The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He wishes. Every man’s way is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the hearts. To do righteousness and justice is desired by the LORD more than sacrifice.
If God had decreed every thought, word and deed, including every desire and intention of the heart, then what would God now be turning? Would Calvinism have God turning His own decree? The passage doesn’t make any sense unless there is freewill, in which under divine influence, a new course is being directed.
Leighton Flowers: “It is non-sensical to suggest God is restraining a will that He has already been meticulously controlling.” (Compatibilism’s Quandary)
Arminians, Walls and Dongell: “Indeed, ‘the king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases’ (Proverbs 21:1). But it is unwarranted to transform this verse into the claim that God has actually chosen to control not only every decision of the king but also every decision made by every human being ever born. It is also unwarranted to extend focus of this verse from its assurance of God’s people that their leader is shaped by divine will, to a claim that the rise of saving faith in any individual heart has been unconditionally caused by God. Furthermore, this verse and others like it (e.g., Ps 135:6) can be parlayed into total determinism only by presuming that God’s will itself contains divine preferences for the movement of every molecule, for every electrical impulse, for every rustling leaf, for every human thought. Conclusions of these sorts can be reached only by importing convictions and beliefs into these texts.” (Why I am not a Calvinist, p.63, emphasis mine)
One member of The Society of Evangelical Arminians: “I don’t think verse 1 should be understood apart from verses 2 and 3. The king’s heart is like a stream of water when it is in the hand of the Lord, when the king submits himself to God for wisdom and guidance, for proper direction. That makes the text of 21:1 complementary to the following two verses. Calvinists, on the other hand, suggest that God directs the hearts of kings in all they do. But that would mean that God himself directed Solomon (as well as the other kings) to embrace idolatry, which is something that God directly repudiates in the Law. That would mean that God essentially commits the sin of Balaam for him.”
Of course, that is exactly what Calvinists claim:
John Calvin: “Does God work in the hearts of men, directing their plans and moving their wills this way and that, so that they do nothing but what He has ordained?” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.174, emphasis mine)
John Calvin: “The question is whether He has in His power also the depraved affections of the ungodly, moving them here and there so that they will what He has decreed they should do. Certainly when Solomon declares (Prov 21:1) that the heart of kings are in the hand of God so that He inclines it as He pleases, he shows that in general the will not less than external works are governed by the determination of God.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.174, emphasis mine)
Calvinists are basically seeking a proof-text to say that God causes everything, but this passage isn’t teaching that God causes everything. How strange that would be, since God says this about the human heart: “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) Will Calvinists attribute that to God? They are theologically committed to it.
Proverbs 16:1-4: “The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the LORD. All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, but the LORD weighs the motives. Commit your works to the LORD and your plans will be established. The LORD has made everything for its own purpose, even the wicked for the day of evil.”
Proverbs 16:9-10: “The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps. A divine decision is in the lips of the king; His mouth should not err in judgment.”
Proverbs 16:32-33: “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city. The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.”
Proverbs 19:20-21: “Listen to counsel and accept discipline, that you may be wise the rest of your days. Many plans are in a man’s heart, but the counsel of the LORD will stand.”
Proverbs 20:24-27: “Man’s steps are ordained by the LORD, how then can man understand his way? It is a trap for a man to say rashly, ‘It is holy!’ And after the vows to make inquiry. A wise king winnows the wicked, and drives the threshing wheel over them. The spirit of man is the lamp of the LORD, searching all the innermost parts of his being.”
Proverbs 21:1-3: “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He wishes. Every man’s way is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the hearts. To do righteousness and justice is desired by the LORD more than sacrifice.”
1st Chronicles 28:9: “As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind; for the LORD searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever.”
Absent from these texts is the notion that God predetermines every thought, word and deed, as insisted upon by Calvinists, and moreover, it would be totally self-defeating, when considering that God “weighs the motives,” “weighs the hearts” in “searching all the innermost parts of his being.” What would God be weighing and searching if He causes and determines what He weighs and searches? These matters only make sense if man has a free-will that God is exploring, and just as reasonably, testing.