Proverbs 21:1

ESV The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.
NIV In the LORD's hand the king's heart is a stream of water that he channels toward all who please him.
NASB The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He pleases.
CSB A king's heart is like channeled water in the Lord's hand: He directs it wherever he chooses.
NLT The king’s heart is like a stream of water directed by the Lord; he guides it wherever he pleases.
KJV The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.

What does Proverbs 21:1 mean?

This verse credits the Lord with sovereign control over kings. Other proverbs note the tremendous power kings and rulers hold in this world (Proverbs 19:12). Yet the most powerful person is still subject to God's power and His will (Proverbs 21:30). If or when God chooses, He can shape a person's inner desires (Exodus 10:1–2). The Lord can use even secular government leaders to serve His purpose.

In 538 BC the Lord moved King Cyrus of Persia to pass an edict allowing the Hebrew captives to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. Cyrus said, "The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house in Jerusalem. which is in Judah" (Ezra 1:2). Centuries later, God used Caesar Augustus to cause Joseph and Mary to go to Bethlehem, where Jesus was born in fulfillment of the prophecy of Micah 5:2. Luke records the fact that Caesar Augustus, Emperor of Rome, passed a decree that all the world should be registered. Therefore, everyone went to his own town to be registered (Luke 2:1–3). The decree caused Joseph to go to Bethlehem, his ancestral town, and to take Mary with him (Luke 2:4–5). While they were in Bethlehem, Jesus was born (Luke 2:6–7).
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