We discuss an example from the bible to illustrate human responsibility in opposing usurpation of government. David’s fourth son Adonijah circumvented the law and due process to proclaim himself king based on seniority. In his capacity as a citizen, Prophet Nathan sought audience to sensitize King David to Adonijah’s rebellion. David responded quickly. He organized a people’s parade to lead Solomon to be anointed, introduced, and accepted as king. After the coronation, Solomon occupied the throne to begin his kingship. Thus, Prophet Nathan activated his citizen’s voice of authority to initiate effective opposition against usurper Adonijah. His success illustrates every person’s responsibility and prerogative to contribute their citizen’s voice of authority to bring down a usurper: by voting in elections; participating in protests; or adding a voice in speech, writing, music, or other forms of expression. Usurpers can be recognized based on their characteristic disregard for the law and due process.
We discuss Adonijah’s attempted usurpation of the throne of Israel with focus on Prophet Nathan’s successful opposition against the rebellion. The bible indicates Prophet Nathan acted in his capacity as a citizen (see discussion under Activating Citizen’s Voice of Authority). Therefore, his role and accomplishments in the events model God’s expectation of every citizen. Opposition initiated by Prophet Nathan resulted in the king mobilizing the people to make Solomon king according to due process. Further, Adonijah’s rebellion ended without as much as a whimper. We discuss Prophet Nathan’s successful opposition as a model of human responsibility against usurpation.
We discuss a biblical example of usurpation by puppetry, whereby an extraneous power colludes with a witless accomplice as puppet to capture state powers. The puppeteer was Abner, commander of Israel’s army under Saul. His puppet was Saul’s son Ishbosheth. After Saul died, Abner appointed Ishbosheth king, circumventing the people’s process for making a king. Subsequent events showed Abner enabled usurpation by Ishbosheth in order to launch war against David to win power for himself. When the arrangement began to collapse, he dropped Ishbosheth like hot potato and initiated negotiation to transfer rulership to David. However, Abner and Ishbosheth met sudden and violent death through acts of other citizens. Although their sudden demise may indicate divine judgment over a usurper, a future study in this series will illustrate human responsibility in lawful opposition against a usurper.
This study continues our miniseries on usurpation of government under The King and the People series. We discuss an example from the bible, in which the usurper acted under control by a powerful enabler that sought power for himself but chose to use a puppet king as his channel. Unlike the previous example under Recognizing Usurper 1of2, in which usurpation was planned and executed essentially alone by the usurper; this example focuses on usurpation by puppetry, whereby an extraneous power colludes with a witless accomplice as puppet to capture state powers. The frontal usurper cherished power but was clearly aware and fearful of the puppeteer. Subsequently, his feeble attempt to regain a measure of authority from the master ignited a rift that led to collapse of the arrangement.
The puppeteer was Abner, commander of Israel’s army under Saul. His puppet was Saul’s son Ishbosheth. After Saul died, Abner appointed Ishbosheth king, circumventing a well-established process of the people for making a king. He did not consult with the people or seek their authority. He wanted to control the affairs of Israel but recognized his only option to claim legitimacy was to go through Ishbosheth as a puppet. He usurped power for Ishbosheth to begin establishing control over Israel. Then, he launched war against David but was defeated in the first battle. Thereafter, having realized his puppetry arrangement was unlikely to hold, he bolted from Ishbosheth to initiate negotiations for transferring rulership to David.
Both Abner and his puppet Ishbosheth met sudden death from violent acts of other citizens, much like Absalom from the previous study. Their sudden demise could be interpreted to indicate divine judgment of a usurper, especially in the absence of a people-established due process for human adjudication. Additionally, our next study under this series will illustrate human responsibility in lawfully opposing a usurper. The current study focuses on usurpation of the throne of Israel by Ishbosheth with Abner as enabler.
Two essential and independent selections are needed to confer rulership authority on a person: a selection by God followed by selection by the people without knowing God’s choice. A person that circumvents one or both selections to become ruler is a usurper. It is easy to recognize a case of circumventing the people’s authority but more difficult to recognize a case of circumventing the authority of God. We begin a three-part study focused on understanding usurpers based on characteristics described in the bible, to potentially learn how to recognize them. The current study examines the usurpation of the throne of Israel by Absalom—to understand that one or both components of rulership authority can be circumvented and identify some characteristic features of a usurper. Absalom became king over Israel (albeit for a short period) with neither the authority of God nor the authority of the people.
