Of Prophets And Politics…


By Gerald A. Honigman, September 30, 2019

“And it came to pass that when (the Hebrew Prophet) Samuel was old, he made his sons Judges over all of Israel…And his sons walked not in his ways, but turned aside after lucre, took bribes, and perverted justice…So all the Elders of Israel came together in Ramah and said to Samuel, ‘appoint a king over us so that we can be like other nations’ [Note: Ramah is located in the area of the 20th century C.E.’s renamed <West Bank>, formerly known as Judea and Samaria… https://nam12.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fen.wikipedia.org%2Fwiki%2FTomb_of_Samuel&amp;data=02%7C01%7C%7Ce2fb7382c0f149e52cfb08d745677cf2%7C84df9e7fe9f640afb435aaaaaaaaaaaa%7C1%7C0%7C637054183083800620&amp;sdata=%2BkUzoqonXPj5IUIZ5jpdiYyCc1E9%2BwodohwYr0xI4yA%3D&amp;reserved=0  GAH]…This displeased Samuel, so he prayed and the Lord told him to listen to the people, but warn them solemnly what the (human) king who will rule over them will claim as his rights… ”https://nam12.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.myjewishlearning.com%2Farticle%2Fthe-book-of-samuel%2F&amp;data=02%7C01%7C%7Ce2fb7382c0f149e52cfb08d745677cf2%7C84df9e7fe9f640afb435aaaaaaaaaaaa%7C1%7C0%7C637054183083800620&amp;sdata=lukcKaludI%2BpR7NYN%2FN2EkbgcJvq%2BuKKfgyfh6CrZm8%3D&amp;reserved=0

While all nations can relate to the inherent flaws of rule by highly imperfect mortals, I’ve chosen that of my own four millennia-old people to try to make sense out of the problems facing not only Israel’s current political re-election mess, but that involving problems with the leadership of other countries as well.

After Samuel warns the Elders of the pitfalls of human kingship in the above excerpts from I Samuel 8: 10-22, he’s instructed by G_d to…”Listen to them, and give them a king,” and to tell them that when the day comes that they are deluged by the problems which will inevitably come with mortal kingship, the Lord will not listen to their pleas.

Up until Samuel’s reluctant anointing of Saul as the first king of Israel, the descendants of the twelve sons of Jacob (later renamed “Israel”) had chosen great individuals (women as well as men) as military leaders of the tribes during times of crisis—the Judges of Israel:https://nam12.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fen.wikipedia.org%2Fwiki%2FBiblical_judges&amp;data=02%7C01%7C%7Ce2fb7382c0f149e52cfb08d745677cf2%7C84df9e7fe9f640afb435aaaaaaaaaaaa%7C1%7C0%7C637054183083800620&amp;sdata=m8S5rGt73gQM4NnmTbKTeI4exgZ1W8ZCEtBv7Zw7d8k%3D&amp;reserved=0

The Hebrews eventually found themselves in need of more effective unity and continuity in dealing with enemies which they faced once they had established themselves in the land of Israel after the death of Moses and the leadership of Joshua…especially  when confronting the powerful Philistines. These non-Semitic “Sea People,” of Samson and Delilah and David and Goliath fame, came from the islands around Crete and had established themselves in five major strongholds in the coastal area around where Gaza is today.
The Philistine threat had indeed prompted the elevation of Saul to the monarchy. Later, both he and his sons, Jonathan (David’s best friend), Avinadav, and Malchishua, all fell in battle fighting the Philistines on Mount Gilboa…https://nam12.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fen.wikipedia.org%2Fwiki%2FMount_Gilboa&amp;data=02%7C01%7C%7Ce2fb7382c0f149e52cfb08d745677cf2%7C84df9e7fe9f640afb435aaaaaaaaaaaa%7C1%7C0%7C637054183083800620&amp;sdata=DXO1RtFkHtEkeHbxlYYkTFaDMM2yH0NbULJ896PQLpY%3D&amp;reserved=0

After the death of Saul and the heirs to the first Hebrew monarchy, the Prophet Samuel traveled to Bethlehem where he eventually, with G_d’s guidance, finds the young brother of Jesse’s other sons who are on the front lines of battle with Saul facing the Philistines—the future King David. Regarding the latter, refer to the following link for non-Hebraic corroboration:
https://nam12.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.biblicalarchaeology.org%2Fdaily%2Fbiblical-artifacts%2Fthe-tel-dan-inscription-the-first-historical-evidence-of-the-king-david-bible story%2F&amp;data=02%7C01%7C%7Ce2fb7382c0f149e52cfb08d745677cf2%7C84df9e7fe9f640afb435aaaaaaaaaaaa%7C1%7C0%7C637054183083800620&amp;sdata=fdmai8AybzhqiyJM2ZgPAibqvirf7wVHp4oECpl%2B4u4%3D&amp;reserved=0

Leaving these events of ancient history for now, let’s turn to problems of modern Hebrew politics today…

Firstly, let me state from the start that I don’t know to what extent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is or is not guilty of any of those (or other) very human flaws which Samuel warned about long ago. For that matter, I can say the same thing about President Trump and many other leaders all around the world as well.

