Proverbs about the King

As residents of the United States, we may not know as much or think as much about royalty as many throughout history and around the world. But there is still much that we can learn from looking at what the Proverbs have to say about the king. Here are some reasons why these Proverbs are important for us:

  • “The king” represents the power of government which God Himself has established on earth (see Romans 13), and much of what we read in these proverbs can help us understand the role of government.
  • Jesus Christ is our perfect king, and the proverbs that speak of the ideal king can help us understand the perfection of the Christ.
  • Some proverbs speak of the imperfect men who will serve as king, and these can help us understand how we can assess and respond to our own leaders.
  • Some aspects of royalty are aspects of leadership in general and can teach us about the roles that leaders should play in our society as well.

Consider the proverbs:

“I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, And I find knowledge and discretion. The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way And the perverted mouth, I hate. Counsel is mine and sound wisdom; I am understanding, power is mine. By me kings reign, And rulers decree justice. By me princes rule, and nobles, All who judge rightly.” (8:12-16)

“In a multitude of people is a king’s glory, But in the dearth of people is a prince’s ruin.” (14:28)

“The king’s favor is toward a servant who acts wisely, But his anger is toward him who acts shamefully.” (14:35)

“A divine decision is in the lips of the king; His mouth should not err in judgment.” (16:10)

“It is an abomination for kings to commit wicked acts, For a throne is established on righteousness.” (16:12)

“Righteous lips are the delight of kings, And he who speaks right is loved.” (16:13)

“The fury of a king is like messengers of death, But a wise man will appease it.” (16:14)

“In the light of a king’s face is life, And his favor is like a cloud with the spring rain.” (16:15)

“The king’s wrath is like the roaring of a lion, But his favor is like dew on the grass.” (19:12)

“The terror of a king is like the growling of a lion; He who provokes him to anger forfeits his own life.” (20:2)

“A king who sits on the throne of justice Disperses all evil with his eyes.” (20:8)

“A wise king winnows the wicked, And drives the threshing wheel over them.” (20:26)

“Loyalty and truth preserve the king, And he upholds his throne by righteousness.” (20:28)

“The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes.” (21:1)

“He who loves purity of heart And whose speech is gracious, the king is his friend.” (22:11)

“Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will stand before kings; He will not stand before obscure men.” (22:29)

“My son, fear the Lord and the king; Do not associate with those who are given to change.” (24:21)

“It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, But the glory of kings is to search out a matter.” (25:2)

“As the heavens for height and the earth for depth, So the heart of kings is unsearchable.” (25:3)

“Take away the wicked before the king, And his throne will be established in righteousness.” (25:5)

“Do not claim honor in the presence of the king, And do not stand in the place of great men.” (25:6)

“The king gives stability to the land by justice, But a man who takes bribes overthrows it.” (29:4)

“If a king judges the poor with truth, His throne will be established forever.” (29:14)

“Under three things the earth quakes, And under four, it cannot bear up: Under a slave when he becomes king, And a fool when he is satisfied with food, Under an unloved woman when she gets a husband, And a maidservant when she supplants her mistress.” (30:21-23)

“The locusts have no king, Yet all of them go out in ranks.” (30:27)

“The lizard you may grasp with the hands, Yet it is in kings’ palaces.” (30:28)

“There are three things which are stately in their march, Even four which are stately when they walk: The lion which is mighty among beasts And does not retreat before any, The strutting rooster, the male goat also, And a king when his army is with him.” (30:29-31)

“Do not give your strength to women, Or your ways to that which destroys kings. It is not for kings, O Lemuel, It is not for kings to drink wine, Or for rulers to desire strong drink.” (31:3-4)

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Figures in the Life of David

Major Characters (these appear at various points in David’s life.)

