God as King in Exodus

In what senses can we say that God is a king?

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The idea that the Lord is king shows up throughout the Bible as a way of helping us to understand who he is. One of the problems that I think Americans have is that we have very little experience with human kings. Meanwhile, other places in the world have experience with kings, and they're bad ones. So, it's easy to have a mistaken notion about the Lord being king. In the book of Exodus, we get a strong idea of God's kingship, and it helps us to understand what's going on in that book. When Moses comes to talk to Pharaoh, he comes and speaks to Pharaoh in the way an ancient Near Eastern messenger would who was coming from a great king. At that time in Egypt, and in the ancient Near East as a whole, people had the people knew that there were five great kings as a basically a title; lots of little kings but five big ones at the time. Egypt, the people of Egypt, particularly Pharaoh, were convinced that really there was only one king. It was Pharaoh. And he thought of all the rest of the kings as chiefs. But Moses came and talked to him as the representative of his superior, as the king who is superior to Pharaoh. Pharaoh wants no part of that. But a big part of what's going on in the book is the demonstration that the Lord is the king who is Pharaoh's superior and to whom Pharaoh needs to give allegiance. Oh, and by the way, the Israelites need to give allegiance, and the nations need to give allegiance, and you and I need to give allegiance because he's the king. Years ago a friend of mine who grew up in Belgium mentioned that the King of Belgium had died, and she was sad about that. She's an ordinary citizen, not part of the royal family, but she was sad that the king had died and she said, "He was a good king." I thought, I've never had that experience. He was someone whose voice she heard during World War II over the radio when Belgium had been overrun by the Nazis. He pictured for her, in a sense, the nation, what the best of the nation was about. Well, to know the Lord as the Great King is to know, "Oh, this is what we're supposed to be like. This is the one who rules over our lesser kings and chiefs and judges." And we need that.

Answer by Dr. Dorian Coover-Cox

Dr. Dorian Coover-Cox is associate Professor of Old Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary.