Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology 
Administration of life in an organized society as well as the body of officials that presides over the process. Human beings discovered at an early stage in their history that a social situation in which "everyone did as he saw fit" ( Judges 21:25 ) proved to be an unstable, disorganized, and frequently even a dangerous one, in which unenlightened self-interest took precedence over the concerns of other citizens.
Consequently, what has been called a "theory of social contract" came into being. This meant that people agreed to live together as free citizens, and behave in such a manner that the interests of others were not harmed in the process. As a result, the various behavioral rules that were developed over a period of time came to be recognized as mechanisms designed for the common good. Some of these ancient social regulations have been unearthed in Mesopotamia by archeologists, and contain statements governing property rights, damage, reparations, and so on.
The earliest observable city-states are those occurring in Mesopotamia, some of which go back to at least 4500 b.c. One of these, Eridu, is the earliest example of settled occupation discovered so far in Iraq, dating back to 4000 b.c. A millennium later the Sumerians, a highly cultured group of uncertain origin, stated that history began when "kingship was lowered from heaven" to the city of Eridu. When the Sumerians came to Iraq they discovered that the land was already organized loosely into groups of villages and small towns, a system that they further developed. These aggressive, superstitious Sumerians set about devising patterns for civic life, and went on to lay the foundations of modern knowledge. In addition to the office of king, they believed that the gods had sent down to earth a collection of civic regulations that were intended to cover all sorts of social situations.
Under the Sumerians, communities such as Eridu, Ur, and Lagash became city-states, which were independent of each other and comprised the settlement itself and adjoining grazing and agricultural land. Sometimes these city-states cooperated socially, but more frequently tried to subjugate each other, and it was this threat of invasion that established the tradition of the king ( lugal ) as leader of the city's armed forces. Although his office became hereditary in time, his main concern was with the defense of the city-state rather than with its administration. After a time the city-state became a model for settlements in other parts of the ancient Near East.
The state's most prominent building was the main temple, which served as a center for worship and also as a depot for the priests to store agricultural supplies and goods intended for use in the temple workshop. Despite the widespread influence of the priests over the community, secular government was under the control of the governor ( ensi ), who not surprisingly came into conflict periodically with the temple priesthood. As a standard administrative procedure the ensi divided the free citizens into two groups for purposes of making important decisions. The first consisted of community elders who formed an "upper chamber, " while the second or "lower chamber" comprised the young men who would rally to the defense of the city when threatened by a neighboring state, or pursue aggressive action themselves against a potential enemy. This bicameral, or "two-chamber, " system proved to embody the checks and balances needed for good government and has survived the millennia to flourish in modern democracies.
Law and justice in society were fundamental concerns for the Sumerians, as well as for the later Mesopotamians, since they believed that upon such principles the survival of the state depended. The law was administered by the civil governor and his deputy, and numerous tablets recovered from levels dating from about 2500 b.c. on have illustrated the scope of their concerns. Court cases were heard by a tribunal of three judges, usually priests, who allowed both written and oral evidence, the latter being given under oath.
Their decisions were binding, but a case could be reopened if fresh evidence warranting it came to light. Where matters of minor importance were involved, the judges could order the plaintiff and defendant to settle the matter by engaging in a wrestling bout. The winner of the contest was the one who removed his opponent's belt first. The moral qualities of God's champion wrestler are stated in Isaiah 11:5 , where he is girded with righteousness and faithfulness.
While the Sumerians were organizing their city-states, a single large counterpart was flourishing at Ebla in Syria. At its height, around 2300 b.c., it was a bustling commercial center that manufactured metal objects, textiles, semiprecious stones, and pottery, as well as bred cattle and grew grain. The state was engaged in trade with the Mesopotamians, Egyptians, Syrians, and Palestinians, and at its height it was one of the most powerful communities in the Near East.
Excavations at the site (Tell Mardikh) have shown that Ebla and its holdings were governed by the king and members of his family. In the upper area of the city were four administrative centers: the royal palace, which no doubt coordinated the functions of all the other offices; the city palace, which evidently handled civic affairs; the stables, the administrators of which would have dealt with imported and exported goods; and the palace of service, in which workers were apparently hired and their tasks regulated.
In the first two palaces ten officials directed the duties of about six deputies, while in the second and third palaces eighty leaders were in charge of about one hundred workers of lesser rank. In the lower part of Ebla were four areas of buildings, supervised by a chief inspector, with between ten and twenty leaders who supervised from thirty to one hundred assistants, depending upon the nature of Ebla's economy. From surviving tablets it appears that an estimated population of 250,000 persons was governed by a bureaucracy of about 6,000 people. For a third millennium b.c. empire this is an impressive achievement, matched only in complexity by modern civil services.
The ruler of Ebla was deemed to be the owner of the large city, as well as all the lands and vineyards that surrounded it, these being worked by tenant-farmers. Interestingly enough, the king was known by the Sumerian title en or the Syrian malik, the latter being similar to the Hebrew melek, ("king"). The royal sons assisted in governing this large city-state, some tablets indicating that a senior prince dealt with home affairs, while another was in charge of foreign concerns. Administrative officials below the level of royalty were styled either lugal or diku, the latter meaning "judge." Not very much is known about other facets of civic life because of the enormous difficulty experienced in attempting to translate a highly sophisticated language.
A more complete picture comes from the ruins of nineteenth-century b.c. Mari on the Euphrates. Over 20,000 tablets have been recovered dealing with religious, administrative, legal, economic, and other matters. As with Ebla, the government of this large Amorite city-state was complex and well organized, and included women functioning in prominent positions. The Mari population was probably less homogeneous than that at Ebla, consisting of seminomadic peoples and the settled Akkadians.
To make government even more difficult, the nomads had links with a group known as the Yaminites or "sons of the south." They were actually dispersed widely throughout Mesopotamia and parts of Syria, and raised flocks and cattle as well as being involved in some agricultural work. To raise their animals properly it would be necessary for the tribes to search for pasture in the steppe lands, and to withdraw later to their winter homes. They tended to resist government from the capital, preferring instead the nomadic system of rule by tribal chiefs. These heads of families would decide about matters such as local feuds, alliances, and some trading, but when summoned for consultation by the central authorities they acted as spokesmen for the tribe. It was usually difficult to keep abreast of their movements, and even more difficult to impose taxes on them. They apparently had their own "king" or "kings, " but those persons were probably military commanders of the Sumerian variety, and not city-state rulers as such.
The formulating of covenant agreements was prominent at Mari, but unlike Hittite covenants they were largely exercises in symbolic ritual rather than being written contractual statements. The Mari Empire had its own class of judges, whose status was actually more that of provincial rulers than persons who simply made judicial decisions based upon evidence. The judge was probably an individual of great prestige among his fellow-tribesman, and as such would be able to negotiate with the central government on behalf of his people.
Contracts dealing with adoption occur in the Mari archives, and these are of interest because they are connected with the transfer of property. The law forbade the sale of inheritances, stipulating that they could only be transferred legally upon the death of the owner. It was possible, however, for a nonfamily member to be "adopted" on the payment of an appropriate fee, and this practice circumvented the law. Some adoption contracts stipulated that the firstborn was to receive double the amount allotted to other family members (cf. Genesis 15:2; Deuteronomy 21:15-17 ). In other legal matters, the terminology of the royal census relating to enrollment procedures, the forms of ritual purification, and questions of discipline exhibit parallels with Exodus 30:13-14 .
