Does a wicked king - let's say he violates the "Big 3" - have any Halachic authority as a king?

I am referring specifically to those laws which the king is theoretically entitled to enact, and which wouldn't contradict normative Halachah. Examples would seem to include levying taxes for legitimate purposes, raising an army for legitimate national defense purposes, and laws of societal, but not Halachic, significance.

Would a person be Halachically obligated to follow those laws?

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    Can't cite at the moment, but I seem to recall multiple instances in the book of Melachim in which wicked kings, including those of Northern Israel (i.e. not Yehuda) were accorded the respect due to the office by prophets. – Isaac Moses Jun 13 '14 at 14:57
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    That may have more to do with self preservation. Aka eiva. – Seth J Jun 13 '14 at 15:00
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    Meaning, those kings may have a status of Melech, ie, government, but possibly not Melech Yisrael. – Seth J Jun 13 '14 at 15:03
  • Fair enough. I'll have to hunt down some precise cases and try to examine them in particular for indications one way or the other. – Isaac Moses Jun 13 '14 at 15:04
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    @nafkamina The point here isn't to ask questions we already know the answers to. Go ahead and post an answer! – Seth J Jun 13 '14 at 15:15

We see that King Chizkiya (Hezekiah) had a wicked father and son (Menashe). In fact the commentators credit Menashe with causing the destruction of the Bais Hamikdash by the length of his reign and the setting of the path from which the nation of Yehudah was never able to recover. In spite of that, we do not see the neviim calling for the ouster of the king and his replacement. The only revolt in the kingdome of Yehudah (after the split when Rechavam son of Shlomo took over) was against Athalia in order to restore the rightful king to the throne (after she tried to destroy the lineage of David after her husband died).

Note that I do not consider death of Yoash at the hands of his servants or the death of Amaziah as a revolt because in both cases it was done in order to put the proper heir on the throne. In the case of Amaziah, he was killed because the people realized that Hashem had forsaken them and allowed them to be defeated because of his sins. The navi did not come and tell them to revolt.

These kings had the full status of melech Yisrael as we see from the Navi. In any case, we see from other sources that the kings of other countries have to have their laws followed because of dina demalchusa dina. The kings of the Northern kingdom were at least on that level. They did not have the full status of "Melech Yisrael" because they were not of Malchus Bais David.

There is a medrash that Yeravam was offered the chance to stay a "royal house" if he would do teshuvah, but he turned it down.

  • Amaziah was revolted against, see verse 27: mechon-mamre.org/e/et/et25b25.htm – Baby Seal Jun 18 '14 at 15:01
  • @Baby Seal However, the revolt was in order to set his son on the throne – sabbahillel Jun 20 '14 at 2:57
  • The Rambam Hilchos Malachim Chapter 1 seems to imply that the Northern kingdom (at least for a while) had legitimate Melech Yisroel status, and Malchus Bais Dovid's exclusivity is limited to Yerushalaim. – Yishai Jun 20 '14 at 16:02

In Melachim, we have the case of Eliyahu Hanavi running in front of Achav's (numbered amongst the worst kings of Israel) chariot to give him respect. I don't think this is a case of Eiva -- Eliyahu certainly stood up to Achav numerious other times.

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    Welcome welcome! This is a great example of respect being shown. I think your answer would more directly address the question, (which I think is regarding legislation), if you added a sentence or two that correlated a prophet's respect with following law, or added another instance from Tanach that more directly deals with laws. – Baby Seal Jun 18 '14 at 13:56
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    Also couldn't it be argued that Ahab, at the point in time when Elijah was honoring him, had accepted God again along with the rest of the nation? He doesn't interfere when the Baal prophets are killed. So maybe, for a brief period at least, he was legitimized? – Baby Seal Jun 18 '14 at 14:57
  • I concur with @Baby Seal. Still, +1. I'd love to see someone who uses this example as proof. That is, someone who isn't an anonymous poster on an internet forum (no offense). – Seth J Jun 18 '14 at 15:29
  • Good points. I'd point out that if you use the "he had done teshuva (for a moment)" defense, then you still get the same answer -- we have to follow the king's commands, because maybe he has repented since his "big 3". As for respect == required by Law for a king, the best I can come up with is the Rambam's Melachim uMilchamot 2:1. "The king must be treated with great honor. We must implant awe and fear of him in the hearts of all men". I don't know if this is ever explictly referenced in connection with the story. – Nic Jun 18 '14 at 21:37
  • I'm not sure we'd have to honor a known wicked king because we suspect he may have done Teshuva. One could argue that he would have the status of a wicked king until we could determine otherwise, like with Ahab. – Baby Seal Jun 23 '14 at 15:05

Maimonides in Laws of Kings 1:11, says that the status of a jewish king is bestowed upon an prophet-anointed king who follows the commandments.

In 1:9, he says that kingship is only bequeathed to children who live up to their forebears in at least in reverence. In 1:10, this rule is applied even to the Line of David, who only merited kingship for his worthy children.

In Laws of Theft and Lost Objects 5:18 he says that in general, a king's authority applies, provided that it is widely legitimized and accepted.

So there seem to be two standards of authority. While accepted wicked kings seem to not fulfill the more demanding criterion of a legitimate jewish king, they would nonetheless be authoritative.

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