Government in Ancient Israel

This site has information on the government in Ancient Israel. That government was a theocracy. The record of the promulgation of its laws is in the Bible, in, e.g., Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy.

“We might rest [base] the demonstration [proof] of a divine inspiration of the Pentateuch [Bible Society Management Laws] in no small degree on the supernatural benevolence and wisdom of those laws,” says Rev. George B. Cheever, D.D., God Against Slavery (Cincinnati: Am. Reform Tract and Book Society, 1857), p 151.

Pres. John Quincy Adams“The law given from Sinai was a civil and municipal as well as a moral and religious code; it contained many statutes . . . of universal application—laws essential to the existence of men in society,” said U.S. President John Quincy Adams, Letters of John Quincy Adams, to His Son, on the Bible and Its Teachings (Auburn: James M. Alden, 1850), p. 61.

Click here to read the full text of the Bible laws of Ancient Israel. Note their various subjects: (a) God, (b) Torah, (c) Signs and Symbols, (d) Prayer and Blessings, (e) Love and Brotherhood, (f) The Poor and Unfortunate, (g) Treatment of Gentiles, (h) Marriage, Divorce and Family, (i) Forbidden Sexual Relations, (j) Times and Seasons, (k) Dietary Laws, (i) Business Practices, (j) Employee Relations, (k) Vows, Oaths and Swearing, (l) The Sabbatical and Jubilee Years, (m) The Court and Judicial Procedure, (n) Injuries and Damages, (o) Property and Property Rights, (p) Criminal Laws, (q) Punishment and Restitution, (r) Prophecy, (s) Idolatry, Idolaters and Idolatrous Practices, (t) Agriculture and Animal Husbandry, (u) Clothing, (v) The Firstborn, (w) Kohanim and Levites, (x) T'rumah, Tithes and Taxes, (y) The Temple, the Sanctuary and Sacred Objects, (z) Sacrifices and Offerings, (aa) Ritual Purity and Impurity, (bb) Lepers and Leprosy, (cc) The King, (dd) Nazarites, and (ee) Wars.

These laws institutionalize, flesh out, detail, the two primary commands, 'love God' and 'love thy neighbor.' Matthew 22:40. They are not to be added to nor subtracted from, say Deuteronomy 4:2 and 12:32 (Commandments 14-15),   Joshua 1:7, and Revelation 22:18. For background on the sin of adding / subtracting, see, e.g., Numbers 16:1-40 (Korah's Rebellion); 1 Samuel 10:8, 1 Samuel 13:8-14, 1 Samuel 15:1-29 (Saul's Rebellion); 2 Chronicles 26:16-21 (Uzziah's Rebellion); and 1 Corinthians 6:10 (extortion). See also Judges 17:6 and 21:25 and 1 Samuel 8:7.

In the Bible Theocracy System, the Lord God functions as all three branches of government: lawgiver, executive, and judge, Isaiah 33:22. God's way, God's law, is perfect, true, and righteous altogether. Psalms 18:30 and 19:7. Unlike politicians, with their psychiatric symptoms and incompetence, God got the Law right the first time, and covers all issues of human life in every ramification. Thus God does not need to remain in permanent session to pass new laws. God's laws, being perfect, true, and righteous, it is forbidden to pass any other laws. Deuteronomy 4:2, 12:32, neither add nor subtract, Revelation 22:18-19. Naturally, to assure that no changes to the Law could possibly be made, God's system neither establishes nor authorizes other lawgivers. For background on the sin of adding / subtracting, see the above-cited references, e.g., Numbers 16:1-40 (Korah's Rebellion); 1 Samuel 10:8, 1 Samuel 13:8-14, 1 Samuel 15:1-29, etc.

For a list of the High Priests, click here. Israel was to be a "kingdom [government] of priests," Exodus 19:6, as distinct from politicians. See also William R. Millar, Priesthood in Ancient Israel (Chalice Press, 2001), and "Priests and Priesthood," in Dr. R. J. Zwi Werblowsky and Dr. Geoffrey Wigoder (Hebrew University, Jerusalem), The Encyclopedia of the Jewish Religion (New York: Adama Books, 1986), p 309.   Werblowsky and Wigoder note that "the duties of their [priests'] office included . . . to some extent, teaching and administrating the Law, 'for the priest's lips should keep knowledge, and they [the public] should seek the Law at his [priest's] mouth' (Mal. 2:7).”

Note the various types of laws, e.g., moral, ceremonial, and society-management. This is shown in, e.g., “The Teaching of Jesus,” by Prof. Harris Franklin Rall, in Abingdon Bible Commentary (1929), pp 904-913 at 905.
  • This means that [1] "some aspects . . teach God's moral and ethical norms. [2] Some aspects . . . instruct . . . in . . . the ceremonial law. [3] Still other dimensions . . . teach implications of the moral ceremonial law in their home and community," says David Horton, Ed., The Portable Seminary (Bloomington MN: Bethany House, 2006), § Hebrew Literature, p 215.

