In Israel God held kings to a higher standard than everyone else. In order for them to rule justly in the fear of the Lord, God commanded the king to do something quite unusual by today’s standards. His assignment was hand copying Scripture and reading from it every day!
“Also it shall be, when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write for himself a copy of this law in a book, from the one before the priests, the Levites. And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God and be careful to observe all the words of this law and these statutes, that his heart may not be lifted above his brethren, that he may not turn aside from the commandment to the right hand or to the left, and that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he and his children in the midst of Israel.” —Deuteronomy 17:18-20
Meditating Like a King
God required the king to:
- Hand copy the Scripture, the first five books of the Bible for himself. (He could not hire it done but had to put his own hand to the Word of God.)
- Keep it with him, near him. (He had to keep another copy in his treasury so that he would not forget God when he was looking at all his wealth.)
- Read it all the days of his life, meditating on God's Word. (Read it through, then begin again, and again, and again.)
- Learn to fear the Lord his God.
- Be careful to observe all the words of the law and statutes.
- Not let his heart be lifted up in pride.
- Not turn aside from the commandment to the left or to the right (not deviate because of the culture or circumstances).
This was to be done so that the king might prolong his days in his kingdom, he and his children also. Hand copying Scripture benefited him with a long reign, punctuated by wisdom and obedience. The blessing extended to his children also.
Not all kings obeyed God. In the recorded history of the kings of Judah, there were good kings who obeyed God and bad kings who disobeyed. Hand copying Scripture was so beneficial to King Hezekiah, one of the good kings who led a great revival in Israel (see 2 Chronicles 29-32), that he ordered his men to hand copy Solomon’s proverbs.
These also are proverbs of Solomon which the men of Hezekiah king of Judah copied:
- It is the glory of God to conceal a matter,
But the glory of kings is to search out a matter. —Prov 25.1-2ff
Why would God subject busy kings to this painstaking task? Why not let them buy a scroll and read it? Or just get it on Kindle? God knew there was a huge, rarely-discovered benefit to be gained in the personal handwriting of Scripture.