What is the best form of government? This is a really important
question. I believe the answer to this question is in the Bible. The
Bible describes a number of different systems and most are condemned. We
need to dig deeply in the scriptures to find Godís optimal form of
In the beginning
There was no need for government in the Garden of Eden. Everyone
obeyed God, so there was no conflict. Sin had not yet entered, so there
was no theft or violence. Human government was needed at all.
Once Adam and Eve sinned, crime and violence became a problem.
Initially these problems were dealt with by families. Fathers were
required to teach their children to obey God and live in harmony with
each other. They had to provide for their children and resolve disputes
The first human civil government to emerge was established by a man
Cush begot Nimrod; he began to be a mighty one on the earth. He was a
mighty hunter before the LORD; therefore it is said, ďLike Nimrod the
mighty hunter before the LORD.Ē And the beginning of his kingdom was
Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. From that land
he went to Assyria and built Nineveh, Rehoboth Ir, Calah, and Resen
between Nineveh and Calah (that is the principal city) (Gen 10:8-12
Nimrod became the most powerful warrior on the earth. He established
his kingdom in Babel and the surrounding towns. This is the first
mention of a ďkingdomĒ in the Bible. The name Nimrod comes from the
expression ďwe will rebelĒ. So when the Bible refers to Nimrod ďbefore
the LordĒ it means in opposition to the Lord.
Nimrod extended his kingdom to Babylon and Nineveh. This makes Nimrod
the grandfather of all the first kingdoms and empires on earth. They
were started by a rebel against God.
The fruit of this rebellion was the tower of Babel.
Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a
tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for
ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth"
Nimrodís followers hoped to build a tower to heavens and make a
name for themselves apart from God. This was the ultimate rebellion
against their creator. God had no choice but to destroy this human
So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they
stopped building the city (Gen 11:8).
Human government started in rebellion against God. We must be very
careful about human government, because it has its roots in rebellion
Godís law produces Justice
Manís law leads to Tyranny
Abraham introduced family government for his extended family. This
included providing work and income. He had an obligation to defend his
family if they were attacked. When Lot and his possessions were
captured, Abraham organised his servants into an army and rescued Lot.
When Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he called
out the 318 trained men born in his household and went in pursuit as far
as Dan. 15 During the night Abram divided his men to attack them and he
routed them (Gen 14:14-15).
Abraham would settle disputes between different members of his
family. When quarrelling arose between Lotís and his herdsmen, Abraham
had to work out a solution (Gen 13:5-9).
Abraham provided tribal government. He was an effective leader of his
tribe, but even he got it wrong at times. Family/tribal government has
never been nullified by God. Families should still be providing
protection and resolving disputes between their members.
Tribalism tends to get a bad press in the modern world. We forget
that God established a tribal system and gave it his blessing. When the
children of Israel went into the promised land, the entered as tribes.
The tribes were allocated separate areas in Canaan.
Many Christians love this promise.
The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting
arms (Deut 33:27).
Few notice that Deuteronomy 33 records God's blessing on the tribes
of Israel. God has promised to bless a tribal system. He has never
promised to bless democracy. That should set us thinking
A new role of military leader emerged with Moses. During 400 years of
slavery in Egypt, Israel has developed into a nation comprising several
tribes. God chose Moses to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt into
the promised land. This would not be easy, because the Egyptians did not
want to lose their slaves, the Canaanites did not want to lose their
land and the nations in between were afraid of the nation on the move.
The tribes of Israel responded to these threats by coming together to
form a combined army. This was the first time one person has acted as a
military leader of the entire nation. (Abraham had been a military
leader for his family)
Moses was primarily a military leader. He had been trained to lead in
Egypt, but after a false start had escaped to wilderness, where he was
called by God. The calling was clear.
The LORD said, "I have indeed seen the misery of my people in
Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and
I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them
from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land
into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey... So
now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites
out of Egypt" (Ex 3:7-10).
God appointed Moses as a military leader to bring the nation out of
Egypt into the Promised Land. He was not called to be a king and his
position was not permanent. Moses died when he had led Israel up to the
edge of the promised land. Joshua was anointed to take Mosesí place
and finish the task (Deut 31:1-8). With Godís help, Joshua conquered
the promised land by defeating the kings in the South and then the kings
of the North. He then divided the land among the tribes and families.
The completed the task that Moses had begun.
