Studying Ancient History to Understand the Bible

The Oriental Institute's Youtube Page

The Oriental Institute’s Youtube Page

As I have studied King David, questions have come up which can’t be answered by my Bible. For example, where did the first kings appear from and what were they like? Why wasn’t Egypt a problem in David’s life time? What kind of trade ran through Isra’el in the Old Testament and many, many more.

Not only has studying ancient history answered those questions, I have found that it has helped me to correctly understand and portray Isra’el and her neighbouring cultures. The influences I read Moses warning the people against, now have faces, a story, and details attached to them; and I can understand God’s point of view and the struggles the Hebrew people had, clearly. With this kind of knowledge, the Old Testament is far less confusing.

Articles that have directly come out of this research include: What You Need to Know About Isra’el in David’s TimeThe Poison of Old Testament Idol Worship and How It Compares to Occult Worship Today .

So keeping in mind the humbling fact that that dates are highly debatable and that new discoveries are still to be made, which will change timelines and our interpretation of these ancient cultures, may I recommend these two resources which are my staples.

berkThe Center for Middle Eastern Studies, from the University of California Berkeley, approaches history from a non-religious, non-political standpoint which is very helpful. Their Near East Studies lecture series on iTunes has pulled more pieces of the Old Testament puzzle together for me, than anywhere else. It stretches back from before Abraham and Noah, then goes into later history which is far more familiar, such as the Roman Empire. If you have ever wanted to know what studying archaeology is like, this is the course for you!

Web site:
Youtube Channel:


The Oriental Institute, which is attached to the University of Chicago, has brilliant lectures which cover topics such as ancient economics, record keeping and “lost” civilisations, as well as the general history you would expect to discover. I believe they fund archaeological enterprises and the talks are professional, fascinating and well worth your time.

Web site:
Youtube Channel:



The Maritime History Podcast
This great series covers useful topics such as 001 Boating with the Ubaid People (earliest discovered ancestors of Israel); 003 Trade and Turmoil in Ancient Mesopotamia (Noah to Abraham’s time); 004 Mesopotamian Merchants; 005 Meanwhile, in Egypt (Moses); 020 The Sea Peoples Sail South (early Philistines); and 022 Rise of the Phoenicians (trading partners and palace builders of King David.)

The Hidden History of Business Podcast
Believe it or not, in Mesopotamia and many parts of the Near East (Israel’s area), beer was a staple food because it didn’t spoil. Discover how it’s so closely related to bread, the Egyptians called it bread too, the surprising birth of the tavern and more. Episode 9b: Beer in Mesopotamia and 29: Minicast Beer in Israel and Egypt.

Naked Archaeology has a radio-like mix of topics, many of which pertain to the Old Testament time period. I am still working my way through them, but am fascinated that horses were first domesticated for war purposes, not transport. See 18 March 2009 for that one.

itunesuI am still discovering Theology in the Raw and Theology Nerd Throwdown, as part of my formal studies on Old Testament Theology. There are dozens of Christian podcasts and specialists topics on any area you can think of. Tweet me and let me know what goodies you found. @octopusreinked

Don’t forget to try the iTunes University app for formal lectures from many Universities and professional people, which may also be a great help to you. I have found dozens of Bible Colleges through that app, plus Berkeley’s Near East Studies is on there too.


Why King David Taught Through Psalms / Songs

roniMusic is an essential part of the life of nearly every culture on earth. The first thing a baby hears in the womb is the rhythm of their mother’s heartbeat, then as children grow they respond to lullabies and rhymes. In every form of celebration and life event we have music; from Christmas carols, to the birthday song, to funerals. Melody is part of the way we learn about and relate to our culture and it helps us to feel part of our community, as it reinforces our values and identity. Is it any wonder then, that many spiritual principles in the Bible were communicated through the Psalms, which were sung?

The first Psalm song was written not by David, but by Moses as a song of joy, when God had delivered Israel from Egypt.

Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the LORD:
“I will sing to the LORD,
for He has triumphed gloriously;
He has hurled both horse and rider
into the sea.
The LORD is my strength and my song;
He has given me victory.
This is my God, and I will praise Him—
my Father’s God, and I will exalt Him!
The LORD is a warrior;
Yahweh is His Name!
Pharaoh’s chariots and army
He has hurled into the sea.
The finest of Pharaoh’s officers
are drowned in the Red Sea.
The deep waters gushed over them;
they sank to the bottom like a stone…” Exodus 15

That song is still sung as a testimony of God’s love, power and deliverance, today. I first learned a version of it in church twenty years ago.

The second Psalm Moses wrote was on God’s instruction. It’s purpose was sad.

“The LORD said to Moses, “You are about to die and join your ancestors. After you are gone, these people will begin to worship foreign gods, the gods of the land where they are going. They will abandon Me and break My covenant that I have made with them. Then My anger will blaze forth against them. I will abandon them, hiding My Face from them, and they will be devoured. Terrible trouble will come down on them, and on that day they will say, ‘These disasters have come down on us because God is no longer among us!’ At that time I will hide My Face from them on account of all the evil they commit by worshiping other gods.

So write down the words of this song, and teach it to the people of Israel. Help them learn it, so it may serve as a witness for Me against them…” So that very day Moses wrote down the words of the song and taught it to the Israelites.” (Deuteronomy chapters 31-32 contain the song.)

These Psalms built on a wider cultural tradition which started centuries before Abraham lived in Mesopotamia, and which probably reaches back to the dawn of mankind. There are a number of pagan hymns to gods such as Ishtar, which have been found in the Mesopotamian area (modern Iraq.) Some use similar literary devices and strength imagery that David used in the Psalms, which further shows that the Israelites were connected to and influenced by a larger cultural community which thrived on music, as we do today.

Regardless of which time period you live in, it is normal for spiritual activities to be accompanied by music, which build a unified spiritual community and teach devotees their core ideas and values. David followed Moses in using this powerful medium, not just because it was the way things were done and because he liked music, but also as King David knew the impact it had upon people.  The introduction to Psalm 60 says, “… A psalm of David useful for teaching, regarding the time David fought Aram-naharaim and Aram-zobah…” Psalms enabled David to *teach the people his testimony of God’s deliverance, reiterate the history of Israel and remind them of the principles of God’s Laws which were handed down through Moses.  [Ref. Psalms 114 and 132]

Consider these factors which make music an effective teaching method:

  • A catchy tune will be remembered and enables messages from a leader to be passed on across any distance.
  • Every age is open to hearing and learning musically. Small children will remember and repeat lyrics whether they understand the message or not. There is no age where enjoying music stops.
  • Popular tunes survive time, no matter what circumstances change.
  • Agrarian lives make study impractical as labourers work from dawn to dusk to survive; include literacy issues and singing becomes more effective than reading.
  • If you learn a song, if your house burns down, war comes, or some other calamity arises, you haven’t lost a book.

David has not only taught me how to worship through his Psalms, he has been a strong foundational teacher of who and how wonderful God is. The Psalms pick me up in hard times, as they remind me of God’s faithfulness and delivering power; and in times of joy, they accompany how good I feel. Take the time to learn them and you’ll never be short of the power of God’s Word in your life.

* In ages past, the Psalms themselves were sung in church and officials, such as Bishops, were not allowed to take office unless they knew the Psalms by heart. If you know the Psalms, you know all about God, His nature, His plan for His people and have a solid moral compass in life. It saddened me to learn that this was replaced in the church by the Book of Common Prayer, forcing the Psalms into a backseat which reduced their powerful role.

Psalms where David is clearly teaching include 36,37,53 and 119.

I have heard it stated that the first music was only used for spiritual purposes, and I have tried to research that claim and found it inconclusive. It seems illogical to me, that something which brings us so much enjoyment would only be used in such a limited manner; though I am open to being corrected. The precious can be sacred.


