The American concept of a king is usually negative. The Revolutionary War experience prompted most Americans to view kings as tyrants who cared little for the common person.
Not all bad
This view of kingship would not have been shared by most ancient cultures, however. In biblical times, kings played a number of positive roles in the cities they ruled:
- Kings delivered their city people from famine (as Joseph did when storing grain for the king of Egypt.)
- Kings delivered their people from enemy attacks. The city walls and fortified gates gave protection to those within. The city became a refuge from advancing armies.
- Kings provided justice. They functioned as a "sheriff" who kept order in the city and the surrounding areas.
- Kings ensured that the city's economy would remain strong. Because the city gate was a center of commerce, as well as the king's place of judgment, the king could determine who sold what items at what times.
God as King
By understanding the biblical concept of kingship, we can better appreciate biblical references to God as our king. The scripture writers did not share our negative views of kings, and they were not trying to describe God as an uncaring tyrant. Rather, they saw God as having positive authority, just like the ancient kings.