KINGS AND PRESIDENTS

The Mueller Report is out. I won’t comment (now) on whether Democrats should pursue impeachment. But more than ever, we need perspective. I look to the Hebrew Bible.

Biblical Israel was never a democracy. Yet the Bible teaches much about national leaders. Deuteronomy 17 presents God’s restrictions on any future king of Israel: He must not keep many horses or have many wives “lest his heart go astray.” Nor shall he amass excess gold and silver.

Saul became Israel’s first king. I Samuel 9 presents Saul’s “bona fides.” Although from Benjamin, a small tribe, Saul lookedlike a king: “… no one among the Israelites was handsomer than he; he was a head taller than any of the people.” Some of us remember how John F. Kennedy’s greater television appeal helped him defeat Richard Nixon—if narrowly—in the 1960 presidential race. 

David, Saul’s successor and Israel’s greatest king, offers incredible complexity. And hope. A celebrated warrior—as a young shepherd, he killed the Philistine giant Goliath with his sling shot (then cut off his head)—he expanded the kingdom’s territory. He also exhibited grave faults. David sent Uriah the Hittite into the front ranks of battle to be killed so he could take the loyal soldier’s wife Bathsheba. 

The prophet Nathan rebuked David and cursed his house. David could have labeled Nathan’s denunciation fake news and punished him. Instead, David responded, “I stand guilty before the Lord!” (II Samuel 12:13). Nathan announced that God would remit David’s sin but his first child born to Bathsheba would die. And so it was. 

David’s son Solomon—Bathsheba was his mother—was a paragon of wisdom. Almost everyone knows the story of the two harlots who claimed the same baby. Solomon ordered the child cut in half. The real mother renounced her claim, willing to give away her child rather than see him killed. Solomon awarded the child to her. He also built the First Temple in Jerusalem.

But Solomon, heedless of Deuteronomy, spent lavishly. He amassed 1,400 chariots and 12,000 horses. He also collected 700 wives and 300 concubines. Additionally, “King Solomon imposed forced labor on all Israel” (1 Kings 1:27). He made Israel supremely wealthy—at great cost.

Solomon’s son Jeroboam sought to seize the throne. Upon Solomon’s death, Jeroboam ruled the 10 northern tribes as the kingdom of Israel. His brother Rehoboam ruled over the southern kingdom of Judah. The two kingdoms often were at odds.

A long series of kings—north and south—followed. Some were good in the eyes of God, many bad. The latter included Ahab of Israel (reigned ca. 871-852 BCE), who “did more to vex the Lord . . . than all the kings of Israel who preceded him” (I Kings 16:33). Ahab married the wicked Phoenician princess Jezebel, who turned him from God to the worship of Baal. Ultimately, Israel fell prey to Assyria in the 8th century BCE, Judah to Babylonia in the 6th. 

The  Bible’s lessons seem clear. A leader displaying competence, morality and integrity stands a far better chance of maintaining his nation’s prosperity and security than one ignorant, immoral and greedy. 

Eighteen months remain until our next presidential election. Will Americans—many boasting of their religious faith and devotion to the Bible—have absorbed this lesson?

To respond, click on “comments” to the right just below the title of this post. Then go to the response space at the bottom of the post.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

7 Comments


  1. Bruce Abramson
    Apr 26, 2019

    I certainly hope so. We spent eight long, dreary, terrifying years led by a deeply immoral President lacking any integrity whatsoever–a man whose aides boasted that both his signature domestic achievement and his signature foreign achievement rested entirely on lies to the American people. His supporters proved so deeply incompetent that they rigged an election–and lost it anyway.

    It’s been not quite 2.5 years since competence and integrity returned to Washington. America has been enjoying the prosperity, and our international situation has improved rapidly. American interests are finally being served–rather than betrayed–in the Middle East, in Europe, and in Asia. Freedom is beginning to assert itself in Venezuela and Iran, this time with American backing rather than American opposition.

    As a Jew–speaking of that Biblical tradition–we finally have a President who appreciates Jews and Judaism, and who is willing to speak out against and fight anti-Semitism. The mere knowledge that the U.S. is watching out for the Jews has strengthened and secured Jewish communities around the globe.

    One can only hope that the American electorate, as a whole, shows its gratitude. That remains a clear possibility. It would also be nice if America’s Jews showed their gratitude. That would require hopes and prayers.


