Lessons for Leaders

1 These also are proverbs of Solomon which the men of Hezekiah king of Judah copied.

It is the glory of God to conceal things,
    but the glory of kings is to search things out.
As the heavens for height, and the earth for depth,
    so the heart of kings is unsearchable.
Take away the dross from the silver,
    and the smith has material for a vessel;
take away the wicked from the presence of the king,
    and his throne will be established in righteousness.
Do not put yourself forward in the king’s presence
    or stand in the place of the great,
for it is better to be told, “Come up here,”
    than to be put lower in the presence of a noble.

What your eyes have seen
    do not hastily bring into court,
for what will you do in the end,
    when your neighbor puts you to shame?
Argue your case with your neighbor himself,
    and do not reveal another’s secret,
10 lest he who hears you bring shame upon you,
    and your ill repute have no end. – Proverbs 25:1-10 ESV

Chapter 25 begins a new and somewhat controversial section of the book of Proverbs. The opening line identifies what follows as a group of proverbs compiled by “the men of Hezekiah king of Judah.”

King Hezekiah reigned over the southern kingdom of Judah from 715-686 B.C., some 250 years after God divided Solomon’s kingdom in half. During the latter years of his life, Solomon proved to be unfaithful to God, choosing to worship the idols of his many foreign wives.

So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and did not wholly follow the Lord, as David his father had done. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem. And so he did for all his foreign wives, who made offerings and sacrificed to their gods. – 1 Kings 11:6-8 ESV

As a result of Solomon’s disobedience, God declared that He was going to split the kingdom of Israel in two.

“Since this has been your practice and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes that I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you and will give it to your servant. Yet for the sake of David your father I will not do it in your days, but I will tear it out of the hand of your son. However, I will not tear away all the kingdom, but I will give one tribe to your son, for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem that I have chosen.” – 1 Kings 11:10-13 ESV

Two and a half centuries later, Hezekiah would become the king of the southern kingdom of Judah. And he would prove to be one of the few godly kings that either the nation of Judah or the northern kingdom of Israel would ever experience.

[Hezekiah]…did what was good and right and faithful before the Lord his God. And every work that he undertook in the service of the house of God and in accordance with the law and the commandments, seeking his God, he did with all his heart, and prospered. – 2 Chronicles 31:20-21 ESV

According to verse one, a group of officials within King Hezekiah’s court was given the task of collecting additional wise sayings attributed to King Solomon and adding them to the book of Proverbs. This addendum extends from chapter 25 all the way through chapter 29. Over the years, there has been some scholarly debate as to the historical value of these five chapters. The questions concerning their veracity revolve around whether or not they can truly be attributed to Solomon. But verse one clearly claims that they are “proverbs of Solomon.”

What sets these sayings apart is their emphasis on the king and the comparisons made between his rule and reign and that of God. It would appear that these are still wise sayings that Solomon shared with his sons, but they were compiled by Hezekiah’s sages due to their obvious application to the king and his descendants.

The very first saying sets the tone for what is to follow by making a direct comparison between God, the all-powerful divine sovereign, and human kings.

It is the glory of God to conceal things,
    but the glory of kings is to search things out. – Proverbs 25:2 ESV

And all throughout the next five chapters, the sayings will maintain a sharp focus on the relationship between ruling and wisdom.

Remove the wicked from the king’s court,
    and his reign will be made secure by justice. – Proverbs 25:5 NLT

Don’t demand an audience with the king
    or push for a place among the great.
It’s better to wait for an invitation to the head table
    than to be sent away in public disgrace. – Proverbs 25:6-7 NLT

Know the state of your flocks,
    and put your heart into caring for your herds,
for riches don’t last forever,
    and the crown might not be passed to the next generation. – Proverbs 27:23-24 NLT

When there is moral rot within a nation, its government topples easily.
    But wise and knowledgeable leaders bring stability. – Proverbs 28:2 NLT

A wicked ruler is as dangerous to the poor
    as a roaring lion or an attacking bear.

A ruler with no understanding will oppress his people,
    but one who hates corruption will have a long life. – Proverbs 28:15-16 NLT

When the godly are in authority, the people rejoice.
    But when the wicked are in power, they groan. – Proverbs 29:2 NLT

The men who collected these sayings seemed to have been heavily influenced by their relationship with the king. This appendix to Solomon’s collection of proverbs contains wise sayings that have direct implications for not only Hezekiah but any ruler who might ascend to the throne and rule over God’s chosen people. They viewed the man who wore the crown as a God-appointed agent who served at Yahweh’s behest and was dependent upon godly wisdom to rule effectively.

In a real sense, the king was to be a visual representation of God. He was to model his rule and reign after that of the ultimate King and use his power and authority in such a way that the people were constantly reminded of God’s ultimate sovereignty. The king was to be a representative of God, acting on His behalf, administering His will, and caring for His flock. But from the very beginning, the people had desired a king other than God. In fact, they had demanded a human king who would stand in place of God. And God made the point painfully clear when He told the prophet, Samuel:

“Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. – 1 Samuel 8:7 ESV

Ultimately, the people wanted a human king, a powerful man who would provide them with protection and ensure their future security. And these proverbs collected by Hezekiah’s scribes and sages were intended to remind the king that his role was that of a representative of God, not His replacement. He would need wisdom, godly counsel, and an unwavering dependence upon the Almighty if his reign was to last and be effective.

It was the king’s duty to discover the deep and hidden things of God (verse 2). The king, as the divine representative, was to reflect the otherness or transcendence of God (verse 3). By listening to God and obeying His will, the king’s ways would in some ways be incomprehensible and difficult to understand. He would operate according to a different set of rules or standards. As Solomon recorded in a previous chapter, compiled some 250 years earlier:

The king’s heart is like a stream of water directed by the Lord;
    he guides it wherever he pleases. – Proverbs 21:1 ESV

It was essential that the king remain free from the influence of evil. He needed to quarantine his administration from wickedness in order to prevent contamination and potential corruption.

Remove the impurities from silver,
    and the sterling will be ready for the silversmith.
Remove the wicked from the king’s court,
    and his reign will be made secure by justice. – Proverbs 25:4-5 NLT

And the people were to treat the king with dignity and respect, affording him the same honor they would extend to God Himself.

Don’t demand an audience with the king
    or push for a place among the great.
It’s better to wait for an invitation to the head table
    than to be sent away in public disgrace. – Proverbs 25:6-7 NLT

The role of the king was God-ordained and the people were to treat the one who sat on the throne as having been placed there by God. It was the prophet, Daniel, who revealed the following words to Nebuchadnezzar, the powerful king of Babylon:

“Praise the name of God forever and ever,
    for he has all wisdom and power.
He controls the course of world events;
    he removes kings and sets up other kings.
He gives wisdom to the wise
    and knowledge to the scholars.” – Daniel 2:20-21 NLT

And the apostle Paul would echo that same sentiment when he wrote to the believer in Rome who were living under the rule and reign of Caesar.

…all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished. – Romans 12:1-2 NLT

In reality, there is and always has been just one King, who rules over all. Human kings are mere shadows of the one true King. They reflect His sovereignty but only in a flawed and incomplete way. Which is all the more reason that human kings need godly wisdom. Left to their own capacities, they will prove insufficient for the task. And hundreds of years earlier, a newly crowned and very young king Solomon, expressed his apprehension about serving as God’s vice-regent over the nation of Israel. He recognized his insufficiency and asked God for the one thing he would need to rule well and wisely.

“Now, O Lord my God, you have made me king instead of my father, David, but I am like a little child who doesn’t know his way around. And here I am in the midst of your own chosen people, a nation so great and numerous they cannot be counted! Give me an understanding heart so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong. For who by himself is able to govern this great people of yours?” – 1 Kings 3:7-9 NLT

Solomon had inherited a secure and powerful kingdom. He enjoyed wealth beyond belief. But he knew that those things would not be enough. What he really needed was wisdom. He understood that. in order to be successful in his role as king, he would need an understanding heart. He would need to be like his father, David, a man after God’s own heart. The success of his reign would be directly tied to the health of his relationship with God.

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