Govern-ment in Israel

During the First Covenant








Government in Israel—First Covenant


1.      Patriarchal. This refers to the rule of Israel by the patriarchs: Abraham (Genesis 12-25), Isaac (Genesis 26-27), and Jacob (Genesis 28-50). It was a one-man government, the ruler being the successive head of the tribe.

2.      Tribal. This was the form of government when Israel began to multiply and Jacob was dead. The heads of families or of separate tribes ruled (Exodus 6:14).

3.      Representative. As the Israelites became more numerous the tribal headship idea began to change to a larger representation of authority. Several nobles, princes, or chief men of the main families of a tribe became the rulers, with one head elder for each tribe. Together these were called the elders of Israel (Exodus 3:16,18; Exodus 4:29; Exodus 12:21; Exodus 17:5-6; Exodus 18:12; Exodus 19:7).

4.      Mosaic. Representative elders of the tribes continued with Moses being the chief ruler. It was more like a one-man rule again with the chief ruler answering only to God. The elders under Moses consisted of heads of the tribes (Deut. 5:23), nobles of Israel (Exodus 24:1-11); judges and chief fathers of the families making the tribes (Deut. 1:15; Numbers 36:1). Of these seventy were chosen to be judges (Deut. 1:16; Exodus 24:1-11; Numbers 11:13-27). They were the ruling court of all Israel during the Mosaic form of government. Aaron served as chief deputy under Moses. Then came a new element of authority in Israel. The tribe of Levi was chosen to be the ministers. From these the high priest was chosen. He had great power and authority in the affairs of Israel, serving as a mediator between God and the people. Under Joshua the total power that belonged to Moses was divided between the civil and ecclesiastical heads.

5.      Judicial. The Mosaic form of government continued until Joshua and the elders under him died. After that, government became somewhat disorganized. Every man did that which was right in his own eyes (Joshua 24:31; Judges 2:7-15; Judges 17:6; Judges 18:1; Judges 19:1; Judges 21:25). During this time-for 450 years until Samuel the prophet-God raised up judges to deliver Israel from enemies and rule certain sections of Israel (Judges 2:16-23; Judges 3:1-4; Acts 13:20).

6.      Monarchic. The judicial form of government continued until Samuel the prophet; then Israel demanded a king like the other nations (1 Samuel 8-10). Kings ruled until the Babylonian captivity in 606 B.C.-about 513 years. After the captivity of 70 years, Israel had no king but was ruled by the Sanhedrin or body of elders, headed by the high priest or some other individual chosen for the position. This continued until 70 A.D. when Israel, because of rejecting Christ their Messiah, was destroyed and dispersed as a nation (Matthew 23:37-39; Luke 21:20-24).

During all these periods of Israel's history, regardless of the form of government, the elders were always prominent and successfully dictated many things. They demanded a king (1 Samuel 8:2-22), chose kings (2 Samuel 3:17-21; 2 Samuel 5:3), and advised and assisted in government (2 Samuel 12:17; 1 Chron. 15:25; 1 Chron. 21:16; 1 Kings 8:1-3; 1 Kings 12:6:13; 1 Kings 20:7-8; see also Ezra 9:1; Ezra 10:8-14; Matthew 15:2-9; Matthew 21:23; Matthew 26:2-68; Matthew 27:1-2; Mark 7:1-13; Acts 4:1-21; Acts 6:9-15; Acts 7:1-59; Acts 9:1).

7.      Municipal. Locally the municipal form of government prevailed (Deut. 19:12; Deut. 21:2-21; Deut. 22:13-21; Deut. 25:7-9; Joshua 20:4; Judges 8:14-16; Judges 11:5-11; Ruth 4:2-11; 1 Samuel 11:3; Ezra 10:8,14; Neh. 3:9-19).

8.      Theocratic. A theocracy is a government ruled by God. This form was always in the background in Israel. It was God who called Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, the judges, and many of the kings. The Lord was very prominent in the lives of the patriarchs. As Israel's government developed, He gave the laws, directing every phase of life until the death of Joshua. During the judges, He periodically intervened when the people turned to Him. The same was true during the time of the kings and after the captivities. When Israel consulted God and trusted Him, He was their leader. He sent many prophets and apostles to rebuke them, hoping to salvage something of the nation in every century, until He finally had to abandon them to complete dispersion.   [Source]





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