No successor was appointed for Joshua (Jos 23). The reason is that
the task that Moses started was now completed. Israel no longer needed a
military leader. God had promised that if Israel obeyed him, he would
keep them safe from their enemies (Deut 28:1-7). The Moses/Joshua model
was not the optimal form of government. It was a temporarily leadership
model for a unique situation that has not occurred again.
Moses was not a law maker. Moses had a prophetic role in the giving
of the law. He received the law from God and passed it on to the people.
His skill was in hearing God, not in making laws.
Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD
knew face to face, 11 who did all those miraculous signs and wonders the
LORD sent him to do in Egyptóto Pharaoh and to all his officials and
to his whole land. (Deut 34:10,11).
The prophetic role included signs and wonders when confronting
Pharaoh with Godís words. The most important aspect of this prophetic
ministry was hearing God speak and the most important message that Moses
received was Godís law.
This is another role that was completed with Moses. Godís law is
perfect, so he only had to give it once. Jesus said
I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the
smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means
disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished (Matt 5:18).
Many men and women succeed Moses in the office of prophet, but they
did not have the role of law giving. That was task was completed with
Moses. Even Jesus did not have to change the law; he simply fulfilled
some of it on our behalf. The role of law-giver finished with Moses, and
even his role was not one of law making. His task was to pass Godís
law on to the people.
The role of law maker does not exist in the scriptures. All that is
needed is judges to apply the law that God has given.
Moses and Judges
Moses brought about another important innovation in government. He
established a system of honest judges to apply Godís law. Previously
all disputes had been settled by tribal leaders.
Once Moses was established as a prophet, responsibility for hearing
all cases fell to him. He was challenged by his father-in-law Jethro,
who could see that Moses would become exhausted this huge
responsibility. Moses needed a wake up call because he had missed Godís
purpose (Ex 18).
The Bible is very precise about what Moses did.
So I took the leading men of your tribes, wise and respected men, and
appointed them to have authority over youóas commanders of thousands,
of hundreds, of fifties and of tens and as tribal officials (Deut 1:15).
Moses organised the nation into an army structure with units of tens,
hundreds and thousands, based on family and tribal affiliations. This
military style organisation was essential, while the nation was marching
to the promised land. He took wise and respected tribal leaders and made
the commanders over the tens, hundreds and thousands. The word commander
is a military term. The word for official means scribe or magistrate.
These military commanders were the wisest people in their families
and tribes, so they also served as judges.
They served as judges for the people at all times. The difficult
cases they brought to Moses, but the simple ones they decided themselves
The important innovation that Moses made was to introduce performance
standards to role of judging.
And I charged your judges at that time: Hear the disputes between
your brothers and judge fairly, whether the case is between brother
Israelites or between one of them and an alien. Do not show partiality
in judging; hear both small and great alike. Do not be afraid of any
man, for judgment belongs to God. (Deut 1:16-17).
Judges are acting for God, the perfect judge (Jud 11:27), so they
must demonstrate wisdom and integrity. They must not be motivated by the
fear of men. This standard gave the people the freedom to take their
cases to the judges with the greatest wisdom. If a judge made a bad
decision, they could appeal to a judge with greater reputation for
wisdom. This standard ensured that the best judges would be recognised
and widely used.
The earliest judges functioned within a tribal environment. They
would start off as leaders in their families and sub-tribes. The wisest
of these local leaders would become judges. The best judges would rise
to be appeal judges for their entire tribe.
This aspect of Godís government has never been revoked. The heart
of godly government is wise judges applying Godís law.
A new stage of human government began with the book of judges, but
this was also a temporary solution to a perennial problem. When the
people turned away from God, they lost Godís protection and were
invaded by enemy nations.
Then the LORD raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of
these raiders (Jud 2:16).
They needed a military leader to deliver them from these attacks. God
took a recognised judge and turned him into a temporary military leader.
Unlike their fathers, they quickly turned from the way in which their
fathers had walked, the way of obedience to the LORD's commands.
Whenever the LORD raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and
saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived;
for the LORD had compassion on them as they groaned under those who
oppressed and afflicted them (Jud 2:17-18).
Once delivered, the people would become complacent and stop trusting
in God. He would withdraw their protection and they would be invaded.
When the nation repented, God would turn a judge into a military leader
to rescue them from the invaders.
