It is fairly common for those who attempt to argue against the validity of Abolitionism to offend its adherents by either taking scripture out of context or by oversimplifying concepts described in scripture. Granted, the most common and (dead) traditional interpretations and sophistry have served to confuse professing Christians for almost two thousand years, leading them away from the truth, not to mention the thousands of years of perverted scriptural dogma inherited by the Pharisees which are still repeated today. This article will endeavor to catalogue many of these blunders projected onto Old Testament scriptures, and express them as they are intended to be interpreted: as compatible with the Kingdom of God and the liberty inherited by those who seek it.
Sold into bondage by his own brothers out of jealousy, competition, and strife, eventually becoming an arbiter of Egyptian civil government, Joseph is often heralded as a convenient example to justify statism and the good that can be done by those who hold political office. Although he was a righteous man, whom God’s providence blessed in turning a wicked thing for his personal benefit, in spite of the sins of his brothers, a more conventional examination will put this figure’s political actions into a Biblically consistent light.
Although Joseph’s brothers had committed kidnapping and manstealing against Joseph, he was rescued by his distant cousins and, as such, he was in debt to them for his life and for twenty pieces of silver. That debt was eventually purchased by Potiphar, a military commander in Egypt. Debt is slavery, as scripture says. “The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.” (Proverbs 22:7) The bonds of contracted slavery are also reflected in the concepts of guarantees, vows, oaths, pledges, and promises all referring to outstanding debt and its future payment, typically as unpaid labor or income tax, as corvee. Joseph, making friends of the unrighteous mammon of Egypt by using his talents charitably, was eventually given all of the authority over Egypt by Sesostris III for his prudence and wisdom.
“And Joseph said, Give your cattle; and I will give you for your cattle, if money fail. And they brought their cattle unto Joseph: and Joseph gave them bread in exchange for horses, and for the flocks, and for the cattle of the herds, and for the asses: and he fed them with bread for all their cattle for that year. When that year was ended, they came unto him the second year, and said unto him, We will not hide it from my lord, how that our money is spent; my lord also hath our herds of cattle; there is not ought left in the sight of my lord, but our bodies, and our lands: Wherefore shall we die before thine eyes, both we and our land? buy us and our land for bread, and we and our land will be servants unto Pharaoh: and give us seed, that we may live, and not die, that the land be not desolate. And Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh; for the Egyptians sold every man his field, because the famine prevailed over them: so the land became Pharaoh’s. And as for the people, he removed them to cities from one end of the borders of Egypt even to the other end thereof.
Only the land of the priests bought he not; for the priests had a portion assigned them of Pharaoh, and did eat their portion which Pharaoh gave them: wherefore they sold not their lands. Then Joseph said unto the people, Behold, I have bought you this day and your land for Pharaoh: lo, here is seed for you, and ye shall sow the land. And it shall come to pass in the increase, that ye shall give the fifth part unto Pharaoh, and four parts shall be your own, for seed of the field, and for your food, and for them of your households, and for food for your little ones. And they said, Thou hast saved our lives: let us find grace in the sight of my lord, and we will be Pharaoh’s servants. And Joseph made it a law over the land of Egypt unto this day, that Pharaoh should have the fifth part, except the land of the priests only, which became not Pharaoh’s.” (Genesis 47:16-26)
Along with the totality of Egyptians, the patriarchs of Israel had not prepared for a predictable famine in their sloth, which was a reflection of the wicked characters they expressed years earlier. As such, they found themselves needing rescuing from economic despair by their own brother whom they had kidnapped and sold into bondage. To continue in that parallel, they also found themselves in debt through guarantees, vows, oaths, pledges, and promises to Egypt, for a twenty percent income tax. Salvation always comes at a heavy price, and with most “saviors” that price is extracted from those who need saving. In this case, the government of Egypt, in exchange for protection and provision, had received rights to all of the wealth of Egypt, and one fifth of the property acquired by the people thereafter. This wealth was then a storehouse, with guaranteed contributions by contract, from which the people were fed and provided for. Because the people were too slothful to prepare for a famine, they became covetous for their neighbors goods, extracted by Joseph and redistributed as federal benefits. “Protection draws to it subjection; subjection protection.” (Coke, Litt. 65) This was the gospel of Pharaoh, as we have written about elsewhere, because it was the providence of a false god under a social contract that saved the people from economic hell, and weeping and gnashing of teeth. “Let their table become a snare before them: and that which should have been for their welfare, let it become a trap.” (Psalms 69:22) That gospel tempted the Israelites to sell themselves into Egyptian bondage for socialist security. The same bondage from which God would later send Moses to free their descendents and into a free society, by the authority of a freeman’s constitution.
