Guarding the Mouth of the King

“I hold that you must guard the mouth of the king on the basis of God’s oath.”

(Ecclesiastes 8:2)

For the Christian, resorting to riots or refusing to submit to governmental authorities is not an option…no matter how much we might agree with or disagree with his or her politics. In America, regardless of what you might think of Mr. Trump or his character, the actions of those who opposed him were often quite shameful, at least from a Christian perspective. The Apostle Paul insists that we understand that God is sovereign even over the appointment of leaders (Romans 13:2) and that these are ministers of God (Romans 13:6). You might say, “Yes, but,” but when Paul was writing this, Nero was the Caesar over Rome and no matter what you think of Mr. Trump or Mr. Obama before him, neither hold a candle to the evil that Nero commanded during his years in power.

Most of our translations render this — “the command of the king” respecting the context and that commands are issued by the mouth, yet the text more literally reads as it is rendered above. The more curious thing that we see within this verse is that it begins with the word אֲנִי (aniy) — “I,” but it stands alone, connected to “the mouth of the king” only by accent markings. To make sense of this, the translators tend to insert something to read, “I tell you:” or “I say:” The real question here is whether this is an instruction of Solomon or whether he is using this construction to remind the people that he is the king and that these words are coming from his mouth, so, pay attention. The answer to this is something we cannot provide on this side of the veil. It does seem to add some emphasis and to draw attention to itself — like saying to us, “folks, this is really important to understand.”

And why must we guard the commands or keep the commands of the King? It is because of God’s oath to the king — as is spoken of by Paul above. God has placed that king in control of that region — he has placed those Elders in authority in the church — he has placed that father in authority in your home — he has placed that manager in authority over you at work, etc… — so, obey his commands.

But, it raises the question, does one ever have the right to disobey the commands of the King? Peter gives us the answer — that if those commands would cause us to sin, we have a moral obligation to obey the commands of God and not the commands of man (Acts 5:29). Does this mean that revolution always must have a moral cause and not just a practical motivation? For the Christian, yes, it must. And so, even if we look back to the founding of our nation, our early American fathers found themselves at an impasse. On one hand, they had been elected to rule over the people and to protect those in their care. On the other hand, their superior, the King of England, was demanding that the people of the American colonies be treated badly. They identified that their Christian responsibility to protect and provide for the people outweighed their responsibility to submit to an immoral king. And so, on the basis of Biblical offenses, as is outlined in the Declaration of Independence, they declared their independence.

Might that happen again in America? Perhaps. My prayer, though, is that our politicians that represent us in the government can get beyond their prejudices and legislate rules and laws that govern us in a way that honors God and that enables us to live peaceful and quiet lives (1 Timothy 2:1-2).

About preacherwin

A pastor, teacher, and a theologian concerned about the confused state of the church in America and elsewhere...Writing because the Christian should think Biblically.

Posted on April 30, 2021, in Ecclesiastes, Expositions and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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