We think of David and Solomon as great kings, but in God’s eyes they are tragic figures.
The burden of royalty is to live as the focus for your peoples’ ambitions. God knows that leads to corruption.
Saul was the first of His people to bear that burden. The people wanted someone to “lead us and fight our battles.” It was not enough that during the age of Heroes, God always produced a savior when the nation was threatened. Other nations had men, and the Israelites wanted a man.
David enters the story as a reminder. Threatened by Goliath, Saul cowers, promising riches and reign to the man that defeats the foreign champion. As all the heroes before him, David is brought out of nowhere to save the day. It is God making a demonstration that was intended to teach His people a lesson. Kings will disappoint your expectations, but God will not.
David then plays the role of the loyal citizen, protecting Saul even when persecuted from the throne. His demonstration was meant to show the other path: if you must have a king, you must resign yourself to his weakness.
The final stage of the tragedy is David’s actual reign. He falls prey to the weakness of the flesh, sending a friend to die in battle so that he can have his wife. David becomes an adulterer.
Solomon is far grander, but commits an even greater adultery: an adultery of faith. Despite his accomplishments, at the end of his reign he allows the worship of other gods. Married to another realm, political pressure corrupts his faith.
Elijah and Elisha pick up the reigns of faith in the books that follow (Kings), but in Babylon that history is rewritten as a celebration of royal authority (Chronicles). Upon the return from exile, the priests are relegated to a secondary role.
We are at the long end of the squalid tale of human governance. The Democrats refine institutions of human design; Republicans celebrate impetuous will. The gulf widens in the gap that was to be filled by Love.
As promised in Jeremiah, look for God’s law on your hearts.