Sometimes Christians talk as if the civil government has an unlimited jurisdiction over citizenry. But this is not what the Bible teaches. God’s word limits the scope of civil authority. Might does not make right. Civil magistrates are human beings like the rest of us. They are not above the law. The authority they have comes from God through the consent of the governed.
These verses are selected from the portion of scripture covered today in the OSA Bible schedule.
14 When thou art come unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, and shalt possess it, and shalt dwell therein, and shalt say, I will set a king over me, like as all the nations that are about me;
15 Thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee, whom the LORD thy God shall choose: one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee: thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, which is not thy brother.
16 But he shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt, to the end that he should multiply horses: forasmuch as the LORD hath said unto you, Ye shall henceforth return no more that way.
17 Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away: neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold.
18 And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites:
19 And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them:
20 That his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left: to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel.
The verses above limited and restricted the authority of the King in the constitutional monarchy of Israel.
Notice, there were three things Kings were not to multiply. They were not to multiply horses, wives, or gold and silver.
Why not multiply horses? Horses were the offensive weapons of the day. They were used for pulling chariots and war engines. They were not used for defensive war. God did not want his people to be the policeman of the world, or to be a parasitical empire like the Assyrians and Babylonians. God wanted his people to be the salt and the light of the world. They were to be an example to the nations. In them were all the nations to be blessed.
Geographically the land of Israel was at the center of the world. They had coastland on the Mediterranean. They possessed the highways between the continents and were at a great place for commercial dealings. Nations that send their producing young men off to war instead of off to work become parasitical. When male populations are decimated, young ladies have no one to marry. In the short term the economy is boosted by the plunder, but the greatest resource, the blood of their youth, is spilt. By telling Israel not to multiply horses God was urging them to “mind their own business.” Through commerce, justice and righteousness they were to be the most influential people on earth.
The second thing God told them not to multiply was wives. Jesus demonstrated that monogamy is taught in Genesis chapter one. God created man as male and female and said, “the two shall be one.” This verse in Deuteronomy also teaches monogamy. Two wives is exactly two times one, and one to many! But there is more wrong with this than polygamy. Kings would exchange daughters to be married to other kings when treaties were made. This was a way of saying, “Hey, we’re family now. You should have our interest at heart.” So the King’s heart would become divided, and no man can serve two masters. But God did not want his people to be entangled in international treaties. Having many international entanglements has a way of leading to war. For example, WWI started with the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand as a result of international treaties. No one man is worth that much blood shed.
The third thing God said not to multiply was silver and gold. The king was to have the interest of the people at heart. He was not to use his position as King to oppress the people and enslave them. Nor was he to be the source of by which all needs were to be met. He was to protect them so that they could “lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.” 1Timothy 2:2
Finally, the king was bound by the written constitution of Israel. He was to study the law and obey the jots and tittles of it. He was not above the law. His heart was not to be above the people. He was to, “meditate in the law of the Lord day and night…” that he and his people would be fruitful and productive in all of their undertakings. Psalm 1:1-3
1 Kings 10:14-11:6 shows that the downfall of the greatest King Israel ever had was in these three things. He multiplied Gold, (Big government), He multiplied Horses, (Big military). And he multiplied wives. (Big treaty obligations.) His heart was turned away from the Lord, and lifted up above the people. The resultant loss of liberty and prosperity was soon to follow.
God’s people should be wary of big government solutions. God is our Savior. Not the state.