There’s an interesting passage in 1 Samuel 8 that has made me wonder: Did Israel fully understand that God was their king? It’s easy pass over, but when unpacked a bit, two verses turn out to be a hinge in this part of the story of Israel:
The elders of Israel came to Samuel at his home in Ramah and said, “Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.” (vv. 4–5, emphasis added)
Moses, Israel’s first judge (Exod 18:13—though technically, judges didn’t come on the scene until after Joshua; see Judges 2:16) described his role by saying: “People come to me to seek God. When they have an issue, it comes to me, and I judge between a man and his neighbor, and I make known God’s rule and his instructions” (Exod 18:15–16 LEB).
Don’t miss the language in the last part of that verse . . . judges were to “make known God’s rule and his instructions.”
They were to represent God’s rule on earth—to represent their King.
Samuel, one of Israel’s judges, was deeply troubled by Israel’s request for a human king (Young’s Literal Translation says the request was “evil in the eyes of Samuel”).
What was so “evil” about wanting a king rather than a judge?
The answer comes two verses later when God tells Samuel to acquiesce to the people. They weren’t rejecting Samuel as judge, they were rejecting God as King:
The Lord said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. (1 Sam 8:7; see also 1 Sam 12:12)
God’s people—frustrated that the nations surrounding them had human kings to judge and govern their people—demanded such a king from God. We soon see Samuel anointing Saul as Israel’s first human king (1 Sam 10:1), followed by David.
Had God not made it clear he was their king? Were the Israelites fuzzy on this key piece of information?
Explore these 33 Old Testament verses about God as King—as well as instances where God is described as ruling and reigning and “sitting enthroned”—to come to your own conclusion. (Or dig deep the concept of the kingdom of God with Classic Studies on the Kingdom of God and Kingdom of Heaven (15 vols.) or the nine-hour video course A Biblical Theology of the Kingdom of God.)
💡Tip! These 33 verses were easy to find using Logos Bible Software. For example, to find all the verses where “God” and “king” appear together in the same verse, I used the “And” operator in a simple search. Here’s what I found:
Instances where God is called ‘king’
Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises! For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm! (Ps 47:6–7)
Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray. (Ps 5:2)
You, O God, are my king from of old. (Ps 74:12)
For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. (Ps 95:3)
Shout for joy before the LORD, the King. (Ps 98:6)
I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise your name for ever and ever. (Ps 145:1)
Who is he, this King of glory? The LORD of hosts—he is the King of glory. (Ps 24:10)
You are my King, O God; ordain salvation for Jacob! (Ps 44:4)
My eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts. (Isa 6:5)
They will pass through the land, greatly distressed and hungry. And when they are hungry, they will be enraged and will speak contemptuously against their king and their God, and turn their faces upward. (Isa 8:21)
There is none like you, O Lord; you are great, and your name is great in might. Who would not fear you, O King of the nations? (Jer 10:7)
But the LORD is the true God; he is the living God, the eternal King. (Jer 10:10)
The LORD, the King of Israel, is with you. (Zeph 3:15)
The LORD will be king over the whole earth. (Zech 14:9)
Instances of God as ruler, judge, sovereign, majesty
There is none like God, O Jeshurun, who rides through the heavens to your help, through the skies in his majesty. (Deut 33:26)
Wealth and honor come from you; you are the Ruler of all things. (1 Chron 29:12, NIV)
Ascribe power to God, whose majesty is over Israel, and whose power is in the skies. (Ps 68:34)
But it is God who executes judgment, putting down one and lifting up another. (Ps 75:7)
Bless the Lord, O my soul! O Lord my God, you are very great! You are clothed with splendor and majesty. (Ps 104:1)
The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God. (Isa 35:2)
Instances where God is said to ‘reign’
The Lord will reign forever and ever! (Exod 15:18)
God reigns over the nations; God sits on his holy throne. (Ps 47:8–9)
The Lord reigns; let the peoples tremble! He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake! (Ps 99:1)
The Lord will reign forever, your God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the Lord! (Ps 146:10)
How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.” (Isa 52:7)
God’s enthroned Presence in the context of reigning as King2
But the Lord sits enthroned forever; he has established his throne for justice. . . . Sing praises to the Lord, who sits enthroned in Zion! Tell among the peoples his deeds! (Ps 9:7, 11)
The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord sits enthroned as king forever. (Ps 29:10)
The Lord looks down from heaven; he sees all the children of man; from where he sits enthroned he looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth, he who fashions the hearts of them all and observes all their deeds. (Ps 33:13–15)
God will give ear and humble them, he who is enthroned from of old, because they do not change and do not fear God. (Ps 55:19)
The Lord reigns; let the peoples tremble! He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake! The Lord is great in Zion; he is exalted over all the peoples. Let them praise your great and awesome name! Holy is he! The King in his might loves justice. (Ps 99:1–4)
But you, O Lord, are enthroned forever; you are remembered throughout all generations. (Ps 102:12)
To you I lift up my eyes, O you who are enthroned in the heavens! (Ps 123:1)
O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. (Isa 37:16)
Explore these and other verses where God is referenced as King in the Old Testament in this public passage list in Logos—and learn how to create more passage lists like this that you can organize, save, and memorize later.
- Kanye Says Jesus Is King: What Does Tim Keller Say?
- What Mount Moriah Can Teach Us about God’s Providence
- Scripture: 13 Verses on What the Bible Says about God’s Word
- The Trinity: 17 Verses about the ‘Oneness’ of God
- Classic Studies on the Kingdom of God and Kingdom of Heaven (15 vols.)
- God Is King: Understanding an Israelite Metaphor by Marc Zvi Brettler
- Kingdom through Covenant: A Biblical-Theological Understanding of the Covenants, 2nd ed. by Peter J. Gentry and Stephen J. Wellum
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- John D. Barry, Lexham Bible Dictionary, “Judges” (Bellingham, WA), 2016.
- God is described as “enthroned between the cherubim” (on the ark of the covenant) eight times in the Old Testament: 2 Samuel 6:2; also 1 Samuel 4:4; 2 Kings 19:15; 1 Chronicles 13:6; Psalm 80:1; cf. Ezekiel 10:1.