You shall surely set a king over you whom the Lord your God chooses, one from among your countrymen you shall set as king over yourselves; you may not put a foreigner over yourselves who is not your countryman. [Deuteronomy 17:15]
This verse is cited by Kinists as a “law of kin rule.” According to the Kinist interpretation, this verse teaches that a people must be ruled by one of their own kin, or a closely related family member. Hence, a black African could not be a ruler of a white European nation, and vice versa. For such a thing to happen would be a violation of God’s Law. One example of this, as it is argued from the Kinist position:
…it is impossible for a multi-racial country to obey God’s law of kin rule in Deut 17:15. This is one of the reasons why ethno-nationalism is a Kinist position; one political country per one blood nation and one blood nation per one political country. [source]
In order to examine the context of this passage properly, let’s first look at the full context.
“When you enter the land which the Lord your God gives you, and you possess it and live in it, and you say, ‘I will set a king over me like all the nations who are around me,’ you shall surely set a king over you whom the Lord your God chooses, one from among your countrymen you shall set as king over yourselves; you may not put a foreigner over yourselves who is not your countryman. Moreover, he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor shall he cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, since the Lord has said to you, ‘You shall never again return that way.’ He shall not multiply wives for himself, or else his heart will turn away; nor shall he greatly increase silver and gold for himself. “Now it shall come about when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself a copy of this law on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests. 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, by carefully observing all the words of this law and these statutes, that his heart may not be lifted up above his countrymen and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, to the right or the left, so that he and his sons may continue long in his kingdom in the midst of Israel.” [Deuteronomy 17:14-20]
Verse 14 opens up with, “When you enter the land which the Lord your God gives you, and you possess it and live in it…” Immediately we must note that there is a historical context to this verse. This is talking about when God’s people, under the old covenant, enter the land and take it from the pagan tribes therein. Similar language is found elsewhere in the book (cf., Deu 6:10; 7:1; 18:9; 26:1), and is always in the context of going into Canaan.
Verse 14 continues with: “and you say, ‘I will set a king over me like all the nations who are around me.'” Again, this is talking about a historical context, because God is foreseeing what will happen later on, after the period of Judges, when the people desire a king to rule over them (cf., 1 Sam 8). Indeed, practically the same phraseology is used by the people later in 1 Samuel 8:20.
God then gives a series of rules and standards for the king:
- He is to be the one “whom the Lord your God chooses” (v. 15).
- He is to be a fellow Israelite, not a foreigner (v. 15).
- He shall not “multiply horses for himself” (v. 16).
- He shall not make people return to Egypt to multiply horses (a symbol of military strength, and which Egypt was known for), as God has taken them out of Egypt and told them not to return (v. 16).
- He shall not “multiply wives for himself,” because then “his heart will turn away” (v. 17).
- He shall not “greatly increase silver and gold for himself” (v. 17).
- He must know, and obey, the Law of God (vv. 18-20).
Why the reference to kinsmen? As John Calvin (whom some Kinists often attempt to portray as one of their own) explains in his commentary for this passage, it had much more to do with religion than it did ethnicity.
Secondly, He commands that he should be taken from the people themselves, and excludes foreigners, because, if they had been admitted, a door was opened to apostasy; for each would have tried to force upon them his native gods, and true religion would have been persecuted by the force and threatenings of the royal power. Behold why God would not suffer a king to be sought elsewhere but from the bosom of His Church; in order that he might cherish and maintain that pure worship which he had imbibed from his childhood. [source]
If one studies these rules, one can see that all were broken at one time or another by the old covenant kings, or proved very relevant for them. For example, Deuteronomy 17:17 was violated by Solomon, who did indeed multiply his wives, who then turned his heart away from the true God (1 Kings 11:4; Neh 13:26). Likewise, Hezekiah’s government, during the Assyrian invasion, was hoping for assistance from Egypt (2 Kings 18:21), and yet the prophet Isaiah, writing during the same period, criticized those “who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses,” and do not instead “look to the Holy One of Israel” (Isa 31:1).
“Thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, I will restore the fortunes of the tents of Jacob and have compassion on his dwelling places; and the city will be rebuilt on its ruin, and the palace will stand on its rightful place. From them will proceed thanksgiving and the voice of those who celebrate; and I will multiply them and they will not be diminished; I will also honor them and they will not be insignificant. Their children also will be as formerly, and their congregation shall be established before Me; and I will punish all their oppressors. Their leader shall be one of them, and their ruler shall come forth from their midst; and I will bring him near and he shall approach Me; for who would dare to risk his life to approach Me?’ declares the Lord. ‘You shall be My people, and I will be your God.’” Behold, the tempest of the Lord! Wrath has gone forth, a sweeping tempest; it will burst on the head of the wicked. The fierce anger of the Lord will not turn back until He has performed and until He has accomplished the intent of His heart; in the latter days you will understand this. [Jeremiah 30:18-24; verse 21 in bold]