The so-called ‘divine right of kings’ – is there such a thing?
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Certain New Testament passages contain wordings which might cause casual bible-readers to think that the rulers of this world – kings, presidents and so on – are “appointed by God” and “in his service”. But, as anyone should be able to see, that is not how things are. Also: The Scriptures make it clear that when Jesus returns the rulers of this world will fight against him, and that he will conquer and destroy them.
But, some talk about “royal authority” and “the divine right of kings”. Are those concepts biblical?
The question at hand is really this: Do the present-day governments form a “rule of God” here on Earth? Is this God’s world? Or, is the planet Earth in fact controlled by forces of a different kind? This article takes a closer look at those questions. A number of passages in the Old and New Testaments will be studied here. Romans 13 will be given special consideration.
A note: This is not about the kings of ancient Israel. In that case, it is clear that some of them were chosen by God, even though he did not force those kings on Israel but let them be appointed by the people.
Isaiah 24:21 It shall come to pass in that day That the Lord will punish on high the host of exalted ones, And on the earth the kings of the earth. (NKJV)
Acts 4:26 The kings of the earth took their stand, And the rulers were gathered together Against the Lord and against His Christ.’ (NKJV)
Revelation 17:1 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and talked with me, saying to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters, 2 “with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication.” (NKJV)
Revelation 19:19 And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. (NKJV)
Consider this: If the kings (rulers) mentioned in those passages are appointed by God and are his servants, as certain New Testament passages make it seem, then why would Jesus destroy them when he comes? For, the Bible tells us that he will destroy them.
We all know that today, this planet is in evil hands. That is why Jesus will return: To put an end to the wicked ones who today still control this world (the Earth). In that connection, let us consider this scripture:
Matthew 6:10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven. (NKJV)
Praying in that manner, actually means that one asks God to stop the rule of rebels here on Earth and put the Reign of God into effect even on this planet.
A note: There are those who claim that this world is already a part of God’s Reign (Kingdom). But, as anyone should be able to see, that is not so. The article noa010.htm has some notes on what, where and when the Kingdom or Reign of God really is.
This has to do with Revelation 1:5. For instance the Catholic Douay version has in that verse the wording “the prince of the kings of the earth”. But, really what does that passage mean and refer to? For, if we face the facts, we know well that those who run this world today, are not God’s servants.
Many early English bibles had a different wording. Here is a version with modernised language:
Revelation 1:5 and from Jesus Christ which is a faithful witness, and first begotten of the dead: and Lord over the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood (TRC)
Perhaps you can see the difference between the wordings “the prince of the kings of the earth” and “the Lord over the kings of the earth”.
The latter wording makes more sense. – It appears that Revelation 1:5 is simply a statement that Jesus has been given (legal) power over those wicked rulers. And, other passages show that in the future he will return, as the Lord of lords. At that time, he will use his power, and destroy the wicked rulers of this world.
(The article nwa010.htm considers why God has allowed evil, pain and suffering.)
Please note that this verse is a part of a context which talks about the heavenly Jerusalem.
Revelation 21:24 And the people which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth shall bring their glory (and honour) unto it. (TRC)
Who does the last part of that verse refer to? One thing is clear: That passage cannot refer to mortals, because it talks about the heavenly Jerusalem. Mortals cannot enter that city.
The Bible indicates that in the future, when Jesus has returned and destroyed this world’s present rulers, the saints (or some of them) will function as rulers or judges [a] in regard to matters here on the Earth, acting on behalf of the Reign of God. They will honour and praise God, in that heavenly city. [b]
a “Rulers or judges” – in the Greek text the word is basileus which was used in different meanings, such as “king”, “chief”, “captain”, “judge”. The New Testament shows that the saints, or at east some of them, when they had become immortals, were to assist Jesus in the administration of God’s Kingdom, acting as judges on its behalf.
b Many translations have “glory” in that verse, but it appears that in this case, the word doxa in the Greek text refers to “praise”. Perhaps the meaning is that the saints who have become immortals and act as judges over matters on the Earth, honour and praise God, in that heavenly city.
