1 Samuel 1-8
1 Samuel begins with the birth of Samuel, one of the last of the Judges. The previous Judge, Eli, had sons who were "scoundrels" (1 Samuel 2:12), and who ended up dying in battle; upon hearing this, Eli died too, and Samuel, who had been ministering to the Lord under Eli, now succeeded Eli as Judge.
But when Samuel got old and his own sons became judges, they "did not follow in his ways, but turned aside after gain; they took bribes and perverted justice" (8:3). So the elders went to Samuel and pointed out that his sons were not doing a very good job, and asked him instead to appoint them a king. Samuel was unhappy with this, seeing it as a rejection of regarding the Lord as king. The Lord told Samuel to warn the people by describing to them the ways of an earthly king (8:9).
So Samuel describes what would happen if they had a king. The king would force people to serve in armies and to grow and cook his food. He would, in effect, enslave his people to his own service (8:10-18).
"But the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel; they said, 'No! but we are determined to have a king over us, so that we also may be like other nations, and that our king may govern us and go out before us and fight our battles'"(8:19-20).
Here then was the transition from being ruled by God and the principles of goodness and justice, to being ruled by the earthly quest for power.
It reminds me of the difference between the first city and the second city in Plato's Republic. Early on in the Republic, Socrates constructs one vision of the perfect city that his interlocutors reject because, while everyone's basic needs are met, it is a city without luxuries and extravagances. So, they have to begin again, and the first step in constructing this new "fevered" city (a city always wanting more) is to create a warrior class both to protect this city and to enable it to move ever outward in its quest for more. They need a warrior class because other city-states are not going to let them take more willingly, and because, to the extent that they succeed in obtaining more, they now become vulnerable to jealousy and attack by others.
Back to 1 Samuel: we here see the people subjecting themselves to de facto enslavement in order to support a kind of power now based on avarice. They consent to support this military power so that their country can become mighty.
Which kind of power do you prefer to serve in your life: the power that promotes goodness and justice, or the power that seeks more for the sake of seeking more?
A Spiritual Approach to Difficult Times
8 months ago