|MESSIAH: HIS FIRST COMING SCHEDULED, Chapter 8||
MESSIAH: HIS FIRST COMING SCHEDULED
THE UNITED KINGDOM
IN THE previous chapter we arrived, in our investigation, at the inauguration of the monarchy in Israel. It was not God's first and highest plan that she should have a king-to be like the nations of the world-but that she should look to Him alone for guidance and protection. From a reading of I Samuel 8 we can see clearly that God's first plan for the Chosen People was that He should be their King. Nevertheless, when they would not take His first and highest plan, He gave them a second, namely, one of their own choosing. His action on this occasion was determined by the principle on which He always acts; namely, that, when men will not accept His first choice for them, He will allow them to have a second, or even a much less desirable and honorable plan of life. Always it is detrimental to one to have his own way in preference to allowing God to overrule in the life. Israel, during her wilderness wandering, was not satisfied with God's first provision in giving her manna to eat. Hence the people murmured against Him and wanted flesh. Finally, the Lord acceded to their insistent demands and granted their request, but gave them leanness in their souls. "And he gave them their request, But sent leanness into their soul" (Psa. 106:15).
Confirmation of the position that it was not God's first plan for Israel to have a king is seen in the statement of Hosea the Prophet: "They have set up kings, but not by me; they have made princes, and I knew it not: of their silver and their gold have they made them idols, that they may be cut off" (Hos. 8:4). From Leviticus 26: 1-13 and Deuteronomy 28: 1-14 it is very clear that, if the Hebrew people had only been faithful to God, He would have supplied their every need and would have protected their borders from foreign invasion. Hence there was no necessity for a human king.
In this connection let me call attention to the fact that in these two chapters we also learn the secret of Israel's age-long sorrows, namely, her disobedience to God and His will. The softest place, one has said, in all the world for one is to be where the Lord wants him; on the other hand, the most dangerous place to be is where God has not indicated. Whenever men choose their own ways in preference to those of God, they always suffer for the same.
It has already been seen that the period of the judges covered 450 years, as enumerated in the book of Judges and the first seven chapters of I Samuel. This is in perfect accord with the statement of Paul the apostle, found in Acts 13: 19, 20, in which he says that God gave Israel, after she had conquered the land, judges for the period of "about four hundred and fifty years" until Samuel the Prophet. The expression "about" covers the time between the end of the conquest of Canaan and the first servitude under Cushanrishathaim which, as we have already learned, was a period of fourteen years. Since the statement concerning the period of the judges to Samuel is followed by one relating to the establishment of the monarchy, we must conclude that he was thinking of the time of the judges as including the ministry of Samuel. Since the actual number of years given in the book of Judges and the first seven chapters of I Samuel total exactly 450 years, we must accept the testimony as it appears in the original text and conclude that the monarchy began immediately after the close of the twenty years of Samuel's judgeship.
1. THE REIGNS OF SAUL, DAVID, AND SOLOMON
The record of the monarchy is to be found in the period covered by the books of Samuel and Kings, beginning with I Samuel 8. The history of this same period is also found in I Chronicles 10 to' II Chronicles 36:4. This latter record supplements that of Samuel and Kings. The writers of these accounts present their material more as statisticians or analysts of the time, whereas the author of Chronicles views the record from the spiritual standpoint, giving us the true philosophy of history. This latter account is of inestimable value in one's interpreting God's dealing with Israel in the past and His present and future conduct towards them.
A. Samuel-Saul Connection
Our chronology has brought us to' the end of the judgeship of Samuel in the year 3022 A.H., which is 1103 in the Ptolemaic dating. The question at once arises as to whether or not the monarchy followed immediately the last year that is attributed to' Samuel as judge. Some chronologers seem to think that there is quite a jump between Samuel and Saul; on the other hand, others consider that the monarchy was established immediately after the twenty years of Samuel's independent judgeship. This question can only be determined by a careful examination of the facts set forth in I Samuel 7 and 8. TO' these let us now address ourselves.