We resume our study series on The King and the People, which focuses on understanding God’s purpose for people-versus-government relationships. Based on biblical information regarding people-versus-government interactions in Israel during the periods of King Saul, David, Solomon, and others; the series seeks to contribute toward reducing the apparent gap in expectations between people and governments in the modern world. What should governments expect of the people and what should the people expect of their government? The bible often provides answers to such questions in enough details to guide everyday interactions among government leaders and recipients of government leadership.
We realized while studying David that his life as King in Waiting offers a wealth of information deserving examination in a different focus. Therefore, the series branched off awhile to study David as King in Waiting with a different focus, through a series on Waiting for God’s Time and another on Following God’s Schedule. To resume our study of David’s period as king of Israel with focus on the objectives of The King and the People series, we begin a three-part miniseries on Usurper—to understand that a person could usurp the authority of government, i.e., become a ruler without the authority of God or authority of the people. The study will examine the characteristics of known usurpers described in the bible to potentially learn how to recognize them. Also, we will examine an example in opposing a usurper to understand such opposition could be successful but requires adherence to due process.
Human interactions from David illustrate there is a time to drive events (i.e., make things happen) and a time to wait and respond to events driven by others. God often drives events through people. At times, he may want a person to initiate an event and provide leadership; whereas at other times he wants the person to wait and respond to events initiated by others. David provides examples based on interactions during a period of approximately seven years from the death of Saul through confirmation of David as king of Israel. He initiated a few events and provided leadership to accomplish the objectives. However, he mostly waited patiently to respond to events initiated by others. In every case, his response demonstrates leadership based on unwavering commitment to what is right and just. The events culminated in his confirmation as king of all Israel.
David was confirmed king of Israel approximately seven years after the death of Saul. His interactions during the period illustrate an important choice: should a person drive events (i.e., make things happen) or wait and respond to events as they occur (i.e., wait for others to initiate the events)? Every person will likely face such a choice while waiting for God’s intervention: do you drive events or wait and respond to events driven by others? The choice depends on communication with God. He may want a person to initiate certain events and lead others through. Alternatively, he may want the person to wait and respond to events initiated by others. A person guided by right and just will recognize God’s command to initiate events and provide leadership, in contrast with attempts by the Devil to mislead; because God will not command an action that violates right-and-just mandate. Also, such a person will recognize when and how to respond to events initiated by others.
David provides several examples through his interactions during the seven-year period after the death of Saul as he waited to be confirmed king of Israel. He initiated a few events and provided leadership to accomplish the objectives. However, majority of the events he encountered during the period were initiated by others. David waited patiently as the events occurred and responded in a way that demonstrates his leadership based on unwavering commitment to doing what is right and just.
Although some of the events were tragic and potentially could have increased disunity among the people, David used the events to unify Israel under him because his response in each case demonstrated commitment to what is right and just. We discuss the events to identify those he initiated and led and those he joined and provided leadership after others initiated the events. Also, we highlight how his response demonstrates commitment to right and just.
Through his reverence for Saul in life and response to the death of Saul, David illustrates individual responsibility in human relationship is unidirectional and independent. Every person is accountable for his/her responsibility in any relationship, independent of the other party’s behavior. David revered Saul in life and honored him in death to fulfill his responsibility to the God-anointed king, irrespective of whether Saul was good or bad to him. He was accountable to God for the way he related to Saul. Also, independently, Saul was accountable to God for the way he related to David. Their accountability to God was personal and independent, as was their individual responsibility to the relationship.
Individual responsibility in human relationship is well described by Apostle Paul in his letter to Romans [12:17–18]: “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” As we discuss in a previous study under Sin Repentance and Forgiveness in Human Interaction, the phrase “as far as it depends on you” means focus on the aspects that depend on you—the things you control, and leave the other party to handle the things they control. Therefore, Paul’s message reminds every person to perform their individual responsibility in any relationship irrespective of the other party performing or failing to perform theirs.
We discuss David’s response to the death of Saul as an example of a person focusing on his individual responsibility in a relationship without minding the attitude of the other party. For several years prior to Saul’s death, he considered David an enemy and pursued him relentlessly to take his life but was unsuccessful. In contrast, as we discuss in a previous study under Guided by Right and Just—David Spares Saul, David remained respectful of Saul as the sitting God’s anointed king of Israel and would not “lay a hand” on him even when he encountered enticing opportunities to kill Saul. When he was informed of the defeat of Israel and death of Saul and Jonathan at the hand of Philistines, David mourned for Saul, Jonathan, and the nation and army of Israel. He mourned for Saul in fulfillment of his responsibility to respect and honor the God-anointed king of Israel. His mourning for Jonathan was an expression of sadness for losing a friend and warrior that represented a great promise for Israel. He mourned for the nation and army of Israel out of spiritual recognition of a need to lead Israel through repentance to regain God’s favor to restore her superiority against Philistines.
