Government of the Hebrews
Government Of The Hebrews.
This we shall here treat in its secular or political relations, so far as these can be severed from the divine ordinances which underlie them all. SEE MONARCHY.
1. Constitutional Form. — This varied materially in different ages. With the Israelites, as with all other nations, unquestionably the earliest form of government was the patriarchal, and it subsisted among them long after many of the neighboring countries had exchanged it for the rule of kings. The patriarchs; that is, the heads or founders of families, exercised the chief power and command over their families, children, and domestics, without being responsible to any superior authority. Such was the government of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. So long as they resided in the land of Canaan they were subject to no foreign power, but tended their flocks and herds wherever they chose to go (Ge 13:6-12), and vindicated their wrongs by arms when ever they had sustained any injury (Genesis 14). They treated with the petty kings who reigned in different parts of Palestine as their equals in dignity, and coneluded treaties with them in their own right (Ge 14:13,18-24; Ge 21:22-32; Ge 26:16,27-33; Ge 31:44-54). SEE PATRIARCH.
The Hebrews having greatly increased in numbers in Egypt, it appeared very evident that they could not live among nations given to idolatry without running the hazard of becoming infected with the same evil. They were, therefore, in the providence of God, assigned to a particular country, the extent of which was so small, that they were obliged, if they would live independentlhy of other nations, to give up, in a great measure, the life of shepherds, and devote themselves to agriculture. Besides, very many of the Hebrews, during their residence in Egypt, had fallen into idolatrous habits. These were to be brought back again to thee knowledge of the true God, and all were to be excited to engage in those undertakings which should be found necessary for the support of the true religion. All the Mosaic institutions aim at the accomplishment of these objects, and the fundamental principle was this, — that the true God, the creator and governor of the universe, and none other, ought to be worshipped. To secure this end the more certainly, God became king to the Hebrews. Accordingly, the land of Canaan, which was destined to be occupied by them, was declared to be the land of Jehovah, of which he was to be the king, and the Hebrews merely the hereditary occupants. God promulgated,. from the, summit of Mount Sinai, the prominent laws for the government of his people, considered as a religious community (Exodus 20); and these laws were afterwards more fully illustrated and developed by Moses. The rewards which should accompany the obedient, and the punishments which should be the lot of the transgressor, were at the same time announced, and the Hebrews promised by a solemn oath to obey (Ex 20:14; De 27-30). SEE LAW.
In order to preserve the true religion, God governed the whole people by a striking and peculiar providence, which has rightly been termed a theocracy. But, although the government of the Jews was a theocracy, it was not destitute of the usual forms which exist in civil governments among men. God, it is true, was the king, and the high-priest, if we may be allowed so to speak, was his minister of state, but still the political affairs were, in a great-measure, under the disposal of the elders, princes, etc. It was to them that Moses gave thee divine commands; he determined their powers, and submitted their requests to the divine decision (Nu 14:5; Nu 16:4; Nu 27:5). Josephus pronounced the government to be aristocratical, but Low-man and Michaëlis are in favor of considering it a democracy, and in support of their opinion such passages are exhibited as the following: Ex 19:7-8; Ex 24:3-8; De 29:9-14. The Hebrew government however, putting aside its theocratical feature, was of a mixed form, in some respects approaching to a democracy, in others assuming more of an aristocratical character. SEE THEOCRACY.
In the time of Samuel, the government, in point of form, was changed into a monarchy. The election of a king, however, was committed to God, who chose one by lot; so that God was still the ruler, and the king the vicegerent. The terms of the government, as respected God, were the same as before, and the same duties and principles were inculcated on the Israelites as had been originally (1Sa 8:7; 1Sa 10:17-23). In consequence of the fact that Saul did not choose at all times to obey the commands of God, the kingdom was taken from him and given to another (1Sa 13:23; 1Sa 15:1-31). David, through the medium of Samuel was selected by Jehovah for king, who thus gave a proof that he still retained, and was disposed to exercise, the right of appointing the ruler under him (1Sa 16:1-3). David was first made king over Judah; but as he received his appointment from God, and acted under his authority, the eleven other tribes submitted to him (2Sa 5:1-3). The paramount authority of God as the king of the nation, and his right to appoint one who should act in the capacity of his vicaegerent, are expressly recognized in the books of Kings and Chronicles. SEE KING.