Prominent Sumerian rulers had identified themselves with law and justice in an attempt to reduce the amount of administrative corruption in their city-states. Early proponents of civic reform were Urukagina (ca. 2350 b.c.) and Ur-Nammu (ca. 2070 b.c.), both of whom produced lists of regulations that have survived in fragmentary form. But the most famous royal legislator of antiquity was Hammurabi of Babylon (ca. 1792-1750 b.c.). This man was an outstanding administrator, military strategist, and lawgiver. He manifested a pronounced sense of concern for his subjects' welfare, often attending personally to complaints about corruption in his kingdom. While there were government officials responsible for administration, they are seldom mentioned in surviving diplomatic correspondence. His major contribution to society was to formulate the so-called Code of Hammurabi, a collection of enactments covering civil, criminal, administrative, and other issues. It was based in part upon earlier Sumerian sources, but it is by far the most comprehensive statement of its kind in antiquity. It survived in the form of a broken black diorite monument with a base of just over six feet and tapered to a height of over seven feet. It was recovered from Susa in 1902, and was a codification of the laws of Hammurabi's day. Whether the contents were meant to be imposed upon his kingdom, or served merely as a guide when he made judicial decisions, is uncertain.
The Hebrews of Abraham's day were mostly semisedentary, living in constructed dwellings during the winter and in spring setting out with their flocks to find new pasture, a tradition they followed for some centuries (see Genesis 37:13-17 ). The fundamental unit of patriarchal society was the family, and this was augmented by various family groups to become a tribe. The heads of families became rulers in the tribe, and these persons, known as elders, administered customary law, made treaties, and occasionally allied with other tribes in battle.
Abraham and his descendants could be described as theocratic groups insofar as they considered themselves bound by obedience to God. This concept took dramatic shape when, under Moses, the twelve tribes pledged allegiance to God at Mount Sinai, and among other privileges received a gift of land, from which they were instructed to drive out the inhabitants. The pledge to God ( Exodus 24:7 ) made a theocratic society out of tribes who had normally followed a casual and unregulated life, and the constitution given to them in the Sinai covenant contained specific laws that they were required to obey if they were to become a holy nation ( Exodus 19:6 ). For nomadic people to be compelled to live according to strict and detailed regulations, some of which were similar to Hammurabi's enactments, was a severe discipline in itself that proved to be a sore burden, even in later sedentary times.
God's rule over Israel was that of a king who mediated his will on specific occasions through elders, military leaders such as Moses and Joshua, and the priestly hierarchy, which was responsible for maintaining the strict purity of religious rituals. When Canaan was conquered, the various tribes settled in the territories that God had allotted to them through Moses ( Numbers 34:2-15 ), and built small settlements. The transition to a theocratic commonwealth occurred at a covenant-renewal ceremony ( Joshua 8:30-35 ), in which an expanded form of the covenant, including stipulations from Deuteronomy, was accepted.
With the passing of strong leadership at the death of Joshua and the increasing influence of pagan Canaanite customs on Israelite life, the covenant fell into disrepute and the elders lost control of their communities. The old nomadic ideal of people following their own individual ways of life overtook the covenant concept of communal and spiritual solidarity and led to the demand for a king to maintain order ( 1 Samuel 8:5 ). This pagan model was contrary to theocratic concepts and met with God's disapproval. Nevertheless, he allowed Samuel to anoint Saul as Israel's first "king" (Saul was really a charismatic leader rather than a pagan type of king). Such persons were supposed to govern under God's guidance, but from the end of the Solomonic period, kings in northern Israel became absolute monarchs. This meant that their behavior was unhampered by exceptions or restrictions, giving them complete ownership of their subjects and property alike. David had established an administrative pattern for kingship in a theocracy by delegating many duties to persons known officially as "servants." The role of elders and nobles was recognized ( 1 Kings 21:8,11 ), the former discharging their duties as judges at the city gate and the latter acting as advisors to the royal court.
David instituted a number of bureaucrats such as the recorder ( 1 Chronicles 18:15 ), a powerful archivist who also controlled much of court life; the scribe ( 1 Chronicles 18:6 ), who with his assistants maintained official records; the priest ( 1 Chronicles 18:17 ), who evidently served the king in an advisory capacity; the supervisor of labor ( 2 Samuel 20:24 ), who recruited captives and others for forced labor in the kingdom; the palace steward ( 1 Kings 18:3,6 ), who was a highly placed royal official; and the bureaucrat, who was chiefly responsible for collecting taxes.
Solomon adopted an Egyptian administrative procedure when he divided the kingdom into twelve districts controlled by deputies, who were responsible for providing food successively each month for the king and his officials. For military protection David enlisted skilled fighters to command units of various sizes ( 2 Kings 1:9-14 ), and these were supplemented by specially trained groups ( 2 Samuel 10:7,9; 11:17 ) and foreign mercenaries ( 2 Samuel 8:18; 15:18 ). Archers were part of Israel's armed forces but chariots were not used in battle until Solomon's reign ( 1 Kings 10:28 ).
During this period the Israelites became involved increasingly in treaty relationships with foreign nations. Sometimes the encounter took the form of an alliance, as with Asa of Judah and Benhadad ( 1 Kings 15:18-20 ), but also occurred as a peace treaty or as a coalition against a common enemy ( 2 Kings 3:6-9 ). When Solomon ventured into international politics, he amassed a large number of foreign princesses as wives and these marriages seem to have been integral to the validation procedures of the various treaties ( 1 Kings 3:1; 11:1-3 ). At a later period in the monarchy it became the tradition to appoint special court officials to serve as ambassadors (cf. Isaiah 18:2; Jeremiah 49:14 ) and representatives of the monarch. These sophisticated procedures were maintained in varying degrees until Judah's captivity in 581 b.c.
The return from exile in Babylonia furnished an opportunity for the restoration of a true theocracy. The population of Judea was organized in terms of temple worship under the leadership of a high priest and his priestly subordinates. Since Palestine was part of the Persian Empire, it fell under the jurisdiction of the provincial governor who oversaw "Beyond the River" ( Ezra 5:6 ). Zerubbabel was one of these persons ( Haggai 1:1,14 ), and ruled in Jerusalem ( Ezra 5:9; 6:7 ) with the Jewish elders who had reconstructed the second temple. When Nehemiah came to Jerusalem in 446 b.c. he did so as the governor and established the city as the capital of Judah. For administrative purposes the area was divided into districts ( Nehemiah 3:9-18 ), which were under the control of a prince ( sar ).
The Persians were lenient rulers and consequently the Judeans enjoyed a significant measure of autonomy, due to the official policy of encouraging local culture and religion. Ezra's great contribution to true theocracy came with his insistence upon the Mosaic law as the basis of all spiritual life. The high priest became an important religious and political figure, while the emphasis on the law brought the scribes into new prominence as interpreters of the words of Moses. This powerful religious combination was augmented subsequently by the rise of the Sadducees and Pharisees, who exercised an important influence over Jewish life when Palestine was occupied by the Romans.
Theocratic principles were reinforced by the institution of the synagogue, which had its roots in exilic worship in Babylonia. Each small town had its own synagogue, where the men met to worship on the Sabbath and to hear the law explained. The gathering was presided over by a "ruler, " who also supervised the work of three governing "elders."
In addition to its purely religious functions, the synagogue was a place where meetings could be held to discuss community concerns. But the most important governing body in postexilic Judaism was the Sanhedrin ( Matthew 26:59; Acts 5:21 ). Its origins are obscure, but it may have developed during the Greek period that followed Persian rule. At that time the Jews established a council of elders, which was accepted as the legal representative of Judaism. Under Roman rule the Sanhedrin was responsible for governing Judea, and in Christ's time it was respected as the supreme court of justice ( Matthew 26:59; John 11:47 ). There were a few subsidiary sanhedrins in Judea that were directed by elders, but the final authority lay with the Jerusalem Sanhedrin.
