Leadership, Integrity and Nation building.
- by Alex Bolek Abuk
Nations are born by calling of political leader(s). There is no nation under the sun that has started and been run without a strong leader. Whenever a nation is mentioned, we find it mentioned side by side with a leader. We always hear that nations have one who is called “the father of the nation”. The father of the nation is the one who led the nation’s struggle into independence and freedom. For instance, when the time came for God to set His people free from the slavery in Egypt, He called Moses to lead them out from Egypt into the Promise Land, the land of Canaan. In this regard, Moses is the nation-father of Israel because he and his brother Aaron led the people of Israel out of Egyptian slavery.
Strong leaders are not only needed for a time of armed struggle and liberation, they are also needed for building strong and resilient nations post-independence. The big question always is “What next after liberation and independence? Will the leadership be strong after that to build the nation they have liberated?” Political leaders are either a blessing, if they build up the nations and the people they rule, or a curse if they fail to build their people and nations. Nations stand or collapse depending on the type of leadership in place.
Moses who was successful, led the liberation struggle. Yet he could not enter the Promised Land but would die on the way as God told him, leaving Joshua to take over the leadership from him and lead the people into the Promised Land. So Moses being a God-chosen and successful leader called for a farewell meeting with other leaders and people of Israel in which he delivered his final address to the nation: “These are the words Moses spoke to all Israel in the wilderness east of the Jordan…In the fortieth year (that is just before they entered the Promise Land), on the first day of the eleventh month, Moses proclaimed to the Israelites all that the LORD had commanded him concerning them… On that same day the LORD told Moses “Go up into the Abarim Range to Mount Nebo in Moab opposite Jericho, and view Canaan, the land I am giving the Israelites as their own possession. There on the mountain that you have climbed you will die and be gathered to your people, … Therefore, you will see the land only from a distance; you will not enter the land I am giving to the people of Israel”, Deuteronomy 1:1-3 and 32:48-50, 52.
Moses wanted to put his house in order before he passed on. Since God is a God of order and not of confusion, He always wants things done and left in a fitting and orderly manner, 1 Corinthians 14: 40,32, and He (God) always wants us to leave our houses in order when we die. For instance, one time God told King Hezekiah “Put your house in order, because you are going to die”, Isaiah 38:1. This applies to all, politicians, any leader, family heads, etc. We must all put our houses in order before we leave this world. We should not leave things in chaos behind us.
As such, Moses called the house of Israel together to put his ‘political house’ in order before he departed. Moses delivered his farewell speech to the nation. One of the most important things Moses emphasised in his farewell speech was the future leadership for the people of Israel. The biggest challenge for any leader intending to leave is always about who will take care of things well when he/she is gone. In his farewell speech, Moses told the people of Israel that when they arrived in the Promised Land and they needed a king to rule over them like the rest of the nations around, that king should have certain qualities in order to rule the people and lead the nation in a proper manner. In a short paragraph from his speech he summarised the qualities of any king that comes into office to rule in Israel. This is what Moses said: “When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you and have taken possession of it and settled in it, and you say, “Let us set a king over us like all the nations around us”, be sure to appoint over you a king the LORD your God chooses. He must be from among your fellow Israelites. Do not place a foreigner over you, one who is not a fellow Israelite. The king, moreover, must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself or make the people return to Egypt to get more of them, for the LORD has told you, “You are not to go back that way again.” He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold. When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the Levitical priests. It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the LORD his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees and not consider himself better than his fellow Israelites and turn from the law to the right or to the left. Then he and his descendants will reign a long time over his kingdom in Israel”, Deuteronomy 17:14-20, (emphasis mine).
In this short paragraph we see seven qualities, characteristics and conditions that a godly ruler (king, president or any leader in nation or church) should have in their lives. What are they?
1: The king should be chosen by God and his people
2: The king must be a fellow Israelite
3: The king must not acquire many horses
4: The king must not make the people go back to Egypt
5: The king should not have many wives
6: The king must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold
7: The king must have and properly use a copy of the law (God’s word)
Quality 1: The king should be chosen by God and the
“Be sure to appoint over you a king the LORD your God chooses”, Deuteronomy 17:15.
This is the first challenge that every nation faces; to have a leader who is chosen by God and by the people (in a democratic manner). As already said, success and collapse of a nation depends largely on its political leaders. Today, many factors act in the background to bring leaders into power. God in His divine wisdom allows political leaders and regimes, both good and evil, to come into power. But God’s primary plan is always to have the right leadership in place. From the Biblical times to this moment we see two types of political leaders: those who are chosen and called by God or at least democratically elected (though not all who are democratically elected are God-chosen since people can manipulate and rig the voting process to bring into power whoever they want) and others who come into power by imposing themselves or through coups. Leadership crisis is a big challenge worldwide, especially in Africa. The emeritus Bishop of Cape Town Desmond Tutu says in this regard: “Africa faces mammoth crisis in leadership, especially in politics”. Why is it important to have a God-chosen political leader? A godly political leader according to King David brings blessing on the nation and vice versa. Listen to the last words of King David and his observation at the end of his life: “These are the last words of David: … “The Spirit of the LORD spoke through me; his word was on my tongue. The God of Israel spoke, the Rock of Israel said to me: “When one rules over men in righteousness, when he rules in the fear of God, he is like the light of morning at sunrise on a cloudless morning, like the brightness after rain that brings the grass from the earth””,
2 Samuel 23:1-4 (emphasis mine, and in all references onwards).
A rule of evil leaders, like kings Ahab and Jeroboam son of Nebat, brought disaster and destruction upon Israel. A time came when King David was too old and was not able to rule. This time there was an opportunity for one of his children to take the throne. But because God is not a God of disorder but of peace, 1 Corinthians 14:33, He already had in mind by name the ‘would be’ king from among David’s children! “But you will have a son who will be a man of peace and rest, and I will give him rest from all his enemies on every side. His name will be Solomon, and I will grant Israel peace and quiet during his reign”, 1 Chronicles 22:9. But strangely enough we see a wrong prince trying to take the seat! Adonijah! “When King David was very old; ...Then Adonijah, whose mother was Haggith put himself forward and said, ‘I will be king’. So he got chariots and horses ready, with fifty men to run ahead of him”, 1 Kings 1:1,5. How many leaders in our time today behave like Adonijah? They exalt themselves into offices and positions that are not theirs. This is seen not only among political leaders but sadly even among church leaders who know the Bible very well! As we have seen political fights over a seat, we have as well seen church leaders dividing God’s flock and fighting over a seat for instance of a Bishop in the church! Very unfortunate! Apostle Paul speaks of such people who push themselves forward by every means possible! “In fact, you even put up with anyone who enslaves you or exploits you or takes advantage of you or puts on airs (pushes himself forward - editor) or slaps you in the face”, 2 Corinthians 11:20. How many ‘Adonijahs’ do we have today in our nations, in our offices, and even in our churches? Others are not even qualified to occupy those places. Wrong people in wrong places! Even if Adonijah is qualified and competent does this qualify him to over-rule the divine appointment of Solomon? There is a vast difference between being qualified and being called. The question is: Does Adonijah know that the throne is for Solomon? I strongly believe that he does. I believe that their father David told them about what God said in 1 Chronicles 22:9, that Solomon is chosen of God to be his successor on the throne of Israel. Kings always share the affairs of the kingdom with the princes. But Adonijah in his stubbornness defied God and his father King David by exalting himself saying ‘I will be king’! Praise God, Adonijah did not succeed. Later he testified: “As you know,” (Adonijah) said, “the kingdom was mine. All Israel looked to me as their king. But things changed, and the kingdom has gone to my brother; for it has come to him from the LORD”, 1 Kings 2:15.
Hallelujah! It is my prayer that all Adonijahs will not succeed even if they have all Israel (all the people) behind them! Even those who manipulate their ways to succeed may not succeed unless God in His mysterious divine wisdom allows them to. Although this is a common ‘Adonijah phenomenon’ all over the world, it is worse in Africa. And this is the root of all troubles we have in our African politics. Many presidents who lose elections do not relinquish power but decide to remain against the will of the people. As a result, brutal demonstrations and counter actions result and countless lives are lost, just because of ‘Adonijah-type’ leaders who exalt themselves and who refuse to leave even after losing elections. Innocent civilians become victims of political confrontations. This happened in Israel when Tibni and Omri were struggling for the royal seat after the death of King Zimri: “Then the people of Israel were split into two factions; half supported Tibni son of Ginath for king, and the other half supported Omri. But Omri’s followers proved stronger than those of Tibni son of Ginath. So Tibni died and Omri became king”, 1 Kings 16:21-22.
In a two-party political system like in the United State of America, when we hear that the Democratic Party had an election victory over the Republicans or vice versa, we rest assured that there are no losses of life. But in Africa, the price of political victories is often great loss of lives. In the above text, Omri won, but the Bible says that Tibni died! I ask in wonder, what was the cause of his death? Did he die a natural death, of shock, cardiac arrest, high blood pressure and stroke….? We do not know the answer for sure as the Bible has not mentioned anything about the cause of his death. But based on the circumstances, one can make a good guess that he was killed! And if Tibni was killed, what happened to his followers? You can also make a good guess on that! In the autobiography of Nelson Mandela he says: “Political assassination is … a primitive (emphasis mine) way of contending with an opponent”. A decent political leader should love and respect his/her opponents, and even enemies. Truly great political leaders like Nelson Mandela and others have insisted that they were fighting oppressive regimes and not individual politicians. In this way they were great and they received international recognition and respect because they avoided assassinations of political leaders from the opposite side adopting dialogue as the means of fight. According to Nelson Mandela, “the purpose of the armed struggle (against the apartheid regime) was always to bring the government to the negotiation table” because it refused to attend to their peaceful demands. 
A similar character to Adonijah is Absalom son of David who conspired to overthrow his own father king David. “In the course of time, Absalom provided himself with a chariot and horses and with fifty men to run ahead of him. He would get up early and stand by the side of the road leading to the city gate. Whenever anyone came with a complaint to be placed before the king for a decision, Absalom would call out to him, ‘What town are you from?’ He would answer, ‘Your servant is from one of the tribes of Israel’. Then Absalom would say to him, ‘Look, your claims are valid and proper, but there is no representative of the king to hear you’. And Absalom would add, ‘If only I were appointed judge in the land! Then everyone who has a complaint or case could come to me and I would see that they receive justice’. Also, whenever anyone approached him to bow down before him, Absalom would reach out his hand, take hold of him and kiss him. Absalom behaved in this way towards all the Israelites who came to the king asking for justice, and so he stole the hearts of the people of Israel. At the end of four years … Absalom sent secret messengers throughout the tribes of Israel to say, “As soon as you hear the sound of trumpets, then say, ‘Absalom is king in Hebron’”, 2 Samuel 15:1-7,10.
What happens when a nation is ruled by leaders that impose themselves like Adonija and Absalom? What happens when ‘Adonijahs’ and ‘Absaloms’ are on the throne? This is a real disaster. The Bible has a lot to say about the disasters and calamities that result when the ‘Adonijahs’ and the ‘Absaloms’ are on the throne. Here is some of it:
“When the wicked rule the people groan”, Proverbs 29:2
“When the wicked thrive, so does sin”, Proverbs 29:16
“When the wicked rise to power, people go into hiding”, Proverbs 28:12, 28
“A ruler who oppresses the poor is like driving rain that leaves no crops”, Proverbs 28:3
“Like a roaring lion or a charging bear is a wicked ruler over a helpless people”, Proverbs 28:15
“A tyrannical ruler practices extortion”, Proverbs 28:16
“Woe to the land whose king is a child and whose princes feast in the morning”, Ecclesiastes 10:16.
‘Adonijahs’ and ‘Absaloms’ most often do not come to satisfy the people but only themselves. So the people suffer. The Bible says: “Righteousness exalts a nation but sin condemns any people”, Proverbs 14:34. When a nation is ruled by ‘Adonijahs’ and ‘Absaloms’, leaders who are not chosen by God but who come into power through crooked ways, the people groan, go into hiding, and sin increases in the land! Please read my chapter “When the Citizens Groan”. This is why it is important to have a godly, God-fearing leader on the throne for a nation to enjoy God’s blessing.
What is the role of the church in keeping out ‘Adonijahs’ and ‘Absaloms’? ‘Adonijahs’ and ‘Absaloms’ are common and are always power hungry. It is therefore the church’s responsibility to pray whenever there is a national election that ‘Adonijahs’ would not succeed and in peaceful times that ‘Absaloms’ will not succeed in planning coups to bring instability and suffering. In elections, the church must also vote prayerfully for the right leader to come into power. I have seen many ‘good Christians’ not voting in elections! That is not good. Christians must vote as one vote can change and shape a nation’s destiny. Plato the Greek philosopher reputedly said that “If the wise do not want to be involved in politics, let them not complain when fools rule over them”. Christians must vote the right people into power. The renowned world evangelist Dr. Billy Graham is reported to have said that “Wrong leaders have come into power through good Christians who refuse to vote”.
What happens when a God-chosen and righteous leader is in power? While the wicked and evil rulers bring terror, suffering and pain to the people, as we have seen above, the righteous bring great excitement, happiness and firm foundations to the nation:
“When the righteous triumph, there is great elation”, Proverbs 28:12
“When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice”, Proverbs 29:2
“By justice a king gives a country stability”, Proverbs 29:4
“If a king judges the poor with fairness, his throne will be established for ever”, Proverbs 29:14
Those are good and strong reasons to want to have a God-chosen leader on the throne.
“The Spirit of the LORD spoke through me; his word was on my tongue. The God of Israel spoke, the Rock of Israel said to me: `When one rules over people in righteousness, when he rules in the fear of God, he is like the light of morning at sunrise on a cloudless morning, like the brightness after rain that brings the grass from the earth’”, 2 Samuel 23:2-4. According to King David, a godly leader who rules in the fear of God righteously, brings light and not darkness upon a nation. He brings the prospect for a bright and shining future, like a sunny morning. This hope inspires the nation’s population. “The path of the righteous is like morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day”, Proverbs 4:18. A godly leader brings showers of blessing and a positive hope for the future to a nation. This is why the first condition for leadership is to have a leader chosen and approved by God and his people. The most challenging issue and need for nations today is to find a wise leader who rules in righteousness and in the fear of God. Righteousness and “the fear of the LORD which is the beginning of wisdom”, Proverbs 9:10, are the most deficient qualities in today’s politicians. How wonderful it is when possible to have a godly and God-chosen leader on the throne!
Quality 2: The king must be a fellow Israelite
“He must be from among your fellow Israelites. Do not place a foreigner over you, one who is not an Israelite”, Deuteronomy 17:15.
The second quality for a God-chosen political leader is that he should be one of the people. This should not be taken or interpreted in tribal terms as the text speaks about the people and nation of Israel and not about a specific tribe in Israel. It therefore does not matter from which tribe of the twelve tribes of Israel the king comes. What matters is that he is an Israelite. This means he should not be a foreigner or from another people. This is important because a foreigner would not care or mind about what the people are facing. Foreign rulers mostly milk what the people and the land have. To quote one politician who was speaking about the land of a certain nation he aspired to occupy: “We need the land not the people”. To him, the fertile land of that nation would make a big farm to produce food for his own people. He was not mindful about the people (natives) of the land. Foreign rulers have their eyes fixed on the nation’s natural resources and not on the indigenous people. They are not up for the welfare of the people. A ruler from the people who is truly ordained by God is concerned about the welfare of his people because he is one of them. Whatever affects the people directly affects him/her. Let us see two examples from the Bible:
Example 1: Nehemiah
“The words of Nehemiah son of Hakaliah: In the month of Kislev in the twentieth year, while I was in the citadel of Susa, Hanani, one of my brothers, came from Judah with some other men, and I questioned them about the Jewish remnant that had survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem. They said to me, ‘Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire’. When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven”, Nehemiah 1:1-4.Because Nehemiah was one of the people, when he heard that those people were in great affliction and reproach, and that the wall of Jerusalem was ruined and its gates burnt, he was deeply and personally affected by the message. He prayed, fasted, wept and mourned for he was identifying with his own national people. Suppose Nehemiah was not a fellow Jew and he heard that same message, would he be troubled? Probably not, though we do not rule out the fact that there are good people out there with humanitarian hearts, who are moved with compassion when they see any people suffering and are ready to help people who are in trouble regardless of their nationality, religion or race. Nehemiah was troubled into action because those in affliction were his own people and his own city was destroyed. Nehemiah in the end was able to challenge his people with the facts and mobilised his people to build the wall of Jerusalem: “Then I said to them, ‘You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace’”, Nehemiah 2:17.
When Nehemiah started the project of rebuilding the wall his objective was to remove the disgrace. Removal of disgrace from people should be the sole object of any political leader and government. To Nehemiah this was important and although there were many opponents with challenges to disrupt this project, he was determined to complete the wall and restore his people’s dignity. Like in any project, there are external and internal challenges that may cause project failure. Because of his love for his people, he undertook the project with determination. He faced all the challenges with boldness and did not give up until the rebuilding of the wall was completed. “So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of Elul, in fifty-two days”, Nehemiah 6:15. When the wall was completed the reproach is removed. Nehemiah is a true national figure. If all political leaders worked like Nehemiah with the objective of removing people’s reproach, how would the life of citizens in our communities be? Nehemiah had a reputable job as the king’s cupbearer when he was in exile with some of his people. He had 101 good reasons not to care about the remnant back home or the city of Jerusalem with its broken walls. But he left his comfort zone and journeyed to Judea to rebuild his fathers’ city. All this goes back to our subject: Nehemiah did what he did because he was one of the people and therefore Jerusalem with its national people were precious to his heart. This is what he said to the king when the king asked him why he was sad at work: “Why should my face not look sad when the city where my fathers are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?”, Nehemiah 2:3. Is this not a good reason for God wanting a fellow Israelite leader, one who genuinely feels with his people?
Example 2: Queen Esther
“For how can I bear to see disaster fall on my people? How can I bear to see the destruction of my family?” Esther 8:6.These are the words of Queen Esther when her people were facing the danger of annihilation. She, like Nehemiah, was equally moved and took an initiative to save her people when Haman threatened to destroy them. “Then Haman said to King Xerxes, ‘There is a certain people dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom who keep themselves separate. Their customs are different from those of all other people and they do not obey the king’s laws; it is not in the king’s best interest to tolerate them. If it pleases the king, let a decree be issued to destroy them”, Esther 3:8-9. The most terrible and disturbing image is seeing your own people (in fact any human beings) humiliated, suffering, and under a threat of destruction. If you and I see this happening and do nothing, I put a big question mark on our Christian faith and humanity, leave alone nationalism and patriotism. Queen Esther said she was not able to bear that image in her mind and heart. What about us today? Her uncle Mordecai told her at the beginning of the story: “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”, Esther 4:14. His meaning was ‘if you keep quiet and do not act now, you and your fathers’ house will be destroyed and God will raise deliverance for the Jews from someone somewhere else. Because God is sovereign, if we forsake our role, He can raise another ‘somebody’ to do the job He requires. We should always try to be aware that God strategically places us where we are for such a time as this. Esther stood in the gap for her people and God brought a great deliverance through her because she understood her calling and her role. She brought salvation, celebration and joy to her people. “The Jews in Susa, however, had assembled on the thirteenth and fourteenth, and then on the fifteenth they rested and made it a day of feasting and joy. … as the time when the Jews got relief from their enemies, and as the month when their sorrow was turned into joy and their mourning into a day of celebration. He wrote to them to observe the days as days of feasting and joy and giving presents of food to one another and gifts to the poor”, Esther 9:18, 22. Surely it is a good thing to have a fellow Israelite, with a heart of nationalism, on the throne? But a fellow Israelite who does not have a heart for his people may be worse than a foreigner who has a heart for humanity?
Quality 3: The king must not acquire many horses
“The king, must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself”, Deuteronomy 17:16.
Why would a king want to acquire many horses? Horses in the Old Testament were used to pull war chariots. King Solomon in the book of Proverbs says: “The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the LORD”, Proverbs 21:31. This is why the Lord Jesus as the Prince of Peace did not use a horse but a donkey and colt: “As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, ‘Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me’, Matthew 21:1-2. It is important to note that the Lord did not say the king should not have any horses. Our God is a wise and balanced God. It would be unwise to say that a nation should not have any weaponry and defence system. God is saying that although it might be necessary for a nation to have some defence (horses) it should not depend on them for protection. It must trust in Him. The mistake nations commit is that they become dependent on what their own hands have made (weapons) rather than on God. So national security should first be based on God’s protection and this comes as a result of having godly and God-fearing leaders in power. Accumulation of horses could make the king and the nation dependent on themselves for protection, removing trust in God. This is why God told the people of Israel through Moses that when the people want to set up a king for themselves, he should not have a lot of horses. The Lord wants to be the protection over the nation, Exodus 14:14. King David said: “Unless the LORD watches over the city, guards stand watch in vain”, Psalm 127:1. A nation that depends on the Lord for protection is a blessed nation: “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people he chose for his inheritance”, Psalm 33:12.
National protection from enemies, results from trust and walk with God. When a nation chooses the LORD who is their life, Deuteronomy 33:29, then it enjoys a handful of privileges and blessings a major one of which is protection. Where is God in our national agenda for South Sudan and Sudan? Many nations which claim to be Christian nations have even excluded prayer from the opening of their parliamentary sessions. Where is God in our finances? A nation is blessed when the Lord’s tithes are brought to His house, Malachi 3:7-12. Remember Solomon? The first thing he did was for the Lord and His people, 2 Chronicles 8:1-6. In our churches today more emphasis is put on personal and individual relationship with God. Although this is obviously important, we seem to have forgotten that in the Bible God is called “The God of Israel”. Since He is the God of Israel, He is a community God and a national God. Our God loves to enjoy a relationship with an individual believer as well as with communities and nations. Accumulation of arms or big numbers of soldiers cannot protect any nation but righteousness does.
When King Zedekiah did evil in the eyes of the LORD, his army could not help him. “Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem for eleven years. His mother’s name was Hamutal daughter of Jeremiah; she was from Libnah. He did evil in the eyes of the LORD …Then the city wall was broken through, and the whole army fled. … They fled towards the Arabah, (or the Jordan Valley) but the Babylonian army pursued King Zedekiah and overtook him in the plains of Jericho. All his soldiers were separated from him and scattered, and he was captured”, Jeremiah 52:1-11. King David knew this pretty well so he said he would not trust his arms (bow and sword) but trust the LORD. “Through you we push back our enemies; through your name we trample our foes. I put no trust in my bow, my sword does not bring me victory; but you give us victory over our enemies, you put our adversaries to shame. In God we make our boast all day long, and we will praise your name forever. … No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength. A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save. But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in His unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine. We wait in hope for the LORD; He is our help and our shield. In Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His holy name”, Psalm 44:5-8 & 33:16-21.
In these two psalms (Psalm 44 & 33), King David is speaking as the head of state (king) not just as an individual believer or citizen. That is why he used the word ‘we’ several times, meaning ‘we’ the nation of Israel and ‘we’ your (God’s) people. So when he refers to his bow and sword, he is referring to the national weaponry. Weapons are not all that it takes for a nation to be safe. King Uzziah of Judah made perhaps the first kingdom on earth to have a military industry and the most sophisticated weapons, like the USA today. But each time they sinned against the LORD, enemies came and defeated them. In the reign of King Uzziah, the Bible says: “Uzziah had a well-trained army, ready to go out by divisions according to their numbers as mustered by Jeiel the secretary and Maaseiah the officer under the direction of Hananiah, one of the royal officials. The total number of family leaders over the fighting men was 2,600. Under their command was an army of 307,500 men trained for war, a powerful force to support the king against his enemies. Uzziah provided shields, spears, helmets, coats of armour, bows and sling-stones for the entire army. In Jerusalem he made machines designed (devices invented) for use on the towers and on the corner defences so that soldiers could shoot arrows and hurl large stones from the walls. His fame spread far and wide, for he was greatly helped until he became powerful”, 2 Chronicles 26:11-15. This was a huge and probably the best equipped army for no army of that time was known to have engines made to shoot arrows and great stones (artillery!). Yet even these weapons in Judah could not protect or save the land from foreign invasion. King Uzziah knew that it was God who helped him to have that military power. King David in Psalm 44 (above) is speaking out of experience. “An old man is a library”, says one African song. David knew what it was to be under God’s protection as somebody who had fought many great wars, 1 Chronicles 22:8. King David one time was moved with the spirit of pride and decided to number his fighting men in order to know how powerful he was. He should have been depending on God. This decision was displeasing in God’s eyes and invited discipline from God. “Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel. So David said to Joab and the commanders of the troops, ‘Go and count the Israelites from Beersheba to Dan. Then report back to me so that I may know how many there are’. … This command was also evil in the sight of God; so He punished Israel”,
1 Chronicles 21: 1-2,7.
As we have seen many horses and a huge army cannot protect a nation. Only the Lord can protect a nation. If the king is not to multiply horses, how will his nation be protected?
National security (protection)
“… Unless the LORD watches over the city (or the nation), the guards stand watch in vain”, Psalm 127:1.
