Schwebel/Give us a King/Broadway Building (The Ansonia) Over a Judean Hill with Israeli Political Demonstrations. 63 x 59 In., 1999, Oil on Canvas

The elders of Israel demand of Samuel that he give them a monarch in “Give Us a King,” a 1999 painting by the American-born Israeli artist Schwebel. “Appoint a king for us, to govern us like all other nations,” they insist (1 Samuel 8:5). In spite of Samuel’s warnings “about the practices of any king who will rule over them” (1 Samuel 8:9), the people are adamant, and God tells Samuel to “heed their demands” (1 Samuel 8:22). God soon reveals Saul to Samuel as his choice for the kingship.

Marsha White notes that these passages in 1 Samuel 8 date to the sixth century B.C.E. and form a portion of the Deuteronomistic History. This history was composed in the wake of the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem and the conquest of Judah. The Deuteronomists questioned the institution of kingship and added antimonarchical sentiments, such as these verses from 1 Samuel 8, that tempered the positive view of the king in the History of Saul’s Rise.