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The overall problem that Samuel was addressing in the book of Judges was not merely the fact that there was no king in Israel. Neither was he trying to point out the failure of the system of government or the shortcomings of the Judges. He was exposing the hearts of the people and the failure of any and all systems of government that depended upon men to bring righteousness to the earth.
Samuel himself had the benefit of seeing a king in Israel, for he had anointed Saul at the word of the Lord. He had seen how Saul looked so promising at the start of his reign yet began to degenerate as early as his second year. When Saul was fully disqualified in his 18th year, Samuel essentially retired and never went to see Saul again (1 Sam. 15:34, 35).
God sent him to the house of Jesse to anoint a new king. God’s reasoning was that He sought for a man after His own heart (1 Sam. 13:14). David was by no means perfect, but his heart was in the right place. He knew that the throne was not his to rule by his own will but to steward by the will of God. Authority was not a license to sin but a responsibility to establish righteousness.
Samuel’s lament, then, that “there was no king in Israel,” can be seen as a reference to there being no legitimate king in Israel, no king who could bring righteousness to the land, no king who could truly establish a kingdom model that manifested on earth the glory of heaven.
Jacob had given the scepter to Judah in Gen. 49:10. Saul was of Benjamin, not Judah, so it was never possible for him to succeed. David was of Judah, yet he was but a type and shadow of Christ, so his kingdom, however righteous, could not long succeed.
The real King, the permanent King, the true Anointed One, was the only King who could possibly succeed in the long term.
The True King was represented by the glory of God that hovered over the mercy seat upon the Ark of the Covenant. Samuel was at Shiloh when Phinehas (son of Eli) took the Ark into battle. Though he yet remained in the background, he saw the glory depart. I believe he saw the glory depart from Shiloh long before the Ark was taken by the Philistines. I believe he saw the glory leave Shiloh even as Ezekiel saw it depart from Jerusalem many years later.
Even after the Philistines returned the Ark, the glory did not return. “Ichabod” had been declared upon Shiloh, and so the glory could never again be found there. The Ark was moved to various places, such as Kirjeath-jearim and Gibeon, but the glory itself remained aloof until the Ark was placed in Solomon’s temple. Only then did the glory return (2 Chron. 5:13, 14).
Hence, the glory was not present over the Ark during the entire reigns of Saul and David. It is not that God was absent in the absolute sense, for He is omnipresent. But in a prophetic sense the Kingdom models were incomplete. God was showing us that there was yet a greater era ahead in the days of the Messiah.
The church repeated the pattern of the rule of Saul during the Pentecostal Age, which saw an imperfect and rebellious model that was doomed to failure from the start. The disciples of Christ were all from Galilee, north of Jerusalem, where the Benjamites had settled after the Babylonian captivity (Neh. 11:31-36). The church was of Benjamin.
Matthew-Levi was obviously a Levite, and Judas was from Hebron and was therefore of the tribe of Judah. But Matthew was neutral insofar as the tribes were concerned, and Judas was ultimately replaced by Saul/Paul, who was of Benjamin. Thus, for all practical purposes, the Church was a Benjamin phenomenon, even though Jesus Himself was of Judah. The Church was Pentecostal by anointing, which reflected the fact that Saul was crowned on Pentecost, the day of wheat harvest (1 Sam. 12:17).
In this long-term prophetic view, the 40-year reign of Saul was a type of the Church’s reign of 40 Jubilees (40 x 49 years). The Age to come, then, can be seen properly as the fulfillment of the reign of David. It will not be perfect, but it will be a greater manifestation of the Kingdom, as it expands from a small “stone” to a mountain range that fills the whole earth (Dan. 2:35).
This Davidic Kingdom shifts from the anointing of Pentecost to that of Tabernacles. All will see the glory of God on some level, yet the full glory will rest only upon the manifested sons of God. These are the overcomers who, like David, have a heart for God and are not caught up in the lawless rebellion of the house of Saul and Benjamin.
After the Tabernacles Age (of “David”) comes a new era, typed by Solomon and the building of the temple where the glory returned. This, in essence, brings us to the Great White Throne, where the glory of God will be seen by all who have ever lived. No one in that day will be able to stand (2 Chron. 7:1-3). Every knee will bow, as Paul says, and every tongue will profess (exomologeo) Him as Lord (Phil. 2:10, 11).
The progression of Ages, then, begins with the Passover Age from Moses to Christ, the Pentecost Age between the two comings of Christ, and the Tabernacles Age from the second coming of Christ to the Great White Throne judgment.