Bible-translations have since the fourth century been produced under the control of rulers and pontiffs and the like. King James’ bible of 1611 (which many later translators have in various ways copied) is an example of this. It was produced “by his majesty’s special command” – at the order and under the control of a man who claimed that “kings are justly called gods”, and who was an adherent of the dogma regarding a “divine right of kings”.
At the beginning of the 1600s, the perhaps most commonly used bible-version in England was the Geneva bible which had been produced and published in Switzerland, outside the control of British rulers. James, who in 1603 was coronated as the king of England, was not happy with the Geneva, because it contained marginal notes and comments that were not favourable to dictators. So, in 1604 he put a group of men into work, in order to have the Geneva bible replaced with a “better” text, without annoying notes.
As a basis for their work, those men were given forty wide-margin prints of the 1602 edition of Bishops’ bible (a Church of England translation), and they were told to produce a text that was as close as possible to that 1602 edition, with as few changes as possible. In other words: A “new” bible-edition was ordered in 1604, and still, it was to be a close copy of the 1602 one. So, what was the point with that project? The answer is that it was for political reasons that James the king ordered a new edition where certain things were to be “adjusted”. The “translators” were given written orders in regard to certain things. Well, several members of the “translation” committee must have known well what kind of changes James wanted, even without written instructions. They were his allies, and they gave their support to his “divine right” dogma. For more on this, including what James’ political motives were, see the article nsa030.htm.
James had a parliament of a kind, and sometimes it had even meetings, but in reality he acted as a dictator. He claimed that he had a “divine right” for that, a “heavenly right to rule”. In a speech to his “parliament”, he claimed that
“kings are justly called Gods”
“they have power of raising, and casting down: of life, and of death: Judges over all their subjects, and in all causes, and yet accountable to none but God only”
In the English-speaking world, many of the dogmas regarding a “divine right of kings” are probably copied from the “theology” of a number of clergymen whose income was dependent of king James I (and later of Charles I and Charles II of England). Already in the late 1500s, books were written on “the divine right of kings” and related subjects.
It has been claimed that the idea of a divine right to rule has appeared in many cultures, all the way back to the myth-king Gilgamesh. There is some truth to that claim – that is: Many rulers, from Babylon and onward, have acted as if they had a “heavenly right to rule”. Many of them, including James, have even claimed that kings are “gods”. But, that does not mean that those in Babylon originating claims would be correct and true.
At first glance, it might seem that Romans 13 contains support for the “divine right” dogma. However, when one takes a closer look at that passage and its context including the preceding chapter, and the Greek text and the whole matter, things begin to look a bit different.
So, let us consider Romans 13. Here are verses 1–7, as the 1883 Webster version has them:
Romans 13:1 Let every soul be subject to the higher powers. For there is no power but from God: the powers that are, are ordained by God. 2 Whoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power; do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise from the same: 4 For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou doest that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, an avenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. 5 Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. 6 For, for this cause ye pay tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. 7 Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor. (WBS)
Those verses might cause casual bible-readers to think that God is behind the rulers of this world. But, Romans 13 is a passage that demands deeper study. One must also look at the wider context, and the Greek text, and there are even other things to consider.
In order to see what the apostle Paul was talking about in “Romans 13”, one must go back a few verses, to “Romans 12”, ignoring the added, misleading chapter break.
Romans 12:17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (ESV01)
Some writers and commentators have wanted people to think that those words had nothing to do with the saints’ situation in Rome. But, that is nonsense. It is obvious that the above-quoted passage in the apostle’s letter to the saints in Rome, was closely connected to their situation in that town.
Verse 17 records how Paul told the saints in Rome, “repay no one evil for evil”. Now, who did evil to the saints in that town? And, regarding verse 18, “if possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” – who was prone to disturb those saints’ peace? Also, regarding verse 19, “beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord’” – what things had been done against those saints, and by whom, so that the Lord would have to avenge? Or, verse 20, “if your enemy is […] by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head” – who was those saints’ enemy, and on whose head were those coals to be heaped? Or, verse 21, “do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” – again: Who did evil to those saints?
