no king in Israel. That is why Israel had to endure the dark years of the judges.
The book of Judges itself is pro-monarchy, as this article demonstrates:
Biblical Monarchy and the book of Judges
The book of Judges records one sin after another, constantly lamenting that “there was no king in Israel“, and that “every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” Israel was ravaged by every imaginable sin, with no godly king available to provide restraint. The rule of the day was near-anarchy.
Indeed, monarchy was God’s original plan for Israel, and the period of judges was secondary. God led Israel through the time of judges only as long as necessary, until a descendant of Judah could legitimately be placed on the royal throne.
Impatience and Bad Motives
Predictably, God’s people are not nearly as patient as God is. We want God’s promised blessings, and we want them now. Thus we frequently get ourselves into trouble.
in 1 Samuel 8, when Israel asked for a king, they were asking for a good thing.
They were asking for something which God had promised them from the beginning.
But they asked with the wrong motives. Instead of seeking a godly king who would help Israel be holy and set apart from the other nations, Israel asked for a king because they wanted to “be like all the nations“.
And they asked with the wrong timing. Instead of patiently waiting for ten generations to pass from Perez to David, Israel jumped the gun and demanded a king one generation too soon.
At the time Israel made their request for a king, only nine generations had passed since the illegitimate birth of Perez. Thus, according to God’s own law, these descendants of Judah were not yet qualified to enter the assembly of the Lord, much less to assume the throne of Israel. If God had jumped the gun and made Jesse (David’s father) king, He would have been violating His own law.
Yet if Israel was seeking a king from a tribe other than Judah, they were ignoring God’s specific promise that the scepter would be held by the descendants of Judah. They were abandoning the royal line through which Messiah himself would come. They were actually requesting a dynasty which would not lead to the birth of Christ.
Thus, God was speaking not only presently, but also prophetically, when He replied:
And the Lord said to Samuel, “Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them.
(1 Samuel 8:7)
As Israel would eventually reject the reign of Jesus, and would crucify Him, so even at this early date Israel rejected the royal line which would eventually lead to the birth of Jesus. Instead of patiently waiting for ten generations to be born so that a descendant of Judah could sit on the throne, the Israelites demanded a king now. So God gave them Saul, from the tribe of Benjamin.
But Saul turned out to be an ungodly leader. God rejected him as king, and eventually removed the kingdom from his hands.
Then, just as God had planned all along, He gave the kingdom to David, a descendant of Judah who was a man after God’s own heart.
David was the long-awaited king God had promised to His people from the very beginning.