A Corrupt Ruler Pollutes the Land
Can a corrupt throne be allied with you—one that brings
on misery by its decrees? They band together against the
righteous and condemn the innocent to death.
The framers of the American Constitution knew that kings matter. They knew biblical history, and they understood that tyranny, corruption, and misery were more often the historical norm, the exception. A corrupt king matters because everything he does and says is magnified and therefore his or her influence ripples down to every corner of the land: “A king’s wrath is like the roar of a lion; he who angers him forfeits his life” (Proverbs 20:2).
From the beginning, Israel has been warned about the dangers a king will bring to the people: “This is what the king who will reign over you will do: 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 and give them to his attendants.... He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves” (1 Samuel 8:11–17).
The abuse of power and privilege at the top infects the body of the kingdom, and all the people suffer. Why are we surprised when we find out that leaders have fallen into venial and corrupt behavior? The historical norm would suggest an inverse relationship between power and virtue. It is a rare man, indeed, who will not be tempted to turn to tyranny when the opportunity arises. If it could happen in ancient Israel, it can happen anywhere. “The wicked freely strut about when what is vile is honored among men” (Psalm 12:8)
—Eric Kampmann, Signposts