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Judges 8:23: Gideon's Refusal of Kingship

Verse 23:[1] And Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: (1 Sam. 8:7; 10:19; 12:12) the LORD shall rule over you.

[I will not rule over you…but the Lord shall rule over you] He shall appoint Princes for you: for, as long as the God was doing this, the people ought not to make a King by their own will, 1 Samuel 8:7, and much less to subject themselves to one family (Grotius). It did not belong to the people alone to appoint a King, but the right of declaring a King belonged to God, not to men (Martyr). Moreover, a Royal principate appears to detract somewhat from both God’s title, and right, over His people; and a King was able with impunity to violate the laws and commandments of God, indeed to introduce new Gods, as did Jeroboam,[2] Manasseh,[3] etc. (Lapide). In the time of the Judges, God was, as it were, Lord, and in particular the head of the Jewish polity; and the people was having recourse to Him in all necessities, so that they might know what they should do; and He was appointing what Governors He willed, who were not called, nor considered, Lords, but Ministers of God. Now, the King might by his right do what he would, as long as it was not contrary to the Law; and he would be called Lord, and be exceedingly honored by the people; the consent of God was not sought that his children might succeed him. Therefore, God would not then remain as the specific Prince of the Hebrews, but only as their general Lord, just as also of the rest of the nations (Tostatus). The King was able to prescribe impieties, and it was easy that men would attend to the present displeasure of the King, rather than of God, and so be cast headlong into the greatest impiety and idolatry. And hence God so opposed Royal power, 1 Samuel 8. Therefore, the Israelites sinned, because they offered the Principate to him without consulting God (Bonfrerius). The words of Gideon do not teach this, that God is not able to reign where there is a King; but he had regard to that present state of things, instituted by God, that it was not to be changed without Him (Martyr). Therefore, Gideon, with a great and noble soul, restrained the ill-advised and odious desire for kingdom, which even then was showing itself in the Israelites, and aftwards burst forth without reserve, 1 Samuel 8 and 10 (Serarius).

I will not rule over you, to wit, as a king, which you desire. The Lord shall rule over you, in a special manner, as he hath hitherto done, by judges, whom God did particularly appoint and direct, even by Urim and Thummim, and assist upon all occasions; whereas kings had a greater power, and only a general dependence upon God, as other kings had. Compare 1 Samuel 8:6, 7.

[1] Hebrew: וַיֹּ֤אמֶר אֲלֵהֶם֙ גִּדְע֔וֹן לֹֽא־אֶמְשֹׁ֤ל אֲנִי֙ בָּכֶ֔ם וְלֹֽא־יִמְשֹׁ֥ל בְּנִ֖י בָּכֶ֑ם יְהוָ֖ה יִמְשֹׁ֥ל בָּכֶֽם׃

[2] See 1 Kings 12.

[3] See 2 Kings 21:1-18.

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