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.
Interactions among Saul, Jonathan, and the people of Israel during pursuit of Philistines illustrate relationships between the authority of the people and government. Disobedience against government displeases God but he honors collective decision of the people against specific government ruling. Thus, he held Jonathan accountable for disobeying and criticizing the king but upheld a decision of the people to overturn an unjust ruling against Jonathan. We draw from a modern-day system of government to understand a collective decision requires due process based on rules and regulations that a society establishes for the purpose.
We discuss an example from the bible to illustrate the authority of a people over their government. In the example, a government ruling that threatened injustice to a citizen was overturned by a collective decision of the people. Based on interactions among Saul, Jonathan, and the people of Israel as they pursued the Philistines in battle; the example illustrates the effectiveness of a collective decision of the people against the authority of government but does not explain the process for reaching such decision. We discuss briefly a modern-day example to understand that every society establishes a system of due process for reaching collective decisions.
As we discuss in a previous study under Extending Positive Impact—Jonathan Initiates Victory for Israel, the Israeli army launched a hot pursuit after Jonathan’s initial success caused widespread panic among the Philistines. As they launched the pursuit, king Saul gave an order that nobody should eat anything during the pursuit: “… Saul had bound the people under an oath, saying, ‘Cursed be anyone who eats food before evening comes, before I have avenged myself on my enemies’” [1 Samuel 14:24]. The people obeyed, but Jonathan was not aware of the king’s order and disobeyed by eating honey. Furthermore, he criticized the king publicly when he was made aware of the order.
Jonathan’s act of disobedience became evident and was adjudicated as the Israelites inquired why God appeared to have turned away from them. Saul had convened a conference of army leaders to conduct the inquiry. Jonathan was identified as the culprit, confessed he ate honey in violation of the king’s order, and submitted himself for punishment. Saul decreed that Jonathan will be put to death: “May God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if you do not die, Jonathan” [1 Samuel 14:44]. However, the army leaders overruled Saul and declared that no harm will come to Jonathan [1 Samuel 14:45]: “But the people said to Saul, ‘Shall Jonathan die, who has accomplished this great deliverance in Israel? Certainly not! As the Lord lives, not one hair of his head shall fall to the ground, for he has worked with God this day.’” Thus, the army leaders conference overturned Saul’s decree and rescued Jonathan. Saul accepted the overrule and called off the battle.
We learn two lessons based on the interactions. First, God held Jonathan accountable for disobeying the king’s order and criticizing the king publicly. He turned away from Israel (suspended communication with them) until Jonathan’s disobedience was identified and adjudicated. We learn from this that disobedience against constituted authority displeases God, even regarding an order or ruling that appears inappropriate. Second, the interactions illustrate the authority of the people over government in the event of an inappropriate ruling or order by the government. In this example, the king’s decree against Jonathan was overturned by collective decision of a committee representing the people. The bible is very clear about the decision being collective: “But the people said to Saul…” However, the bible information does not explain explicitly how the collective decision of the people was reached. We draw an example from a modern-day system of government to understand that a collective decision of the people requires due process based on rules and regulations that every society establishes for the purpose.
Benefits of Submitting to Due Process
Based on Paul’s Trials in Caesarea
Submitting to established authority and due process follows from our commitment to worship and serve God in every situation. Paul submitted to due process during his persecution and relied on it to defend himself through hearings and court trials in Jerusalem and Caesarea. One trial opened opportunity for him to appeal to Caesar and thus take a step toward fulfilment of God’s promise that he will go to Rome on a gospel mission.
Due process refers to a body of rules and regulations that defines the limits of human behavior in terms of lawful interactions among people and between people and authorities. Respect for established authority implies submitting to due process. As we discuss in previous bible studies such as Living to Receive God’s Intervention, respect for established authority is an aspect of God’s mandate that we worship and serve him in all situations: e.g., from Paul’s letter to the Romans, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established…” [Romans 13:1]; and from Peter, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right” [1 Peter 2:13-14].
We discuss Paul’s trials in Caesarea to understand what he did prior to and during the trials that illustrate his submitting to due process and relying on it for protection and defense. We learn based on Paul’s experience that respect for authority and due process is important in Responding to Adversity, because by doing so we uphold and live according to our commitment to worship and serve God in every situation, thus positioning ourselves to receive God’s intervention at his time. Submitting to due process implies a commitment to the applicable rules and regulations and requires a person with appropriate competence and authority. Although Paul was able to represent himself in the trials, submitting to due process in a modern day society often may imply seeking external professional representation such as by a lawyer, accountant, or other professional. Recognizing the need and securing needed assistance could be important to managing adversity.
Most people likely will not seek to overturn a will of God that is identified specifically and clear to the human eye. But he often works differently, identifying his will to us through basic principles of human interaction that are discussed in various ways in the bible. For example, if you want something so much that you are willing to disregard parental or other established authority or procedure in order to satisfy your desire, you need to stop and think again because you could be seeking to overturn the will of God. He defined our relationship with parental authority through the 5th commandment [Exodus 20:12] and other established authority through Paul’s letter to the Romans [Romans 13:1–7]. Established procedures, at times referred to as due process, define how we should interact with the authority, such that circumventing an established procedure invariably implies disrespecting the authority.