The first death (mortality) will end at the Great White Throne (Rev. 20:14), but because the majority of imperfect humanity will experience the second death of divine judgment, there will still be one final enemy to conquer before God can be “all in all.” When all other enemies have been put under His feet, and all are finally in agreement with Him, then “the last enemy that will be abolished is death” (1 Cor. 15:26).
The last great act in the history of time will be the proclamation of the Creation Jubilee. Only then will God’s glory cover the earth as the waters cover the sea (Hab. 2:14).
The idea of “no king in Israel” ultimately is about the glory departing, for God Himself is the true King. On a superficial level, the glory departed when the Ark was taken by the Philistines and when Eli’s grandson, Ichabod, was born (1 Sam. 4:21).
A few years later, the people demanded an earthly king, and God told Samuel, “they have rejected Me from being king over them” (1 Sam. 8:7). God then gave them their desire, which historians refer to as the United Kingdom of Israel. They had Saul as their king, but there was no true King in Israel, for the people had rejected God’s rule.
On this higher level of understanding, the time of “no king in Israel” properly began much earlier with the era of Judges and extended through the reign of Saul and David until the glory of God returned in the early days of the reign of Solomon. When Solomon laid the foundation of the temple in the fourth year of his reign (2 Chron. 3:1, 2, 3), he prophetically laid Christ as the foundation of the temple.
It was exactly 390 years from the first Judge to the fourth year of Solomon when the foundation of the temple was laid. This suggests that the number 390 is the prophetic number for “no king in Israel,” as that is the number of years that Israel did not have the King-Messiah.
How do we know that this was 390 years?
In 1 Kings 6:1 we read that it was 480 years from Israel’s exodus from Egypt until the fourth year of Solomon, when the foundation of the Temple was laid. We know that Israel spent those first 40 years in the wilderness, so it was 440 years from the Jordan crossing to the laying of the foundation of the temple.
In my book, Secrets of Time, chapter 13, I showed how Israel’s first captivity to the king of Mesopotamia ended with Israel’s first Jubilee in the land of Canaan. The captivity began 42 years after the Jordan crossing, and it lasted eight years, when Othniel finally delivered them.
So by subtracting those 50 years from our total (440 minus 50), we see that the period of the Judges properly began with Othniel 390 years before the foundation of the temple was laid. Hence, the number 390 is associated with the idea of “no king in Israel.” When viewed as a chronological period of time, 390 years ends with a King in Israel.
The Virginia colony was the first successful and permanent colony in America, founded in 1607. It was followed in 1620 by the Plymouth colony farther north, where the Pilgrims landed.
These two dates can be thought of as the twin foundations of what was later to become the USA. Each date began a 390-year period of time of “no king in Israel,” ending in 1997 and 2010 respectively.
The first 390-year cycle began in 1607 with the Jamestown colony and ended in 1997, when the Promise Keepers descended upon Washington D.C. on October 4, 1997 to proclaim Jesus Christ as King. They knew nothing of the 390-year cycle that they were fulfilling, but by proclaiming Christ as King, they prophetically laid the Foundation of the greater Temple in an American context.
The second cycle began in 1620 when the Pilgrims founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony and ended on August 28, 2010, when Glenn Beck organized a rally in Washington D.C. to declare Jesus Christ as King. Once again, he did not know the significance of the 390-year cycle from 1620, but yet God used him to bear witness to Christ’s kingship in America.
Even more significant was the fact that the 390-year cycle from 1620-2010 was the 7th such cycle since the fall of Samaria in 721 B.C. In other words, from 721 B.C. to 2010 A.D. is 2,730 years, or 7 x 390 years. The final 390-year cycle was merely the final 390-year cycle which prophetically links Israel to America.
As we said earlier, it was 480 years from the exodus to the fourth year of Solomon, when he laid the foundation of the temple. The temple took seven years to build (1 Kings 6:37, 38). Hence, the structure itself was completed 487 years after the exodus from Egypt. It then took an unspecified number of years to build the temple vessels (1 Kings 7:13-51). I believe that it took three years and that the Ark was placed in the temple 490 years from the exodus.
Hence, it was 390 years from the first Judge to the year that the foundation of the temple was laid, and it was 490 years from the exodus to the year that the glory of God filled the temple and to its dedication.
The completion of these time cycles took place long after Samuel’s death, but his writings give us the basic principles to help us understand the times and seasons, both in his day and in our time today.