1. Incompetency. “And I will give boys (as) their princes, and infants shall be ruling over them” (v. 4, Hebrew). Not merely inferior kings would rule over them, but without a king, inept rulers, incapable of “Solomonian” quality, would be of a more “Rehoboamian” hotheaded, reckless despotism. The mere shadow of a king, a boy, would rule, whose advisers would be mental and moral weaklings, the impudent, the imprudent, the effeminate, the cowardly! An inexperienced, youthful president would have a cabinet of ventriloquist dummies, themselves manipulated by brainless meddlers and “kibitzers.” The whole nation would be degraded to base mockery. (The Greeks have a word for it:empaigmone. The LXX has, “Mockers shall rule over them.”) No wonder the world is confused with the law of the claw and the club, beaten first one way by lust, then another by cruelty, or is done in simultaneously by double calamity (Jud. 19:25), as with the Pakistani rape of Bangladesh. Today, the White House takes the lead in breaking away from all restraint of modesty and decency. Such low, gutter type conditions do not improve, as the verb in the imperfect suggests a durative action, “they (these sons of Belial) shall be continuously ruling.” Still, “No earthly state has continuously (i.e., indefinitely, RCH) maintained a position strong and flourishing. One need only call to mind the world-monarchies. That gradual weakening of the world-power indicated in Daniel’s image of the monarchies (Dan. 2), takes place also within each individual kingdom.” Usually it is because such heads of state, unfit for office, are incapable of governing a family, even a wife, or even a child, as is so evident in the highest office in our nation. It is an international scandal when those in public office who ought to be worthy of respect, become base and beggarly to merit only disgust and contempt. So our country “has had it.” As Calvin put it, “Destruction is not far off.” Calvin also pointed out long ago that a singular gift of God is a well regulated commonwealth established with judges, magistrates, senators, captains, soldiers and teachers, all joining to promote the general safety of the whole people. Even war, in itself, he says, is not to be condemned. For war ought to be nothing else than an attempt to obtain peace, and so a means to preserve the commonwealth. War and the sword so utilized are opposed only by fanatics who are wicked men and enemies of public safety.
Notice that such shocking decay and ruin do not I occur by chance, nor are mere men the cause of them, but “I (the Lord) will give” these conditions. They are due to the Lord’s predetermined plan and purpose in judgment.
2. Anarchy. “And the people shall tyrannize, man against man, and a man against his friend. The boy will rage proudly over the aged, and the despised (light person) over the honorable (heavy person)” (v. 5, Heb.). The connection between this and the preceding is that bad government leads to mob-rule, and mob-rule to anarchy. Then war arises to become the war of all against all. Calvin says that they who undermine the foundations of civil government and violate the decencies of life are open enemies of mankind, are the dregs of humanity, and in no respect different from wild animals. “The boy will rage proudly over the aged, and the despised over the honorable.” The increasing evil of contempt for old age elicits God’s anger. “The anger of the Lord hath divided them; He will no more regard them; they respected not the persons of the priests, they favored not the elders” (Lam. 4:16). This evil is a sign of state reversion to barbarism, for it is only heathen of fierce countenance which regard not the person of the old (Deut. 28:50).