In short, statists are quick to point to Joseph’s employment under Pharaoh as a legitimate example that professing christians can follow in seeking political office, or even to just vaguely declare that God wants to use magistrates for good. This is in spite of the fact that Joseph clearly instituted socialist policies in Egypt and brought both foreign and domestic peoples into contracted slavery and corvee bondage. So, what exactly was God’s role for Joseph in securing him a political status that fulfilled a prophetic dream to rule over his brothers? That purpose is reflected in the existence of all civil magistrates: justice for sloth and covetousness and recompense for sin. People who do not love God will not love their brothers, and people with competition, selfishness, and violence in their hearts do not deserve to be free. People who take by force, either literally in keeping one’s brother in a hole and selling him to merchants, or figuratively in coveting government benefits at their neighbor’s expense, deserve the judgment of God, which entails abandoning them to their own devices to go under the power of false gods who will tax them into slavery. This is the lesson afforded by Joseph’s story, and this lesson is repeated all throughout scripture: Sin leads to bondage. Perhaps if God knew Joseph’s brothers to be good men, worthy of prosperity, Joseph’s fate would have allowed his prophetic ability to be a boon to Israel, rather than a curse. If the patriarchs of Israel had inspired righteousness, diligence, cooperation, and charity, maybe God’s providence would have made Israel prepared for the famine, as a testament that God blesses good people who then can bless those in need in times of strife and economic instability. While it is not certain that good people deserve good things, what is certain is that bad people do deserve bad things.
The Elders of Congregations
To understand what elders were, according to both Testaments, it is necessary to understand the Dominion Mandate. When a man loves God, he is a good steward of the things God has given him. Essentially, this means land-ownership, retaining equitable rights to property, taking a wife, and having children, retaining the equitable rights to them too. Every family acquires wealth by God’s Providence, and therefore rights, as they exercise dominion over that property. Those rights, like the wealth, like the power of the family, all rest in the hand of the patriarch, or Elder. Every man is king in his own home, in a free society, and because the wealth of society is not concentrated into a centralized system of government, the people themselves retain the power of society’s State, separate from its Government (which will be talked about shortly.) Because of this, elders could not exercise civil authority over their fellow citizens, but only natural authority over their families. The Elders represent the State in an anarchist society because the most fundamental unit of liberty is the family. The word translated “elder” from the Hebrew zaqen, just means “old, aged, or ancient man.” The Israelites were instructed to “honor their Father and Mother” and we have expressed elsewhere how this was a loaded statement, referring to the preservation of society by maintaining the functions of the family unit. By isolating elders from the rest of the congregation, one could hold an adhocratic council for the voluntary redistribution of wealth, the formation of militias in times of emergency with minimal confusion and chaos, or even the expedient dissemination of information: “Go, and gather the elders of Israel together, and say unto them, The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, appeared unto me, saying, I have surely visited you, and [seen] that which is done to you in Egypt…” (Exodus 3:16)
And the Lord said unto Moses, Gather unto me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom thou knowest to be the elders of the people, and officers over them; and bring them unto the tabernacle of the congregation, that they may stand there with thee. And I will come down and talk with thee there: and I will take of the spirit which is upon thee, and will put it upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with thee, that thou bear it not thyself alone… And the Lord came down in a cloud, and spake unto him, and took of the spirit that was upon him, and gave it unto the seventy elders: and it came to pass, that, when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied, and did not cease. (Numbers 11:16-25)
The phrase “over them” in this passage is non-existent in the Hebrew. This does not mean that these seventy elders were not officers, only that they did not exercise official authority over the people. The same word for “officer” of the Elders here in free Israel is the same word translated “taskmaster” of the people in Exodus 5:10, who also did not exercise authority over the people in Egypt, but rather over the distribution of Pharaoh’s straw. The seventy elders mentioned in Numbers 11 did eventually master their own tasks, as in Numbers 35 where they were to form forty-eight Cities of Refuge, which were appeals courts in the pursuit of justice and mercy. This ad hoc designation of responsibility did not include exercising authority over the people, but rather was a cooperative effort to prevent chaos and injustice should some member of some congregation receive an unfair trial from a jury of his peers. Only free societies can perform true justice, and even they have systems of appeals courts to protect the innocent from false verdicts or corrupt sentencing. The phrase “that they may stand” in the above excerpt from Numbers 11 is from the Hebrew yatsab, meaning “to set or station oneself, take one’s stand” “so as servants or courtiers, with implication of readiness for service.” This standing is a figurative one, implying a sense of separateness, standing on the side of righteousness, and is connected to a more divine relationship in matters of discernment and obedience to God’s will. As such, the stand these men were to take in establishing a system of appeals courts was not to rule over their fellow men, but to be a safeguard against men ruling over each other through corrupting the justice of their civil disputes. This safeguard was recognized voluntarily by the people, and its legitimacy was given weight by the fact that they prophesied to the people by the supernatural power of God. Unlike other nations, this “Supreme” court did not make them gods (judges) and this Senate (elders) did not give them legislative authority over the people.
The Levitical Priesthood
Another early presupposition most people have about God’s people is about the role of the Levites as a government for free Israel. It is understandable that many people imagine that a government is necessarily always an authority over the people, but not only is this fundamentally untrue, it is not even the normative connotation of the concept throughout history. Many governments, exampled in the Levitical Priesthood, have often consisted of servant-leaders, called-out from the congregations of the people, or the State of society. They are sustained by freewill tithes from the elders of those families according to the Levite’s character and service. That service was to connect congregating family units in a network of charity, redistributing their freewill offerings, or sacrifices, among the people as they have need. One Levite typically ministered to ten families, and other Levite ministered to ten of those Levites, and so on until the whole nation was networked together in this adhocratic system. Because the Levites had given up the right to hold private property, this gave them an inherent accountability to the people. They could not exercise authority over the people themselves, but only over the what was given to them in “burnt” offerings. And if they were not good stewards in redistributing those offerings, then that put them in danger of no longer receiving the tithes to sustain them. The people could always, at any time, choose another minister to serve them instead.
