Laws of Kings and Priests

Aug 16, 2015

כִּי־תָבֹא אֶל־הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ נֹתֵן לָךְ וִירִשְׁתָּהּ וְיָשַׁבְתָּה בָּהּ וְאָמַרְתָּ אָשִׂימָה עָלַי מֶלֶךְ כְּכָל־הַגּוֹיִם אֲשֶׁר סְבִיבֹתָי׃

If, after you have entered the land that Hashem your God has assigned to you, and taken possession of it and settled in it, you decide, “I will set a king over me, as do all the nations about me,”

Deuteronomy 17:14

חֵלֶק כְּחֵלֶק יֹאכֵלוּ לְבַד מִמְכָּרָיו עַל־הָאָבוֹת׃

They shall receive equal shares of the dues, without regard to personal gifts or patrimonies.

Deuteronomy 18:8

Moses now sets out the laws that distinguish kings, priests and Levites from the rest of the nation. He tells the people there will come a time when they establish themselves in the land and wish to set a king for themselves like the nations around them. Moses instructs the people to choose only a king from among their brethren, rather than a foreigner.


A king of Israel may not have too many horses, too many wives or too much money, lest those things lead him astray. He must write for himself a Torah scroll, which he is to read from every day. Following these laws will keep the king on the path which God wishes him to tread and prevent him from becoming haughty.


Like the king, priests and Levites have unique laws, as well. They do not receive a portion in the Land of Israel as the other tribes do. Instead, they partake in the offerings brought to God at the Tabernacle, and later the Temple. Moses lists a specific portion of the offerings which are to belong to the priests.


The Israel Bible notes the danger inherent in being king which the Torah recognizes. Although a king is a necessity to prevent chaos (see Judges 17-21), he runs the risk of forgetting the source of his power: God. The laws of the king set out in this passage are meant to prevent this. Likewise, there is a similar risk to those who conquer and work the land. The laws of the king remind us all to recognize God as the source of all our blessings and successes.


Virtual Classroom Discussion

The Torah specifies many horses are forbidden because they may lead the nation to return to Egypt to acquire them. Why do you think many wives and much silver and gold would be specifically forbidden to an Israelite king?

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