The rebuilding of Jerusalem was accomplished, and the reformation of their ecclesiastical and civil polity was effected, by the two divinely-inspired and pious governors, Ezra and Nehemiah; but the theocratic government does not appear to have been restored. The new temple was not, as formerly, God's palace; and the cloud of his presence did not take possession of it. After the deaths of Ezra and Nehemiah, thee Jews were governed by their high-priests, in subjection, however, to the Persian kings, to whom they paid tribute, (Ezr 4:13), but were ruled by their own magistrates, and were in the full enjoyment of their liberties, civil and religious. Nearly three centuries of uninterrupted prosperity ensued, although during that time they had passed to thee rule of the Greeks, until the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes, king of Syria, when they were most cruelly oppressed, and compelled to take up arms in their own defense. Under the able conduct of Judas, surnamed Maccabaeus, and his valiant brothers, the Jews maintained a religious war for twenty-six years with five successive kings of Syria; and after destroying upwards of two hundred thousand of their best troops, the Maccabees finally established the independence of their country and the royal station of their own family. This illustrious house, whose princes united the regal and pontifical dignity in their own persons, administered the affairs of the Jews during a period of one hundred and twenty-six years; until disputes arising between Hyrcanus II and his brother Aristobulus, the latter was defeated by the Romans under Pompey, who captured Jerusalem, and reduced Judaea to the rank of a dependent kingdom, B.C. 59. SEE JEWS.
2. Executive Despotism. — The organs through which these various forms of adnfinistration were exhibited always partook of that absolute and arbitrary character, both in their appointment and their exercise, which prevails among Eastern nations. — The government of the Israelitish state under, the monarchy was, so far as we can understand its political organization, very simple, and in its principal features analogous to modern Oriental forms (see Paulsen, Die Regierung Morganlander, Altona, 1755, volume 1). The king, not siniply the central figure, but more properly the embodiment of civil power, had around him, as advisers and supreme executors of his commands several "counselors," or יֹ צִים (2Sa 15:12; 1Ch 27:32; 1 Kings 41:2), at whose head stands, almost always the chancellor, מִזכִּיר, "recorder," whose chief duty, however, was that of historiographer (camp. 2Ki 19:18,37), and who is immediately recognised as the prime minister, such as is to this day the organ of royal communication in Persia (see (haudin, Voyage, v. 258). Coordinate with him probably stood the "scribe," סֹפֵּר, or state (cabinet) secretary (2Sa 8:17; 2Sa 20:25; 2Sa 2. Kings 18:18; 19:2; 22:3, 10 sq.; Jer 36:10). Sometimes we find several of these officers mentioned as existing at the same time (1Ki 4:3); their bureau is called "the scribe's chamber," לִשׁכִּת הִסֹּפֵר 7 (Jer 38:12) By the side of this officer was also the praefect of the palace, אֲשֶׁר ל הִבִּיַת, whose functions, however, were not entirely confined to the royal household (such as commissions and messages, 2Ki 18:19 sq.; 19:4, 8; Ne 1:11), but who was also employed an state business (1Ki 18:3; 2Ki 18:18; Jer 36:3), and often assumed a high degree of importance (Isa 23:15 sq.), as he then became ans officer of marked rank (like the modern major-domo). Sometimes a prophet enjoyed the confidence of the king as extraordinary civil counsellor, and grew influential as "the king's friend," רֵ הִמֶּלֶך (a title: of most trusty minister or prime vizier in the modern East; see Gesenius, Comment. on Isa 22:15; Paulsen, Regier. page 286), such as Nathan under David and Solomon, and Isaiah under Hezekiah. The superior functionaries appear under the kings to have conducted the civil administration. It was the duty of the priests and Levites to care for the maintenance of justice (De 17:8 sq.). The king himself rendered decisions in the highest cases, not seldom in less weighty causes, or even altogether. SEE TRIAL. As officers of the exchequer, at least so far as to provide for the wants of the royal kitchen, under Solomon, twelve commissioners were appointed (1Ki 4:7 sq.). Besides, each branch of the royal household or establishment, the domains and manors, had their particular superintendent. SEE PURVEYOR. All these constitute together, as we may say, the regal board or court. On the other hand, under the 550 officials of Solomon alluded to in 1Ki 9:23 must be reckoned under-officers, of whose department of service we know nothing further. Among these intermediate jurisdictions are, at all events, included the lieutenants of provinces, שָׁדֵי הִמּדִינוֹת ("princes of the provinces," 1Ki 20:14 sq., i.q. district-superintendents), who are first mentioned under Ahab of Israel. In conjunction with them may be classified the municipal officers, the elders and magnates of cities, to whom were addressed and who executed the royal behests (1Ki 21:8; 2Ki 10:1). SEE OLD MEN. The oldest and leading men of the tribes (q.v.) also formed a kind of national representatives. The scribes (q.v.) further had a certain official position. SEE GOVERNOR.
