By Me, Kings Reign

The Solomonic Wisdom of Nayib Bukele

When the righteous rule, the people rejoice.

El Salvador’s epic of national resurrection ascends and while it is not my purpose here to retell it, (Benjamin Braddock has covered it in superb form here), there is much to glean from the man responsible. 1 Against the backdrop of effectively unanimous reelection, President Nayib Bukele’s interview with Tucker Carlson provided an opportunity to hear Nayib reflect more thoughtfully on his success. The entire hour is must-watch material. Bukele delivers shocking answers, for they assume an unapologetically Christian conception of the cosmos and where man sits within its spiritual hierarchy.

The initial precariousness of Bukele’s presidency and his government’s position of weakness in the face of satanic rivals reveal a level of political (not to mention physical) risk rarely seen in modern democracies. It was in the face of this period of intense threats from within and without, that Bukele says he and his cabinet prayed to God. I must emphasize this. Bukele’s claim is that – without a hint of disingenuity – God is on his nation’s side because they sought Him in their hour of darkness. Bukele has frequently mentioned prayer and God in his speeches, but in this interview, he resurrected a forgotten political theme – Wisdom.

The First Days of a King

“You cannot do anything if you do not have peace…Once you achieve peace, then you can struggle for other things.” – Bukele

Bukele’s embrace of wisdom should set off bible bells. Even as a mere fable of virtue, I would gamble that the story of Solomon’s pursuit of wisdom still garners some secular recognition. Less clear I think is the particular nature of Solomon’s request, and even more so, how he secured the kingship in the first place.

Left out of the Sunday school retellings are the series of executions that Solomon carries out in the wake of an attempted coup by his half-brother Abijah. Solomon’s succession was far from assured – his claim was legitimate, but it was a contested throne.2 The biblical account is quite unvarnished. At Solomon’s command, Abijah, Joab, and Shimei (each a traitor, murderer, or both) receive their just end through the hand of Benaiah – head of the royal guard (1 Kgs. 2:25; 2:34; 2:46). Over the course of his reign, David’s son deteriorates into pluralist idolatry, but as far as the scriptures are concerned, his establishing act is blameless and God blesses his decisiveness. The weightiness of a now secure throne extinguishes any lurking bravado. Having made his bed in the palace, he now has to sleep in it.

Solomon’s prayer is no request for generic wisdom – he is not out to become a guru. If we consider his words carefully, we will observe that his prayer reveals two related but distinct weaknesses exposed by his office. Solomon first claims that “he is like a little child; I do not know how to go out or to come in”. This “confession” previously struck me as awfully strange, but the last few months of presidential appearances have opened my eyes to the potential difficulties. In all likelihood, Solomon knew where the doors were, so what he means must be more profound. A child knows how to enter a room. But a child does not know how to enter a room appropriately. Likewise, a king must know how to carry himself, speak publicly, and perform ceremonies in a manner appropriate to his office.

Solomon then prays, not for “wisdom” in the mythical sense, but to discern “good and evil”. More precisely, he prays to discern good and evil in the context of judging a glorious people (1 Kgs. 3:13). Prayer for merely personal wisdom is a mirage. God is not interested in your cleverness. True wisdom comes from above, and is exercised outwardly for the sake of others. Solomon prays for himself, for the sake of a people – with eyes lifted toward heaven.

It is only after this opening sequence of both decisive peacemaking and a call to the Lord for spiritual aid that Yahweh bestows unique blessing and honor upon Solomon. Solomon responds in worship (1 Kgs. 4:15), and becomes a man of unparalleled insight (1 Kgs. 4:20-34). Within a few years, the world will stream to little Israel so they may hear a glimpse of the king’s wisdom.

Wisdom and Rule

It is undeniable that God has likewise answered Bukele’s prayer for peace and allowed him to establish – through violence – his legitimate government. That God would answer Bukele should surprise no one. The prayer of the righteous man can accomplish much (James 5:16). If nothing else, let El Salvador serve as a vindication of God. When men pray and act righteously, even political impossibilities vanish.

But has God done more than give peace? Has God answered Bukele’s prayer for wisdom? Clever mantras prove nothing.3 If profundities could rule, who would need a king? Looking back to Solomon, we are reminded that the way to recognize godly wisdom is in a man’s ability to discern good and evil and act rightly upon that discernment. This is what Bukele has shown to possess in spades. Bukele demonstrates over and over that he knows what is right, what is wrong, why, and how to deal justly with what lies in-between. Any fool can point out that even the worst criminal is “made in God’s image”. It takes a wise man (and a courageous one) to discern the extent that that matters when dealing with a satanic terrorist. Contra the globalists, Bukele judges forcefully, “What about the human right of a woman not to be raped? What about the human right of kids to play, to be free, or to go to the park? What about the human right to live?” Here lies the core of kingly wisdom – moral judgements that succor the helpless.

Bukele has called upon the Lord for wisdom, demonstrating a fear of the Lord (Prov. 9:10). He has determined to be a ruler who “disperses all evil with his eyes” (Prov. 20:8) and “winnows the wicked, driving the threshing wheel over them”(Prov. 20:26). Bukele has not just gone after the gangs – he has also applied significant pressure to Salvadoran elites. It appears corruption and bribery will simply not be worth the risk. Take away the wicked before the king, and his throne will be established in righteousness (Prov. 25:5). Bitcoin adoption remains a question mark, but one cannot ignore that the principle behind its implementation is to make a currency of “equal weight and measure” (Prov. 20:10) legal and usable within the Salvadoran economy.