These fighting judges were not an ideal form of government. They were
the response of a compassionate God to a people groaning under
oppression and affliction. God only raised up a judge to lead the
nation, when the nation was in trouble. The military judge was a
temporary solution to a serious problem, but not the ideal form of
The title of these judges is a bit confusing. They started their
careers as judges applying the law amongst the people, when God turned
them into military leaders to deliver the people. A temporary military
leader has a different role to a judge.
The people of Israel became dissatisfied with judge/leaders. The
judge/leader was supposed to be a temporary solution. When the people
went back to serving God, the judge/leader would no longer be needed.
The problem was that the people did not want to serve God.
But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more
corrupt than those of their fathers, following other gods and serving
and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and
stubborn ways (Jud 2:19).
The natural inclination of Israel was towards corruption and
following other Gods. They refused to give up evil and their stubborn
ways, so temporary judges did not work for them.
Israel lost Godís protection so frequently, that they needed
permanent military protection. So they asked for a king like the nations
We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations,
with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles (1
The king was not a totally new role, but a permanent form of the
judge/leader/military commander. Israel wanted a king, so they could
live in permanent disobedience to God without threat of invasion. A
military nation is not a godly nation.
The other problem with kingship was that it was not Godís idea. It
was copied from the heathen nations around Israel. That was never going
to be a good place to find good government.
Samuel warned the people that a king was not part of Godís plan for
Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking
him for a king. He said, "This is what the king who will reign over
you will do: He will take your sons and make them serve with his
chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. Some he
will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and
others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make
weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your
daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of
your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his
attendants. He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and
give it to his officials and attendants. Your menservants and
maidservants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for
his own use. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves
will become his slaves (1 Sam 8:10-17).
These are shocking words. The nation that chooses a human king will
end up in slavery. The young men will be forced to serve in the kingís
army. The young women will forced to serve in the kingís palace. The
king will take the best of the land for himself. He will tax all their
income and make them poor.
Samuel was adamant that the king would not be ďGod's servant to do
you goodĒ (Rom 13:4). The people hoped that the king would deliver
them from the surrounding nations. Instead of setting them free, the
king would make them his slaves. The worst thing was that Israelís
kings constantly provoked the nations, or joined in unholy alliances
with them. This resulted in even more wars. The history of Israel is the
history of wars, where the people had to fight for the king. This
produced a great deal of suffering for the nation.
The history of Israel proves that good kings are usually succeeded by
bad kings. Because princes grow up in a privileged world, they generally
do not have the character required by such a powerful position. The
trouble is that once power has been given to a king, the people can
never get it back, even if his sons turn bad.
Where is your king, that he may save you?
Where are your rulers in all your towns,
of whom you said,
Give me a king and princes'?
So in my anger I gave you a king,
and in my wrath I took him away. (Hos 13:10,11).
God gave Israel a king as punishment for disobedience, not for
Many Christians believe that human kingship is a good form of
government. This is not true. God never blessed human kingship as an
optimal form of government.
A King in heaven is great.
A king on earth is dangerous.
David as Military Leader
The Lord told Nathan his purpose for David.
Now then, tell my servant David, 'This is what the LORD Almighty
says: I took you from the pasture and from following the flock to be
ruler over my people Israel. I have been with you wherever you have
gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you. Now I will
make your name great, like the names of the greatest men of the earth.
And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so
that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed.
Wicked people will not oppress them anymore, as they did at the
beginning and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders [over my
people Israel. I will also give you rest from all your enemies (2 Sam
The word translated as ruler is ďnagiydĒ, which is a
military term. It mean commander, not ruler. God did not appoint David
to be a ruler or king, but as a temporary military commander to deal to
the nations enemies. Israel had never fully taken the land of Canaan, so
it was surrounded by enemies.
David was a very effective military leader. He demonstrated his
military skills in the defeat of Goliath. He defeated the Jebusites and
drove them out of Jerusalem. He destroyed all the enemies that
threatened Israel. God was with David while he acted as military leader,
so he was successful in war and established peace for his people.
Once David had established peace, Israel did not require a military
commander any more. God would protect them, if they trusted in him. They
would only need a military commander, if they turned away from God. This
meant that David did not need a successor. Provided the people remained
faithful to God, there was no task for David to do, because Israel was
at peace. David did not understand this and started to act as a
permanent king. David failed as a king, because he was going beyond his
calling from God. While he stuck to his calling as a military leaser, he
David as King
The Jewish people tended to look upon David as the perfect king and
the ideal government. David was a great person with a good heart. His
Psalms are a testimony to his good relationship with God, but despite
having a good heart, David was not a good ruler of the people. He did
not handle justice well. Absalom rose to power, because David did not
provide judges to resolve claims. He was able to make a place for
himself, by getting justice for people who did not believe they would
get justice from King David (2 Sam 15:2-4).