Under the Chaldaean rule, Gedaliah (q.v.) appears as governor (שִׂר) of desolated and depopulated Judaea (2Ki 25:22), which after this time became, in connection with Egypt, Coelo-Syria, and Phoenicia, a mere satrapy of the Babylonian empire (Berosus, in Josephus, Ant. 10:11, 1). The Persian court committed all the provinces lying west of the Euphrates to satraps, פִּחֲווֹת (Ezr 8:36; Ne 2:9), associated with whom for civil administration was a governmental chamber, with chancellor, secretary,: and assessors (Ezr 4:8-9). Yet the same title, פֶּחָה (i.q. pasha), was also borne by the (Jewish) prefects of the new Israelitish-colony (Ezr 6:7; Ne 8:14,18; comp. Hag 1:1,14; Hag 2:2,21), which it had over its own people, exclusive of the circuit or ministerial officers (Ne 3:9,14-15, etc.), municipal officials, or סגָנִים (Ne 2:16; Ne 4:19; Ne 5:7, etc.), and judges (Ezr 7:25). SEE TIRSHATHAH. Besides the Persian civil functionaries, there were likewise in the subject territories tax-commissioners or treasury-officers appointed, גִּזִבריָּא (Ezr 7:21), and under them a general forest-keeper (Ne 2:8). Dcuring the Seleucid-Syrian rule Judaea belonged, while their relations were peaceful, to the precinct of a general or στρατηγός of Phoenicia and Coele-Syria (2 Macc. 3:5; 4:4; 8:8), who was a provincial officer endowed with civil and military jurisdiction. The administration of the revenue was entrusted to special functionaries (2 Macc. 3:3; 1 Macc. 10:41; 13:37). The chief management of the finandes, however, was in the hands of the royal chamberlain (2 Macc. 3:7 sq.). During the government of Antiochus Epiphanes we find military appointees (1 Macc. 7:8) and extraordinary commissioners (1 Macc. 1:53; 2:15; 2 Macc. 5:22) in Judsea. During the contests for the throne between Demetrius Soter and Alexander, the Jewish high-priests still retained the dignity of vassal-chiefs over Judaea (1 Macc. 10), and Jews were intrusted with executive authority, seven beyond the limits of that territory (1 Macc. 11:59). Simon was absolute hereditary prince over Judsea, and held also the right of coinage (1 Macc. 15). In all this period, as well as earlier under the Egyptian dominion, the imposts were not unfrequently farmed out to the high-priests, or to wealthy Jews (1 Macc. 11:28; 13:15; Josephus, Ant. 13:4, 4 sq., 16), which brought them into close connection with the royal functionaries, and even conferred upon them a certain executive authority in civil matters. SEE ASSESSMENT.
For the government of Judaea under the Romans, SEE ROMAN EMPIRE.
3. Democratic Powers. — Notwithstanding the apparently unlimited and independent authority of these different kinds of rulers, the Hebrew people, especially during the earlier and purer ages of the commonwealth, reserved to themselves a large measure of directive or vetatory and magisterial influence, which enabled the popular will to express itself on all great emergencies, and even in minor points, in a clear and decided manner, through regularly constituted channels, the general assembly or the select committee.