As we have already learned, at the end of the twenty years, during which the ark was in Kiriath-jearim, the children of Israel lamented after the Lard. The time was ripe far a revival. Samuel commanded the people to lay aside their warship of foreign gads and to' humble themselves before the Lard, which thing they did. Thus there was a great and mighty revival, as we have already seen, in Mizpah. No sooner had Israel turned to God than Satan stirred up the Philistines to' invade the country. In answer to the believing prayer of Samuel especially, the invading hosts were defeated and driven out of the borders of Israel. As a memorial of the victory, a stone was set up at Mizpah to which was given the name, "Eben-ezer." An account of this great revival and deliverance from enemies is found in I Samuel 7: 2-12 inclusive. Following this record, verses 13-17, we have a summary statement of the ministry of the prophet Samuel. A careful examination of this portion of Scripture shows that it is bath retrospective and prospective. The former phase of the matter is seen in verses 15-17, which recounts the activities of Samuel as judge who made the rounds from his home at Ramah to Bethel, Gilgal, Mizpah, and then back again. He engaged in this routine, judiciary ministry throughout his entire life; hence from the standpoint of the time recorded in chapter 7, this statement is bath retrospective and prospective, because his official duties continued long into the reign of Saul, his death being recorded in chapter 25 which gives an account of the history at a much later date. The statement of the victory wan on this occasion is found in verses 13 and 14. When, therefore, the summary character of verses 13-17 is taken into consideration, we are led to the irresistible conclusion that these verses are simply parenthetical. A similar summary of the life of Saul is found in I Samuel 14: 47-52. An examination of this section of Holy Writ shows conclusively that it likewise is retrospective as well as prospective. A further study of the text reveals the fact that this latter resume is simply parenthetical and does not interrupt the flow of the narrative, which is given in chronological order. If we will read I Samuel 7 through verse 12 and drop our eyes to 8: 4, omitting the intervening resume, we shall see that the historical narrative is taken up with this latter verse. The parenthetical statement, therefore, does not interrupt the forward movement of the thought. In view of this fact, we must conclude that the coming of the elders of Israel to' Samuel, demanding that the nation have a king, followed upon the victory over the Philistines immediately after the
great revival. There is therefore no reason for our concluding that there was any interval of time separating the twenty-year period of Samuel's judgeship from the. establishment of the monarchy, the account of which we find in I Samuel 8-10 inclusive.
The Lord acceded to the demand of Israel far a king and gave them Saul, the son of Kish, a Benjamite, who stood head and shoulders above all other Israelites. Before granting them a king, however, the Lord gave a detailed outline of the type of sovereign they would have and the great burden he and his organization would be upon Israel. Nevertheless they clamored for a monarch in order that they might be like the nations around them.
We know very little from a chronological standpoint concerning Saul. In I Samuel 13: 1 we have the statement that "Saul was a son of a year in his kingdom; and he reigned two years over Israel" (literal translation). This statement has been a great puzzle to commentators and chronologers.
When we take all the data into consideration, the following seems to be the facts in the case: after Samuel anointed Saul in private at Ramah (I Sam. 9: 1-10: 8), the prophet called the tribes to Mizpah where the appointment was recognized officially by the people, and the kingdom was accepted. After this there arose trouble with the children of Amman. Saul called forth his army and wan a signal victory aver his enemies. When the war was over, the people gathered together to' Samuel and Saul at Gilgal, where the kingdom was renewed, at which time Saul was anointed the second time. When he was first anointed, certain base men objected to the appointment and showed determined opposition. At his second installation, however, which seems to have occurred a year later, there were no dissenting voices. This seems to be the thought of the expression found in 13: 1, "Saul was the san of one year in his reigning" or, put differently, "Saul reigned one year."
After he was acknowledged by all Israel to be the lawful king, he established a standing army and reigned two years. During this period, according to the summary of his reign found in I Samuel 14: 47, 48, he won signal victories over Moab, Amman, Edam, the kings of Zabah, the Philistines, and the Amalekites, delivering Israel out of the hand of thraldom. After this two year period one cannot be definite as to the length of time-he was sent again against the Amalekites with specific orders to exterminate the entire race, leaving nothing-not even the cattle.