The truth is that David did all the things that Samuel warned
against. Samuel warned that the king would take the best property for
himself. David had such great wealth and property that he needed twelve
overseers to organize the people who worked it (1 Chron 27:25-31). This
property was within Israel, so it would have been assigned to one of the
families of the tribes of Israel. Under the Law of Moses, David was not
entitled to this land.
Samuel warned that a King would take their daughters. David did
worse; he took the wife of one of his soldiers, Uriah the Hittite, and
then had him murdered. Samuel warned that the king would take all the
young men for his army. Davidís worst decision was taking a census of
the people to find out how many soldiers he could include in his army (2
Sam 24). This sin brought judgement on the nation, as the king was their
So the LORD sent a plague on Israel from that morning until the end
of the time designated, and seventy thousand of the people from Dan to
Beersheba died (1 Sam 24:15).
King David was just doing what kings do, but his mistake cost 70,000
Davidís activities prove that kingship is not an ideal form of
government. David was a good man with a good heart, but even he could
not make kingship work. He proved that Samuel had been right to warn of
the dangers of kingship. A human king can never escape the traps of
pride and hubris.
David knew that he was not the ideal king. He honoured the true king.
The LORD is King for ever and ever; (Ps 10:16).
For the kingdom is the LORDís (Ps 22:28)
For God is the King of all the earth (Ps 47:7).
For the LORD is the great God, the great King above all gods (Ps
Shout for joy before the LORD, the King (Ps 98:6).
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom (Ps 145:13).
David and the Temple
When David had defeated all the enemies around Israel he decided to
build a house for God. That night the word of the Lord came to Nathan
and he ďreported to David all the words of this entire revelationĒ
(2 Sam 7:17). God said that he did not want a king to build him a house.
Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any
of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, "Why
have you not built me a house of cedar?" (2 Sam 7:7).
God did not want a dwelling place built for him, because unlike the
godís of the nations, he is not confined to once place. No human-built
temple could be an adequate dwelling place for God.
David told the people that could not build a temple because he had
blood on his hands (1 Chron 22:8; 28:3). I think this was Davidís
idea, because there is no record in the scripture of God saying this to
David. The idea does not make any sense, because Solomon had just as
much blood on his hands as David.
Then the king gave the order to Benaiah son of Jehoiada, and he went
out and struck Shimei down and killed him. The kingdom was now firmly
established in Solomon's hands (1 Kings 2:46).
Solomonís actions made him unfit to build a temple for God. The
truth is that every king has blood on his hands, because that is how
they maintain their power. Therefore no human king can ever build a
dwelling place fit for God.
Although God had said he was not to build a temple, David carried on
gathering material, giving instructions and making plans (1 Chron
28,29). This was presumption. God gave exact plans to Moses for the
tabernacle (Ex 26-30), but there is no record of God giving plans for a
temple. David was attempting to duplicate the kind of temples built in
other nations. His kingship was copied from the nations, so the design
of his temple came from the same place. He did not understand that God
did not need a physical temple.
God never asked Solomon to build him a house. Solomon built a temple
because David had filled his head with the same obsession. God referred
to it as ďthis temple, which you have builtĒ (1 Kings 9:3). God
responded graciously, because he loved Solomon, but a temple of cedar
and stone was not his will. Solomon was wrong to build a temple of
stone, because this promise was not for him to fulfil. That is why the
stone temple eventually had to be destroyed. God would not have allowed
the destruction of the temple, if it really was him home.
Jesus would fill the promise made through Nathan that one of Davidís
offspring would build a temple.
He is the one who will build a house for my Name (2 Sam 7:13).
Jesus built a house for God to dwell in. By dying and ascending, he
opened up the way for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Every believer
would be a temple of the Holy Spirit. The entire body of Christ would be
a dwelling place for the Holy Spirit. The body of Christ is the only
temple fit for the living God.
God made a promise to David through Nathan the prophet that has been
The LORD declares to you that the LORD himself will establish a house
for you: When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will
raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own
body, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a
house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom
forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does
wrong, I will punish him with the rod of men, with floggings inflicted
by men. Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your
throne will be established forever. (2 Sam 7:11-14, 16).