Although nations manufacture and buy arms for their protection, no nation on earth can say it is 100% protected by its arms. What human hands produce cannot give full protection. King David knew that human hands could not protect so he said to God: “Give us aid against the enemy, for the help of man is worthless”, Psalm 60:11. A nation that depends on God for protection is truly well protected. In the Bible we read many stories where God has in miraculous ways saved His people from their enemies. Listen to this testimony from God’s people about how God intervened and saved them when they were attacked: “If the LORD had not been on our side — let Israel say — if the LORD had not been on our side when people attacked us, they would have swallowed us alive when their anger flared against us; the flood would have engulfed us, the torrent would have swept over us, the raging waters would have swept us away. Praise be to the LORD, who has not let us be torn by their teeth. We have escaped like a bird out of the fowler’s snare; the snare has been broken, and we have escaped. Our help is in the name of the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth”, Psalm 124. In this Psalm of David (for national protection) the nation of Israel acknowledged the difference God made for them: that if the LORD was not with them when they were attacked, the enemy would have swallowed them up alive. But it has not happened. God has always kept an eye on Israel, not because it is perfect but because of His promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The fact that Israel exists today as a nation is a miracle. For instance, one of the heads of states in the region said in 1967: “Our basic aim will be to destroy Israel”. But Israel was not destroyed because God in a miraculous way intervened. It is not the size of the army or the weaponry a nation has that determines deliverance, but God’s involvement. God’s people in Psalm 124 also acknowledged that God did not allow them to be crushed by the enemies’ teeth. God’s promise stands forever: “I broke the fangs of the wicked and snatched the victims from their teeth”, Job 29:17.
What brings defeat on a nation? It is not lack of weapons or small army size, but sin! When king Joash sinned, he was defeated by a small Assyrian army: “They (the people of Judah) abandoned the temple of the LORD, the God of their ancestors, and worshipped Asherah poles and idols … At the turn of the year, the army of Aram marched against Joash; it invaded Judah and Jerusalem and killed all the leaders of the people. They sent all the plunder to their king in Damascus. Although the Aramean army had come with only a few men, the LORD delivered into their hands a much larger army. Because Judah had forsaken the LORD, the God of their ancestors, judgment was executed on Joash”, 2 Chronicles 24:18-24. The Aramean army came with only few soldiers but God allowed them to defeat the much larger army of Israel because Israel turned their backs on God. We therefore can confidently conclude that it is not the number of horses and size of army that save. It is complete dependence on God. That was why God said that the king who comes to throne of Israel should not multiply horses to depend on them for his protection, but to trust God alone. Horses might also speak of cars in our days. Although this is not a strong argument about horses, it might be true. In our days political leaders accumulate a lot of expensive cars for the sake of luxury and not necessity, all taken from national resources. A God-chosen leader would not waste national resources for his own and his family’s luxury. One head of state of a very poor nation in Africa is reported to have bought a car fleet worth US$1,000,000 when his people are dying from hunger and going without proper health services. What a waste!
Quality 4: The king must not make the people go back to Egypt.
“The king must not … make the people return to Egypt to get more of them (horses), for the LORD has told you, ‘You are not to go back that way again’”, Deuteronomy 17:16.
It is sad and shameful to see liberated people going back to where they have been in captivity and bondage – Egypt! It would be a disgrace for the people of Israel to go back to Egypt. People would laugh and despise the God of Israel who had liberated them to walk with their heads held high. “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt so that you would no longer be slaves to the Egyptians; I broke the bars of your yoke and enabled you to walk with heads held high” Leviticus 26:13.
Pharaoh and the Egyptians would also ridicule Israel’s leaders like Moses, Aaron and Miriam (Micah 6:4) whom God used to liberate the people. God’s warning therefore was that the people should not return to Egypt again after He delivered them from Pharaoh’s captivity. Egypt in the Bible is a symbol of bondage. Why would the king send the people back to Egypt when God has given them “a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey”, Exodus 3:8? It is sad to see liberated people forced to return to where they have been previously held in slavery. It is a normal thing for bilateral relations to return and normalise after separation. People can still exchange normal visits as they are brothers who have been parted. These normal visits after separation are not a return to bondage as the people exchanging visits are free and they have their dignity. What I am talking about is when people who have left are forced to return to slavery, to be under the yoke from which they have been set free. What would make the people go back to Egypt if they have all they need? What would cause the people to return to the land of bondage from where they were set free? This is what The LORD told the people if they would not listen to Him or observe His laws and statutes: “The LORD will send you back in ships to Egypt on a journey I said you should never make again. There you will offer yourselves for sale to your enemies as male and female slaves, but no-one will buy you”, Deuteronomy 28:68.
Now let us look at specific reasons that make the people go back to Egypt, military, economic and security:
1: Military Reasons
The Bible says the king might send the people to Egypt to bring him horses. The king might send the people to buy horses from Egypt for defence purposes. This is a trap King Solomon fell into. Although God warned him not to send people back to Egypt to buy horses, Solomon never paid any attention. He imported his horses from Egypt. “Solomon’s horses were imported from Egypt. … Solomon had four thousand stalls for chariot horses, and twelve thousand horses,” 1 Kings 10:28 and 4:26. “Look! It is Solomon’s carriage, escorted by sixty warriors, the noblest of Israel, all of them wearing the sword, all experienced in battle, each with his sword at his side, prepared for the terrors of the night”, Song of Songs 3:7-8.
2: Security reasons
A second reason that could make the people return to Egypt is to take refuge from wars (insecurity in the land). Our nations may vomit their people into neighbouring countries, Leviticus 18:25, either because of atrocities exercised on them by their own governments or as a result of civil wars or wars with other neighbouring countries. For instance when the Babylonians invaded the land of Israel, the people fled to Egypt for safety. “At this, all the people from the least to the greatest, together with the army officers, fled to Egypt for fear of the Babylonians”, 2 Kings 25:26. In the last few years many of our South Sudanese people have been forced to return to Sudan because of civil unrest in our land. Peace in a nation helps keep its children at home. When there is danger and insecurity, people cross international borders to seek refuge.
3: Economic reasons
The third reason that takes people back to Egypt is economics. Economic crises in any country makes its citizens vulnerable to crossing borders. Badly suffering citizens will never hesitate to go down to Egypt. When there was starvation in the land, Abraham went down to Egypt, Genesis 12:10, and later Elimelech and his family went to the land of Moab, Ruth 1:1-2. Sadly today many African youths die each year, drowned in the Mediterranean Sea while trying to cross to Europe in search of a better life. For any king, president, or other leader not to drive his people away back into bondage in Egypt, he must first prioritise making peace with economic stability back home.
Quality 5: The king should not have many wives
“He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray”, Deuteronomy 17:17.
The fifth condition for a God-chosen public leader is that he should not have many wives, because many wives would lead his heart astray. King Lemuel of Massa had a great mother. She taught her son lessons that are ignored today by many leaders in government positions. She taught her son when he was already a king, but this might have started earlier enough when he was a kid. In chapter 31 of Proverbs, she advises him as a king, not teaching him as her teenage son. Mothers never give up teaching us no matter who we are and what we become in life. Even if we become kings, presidents, government ministers, pastors or bishops, etc. – whatever position we attain – our mothers still consider us as their kids and they therefore never hesitate to teach us. Are we ready to listen to them or are we swallowed up by the pride we acquired through classroom education? Many of us today consider our parents ‘ignorant and old-fashioned people’. In our African Culture, any elderly person is a parent and has the right to rebuke, counsel and teach you even if he/she is not your close relative or even known to you. King Lemuel is different from most of us. He was willing to sit and listen to his mother’s wisdom. King Lemuel was a humble king. He received and treasured those lessons from his mother and because they helped and benefitted him, he passed them on to us and other leaders. As if King Lemuel is saying: ‘Look, here are deep lessons I learned from my mother many years ago when I was the king of Massa and they helped me a lot. Would you like to try them?’ What are this mother’s lessons? Listen to what she said: “The sayings of King Lemuel — an inspired utterance his mother taught him: Listen, my son! Listen, son of my womb! Listen, my son, the answer to my prayers! Do not spend your strength on women, your vigour on those who ruin kings. It is not for kings, Lemuel —it is not for kings to drink wine, not for rulers to crave beer, lest they drink and forget what the law decrees, and deprive all the oppressed of their rights”, Proverbs 31:1-5. What are these warnings about? According to King Lemuel’s mother, two things ruin kings: women and wine (beer). This is why God commanded the kings of Israel not to multiply wives. A political leader who runs after women is given to downfall. Solomon the wisest king on earth fell into this trap. It is interesting to note that King Lemuel’s mother did not use the word ‘wives’ but ‘women’ in general, perhaps highlighting a leader can easily be tempted to go into illegal relationships with other women. “King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh’s daughter — Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites. They were from nations about which the LORD had told the Israelites, ‘You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods’. Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love. He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray. As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been”, 1 Kings 11:1-4.
