Posts Tagged With: King Saul

Samuel’s Legacy seen in the Lives of those that were Influenced by him

The  Master Builder who Left a United Israel.   

The anarchical mess of the sprawling godless tribes of Israel carried on in ignorance of the seismic change in history that was about to take place over the next generation, all of which was precipitated and initiated through the birth of Shmuel ben Elkanah. That blessed child born in Ramathaim Zophim passed away, some think, about a full century after the day of his birth. It was Samuel’s time. The Samuellian era. The last and highest peak of the line of characters known as the Judges. This man was also the first and, to my mind, possibly the highest peak of the prophetic office and gift that ever ministered to the whole of Israel during the period of time in which the Hebrews lived in the land. He had become a one man institution. He was the posthumous pillar that epitomised what was to be the future greatness of Israel. He was treasured and feared by all in his mature years, and sadly missed after his passing.  He was anointed and appointed by God Almighty as His representative in Israel throughout his lifetime. What he left behind him was as unified, Godly and purposeful as it was the opposite of those things at the moment he had been conceived. Even while he homed in and concentrated on the schools of the prophets after his last words with Saul, the very fact that he was alive and moving “in God,” even though it was in the background of Israel’s political and tribal cosmos, Samuel gave the nation comfort, and a brighter vision to look forward to.

There was, of course, the hope of the great charismatic leader of men, David. But he was a man that Judah and Benjamin loved beyond reason, while the northern tribes knew less about.

The ground had been prepared for the Glory of God to return, just as dramatically as it had left when the Philistines had stolen the Ark of the Covenant in the early days of Samuel’s youth. The Ark was indeed safe in Israeli hands and had been after several months of Philistine illicit ownership, but the Hebrews had never had it been returned to the Tabernacle. There is no way we can possibly imagine that it was left in the home of a certain Abinadab, by Samuel’s forgetfulness, or anybody else’s forgetfulness. It was a deliberate act of “neglect.” That is, it was deliberately left there by Samuel. It was symbolic of a new day dawning. Samuel was so busy relating to God, hearing from God and ministering to the people of Israel, as well as judging them, that to trouble himself with the symbol of the God he was relating to seemed almost irrelevant.  The substance of their faith was much more vital than the symbol of the same. Samuel was a man born out of time, with a world view, belief system and spiritual disciplines far ahead of his generation. Samuel was living in his own, “Holy Spirit church age.” All he did was relate to Him who is invisible, in as real a relationship as Peter, James and John had done in the days of Christ’s ministry. Samuel would have been considered a spiritual gargantuan giant no matter what age he had lived in. Samuel was the classic wild, giant, dangerous prophet.

Samuel’s anointing had led him in a different direction than the proscribed national slavery to what had degenerated into a deadened sacrificial system. Samuel was a man of the Spirit all the days of his life. He was worshipping the Lord with abandon before he had received that first prophetic word in his youth. By keeping the Ark of the Covenant and the Tabernacle in a low profile with the people, it meant that he could keep the person of Yahweh Himself in the highest possible highlight. For Samuel, everything was a matter of the Spirit. The input of the prophetic word, and the spread and education of aspiring prophets was changing the face of Israel then, in a way that would have a future impact on the entire planet. Samuel’s lifelong circuit ministry of judging and teaching was a generational, credible call to return to the purity and faith of a life lived in devotion to Yahweh. This, after all, was the basic reason for Israel’s existence on the planet. How great was the force of righteousness within the prophet Samuel, and how magnificent was the working of the anointing that was upon him.

Samuel’s adherence to keeping the most intimate relationship with God and obeying Him as often and as consistently as he did throughout his life meant that the schools of the prophets had time to have become engrafted into the atmosphere of Israel’s culture within his own lifetime. His withdrawal from public and political life meant he could give his whole being to the development and the solidifying of an understanding into the world of prophecy and how it was to be maintained. Who knows what treasures he passed on to influence the future prophets.  The schools blossomed and developed under him, and were to direct the people and rulers of Israel over the next 500 years or so, not that they always listened to them.  Because of the fact that the prophetic Spirit and prophetic schools in Israel ultimately gave us the writing prophets, we could actually say that Samuel is still impacting the world today through them.  The writing prophets have left us a deep rich seam of truth that has not to this day been fully fathomed.

Samuel was the original seed of which all later prophets in Israel were the flower and growth. Sacrifice of animals was never abandoned altogether of course, but the sacrificial activity was brought into subjection to the flow of the Spirit of God and the prophetic word and office.  Samuel had gone quite some distance in tying Israel to Yahweh rather than to the Mosaic system that was attached to their history. The Tabernacle and the corrupted Levitical priesthood had lost the awe and wonder of the manifest presence of God in the infrastructure of that form of worship. Samuel had brought the drifting vessel of Israel, at first floating without a sail or rudder, back into its divine haven in all its proper function, i.e. loving God and walking in the parameters of His law.  The land of Israel was and is Yahweh’s land. The people of Israel were and are God’s nation. The whole of Samuel’s life and mission was to see his beloved nation brought under the umbrella of the terms of that covenant that they had so crassly broken.

Samuel had died while David was still on the run from the demonised and demented first monarch, Saul ben Kish. Yet even with the sorrow of the prophet dying without seeing the unity of one nation happily existing under the rule of a man who was after God’s own heart, the loyalty that was brewing in support of the anointed son of Jesse might possibly have been seen and perceived by the wise old man as a truly God inspired phenomenon. This would have allowed Samuel to die in peace concerning the future of the nation after he had departed to Sheol. Yet, whether he saw the hearts of the people turning towards David or not, I feel sure he would have seen in the Spirit what kind of a giant killing king Jesse’s son was to become. The priesthood may have turned out to be wimpish and retiring, but there was a Lion out of the tribe of Judah that was moving into maturity and position.

Saul was famous for his bravery across the twelve tribes, if only infamous for his demonic illness around the southern tribe of Judah. The bible reads as if it was only the confidantes of Saul’s court and the intimates of David’s friends and family that new of all the attempts on his life made by the son of Kish. Common folk might have turned against Saul had they known of the demonically inspired murderous attempts the sovereign had made time and again.  The giant killing, sweet psalmist of Israel was on the run from Saul for many years, while Samuel was alive, and the king’s hot pursuit of his successor continued until his death at Gilboa. There was indeed a conflict of loyalties in the hearts of the people. What were the Godly population of Judah to do? Follow Saul the present king who was clearly not the man he was when he was crowned? Or, like all the other nations that surrounded them, should they rid the land of an unwanted megalomaniac, dictator of a king and put the revolutionary “new boy on the block,” on the throne? Which way was the right one?

