He will not be like the kings of the surrounding nations. First of all, he must be chosen by Yahweh (Deuteronomy 17:15). His authority comes from Yahweh Himself, in a certain sense like the authority of Adam and Eve was given by the One who has all dominion and power (Genesis 1:28). Second, he must be an Israelite (Deuteronomy 17:15). The covenant blessings would go out from Abraham to the nations (Genesis 12:3), so it would not make sense for Israel to be governed by someone from among the gentiles.
Third, he must observe certain special laws: “That his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or the left” (Deuteronomy 17:20). Just like the prophets, the kings must be characterized by humility and obedience to Yahweh. “He must not acquire many horses for himself” (Deuteronomy 17:16), so that he does not trust in his military power without Yahweh, nor should he grow proud as he marches around with large parades of soldiers and cavalry to impress the people with his might. He should not make his people return to Egypt in order to get more horses (Deuteronomy 17:16); Israel will not submit to a nation that is stronger militarily or economically in order to support its own wealth and power. “And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away” (Deuteronomy 17:17), for the reasons that he would not neglect government in the pursuit of carnal pleasures and so he would not turn to idolatry, a temptation that would come with foreign wives as we saw in the example of Baal-peor in Numbers 25.
“And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests” (Deuteronomy 17:18); this shows the submission of the king to the priests in matters concerning the word of Yahweh. And above all: “It shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God” (Deuteronomy 17:19). Once again, obedience will bring future blessings: “So that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel” (Deuteronomy 17:20).
It is impressive to see that our Lord Jesus Christ also was chosen to reign: “‘As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.’ I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, ‘You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession’” (Psalm 2:6-8). “He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him’” (Matthew 17:5). “And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations’” (Matthew 28:18-19).
Our Lord Jesus Christ never tried to impress through parades of soldiers and cavalry although He said, “Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53) Instead, He entered Jerusalem in fulfillment of the prophecies of Isaiah 62:11 and Zechariah 9:9: “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden’” (Matthew 21:5). And this King not only read the law and quoted the book of Deuteronomy more than any other Old Testament book: He fulfilled it (Matthew 5:17).
Therefore, we see Deuteronomy 17:14-20 not only as instructions for Israel’s kings but a prophecy to prepare the nation for the glory of Jesus Christ: it prophecies to us so that we can join with all creation and say, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” (Revelation 5:13)