“An altar of earth thou shalt make unto me, and shalt sacrifice thereon thy burnt offerings, and thy peace offerings, thy sheep, and thine oxen: in all places where I record my name I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee. And if thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone: for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it. Neither shalt thou go up by steps unto mine altar, that thy nakedness be not discovered thereon.” (Exodus 20:24-26)
All Hebrew words have multiple meanings; at least one literal and at least one figurative. This gives much of the old testament opportunity to express allegory, which is often stripped of its spiritual meanings by those who read it without spiritual eyes. The first altar advised to Moses, the altar of earth, mentions the same “red clay” or Adamah that God used to form Adam, and is often used in metaphor to reference mankind as sons of Adam. When men come together in a freewill association in congregations to sacrifice for each other, they become an altar of earth. This image gives the relationship a sort of loose, but amalgamated mixture with individual dirt clods representing each family, and that altar of combined dirt clods representing a nation of families coming together to form an adhocratic society bound by charity, or love.
Burnt offerings were items given in charity, no longer in the possession of those who gave it and who were no longer able to exercise authority over its use. The grantor treated his charity as though it were burned up and gone, given wholly to his neighbor as though it were given to God. To give your gift at the altar is to give up your property rights to it. More specifically, a peace offering was a conciliatory event, owed in propitiation for some offense against one’s neighbor. This was not a general exercise of charity like a burnt offering, it was a direct expression of justice and conscience to right some wrong and pay some recompense in order to keep peace with your neighbor and make your relationship whole again in the event of some property damage or incurred debt. Both of these concepts do exist in authoritarian societies of pagan cultures, but the difference is reflected in that those cultures extract those offerings by force through taxation and statutory penalties. Charity is replaced with the entitlement of social security and other socialist welfare programs. Propitiatory amends are replaced with begrudged and embittered penalties.
The second altar mentioned to Moses, an altar of stone, is described with a cautious set of conditions. Stones were also a metaphor for men, with different Hebrew words referring to “friend” (stone) or “council” (a gathering of stones). This altar reflects the servants of society, attendant priests making up God’s government with its own structure and purpose. The act of hewing stones was forbidden for this altar because it is immoral for the people to place regulations and restrictions on their ministers in relation to the performance of their duties. They too were ruled by God alone, but consecrated to Him as His body politic. The people could govern the system of welfare and temper the wisdom of the ministers only by regulating their own intervals of charity, or its contents, but they could not control the men themselves through legislative or constitutional oversight and puppeteering. The ministers remained whole men, voluntarily working in a private and natural capacity as friends of the people, rather than as public “servants” who are just rulers with the ability to force the contributions of their congregations. Another condition placed on this altar of stones is the proscription of it “going up by steps.” This is a metaphor for hierarchy within the government of God. There is no artificial tier or degree system amongst the ministers as you might naturally find within a family unit. Such a pyramid scheme would necessitate a centralization of power and a concentration of wealth as one ascended the altar. This would be counterproductive to legitimately serving the people, creating a vacuum to be filled by power hungry politicians who desire prestige and a guaranteed income. Such a system can only ever produce corruption in a ruling elite, and a sense of slothful entitlement in the people. The nakedness warned against in this passage is a metaphor for a lack of authority to cover the ministers who had no personal estates or inheritance to take care of them and therefore no way to protect and sustain themselves. It is the concept of dominion that gives mankind his covering, so long as he stewards that dominion in accordance with the will of God. It was the duty of parents to cover their own children by the produce of their own labor, and as such, their children could only ever act under their authority and jurisdiction. But this dominion and natural authority was not applicable to the servant ministers who lived by the freewill tithes of the people. They could not cover themselves. They were covered daily by the people and by God according to their service and character. To attempt to create a hierarchy would be to no longer have eligibility to be covered by the people or by God because they are betraying one and disobeying the other. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God, they too realized their own “nakedness” in going out from under His authority, rejecting His protection and provision as a consequence for their misconduct. A different metaphor for this authority and covering is expressed in 1 Corinthians 11 concerning how women are uncovered without the authority of their fathers or husbands and how, contrariwise, men can only be free without a covering. We have talked about this concept elsewhere. “And thou shalt make them linen breeches to cover their nakedness; from the loins even unto the thighs they shall reach…” (Exodus 28:42) It is not as though the Levites were literally naked, requiring that the people actually made their clothes for them. It is that the ministers had no personal estate or inheritance and owned all things in common, receiving protection and provision from free families through charity, and those who served best were covered most. “But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant…” (Matthew 20:26-27)
