First posted on The Times of Israel at: http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/shoftim-monarchical-vacillation/
Netziv Deuteronomy: Shoftim
“No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” -Sir Winston Churchill, Speech in the House of Commons, November 11, 1947
The Bible seems to be of two minds when it comes to the topic of Monarchy. On one hand it appears to be a command, that the people of Israel should appoint a king to rule them. On the other hand, both in God’s messages to the people, and as we have seen throughout history – a king is more often than not a greater curse for his subjects than a blessing.
When trying to imagine a Messianic future, there are some as well that picture the return of the Monarchy. It is prophesied that a descendant of King David will rule Israel, but will it be as King, as some benevolent tyrant, or will his powers be circumscribed by some other government institutions creating a balance of power?
The Netziv on Deuteronomy 17:14 explains that the commandment to appoint a king is an optional one. It is only if the people desire and demand a king. If there is a king in place, then the Torah provides certain guidelines, restrictions and privileges for the king. But it is not a necessity for Israel to have a monarch. It is perfectly permissible for the people of Israel to choose some other form of government for self-rule. It can even be a democracy.
May we improve the governing institutions we have and be grateful that they are not worse.
To our elected officials in all their functions and capacities. May God bless them, give them wisdom, compassion and good judgment.