Saul, David, and Solomon as Eras in the Church

Saul, David, and Solomon all reigned for 40 years each, and these are correlated to general eras of the progression of institutional Christianity and political events in Europe. While specific rulers bear characteristics of Saul, David, and Solomon, the point is not to equate individuals historically but eras which have undeniable parallels and continuity with the books of the Kings, as the history of the early church does with the Moses/Joshua/Judges.

Saul & Samuel’s era is correlated to Constantine and the Eastern tradition and stretches from then to somewhere between 800 and 1054, when the division between East and West grew the most and eventually became official. Saul’s lineage submits to the authority of David over all Israel only after a significant period of quarrel between the two factions. At the time of the split of the Northern Kingdom from Judah, God curiously only assigns 10 tribes to the North under Jeroboam and one tribe to the south under Rehoboam, son of Solomon, son of David. The missing tribe is never specified, but Benjamites of Saul’s family persisted through the story of Esther (Mordecai was a son of Shimei son of Kish who slandered David during the Absalom revolt) and the Apostle Paul himself was a Benjamite, so as a tribe they did not die off and were not lost to Samaria or the Assyrian diaspora. Given that Shimei was supportive of the Absalom rebellion against David, the split of Benjamin and Judah was only ever papered over, as the roots of the division between East/West were inherently questions of power and authority, and only marginally about doctrine.

David’s rise is given its incognito anointing by Samuel’s horn of oil as a young man. He would not create his initial Kingdom in Hebron for some time. His time in Hebron alone would be 7 years and he would rule the subsequent 33 years from Jerusalem. This is correlated from the end of the Saul era – Charlemagne is an interesting parallel to David – to roughly the time of the first Papal Conclaves.

David’s lineage included a Moabitess named Ruth who was redeemed into Judah by Boaz. Charlemagne’s Frankish stock had been Christianized for a few centuries and “Charles the Great” represents the long-term elevation of Western Europe, as Byzantium was suffering from attacks on many sides and had little capacity to help Rome.

The succession of David was initially unclear, and the biblical narrative is coy on specifics. As David was in his last days, Adonijah the son of David exalted himself to be king and gathered some of David’s military men and his own priestly lineage around him. However, another priestly lineage and other military men were not with Adonijah, so Nathan and Bathsheba the mother of Solomon speak to David to ask him to directly elevate Solomon to the throne, or Adonijah will capture it. So, in a very real sense, there were three people with a claim to Kingship over Israel at this precarious stage. David counsels Bathsheba to orchestrate a series of events to place Solomon on the throne, and Solomon wisely chooses to pardon Adonijah at the time provided he shows himself a faithful man, rather than to immediately commence bloodshed to secure his dominion.

Solomon’s era is traced roughly from the time of the first conclaves through the most financially prosperous and morally decadent period of the Roman Church, up to the foreshocks of the Reformation. Very shortly after Solomon’s death, Rehoboam his son is presented with an opportunity to ingratiate the rest of Israel by reforming the Kingdom such to reduce the burden placed on the workers Jeroboam had been placed over and with whose plight Jeroboam was familiar. Solomon was so powerful that he was able to ignore the cries from his own people about the burden of labor endured by the slave underclass he had created. The idols he built on the mountain opposite Jerusalem were a stench to devout Israelites. The influx of gold created a powerful, insulated elite class, vain and ignorantly searching for thrills that only massive wealth can provide; Solomon’s garments and his intellectual exploits and projects were second to none and known as far as Sheba.

The calls for reforming the Church were loud and recurrent for centuries before the Reformation. The corruption at the highest levels of the hierarchy of the church was obvious and well known throughout the European landmass, even though the signs of a still vibrant and resonant piety at the local levels was fairly obvious. Rome had a perception like that of modern Washington, DC or Brussels – distant elitists who are full of their own ideas wrangling for political power at the cost of the common person.

David is the centerpiece of this pattern because the “Throne of David” takes on prophetic and Messianic significance in the writings of Isaiah and Jeremiah, and Jesus is described as the “son of David,” which carries implications of a potential heir and therefore a potential Messiah. Jesus, upon being called simply “the son of David” by the Pharisees, sharpens their theology by pointing out that David said in the Psalms:

“The Lord said to my Lord,
sit at my right hand,
until I put my enemies under your feet.”

Jesus points out that David himself knew prophetically that the final occupant of the throne of David was not merely his son.

An interesting parallel to this emerged in the early church – they not only recognized Jesus as the heir to and fulfillment of the throne of David, but considered Peter as the first recipient of the “chair” or “throne” of Peter. Diligent biblical scholars will note that although there is no specific mention of a “throne” given to Peter in the New Testament, there is also no specific mention of a “throne of David” until after David established it. Moses, Joshua, and the prophets that preceded David did not specifically mention that a tribe would be pre-eminent and that God would sanction one of the thrones for himself at a later date – although there were rumblings and hints in the prophetic words of Israel the man prior to his death as well as Moses.

As already argued, there is a Joshua/Judges era in the church in which there was a lineage of judges or holy people who maintained the deposit that Moses had placed within Israel, but the recognition of one of the tribes (or one of the particular disciples, in the Church’s side of things) as the ordained ruler did not occur until after the death of Saul.

So whether someone disagrees with the notion of Peter’s primacy or his throne, it is not a wholly foreign concept in the biblical record for the later establishment of a pre-eminent figure of the 12 original figures – Judah of the sons Israel and Peter of the Apostles of the Lamb. Certainly, the statement of the 10 tribes who rebelled against Judah after the death of Solomon did not recognize the throne of David, saying, “What portion do we have in David? We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse. To your tents, O Israel! Look now to your own house, David.”

In a very real way, Luther’s actions and the movement that followed could have been rephrased as “Look now to your own house, Peter.”

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