A rabbinical tradition credits Saul with having reigned 20 years. Since this statement is not supported by any historical evidence, it has no scientific value. Josephus however gives us this information: "Now Saul, when he had reigned eighteen years while Samuel was alive, and after his death two (and twenty), ended his life in this manner." Preceding this statement the historian had given an account of Saul's death. Obviously there was evidence which was in existence in the first century of the present era to which Josephus had access. His statement is in perfect accord with that made by the inspired apostle Paul, who declared that Saul reigned for "the space of forty years" (Acts 13: 21).
According to II Samuel 2: 11; 5: 4, 5; I Chronicles 29: 27, David reigned forty years altogether. During the first seven and one-half years of this period he reigned in Hebron. At the expiration of this time he moved up to Jerusalem and reigned there thirty-three years. Some chronologers have mistakenly concluded that David reigned forty-one years or, rather, that forty-one years should be attributed to him instead of forty. This error is due to the misunderstanding of the Hebrew method of reckoning. On this point I wish to quote Martin Anstey:
"The usual chronological statements of the years of the Kings reckon quite accurately in whole years, without introducing fractions of a year. For these whole years are always calendar years from New Year's Day (Nisan 1st) to New Year's Day. They are not measured from the day of the King's accession to the day of his death. They are designed like the years of the Patriarchs in Genesis, and the reigns of the Kings in Ptolemy's Canon, and in the Assyrian Eponym Canon,. to mark the succession of the years in a given chronological Era.
"It is not so with a chronological statement which contains fractions of a year like this of David's 70 years in Hebron. Here we have a statement measuring the exact duration of David's reign in Hebron, as measured from the date of his accession to the day of his removal to Jerusalem. When the statement is reproduced in terms of calendar years in I Chronicles 29: 27, the number assigned to his reign is not 41 but 40 years."
When we attribute only forty years to David, as the Scriptures do in the plain blanket statement of I Chronicles 29:27, total the number of years from the Exodus to the fourth year of Solomon, and test the results by the 480 years of I Kings 6: 1 and other
pertinent data, we see that we are correct in attributing to David only forty years.
In II Samuel 15: 7 occurs this chronological statement: "And it came to pass at the end of forty years, that Absalom said unto the king, I pray thee, let me go and pay my vow, which I have vowed unto Jehovah, in Hebron." This sentence has given chronologers and commentators much concern. It is impossible with the scanty data which we have to determine the point of departure in this reference. The terminal date, however, we know was the year of Absalom's rebellion. Some commentators think that this was the last year of David's life; hence they conclude that the forty years mentioned here coincide with his reign. Since this passage does not have any bearing on the general scheme of chronology, and since there is much uncertainty as to the initial date, we pass it by.
A second chronological statement attributed to David is found in I Chronicles 26: 31 and refers to the appointment of the officials of the state in David's fortieth year. It is evident that this statement, likewise, has no bearing on the general chronological set-up.
From I Kings 11: 42 and II Chronicles 9: 30 we learn that the time Solomon reigned in Jerusalem was forty years. This statement is plain and specific; hence it needs no further illumination.
Several outstanding incidents of Solomon's reign are mentioned and are dated. For instance, the beginning of the erection of the house of the Lord is mentioned as having occurred in the fourth year of Solomon (I Kings 6:1). It was completed in the eleventh year of his reign (I Kings 6:38). When he finished Jehovah's house, he began his own palace and continued to work on it for thirteen years; hence it was completed in the twentieth year of his reign (I Kings 7:1; 9:10; II Chron. 8:1).
