How to Govern a Country Responsibly. Practical Bible Advice.
Govern a country, there’s a challenge. How to choose, train, then lead, guide and prosper a country. Where’s the instruction manual for that task?
Talk about how to govern a country. As I write, war just broke out in Karabakh between Armenian and Azerbaijan partisans. Two countries at loggerheads over this forlorn territory for decades. Such conflicts are more common around the world than we realize. Leaders are making belligerent statements regarding opposing forces, each one defending their own supposed territorial integrity. It’s never ending.
Is there a legitimate, not to say ideal, form of government? Is there a leadership that can assure real peace and prosperity to a nation? Not a semblance, but generalized peace and prosperity for an entire nation? Really govern a country equitably?
There are examples of such leadership and government, they should serve as examples. But are there some guidelines, even directives to prepare and point future governors, at whatever level of government, toward how to? Where can we learn how to govern a country?
Philip Freeman wrote, “How to Run a Country: An Ancient Guide for Modern Leaders.” It summarizes the wisdom of Marcus Cicero, one of the greatest Roman statesmen, and one of the finest proponents of governance the world has known.
Here are ten principles to meditate on: how to govern a country.
1. There are universal laws that govern the conduct of human affairs.
2. The best form of government embraces a balance of powers.
3. Leaders should be of exceptional character and integrity.
4. Keep your friends close — and your enemies closer.
5. Intelligence is not a dirty word.
6. Compromise is the key to getting things done.
7. Don’t raise taxes — unless you absolutely have to.
8. Immigration makes a country stronger.
9. Never start an unjust war.
10. Corruption destroys a nation.
Cicero greatly influenced the American Founding Fathers, and his ideas found their way into the American constitution. Note that Rome went through three major forms to govern a country. Kings ran the first period of governance: the Republic followed their tyranny; Emperors ran the Empire from Rome. The transitions were bloody. Toward the end of the Republic factions in the Senate were irreconcilable, leaving a vacuum of government. Cicero lived during that period, about 70 BCE. His ‘best form of government embraces a balance of powers’ states his staunch position in favor of a republic. It was the IMbalance of powers and infighting coupled with the rise of a military leader, Julius Caesar, that lead to the Empire.
Cicero’s pro-republic stance needs to be tempered by understanding his position in society. It’s part of the fifth comment, by a reader, on the article about Cicero’s influence of the U.S. founding fathers. “They (Cicero and Cato) stood for the status quo and wealth and privilege. They were not interested in the status of the poor or of the slaves in what was very much a slave economy.” This is a vital point in how to govern a country. Poverty, just making-ends-meet, living from month to month, with no perspective are an essential plank in a country’s coherence. The Explanation broached this subject in Audit of Humankind, Government for the People is Also Concern for the Poor. When you govern a country, the leadership must take care of every faction of its population.
Unfortunately, the 21st century is not the epitome of such benevolent government. In fact, we could easily entitle a book, How NOT to govern a country. A prime example is what’s happening in Lebanon, the Pearl of the Middle East, as we knew it. No more. “At the beginning of September, during the visit of French President Emmanuel Macron, Lebanese political parties pledged to form a “mission” cabinet made up of “competent” and “independent” ministers within two weeks to lead the country out of the economic slump.
But the process is stalling, in this country where power is shared between the different religious communities, due to differences over the allocation of ministerial portfolios.” The Prime Minister resigned and we’re back to square one, no government. In the meantime, poverty and disaster reign following the massive explosion that devastated Beirut.
In an enlightened era of humankind, one of the biggest paradoxes is the peril in which we find government. This is true for practically every single nation around the world. Let’s be realistic. What’s going on? How do we govern a country?
Down through history, humankind has experimented with every single type of governance possible. Vestiges of these tentatives to govern a country still impact modern society. I include this labyrinth list of Basic forms of government solely for you to see the sore need for instruction in how to govern a country.
