Ecclesiastes 10:16-17 says, “Woe to thee, O land, when thy king is a child, and thy princes eat in the morning! Blessed are thou, O land, when thy king is the son of nobles, and thy princes eat in due season, for strength, and not for drunkenness!” It is a well-known truth that a country will rise or fall with its leader. If a country’s leader is immature and undisciplined, he will lead his country into ruin. But if a country is blessed with a principled and disciplined ruler, they will prosper.

Verse 16 may be referring to a ruler who is an actual child, or it may be speaking of an adult who behaves like a child. In either case, he lacks maturity and self-control. A leader that lacks good character often resorts to pleasure-seeking and drunkenness, and will surround himself with others who are just as immature and indulgent as himself. Instead of starting their day soberly and with the country’s interests at heart, they begin their day by partying and gratifying their own lusts. Isaiah 5:11 illustrates this type of behavior, “Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink: that continue until night, till wine inflame them.” At times God actually judges a nation by giving them immature leaders. We see this in Isaiah 3:1-5 which reads, “For behold, the LORD, the LORD of hosts, Takes away from Jerusalem and from Judahthe judge and the prophet and the diviner and the elderthe counselorI will give children to be their princes, and babes shall rule over them. The people shall be oppressedThe child will be insolent toward the elder, and the base toward the honorable” (NKJV). It is humbling to know that many leaders in the United States are known to be alcoholics. A news report in 2011 stated that “adults in Washington D.C. abuse alcohol more than anyone else in the country,” and this surely includes a number of Senators and Congressman who reside there. The moral declension of our nation is obvious and from what we have just seen in Scripture the blame can be placed, in large measure, at the feet of our leaders.

In stark contrast, verse 17 speaks of the blessing that a nation will experience when being ruled by a mature leader who is marked by discipline and self-control. This man will be a “son of nobles,” which could be referring to not only being born into a “noble family,” but being trained by those with “noble character.” This could even apply to a “child king,” as in the case of Josiah. We read this of him in 1 Kings 22:1-2, “Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign…and he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, and walked in all the way of David his father, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left.” Besides his father David, we also see another godly influence for Josiah in 2 Chronicles 24:2, “And Josiah did that which was right in the sight of the LORD all the days of Jehoiada the priest.” Israel prospered greatly under his leadership and thus in Josiah we have the “exception to the rule,” for although he was but a child when he began to reign, he surrounded himself with godly men and was influenced for good by them.

In closing, let me also apply this teaching to THE HOME and to THE LOCAL CHURCH. A family or a local church will be blessed if there is godly leadership, but if the Father in the home or the elders in the assembly are immature and self-indulgent, everyone under their leadership will suffer. Let us pray that God will raise up able men in our homes and churches that will lead according to His Word, for God’s glory and for our blessing!  (180.8)  (DO)