September 13, 2016

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Lessons from a Divided Kingdom: Part 4

Not following God’s way

1 Kings 12:1-19

God’s apprehension towards Israel’s request was due to their motivation for requesting a king and the type of kingship they wanted. They asked for a kingship like the other nations (1 Sam. 8:5), hence they were requesting a pagan system.

The Biblical record gives an account of how the kingdom8ee965277b68a7f5652299f5a84c482a of Israel divided under Rehoboam the son of Solomon. In this series of blogs we are exploring the underlying reasons and actions that instigated the Northern Tribes to rebel against the Davidic dynasty. We looked at how the Kingdom of God is the central theme of redemptive history. Israel was chosen as an instrument in touching all nations with the redemptive rule of God. We saw how God through His prophetic spokespeople guided Israel into the covenantal reality of His Kingship. God’s redemptive actions unified a tribal people into a covenantal people for His purposes. The last blog dealt with the elders of Israel approaching Solomon to appoint a king. It was indicated how the historical account of how Israel became a Kingdom can seem confusing. There are passages for the establishment of a kingdom (1 Sam. 9; 10:1-17; 11) and passages that are sharply critical of the monarchical institution (1 Sam. 8; 12; 13; 15). Hosea stated that God gave Israel a king in His anger (Hos. 13:11). God’s apprehension towards Israel’s request was due to their motivation for requesting a king and the type of kingship they wanted.

samson-and-ass-jawbone1The Book of Judges traced how their own self-opinionated righteousness was the direct cause of Israel’s foreign oppression and social injustices. The constant refrain in the Book of Judges is how Israel acted in a manner that was right in their own eyes (Jdg. 17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25), but was considered evil in the eyes of the LORD (Jdg. 3:7, 12; 4:1, 6; 10:6; 13:1). Samson, the last judge, was a man who did what was right in his own eyes (Jdg. 14:3) and the Book of Judges ends with everybody doing what was right in their own eyes (Jdg. 17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25). Israel’s covenantal destiny was not dependent upon power or structure, but upon character.  The tribal elders asked Samuel (1 Sam. 8:5) for a king; they believed that the requested structured political system was the answer to the religious unruliness, social upheaval and foreign oppression experienced during the period of the judges[i]. As discussed in the previous blog their request was viewed by God as rebellion against His mediated rule over them. The real crisis was not the form of rulership, but their rebellious hearts.

Another reason for Samuel and God’s disapproving response to their request was the kind of kingship they were asking for. They asked for a kingship like the other nations (1 Sam. 8:5), hence they were requesting a pagan system[ii]. The displeasure of God arose firstly from the underlying reasons for their request and secondly from the kind of kingship they crown-wallpaper-9requested. The governmental institution of a Kingdom was neither good nor bad in itself[iii]; it was part of God’s plan. The issue in 1 Samuel 8 was the desire to be like other nations (1 Sam. 8:20). The tribal elders looked towards the kingships of Egypt, Mesopotamia and Canaan for a model of what a king should be. Israel then replicated these desired features from the surrounding kingdoms. Monarchical absolutism caused later social problems[iv] within the nation of Israel. This mirrored the absolute rule of the Egyptian Pharaohs. The absolute rule of Israel’s kings caused enmity between them and God’s prophetic spokespersons (2 Kings 17:13)[v]. Mesopotamian influence is shown in an expressly built capital, a permanent standing army, a palace economy with a central bureaucracy and a tax system that supported the temple and the central administration. Israel similarly reflected Canaanite monarchical practices such as enforced military conscription, grand public projects built by enforced labour, domestic work in the palace by female citizens and repossession of property for use by the king[vi].

Saul was selected as Israel’s first king by popular acclaim of the people (1 Sam. 10) and was physically striking like the other nations’ warriors and leaders (1 Sam. 9:2; Num. 13:28)[vii]. He was a unifying state builder, experienced noteworthy military exploits and expanded the borders of Israel. When David established his capital in the captured city of Jerusalem, he created a centralised bureaucratic administration[viii] by using the skilled urban administrative apparatus of the Jebusites[ix] (2 Sam. 5:6-9). King Hiram assisted city-of-davidKing David with skilled artisans and material resources (2 Sam. 5:11-12) in the construction of the expanding city of David[x]. Before and during his reign David used the Near Eastern practice of marriage as a method of strengthening his political and economic situation (1 Sam. 25:23-31; 2 Sam. 5:13), although it is prohibited in Deuteronomy 17:17. David employed trained Cherethites and Pelethites who were foreign mercenaries from the seacoast, as his bodyguard and for his personal army (2 Sam. 20:7)[xi]. King Solomon’s reign was the quintessence definition of what the other Near Eastern nations would view as a successful king[xii]. He turned Jerusalem into an extensive, wealthy and opulently adorned city comparable to the kingly cities of the other nations. His construction projects were undertaken with the skill of foreign workers and building material that was imported. King Hiram logistically and financially assisted Solomon. As time wore on, Solomon only became more indebted (1 Kings 5:10-18; 9:11, 14). He modelled his kingship upon those of other nations; he had a permanent standing army, centralised bureaucracy and palace economy all of which was a drain upon the nation’s resources. The people were enslaved through taxes, forced labour, conscription and the annexure of property[xiii] (1 Kings 4:27-28, 5:13-18).

Israel was to be different to other nations. They should have been a vehicle for the restoration of God’s rulership over all nations (Num. 23:21)[xiv]. Instead they wanted to substitute the directness and simplicity of God’s mediated rule (through His prophetic spokespersons) for a cumbersome central government devoted to the defence of its own preservation; they wanted a king like the other nations. Israel’s theocracy (God’s rule) which was a covenantal rule to the benefit of all instead became a costly immoral enrichment of the hereditary few[xv]. Israel was worse off through a system that was based upon the wisdom and methods of the other nations. At the end of Saul’s rule; gained territory was lost (1 Sam. 31:8) and social flaws remerged (2 Sam. 2:8-17). David’s heart, repentance and enthusiastic worship of God were commended. This aspect of his life became the touchstone for the hope of a future kingly Messiah[xvi]. His personal life however was a wreck which included infidelity (2 Sam. 11), rape (2 Sam. 13), the killing of family members by their own (2 Sam. 13), treason, insurgences, the appropriation of David’s concubines and civil war (2 Sam. 14-18). These events within the house of David widened the rift between the Northern and Southern tribes (1 Sam. 19-20). King solomon-visitedbyqueenofsheba-edward-poynter-1836e280931919-wikipediaSolomon’s rule ended with Israel in political decline, with more economic hardships and greater moral deterioration. His sensual appetites, greediness (1 Kings 11:1-3) and open idolatry (1 Kings 11:32-33) made him the king who angered God. Israel after the period of the kings is in the same position as before the establishment of the kingdom. The tribes’ future was uncertain and they had to live through the chaos of the diaspora without leadership (1 Kings 12:16)[xvii]. What would a mediated rule of God have looked like under David, without the trappings of a kingship like the other nations[xviii]?

End notes

[i] (Webb 2012:426)

[ii] (Chapman 2016:97)

[iii] (Chapman 2016:426)

[iv] (Heim 2005:610)

[v] (Moller 2005:160)

[vi] (Heim 2005:610)

[vii] (Bergen 1996:112)

[viii] (Mendenhall 1975:157)

[ix] (Mendenhall 1975:158)

[x] (Bergen 1996:323)

[xi] (Keener 1993:n.a.)

[xii] (Mendenhall 1975:159)

[xiii] (Heim 2005:610)

[xiv] (Bergen 1996:157)

[xv] (McClain 1968:na)

[xvi] (Longman 2005: 448)

[xvii] (Longman 2005:448)

[xviii] (McClain 1968:na)

Works Cited

Bergen, RD. 1996. The New American Commentary. Nashville: B7H Publishing Group.

Chapman, SB. 2016. 1 Samuel as Christian Scripture: A Theological Commentary. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Heim, KM 2005. “Kings and Kingship.” Pp. 610-622 in Dictionary of the Old Testament: Historical Books, edited by Arnold BT and Williamson HGM. Downer Groves: InterVarsity Press.

Keener, Graig S. 1993. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press.

Longman, T 2005. “History of Israel.” in Dictionary of the Old Testament: Historical Books. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press.

McClain, AJ. 1968. The Greatness of the Kingdom. Chicago: Moody Press.

Mendenhall, GE. 1975. “The monarchy.” Interpretation 29:155-179.

Moller, K 2005. “Phrophets and Prophecy.” in Dictionary of the Old Testament: Historical Books. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press.

Webb, BG. 2012. The New International Commentary of the Old Testament: The Book of Judges. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

September 8, 2016

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Lessons from a Divided Kingdom: Part 3

A request formed through Spiritual Blindness

1 Kings 12:1-19

Israel request a new political system, where the real problem was their own unfaithfulness

0x0_9773186In this series of blogs we are looking at the events leading up to the division of the kingdom of Israel under the rulership of Rehoboam. In the first blog it was discussed how God is the rightful ruler of the whole universe. The fullness of redemption is the restoration of humanity under the liberating rulership of God. In Genesis 12 God promised to Abraham that His offspring will become a great nation through whom all nations were going to be blessed. God chose the offspring of Abraham to be the vehicle of restoration to all nations. In the second blog we looked at the fractious unification of tribal Israel into a kingdom. Collectively all the tribes experienced God’s miraculous saving acts. Consequently worshiping God united Israel into a covenant community, while idolatry divided the nation among their tribal fault lines. In this blog we will look at the occasion where the elders of the tribes demanded that an aging Samuel appoint a king to rule over them (1 Sam. 8).

As discussed in a prior blog there were economic, social,  military and moral benefits for Israel to move towards monarchal statehood. When the kingdom in Israel became a political fact it solidified a shared redemptive history, which led to a cohesive national religious conviction and produced institutional unity[i]. Gideon in rejecting the offered129906661_spirit_corinth kingship maintained that God was the true king of Israel (Jdg. 8:23). From the time of Moses, God’s theocratic rule was expressed through His prophetic spokesperson. God ruled Israel directly as their King in a very concrete way through leaders that He chose, directed and empowered. God’s mediated rule led Israel into the Promised Land under the leadership of Joshua. The tribes digressed from the lofty accomplishments of Joshua[ii] through moral erosion, societal inequality and political frailty. Rulership under the judges could not produce political, cultural or religious harmony among the twelve tribes[iii]. Circumstances for Israel grew worse with atrocious leaders such as Jephthah or tragic leaders such as Samson failing to effectively lead the nation into covenantal splendour.  A civil war between the tribes ensued (Jdg. 17-21) in the midst of increasing foreign oppression[iv]. A national low point was the recorded leadership corruption in 1 Samuel 4-7 where the Ark of the Covenant was used as a good luck charm instead of the respected holy symbol of God’s presence. Israel was defeated and the Philistines captured the very symbol of God’s glory amongst His people. This event caused the religious and political establishments of Israel to disintegrate[v].

The tribal elders approached Samuel to enforce their solution: the appointment of a king. Samuel was a pioneering judge, whose leadership produced national stability. Although like Gideon and Eli, his descendants through depravity, greed and perversion of authority proved themselves undeserving of establishing a heredity leadership. A casual reading of the historical account can be befuddling since passages in 1 Samuel (9; 10:1-17; 11) and the Royal Psalms portrays the king as “chosen, adopted, anointed and appointed” by God elijahandahabinnabothsvineyardhimself[vi]. However, it “displeased Samuel” (1 Sam. 8:6) to establish a constitutional monarchy under God with the Torah as its founding document[vii]. God himself described the request by the elders as a rejection of Him as King of Israel (1 Sam. 8:7). 1 Samuel (8; 12; 13; 15) is interspersed with prophetical warnings against human kings who would reign in opposition to God[viii]. The prophet warned that the freedom, stability and prosperity that the elders wanted to gain through the institution of a king would lead to military draft, servitude, the confiscation of property, taxation and the loss of personal liberty[ix]. Samuel foresaw that their own king would become their enemy (1 Sam. 8:17) and exploit the people in ways similar to the tyrants they seek protection from. These seeming conflicting narratives   leaves the sincere reader perplexed as to whether it was a good thing for the elders to ask for a king or not.

