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Everybody needs a king.

Why would I say such a thing? Kings have been largely disasters throughout human history. In fact, their pervasive and often evil existence is one of the reasons representative democracy sprang into flower. You might have a good king once in a while, but then the sons and daughters who follow may be wicked and vile. The same can surely be said of most dictators, rulers and despots. As Lord Acton said, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Once, in a country in Southeast Asia, I was talking to a pastor from Pakistan. He told me that his people required a dictator, not a democratically elected president. He said that democracy would not work in his country. That surprised me. But it also helped me understand something I had read at the end of the Book of Judges recently. Just one, simple sentence:

“In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes (Judges 21:25). 1

This is interesting, because the Lord didn’t want Israel to have a king. He saw it as a rejection of Him. However, when one reads Judges—my goodness—what a circus of iniquity that was.

After Joshua died, things became unhinged. But by the second chapter, Israel was worshiping Baals and false gods. The Lord gave them some victories over the Canaanites (via Deborah, Barak, and Jael) and the Midianites (Gideon), but after Gideon died, Israel returned to Baal worship, and there was infighting among the tribes. I won’t go into the details here. It was a hot mess.

Then Samson showed up. He fell in love with a Philistine, and even though his parents object, they agreed to the marriage. But Samson was, well, Samson. He stirred up trouble by offering a riddle which resulted in violence. He whipped up on the Philistines but then had sex with a prostitute. Then he fell in love with Delilah, who betrayed him. He eventually had victory over the Philistines at the cost of his life.

Then Micah made his own religion with its own little cute idol and an agreeable Levite priest. The tribe of Dan then stole the silver idol and the priest.

Then a Levite priest “acquired” a concubine and they ended up in in the town square of the city Gibeah. An old man took them in. Some men of the city showed up at the old man’s house, beat on the door, and demanded that he release the visitor so they could have sex with him. (Sound like another infamous city in the Book of Genesis?) The old man offered his daughter and the visitor’s concubine instead. The men of Gibeah took the concubine, raped and sexually abused her so terribly that she died. Then the Levite cut up his concubine and sent her parts throughout Israel, and the people said, “Such a thing has never happened or been seen from the day that the people of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt until this day; consider it, take counsel, and speak” (Judges 19:30).

Israel gathered together and killed 25,000 Benjamite men and vowed that none of their daughters would ever be allowed to marry a Benjamite. This created a problem because the tribe of Benjamin would disappear. So, they killed all the inhabitants of Jabesh Gilead because they did not come to their gathering. They gave the virgin women to the Benjamites. Then they abducted 200 women from Shiloh and gave them to the Benjamites.

Had enough? I certainly have. Wow.

This is where the Book of Judges ends with the aforementioned statement that Israel had no king and each man did what was right in his own eyes.

So. Do God’s people need a king? The pastor in Pakistan said Pakistanis did—well, he called it a dictator. He said that because only a dictator would have the power to control all of the warring tribes, which might require oppressive domination. You may have seen this play out in the Middle East recently. Take out a brutal dictator—sounds like a good idea, doesn’t it—but then the country becomes a lawless anarchic catastrophe.

But does everybody, including Christians, need a king, even one that some might call oppressive?

Yes.

And no.

I’ll explain next week.

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

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