This passage was misunderstood by David. He assumed that Godís
promise would be fulfilled through Solomon. When quoting what Nathan had
said, David distored Godís promise.
But you will have a son who will be a man of peace and rest, and I
will give him rest from all his enemies on every side. His name will be
SolomonÖ. He is the one who will build a house for my Name. He will be
my son, and I will be his father. And I will establish the throne of his
kingdom over Israel forever (1 Chron 22:9,10).
When God gave the promise he did not mention the name of Solomon.
David claimed this promise to Solomon, because he incorrectly assumed
that he was starting a dynasty like the kings in other nations. David
also twisted a negative into a positive. He said that his son would have
rest, whereas God had said that the son would experience floggings and
beatings. The irony is that Solomon was undone by the comfort that David
Davidís misunderstanding has been copied by most commentators.
Christians tend to assume that God was giving the big tick to kingship,
by establishing Davidís descendents as kings over Israel.
God promised to love one of Davidís sons and that his kingdom would
last forever. This promise was not fulfilled through Solomon, because
his kingdom did not last forever. . He turned to foreign women and he
lost the blessing of God. Half of the kingdom was wrested away by
Jeroboam soon after Solomon died and his dynasty was totally broken when
the Babylonians invaded Israel.
God did not establish a kingly dynasty through Solomon. This is
confirmed in Godís answer to Solomonís prayer.
And if you walk in my ways and obey my statutes and commands as David
your father did, I will give you a long life (1 Kings 3:14).
God did not promise that his family line would continue as kings of
Israel. He only promised long life to Solomon.
A Davidic dynasty was not Godís will for Israel. God actually
promised that one of Davidís descendents would establish his kingdom.
When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise
up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body (2
The descendent would be raised up after he had died. Solomon came to
power while David was still alive, so this rules him out. The reason is
that Nathanís promise is to Jesus, not Solomon.
David and Jesus
Nathanís promise to David was fulfilled by Jesus. He descended from
David through Mary. Gabrielís prophecy to Mary was similar to Godís
promise to David through Nathan.
You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give
him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the
Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David,
and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will
never end. (Luke 1:31-33)
Jesus would establish the Kingdom that was promised to David. He
established the kingdom of God that will last forever.
God was Jesus father and Jesus was the fatherís son, just as Nathan
I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I
will punish him with the rod of men, with floggings inflicted by men (2
Solomon was not the son of God, so this promise was not fulfilled in
him. However, because bible translators have assumed that this applied
to Solomon, they have translated it in correctly. This was actually a
messianic promise. This son would do no wrong, but he would be punished
with the rod that should be born by all men. He would be inflicted with
the flogging that all men deserve. This promise was fulfilled by Jesus
before he went to the cross.
The kingship claimed by Davidís descendents was actually promised
Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your
throne will be established forever (2 Sam 7:16).
This promise was not fulfilled through Solomon and his descendents.
Nathan was looking forward to the kingdom that Jesus would establish. It
will endure for ever.
David had a good heart and good used him to accomplish his purposes,
but he did not intend to establish a dynasty of kings through him. This
was confirmed when his descendents led Israel away from God. Government
by kings was not Godís plan for Israel. He used some kings, because he
is gracious, but they were not his ideal government.
The Jews have never fully understood Davidís calling. He was a
military commander raised up to lead the nation in battle against their
enemies. This was temporary role only needed when the people had
repented and God had thrown of the shackles of their oppressors (see
In Jesus time, the people of Israel responded to their oppression by
the Romans by looking for a king in Davidís line. They wanted a
military leader to set them free, but they were still hardened against
God, so a military leader could not free them from bondage. This is why
Jesus came into Jerusalem riding on a donkey.
This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:
"Say to the Daughter of Zion,
'See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey'Ē (Matt 21:4,5).
Jesus was explaining that he had changed the ministry of David. He
would not be a military leader, so he would not defend his people using
military force. Rather he would defeat their enemies through the work of
the Holy Spirit and proclamation of the gospel. Gentleness was replacing
military courage. Jesus would be a totally different king. His kingdom
will not be established by military force, but through his death on the
cross. Like David, Jesus would deliver his people, but he would do it in
a different way.
Solomon was succeeded by his son Rehoboam. He was a foolish king.
When challenged by the people, he responded with harsh words.
My little finger is thicker than my father's waist.
My father laid on
you a heavy yoke;
I will make it even heavier.
My father scourged you
I will scourge you with scorpions.