The prophet Hosea looked back at this recorded event and in hindsight described how thekingdavid people requested God to give them “a king and princes” (Hos. 10:13), but that God conceded to their request in His “anger” (Hos. 13:11). God promised Abraham that kings would come from his descendants. How then is the request by Israel for a king wrong? The Davidic covenant gave humanity a kingly Messiah. Is the very institution of kingship then wrong? The establishment of a kingdom was part of God’s plan as can be seen in 1 Samuel 12:13 where He chose and instituted Saul as king. The concern God had with Israel’s request was not the existence of a king over Israel, but the reason behind their request and the type of kingship they were requesting. Israel was to be established in the “manner” of God’s Kingdom rather than the “manner of the king”. They were to be a covenant keeping people who were ruled by God. In 1 Samuel 8:7-8 God stated clearly that He kept His covenant promises of provision and protection, but it was Israel who rebelled against God as King. Through this act of rebellion they broke covenant with Him[x]. Israel looked for a political solution to something which at its very core was a heart issue.

In the beginning of the Book of Judges there was an awareness that the nation did what was evil in the eyes of the LORD (Jdg. 3:7, 12; 4:1; 6:; 10:6; 13:1). In fact Judges 10:16 states that the LORD’s soul became short with Israel’s wearisome efforts[xi].  Later in the book of Judges the incorporation of cultic practices from neighbouring nations and the moral decay experienced were ascribed to Israel not having a king (Jdg. 17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25). 6a0120a610bec4970c017ee63d9649970dThey looked for a social and political solution, while the real problem was their failure to take spiritual responsibility for their own actions[xii]. For Israel the king’s responsibility was to oppose their persistent idolatry, syncretism and their proclivity for covenant breaking. The king had an obligation to save Israel from their own inclination towards hara-kiri as mirrored in their conceited and stubborn behaviour. The book of Judges showed Israel’s lack of growth into a covenant community and detailed how the promised blessings of Deuteronomy slowly morphed into the warned-of curses for unfaithfulness. They did what was right in their own eyes; this self-opinionated righteousness is the direct cause of foreign oppression and social injustices[xiii]. Israel placed their hope in governmental- and social reform instead of dealing with their sin issue.

This spiritual blindness was reflected in the way that Saul (the first king) is described. Saul was depicted as being spiritually blind. He was as spiritually insensitive as the whole nation (1 Sam. 9:3-10:16). Saul was portrayed as a bad shepherd; the very heart of Godly leadership is a shepherd’s heart. He lived about 8 kilometres from one of the greatest prophets and judges in Israel’s history and he has never heard of him. He needed to be told that there was a great prophet in the area. His approach towards Samuel was ill-informed as reflected in the fact that he assumed that Samuel was a diviner for hire. saul_looks_for_donkeys_c-837When he became king he did not know what the Torah’s military and dietary instructions were (1 Sam. 13; 15) and he obtained guidance from prohibited sources (1 Sam. 28). Saul’s spiritual blindness also stretched to his treatment of David, who was described as a man after God’s own heart (1 Sam. 13:14). His treatment of David reflected the actions of Achish (1 Sam. 27) the Philistine king of Goth[xiv]. Where Israel and their king were to be a kingdom of priests to all nations (Ex. 19:6), their behaviour through their own spiritual blindness reflected that of other nations around them. Their hardened hearts which God describes as a rejection of His mediated rule (1 Sam. 8:7-8), was therefore the first problem with Israel requesting a King.



[i] (Griffiths 1967:43)

[ii] (Stone 2005:603)

[iii] (Heim 2005:610)

[iv] (Stone 2005:603)

[v] (Arnold 2005:866)

[vi] (Peter 1981:9)

[vii] (Bakon 2016:43-49)

[viii] (Peter 1981:10)

[ix] (Kaiser et al. 1996:203)

[x] (Bergen 1996:112)

[xi] (Stone 2005:603)

[xii] (Bergen 1996:201)

[xiii] (Stone 2005:603)

[xiv] (Bergen 1996:113)


Works Cited

Arnold, BT 2005. “Books of Samuel.” in Dictionary of the Old Testament: Historical Books, edited by BT Arnold and HGM Williamson. Downers Groveer: InterVarsity Press.

Bakon, S. 2016. “From Judges to Monarchy.” Jewish Bible Quarterly 44 no 1:45-49.

Bergen, RD. 1996. The American Commentary: 1,2 Samuel. Nashville: B&H Publishing Group.

Griffiths, WR. 1967. “Covenant and Charisma as related to the Establishment and Dissolution of the United Monarchy of Israel.” Iliff Review 24 no 3 Fall 1967:43-50.

Heim, KM 2005. “Kings and Kingship.” Pp. 610-622 in Dictionary of the Old Testament: Historical Books, edited by Arnold BT and Williamson HGM. Downer Groves: InterVarsity Press.

Kaiser, WC, PH Davids, FF Bruce, and MT Brauch. 1996. Hard Sayings of the Bible. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press.

Peter, CB. 1981. “Anti-Monarchic tradition in the Old Testament and the question of Diakonia.” M.Th., Theology, Senate of Serampore College, Kolkata.

Stone, LG 2005. “Book of Judges.” in Dictionary of the Old Testament: Historical Books, edited by TA Arnold and HGM Williamson. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press.


August 23, 2016

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Lessons from a Divided Kingdom: Part 2

Unity through God’s redemptive acts 

1 Kings 12:1-19

It was the worship of God that provides the basis for unity, but idolatry fractured Israel back into their tribal factional self-interests.

