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Factors Which Led To The Formation Of Monarchy History Essay

2090 words (8 pages) Essay in History

5/12/16 History Reference this

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“…. Then all the elders of Israel gathered and came to Samuel at Ramah and said to him…appoint for a king to govern us like other nations” (1Samuel 8:4-5). It has been a Quest of many scholars to find out core of the request for a monarchy. Therefore, in my work I will explore the factors, which led to the formation the monarchy, thereafter I will discuss whether Saul was anointed as a King (Melek) or as a Judge (Nagid). Finally I will conclude and rest my case.


There is a suggestion that even during the time of the Judges, there were some leader who were requesting for a king to judge them. The question is that, what could be reason for all this? The main reason for this chapter is to explore what led to emergence of monarchy in Israel.

The firstly, it was the political structure of other nations. The elders said ‘appoint for us then a king to govern us like other nations’ it was probable that when the Israelite saw the political standard of other nations, they also thought it to be better for them to have a very strong and powerful nation. For example, it has been recorded that “when the Israelites crossed the Jordan in the last decades of the thirteenth century BC, they entered a land where there was a fairly uniform system of government” (Arthur E. Cundall. article available online).

Canaan during the thirteenth century was an established city-state so the Israelite thought of having a type of leadership, which was so organized as Canaan.

During that time city kings who ruled the city-states dominated Canaan. Further these city-states were very strong and well organized politically, and also they had strong army. Apart from that they had well organized culture and traditions; as a result the Israelites adopted a new lifestyle with new customs, which remained in their communities.

Israel neighbours such as the Edomites, Moabites and the Ammonites; these cities had minor kings who were controlling the affairs of the people, and these groups, which bore in many ways a resemblance to Israel, adopted a monarchical form of government in the early stages of their national existence” (Arthur E. Cundall. article available online). So she also wanted to be ruled by kings so as be like her neighbours.

Secondly, it has been recorded that when Samuel grew old, he appointed his two sons, Joel and Abigah as judges over Beersheba. (1Sam 8:1-3). Surprisingly, unlike their father, these two Children became “Selfish and greedy for dishonest gain. They did not care for law or justice, saw their Judgeship only as an opportunity to enrich themselves” (Doug Redford 2008:80). Not only has but also accepted bribe, which was contrary to the laws of YHWH. This made the elders to Approach Samuel at Ramah for a king.

Thirdly the Philistines were the greatest threat to Israel who they catalyzed the formation of Monarchy in Israel. Like the time of Samson, the Philistines stated a threat against Israel during Samuel’s time. They came from Palestine and slowly began the conquest, which disturbed made Israel very much. These people were among the Sea people and had very strong military organization; they took advantage of Israel’s disorganized state. They were actually seemed to have been frightening fighters with a well-established military tradition. According to Judges 13:1, the Philistines oppressed Israel for 40 years, this is a simple indication that the oppression began maybe before the leadership of Samson. “One suggestion is that the oppression began sometime midway through the Judgeship of Eli (1Sam 4:18)” (Doug 2008:79).

After the death of Samson, the Philistines wanted t o attack Israel but the Lord fought for her at Mizpah (1 Sam 7:10-13). The main reason why the Philistines wanted to capture Israel was because she was a threat to Philistine’s security and also to the security of the trade routes. Philistines were very disciplined soldiers who used very strong weapons made out of Iron. Apart from that they also used chariots where it was needed. Therefore, it was practically impossible for the Israelites who were using ill-equipped soldier to stand such men. Theses men were very craft, they fought and killed Hophi and Phinehas, “Priests who bore the ark” (J. Bright 1972:181) and further took the ark from the house of the Lord, they captured the land of Judah and Shiloh’s shrines were destroyed. Further, “In order to prevent the manufacture of weapons and to protect their own monopoly on Iron, deprived Israel of what metal industry she had and made her dependant on Philistine smith for all services (1 Samuel 13:19-22)” (J Bright 1972:181). All these reasons were the attributes to the formation of monarchy in Israel. But the biggest quest at stake is to find out whether Saul the so-called “First King” of Israel was really anointed king (Melek) or Judge (Nagid)


It has been indicated by John Bright that there probably two account which shows the election narratives of Saul. According to him, the first account favours the monarchy (1 Sam 9:1ff), but the second one is totally against the monarchy (1 Sam 8, 10:17-27). (J. Bright 1972:183). But before we discuss whether Saul was king or a Judge its important that we first give a clear picture of who the Judge was in Ancient Israel.