  • "There are three kinds of laws in the Old Testament: [1] the moral law, which tells all people their duty toward God and other people; [2] the ceremonial law, which regulated the religious practices in the Old Testament; and [3] the political law, which was the state [national, federal] law of the Israelites,” says Martin Luther, Th.D., in Luther's Preface to the Small Catechism § 14, "How did God give His law?" (1529).
  • These laws remain of continuing validity in the New Testament era. For example, note Christ Jesus' affirmation of them in the "Sermon on the Mount" (Matthew 5:17-19 and 7:21). Note also the fugitive-servant example, pp 23-24, Speech (30 Oct 1856), by Rev. Cheever. And see his Pulpit (June 1856), pp 10-11. These laws continue in effect, e.g., the sewer system command, for the reason that the pertinent divine purpose (e.g., health and prosperity, 3 John 2) continues!

    See also the law about having two or three witnesses to establish a matter, in Numbers 35:30, Deuteronomy 17:6, and 19:15 (Commandments 242 and 247). The Apostle Paul treated this law as still in effect, in 2 Corinthians 13:11 Timothy 5:19, and Hebrews 10:28, i.e., as still valid centuries later, and continuing in the "New Testament" era. (Paul said he followed all Bible Laws, in Acts 22:3 and 23:1, and that those Laws were still in effect, Romans 3:31, an analysis supported by John in I John 3:24 and 5:3). The two-three witnesses law is only one of several such laws treated in the New Testament as still in effect.

    For example, note the Bible's building code type laws designed to prevent injuries. One law prevents poorly designed roofs which could result in people falling off (Deuteronomy 22:8, Commandments 263-264). That law requires a fence. Note also laws to protect the handicapped, the laws against cursing the deaf and putting a stumbling block before the blind. (Leviticus 19:14, Commandment 34). These laws ban hazards that can linger and cause harm indiscriminately, re which the modern legal term is "universal malice."

    In addition to Matthew 5:17-18, Christ's general affirmation of the Bible Laws, see also specifics, e.g.,
  • Acts 15:20 upholding laws against eating blood (Leviticus 7:26, Commandment 167) and strangled animals (Deuteronomy 14:21, Commandment 156)

  • Acts 15:21 citing attending synagogue on the Sabbath so as to learn the 613 commandments (they already knew the Ten)

  • Matthew 22:37-40 upholding continued applicability of Leviticus 19:18 (Commandment 26) and Deuteronomy 6:5 (Commandment 7).
  • Just doing the bare minimum is unacceptable, "unprofitable," Luke 17:10.

    The Scofield Reference Bible (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1909, 1917, 1937, 1945), p 95, in Exodus 20 context cites the Bible Laws as "in three divisions . . . the Commandments, expressing the righteous will of God (Ex. 20.1-26); the 'judgments,' governing the social life of Israel (Ex. 21.1 - 24:11); and the 'ordinances,' governing the religious life of Israel (Ex. 24.12 - 31.18). These three elements form 'the law,' as that phrase is generically used in the New Testament (e.g. Mt. 5.17, 18)."

    In the article "Government," John E. Stennmuller, S.T.D., et al., in the Catholic Biblical Encyclopedia of the Old Testament (New York: J. F. Wagner, Inc, 1956), p 424 says: "With the call of Moses as the supreme leader of the united nation and as mediator of the Sinaitic Convent, Israel began a . . . period in its history [called] theocracy. The theocratical form of government meant that the Israelite nation was ruled by God through his personally elected leaders, as through Moses . . . in the most perfect way, through Josue in a perfect way, and through the various judges in a less perfect way. They were chiefly assisted by the elders, who exercised administrative, judicial and at times military power."

    Christ Jesus' priority was elucidating the restoration of the divine government, "the urgency of ushering in the Kingdom of God." See, e.g., Prof. Michael Grant, C.B.E. [1914-2004], Jesus: An Historian's Review of the Gospels Gospels (Scribner's, 1977) (Reviews). "Nothing Matters but the Kingdom of God," p 5. The "Lord's Prayer" expressly calls for restoring God's government, "Thy kingdom come," in other words, "Thy will be done" (Matthew 6:10).

    The context in which the Bible Laws were issued includes the following data. Biblical Israel had about 8 - 12,000 square miles (5,120,000 - 7,680,000 acres). This acreage was divided (Joshua 13-22) among about 600,000 families (Numbers 2:32, 26:51). Each "farmette" or "homestead" averaged at most 12.8 acres.

    Each family received a family-sized acreage. The system was inherently both equality-oriented (Exodus 16:18, 2 Corinthians 8:14-15 [sustenance], Leviticus 25:10 [land restoration], Acts 2:44-45, 4:32 [all in common]), pursuant to divine intent [Genesis 1:28, Matthew 20:1-15, 3 John 2].