Creative Commons License
The King David Project by Cate Russell-Cole is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at

Please note that this does NOT apply to any of the images on this site except for the free Psalm images which are marked as free. Most photos are purchased stock photos. It is ILLEGAL for you to take and use them, whether for yourself, commercially or for a non-profit venture such as a church or Bible Study. If you have not bought these photos from the source, the stock photography company has every right to sue you.

Discovering David’s Most Important Task as King

img_1828Years ago I was having dinner with a friend when she told me that she had Jewish blood in the family. My instant reaction was, “you are so lucky!” Why? Because I knew that the Jewish people were God’s *”chosen ones.” Out of all the nations, the Lord chose Abraham and then his descendants, to be the Lord’s holy, special people. I was a Christian, but I didn’t have that same status and to me, it was a far greater privilege than merely being “grafted into the vine.” [Ref. Romans 11]

As I am an adoptee, several years ago I had my DNA tested and I discovered, to my absolute delight, that my mother’s side of the family is Jewish. Beyond my wildest dreams, I too, was a “chosen one.” I am comforted by being connected to something so ancient and precious, but there was a point where I stopped and realised that being a “chosen one” isn’t any more special than being a “grafted in” Christian. What my spirituality comes down to is that I belong to Jesus. He is all I have known for thirty-five years, and all I want. Nothing I have as a Jew is as precious as my relationship with Him.

I fell down the rabbit hole of Youtube last week, and was watching a Buzzfeed **video on “11 Things Your Jewish Friends Just Get,” when they flashed up an odd title graphic: “signs your friend is a chosen one.” The social label surprised me as a statement made in Deuteronomy looked so out of place in the secular world. The surprise made me take the time to rethink about what it means to be a “chosen one.”

In Understanding the ***Old Testament, Dr Paul House says: “He has chosen Israel to be His people so that they might bless the other nations. They are not chosen so that they can have special privileges and do as they wish. They are chosen to minister to the rest of the world.” From that my mind went straight to this Scripture: “When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required.” Luke 12:48b With status comes responsibilities, and looking at that verse in context reminded me of David.

In Luke 12, Jesus was talking about no one knowing when He will return and how we must be ready, but in verse 42, He makes a statement that also outlines the duties of a godly King. “A faithful, sensible servant is one to whom the master can give the responsibility of managing His other household servants and feeding them…” Regardless of David’s status as King, he was God’s servant. A quick search of “My servant, David” on Bible Hub brings up fifteen places where God has spoken of David that way. God never calls David by his worldly title. Whatever status Isra’el gave their Kings, the Great Master kept the office of King in perspective.

Dr House’s words helped me to realise that David’s chief role as King was to make God known, both to his people and also to the surrounding nations. Regardless of the national security needs of the nation, which laws needed reinforcing, what civil works needed to be completed, or what other diplomatic and administrative duties he had, first and foremost, as King he was the spiritual leader and had the responsibility of “managing [God’s] other household servants and feeding them” the Word of God. A righteous, obedient King would keep Isra’el on the right track with God, so that He could bless His chosen people so much, the other nations would look at their success in envy, and want to know who their God was.

2016-01-14_13-22-02_01God blessed David to a degree that put him in the perfect place to be a witness to other nations. As Dr House’s also said “…he has a capital city, he has military might, and there is a religious centre for Israelite worship. Each of these achievements helps make him the undisputed authority in the land. For now Israel’s’ nagging long term problems of poor military, poor organisation and scattered religious rites have been solved. Because they have a good leader they follow Yahweh and defeat their enemies. No ruler since Joshua has done so much for the people.” The other nations had to have seen this and wanted to know the secrets of such success.