David had undoubtedly been taught well by Samuel. God had put Saul in office. God would remove Saul from office. Whatever human means or circumstances would bring about Saul’s removal from the throne, it was not to be by the hand of any God-fearing Hebrew, especially the man who was destined to succeed him. Because of Samuel’s integrity, morality and his grasp of patience for God to resolve issues, after Samuel’s death, the nation, in particular the people of Judah, waited to see what was about to happen. It was clearly a wait for Saul to die. Nobody in Israel it seems, wanted to touch this “Ark,” this anointed of God. Saul, as it were, was a holy vessel chosen by God, no matter what the outward display of vileness revealed. The resolution of the issue was all about divine intervention and a trust in the character of the Ever Living God, and His direct interaction with the people and concerns of Israel.  The tribe of Judah would have wanted Saul’s removal to happen quickly. I often wonder if the Northern tribes had a clue about Saul’s political intrigues against his own son and the man he had long suspected wanted to, “steal,” his throne. The North–South divide in Israel, from Joshua’s time on, is plain to see. On crossing the Jordan, the major campaign in the south, under Joshua, was nothing but a thorough conquering of Judah’s territory. As the years passed the fighting spirit that was needed for the conquering of Canaan leaked away like sand in a sieve. The book of Joshua reveals an incredible campaign in Judah, then a list of all the area that was not conquered, and a much lesser campaign in the north. The mid lands of Canaan were seemingly ignored.

One cannot but own the idea that the many people of Judah, and Benjamin, if not the rest of the nation, were aware that Saul’s successor had been anointed by Samuel and was waiting “in the wings” to assume the throne. News would have spread, throughout the southern people of Israel, of David’s two opportunities to have slain Saul – opportunities he had refused to seize, explaining his actions with the now famous words; “Touch not the Lord’s anointed.” Not only would the story have spread like wild fire amongst the people of Judah, Simeon and Benjamin, but it would have inspired them to emulate their future king. “If Saul’s successor, the son of Jesse, dare not remove Saul in order to get to the throne, then it would be wrong to override his will, his intention and his Godly motive. Therefore we, his future subjects as well as being Saul’s subjects must support our present king and wait to see what will happen.”  And so the people of Judah “sat back” as it were in respect of the throne and waited for the appropriate moment to acclaim their darling tribal representative as the rightful king.

As for the other tribes, there was a kind of cultural and social chasm once a person went North of Judah and Benjamin. (I referred above also to Simeon, but the land allotted to Simeon was a kind of annexe in the midst of Judah’s land. After a generation or two had passed, it seems Simeon was totally absorbed into Judah and is hardly mentioned again in the Bible.) Probably in ignorance of the details of the heavy story of Saul’s downfall, depression and demonization, there was a kind of nominal, “God save the King!” attitude amongst those northern tribes. There was little knowledge up north to think anything else but good things about Saul. If one pedantically marks the map of Israel and the narrative’s geographical location, while reading both David’s life and Saul’s reign, very little transpired in the northern tribal areas, but when it did, it shows a king who endeared himself to the people. Saul was much loved up north.  Possibly unawares of the court politics and intrigues, some were more than nominal in their support of Saul. Some risked their lives simply to return Saul’s cadaver to the land of Israel for a proper burial and time of mourning, showing an almost religious commitment to Saul even when dead. No matter what they thought of Saul down south, the north truly honoured their first king.

The deep mindset of division between Judah and the rest of the nation, that later split the whole hegemony into two after Solomon died, was already in the psyche of the people. It started as jealousy and was simmering for centuries before Rehoboam the son of Solomon was crass enough, and silly enough, not to soften the tax regime that funded the king’s lifestyle of luxury. It was the genius of David’s ability to join the nation into one that was a major aspect of the glory of his reign. David was anointed with a Spirit of wisdom. During his reign there was a joining of all the twelve tribes. Solomon’s heavy weight of taxes, and having the nation’s young sons and daughters away from their homes during the course of each year, missing farming time and normal home life for the king’s indulgence was tolerated only because of the wisdom and the character of Solomon and the deep love that the whole united hegemony of Israel had for the demised David and his son. Once the untried and untested son of Solomon had blotted his copy book, the amputation of north from south was done deftly and quickly, without any sociological anaesthetic.

The fact that we can see in retrospect that the nation was on the cusp of greatness, has to be understood as the gift of God on Samuel and then David’s life, a gift that was perpetuated with the very different gift of Solomon. It was an anointing of the Spirit of God that was placed on David’s life simultaneous to the horn full of oil that Samuel poured on his head. It was God that directly made David great. It was Samuel that had anointed David when he was but a child. It was Samuel who had mentored David from the period they had together, near the end of Samuel’s life, leaving the future king with wisdom beyond any of his peers. David proved to his own experience that, “Better is one day in the courts of Yahweh,” that is with Samuel, “than a thousand in the schools of men and worldly wisdom.”

Therefore, conceivably with some of the northern tribes knowing far less about the character of David than the people of Judah, Saul still had a staunch following right up to and even after his death. The nation was soundly formed and stabilising, despite the character of their present king. Samuel had led them away from being a family of tribes with only the religious ties of their history to bind them together while living independent existences.  Samuel, under God, had been the human instrument that had put Saul in office, and, to a degree, as far as externals were concerned, Saul was fulfilling his role. The nation was one, with only the political astute minds of a few who could see the Spiritual and social San Andreas Fault line that ran the whole length of the border between Judah/Benjamin together, and the rest of the tribes to their north, as well as the huge fault line that divided Saul’s character and personality.

David must have been a wise and discerning man, whose company other kings and leaders loved even before he was king. During David’s fugitive years, he made both friends and enemies, however, he befriended some of those rulers that reigned in the days of his loneliness, making friendships that were sustained during the years of his kingship. Some of the kings of those nations that surrounded Israel were still his submissive friends once he had ascended to the throne of Israel.

