Why call for a king? A d’var torah for organizers

In the book of Samuel, the people gather before their leader Samuel and demand to be given a king. The old prophet Samuel minces no words in telling them what their king will be like. The speech is hard-hitting and worth reading (I Samuel 8:11-18). Samuel warns the people that the king will be abuser. He will make their sons and daughters work like slaves and will appropriate the nation’s wealth as his own. The people hear all this and still say, “If only there were a king over us!”

Why do they do this? One has to be back several chapters to see that the people had been ruled for a long time by the abusive and corrupt sons of Eli (I Samuel 2:12-17). Moreover, Samuel’s sons were taking over leadership and acting the same way. The people had never known justice. What they needed most at that point was simply to be told that they have power. They could not imagine having power themselves.

But there is another side to the story: what the Israelites really wanted was a king who could dance with them. This took place when David brought his court to Jerusalem and danced in the streets with the people (II Samuel 6:12-15).

So the organizer’s first task is simply to remind people that they have power—but we must not forget also how to dance.

December 16, 2016

Andy Oram

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