FROM SAMUEL TO SOLOMON
WHAT IF GOD...?
…had not killed the two sinful sons of Eli?
…had asked Samuel to choose one of David’s brothers, because of strength, looks or
…had not decreed the death of David’s illegitimate child?
…had punished David for taking the census, instead of Israel?
WHAT IF GOD HAD NOT KILLED THE TWO SINFUL SONS OF ELI?
Eli, the High Priest, had two sons who were “corrupt” and “did not know the Lord” (I Samuel 2:12). Eli’s two children took from people meat offered to God by force and lay “with the women who assembled at the door of the Tabernacle of meeting” (I Samuel 2: 22). Because of their heinous sins, God hardened their hearts and they would not heed their father’s rebukes (I Samuel 2:25).
In Chapter 2 verse 27 we read that finally God used a prophet to announce his verdict on their behalf:
“Now this shall be a sign to you that will come upon your two sons, on Hophni and Phinehas: in one day they
shall die, both of them” (I Samuel 2: 35). God’s longsuffering had reached its limit, and the axe finally fell
inexorably upon both men.
What if God had not punished Hophni and Phinehas? What if He had simply rebuked the two men without intervening that drastically?
From the very beginning of His dealings with Israel, God had made it perfectly clear that his expectations for holiness were high and unchangeable. The highest expectations were directed at the priests who represented God and who were to teach and demonstrate His ways to the people.
Being children of the High Priest, Hophni and Phinehas had the great responsibility of honoring their father and the God of their father. They arrogantly, and knowingly, rebelled against their father’s wishes and the will of God. God had warned in the book of Numbers, chapter 15 and verse 30-31, that any person “who does anything presumptuously, whether he is native born or a stranger, that one brings reproach on the Lord, and he shall be cut off from among his people. Because he has despised the word of the Lord, and has broken His commandment, that person shall be cut off; his guilt shall be upon him” (Numbers 15:30-31). Thus, from the very beginning, God made it very clear that dishonoring Him would lead to severe consequences.
If God had not intervened with the verdict of death, His word would have been questioned, as would have been His expectations. The Israelites knew what Hophni and Phinehas were up to and, without doubt, were wondering how both their father and God were tolerating their scandalous behavior. The fact that many women were lying with them indicates the level of disregard for God’s laws that had ensued. The people of Israel could have easily concluded that if it’s OK for religious leaders to sin and nothing happens, why not join in.
If God had not intervened, the trust that Israelites had in God and His holiness would have been greatly
questioned; all of Israel would have fallen into moral degeneracy and the priesthood would have lost total
respect. This could not be allowed and God finally intervened and “the two of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, died”
(I Samuel 4: 11).
The death of Eli’s children must have clearly reinforced to all that, though God is longsuffering, He will finally intervene drastically against unrepentant sinners – especially those who are His representatives. If God had not intervened, this crucial lesson would not have received the necessary emphasis and many would have been emboldened to sin without fear of retribution.
WHAT IF GOD…
…had not given David superhuman strength?
…had not used David to kill Goliath?
…had allowed David to kill Saul?
WHAT IF GOD HAD ASKED SAMUEL TO CHOOSE ONE OF DAVID’S BROTHERS BECAUSE OF STRENGTH, LOOKS OR AGE?
Saul, the first king of Israel was a great disappointment to both God and Samuel. Having concluded that Saul’s line was not worthy to continue over Israel, God chose a replacement. He sent Samuel to Jesse, a Bethlemite, to anoint one of his several sons as the next king of Israel who was to replace Saul.
Samuel obeyed God’s orders and went to Bethlehem. He invited Jesse and his sons to a sacrifice and “When they came…he looked at Eliab and said ‘Surely the Lord’s anointed is before Him’” (I Samuel 16: 6). All except one son of Jesse were brought before Samuel but no matter what outstanding physical qualities Samuel saw in them, none of them was chosen.
Once the last one was rejected, Samuel asked: “Are all the young men here?” (V.11). The answer was that there was one missing, and that he was keeping the sheep. He was David, the youngest. David was “ruddy, with bright eyes and good looking” (V. 12), but he was not the tallest or the strongest. Yet God chose David, not the others.
What if God had chosen one of the other taller, stronger brothers? Would not that have made more sense? After all, it is leaders who are tall and strong that demand the greatest respect. Was not Saul physically impressive? Was he not the handsomest and the tallest man in Israel? And did not Israel immediately accept him as King? (I Sam. 9:2).
God allowed Saul to be chosen according to human standards, because he wanted all to see how wrong human standards can be. He may have been the handsomest and the tallest man in Israel, but he was stubborn, proud and rebellious, and he brought much anguish into the land.
Once the lesson had been learned, God wanted all to see that His standards are by far superior to man’s standards. Thus, the second time around, the King of Israel was chosen, not because of looks or human strength but because of his submissive and humble spirit.
The summary of the whole story is found in God in I Samuel 16:7: “For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” God is not interested in appearance. Satan was the most beautiful angel and He became proud and caused havoc in the universe. Looks have led many humans to vainglory, arrogance and final anguish for themselves and others. God had no intention of allowing history to repeat.
If God had chosen one of David’s better looking and stronger brothers, it would have indicated that God had not learned from the Saul experience. It would have also shown that God was a being who is impressed by superficiality and not what really matters. But God is not a human being who looks at appearance and who gets impressed by physical traits. Only character impresses God, the rest is vanity.
God allowed Israel to have its way and allowed them to choose a man with very impressive looks. In spite of his impressive physical qualities, Saul did not succeed in being an honorable and righteous leader. God taught Israel the lesson that great leaders must be people who submit to and fear God. God chose David over his brothers because he had the kind of qualities that God could work with. Though David made some terrible mistakes he repented deeply and went on to become one of God’s great saints and the ancestor of Jesus Christ.
© Copyright, Michael Caputo, 2004