This statement proves two things. Firstly, it shows that despite his
wisdom, the people suffered under Solomon. Secondly, kingís sons might
be poetic, but they are dangerous for their people.
Jeroboam had been an overseer in Solomonís work force (1 Kings
11:28). He led a rebellion against Rehoboam. He gained control of ten of
the twelve tribes, but he proved to be an evil man. He became the
benchmark for evil among kings of Israel. Many kings were given the
He did evil in the eyes of the LORD by following the sins of Jeroboam
son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit, and he did not turn
away from them (2 Kings 13:2).
Rehoboam and Jeroboam were a disaster for Israel.
The successors of Rehoboam and Jeroboam followed their example.
Josiah and Hezekiah were quite good, but even they frequently fell
short. Most of the kings of Israel and Judah were mediocre; some were
really evil like Manasseh and Jeroboam.
Virtually all the kings of Israel and Judah led their people into
evil, and eventually both kingdoms came under the judgment of God.
According to the prophets, these kings never really enforced justice.
Israel and Judah were frequently invaded by other nations and their
kings failed to protect the people from harm. These kings were a failure
in every way. Kingship is a very unsatisfactory form of government.
After successive kings had led the people of Judah into evil, God
sent judgment. Babylon invaded the nation and carried the people into
exile. While living in Babylon, they gained a taste of life under
empire. This was not a pleasant experience.
Young men are compelled to grind at the mill,
and boys stagger under loads of wood.
The old men have left the city gate,
the young men their music.
The joy of our hearts has ceased;
our dancing has been turned to mourning (Lam 5:13-14).
Judah went from kingship to empire; out of the frying pan into the
Once we understand that kingship is a suboptimal form of government,
we have to look for a different model. We know that democracy is
contrary to Godís will. We need to find the optimal form of
As with most things, we find that God gets things right first time.
He gave Adam the responsibility for self government. As the population
of the world grew, God established family government through men like
Noah and Abraham. While there was plenty of room on the earth and
families were spreading out, so there was no need for civil government.
However, by the time of Isaac and Jacob, people were beginning to clash
with each other (Jacob and Esau, Jacob and Laban), so a better form of
civil government was needed. The need was postponed when Israel went to
Egypt and became slaves in the Egyptian system.
While Moses was leading the children of Israel out of Egypt towards
the promised land, they had a military style government. They were under
constant threat of attack, so they travelled in a military formation.
However, once they entered the new land, military government was not
appropriate, so they needed a system civil government. Just before the
need arose, God came through with a new system of government that would
enable them to live peacefully in close proximity in Canaan. Godís
perfect model of government was law and judges.
Godís perfect government has two aspects. The first is and most
important aspect of Godís government is the law. Every civilised
society needs law to function well. However, the problem is that most
use human laws. Godís law is holy and good (Rom 7:12). The basis for
perfect government is the Godís law.
The second prong of perfect government is wise judges. Law cannot
function on its own, but has to be applied. Good law needs wise judges
to apply it. At the same time as God gave Israel the laws they needed,
he also gave them a system of judges.
The God of the people of Israel chose our fathers; he made the people
prosper during their stay in Egypt, with mighty power he led them out of
that country, he endured their conduct for about forty years in the
desert, he overthrew seven nations in Canaan and gave their land to his
people as their inheritance. All this took about 450 years. After this,
God gave them judges until the time of Samuel the prophet. Then the
people asked for a king, and he gave them Saul son of Kish (Acts
God gave judges to Israel as they were going into the promised land.
This was the second part aspect of Godís ideal government.
They served as judges for the people at all times. The difficult
cases they brought to Moses, but the simple ones they decided themselves
When the children of Israel entered the promised land, they had
judges to apply Godís law. This makes sense, as God would not give the
law, without raising up judges to implement it. Moses gave the judges a
ďhead startĒ by helping with the difficult cases.
God gave Israel a system of law and judges. This system of government
has never been abolished. Jesus death on the cross ended the temple
sacrifices. When he ascended as the great high priest, he ended the role
of the priesthood. The role of judges administering Godís law has
never been abolished or replaced. Jesus will return as judge at the end
of the age. That will be the point at which the role of godly human
judges comes to an end.
Godís ideal government is a system of law and judges. The law
should be Godís law. Excellent judges will emerge as we submit our
cases to wisest people. This is the best system of government. Because
it was given by God, a better system will never be found. Human wisdom
can never match Godís wisdom.