In short: Who persecuted and hurt the saints in Rome, so that the Lord was to avenge that evil? Why, the Roman rulers and their officials and soldiers. It is obvious that what Paul wrote, Romans 12:17–21, was regarding the saints’ very troublesome situation in that town.
Apparently, the apostle wrote that letter during the reign of Nero, the Roman emperor who, it is said, even had believers put on poles and tarred and then lit afire as “decorations” in his garden parties, and who did much more of the same kind of extreme evil, such as having lions devour believers, as “public entertainment” on the circus-arenas of Rome.
In those days even the land of Israel was under occupation by the Roman empire. The Jewish nation was under tribute and military rule, virtually enslaved. The Jews tried to free themselves, but the Roman troops slaughtered them in great numbers. Some have estimated that around year 70, the Roman soldiers killed approximately three million Jews.
So, regarding Romans 13, consider this: Had God appointed the rulers of that ruthless and wicked Roman empire which persecuted the saints and even tortured and murdered them? Were those rulers God’s servants? No, of course not. All know that the Roman emperors and their troops served totally different “gods” – idols, ultimately Satan.
(Again, the article nwa010.htm considers why God has allowed evil, wars, pain and suffering – why he has allowed this world to be run and controlled by rebels.)
Matthew 2 records how Herod the king tried to have the young Jesus murdered. Later, Herod the tetrarch had the head of John the Baptist placed on a platter and presented as a “gift” to his daughter. Were those butchers “appointed by God”? Obviously not. Was the Roman ruler Pilate who ordered his soldiers to crucify Jesus, “appointed by God” and “in his service”? No. Or the Roman troops who defiled and then destroyed the temple in Jerusalem, and at the same time slaughtered countless Israelites? No. Or, the caesars who burned believers as garden lights and let lions tear and eat them, in order to provide “entertainment” for the citizens of Rome? No, those rulers were not God’s servants.
So, was that horrible government “ordained by God”? No. Or other governments and rulers, such as the Pharaohs of Egypt, the Aztec and Inka rulers, Genghis Khan, Attila, Hannibal? No. Or, the pontiffs of Rome who for a long time acted as emperors as well? No. Or, Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin or Mao Tse Tung? No. Or Pol Pot or Idi Amin or other wicked rulers and warlords, of either past or present? No. It is very clear that they all were and are enemies of God.
So, it is obvious that we must take a closer look at Romans 12 and 13, including the Greek text, in order to find out what the apostle Paul really might have been talking about.
What about the Greek text of Romans 13? There are such questions as, in what language did the apostle Paul write that letter to the saints in Rome? In Greek, or in Latin? (People in Rome spoke Latin.) If he wrote it in Latin, then who did the translation into Greek, and was it in such a case a fully correct translation?
Also: We must keep in mind that the saints’ situation in Rome was very precarious (dangerous), and that they had to be careful with every word and gesture, in order to avoid trouble. This included words in letters. So, it could even be that the apostle Paul, who was wise with words, on purpose wrote that letter to Rome with such wordings – and perhaps even with double meanings – that if the Romans officials got hold of it, they would not have anything to complain about. But, the saints in Rome could understand what Paul really was saying – and also, it might be that he had instructed the person who carried that letter, to explain what certain things in it actually meant. (It appears that that letter was written in Corinth in Greece. We can assume that the person who carried that letter, had to pass through Roman control points, before reaching the city of Rome.)
Having noted these things, and keeping in mind that the earlier quoted verses 17–21 in “Romans 12” make it clear that “Romans 13” indeed is connected with the saints’ troublesome situation in Rome, let us now consider chapter 13. Here is verse 1:
Romans 13:1 Let every soul be subject to the higher powers. For there is no power but from God: the powers that are, are ordained by God. (WBS)
“Traditionally”, that verse has been interpreted to say and mean that the present-day rulers of this world are “ordained by God”. But, as was noted earlier in this article, it is clear that they are not. More: When Jesus returns, those rulers will fight against him (but will be conquered and destroyed).