The concept of a Sanhedrin or "council" may have been Sadducean originally, since the Sadducees were a priestly aristocracy. But by the Roman period the Pharisees and scribes had been included in the Jerusalem Sanhedrin. In the Jewish commonwealth the office of high priest had come into increasing importance. By the Greek period (331-65 b.c.) he had acquired prominence as the person empowered to levy taxes in Judea and to ensure that they were collected. It was not long before the high priesthood became a political appointment, which was unfortunate for Jews and Romans alike when the Maccabeans revolted after 167 b.c. against attempts to secularize Jewish culture.
In New Testament times these conditions were still being maintained. Thus Jesus was familiar with the established bureaucracy, which he criticized in various ways. He recognized the status of the occupying Roman power and taught the rebellious Jews to pay appropriate tribute ( Matthew 22:16-21 ). While acknowledging the supremacy of God, he submitted himself to the power of the Jewish authorities ( Matthew 26:57-66 ) in order to fulfill God's plan for human salvation. The Sanhedrin did not have the power to execute Jesus, however, since that was the prerogative of the Romans.
Submission to authority was characteristic of the Lord's behavior, since the state was understood to be God's provision for human safety and well-being. While the ideal state was theocratic, it could not be realized until the kingdom of God was consummated. Meanwhile the governing authorities had to be accepted as a divine surrogate, and consequently, disobeying them was the same as disobeying God ( Romans 13:2 ). Peaceful behavior as a citizen would be rewarded in due time, but evildoing would be punished, because that was one of the important responsibilities of the state ( Romans 13:4 ).
Paul taught his hearers that, regardless of the character of the state's leaders, its authority was still to be recognized because that authority proceeded ultimately from God. Paul set an example for all believers by submitting to the laws of the Roman Empire, which in any event was a matter of moral obligation since he was a Roman citizen. By following established procedures he enjoyed the protection of the state at times when fanatical Jews would have killed him ( Acts 23:12-13 ), and was actually treated reasonably well by Roman authorities such as Felix, Festus, and even Agrippa, who was of the family of Herod and owed his title of "king" ( Acts 25:24 ) to the Romans.
The remarkable period of peace and prosperity (Pax Romana) which the emperor Augustus instituted established the authority of the emperor, but also placed considerable emphasis upon the emperor's subjects, one-half of whom were slaves. It was thus entirely proper for Christian leaders such as Peter to require believers to submit to "every authority instituted among men, " whether to a supreme king or state officials appointed by him ( 1 Peter 2:13-14 ). While the official worship of the emperor was incompatible with acknowledging Jesus as Lord, the king was to be given the honor due to his position as an authority figure under the hand of God ( 1 Peter 2:17 ).
The New Testament does not forbid Christians to serve as government officials, which is proper inasmuch as it permits the leaven of the gospel to work in secular society. Whatever Christians may think about the nature and objectives of civil government they are encouraged to work toward such changes as will benefit society and honor Christ. But civil disobedience, whatever the intentions of the participants, will bring down upon them the wrath of the state, and may well thwart movements toward the same objectives that are being done legally, if covertly. Anything that disintegrates the state inevitably brings social chaos and this is contrary to the Lord's decree that everything should be done decently and in order.
R. K. Harrison
See also Israel
Bibliography . R. D. Culver, Towards a Biblical View of Civil Government ; C. F. H. Henry, ed., Aspects of Christian Social Ethics ; K. A. Kitchen, The Bible in Its World ; A. N. Sherwin-White, Roman Society and Roman Law in the New Testament ; W. Temple, Citizen and Churchman .
Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible 
GOVERNMENT . The purpose of this article will be to sketch in outline the forms of government among the Hebrews at successive periods of their history. The indications are in many cases vague, and it is impossible to reconstruct the complete system; at no period was there a definitely conceived, still less a written, constitution in the modern sense. For fuller details reference should be made throughout to the separate articles on the officials, etc., mentioned.
We may at once set aside Legislation , one of the most important departments of government as now understood. In ancient communities, law rested on Divine command and immemorial custom, and could as a rule be altered only by ‘fictions.’ The idea of avowedly new legislation to meet fresh circumstances was foreign to early modes of thought. At no period do we find a legislative body in the Bible. Grote’s dictum that ‘The human king on earth is not a lawmaker, but a judge,’ applies to all the Biblical forms of government. The main functions of government were judicial, military, and at later periods financial, and to a limited extent administrative.
1. During the nomadic or patriarchal age the unit is the family or clan, and, for certain purposes, the tribe. The head of the house, owing to his position and experience, was the supreme ruler and judge, in fact the only permanent official. He had undisputed authority within his family group ( Genesis 22:1-24; Genesis 38:24 , Deuteronomy 21:13 , Judges 11:34 ). Heads of families make agreements with one another and settle quarrels among their dependents ( Genesis 21:22; Genesis 31:45 ); the only sanction to which they can appeal is the Divine justice which ‘watches’ between them ( Genesis 31:49; Genesis 31:53 , Genesis 49:7 ). Their hold over the individual lay in the fact that to disobey was to become an outlaw; and to be an outcast from the tribe was to be without protector or avenger. The heads of families combined form, in a somewhat more advanced stage, the ‘elders’ ( Exodus 3:15; Exodus 18:21 , Numbers 22:7 ); and sometimes, particularly in time of war, there is a single chief for the whole tribe. Moses is an extreme instance of this, and we can see that his position was felt to be unusual ( Exodus 2:14; Exodus 4:1 , Numbers 16:1-50 ). It was undefined, and rested on his personal influence, backed by the Divine sanction, which, as his followers realized, had marked him out. This enables him to nominate Joshua as his successor.
2. The period of the ‘ Judges ’ marks a higher stage; at the same time, as a period of transition it appeared rightly to later generations as a time of lawlessness. The name ‘Judges,’ though including the notion of champion or deliverer, points to the fact that their chief function was judicial. The position was not hereditary, thus differing from that of king ( Judges 9:1-57 ff. Gideon and Abimelech), though Samuel is able to delegate his authority to his sons ( 1 Samuel 8:1 ). Their status was gained by personal exploits, implying Divine sanction, which was sometimes expressed in other ways; e.g. gift of prophecy (Deborah, Samuel). Their power rested on the moral authority of the strong man, and, though sometimes extending over several tribes, was probably never national. During this period the nomadic tribe gives way to the local; ties of place are more important than ties of birth. A town holds together its neighbouring villages (‘daughters’), as able to give them protection ( Numbers 21:25; Numbers 21:32 , Joshua 17:11 ). The elders become the ‘elders of the city’; Judges 8:6; Judges 8:14; Judges 8:18 mentions officials ( sÃ¢rÃ®m ) and elders of Succoth, i.e. heads of the leading families, responsible for its government. In Judges 11:5 the elders of Gilead have power in an emergency to appoint a leader from outside.