“I have not hidden Your righteousness within my heart; I have declared Your faithfulness and Your salvation; I have not hidden Your loving-kindness and Your truth from the great congregation.” Psalm 40:10

David’s chief task was the same one that we all have as Christians: God blesses us so we know His love, saving power and grace, which we then pass onto others who are lost, or struggling. It doesn’t matter whether you are a “chosen one” or not, we have all been blessed with much and much is expected.
*”The LORD has today declared you to be His people, a treasured possession, as He promised you, and that you should keep all His commandments; and that He will set you high above all nations which He has made, for praise, fame, and honour; and that you shall be a consecrated people to the LORD your God, as He has spoken.” Deuteronomy 26:18-19

**Buzzfeed Video Link:

***Understanding the Old Testament by Dr Paul House, Available free from:

To understand the central role that Isra’el had during David’s reign, please also read What You Need to Know About Isra’el in David’s Time:


Creative Commons License
The King David Project by Cate Russell-Cole is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at

Please note that this does NOT apply to any of the images on this site except for the free Psalm images which are marked as free. Most photos are purchased stock photos. It is ILLEGAL for you to take and use them, whether for yourself, commercially or for a non-profit venture such as a church or Bible Study. If you have not bought these photos from the source, the stock photography company has every right to sue you.

How Gentle Kings Become Killers

gentle-kings-become-killersIt can be very hard to comprehend how gentle, kind people who love God, can pick up a sword and wipe out opposing nations. This is one of the issues I see people battle with in studying the life of King David. While we are introduced to him in 1 Samuel as a brave young warrior, a mighty man of valour, this image seems to harshly contradict the Psalms and our understanding of him as a God-fearing, righteous ruler. This article will look at why and how David had to act as he did.

As I write this, we live in an age of religious and ethnic tolerance and those values have been perpetuated with the spread of Christianity throughout the world. It is morally imperative that we don’t put people to the sword just because we don’t believe in the same god. So why did David do it and how should we interpret his behaviour?

In David’s time, God’s kingdom of Isra’el did not live in safety. There were constant threats of invasion, being taken as slaves, robbery, rape and murder. God raised up a man after His own heart, David, to lead the people to safety and ensure that they followed Him, the one true God. [Ref. 1 Kings 11:34, 2 Samuel 5:12 and Judges 2:2-3]

For Isra’el to be safe, the surrounding nations had to be bought under control. This was predominantly due to their polytheistic lifestyles, which continually poisoned the spiritual lives of the people of Isra’el. The references which repeatedly advise, implore and demand that the Israelites resist and get rid of these gods are many and include, from Deuteronomy alone: 7:16 and 25-26; 12:2-7 and 29-32; 20:17-18; 28:13-14; 29:16-21. This is not an exhaustive list. Following other gods would lead the people to destruction and the Lord did not want that to happen. Why?

Yahweh is known as a jealous God, but He is so for protective reasons. This is a point in history where religious tolerance just doesn’t apply and if there were religions carrying out these practices today, tolerance would not apply now either. Throughout every culture, if you study standards of morality, there are some practices which are intolerable, regardless of nation, year, race or religious creed. These include murder, prostitution and harming others. Sadly, these neighbouring religions demanded obedience to rituals which involved all those elements.

Warrior god from Moab. Stone stele, Late Bronze Age (ca. 1200 BC) or Iron Age (ca. 800 BC), found in Redjōm el-A'abed in 1851 by Félix de Saulcy and brought back to France in 1865 by the duke of Luynes.

Warrior god from Moab. Stone stele, Late Bronze Age (ca. 1200 BC) or Iron Age (ca. 800 BC), found in Redjōm el-A’abed in 1851 by Félix de Saulcy and brought back to France in 1865 by the duke of Luynes.

Here are the worst offenders:
– Ba’al: a fertility and war god, who demanded self-mutilation, ecstatic shamanistic like dances, ritual sex (which in cults that exist now, is often abusive and non-consentual, which may have been the case then also,) and child sacrifice.
– Asherah: the poles for this goddess are frequently mentioned in the books of Kings. She was considered the consort to Yahweh as Isra’el later dived into a spiritual abyss. Prostitution was a part of her worship.
– Ashtoreth or Astarte: she was an agricultural and fertility goddess who had a close association with Ba’el and again, ritual prostitution was involved in obeying and appeasing her.
– Molech: he was represented as an ox or calf, and he required the sacrifice of live, young children by burning and ritual sex practices.
– Chemosh: he was a war god who delighted in human sacrifice.

