Parashat Shoftim (Judges)
D’varim (Deuteronomy) 16:18–21:9
There is a portion of Scripture in this week's parasha that I did not give much attention before. It's significant because it has prophetic elements regarding Israel’s future request for a king as well as some very specific failures of its future kings, such as David and Solomon:
When you enter the land which the LORD your God gives you, and you inherit it and live in it, and you say, ‘I will set a king over me like all the nations who are around me,’ you shall surely set a king over you whom the LORD your God chooses, one from among your countrymen you shall set as king over yourselves; you may not put a foreigner over yourselves who is not your countryman. Moreover, he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor shall he cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, since the LORD has said to you, ‘You shall never again return that way.’ He shall not multiply wives for himself, or else his heart will turn away; nor shall he greatly increase silver and gold for himself. Now it shall come about when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself a copy of this law on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests. It shall be with him and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, by carefully observing all the words of this law and these statutes, that his heart may not be lifted up above his countrymen and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, to the right or the left, so that he and his sons may continue long in his kingdom in the midst of Israel.
As we know, Israel did end up asking for a king (1 Samuel 8:5) in their desire to be like all the other nations, not acknowledging God as their sole and absolute only King!
I find the description of the king's qualifications very interesting; not only did he need to be someone of God's choosing, but also someone from the people of Israel. The king should not multiply horses for himself, which means that the king would not trust in any outward thing, nor should the king cause Israel to return to Egypt. This is echoed in Isaiah 31:1, where it is written:
Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses, and trust in chariots because they are manyand in horsemen because they are very strong, but they do not look to the Holy One of Israel, nor seek the LORD!
Clearly, the king should only trust in God alone, not rely on the strength of anyone or anything else (horses, chariots, or Egypt), and he should lead Israel to do the same.
Another key requirement of a king is that he should not have multiple wives so that his heart would not turn away from the LORD (consider what happened to King Solomon in 1 Kings 11:3-4). Why is this important? Again, the king's actions would heavily influence the people, and God did not want anything that would ultimately lead the children of Israel to turn away from the LORD. The same is true of the last warning to not have an abundance of silver and gold because it would cause the king to trust in things other than God, which would entice the people to follow suit.
The second part of this Scripture portion from Deuteronomy shows us how important it is that the King learns and applies God’s teaching — His Torah — again and again. Again, this is not only for himself but also for those God entrusted under his leadership.
Sadly, we know from the Scripture accounts of the various kings, that all of them failed to fulfill these instructions. I personally believe that the reason for this was, and still is, that God always intended for Israel to have one King who could fulfill all the requirements. God had in mind a future King who would come the first time to serve, and the second time to rule on this earth. We can now also understand the reason that the sign, “King of the Jews”, was such an important sign to be hung above Yeshua.
The wonderful news, my friends, is that a day is coming when God’s appointed King, His Anointed One (משיח), the everlasting King from among His people, Israel, will return once again to establish the Kingdom of God that will never end!
I don't know about you, but I am very much looking forward to that day.
Did you know? — Lone Soldier
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