3. The Monarchy came into being mainly under the pressure of Philistine invasion. The king was a centre of unity, the leader of the nation in war, and a judge ( 1 Samuel 8:20 ). His power rested largely on a personal basis. As long as he was successful and strong, and retained the allegiance of his immediate followers, his will was absolute (David, Ahab, Jehu; cf. Jeremiah 36:1-32; Jeremiah 37:1-21 ). At the same time there were elements which prevented the Jewish monarchy from developing the worst features of an Oriental despotism. At least at first the people bad a voice in his election (David, Rehoboam). In Judah the hereditary principle prevailed (there were no rival tribes to cause jealousy, and David’s line was the centre of the national hopes), but the people still had influence ( 2 Kings 14:21; 2 Kings 21:24 ). In the Northern Kingdom the position of the reigning house was always insecure, and the ultimate penalty of misgovernment was the rise of a new dynasty. A more important check was found in the religious control, democratic in its best sense, exercised by the prophets (Samuel, Nathan, Elijah, Elisha, Jeremiah, etc.). The Jewish king had at least to hear the truth, and was never allowed to believe that he was indeed a god on earth. At the same time there is no constitutional check on misrule; the ‘law of the kingdom’ in Deuteronomy 17:14 deals rather with moral and religious requirements, as no doubt did Jehoiada’s covenant ( 2 Kings 11:17 ). With the kingdom came the establishment of a standing army, David’s ‘mighty men’ quickly developing into the more organized forces of Solomon’s and later times. The command of the forces was essential to the king’s power; cf. insurrection of Jehu ‘the captain’ ( 2 Kings 9:1-37 ), and Jehoiada’s care to get control of the army ( 2 Kings 11:4 ). Side by side with the power of the sword came the growth of a court, with its harem and luxurious entourage , its palace and its throne. These were visible symbols of the royal power, impressing the popular mind. The lists of officers ( 2 Samuel 8:16 , 1 Kings 4:1-34 ) are significant; they indicate the growth of the king’s authority, and the development of relations with other States. The real power of government has passed into the hands of the king’s clientÃ¨te . His servants hold office at his pleasure, and, provided they retain his favour, there is little to limit their power. They may at times show independence of spirit ( 1 Samuel 22:17 , Jeremiah 36:25 ), but are usually his ready tools ( 2 Samuel 11:14; cf. the old and the young counsellors of Rehoboam, 1 Kings 12:6 ff.). The prophetic pictures of the court and its administration are not favourable ( Amos 3:8; Amos 4:1; Amos 4:6 , Isaiah 5:1-30 etc.). The methods of raising revenue were undefined, and being undefined were oppressive. We hear of gifts and tribute ( 1 Samuel 10:27 , 2Sa 8:10 , 1 Kings 4:7; 1 Kings 4:21-28; 1 Kings 10:11-25 ), of tolls and royal monopolies ( 1 Kings 10:15; 1 Kings 10:28-29 ), of forced labour ( 1 Kings 5:13 ) and of the ‘king’s mowings’ ( Amos 7:1 ), of confiscation ( 1 Kings 21:1-29 ), and. in an emergency, of stripping the Temple ( 2 Kings 18:15 ). In time of peace the main function of the king is the administration of justice ( 2 Samuel 15:2 , 2 Kings 15:5 ); his subjects have the right of direct access ( 2 Kings 8:8 ). This must have lessened the power of the local elders , who no doubt had also to yield to the central court officials. ‘The elders of the city’ appear during this period as a local authority, sometimes respected and consulted ( 2 Samuel 19:11 , 1 Kings 20:7 , 2 Kings 23:1 ), sometimes the obedient agents of the king’s will ( 1 Kings 21:8; 1Ki 21:11 , 2 Kings 10:1; 2 Kings 10:5 ). 2 Chronicles 19:5-11 describes a judicial system organized by Jehoshaphat, which agrees in its main features with that implied by Deuteronomy 16:18; Deuteronomy 17:8-13; there are local courts, with a central tribunal. In Dt. the elders appear mainly as judicial authorities, but have the power of executing their decisions ( Deuteronomy 19:12; Deuteronomy 19:21 , Deuteronomy 22:15 etc.). The influence of the priesthood in this connexion should be noticed. The administration of justice always included a Divine element ( Exodus 18:15; Exodus 18:19; Exodus 21:6; Exodus 22:8; cf. word ‘Torah’), and in the Deuteronomic code the priests appear side by side with the lay element in the central court ( Exodus 17:9 , Exodus 19:17; cf. Isaiah 28:7 , Ezekiel 44:24 etc.). But the government is not yet theocratic. Jehoiada relies on his personal influence and acts in concert with the chiefs of the army ( 2 Kings 11:1-21; 2 Kings 12:1-21 ), and even after the Exile Joshua is only the fellow of Zerubbabel. The appointment of Levites as judges, ascribed to David in 1 Chronicles 23:4; 1 Chronicles 26:29 , is no doubt an anachronism. Cf. also art. Justice (ii.).
4. Post-exilic period . Under the Persians Judah was a subdistrict of the great province west of the Euphrates and subject to its governor ( Ezra 5:3 ). It had also its local governor ( Nehemiah 5:14 ), with a measure of local independence ( Ezra 10:14 ); we read, too, of a special official ‘at the king’s hand in all matters concerning the people’ ( Nehemiah 11:24 ). The elders are prominent during this period both in exile ( Ezekiel 8:1; Ezekiel 14:1; Ezekiel 20:1 ) and in Judah ( Ezra 5:9; Ezra 6:7; Ezra 10:8 , Nehemiah 2:16 ). The chief feature of the subsequent period was the development of the priestly power, and the rise to importance of the office of the high priest . Under Greek rule (after b.c. 333) the Jews were to a great extent allowed the privileges of self-government. The ‘elders’ develop into a gerousia or senate an aristocracy comprising the secular nobility and the priesthood ( 1Ma 12:6; 1Ma 14:20 ); it is not known when the name ‘Sanhedrin’ was first used. The high priest became the head of the State, and its official representative, his political power receiving a great development under the HasmonÃ¦ans. Owing to the growing importance of the office, the Seleucids always claimed the power of appointment. In b.c. 142, Simon is declared to be ‘high priest, captain, and governor for ever’ ( 1Ma 14:27-47 ). The title ‘ethnarch’ (see Governor) is used of him and other high priests. Aristobulus becomes king (b.c. 105), and Alexander JannÃ¦us uses the title on coins (b.c. 104 78). Under Roman rule (b.c. 63) the situation becomes complicated by the rise to power of the Herodian dynasty. Palestine passed through the varying forms of government known to the Roman Imperial constitution. Herod the Great was its titular king, with considerable independence subject to good behaviour ( rex socius ). Archelaus forfeited his position (a.d. 6). Thenceforward JudÃ¦a was under the direct rule of a procurator (see next article), except from a.d. 41 to 44, when Agrippa i. was king. Antipas was ‘tetrarch’ of Galilee and PerÃ¦a; Mark’s title of ‘king’ (6:14) is corrected by Matthew and Luke. The position was less honourable and less independent than that of king. The high priest (now appointed by the Romans) and the Sanhedrin regained the power which they had lost under Herod; the government became once more an aristocracy (Jos. [Note: Josephus.] Ant. XX. x.). Except for the power of life and death the Sanhedrin held the supreme judicial authority; there were also local courts connected with the Synagogue ( Matthew 5:22 ). Its moral authority extended to Jews outside Palestine. In the Diaspora, the Jews, tenacious of their national peculiarities, were in many cases allowed a large measure of self-government, particularly in judicial matters. In Alexandria, in particular, they had special privileges and an ‘ethnarch’ of their own (Jos. [Note: Josephus.] Ant. XIV. vii. 2). For the cities of Asia Minor, see Ramsay, Letters to the Seven Churches , chs. xi. xii.
For ‘ governments ’ ( 1 Corinthians 12:28 ) see Helps.
C. W. Emmet.
Holman Bible Dictionary 
Many standard definitions of civilization include the presence of a strong centralized government as a constitutive element. The rise of the first empires at the beginning of the Early Bronze Age is related in part to the rise of centralized governments. Centralized government was necessary for the building and maintaining of canals used for irrigation in Mesopotamia. It was also necessary for the development of a standing army. Extensive international trade required more centralized governmental power over the economic institutions.
