The Commandment to Appoint a King

Devarim (Deuteronomy) 17.15 “thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee, whom the L-RD thy G-D shall choose; ….”

B’rashith 17.5-6 “Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for the father of a multitude of nations have I made thee. And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee.

B’rashith 17.15-16 “And G-D said unto Abraham: ‘As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be. And I will bless her, and moreover I will give thee a son of her; yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples shall be of her.’

Shmoth 19.6 “and ye shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.’ ”

We see from these sources in the Torah that the Will of HaShem is a monarchy; a holy nation! Not a nation like all other nations as the people clamored for, before Navi Shemuel. 1 Samuel 8.18-20:

18 And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king whom ye shall have chosen you; and the L-RD will not answer you in that day.’ 19 But the people refused to hearken unto the voice of Samuel; and they said: ‘Nay; but there shall be a king over us; 20 that we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles.’


Devarim (Deuteronomy) 17.15 “thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee, whom the L-RD thy G-D shall choose; ….”

1 Chronicles 28.4 “Howbeit the L-RD, the G-D of Israel, chose me out of all the house of my father to be king over Israel for ever; for He hath chosen Judah to be prince, and in the house of Judah, the house of my father, and among the sons of my father He took pleasure in me to make me king over all Israel; ….”

2 Chronicles 6.6 “But I have chosen Jerusalem so that My Name will be there, and I have chosen David to be over My people Israel.’ ”

Tehillim 78.70 “He chose David also His servant, And took him from the sheepfolds;….”

1 Samuel 16.1 “And the L-RD said unto Samuel, How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? fill thine horn with oil, and go, I will send thee to Jesse the Bethlehemite: for I have provided Me a king among his sons.”

The mitzvah is to appoint a king for HaShemwhom the L-RD thy G-D shall choose; ….” HaShem chose David as King over all Israel, even as King David confirmed in 1 Chronicles 28.4.

As the Tanak pointedly states, the people chose Saul as King rather than allowing the prophet and high priest as agents for HaShem to choose a king (presumably through the Urim and Thumim)!

From 1 Samuel 16.1 (“… for I have provided Me a king among his sons.”) we see that the Tanak makes clear [that] the king chosen by G-D serves HaShem; as Tehillim 78.70 points out: “He chose David also His servant,…” and as 1 Samuel 13.14 points out, David was found by HaShem to be a “man after the heart of G-D:

1 Samuel 13.14 “But now thy kingdom shall not continue; the L-RD hath sought him a man after His own heart, and the L-RD hath appointed him to be prince over His people, because thou hast not kept that which the L-RD commanded thee.’ “

R. Yossi and R. Yehuda, the Rambam (R. Moshe ben Maimon, 12th century, Egypt) and Sefer HaChinukh (author unknown, 13th century, Spain) and all those commentators who are of the opinion that there is a mitzvah to appoint a king, imply in their opinion both the fact that the Torah involves itself in the regulation of human affairs and that it chose to endorse monarchy as the proper form of government.

So if (since) HaShem chose David as King then there is no need to select, choose or appoint a king from outside King David and Shlomo’s lineage. In fact, it was improper for the Hasmoneans to rule over the people for they were of the priestly caste!


To quote from one article on the discussion of “Appointing a King” –

“In Sanhedrin (20b) which states that the phrase “Ki yad al keis Kah” (“Hand upon the throne of the Lord,” Shemot 17:16) refers to the king: “Ve-ein kisei ela melekh she-ne’emar Vayeshev Shelomo al kisei Hashem le-melekh” – “‘Throne’ refers to the king, as it is written, ‘Shelomo sat on the throne of the Lord as king’ (I Divrei Ha-yamim 29:23).” (See also Ramban ad loc., who adopts this position.) The upshot of this statement, further emphasized by the gemara’s subsequent statement that “Be-tchila malakh Shlomo al ha-elyonim she’ne’emar vayeshev Shlomo al kisei Hashem le-melekh” (“At first Shelomo ruled over the the upper spheres”), is that the king is not solely a human figure serving the needs of his countrymen, but rather he is also a sacral figure, representing Divine interests in the human world. Just as the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) is the Divine representative in the religious sphere, serving as a “shelucha de-rachmana” (emissary of God) no less than a “shelucha didan” (emissary of man), so too is the melekh an ambassador of God in the political sphere. The Heavenly Throne (kisei Hashem) serves as a symbol of Divine involvement in the human world and, therefore, the description of the king as sitting upon this throne serves to establish his rule as a manifestation and executor of Divine Will in our world. In this context, mention should already be made of the fact that the king, as the kohen, is anointed with shemen ha-mishcha (the anointing oil).