So, really how should we understand Romans 13:1? Here is a suggested translation of the Greek text:
Romans 13:1 Let everyone be subject to powers above. For there is no authority except God’s, and those Authorities who [really] have been appointed by God.
Does that mean that the terror-rule by the caesars of Rome was “of God”? Obviously not. So, perhaps the meaning is that there is no true authority (the Greek text has exousia), except that which [really] is of God, and those rulers whom he actually has appointed. That is: It is Jesus who has true “royal authority”, and then also those whom Jesus appoints. God and his son Jesus do not have any mortal “deputies” or “vice-rulers” here on Earth today. And, as we all know, the Roman rulers of New Testament times served idols, ultimately Satan. They were opposed to God. They persecuted His people, and tortured and murdered some of them, in Rome and elsewhere.
But, the apostle Paul told God’s people in Rome that they were not to try to retaliate or avenge themselves. The earlier quoted Romans 12:17–21 records how he told them to leave that avenging to God.
Let us now proceed to verse 2 in chapter 13. “Traditionally”, even that verse has been interpreted to say and mean that the present-day rulers of this world are “ordained by God” and “in his service”. But again, it is clear that they are not. So, here is a suggested translation of verses 1–2:
Romans 13:1 Let everyone be subject to powers above. For there is no authority except God’s, and those Authorities who [really] have been appointed by God. 2 So, those who oppose that Authority, have opposed the ordinance of God. And, those who oppose, will receive judgment upon themselves.
Regarding verse 2: It appears that Paul actually meant that the wicked rulers who opposed God and hurt his people, would “receive judgment upon themselves”. They were to be judged and punished by God, for their evildoing. God would avenge his own. (Keep in mind the earlier quoted Romans 12:17–21.) Now, onward to verse 3:
Romans 13:1 Let everyone be subject to powers above. For there is no authority except God’s, and those Authorities who [really] have been appointed by God. 2 So, those who oppose that Authority, have opposed the ordinance of God. And, those who oppose, will receive judgment upon themselves. 3 For those rulers are not a terror to doers of good, but to doers of evil. Would you not want to fear that Authority? Do good, and you will receive praise from him.
Verse 3, “those rulers” – the meaning appears to be, those that really have an appointment from God. That is, the righteous rulers in Heaven, and not the wicked Roman rulers who were enemies of God and persecuted, tortured and killed His people.
Still regarding verse 3, “for those rulers are not a terror to doers of good”: In contrast to the heavenly rulers, the Roman rulers certainly were a terror to those with good works (the saints), and they were also a terror to the Jewish nation.
Let us now proceed to verse 4, including the words “the Servant of God with the sword”.
Romans 13:1 Let everyone be subject to powers above. For there is no authority except God’s, and those Authorities who [really] have been appointed by God. 2 So, those who oppose that Authority, have opposed the ordinance of God. And, those who oppose, will receive judgment upon themselves. 3 For those Rulers are not a terror to doers of good, but to doers of evil. Would you not want to fear that Authority? Do good, and you will receive praise from Him: 4 For He is a Servant of God, for your good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for He does not bear the sword in vain; for He is a Servant of God, an Avenger, for wrath upon the evildoer.
In the Greek text of verse 4, the verb for “is” is in the singular third person form estin. So, that verse talks about a “he”, a singular servant of God. This obviously refers to Jesus. And so, the avenging which that verse mentions, must refer to the same as Romans 12:19 – the Lord avenging the evils that are done to his people.
Romans 13:4 mentions even a sword. Consider this: In prophecies regarding the time when Jesus returns to destroy the rulers of this world, Jesus is sometimes pictured as carrying a sword. The Scriptures tell us that the rulers of this world will fight against Jesus, and that he will destroy them. – It is obvious that the in verse 4 mentioned servant of God with a sword, is Jesus.