In understanding the biblical conception of government, one must remember that biblical theology presents early Israel as a theocracy, having God as king and ruler ( Judges 8:22-23; 1 Samuel 8:7-9; Psalm 93-99; Romans 13:1-4 ). Ultimate authority resides in God and God alone. Human government is, therefore, always limited and always intended to be within the framework of God's will. The best ruler will be the one who best carries out God's design for just rule.
Early Hebrew Patterns of Government An understanding of biblical patterns of government must begin with the Patriarchal period. During this time, the Hebrews had no centralized government. The major unit was the extended family or, on a larger basis, the tribe. The government was family based. The first unit of authority or government was the household or the father's house. This unit of society corresponds best to our designation of the extended family and would often involve two or more generations living together. The oldest male was usually the head of the family, the patriarch. As such, he was the chief official of family and government. The next level of social organization was the clan, often designated by the Old Testament as the family (Hebrew mishpahah ). The clan was composed of several related extended families. One individual might be designated as chief or head of each clan. The next larger social level was the tribe (Hebrew shevet ), composed of several clans. A tribe might have a chief or even a prince as its leader. Finally, a group of tribes could be known as a people (Hebrew am ). The tribe was the most frequent social unit mentioned apart from the household or extended family. We should not necessarily consider the tribe to be overly large, but more as rather small and isolated groups, especially before Saul and David.
It has been argued recently that the tribal and clan structures were based not on kinship, but on grouping for common defense. Thus a clan might be formed by two or three villages banding together and a tribe by two or three of the clan units. This would be true for the period after the conquest of Canaan. Thus many scholars would argue that in the Song of Deborah ( Judges 5:1 ) the warriors are related to their tribal territories more than their tribes as a kinship group. It is usually assumed that the patriarchal society was nomadic or semi-nomadic. Following the pattern of modern nomadic tribes with a patriarchal organization, the Hebrew society was probably democratic. Tribal decisions would be made on the basis of discussion by all the adult men. Not all men had equal authority. The elders held a major source of authority during this period and later periods as well. The elders for a clan were probably the heads of the households that comprised the clan. For a tribe, the elders would have been all the household heads, or selected elders from each clan. Thus the elders were the leaders of the local community. They had the responsibility to decide many of the everyday matters, religious and judicial. The elders were representatives of the community as a whole in religious and military matters. They often accompanied the leader. The elders could conclude a covenant ( 2 Samuel 5:3 ) or treaty on behalf of the people. The elders regularly dispensed justice at the city gate ( Deuteronomy 21:19 ). The elders continued to function well into the period of the monarchy as a governing body. See 2 Samuel 5:3 ). Josiah gathered the elders of Judah and Jerusalem after finding the Book of the Law in the Temple, and they covenanted to keep that law ( 2 Kings 23:1-3 ). The elders still had a role after the Exile in administering Ezra's reforms ( Ezra 10:8 ).
Beginning with the Exodus, the Old Testament presents Israel as a people composed of numerous tribes but with one leader. Moses as leader was succeeded by Joshua, who was succeeded in turn by the judges. Although the depiction indicates a central leader, there is no indication of a centralized government. Granted, the leader has great authority; but the leader was not surrounded by the structure of a centralized government. A confederation of tribes was in existence during this period. In addition to the elder, Israel also had, following the period of Moses and Joshua, the office of judge. The judge was not primarily a judicial official, but rather a charismatic military leader. Typically, the judge would rally the forces of Israel and defeat an oppressing power. From the time of Moses, the office of judge had included the element of deciding cases ( Deuteronomy 1:16; Deuteronomy 16:18-20; Deuteronomy 17:8-9 ). Much more frequently, the emphasis was upon the military prowess of the judge ( Judges 3:7-11 , Judges 3:12-30; etc.). The book of 1Samuel brings a change in the emphasis of the judge. The judge became a priestly official, as in the casefjcr ncof Eli and Samuel. Thus the term “judge” seems to have a broader meaning than just a judicial term. Certainly the judge seems to have been the chief official of the confederacy of tribes in that period prior to the monarchy. It may be that the term was not specific as to the type of leader—priestly, military, or judicial—but simply indicated the leader. Although there were some cases where one judge attempted to have his sons succeed him (as did both Eli and Samuel), the office was not regularly hereditary. Compare the problems of Abimelech ( Judges 8:22-9:56 ). In this respect particularly, the office of judge differed from that of king which followed.
Although the period of judges may have led to the development of the monarchy, the two are quite different. The judge still retained a tribal character. Although several tribes might join together to fight a common enemy under the leadership of a judge, judgeship carried no sense of the permanence, hereditary character, or royal court of the monarchy. The judge was just an extension of the tribal chief or leader carried to a somewhat larger realm of a leader for several combined tribes. In actual function, the judge seldom played a strong role in maintaining the people's religious traditions until Samuel ( Judges 2:10; Judges 17:6; Judges 21:25 ).
Government during the Monarchy With the rise of the monarchy, a totally new organizational pattern emerged. Not only did the king stand as a single ruler for all the people, as a sort of chief raised to a national level; but the king was also surrounded by a new structure. The king had his royal court to carry out his mandate. Alongside the older tribal and town leaders, the king had a new cadre of officials. His officials included military officers and a professional army alongside the old militia from the tribes. The nation was divided into administrative districts with administrators who stood alongside the old system of elders. A royal court and professional army required revenue, so a taxation system was developed with its attendant officials. Evidence for this taxation system is found in the Samaria ostraca, which record the receipt of taxes paid from various estates to the government. Similarly, the “ lamelek ” jar handles (which bear an inscription literally meaning, “for the king”) indicate either taxation or produce of royal farms. Building projects required massive labor, and so the corvee or forced-labor contingents were organized. The old system of local government based on the city and the elder still existed, but a burgeoning bureaucracy developed parallel to the old system. The government also entered the international arena at this time, conducting warfare against international as well as local nations. It would negotiate treaties and alliances, trade and commercial agreements, and even arrange royal marriages. Surrounding the royal court were such officials as “the one who is over the house” a sort of Secretary of State or Prime Minister; the recorder who was a herald, press secretary, and chief of protocol combined; the chief scribe; counselors; priests; and prophets ( 1 Kings 4:1 ). In addition, many attendants would minister to the king. The king embodied the rule of the entire nation. As he and his officials were just and faithful in ruling, the nation prospered. As he and the officials were unjust, the nation suffered. Likeise, the unjust actions of lesser officials ultimately was the responsibility of the king. Thus the prophets accused the king of his actions and of the actions of those under him.
Government Under the Foreign Empires If the shift to a monarchy was the most revolutionary change in Israel's government, the collapse of the monarchy then marked the second most significant change. Self government and independence were lost. In all likelihood this change was felt more on the national level than on the local level. The elders continued to function as local leaders, but the royal officials were replaced by new imperial and military officials of the conquering power—first Assyria, then successively, Babylon, Persia, and Hellenistic and Roman states. Now the tax revenues went to the treasury of that foreign state, and a new legal system had to be obeyed alongside the Hebrew law. This is seen especially in the trial of Jesus which involved hearings before the religious court (at that time the highest Jewish court) and before the Roman authorities. The chief ruler became a local governor appointed by the foreign power as was Nehemiah, or even a foreigner as were the Roman procurators. When local kings were allowed to rule, it was only at the pleasure of the foreign power and under the watchful eye of foreign military.
