One subject that is mentioned often in the Old Testament in the Bible is the difference between a wise ruler and a foolish one. It is mentioned both by precept, (such as in Proverbs 31 or in God's instructions for a future Israelite king in the Pentateuch), and by illustration. The books of the Kings and the Chronicles, (which I believe in Jewish bibles are the third through sixth books of Samuel), give us parallel accounts of the kings (and one queen) of God's people. Besides being historical accounts, I see their purpose as illustrating God's view of what makes a good king or a poor one - while also driving home that all kings except Jesus Christ are imperfect. Even the most highly praised kings of Judah - Hezekiah and Josiah - were each known for at least one colossal error.
The Bible also talks about a number of foreign kings, including King Achish of Gath, one of the Philistine kings. King Achish of Gath seems to be mentioned as an example of a very foolish king indeed. There is a change that I find striking in what the Bible tells us about King Achish: at one point, when David was fleeing from Saul and was in Gath, his life was in danger when the Philistines recognized him as the slayer of their giant champion Goliath. The fact that he was carrying Goliath's sword didn't help. He pretended to be insane and King Achish contemptuously ordered him thrown out of Gath. Yet not that much later we find David becoming an employee of Achish, as it were, being given the city of Ziklag to live in with his two wives and his entourage of six hundred warriors, (with their wives and children), and actually fooling King Achish into thinking him an ally. If I understand correctly, what he was doing was misleading Achish by truthfully telling him that he was making raids against certain physical sections of Israelite territory, without telling him that the actual occupants of those areas were the people whom God had commanded the Israelites to drive out of the land due to their idolatry, infanticide and other sins. The Bible says that Achish thought David was attacking his own people and making himself look like a total traitor to Israel when in fact he was helping to solidify their possession of the land. For a long time it was hard for me to make sense of this about-face from David's being mortally afraid of King Achish to his being able to work with him on David's own terms. However, certain evidence in Scripture suggests that King Achish was not one of the Philistines' brightest local rulers.
For a while, I suspected that there might have been a father-son succession between David's two visits to Gath. However the King James Version specifically mentions the name of Achish's father the second time and it was not Achish. The only other explanation that seems to fit is that King Achish knew enough about Saul's relentless chasing around all of Israel hunting David to realize he was no longer a national hero. As king of one city, Achish may have been minor in authority. Each Philistine city apparently had its king but some - called "the lords of the Philistines" - were the country's rulers. When the Philistines gathered for war against Israel, Achish actually ordered David to bring his men to join him. The account then says that the "lords of the Philistines" passed by in review "by hundreds and by thousands" - but Achish was in the very back and so was David. Clearly Achish was not accorded a place of high honor. The "princes of the Philistines" then took Achish in a back room, as it were, and set him straight: "What do these Hebrews here?" When a king had to be lectured not to have soldiers from the enemy's ranks fighting with him because they might attack him during the heat of battle, his own people evidently thought he was not very bright. Whether by inheritance or election, therefore, a city or a nation can sometimes end up with a ruler who has very little idea how to govern.
I believed very strongly in 2008 that it was unwise to elect a first-term senator to be President who had no military experience, no experience as a governor of a state, and who had succeeded in winning his Senatorial election because his Republican competitor had to withdraw in the month of October, at the last minute, because of a controversy involving his ex-wife, and the Republicans replaced the well-known Ryan with someone who was nearly unknown. President Obama has shown much evidence of inexperience - except in marketing and manipulating public opinion. Some think he is trying to wreck the country and is actually a Moslem radical at heart. He may do it whether he's trying or not. The Reverend Jeremiah Wright's wishes concerning America could be fulfilled.
Our American system of government was designed to preserve our nation by making it possible to remove a poor President without having to go through a bloodbath of a revolution against entrenched monarchy or dictatorship such as France did, and more recently Russia and Romania. (They are attempting to have one in Syria now but the bloodbath there is in the wrong direction for them.) Even England has had a Civil War and a period of dictatorship under Cromwell, after which they restored the monarchy. It is stating the obvious to say that some of us think that that system failed this year. As long as no tinkering is done with term limits by 2016, we only have four years to dread. It is not wise to underestimate President Obama, however. The Bible says as much in the book of Proverbs: "He who despises his neighbor [takes him lightly] lacks sense." Just as our past Ambassador to Germany, Vernon Walters, said of then-Chancellor Helmut Kohl, anyone who has found his way into the top job and stayed there is not stupid. Not in everything. Kohl, for his part, reveled in how his many opponents had always underestimated him and said he hoped they continued to do it. (There, any comparison between Kohl and Obama must end. Kohl was apparently known for his common-sense understanding of hard work and thrift. The Democrats could use someone like him. I'd prefer a Republican, of course, which Mr. Kohl was not.)
It is perhaps the nature of things that we must as a country sometimes be blessed with a wise President and at others be burdened with a foolish one. Neither Israel nor Judah - the northern and southern kingdoms in the Old Testament - survived the mistakes of their foolish rulers indefinitely. By the grace of God - and perhaps also the stubbornness of Republicans in the House - we may survive this one. I pray we do.
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