And Jehoash said to the priests, All the money of the dedicated things that is brought into the house of the LORD, even the money of every one that passeth the account, the money that every man is set at, and all the money that cometh into any man’s heart to bring into the house of the LORD, Let the priests take it to them, every man of his acquaintance: and let them repair the breaches of the house, wheresoever any breach shall be found. But it was so, that in the three and twentieth year of king Jehoash the priests had not repaired the breaches of the house (II Kings 12:4–6).Gary North, Disobedience and Defeat, page 170
For 23 years, the priests of the Kingdom of Judah collected money to repair the temple… and for 23 years, nothing was done. “No tellin’ were the money went!”
God’s money, by the way.
The king had threatened no sanctions against the priests. This was not coercion. He waited 23 years (v. 6) before again suggesting strongly that the priests repair the temple. The priests were in effect stealing from God and also the people. Then the king gave money to get the work done (II Kings 12:11). This also was not coercion. Judah was not a state-run theocracy.
King Solomon, a very smart and well-read man, broke God’s direct commands regarding kings:
- no multiple wives (Solomon had 700),
- no chariots or horses (Solomon had a business making chariots, the tanks of the ancient world),
- no heaps of gold (Solomon couldn’t get enough of it.)
And here, under a (fairly) righteous king, the priests demonstrated that they were far more interested in comfortable lifestyles than actually tending the House of God.
The decline into sin began with the priesthood. These men for years used money brought to the temple by the people to fund projects other than the repair of God’s house. The king recognized that this was wrong. It placed the nation in jeopardy. God might bring negative sanctions against Judah. So, he ordered the priests to repair God’s house. It had taken years for the king to recognize what was going on. This is indicative of how every bureaucracy works. If there are no negative sanctions threatening them, bureaucrats will continue to pursue their own agenda at the expense of the public.
“Oh, but we are the scientific, evidence-based medical bureaucracy! There’s no way we would abuse our power, or hype up a particularly tough flu, in order to gain power for ourselves and boss people around for as long as the meek and compliant public will let us!”
The white-smock priesthood are no different than the military or the corporations or the banks or the Cultural Progressives: they merely happen to have found a novel way to get those nice, fat budgets and extra powers they dream of.
The novelty will wear off, soon enough. But not the additional power or budgets, if they have their way.
At least, not until the Great Default.
This passage does not tell us what the priests did with the money they held back from temple repairs. They deferred maintenance until the deterioration was visible to the king. They short-changed God. Then God short-changed them. He did so by bringing the Syrians against them. He allowed the king to strip the temple of its gold and silver. God cared about ethics more than gold and silver. He cared more about imposing negative sanctions on rebellious servants than he did about the adornment of His temple.
People pursue their own interests when they are granted monopolistic authority to pursue the public’s interest. Beginning in the 1960s, a group of economists called public choice economists began to develop theories of how government employees work. People work for agencies that were set up to protect the public interest. The members nevertheless pursue their own economic self-interest, just as individuals do in non-governmental agencies. By assuming that employees pursue their own interests at the expense of the public’s interest, in whose name they act, economists make better predictions about how government agencies operate than if they assume that the employees pursue the public’s interest.