“Hearken now unto my voice, I will give thee counsel, and God shall be with thee: Be thou for the people to God-ward, that thou mayest bring the causes unto God: And thou shalt teach them ordinances and laws, and shalt shew them the way wherein they must walk, and the work that they must do. Moreover thou shalt 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, and rulers of tens: And let them judge the people at all seasons: and it shall be, that every great matter they shall bring unto thee, but every small matter they shall judge: so shall it be easier for thyself, and they shall bear the burden with thee. If thou shalt do this thing, and God command thee so, then thou shalt be able to endure, and all this people shall also go to their place in peace. So Moses hearkened to the voice of his father in law, and did all that he had said.” (Exodus 18:19-23)
Unable to distinguish the role of ad hoc judges in free Israel from the concept of ruling judges that exist in western society today, statists will do a disservice to the Biblical concept and champion it as an example of positional authority like they do the Levites, or like the Sanhedrin did much later. But the context expresses a different interpretation. A distinct qualification for the role of these judges was that they were to be men of service, rather than covetousness, because ruling judges are men of covetousness, whose income is guaranteed through taxation, compelled by force from the people, and they necessarily become arbiters and representative of the tax system. In this case, the tax system would have been represented by Egypt from which God liberated the Israelites, and to which God instructed them never to return. The phrase “over them” in the above passage is also translated “steward,” “among,” “beside,” and “between.” The term for “ruler” is also translated “leader,” but is also often a reference to the Elders and patriarchs within congregations. In fact, this same model of organizing society into “thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens” is commanded by Christ in Mark 6 when it comes time to maintain a structured society into an adohractic system in order to redistribute the charity of the people. This model was also practiced by early christians in their congregations, and was already made familiar to the Israelites in the recognition of Elders and the calling out of the Levites. To have members of society set apart for specific tasks and roles is not necessarily to make them literal rulers who compel submission and obedience of the rest of society, and it is only a consequence of our own idolatry that makes it so easy to conflate the two concepts. These men fulfilled a voluntary, added role for a people who were newly free and did not yet know how to navigate their liberty through social virtues and community ethics. They did not need more rulers like they had in Egyptian bondage, because this would defeat the purpose of the Exodus. Rather, they needed men of wisdom to blaze a trail, navigating God’s Law so that free people could strengthen each other in performance of the weightier matters.
It should be noted that the same Hebrew word used for the noun form of “judge” is also interchangeable with the word used for “god” meaning “ruler, judge”; “applied as deference to magistrates” according to Strong, making all rulers and most judges “gods” by definition. This is especially true in American government. However, the historical account of these judges particular to free Israel shows that they did not exercise authority over the people themselves, but only over those “small” matters voluntarily entrusted to them by the people. Which is in the same spirit of the charity entrusted to the Levites. Easton’s Bible Dictionary has this to say:
“The office of judges or regents was held during life, but it was not hereditary, neither could they appoint their successors. Their authority was limited by the law alone, and in doubtful cases they were directed to consult the divine King through the priest by Urim and Thummim (Numbers 27:21). Their authority extended only over those tribes by whom they had been elected or acknowledged. There was no income attached to their office, and they bore no external marks of dignity. The only cases of direct divine appointment are those of Gideon and Samson, and the latter stood in the peculiar position of having been from before his birth ordained ‘to begin to deliver Israel.’ Deborah was called to deliver Israel, but was already a judge. Samuel was called by the Lord to be a prophet but not a judge, which ensued from the high gifts the people recognized as dwelling in him; and as to Eli, the office of judge seems to have devolved naturally or rather ex officio upon him.”
There is a lot to unpack here. While Easton does declare the judges to be “rulers,” closer inspection reveals that the nature of their rulership was fundamentally different than what we experience in civil courts today, which are based on Roman Civil Law, which ultimately finds its foundation in Babylonian tradition. That tradition is only complete as long as the people are subject citizens of an authoritarian state rather than free souls under God. The power of the Israelite judges was apparently so limited, that it was dwarfed, and basically titular. It appears to be a more functional enterprise, as an added voluntary responsibility that some members of the congregations aspired to hold, and made personal sacrifice in order to fulfill its roles. Their authority was limited to interpreting matters that the people presented to them, through the Law of God. A further limitation to their function is evidenced in that each judge’s recommendations only applied to the families that “elected” them to serve them. This is not referring to election into an office of authority, but rather a selection of designation and freewill choice that could be rescinded based on their quality and conduct in the performance of their function, much like the attendant priests in the network of charity. They had no guaranteed income like the judges of pagan societies do. They had no positional recognition. They were adhocratic functions according to the needs of the people, limited to the context of those needs, as based on their knowledgeability of the framework of God’s Law, and their wisdom in applying that Law to the matters presented to them. Without income or positional authority, there was no way for them to rule over the people or enforce their interpretations and advisory decisions. The people had to choose whether to cooperate with this relationship to the judges at every single instance, based on their own knowledge of God’s will and their sensitivity to His Spirit. The judges were not infallible, as we will see, and so their judgments had to be careful, or a righteous people would begin to mistrust them and look to other peers to function as their judges. In short, like the Levites, the judges were reflective of a true republic, holding a titular office, and a function characterized by service, wisdom, and good character rather than by authority, legalism, and position.