David proclaims basic civil rights principle by recognizing battle proceeds as an example of “what the Lord has given us” and guided us to actualize through combined effort of all. He declared that “all will share alike” irrespective of their roles or contributions. His ruling establishes the principle of equality of access to facilities of society as a fundamental human right. The principle follows from equality under the law, which Saul violated through discriminatory execution of judgment against Amalekites. God terminated Saul as king of Israel for the violation. These events establish civil rights as God’s mandate and any civil rights violation as a departure from Godliness.
David proclaimed a basic principle of civil rights to diffuse a developing dispute among his followers regarding the sharing of battle proceeds. He had led his followers in a successful battle against Amalekites that raided his base in Ziklag: burned and plundered the base and took his and followers’ families captive. David pursued and caught up with the raiders, defeated them in a fierce battle, recovered all they had taken including the human captives, and took additional plunder.
When they returned to their base, some of the followers that joined in the battle claimed those that did not join were not entitled to share in the plunder. David rebuked them and explained the battle proceeds were an example of “what the Lord has given us” and must be shared by all irrespective of their roles or contributions [1 Samuel 30:24]: “The share of the man who stayed with the supplies is to be the same as that of him who went down to the battle. All will share alike.”
David’s ruling of all will share alike defines a basic principle of civil rights that has far-reaching applications in understanding relationships between individuals and society. To understand the applications, we discuss the expanded meaning of battles and battle proceeds in modern-day societies and the roles and contributions of individuals in such battles. Further, recognizing that the principle of all will share alike derives from the more general principle of equality under the law, we recall a previous study to understand that both principles describe God’s civil rights mandate for governing relationships between individuals and society.
In coercive redirection, God intervenes by placing an insurmountable obstacle to compel a person to abandon planned wrongdoing or a course of actions inimical to self-interest. That is, people planning to do something that would cause them to depart from God’s path encounter circumstances beyond their control that force them to withdraw from the plan. We discuss an example from David, when Philistine commanders rejected him from joining their battle lineup against Israel.
We discuss an example of divine intervention whereby circumstances beyond a person’s control compel him/her to abandon a planned course of actions that would harm his/her interest or the interest of others. As a result of the intervention, people planning to do something that would cause them to depart from God’s path encounter an insurmountable obstacle that compels them to abandon the plan.
The bible provides an excellent example based on the rejection of David from a Philistine battle lineup. The Philistines setup camp to attack Israel from the North in the area around Mt. Gilboa. David lived in Philistine on exile at the time, hosted by Achish, the king Gath. The king co-opted him to join the Philistine lineup for the battle.
However, Philistine commanders did not accept David joining them in battle against Israel. They prevailed on Achish to order David to return to his base: “Now get up early, along with your master’s servants who have come with you, and leave in the morning as soon as it is light” [1 Samuel 29:10]. Therefore, David and his men departed the Philistine battle lineup and returned to their base of Ziklag inside Philistine territory. Thus, the rejection became an “insurmountable obstacle” that God used to compel David to abandon his plan of joining Philistines in battle against Israel. The Philistines later defeated Israel in the battle and killed Saul and his three sons, including Jonathan, at Mount Gilboa.
PLAN INIMICAL TO SELF-INTERESTDavid’s interest would have been harmed by joining Philistines in the battle, irrespective of the battle outcome. If he fought faithfully alongside the Philistines, then his reputation with the people of Israel would be harmed, irrespective of whether the Philistines won or lost. If the Philistines won (as they did), then the people of Israel would have blamed David for their defeat and the death of Saul and subsequently would likely not accept him as their king. On the contrary, if the Philistines lost with David fighting on their side, Israel would also have rejected him as their king because of fighting alongside their enemy. Alternatively, if he flipped to join Israel during the battle but they still lost to the Philistines, the people of Israel would have considered him too weak to lead them as king. Still the worst outcome would have been if he flipped and helped Israel and Saul to victory against the Philistines. Such an outcome would have violated God’s plan to terminate Saul with the battle and would have harmed David’s projected kingship. God would not permit his plan to be thwarted. He stepped in to redirect David away from joining the Philistines in the battle. Thus, God placed the Philistine commanders as an insurmountable obstacle to compel David to abandon a plan that would have harmed his interest.
