Deuteronomy 17: It’s Good To Be King?

Hi everyone!

I took a little birthday break last week. I wasn’t planning on it but it happened anyway. And I think it was good.

I actually was on a retreat with my other Oregon InterVarsity staff at the same house where the idea for this blog was born. It was fun to be back at that place where it all started.

I also had a chance to preach this Sunday at my church. When I have a link to the sermon I will post it so you can listen in.

But now the time has come to get back to working our way through this whole dang thing. We still have another half of Deuteronomy to go so we might as well get to it.

'Crown Jewels' photo (c) 2011, Roberto Arias - license:

Mother, May I?

There is some interesting stuff at the start of Deuteronomy 17, but the last third of the chapter was awesome.

It was the first time the topic of the King of Israel has come up.

When you have come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you, and have taken possession of it and settled in it, and you say, ‘I will set a king over me, like all the nations that are around me’, you may indeed set over you a king whom the Lord your God will choose.

So the people may want a King. If they do, God says they may.

This isn’t a command. This is an option.  They can have it if they want it. Isn’t that crazy that something as huge as a monarchy is one of several options for these people? What does this say about all the other nations around them that they want to emulate? Yeah, they all have kings, but they don’t need them.

And neither do you.

But if they DO want a king, God has to choose it.

What does that say about their ability to choose a ruler for themselves?

Money, Sex, and Power

Before you all jump up and volunteer for the kingship, know that there are a few stipulations, a few quid pro quos if you will.

  1. You cannot acquire many horses for yourself, or go to Egypt to get them
  2. You cannot acquire many wives for yourself.
  3. You cannot acquire great quantities of silver and gold.

Limits on power, sex, and money.

Apparently, when a king has or chases after these things, bad things happen. Kings are required, by law, to not have these things.

There are also prohibitions against exalting himself above other members of the community. So what exactly does a king of Israel do?

King of Israel’s Job Description.

  • Have a copy of the law written for him
  • Read it all the days of his life so he learns to fear the LORD.
  • Diligently observe the words of the Law.

That’s it. So the king is basically the, or a, person who learns and follows God’s laws. He just does it a little more publicly than others.

Which kind of begs the question: Why would anyone want to be the King?

9 responses

  1. This chapter’s really interesting when you consider what eventually happened with Israel’s monarchy (and how Solomon would end up violating all three of the money/sex/power rules and messes up his duties by turning to idolatry). And this is a guy who’s best remembered for his wisdom!

    • Totally. And that almost makes me think that this is a response to Solomon, if it was written down later in the exile. Or just amazing foresight on the part of God.

    • I guess what I want to know is: given the restrictions placed on those things, why would you want to be King and why would Israel want one. The only perk is you get a personalized copy of the law.

  2. Isn’t it interesting that the very things that God said there should be limits on, David and Solomon ended up with. And this caused them all sorts of problems.

  3. This is a great example of how Christian leadership goes against the world’s standards. The world says leaders are to have power and be awesome, but God calls his leaders to be servants of Him and the people.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s