Light_From_HeavenIn the last blog it was shown that God is the rightful Ruler of all of creation due to His sovereignty. The Kingdom of God is primarily based upon God’s sovereignty, authority and His right to rule. Flowing from God’s right to rule is the realms over which He exercises His authority and the subjects to His authority[i]. The kingdom of God is therefore the sphere of God’s rulership and dominion, accordingly God’s all-encompassing active rulership over “all reality”[ii]. Scripture teaches that God’s kingdom is over all kingdoms (Ps. 103:19), the earth and all in it is God’s (Pss. 24:1; 50:1; 89:11). Israel was to be an earthly manifestation of God’s Kingdom, towards all nations. God according to the Bible’s understanding is the true ruler amongst other gods; the true ruler over all nations and specifically, the true ruler of the theocracy (a form of government where God is the true civil leader) that is Israel[iii]. Therefore alongside God’s universal domain of rulership, God is the King of His covenant people. God is “Jacob’s King” (Is. 41:21) and Israel were to be “a holy nation” and “a kingdom of priests” (Ex. 19:6). Obedience to God’s voice and commandments would establish God’s rule and God’s kingship amongst the nations through Israel. Unfortunately, their rebellious nature cost them the kingdom in the end[iv].

s-l300Before the establishment of the Monarchy in Israel prophecies were given in Scripture that predicted the coming of earthly kings that would rule Israel on God’s behalf. God promised Abraham that kings would arise from his descendants (Gen. 17:6; 35:11; 36:31). Jacob in blessing his sons prophetically envisaged Judah as a “lion” from whom the sceptre of kingship would not depart, therefore foreshadowing the Davidic covenant (Gen. 49:8-12). Balaam pronounced a blessing upon a future kingdom of Israel (Num. 24:7) to the great irritation of Balak who had summoned him. The covenantal renewal for the generation that would enter the Promised Land prophetically gave covenantal laws that were to be obeyed by future kings in a future kingdom (Deut. 17:14-20). Hannah, joyously in her celebratory song, prophetically foresaw that her son would become a kingmaker (1 Sam. 2:1-10). The rulership of the yet to come Davidic line became the hope of a promised Messianic rule[v].

Deborah’s song (Jud. 5) of victory over Sisera revealed an Israel that was not united in a uniform national identity. At the time of the Judges the nation was a collection of distinct tribes that were not integrated into a nation as yet. At this point the history of Israel was a loose alliance of segmented tribal loyalties influenced by smaller units of extended families[vi]. The Judges were not national leaders but local charismatic leaders raised up by God in order to provide military or judicial leadership as the need of the specific geographical circumstances may have dictated[vii]. The singular unifying factor of this loose federation of tribes was the worship of God. The tribes experienced a miraculous deliverance from Egyptian slavery and at Mount Sinai they were established as His covenantal people. The redemptive actions of God were the predominant unifying activity among the tribes that promoted a single national identity and created a connected shared redemptive consciousness. Although under the judges there was little political, social or cultural unity[viii]. External and internal forces were driving the tribes towards nationhood and forming a kingdom. The tribes moved from a “rustic chiefdom to a bureaucratic imperial structure.”[ix]

110_05_0172_BiblePaintings.jpgOne external factor was the military threat posed by the Philistines, a people who was organisationally and technologically (1 Sam. 13:19) more advanced than Israel. Along with the Philistines, the Ammonites aggressively pursued geographical expansion. Israel had no standing army and military defences were tribally structured. As the population grew and the agricultural development of the Promised Land succeeded, a need arose for amalgamation and collaboration between the tribes[x]. A growing population needed the more centralised and more complex organisation of the economy that nationhood would create[xi]. Internal factors such as the moral deterioration, idolatry and the social inequality between tribes are blamed by the Book of Judges on the fact that Israel did not have a king (Jdg. 17:6, 18:1, 19:1, 20:25)[xii]. Gideon rejected the kingship offered to him (Jdg. 8:22), but his son Abimelech tried to seize it by force (Jdg. 9). Jephthah was involved in tribal war (Jdg. 12) and the historical account of Judges (Jdg. 17-21) ends in atrocious anarchy of Israel on the periphery of continuous bloody tribal conflict. After Eli and Samuel had failed (due to the moral deficiencies of their sons) to provide a hereditary and enduring solution to Israel’s need for godly governance, the people demanded a king (1 Sam. 2; 8).

image004In the Book of Judges, each tribe acted in their own interests rather than on behalf of a united nation of Israel. Keeping the tribes together was difficult throughout the period of the kingdom. Saul experienced some opposition to his appointment as king at first (1 Sam. 10:27). After the death of Saul, there was a civil war between his house and the house of David (2 Sam. 2-4). In the house of David treason and insurgences led to civil war (2 Sam. 14-18). These events within the house of David widened the rift between the tribes (1 Sam. 19-20). These tensions erupted in 1 Kings 12. The unity of Israel in the Book of Kings is exposed to have been a thin veneer under a covenant-keeping king[xiii]. As revealed within the narrative, the unity between the tribes proved to be unstable without God’s blessing[xiv].  Solomon’s later reign placed even more pressure on these existing stress points. Heavy taxation and conscript labour placed a heavier burden upon an already delicate unity (1 Kings 4:27-28), 5:13-18). During his reign Hadad the Edomite (1 Kings 11:14-22), Rezon son of Eliada (1 Kings 11:23-25) and Jeroboam son of Nebat (1 Kings 11:26-40) were thorns in his side. Israel is a nation that emerged from civil war and those scar-lines were not completely healed.