    • David
      Apr 26, 2019

      Bruce, this election season will be another wild-and-woolly one. I think people will read today’s post from both political vantage points. I’d love to know, if in brief, what made Barack Obama deeply immoral. And thanks for offering your viewpoint.


      • Bruce Abramson
        Apr 26, 2019

        In brief? He’s a liar and a bigot.

        1. He lied about his objectives in promoting Obamacare, lied about how it would work, lied about its costs and benefits, did so knowingly and repeatedly.

        2. He lied about the Iran Deal, lied about what he was seeking to achieve there, lied about the terms of his agreement, sent secret cash to fund a rogue regime, and violated his oath of office by bypassing Congress and heading to the UN.

        3. He lied about the attacks on Benghazi, and incarcerated a scapegoat rather than take responsibility for his own failures.

        4. He promoted the supremacist Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood and Iran, victimizing anyone in the Middle East (mostly Muslims, though disproportionately minorities) who fell in their path.

        5. He promoted racial agitators rioting in the streets, inventing tales of widespread racism, weaponizing the Departments of Justice and Education to reduce both due process and equal protection.

        6. He vilified the Jewish State, accused American Jews of dual loyalties, downplayed the threat to Jews around the world, and ignored anti-Semitism even when it was blatant (as in the Hyper Kasher massacre).

        There’s plenty more, but those are some headlines.


  2. Bruce Abramson
    Apr 26, 2019

    Though I should concede that he achieved many of these things through people he selected, hired, praised, and never reprimanded.


    • David
      Apr 26, 2019

      I’m not sure it’s all that simple, Bruce, and that morality, rather than politics, is the issue. I do believe Obama was not sufficiently experienced to enter the Oval Office, but I voted for him, the first time because John McCain chose a horrible VP candidate. I might well have voted for McCain otherwise. I voted for Obama over Romney because millions of Americans did receive health coverage, and the Republican party has swung so far to the right it disturbs me. Is Trump a moral man? Perhaps other readers will weigh in. Much of the public will in the 18 months to come.


  3. Tracy Boxer Zill
    Apr 26, 2019

    I am no Democrat, but reading that because of Drumph “competence and integrity returned to Washington” made me spit up my burrito. Where is the integrity of:

    1. Claiming that “Big steel is opening and renovating plants all over the country. Auto companies are pouring into the U.S., including BMW, which just announced a major new plant.” BMW never announced any such thing and auto investment is down.

    2. “When people or countries come in to raid the great wealth of our Nation, I want them to pay for the privilege of doing so…We are right now taking in $billions in Tariffs. MAKE AMERICA RICH AGAIN!” He fundamentally misunderstands how tarriffs work – they increase prices of imports, which are passed on to consumers.

    3. “We’ve accomplished an economic turnaround of historic proportions.” The economy wasn’t hurting when he took office and his tax cut benefits, according to economists, are offset by his trade wars. There has been no turnaround.

    4. Trump called special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe a “witch hunt” more than 100 times. But it’s a federal investigation that has so far resulted in 33 people being charged with crimes, and seen three senior Trump associates convicted.

    5. “We’re building the wall as we speak,” the president said on Fox News in October 2018. “MEXICO IS PAYING FOR THE WALL,” he tweeted on Dec. 13. “We are already building and renovating many miles of Wall, some complete,” he tweeted on Christmas Eve. Two years after campaigning on a promise to build a big, beautiful concrete wall — not a fence — along the nation’s southern border that Mexico would pay for, Trump declared victory, telling Americans that quite a bit of his border wall has been built, the government is building more and that Mexico is paying for it, albeit indirectly. There’s just one problem: none of that is true.

    You can say you like him. You can say his followers are the racists and not he. You can say he’s not anti-Semitic. You can say he was a better choice than Hillary. But you CANNOT SAY, with a straight face, that he exudes integrity and/or competence. Those are just not true.

    Note that I didn’t even have to list any of his infidelities, business failures, or social faux pas. His own words alone are enough to show him to be either a liar, stupid, or both.

    Shabbat shalom.


    • David
      Apr 26, 2019

      I take it, Tracy, that you disagree with Bruce. As Bruce knows, so do I. But I welcome all opinions, all discussion.

Leave a Reply