The biblical book of Deuteronomy is a retelling of the Law of Moses to a new generation of Israelites. The first generation who should have inherited the Promised Land failed to do so because of disobedience. Moses recounts much of what is contained in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers to this second generation. Deuteronomy is a sobering call to love and obey God.
In chapter 17 we find a section that gives instruction about Israel’s kings. Moses is anticipating what Israel will desire years into the future as she looks around at the other nations. There are five prerequisites for any would be king over God’s chosen people. These requirements help define the kind of king Israel should desire.
1. This king must be God’s choice. God knew that the Israelites could ultimately fall prey to asking for a king for all of the wrong reasons, and therefore choose poorly. As a general rule, people do not have a great track record in choosing their leaders. God desired that the people seek Him for His choice of someone to rule over them.
2. This king must be an Israelite. God also knew that the Israelites might be tempted by the pagan people who were already residing in the Promised Land to choose a leader from among them. But that would surely be a leader who would not follow God heart and soul. It would end up being a leader who would lead God’s people astray.
3. This king must not amass great personal wealth and military might. God understood that a king would always be tempted to use his great power to surround himself with more power and great wealth. Leaders today are tempted to do the same. Moses goes on to further warn this king to certainly not lean on other nations for a military alliance, such as Egypt. The king was to find his security in God alone.
4. This king must not take many wives. This is not simply a prohibition against polygamy. D.A. Carson states that in the Ancient Near East kings showed off their greatness by the number of wives they possessed. Therefore this was a limitation on the kings power and a preventative measure to keep his heart from being led astray. It is not because these women might be inherently bad, it is that the king would be tempted to acquire wives from surrounding nations that worshiped lesser gods.
5. This king, once he ascends to the throne, must write out a personal copy of God’s Law and read it every day for the rest of his life. This was a tall task to help insure that the king would revere God, follow God’s commands as he led, and to not place himself above the common Israelite.
Summary: God chooses God’s person who will rule not from power and might, but whole heartedly towards God’s purposes for God’s glory and the well being of God’s people.
How do these precepts inform your own leadership?
In the day of Moses there was another king coming who would defy cultural connotations by eschewing worldly power and passions. He would carefully follow all of God’s words. He was intent on building an alternative kingdom, a spiritual kingdom. He would sacrifice himself for us. This is the Servant King we wait for again. King Jesus.