A common argument we face in defense of idolatry and statism is this idea that, because kings existed in ancient Israel, that must mean God ordained them, or that they were a part of God’s original plan for his people, rather than a concession for the hardness of their hearts. However, this passage from 1 Samuel 8, makes God’s position clear on human authority:
“Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah, And said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations. But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the LORD. And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them. According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even unto this day, wherewith they have forsaken me, and served other gods, so do they also unto thee. Now therefore hearken unto their voice: howbeit yet protest solemnly unto them, and shew them the manner of the king that shall reign over them.
And Samuel told all the words of the LORD unto the people that asked of him a king. And he said, This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots. And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and will set them to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots. And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers. And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants. And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants. And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants. And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the LORD will not hear you in that day. Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay; but we will have a king over us; That we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles. And Samuel heard all the words of the people, and he rehearsed them in the ears of the LORD. And the LORD said to Samuel, Hearken unto their voice, and make them a king. And Samuel said unto the men of Israel, Go ye every man unto his city.” (1 Samuel 8:4-22)
This account begins with a deceitful pretext as an excuse on behalf of the patriarchs of Israel in asking Samuel for a king. Their reasoning is saturated in hypocrisy and non sequitur. By declaring that Samuel’s sons were unsatisfactory to the people as judges, they are admitting that the people themselves were not diligent enough to hold those judges accountable or to appoint new judges, as was their responsibility in this free republic. They were confessing their own sloth and apathy. Corrupt servants cannot prevail against a free people because a free people are a righteous people, so their servants reflect their spirit. Another unsensible angle expressed about this request for a king is this idea: if the people are complaining about a few social duties going unfulfilled when concentrated into the few hands of the judges, then what did they think was going to happen when they concentrate many social duties into the hands of a centralized ruling authority? The answer, as the rest of the passage elucidates, is that they did not care. Their complaints were pretense and their excuses were lame. They had the same attitude when Samuel warned them of the consequences of statism in rejecting God as their king as some of the Jews in the New Testament did when rejecting Jesus Christ as their king: “Nay, but we will have a king over us” or, in other words, “His blood be on us and our children.”
The warnings that God gave to the Israelites about having human rulers like all the other pagan nations are just as common to those nations: they have standing militaries, they have forced labor, or income tax, in service to civil bureaucracies, they concentrate wealth into the political institutions, abandoning the dominion prescribed by God, and they establish a property tax for the property that is left in the hands of the people, consistent with distributing legal titles. While the wealth and power of choice of the people used to rest in the authority of the patriarchs and heads of families, now that wealth and authority was going to be concentrated into a civil office and its bureaucracy. What should be noted here is that the Israelites are predicted to pay only a ten percent tax rate to the king for which they are begging, while they had to pay twenty percent while they were in bondage to Pharaoh, and God still considers it an abomination. Professing christians in bondage today still have the audacity to say that God prescribes human rulers while they pay anywhere between thirty percent and fifty percent on income tax alone, not including their other property taxes, or through the hidden tax of inflation.
Nevertheless, just like how these statists stubbornly run headlong into destruction and seeks ways to justify it, the Israelites did get their king in spite of God’s and Samuel’s warnings. In His patience, in spite of the idolatry of the Israelites, God established decrees to limit kingly power over the people. If these decrees were followed faithfully, the role of a king would be merely titular and powerless, encouraging the people to retain their power of choice. In fact, scripture records times where Israel’s earliest kings attempted to bend or break these rules, and God promptly rebuked them, and their actions were called foolish. Saul comes to mind, because he illustrates the notion that power corrupts. Only in his second year of reigning as king, he was foolish to force the people to pay for his troops so that he could defend the nation against the Philistines. Later, Saul’s thirst for power corrupted him and drove him to despair, as human authority influences all of those who possess it to despotism, suspicion, madness, and destruction: of the people over which they rule, and also of themselves. Saul would eventually commit suicide after years of debasing himself under the weight of his own crown. When it comes to usurping the liberty of the people and being called foolish for it, David also comes to mind. It is the habit of statists to attempt to give David a pass as a human ruler because Scripture does have a lot of good things to say about him as an individual, even that he was “a man after God’s own heart.” But power corrupts even the best men, and the unnatural burden that is civil authority will turn a good man wicked. Scripture describes that David’s actions were satanic when he took up a census of the people in order to establish a standing military. He later repented, citing his own actions as foolish. The thirst for power later inspired David to commit infidelity and murder, forever tarnishing his name as a champion of the people. It is true that all men fall, and sin, and must repent. It is also true that when you give them power, falling into sin is much more certain, and repenting from it is much less so. It might be beneficial to note both that David engaged in much imperialism on behalf of Israel, but was also not a great liberator, and ended up placing the lands he conquered under heavy taxation.
“Although Saul failed as the first king of Israel, his successor David, as a great warrior, was able to conquer much of the territory belonging to the Promised Land.