Realise that the people conceded to these demands, as they were terrified of the consequences of disobeying their god/goddess.
Would you like people who followed these practices living next to you and having any influence on your children? My guess is that you said no.

In Deuteronomy 31, God told Moses before he died, that Isra’el would eventually break the covenant they had made to obey God and worship Him alone. Moses was given warnings and a song to teach the people, in order to make them realise that God knew what was about to happen: but God wasn’t going to see it happen without a fight.

The warnings are dire and repeated and they needed to be. Psychologists have carried out studies to find out why people don’t meet their goals, and what they need to accomplish tasks to improve their quality of life. The research has found that if you show people the probable pitfalls and their chance of failure, rather than simply pumping them up with “you can do it, you will win” messages, people are more likely to achieve what they want as their outlook is more realistic. If you know you can fail, you don’t slacken off.

Thus the Lord told and told and told Isra’el, and David went to great lengths to ensure the physical and spiritual safety of the nature. After David died, his son Solomon began the path to total spiritual destruction and the exile of Isra’el, by marrying women from these dangerous nations, who worshipped these forbidden gods. In succeeding generations, first born children were sacrificed, the sexual immorality in Isra’el was overwhelming and the city of Jerusalem was so corrupt, the Spirit of God left the temple. [Ref. Ezekiel 10]

But still, even knowing this would happen, the Lord tried repeatedly to save His people. It is an act of a loving God which is incredibly precious and beyond price.

So now that you know why it happened, how can a good man kill to get a job like that done? This applies not only to David, but all the entire army of Isra’el.

When people are seen as a threat, fear kicks in and this motivation will enable people to do what they would otherwise consider unthinkable. When a threat is that close, people kill to survive. Consider Leviticus 6, where the Lord points out the punishment for disobedience. The people knew that they could lose everything. (Please see the footnote below.)

Zeus Yahweh, Wikimedia Commons

Zeus Yahweh, Wikimedia Commons

There are two other dynamics which will turn a sweet guy into a killer. As a crowd loses it’s individuality in a mass of faces, it becomes easy to dispatch or enslave them. They are not known by name, fame, or family ties and therefore, the guilt that murder and violence causes is significantly reduced for each soldier. It would be diminished even further, as the army acted under the orders of King David and General Joab, son of Zeruiah, David’s sister. If a figure of authority orders an act of violence or immorality, then research has found that people are far more likely to carry it out and they don’t fret about repercussions as much. It is the commander who will get the moral blame, not them. This is termed moral disengagement.

The last point which would affected the behaviour of David and his army is the old rule of ‘an eye for an eye.’ [Ref. Deuteronomy 19:21] In the Old Testament there was no known final judgement of the sinner and the saint. It was believed that for whatever you did wrong, you had to be punished for in life, not the afterlife; therefore rough vengeance was enacted through acts of war like this. It was the standard for the people at that point in history, and this law was common throughout all the ancient world, even up until the successful dominion of Babylon. Through the laws that God handed down through Moses, this was ratified as legally correct behaviour. God had said in Deuteronomy 9:4 “Do not say in your heart, after the LORD your God has thrust them out before you, ‘It is because of my righteousness that the LORD has brought me in to possess this land,’ whereas it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is driving them out before you.” This verse implies that if David was successful in defeating those nations, it was because God had judged them as wicked and He enabled their defeat. God was acting on His own laws.
If you would like to read more to further understand David’s actions as a ruler and the intricacies of power in the ancient world, you are welcome to read these articles.

– Was King David a Megalomaniac?
– Does Absolute Power Absolutely Corrupt?
– Law and Disorder in the Life of King David


Creative Commons License
The King David Project by Cate Russell-Cole is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at

Please note that this does NOT apply to any of the images on this site except for the free Psalm images which are marked as free. Most photos are purchased stock photos. It is ILLEGAL for you to take and use them, whether for yourself, commercially or for a non-profit venture such as a church or Bible Study. If you have not bought these photos from the source, the stock photography company has every right to sue you.

