The Scriptorium

Regulations concerning Kings (2)

Kings must be rooted in the Law. All kings. Deuteronomy 17.18-20

A Holy Nation (1): Deuteronomy 17, 18 (3)

Opening Prayer: Psalm 115.1-3
Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us,
But to Your name give glory,
Because of Your mercy,
Because of Your truth.
Why should the Gentiles say,
“So where is their God?”
But our God is in heaven;
He does whatever He pleases.

Psalm 115.1-3

(Plainfield: Nothing but the Blood of Jesus)
Not to us, O God, not us, but unto Your Name give glory!
For Your love and faithfulness, ever to Your Name be glory!
Why should the nations cry, “Where is their God on high?”
You rule us, Lord, on high: Ever to Your Name be glory!

Today’s Text: Deuteronomy 17.18-20

1. What was to be the king’s first responsibility upon taking office?

2. Why was this so important?

Moses completes his instructions concerning the duty of kings. Judges and officers were appointed for each local community, to judge and instruct the people out of the Law of God. Once kings begin to rule in Israel, they would have general oversight of all people and their judges and communities; therefore, it was essential that they be men steeped in and obedient to the Law of God.

That began by their making a copy of the Law in their own hand (v. 18). By “this law” I understand the entirety of Moses’ corpus of writings, Genesis through Deuteronomy. Only thus would the king be reminded of the original purpose of God for His creation, the devastation of sin, the covenant with Abraham, God’s faithfulness to His people, their rescue from Egypt and failure at Kadesh Barnea, and the entirety of the corpus of the Law which was to guide the people in loving God and their neighbors. Once the king had copied this out, it would be checked and approved by the priests and Levites. Then he was to keep his copy at hand and read from it daily, “that he may learn to fear the LORD his God and be careful to observe all the words of this law and these statutes” (v. 19).

By so doing, the king would guard his heart from being puffed up above the people, and he would be more inclined to walk the path of obedience than to turn from it (v. 20). As he fulfilled this duty, day by day, he would ensure longevity to his reign and that of his children and the nation.

Alas, we have no record of any king of Israel undertaking this effort. Perhaps Josiah came the closest (2 Chron. 34.14-33), but by then it was too little, too late.

Jesus ascended to glory and took His seat as King of kings at the right hand of God (Ps. 110). Now He sends His Spirit into the hearts of His people, and His duty is the write the Law of God on our hearts, that we may learn and keep it all the days of our lives (Ezek. 36.26, 27).

Treasure Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
Since we are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people (1 Pet. 2.9), doesn’t it follow that we, too, would benefit from following the regulations for kings? “Mercy and truth preserve the king, and by lovingkindness he upholds his throne” (Prov. 20.28). Goodness and mercy should always be following in our wake (Ps. 23.6). The Bible is now readily available to us; we have it with us always. We should read it daily, that we will learn to fear the LORD our God and be very careful to observe all the words of this Law and these statutes; so that we don’t become prideful, and we don’t fall into sin (vv. 19, 20). We have been “bought with a price” (1 Cor. 7.23); we belong to Him. “Jesus Christ …the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever” (Rev. 1.5, 6). So we must say with King David, regarding these regulations, “I delight to do your will, O My God, and Your law is within my heart” (Ps. 40.8).


1. What does it mean to say that Jesus has made us “kings and priests”? How should this encourage us in our use of God’s Word?

2. Think back over the past 11 chapters. At how many different levels was the Law of God to be taught and used in ancient Israel? What should we in the church learn from this?

3. Remember: We don’t keep the Law to become saved, but because we are saved, and we want to live in love for God and our neighbors. Can we really understand the rest of God’s Word if we neglect His Law? Explain.

But although it was without exception to be common to all, yet in order that kings might be more assiduously attentive in reading it, God would have a copy peculiarly dedicated to their use by the priests and Levites, and given into their hands in a solemn ceremony; that kings might know that they required greater wisdom and counsel for ruling the people than private persons.
John Calvin (1509-1564), Commentary on Deuteronomy 17.18-20

Lord, I offer my body today as a living sacrifice to You, so help me to…

Closing Prayer: Psalm 115.9-18
Pray for the rulers of your country, that God might restrain them from evil and empower them to serve His good purposes and glory.

Psalm 115.9-18
(Plainfield: Nothing but the Blood of Jesus)
All who trust in Jesus yield – ever to His Name be glory! –
find in Him their help and shield – ever to Your Name be glory!
O Israel, trust the Lord!  He helps us evermore!
Fear Him obey His Word: Ever to Your Name be glory!

Blessings from our gracious Lord – ever to Your Name be glory –
will attend us evermore – ever to Your Name be glory!
Bless all who fear You, Lord, all who obey Your Word,
all who Your Name adore: Ever to Your Name be glory!

Grant us, Savior, great increase – ever to Your Name be glory!
Bless us with eternal peace – ever to Your Name be glory!
Heaven and earth are Yours; let every soul adore
and bless You evermore: Ever to Your Name be glory!

T. M. and Susie Moore

Listen to our summary of last week’s study in Deuteronomy by clicking here. You can download all the studies in the series by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All quotations from Church Fathers from
Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy: Ancient Christian Commentary Series III, Joseph T. Lienhard, S. J. ed. in collaboration with Ronnie J. Rombs, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2001). All quotations from John Calvin from John Calvin, Commentaries on The Four Last Books of Moses Arranged in the Order of A Harmony, Rev. Charles William Bingham M. A., tr. and ed. (Edinburgh: The Calvin Translation Society, 1863. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore