info This commentary was written by a volunteer for our Bible translation project. It’s not an official view of our project; we are not a religious denomination and we do not establish doctrine. These commentaries reflect a variety of views and some disagree with each other.
The word ‘Theocracy’ means ‘God’(Theos) ‘Rule’ or ‘Power’ (Kratia).
Through the ages there have been many largely unsuccessful attempts at creating Theocracies by both religious and political institutions. However, the problem with creating Theocracies today is that they are instituted by men and the laws of such institutions are always subject to religious interpretations and personal viewpoints. Therefore, a history of Theocratic rulerships clearly shows that almost all have proven to be harmful or even deadly, and they have resulted in very strict and oppressive rules.
However, the Bible does tell us of one period of truly Theocratic rule in the land of IsraEl, which was neither oppressive nor harsh. This was the brief period between the time of Moses and the start of the rule of IsraEl’s first King Saul, which is often referred to as the period of the Judges.
Nevertheless; though the period of IsraEl’s judges was truly a time of rulership by God (a theocratic rule with no one standing between the people and God), the stories that we read (as found in the Bible book of Judges) just speak of the times when the people turned from true worship… and then of the bad things that happened to them as the result.
But does this mean this this form of rulership and life was a bad idea? Or was it in fact the best way in the eyes of God?
Well, consider that thereafter, the nation entered the period of rulership by kings. And notice God’s opinion of this. For He told the last Judge SamuEl (at 1 Samuel 8:7-9):
‘Listen to the voice of the people and do all that they’re asking. For they aren’t treating you with contempt, they’re just doing the same things they’ve been doing to Me since the day that I led them out of Egypt. And as they’ve abandoned Me to serve other gods; that’s how they’re treating you now. So, do whatever they ask. However, explain what will happen when you appoint a king to rule over them.’
As you can see; God viewed their asking for a king to be a rejection of Him and His Theocratic rulership.
What was this theocratic form of government like… was it harsh and oppressive? No, for notice what we are told at Judges 21:25:
‘Back in those days (since there was no king in IsraEl), every man did whatever he thought was right.’
Isn’t that interesting?
Yes, they had the Law that had been given to them by God through Moses, and the Law laid out the penalties for disobeying it. And that’s why there were just Judges, not kings, rulers, or governors. These Laws were very specific and they didn’t allow any room for interpretation.
The people also had the Priests and God’s sacred ‘Tent,’ so true worship was always available to them, and they knew what was required to maintain their worship of and obedience to their only true Ruler, God. Yet despite this, the people often strayed from righteous ways, and what could be called ‘karma’ was the result.
Does this mean that a true ‘Libertarian’ Theocracy was impractical and that rule by human kings was a more practical form of government?
No, for as the Biblical history of the Bible tells us; the period of the kings was flawed by the very same failures of the people and their kings, and the result was total destruction not just once but twice.
Also notice that the kings brought their own oppression upon the people, just as SamuEl had warned them would happen at 1 Samuel 8:11-18:
‘This is what you can expect from the kings that will rule over you:
* They will take your sons and mount them on chariots or appoint them as cavalry to ride in front of their chariots.
* Then they will appoint commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds, and [your sons] will have to plow and harvest their fields and pick their grapes before they send them to war on chariots.
* They will also take your daughters to serve as perfume makers, cooks, and bakers, and they will take the best food from your fields, vineyards, and olive groves to feed their servants.
* Then they will claim a tenth of your grain and grapes for their eunuchs and servants, and they will take the best of your male and female slaves, as well as your burros… a tenth of everything you own!
* They will take a tenth of your flocks, and you will then be their servants.
* Also, the day will come when you’ll call out to the king that you will chose for yourselves, and he won’t pay any attention to Jehovah.’
So as you can see, the period of human kings was even worse!
Then, what about the ‘Theocratic’ rule of religious organizations?
Hasn’t God given us a righteous way of governing religious adherents under the rulership of righteous men in religious organizations? After all; didn’t Paul the Apostle set out the way of true Theocratic rulership when he set out the guidelines for appointing ‘Elders’ or ‘Bishops’ and ‘Servants’ or ‘Deacons?’
Well, we would never challenge the authority that was given to Paul by Jesus. And maybe, like the period of Kings, the period of rulership by men in the early Christian Congregation served a good purpose during the formation of ‘Churches’ or ‘Congregations’ among early Christians. But of interest was Jesus’ words when talking to his Apostles about the matter of rulership, as found at Matthew 23:10-12:
‘But not you! Don’t [have people] call you rabbi, for you have but one teacher, while you are all just brothers. Nor should you address anyone on this earth as Father, because there’s just One who’s your Father, the Heavenly One. Don’t even be called leaders, because you have but one Leader,the Anointed One. Rather, the greatest among you must be your servant. For those who promote themselves will be humbled, while those who humble themselves will be promoted.’
So according to Jesus; True Theocracy has no leaders, teachers, or human rulers.
In other words: God’s Theocratic government has no barriers between us and the one whom He has appointed over us, Jesus the Anointed. And like ancient IsraEl during the time of the Judges; in His Theocratic government, we each truly stand before God and we can expect to be judged by what we think and act upon as the right thing to do.