conferred freely, with no expectation of return, and finding its only motive in the bounty and free-heartedness of the giver.” J. H. Thayer in his lexicon says: “The word [khaʹris] contains the idea of kindness which bestows upon one what he has not deserved . . . the N. T. writers use [khaʹris] preeminently of that kindness by which God bestows favors even upon the ill-deserving, and grants to sinners the pardon of their offences, and bids them accept of eternal salvation through Christ.” (A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, p. 666) Khaʹris is closely related to another Greek word, khaʹri·sma, concerning which William Barclay, in A New Testament Wordbook, page 29, says: “The whole basic idea of the word [kha’ri-sma] is that of a free and undeserved gift, of something given to a man unearned and unmerited.”
When khaʹris is used in the above sense, in reference to kindness bestowed on one who does not deserve it, as is true with the kindnesses extended by Jehovah, “undeserved kindness” is a very good English equivalent for the Greek expression.—Acts 15:40; 18:27; 1 Pet. 4:10; 5:10, 12.
A worker is entitled to what he has worked for, his pay; he expects his wages as a right, as a debt owed him, and payment of it is no gift or special undeserved kindness. (Rom. 4:4) But for sinners condemned to death (and we are all born as such) to be released from that condemnation and to be declared righteous, this is indeed kindness that is totally undeserved. (Rom. 3:23, 24; 5:17) If it is argued that those born under the Law covenant arrangement were under a greater condemnation to death, because such covenant showed them up as sinners, then it should be remembered that greater undeserved kindness was extended to the Jews in that salvation was first offered to them.—Rom. 5:20, 21; 1:16.
This special manifestation of undeserved kindness on God’s part toward mankind in general was the release by ransom from condemnation through the blood of Jehovah’s beloved Son Christ Jesus. (Eph. 1:7; 2:4-7) By means of this undeserved kindness God brings salvation to all sorts of men (Titus 2:11), something that the prophets had spoken about. (1 Pet. 1:10) Paul’s reasoning and argument, therefore, is sound: “Now if it is by undeserved kindness, it is no longer due to works; otherwise, the undeserved kindness no longer proves to be undeserved kindness.”—Rom. 11:6.
Paul, more than any other writer, mentioned God’s undeserved kindness—in his oral preaching (Acts 13:43; 20:24, 32), as well as more than ninety times in all fourteen of his letters. He mentions the undeserved kindness of God and/or Jesus in the opening salutation of all his letters with the exception of Hebrews, and in the closing remarks of each letter, without exception, he again speaks of it. Other Bible writers sometimes make similar reference in opening and closing their writings.—1 Pet. 1:2; 2 Pet. 1:2; 3:18; 2 John 3; Rev. 1:4; 22:21.
Paul had every reason for emphasizing Jehovah’s undeserved kindness, for he had formerly been a “blasphemer and a persecutor and an insolent man.” “Nevertheless,” he explains, “I was shown mercy, because I was ignorant and acted with a lack of faith. But the undeserved kindness of our Lord abounded exceedingly along with faith and love that is in connection with Christ Jesus.” (1 Tim. 1:13, 14; 1 Cor. 15:10) Paul did not spurn such undeserved kindness, as some have foolishly done (Jude 4), but he gladly accepted it with thanksgiving and urged others also who accept it ‘not to miss its purpose.’—Acts 20:24; Gal. 2:21; 2 Cor. 6:1.
A sovereign who has authority to rule over others. Jehovah is the supreme King, possessing unlimited power and authority. The kings of Judah were subordinate kings who represented His sovereignty on earth. Like them, Jesus Christ is a subordinate King, but with far greater power than those earthly kings, because Jehovah has put him in the position of ruling the universe. (Phil. 2:9-11) Jesus Christ has therefore been made “King of kings and Lord of lords.”—Rev. 19:16.
Among earthly rulers a king is a male sovereign invested with supreme authority over a city, a tribe, a nation or an empire, and he usually rules for life. Nimrod, a descendant of Ham, was the first human king of Bible record. He ruled over a kingdom that comprised several cities in Mesopotamia and was a rebel against Jehovah’s sovereignty.—Gen. 10:6, 8-10.
Canaan and the countries surrounding it had kings in the days of Abraham, long before the Israelites did. (Gen. 14:1-9) Kings are also found from the earliest times among the Philistines, Edomites, Moabites, Midianites, Ammonites, Syrians, Hittites, Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks and Romans. Many of these kings ruled over limited domains such as a city-state. Adoni-bezek, for example, boasted that he had conquered seventy of such kings.—Judg. 1:7.
The first human king noted in the Bible as being righteous was Melchizedek, king-priest of Salem. (Gen. 14:18) Aside from Jesus Christ, who is King and High Priest combined, Melchizedek is the only God-approved ruler to have held both offices. The apostle Paul points out that God used Melchizedek as a typical representation of Christ. (Heb. 7:1-3; 8:1, 6) No other faithful servant of God, not even Noah, attempted to be a king, and God appointed none of them until Saul was anointed at his direction.
Initially Jehovah ruled Israel as an invisible King through various agencies, first through Moses and then through human judges from Joshua to Samuel. (Judg. 8:23; 1 Sam. 12:12) Eventually the Israelites clamored for a king so as to be like the nations around them. (1 Sam. 8:5-8, 19) Under the legal provision embodied in the Law covenant for a divinely appointed human king, Jehovah appointed Saul of the tribe of Benjamin through the prophet Samuel. (Deut. 17:14-20; 1 Sam. 9:15, 16; 10:21, 24) Because of disobedience and presumptuousness Saul lost Jehovah’s favor and the opportunity to provide a dynasty of kings. (1 Sam. 13:1-14; 15:22-28) Turning then to the tribe of Judah, Jehovah selected David the son of Jesse to be the next king of Israel. (1 Sam. 16:13; 17:12) For faithfully supporting Jehovah’s worship and laws David was privileged to establish a dynasty of kings. (2 Sam. 7:15, 16) The Israelites reached a peak of prosperity under the reign of Solomon, a son of David.—1 Ki. 4:25; 2 Chron. 1:15.
During the reign of Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, the nation was split into two kingdoms. The first king of the northern, ten-tribe kingdom, generally spoken of as Israel, was Jeroboam the son of Nebat of the tribe of Ephraim. (1 Ki. 11:26; 12:20) Disobediently he turned the worship of his people to golden calves. For this sin be came under Jehovah’s disfavor. (1 Ki. 14:10, 16) A total of twenty kings ruled in the northern kingdom from 997 to 740 B.C.E., beginning with Jeroboam and ending with Hoshea the son of Elah. In the southern kingdom, Judah, nineteen kings reigned from 997 to 607 B.C.E., beginning with Rehoboam and ending with Zedekiah. (Athaliah, a usurper of the throne and not a king, is not counted.)
Divinely appointed representatives
The kings of Jehovah’s people appointed by Jehovah were to act as his royal agents, sitting, not on their own thrones, but on “the throne of the kingship of Jehovah,” that is, as representatives of His theocratic rule. (1 Chron. 28:5; 29:23) Contrary to the practice of some Oriental peoples in those days, the nation of Israel did not deify their kings as gods. All the kings of Judah were regarded as being the