Here are few dangers that might arise from having many women:
Danger 1: Many women lead leaders astray
from following God
As it was with King Solomon, many women stray leaders from the right path. In this sense leaders would not be able to hear or follow what God is saying. Their sense of judgement is ruined. Solomon started his rule as a king who wanted to do God’s will. Because he wanted to rule the people in a right way the first thing he asked for was wisdom for governing God’s people. And this pleased God, for when we ask anything according to God’s will He gives it, 1 John 5:14. “At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, ‘Ask for whatever you want me to give you’. Solomon answered, ... ‘give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?’ The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. So God said to him, … ‘I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for —both riches and honour — so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. … God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore”, 1 Kings 3:5-13 and 4:29.
God was pleased to give Solomon a wise and a discerning heart, all he needed to govern the people well. Importantly he could distinguish between right and wrong. These two requirements (wisdom and a discerning heart) are two top priorities for every leader in any public sphere even today. But supposing God comes to each leader today with that short statement: “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” What would modern rulers ask of Him? There were other options before Solomon. He could have asked for long life, wealth or the death of his enemies (things the human heart may be after). Solomon started off well with God by asking for the right things. But good beginnings do not guarantee good endings. Many leaders in the Bible have started their lives well with God but ended in a bad shape. Solomon is one of those leaders who strayed from the right path and the reason was women! Lack of discipline and self-control are deadly sins. Apostle Paul speaks of leaders as people running in a race who, without discipline and self-control, can easily get disqualified and lose the prize: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly (recklessly, without purpose); I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body (discipline) and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize”, 1 Corinthians 9:24-27.
Solomon lost his fellowship and his perspective with God. As I was studying the life of King Solomon, I realised that two words are repeatedly used when describing God’s relationship with Solomon. The two words are ‘appeared’ and ‘said.’ In the beginning God used to appear to Solomon: “At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, ‘Ask for whatever you want me to give you.’ … When Solomon had finished building the temple of the LORD and the royal palace, and had achieved all he had desired to do, the LORD appeared to him a second time, as he had appeared to him at Gibeon”, 1Kings 3:5 and 9:2. But towards the end of Solomon’s life a different word was more commonly used: The LORD ‘said’ to Solomon! “As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been. He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molech the detestable god of the Ammonites. So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the LORD; he did not follow the LORD completely, as David his father had done. On a hill east of Jerusalem, Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable god of Moab, and for Molech the detestable god of the Ammonites. … He did the same for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and offered sacrifices to their gods. The LORD became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. Although he had forbidden Solomon to follow other gods, Solomon did not keep the LORD’s command. So the LORD said to Solomon, ‘Since this is your attitude and you have not kept my covenant and my decrees, which I commanded you, I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates”, 1 Kings 11:4-11.
So what difference does it make if God ‘appeared’ or ‘said’ to Solomon? Are the two words not describing the same relationship? I would say a big NO! ‘Appearing’ denotes a warm fellowship. In the beginning when Solomon was in the right path with God, God used to appear first then speak to Solomon. May I suggest, ‘face to face’ contact? “At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, ‘Ask for whatever you want me to give you’”, 1 Kings 3:5. Later, when Solomon was led astray by his many wives the fellowship with God was lost, the word ‘appeared’ disappeared while ‘said’ remained. God did not appear again to Solomon. He only talked to him. “So the LORD said to Solomon, ‘Since this is your attitude and you have not kept my covenant and my decrees, which I commanded you, I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates’”, 1 Kings 11:11. Talking can still continue even in a bad relationship. If your son becomes stubborn and rebellious you still love him and continue talking to him, but that warm fellowship where there is laughter, hugging, sharing about things to be done, etc. may not be there. King Solomon, the wise king who was ordained before he was born to be king, the first king to build God’s temple and the great king who brought services to all his people, carelessly yet deliberately by his choices, lost his fellowship with the Lord! The bottom line is that many wives (or other women) make leaders stray from following God. They disrupt any leader’s fellowship with Him. When this happens, a leader is no longer sound to rule. The people’s confidence in him is lost. People need to ask when casting a vote: ‘How many wives does the politician I am giving my vote to have?’ Would this be an interference between his public and private life? Or is it a godly Christian question?
Danger 2: Many women ruin leaders’ reputation
According to King Lemuel’s mother, many women ruin kings. Most specifically their reputation as leaders is ruined. When the vertical relationship with God is disturbed, all the horizontal relationships become disturbed as well. In modern times presidents and prime ministers of many countries have been accused of sexual promiscuity. The first thing that a leader should guard in both his personal life and career life is against falling into sexual immorality. In the Bible leaders like Samson, King David, and Solomon all fell into the trap of women so that their careers and public lives after that were disturbed and ruined. David because of his repentant attitude was restored by God. King Solomon in his last days gave this warning about getting along with other women. Here we follow the Egyptian saying: “Ask the tempted not the doctor”! “My son, keep your father’s commands and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. Bind them always upon on your heart; fasten them round your neck. When you walk, they will guide you; when you sleep, they will watch over you; when you awake, they will speak to you. For this command is a lamp, this teaching is a light, and correction and instruction are the way to life, keeping you from your neighbour’s wife, from the smooth talk of a wayward woman. Do not lust in your heart after her beauty or let her captivate you with her eyes. For a prostitute can be had for a loaf of bread, but another man’s wife (the adulteress) preys upon your very life. Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned? Can a man walk on hot coals without his feet being scorched? So is he who sleeps with another man’s wife; no-one who touches her will go unpunished”, Proverbs 6:20-29.
Danger 3: Many women bring too many
“… Jair of Gilead, who led Israel for twenty-two years. He had thirty sons, who rode thirty donkeys. They controlled thirty towns in Gilead, which to this day are called Havvoth Jair” (settlements of Jair), Judges 10:3-4. Let us look at Jair’s family described above. I believe that those 30 sons are not from one wife although it is arguable that one woman can give birth to 30 sons. But in Israel’s tradition as seen in the Bible, sons are more often counted than girls. So, if Jair had thirty sons, how many daughters did he have? Let’s say he had 11 daughters among the 30 sons. That would total to 41 children. But if the number of daughters was more than the number of boys as it happens, the number of children would be more than 60. Look at the example of King Rehoboam’s family: “Rehoboam…had eighteen wives and sixty concubines, twenty-eight sons and sixty daughters”, 2 Chronicles 11:21. But let us just keep to the 41 for the sake of our example. Are all those 41 children from one wife? If we assume that he had 7 wives. What would be the number of people in that household? 48! Again let’s suppose that Jair is an African, say a South Sudanese ‘big man’ who had 7 wives and 41 children, how many other dependents would he be taking care of (nephews, nieces, brothers, sisters, in laws, etc.)? That house will have a modest minimum of 60-75 people.
In Africa, such a big man’s family would be a centre of gravity for many dependents. One man I heard about was surprised by the sudden arrival of his nine nephews and nieces from the countryside, sent to him by his sister and brother-in-law without informing him! That day became a mess. There was not enough sleeping space leave alone food! If, for instance, Jair is caring for another 15 relatives, his household would be 63 people! I am not criticizing people who have many children, because children are a gift from God, Psalm 128. I am not talking here about controlling family size. What I am trying to underline is that many wives bring many dependents whom a husband cannot feed from his own means (salary). So he looks towards government finances. A leader in this situation is tempted to put his hands on government finances to meet obligations in feeding his huge family. For how could he let family people go hungry when he is well known as a ‘senior government official’ or a ‘big person’? This is indirectly a reason for financial fraud and all sorts of corruption. We should not be surprised when this happens! We have been warned in the Bible.
Danger 4: Many women drain leaders of finances
‘Many women’ in King Lemuel’s mother’s words do not necessarily mean ‘legal’ wives. Many women may include ‘concubines, prostitutes, or other extra-marital affairs’. This class of women destroys the financial system of leaders and brings instability into their family lives and career lives. “A man who loves wisdom brings joy to his father, but a companion of prostitutes squanders his wealth”, Proverbs 29:3. A decent leader should stick to one legal wife or husband. This will keep him/her sound and with a clean reputation as a leader. The problem is that once one becomes a government minister, the first thing to think of is to bring in a new wife. Polygamy in Africa is a disease associated with promotions and/or assuming new offices. The theme is often: ‘With each promotion and new appointment, a new wife.’ I wish our leaders would give heed to this warning from the Bible and chose to live the only God-honouring way.
Quality 6: The king must not amass for himself large
amounts of money
“He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold”, Deuteronomy 17:17.
