The Case For Kingship In The Old Testament Narrative Books And The Psalms -- By: David M. Howard, Jr.

Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 009:1 (Spring 1988)
Article: The Case For Kingship In The Old Testament Narrative Books And The Psalms
Author: David M. Howard, Jr.


The Case For Kingship In The Old Testament
Narrative Books And The Psalms*

David M. Howard, Jr.

Bethel Theological Seminary
St. Paul, Minnesota

The issue of God’s attitude toward the human institution of kingship in Israel is one concerning which the biblical texts appear — on the surface — to be ambiguous. On the one hand, God blessed the monarchy, and he even chose a kingly line from which to appear in human form. An impressive theology of kingship can be traced throughout the OT and into the NT. On the other hand, we read in several texts in 1 Samuel about Samuel’s and God’s displeasure over the Israelites’ request for a king, and it appears that God’s granting of a king is a second-best concession to the people’s sinful request, much in the way that Moses permitted divorce as a concession to the people’s hardness of heart (Matt 19:8).

However, this analogy is not a good one, since God did not bless and use divorce the way he did the institution of kingship. Furthermore, the prevailing pictures of the idea of monarchy in the OT are consistently positive ones; it is difficult to accept the fact that this view of the monarchy was a concession to a second-best ideal. The answer to the apparent tension in the biblical texts is rather to be sought in the reasons for Israel’s request for a king, and not in the question of whether God intended for there to be a king in Israel at all.

A recent work by Gerald E. Gerbrandt points the way toward a resolution of this issue.1 His contention is that the view in what is commonly called the deuteronomistic history2 of the institution of

*Portions of this paper were read at the Midwestern Regional Meetings of the Evangelical Theological Society, Upland, Indiana, April 8, 1988.

kingship in Israel is essentially a favorable one, not a negative one, as is commonly supposed. The real issue in the biblical texts is what kind of monarchy was to exist or to be exercised, not whether Israel should have a monarchy or not.

Gerbrandt’s basic thesis is that the king was “to lead Israel by being the covenant administrator; then he could trust Yahweh to deliver. At the heart of this covenant was Israel’s obligation to be totally loyal to Yahweh.”3 The godly king was to lead the people in worship and in keeping covenant, and to trust in YHWH to fight Israel’s battles. The true reason for the disapproval of the people’s request for a ...

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