The Lust for Power: How Politics and Personal Relations Become One

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The Lust For Power: How Politics and Personal Relations Become One

WILLIAM YAO

The stories of the Bible reveal a pattern of "ups and downs" for the nation of Israel. A period of prosperity, faithfulness and fearing God would almost always be followed by a period of destitution, lawlessness and idolatry. This recurring cycle can be linked to political authority, and the level of separation of political authority from other influences. The successful struggle for liberation under the leadership of Moses and the glorious conquest of Canaan under Joshua instilled a fresh breeze of hope and a renewed faith in God in the nation of Israel. Guided by God, the nation of Israel met with unprecedented success as they journeyed to the promised land. During this time, political authority among the Israelites rested in the hands of patriarchs, or prominent members within the tribes. These men were righteous figures of authority, chosen by God, to lead His people and to teach His ways. The success that swept over the Israelites was short-lived, however, and for the next two hundred years the people of Israel struggled against neighboring tribes. The new generation of Israelites "knew neither the Lord nor what he did for Israel" (Judges 2:10). They began to "do evil in the eyes of the Lord" by worshipping other gods and engaging in various sexual activities. To save His people from their enemies and from their "evil ways," God "raised up" judges to rescue them (Judges 2:16). These so-called judges had the political authority vested in them to lead the people of Israel and to save them from their sins. They mobilized the people of Israel against invasions of the tribes all around them. At this time, the nation of Israel was nothing more than a loose confederation of twelve tribes. Israel had no central authority, which meant no unity, no organization and no power. During the period of the judges, there was no need for a central government, because the people of Israel were able to defend their tribal territories effectively against adjoining peoples. Whenever there was a threat from a neighboring tribe, God sent a judge to lead the Israelites against their enemies. As this era came to an end, however, the Israelites were faced with a much larger problem - the Philistines' military threat. As the Israelites were eliminating all the small powers around them, the Philistines, with their iron implements and organization, were becoming an emergent threat. In order to protect themselves from the looming danger of the Philistine army, the Israelites asked for a king to furnish unification, organization and power for the nation of Israel. God granted their request, and Samuel reluctantly appointed Saul in God's name. The king's function was to provide leadership and to unify the people against their enemies. However, the responsibilities, powers and privileges that came with kingship overwhelmingly went beyond the scope of politics. The personal relationships between the king and his people became increasingly involved with government. With the rise of the monarchy came a definite change in political authority. As Israel changed from the period of judges to the period of the monarchy, politics and political authority became increasingly associated with personal relationships. In the period of the monarchs, the separation between politics and personal matters was no longer delineated as it was before, and politics and personal relations became interrelated.

"Whenever the Lord raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived" (Judges 2:18). God sent judges to lead the Israelites in the process of consolidating tribal areas and defense against organized enemies. The judges led the Israelites into battle and also served as reminders to the people to obey the word of God. It is needless to say then, that the judges were leaders of...
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