The false worship of kings (Wis 14:17-14:21)

“When people could not honor monarchs

In their presence,

Since they lived at a distance,

They imagined their appearance from far away.

They made a visible image of the king,

Whom they honored.

Thus by their zeal

They might flatter the absent one as though present.

Then the ambition of the craftsman impelled

Even those who did not know the king

To intensify their worship.

Perhaps wishing to please his ruler,

They skillfully forced the likeness

To take a more beautiful form.

The multitude,

Attracted by the charm of their work,

Now regarded as an object of worship

The one whom shortly before

They had honored as a man.

This became a hidden trap for humankind.

Because men,

In bondage to misfortune

Or to royal authority,

Bestowed on objects of stone

Or wood

The name that ought not to be shared.”

How did kings and rulers become gods? Once again this author has an explanation of how this happened. First, some of the subjects never saw the king because they lived too far away. Since they wanted to know what he looked like, a visible image was created. With the passage of time, the artisans made the king look better than in real life. Thus the worship of the king’s image became a worship object to those who never met the ruler or king. Gradually these beautiful objects of stone became objects of worship because of royal authority. The similarity between the ruler and God was now complete. The ruler was a god so that his image should be worshipped. This was particularly true in the Hellenistic times.