“When you come to the land that the LORD your God is giving you, and you possess it and dwell in it and then say, ‘I will set a king over me, like all the nations that are around me,’ you may indeed set a king over you whom the LORD your God will choose. One from among your brothers you shall set as king over you. You may not put a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. Only he must not acquire many horses for himself or cause the people to return to Egypt in order to acquire many horses, since the LORD has said to you, ‘You shall never return that way again.’ And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold.
“And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests. And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel. – Deuteronomy 17:14 – 18
Here God predicts that Israel will want a king over them like the other nations of the land.
God says that He must choose the king that they set over themselves and there are rules this king must follow:
1. Don’t acquire many horses for yourself.
2. Don’t acquire many wives for yourself.
3. Don’t acquire excessive silver and gold for yourself.
4. When you become King you’re supposed to go to the Levites and copy out the entire Law (from their master copy) into a book for yourself, to read daily for the rest of your life.
God tells them to curb their appetites for power, sex, and money, and to follow his law. So that “his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers.”
Historically what Kings have really lived up to this? Let’s see how King David, the darling of Heaven, stacked up.
1. Don’t acquire many horses for yourself
He was against using horses and fought all his battles on foot as infantry. David captured many thousands of horses and chariots from the nations he conquered, but he “hamstrung” all but 100 the horses, literally crippling them by cutting their hamstrings (2 Samuel 8:4). There’s no record of David ever using a horse in battle.
Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed; he will answer him from his holy heaven with the saving might of his right hand. Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. – Psalm 20:6-7
This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the LORD saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give you into our hand.” – 1 Samuel 17:46-47
2. Don’t acquire many wives for yourself
He had 5 wives while King of Judah in Hebron, then he got Michal (his first wife) back for a total of 6 (2 Samuel 3:2-3; 3:13-14). After becoming King over Israel, he took more concubines and wives from Jerusalem (2 Samuel 5:13), though a number isn’t given, but we’ll call it “x”. Then he took Bathsheba from one of his mighty men, for a total of 7 + x. From the ordeal with Absalom, we find that David had at least 10 concubines (2 Samuel 15:16), so now we have 17 + x . So we know that David had no less than 17 wives, and it’s probably safe to say no more than 30, which was probably reasonable for a king in his time, but still breaks this rule.
Furthermore we know David had a weakness for women and intense lust was involved when he was willing to kill another man (not just any man, one of his “Mighty Men”) and take his wife when he already had so many.
3. Don’t acquire excessive silver and gold for yourself
David dedicated to the Lord basically all the gold and silver from all the nations he conquered (1 Chronicles 18:10-11). He spent his entire life gathering wealth for God’s Temple that Solomon would build and gave it all as a gift to God at the end of his life (1 Chronicles 29).
✓ Passed with flying colors!
4. Write your own copy of the Law of Moses
I don’t know of any verses specifically saying that David copied out the Law with his own hands, but the circumstantial evidence that he did is overwhelming.
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. – Psalm 1:1-2
With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth. I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. – Psalm 119:13-15
Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. – Psalm 119:97
For sake of space, I don’t include all the verses where David praises God’s Laws and claims to meditate on them daily. They’re all over the Psalms. Literally the entirety of Psalm 119 (the longest chapter in the entire bible) is about God’s Law and how awesome it is, and how studious David is at reading it daily, and memorizing it, and meditating on it.
More evidence from David’s actions showed he understood God’s explicit commands to the Israelites concerning their neighbors. David understood the “cherem” otherwise known as “dedication for destruction” in English. Saul did not understand cherem and lost his kingdom because of it.
Lastly, David wrote most of the book of Psalms (the longest book of the bible), made up of songs and poetry. So he definitely wasn’t intimidated by writing.
David read and loved the law, and though he didn’t follow all of its rules, he attempted to, like the rest of us good Christians do.
So David met 3 of the 4 requirements of a King, and God loved him more than any other King of Israel. Don’t let anyone tell you that God doesn’t grade on a curve.
“Nevertheless, for David’s sake the LORD his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem, setting up his son after him, and establishing Jerusalem, because David did what was right in the eyes of the LORD and did not turn aside from anything that he commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite.” – 1 Kings 15:4-5