    The Bible Society Management Laws included numerous guaranteed (commanded) vacations about 46% of the year (as religious holidays, p 44, plus family time days off, p 134). The Bible Society Management Laws provided for debt cancellation every seven years (Deuteronomy 15:1-11), and banned charging interest on loans (Exodus 22:25). The Bible Society Management Laws systematically established prosperity for all pursuant to divine intent (3 John 2 and Micah 4:4). The result was wealth for all so great that silver was spurned (like stones!), as gold was had in such significant abundance (1 Kings 10:21 and 27 and 2 Chronicles 1:15).

    Biblical Israel was governed by the aforesaid Bible Society-Management Laws. Those laws had significant social / life-lifestyle ramifications, and were designed to keep Israel in that agrarian equality-oriented prosperous state of affairs, as agriculturalists,
  • not generally to be in cities, the concentrated sin areas, pp 140 and 143

  • not generally in other non-egalitarian occupations, especially not as a merchant engaged in business activity
    (Nehemiah 13:20-21, Zechariah 14:21, Matthew 21:12-13, Mark 11:15-17, Luke 19:45-46, Acts 19:23-28,
    and Revelation 18:11-20)

  • adhering to the “original grant" concept, p 28. Compare with Matthew 20:1-16 (equal pay), Matthew 25:15-28 and
    Luke 19:1-20 (producing proportionate to one's abilities), all in context of Micah 4:4 (equal property grants for all)

  • thereby avoiding committing the sin of Sodom (oppressing the poor, Ezekiel 16:49, Hosea 11:8, and Hosea 11:9,
    as analyzed).
  • This agrarian system institutionalizing divine purpose (3 John 2 and Micah 4:4) had numerous benefits. It provided health and prosperity for all. It prevented typical societal evils such as recurring unemployment, economic cycles of recessions and depressions. It prevented crime, big business, homelessness, institutionalized banking, economic disparities, long-term debt, foreclosures, and results such as high divorce rate and family breakdown, etc. Israel was to be the model nation for others to imitate, Deuteronomy 4:6-8, so all peoples would have the benefit of good laws, vs the abuses, sorrows, instability, and pitfalls of politician laws, 1 Samuel 8:11-17 and Hosea 8:4.

    Unfortunately, in 1 Samuel 8:4-5, people rebelled against God's Kingdom. God warned the people, 1 Samuel 8:11-17, that setting up politician rule would have adverse consequences. Politicians' would foreseeably defy Bible commands and principles. Having been defied in His warning against politicians, God further admonished mankind that He would not answer people's complaints against politicians' wickednesses, 1 Samuel 8:18.

    Later revelation reveals that politician rule will lead to ultra holocaust, the killing off of almost all of mankind.   Jeremiah 25:33,   Revelation 6:8 (25% killed leaving 75% left),   Revelation 9:15 (33% killed leaving 42% left),   Revelation 9:18 (33% killed leaving 9% left), and Matthew 24:22 (the remaining 9%, "few people left" (Isaiah 24:3, 6) -- except divine intervention stops politicians' genocidal killing spree holocaust before politicians can commit such yet additional holocaust against the 9% remainder of humanity).

    Re that violent deadly foreseeable and therefore predicted outcome of having politicians, militaries and war, "by their fruits ye shall know them" (Matthew 7:16 and 7:20 and 12:33).

    For realistic depiction of such massive levels of slaughter, see background on nuclear war effects in, e.g., The War Game (BBC, 1965) and Threads (BBC, 1984). For ficitionalized movies with some aspects of the miscalculations or horrors, see also, e.g., Failsafe, On the Beach, and Dr. Strangelove.

    Without God's government, theocracy, but instead having politician rule, the prophesied mass slaughter of 91% of mankind is the natural and probable consequence of having politicians and their militaries, of politicians having a policy of "Instant Nuclear Strategic Annihilation of Nearly Everyone," cited by Prof. Michael Parenti, Ph.D., The Sword and the Dollar: Imperialism, Revolution, and the Arms Race (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1989), Chapter 13, "The Arms Chase," p 162. The acronym for politicians' policy of "Instant Nuclear Strategic Annihilation of Nearly Everyone" is I.N.S.A.N.E.—an apt acronym descriptor, as psychopathology is a common politician characteristic.

    In view of the benefits of theocracy, and the past, present, and future horrors and mass casualties of politician rule, it is understandable why Christ Jesus' priority was on "the urgency of ushering in the Kingdom of God." See, e.g., Prof. Michael Grant, C.B.E. [1914-2004], Jesus: An Historian's Review of the Gospels Gospels (Scribner's, 1977) (Reviews). "Nothing Matters but the Kingdom of God," p 5, i.e., the priority is restoring God's government, theocracy. The "Lord's Prayer" expressly calls for restoring God's government, "Thy kingdom come," in other words, "Thy will be done" (Matthew 6:10).