Then: It appears that after Romans 13:4, there ought to be a new paragraph, and that the words dio anankê hupotassesthai in the Greek text of “verse 5” simply meant that the saints were forced to submit to the wicked Roman government, because of its violent force.
First, here is an example of a “traditional” translation of that verse:
Romans 13:5 Wherefore be subject of necessity: not only for wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. (DR1899)
“Wherefore be subject of necessity” – what made it necessary for the saints to submit to the evil Roman government? The above-quoted translation has “for wrath” and “for conscience’ sake”. It is clear that it would not have been wise to draw the Roman government’s wrath upon oneself. So, the saints had to submit. But what about the latter part, “for conscience’ sake”? Is that a fitting translation of the Greek text, in this case? That matter is discussed in a note a bit later; let us first consider something else in that verse.
Where the above-quoted translation has “wherefore be subject of necessity”, the Greek text has dio anankê hupotassesthai. The word dio meant “because of”, and hupotassesthai meant “submit”. But, what about the noun anankê? Here is a lexicon entry on that word:
I. force, constraint, necessity, Hom., etc.; ἀνάγκηι perforce, of necessity, or in act. sense, forcibly, by force, id=Hom.; so, ὑπ᾽ ἀνάγκης, ἐξ ἀνάγκης, δι᾽ ἀνάγκης, πρὸς ἀνάγκην, κατ᾽ ἀνάγκην, attic:— ἀνάγκη ἐστί, c. inf., it is matter of necessity to do a thing, Hom., etc.; c. dat. pers., ἀν. μοι σχεθεῖν Aesch.:—in Trag., πολλή γ᾽ ἀνάγκη, πολλή στ᾽ ἀνάγκη or πολλή μ᾽ ἀνάγκη, with which an inf. must be supplied.
2. actual force, violence, torture, Hdt., etc.; metaph., δολοποιὸς ἀν., i. e. the stratagem of Nessus, Soph.
3. bodily pain, anguish, distress, κατ᾽ ἀνάγκην ἕρπειν painfully, id=Soph.; ὑπ᾽ ἀνάγκης βοᾶν id=Soph.
II. like Lat. necessitudo, the tie of blood, relationship, kindred, Lys., etc.
(Liddell and Scott, ‘An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon’. Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1889.)
The word anankê is found in several New Testament passages. For instance the NASB95 translates it in different ways, such as “inevitable”, “need”, “hardship”, “distress”, “constraint”, “compulsion”. Related words in old Greek: Anankaios, “with or by force”, anankasma, “compulsion”, anankazô, “to force”, “to compel”. (Those who want, can even study the use of the word anankê in the Greek text of the Septuagint version, the LXX. There, it refers to such things as anguish, distress, trouble, terror.)
In short, it appears that the words dio anankê in the Greek text of Romans 13:5 simply refer to the fact that the saints had to submit to the wicked Roman government, because of its violent force (anankê). So, here is a suggested translation of that verse:
Romans 13:5 Because of necessity, one must submit – not only because of wrath, [c] but also because you know these things. [d]
c “Not only because of wrath” – the Roman rulers and their officials and soldiers certainly showed wrath (aggression) towards the saints. So, they had to submit. They could not afford to make that wrath greater.
d “But also because you know these things” – some translation details: The Greek text has suneidêsis which could refer to different things, including “knowledge shared with another”, “communication”, “information”, “knowledge”, “consciousness” and “awareness”, and also “complicity”, “guilt” and “crime”, and even “consciousness of right and wrong”. Which of those definitions would fit into the context of Romans 13:5?
Many translators have put into that verse the word “conscience”. That is probably copied from the Latin text of the Catholic Vulgate version which has in that verse the noun conscientiam which referred to such things as “consciousness”, “common knowledge”, “cognizance”, “awareness”, and even “sense of right” or “sense of guilt”.
