They wanted a King !….or, The Evils of Monarchy

“And ye have this day rejected your God…ye have said unto him, Nay, but set a king over us.” (1 Samuel 10: 19, KJV)
It almost breaks my heart to read through the eighth chapter of 1 Samuel in the Old Testament. It was so not in the heart of the LORD to place an earthly king over the people of Israel. He could not have been any more clear, nor more specific, in His warnings to the people regarding such a form of ‘leadership’. But “Nevertheless the people refused…and they said, Nay, but we will have a king over us:” (1 Samuel 8: 19, KJV) Eerdman’s Handbook to the Bible (p.235) points out that, in those days (and I point out, in days yet to come!) “having a king mean{t} conscription, forced labour, taxation, and loss of personal liberty. But even this does not deter them.”
Now wouldn’t you think such dire consequences as outlined in 1 Samuel would stop Israel dead-in-their-tracks, so to speak, as concerns demanding a king? Plus, the LORD spoke his warning through the prophet Samuel, a man of God well-known by all, and a force to be reckoned with. If the people would’ve listened to any human, it surely would’ve been Samuel. But Biblical history tells us otherwise. The elders of Israel “said unto him, Behold…make us a king to judge us like all the nations.” (1Samuel 8: 5, KJV)
We see here the tendency of man to progress towards ‘kingly government’. It may surprise you to learn that this concept was expressed by Benjamin Franklin, during Revolutionary times!
His concerns for American liberty seem to mirror those of the ancient prophet of Israel. “I am apprehensive, therefore…that the Government of these States may in future times end in a monarchy.” (Albert H. Smythe, ed.,The Writings of Benjamin Franklin) Franklin believed that the American citizenry might eventually fall under the illusion of ‘kingly government’ providing equality among all. (W. Cleon Skousen, The 5000 Year Leap) In a word, security? Which engenders survival, promotes happiness and makes possible liberty and its enjoyment. (Another way of phrasing “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”?) Author Michael Novak writes “liberty needs the sunny warmth of culture and ideas and the nourishing rain of favorable institutions of politics and economics.” (The Universal Hunger for Liberty) Conditions must be right, as with the blossoming of any planted seed. Franklin and other Founders shared with the prophet Samuel a great concern for the manner in which those conditions were courted.
In this lure towards ‘kingly government’ which so troubled Ben Franklin, and the clamor of ancient Israel for the same, I see the deceitfulness of law (as opposed to grace) wreaking its havoc. I see in the physical world the demonstration of a spiritual dynamic. Many people seek a structured formula (Old Testament law, or just plain law, period!) which, by adhering to it, will let them rest assured that, before God, they are ‘okay’. In similar manner, ‘kingly government’ will guarantee ‘security’, or equality. Everything will be ‘okay’.
Wrong. On both counts.
In God’s realm, “…by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight.” (Romans 3:20, KJV). Doesn’t work. Not gonna happen. Worse than a waste of time, because “the letter {of the Law} killeth.” (2 Corinthians 3:6, KJV). Conditions are not only NOT ‘okay’, they deteriorate into destruction.
In the earthly realm, government by a ‘king’, or monarch, has never worked, either. Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to George Washington ( from Paris in 1788), wrote this: “ I was much an enemy to monarchies before I came to Europe. I am ten thousand times more so so since I have seen what they are. There is scarcely an evil known in these countries which may not be traced to their king as it source… ” (Edward Dumbault, ed., The Political Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Ch.3, The Blessings of Free Government) Previously, in the spring of 1785, Jefferson had strongly urged James Monroe to visit him in Paris, for the express purpose of gaining a sharper, more clarified view of the American system of government compared to that of monarchical Europe. He wroteMy God! How little do my countrymen know what precious blessings they are in possession of and which no other people on earth enjoy. I confess I had no idea of it myself.” (Ibid.) Though Jefferson was fully aware of defects in the American system, as is true today still, his belief was that government of and for the People could be repaired and improved by the People – “whereas the evils of monarchical government are beyond remedy.” (Ibid.)
A single human ruler wielding all power is the formula for tyranny. And if you think about it, why would an individual even want to be all powerful? To dictate concerning the lives of others? The answers do not bode well for those under that individual’s rule. Reinforcing a god complex is one answer that occurs to me. Which brings to mind another Old Testament event, when Lucifer (which means ‘day star’, btw – interesting…) made this determination in his heart : “I will exalt my throne above the stars of God…I will be like the most High.” (Isaiah 14:13, 14, KJV) Intending to exalt one’s self as God, however, has this result: “…thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.” (Isaiah 14: 15, KJV). God complexes are not healthy. They do not bring health to the people.
Power and authority are with God, and come from Him (Romans 13: 1). Our use of it, when it is in our jurisdiction to do so, whether in the family, on the job, or in the governing of a nation, needs always to be to protect and serve. The temptation is to abuse power, applying it to meet one’s own needs/desires – the challenge to effectively handle it requires His grace, which as its pre-requisite requires in turn our willingness to receive it.

6 responses to “They wanted a King !….or, The Evils of Monarchy

  1. In talking about power, especially in regards to the American Revolution, I'm reminded of George Washington. He gave up his power as general of the army and after two terms as president. He didn't have to but I think he knew how power corrupts. His willingness to give up his power in those positions just shows how great he was!

  2. I can't say enough about our First President! The book that fueled my growing interest in George Washington begins its title with "An Imperfect God…" and as I've learned more & more about him, I can totally see why an author would choose the word 'god'. Not in the sense of 'god complex', rather just the opposite.Abigail Adams wrote this in a letter to her sister, of Washington: "Possest of power, possest of an extensive influence, he never used it but for the benefit of his Country." I've read that Washington understood power well, & how to use it; his way of using it often meant he stepped back, giving "slack to a lively cabinet to fight out issues among themselves." Even more than his turning away from power, though, what elevates George Washington to the highest place of respect, in my eyes, is that he accepted it, or rather its responsiblities & obligations, when he SO wantd to return to Mt.Vernon & retire. He so longed to do that, throughout his life, but more than once he denied himself & accepted the call to serve.

  3. It's amazing that his precedent of only two terms was so strong that no President broke it until FDR. That's a legacy that lasted until the 1930's. It's amazing how little of Washington is really taught in schools, and how little most people know of Washington's faith.

  4. Andy – when I first started blogging, my blogger friend Thomas made a similar comment, about the near absence of teaching on our Founders' faith specifically. I was not aware, until the past year or two. It's like a truly priceless hidden treasure being unearthed now, for me. I actually feel like I am meeting & getting to know these amazing, great men, not just reading about them.Rebecca, thanks! Full title – An Imperfect God: George Washington, His Slaves & the Creation of America. Author: Henry Wiencek. I got mine for $1 -yes, that's right, $1 ! (plus S*H), online, probably from You can check for the best price.

  5. Pingback: Monarchy Encroaching? | Jesus, the Revolution & You

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