  • Samuel (God has heard) – judge of the people and prophet of God, anoints Saul as king but later announces that the kingdom will be taken from Saul and given to someone worthy. Anoints David as the new king and helps to protect him from Saul.
  • Saul (asked/prayed for) – King of Israel who is eventually rejected by God for disobedience. Fears and resents David, and pursues him so as to kill him. Dies in battle with his sons.
  • Jonathan (the Lord has given) – son of Saul who is loyal to David because of their great friendship.
  • David (beloved) – son of Jesse who is a shepherd and musician. Becomes king of Judah, and then of all of Israel.
  • Michal (brook?) – daughter of Saul who professes her love for David. Later given to another man, then taken back again by David.
  • Ahimelech the priest and his son Abiathar (brother of the king; my father is great) – Ahimelech helps David as he is fleeing from Saul, and is thus executed along with his family. Abiathar escapes and becomes a priest for David.
  • Abner (my father is light) – commander of Saul’s armies, killed by Joab even though he changes sides after Saul’s death to serve David
  • Joab (the LORD is my father) – son of Zuriah and commander of David’s armies.
  • Abishai and Azahel – (gift of the father?; made by God) brothers of Joab, sons or Zeruiah. Azahel is killed in battle, but Abishai remains a key military figure throughout the life of David.
  • Achish (anger?) – Philistine lord in Gath. David feigns madness to escape being take captive by him, but later returns and pledges his loyalty. Achish trusts David completely but the other Philistine lords do not.
  • Ish-Bosheth (man of shame) – (grand)son of Saul who is made king by Abner when Saul dies. Killed shortly after by two of his commanders, who were executed by David as a result.
  • Mephibosheth (dispeller of shame) – son of Jonathan son of Saul. Crippled man who is shown great kindness by David.
  • Ziba (station?) – servant of Mephibosheth who takes care of his estate, but later betrays Mephibosheth and ends up with half of his wealth.
  • Nathan (he gave) – prophet of God who gives David some of the best and some of the worst news he ever receives.
  • Bathsheba (daughter of the oath) – wife of Uriah who David covets and takes for his own, after he has Uriah killed, he marries her.
  • Uriah the Hittite (the LORD is my light) – mighty man of David who is killed in order to cover up David’s adultery with his wife.
  • Solomon/Jedidiah (peace/beloved of the LORD) – son of David by Bathsheba, who becomes a great and prosperous king after David dies.
  • Absalom (my father is peace) – Son of David who kills Amnon for raping his sister Tamar. Sent into exile but later allowed to return, he rebels against David and is temporarily successful at taking Israel from David.
  • Tamar (palm tree) – daughter of David and sister of Absalom who is raped by Amnon.
  • Amnon (faithful) – son of David who rapes Tamar and is killed in revenge by Absalom.
  • Ahithophel the Gilonite (brother of foolishness) – David’s advisor, who serves Absalom during the rebellion.
  • Cherethites and Pelethites – 600 men who leave Gath of the Philistines to follow David for the rest of his days.
  • Ittai the Gittite (with me) – foreigner who pledges loyalty to David and becomes a friend and a leader of his armies.
  • Zadok and Abiathar (righteous; my father is great) – priests for David who remain faithful to him when Absalom rebels.
  • Ahimaaz and Jonathan (brother of the council?; the LORD has given) – sons of Zadok and Abiathar who serve as secret messengers to alert David of Absalom’s plans.
  • Hushai the Archite (enjoyment?) – David’s friend and counselor who foils the advice of Ahithophel during Absalom’s rebellion.
  • Gad (fortune, luck) – a prophet of God who helps David flee from Saul, and later gives him bad news concerning the census he carried out.

Minor Characters (these are often extremely important, but  are not recorded to have played a significant role in multiple different events throughout David’s life.)