The supreme political body of the Hebrew nation, duly met in congress, is designated in the original by two words of nearly equal frequency in the sacred writings, דָה, edah', from יָ ד, to appoint, also to bring together; and קָהָל, kahal, from קָהִל, i.q. καλεῖν, to convoke (Sept. ἐκκλησία, συναγωγή; Vulgate, Congregatio, Caetus, Ecclesia). The phrase "tabernacle of the Congregation," however, which so frequently occurs as indicating the place of meeting, is described by neither of these words, but by מוֹ ד [אֶהֵל]; the versions consistently mark the difference also, the Sept. invariably translating this phrase by ἡ σκηνὴ τοῦ μαρτυρίου, and the Vulg. by tabernaculum testimonii; although when the word מו ד occurs without the אהל (as in Nu 16:2), it has somewhat of the ambiguity of the Latin Curia, which equally well signifies the Senate and the Senate-house. In this passage מו ד is translated by Βουλή: and Tempus Concilii; in many other passages the word is variously rendered, but generally bears reference to a set time orplace, e.g. in La 1:15, A.V. renders it assembly; but in 2:6, place of assembly and solemn feast; the Sept. and Vulgate are equally capricious καιρός and tempus standing in La 1:15, and ἑορτή, tabernaculum and festivitas in 2:6. This word מו ד is the most frequent original equivalent of our noun "congregation." Apart from אהל (tabernacle), it has a highly generic sense, including all the holy assemblies of the Jews.
There is good reason to believe that, not unlike the Servian constitution of the Roman people (Arnold's History of Rome, 1:70), the Hebrew nation from the first received a twofold organization, military as well as political (comp. Ex 12:51; Nu 1:3, and throughout; Nu 26:3; and 1Ch 7:4,40. See also Lowman's Dissertation on the Civil Government of the Hebrews, pages 159, 186, etc.). The classification of the people is very clearly indicated in Jos 7:14-18.
(1.) The Tribe (מִטֵּה or שֵׁבֶט) was divided into clans, gentes, A.V. "families," מִשִׁפּחוֹת(2.) Each Mishpachah comprised a number offamilice, Auth.Vers. "houses," בָּתִּים(3.) Each בִּיַת or "house" was made up of qualified "men," fit for military as well as political service, being twenty years old and upward (Nu 1:3). The word which describes the individual member of the body politic, גֶּבֶד (plur. גּבָרִים), is very significant; for it means vir a robore dictus (Gesenius, Thes. 1:262), "a man of valor," from גָּבִר, to be strong (Fiirst, Heb. Horteb. 1:239; Meier, Hebr. Wurz. W.-b. page 251). Now it was the organic union of the twelve tribes which constituted in the highest and truest sense the דָה, or קָהָל i.e., "Congregation," convened duly for a competent purpose (Kurtz, Hist. Old Covt. 2:163). As with the Greeks there was an ἀτηεία, and with the Latins a Dominutio Capitis, so there were sundry faults which deprived a home-born Israelite (אִזרֵת, Sept. αὐτόχθων, Vulg. indigena; or אָח, ἀδελφός, civis, in De 1:16) of his privilege as a melmber of the national assembly (see De 23:1-8 cop. with Ne 13:13]; also Ex 12:17,19; Ex 30:33,38; Ex 31:14; Leviticus 7:20, 21, 25, 27; 17:4, 9, 10, 14; 18:29; 19:8; 20:3, 6, 17, 18; 30:3, 6, 17, 18; 22:3; 23:29; Nu 9:13; Nu 15:31; Nu 19:20). On the other hand, the franchise or civitas was conferred (with certain exceptions, such as sare mentioned ile De 23:3) on foreigners, גֵּרִים (A.V. "strangers;" Sept. προσήλυται; Vulg. peregrini), after they had qualified themselves by circumcision (Ex 12:19; Le 19:34; De 29:11, comb. with Isa 56:6-7).
The above words, expressive of the national congregation, sometimes imply (1) a meeting of the whole mans of the people; sometimes (2) a congress of deputies (Jahn's Hebrew Republic, page 243).