- Associated state
- Unitary state
Democracy (rule by many)
Oligarchy (rule by few)
Autocracy (rule by one)
- Military dictatorship
Anarchism (rule by none)
- Free association
Monarchy vs. republic (socio-political ideologies)
Authoritarian vs. libertarian (socio-economic ideologies)
Global vs. local (geo-cultural ideologies)
- Intergovernmental organisation
- National government
- World government
The Explanation and how to govern a nation
TTo answer questions about government and leadership, you must first understand where The Explanation stands. Especially if you’re reading this for the first time. The basis for the approach is Deut. 4:5–9, please study this in the article about critical thinking, antidote to the agony. At the end of 40 years in the desert, God gave a new generation of Israelites and escapees of other peoples (Ex. 12:38 a mixed multitude) a set of rules, laws, statutes, call them what you may. This code of ethics is a way of living, a way to ensure proper rulership and human relations for a nation.
This group of hundreds of thousands of people, men, women and children were about to cross into and occupy a land they’d never seen before. Depending on their ancestry, this nation had twelve tribes and each one would receive a portion of the new territory. They had to set up everything from scratch. It was a clean slate on which they would write their own story.
The leader of this imposing group was Moses. God called him forty years earlier to lead His people out of Egypt into the desert, where they received a set of laws for their 40 years of residence in that hostile environment. Those laws are in Exodus. Now, just prior to crossing the Jordan river God, through Moses promulgated a new set of laws to govern a country, their new home.
These laws cover all the primary subjects to govern a country. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be covering these subjects. God gave the laws in Deuteronomy some 3500 years ago. Most people think it is a decrepit, outdated, anti-human, misogynist caricature. If you read it from a 21st-century humanistic point-of-view I fully understand that reaction.
That’s the reason The Explanation has written, at length, about its value and necessity to update the code of ethics, to adapt the PRACTICE, NOT the INTENTION, for our century. You will find, what I’d call, the updating of the laws in Deuteronomy in the book of Proverbs. God gave this wisdom to King Solomon, who governed the nation of Israel during its most prosperous time in the history of the Old Testament. His wisdom surpassed any human brain and mind power we’ve had until this day. The book of Proverbs is the distillation of that wisdom in tidbits of practical advice: how to govern a nation and how to govern our individual lives.
Proverbs shows that God’s law should be updated without losing the BASIC PURPOSE intended by God to govern a country and an individual. Times, culture, traditions, practices DO CHANGE with time. There was no pornography on Internet nor accessibility and abuse of opioids, neither during Moses’ nor Solomon’s eras. There are NO laws specific to those two areas. However, there is sufficient BASIC INSTRUCTION to know exactly how to govern a nation and our individual lives regarding these two and many other domains.
It might surprise you that The Explanation is NOT referring to NEW Testament instructions given by Christ and the Apostles. Here’s the reason, and it’s quite simple, although mostly overlooked by teachers and readers. The NEW Testament is for CONVERTED, GOD-FEARING, GOD-PRACTICING, CONVERTED servants of God. The New Testament is not destined for the world. The world cannot possibly apply its spiritual instruction. This is not the time to elaborate but meditate on this simple concept. God says the NEW Testament way of life will be IN OUR HEARTS and MINDS. Question: How many people have even OPENED their hearts and minds to this spiritual instruction? Enough said.
The OLD Testament instruction was for ALL peoples everywhere. Those Israelites, accompanied by people from other origins, were NOT spiritually converted. They, like the vast majority of people today, partake of the Tree of Good and Evil, NOT the Tree of Life.
The updated laws of Deuteronomy and Proverbs apply in this case. They instruct us in all the basics to govern a country. Here are some contexts relative to how to govern a country. The Explanation will comment on them to show how they apply in the 21st century.
Deuteronomy 17:14–20: How a leader should govern a country
14 When you are come to the land which the LORD your God gives you, and shall possess it, and shall dwell therein, and shall say, I will set a king over me, like as all the nations that are about me;
We cannot go into all the ramifications here. Just note that God agreed to what the people wanted. Why did God agree when He knew it was against their best interests? The answer opens up an understanding of God’s approach not only to Israel, but to all peoples and how to govern a country.
