By me kings reign, and princes decree justice.
These are the words of Lady Wisdom. She is the first person pronoun here. Solomon is in the middle of a personification about wisdom (Pr 8:1-36), and she taught that good kings and princes must have her, as the righteous execution of their offices depends upon her.
Great nations have great leaders, legislation, and legal systems. Their greatness depends on civil rulers having wisdom to enact and enforce justice for every citizen. Their wisdom comes from their fear of God and the inspired instructions in the word of God.
A king without wisdom is an oppressor, for he needs wisdom to justly guide his rule of a kingdom (Pr 28:16). Many kings have reigned without wisdom, but they were not good kings; many princes have decreed laws, but they were not good or righteous laws.
Solomon is writing about godly and righteous kings, like he and his father. When he says it is an abomination for kings to commit wickedness (Pr 16:12), he only described good kings, for many kings have been very wicked. He wrote of true wisdom for godly kings.
The proverb has an ellipsis – missing words implied by the context and easily understood by careful readers. The missing word is supplied in the second clause – justice. Solomon in the first clause did not teach about just any kind of king; he wrote of good kings who rule justly and rightly by wisdom and discretion. Good kings must have wisdom.
Solomon proved himself such a wise king by calling for a baby to be divided in half with a sword (I Kgs 3:16-28), for only great wisdom and discretion could solve the harlots’ argument. He had sought this understanding carefully in the beginning of his career, for he had been taught the importance of true knowledge and counsel (I Kgs 3:7-9; Pr 4:1-9).
Wisdom is so important for ruling that a poor child with it is better than a rich old king without it (Ecc 4:13). Wisdom can make up for limitations, so seek it (Jas 1:5). And this applies to every husband, father, master, magistrate, and pastor who wants to rule well.
Wisdom teaches kings the importance of many things: punishing the wicked (Pr 20:8,26), mercy and truth (Pr 20:28), faithfully judging the poor (Pr 29:14; 31:8-9; 24:11-12), good men with gracious speech (Pr 14:35; 16:13; 22:11), and searching out matters (Pr 25:2).
Wisdom also teaches kings to avoid many things: gifts of bribery (Pr 29:4), wine and strong drink (Pr 31:4-5), whorish women (Pr 31:3; Eccl 7:26-29), gluttony (Ecc 10:16-17), lies (Pr 17:7; 29:12), suretiship (Pr 6:1-5), and wicked counselors (Pr 25:5).
Wisdom is available for any man or woman. While it can make civil rulers great and their nations havens of peace and prosperity, you can have wisdom easily by humbling yourself to truly love and fear God, asking for it, and studying wisdom in the Bible.
There is no king like the Lord Jesus, Who executes judgment and justice in the earth, and earned the title, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS (Jer 23:5-6). He is called Faithful and True (Rev 19:11), for He rules by His great treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col 2:3). David at death prophesied of this Son he had not yet met, One Who would rule justly over men in the fear of the Lord (II Sam 23:1-5). Do you know Him, dear reader?