(1.) At first, when the whole nation dwelt in tents, in their migration from Egypt to Canaan under the immediate command of the great legislator, the Congregation seems to have comprised every qualified Israelite who had the right of a personal presence and vote in the congress. In Ex 35:1, this ample assembly is designatetd כָּלאּ דָת בּנֵי יִשׂר8אֵל the entire Congregation of the Sons of Israel (drama πᾶσα συναγωγὴ υἱῶν ῾Ισραήλ, omnis turba filiorum Israel). Similarly in Nu 27:19, the phrase is כָּלאּהָ דָה, all the Congregation πᾶσα ἡ συναγωγή, omnis multitudo), while in Le 16:17 we have כָּלאּקהִל יִשִׂרָאֵל the entire assembly of Israel (πᾶσα συναγωγὴ Ι᾿σραήλ, universus cettus Israel). We would have no difficulty in supposing that every member of the Edah was present at such meetings as these, in the lifetime of Moses and before the nation was dispersed, throughout its settlements in Canaan, were it not that we occasionally find, in later times, an equally ample designation used, when it is impossible to believe that the nation could have assembled at one place of meeting; e.g. in Jos 22:12, where "the whole congregation of the children of Israel" is mentioned; and again still later, as at the dedication of Solomon's Temple in 1Ki 8:14; 2Ch 1:5.
(2.) From this impossibility of personal attendance ins the national congregation, we should expect to find a representative constitution provided. Accordingly, in Nu 1:16, we read of persons called קרוּאֵי הָ דָה, not, sas in the A.V., "a renowned of the Congregation," but wont to be called to the Congregation (Michaelis, Laws of Moses, 1:230). In 16:2, they are still more explicitly styled נשַׂיאֵי דָה קרוּאֵי מוֹ ד, i.e., chiefs of the Congregation who are called to the Conventtion (σύγκλητοι βουλῆς, qu, teusupore consili vocabantur). While in Ex 38:25 occurs the phrase פּקוּדֵי הָ דָה, those deputed to the assembly, which exactly describes delegated persons. From Jos 23:2; Jos 24:1, it would appear that these deputies were
(1) "The elders" (called הָ דָהזִקנֵי, "elders of the Congregation," in Le 4:15) as if deputed thereto; ande "'elders of Israel," or "of the people," as if representing them and nominated by them, (De 1:13).
(2) "The heads," רָאשַׁים), i.e., "the princes of the tribes" (Nu 1:4,16), and the chiefs of the Mishpachoth, or "families" (26, passim)
(3) "The judges;" not, of course, the extraordinary rulers, beginning with Othniel, but the שֹׁפטַים, referred as in De 16:18, stationed in every great city and summoned probably as ex-officio members to the congregation.
(4) "The officers" (שֹׁטַרַים, γραμματεῖς magistri; whom Jahn calls genealogists, and Geseniu magistrates), whether central, as in Nu 11:16, a provincial, as, in De 16:18. These four classes of men, in addition to official duties, seem to have attached to their offices the prerogative of representing their countrymen at the national convention or Edah. We have not classed among these delegates either the "Jethronian praefects" (Ex 18:15; De 1:13-15) or the seventy elders (Nu 11:16), for they were undoubtedly included already in one or other of the normal classes (comp. Nu 11:16, and De 1:15). The members of the Congregation were convened by the ruler, or judge, or king, for the time being; e.g. by Moses, passim; by Joshua (Jos 23:1-2); probably by the high-priest (Jg 20:27-28); frequently by the kings by David (1Ch 13:2), by Solomon (1Ki 8:5, etc.), by Jehoshaphat (2Ch 20:4-5), by Hezekiah (2Ch 30:2), probably by the Tirshathahs afterwards (see Ezr 10:8-9,12), and by Judas Maccabaeus (1 Macc. 3:42-46). The place of meeting was at the door of the Tabernacle of the Congregation; sometimes, however, some other place of celebrity was selected, as Shechem by Joshua (Jos 24:1); Mizpeh (Jg 20:1); Bezek by Saul; and Gilgal by Sameuel (1Sa 11:8,15).
As long as the Israelites were encamped in the wilderness, the Edahs were convsened by the sound of silver trumpets. From Nu 10:2-4, it appears that the blowing of one trumpet only was the signals for a more select convention, composed only of the heads of the Mishpachoth and the princes of the tribes; whereas when both trumpets sounded the larger congregations met. But after the occupation of Canaan, when this mode of summons would be clearly ineffectual, the congregations seem to have been convened by messengers (Jg 20:12; 1Sa 11:7-8).
