Kings of Card

I’ve started playing Patience, the game in which a single player must arrange a shuffled deck of cards into its four suits according to certain rules. I wouldn’t normally consider it the most scintillating of pastimes, but in a long winter lockdown, it lubricates the evening hours. My 8x great-grandfather would not approve, but I think it’s innocent enough.

The identity of the king cards intrigued me. I was interested to learn that the original French versions of the cards gave each king a name, which was generally lost in the anonymous English decks which followed. Each of the four kings has some connection to the Bible, though only one’s reign is detailed in any length. Although there is some dispute and variation, the best sources seem to claim that King of Clubs is Alexander the Great, King of Macedonia. This man claimed divinity, and is referred to in the book of Daniel. The historian Josephus claims he visited Jerusalem, offered sacrifice to God according to the high priest's direction, and magnificently rewarded both the high priest and the priests. He claims he even read Daniel’s prophecy about himself, confirming his planned conquest of Persia.

The King of Diamonds refers to the Roman emperor Augustus Caesar, another pretender to divinity who was acknowledged in the Jerusalem Temple with prayers and sacrifices. These were offered on his behalf, rather than to him. Augustus is named by Luke as reigning at the time of Christ’s birth and was the first princeps of Rome, also pictured in Daniel’s prophecy of the fourth great beast.

The King of Hearts, the enigmatic monarch brandishing half a sword, was based upon Charlemagne, King of the Franks and first Holy Roman Emperor, alive in the eighth and ninth centuries after Christ. He claimed to have resurrected the Roman empire in its Christian form, hence insertion of the word ‘holy’. He was protector of the popes and forcibly ‘converted’ the Saxons on pain of death. Not the best of CVs, really. Well might he brandish a sword in his depiction.

And who is the King of Spades? The French card makers based him on David, King of Israel. While this king was imperfect in many ways, from his line would come the messiah. From defeating Goliath when but a lad, to surviving the murderous machinations of Saul, this man trusted his God. Unlike the other kings, who all founded dynasties and were known for their greatness, David’s renown came from his dependence on the God of his fathers. While the others claimed to be gods on earth or heaven’s regents, David was the man after God’s own heart and truly chosen by Him to reign. On a world stage and in the history books, David’s memory and legacy occupies little space. Yet on the great day of reckoning when God brings this old world to its conclusion, it is David who will be preeminent.

And David perceived that the Lord had established him king over Israel, and that he had exalted his kingdom for his people Israel's sake (2 Samuel 5:12).

Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay