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Design of Providence: The Law of Kin Rule

Saturday, August 26, 2017

The Law of Kin Rule

You shall surely set a king over you whom the Lord your God chooses, one from among your countrymen you shall set as king over yourselves; you may not put a foreigner over yourselves who is not your countryman. [Deuteronomy 17:15]
This verse is cited by Kinists as a "law of kin rule." According to the Kinist interpretation, this verse teaches that a people must be ruled by one of their own kin, or a closely related family member. Hence, a black African could not be a ruler of a white European nation, and vice versa. For such a thing to happen would be a violation of God's Law. One example of this, as it is argued from the Kinist position:
...it is impossible for a multi-racial country to obey God’s law of kin rule in Deut 17:15. This is one of the reasons why ethno-nationalism is a Kinist position; one political country per one blood nation and one blood nation per one political country. [source]
In order to examine the context of this passage properly, let's first look at the full context.
"When you enter the land which the Lord your God gives you, and you possess it and live in it, and you say, ‘I will set a king over me like all the nations who are around me,’ you shall surely set a king over you whom the Lord your God chooses, one from among your countrymen you shall set as king over yourselves; you may not put a foreigner over yourselves who is not your countryman. Moreover, he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor shall he cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, since the Lord has said to you, ‘You shall never again return that way.’ He shall not multiply wives for himself, or else his heart will turn away; nor shall he greatly increase silver and gold for himself. “Now it shall come about when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself a copy of this law on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests. It shall be with him and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, by carefully observing all the words of this law and these statutes, that his heart may not be lifted up above his countrymen and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, to the right or the left, so that he and his sons may continue long in his kingdom in the midst of Israel." [Deuteronomy 17:14-20]
Verse 14 opens up with, "When you enter the land which the Lord your God gives you, and you possess it and live in it..." Immediately we must note that there is a historical context to this verse. This is talking about when God's people, under the old covenant, enter the land and take it from the pagan tribes therein. Similar language is found elsewhere in the book (cf., Deu 6:10; 7:1; 18:9; 26:1), and is always in the context of going into Canaan.

Verse 14 continues with: "and you say, ‘I will set a king over me like all the nations who are around me.'" Again, this is talking about a historical context, because God is foreseeing what will happen later on, after the period of Judges, when the people desire a king to rule over them (cf., 1 Sam 8). Indeed, practically the same phraseology is used by the people later in 1 Samuel 8:20.

God then gives a series of rules and standards for the king:
  • He is to be the one "whom the Lord your God chooses" (v. 15).
  • He is to be a fellow Israelite, not a foreigner (v. 15).
  • He shall not "multiply horses for himself" (v. 16).
  • He shall not make people return to Egypt to multiply horses (a symbol of military strength, and which Egypt was known for), as God has taken them out of Egypt and told them not to return (v. 16).
  • He shall not "multiply wives for himself," because then "his heart will turn away" (v. 17).
  • He shall not "greatly increase silver and gold for himself" (v. 17).
  • He must know, and obey, the Law of God (vv. 18-20).
It's interesting that, of all the standards and rules listed, the only one Kinists harp on is that the king is to be a fellow kin member, rather than a foreigner. No Kinist, to my knowledge, cites verse 17 as a "minimal wives" law for rulers. No Kinist has ever taken verse 20 to demand that all world leaders follow the word of God. It also seems to be overlooked that, when God tells the Hebrews to set up a king who comes "from among your countrymen," this is specifically talking about Jews - it's not a general rule for every tribe everywhere.

Why the reference to kinsmen? As John Calvin (whom some Kinists often attempt to portray as one of their own) explains in his commentary for this passage, it had much more to do with religion than it did ethnicity.
Secondly, He commands that he should be taken from the people themselves, and excludes foreigners, because, if they had been admitted, a door was opened to apostasy; for each would have tried to force upon them his native gods, and true religion would have been persecuted by the force and threatenings of the royal power. Behold why God would not suffer a king to be sought elsewhere but from the bosom of His Church; in order that he might cherish and maintain that pure worship which he had imbibed from his childhood. [source]
This was often seen during the time period of Judges, where foreign peoples would rule over the Israelites, and enforce their foreign gods. This was likewise seen in the Hebrew kingdoms, when foreign wives (eg., Jezebel) would exert influence and control over the state worship. Worship of the true God was focused upon (but not isolated to) the Hebrew people.

If one studies these rules, one can see that all were broken at one time or another by the old covenant kings, or proved very relevant for them. For example, Deuteronomy 17:17 was violated by Solomon, who did indeed multiply his wives, who then turned his heart away from the true God (1 Kings 11:4; Neh 13:26). Likewise, Hezekiah's government, during the Assyrian invasion, was hoping for assistance from Egypt (2 Kings 18:21), and yet the prophet Isaiah, writing during the same period, criticized those "who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses," and do not instead "look to the Holy One of Israel" (Isa 31:1).

The fact is, there is yet again a historical context to these rules. Note that one of the requirements for a king of Israel is that it be one "whom the Lord your God chooses" (v. 15). This was first seen with Saul (1 Sam 9:17), then with David (1 Sam 16:12). Although some Kinists might argue that all kings and rulers are "established by God" (Rom 13:1), there is nonetheless a difference between the passive appointment by God through divine providence, and the active appointment of God through direct interaction with His creation; this latter sort of appointment is what God is speaking of here. God directly appointed Saul and David to kingship, as He promised to do in Deuteronomy 17:14. This automatically disqualifies it as a law that extends beyond the borders of ancient Israel into other nations.

The appointment of David to the throne, we must remember, established the Davidic Covenant. The Davidic Covenant was often referred to by God during the course of Judah's history (cf., 1 Kings 8:25; 2 Kings 8:19; 19:34; 20:6; etc.). The Davidic Covenant was likewise fulfilled with the coming of Christ, a descendant of David in the flesh (Rom 1:3; 2 Tim 2:8; Rev 22:16). Gabriel says as much to the Virgin Mary when he says "the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David" (Luke 1:32).

Deuteronomy 17:15 also seems to have been referenced through the prophet Jeremiah, during a prophecy of the coming Messiah:
“Thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, I will restore the fortunes of the tents of Jacob and have compassion on his dwelling places; and the city will be rebuilt on its ruin, and the palace will stand on its rightful place. From them will proceed thanksgiving and the voice of those who celebrate; and I will multiply them and they will not be diminished; I will also honor them and they will not be insignificant. Their children also will be as formerly, and their congregation shall be established before Me; and I will punish all their oppressors. Their leader shall be one of them, and their ruler shall come forth from their midst; and I will bring him near and he shall approach Me; for who would dare to risk his life to approach Me?’ declares the Lord. ‘You shall be My people, and I will be your God.’” Behold, the tempest of the Lord! Wrath has gone forth, a sweeping tempest; it will burst on the head of the wicked. The fierce anger of the Lord will not turn back until He has performed and until He has accomplished the intent of His heart; in the latter days you will understand this. [Jeremiah 30:18-24; verse 21 in bold]
This is emphasized by an earlier part in the chapter, when God says that His people "shall serve the Lord their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them" (Jer 30:9). From here it becomes even more clear that the passage from Deuteronomy is meant to point us not only towards the temporal reign of those lines from Saul and David, but to the permanent reign of Christ. Christ is the continuation of the Davidic kingdom, under the new administration, and hence is our new Davidic king. Christ was shadowed in Deuteronomy 17 and the Davidic line, and Deuteronomy 17 was used by Jeremiah to prophesy the coming of the Messiah, who would be the complete fulfillment of that passage.

Therefore, Deuteronomy 17:15, let alone this entire passage from Deuteronomy, is not a standard or rule of law for all leaders everywhere. Rather, it was a guideline for the kings who would reign over God's people, and was a shadow for the coming of Jesus Christ, the Son of David whose kingdom would truly have no end. To apply this to all kingdoms or nations everywhere is erroneous; like many theonomists, Kinists are forced to pick and choose which parts of the civil and judicial laws they wish to keep in place, and which they wish to ignore. However, to apply Deuteronomy 17:15 to all nations worldwide is to not only misapply the passage out of context, but to distract us from Jesus Christ and the Gospel to focus instead of race and ethnonationalism... something which Kinism, unfortunately, does by its very nature. 

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