As stated before God is saving a people for His name and the fullness of His Kingdom will only be received by a people (Dan. 7:18). The fullness of God’s inheritance is released in the community of God’s covenant people. The “greater” that God wants to do is through a community. We all share in the great salvation that the blood of Jesus brought us, but Paul states that like Israel we need to be immersed into the community of God’s covenant people (1 Cor. 12:12-13). For Israel to have been protected, provided for and to have walked in the fullness of God’s promises they needed to unite as the covenant people of God. In Jesus’s prayer for the community of believers, it is our supernatural unity that testifies to a dying world that Jesus is Lord (John 17:20-23). It is the united community of believers that manifest the fullness of God (Eph. 3:10) to principalities and rulers in heavenly places.Nationhood There were many external and internal reasons for the tribes to unite and form the nation of Israel and in doing so each benefited politically, militarily, socially and economically. It was the worship of God that provided the basis for unity, but idolatry fractured Israel back into tribal factional self-interests[xv]. Samuel described God as the Glory of Israel (1 Sam. 15:29), a term that means perpetual glory. It is God who is the source of His covenant community’s splendour and the One who sustains the community[xvi]. God is therefore the initiator and sustainer of His covenant community, but the fullness of His purposes is only released through a unified covenant community. Although an individual tribe could have experienced the salvation, protection and provision of God, they could only have walked in the fullness of God’s kingdom as a united community.


[i] (Ladd 1981:13-23)
[ii] (Johnson 2004:478)
[iii] (Heim 2005:616)
[iv] (Williams 1992:289-295)
[v] (Goldsworthy 2001:n.a.)
[vi] (Sparks 2005:270)
[vii] (Heim 2005:618)
[viii] (Heim 2005:616)
[ix] (Mendenhall 1975:157)
[x] (Finkelstein 1989:48)
[xi] (Mendenhall 1975:157)
[xii] (Heim 2005:618)
[xiii] (Goldsworthy 2001)
[xiv] (Block 2005)
[xv] (Block 2005)
[xvi] (Block 2005)

Works Cited

Block, DI 2005. “God.” Pp. 336-354 in Dictionary of the Old Testament: Historical Books, edited by Arnold BT and Williamson HGM. Downer Groves: InterVarsity Press.

Brindle, W. 1984. “The Causes of the Division of Israel’s Kingdom.” Bibliotheca Sacra (July-September):223-233.

Dietrich, W. 2007. The Early Monarchy in Israel: The Tenth Century B.C.E. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature.

Finkelstein, I. 1989. “The emergence of the Monarchy in Israel the environmental and socio-economic aspects.” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 44:43-74.

Goldsworthy, G 2001. “Kingdom of God.” in Dictionary of Biblical Theology, edited by TD Alexander and BS Rosner. electronic ed. ed. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press.

Griffiths, WR. 1967. “Covenant and Charisma as related to the Establishment and Dissolution of the United Monarchy of Israel.” Iliff Review 24 no 3 Fall 1967:43-50.

Heim, KM 2005. “Kings and Kingship.” Pp. 610-622 in Dictionary of the Old Testament: Historical Books, edited by Arnold BT and Williamson HGM. Downer Groves: InterVarsity Press.

Ladd, GD. 1981. The Gospel of the Kingdom. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

Mendenhall, GE. 1975. “The monarchy.” Interpretation 29:155-179.

Sparks, KL 2005. “Ethnicity.” Pp. 268-272 in Dictionary of the Old Testament: Historical Books, edited by Arnold BT and Williamson HGM. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press.

Van Groningen, G. 1996. Evangelical Commentary on the Bible. Grand Rapids: Baker.

Verkuyl, J. 1979. “The Kingdom of God as the Goal of the Missio Dei.” International Review of Mission 68 168-175.

Williams, JR. 1992. Renewal Theology. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.


August 19, 2016

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Lessons from a Divided Kingdom: Part 1

 Introductory Thoughts

1 Kings 12:1-19

Understanding Israel’s national history and specifically Israel as a kingdom must be done by considering God’s redemptive actions through the restoration of His right to rule over all. 

In this series of blogs we are going to look at the kingdom of Israel dividing under the rule of Rehoboam into a Northern and Southern kingdom. These blogs will attempt toReh investigate which events led to the divided kingdom, its consequences and what lessons we can draw from this historical account. The first question is why  study ancient Biblical history at all?  The Bible teaches that all of its writings are profitable for teaching and training in righteousness, so that we are in shape for the tasks God has for us (2 Tim. 3:16). Paul states that although the Old Testament was written long ago, it was in order to teach us what God has done and provide us with hope for what He will do next (Rom. 15:4). The history of Israel was recorded for us as both a warning from the past and guidance for the future (1 Cor. 10:6, 11). God revealed Himself initially in the temporal natural order of human history. Through His interaction within the actual history of His people, He opened up our understanding to spiritual realities which are eternal (1 Cor. 15:46, 47). The Old Testament was the shadow of the fullness of what God wanted to establish through His Davidic Messianic King (Col. 2:17). So lets us delve deeply into what lessons we can extract from this heartrending historical account.

In order for us to fully understand this specific national historical event within the context of God’s Kingdom, we need to take one step back and look at the grand overarching narrative of the Bible which is the redemptive story of God’s Kingdom. The revealed purpose of God is more than just the spiritual salvation of humanity; it is the establishment of the fullness of the Kingdom of God. In the Bible “…God by both his words and deeds claims that he is intent on bringing the kingdom of God to expression and restoring his liberating domain of authority.[i]. The kingdom of God is the pivotal and central reality revealed throughout Scripture. The hopeful expectation of humanity for ultimate salvation is articulated in the concept of the kingdom of God [ii]. creationThe Bible starts with God creating ex nihilo (out of nothing) and so establishes God’s right to rule His creation due to His sovereignty over it. God delegated His reign by giving humanity dominion over creation. Humanity is created in the image of God to represent God’s rule and reign on earth[iii]. Satan firstly defied God’s rulership and deceived humanity into seeking autonomy from God [iv]. The rebellion against the rulership of God (Rom. 3:23) by humanity’s original parents is redemptively restored through God’s dynamic reign against all opposition in human history [v].

