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rise to the occasion. The prophetic superstition was too powerful for the development of independent public opinion; and the Elders sealed the doom of the nation by requesting Samuel to appoint a king. The venerable prophet, personally hostile to political innovation, and feeling as confident as a modern Pope that the representative of God is necessarily the wisest temporal ruler, communicated the popular views to Jehovah, who, apparently unconscious of or unwilling to admit the disastrous failure of theocratic government, replied with the wounded amour-propre of an earthly sovereign deposed by rebellious and ungrateful subjects, and instructed Samuel to comply, under protest, with the wishes of the nation, at the same time warning them of the tyranny and oppression of an earthly king, demanding tithes of all their possessions, and making lackeys and confectioners of their sons and daughters--conditions of life which, if coincident with individual and national security, must have appeared to the harassed victims of theocratic anarchy far preferable to a precarious existence under inspired judges and prophets, who embittered the sufferings of private misfortune or national calamity by denouncing their victims as miserable sinners.
In Deuteronomy xvii. 14-20 we read a circumstantial prediction of the future adoption of the monarchical form of government by the Hebrews, after obtaining possession of the promised land. The king was to be chosen by Jehovah, and, when sitting on his throne, was to write out a copy of Deuteronomy, and study it all the days of his life.
Is this Mosaic forecast, or fictitious divination uttered after the event?
In deprecating the election of a king, had Jehovah forgotten the prediction of Moses? Was the general community aware of the existence of the prophecy? Did Saul fulfil the prediction by copying the Book of Deuteronomy, and why did not the contents enable him to confront Samuel with the divine sanction of monarchy through the greatest of the prophets ?
These are embarrassing questions for orthodox believers in the Mosaic authorship of Deuteronomy ; but find their obvious solution in the fact, that neither Samuel nor his contemporaries had ever heard of a book unknown till more than four centuries later, in the reign of Josiah king of Judah.
It is important to observe, with reference to the fictitious dates of Hebrew Scripture, that not only was Deuteronomy unknown to Samuel, but the annals bearing his name were unknown to Josiah, who would have otherwise detected the pious conspiracy to assign Deuteronomy to the age of Moses, in Samuel's obvious ignorance of the inspired prediction forecasting a future kingdom of Israel.
The popular demand for a king having resulted in the abdication of Jehovah, we might reasonably expect divine permission for the Hebrews to elect their own king, and thus test, in his administration, the comparative merits of theocratic and human government. But, on the contrary, we read : “Now the Lord had told Samuel in his ear, a day before Saul came, saying, to-morrow, about this time, I will send thee a man out of the land of Benjamin, and thou shalt anoint him to be Captain over my people Israel, that he may save my people out of the hands of the Philistines, for I have
looked upon my people, because their cry is come up unto me.'1
But that we reject the prediction of the Deuterono. mist as apocryphal, this sudden change in divine opinion would indicate that Jehovah had been searching the register of ancient prophecy, or consulting Moses on the necessity of fulfilment—a hypothesis involving no irreverence towards a Deity whose defective memory and vacillating judgment are so candidly admitted by His own annalists.
Notwithstanding the imperfection of human judgment, history furnishes some happy instances of personal rulers so judiciously chosen by their subjects as to combine, in their administration, internal peace and prosperity with successful resistance to foreign aggression. But what shall we say of the good fortune of a nation whose sovereign has been elected by divine wisdom ! What foresight in counsel! What justice in judgment ! What courage in action! What devotion to duty must characterise the Elect of Jehovah! If these expectations are falsified in the career of Saul, shall we attribute imprudent choice to the Deity, or assume that a theocratic régime had destroyed, in the entire nation, the public virtues which flourished among the heathen of antiquity?
But had the divine selection of a king any existence except in the imagination of the prophet? We read of the Phrygian peasant Gordius raised to the throne in response to an oracle which recommended the people to select for their king the first man going to the temple of Jupiter seated on a waggon. Samuel, excited by musical conjuration, was his own oracle; and if it had flashed upon him, in a moment of supposed inspiration, to
1 1 Sam. ix. 15, 16.
anoint as king the first man he should meet of exceptional stature, or the first client tendering backsheesh for the recovery of stray cattle, he would have proclaimed the stranger as the Lord's anointed with an honesty of conviction analogous to the fạith of Roman cardinals when they elect a Pope by acclamation.
But if Saul were even possessed of the qualities of a great king, did not the persistent interference of Samuel annul the abdication of Jehovah, perpetuate the evils of Theocracy, prevent Saul from fairly testing the results of merely human government, and mock the Hebrews with a phantom king controlled or cursed by prophets?
In the beginning of his reign Saul obtained a great victory over the Ammonites; and this auspicious event might have won the confidence and established the courage of his subjects, but that, at a great assembly of the people convoked by Samuel, the prophet renewed his denunciations of national iniquity in desiring a king: · Now therefore,' said Samuel, stand and see this great thing, which the Lord will do before your eyes. Is it not wheat harvest to-day? I will call upon
the Lord, and he shall send thunder and rain; that ye may perceive and see that your wickedness is great, which ye have done in the sight of the Lord. And the Lord sent thunder and rain that day: and all the people greatly feared the Lord and Samuel. And all the people said unto Samuel, Pray for thy servants unto the Lord thy God, that we die not: for we have added unto all our sins this evil, to ask us a king. '1
Thus far we have a king predicted by Moses, chosen by Jehovah, and nominated by Samuel, ruling over a
1 1 Sam. xii. 16-19.
people miraculously punished for desiring a form of government approved by Jehovah as the most effectual means of saving them from the Philistines !
If the purpose of Samuel had been to discredit and paralyse the administration of Saul, could he have more effectually accomplished his design than by thus depicting monarchical government not only as a folly but as a crime? The result was a foregone conclusion; and, when Saul was subsequently at war with the Philistines, he beheld his subjects following him with fear and trembling, or hiding themselves in caves and in thickets, and in rocks, and in high places, and in pits. What misery and wretchedness do not these words involve!
In 1 Sam. xii. we read of Saul offering a sacrifice to Jehovah in the absence of Samuel. For this venial offence the prophet announced the deposition of the king in favour of a 'man after God's own heart, and yet David assumed ecclesiastical robes, offered sacrifices, and bestowed the priestly benediction with impunity?
In chap. xv. we have the command of Jehovah to smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.' Saul piously executed this atrocious edict, with the exception of sparing Agag, and a choice selection of sheep and
This error of judgment, redressed by Samuel's murder of Agag, was pronounced an unpardonable offence ; Jehovah repented of His choice ; Samuel departed to anoint David ; the Spirit of the Lord was transferred from Saul to the future king ; and Satan
1 Sam, xiii, 6,
2 2 Sam, vi.