II. ARE THE ROUND NUMBERS IN THE OLD TESTAMENT ACCURATE?
Chronologers and commentators who endeavor to fit the Biblical data into the generally accepted chronology experience much difficulty at times. The reason for this is that truth will not square with error; fact, with fiction. In order to extricate themselves from such dilemmas, they endeavor to break the force of the Scriptures by throwing doubt upon the accuracy of many chronological statements, especially those which are given in round numbers, such as
the first three reigns in Israel of forty years each. According to them it is unthinkable that the first three kings reigned for forty years each; hence they say that this is an artificial scheme. In order to buttress their contention, they call our attention to the round numbers found in the book of Judges for the administration of certain ones of those deliverers whom God raised up to save His people. As further proof of their position they also note the fact that in the account of the ages the years of the reigns of the kings of Judah are given in multiples of five. For instance, Dr. D. R. Fotheringham in his Chronology of the Old Testament makes this contention. An examination of the ages and the reigns of the kings of Judah shows that, on the theory of averages, at least seven of the figures should end either in five or zero. This is exactly what we find embedded in the text; hence it is a normal record. As proof that the chronological data in the Scriptures are unreliable and artificial, our attention is called to the way that the periods of twenty, forty, and eighty years figure in the record:
The Wilderness Period. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40 years
Othniel........................................... 40 years
Ehud ............................................. 80 years
Jabin............................................. 20 years
Barak. . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 40 years
Gideon. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . 40 years
The Philistines...... . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40 years
Eli. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40 years
Samuel. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . .. . . . .. 20 years
Saul. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . .. . .. 40 years
David. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40 years
Solomon. . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 40 years
In regard to the forty years of wilderness journeying we have much chronological data referring to events which occurred on certain days of a given year. By adding all of the statements pertaining to this period we get the total of forty years; hence no one who is willing to look at the facts will say that this is an artificial statement.
As to David's forty years of reign, we see that there were the six extra months and yet only forty years are attributed to him. Evidently that half year was counted to Saul's reign, according to the principle of computing time as we shall see in discussing the reigns of the latter kings. It is purely arbitrary for one to contend that the figures twenty, forty, and eighty years are artificial, since we have seen that two of them were accurate statements, though given in round numbers, in accordance with the principles of reckoning the Biblical chronology and are mathematically correct. On
this point I wish to quote from Anstey's epoch-making book The Romance of Bible Chronology.
"The number of the Kings of England from William the Conqueror to Queen Victoria is 35. On the theory of averages we should expect the number of years in the reigns of 7 of these to end in a 5 or O. As a matter of fact, 12 or nearly double that number end in one or other of these figures, yet no one supposes that the length of the reigns of the Kings of England is an approximation.
"The Book of Judges is a very condensed account of a long period of time. Its space is apportioned at the rate of 5 pages to the Century. A writer on English Architecture would not be guilty of chronological inaccuracy if he dealt in a similarly brief space with the various styles of Gothic Architecture, tabulating them as follows: 11th Century, Norman; 12th Century, Transition; 13th Century, Early English; 14th Century, Decorated; and 15th Century, Perpendicular. As a matter of fact, each of these styles dates from at least a decade or so before the opening year of the Century to which it mainly belongs. But the Chronology of the entire period is not affected thereby. And it must not be supposed that the round numbers used in Scripture are introduced in such a way as to make the Chronology, as a whole, inaccurate or inexact. The reckoning by forties is just as accurate as the reckoning by Centuries. If these numbers are approximations they are self-compensating and self-correcting, and conduct us to a point quite definite and quite exact, for their totals agree with the long numbers measuring long periods by which smaller component numbers are checked. All the above periods of 40 years are checked either by St. Paul's 450 years, in Acts 13: 20, or by the 480 years of I Kings 6: 1, and some of them by both of these long numbers."
As Anstey has stated, when the conclusions are drawn from all of the
chronological data and we have the total number of years, we can check them by the long periods of blanket statements found in other sections of the Scriptures and find that they tally with mathematical precision; hence it is a gratuitous assumption for one to consider these round numbers as artificial and only approximations. Since the first year of Saul was 3023 A.H. and since he, David, and Solomon each reigned forty years, Solomon's reign ended with the year 3142, and Rehoboam's and Jeroboam's first year was 3143.
III. CHRONOLOGICAL CHART OF THE PERIOD
Below appears a chart giving the principal events that occurred during the reigns of Saul, David, Solomon. Each page is divided into two main sections. The order of events is continued in the second column from the first. Each line represents a year. In the first column to the left appear the Bible dates. To the right is the column giving the Ptolemaic dates. The next one presents the sabbatic periods. In the next are the names of the sovereigns and the number of years of their reigns. This chart will give us a bird's eye view of the historic situation.
©Ron Wallace, http://www.biblefragrances.com.
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