The nation having been propelled forward by the wisdom of Samuel, a prophet who had an ear to God and the people, as well as a mouth to pray with and teach the masses, built a shrine around his burial place. A building still surrounds his tomb today. Israel has an annual celebration of the life of Samuel.

I salute the son of Hannah, and personally seek God for some slight semblance of his characteristics and Spirit.

4 Nebi Samuel

Nebi Samuel

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Categories: SAMUEL’S LEGACY SEEN IN THE LIVES OF THOSE THAT WERE INFLUENCED BY HIM | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

To be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way is a slight challenge for mankind.

TO BE ANGRY WITH THE RIGHT PERSON AND TO THE RIGHT DEGREE AND AT THE RIGHT TIME AND FOR THE RIGHT PURPOSE AND IN THE RIGHT WAY THAT IS  A SLIGHT CHALLENGE FOR MANKIND.
The Kingdom torn violently from it’s King
(1 Samuel 15:12-35)
Samuel was angry. Very angry! When I was a child I used to get so angry it was embarrassing. Some folks think I still do!   However, compared to childhood and early teens, I don’t get angry at all nowadays.  Samuel was incredibly angry at this moment. The prophet got up early, not having slept. Samuel had spent the night agonizing with his convictions and emotions together with God, and the divine replies and responses. I think it is probable that having seen the face of Christ by Theophany, and having heard his voice via his own physical ears, Samuel was painfully aware of God’s thoughts and feelings as he set off to “speak” to King Saul.  Even when one’s heart is on fire, one’s words and actions must stay cool.  This is where Samuel was. Struggling to stay cool. He had cried all night with God, and although the original language means simply to call out, I am convinced Samuel was weeping along with his call to God to save the situation.  It is better to cry than be angry. Anger hurts others, while tears flow silently through the soul and cleanse the heart.
A man acting as King Saul.

If it was going to happen to me, I would rather someone be angry at me, than disappointed in me.  Samuel was both mad angry, and terribly disappointed in King Saul.  Samuel was going with the word and the anointing of God. He was clothed in the power of God, as it seems he always had been since early youth. Real power consists not in being able to strike another, but in being able to control oneself when the anger arises. To be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power, but Samuel walked in the grace that could fulfill all those criteria. 

The story is vividly graphic and, reveals all that is pathetic in Saul, and all that is powerful and authoritative in Samuel. This is the plain and obvious human perspective of the story of Saul’s victory over the Amalekites. As far as Saul was concerned he had wrought a mighty victory. In God’s perspective, however, and that is what matters, it was Saul’s worst catastrophic defeat. How often do human beings get those two impostors mixed up.  Samson is made bald and blinded; defeat. But, in the end, his hair grows again and his spiritual eyes see clearer than his physical eyes ever did. He kills more Philistines in his death than he did throughout all his life, and he killed more than a few Philistines in his life. That is resurrection life, and resurrection victory. Abram leaves the prosperity and comfort of Ur and walks out to somewhere he does not know. “Surely a defeat,” cried the population of Ur. But Abram became the inheritor of the world. Jesus Christ dies on the cross crying “It is finished!” Many present thought it was, “I am finished!” But on the third day, that death that seemed such an ignominious humiliating passing was revealed to be the greatest victory in the history of mankind.

So let us not be fooled by what we see. Defeats are often wrapped up in victories.  And vica versa. Saul both succeeded in battle, yet failed in obeying God. He was bold enough to endanger his life as a sacrifice, as well as the lives of his soldiers, as he went attacking the forceful armies of Amalek, but he simultaneously deliberately disobeyed Yahweh by sparing the best livestock and the evil arrogant King Agag. He had truly conquered Agag, but that is not all that he was asked to do.  Any glory that there could possibly be in obliterating an entire nation along with its culture and the archived records of its existence, was utterly dissipated in the darkness of his disobedience, and the blackness of the defeat of his own soul.

Samuel rose early and set off in one direction, but was redirected when he met somebody who knew Saul’s actual location. In fact the news he received was to tempt Samuel to deeper anger than he already was experiencing. It was told Samuel that Saul had came north from the territory of the Amalekites, after the battle. The King had stopped at Carmel and set up a monument to himself. To understand why I claim that as fact, read 1 Samuel 15:12 and compare it with something that Absalom did in 2 Samuel 18:18. I read it quietly, and I see steam coming out of Samuel’s ears and his face turning purple, metaphorically speaking, of course. Samuel’s intimacy with God, and the fact that he did not ever allow his words to fall to the ground, give us the sound knowledge that anybody who took obedience to God as a light hearted, give or take issue, would not bring a smile to his face. Saul was lax in the issues of obedience to God.

How is it possible that a human being could have such an opposite perspective on his own life and activities from the view that God had on him? But don’t press that question too far, for we are all guilty of misreading God, life and other people at some time or other. I am not poking for condemnation. I am digesting stuff here in my search for reality.

Having made his statue, or tower, or whatever it was, in his name, Saul moved on to Gilgal. Yet again, the biblical storyline returns us to this place called Gilgal, a place that was shrouded in shrine-like holiness as far as the people of Israel were concerned. Why on earth did Saul go back there?

It seems to me that Saul must have thought that Samuel (and through Samuel, God Himself) had rescinded the cancellation of his dynasty.  After all, Samuel had been so angry when he told him that the kingdom would be taken from him, but he seemed so, “not angry,” when he commissioned Saul to rid the world of the Amalekites. “Why would Samuel commission me to rid the world of the Amalekites, if he had not rescinded his statement about my losing the crown?” It seemed logical to Saul. Samuel had told him that he had lost the crown, not giving any time parameters, and walked off. To see Samuel months, or even years later, instructing him to annihilate anything to do with Amalekites, to Saul, could have been misconstrued as being “recalled” to favour and power. He had gone quickly to justify Samuel’s “confidence” in him. The soldiers of Israel were so happy and overjoyed at their “victory” over Amalek.  Even nasty old King Agag was happy that he was spared torture and death, despite the fact that he  had lost his kingdom. (What sort of king is that?) Why couldn’t Saul have a laugh, a drink, a feast and a shout of joy like the rest of the army of Israel. Saul lost the true perspective on the subject of who he was, what kingship meant, and worst of all, he utterly lost the plot concerning what God Almighty, through Samuel, had commissioned him to do.  And having just no concept whatsoever at what he had omitted to do, believing the “press reports” of his army and King Agag, he set himself to take everybody back to Gilgal to celebrate. Some of the stock, indeed, may have been destined to the sacrificial altar, but methinks that the majority of the beef and lamb were prioritized at this point of time, as destined for the bellies of the soldiers.

