Elections: I Samuel 8 (revised)

Feb 6, 2020 by

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1 When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as Israel’s leaders.

2 The name of his firstborn was Joel, and the name of his second was Abijah, and they served at Beersheba.

3 But his sons did not follow his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice.

4 So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah.

5 They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.”

6 And Samuel said to them, “My sons have done nothing wrong, and no criminal charges have been leveled against them. All children trade on their family’s name and fortune. They get appointed as unpaid advisers or added to boards of directors for which they are unqualified.”

7 “But before I tell you how bad is your request for a king, let me propose an alternative. Here is what I suggest you do. Go back and gather yourselves into your 12 tribes. Then within each tribe hold caucuses.”

8 And the elders of Israel said, “What is a caucus?”

9 Samuel said to them, “A caucus is a gathering of each tribe’s families into small rooms. Then you stand in a corner signifying who among the Children of Israel should lead you. Unless there is less than 15 percent, in which case you must scatter to another corner.”

10 And they said to him, “That is too confusing. Just appoint a king to lead us.”

11 Samuel said to them, “All right, you simple and stiff-necked people, go back to your 12 tribes and hold a primary.”

12 And the elders of Israel asked, “What is a primary?”

13 Samuel said to them, “A primary is a vote of who each tribe wants to represent them, called delegates, in the Electoral Tribe.”

14 And the elders of Israel asked, “And who gets to vote?”

15 Samuel replied, “Adult men, no women and no slaves.”

16 And the elders of Israel said, “We approve, but what is an Electoral Tribe?”

17 Samuel answered them saying, “The Electoral Tribe is made up of Super Elders and the tribal delegates who get to nominate and vote on who will lead you.”

18 And the elders of Israel responded, “You speak well. And then we will have someone to lead us?”

19 Samuel answered them saying, “Not yet. There must be checks and balances.”

20 And the elders of Israel said, “We know what balances are, but what is a check?”

21 Samuel rolled his eyes and answered, “This means you must also vote and elect a Tribal Congress. The Leader appoints the Tribal Court judges with the consent of the Tribal Congress. The Leader can go to war anytime, anywhere, just like a King. But, the Tribal Congress can impeach the Leader for fooling around with foreign countries. This system is called Democracy, a version of which will be invented by the Greeks centuries from now.”

22 And the elders of Israel laughed uproariously and said to Samuel, “Good try, but it’s a non-starter. Just go out and find us a king.”

23 So Samuel went out and found Saul, a lad from the smallest and least of all the clans of all the tribes of Israel, who was out looking for his Father’s lost donkeys. He poured olive oil on Saul’s head — the first King of Israel, thanks to donkeys, who were not yet Democrats.

David E. Ortman attends Seattle Mennonite Church.

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