The question was, which of the many different uses and meanings of the Greek noun suneidêsis would fit into the context of Romans 13:5? Perhaps “knowledge” – and so, “but also because you know these things”. The saints knew that it was not wise for them to get into more trouble with the Roman rulers than what they already had.
Now, it is clear that the saints were first and foremost to submit to God and his son Jesus. But, it is also clear that they were forced to “submit” to the Roman rulers, in regard to such things as paying taxes and so on. (However, other bible-passages show that the saints were to obey the worldly rulers and submit to them only within limits, only as far as that did not mean disobeying God. This could mean that they had to give their earthly lives.)
Romans 13:5 is followed by verse 6 where we find these words:
Romans 13:6 Why, this is really the reason you pay taxes […] (WEY)
“This is the reason” – what did the apostle refer to? Well, we can assume that those words refer to the force and power of the Roman government – the anankê of verse 5. Let us take a closer look the last part of verse 6, for that is quite interesting. First, a “traditional” translation of that verse:
Romans 13:6 Why, this is really the reason you pay taxes; for tax-gatherers are ministers of God, devoting their energies to this very work. (WEY)
The above-quoted WEY clarifies things, by adding the word “tax-gatherers”. But, were the Roman tax collectors “servants of God”? Let us take that translation under closer consideration. The wording in the Greek text is leitourgoi gar theou eisin – see the notes below.
In old Greek, the noun leitourgos was often used of public servants, servants of the state. That word could be used for instance of tax collectors – and, as you know, they certainly are “devoting their energies to this very work” (as the above-quoted WEY has it), without ever giving up. If necessary, they use armed personnel as their help.
Then, regarding the word theou (theos) in the Greek text of verse 6 – who was the theos that those leitourgoi (tax collectors) served? Well, in the Greek language, even the caesars were called theoi. They were viewed as “gods”, and people were in fact demanded to worship them.
Now, we cannot be certain of what the apostle Paul exactly meant or what he actually had written (or whether he wrote that letter in Latin or Greek). But, it appears that the word leitourgoi in the Greek text of Romans 13:6 indeed refers to tax collectors, just as the above-quoted WEY has it. And: Since it is unthinkable that Paul would have meant that the Roman tax collectors were servants of the true God who is in Heaven, let us assume that in the case of Romans 13:6, the word theou refers to the caesar.
Once again: We do not know what Paul originally wrote, but if the Greek text of that verse is correct, then it could even be that Paul who was wise with words, on purpose wrote that letter with such wordings that if Romans officials got hold of it, they would not have anything to complain about. They would see that Paul said that one must pay taxes, and they would see that he called the caesar and his officials theos and leitourgoi (that is, in case that letter was originally written in Greek).
Then, we have verse 7.
Romans 13:7 Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor. (NASB95)
Tribute (taxes) and custom fees (toll) were to be given to the caesar and his representatives. So much is clear. It is also clear that for the saints in Rome, this was unavoidable, inescapable.
So, taxes and toll were due to the caesar and his representatives. But what about the fear which Romans 13:7 mentions? What did Paul mean? Whom were the saints to fear or be afraid of? It is clear that they had all reason to fear evil from the Roman rulers. But, it is also clear that they were to fear God more than men.
Then, and this is still regarding Romans 13:7, there is also that part with the words “honour to whom honour [is due]”. In the Roman empire, people were expected to honour the caesar. Actually, he was viewed as a “god”, and people were to worship him. Should the saints have done that? Of course not.
No honour was due to the wicked, ruthless, ungodly Roman rulers. The honour which the saints were to give, was due to the heavenly Rulers, God and his son Jesus. And yes, failure to worship the caesar could lead to that one was killed. But, the saints were to put their trust in God.
What about Daniel 2:21 and the words “he removes kings, and sets up kings”, and Daniel 4:17, “the most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomsoever he will”? Do those passages mean that God has appointed the present-day rulers of this world, and is behind them? Let us consider that matter. We can begin in chapter 2 which mentions removing and setting up of kings.
