Bible Question:

Does God appoint evil leaders to lead nations?

Bible Answer:

The answer to the question, “Does God appoint evil leaders to lead nations?” is yes! That is the message of Romans 13:1, but Hosea 8:4 seems to contradict.

Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Romans 13:1 (NASB)

Here is Hosea 8:4,

They have set up kings, but not by Me;
They have appointed princes, but I did not know it.
With their silver and gold they have made idols for themselves,
That they might be cut off. Hosea 8:4 (NASB)

Does God Appoint Evil Leaders?

Romans 13:1 States That God Establishes All Governments

The key statement that we want to examine in Romans 13:1 is “no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.” There are two words of interest. The first is the word “authority” which in the Greek is exousia. It refers to anyone who has power or can exercise authority. In the context of Romans 13:1-7, it refers to governmental authority. The Greek word that is translated as “established” is tasso. This word appears eight times in the New Testament (Matthew 28:16; Luke 7:8; Acts 13:48; 15:2; 22:10; 28:23; Romans 13:1; 1 Corinthians 16:15). The word means “to appoint, to order, or to arrange”. That is, every governmental leader has been appointed, arranged or established by God.

Earlier in Romans 9:17, we are reminded that God put the Pharaoh of Egypt in his position of authority. We learn from Exodus 7-11 that this Pharaoh was an evil ruler. Romans 9:17 is a quote from Exodus 9:16-17, and it illustrates the principle of Romans 13:1.


In John 19:11 Jesus told Pontius Pilate, who was an evil governor, that his authority came from God the Father. In Daniel 4:17, the evil ruler of the Babylonian empire, King Nebuchadnezzar, reports part of a dream that God gave him.

This sentence is by the decree of the angelic watchers
And the decision is a command of the holy ones,
In order that the living may know
That the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind,
And bestows it on whom He wishes
And sets over it the lowliest of men.” Daniel 4:17 (NASB)

The same principle is communicated throughout Scripture (Psalms 75:6-7; Proverbs 8:15).

God Allows Nations to Select Rulers and Then He Establishes Them

In 1 Samuel 8, an amazing event is described that illustrates how God establishes or appoints rulers over nations. In 1 Samuel 8:1-7, we are told that the nation of Israel had rejected God as their king. Verse 7 summarizes Israel’s request.

The LORD said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them.” 1 Samuel 8:7 (NASB)

Consequently, God allowed Israel to have their own king. Verses 10-18 record what God told Samuel to communicate to Israel that they would experience with their new king. The entire description is negative and in verse 18 we read this,

Then you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the LORD will not answer you in that day. 1 Samuel 8:18 (NASB)

The message to Israel was simple. They would be allowed to select their ruler, but it was not the ruler God wanted for them. The ruler would be an evil one who would oppress them. Yet God would establish his throne, but he would not be God’s choice.

Later in Hosea 13:9-11, God rebukes Israel for rejecting Him as their king. Notice that God says they had asked the judges for a king. The prophet Samuel was also a judge (1 Samuel 3:20; 7:15). They had asked for a king, and God gave them a king. In verse 11, God reveals that this was not His choice. Yet God appointed him and established his throne.

 It is your destruction, O Israel,
That you are against Me, against your help.
Where now is your king
That he may save you in all your cities,
And your judges of whom you requested,
“Give me a king and princes”?
I gave you a king in My anger
And took him away in My wrath. Hosea 13:9-11 (NASB)

King Saul proved to be an evil king. Most of the kings of the northern Kingdom of Israel and the southern Kingdom of Judah were evil kings. The people of Israel or the leaders of Israel selected their kings without consulting God. He allowed their choices. Yet He granted these men the authority to rule as kings.

Hosea 8:4 Records God’s Appointment Of The Kings Israel Selected

Therefore, how should we understand Hosea 8:4?

They cry out to Me,
“My God, we of Israel know You!”
Israel has rejected the good;
The enemy will pursue him.
They have set up kings, but not by Me;
They have appointed princes, but I did not know it.
With their silver and gold they have made idols for themselves,
That they might be cut off. Hoses 8:2-4 (NASB)

The answer is that as Israel rejected God as their king in 1 Samuel 8:1-18,  God granted their choice. God repeatedly supported their horrible choices of subsequent kings. There is no contradiction between Romans 13:1 and Hosea 8:4.

The Purpose of Government

Government exists and survives because God supports it. Yet when the rulers become too evil, God will judge them and punish them. Zechariah 1:15 tells us that God tolerates some evil from nations; but when they are excessively evil, God punishes them.

Romans 13:4 gives us the purpose of government and rulers. They were appointed by God to suppress evil or keep evil in check. When they fail to do this, it is time for judgment. God has not established human government to Christianize the world. The purpose of government is to suppress evil and maintain some semblance of justice and care for the oppressed (Isaiah 1:16-17).  Isaiah 1:16-17 is not a Christian statement. It describes the rebuke of the nation of Israel. Amos 5:15 is another rebuke of the nation for failing to hate evil, love good and establish justice.


The government of the United States of America is currently failing to hate evil, love good, and establish justice. The government is accepting evil, even loving evil. Lady Justice is lifting the blindfold so that one eye can see who is being accused, and then she often fails to render justice. There is one standard of justice for the politically connected, powerful and wealthy, and another standard of law for everyone else. Judges 21:25 describes our nation.

In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes. Judges 21:25   (NASB)

Judgment is coming upon the United States unless it changes. Remember the purpose of government is to suppress evil. Yet, God commands us to submit to whatever government He has established.

1 Peter 2:13-15 tells us that it is His will that we submit to government. We encourage the reader to visit, “Seeking God’s Will.”  In Scripture individual Christians are never encouraged to demonstrate or commit acts of violence in response to repressive governments.  To do so would be to rebel against God’s established authority (Romans 13:2-4; Titus 3:1). Evil governments are God’s ministers as long they are not excessively evil (Zechariah 1:15). There is only one reason for Christians to disobey government. That is when government commands us to violate God’s laws (Acts 4:19-20; 5:27-29). Otherwise, Jesus calls us to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9). In the United States of America, we have the privilege and responsibility to express our disagreement or approval of our government by voting. So, Christian, vote according to biblical principles and pray for your nation! Pray that its leaders would come to faith in Jesus Christ.

Suggested Links:

Government Is Established By God, part 1
Government Is Established By God, part 2
Submit To Human Government
Seeking God’s Will
Biblical Response to Persecution, part 1
Biblical Response to Persecution, part 2
God’s Open Gate