Kings and the Land

Kings and the Land January 28, 2016

Israelite kings were not to be like kings of the nations (Deuteronomy 17). Kings from the nations multiplied wealth and lived in luxury; they built military machines to conquer their neighbors; they kept harems full of princesses, wives and concubines that represented political alliances. Israel’s kings were to be different at each point: They were not to multiply gold and silver, nor horses and chariots, nor wives and concubines. No gold, no guns, no girls; they were to be restrained in wealth, war, and wives.

According to the law, various sins defile the land. Three abominations in particular defile the land and make it spew out the inhabitants. Innocent blood defiled the land; so did idolatry; and so did sexual perversion. When Israel and Judah did these abominations on Yahweh’s holy land, it was only a matter of time before the land vomited them into exile.

The two triads overlap: Multiplying gold and silver is connected with injustice and the shedding of innocent blood; think of Ahab and Naboth, where a king’s greed led to murder. A king multiplied horses and chariots to use against foreign enemies, but the same weapons might be turned against domestic rivals. Sexual license and idolatry went together; kings were prohibited from marrying foreign wives because their wives would turn their hearts from Yahweh toward their own gods, which is just what happened to Solomon when he broke the laws of kingship.

Solomon broke all the rules of kingship. Israel was not expelled from the land immediately, but in the next generation Judah suffered mini-exiles. Jeroboam took ten tribes and a lot of Solomon’s land to form a separate northern kingdom, and Pharaoh Neco invaded Judah and plundered gold from the temple. It was generations before Judah went into exile, but already in the time of Rehoboam and Jeroboam, the land was beginning to feel queasy.

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