Those of us who live in the United States have never experienced a coup in our lifetimes. The most disturbing event of our republic has been the Civil War in the 1860's. There has been a remarkable stability that God has allowed in this nation when it comes to how we deal with our rulers and the peaceful transition of power down through the years. That is what this particular proverb comments upon - what brings about the stabilty and enduring character of a nation.
The transgression of a land brings it many princes. Transgression here means a breach of trust or rebellion. Understanding that we are reading Scripture - we need to grasp that the rebellion spoken of here is that which is against God. When a nation begins rebelling against God - trouble is brewing for it. Contrary to our current psuedo-constitutional view of separation of church and state - (which is interpreted more like separation of state and the God of the Bible) - our nation is under God. That fact exists regardless of whether that phrase is printed on our money or recited in our public school classrooms. All nations are under God Who is Sovereign over the universe. Thus God holds all nations to His moral law. When a nation rejects Him and His moral law - a measure of chaos results which grows over time. If a nation continues on its path of rejecting God and His ways - soon there will be rumblings of the coming moral and political earthquake that will hit society.
In our nation we began to reject God's ways in the early part of the 20th century. That continued through the teen's and 30's - where we faced the first world war and the beginnings of the great depression. God was trying to get our attention, but we ignored Him for the most part. The 40's brought another world war - even more horrific than the first. Europe, who rejected the Lord in greater measure than the U.S. was doing, faced devastation from this war. Unfortunately, we really didn't learn much from their example either. There was relative prosperity in the 50's but the moral rumblings were gathering to become an earthquake. Parents who chased the American dream - soon found in their children of the 60's the American nightmare. Those children rejected the idol of money their parents served and toked up, tuned out, and rebelled against everything their parents stood for in life. They also embraced publically what their parents had done privately. The 50's and 60's saw the rise of private indiscretion and adultery - the practice of keeping mistresses (though secretly for the most part) and the beginning of the divorce culture in our nation. The children of these parents rejected marriage altogether and embraced what they called, "free love" which was just the bondage of fornication. This culture of sexual immorality then gave rise to easily accessible abortion as a convenient way to deal with problem pregnancies in the early 70's. Just as Scripture tells us in Romans chapter 1 the heterosexual immorality of the 50's, 60's, and 70's gave way to the homosexual immorality of the 80's and 90's. But during this time we saw another thing begin to happen. The political dialogue, which has always had a tendency to be contentious, began to become toxic. There also was a great rise in the number of politicians who no longer cared about any kind of long term benefit or damage to our country, as long as they could be re-elected and consolidate their power. Decisions were made and money was spent without thought to the problem their debt was causing for our future. This kind of careless and selfish rule has given rise to our current political climate. Our current situation is that our country is badly divided over political and moral issues. The rift is about 50/50 - and the radicalism of those opposing each other is rising - as is the rhetoric used to describe one another. Could it be that a coup or a revolution could be in our future. I certainly hope not - but our proverb today tells us to the contrary.
The "many princes" spoken of at the first part of our proverb do not refer to our current type of government with many leaders serving within it. It refers to the problem of coups and overthrows. It speaks of those usurping power. When a land or country begins having a total disregard for the Lord and His Laws - that country is headed for trouble. When people have no regard for God and His law - they will also have no regard for any law. We are watching this in our day as the enforcement of laws is being tossed to the side if those in power don't like the laws on the books. Also there is far more being "decreed" by presidential decree than is being done as our constitution directs by the Legislative branch (the Senate and House of Representatives). We are facing a growing practice of presidential dictatorship than a republic where the elected officials hash out laws in Congress. This is because as we grow to reject God - and reject law in general - people will turn to whatever is right in their own eyes (as they did in the book of Judges).
The proverb also tells us how to have a nation endure. It endures by having a man of understanding and knowledge around. The two words used here are vital to us grasping what God is saying here. Understanding is the Hebrew word "bin" and it means to be discerning, to be able to perceive, to pay attention to things - having the ability to apply God's wisdom to a situation in life. The second word, knowledge, is the Hebrew word "yada" and it means to know - and here it refers to the ability to discriminate between what is right or wrong, good or bad. It also has the idea along with it of knowing what to do - which in this case refers to what God desires that the nation do. Consider these two words - their overt reference to God's wisdom - and the current way God is viewed by our elected leaders. Do you see much of a chance for our nation with leaders who reject God - and who are rejecting any kind of accountability to the laws already on the books of our nation?
A wise and discerning counsellor or leader is able to help a nation endure. Think for a moment about our founding fathers and the documents they gave to us in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. These were for the most part godly men - or at least God fearing men. Their wisdom and desire to honor God in this nation resulted in a document that has guided our nation for over 200 years! Considering the history of democracies and constitutional republics, this is nothing short of astounding. They also gave us a system that recognizes the danger of sinful man. They made it difficult to change things quickly. They made it difficult for the calls of the populace to be made into law - without debate and time to consider what would truly happen if those laws were enacted. Their goal was a nation led by "WISE" leaders who would lead with that wisdom - and with caution and discernment.
When a nation rejects God - and rejects His Word - they are walking in a way that will eventually destroy that nation. As they reject Him, they will reject things like wisdom, caution, discernment, discretion, and restraint. What will replace these things are the calls by the populace for instant change to fix any perceived problem quickly. Rejecting God will also bring a population to its knees as moral degradation and a lack of good character pervades society - at all levels. Consider Rome and how Rome fell. It was not primarily due to an overthrow of her enemies from without - but from a moral, spiritual, and foolish decay from within. That decay was soon seen in leaders that were chosen - in a decay of public morality among them - and in a growing preoccupation with being amused and entertained rather than in working to build a stronger individual character, strong families, and a strong nation. In time the lack of these things - as seen in the growth of transgression in the land - led to the overthrow of emperors - and eventually the overthrow of their government. Many princes ensued and the land languished - lacking the kind of people who could help it endure by leading with wisdom and understanding.
What will it be for our land - for our nation? I grieve as I watch leaders from both sides of the aisle make choices that only lead our nation into greater and greater transgression. I grieve as both parties have now defended a president who has openly trashed his wedding vows - even while one was in office. I grieve as I watch and wonder if our nation would even tolerate a leader who held genuinely biblical views on sexual morality, marriage, divorce, racism, gender, violence, obedience to the laws of our land, and abortion? But I also grieve that all along the way as these things have arisen - that the church has failed to respond with brokenness, humility, repentance (for our own sins in these areas), love (for those trapped in sin) , and prayer for genuine revival first in us - then spiritual awakening in our land. In the United States it is not enough to just curse the darkness we choose to see in others. We must be people of understanding and knowledge of our own sins too. Maybe then we will be in a position to offer a more honest assessment of the transgression of our land? Will it eventually be "many princes" for our land in an overthrow or a coup? I do not long for one - but in light of current events - we may be watching this proverb come to fruition in our nation.