We need to assimilate another fact. Although Gilgal was, to Israel, a holy place, it was a dreadfully fateful place as far as the king was concerned. It was at Gilgal they ‘made Saul king before the Lord’. It was also at Gilgal that he had taken the first step on his dark pathway of gloomy, proud self-will, down which he was destined to plunge far and fatally. It was at Gilgal that he had, in consequence of disobedience, received the message of the transference of the kingdom from his house and thus from himself. Now, falsely, wrongly and stupidly flushed with his “victory” over Amalek, he returned there with his troops,  laden with spoil when they should have been laden with nothing at all but a free conscience. Saul was deluded and in grave error.

Saul had made a victory march from the south where Amalek dwelt, passing by Nabal’s Carmel, where he had put up the monument to his “exploit” in a wave of arrogance and vainglory, totally opposite to the spirit which reared the stone of help at Ebenezer.  He arrived at Gilgal where they were all encamped and ready to party because of the heated battle in which they had just achieved victory.

There is a little, “something else,” that needs to be whispered, as an aside, at this point. Allow me to say quietly in your ear; “Saul did not even kill all the Amalekites!” You will undoubtedly respond after re reading the chapter again, “How can one assume such a thing that is not in the chapter?” My answer, to inform my readers, is to carry on reading throughout the Old Testament.

 

1 Samuel 27:8 tells us that in the days that David was roaming around, outside of Israel, whilst Saul was still alive, Saul’s future replacement was raiding other people that were on, what David considered to be, Israel’s territory.  And, would you believe it?  The Amalekites were among the people  he raided. So there was at least one single Amalekite city, more than likely quite a few that were still standing and giving David grief.  Saul’s mission was even a bigger failure than 1 Samuel 15 reveals. Immediately prior to the death of Saul and David being crowned king of Judah, whilst being away from their temporary home in a town called Ziklag, they discovered that the Amalekites had raided their homes and taken their wives and children. There were a few moments immediately after this kidnapping was discovered that David’s men wanted to kill the son of Jesse. David and his men only found their families who were being held safely by the Amalekites, because of an Egyptian who was an embittered slave to an Amalekite (1 Samuel 30:13). This means that Saul’s failure to wipe out the Amalekites was much bigger than simply sparing King Agag. The point of Saul’s instruction was to make sure that occurrences like this would never happen again. Again we repeat, Saul’s war on Amalek was a bigger failure by far than anything told us in 1 Samuel 15.

Later, the man who reported Saul’s death to David, under the presupposition that David would reward the man that killed Saul, owned up to having put Israel’s first king to the sword (he was probably lying) and was an Amalekite (2 Samuel 1:8 and 13). David was not racist in his response. Anybody who would dare to touch the Lord’s anointed, by David’s  criteria, deserved to die, no matter who it was. On top of all this, David, as per Samuel’s instructions no doubt, hoarded gold and treasure in order to adorn the Temple that would not be built until after his death, and, “Surprise! Surprise! There was Amalekite gold in the mix (2 Samuel 8:12). This was more than likely gold taken from defeating Amalekite cities after his being crowned as king of Israel. Finally, we have to say that the Amalekites were in existence until King Hezekiah’s day. 1 Chronicles 4:43 tells us that the Simeonites “killed the remaining Amalekites who had escaped, and they (the Simeonites) have lived there to this day.”  I assume that the word “escaped,” in 4:43 refers to escaping the sword of Saul and his army as reported in 1 Samuel 15.

From all this, we know for sure, Saul’s celebration was far too premature. They had won the battle, but had not obeyed God. In order for one single Amalekite family to have been spared, and then allowed to survive the generations, there must have been women survivors, and probably children too, and some livestock. If Saul had obeyed his heavenly direction, there would not have been a single person alive on the planet who could refer to himself as an Amalekite.

In plain language, Saul messed up completely.  Partial obedience is total disobedience. Obedience is an absolute. Saul and his men, it seems, obeyed as far as it suited them. The subjugating of the Amalekites was achieved, but that was not what was asked of them. They risked their lives in the battle and therefore considered themselves, as tradition dictated, possessing the right to loot the destroyed population. It was an act against God in sparing the good while destroying the worthless. What was not worth carrying off they destroyed, — not because of the command, but to save trouble. It was, as the biblical story informs us, not an isolated act of Saul. It grotesquely indicated his growing impatience of the divine control, exercised on him through Samuel. It seems to this writer that Saul had a problem in living with Samuel’s prophetic authority, and his own authority as monarch. He failed to marry the two together. He felt like a messenger boy for old man Samuel. In this he was between a rock and a hard place. He owed his throne and kingship to the prophet; and more than that, the very condition on which he held that throne, which had come to him unasked for, was that of submission to Samuel’s authority and instruction. His elevated, “self made grandeur,” gave energy to his selfish masterfulness and gloomy, impetuous self  will. These were the surface traits in his character which showed themselves  even in his early days as king.  With these characteristics of fallen man exaggerated in his high profile life, it is little surprise that such a person, held in harness and reins by a man possibly twice his age, should chomp and chafe on the bit!  Saul, like another Saul a thousand or so years later, found it hurtful and very difficult to kick, ‘against the goads.’  The coil of a snake can be seen by his actions. But his outward actions betrayed the complexity of the slimy cold folds of malice, hid from sight by the leaves of civilized relationships with his people. Tiny shoots of a plant, peeping a millimetre above the ground, do not in any way guarantee that the roots are similarly insignificant.

Saul had never heard of Samuel till that day when he came to consult him about his father’s lost asses years earlier. The text tells us so, plainly. It was an amazed circle of friends that instituted what became an old Israeli proverb: “Is Saul also among the prophets?” Everything about his acts of worship and sacrifice have the wall papering ambience of self and “the flesh.” But alas, we are so very wise in retrospect. Why didn’t I write these lines when first I sat down to write these pages. We are all wise men of supreme wisdom when we look back, whether it be our life or anybody else’s. It is wisdom for our present, and especially for our future that we should seriously crave.