The individual’s entry into the kingdom is accompanied by the forming of a community, “…a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God…” (1 Pet. 2:9). This community has the privilege to participate in the ushering in of God’s kingdom (Eph. 3:10). God is saving individuals into a people for His name. The fullness of redemptive rule is discovered with in a called out community that will receive the fullness of the Kingdom. The fullness of the Kingdom is to be represented not by individuals or tribal Israel (Gal. 6:15-16) but a called people who will bear His name and fulfil His purposes [vi]. The nations are a concern of God since humanity’s communal life is expressed through nations [vii]. IsraelMankind’s fallenness displayed in the nations is described as “…the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud” (Isa. 57:20). The Psalmist enquires why “do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the LORD …” (Psa. 2:1-2). Genesis 11 records the account of nations rebelling against God at Babel. The Psalmist affirms that – “All kings will bow down to him and all nations will serve him.” (Psa. 72:11).

solGod chose the offspring of Abraham to be the vehicle of restoration to all nations. In order for God to work out His redemptive purposes on earth he called a man Abram out of Ur. Hebrews 11:16 states that he was looking for a heavenly country, whose source is God. The renamed Abraham’s primary concern was finding the perfect rule of God over society; this search made him the “heir of the world” (Rom. 4:13). In Genesis 12 God promises Abraham that His offspring will become a great nation with promises of territory and the fact that all nations were going to be blessed through his offspring. God chose the descendants of Abraham to be the vehicle of restoration to all nations. The promise is repeated to both Isaac (Gen. 26:3, 5) and Jacob (Gen. 28:13-14). God demonstrates His power against the national gods of Egypt and delivers Israel from captivity. In Exodus 19:6 God states that His purpose for choosing Israel is to create a “kingdom of priests and a holy nation” that were to mediate God’s Kingdom to all nations. The climax in Israel’s national history was during the reign of David and his son.

Next blog


[i] (Verkuyl 1979:168)

[ii] (Ladd 1981:13-23)

[iii] (Goldsworthy 2001:n.p.)

[iv] (Van Rheenen 1996:21)

[v] (Goldsworthy 2008:4)

[vi] (Fee 1996:1223)

[vii] (Wright 2006:454)

Works Cited

Fee, GD. 1996. Paul, the Spirit and the People of God. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic.

Gaffin, RB 1988. “Kingdom of God.” in New Dictionary of Theology, edited by SB Ferguson and JI Packer. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press.

Goldsworthy, G 2001. “Kingdom of God.” in Dictionary of Biblical Theology, edited by TD Alexander and BS Rosner. electronic ed. ed. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press.

Goldsworthy, G. 2008. “The Kingdom of God as hermeneutic grid.” Southern Baptist Joernal of Theology Spring:4-15.

Ladd, GD. 1981. The Gospel of the Kingdom. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

Meer, E v. d. 2008. The strategic level spiritual warfare theology of C. Peter Wagner and its implications for Christian mission in Malawi. Pretoria: UNISA.

Reid, DG 1993. “Triumph.” in Dictionary of Paul and his letters, edited by GF Hawthorne, RP Martin, and DG Reid. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press.

Ridderbos, HN 1996. “Kingdom of God, Kingdom of Heaven.” in New Bible Dictionary, edited by DRW Wood. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press.

Verkuyl, J. 1979. “The Kingdom of God as the Goal of the Missio Dei.” International Review of Mission 68 168-175.

Williams, JR. 1992. Renewal Theology. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.


February 20, 2016

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The Kingdom released through a shepherd’s heart.

The Kingdom released through a shepherd’s heart.

Shepherding was a time-honoured pursuit throughout Israel’s national history. This was a nation whose patriarchs were shepherds; their great deliverer Moses was a shepherd and the model king David was a shepherd. When the contemporary shepherds in Jesus’ day became the first to receive the good news that the Good Shepherd has been born, the occupation has fallen into disrepute. The Pharisees disliked shepherds whose occupation withheld them from making continuous contributions to the religious life of their communities[i]. In Rabbinical writings after the New Testamental period Rabbis discouraged their children from becoming reviled shepherds[ii]. In Roman society shepherds were viewed as the lowest of the peasant’s class[iii]. Though the aristocracy frowned upon shepherding, God chose to establish His kingdom through a Shepherd-King. Throughout Scripture a shepherd’s heart is intimately interwoven with just, prevailing and authorative rulership[iv].  Whenever the people of God separated the shepherding responsibility from rulership the full manifestation of God’s Kingdom was lost. The rulership model Jesus established is one of shepherding (John 10:11) and His model is expressly not modeled upon the worldly rulership (Mat. 20:25).

During the fifth century the church stepped away from the isolation of the catacombs towards the pomp and splendor of the Roman Empire’s enclaves of power and influence[v]. During the preceding centuries the image of the Good Shepherd was by a long way the most enduring image of Jesus used by a persecuted church. The Good Shepherd disappeared from Christian art during this time of influence and wealth until the late Middle Ages. Ramsey in an informative article suggests that for a church enamored by the trappings of regal wealth and authority the image of the humble Good Shepherd did not correspond to their mental representation of Jesus in more royal and majestic terms. The church felt that it no longer needed the loving and protective image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. To a church that gained worldly authority and power, the image of Jesus as king completely replaced the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd[vi].  The unbalanced monarchical leadership within the church, unhinged from the moderating impact of a shepherd’s heart, suffered through the corroding effect of power.

Today some church circles has become the home of the mega-meeting, with franchised sites, where mission orientated churches through a CEO strives for a power religion of influence. In this climate of affluence, power and perceived influence the humble shepherd has once again been removed from the lexicon of the influential and popular church growth models.No sheperds In fact Andy Stanley who leads a mega church in Alpharetta, Georgia in America said in an interview on leadership he wishes that the word shepherd disappear from our church vocabulary. He states that “Jesus talked about shepherds because there was one over there in a pasture he could point to… It was culturally relevant in the time of Jesus, but it’s not culturally relevant any more. It’s the first-century word. If Jesus were here today, would he talk about shepherds? No… By the time of the Book of Acts, the shepherd model is gone.[vii]

The former vice president of Promise Keepers, E.G. Warner, expresses concern that the church has moved from a shepherding community model towards a hierarchical corporate model, where managers and CEO’s have replaced shepherds[viii]. John Piper has bemoaned the loss of the prophet for the professional, who is grounded in business practices[ix]. Sheep BusForeign business models are incorporated into the core values and missions of churches and lost sheep that don’t follow the CEO is tossed under the bus.
Mark Driscoll from Mars Hill has stated that: “There is a pile of dead bodies behind the Mars Hill bus and by God’s grace it’ll be a mountain by the time we’re done. You either get on the bus or you get run over by the bus.[x] Some churches have created a power structure which values function and efficiency above having a shepherd’s heart. The Good Shepherd left the ninety-nine to search for the one (Mat. 18:12). In modern corporate culture such an action will be viewed as most inefficient, but in the Kingdom such actions releases powerfully effective transformations.