The Ruins of the City of David


This is the best Archaeology video I’ve found describing the ruins of the city. It is well worth watching. Enjoy.

Why So Many Wives? King David and Polygamy

legitsonsThroughout many cultures and time periods, the acceptable marriage standards have changed due to the necessity of providing for the children, the rights of women and to ensure the maintenance of the family line. Why the Bible allows polygamy is a common question I see asked around the Internet. That question is closely followed by why did King David get away with having so many wives and concubines? This page answers those questions from an objective, sociological and psychological viewpoint.

Polygamy is currently considered unacceptable throughout the western world, even though our ancestors relied on it for survival. It is criticised as through the eyes of our first world culture because we see it as:

– a means of increasing gender inequality;
– patriarchal behaviour which may involve favouritism and children being given less nurturing than they deserve due to their numbers;
– narcissistic, sexual greed;
– an impractical lifestyle placing too great an economic burden on the welfare State or the family, due to the high cost of raising families in cities and towns;
– a source of conflict, jealousy and unhappiness to the wives and
– open to abuse by a dominant, head wife who controls all lesser wives under her.

For a man to take multiple wives in our modern nations, the above indeed, could be considered a serious problem, plus you have demographic issues arising from women gravitating towards high status males with secure economic standing, or being monopolised by those males, which leaves the ‘lesser’ men unable to find life partners. That leads to complex social problems.

It is also worth noting that polygamy was not bigamy in Biblical times. Bigamy only occurs when current, western marriage laws are broken. The godly, Biblical patriarchs were polygamists and the Lord blessed them with the command to be fruitful and multiply.

However, in a great many parts of the world, polygamy is still the norm, especially where cultures rely on agriculture and having many children and many wives, enhances the ability of all members of the family to survive famine, drought, natural disasters, maternal, infant and child mortality rates, disease, war and misfortune. The strength of an extended family also means that regardless of health or disaster, there will always be someone else to shoulder a wife’s household tasks, care for her children (particularly if the parent is ill or deceased) and be there as part of a loving family community. In everyday life, that can be a great asset which would reduce our cultural epidemic of loneliness.

Studying at the survival statistics in Africa, an example of what the health and living conditions in King David’s time would have been like, the results are harsh and heart breaking. Roughly speaking, one in forty-eight women had a chance of dying in childbirth. The younger the woman was (under fifteen years of age), the greater chance of that happening. Women who had child, after child with little break could also suffer maternal depletion syndrome, as their bodies did not have the diet or recovery time to rejuvenate after pregnancies. Again, this leads to serious health problems and often, death. In addition, it was very common for women to suffer illness or injury because of childbirth, even if they survived the process, so again, there is loss of life and the need for other members of a strong, extended family to be able to step in and assist with bringing up existing children.

One in seven women would have also suffered complications in childbirth. Common complications include bleeding, infection (remember, there were no antibiotics, so simple issues had dire consequences), and obstructions such as breech deliveries. It is without doubt that King David would have lost multiple wives to problems arising from childbirth, so when looking at his family tree, keep it in mind that not all of these women would have lived.

If a child successfully made it’s way into the world, they are a great risk of dying within the first forty-eight hours. Depending on what statistics you read, at a conservative estimate, 30% – 40% or more of children would not make it to adolescence. This could be because of birth defects, malnutrition, malaria, smallpox and other childhood diseases, accidents etc. In short, it is obvious that for any family to survive, the best option is to reproduce in high numbers. One psychological study likened it to the animal kingdom, where most species have multiple mates as higher numbers mean greater success.

16790356_sSo this brings us then to the Biblical question, did David have too many wives? The prophet Nathan had indicated that the number of wives David had, were not a problem to the Lord. [2 Samuel 12:80] They had never turned his heart away from God, as happened with Solomon. However, there were consequences of taking that many wives and concubines. Whilst marrying the wives and concubines (secondary, lower status wives) gave all the women and children a secure economically sound home, we do see the example of how the demands of Kingship and fatherhood led to less than perfect parenting by King David.

