Good government (Sir 10:1-10:5)

“A wise magistrate educates his people.

The rule of an intelligent person is well ordered.

As the people’s judge is,

So are his officials.

As the ruler of the city is,

So are all its inhabitants.

An undisciplined king ruins his people.

A city becomes fit to live in

Through the understanding of its rulers.

The government of the earth

Is in the hands of the Lord.

Over it,

He will raise up the right leader

For the time.

Human success is

In the hand of the Lord.

He confers honor upon the lawgiver.”

Sirach explains why good government is so important. A wise leader educates his people. An intelligent person will have a well ordered city. The city officials get their sense of government from the judge. The inhabitants of a city get their sense of government from their ruler. Rulers are the ones who make a city livable. However, the government is in the hands of the Lord with the divine right of kings. God will then make sure that the right leader is there at the right time. The Lord holds human success in his hands. He is the one who confers honors on his legislators and scribes.

The chosen king (Wis 9:5-9:7)

“I am your servant.

I am the son of your serving girl.

I am a man who is weak.

I am short-lived.

I have little understanding of judgment.

I have little understanding of laws.

Even one who is perfect among human beings

Will be regarded as nothing

Without the wisdom that comes from you.

You have chosen me

To be king of your people.

You have chosen me,

To be judge over your sons.

You have chosen me

To be judge over your daughters.”

This author seems to assume the role of Solomon, claiming that he was chosen king by God, with the so-called divine right of kings. In fact, from 1 Kings, chapters1-2, there were some machinations by King David and Bathsheba, his wife and Solomon’s mother, to make this happen. However, this author pleads humility since he was merely the son of a servant girl. Thus he says that he was weak and short-lived, with littler understanding of judgment and laws. Probably he should not have been made king based on this. However, it was God’s wisdom (σοῦ σοφίας) that made him capable of being king (βασιλέα).

Listen up kings and judges! (Wis 6:1-6:3)

“Listen therefore!

O kings!

Understand!

Learn!

O judges of the ends of the earth!

Give ear!

You that rule over multitudes!

You boast of many nations!

Your dominion was given you

From the Lord.

He is your sovereignty

From the Most High.

He will search out your works.

He will inquire into your plans.”

There is a call to kings (βασιλεῖς) and judges (δικασταὶ) to listen, understand, and learn. The most powerful on earth have their sovereignty from the Lord (παρὰ τοῦ Κυρίου), the Most High God (παρὰ ῾Υψίστου). Once again, we have the divine right of kings as all power comes from God through the kings. God would search out and inquire about their works and plans.

Fear Yahweh (Prov 24:21-24:22)

“My child!

Fear Yahweh!

Fear the king!

Do not disobey either of them!

Disaster comes from them suddenly.

Who knows the ruin that both can bring?”

You are to fear Yahweh. However, a new element has been added, the king. You are to fear the king just like Yahweh. You are not to disobey either of them. Disaster can come suddenly to you. Either one of them can bring ruin to you. Thus we see the divine right of kings, as the king takes the place of God here on earth. You should listen to both of them equally. You should fear both of them equally, since the king is practically divine.

The role of the king (Deut 17:14-17:20)

“When you have come into the land that Yahweh your God is giving you, and have taken possession of it and settled in it, and you say, ‘I will set a king over me, like all the nations that are round about me.’ You may indeed set over you a king whom Yahweh your God will choose. One of your own community you may set as king over you. You are not permitted to put a foreigner over you, who is not of your own community.”

You can have a king like all the other countries. However, Yahweh must choose him. Obviously, he cannot be from outside the Israelite community or some foreigner. This is the source of the diving right of kings, since Yahweh appoints him.

“Even so, he must not acquire many horses for himself, or return the people to Egypt in order to acquire more horses, since Yahweh has said to you, ‘You shall never return that way again.’ He must not acquire many wives for himself, or else his heart will turn away. Also silver and gold he must not acquire in great quantity for himself. When he has taken the throne of his kingdom, he shall have a copy of this law written for him in the presence of the Levitical priests. It shall remain with him. He shall read it all the days of his life. Thus he may learn to fear Yahweh his God. He should diligently observe all the words of this law and these statutes. He should neither exalt himself above other members of the community nor turn aside from the commandment, either to the right or to the left. Thus he and his descendants may reign long over his kingdom in Israel.”

This is clearly a theocracy, where God’s law prevails. The new king had to read the law all the days of his life. He could not go to the right or the left of the law. He could not have excessive horses, wives, or silver or gold. However, he was not to be a poor man, though. He should not bring the Israelites back to Egypt. If all goes well, he and his descendants will have a long reign by not exalting himself above his fellow Israelites.