During the time of Jesus there were many rulership models present. There was the political influence, wealth, and military power of the Emperor. The Sadducees were an exclusive aristocratic religious class who controlled the temple and the prideful Pharisees who had a demanding religious life. Herod was a compliant subservient king. The Essenes consciously broke away from the perceived societal corruption while the Zealots wanted to change society through force[xi]. Yet in the midst of all of these movements, philosophies and control systems Jesus felt compassion. He saw the crowds as “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Mat. 9:36). Jesus is the fulfilment of the messianic prophecy of Micah (Mic. 5:2-4) that foresaw a Davidic Shepherd-Ruler that would establish the kingdom of God in the midst of the failure, isolation and destruction of other kingdoms.

the-lost-sheep.jpgIn Matthew 25:31-33, Jesus the all-powerful and majestic Commander of the hosts of heaven is also portrayed as a shepherd. In Ezekiel 34:16, God the Shepherd will bring restoration where earthly kings have failed by shepherding His people as flock towards health and strength. Grand public spectacles coupled with self-aggrandizing pursuits may in today’s world lead to great acclaim but will fall short of releasing the true impact of the Kingdom in our society. In both Matthew and Ezekiel the litmus test for access into the fullness of the Kingdom is not religious activity, religious knowledge or the display of religious power through ecclesiastical authority or miraculous marvels, but by reflecting the shepherd’s heart of the Shepherd-King.  Only the gracious intervention of our Royal Good Shepherd can herd a fractious society into the reality of the Kingdom[xii].

In the Bible rulership and shepherding are inseparably linked (2 Sam. 7:7). God is described as a shepherd (Ps. 23; Gen. 48:15, 49:24; Ez. 43:23) which is an image of rulership whereby the Lord of Heaven is committed to the protection and care of His flock[xiii]. Jesus our ultimate role model is our Shepherd-King who has come to lead the flock without a shepherd (Mark 6:34) and is the Good Shepherd who is willing to lay down His life for the sheep (John 10:11; Heb. 13:20; 1 Pet. 2:25; Rev. 7:17). The Kingdom is inaugurated through a Shepherd. The Great Commission finds fruition by taking care of His sheep. A shepherd’s command is given to Peter to feed His sheep (John 21:16)[xiv]. Paul in extending the Kingdom admonishes the Ephesian elders to shepherd the church of God (Acts 20:28). When Peter discusses rulership He links it directly to shepherdship (1 Pet. 2:22-25). When Jesus was “declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection” (Rom. 1:4) wandering sheep were restored to the True Shepherd (1 Pet. 2:22-25). Upon His return the Good Shepherd will sit upon the judgement seat (Mat. 25:32)[xv]. The shepherd’s heart is to be a reflection of the inaugurated Kingdom until the Chief Shepherd appears to bring the fullness of the Kingdom by shepherding His flock (1 Pet. 5:4)[xvi]. Shepherding is the heartbeat of rulership in God’s Kingdom.

The Old Testament records how earthly rulers fail by not tending to the flock of God and leaving a scattered, injured, weak (Eze. 34:16), harassed, helpless and rudderless (Mat. 9:36) flock in their wake. The prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel record how the self-serving, pitiless and callous shepherds of Israel lost the kingdom through bad shepherding[xvii]. A scattered and beleaguered flock of Israel is directly blamed upon the lack of a shepherd’s heart by those who should have been shepherds to the flock[xviii] (Jer. 10:21; 50:6-7; Eze. 34:1-10). The lack of shepherds reflecting God’s shepherd’s heart was the direct cause of the collapse of the kingdom of Israel. Bad shepherds lacked empathy and sympathy towards the sheep they were herding. These shepherds would only see the sheep as a pathway for their own personal empowerment and material gain. The dreadful result of these ungodly shepherds would be the scattering of the sheep. The individual members of the flock are left open to the dangers of a harsh wilderness and hostile predators; starvation and dehydration a constant companion to the scattered flock[xix]. Jesus described the flock as “harassed and helpless” (Mat. 9:36).

In John 10, Jesus describes what malevolent shepherds with startlingly deceitful   motives look like. He described them as “thieves and robbers” (John 10:1). In Jewish law there was a distinction between a thief and a robber. A robber would live outside human settlements and attack passers-by, while a thief would forcefully enter a dwelling in order to steal[xx]. These are leaders who are only motivated by their own interests and will harm the sheep in order to satisfy their own narcissistic needs. The Pharisees of Jesus’ day were only interested in their own endowment and security. They were greedy (Luke 16:14), abused widows (Mar. 12:40) and converted God’s dwelling into what Jesus called a “den of thieves” (Mat. 21:13). They conspired to kill the Good Shepherd in order to keep their Roman given privileges (Mat. 21:13).  Compare this to the Good Shepherd that risks His own life in order to protect the flock.

The “stranger” (John 10:2-5) is also a form of inferior shepherding[xxi] that may lack the malevolence of the thief and the robber. The stranger is antithetical to the True Shepherd, who has an intimate and personal relationship with each and every individual sheep. Shepherds at the time had nick names for each individual animal, all the more so within a large herd[xxii]. Knowing personal characteristics of each sheep, means effective shepherding. The sheep will not follow the stranger’s voice thus other methods whether forceful, cunning, underhanded, manipulative or unbiblical will be used in place of the relational leading of the sheep. A true shepherd is known, heard and seen by his sheep.