1 Kings 1:5-6 tells us: “About that time David’s son Adonijah, whose mother was Haggith, began boasting, “I will make myself king.” So he provided himself with chariots and charioteers and recruited fifty men to run in front of him. Now his father, King David, had never disciplined him at any time, even by asking, “Why are you doing that?” Adonijah had been born next after Absalom, and he was very handsome.” This illustrates the potential problems.

Within any relationship there are conflicts and joys. The greater the number of wives and children, the more room there is to smother, or hide from the need for problem resolution. The addition of each new wife and concubine would also alter the ‘pecking order’ and security of current wives, which could create a slew of problems. I cannot see it as a perfect system, but then, neither is monogamy. Jealousy, extramarital affairs, conflicts and child rearing issues are massive complications within both systems. For any family to work, a solid set of faith-based, moral values and behaviour which is firmly grounded in the *fruit of the Spirit is critical for any form of success.

*Galatians 5:22-23


Recommended Reading:

– Childbirth in Developing Countries:
– Mortality, Childbirth from the Encyclopaedia of Death and Dying:
– Infant Mortality in The Land of Israel in Late Antiquity:
– Wedding and Marriage Customs in the Bible:
– Ancient Jewish Marriage from My Jewish Learning:
– Why Did the Lord Allow Men to Have Concubines?
– Concubine: Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary:
– World Health Organisation, Maternal Mortality:
– World Health Organisation, Child Mortality:
– Psychology Today on Polygamy:

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Please note that this does NOT apply to any of the images on this site except for the free Psalm images which are marked as free. Most photos are purchased stock photos. It is ILLEGAL for you to take and use them, whether for yourself, commercially or for a non-profit venture such as a church or Bible Study. If you have not bought these photos from the source, the stock photography company has every right to sue you.

Did God Want a King for Israel?

46010905_sThere has been a great deal of debate as to whether or not God wanted a king for the nation of Isra’el. Until David’s time, the Judges, full of the Spirit of the Lord and under divine direction, had led the people; however the people wanted to be like other nations and have a visible king in human form. Despite Isra’el’s covenant commitment to the Lord, they were willing to set aside the sovereign rule of their God and trust man instead.

The reason why this issue is debated is because God gave Moses the instructions for how any king of Isra’el was to act in Deuteronomy 17: 14- 20:

“You are about to enter the land the LORD your God is giving you. When you take it over and settle there, you may think, ‘We should select a king to rule over us like the other nations around us.’ If this happens, be sure to select as king the man the LORD your God chooses. You must appoint a fellow Israelite; he may not be a foreigner.

“The king must not build up a large stable of horses for himself or send his people to Egypt to buy horses, for the LORD has told you, ‘You must never return to Egypt.’ The king must not take many wives for himself, because they will turn his heart away from the LORD. And he must not accumulate large amounts of wealth in silver and gold for himself.

“When he sits on the throne as king, he must copy for himself this body of instruction on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests. He must always keep that copy with him and read it daily as long as he lives. That way he will learn to fear the LORD his God by obeying all the terms of these instructions and decrees. This regular reading will prevent him from becoming proud and acting as if he is above his fellow citizens. It will also prevent him from turning away from these commands in the smallest way. And it will ensure that he and his descendants will reign for many generations in Israel.”

There are a number of points worth noting, when you make up your own mind about this issue. Firstly, in Deuteronomy, the rules for a king only come after the Lord has set down the rules for worship and Isra’el’s conduct towards Him. A king is never the first priority. Justice, dealing with slaves and debtors and the festivals to be celebrated are also listed first.

