Saul the Priest

  • 1 Samuel 8:1 When Sh'mu'el grew old, he appointed his sons as judges over Isra'el.
  • 1 Samuel 8:2 His firstborn was named Yo'el, while his second son was named Aviyah; they were judges in Be'er-sheva.
  • 1 Samuel 8:3 However, his sons did not follow his way of life; they turned off it to pursue riches, so that they would take bribes to distort justice.

Judges and corruption

The judges were not government officials, but they did perform the government service of judging. Since this is the case, we can use them in our analysis of government.

Chapter 8:3 is a common occurrence. Those in authority not happy with their pay turn to unjust economic gain. The sons of Samuel took bribes to distort justice. In the light of these happenings, the people requested a king. So a king they got, by the name of Saul.

The citizens thought the problem with the lack of justice was due to a false type of organization. If only the correct type of government were installed, all concerns would dissipate. This rational turned out to be in vain. Today, the commentaries fly to and fro as to which is superior: communism, socialism, dictatorships, democracy, monarchy, anarchy… None of these have any worth in God's eyes. These only describe the means to becoming an official, and how the government duties are distributed among offices. God is interested in one thing, and that is justice.

But back to the story: after a positive start, the new king quickly fell into the "popular support" trap. Saul thought his kingdom was to be established at the good-will of his followers, not by the grace of the King, Adonai. This led him to do foolish things.

  • 1 Samuel 13:6-9 The men of Isra'el saw that their options were limited and that the people felt so hard pressed that they were hiding themselves in caves, thickets, crevices, watchtowers and cisterns; while some of the Hebrews crossed the Yarden to the territory of Gad and Gil‘ad. But Sha'ul was still in Gilgal, where all the people were eager to follow him. He waited seven days, as Sh'mu'el had instructed; but Sh'mu'el didn't come to Gilgal; so the army began to drift away from him. Sha'ul said, "Bring me the burnt offering and the peace offerings," and he offered the burnt offering.
  • 1 Samuel 13:10-12 As soon as he had finished sacrificing the burnt offering, there was Sh'mu'el — he had come, and Sha'ul went out to meet and greet him. Sh'mu'el said, "What have you done?" Sha'ul answered, "I saw that the army was drifting away from me, that you hadn't come during the time appointed and that the P'lishtim had assembled at Mikhmas. I said, 'Now the P'lishtim will fall on me at Gilgal, and I haven't asked the favor of ADONAI,' so I forced myself and offered the burnt offering."
  • 1 Samuel 13:13-14 Sh'mu'el said to Sha'ul, "You did a foolish thing. You didn't observe the mitzvah of ADONAI, which he gave you. If you had, ADONAI would have set up your kingship over Isra'el forever. But as it is, your kingship will not be established. ADONAI has sought for himself a man after his own heart, and ADONAI has appointed him to be prince over his people, because you did not observe what ADONAI ordered you to do."


Samuel, as the religious leader of his day, was the one owning the right to make sacrifices. This right and duty is reserved for the priests. The king, however, does not have this right, nor does he have this duty. Nonetheless, Saul makes a sacrifice, apparently against his own better judgment, although he should not. In verse 11 Saul lets it be known why he ventured into areas of responsibility not belonging to him. He was afraid of loosing popular support, as well meaning as Saul portrayed himself to be.

We have the same corruption today. In ill-conceived efforts to gain popular support, the government routinely attempts to assume the duties of the Church as its own. The Church, while not commissioned to make sacrifices, has been sent to attend to those in need, in whatever form that may appear. But the government has muscled its way onto the Church's territory.

The government claims to help the unemployed, the old, the children and the sick. This is all a farce to the third degree. It is not the government's heart that is speaking, but rather its lust for power and money. The government uses the dependency relationship to obtain effective control and the seemingly logical excuse for increasing taxes to fund it.

A simple analogy is in order. Using a hammer to insert a screw into wood is stupid. It may be correct that the screw should be screwed in - we do not debate its merits. But using the correct tool is of utmost importance. Most likely, the screw will be destroyed, along with the wood, the hammer damaged and perhaps the user will be injured.

The higher level sin in this episode goes beyond assuming the rights of the Church as government's own. This is the one that disregards God as the appointee, and regards the citizens in lieu of God as the delegator of power. When pleasing God is exchanged for pleasing man, we have a conflict of interest. For the king's job is to punish wrong-doers with terror; not performing acts of "compassion".

Compassion & Economics

Another danger naturally evolves from this humanistic and "enlightenment" view. Everyone knows that citizens are happy when they are able to consume, and happier if they can consume more. "It's the economy, stupid". So the deducible extension of this evaluation is that the politician must promise that the supporters will be economically better off with himself in power as opposed to the contender. Whether the would-be office holder will protect justice although tempted with bribes never comes to bear. This is a serious mistake. It becomes clear that those having means will be targeted by the humanistic king, for the more he can steal, the more he can redistribute, and the more popular support he obtains. This is the financial logic behind the progressive tax rate, taking a greater percentage from those who are monetarily more successful.

The promise is that the majority will be able to consume more if all wealth is spread out "equally". The moniker is "economic fairness". But is stealing does not cease to be stealing due to the fact that the victim already has "more than enough". Over the short term, the economic benefit occurs, at least for those on the plundering side of the deal. But aside from the fact that "the spreading the wealth" is a nice sounding formulation of the term larceny, the long term effects are that the "poor", whom the government is supposedly assisting, will be worse off.

God rejects such a government, involved in things where it has no commission. His children should do the same. It seems only sound that only a God fearing King will do his job correctly - that is be busy about enforcing justice, not "economic fairness" and "welfare for the needy".

Author: Scott Wallace Brians
Date: October 2005
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Bible Text: Complete Jewish Bible by David Stern