PRAYER FOR COERCIVE REDIRECTION David’s experience illustrates coercive redirection as a form of divine intervention that God may cause to occur for any person using another as channel. May we join in prayer to ask God for coercive redirection whenever we find ourselves on a path inconsistent with his purpose. May we pray the same prayer for our children, especially for our children. If ever any of our children should allow themselves to approach a path to wrongdoing or a course of actions inimical to their interest, may God place an insurmountable obstacle to compel them to abandon the path and return to his ways. God did this for David and will do the same for any person that will worship and serve him.
In this study, we discuss the rejection of David from Philistine battle lineup as an example of coercive redirection. Voluntary redirection, whereby God provides a person opportunity to re-evaluate and abandon planned wrongdoing voluntarily, is discussed in a previous study under Opportunity for Voluntary Redirection—In Waiting for God.
Voluntary redirection refers to an intervention whereby God provides a person opportunity to re-evaluate and choose to abandon planned wrongdoing. We discuss an example from David, when he set out intending to attack Nabal for refusing with ignominy a request for food assistance. David expected Nabal to honor the request in gratitude for guarding Nabal’s shepherds and flock in the field. He reacted angrily by promising to attack Nabal. Alerted to the potential attack by a quick-thinking servant, Abigail judged David and his men deserved the food they requested and intercepted them with generous supply and an appeal to David’s reputation. David recognized Abigail as a manifestation of God’s intervention, showed appreciation, and confessed and repented from his initial plan.
The life of David as king in waiting includes two event sequences during which he appeared to proceed toward actions inconsistent with his God-fearing reputation and responsibility as God anointed king in waiting. However, both event sequences terminated with David withdrawing from the initial plan. We discuss each of the event sequences as representing God’s intervention to provide a person opportunity to abandon a path to wrongdoing. The intervention could present the person with freedom to choose to abandon the path or compel him/her to a different path.
In voluntary redirection, the person is free to respond to the opportunity as he/she chooses. The intervention presents him/her with the opportunity and freedom to re-evaluate and voluntarily abandon the planned course of actions. In coercive redirection, in contrast, developments beyond a person’s control compel him/her to abandon the planned course of actions. Both types of redirection represent God’s intervention to provide a person opportunity to pull back from planned wrongdoing and seek a path to Godliness.
We discuss examples from the life of David as king in waiting. The examples are in fact manifestations of God’s intervention in David’s life to guide him away from actions inconsistent with keeping “the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just” [Genesis 18:19] so that God will fulfill his promise to David. God’s guidance may manifest the same way for any person, providing the person opportunities for voluntary or coercive redirection from a course of actions that would violate Godliness. The example on coercive redirection will be discussed in a future bible study. The current study focuses on the example of voluntary redirection.
David would not “lay a hand” on Saul because he revered Saul as God’s anointed king of Israel. He was committed to “doing what is right and just” and understood the commitment to mean he would not “stretch out his hand against the Lord’s anointed.” Therefore, he spared Saul on two occasions despite potential strategic advantage of killing him. Saul expressed regret for seeking David’s life; conceded kingship to David in the first encounter; and, in the second, acknowledged David “will do great things and surely triumph.” Therefore, although David resisted the temptation of killing Saul to clear his way to kingship, he won Saul’s concession of the kingship in the presence of several Israeli witnesses. Thus, his commitment to “doing what is right and just” advanced him along the path to becoming king of Israel.
We discuss David’s interactions with Saul in the context of commitment to God’s mandate to “keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just” [Genesis 18:19] so that God will fulfill his promise. God declared the mandate as he spoke to angels about Abraham. He declared he chose Abraham to become the ancestral father of the Messiah lineage because Abraham will raise his offspring to live in the image of God by doing what is right and just “so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him” [Genesis 18:19]. Thus, God established “doing what is right and just” as the guiding principle for living in his image and necessary condition for receiving fulfillment of his promises.