Saul, by a succession of selfish and wrong choices, made himself, “The Wrong Man.” The tragedy is that he seems to have considered himself as the right man, the obedient man, as he talks to Samuel. The more disobedient he becomes, the more assertive he is in claiming his innocence. He seems to be in utter ignorance of any error, miscalibration or misjudgement in his opening lines to the prophet, at Gilgal. It is, sadly, an observed fact of life, that ignorance more frequently gives birth to confidence than does knowledge. Here is a biblical example of that fact. One of the painful things about Saul, and indeed our generation, is that those who feel superficial certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are attacked with doubt and indecision. Not only was Shakespeare aware of this fact when he wrote in As You Like It (5.1) “The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool,” but the bible itself negotiates the same principle when Solomon declared, “The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice” (Proverbs 12:5).

Samuel’s elderly gait must have been seen across the camp as he dismounted his donkey and shuffled, as elderly men do, across the flat of Gilgal. Unless Saul was severely challenged in his ability to read situations, which may very well have been the case, he must surely have had an anxious moment as he read Samuel’s facial expression on the approach. Probably the vigorous old man had walked and ridden that day from his home in the Naioth. A brief walk, a longer ride, resting both backside and legs, on and off, over some fifteen miles.  People must have known him, greeted him and informed him of all sorts of things on the way, including where Saul was and the monument he had built to give himself honour.

Another omission of Saul’s, of course, was the fact that he had taken time to travel to Carmel, build a monument, and then move on to Gilgal – yet he had not sent a word to Samuel. By all extrapolations and deductions, Samuel learned what had happened with Amalek, supernaturally from the mouth of God Himself. Surely this was just mindless neglect and subjective self congratulation that led Saul into his gross error. Was it a sign that he carried guilt about his conduct? I, personally, think not. The omission to send a messenger to report to Samuel was simple studied neglect, which reveals much about where Saul was in his heart and mind. It would seem that there is a bias in the senses and understanding of the ignorant and unlearned whereby educationally ignorant people suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than average. I have seen it in life. There are times when I myself have been the guilty party filled with this, “illusory superiority.” God have mercy upon us for such conduct. This  is a somewhat weak explanation of what I see happening in the heart of King Saul. This bias is, I believe, attributed to a deep seated inability of the  mind of the unskilled, unlearned and ignorant, to recognize errors that they make.

Having read 1 Samuel over and over again, I am somewhat staggered at Saul’s common place responses to situations. We ourselves need to see that the accepting of the best of the spoil from the general destruction of Amalek, changed the whole character of Israel’s dealings with Amalek. It was brought down from the level of a solemn act of divine justice, of which Saul and his army were the executors by divine mandate, to that of a mere cattle-lifting foray, in which they were but thieves battling for  their own gain. In fact they were acting like all the other gentile nations that lived round about them. The mingling of personal advantage with any sort of service of God, ruins the whole, and turns it into mere selfishness.

 

Saul’s reasoning is astonishing. As Samuel approaches, he is hailed by the king. “The Lord bless you. I have obeyed the Lord’s instructions.” It is seriously difficult to grasp. Where was Saul’s understanding of life, people, and human relationships?  As a bible reader, I have always blushed a little when I read this interview between King and Prophet. It is like Saul is stark naked, and pretending to be dressed. It is as if he is a tall man, but asserting to be a Hobbit. He cannot possess any sort of grasp on reality to be responding to Samuel with the words he uses, and in the manner he does.  In every translation, particularly in the King James, it reads as if Saul is confident of a reward and congratulations of a job well done. The AV reads, “Blessed be thou of the Lord: I have performed the commandment of the Lord.” It is a jolly and a warm welcome for the prophet. Throughout the whole interview Saul plays a pathetic man, almost in some kind of drunken frame of mind.   He lies, and boasts as if it was the glorious truth. Everything we have read so far, and hereafter concerning Saul’s relationship with Samuel informs us solidly that the king was cowed by the abhorred authority and personality of the old man prophet from Ramah.

Samuel, seeming in full control of his faculties, speaks sternly, directly, with an obvious anger in the timbre of his voice. This is God’s prophet about to talk.  It is thought by some commentators that I have read, that if Saul had done the job wisely and properly, he would have been slower to boast of it. It sounds good to me, but my thoughts are that it is a feeling of a presupposed action, and not in any way reality. This writer believes that Saul was mentally troubled at this point of his life, he believed himself to be in the right. He believed a lie. That was his problem. Like a great many other people who have no deep sense of the sanctity of every jot and tittle of a divine instruction, he pleased himself with the notion that it was enough to keep it “approximately,” in the ‘spirit’ of the precept, without slavish obedience to the ‘letter.” “I have performed the command of the Lord.” That is what he affirms. But he had not in any way performed God’s instruction.

Old Samuel had reason to believe what the sheep and the oxen were saying, above King Saul’s bleating and lowing. “What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?”  Oh dear! There is no greeting or pause for thought from God’s ambassador. Samuel jumps on Saul with his opening line. The prophet’s statement presupposes that he should have entered the camp with no noise apart from the fighting soldiers celebrating their victory. But there, in the hearing of all,  was the obvious buzz of the livestock.

‘They have brought them…the people spared the best ….” In plain English: “It ain’t my fault Samuel! It’s everybody else’s fault. I’m only the king!”  It is as if he has hit the bottom. He is mentally ill, but willfully so. All the thoughts, insinuations, mitigating remarks have been used before, and Saul has run out of excuses to make. At last we see him for what he really is. Sociologically, he is a weak, insipid leader. That is, “Leader” by position, but not by character or personhood. He had not given any order for them to kill Agag or the livestock. He had not in any way attempted to restrain his subjects.  In point of fact, this monarch was subject to his subjects in matters of conscience. How sad.

 

But note Saul’s attitude towards Yahweh, betrayed by him in that one phrase, “the Lord your God.” No wonder that he had been content with a partial and lax sense of “obedience.” Saul had no closer sense of union with God than that! Can you, like me, hear the sneer in his voice also, as if he had said, ‘What’s all the fuss about saving livestock? God will be honoured with many of them being sacrificed, and you, Samuel, will share in the party.’ If the words do not directly denigrate Yahweh, the spirit of the statement does.

