Once, there was a King who was the recognized authority in all the land. He was beloved and respected by the people and the people honored God for the accomplishments of his reign. He had been anointed as King by the most famous prophet of his day. He was recognized culturally as God’s own son on earth, and bore enormous responsibility for the safety of the people and as a model for a proper religious life.
But this king became proud and disengaged, and began to lose touch with the realities of the wars his men were fighting. He began to exalt himself, and enrich himself.
He cast his eyes upon another man’s wife and broke the sixth and ninth commandments. Worse, he attempted to cover his sin, knowing that the man’s wife would return to her from battle and thought that perhaps the child he had conceived would be thought to be his own. When this failed, he had the man killed in battle, and finally took the man’s wife to be his own.
He was rebuked sharply for this, and repented of his sin in all honesty. However, his moral authority would never be the same. His son committed an act of rape upon that son’s half-sister. The King was incensed, but did not punish the act. Like Eli the priest in the books of the kings, he was not willing to bring the hammer down upon his own sons even when they deserved it. He gave them preferential treatment at the expense of justice.
One of the King’s other sons – a brother of the raped half-sister – decides, after a few years, to take justice into his own hands. He kills the rapist son, and flees to his Father-In-Law in another kingdom. His deed is known to the people, who recognize that justice had to be done.
Years pass, and the King’s son returns to the King’s domain. But the King does not meet with him, presumably because that would have justified his act and the king would stand self-condemned for his passivity. The King’s son decides he will rule instead. Day after day, he meets the people of Israel as they travel to appeal to the king for justice in their situations. He laments before their presence that he wishes he were king, so that justice could be done.
The combination of his personal charisma, his credibility for risking his life and safety to bring justice on behalf of his sister, and the King’s disengagement turns the hearts of the people steadily from the King to the King’s son, and the King was driven out of his own palace into the wilderness with the small group that remained loyal.
Imagine you are a man of war in this era. With whom do you side?