Daniel 2: […] 20 Daniel answered and said, Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are his: 21 And he changes the times and the seasons: he removes kings, and sets up kings: he gives wisdom to the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding: 22 He reveals the deep and secret things: he knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with him. (AKJV)
This was when king Nebuchadnezzar had had a dream but no one had been able to explain the meaning of that dream. Actually, he had demanded that the “wise men” of Babylon were to tell him what the dream had been, and after that give its interpretation (Daniel 2:5). They could not do that, and Nebuchadnezzar gave an order that they all were to be killed (verse 12). But, by God’s help, the prophet Daniel was able to tell the king both the dream as well as its interpretation. Through this, those people were spared.
But, what about verse 21 and the words “he removes kings, and sets up kings”? Does that mean that the true God who is in Heaven, has appointed this world’s rulers and is behind them? Obviously not. But, it is clear that if and when God wants, he certainly can remove a ruler and replace him with someone else. In biblical times, he sometimes did that. But, as we all know, this world (planet) is in wicked hands. The present-day rulers of this world have not been appointed God, nor are they in his service. More: The Scriptures show that when Jesus returns, the rulers of this world will fight against him, and that he will defeat them.
Then we have Daniel 4:17. If you read that chapter from verse 1, you will notice that it was actually written by king Nebuchadnezzar. (That chapter quotes an Aramaic text which had been written or dictated by Nebuchadnezzar.)
Daniel 4:13 I saw in the visions of my head on my bed, and, behold, a watcher and an holy one came down from heaven; 14 He cried aloud, and said thus, Hew down the tree, and cut off his branches, shake off his leaves, and scatter his fruit: let the beasts get away from under it, and the fowls from his branches: 15 Nevertheless leave the stump of his roots in the earth, even with a band of iron and brass, in the tender grass of the field; and let it be wet with the dew of heaven, and let his portion be with the beasts in the grass of the earth: 16 Let his heart be changed from man’s, and let a beast’s heart be given to him; and let seven times pass over him. 17 This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may know that the most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomsoever he will, and sets up over it the basest of men. (AKJV)
So, what about verse 17, the words “the most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomsoever he will, and sets up over it the basest of men”? What did that mean?
A note: One translation has, “he will give it to whom he will, and will raise up the humble man as its ruler”.
Reading all of the book of Daniel can give more background to that matter, but in short: King Nebuchadnezzar had been extremely proud and haughty. But, for a period of seven years he was forcibly humbled by God. After this, he acknowledged that he was only a man of flesh, and that a higher power existed in Heaven.
In short, regarding Daniel 2:21 and 4:17 – those passages do not mean that the present-day rulers here on Earth are appointed by God. He is not behind the warlords and tyrants and others who are quickly destroying this planet.
Anglo-Israelist writers have claimed that the “throne” (the kingly lineage) of king David of Israel still exists here on Earth today, with an active ruler on a throne. Some might connect that with some dogma regarding a “divine right of kings”. But, who really has “David’s throne”, today? The Bible provides the answer: Jesus does. But, he has not set up his government here on Earth yet; rebels are still in power here.
The article nya100.htm has some notes on the “throne of David” matter.
See also the “recommended reading” section, below.
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Recommended reading here at the Bible Pages, on related as well as other matters
An explanation of the short names for the bible-translations that are quoted or mentioned at this site. → nsa090.htm
What is the Kingdom of God? Where is it located? Does it exist already, or is it only going to be established in the future? Or, is it merely something “in the hearts of men”? → noa010.htm
On the King James translation. The story behind king James’ bible, including the men who were involved in producing it. → nsa030.htm
Why does God allow evil, sickness, pain, war and suffering? → nwa010.htm
Easy keys to deeper understanding of the Scriptures. → nga020.htm
Is the line of David the king of Israel still ruling somewhere on Earth? → nya100.htm
Some notes on the ancient Greek word theos, including its eventual origin and meaning. → noa150.htm
The Babylon of the book of Revelation, what or where is it? → nwa030.htm
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