David Guzik wrote, a “Judge was a leader raised by God, usually to meet a specific need in time of crisis. When the crisis was over, usually the Judge just went back to doing what he was doing before” (2001) available online. Unlike kings Judges never made any government but were commander themselves in the time of war. They were “procuring the right of the people either by taking military action or by judging legal disputes” (Bernhard W. Anderson 1966:110). This office was non hereditary and rested upon special gift of Yahweh’s Spirit. That is why they were called charismatic readers. “That is leader qualified to head the tribal confederacy by virtue of the divine charisma or Spiritual power, which possessed them” (B. Anderson 1966:111). His authority extended beyond the locale of his tribe and was recognized in the territory of the tribal grouping. Practically, a Judge was a military champion or deliverer (Judges 2:16) of the people. Having looked at the qualities of a Judge in ancient Israel, it will be easy to discuss Saul’s leadership. The election of Saul was a very controversy one because scholars find it difficult to identify the type of Saul’ leadership whether king or judge. According to John Bright “Saul’s election was by prophetic designation to popular acclamation (1 Sam 10:1ff)” (1972:183) and Yehezkel adds on to say “He emerges in public view, like the judges before him… as a product of the popular faith that God raises up saviours for Israel in every distress” (1960:262)

Following the characteristics of a judge as seen above comparing them with the incident happened when Saul was anointed, it could be said that he was but a judge. 1 Sam.9: 1-10:16,13:4b-5 depicts Saul as a charismatic leader who led his army to war. It has been indicated that “There is subtle difference between what the Israelites asked for and what God granted them…In Israel, only God was to be Melek, so when Samuel anointed Saul as king, he anointed him not as Melek but a Nagid” (Rev. Richard Harvey). It can further be said that the qualities portrayed by Saul were not of an absolute king but a tribal leader or judge. In those days there were no absolute kings in Israel but Judges who were anointed for specific tasks especially during the time of crisis. To support this statement, John Drane says, “Saul was not much a king as a kind of perpetual Judge… he had the same popular appeal and military prowess that the judges had possessed” (1987:80). Taking these accounts about the authority and the election of Saul, it can be difficult for us to rest on the Biblical account, which says that Saul was anointed as king.

This is said because when for instance we look at the type of leadership he portrayed, it was contrary to that of a king. Practically, all kings had commanders and mostly lived in palace (e.g. David, Solomon and Jeroboam) but to Saul it was a different story, he was a commander himself and even at Gibeal his home was not a palace. It is popularly supported that the main task of a king was to look into the judicial matters of the country and also and also to develop the structure of the kingdom. These qualities are missing in Saul’s leadership. His main task as a judge was to rally his people against YHWH’s enemies. (1 Sam. 14:20). Jergesma H. says, “The way he takes initiatives and goes to fight against the ammonites in 1 Sam. 11 strongly suggests the figure of a Judge” (1979:89). It can further be agreed that during Saul’s leadership, the main concentration was to defend the people and fight YHWH’s enemies and not to make changes in the internal and external structure of Israel. He never attempted to change any administrative structure in Israel just as judges before him. Saul is seen to have been largely a military leader and never shown any account of him performing monarchical duties outside military event. In short, he is not known for his administrative authority but for his military activities. Another account, which can suggest that Saul was not a Melek, was his rejection by Samuel. It was very easy for a seer (Prophet) to reject a Nagid when he was not performing his duties well, but had no power to remove the Melek from his throne but just to worn him of his failures. That is why when David became the king; Samuel had nothing to do with his leadership. David is an example of the beginning of the royal ideology, which was contrary to the Judges, which was not hereditary. This could be very reason why Jonathan an able man did not become Saul’s heir and Eli and Samuel’s sons.

Surprisingly, it is interesting to note that other scholars like Yehezkel Kaufmanns have other suggestion about Saul’s election and leadership. It was probably that “After his victory over Nahash the Ammonite, he is publicly crowed and joyfully acclaimed by all the people” 1960:263) as king. He further noted that Saul was actually the last Judge since he was the first king of Israel. According him, Saul marked the end of theocratic type of leadership in Israel and replaced it with a monarchical one. It can be suggested that maybe the extension of the kingdom and other kingship requirement were not well learnt in Israel since monarchy was foreign to it. Everything started to change as the monarchy developed especially during the reign of David who is considered to be the first king and not Saul.


In conclusion all the above accounts could be reason why most scholars agree that Saul was not a Melek but a Nagid. This was the reason why Samuel took advantage of him to remove him from him throne. From the reign of David unto his descendents marked the beginning of the true monarchy and not from Saul.


Anderson B.W (1966) “The living world of the Old Testament” (2nd ed) New Jersey. Prentice Hall Inc.

Jergesma H. (1979) “A history of Israel in the Old Testament Period”. Britain. SCM Press Ltd (SCM).

John B. (1972) “A History of Israel” (Revised ed). London. Westminster Press.

John D. (1987) “Introducing the Old Testament”. England. Lions Publishing PLC

Redford D. (2008) “The History of Israel”(Vol. 2) Cincinnati. Ohio.

Yehezkel K. (1960) “The Religion of Israel”. London. Allen and Unwin Ltd.

Cundall E (1964) “Antecedents of the Monarchy in Ancient Israel”. [Online] UK. London School of Theology. Available on: /

David G (2001) “1 Samuel 8- Israel Demand a King” (online) Available on: /

Rev. Richard H. (2010) “the principles of the Israelites monarchy enshrined in the Bill of Rights and act of Settlement”[Online] Available on:

The Holy Bible (1989) “New Revised Standard version” (Anglicized Version). New York. Oxford University Press.

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