This is too much for Samuel. He knows God’s heart and His grief about the whole issue. “Stay, and I will tell you what the LORD has said to me this night.”  How ominous!

I feel Saul has a sudden withdrawal into his shell, as the king responds with a whispered, shocked, stuttered, “Say on!” The son of Kish feels the impact, I believe, before the words are even spoken. Somehow it has dawned on him that this is serious. Samuel is about to repeat exactly what Heavenly Yahweh said to him in his night of prayer and intercession. I wonder if Saul stayed on his feet? Or fell to his knees? Prostrate even?

“Although you were once small in your own eyes, did you not become the head of the tribes of Israel? The LORD anointed you king over Israel. And he sent you on a mission, saying, ‘Go and completely destroy those wicked people, the Amalekites; wage war against them until you have wiped them out.’ Why did you not obey the Lord? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the Lord?”

Saul, unbelievably, excuses himself by claiming that he had obeyed. He claims, while looking eyeball to eyeball with Samuel, that he went the way the Lord had commanded him. In the same breath he says, “I have brought Agag the king of Amalek.” He claims that he utterly annihilated the Amalekites. Three points, all of which were false. It is because he makes such claims and throws them in the face of the great prophet that I believe Saul had lost touch with reality. I do not think he would deliberately lie in the context of an angry meeting with the universally accepted authority that was divinely invested in Samuel. “But the people …”  Here he excuses himself. If it was true that the people did something that he could not stop them doing, then he should not be king. If he sanctioned the whole thing by silence, he is  self condemned. If he was passive in the entire episode of keeping Agag and the livestock alive, again, he is condemned. He closes his “defence” by claiming that the livestock were for sacrifice to Yahweh.

In answer to Saul’s religious gobbledygook about honouring God by sacrifice with the loot from the battle, Samuel gives an answer that has unleashed power in its poetic phraseology for centuries. Samuel hereby speaks a great principle which was the intrinsic message given to every prophet in Israel. This message was repeated and repeated through the ups and downs of national life that followed after Samuel, until God could righteously say that God’s people were ripe for judgement because their cup of sin and iniquity was full. This message was not condemning the sacrificial system, but speaking against the religious fulfilling of the Mosaic practices without heartfelt faith and obedience.  In fact Ezekiel, Malachi, Haggai and Zechariah carried on with the same message after the judgement of exile.

Was it the intensity of his spiritual emotion in that moment? Or was it a saying amongst the people of Israel that Samuel was reciting? The prophet speaks in lyrical poetic strains. He speaks with measured parallelisms, which was the Hebrew dressing  for poetry. Samuel speaks words of such unfettered power and intelligence that it contains concepts and precepts of the entire New Testament gospel package. The prophet spoke words that will live forever.

“Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
as much as in obeying the Lord?
To obey is better than sacrifice,
and to listen and heed is better than the fat of rams.
For rebellion is like the sin of divination,
and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
he has rejected you as king.”

Oh dear! The repeated rejection of Saul as king!  All the rationale and “logic” of Saul is turned on its head in a moment. Whilst, on the one hand, Samuel, in these words, lifts the surrendered commitment of the will to what is undoubtedly the peak of godliness, and the consequent subjugation of a life given to God, high above all mere ritual. On the other hand, by the same empirical logic, The son of Hannah reveals the black hole of the rebelliousness of the will, and the stubbornness of human  nature unsubdued, to the level of idolatry. That is exactly it. I am neither exaggerating nor understating. Non obedience to God is willful sin. Willful sin is rebellion. If we could only see it as God sees it, rebellion is as divination – witchcraft – evil. Continued, sustained, persistent, willful sin is stubbornness.  And stubbornness is the same as idolatry and teraphim (idols).
At the end of his prophetic statement, comes the stern sentence of rejection. “Because you rejected the word of the LORD, He has rejected you from being king.”

Oh the pain for Saul. The pain of realization hits him, and hits him hard. He is now utterly pathetic and hopeless in his situation. “Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned. I violated the Lord’s command and your instructions. I was afraid of the men and so I gave in to them. Now I beg you, forgive my sin and come back with me, so that I may worship the Lord.”

Ah! The truth is out at last! And what a knife was needed to burst the boil. He violated the Lord’s commands. And most of all, he was afraid of the men, so he gave into them. Agh! The fear of man casts a snare. Oh! Poor man! He could not even face the men over whom he was divinely placed as king.  He asked Samuel, as if he was some kind of priest (which he indeed was in the ceremonial Old Testament sense), to give him absolution, and then to worship with him in public so that the people would see he was still close friends with true authority.

Saul! Saul! Poor wimpish Saul. All was lost. I have heard many people ask me, and even debate with me concerning this story. “Was it not a harsh punishment for such a crime?” As we have stated earlier, Saul’s act in this chapter is not to be judged as an isolated, spur of the moment act of reflex spontaneity, where Saul could cry, “Oops! Sorry!” and carry on as if nothing had happened. What happened in 1 Samuel 15 was the final outcome of several year’s ever deepening tendency within him, blossoming into full revolt in the face of God.  At this point Saul had been king for at least ten years.  (The logic for that statement I shall explain in later chapters). The sentence is pronounced, not because he spared Amalek, per se, but more basically because he rejected the word of the Lord.  It is as if, Saul had said, “I will reign by myself, without God.”  It is as if God responded with, “OK Saul! Reign by yourself! Go to it!” For the consequence of his, “removal  from office,” being announced  was not an outward change, he was still, in reality, a king, but a king with no anointing at all. His reign was a form of  kingliness but denying the divine purpose thereof.

Samuel refused to worship with the isolated, rejected king Saul. Having announced his refusal he turns to leave and a theatrical melodrama prophetically speaks, in a split second. Saul must have been on his knees, clinging tightly to Samuel’s mantle, or cloak. As the prophet turned, Saul gripped all the tighter. As Samuel took his first step, the mantle ripped and made a loud harsh  tearing noise.

Samuel must have been on a poetic role, and just as poetically as he had been a few moments earlier, so now.  As Samuel picks up the mantle and examines the tear in it, he makes a pronouncement which, to Saul, was the worst possible nightmare he could ever think of.  Imagine the drama, as he utters just as Saul had torn his garment, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to one of your neighbours – to one better than you. He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a human being, that he should change his mind.”