A Call to Rulers: Seek Heavenly Wisdom

I am interested in Solomon and Bukele for the same reason – I need heroes as much as the next man. Some may find the Old Testament or Central America an odd place to look, but has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? The foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. One of the subtler but more enfeebling characteristics of egalitarian ideologies is that it teaches us to refuse imitation. The egalitarian tells himself, “all men are my equals, therefore I bow before no man!” And so we have grown proud, refusing to acknowledge any need for exemplars. Is it so unlike God to use an obedient man from an inglorious state to humiliate our flaccid managers?

A more important motive for considering the Solomonic attributes of Bukele is that it provides a necessary reminder that all of God’s Word is both a path and a promise – it is life – and the Proverbs are given for rule. If we would detect, and become wise and decisive leaders, we must study the Proverbs and our lives must reflect their wisdom.

I, wisdom, dwell with prudence,

And I find knowledge and discretion.

The fear of the Lord is to hate evil;

Pride and arrogance and the evil way

And the perverted mouth, I hate.

Counsel is mine and sound wisdom;

I am understanding, power is mine.

By me kings reign,

And rulers decree justice.

By me princes rule, and nobles,

All who judge rightly.

I love those who love me;

And those who diligently seek me will find me.

Riches and honor are with me,

Enduring wealth and righteousness.

My fruit is better than gold, even pure gold,

And my yield better than choicest silver.

I walk in the way of righteousness,

In the midst of the paths of justice,

To endow those who love me with wealth,

That I may fill their treasuries.

Proverbs 8:12–21

This heavenly wisdom in the context of rule is what currently sets Bukele apart from all other world leaders. Modern technocracies have denied the transcendent and starved themselves of wisdom. We will not admit there is a tree of good and evil. At least Adam seized the fruit. We deny it exists. Are we even theoretically willing for a man to rule on such “invisible” grounds as prayer and wisdom? Or will we continue to attack men of will and authority because we confess it impossible that a man should love his people enough to rule them righteously with wisdom from God? When a land transgresses, it has many rulers (Prov. 28:2).

The legacy of Bukele remains to be established. Solomon himself did not stay the course and ultimately set the stage for national calamity. I laud Bukele now and may rue him in the future. And yet, this is no excuse to keep my cards close. Yes, do not put your trust in princes, but also, if a king judges the poor with truth, His throne will be established forever (Prov. 29:14). No one who lights a lamp covers it under a basket. Put it on the lamp stand, and let it give light to all who are in the house.

His enemies silenced, and his people with him, we have entered the Solomonic era of Bukele. Will the nations take heed?

Image Credit: Unsplash, Finca Cristo Negro, Los Cedros, El Salvador

Show 3 footnotes
  1. I did recently spend time in the country and can attest to its safety, growing infrastructure, and a national aura of relief and optimism.
  2. For this insight and many others in these passages, I am indebted to my pastor, Rev. Duane Garner for his masterful (and ongoing) sermon series in the Book of Kings.
  3. I have in mind Bukele’s playful refrain “everything works until it doesn’t”.
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Caleb Goodnight

Caleb Goodnight is a freelance video director and producer in North Carolina and a pastoral intern at Christ Church NC. He is a graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, a husband, and father to five children.

4 thoughts on “By Me, Kings Reign

  1. Thanks for the article. Can you share your background with El Salvador and/or Central America? I’m curious how you’ve come to these conclusions.

    Bukele has quite a long history, and judging a man’s faith based solely off his last few years as head of state is concerning to me. Especially given his relationship with the media.

    1. Harrison, I would encourage you to do your own research. Go back all the way to when Bukele was alcalde of Cuscatlán and San Salvador. You will find interviews (most of them in Spanish). You will see that this is not a “last few years” deal.

      I am curious about your term “media” who do you have in mind? What camp of “media”?

      1. Hello Emmanuel, thanks for sharing your thoughts. Sorry if I was not clear, I was not making any specific reference to Bukele’s relationships to individual media outlets/camps. Just that his professional background is in media, and he is clearly very skilled at it.

        A few additional thoughts that might be worth mentioning:

        I was interested to see that the article states that corruption will decrease, as El Salvador’s corruption rating has generally gotten worse under Bukele’s administration, according to Transparency International. I’d be interested in seeing some other sources? I was hoping there might be more source-citing in this article, other than the interview with Tucker Carlson.

        I was also surprised to see no reference to the changing of the constitution to allow re-election, especially coming from a U.S. author (as a citizen of a democratic republic). Constitution changing is something that other Central American heads-of-state have done previously (Juan Orlando Hernandez, Daniel Ortega, etc.), and hasn’t turned out well.

        Undoubtedly violence has significantly decreased, and the impact of this on society cannot be fully comprehended by someone who has not lived it. That being said, the exact numbers are difficult to ascertain, as the definition of homicide has shifted under this government, and there isn’t much transparency here, which normally concerns me.

        I appreciate the biblical references, but looking for faith heroes in politicians, as the author states, is concerning to me as a Christian. It is right to give credit where credit is due, but there are inherent temptations in political life that contrast much of the Gospel message, so we have to be careful here.

  2. Excellent article. It’s so good even el presidente shared it on his X account. May God keep raising up godly leaders in every sphere of society and in every nation.

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