When Moshe led the Jewish people, there came a time where he spoke with Hashem and asked for him to relieve his burden. He needed help with the responsibility that had been placed upon him.

This led to the 70 elders being gathered who would all share in the burden so Moshe wouldn't have to carry it alone.

Where did a king fit into any of this and wouldn't a king have been problematic from the Jewish perspective?

The Sanhedrin existed as a series of councils which dealt with everyday matters and deeper religious matters.

In theory, we could have existed entirely independent from kings/royalty and Jewish society would have functioned through the guidance of the Rabbis.

Here is where the question ultimately comes from.

Kings can be inherently problematic. If you look at the history of monarchies in Europe, you see that kings place themselves as being equal to the authority of god in a certain respect. The idea being that god made them king so gods authority is his authority.

We saw this go down with King James and the church of England.

We even saw how the politics of the situation could damage the structure of society. Specifically, the divide that occurred between Judah and the Northern Kingdom.

My question is why was a king necessary? Didn't the Jewish people have structures in place which could have met the everyday functions of Jewish society?

  • related: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/31759/…
    – Loewian
    Jan 13, 2019 at 20:06
  • For some reason, I always thought (don’t have a source immediately at hand) that Jews wanted a king so they could be like other nations. Similarly, early Zionists thought if Jews only had a land of their own, Jews would be more accepted
    – JJLL
    Jan 13, 2019 at 21:16
  • @JJLL your source is an explicit pasuk in shmuel beis
    – LN6595
    Jan 13, 2019 at 22:03
  • 1
    Possible duplicate of Why did the people want a king?
    – Al Berko
    Jan 14, 2019 at 12:07
  • 1
    This is a duplicate, but I liked this question much better.
    – Al Berko
    Jan 14, 2019 at 12:08

1 Answer 1


I personally think the reason is explicitly presented in Avos 3,1:

"רַבִּי חֲנִינָא סְגַן הַכֹּהֲנִים אוֹמֵר, הֱוֵי מִתְפַּלֵּל בִּשְׁלוֹמָהּ שֶׁל מַלְכוּת,
שֶׁאִלְמָלֵא מוֹרָאָהּ, אִישׁ אֶת רֵעֵהוּ חַיִּים בְּלָעוֹ."

"Rabbi Chanina, the Deputy High Priest, says: Pray for the welfare of the government, for were it not for the fear of it, man would swallow his fellow alive."

In other words, the fear that the egoistically evil nature of humans will ultimately lead to mass destruction obligates them to appoint a government whose purpose is to restrain and streamline their urges into positive coexistence.

This need [for self-preservation] is so strong, that the people are not only willing to forgo their property as in Shmuel 8, where he lists the 30 rights of the King:

"וַיֹּאמֶר זֶה יִהְיֶה מִשְׁפַּט הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲשֶׁר יִמְלֹךְ עֲלֵיכֶם:
אֶת־בְּנֵיכֶם יִקָּח וְשָׂם לוֹ בְּמֶרְכַּבְתּוֹ וּבְפָרָשָׁיו וְרָצוּ לִפְנֵי מֶרְכַּבְתּוֹ׃
וְלָשׂוּם לוֹ שָׂרֵי אֲלָפִים וְשָׂרֵי חֲמִשִּׁים וְלַחֲרֹשׁ חֲרִישׁוֹ
וְלִקְצֹר קְצִירוֹ וְלַעֲשׂוֹת כְּלֵי־מִלְחַמְתּוֹ וּכְלֵי רִכְבּוֹ׃
וְאֶת־בְּנוֹתֵיכֶם יִקָּח לְרַקָּחוֹת וּלְטַבָּחוֹת וּלְאֹפוֹת׃
וְאֶת־שְׂדוֹתֵיכֶם וְאֶת־כַּרְמֵיכֶם וְזֵיתֵיכֶם הַטּוֹבִים יִקָּח וְנָתַן לַעֲבָדָיו׃
וְזַרְעֵיכֶם וְכַרְמֵיכֶם יַעְשֹׂר וְנָתַן לְסָרִיסָיו וְלַעֲבָדָיו׃
וְאֶת־עַבְדֵיכֶם וְאֶת־שִׁפְחוֹתֵיכֶם וְאֶת־בַּחוּרֵיכֶם הַטּוֹבִים
וְאֶת־חֲמוֹרֵיכֶם יִקָּח וְעָשָׂה לִמְלַאכְתּוֹ׃
צֹאנְכֶם יַעְשֹׂר וְאַתֶּם תִּהְיוּ־לוֹ לַעֲבָדִים׃"

But even sacrifice their lives, either by willingly go to a war that a King declares or to let him "to execute anyone who rebels against a king." (Rambam Melachim 3,8) without a trial or any intervention from Sanhedrin.

It appears to me (after studying Masechet Sanhedrin) that, by following the principle of "לא בשמים היא", throughout the Jewish History a king (or a king-like Judge or prophet) took precedence over Sanhedrin (if ever existing) in all aspect of general conduct. (I think the common phrase "X and his court" - "דוד ובית דינו" and not "דוד וסנהדרין" is a proof that they took over the Sanhedrin even in setting Halochos).

  • Interesting, because Kli Yakar on the pasuk of שם תשים quotes this same Mishnah. Which I don't really understand, because it implies that without a king (for example, in a democracy), איש את רעהו חיים בלעו. But we live in a democracy, without the king, and cannot really see this. Rather, seemingly שלומה של מלכות means the peace of the country.
    – Binyomin
    Aug 14, 2023 at 14:57

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