David’s son Solomon extended his sway until he put under tribute most of the area originally mentioned to Abraham [Gen 15:18] from the river of Egypt to the River Euphrates.” (Major Bible Themes: Revised Edition  Lewis Sperry Chafer)
David’s successor, Solomon, although described as the wisest man that ever lived, committed more foolish atrocities than Saul and David combined. He was a pragmatist in instituting idolatry in Israel, he made treaties with pagan nations, taking their women to be his wives in exchange, and was instrumental in pushing the nation into civil war as a veritable tyrant, which culminated during the reign of his own son. History squashes any notion that a ruling king over Israel was either something God condoned, or something that was instrumental for the good of the people:
“While the Hebrew judgment of David seems to be ambivalent, his accomplishments in his forty-year reign are undeniable. After centuries of losing conflicts, the Hebrews finally defeat the Philistines unambiguously under the brilliant military leadership of David. His military campaigns transform the New Hebrew kingdom into a Hebrew empire. An empire is a state that rules several more or less independent states. These independent states never fully integrate themselves into the larger state, but under the threat of military retaliation sent tribute and labor to the king of the empire.
Most importantly, David unites the tribes of Israel under an absolute monarchy. This monarchical government involved more than just military campaigns, but also included non-military affairs: building, legislation, judiciaries, etc. He also built up Jerusalem to look more like the capitals of other kings: rich, large, and opulently decorated. Centralized government, a standing army, and a wealthy capital do not come free; the Hebrews found themselves for the first time since the Egyptian period groaning under heavy taxes and the beginnings of forced labor.
It is the third and last king of a united Hebrew state, however, that turned the Hebrew monarchy into something comparable to the opulent monarchies of the Middle East and Egypt. The Hebrew account portrays a wise and shrewd king, the best of all the kings of Israel. The portrait, however, isn’t completely positive and some troubling aspects emerge.
What emerges from the portrait of Solomon is that he desired to be a king along the model of Mesopotamian kings. He built a fabulously wealthy capital in Jerusalem with a magnificent palace and an enormous temple attached to that palace (this would become the temple of Jerusalem). All of this building and wealth involved imported products: gold, copper, and cedar, which were unavailable in Israel. So Solomon taxed his people heavily, and what he couldn’t pay for in taxes, he paid for in land and people. He gave twenty towns to foreign powers, and he paid Phoenicia in slave labor: every three months, 30,000 Hebrews had to perform slave labor for the King of Tyre. This, it would seem, is what Samuel meant when he said the people would pay dearly for having a king.
…Groaning under the oppression of Solomon, the Hebrews became passionately discontent, so that upon Solomon’s death (around 926 to 922 BC) the ten northern tribes revolted. Unwilling to be ruled by Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, these tribes successfully seceded and established their own kingdom. The great empire of David and Solomon was gone never to be seen again; in its place were two mighty kingdoms which lost all the territory of David’s once proud empire within [two] hundred years of Solomon’s passing.” (Jewish Virtual Library, The Monarchy, 1050-920 BC)
One of the last excuses that statist will cling to in order to justify ruling kings as God’s will for Israel (or anybody) is the notion that, in spite of all of the predicted moral failings of Israel’s kings, they were instrumental in fulfilling God’s will, and that will included the building of the Temple of Jerusalem. This is a common misconception but is, rather, entirely untrue. God never wanted a temple made of literal stones. God’s way, as we have already touched on, was in the opposite direction of institutionalism characterized by government buildings, towards an aerobic adhocracy, where the people were responsible for their own welfare through the body politic of God, the Levites. The building of a literal temple, as a concept, contradicts the notion that our bodies are temples and that God’s temple is built with living stones (us).
“Yet it stands that the building of a temple for God was David’s idea – something he came up with while relaxing in his palace (2 Samuel 7:1-2). Similar to the concept of a human king, this idea no doubt came about after noticing that neighboring nations [had built] beautiful temples for their gods.
The God of the Hebrews, on the other hand, had a simple tent that was to house the Ark of Covenant and other miscellaneous items of worship – granted, by this time, the Ark was hanging out in a separate tent pitched by David at Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6:17) while the Tabernacle was miles away at Gibeon (1 Kings 8:4). This tent, or Tabernacle, was a war-tent originally built during the [wanderings] of the Hebrew people through the desert during the time of Moses and was to remind everyone that God dwelt among them as their Lord and King.
Unfortunately, David and his son Solomon were not content with such an arrangement so they decided to build God a temple that would wow the nations. For some reason, God decided to go along with this plan – probably because of the same reason He allowed the Hebrew people to have a human king, and most likely, because He understood the heart of these men to love and serve Him.” (Joshua Hopping. “Did God Really Want a Temple?” Wild Goose Chase, 17 Oct.)
In a free society, temples are places where the people of a nation gather for specific events, purposes, projects, and voluntary social duties. They are a bastion of adhocracy and freewill cooperation, in a system of national charity, and in focal points for social gatherings and reunions. For Free Israel, their temple was not a building made with literal stones, but it had been a tent that was ministered to by living stones. In societies of bondage, however, temples were physical buildings as establishments of authoritarian governments serving as storehouses of records, contracts, socialist welfare, federal banking (which we have written on extensively), public libraries, education, and other offices of bureaucratic institutions. This latter description would eventually become the fate of the temple that David desired to build. It is also reflected in the temple Herod had built, which is relevant to Christ’s ministry. But there is plenty of evidence to say that it is not the temple that God wanted.
