A GAME OF KINGS: A STUDY OF LEADERSHIP IN JUDAH DURING THE MIDDLE OF
THE DIVIDED KINGDOM ERA Part 1
In 2014, I had the privilege to do an in depth study of leadership in the context of the kings of Judah. It was a fascinating study of OT history which comes at a momentous occasion of the re-election of Benjamin Netanyahu last week amid international pressure against him and the State of Israel. Further, I have wanted to share this for awhile. Well, here is the first part in this exciting series.
The Need to Study the Kingdom Period for Leadership Insights
The Old Testament is primarily a historical work, describing God’s workings with His people. In that history, the OT Text paints a very bleak and distressing picture of Israel’s kings through its history. These kings, some queens, rose to heights of glory, and plunged into deep depravity. They stand as examples of leadership in an era many would deem as antiquated and useless for study. Rather, with the perspective of the Divine Mind behind the Chronicler, the histories of these kings provides a test tube of different policies, worldview, and methodologies from the perspective of the Impartial Judge. With the knowledge that God is giving His impartial verdict, the OT declarations of fidelity or infidelity gain a high degree of confidence. These works should be studied further to find richly practical lessons in leadership for today. As this study will show, the worldview and religious affiliation of the leader has such a dramatic effect upon him/her that it colors, or possibly even determines, the goals and methods of that leader conditioned by the events, circumstances, or beliefs involved. But leadership itself must be defined at the outset and a rubric developed in order to study the subject fully.
Failures in Defining Leadership
At the outset, a functioning definition of leadership is needed. Popular Evangelical positions on the definition of leadership vary. Enlow proposes that “a leader is a person who serves as a catalyst for collective clarity, community, change or convergence toward accomplishment of consequential ends.”1 Wonderfully crafted, but this definition fails at being useful by being far too large in scope to be the normative definition in use today. In using Mother Teresa as an example, John Maxwell states boldly, but erroneously, that “Leadership is influence – nothing more, nothing less.”2 A drunk guy crying out on the street corner can have influence, a hurricane is very influential, as well is money and those who wield it, but those things are not leadership. Do these popular Evangelical leaders accurately define a functional definition leadership? They come close. However, a simple examination of the dictionary elicits a greater definition that functions better.3 From a perusal of the dictionary definitions which attempt to comprise the widest possible area as well as the best example of the usage of the word, a complete definition clearly comprises four parts: there is (1) a person with (2) the ability (3) to lead (4) others.
Now, the discussion can encompass the kinds of leadership that exist and which is preferred based on structured criteria. This allows for an actual study of leadership, both good and bad. A study which fails to define leadership that encompasses both the good and bad, cannot actually be a study. Fundamentally, Enlow and Maxwell do not define leadership, they use their definition to promote their philosophy. Rather than stating their philosophies and allowing them to stand on their own, they redefine terms. This creates suspicion that their philosophies cannot stand a rigorous examination.
The current debate over homosexuality showcases the concept of changing the definition of words in order to change culture. Sadly, leave it to N. T. Wright to highlight the crucial aspect of definitions and meanings in respect to influencing belief.4 As he states, there were a group of people that desired to grace the world with their philosophy by proffering their own definitions of words, they were the Nazis. Christians, fundamentalists to a greater degree, should strive for exactness when it comes to definitions, the author of this piece especially. Dusty dictionaries or brand new websites may not grant readers the provocative nature of Enlow or Maxwell, but they liberate the reader from the tyranny of one or two men’s philosophically laden definitions. Tyranny because stating a definition of a word rather than stating “this is my philosophy of leadership…” denies the reader the option of accepting or rejecting that philosophy, because to accept or reject a definition of a word is patently absurd except when that definition is arbitrarily determined, and if it is arbitrary, that dooms the entire process to futility.
Come back next week for the next part in this thrilling study!
1Ralph E Enlow Jr., The Leader’s Palette: Seven Primary Colors (Bloomington, IN: West Bow Press, 2013) xxv.
2John C. Maxwell, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You, Rev. and updated 10th anniversary ed (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2007) 13.
3“Leadership is 1. the position or function of a leader, a person who guides or directs a group. Synonyms: administration, management, directorship, control, governorship, stewardship, hegemony. 2. ability to lead. Synonyms: authoritativeness, influence, command, effectiveness; sway, clout. 3. an act or instance of leading; guidance; direction. 4. the leaders of a group. Leadership 1821, “position of a leader,” from leader + -ship. Sense extended by late 19c. to “characteristics necessary to be a leader.” “Leader, Leadership,” Dictionary.com (Random House, Inc.), accessed June 19, 2014, http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/leadership. leader 1. a person or thing that leads. 2. a guiding or directing head, as of an army, movement, or political group. 3. Music. a. a conductor or director, as of an orchestra, band, or chorus. b. the player at the head of the first violins in an orchestra, the principal cornetist in a band, or the principal soprano in a chorus, to whom any incidental solos are usually assigned. 4. a featured article of trade, especially one offered at a low price to attract customers. Compare loss leader. 5. Journalism. a. leading article ( def 1 ). b. Also called leading article. British . the principal editorial in a newspaper. O.E. lædere “one who leads,” from lædan (see lead (v.)). As a title for the head of an authoritarian state, from 1918 (translating führer, Duce, caudillo, etc.). Meaning “writing or statement meant to begin a discussion or debate” is late 13c.; in modern use. Douglas Harper, “Leader, Leadership,” Online Etymology Dictionary, accessed June 19, 2014, http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/leadership.
4Matthew Schmitz, “N. T. Wright on Gay Marriage,” First Things, June 11, 2014, http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2014/06/n-t-wrights-argument-against-same-sex-marriage.
The Phasael Tower in Jerusalem, by Edom, has been published into the Public Domain.