If we accept this line of reasoning, the Torah’s interest in a royal head of state is not due to his practical utility to human society, but rather is due to the fact that a royal figure is a better representative of God on Earth. By adopting such a position, we are able to understand the need for a king, despite the drawbacks which Abarbanel pointed out. To offset those, the Torah added a whole list of regulations and mitzvot designed to distance the monarch from “gavhut ha-lev” (arrogance), involvement with earthly affairs and the temptations of power (i.e. women, money and horses) and to instill in him and his subjects the sense of a Divine mission (the need to constantly have a Torah scroll at his side).”





SHIUR #1: The Commandment to Appoint a King

by Rav Mosheh Lichtenstein

Copyright (c) 1997 Yeshivat Har Etzion. All rights reserved.


While the above article does not touch upon the subject of the unifying mission of the King, it is important to note that I Divrei Ha-yamim (1 Chronicles) 29:23 concludes with the phrase “… and all Israel obeyed him.”

“David came and increased their number to 24.”

24 mishmarot (lit. “guards”; Ta’an. 4:2), which served in a regular weekly rotation. The mishmarot were further broken up into a varying number of battei avot (“houses” or “families”). Each division and subdivision was presided over by a head, called rosh mishmar and rosh bet av respectively (Tosef., Hor. 2: 10); there is also mention made of a bet av (Tam. 1:1; Mid. 1:8; cf. Yoma 1:5). The levites were similarly divided into 24 mishmarot, which replaced each other every week (I Chron. 25:8ff, et al.; Jos., Ant., 7:363ff.; Ta’an. 4:2). These were in turn subdivided into seven battei avot, and presided over by “heads.” Finally, there was an analogous division of the Israelites themselves into 24 mishmarot, each of which had to take its turn in coming to Jerusalem for a week. They served to represent the whole body of the people while the daily (communal) offerings were sacrificed, for “how can a man’s offering be offered while he does not stand by it?” (Ta’an. 4:2, et al.).

That part of the mishmar of priests, Levites, or Israelites actually engaged in the performance of its duty was called a ma’amad or ammud (“station”) and was headed by a rosh ma’amad (Tam. 5:6). When the time for the service of a mishmar came round, all the priests and Levites belonging to it would go to Jerusalem. Not all the Israelites of that mishmar, however, proceeded to Jerusalem. A portion of them certainly did (Ta’an. 4:2; cf. Tosef., Ta’an. 4:3) but those who could not do so assembled in their own towns and read the story of creation, etc. Only those in Jerusalem who actually “stood by” while the sacrifice was being offered could, strictly speaking, be called a ma’amad, or ammud (see Sof. 17:5; but see Lieberman , Tosefta ki-Feshutah 5, 1962, 1104, who shows that according to a different opinion the ma’amadot were of Israelites alone).

23 “And Solomon sat on the throne of the L-RD as king instead of David his father, and he prospered, and all Israel obeyed him.” 24 And all the leaders and the mighty men and also all King David’s sons placed their hand under King Solomon.

Hoshea 3.5 “afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek [desire] the L-RD their G-D, and David their king; and shall come trembling unto the L-RD and to His goodness in the end of days.”

Yekezkel 37.22 “and I will make them one nation in the land, upon the mountains of Israel, and one king shall be king to them all; and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all;”

Thus, in a Divinely chosen monarchy, the king sit as an emissary of the Merciful One on the throne of the L-RD uniting the people, to worship as one by an oath; even as Avraham’s servant swore by the “Covenant of Circumcision” B’rashith (Genesis) 24:3!

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