Beginning with the post-exilic period, Jewish government fell more and more into priestly hands. The monarchy had ceased. The restructuring of society prevented too much power in 0political hands. The priesthood was strengthened and gradually assumed more and more of the judicial authority. Even the elders came to have an especially religious role as judicial officers. “Law” became virtually synonymous with the religious covenant, so that obeying the law meant keeping God's covenant. This affected every area of life. Such a conception was not necessarily new; it relates to the idea of God as king. The manner in which power was concentrated entirely in the sacred realm, as opposed to the secular, was new to the post-exilic and later periods. Since political power was not possible for the most part, power was consolidated where it could still be exercised, in the religious area. Religion was simply expanded to cover all of life.
In the New Testament we find Judea governed by a Herodian king appointed by the Roman government. Later direct Roman rule replaced the king. Religious authority still existed. The high priest and the priesthood exercised considerable authority, though it remained in name “religious” authority. The elders belonged to a formal body, the Sanhedrin, as also did certain priests. Just as in the case of the monarchy, two structures of authority existed side by side. Civil government now belonged basically to the foreign overlord, but religious power rested in the hands of the priests and Sanhedrin.
Joel F. Drinkard, Jr.
Bridgeway Bible Dictionary 
God is the supreme ruler of the world and he desires that all countries be governed orderly and justly. He is the source of all authority and he has given to governments, as his representatives on earth, the authority to administer society ( Jeremiah 27:5; Daniel 4:17; John 19:11). Citizens therefore have a responsibility to obey the laws of their country ( Romans 13:1-2; cf. Jeremiah 29:4-7). Christians share in this responsibility. Since they know that the authority of government comes from God, they should give their obedience willingly ( Romans 13:5; 1 Peter 2:13-15).
The role of government
Two of the basic functions of civil government are to promote the well-being of society and to restrain wrongdoing in society. God has given to governments the right to reward good conduct and punish wrongdoing ( Romans 13:4). Governments exist for the benefit of the people, and should want to control affairs so that citizens can live peacefully and contentedly ( 1 Timothy 2:1-2).
Christians are taught to cooperate with the government in pursuing these goals, and at the same time to maintain their loyalty to God ( Mark 12:17; Romans 13:5-7; Titus 3:1; 1 Peter 2:17). They have a duty to pay taxes to the government for the benefits they receive from it, and a duty to be loyal to God because of all he has done for them ( Luke 20:25; Romans 13:6-7).
Tensions will arise, however, when the ruling authorities pass laws that are unjust or anti-God. The only obligation to absolute obedience that God’s people have is obedience to God. They may find that if they are to maintain their loyalty to him, they have to disobey the government. As a result they may suffer penalties ( Daniel 3:8-12; Daniel 6:13; Daniel 6:16; Matthew 10:18; Acts 5:29; Acts 5:40; 1 Peter 4:12-16). If that is the case, they must, like Christ, accept suffering without retaliation, praying for their persecutors and committing their cause to God ( 1 Peter 2:20-23; cf. Exodus 3:7; Daniel 3:16-18; Luke 6:28; Luke 23:34; 1 Timothy 2:1-2; see Persecution ).
At the same time God’s people should be concerned about the government’s behaviour. At times they may decide to speak and act in support of the principle of justice that the government is supposed to administer ( Isaiah 3:14; Isaiah 5:22-23; Micah 3:1-3; Acts 16:35-39; Acts 22:25; Acts 25:10-11).
The sort of response that God’s people make to unjust government action will depend to some extent on what rights citizens have in their country. In some countries Christians are in a similar position to Christians of New Testament times, having no rights in deciding who governs them or how they are governed. In other countries the citizens themselves decide who governs them, and they can openly try to influence government decisions. In such countries Christians can not only pray for God’s will to be done on earth, but they can actively work for those values of justice, freedom, morality, honesty and compassion that God desires for human society ( Matthew 6:10).
One difficulty in all societies is that those in a position to bring about social change are the least likely to want it, for they are the ones who benefit most from the existing order ( Isaiah 3:14-15; Ezekiel 34:4; Amos 5:11-12). Jesus refused to use violence, either to protect what was good or remove what was bad ( Matthew 26:52; John 18:36), but he did not keep silent when he saw disadvantaged and defenceless people ignored or exploited ( Matthew 21:13; Matthew 23:4; Matthew 23:23; Matthew 25:42-45; Mark 12:20; Luke 6:24-25; Luke 16:19-26; cf. Amos 2:6-7; Micah 2:1-2; Zephaniah 3:3; see Justice ).
This does not mean that the church should try to govern society. That is not the church’s job. God has entrusted the government of society to civil authorities, not to the church ( Romans 13:1; Romans 13:4). When governments misuse their God-given authority, God holds them responsible ( John 19:10-12). In due course he will deal with them, in whatever way and with whatever means he chooses ( 1 Kings 11:29-37; Isaiah 1:23-26; Daniel 5:24-28; Amos 6:4-7; Micah 3:1-4; Revelation 18:1-2; Revelation 18:24).
Limitations of government
Although governments can help society by their efforts to promote good and oppose evil, the basic problems of human sin cannot be overcome merely through government action.
The primary concern of Christianity is not to change society in the hope that people might improve, but to change people so that through them society might improve. The gospel is basic to God’s work among the people of the earth, and Christians must proclaim that gospel ( Ephesians 4:17-24; Titus 2:14; see Gospel ). But they cannot ignore problems in a society of which they are part ( Amos 6:4-6). They have a joint responsibility to work positively for what is good ( Matthew 5:13) and openly condemn what is wrong ( Matthew 14:4; Ephesians 5:11).
As Christians understand more of God and his Word, they will understand more of the sort of life God wants for people. The Creator knows what is best for his creatures, and his standards are best, not just for Christians but for everyone.
Yet if Christians, even with the help of God’s indwelling Spirit, cannot live perfectly according to God’s standards, non-Christians have much less chance. Because of the hardness of the human heart, God’s ideal may be too high a standard to aim at in the laws that a government makes for society as a whole ( Matthew 19:8). While Christians may seek the highest standards for themselves and may try to persuade others to accept those standards, they cannot expect the government to enforce those standards by law (e.g. Matthew 5:39-42).
Human society has been so spoiled by sin that when a government makes laws, it may be forced to choose the lesser of two evils. That does not mean there is a change in God’s standards. What was formerly evil is still evil. It does not become good simply because the government makes laws to regulate it (e.g. Matthew 19:3-10).
Christians, therefore, should not be satisfied merely with doing what is legal (for something that is legal may still be morally wrong), but with doing what is right ( Matthew 5:21-24; Matthew 5:46-48). The laws of the state may represent the minimum requirements for an ordered society; Christian morality goes beyond that, even to a person’s thoughts and motives ( Matthew 5:27-29; see Ethics ).
King James Dictionary 
GOV'ERNMENT, n. Direction regulation. These precepts will serve for the government of our conduct.
1. Control restraint. Men are apt to neglect the government of their temper and passions. 2. The exercise of authority direction and restraint exercised over the actions of men in communities, societies or states the administration of public affairs, according to established constitution, laws and usages, or by arbitrary edicts. Prussia rose to importance under the government of Frederick II. 3. The exercise of authority by a parent or householder. Children are often ruined by a neglect of government in parents.
Let family government be like that of our heavenly Father, mild, gentle and affectionate.
4. The system of polity in a state that form of fundamental rules and principles by which a nation or state is governed, or by which individual members of a body politic are to regulate their social actions a constitution, either written or unwritten, by which the rights and duties of citizens and public officers are prescribed and defined as a monarchial government, or a republican government.