  • Jesse (gift?) – father of David.
  • Goliath (uncover, unveil?) – giant Philistine who is slain by David with the help of the LORD.
  • Abinadab, Malchi-shua (father of a vow; my king saves) – sons of Saul, brothers of Jonathan. They all die in battle together.
  • Nabal (fool, senseless, failure) – worthless fellow who refuses to provide for David’s men despite the protection they provide his flocks.
  • Abigail (my father is joy) – wife of Nabal who wisely averts disaster and becomes David’s wife when Nabal dies.
  • Doeg the Edomite (careful, fearful, uneasy) – servant of Saul who kills Ahimelech and the other prophets for helping David to flee.
  • Medium at En-Dor – a woman who can communicate with spirits, who helps Saul to call up Samuel.
  • Uzzah and Ahio, sons of Abinadab (strength; brother) – they help to transport the ark to Jerusalem, but when Uzzah reaches out to steady the ark he is struck dead.
  • ObedEdom (servent of Edom) – the ark is temporarily stored at the house of Obed-Edom and his whole household is blessed.
  • Hanun, son of Nahash king of Ammonites (gracious, merciful, favored) – becomes king after his father; needlessly provokes David to war and it does not go well for him.
  • David’s unnamed child – dies because of David’s sin with Bathsheba.
  • Jonadab (God gives liberally/impels) – David’s nephew. A “shrewd” man who convinces Amnon to rape Tamar.
  • Wise woman of Tekoa – put up by Joab to convince David to allow Absalom to come back from exile. She succeeds.
  • Woman at En-Rogel – hides Ahimaaz and Jonathan and thus helps David escape Absalom.
  • Shimei, son of Gera (hear, listen, obey) – curses David when he flees from Absalom. David promises not to seek retribution, so Solomon executes him after coming into power.
  • Chimham (longing?) – returns to Israel in place of his master, Barzillai.
  • Amasa (burden?) – serves as a commander for David after the rebellion by Absalom, but is slothful and risks David’s position, and is thus killed by Joab
  • Sheba, son of Bichri (oath) – challenger to David’s throne who seeks refuge in Abel.
  • Wise woman at Abel – avoids the destruction of Abel by throwing the head of Sheba son of Bichri down to Joab.
  • Gibeonites – Have seven of Saul’s descendants hanged as retribution of Saul’s violation of their covenant with Israel.
  • Rizpah the daughter of Aiah (coal, hot stone) – mourns for the descendants of Saul and watches after their remains.
  • Barzillai the Gileadite (man of iron) – friend of David who helps him when he flees from Absalom.
  • Araunah the Jebusite (ark, song, strong?) – owns the threshing floor where David sacrifices to the LORD after the pestilence sent by God.
  • Abishag the Shunammite (my father wanders) – beautiful young woman who attends to David in his old age. A point of contention between David’s sons Solomon and Adonijah.
  • Benaiah the son of Jehoiada (son of the LORD) – one of David’s mighty men, who helps him ensure that Solomon succeeds him as king.
  • Adonijah the son of Haggith – (the LORD is master) seeks to become king in place of Solomon when David is old, but fails and is put to death by Solomon shortly after.

Scriptures and Thoughts on Sovereignty

Defining Sovereignty:

 The Hebrew, Greek, and English words all convey the idea of a kingly reign.

 (Psalm 103:19) The Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all.

 (1 Chronicles 29:11-12) Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all.

(2 Chronicles 20:6)  and said, “O Lord, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you.

 (Psalm 115:3) Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.

(Psalm 135:6) Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.

 (Job 42:2) I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.

(Daniel 4:35) All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?”

How can modern Americans grasp the concept of sovereignty?

 (Romans 13:1-6) Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing.

 If God is sovereign, why do men perish when God does not will for any to perish?

 (2 Peter 3:9) The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

(Matthew 7:13) “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.

(Matthew 23:37) “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.

 Why does God allow bad things to happen?

 (Romans 8:28) And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

 (Proverbs 16:4) The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.

(Genesis 50:18-20) 18 His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” 19 But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God?20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people[b] should be kept alive, as they are today. 21 So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.

Consider the end of the Romans 9 passage. What effect might the larger context of the book of Romans have on our understanding of this excerpt?

 Can God make a rock so big that He cannot pick it up?

 Can God tell a lie?

(Numbers 23:19) “God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?

(2 Timothy 2:13) if we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.

(Hebrews 6:18) Thus by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be strongly encouraged.

If God is sovereign, does mankind have free will?

(Proverbs 21:1) The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.

 (Isaiah 46:9-10) Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’

(Proverbs 19:21) Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.

