[b-hebrew] The 'need' for a king?

Shoshanna Walker rosewalk at concentric.net
Thu Aug 16 18:53:59 EDT 2007

Yigal, I know that the issue is debated in the Talmud (Sanhedrin 20b) 
- but the conclusion is that it is a commandment, that Rav Saadya 
Gaon and Ibn Ezra explain that having a king wasn't a requirement, 
but was permitted if the nation requested it. and that S'forno and 
Abarbanel say that it was preferable not to have had a king but that 
G-d allowed it because of human frailty, but Rashi explains it 
differently, and the accepted halachic consensus is that it is a 
commandment.  Ramban DOES agree that it is a commandment (see his 
commentary on the Torah), and Rambam lists it as positive commandment 
#173 (http://www.mechon-mamre.org/e/e0001.htm), and Sefer Chinuch
lists it as commandment #493.

Here is Sefer Chinuch translation:

"We have been commanded to appoint a King from among Israel to reign 
over us, so that he may collect us all together and lead us as he 
wishes, and of this it has been said:   "Thou shalt in any wise set 
him king over thee".   And in Sifrey it was said:   "Thou shalt in 
any wise set him king over thee" - a positive commandment!

I have written about the roots of this commandment in the "Seder 
Mishpatim", concerning the prohibition of cursing the Nasi 
(principal), and there I have expounded at length on the benefit  the 
nation may reap if they have one man serving as their head and 
captain, because there shall be no enduring peace for the nation 
without this.   And thus, we see in the books of the prophets, the 
reference to collective rule appears among the curses in contrast to 
the supremacy of a single ruler.

And it applies (the commandment to appoint a King) at times when 
Israel are on their Land, and as they, of blessed memory, have said: 
Israel were commanded to carry out three commandments when entering 
the Land:   to appoint a King over themselves, to build the Temple, 
and to destroy the seed of Amaleq (Sanhedrin 20:b).

And, my son, do not ponder my words, saying: how does my father think 
that this commandment is among the commandments that apply for 
generations, when in fact it was no longer relevant for Israel once 
King David was anointed, since they no longer needed to appoint a 
King, because David and his offspring – would reign over them until 
the coming of Shiloh, and his offspring shall reign forever, soon in 
our days.

Rather, the significance of the commandment is not limited to the 
appointing of a new king, it encompasses everything we have 
mentioned:  the appointing of a new king – if there shall be a reason 
why one shall be
needed, and also the establishing of the reign in the hands of the 
heir, and the constitution of his authority over us, and in all 
respects, we should behave toward him as we have been commanded, and 
as we do towards
the Torah that is known and this really does apply forever. "

Dear Shoshanna and all,

As I'm sure that you know, not all authorities consider the law of the king
in Deut. 17 to be a positive commandment. While Mimonides (Rambam) does
consider it obligitory to annoint a king, Nahmanidies (Ramban) disagrees,
and understands it as meaning that IF Israel were to want a king, then these
are the terms that they must follow.

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