“As we have seen, the temple originated with David, not God, and God clearly rejected David’s proposal to build it (1 Chron. 17:4). Yet David did much or nearly all of the work, under the guise of extensive “preparation,” even giving the first command to begin its construction. God never asked for an “exalted” (1 Ki. 8:13) or “exceedingly magnificent, famous and glorious” (1 Chron. 22:5) temple and Stephen includes the building of the temple in his list of examples of how the Israelites had resisted the Holy Spirit. Nonetheless, at some point God permitted David to continue, even blessing him in his preparations with guidance from the Holy Spirit (1 Chron. 28:12) and ultimately filling it with his glory (2 Chron. 5:13; 2 Chron. 7:1-2; 1 Ki. 8:10-11).” (Shawn Nelson. “Evidence The Temple Was NOT God’s Will.” Geeky Christian, 27 Feb. 2018.)
After Israel’s civil war, and after the split kingdom started devolving into downward spirals of idolatry and tyrant-kings, the people were eventually invaded and taken into captivity by the Assyrian Empire, and then into Babylon which had been a tributary to Assyria, but overthrew it. This is when the young nobility of Jerusalem were taken into bondage. It should be noted that there are no victims in captivity. It is always sin that leads to bondage (Rom. 6:20). It is only ever the slothful who are under tribute (Pr. 12:24). When the Israelites asked for a king, they sealed their fate. God does not rule the wicked, but rather gives them up to a reprobate mind and the ouroboros of self-destruction. He removes his hand of protection and provision, and allows the wolves and other predatory nations to come in and wreak havoc. He does this to encourage sinners to repent, and seek Him to be their God and ruler instead, so that He may redeem them from civil bondage and restore them to His image, where they may inherit dominion as free souls under God.
Among the young nobility now subject to the reign of Nebuchadnezzar II of the Neo-Babylonian Empire is Daniel. “Nebuchadnezzar” is a title given to the ruler of this nation, which means “may Nebo protect the crown.” Nebo, a god of education and wisdom, may represent a tree of knowledge. But as we can see from the person of Daniel, while he is often misrepresented as a crutch for the idea of seeking political authority and of the good that can be done through civil office, he consistently chooses to eat from the tree of life. The biggest argument in support of this view is the fact that Daniel remained separate from partaking in the benefits of Babylonian civil citizenship.
“But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself. Now God had brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs. And the prince of the eunuchs said unto Daniel, I fear my lord the king, who hath appointed your meat and your drink: for why should he see your faces worse liking than the children which are of your sort? then shall ye make me endanger my head to the king.
Then said Daniel to Melzar, whom the prince of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days; and let them give us pulse to eat, and water to drink. Then let our countenances be looked upon before thee, and the countenance of the children that eat of the portion of the king’s meat: and as thou seest, deal with thy servants. So he consented to them in this matter, and proved them ten days. And at the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king’s meat. Thus Melzar took away the portion of their meat, and the wine that they should drink; and gave them pulse. As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.” (Daniel 1:8-17)
Daniel’s refusal to eat at the King’s table and refrain from eating meat or drinking wine does not reveal that he was a vegetarian or a teetotaler. What it does reveal is that he was not an idolater who coveted his neighbor’s goods. “Incline not my heart to any evil thing, to practise wicked works with men that work iniquity: and let me not eat of their dainties.” (Psalms 141:4) Often throughout scripture, provision like meat and bread are images used to refer to the socialist welfare provided by human institutions. Even wine is used to describe the intoxicating effects that partaking in those benefits yields.
“When thou sittest to eat with a ruler, consider diligently what [is] before thee: And put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite. Be not desirous of his dainties: for they are deceitful meat. Labour not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom. Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven. Eat thou not the bread of him that hath an evil eye, neither desire thou his dainty meats: For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee. The morsel which thou hast eaten shalt thou vomit up, and lose thy sweet words. (Proverbs 23:1-8)
In going out of his way to remain separate from Babylon’s system of socialist benefits, Daniel consecrates himself to God to be his provider instead. These worldly benefits are a snare that change men, making them always hungry and never full, twisted by covetousness and lust for their neighbor’s goods, which in turn makes them emaciated because their neighbor covets their goods in return, all through the mechanism of bureaucracy and civil extortion. This is the deal with the devil that forfeits one’s soul, making one immoral, on the slippery slope of continued destruction. By Daniel’s obedience, God sustains him, keeps him healthy, and obviously set apart from those cannibals who sit at the king’s table. His healthy face remains a reflection of his moral character, and the benefits he receives from God are supernatural.
To further compound this point, in Daniel 2:25, he is referred to as a “captive” or “exile” of Judah. Often throughout scripture, this concept is coupled with the word “stranger” which sometimes means “resident” or “alien” as opposed to “citizen” and sometimes means “without a share,” as in possesses no entitlement to the strange nation’s provision. This is the quintessential meaning of “being in the world and not of the world.”
While Nebuchadnezzar did give Daniel authority over part of his kingdom, it is still clear from Daniel 3 that the “captives, exiles, and strangers” refused to partake in Babylonian citizenship and receive its contracted benefits. For when the king made a central bank, in the form of a statue to be the “one purse” of the people, these “residents” did not worship the idol by paying into it or receiving from it, or worship its gods by being subject citizens to their legislative authority. These “aliens” refused to serve the national economy, and the many institutions that were formed to maintain it. They refused to become a surety of the collective debt inherited by those who belong to the idols that reflect federal reserves, thereby making them employees of that system. They were directly persecuted, cast into the furnace, and miraculously spared by God.