Today, some nations still have a King or Queen as head-of-state. In most cases, at least in the West, they are powerless in ruling their nation. That governorship is in the hands of an elected President or Prime Minister. These principles apply to ALL national leaders today.
15 You shall in any wise set him king over you, whom the LORD your God shall choose: one from among your brethren shall you set king over you: you may not set a stranger over you, which is not your brother.
God chose the King in Israel, Saul. And the second, David, after whom can his descendants. In Joshua, leaders were called Judges and we find an awful lot of intrigue going on, including assassination. Not Godly at all, such is the nature of Old Testament Israel, like other nations.
Despite many nation’s lip-service to God, He plays no role in government. This verse makes provision on WHO should govern a country. It should be someone from that country, not an outsider. A brother, not a stranger. Someone who has empathy and understanding of their own people. Someone who is part of the national fiber. A nation is a family, the leader is their father.
16 But he shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt, to the end that he should multiply horses: forasmuch as the LORD has said to you, You shall henceforth return no more that way.
Obviously, no leader is breeding horses at that level today. Horses, often coupled with chariots, were weapons. Modern talk is army, air force and navy. When you govern a country, you don’t spend outlandish amounts on your military forces. The goal is not to take over other’s territory. It is to be satisfied with what you have and develop the resources at your disposal. We could also understand from this that a leader should not be militarily or commercially dependent on another nation.
17 Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away: neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold.
Leaders, by their position, yield power and influence. They can force the opposite sex and the opposite sex can try to seduce a leader. There’s great temptation to increase one’s personal wealth, as it is easy to attest with leaders now and in the past in many countries today. This is an injunction on governors to lead decent family lives and live within the reasonable salary limits they receive for their service. A father takes care of his family, not his own desires to the expense of his wife and children.
18 And it shall be, when he sits upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites:
The previous verses discuss the external dos and don’ts of the President or Prime Minister. Now, we get to the nitty-gritty of how to govern a country. It is not test and experiment. The basics do not involve imagination and innovation. There are clear-cut principles to apply, they are already existent. They’re in the Bible: Deuteronomy, Proverbs, and the other books are the BASICS. WRITING OUT your OWN COPY of the RULES is the best way to INTERNALIZE a way of life. As an aside, in school WRITING and READING (next verse) were the basis of education. Modern experimental schooling REJECTS this fundamental learning method. Just look at the results.
The leader must learn and know, inside out, God’s way of life, God’s message. How to treat humankind, one’s brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers, young and old, rich and poor. There’s no better way than to copy a manuscript for yourself. As you write by hand, you’re forced to think about the meaning of words, sentences and paragraphs. You’re filled with how to apply this information to govern a country. Learn the practical know-how.
19 And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, to keep (H8104) all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them:
Plainer than that, I cannot be. EVERY day, without fail, a governor is to READ and MEDITATE his own hand-written copy of the Bible, at least the first five books. I’d add, at least, Proverbs. Notice the first and foremost principle a NON converted leader is to retain. To RESPECT GOD. To know there is a Power over himself Who is giving him DIRECTION. The governor is to KEEP and DO these WORDS.
“Keep and do” is a phrase that should remind you of what God told Adam and Eve, “till and keep.” Read this article to the explanation. The injunction here to the governor is not identical, but it includes “keep.” The point is, what God told Adam and Eve, he tells all Governors. And you know what, God tells ALL of humankind the same principles, “write out, read and keep God’s laws and statutes.” The same ones we find in the Old Testament.
20 That his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left: to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel.
There are basic principles that EVERY human can learn. You do not have to be spiritually converted to oversee your heart. To point your mental attitude and mindset in the right direction. A normal constituted person with a working mind from birth can and should learn basic control of a proper way of life like what we’re seeing here. This verse tells the leader not to become arrogant, smug, pretentious, vain, bossy and cocky. We’re all in the same boat, there’s a captain, but we’ve all got to move forward together, no one overboard. The way to maintain that heading is by keeping your mind on God’s way of life as expressed through His teachings.