Saul was lost. But in his panic and the quick realisation that all was lost, he has the presence of mind, the self preservation instinct of still asking Samuel to simply stand by him while they sacrificed to God. He wanted the people to see him worship with Samuel participating in the ceremony. He considered his face to be saved, if the public merely saw him as “one” with the prophet.   As if Samuel had a sudden attack of deep compassion, fully knowing that God would never change the words he had just spoken over Saul, the bible simply says, “Samuel turned again.” And he worshipped with Saul, so that all his soldiers could see what was happening and not rebel against the king.

Notice that Samuel said nothing to the population at all. He would not injure Saul any more in the eyes of man. The public were not to be given a clue of what was happening from the mouth of the prophet. This is that awesome thing referred to as, “integrity.” They worshipped together, Samuel undoubtedly offering the sacrifice.

When the sacrificial act was finished. Still in the presence of God, and with the knife still in his hand, as well as with the whole army of Israel in sight and sound of what he was doing, he calls for Agag, the Amalekite king, to be brought to him.

Agag came out to meet Samuel walking gently and softly. He had concluded to himself that as he had been spared for so long, that he must be safe. “Surely the bitterness of death is past,” he was heard to say, as is noted in the scripture (1 Samuel 15:32).  There would have been a moment or two’s silence while Samuel collected his thoughts.

 

“As  your sword has made women childless, so shall your mother be childless among women.” With a sword, or perhaps even the lengthy sacrificial knife he had used on the sheep and bulls, the King James Version simply says, “Samuel hewed Agag in pieces before the Lord in Gilgal.” It was as if to say, “Saul, this is a first principle of leadership. Whatever your men think of Agag, God has sentenced him to death. And this is how you do it.” No matter how horrific and blood curdling it may seem to our twenty first century sensitivities, Samuel did the bidding of God.

Blood, torn flesh, death, and Agag’s cries of pain and horror were nothing to compare with what was going on in Saul. Saul’s torture was worse than death.

 

Categories: 1 Sam15:12-35, To be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose and in the right way - that is not within everybody's power | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Ascendancy of the King on the Descent

THE LIFE OF THE KING WHO WAS UP TO HIS NECK IN DEATH.
The Outward Form that lacked the Inward Power in the Monarchy of King Saul the First.
(1 Samuel 14:47-52)
“So Saul took the kingdom over Israel.”
I beg your pardon!  What are we reading here?
I thought we had only just heard from the mouth of Samuel himself in the plainest of English, eh! …Hebrew that is, that King Saul was rejected!  Out! Ejected! Expelled!  The kingdom was taken from him. Another king is on the way! (Although, knowing the full story – we are aware that the king that succeeded him was not yet born.)

Note the reality.  Saul’s dynasty was to be curtailed because of his disobedience.   As God spoke to Samuel, the prophet used the past tense, for a present reality.  “Yahweh  has chosen a replacement and commanded him to be captain over Yahweh’s people.”  So, literally as Samuel was prophesying to Saul we have the concept introduced to us of another person, a child, not yet born, who was to be a much younger contemporary of Saul, living life to the full with the idea of God’s covenant faithfulness and His never ending Chesed (love) filling his vision, ruling Israel and taking the captaincy over the nation.  Captaincy as all Israeli’s knew, meant kingship.

From our elevated place of historical retrospect, we know that the person we are talking about would be looking after sheep in a field only a few miles away from Saul’s present home fighting off the odd bear and lion after his anointing, and being derided by his older and bigger brothers for being so little, so trivial, so naughty, and not nearly as important as they were.  But David’s birth was still seven years away from that horrific moment at Gilgal.  His elevation into royal circles as well as into the psyche of the nation had not yet even begun with the twinkle in his father’s eye, and would not be properly initiated until Samuel anointed him – I reckon, around the age of 12.  But he had not yet even been conceived in the timeline of our story.