Silver and gold speak of money. There is nothing wrong with money in itself, but the love of money is what derails people into sinning. “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs”, 1Timothy 6:10. According to this Bible text, we can draw two lessons:
1: Love of money is the root of all kinds of evil
All kinds of bad attitudes and actions grow out of the love of money. It is the root cause of violence in any society on earth. “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet, but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight”, James 4:1-2. This can happen at all levels, individuals, groups and governments. Individuals steal, cheat and embezzle money. Families and friends fight or quarrel over material things. Groups form gangs and break into houses or banks to rob. Governments fight over natural resources! It also happens within all socio-economic levels, from the poorest of poor to the richest of rich, and from the illiterate to the well-educated. So the love of money does not exclude any human being, including kings, presidents, government and church leaders. Anyone given trust over finances can be tempted and may give in to it. This is because of the fallen nature of humanity. Kings who fall in love with money give chances to all kinds of evil to sprout into their lives and in their kingdoms.
2: People who are in a hurry to become rich
face two dangers
Firstly, if they are believers they may wander away from the faith. This means if they are Christian believers, they abandon their Christian faith and witness, and immediately lose their salty influence for good, Matthew 5:13. It also means they become lukewarm in their Christian life, objectionable even to the Lord Jesus, Revelation 3:16. Secondly, they pierce themselves with many griefs. Because they have given up their faith and walk with Christ, which are their protection from God, they are given over to all sorts of temptations like sexual immorality, acquiring money in wrong ways, amassing or abusing power, and domination over any opposition, etc. Because of this, they fall into traps that ruin their reputations and may end up throwing them into prisons (when tried after their rule finishes). How many politicians who wander from the right path have ended up thrown into prisons and have completely lost their political careers? With this background information, we can see why God warned kings away from accumulating large amounts of silver and gold. To avoid the perils of wandering away from faith and piercing themselves with many griefs, God put down a condition that the king who comes to rule his people should not accumulate large amounts of money from his role.
Again God is a wise God and He never said the king should never acquire any silver or gold. He knows that money is important for our everyday needs. God rather said the king should not accumulate large amounts of cash, land, businesses or valuables. ‘Large amount’ is what God is warning responsible leaders about. Still the argument is: how much is a ‘large amount’? Money is never satisfying. ‘The more you have, the more you want’ goes the English proverb. The answer to the above question is simple. It can all be summarised in one word: ‘contentment’. He who is not satisfied with little will never be satisfied with much.
The example of King Solomon
As we saw, Solomon started his rule by asking God for wisdom. So God gave him wisdom and also what he did not ask for, riches. At the beginning of Solomon’s rule the order of things God gave him was ‘wisdom then riches’. “God said to Solomon, ‘Since this is your heart’s desire and you have not asked for wealth, riches or honour, nor for the death of your enemies, and since you have not asked for a long life but for wisdom and knowledge to govern my people over whom I have made you king, therefore wisdom and knowledge will be given you. And I will also give you wealth, riches and honour, such as no king who was before you ever had and none after you will have”, 2 Chronicles 1:11-12. This is the right order that God intended for Solomon: wisdom and knowledge first then wealth, riches and honour. In our times many leaders do the opposite. They run after wealth and riches soon after they come to power, never stopping to ask God for wisdom and knowledge. As years passed by, riches began to flow into Solomon’s life:
King Hiram sent him 450 talents of gold (about 16 metric tons), 2 Chronicles 8:18
This was followed by the visit of the Queen of Sheba who brought him another 120 talents of gold (about 4 metric tons), large quantities of spices and precious stones, 2 Chronicles 9:9
The kings of Arabia and the governors of the land also brought gold to Solomon, 2 Chronicles 9:14
Each year, Solomon was receiving 666 talents of gold (about 23 metric tons)! 2 Chronicles 9:13
The king grew very rich and there is nothing wrong with riches if we keep our hearts right with God. After all God had promised him wealth, riches and honour. Now let us see if the order of the things God gave him remained the same after many years of accumulating wealth, “King Solomon was greater in riches and wisdom than all the other kings of the earth”, 2 Chronicles 9:22. Look at that! Riches has displaced wisdom and has become first with wisdom only second! Someone may say: ‘I do not see any difference in that. Solomon is still fine! If I say ‘wisdom and riches’ or ‘riches and wisdom’ it is the same thing’. Well this is good argument and it would be correct if that were in any other book. But not in the Bible. Arrangement of the words in the Bible was done by God the Holy Spirit; the true Author of the Bible, 2 Peter 1:21, and the Holy Spirit knows which word comes first, which comes second, and why, etc. Bible words are not random words; they are well arranged by the Holy Spirit. So when the Bible says that after many years the order changed from ‘wisdom and riches’ to ‘riches and wisdom’, it means the Holy Spirit is pointing to the fact that riches have started taking a bigger space in Solomon’s life. They have displaced wisdom.
Now after riches displaced wisdom, 1,000 women came in! “King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh’s daughter — Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites. He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray” 1 Kings 11: 1-3. How far has wisdom been displaced? Not only displaced but completely deleted. For the Bible did not mention that Solomon had riches, many women and wisdom. Never! God is all knowing when He says the king should not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold. Political leaders who accumulate large amounts of silver and gold might also be exploiting the people. Solomon received silver and gold as gifts from other kings. In our time leaders accumulate wealth taken from the citizens or from national resources that could (and probably should) have gone on projects for the citizens. King Saul was one of the kings who robbed the people of the resources due to them. Prophet Samuel told the people of Israel that King Saul, because of his love of money, would exploit them of their human and natural resources, “This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: he will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses … He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves … He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials … the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves”, 1 Samuel 8:11-22. Many of our African leaders are like King Saul, ‘they take’ what belongs to the country, to the people. As I said earlier, billions of Africa’s moneys lie hidden in Swiss bank accounts deposited by our political leaders while their people go hungry and struggle without services. “A ruler who oppresses the poor is like a driving rain that leaves no crops”, Proverbs 28:3. Will our leaders bother themselves to learn from this? Only as we hold them properly to account.
Quality 7: The king must have a copy of the law
“When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the Levitical priests. It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the LORD his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees and not consider himself better than his fellows”, Deuteronomy 17:18-20. This seventh quality, and the most important condition in my opinion, is that the king must have his own copy of the law or the word of God. The first six conditions are great and wonderful but would be incomplete without the remainder of the word of God. Without the reference book (the Bible), how would the king know that it is wrong to accumulate large numbers of horses, silver and gold? How would he know that many women ruin kings? George Washington the first US president, who was a Christian believer, may have said: “It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible”.
However, we know the word of God is:
The lamp that lights the path of life, Psalm 119:105
The source of wisdom and understanding, Psalm 119:130
Where we find warning when we deviate from the right path, 1 Corinthians 10:11
The source of teaching, rebuke, correction and training in righteous living, 2 Timothy 3:16
The source of the peaceful life, Proverbs 1:33
And many more blessings!
Therefore it is so important for all politicians and other leaders to have and to use a Bible. Let us examine closely what God said about the word: “When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the Levitical priests. It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the LORD his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees and not consider himself better than his fellows and turn from the law to the right or to the left. Then he and his descendants will reign a long time over his kingdom in Israel”, Deuteronomy 17:18-20. The above text brings to light important facts about the relationship between a political leader and the Bible that should be underlined:
1: The king must possess a copy of the law (the Bible)
This is the first step. The politician must first have a copy of the word with him at home, in his office, or in his/her handbag. How many politicians today have Bibles? Many of them seem to think the Bible is a book for priests and pastors and that it has nothing to do with politicians. This is contrary to what the Bible is saying. They think this because they have never read Deuteronomy 17 where God ordered the politicians to treasure a copy of God’s word (Holy Bible). The root of all political scandals is the lack of God’s word.
2: The copy of the law (the Bible) is to be always with him
It is not just possessing the Bible, but also carrying it with him. In other words having a fellowship with God through it. This means the Bible must become part of the politician’s life just like his wrist watch which is with him most of the time. If a politician is for instance travelling, the Bible should be the first to go into his/her handbag or suitcase. He must be developing a relationship and falling in love with God’s word, finding pleasure in God through it. Today, the most detestable thing for many politicians is the word of God. It challenges them and they know it. Who of the politicians dares carry the Bible with him/her since it is offensive to them? “To whom can I speak and give warning? Who will listen to me? Their ears are closed so that they cannot hear. The word of the LORD is offensive to them; they find no pleasure in it”, Jeremiah 6:10.
3: The king is to read his copy of the Bible all the days of his life
Is finding time daily to read the Bible of any importance to politicians in our days? Many politicians think they have other more important things to do. The affairs of the government! A king who does not have time for God’s word has no time to receive wisdom, counsel, guidance and spiritual nourishment from God. If a king seeks the counsel of God from His word, his throne will always be secure and established. But those who have rejected God’s word have rejected heavenly and earthly wisdom. “The wise (in their own eyes) will be put to shame; they will be dismayed and trapped. Since they have rejected the word of the LORD, what kind of wisdom do they have?”, Jeremiah 8:9. God wants the wise political leader to read and think seriously about the Bible all the days of his life. All the days of his life? Yes, all the days of his life! Because the mouth of the Lord has spoken, it must be so. It is a decision for every individual politician to make. “Whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm”, Proverbs 1:33.
