The Role Of The People In Saul’s Rise And Fall -- By: Jessica N. T. Lee

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 174:694 (Apr 2017)
Article: The Role Of The People In Saul’s Rise And Fall
Author: Jessica N. T. Lee


The Role Of The People In Saul’s Rise And Fall

Jessica N. T. Lee

Jessica N. T. Lee is a Ph.D. candidate in Old Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary in Dallas, Texas, and editorial assistant for Bibliotheca Sacra.

Abstract

Numerous commentators have seen Saul’s rejection as king as a punishment too great for his sins of personal disobedience in 1 Samuel 13 and 15. This criticism, however, misunderstands the nature of Saul’s sins and the responsibility of the king. Israelite kingship is part of a three-way relationship between Yahweh, the king, and the people in which the king rightly represents Yahweh to the people and leads them to trust, fear, and obey the God whose people they are. Studying the appearances and mentions of “the people” in 1 Samuel 8-15 sheds light on this dimension of kingship. Saul misrepresented Yahweh before the people, even going so far as to encourage their sin. That Saul’s disobedience had a negative effect on Yahweh’s people may help explain why Saul was rejected as quickly as he was.

Studies of Saul’s rejection have tended to focus on Saul’s lack of personal obedience to God and his prophet Samuel in 1 Samuel 13 and 15. At times, these studies complain that Saul was set up for failure or rejected unfairly.1 However, Saul’s story is not simply about the king and his God. There is another player in this drama who should not go unnoticed: the people. Israelites as a group appear throughout the Saul narrative; they initiate the request for a king and become his scapegoats for the sin that costs Saul the kingdom. The term “people” (עַם) occurs 110 times in 1 Samuel; 80 of these are in chapters 8-15 (26 appear in chapter 14 alone).2 Even so, among those who have studied the

Saul narrative, few have paid special attention to Saul’s interactions with the people.3 Israelite kingship was to be part of a three-way relationship between Yahweh, the king, and the people, in which the king rightly represents Yahweh to the people and leads them to trust, fear, and obey the God whose people they are. Readers should therefore assess Saul based on how the people respond to him and to ...

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