A leader is at the helm, behind the wheel for steering a ship. That wheel swings the rudder (gouvernail in French, from which we get govern) right of left to maintain the correct direction. Today, most ships don’t have a wheel anymore, they have electronic equipment to keep the right heading. Just as technology has adapted, so the principles of God’s Old Testament commandments are adapted to our modern way of life.
But the basic principles of guiding a ship with a gouvernail and the basic principles of instructing a leader to govern a country are unchanged. That’s practical Bible advice.
Below you’ll find a list of verses in Proverbs relevant to KINGship. Substitute Governor, Prime Minister, President or the title the head of government has in your country. Think about the underlying INTENTION and PRINCIPLE of each verse. What is God telling the leader of the nation about how to govern a country?
This exercise will produce two results
- A revelation of the qualities the leader of a country should possess BEFORE they take office.
- The realization that these principles are Just as valid and worthwhile in the 21st century as they ever were in the past. And in a hundred years they’ll still be the go-to rule to know how to govern a country.
If one of you readers would like to comment on these verses, as I commented on the ones in Deuteronomy, I’d be happy to entertain the idea of adding that commentary, subject to editing, to the verses below. Pick up the gauntlet.
Proverbs 1:1 The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel;
Proverbs 14:28 In the multitude of people is the king’s honour: but in the want of people is the destruction of the prince.
Proverbs 14:35 The king’s favour is toward a wise servant: but his wrath is against him that causes shame.
Proverbs 16:10 A divine sentence is in the lips of the king: his mouth transgresses not in judgment.
Proverbs 16:14 The wrath of a king is as messengers of death: but a wise man will pacify it.
Proverbs 16:15 In the light of the king’s countenance is life; and his favour is as a cloud of the latter rain.
Proverbs 19:12 The king’s wrath is as the roaring of a lion; but his favour is as dew upon the grass.
Proverbs 20:2 The fear of a king is as the roaring of a lion: whoso provokes him to anger sins against his own soul.
Proverbs 20:8 A king that sits in the throne of judgment scatters away all evil with his eyes.
Proverbs 20:26 A wise king scatters the wicked, and brings the wheel over them.
Proverbs 20:28 Mercy and truth preserve the king: and his throne is upheld by mercy.
Proverbs 21:1 The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turns it whithersoever he will.
Proverbs 22:11 He that loves pureness of heart, for the grace of his lips the king shall be his friend.
Proverbs 24:21 My son, fear thou the LORD and the king: and meddle not with them that are given to change:
Proverbs 25:1 These are also proverbs of Solomon, which the men of Hezekiah king of Judah copied out.
Proverbs 25:5 Take away the wicked from before the king, and his throne shall be established in righteousness.
Proverbs 25:6 Put not forth thyself in the presence of the king, and stand not in the place of great men:
Proverbs 29:4 The king by judgment establishes the land: but he that receives gifts overthrows it.
Proverbs 29:14 The king that faithfully judges the poor, his throne shall be established for ever.
Proverbs 30:27 The locusts have no king, yet go they forth all of them by bands;
Proverbs 30:31 A greyhound; an he goat also; and a king, against whom there is no rising up.
Proverbs 31:1 The words of king Lemuel, the prophecy that his mother taught him.
A leader with the above qualities will know how to govern a country, and the citizens will benefit with peace and prosperity.
Sam is a regular contributor to Medium via the publication The Explanation.
A wise man once said, Teach you me, what I do not know.
Let’s get started with The Explanation.
- Inventory of the Universe
- Audit of the Universe
- Audit of Humankind
- Origin of the Universe (Commentary on Genesis 1)
- Origin of Humankind (Commentary on Genesis 1:26–2:7)
- Origin of Woman (Commentary on Genesis 2:8–25)
- Agony of Humankind (Commentary on Genesis 3)
You can read all the books of The Explanation series online. Buy the booksat your favorite store. Sam blogs weekly at TheExplanation.com The Explanation masters Biblical Hebrew to help you unlock more in-depth Bible meaning. Free tools to read and study the Bible online.