Specific importance of God’s word (the Bible) to kings
It is important for kings and all other leaders to have and use the Bible for the following reasons:
Importance 1: The word of God observed will make the king revere the LORD his God
“…he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the LORD his God”, Deuteronomy 17:18-19. To revere God means to hold Him in highest regard. People often want to give God the reverence and the worship due Him but do not because they do not have the right knowledge as to how to worship Him. Apostle Paul for instance says Israel had the zeal for God but not based on knowledge: “Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about them (Israelites) that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge”, Romans 10:1-2. The word of God helps everyone to give God His right place in life. A person who tries to worship God independent of God’s word is a hypocrite. They worship only with their own ideas. This is why God instructed that the king who comes to govern His people must have a copy of the law and learn to respect God with due reverence. Politicians who go without the word cannot revere God for they do not have the instruction book, the ‘how to’.
Importance 2: The word of God will make the king carefully follow God’s law and decrees
“He is to read it (the word) to … follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees”, Deuteronomy 17:19. The Bible is the operational manual that helps everyone deliberately follow all of God’s decrees. But why would God want the king to follow the words of the law carefully? Because any slight deviation from the path of righteousness leads to national disaster. King David for instance did not follow the words of the law carefully when he committed adultery with Uriah’s wife, 2 Samuel 11, breaking the 7th and the 10th commandments: “You shall not commit adultery. … You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife”, Exodus 20:14,17. One act of folly usually leads to a chain of problems that affect not only the sinner but his family, his community and even his nation. “One sinner destroys much good”, Ecclesiastes 9:18. The act of adultery David committed led to an act of killing. When David came to know that Uriah’s wife was pregnant from him, he decided to subject Uriah to battle in the front line so that he was killed. He tried to cover his sin. This brought disaster to David’s family. We all know the story and the consequences. Here is the bitter list of David’s four children who died because of that one act of adultery:
The child he had with Bathsheba, Uriah’s wife, 2 Samuel 12:19
Amnon, 2 Samuel 13:28–30
Absalom, 2 Samuel 18:15
Adonijah 1 Kings 2:23-25
More calamities also came upon David’s family and kingdom to fulfil the word of God spoken by Prophet Nathan. Listen to the strong message God sent David through Prophet Nathan: “Why did you despise the word of the LORD by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now, therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own. ‘This is what the LORD says: “Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity upon you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight. You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel’””, 2 Samuel 12:9-12.
His son Amnon committed incest with his step sister Tamar, 2 Samuel 13
Absalom his own son rebelled against him, 2 Samuel 15-18
To fulfil the word of God, Absalom, David’s son, lay with his father’s concubines in broad daylight before all Israel! 2 Samuel 16:22
King David was cursed, insulted and stoned openly in the eyes of all Israel, 2 Samuel 16:5-7
David was rejected and deserted openly in the sight of all Israel, 2 Samuel 20:1-2
David made a wrong decision (about the military census) that brought God’s wrath and discipline upon the whole nation. Whenever there is sin, the sinner cannot make sound decisions, 2 Samuel 24:1-5
What disasters David brought upon his own family and his kingdom! From the moment he committed the sin of adultery, his life, family and kingdom never experienced peace and stability but only problems one after another including all kinds of humiliation. Why all these? Because David was far from God’s word. He thought he knew better than God. When God’s word is with us all the time, God the Holy Spirit reminds us of all the temptations that come our way. If David had read and heeded Exodus 20 that morning in his quiet time, it would have saved him, his family and his kingdom, from long painful times. This is why God wants politicians to have a copy of the law so that they, their people and their nations may live in peace. When the word is absent or not very carefully followed, disaster is around the corner.
Importance 3: The word of God will keep the king humble. He will not think himself better than others
“To read the word…and not consider himself better than fellow Israelites and turn from the law to the right or to the left”, Deuteronomy 17:20.
The third importance of the word is that it keeps the king humble, and when he is so, he will never consider himself superior in any way. Sadly, the common phenomenon is that politicians become so proud the moment they become presidents or ministers, they think: ‘Who is like me in this world?’ Remember when Haman was promoted above his colleagues? He boasted about it: “Haman boasted to them about his vast wealth, his many sons, and all the ways the king had honoured him and how he had elevated him above the other nobles and officials”, Esther 5:11. An official who knows God and what His word says would not act like Haman. We should be humbled when God honours us and promotes us to higher positions. It is a favour from Him and is not because we are better than our fellows. This is why God says a godly king, president or governor should have the Bible so that he does not become haughty and full of self-importance. The position he has received is a place where he serves the people. It is not meant for pride. Moreover the seat (office) where he is placed does not belong to him but to the people. It is interesting to know that the seat of King David was called three names:
“The throne of … David”, 1 Kings 2:12
“The throne of Israel”, 1 Kings 8:25
“The throne of (the kingdom of) the LORD”, 1 Chronicles 28:5 and 29:23.
Have we seen that? Today’s officials have rooms called ‘The President’s office, ‘the Minister’s office’, ‘the Director’s office’, ‘the CEO’s office’, ‘the Ambassador’s office, ‘the Manager’s office’, etc. These names are true. But have people forgotten that their seats and offices are from God and for the people? Although King David’s throne was popularly known as ‘The throne of David’ it was also known as ‘The throne of Israel’ and ‘The throne of the LORD’. My point is that no-one should forget that any office given, even if we are called upon to serve in it, actually belongs to the nation and therefore to the people and most importantly to God. We are just servants God sent to execute His purposes through those offices. When politicians keep this in mind, they will not consider themselves better than their fellow brothers. For if the office is Israel’s and the LORD’S why would one consider himself better than others because he/she is running it? This is the reason God wants politicians to have a copy of the law, to remind them to keep humble knowing that they are only servants placed in that role by God, Romans 13:1,4-5.
Different kings’ attitudes towards the word of God:
Before I conclude this point on the ‘importance of God’s word for kings’, it is prudent to see how kings in Bible days reacted to the word of God. The Bible has a sample for us. The Holy Scriptures recorded this sample to reflect the attitude of past, present and future kings and political leaders towards the word of God. There are two categories of kings in the sample that we find in the Bible. Kings that have regard, respect and reverence for the word of God and those who treat the word of God with contempt.
1: King Jehoiakim, a king who threw God’s word into the fire
“Whenever Jehudi had read three or four columns of the scroll, the king cut them off with a scribe’s knife and threw them into the brazier, until the entire scroll was burned in the fire. The king and all his attendants who heard all these words showed no fear, nor did they tear their clothes. Even though Elnathan, Delaiah and Gemariah urged the king not to burn the scroll, he would not listen to them”, Jeremiah 36:23-25. The Bible says that the king and his officials who heard the word read to them showed no fear, nor did they tear their clothes (a sign of repentance). None of them was moved by the word they heard. Many people today seem to have become immune to God’s word. They ignore the Bible’s wisdom, or neglect it even if they know what it says. God esteems those who are sensitive to His word and are rightly fearful when He speaks. “These are the ones I look on with favour: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word, Isaiah 66:2. King Jehoiakim threw God’s word into fire! As a politician, what is your relationship with God through His word, the Bible? Neither the fire nor your ignorance of God’s word will destroy it.
2: Rehoboam, the king who abandoned God’s word after he became successful
“After Rehoboam’s position as king was established and he had become strong, he and all Israel with him abandoned the law of the LORD”, 2 Chronicles 12:1. Who is Rehoboam? He was the firstborn son of King Solomon, the wisest king ever on earth. After his father died, he took office as the king of Israel. “Solomon reigned in Jerusalem over all Israel for forty years. Then he rested with his fathers and was buried in the city of David his father. And Rehoboam his son succeeded him as king”, 2 Chronicles 9:30-31. King Rehoboam was also a grandson of King David, the man after God’s heart, Acts 13:22. Having a great family background does not guarantee a godly life for oneself. One can be a king’s son (prince), government minister’s son, pastor’s or bishop’s son…but that will not determine your holy life. We have all seen children born into great and noble families who ended up leading filthy lives. Remember the prodigal son? He ‘wasted his life’, ‘squandering’ his opportunities, Luke 15:13. King Rehoboam started well with God, walking in the ways of his grandfather David and his father Solomon supported by all Israel. “They strengthened the kingdom of Judah and supported Rehoboam son of Solomon for three years, walking in the ways of David and Solomon during this time”, 2 Chronicles 11:17. But after Rehoboam’s kingdom became established and he became strong, he turned his back on God and God’s word and all Israel followed him. Beware, the most common thing people mishandle is a blessing. As a politician, how do you deal with success? Will success make you turn your back towards God and His word or will you consistently remain loyal to God? Rehoboam after his kingdom became established and he became strong, recklessly abandoned God’s word. This is why it is important to thank God for whatever promotion God gives to us in our careers. Thanking God is a confession of the fact that the promotion and blessing received have come from Him and not from personal strength. Will our leaders learn from Rehoboam’s mistake? “It was not by their sword that they won the land, nor did their arm bring them victory; it was your right hand, your arm, and the light of your face, for you loved them”, Psalm 44:3.
