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Mishlei 16-12  


Key Concepts

People who have power over others have a special responsibility to wield that power wisely. Such people may be kings or nobles. Alternately, they may be employers or supervisors in an enterprise, or they may simply be parents or teachers. The common denominator is that other individuals are subject to their authority and are required to obey their wishes and give them respect.

A person with power should set an example of morality and integrity. To have power and wield it unjustly is an abomination and a contradiction because power ultimately depends on the assent of the governed. A person who violates the social compact that gives him power does not deserve it. Accordingly, such a person is destined to lose his power. The institution of royal kingship or other source of authority that society grants to an individual will dissolve if the authority is not earned.

Exploring Mishlei

יב = תּוֹעֲבַת מְלָכִים עֲשׂוֹת רֶשַׁע כִּי בִצְדָקָה יִכּוֹן כִּסֵּא

(12) Doing evil is an abomination to kings,
for a throne is established through righteousness.

 This proverb compares the behavior of powerful people with its ultimate effect on their status in society. Virtuous behavior is rewarded by the social compact that grants authority to certain individuals. If such people abuse their power, their wicked behavior will lead to their loss of power because their throne, which symbolizes their authority, can only survive if it is based on righteousness.

Learning Mishlei

(12) An abomination תּוֹעֲבַת
those who have the power of kings מְלָכִים
is the misuse of their power
in evil acts עֲשׂוֹת רֶשַׁע.
For it is only through righteousness כִּי בִצְדָקָה.
that the authority of a throne is established יִכּוֹן כִּסֵּא.
Wickedness is self-destructive for a sovereign.

Additional Insights

(1) Any social institution by which some people are granted power of others can be mutually constructive, but only if all participants behave righeously. If the people serving a king are virtuous, the nation will prosper, and the royal authority will be enhanced.  (הגר”א)

(2) A king who oppresses his subjects and rules them by force of arms is being self-destructive. (שבט מיהודה)

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