The last example Jesus used of a mediocre shepherd is the “hired hand” (John 10:12-13) that is someone who is a manager and not an owner. The sheep is not his and he is not responsible for any loss (Ex. 22:13)[xxiii], thus his interest is not primarily the wellbeing of the sheep but the earning of wages. The behaviour of the hireling is not malicious as with the thieves and robbers, but he does not carry the concern for the welfare of the sheep as the True Shepherd does. The Shepherd’s concern is not mere sentimentality but is due to His ownership of the sheep and the actual loss He will suffer. The Shepherd paid for the sheep with His own life, thus the loss of even one sheep is tangible and real to Him[xxiv].

Jesus as the promised Davidic Shepherd-King pronounced in His Sermon on the Mount that He and the false shepherds of Israel don’t share the same kingdom values (Mat. 5:20). In John 10 Jesus describes them as thieves, robbers, hired hands and strangers that are fleecing, devouring, leaving the sheep unprotected and scattered. In Matthew 21:43 Jesus openly declared the fact that they failed in reflecting the care and concern of the Good Shepherd have caused them to lose the Kingdom (Matt 21:43)[xxv]. The balance of Scripture is a Shepherd-King. By not reflecting God’s shepherd’s heart and not diligently shepherding the flock the Kingdom was lost. The church in the past and present have sought to attain influence, affluence, power and authority in a manner the rejects the humble shepherd as the key to unlocking the infinite Kingdom of God.

On Facebook the other day, a fierce discussion erupted on a group regarding the perceived loss of what can only be described as Kingdom influence, power and authority. The question raised was: “Where was the church (like in Acts 17:6) that turned the world upside-down? “ Can we like Paul declare that our message is not just empty words, meaningless practices or brash posturing but a demonstration of the Kingdom with power, authority, impact accompanied with mighty signs and wonders (1 Cor. 2:4, 4:20; Rom. 14:17, 15:19; 2 Cor. 10:4-5; 1 Thess. 1:5)? Micah 2-5, Ezekiel 34-37 and Zechariah 9-14 paints a picture of the Davidic King where by the Kingdom will be restored through a Shepherd that seeks the lost, binds up the weak and heals the sick. Jesus powerfully displayed the kingdom of God through His behaviour, words and deeds. Where Jesus went the “blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. “(Mat. 11:5).

When Jesus “saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and  helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”(Mat. 9:36).  Compassion and a shepherd’s concern and care caused the powerful release of the Kingdom in power, might and influence. It is the shepherd like David that releases the fullness of the Kingdom by being an eternal King upon the throne of David[xxvi]. When we fail to demonstrate the fullness of the Kingdom as the church it can be that once again we spurn the humble shepherd. The fullness of the Kingdom is established through a Shepherd-King who gathers the sheep, protects the flock, care through self-sacrifice, and guides the flock to green pastures and fresh water[xxvii]. Church structures, leadership approaches and an insatiable striving for power and privilege that has absconded from the pasture of God’s shepherding lessens the powerful inauguration of the Kingdom in our communities.  When the shepherd’s heart is lost the presence of the Kingdom in our lives will decline. Let us reflect the shepherd’s heart of our Good Shepherd and see the Kingdom of God established in power and might. We worship a wonderful Davidic Shepherd-King.


[i] (Keener, 1997)

[ii] (Beck, 2011)

[iii] (Keener, 1997)

[iv] (Adams, 2008)

[v] (Shelley, 2008)

[vi] (Ramsey, 1983)

[vii] (Stanley, 2006)

[viii] (Wagner, 1999)

[ix] (Piper, 2002)

[x] (Preaching Paul)

[xi] (Baker, 1984)

[xii] (Adams, 2008)

[xiii] (Keener, 1997)

[xiv] (Johnson, 1992)

[xv] (Adams, 2008)

[xvi] (Keener, 1997)

[xvii] (Laniak, 2004)

[xviii] (Keener, 1997)

[xix] (Beck, 2011)

[xx] (Keener C. , 1993)

[xxi] (Wiersbe, 2007)

[xxii] (Utley, 2014)

[xxiii] (Keener C. , 1993)

[xxiv] (Morris, 1995)

[xxv] (Elison, 1998)

[xxvi] (Chae, 2006)

[xxvii] (Johnson, 1992)

Works Cited

Adams, S. (2008). Between text and sermon. Interpretation(July), 304-306.

Baker, K. (. (1984). NIV Study Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Beck, J. (2011). Zondervan dictionary of biblical imagery. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Chae, Y. (2006). Jesus as the eschatological Davidic shepherd: Studies in the Old Testament. Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck.

Elison, S. (1998). Three worlds in conflict: The high drama of biblical prophecy. Colorado Springs: Multnomah Books.

Johnson, D. (1992). Sheperd, sheep. In J. Green, M. S, & I. Marshall (Eds.), Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. Downers Grove: InterVarsityPress.

Keener, C. (1993). The IVP Bible background commentary: New Testament . Downers Grove: InterVarsityPress.

Keener, C. (1997). Sheperd, flock. In P. Martin, & P. Davids (Eds.), Dictionary of the later New Testament and its developments. Downers Grove: InterVarsityPress.

Laniak, T. (2004). The leader as sheperd in ancient Israel. ASCOR Newsletter, 54(3), 7-8.

Morris, L. (1995). The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Gospel according to John. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Piper, J. (2002). Brothers, we are not professionals: A Plea to pastors for radical ministry. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

Driscoll, M. (Performer). (n.d.). Preaching Paul. [ M. Hill.

Ramsey, B. (1983). A note on the disappearance of the Good Shepherd from early Christian art. Harvard Theological Review, 375-378.

Shelley, B. (2008). Church history in plain language. Nashville: Nelson Thomas.

Stanley, A. (2006). Leader’s insight: Get-it-done leadership. Leadership, 27-28.

Utley, B. (2014). John 10. Retrieved February 13, 2016, from Free Bible Commentary:

Wagner, E. (1999). Escape from Church, INC.:The return of the pastor-sheperd. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Wiersbe, W. (2007). Wiersbe Bible commentary: New Testament. Colorado: David C. Cook.