In the most famous account about Daniel in chapter 6, he was also directly persecuted for refusing to apply to king Darius for provision and benefits, and disobeyed his decree by applying to God for providence instead. These circumstances are almost an exact mirror to the chain of events in chapter 3. For relying on God’s providence, remaining unstained from Darius’ compelled citizenship and entitlements, Daniel is miraculously spared a gruesome death in the den of lions. It is because Daniel chose to be separate from civil bondage that he found prosperity and peace even though he was a captive due to the sins of his fathers.
Another common prooftext to support the idea that Christians should seek office, and seek to do good through institutionalism is found in the person of Esther. It was under Darius’ son Xerxes I that many of the Israelites still found themselves in captivity in Persia.
“And Haman said unto king Ahasuerus, There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of thy kingdom; and their laws are diverse from all people; neither keep they the king’s laws: therefore it is not for the king’s profit to suffer them. If it please the king, let it be written that they may be destroyed: and I will pay ten thousand talents of silver to the hands of those that have the charge of the business, to bring it into the king’s treasuries.” (Esther 3:8-9)
When statists attempt to legitimize political pursuit using Esther’s example, they tend to overlook this context which clearly describes the Jews as a political society, rather than merely an ethnic group. “And many of the people of the land became Jews; for the fear of the Jews fell upon them.” (Esther 8:17) They, like Daniel in Babylon, were in the world of Persia, but not of the world of Persia. They were strangers and exiles with their own laws, customs, cities and way of life, as sovereign captives rather than subject civil slaves under a ruler’s legislative authority. People in captivity, obedient to God, do not assimilate into whatever civil society by which they find themselves surrounded. What we also see from this passage is that civil power corrupts and makes minds of rulers suspicious, which means that anyone not under that civil power easily becomes a target to someone wielding that civil power. This is the seed of all persecution committed by tyrants. People free and independent from government’s cult of personality are necessarily an outlet for the bloodlust of the cult.
Esther may have endeavored to preserve the lives of the Jews, but she did so without compromising the liberty that they were already practicing, remaining separate from the covetous and idolatrous customs of socialist empires. The Jews would not acknowledge worldly civil institutions or their arbiters, as we can see from Mordecai’s behavior and controversy. It might be beneficial to suggest that there is nothing in the book of Esther saying that God’s providence would not have protected the Jews miraculously if she was not involved in the situation. This is because neither God nor his providence are ever even mentioned in the story, and God’s will must be inferred and projected onto the plot. This means that the actions of Esther and Mordecai are purely descriptive rather than prescriptive. What we do know about Esther is that she attempted to “make friends of the unrighteous mammon,” which is what Christ commands those in civil bondage to do. This means that she used her position, not to legitimize human authority, but to make sure her people remained free from it. An implication of this is exampled later in the story, and is prescribed all over scripture:
“As the days wherein the Jews rested from their enemies, and the month which was turned unto them from sorrow to joy, and from mourning into a good day: that they should make them days of feasting and joy, and of sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor.” (Esther 9:22)
Part of the custom of those in captivity is the same as those in true liberty. They regularly maintain love feasts of charity, taking the personal responsibility to be counted among a network of freewill offerings that sustains the poor, as a daily ministration to keep the weightier matters. In this way, they bear one another’s burdens, keeping each other free from going under civil bondage for the socialist providence of false gods. Loving our neighbor covers a multitude of sins because it takes away his need to look for his protection or provision from the deceitful offers made by would-be Benefactors, which would bring them under their civil power in their idolatry. This model is actually an explicit command of God for those in captivity:
“Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, unto all that are carried away captives, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem unto Babylon; Build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them; Take ye wives, and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; that ye may be increased there, and not diminished. And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the LORD for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace.” (Jeremiah 29:4-7)
Not only were they to retain their own land, and work it in self-sufficiency, they were to be fruitful and multiply, forming a strong, independent nation within the nation of their captivity, depending on each other out of charity, rather than remaining weak and depending on some foreign power and nation-state for their survival. What does it mean to seek the peace of a city under which God’s people find themselves as residents? It does not mean to infiltrate its power centers (the opposite of seeking peace), or to become assimilated into its citizenry as subject inferiors. Especially since the former almost always can only be done under the premise of the latter. It does mean to turn the city’s world upside down by establishing a better way to maintain society and be a stumbling block to their idolatrous worldview. It is through unstained religion, and a sense of humble obedience to God, that a surrounding pagan nation has cause to convert their way of life to reflect the Kingdom of God, as occurred when many of the Persian people “became Jews.” This is the difference between the false “peace, peace” of yoking equally together with the unbelievers and the real peace of living a better way and calling unbelievers to join you in repentance.
After having discussed few of the many Old Testament prooftexts commonly used in defense of human archism, and reviewing them in the light of the purpose of Scripture, we will endeavor to perform the same feat in our next article concerning commonly misconceived prooftexts of the New Testament.