He mandates every person to understand the meaning of “right and just” to guide their response in every situation and will guide understanding and response for those that are connected to him. We discuss David’s interactions with Saul as reflecting his understanding of the mandate. He would not “lay a hand” on Saul or get into battle against him, because “who can stretch out his hand against the Lord’s anointed, and be guiltless” [1 Samuel 26:9]? David understood that reverence for Saul in awe of God was “right and just” and represented a purpose superior to any other. Therefore, he chose a strategy of avoiding Saul or any battle against him in order to avoid any chance of stretching out his hand against the Lord’s anointed, e.g., see previous study under Mentor Turns Mentee Enemy—in Saul vs David.
The strategy became David’s guiding principle in every interaction with Saul as Saul sought to take his life. Two occasions provide clear illustration of David’s commitment to the principle. On the two occasions, David had access to Saul unnoticed. Both situations appeared to present David with a strategic advantage of eliminating Saul as an obstacle to his becoming king of Israel. Some of his followers urged him to take the advantage. However, David chose instead to confront Saul verbally from a safe distance after leaving evidence of his access to Saul unnoticed by either Saul or his troops. Also, he used the occasions to explain to his followers that he could not stretch out his hand against Saul because Saul deserved reverence as God’s anointed king of Israel.
David had opportunity to kill Saul on both occasions but spared him because his understanding of “doing what is right and just” meant he would not “stretch out his hand against the Lord’s anointed.” However, although he resisted the temptation of killing Saul to clear his way to kingship, he was the winner on both occasions because Saul conceded the kingship to him in the presence of several Israeli witnesses. We discuss his interactions with Saul on both occasions to understand his commitment to “doing what is right and just” helped him to advance along the path to kingship.
We discuss Saul-David interactions in the context of a mentor vs mentee relationship that deteriorates and turns deadly against mentee. David tried containment of the threat initially but later chose avoidance of Saul, established safe distance from him, and moved quickly and frequently to maintain the distance. To implement the avoidance strategy, he setup elaborate network for sending and gathering information to predict Saul’s next move and stay ahead of him. His strategy did not include standing his ground, because he revered Saul as the sitting God-anointed king.
We discuss interactions between Saul and David in the context of a mentor vs mentee relationship that deteriorates and turns deadly against the mentee. Recall from our previous study under When Promising Path Terminates that David thrived as a high-ranking officer and commander in Saul’s army. He showed himself an effective leader and cherished the opportunities of his position as his positive reputation grew rapidly among the people. His service in Saul’s army appeared to define a clear path to kingship.
Saul’s relationship with David could be viewed as mentor vs mentee because David was learning from Saul’s experience as he grew in the service. Saul was the king, supreme commander, and an experienced fighting man when David joined the service. Their relationship started with Saul convincing David’s father Jesse to release David into his service: “Allow David to remain in my service, for I am pleased with him” [1 Samuel 16:22]. However, after David triumphed over Goliath and led Israel to victory against Philistines, his relationship with Saul deteriorated and evolved later into Saul seeking desperately to kill him, e.g., by hauling the spear at him: “I’ll pin David to the wall” [1 Samuel 18:11]. Therefore, we can consider Saul a mentor to David initially that became less comfortable with his mentee and eventually turned predator against him.
Initially, David apparently believed he could contain the threat. He intended to remain in Saul’s service, loyal to Saul, but vigilant to protect himself from Saul. Containment was adequate initially. He eluded Saul’s spear attack three times. However, the third time was different for two reasons. First, Saul violated an oath to his son Jonathan by throwing the spear at David the third time: “As surely as the Lord lives, David will not be put to death” [1 Samuel 19:6]. Second, he threw the spear with decisive lethality such that it penetrated into the wall behind David. That night, David decided containment was inadequate and “made good his escape” [1 Samuel 19:10]. David’s strategy against the threat from Saul changed from containment to establishing and maintaining a safe distance from Saul.
The modern-day society presents several possibilities of a mentor vs mentee relationship deteriorating and turning deadly against the mentee. Examples could be found in business, politics, academia, or several other areas of living where a person (the mentee) tries to gain a foothold by learning from or understudying another (the mentor). The mentor often is accommodating initially and could remain so through the relationship. However, if the mentor is unable to accept potential competition from the mentee, the relationship could deteriorate and potentially turn deadly against the mentee. We seek better understanding of the mentee’s options through discussion of the example from David versus Saul after David became aware of Saul’s threat to his life. David survived because of his conduct of the relationship. Saul was determined to kill him and would have if given the opportunity. Similarly, a modern-day mentee faced with a deteriorating mentor-mentee relationship needs to assess the evolving behavior of the mentor and decide whether to contain the threat or pick up and run to save his/her life or career as the case may be.