ki taveh el ha’aretz asher Adonai eloheha notein lach virishtah v’yashavta bah vamarta asima alai melech k’chol-hagoyim asher s’vivotai som tasim aleha melech asher yivchar Adonai eloheha bo mikerev acheha tasim aleha melech lo tuchal lateit alecha nochrei asher lo acheha hu.
“If, after you have entered the land that the Eternal your G-d has assigned to you, and taken possession of it and settled in it, you decide, “I will set a king over me as do all the nations about me,” you shall be free to set a king over yourself, one chosen by the Eternal your G-d. Be sure to set as king over yourself one of your own people; you must not set a foreigner over you, one who is not your kin.”
First of all, Moses is looking ahead again. He knows that the Israelites are terrible at ruling themselves and when left to their own devices for six weeks start making idols and generally not following the rules. So he knows that eventually, they will need a king. (Smart guy, Moses… 🙂 ) He then thinks, “Hmmm… if we don’t start setting rules they will bring in a Baal-worshiping Canaanite and then they will all start worshiping Baal. So, what are some criteria for a king…”
Here is what Moses comes up with. The king:
- Must be an Israelite
- Must be chosen by G-d
- Can’t have a zillion horses
- Can’t “send people back to Egypt to add to his horses,” though I don’t know whether that means “No mercenaries in trade for horses” like the book says, or “Nobody can go to trade for horses. Period.”
- Can’t have many wives (How much is many? I don’t know, as it was custom for everyone to have at least a few…)
- Can’t have too much money
- Must be faithful and learned and non-haughty
A lot of this ensures that the king is not too wealthy. While it is important that there doesn’t end up being a huge wealth divide between the king and the people, it rather alarms me that there is only one criteria that has to do with what kind of a person you are. I think that above the importance of being native is the importance of being kind and wise. What if there is a king who meets all of the requirements but still manages to be a tyrant? Why would we be so concerned about the king’s wealth and parentage if he has many wives because he loves them all, many horses because he, um, likes horses (?), and money because he inherited it and is not yet done spending it or because he is saving in case of financial trouble? Sometimes Moses forgets that sometimes the best criteria are intangible. Then again, maybe he forgets that not everyone hits the rock when you give them a chance. I think that these criteria should be added:
- Must be fair to his/her subjects
- Must care about what is best for the subjects, not just him
- Must be able to act, not just think
Do you have any criteria to add? Don’t be shy, PLEASE comment. I haven’t had a comment in AGES!
By me, with help from G-d.