Thirteen governments thus founded on the natural authority of the people alone, without the pretence of miracle or mystery, are a great point gained in favor of the rights of mankind.
5. An empire, kingdom or state any territory over which the right of sovereignty is extended. 6. The right of governing or administering the laws. The king of England vested the government of Ireland in the lord lieutenant. 7. The persons or council which administer the laws of a kingdom or state executive power. 8. Manageableness compliance obsequiousness. 9. Regularity of behavior. Not in use. 10. Management of the limbs or body. Not in use. 11. In grammar, the influence of a word in regard to construction,as when established usage required that one word should cause another to be in a particular case or mode.
Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words 
from kubernao, "to guide" (whence Eng., "govern"), denotes (a) "steering, pilotage;" (b) metaphorically, "governments or governings," said of those who act as guides in a local church, 1—Corinthians 12:28 . Cp. kubernetes, "a pilot," Acts 27:11; Revelation 18:17 .
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia 
guv´ẽrn - ment : The government of the Hebrews varied at different periods, of which we may distinguish seven: (1) The nomadic period, from the Exodus to the entrance into Palestine; (2) The period of transition from nomadic to civil life; (3) The monarchy; (4) The period of subjection to other oriental nations; (5) The period from Ezra to the Greeks; (6) Greek rule; (7) Roman rule.
1. The Nomadic Period
The government of the primitive period is that proper to nomadic tribes composed of families and clans, in no wise peculiar to the Hebrews, but shared in its essential features by the most diverse peoples at a corresponding stage of civilization. Though we might draw illustrations from many sources, the government of the Bedouins, Semitic nomads inhabiting the steppes of Arabia, affords the most instructive parallel. In the patriarchal state the family is the household (including slaves and concubines) of the father, who is its head, having power of life and death over his children ( Genesis 22; Judges 11:31 ). A clan is a collection of families under a common chieftain, chosen for his personal qualifications, such as prowess and generous hospitality. The composition of the clan was essentially shifting, subject, according to circumstances, to the loss or accession of individuals and families. Although the possession of the same grazing-grounds doubtless played a large part in determining the complexion of the clan, the fiction of descent from a common ancestor was maintained, even when kinship was established by the blood covenant. In all probability community of worship, which cemented the tribe, served as the most effective bond of union also in the clan. Vestiges of such clan cults are still to be detected ( 1 Samuel 20:5; Judges 18:19 ). The familiar tradition of the twelve tribes must not be allowed to blind us to the evidence that the tribe also was not constant. Mention of the Kenites ( Judges 1:16 ) and the list of tribes in the Song of Deborah (Jdg 5) remind us that such organizations vanished. In the readjustment incident to the change from the pastoral life of the nomad to that of the settled agricultural population of Palestine, many units were doubtless shifted from one tribe to another, and the same result may be assumed as following from the endless strife between the tribes before and during the period of the kings. The large and powerful tribe of Judah seems to have originated comparatively late. The union of the tribes under the leadership of Moses was essentially similar to the formation of a new tribe out of a group of clans actuated by a desire to accomplish a common end. Many such temporary aggregations must have originated, only to succumb to the centrifugal forces of jealousy and conflicting interests. Even after the entrance of the Hebrews into Palestine, their history for long is that of kindred tribes, rather than that of a nation. The leadership of Moses rested on personal, not on constitutional, authority, and was rendered precarious by the claims of family and of clan, as in the case of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram (Nu 16). The authority of Moses naturally extended to the administration of justice, as well as to matters pertaining to war and religion. He appointed officers to assist him in this judicial function ( Exodus 18:21 ), but the laws according to which they rendered judgment were those of custom and usage, not those of a written code. As among the tribal chieftains, important matters were referred to the leader, who, in cases of doubt or in default of recognized custom, resorted to the lot or to the oracle.
2. The Period of Transition
When the nomad tribes settled in Palestine to become an agricultural people, there ensued a period of unrest due to the necessity for read-justment to changed conditions. The old tribal organization, admirably adapted to the former, ill suited the new requirements. These may be summed up in the demand for the substitution of local organization, based on the rights of individuals, for the tribal government, which had regard solely to the interests of family, clan and tribe. Such readjustment did not, of course, at once ensue, but came piecemeal in answer to the gradually realized wants of the community. Nor was the development entirely from within, but was unquestionably in large measure influenced by the institutions existing among the Canaanite population, only a part of which had been expelled by the invaders. Although the tribes still clung to the fiction of descent from a common ancestor, which was embodied in the accepted genealogies with their filiation of clans into tribes and of tribes into a nation, that which henceforth passed as a "tribe" was less an aggregation of kindred units than a geographical unit or group of units. The times were turbulent, disturbed by contending elements within and by foes without the tribes. Then it was that there arose a class of chieftains of strongly marked character, called by a new name. The "judge" ( שׁפת , shophet ) was not the ruler of a nation, but the chieftain of a tribe, winning and maintaining his authority by virtue of his personal prowess. The cases of Gideon and Abimelech ( Judges 8,9 ) show that the authority of the "judge" was not hereditary. Agreeably to the generally changed conditions, the "elders" ( זקנים , zeḳēnı̄m ), who were formerly heads of families or kindreds, now came, possibly under the influence of the Canaanites, to be constituted an aristocratic upper class, with certain functions as administrative officers and councilors. Cities also grew and acquired importance, so that the adjacent hamlets were subordinated to them, probably even ruled from them as executive centers. In all this there is a certain similarity to the process by which, in the period just preceding the beginning of real history, Athens became the metropolis of Attica, and conventional tribes supplanted those based on kinship, while the rise of the purely local organization of the demos led speedily to the appearance of the "tyrants." The high places of clans and tribes continued to be frequented, and certain "seers" ( 1 Samuel 9:6 ) enjoyed considerable prestige by virtue of their peculiar relation to the tribal god.
3. The Monarchy
While the succession of tribal chieftains and of the "judges" depended on personal qualifications, the principle of heredity is essential to the institution of monarchy, which originated in the desire to regulate the succession with a view to having an assured authoritative leadership. This principle could not, of course, be invoked in the appointment of Saul, the first king ( מלך , melekh ), who won this distinction in virtue of his personal prowess, supported by the powerful influence of the "seer," Samuel. His son Ishbosheth ruled two years over Israel, but lost his throne through the disaffection of his subjects ( 2 Samuel 2 through 4). The accession of David, king of Judah, to the throne of all Israel was likewise exceptional, owing as much to the character of the heir presumptive as to his own qualifications. Solomon, as the choice of his father David, succeeded by right of heredity with the support of the military and religious leaders. In the Southern Kingdom of Judah, heredity was henceforth observed because of its homogeneity and the consequent absence of internal discord; whereas the principle often failed in the turbulent Northern Kingdom of Israel, which was distracted by tribal jealousies. But even when not effectually operative, heredity was recognized as constituting a claim to the succession, although the popular voice, which had been supreme in the institution of the monarchy, was a power always to be reckoned with.
(1) Royal Prerogatives
The history and functions of monarchy defined the prerogatives and duties of the king. Just as the head of the family, or the chieftain of a tribe, functioned as representative of those subject to him in matters of religion, war, and the administration of justice, so also was it with the king. In all these spheres he was supreme, exercising his authority either personally or through representatives who thus became part of the royal establishment. It is to be noted that the sacerdotal or sacral character of the king, which was merely an extension of his privileges as individual and head of a household, was not emphasized among the Hebrews to a like extent as among other oriental peoples; and the priests whom he appointed were perhaps in the first instance court chaplains, though in time they came to assume greater authority. The responsibility of the king for the public safety carried with it the obligation to guard the state treasures, to which the treasures of the temples were felt to belong; and it was his privilege to use them when necessary for defense. The levying of taxes, also, and the collection and use of revenues from various sources likewise fell of necessity to the king and his representatives.
