From looking at the stories of various monarchs throughout history I have discovered that:
If you [the subjects,] repeatedly treat an ordinary person as a rock star, he will eventually begin to act with an inflated sense of entitlement.
If you repeatedly bow to someone with reverence, give them everything they ask for, fear challenging their will and esteem them on a much higher level than any person deserves or needs, you will produce a royal with an inflated ego, capable of abusing their position…
…and it will partially be your fault that they have done so.
In the Netflix series “The Crown,” when Elisabeth’s father, King George VI dies, Elisabeth visits Buckingham Palace to *grieve her father and is confronted by the awful spectre of her mother and sister bowing to her as the new Monarch. She was utterly horrified, but forced to take it. It is one of the loneliest scenes I’ve ever watched in a drama and sadly, it is based on the truth. The British Royal family arrive, eat, and even open their Christmas presents – as a family – in a specific pecking order, with the Queen at the top. It is set etiquette which has been around for many generations and to us, it’s inhuman; but what must it be like for them? Would you like to live like that, with no freedom to reject etiquette and be yourself? The family pressure on Elisabeth to conform, let alone the political and cultural pressure, was not crushing, it was more like a slow, violent series of personality and independence-smashing shocks. I sincerely hope this dramatical portrayal of what she went through is wildly inaccurate, but it shows the institution of royalty from a perspective that is a strong contrast to the next monarch mentioned.
King David’s grandson, Rehoboam, is an example of the worst kind of monarch who was drunk with power rather than suffocated by it. He is everything that Samuel had warned the people about, and that generation of Israelites who demanded a king are directly responsible for this outcome which affected their great-grandchildren, (and technically responsible for later generations going into captivity, as they had set up a system which allowed godless kings to destroy Isra’el’s covenant with YHWH, their God. There is a big lesson there, in being careful what decisions you make.)
“Then King Rehoboam discussed the matter with the older men who had counselled his father, Solomon. “What is your advice?” he asked. “How should I answer these people?”
The older counsellors replied, “If you are willing to be a servant to these people today and give them a favourable answer, they will always be your loyal subjects.”
But Rehoboam rejected the advice of the older men and instead asked the opinion of the young men who had grown up with him and were now his advisers. “What is your advice?” he asked them. “How should I answer these people who want me to lighten the burdens imposed by my father?”
The young men replied, “This is what you should tell those complainers who want a lighter burden: ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist! Yes, my father laid heavy burdens on you, but I’m going to make them even heavier! My father beat you with whips, but I will beat you with scorpions!’” 1 Kings 12
Making decisions that effect others is really easy when you live in privileged isolation, as you have no real idea of what you’ve done; you just feel the kick your ego gives you.
The distinction between a king and a commoner is massive and God never designed His Kingdom to be structured this way. The earlier Mesopotamian move towards placing kings in power condemned many generations of young men, in many cultures, to sinful, abnormal lives. They were given privileges that an egalitarian society would never permit, and paved the way to endless generations of men who perpetrates social injustices, as mankind’s psyche was not built to accommodate such excesses and certainly not without sufficient equals to balance the sanity equation. This is part of why I don’t believe Isra’el ever should have had kings.
Whenever you step outside of God’s plan for His people, you will generate massive sin. YHWH, “I AM,” the one true God of Isra’el, was the only One who was ever meant to be in a position of power over Isra’el, speaking through His prophets to the people and acting for the good of the community via His Levitical priesthood. When Isra’el rejected that system for worldly reasons, they opened themselves up to consequences which impacted every prince and king to come.
Solomon by Gustave Doré – Doré’s English Bible. Public Domain.
“Finally, all the elders of Isra’el met at Ramah to discuss the matter with Samuel. “Look,” they told him, “you are now old, and your sons are not like you. Give us a king to judge us like all the other nations have.” Samuel was displeased with their request and went to the LORD for guidance. “Do everything they say to you,” the LORD replied, “for it is me they are rejecting, not you. They don’t want me to be their king any longer. Ever since I brought them from Egypt they have continually abandoned me and followed other gods. And now they are giving you the same treatment. Do as they ask, but solemnly warn them about the way a king will reign over them.”
So Samuel passed on the LORD’s warning to the people who were asking him for a king. “This is how a king will reign over you,” Samuel said. “The king will draft your sons and assign them to his chariots and his charioteers, making them run before his chariots. Some will be generals and captains in his army, some will be forced to plow in his fields and harvest his crops, and some will make his weapons and chariot equipment. The king will take your daughters from you and force them to cook and bake and make perfumes for him. He will take away the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his own officials. He will take a tenth of your grain and your grape harvest and distribute it among his officers and attendants. He will take your male and female slaves and demand the finest of your cattle and donkeys for his own use. He will demand a tenth of your flocks, and you will be his slaves. When that day comes, you will beg for relief from this king you are demanding, but then the LORD will not help you.”
But the people refused to listen to Samuel’s warning. “Even so, we still want a king,” they said. “We want to be like the nations around us. Our king will judge us [not God] and lead us into battle.” 1 Samuel 8:4-20
Society behaves very oddly towards monarchs. The image of the court, crown, castle, princesses, princes, chivalry, and wealth are romanticised and spoken of longingly in many, many fairy tales and works of fiction, while in reality, we hate the dictatorship and social inequality that being ruled brings. It is very easy to be a royal basher, but over time I have tried hard to find the humanity in people we don’t really see as human and understand their story, which was how I wound up watching The Crown. That series made me realise that behind the emotionless face of Queen Elisabeth is a woman who has been through an awful lot and for all the wealth and fame, she has so little freedom. It also makes me think about what David sacrificed to be King, and it causes me to wonder more about the generations that came after him and why so many were godless (aside from the obvious answer being greed.)
If we could go back in time and stop that first king in Mesopotamia from being crowned, we’d have to go to many places in many points in time, and stop the equivalent from happening. Mankind understandably wants security and good leadership, but the price that has been paid in power battles, wars, destroyed lives and peasant’s poverty is grossly appalling. If only we’d look only to the Lord as leader… life would be so much better and history would have been far more interesting.
Please also read, Did God Want a King for Isra’el? http://articles.faithwriters.com/reprint-article-details.php?article=32570
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