It’s all too easy to be dismissive of the notions of the kings of Israel and Judah having a ‘covenant with God.’ Taken literally, this can easily seem nonsensical. What does the word ‘God’ mean, if anything?
However, interpreted a little, it makes perfect sense. Demystified and decoded a little, these kings of the covenant were not especially wicked above all the nations of the earth.
It was not that these kings were all somehow Neros or Caligulas or Genghis Khans. Such were no philistines and goyim and heathens!
If anything, it was the lack of evil of these kings that was the problem.
For, although many of them did indeed act wickedly, the cardinal crime of these kings was their indifference, their cowardice, their apathy.
These kings can be considered as a royal priesthood with a very special mission.
Their mundane, petty Realpolitik, their pitiful IR realism avant la lettre, their luxuriously decadent establishment centrism, their idiotically bourgeois-decent line of least resistance; all these amounted to an outright defiance of the very essence of their calling.
The non-Jewish kings may indeed have been brutal. But from whom little was given, little was demanded.
On the other hand, the Jewish kings were expected to accomplish more, and to strive to transcend the infantile, cringing mediocrity of all the rest of the world.
Israel was to be a city on a hill, and a light to the nations. It is simply breathtaking to observe how the greatest kings of Israel were those whose sins or faults were greatest; and the worst kings were often those whose capacity for virtue or vice alike were the most miserable, and sluggardly, and mediocre.
From this perspective, the books of Samuel, Kings and Chronicles, let alone the various accompanying oral traditions of Judaism and other faiths, can be considered an everlasting treasure trove of ethical inspiration.
If the history of the kings of Israel can be summed up in one proclamation (and this is indeed perilous!), it might perhaps be this:
There is a special place in hell for those who respond either to peril or ease by taking the realistic, practical, and scientifically sound middle ground.
Whereas, those who risk great goodness and great evil, with integrity, shall shine like the sun in the kingdom of goodness, truth, and beauty, forevermore.
Is this history?
When we finally come to the end of it all…
Who shall dare to tell the difference?