‘Of Kings and Prophets’: The Alternative to Elections

Leadership Secrets (Joel B. Pollak)
Joel B. Pollak

At this point in the 2016 election cycle, you may feel something like a sense of despair — even if your candidate is winning.

Nate Silver of fivethirtyeight.com writes that “Republican Voters Kind of Hate All Their Choices,” citing data showing an alarming number of GOP voters would be unhappy to vote for any of the surviving candidates in the general election.

Judging from my liberal friends on Facebook, Democrats aren’t too happy with their choices, either.

Luckily, if Tuesday night’s election returns seem too depressing to contemplate, ABC is launching a new series, Of Kings and Prophets, based on the Book of Samuel in the Bible.

It was a time when leaders were anointed, not elected. And not “anointed” in the televangelist-decides-to-pick-Ted-Cruz-in-his-Sunday-sermon way, but the old-fashioned God-tells-prophet-to-pour-oil-from-a-horn-onto-your-head kind of way. (Back then, it was the only poll that mattered.)

The new series, which debuts at 10 p.m. ET Tuesday, tells the story of the first kings of ancient Israel, Saul and David. It is one of the most exciting dramas in the Old Testament.

In a turbulent, uncertain time, the prophet Samuel elevates Saul from the lowly tribe of Benjamin to unite the other tribes of Israel and lead them in battle against their enemies. But Saul, sentimental and insecure, proves disobedient, so God tells Samuel to anoint David to replace him.

A deadly power struggle ensues, complicated by the fact that their two families are intertwined. David wins the hand of Saul’s daughter after slaying Goliath, the Philistine giant. He befriends Saul’s son and chosen successor, Jonathan, and soothes Saul’s anxieties by playing for him on his harp.

It is all to no avail: Saul knows David has been anointed in his place, and eventually seeks to destroy him. The result: Game of Thrones meets The Ten Commandments.

The early reviews of the show are mediocre. The Boston Globe predicts it will be “just modest and melodramatic enough to irk both faith-based audiences and those coming to it in search of a salacious, sanguinary fix.”

Perhaps, however, the reviewers have underestimated the audience for Biblical dramas, and the richness of the source. The book that follows Samuel, for example, the Book of Kings, could provide ample material for many seasons to come.

The Book of Kings begins at the end of David’s reign (c. 970 B.C.) and extends through the assassination of King Gedaliah (c. 582 B.C.), the last king of Judah, a dynasty spanning nearly four centuries.

It is the story of the decline of a noble kingdom — one eroded from within by the immorality and cowardice of its rulers, who generally defy the prophets sent to save them. Divided and conquered, the kingdom is eventually exiled and almost totally destroyed.

But there is still hope for salvation, both from the weakness of human nature and from the vagaries of fortune — in this world, and in the next.

There are also moral and political lessons in the Book of Kings. Among the forty kings of Israel and Judah, only ten are “good,” and most of them are flawed. Yet in their struggles, they have much to teach us — about the balance between war and diplomacy, for example, and how personal morality affects public order.

Those lessons are the focus of my new e-book, Leadership Secrets of the Kings and Prophets: What the Bible’s Struggles Can Teach Us About TodayFrom the downfall of wise King Solomon, to the miraculous resistance of Hezekiah against a besieging Assyrian army, the Bible offers political insights that pre-date Plato’s Republic and yet remain relevant to our own time.

Like the ABC series, it is both an escape from, and an antidote for, our political season.

Give it a try.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. His new e-book, Leadership Secrets of the Kings and Prophets: What the Bible’s Struggles Teach Us About Today, is on sale through Amazon Kindle Direct. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.


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