The kings of ancient Israel were thought of as in a special sense the representative of Yahweh to the people and of the people to Yahweh. Like the character of the autumnal festival, the religious status of the king has been a hotly disputed question in recent study of Old Testament religion. Elsewhere in the ancient Near East, kings exercised important religious functions and were believed to have a specially close relationship with the divine world, and to be the channel by which the gods bestowed their blessings on the community. But there was no uniformity of belief and practice. In Egypt, indeed, an unmistakably divine character was ascribed to the Pharaoh, who was held to be the incarnate son of the deity. In general, however, his status as representitive and intermediary is evident. Since he embodied in his own person the life of the community of which he was head (cp. the patriarchs) his vigor and well-being were of vital importance for that community.
In adopting the monarchy Israel took over from her Canaanite environment an institution which was not only political but religious; and it is not surprising that kings exercised an important influence on the religious life of the nation and at times performed cultic  functions. The fact that kings such as David, Solomon, Jeroboam I (of Northermn Israel), Joash, Ahaz, Hezekiah, and Josiah planned or built sanctuaries, or have them special patronage, or took active measures to alter their furninshings or reform their worhip, or appointed their priests is perhaps only what might be expected of the heads of a state in which religion was an official national activity. But Israelite kings themselves performed important cultic acts. Sacrifices were offered by Saul at Gilgal (1 Sam.13:9f) and by Solomon at Gibeon and at the dedication of the temple at Jerusalem (1 Ki.3:4; 8:5,63f). David both sacrificed (2 Sam.6:13,17f) and performed a cultic dance before the Ark, wearing a priestly vestment (2 sAM.6:14). Further, the king was "Yahweh's anointed", "the anointed of Yahweh" (e.g. 1 Sam.24:6; 26:1), and, as such, sacrosanct. Anointing (1 Sam.10:1; 16:13; 1 Ki.1:45) was a sacramental act which conferred a special ststus and conveyed divine power. How important for the well-being of the community was the rpesence of a person so endowed is vitally expressed in the title "the lamp of Israel" (2 Sam.21:17; cp. Lam.4:20), or at greater length in a Psalm such as 72, which is in all probability a paslm for the king's accession. The words "You are My Son, today I have begotten you" (cp. Mt.12:18) (or rather, "I have begotten You today") appear to indicate the belief that the king became at his accession the adopted son of Yahweh.
But here, as elsewhere, Israel brought to what she borrowed the transforming influence of her own inheritance. Kingship was not merely an alien intrustion. As the period of the Judges prepared the way for the establishment of monarchy, so the monarchy in its historical origins, and always at least ideally, continued the tradition of the charismatic leadership exercised by the Judges, the men raised up and endowed by Yahweh for the deliverance of His people. Gurther, the relationship of the Davidic royal house to Yahweh was interpreted in terms of the covenant idea. The idea, though not the actual word "covenant", is present in 2 Sam.7, where, in response to David's desire to build a house for the Ark (i.e. a temple), Yahweh replied that he will build a house (i.e. a dynasty) for David. The same thought appears with particular emphasis and clarity in Psalm 89 (ess expecially vv.3f., 19-37).; and there the actual word "covenant" is used. Yahweh's gracious choice, His word of promise and enduring faithfulness, and on man's side the obligation of loyalty and obedience: in all of there there is a parallel between the relationship of Yahweh to His people and that of Yahweh to the house of David. Or, to use a somewhat different geometrical figure, Yahweh's covenant with the house of David is a smaller concehtric circle within the larger circle of His covenant with Israel. The presence of a scion (royal descendant) of David was an outward token of the continuing goodness of Yahweh to His people.
At a later period, when the hope of restoration developed, one element in it was the expectation of such a scion of David, the "anointed (one) of Yahweh". It is from the Hebrew word for "anoined one", mashiach, that our word 'Messiah' is ultimately derived. If it is true, as has been maintained, that the autumnal festival (Sukkot) had a particular importance to the royal house, and if, further, the festival provided the structure and content of the later hope of restoration, then it is not surprising that the expectation of a Messiah was an element in the pattern of that hope. But it was only one element.
As a sacral personage, the king was associated with special occasions and activities. The regular and routine observance of the cult were the responsibility of the priests; but what were the precise functions of the priesthood, and who were entitled to exercise these functions, are questions which different answers must be given for different periods of Old Testament history. In Deut.33:8-10 the rôles the Levites are described as:
A sacral person like a king could not interfere with these rôles though they often attempted to (e.g. Saul) and at great cost. This while it is true that the kingship of Israel did have a sacral character, it was never intended by Yahweh to interfere with thwe basic rôles ascribed to the Levitical Priesthood. That monarchs did in some way participate directly is not disputed but it is clear that their involvement was in no way comparable to monarchs of neighbouring states. The model of a smaller concentric circle within a larger one best describes the kingly rôle.
- 1. using the Urim & Thummim to make known Yahweh's will;
- 2. Teaching the Law (Torah); and
- 3. Administering the ordinances.
 The words 'cult' and 'cultic' are not used here in the modern vernacular sense of a 'dangerous religious group' but in the academic sense of a 'specific system of religious worship' irrespective of whether that system is regarded as positive or negative.