But, as Saul and even Israel’s greatest human political leader, King David, and others would predictably illustrate themselves, such flaws do not negate the importance of their achievements on behalf of Israel and its people.

Not that I’m placing Netanyahu in the same category as David, but, like him, Netanyahu has also greatly enhanced the security and economic well-being of his beleaguered and much threatened nation.
David, too, like Gentile monarchs and other leaders, was also weak regarding sins of the flesh. He sent his loyal Hittite warrior friend, Uriah, to the very front lines of battle so that he’d be a guaranteed casualty of war.

David wanted Uriah’s wife, Bathsheva, but didn’t want the sin of adultery to fall upon his head. When he later tried to arrange a conjugal visit between Uriah and Bathsheva to cover up her pregnancy with David’s child, Uriah refused saying that this would make him weakened in certain ways for battle. David’s double sin would thus be apparent…

In any other pagan or even in some later Christian societies, Bathsheva would be fair game for the ruler. Recall the rape scene from the Mel Gibson movie, Braveheart, regarding this issue as an example.
And while Jews, too, were often guilty of missing the high standards set for them in being the Biblical “ light unto the nations,” they had the Hebrew Prophets to constantly remind them to what they at least should be aspiring to.

Follow in the next link what the later Hebrew Prophet, Nathan, did after finding out about David’s dual sin. He confronts the mighty King of Israel in front of the people and tells a parable about how a rich man with many sheep took the lone lamb of a poor person to serve to his guests. Nathan then prompts David to pronounce judgement on himself…

And thus, dear readers, is the beauty of Hebrew belief and scripture:  Even the greatest of humans are not above sin. That quality is only found in G_d Himself.

In any other society surrounding the Jews, Nathan would have been a dead man walking after treating the monarch this way.
And Moses, the greatest Hebrew religious leader, also had his earlier sin exposed for perpetuity in the Hebrew Scriptures as well. For a fleeting moment in the wilderness, he doubted G_d after being harassed by other weaker folks.

Moses died viewing the land of Israel from a mountain top instead of being permitted to lead his people into it. That would be left to Joshua.

 Now think about this for a moment…

What other people in all of recorded history not only deliberately exposed the failings of their most prominent leaders, but recorded them for all time in their sacred writings?
In pagan societies surrounding Israel, both David and Moses would have been turned into gods or demigods.

For Jews, this exposure was to ensure that no person, regardless of how great, could ever be equated to the incorporeal, totally spiritual G_d of Eternity whom they worshipped. See what the ancient Roman historian, Tacitus, had to say about this strange people, the Jews,  “who refuse to honor their Caesars this way” in about the sixth paragraph from the bottom here:

Finally, besides being yet another lesson regarding the judgement of human leaders, this subject also seems to be fitting for the High Holy season we are currently in on the Hebrew calendar as well.

G_d knows the weaknesses of humans. Perfection is not what is expected of them. What Jews do believe that G_d requires, however, is a sincere attempt to make things better, to truly learn from past failings, and to make an honest effort to atone for past sins against both G_d and our fellow man.

Let’s hope the Israeli public will consider such things when it finally decides which humanly imperfect leader needs to be at the helm when facing Iran’s would-be atomic ayatollahs, the phony peace (of the grave) partners of Mahmoud Abbas’s latter-day Arafatians, and the simply more honest genocidal folks of Hizbullah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad.

Unlike too many other Israeli leaders, Netanyahu did not cower before President Obama’s relentless pressure to forsake minuscule Israel’s minimal security needs for territorial compromise in the disputed territories and on other  important issues as well.

For myself, given the Prophet Samuel’s warnings from three millennia ago and the example of the greatest—but flawed—King of Israel himself, Netanyahu’s assets far outweigh his human failings and liabilities.

Shanah Tovah…May the year 5780 be one of greater peace, harmony, and understanding among all the nations of the world.