In regard to the constitution of the king's court under Saul and David we learn comparatively little; even touching that of Solomon we are not fully informed, although we know that it must have been far removed from the original simplicity. We may classify the known officers as follows: ( a ) religious: priests ( 2 Samuel 8:17; 2 Samuel 20:23 ); ( b ) household: cupbearer ( 1 Kings 10:5 ); master of the vestry ( 2 Kings 10:22 ); master of the household ( 1 Kings 4:6 ), who probably was a eunuch ( 1 Kings 22:9 m; 2 Kings 8:6 m; 2 Kings 9:32 ); ( c ) state: scribe or clerk ( 2 Samuel 8:17; 2 Samuel 20:25 , etc.); recorder, or prompter ( 1 Kings 4:3 ); king's counselor ( 2 Samuel 15:12 ); and, perhaps, the king's friend ( 2 Samuel 15:37; 2 Samuel 16:16 ); overseer of taskwork ( 2 Samuel 20:24 ); ( d ) military: commander-in-chief of the army ( 2 Samuel 8:16 ); commander of the king's guards (?) ( 2 Samuel 8:18; 2 Samuel 20:23 ).
(3) Fiscal Institutions
The simplicity of Saul's rule was such as to make slight demands upon the resources of the people. He lived in the manner of a tribal chieftain on his ancestral estate, receiving from his subjects voluntary gifts ( 1 Samuel 10:27; 1 Samuel 16:20 ), and also, without doubt, his due share of the booty. Whether he instituted a regular tax (compare 1 Samuel 17:25 ) is not certain. With the growth and prosperity of the nation, David changed the character of the court, imitating in a measure the state of other oriental potentates. It is not clear whether he levied a regular tax, although it may be surmised that he had it in view, together with the regulation of taskwork, in ordaining the census taken in his time ( 2 Samuel 24:1 ). We know that he received his portion of the booty ( 2 Samuel 8:11; 2 Samuel 12:30 ). The increasing luxury of Solomon's court required the imposition of additional taxes. It is probable that some income was derived from the enforced cultivation of crown lands ( 1 Samuel 8:12 ), although the taskwork, which became extremely burdensome and subsequently provoked the secession of the Northern Kingdom, was chiefly applied to public works. The tribute of subject peoples ( 1 Kings 4:21 ) was considerable ( 1 Kings 10:14 ). We now for the first time hear of taxes upon caravans and merchants, although it was in all probability a source of income even in the time of the nomad chieftains; there was also revenue from the carrying trade of his merchant fleet ( 1 Kings 10:11 , 1 Kings 10:22 ) and from the trade in horses and chariots carried on with Egypt ( 1 Kings 10:28 ). Solomon also divided his kingdom into twelve provinces commanded by prefects, who should provide victuals for the king and his household: each prefect had to make provision for a month in the year ( 1 Kings 4:7 ). It does not appear whether Judah, which is not included in the list of provinces, was as a mark of special favor exempted from this tax, or whether the omission is to be otherwise explained. The seizure of the vineyard of Naboth by Ahab (1 Ki 21) makes it seem not improbable that the property of persons condemned on certain charges was confiscate to the king.
(4) Administration of Justice
The king, like the tribal chieftain of the steppes, still sat in judgment, but chiefly in matters of moment; less important cases were decided by the prefects of provinces and other officers. Under the earlier kings there was no code except the Book of the Covenant ( Exodus 20 through 23), but judgment was rendered on the basis of the law of custom or usage, the function of the judge being essentially that of an arbiter. For the later code see Deuteronomy .
The king was regarded as the natural representative of his people before God; but while he did exercise certain sacerdotal functions in person, such offices were generally performed by the priest whom he had appointed.
(6) Secular Administration
The authority of the king in matters of state was exercised partly by him in person, partly through his ministers, the "princes" ( 1 Kings 4:2 ). Among these functions are to be classed the communication with subject and foreign princes and the direction of the taskwork, which was employed for public improvements, partly military, as in the fortification of cities, partly religious, as in the building of the temple. Local affairs had always been left largely to the tribes and their subdivisions, but, with the gradual increase of royal authority, the king sought to exercise it more and more in the conduct of the village communities. Conversely, the "elders of the people," as the (albeit aristocratic) representatives of the communes, occasionally had a voice even in larger matters of state.
4. Israel Under Oriental Potentates
The principle of local autonomy; was widely observed in the oriental states, which concerned themselves chiefly about political and military organization and about the collection of revenues. Hence, there is no occasion for surprise on finding that the Jews enjoyed a large measure of autonomy during the period of their subjection to other oriental powers and that even during the exile they resorted, in matters of dispute, to their own representatives for judgment. Under Persian rule Palestine formed part of the satrapy lying West of the Euphrates and had, for a time, its own governor.
5. After the Restoration
Ezra and Nehemiah endeavored to introduce a new code, which, after a period of perhaps two centuries, established a dual form of government subject to the supreme authority of the suzerain power. By the new code the secular officers were subordinated to the high priest, who thus virtually assumed the position of a constitutional prince, ruling under the Law. The "prince," however, as the representative of the tribes, and the "elders of the people," as the representatives of the communes, continued to exercise a certain limited authority.
6. The Greeks
Under the Greek rulers of Egypt and Syria the Jews continued to enjoy a large measure of autonomy, still maintaining in general the type of internal government formulated under Ezra and Nehemiah. We now hear of a council of "elders" presided over by the high priest. The latter, appointed by the kings, was recognized as ethnarch by both Ptolemies and Seleucids and held accountable for the payment of the tribute, for the exaction of which he was, of course, empowered to levy taxes. The brief period of political independence under the Hasmoneans (see Asmoneans ) did not materially alter the character compare the government, except that the high who had long been a prince in everything but in name, now openly so styled himself. The council of the "elders" survived, although with slightly diminished authority. In other respects the influence of Greek institutions made itself felt.
7. The Romans
When Pompey terminated the reign of the Hasmoneans, the government still continued with little essential change. Following the example of the Greek kings, the Romans at Romans first appointed the high priest to the "leadership of the nation." He was soon, however, shorn for a time of his political dignity, the country being divided into five districts, each governed by its "synod"; but Caesar once more elevated the high priest to the office of ethnarch. Under Herod, the high priest and the synedrium (Sanhedrin), appointed or deposed at will as his interests seemed to require, lost much of their former prestige and power. After the death of Herod the land was again divided, and a procurator, subordinate to the governor of Syria, ruled in Judea, having practical independence in his sphere. In their internal affairs the Jews now, as under former masters, enjoyed a large measure of freedom. The high priest no longer exercising any political authority, the synedrium, of which he was a member, now gained in influence, being in fact an aristocratic council in many respects not unlike the Roman senate. It combined judicial and administrative functions, limited in the exercises of its authority only by the provision that its decisions might be reviewed by the procurator. (See Governor .) Naturally the outlying jurisdictions were organized on the same model, each with its synedrium competent in local matters. The synedrium at Jerusalem served also as a governing board for the city.
- ↑ Government from Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology
- ↑ Government from Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible
- ↑ Government from Holman Bible Dictionary
- ↑ Government from Bridgeway Bible Dictionary
- ↑ Government from King James Dictionary
- ↑ Government from Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words
- ↑ Government from International Standard Bible Encyclopedia