As to the powers and authority of the congregation — it was not a legislative body (Conringius, Da Rep. Haebr. sec 10, page 246). The divine law of Moses had aleeady foreclosed alls legislation, properly so- called; there was only room for by-laws (Sherlock, Dissert. 3:317). Nor was the taxing power within the competency of the Israelite Edah: "the national revenues of the state were so settled in the tithes and other offerings, and there being no soldiery in pay all holding their estates by military service, there was no room for new or occasional taxes; so that the Hebrew parliament could have no business either to make new laws or to raise money" (Lowsan, Dissert. page 135). But there was, for all that, a large residue of authority, which sufficiently guaranteed the national autonomy.
(1). The divine law itself was deliberately submitted to the Edah for acceptance or rejection — (Ex 19:25; Ex 24:3).
(2) Their chiefs were submitted to this body on appointment for its approval e.g. Joshua (Nu 27:19); Saul (1Sa 10:24); Saul again, on the renewal of the kingdom (1Sa 11:15); David (2Sa 5:1-3); Solomon (1Ch 29:22); so the later kings we take as an instance Joash (2Ch 23:3).
(3) The Edah seems to have the power of staying the execution of a king's sentence (as in Jonathan's case, where "the rescue" was met by force or violence, but by constitutional power [יִפּדּוּ carries with it the idea of authority], 1Sa 14:44-45).
(4) As in parliament, if, it had not actually the prerogative of making peace and war, it possessed the power of checking, by disapprobation, the executive authority (see Jos 9:15; comp. with verse 18). In later times, indeed, the prince seems to have laid questions of foreign alliance, etc., before the congregation, either for deliberation or approbation, or both (see the case of Simon Maccabeus in 1 Macc. 14:18-28).
(5) But in the absence of a ruler, the Edash itself apparently decided on war or peace (Jg 20:1,11-14; also 21:13-20).
(6) The congregation was a high court of appeal in cases of life and death (Nu 35:12,24-25).
(7) Capital punishment was not inflicted nwithout the cognizance of the Edah, and the execution rof the sentence was one of its functions (Le 24:10-14; Nu 15:32-36). Lastly, the congregation was [consulted by Hezekiah and Josiah in their pious endeavors to restore religion (2Ch 30:24; 2Ch 34:29). When David mentions his "praises in the great congregations" (קָהָל דִב, Ps 22:26, etc.), it is probably in reference to his "composition of Psalms for the use of the Israelitish Church, and the establishment in its full splendor of the choral Levitical service", (Thrupp, Ps 1:6), in all which he would require sand obtain the cooperation and sanction of the Edah. After the rejection of the theocratic constitution by Jeroboam, the congregation sometimes receives a more limited designationa, e.g. כָּלאּהִקָּהָל בִּירוּשָׁלִם "All the Congregation of Jerusalem" (2Ch 30:2), and כָּלאּקהִל יהוּדָה All the Congregation of Judah," πᾶσα ἡ ἐκλλησία Ι᾿ούδα (verse 25). The phrase "Congregation of Israel" is used, indeed, twice in this later period (see 2Ch 24:6; 2Ch 30:25); but in the former passage the expression directly refers to the original institution of Moses, and in the latter to the company whom Hezeleiah invited out of the neighboring kingdom to attend his passover. SEE CONGREGATION.
4. Literature. — See the Critici Biblici, volume 1; Couring, De politica Hebraeorum (Helmstadt, 1648); Cunseus, De republic Hebraeorum, (Leyden, 1617; Cur. 1666; with notes by Nicolai, Leyd. 1705); Dietrich, Dejure et statu Judaeorum (Marb. 1648, 1661); Hüllmann, Staats
vasfassung der Isroeliten (Lpz. 1834); Leidekker, Antiquitates Judaeoram (Amst. 1704); id. De varia republica Hebraeor. (it). 1710); Lowman, Civil Government of the Hebrews (Lond. 1740, with an appendix, ib. 1741); Menoche, De republicas Hebaeorum (Par. 1648); Paalzom, De civitate Judaeorum (Berlin, 1803); Reimner, De republica Hebraeorum (Havn. 1657); Reiske, Theocratia (Jena, 1670); Sigoniun, De republica Hebraeorum (F.a.M. 1585; also in his Annotat. et Antiq. Leyden, 1701); Walch, Monarchie der Hebraer (from the Spanish of Vine. Marques de S. Philippe, Nurnb. n. f.n.h. volume 1); Wehner, De republica Hebraeorum (Vitemsb. 1657).