“But when you saw that Nahash king of the Ammonites was moving against you, you said to me, ‘No, we want a king to rule over us’—even though the LORD your God was your king.” — 1 Samuel 12:12
The Torah portion for this week is Korach, which means “Korah,” from Numbers 16:1–18:32, and the Haftorah is from 1 Samuel 11:14–12:22.
In this week’s Haftorah reading, the prophet Samuel gave his farewell speech. Knowing that the era of judges would end with him and the era of kings was about to begin, Samuel addressed that point, reviewing the people’s history.
Samuel reminded the people that when they were enslaved in Egypt, God heard their prayers and sent Moses and Aaron to bring them out of slavery and into the land of Israel. He recalled how when the people rebelled, God would send an enemy as punishment. Once in danger, the Israelites would turn toward God and He would faithfully send a judge to save them.
Yet, in spite of God’s constant presence and provision, the people demanded a king, so Samuel said to them, “You said to me, ‘No, we want a king to rule over us’—even though the LORD your God was your king.” Now, he said, the people would receive what they asked for, but they were wrong to request a king in the first place.
To prove his point, Samuel declared that even though it was summer – a season when it typically never rains in Israel – God was about to send a powerful thunderstorm. Samuel called out to God, and a great storm manifested out of nowhere. The people responded by admitting that their request for a king was sinful and they asked Samuel to pray for them.
How did the storm give the people clarity? What was Samuel’s message?
First, Samuel wanted to show the people that it wasn’t so much their desire for a king that was wrong, but their timing. In the summertime during the harvest season, rain is actually detrimental to the crops. While rain is usually a blessing, in the wrong season, it can be harmful. Samuel was saying that if the people had waited until his death, they would have had a legitimate reason to ask for a king. But while he was alive and still God’s prophet and judge, rejecting him was tantamount to rejecting God as their king.
Secondly, Samuel wanted the people to understand that God was far greater than any human king. By showing the people that God could bring a storm at any time, Samuel, in essence, was saying, “Do you really want to replace God Almighty with a king of flesh and blood?”
Only God can bring rain in times of drought. Only God can bring thunder and lightning to chase away our enemies. If we make God our one and only King, there isn’t any battle we can’t win and no obstacle we can’t overcome.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President