The end of the time of the Judges and the Beginning of the Kingdom Period for God’s people is an interesting one and it demonstrates open theism as the only real good way to look at how God views his own power and sovereignty. Samuel’s time as a judge is well liked. The problem is the people start looking to the future. The future they see is one filled with people and not God. That is the one of the many interesting things about this time that the people were seeing a future full of trouble because Samuel’s sons were no good and they didn’t have the conception of God being their ruler. It is perhaps because God did not rule them like other kings did as he gave them a tremendous amount of freedom.
I think to be a classical theist with a classical view of God’s sovereignty and foreknowledge is difficult to maintain with this period. Firstly there is the fact that God is being rejected as king and God does not throw a fit about it. If the role of God is the absolute control of every minutia of the universe, this does not make any sense. God would not take kindly to people rejecting that sovereignty and would probably be like other kings and bring that sovereignty back through punishment or force. God goes the almost opposite direction and says – ‘let them have it.” It is like he is giving up the throne and if his understanding of power and His role was what we normally conceive – power to control – this does not make sense. God almost seems to see his use of sovereignty as something he does not want to do without consent of the governed.
Secondly, There are the descriptive differences between God’s rule during the time of the judges versus the rule that they are asking for. Samuel tells them that a king will take away their money, children, lands and freedoms. Under God during the Judges each man was sovereign before God and his law. There was tremendous freedom in this, as each tribe had its own way of dealing with disputes but taxes did not exist (tithing and offerings were volunteer actions to the tabernacle), each man did his time of service where he could be called to defend the land but after a certain age he refuse to go to war or if he had taken a new wife for a year. Land belongs to the families and on that land each man could do as he pleased. With the authoritarian rule of a human king that would all end. God’s rule over his people allowed for more personal freedom and liberty than probably at any time in history to that point. God’s only action was to defend his people when thy followed his law and to withdraw this if they did not follow it.
Thirdly, in the case of God’s foreknowledge is displayed but only as a possibility. In the law of Moses, there are provisions ‘if Israel should choose a king’. There is no inevitability to the language just addressing the possibility. When this time comes in the early part of First Samuel, the prophet speaks against it. God does not seem to like it considering himself to be rejected, but it still goes forward. God saw this kingdom of Israel as a possibility, did not want it, but allowed it. It was a future possibility that he hoped would not be followed but when it comes God literally advocates the throne and lets the people pick a new king. Once again, God will not rule where he is not welcome.
Finally, all of this speaks to the personality of God when it comes to the future. If God’s purpose is to put all the events of all peoples’ lives on a timelines, this time of Israel’s history does not support that idea. He seems more concerned that people freely choose him to be their king than to maintain his power. Power is not the main objective for God at this point and that is very striking when considering the personality of God. His desires are not about control, far from it. He let’s his people have their freedom to choose who will rule them even though it means his rejection and he can foresee tons of problems down the line. God does not see the need to defend his power but rather lets other people have power and is OK with it. God seems to view his use of power, not in a lord it over them way, but being a steward of their lives which he lets them have a large dose of freedom coupled with responsibility to the Law.
In my mind, it seems very likely that Samuel in his arguments with the people produced the book of Judges at this time. His goal was to point out that even though Israel had their ups and downs as far as prosperity, they always had their power to choose to serve God or not and that their failure to serve God was their own undoing not the absence of a human king. The last line of Judges as I have already pointed out is telling and more about the loss of individual sovereignty and liberty to a human king of that time than moral bad choices. Once Israel chose a human king all that freedom went away and it was not something God wanted to happen.
Next: King Saul