(Proverbs 16:9) The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.

(Lamentations 3:37) Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it?

(Proverbs 16:33) The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.

(Ephesians 1:11) In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,

Distinction of causation vs. control

 Does God predestine people to heaven or hell?

 (Romans 8:29-30) For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.

(Romans 9:10-24) When Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac,11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.”13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” 14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion,[b] but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. 19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

(John 6:44) No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

see verses on “Why do men perish…?”

Does God harden people’s hearts for His own purposes?

(Exodus 4:21) The LORD said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders which I have put in your power; but I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go.

(Exodus 9:12) And the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not listen to them, just as the LORD had spoken to Moses.

(Exodus 10:1) Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may perform these signs of Mine among them,

(Exodus 10:20) But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the sons of Israel go.

(Exodus 11:10) Moses and Aaron performed all these wonders before Pharaoh; yet the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the sons of Israel go out of his land.

(Exodus 14:8) The LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and he chased after the sons of Israel as the sons of Israel were going out boldly.

(Exodus 9:7) Pharaoh sent, and behold, there was not even one of the livestock of Israel dead. But the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let the people go.

(Exodus 8:15) But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and did not listen to them, as the LORD had said.

(Exodus 8:32) But Pharaoh hardened his heart this time also, and he did not let the people go.

(1 Samuel 6:6) “Why then do you harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts? When He had severely dealt with them, did they not allow the people to go, and they departed?

 

An Ancient Story of Healing with a Powerful Message

The Bible tells us of an ancient army captain named Naaman. He was “a great man with his master, and highly respected,” and “a valiant warrior,” but he also suffered from the painful and debilitating disease of leprosy.

A little girl from Israel, who served as a maid, told Naaman’s wife about a prophet of God in Israel who could help him. So Naaman got permission from the king of his land, Aram, and went to the king of Israel with ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten changes of clothes, hoping to use this wealth to buy healing for his disease.

Naaman did not even get to meet the prophet of God who could heal him, but the prophet, Elisha, did send word: “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh will be restored to you and you will be clean.”

This is how he responded: “Naaman was furious and went away and said, ‘Behold, I thought, “He will surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper.” Are not Abanah and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?’ So he turned and went away in a rage.”

Naaman almost missed out on the chance to be healed, but luckily his servants came to him and said “My father, had the prophet told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean?’”

Naaman almost missed out on God’s blessings because the means by which they were received seemed too commonplace to him to be taken seriously. Surely it was not by simply dipping in water that he would be healed! Surely it would be a big, meaningful, emotionally charged spectacle, instead!

Are we like Naaman today?

Do we take for granted the amazing opportunity to personally pray to God whenever and wherever we want, simply because it is so easy for us to do? Do we forget that for thousands of years, God’s throne could only be approached once a year, and even then, only by a High Priest? Do we forget that the veil in the old Jewish temple has finally been torn in two, so that now we can boldly come into God’s presence because of the blood of His Son?

Do we take for granted the amazing opportunity to open God’s word and read it whenever we want? Do we forget that these words came to Moses in a thick cloud of smoke and fire on top of a mountain, or to David the great king of Israel by the Inspiration of the Holy Spirit? Do we forget that for thousands of years, the Word of God could only be read by the scribes, while the people stood on their feet for hours at a time, desperate to hear what they could before the sun set and they had to go home? Do we forget that until very recently, scrolls were extremely expensive, and Bibles could not be taken out of the pulpit that they were chained to?

Do we take for granted to power that meets us in the waters of baptism? Do we realize that it is there that we come into contact with Jesus blood, which washes away our sins? That by such a simple and commonplace act as immersion in water, the kingdom of heaven is richly supplied to us?

Naaman failed to recognize the power of healing that was available to him because it came in such seemingly ordinary packaging. May we learn from his story. If the Lord had asked us to climb formidable mountains, practice mysterious rituals, or wear ourselves out in feats of impressive devotion, would we not do it? If therefore He tells us that He will meet us in common prayer, and common Bible study, and immersion in common water, let us go.