3: King Josiah, the reverent king who trembled at God’s word
“Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem for thirty-one years. …
When the king (Josiah) heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his robes. He gave these orders to Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Akbor son of Micaiah, Shaphan the secretary and Asaiah the king’s attendant: ‘Go and enquire of the LORD for me and for the people and for all Judah about what is written in this book that has been found. Great is the LORD’s anger that burns against us because those who have gone before us have not obeyed the words of this book; they have not acted in accordance with all that is written there concerning us’”, 2 Kings 22:1,11-13.
Now here we see the opposite side of the coin! King Josiah! The king who has proper living reverence for God’s word! King Josiah became king when he was a young lad of eight years. Spiritually speaking, he came from a very bad family background. His grandfather Manasseh did evil in the eyes of the Lord and led Israel astray, 2 Kings 21:1-2,9. Likewise, his father Amon was also evil, 2 Kings 21:19-20. With this bad family history, the exact opposite of Rehoboam, it would be natural to expect Josiah to follow the evil ways of his grandfather and father. But Josiah had a different spirit. So God said, ‘I will neither link your spiritual background to your grandfather Manasseh nor to your father Amon but to your great grandfather David, the man after My heart’. God linked the living faith of Josiah with that of his great grandfather David because the living cannot be joined to the dead! Life without God is dead. “Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem for thirty-one years. … He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD and walked in all the ways of his father David, … not turning aside to the right or to the left”, 2 Kings 22:1-2. Compared to Jehoiakim and Rehoboam, Josiah was so, so different. Josiah had a living faith and his heart was set on things of God. Because Josiah was a God-fearing king, he trembled at God’s word. Upon hearing that word, the king acted immediately and made an enquiry about what God was saying to His people in the word read to him. He then sent a delegation to a prophetess, who was in the town of Jerusalem, to enquire of the Lord for him, the people and all of Judah about what was written in the book that was found, 2 Kings 22:12-14. The prophetess Huldah gave the delegation a word from the LORD to bring back to King Josiah. He wanted to know what the LORD was bringing on Judah. “She said to them, … “Tell the king of Judah, who sent you to enquire of the Lord, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: concerning the words you heard: because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before the LORD when you heard what I have spoken against this place and its people, that they would become accursed and laid waste, and because you tore your robes and wept in my presence, I have heard you, declares the LORD. Therefore I will gather you to your ancestors, and you will be buried in peace. Your eyes will not see all the disaster I am going to bring on this place.’ So they took her answer back to the king”, 2 Kings 22:18–20. What a unique person King Josiah was! According to what God said to him, he had a responsive heart, that is listening to and learning from the word of God. If God compares hearts of many kings and presidents today with that of God-fearing King Josiah, how many hearts would be found similar? Yet that is the heart God wants every one of us to have. A mouldable heart made of flesh and not of solid impervious stone. “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws”, Ezekiel 36:26-37.
Josiah also humbled himself and wept before the LORD when he heard that God was going to discipline the nation of Judah because from the time of their fathers they had left the LORD. God will never despise a humble heart. “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, God, you will not despise”, Psalm 51:17. Because Josiah had a responsive and humble heart, and wept before the Lord when he heard God’s word, God was pleased with him and spared the nation from the immediate rod of discipline He (God) was about to bring. He promised not to bring any disaster on the people during Josiah’s lifetime and rule. “… because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before the LORD when you heard what I have spoken against this place and its people, that they would become a curse and be laid waste – and because you tore your robes and wept in my presence, I also have heard you, declares the LORD. Therefore I will gather you to your ancestors, and you will be buried in peace. Your eyes will not see all the disaster I am going to bring on this place”, 2 Kings 22:19-20. A humble and godly king will enjoy peaceful times because he is like a protective salt to his people, Matthew 5:13. Prophet Micah tells us: “And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly (or prudently) with your God”, Micah 6:8. Josiah also tore his robe and wept in God’s presence when he realised the implications of words of God. Tearing of one’s robe in Jewish tradition was an expression of repentance, helplessness, attraction of attention (the people’s or God’s or both) to something important, like looming danger. This is why God told his people not only to rend their clothes but also their hearts. Tearing of cloth is an external expression which could be false. “Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity”, Joel 2:13. My prayer is that we have kings, presidents, prime ministers – name the leaders you can – like Josiah. May the thrones of our nations and regions be seats only for honouring God.
Reward for having and rightly using a copy of the law of the LORD (the word of God)
Because the king is revering the Lord his God, following carefully His laws, walking humbly and not considering himself better than his fellow brothers and sisters; which are all fruits or the effect of God’s word upon his life, God promises to bless and reward him by giving him and his descendants a long time to reign over His people. This is the reward the king receives from the law he chooses to consult. “Then he and his descendants will reign a long time over his kingdom in Israel”, Deuteronomy 17:20. Reigning for a long time may come as a result of a heartless oppressive dictatorship, where the ruler (president, king) and his children decide to rule a nation forcibly forever as witnessed in many countries. Lots of kings and presidents in our time prepare one of their children to inherit the throne for a family dynasty. But the scripture above is not talking about this type of rule. There is a type that comes as a reward from God. How does this happen? God brings politicians and church leaders who revere Him back into office time and again because they have a good reputation and they have the people’s confidence. This is a rare blessing seen in but a few rulers. In the Bible, the king that God blessed with longest reign is Azariah, (also known as Uzziah). He ruled in Jerusalem for fifty-two (52) years. “In the twenty-seventh year of Jeroboam king of Israel, Azariah son of Amaziah king of Judah began to reign. He was sixteen years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem for fifty-two years. … He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, just as his father Amaziah had done”, 2 Kings 15:1-3. What was the secret behind this long reign? The Bible says he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord. He inherited a legacy of the fear of God ruling in righteousness before him. Will kings, presidents and all those in authority learn from him? I pray that they will take on his legacy. Many kings in the Northern Kingdom of Israel came and went while Azariah was there on the throne of Judah for fifty-two years! The reason? The Northern Kingdom was ruled by wicked kings like Ahab. The wise King Solomon said: “When a country is rebellious, it has many rulers, but a ruler with discernment and knowledge maintains order”, Proverbs 28:2. In a rebellious country the people try to rule themselves. What happens when a nation’s king is rebellious to God and does not revere Him? He tries to rule with his own wisdom. Such leaders are the biggest obstacle to their own proper leadership. But how wonderful it is when the king on the throne has the seven qualities mentioned in this chapter. A nation is truly blessed when its king carries these out. It is our prayer that God brings into power godly leaders for our nations, states, people-groups and churches, etc. As these people maintain their God-honouring lives and leadership style may we all enjoy long and peaceful times full of God’s blessings, with economic development, social respect and cohesion, good education, proper health care and infrastructure, underpinned by religious practices that bring pleasure to God Himself.
We are taking each of Alex’s ‘seven leadership qualities’ one at a time.
Using this chapter and Scriptures quoted explain and apply your answers
1. Why must the leader be chosen by God and the people?
2. Why must the leader be ‘a fellow Israelite’, that is one of the people?
3. Why must the leader not ‘acquire many horses’, that is rely on military power?
4. Why must the leader not ‘make the people go back to Egypt’, that is become his/her slaves?
5. Why must the leader not ‘have many wives’? How does this apply to a female leader?
6. Why must the leader not accumulate great wealth for himself/herself?
7. Why, how, where and when must the leader use God’s
word, the Bible?
 Emmanuel Ngara: Christian Leadership – A challenge to the African Church (Pauline’s Publication: Nairobi) 2004, p.5.  Nelson Mandela – Long walk to Freedom (Little Brown & company: London) 1994, p.431.  Nelson Mandela Ibid. p.586.  See chapter 2 p.24.  Hal Lindsey: The Late Great Planet Earth quoting Egyptian President Gamel Abdel Nasser, 26 May 1967, (Zondervan: Grand Rapids, MI) 1970.  http://www.herald.co.zw/police-acquire-1m-vehicles/ .  http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/03/hundreds-feared-dead-mediterranean-sea-170323192911495.html .  The factuality of this quotation is hotly disputed by both sides.