A notable difference between kings and judges exist in the Bible.
There were many kings who committed many wrongdoings. There were few judges who sinned so greatly, as David, for example.
The difference between judges and kings were the roles they fulfilled.
A judge acted as a conduit between God and the people. Moses led and judged the people, by God’s actions. Whatever power Moses had, was pushed to serve the people of God better.
God used Moses to speak to the people, set laws for the people, and dealt out judgement through Moses. God was acting through Moses, in order to lead the people.
In 1 Samuel, the people moved away from this methodology of leadership. They had a king chosen for them, to represent them.
The king had all power, and the people listened. Consequently, God’s relationship with man changed. God spoke to the king, through the prophets.
The people no longer received the word of the Lord directly, but had to be led, through the actions of the king, in order to serve God.
We notice that God never spoke to David directly. Instead, David would enquire of the Lord, through the priest. God had set up a differentiation between him and the king. A direct line, would have made the king believe that they were on equal footing.
God spoke to David through Samuel and Nathan, Ahab through Elijah and Hezekiah, through Isaiah.
The only notable exception that I have found, was when God appeared to Solomon. This is very notable, as I believe it was the only time God revealed himself to a king.
And Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of David his father: only he sacrificed and burnt incense in high places.1 King 3:3-5
And the king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there; for that was the great high place: a thousand burnt offerings did Solomon offer upon that altar.
In Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night: and God said, Ask what I shall give thee.
This is so incredibly noteworthy to me. God regarded Solomon so highly, that he revealed himself to him. This placed him on equal footing with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses as people who had met with God.
Just to sum up this mess of notes:
- Israel moving away from a theocracy, to a monarchy, hurt the people, by cutting them off from God, and having to rely on a man as a source of direction.
- Kings are distinct from judges, as the power of the judge resided in God, and the king relied on the power of state.
- Kings (almost) never met with God, prophets were used in this capacity.
- Prophets emerged as mouthpieces for God, and played critical roles in the late Old Testament.