But we jump ahead of ourselves even to mention that story.  Back to the present, and Saul.
So we have the king, with no future, battling on from day to day.  And the Bible says: “Saul took over the kingdom of Israel.”
KingSaulWhether he should have simply stopped and waited for death, which does not seem quite feasible, I am not sure.  Perhaps he understood it fully and clearly as I have just explained it, i.e. “I, Saul, am enjoying the full divine mandate to rule and reign throughout my own lifetime, no matter how short or long that may be, although I am fully aware on the basis of what Samuel the prophet has said, that another man from another family will reign after me.  Then again, that other man may be my son.  In the content of the prophet’s words my son could still reign and the word still be fulfilled.  Yet I know and understand, I am in disgrace before God” There was more light to come however, and that prophetic light would be spoken after further disobedience of Saul.
Although Samuel’s woeful prophecy was said, I am sure, in the full hearing of the three hundred soldiers, who had remained loyal and were still present with Saul as Samuel had arrived for the sacrifice at Gilgal, the king was truthfully and actually still on the throne.  The word would have undoubtedly got round the nation of what had happened at Gilgal.  It would have been a subject not to be brought up in the Kings presence, but constantly seated on the back burner of the national sub-consciousness.  The nation would have known:  “God has chosen another man.”  Saul, knowing that the people knew what Samuel had said, and the people knowing that Saul knew that they knew …. If you get the gist …. was serious grounds for a dose of deep royal depression, if not neurosis – if not total psychosis.
But, for the sake of the narrative, reader, understand:  Saul is still the publicly acknowledged national leader.  He was still the king, the anointed of the eternal, known among the people of Israel as the “son of God.”  Yet, the word of God had announced his fall and his departure. That departure was 37 years away in the future. However, God’s word was to come to pass.
If, objectively, from an impersonal distance, it confused the intellectuals of the nation, imagine the agonising trauma it subjectively permeated the king with.  Rejection by man is distressing enough, but public declaration of rejection by God is more than serious.  Could anybody’s rationale cope with such a dreadful concept in their life?  Is it possible that any human being could live life and carry out their normal work, rest and pleasure while they have forever in their consciousness that not only has God Almighty rejected them, but His verified and confirmed prophet has said so, and the masses know it.
We have the epitome of an illustration of a man in high position having the form of power and kingship, but none of the fullness of majesty of what he should be holding and walking in.  This is sad and we ask, “Could it possibly be any sadder?”  Plod on avid reader!
“So Saul took the kingdom over Israel”.  Saul established himself in the role to which he had been anointed by Samuel.  He grew into the position given him by God.  He took the kingdom, i.e.: with effort and fight, and strain and warfare.  Saul took the kingdom.
“And fought” … The full time military leader with a full time standing army employed them and himself to the full.
And who did they fight?  “… all his enemies on every side.”  Every nation that was bordered onto that tiny plot of real estate we call Israel was an enemy.  Sounds like the modern news reel: and as it was, so it is, and so it will be till the return of Christ.  Every nation that bordered Israel was set against them, and so, with Israel’s new found faith and resource of a physical as well as a spiritual nature, Saul went round chasing off the land of Israel any other ethnic group that attempted to set as much as a tent on the land that God had promised them.
The number of close set neighbours was six.  Saul fought “against Moab, and against the children of Ammon, and against Edom, and against the kings of Zobah, and against the Philistines: and where ever he turned himself, he vexed them … and the Amalekites” This was no mean feat.  The King James Bible says, “where ever Saul turned he vexed them.” Most commentators agree with Luther’s excellent translation that “wheresover Saul turned he was victorious over them, and inflicted punishment.”  In even plainer English, Lannons’ paraphrase says simply: Saul whipped the lot of them.”
BibleI know it does not sound like a king walking under condemnation, but remember if everybody was judged by the exteriors of life, Hitler was prosperous, Mussolini accomplished what he believed in and Attila the Hun was a winner.  Whether a person is blessed or cursed, that blessing or cursing refers to the end of that person. To be blessed or cursed always refers to where a person finishes, it may or may not refer to the way things are at the present. God looks on the heart.  And that very phrase was not only the rationale uttered by God to Samuel in following God’s instructions to choose a successor to Saul, but common sense dictates that that phrase gives us the very reason why Saul was rejected.
“And he gathered a host, and struck the Amalekites, and delivered Israel out of the hands of them that spoiled them.”  The host there mentioned, refers to either the standing army that he was continually recruiting for, or the actual gathering he called together in order to, “whip,” Amalek.  This story of Amalek is shortly to be referred to in greater depth.  We do however have to warn you dear reader of what is to come.
On modern TV, if a programme is about to be shown with doubtful scenes, bad language or sexual activity, or something similar, the viewer is told of them before the opening credits.  This is in order to give you the viewer the moral choice to switch off.
We know you can’t switch off here; this is a blog for goodness sake … and I would not ever advise anybody to miss a chapter in any book, especially my own.  The reader would be frustrated at the lack of continuity.  But we have to state that the following account is as emotionally tragic and filled with horror as anything Hollywood ever produced.
Saul was walking up to his neck, every single day, in insipient death.  No doubt he comforted himself with all his military successes, but what happened in Saul’s heart and the dialogue between Saul and Samuel, was, honestly and candidly, too much for Saul to handle.
If you are prepared, take a glass of cold milk and read on tomorrow’s blog.
Categories: 1 Samuel 14 verses 47 - 52, The ascendancy of the King on the descent. | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

How can wanting a king be a sin if it makes Israel so happy and they win wars?

“So! This “King” Business is not so Bad After All Is It Samuel?
(1 Samuel 11:14-15)
KING SAULWhen Samuel encouraged and exhorted Israel to the renewal of the kingdom, we need to see what was happening, and why.  We need to look at the ramifications of what happened from this so called “renewal”.
Samuel accompanied Saul and the army back home.  Thirty eight miles south, south-east of the battle ground that was Jabesh Gilead,  was the ancient city cum shrine of Gilgal, a site which is today only known by approximation, Saul was reaffirmed, and the kingdom renewed.
So what happened?
This was a formal recognition of Saul by the means of, what we in Britain would refer to as a full and proper Coronation.  In the first flush of victory over the Ammonites, we plainly see that it was, from Samuel’s speech in 1 Samuel 12, a long time coming, in a long term, “step by step” campaign by Nahash.  Samuel says quite plainly in 1 Samuel 12:12 that Nahash the Ammonites’ uprising was one of the original reasons why they had asked for a king.
So, with ceremony and celebration, the prophet made sacrifices, the people, “made Saul King,” in the sight of the army, and declared him to be rightful monarch again, in the full confidence and high swell that a mighty and memorable victory gives a nation.
So we have in scripture three declarations of Saul’s kingship by Samuel.
The first time Samuel and Saul were the only one’s present.  The second time the entire nation was present with Samuel.  The third time was Samuel’s priestly presentation and full coronation worthy of a king.
The first time was a declaration to Saul alone.  The second time was the announcement to the nation of the king.  The third time was the presentation to God of the new king.
Practically, the main benefit for Saul was that we never hear of him again, “in the fields,” or, carrying on his farming duties.  It is commonly deduced that from this moment on, i.e. from this coronation at the end of 1 Samuel 11, Saul ceased to be a “part-time,” “ad hoc,” honorary king.  He was the reigning, ruling, royal monarch from this day on, with the beginnings of the trappings of monarchical splendour, and the privileges such a position gives to its post holder.
Not that, “suddenly! “  Saul was in a golden palace or anything of a sort.  But the king from this point had an army and a monarchical base, all of which needed paying for.  We will look at the ramifications of all this when we plough into 1 Samuel 12.
The point is that the entire nation now had a king that was acknowledged to be a fighter, a leader, a man of authority, and sanctioned by both Yahweh, Samuel and all the people.  For the moment, all was content, the people were happy with what they had.
And so the governmental authority of the Hebrew nation was now fully and formally altered into monarchy.  Long live King Saul! 
Could it get any better? A king that loves God, prophecies, and fights with valour? A monarch who could bring 330,000 men together from scratch and take them to the battlefield within 7 days?
Saul would be settling into his new role and delegating folks to run his farm. Samuel would be getting down and dirty with the schools of the prophets. The nations round about would be trembling in their boots (or sandals) because of Israel’s all round unity.
God did say to Abraham that he would be the father of kings, i.e. plural. As far as Israel themselves were concerned, Saul was the first sample of the fulfillment of God’s promise.
Categories: 1 Samuel 11:14-15, How can wanting a king be a sin if it makes Israel so happy and they win wars? | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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