A Handbook of Bible Law - Government &
civil officers |
Copyright 1991 by Charles A. Weisman. 2nd Edition: Aug., 1992;
3rd Edition: Dec., 1994
|Government & civil
Comments: Both secular history and the Bible show that the
original human society was the family. Families which increased and survived
expanded into clans and clans into tribes. Within the leadership and authority
in these societies were the roots of government. A union of tribes formed a
nation, such as with the twelve tribes of Israel.
Government, by its definition, is a means or system of
regulation and control of something. It is a condition of being governed. The
family or clan was governed by the patriarch or head of the house. The principle
and need of such control is thus well established. When Israel was freed from
Egypt, becoming a separate nation, they were governed by civil-military leaders
such as Moses and Joshua. But after the death of Joshua the people ...
... did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served the Baals; and they forsook
the LORD God" (Judges 2:11-12).
The people were quickly led astray without Joshua to govern
them. They became plundered by their enemies and there was great calamity and
distress throughout the nation. To put the people back on a righteous course,
God established a unique form of civil government-a government by Judges:
"Then the LORD raised up judges who delivered them out of the hand of those
who plundered them" (Judges 2:16).
The government of the judges forms the most unique and singular
part of the Hebrew institutions. The kings, the priests, the generals, the heads
of tribes-all these offer some points of comparison with the same functionaries
in other nations; but the judges stand alone in the history of the world. It was
an office ordained by God not by man.
A nation can survive corrupted leaders, administrators and even
citizens to an extent, for all become amenable to the law via the judicial
system. But as the judicial system becomes corrupted so does all order and
In many of the instances in the Bible the appointment of judges
seems to have been by the free, unsolicited choice of the people. Their
authority was limited by the law alone. They could issue orders, but not enact
laws; they could neither levy taxes nor appoint officers. Thus under the Hebrew
Constitution or frame of Government, judges were a separate governmental body as
they are under our law.
The Bible lays down many principles and guidelines for
government and for those exercising governmental authority. The first and
foremost principle is that all power and authority is from God and is to be used
for godly aims: "For he (civil officer) is a minister of God to you for
good . . . to execute wrath upon him that does evil" (Rom. 13:4). And as
Martin Luther says:
"'For God has delegated to civil magistrates in place of
parents the right to punish evil-doers " (1 Luther's Cat. Writings
This Bible states that it is by the power of God that "kings
reign and princes decree justice, and judges rule and preside" (Prov.
8:15-16). Since all authority originates and comes from God, it should be that
all valid government be based upon God's laws. When officers or judges in
authority do not exercise that authority for its designated purpose, the
obligation to them would consequently ceases to exist. This was the basis of the
American Revolution in 1776.
God has provided us with rules and guidelines for the
selection, support and election of civil officers and judges, who are to control
the affairs of government as His minister:
"Moreover thou shall provide out of all the people able men, such as fear
God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers
of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties. . . "' (Exod.
Civil officers in government are to possess the qualifications
God requires of such men, not those who may appeal to us. They are to be men who
desire truth and justice rather than the prestige of office; they are to fear
God rather than persons or the power of special interest groups
|8A - Requirements of Civil
- Leaders chosen must be wise and just. Deut. 1:13; 2 Sam. 23:3; Psa.
2:10; Prov. 21:10; Prov. 29:14; Ezek. 45:9.
- Civil leaders are to be diligent in governing. Rom. 12:8.
- Civil leaders are to be men of truth, hating covetousness. Exod. 18:21.
- Civil leaders, judges and officers are to fear God. Exod. 18:21; Deut.
17:19; 2 Sam. 23:3; 2 Chron. 19:7, 9; Psa. 2:10-11.
- Civil leaders are to be of God. Deut. 17:15; Hos. 8:4; Prov. 8:15-16;
- Rulers are not to be a terror to good behavior, but rather to the wicked
and evil doers. Prov. 20:26; Rom. 13:3-4.
- Civil rulers are not to use their office and position to bring gain to
themselves. Deut. 17:16-17.
- Civil rulers are ministers of God for good. Rom. 13:4.
- Irresponsible civil leaders are they who are either blind, ignorant, lazy,
greedy, self-centered, drunkards, or act for their own gain. Isa. 56:10-12.
- Civil rulers are to record, preserve, study and proclaim the law of God at
all times. Exod. 18:20; Deut. 17:18-20; Deut. 31:9, 24-26; Josh.
8:32,34-35; 2 Kings 22:8-20; 2 Kings 23:1-3.
- If a ruler unintentionally or out of ignorance violates the law and the
violation comes to his knowledge, he shall make restitution for it. Lev.
- Civil leaders and authorities are to be men not women. Exod. 18:21;
Deut. 1:13, 15; Isa. 3:12.
- Government officers are to execute judgment and righteousness, and deliver
the spoiled out of the hand of the oppressor; they are to do no wrong, do no
violence to the stranger, the fatherless, nor the widow, neither shed innocent
blood in the land. Jer. 22:3.
