‘Thou Shalt Not…’ (But They Did It Anyway)

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God understood that sooner or later His people, Israel, would want a king, like other nations. And so, through Moses, He explained what any future king of Israel should and should not do (Deuteronomy 17:14-20).

Among these instructions, two stand out. The king is not to “multiply wives to himself” (v. 17), which might turn his heart away from God; and he is to keep a book beside his throne, and every day write in it the words of God’s law (v. 18-19).

One of the details that convinces me that the Bible is a true historical record is the frequency with which the great men of ancient Israel totally fail to carry out God’s commandments–if they even try. You’d think it would be a simple matter for a king not to take on a whole passel of wives, and to write down a Bible verse or two every day.  But no.

King David’s platoon of wives gave him a whole company of sons, making it impossible for Solomon to succeed his father without shedding brotherly blood; and then Solomon collected a harem that put David’s to shame: and sure enough, this city block’s worth of pagan wives from all sorts of pagan nations turned the wise king’s heart to folly, and resulted in the breakup of the kingdom.

The Bible makes no mention of any king of Israel or Judah ever jotting down a daily verse of Scripture. You’d think, if one of them ever once did it, someone would have thought it astounding enough to mention.

One thing the Bible teaches us is our absolute and non-negotiable need for a savior. And the only Savior who will do is Jesus Christ. He alone, of all who ever walked in human flesh, kept God’s law perfectly. He alone satisfied its terms. David, the man after God’s own heart, couldn’t do it. Solomon, the wisest ruler ever, couldn’t do it.

But God did, in the person of His son. And that’s how we’re saved.


4 comments on “‘Thou Shalt Not…’ (But They Did It Anyway)

  1. Yes, I have pondered these Scriptures very often, and wondered at the stupidity of such wise men. When God warned the people of the things a human king would do “to” them, and not “for” them, did they listen? NO
    How parallel to our present day events and the way our “kings” rob us. Did we learn anything? NO.

  2. While I believe that the Kingdom of God is a tangible, real thing, it begins in our hearts. Do we want a human leader, be it a monarch, charismatic preacher or secular humanist government, or do we want to live as directly as possible under God’s laws (which are far from the harshness of human rule)?

    As to taking multiple wives, I understand that men can be slaves to passion, but monogamy is God’s way. It’s the design specification for the human race and for a well-functioning human society. These days, we have the term “serial monogamy”, which is absurd. Being a divorced person (I did not seek the divorce, even though my wife had disappointed me in many ways) I can state with authority that divorce yields bitter fruit. We are meant to function as families and a simple monogamist marriage with children that are full siblings to one another provides the simplest, most straightforward environment for a family.

    It doesn’t matter if you are a king, or the richest man on the planet, having multiple wives is a source of friction. Think of a few examples: Abraham took Hagar and had a son with her. Then, after God fulfilled His promise and gave Abraham a son through Sarah, problems arose and there was friction between Ishmael and Isaac. Hagar also showed contempt towards Sarah once she had conceived Ishmael.

    Jacob had two wives Leah and Rachael, and there was much contention between them. Among Jacob’s 12 sons, there was no real unity, and Joseph, the son borne of Rachael was hated by his brothers to the point that they sold him into slavery.

    I’ve known Christians that used the polygamy in the bible as an example of how things will be in the future, during the 1,000 year reign. I don’t see that as being the case. Polygamy has never been anything but a hassle, and today’s “serial monogamy” is no better. Blended families are a reality in our fallen world, but I doubt that was ever the Creator’s intention. Sex is a sacred matter and by design holds the potential for reproduction. Far too many people have relegated it to a mere source of pleasure.

    I try to study God’s word every day, in some way or another. Writing out verses is a wonderful tool for learning the scriptures. It’s too bad that the practice was not ubiquitous among the kings. Any smarts I can claim to possess are the result of bible study.

  3. Human folly isn’t confined to kings; it’s just that kings, because of their power, have more leeway to indulge their folly. Even St. Paul acknowledged that he often did the thing he didn’t want and didn’t do the thing he did want. And most of us are hardly on St. Paul’s level of devotion to Christ. Luckily — or, I should say, blessedly — when we sin, “If we confess our sins, He [the Lord] is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 Jn 1:9)

    In my Shakespeare classes, I used to have my students memorize Macbeth’s speech in act 1, scene 7, in which he lists for himself every single reason, both moral and practical, why he shouldn’t kill King Duncan — and then he goes ahead and kills Duncan anyway. It’s kind of the story of our lives. (Not the part about killing kings, though, I hope.)

  4. I loved this article and intended to leave a comment, but now see that I actually have nothing to add to the brilliant comments above.

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