The Bible is full of conspiracy theories that have brought down kings, divided nations and melted the hearts of brave men and women.
David’s son Absalom concocted a story that the king was not interested in listening to the people and that only he, Absalom, would be a fair and merciful judge of their grievances. Absalom “stole the hearts” of the people of Israel and by spreading his lies was able to lead them in a civil war against his father, King David (II Samuel 15). Absalom’s conspiracy was repeated so many times that even the people who loved David rose up in battle against God’s anointed leader.
In the end, the truth came out and when the people understood Absalom’s plot to destroy David, he paid with his life. But the lies had taken root and the kingdom was forever divided into two – Judah and Israel.
And the conspiracies just kept on coming. Amaziah, King of Judah settled a score with “the conspirators who had assassinated his father,” Jehoash (2 Kings 14:5). Earlier we learned that Jehoash’s servants had conspired against him and murdered him (12:21). Athaliah was murdered before the restoration of her grandson Jehoash to his throne (2 Kings 11:14), and so Jehoash, who instigated one conspiracy, became the victim of another.
Like Amaziah, himself a conspirator, becomes the victim of a conspiracy (II Kings 14:19) when he was assassinated and his son, Azariah, who takes his throne. In the next chapter, Hoshea ben Elah conspires against Pekah ben Remaliah to replace him on the throne (15:30), only to be put in prison later because of another conspiracy against the Assyrian king (17:4).
And that’s just the beginning! Conspiracies and conspiracy theories have been used to elect presidents, start wars and destroy enemies until this day.
To get a better understanding of the problem with conspiracy theories, it might be helpful to consider the biblical word in Hebrew for conspiracy: kesher. Literally this means a binding connection or a knot. Conspiracies tie up both conspirator and the one conspired against into a messy maze of plots and subplots binding the parties to each other and their lies, which become increasingly difficult to unravel – like a wet knotted rope.
The recurring use of kesher with respect to the kings of Judah and Israel reveal some important principles for our understanding of modern politics, in which conspiracy knots have become rampant.
The idea that the king was anointed by God and thus sacrosanct ended with King David. David was the first and last king unwilling to scheme against his nemesis King Saul, even while Saul kept trying to kill him. David would not even plot against his son Absalom, who had turned the hearts of Israel against his father, and David wept bitterly when his commander Joab killed Absalom against his orders. Even when a king of Israel and Judah “did what is right in the sight of God” the amendment is often added, “but the king did not do as David.” That is to say they used schemes to stay on the throne.
Even political allegiances were not regarded as unbreakable. One king after the next disregarded agreements and covenants made with nations, both friend and enemy, and even with their own families, drawing the ire of the Prophets to cry out against kesher. Conspiracy theories about the Lord Himself, by twisting His intentions to mean something else in order to favor one above another, were particularly offensive (Isaiah 8:12; Jeremiah 11:9; Ezekiel 22:25).
We would be wise to heed the warnings of these Prophets and reflect on the truth that our intrigues, conspiracies and disregard for those who have helped us in the past will eventually “become a snare and a trap into which we will fall and be broken and ensnared.”