Blogging Old Testament Style – Power

This blog post will be on the topic of power. My professor started her lecture with this quote about power.

“And the good ruler is precisely the one who exercises his power as it ought to be exercised, that is, simultaneously exercising his power over himself. And it is the power over oneself that thus regulates one’s power over others.”
― Michel Foucault

Israel was ruled by judges and yet they were clamoring for a king because other nations also had kings. God tells Samuel to tell the people of Israel that there would be pain and despair that would be headed there way if they were ruled by a king. What Israel was doing was rejecting God as their king. God was the one who ruled over them. However, they wanted a human king and God relented.

Saul is chosen as the first king. However, he ends up disobeying God when he does not wipe out his enemies in battle and keeps some of their bests livestock. Whether Saul was malicious or naive in his disobedience is up for debate. Eventually, God regrets choosing Saul and rejects him as king. God chooses David the son of Jacob to be the next king. Saul looks to kill David and David goes on the run. Saul would end up killing himself and David would soon become the king of Judah and eventually unite the 12 tribes of Israel under one kingship.

Israel would reach new heights under the rule of David. Through God’s favor, David would easily defeat his neighbors and expand Israel’s boundaries. However, power got to David’s head. Kings were supposed to be in battle. Yet on one occasion he decide to stay behind. This is when his eyes wandered and saw Bathsheba as she bathed. He had sex with her even though she was married to Uriah. She ends up getting pregnant and David unsuccessfully tries to get Uriah to sleep with his wife to cover up the affair. He eventually gets Uriah killed by moving him up in the battle lines. Nathan comes and rebukes David and David repents. As punishment, his son dies and David changes his ways and goes back to God. Power is a tricky thing. Even the greatest people in the Bible are tempted and fall prey to it. However, prophets like Nathan played an important role as mediator from God and also a person who would keep the king accountable. All people in power need people like Nathan next to their side.

God makes a covenant with David promising that his descendants would continue to rule Israel. However, power hunger strikes again in the form of rebellion by David’s son Absalom. Absalom tries to kill his father but ends up dying. Eventually Solomon becomes king and takes Israel to even greater heights. However, Solomon also gets caught up in his power and builds a palace that is so much greater and larger in size and scope than the temple. He also adopts the ways of his foreign wives. God is angered and the kingdom of Israel eventually breaks apart between the ten Northern tribes of Israel and Judah and Benjamin in the south. The arrogance of power has led to the split of the kingdom. Power has been abused and God’s wisdom and presence has been rejected by the kings. As time would go on, Israel would have mostly disobedient kings leading to their conquest by Assyria. Eventually, Judah would follow two centuries later when it was conquered by Babylon. Judah had a series of faithful and disobedient kings. Just as God had warned, the arrogant power of the kings would lead to pain and despair.

These passages remind me that humans must be careful when they have power. We should not be scared of power. However, we need to be aware of how our power can hurt others. Power must be taken seriously and must be used with the discernment and guidance of God. So I don’t think the lesson is to run away from power. I think it takes courage to to take power and use it for good in the obedience of God’s will and plans.