- Government officers that engage in conspiracy, treachery and murder are to
be put to death. Judges 9:1-57.
- The Law of God is to be read in public addresses by civil leaders to
direct the course of society and government. Josh. 8:34-35; 2 Kings 23:1-3;
2 Chron. 17:7-9; 2 Chron. 34:30; Neh. 13:1-3.
- A good civil leader or judge is from God, and keeps a people from
rebelling against the ways of God. Judges 2:18-19; Judges 3:9-12.
- Civil authorities who are oppressive do not understand justice. Prov.
- Lying is unbecoming in rulers. Prov. 17:7.
- If a ruler hearken to lies, all his aides and ministers become wicked.
- Those in government are not to consult mediums or spiritists for guidance
but are to inquire of the LORD. 1 Chron. 10:13-14.
- Civil leaders are not to drink lest it causes them to forget the law and
pervert justice. Prov. 31:4-5.
- Civil rulers are to be chosen from among thy brethren or race, we are not
to put a stranger (an alien or one of another race) over us in a position of
authority. Exod. 18:21; Deut 17:15; Jer. 30:21.
- God will punish civil authorities who punish unjustly and contrary to the
law. Acts 23:1-3.
- It is an abomination for a civil ruler to commit wickedness, for his
office is established on righteousness. Prov. 16:12.
- The powers of government are appointed by God and are in His hand.
Prov. 8:15-16; Prov. 21:1; Rom. 13:1
- A distribution of power and levels of authority are to be
established-rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties,
and rulers of tens. Exod. 18:21, 25; Deut 1:13-15.
- Judges, magistrates and officers are to be appointed in all towns and
cities. Deut 16:18; 2 Chron. 19:5; Ezra 7:25.
- The less wicked a government is, the more the righteous will prosper.
Prov. 28:12, 28.
- Government is to be for the punishment of the evildoers, and for the
praise of them that do well. Rom. 13:3; 1 Pet 2:14.
- Warnings against an all-powerful leader, king or central government. 1
- When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the
wicked bear rule, the people mourn. Prov. 29:2.
- Government officials are to be chosen by the people. Deut. 1:13; Deut
- When the wicked are removed from the presence of civil leaders, the
government will be established in righteousness. Prov. 25:5.
|8C - Judges &
- Judges were originally established by God. Judges 2:16, 18; 2 Sam.
- Judges shall justify the righteous and condemn the wicked. Deut.
- Judges shall righteously judge the causes and transgressions between
persons with just judgment. Lev. 19:15; Deut 1: 16; Deut 16:18; 1 Sam.
2:25; 2 Sam. 7:11; 2 Chron. 19:5; Psa. 82:2-4; Prov. 31:9.
- Judges are not to be partial or respect persons in judgment, but shall
equally judge the small as well as the great. Exod. 23:31 6; Deut 1:17;
Lev. 19:15; 2 Chron. 19:7; Prov. 18:5; Prov. 24:23; James 2:9.
- Judges are not to take a gift or bribe. 2 Chron. 19:7.
- Judges are to judge the people at all times. Exod. 18:22, 26.
- Judges and magistrates are to know the laws of God. Ezra 7:25.
- Judges judge not for man but for God. Deut. 1: 17; 2 Chron. 19:6.
- The judge that justifies the wicked and condemns the just is an
abomination to God. Prov. 17:15.
- Wisdom and knowledge is needed and should be prayed for in order to judge
between good and bad. 1 Kings 3:9; 2 Chron. 1:10; James 1:5.
- Judges are to judge matters according to the laws, statutes, commandments,
and judgments of God. Exod. 18:16; 2 Chron. 19:10.
|8D - Obligations to Officers and
- We should respect and give obedience to rulers and authorities who preside
as God's ministers. Deut. 17:12-13; Josh. 1:16-17; Rom. 13:1-7; Titus 3:1;
Heb. 13:17; 1 Pet 2:13-14, 17; 2 Pet 2:10.
- Disobedience to government is justified when government requires an
ungodly or unlawful act. Exod. 1:15-20; Josh. 2:1-18.
- We should pray for civil leaders. Ezra 6:10; 1 Tim. 2:1-2.
- It is not proper to despise government. 2 Pet 2:10.
- Rebellion is justified by oppressive laws and taxes. 2 Chron. 10:13-19.
- We should disregard laws prohibiting the gospel. Acts 4:18-21; Acts
- We should not rebel or cause insurrection against the established
government. 2 Sam. 20:1-22.
- You shall not curse or speak evil of civil rulers or dignitaries. Exod.
22:28; Acts 23:5; 2 Pet. 2:10; Jude 1: 8.
- Submit to them that have civil authority. Heb. 13:17; 1 Pet. 2:13-14.
- We are not to submit to human edicts when in conflict with Divine laws.
Dan. 3:10-18; Dan. 6:7-23; Acts 4:13-21; Acts 5:16-32.