14 “When you come to the land that the Lord your God is giving you, and you possess it and dwell in it and then say, ‘I will set a king over me, like all the nations that are around me,’ 15 you may indeed set a king over you whom the Lord your God will choose. One from among your brothers you shall set as king over you. You may not put a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. 16 Only he must not acquire many horses for himself or cause the people to return to Egypt in order to acquire many horses, since the Lord has said to you, ‘You shall never return that way again.’ 17 And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold.
18 “And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests. 19 And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, 20 that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel.
Our God is truly an awesome God. In Deuteronomy 17, God, through Moses, tells the nation of Israel his statutes. Here at the end of chapter 17, God tells the nation something that they will do hundreds of years in the future. They will rebel against God and ask for a king. Since God knows what they will do, he gives them commands for what the king should not do.
How prescient is God? Look at this description of King Solomon from a few hundred years after Moses gave this command:
1 Kings 10:25-11:6
25 Every one of them brought his present, articles of silver and gold, garments, myrrh, spices, horses, and mules, so much year by year.
26 And Solomon gathered together chariots and horsemen. He had 1,400 chariots and 12,000 horsemen, whom he stationed in the chariot cities and with the king in Jerusalem. 27 And the king made silver as common in Jerusalem as stone, and he made cedar as plentiful as the sycamore of the Shephelah. 28 And Solomon’s import of horses was from Egypt and Kue, and the king’s traders received them from Kue at a price. 29 A chariot could be imported from Egypt for 600 shekels of silver and a horse for 150, and so through the king’s traders they were exported to all the kings of the Hittites and the kings of Syria.
11:1 Now King Solomon loved many foreign women, along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, 2 from the nations concerning which the Lord had said to the people of Israel, “You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love. 3 He had 700 wives, princesses, and 300 concubines. And his wives turned away his heart. 4 For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father. 5 For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. 6 So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and did not wholly follow the Lord, as David his father had done.
God commanded the king not to do a few things in Deuteronomy 17. He told the king not to return to Egypt for horses, to amass too much wealth, or to marry many women. Solomon did all three of these things, and his heart was turned away from the Lord.
What astounds me is not that Solomon disobeyed the command of God. What astounds me is that God, through Moses, told us exactly what Solomon would do. He gave the very specific commands that Solomon would disobey. It is as if God simply laid out the law, knowing all the time exactly what would befall this rebellious nation full of rebellious men.
Now, I’m not pretending that it is at all encouraging to watch Solomon fail. I am, however, greatly in awe of the fact that God has all of human history in his view. He knew what Solomon’s heart would be. He knew what men would do. He even knows everything I ever will do. Our God is amazing and worthy of all worship. No one could see the future to make such a command except for our God who truly knows all things. Praise to him!