Anarchist Apology 4
Last time, I discussed the book of Judges as the form of government first set up by God, and how I see it as Anarchist. Continuing this line of thought, I’m going to discuss the Israelite transition to Monarchy.
The idea that the system of judges- God-chosen, organic leaders of the people who, humanly, were able to lead because people chose to follow them- clashes with the contemporary commentary of Judges common in Evangelical circles today, which argues that Israel needed a king to stop people from doing “what was right in their own eyes.” My response is to ask two questions: How did the transfer to a monarchy for Israel come about? And how much did the Israelite Monarchy improve things for Israel?
Israel demanded a king from God, wanting to be like other nations. God did not initiate the centralization of power – Israel did. How did God characterize this demand for centralization?
“… they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them. Like all the deeds which they have done since the day that I brought them up from Egypt even to this day–in that they have forsaken Me and served other gods–so they are doing to you also.”
Israel’s demand for a king – for centralization of political power in a human instead of in God – was a rejection of God.
Secondly, if Israel needed a king, if lack of strong, centralized leadership was what caused them to fall away from God, as Christians often claim, then the transfer to a monarchy should have decreased the amount of time Israel was not following God. That isn’t the case. In the Judges, there is a cycle, described in chapter two:
Then the sons of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Baals, and they forsook the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed themselves down to them; thus they provoked the LORD to anger. So they forsook the LORD and served Baal and the Ashtaroth. The anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and He gave them into the hands of plunderers who plundered them; and He sold them into the hands of their enemies around them, so that they could no longer stand before their enemies. Wherever they went, the hand of the LORD was against them for evil, as the LORD had spoken and as the LORD had sworn to them, so that they were severely distressed. Then the LORD raised up judges who delivered them from the hands of those who plundered them. Yet they did not listen to their judges, for they played the harlot after other gods and bowed themselves down to them. They turned aside quickly from the way in which their fathers had walked in obeying the commandments of the LORD; they did not do as their fathers.
This cycle repeats itself over and over again; Judges is, among other things, the story of this cycle. If the Israelite Monarchy is an improvement over this, we would expect that the cycle would end in the stage when the king, in place of the judge, rescues Israel and he and his successors keep the people true to God. If not that, Israel should at least spend more time in the “loyal to God” stage of the cycle and less time in the “playing the harlot against God” part of the cycle.
In fact, we see the opposite. While no one can claim that the time of the Judges was ideal, at least Israel came back to God over and over again. In the time of the Kings, we see no more “good kings” than can be counted on one hand. Even the best of kings, David, a man after God’s own heart, causes more innocent Israelites to die than a judge who fraternizes with the enemy he was chosen before birth to kill. The amount of time Israel spends in the “away from God” portion of the cycle is such a majority of the time that no one even talks about it being a cycle anymore. It’s just a state of being. The Monarchy is a disaster for Israel; Anarchy worked much better.
Next time, I’ll continue with this line of thought, discussing the Anarchy and the New Testament.