A prime example of this disrespect for elders is I found in II Kings 2:23-24 where a mob of over forty-two children came out of the apostate city of Bethel, mocking the prophet Elisha with, “Go up! thou bald head! Go up! thou bald head!” He then turned, looked at them and cursed them in the name of the Lord, whereupon two she-bears came out of the woods and tore to pieces forty-two of the children. If we live in an age where it is a common thing that children and young people have neither respect for their parents, nor for their elders, nor for any in authority, is this not largely the fault of parents who neither demand nor are themselves worthy of respect? This disrespect is common enough in mugging and robbing the aged and in the destruction of their property. Juvenile crime, of-whatever sort, is rarely punished, the culprit getting off with a perfunctory rebuke and a “J-D” (juvenile delinquent) card. Parents, far from shocked at the crimes of their children, apathetically ascribe their gross conduct to a “stage” they are going through. State educational experts, psychologists and psychiatrists insist that children must not be suppressed, but must be free to act autonomously. They claim it is harmful to the child’s normal development to inflict on him “inhibitions” and out-worn puritanical “hang-ups.” Parents who act according toProv. 13:24; Prov. 19:18; Prov. 22:15; Prov. 23:14 will not only be regarded as brutes by their neighbors, but may be reported to the SPCC, or hailed into court, with the judge not supporting, but censuring them. Perhaps already some of our parents have been approached by an agent of HEW to be prodded with their questions and questionnaires as to whether’ corporal punishment is employed in the upbringing of the children. When in Philadelphia on mission work, parents reported their efforts to get their children out of the public and into the Christian schools as quickly as possible. For in the public schools the children were being taught to disrespect their parents and their elders, were encouraged to ignore parental discipline and directives as to dress, hair styles, companions and all the rest with which a teenager eventually becomes interested. Christian parents do not want their children taught that they must not be under any restraint as to morals, religion, amusements, drink, drugs or sex. Too many public school teachers are the corrupters of children and youth. They are the signs not only of the modem apostasy, but the depravity and degeneracy of revived barbarism. When wickedness receives the stamp of law or social acceptance, governments and men will become lawless and vile.
3. Desperation. “When a man will take hold of his brother (in) the house of his father (saying), You have a wrap; you be a leader for us, and this ruin shall be under thy hand” (v. 6, Heb.). Conscription becomes necessary because no one is willing to hold office, though requested to do so. The government goes begging. It is a rarity, when a nation is ruined by anarchy, to find anyone willing to assume or remain in office. Then even commoners will be willing to have their equals be their superiors. Then Joseph’s brothers change their tune. Joseph has a garment while everyone else in the family goes naked. Under the circumstances, the man with a wrap is the logical person to be a ruler of his people. But such a man invariably shuns the opportunity presented him. There are impoverished countries actually suffering starvation, extreme nakedness and abject wretchedness; witness the Ik people of Africa, India, Bangladesh and Ethiopia.
Here in this verse we have a somewhat common Jewish name, Katzin. “You be a katzin, a leader for us.” Things have gone so far to ruin that the demand is not for government of the right kind, but simply “for a leader who would bring benefit to the people.” They are dying, but their philosophy of pragmatism still prevails. They are not concerned with what is right, but with, “Who will show us any good?” People all across the world do not see that world conditions are as bad as they are because of their own sin. In desperation, they still turn to man for help. They are not yet that desperate that they will turn to God. Nothing, not even judgment on their sins, will change them. The wicked and the filthy will be wicked and filthy still, and they will not turn to God in repentance and confess their sins. (Rev. 9:21).
4. Response. “in that day he will lift up (his voice in protest), saying, I am not able to be a binder-up, and in my house (is) neither bread nor wrap. Do not make me a leader of the people” (v. 7, Heb.). A man takes hold of his brother to take him and make him a leader (John 6:15). But here is decline of the opportunity presented, of necessity so because a starving man covered only with a rag knows it utterly impossible to attempt the assumption of a civil office. No, he protests, people everywhere will say, Physician heal thyself! or, Himself he cannot save! Why press into service one helpless to minister to the incurable head-to-foot wound of the state? The meaning is that he was not qualified to be, nor could he be the healer and restorer of the calamitous and so desperately bad state of the nation. So he instantly and flatly refuses to be a katzin. There is not a sensible, much less, a righteous man to take the responsibilities of public office.
What the prophet is saying is that if men will not have God’s good gifts (such as good government), He has other gifts He will give them inHis wrath vv. 1-3 with 4-7). “For now they shall say, We have no king. Because we feared not the Lord, what then should a king do for us?” (Hosea 10:3). They had rejected God from being their king. Then what could any king do for them? especially what could any king do for them that God had not done for them? All of the nineteen kings of Israel were nothings. They could not be compared to the prophets of Israel. “I gave thee a king (kings) in Mine anger, and took him (them) away in My wrath” (Hos. 13:11). When a kingdom originates in rebellion it has God’s displeasure on it. God’s removal of it in anger and wrath is proof enough that this rejected monarchy will not be restored as the future kingdom of God.