Secondly, the Scripture says,You may think, we should select a king.” Isra’el was never told to actually do it. From my study, I have concluded that a king was nothing short of a bad idea, which in practice was a disaster; but to stop it from becoming completely out of hand, rules were set down by a loving Father who knew the hearts of His children. [For example, see Deuteronomy 31:14 to 32:43]

Both God and Samuel were angry in 1 Samuel 12 when Isra’el demanded a king. Samuel states: “The Lord your God was already your king.” Isra’el had seen her error very quickly, but still, despite always having a choice to go back to divine rule under the guidance of the Judges, Isra’el never removed royal rule, which led both tribes to spiritual destruction and being taken captive as slaves. With that in mind, how can choosing a man over God possibly be a good idea?

Hosea 13:11 states: “In my anger I gave you kings, and in my fury I took them away.”

After the reign of David ended, God was very rarely ever attributed as leading Isra’el to victory over their enemies. As early as 2 Samuel 5, the very day that David was made King over all of Isra’el, the people had already lost sight of God. “In the past, when Saul was our king, you were the one who really led the forces of Israel.” In both Isaiah 42:8 and 48:11 the Lord says, “I will not give my glory to another.” The glory had been taken from Him by man glorifying man. This led Isra’el to sin, which no decision made by God could ever have been capable of doing.


Other Considerations

The Judges did not have wealth and power, so they were far less likely to be corrupted than a king.
– God had the flexibility to place the needed Judge in the right place, at the right time, without being limited by hereditary succession. A new one could be risen up without time limits.
– No one tribe would have all the power centred on them, as Judah did, as the kings came from that lineage. For example, see the revolt of Sheba against King David to see how the tribe verses tribe problem played out in reality. [2 Samuel 19:40-20:22 except for one wise woman, there would have been civil war.]
– Any Judge worth their salt refused to be king. Gideon is an example of this. Other plans for Isra’el to appoint a king before 1 Samuel, fell to ruin quickly under the Lord’s hand.
13127132_s– Handing the role of a king down through generations is problematic as it means the original vision for the people’s welfare and deliverance is lost, as is also, the Lord’s discipline and lessons He has invested in shaping the ultimate leader; plus David’s faith, courage and relationship with the Lord can’t be replicated either. You have a king who has a right to leadership, a duty, rather than a passion for the Lord’s people. “And David realised that the Lord had confirmed him as king over Isra’el and had blessed his kingdom for the sake of his people Isra’el,” [2 Samuel 5:12]
– It was inevitable that choosing a king would lead to a loss of faith, as the only kings who had ever existed, all came from the pagan surrounding nations. None of them were godly, thus all the practices, customs and lifestyles that Isra’el’s kings adopted to accompany the new role were built on a sin-inspired model and destined to fail.


Battles the Lord won / engineered for Isra’el.

  • Crossing the Red Sea – Exodus 14
  • Victory over the Amalekites – Exodus 17:8-16
  • Promise to fight for the people – Exodus 23:27-31 and Deuteronomy 7:7-8
  • Jordan River dry crossing – Joshua 3:15-16
  • Fall of Jericho – Joshua 6:20-21
  • Ai – Joshua 8
  • Amonites – Joshua 10:11
  • North captured for Isra’el – Joshua 11:16-20, especially verse 23
  • South captured for Isra’el – Joshua 10:40-42
  • Deborah and Barak – Judges 4:14-15
  • Gideon – Judges 7
  • Samson – Judges 16, especially verse 30
  • Ark of the Covenant against the Philistines – 1 Samuel 7
  • Jonathan against the Philistines – 1 Samuel 14
  • David and Eleazar son of Dodai – 2 Samuel 23
  • David and Shammah son of Agee – 2 Samuel 23

Battles Won for Judah

  • God defeated the army of Jeroboam as Abijah and his army trusted God. 2 Chronicles 13
  • God saves King Jehoshaphat in battle – 2 Chronicles 18
  • Battle with Ammon, Moab, and some of the Meunites – 2 Chronicles 20
  • God helped Uzziah in his wars against the Philistines – 2 Chronicles 26
  • Rescue of Judah under the leadership of the righteous King Hezekiah – 2 Kings 19

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