Bible Readings for June 12th
Deuteronomy 17 serves as the standard against which we should judge the kings of Israel and Judah as we read about them in the books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles. In this passage, we find three details that set up the storylines of what the kings of Israel and Judah will eventually become.
First, it seems it had always been Yahweh’s plan to give Israel a king. When Israel eventually demands a king, they do so by virtually quoting Deuteronomy 17:14, saying to the prophet Samuel, “Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations” (1 Sam. 8:5). But when that happens, Yahweh recognizes their request as a rejection of his kingship over them (1 Sam. 8:7). So, does Yahweh want for Israel to have a king or not?
In fact, we often spoil God’s good gifts in how we pursue them. God intends to give us something for our good, but we demand it for the wrong reasons, or to the wrong degree, or in the wrong way. Yahweh wanted Israel to have a king, but in their hearts they took that good gift and twisted it in a way they hoped would give them a measure of independence from God, while making themselves respectable in the eyes of the other nations. This was the wrong motivation for seeking a good gift.
Second, the restrictions against acquiring too many horses, wives, and silver and gold almost seem to have been written with Solomon in mind. In fact, Solomon’s great riches and many foreign wives accomplished exactly what Moses warns against here: his heart ended up turning away from Yahweh (1 Kings 11:4), and Solomon even went so far as to build high places and altars for his wives to worship their gods (1 Kings 11:7–8).
Third, there is some question about how well the kings of Israel and Judah kept the requirement that they should make for themselves a copy of the law to read all the days of their lives (Deut. 17:18–20). There were kings who didn’t care at all about God’s law, but we don’t read much about whether even the good kings explicitly obeyed this mandate. The only story we have along these lines is when King Josiah tears his clothes and immediately institutes national reforms after the priests discovered the Book of the Law and read from it to Josiah for the first time in many years (2 Chron. 34:8–33).
As we read the stories of Israel’s kings, it will become clear that not even the greatest kings satisfied these standards. Ultimately, Yahweh would need to send his own king—a king humble enough to divest himself freely of all his wealth to make his people rich, and a king who loved God’s law enough to fulfill every word of it, even to the point of death.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.