Proposition #25
The Theocracy was an earnest, introductory, or initiatory form of this Kingdom.


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PROPOSITION 25. The Theocracy was an earnest, introductory, or initiatory form of this Kingdom.

The Theocracy, which had typical and ceremonial observances, as Paul teaches, that were to be removed in Christ, had a form of government which, prophecy instructs us, is to be fully exhibited in all its beauty and excellency under the Messiah, the great Jewish king, David’s son. A host of able writers, as, e.g., Martensen (Ch. Dog., p. 230), call “the Theocracy the Kingdom of God.”[*]

Note. Provisionary in some of its aspects, the Theocracy still possessed the essential elements of God’s Kingdom, and gave an earnest only of what God intends. It was a form of government under the sole, accessible Headship of God Himself (Deut. 5, etc.). He was the Supreme Lawgiver in civil and religious affairs (Deut. 4:12 and 12:32), and when difficult cases required it (Deut. 17:8–13), the Divine Arbiter or Judge. In brief, the legislative, executive, and judicial power was vested in Him, and partially delegated to others, to be exercised under a restricted form (Deut. 16:18, etc.). All the people (Deut. 29:10–13), in their civil, religious, social, and family relations, were to acknowledge, and be obedient to His expressed will. He communicated His will according to an ordained manner, and when not declared, or where there was doubt, the princes or leaders could come for inquiry and receive specific directions. As an indication and reminder of this Supremacy, all the people were required at certain times in the year (Deut. 16:16, etc.) to visit the place of special manifestation, and renew their vows of allegiance. The prophets (e.g. Isa. 1:21–24) spoke for God to the highest and lowest, and their rebukes were in the name of the Supreme Head. M’Clintock and Strong’s Cyclop., Art. “Monarchy, Israelitish,” says: “According to the sense of the Mosaic constitution, the Hebrews were erected into a kind of republic under the immediate dominion of Jehovah, forming a strict theocracy.” Fairbairn (Typology, vol. 2, p. 391) gives as the true idea, and distinctive nature of a Theocracy, “the formal exhibition of God as King, or Supreme Head of the Commonwealth; so that all authority and law emanated from Him, and, by necessary consequence, there were not two societies in the ordinary sense, civil and religious, but a fusion of the two into one body” (comp. his able article on “The Jewish Theocracy” and Locke’s definition in “Treat, on Toleration”).

Obs. 1. Kurtz (Sac. His., p. 113) has aptly defined: the “Theocracy is a government of the State by the immediate direction of God; Jehovah condescended to reign over Israel in the same direct manner in which an earthly king reigns over his people.” Gleig (His. Bible, vol. 1, p. 218) says: “With wisdom worthy of Himself, He assumed not merely a religious, but a political, superiority, over the descendants of Abraham; He constituted Himself, in the strictest sense of the phrase, King of Israel, and the government of Israel became, in consequence, strictly and literally, a Theocracy.”[*]

Note. Comp. Horne’s Introd., vol. 2, p. 41, Art. “Theocracy” in Smith’s Dic.; Kitto’s, Calmet’s, etc., Cyclops. Indeed, many, unaware how fundamental an accurate knowledge of the Theocracy is for a proper understanding of the Kingdom of God, and how largely it enters into the composition of the Millenarian argument, make all the concessions possible, viz.: that it is the Kingdom of God, a kingdom on earth, over which God rules in a special, direct manner as an earthly king, etc. References in abundance might be adduced, for good definitions are to be found in many able works. Josephus (C. Ap. 2:17) appropriately called this government of God’s over their nation, so different from a simple monarchy, oligarchy, democracy, or any other form, “a Theocracy,” which expresses the leading fact, that of God Himself being the recognized King. Some definitions are defective, and lead to error on an important point. Thus e.g. Dixon (quoted by Stanley, His. Jewish Ch.) pronounces it to be “a government by priests, conducted in the name of God.” Stanley (Lec. 7) forcibly shows that this is opposed by the facts, and then correctly says: “The Theocracy of Moses was not a government by priests as opposed to kings; it was a government by God Himself, as opposed to the government by priests or kings. It was, indeed, in its highest sense, as appeared afterward in the time of David, compatible both with regal and sacerdotal rule.” Originally and primarily all civil and religious law proceeded from God, and others in the government were subordinates to carry into execution the supreme will of the King, i.e. God. The Theocracy is something then very different from the Divine Sovereignty, and must not be confounded with the same, as e.g. is done by the able lecturer Cook who (as quoted in Cm. Gazette, March 27th, 1877) says: “We must assert, that the fact of the Divine Immanence in matter and mind makes the world and nations a Theocracy.” The word is abundantly perverted; Romanists apply it to their church; Protestants, to the Christian Church; Unbelievers, to priestly rule; writers, to Christian states, and even (as Milligen) to the Turkish state, etc., thus violating the fundamental and essential idea involved in its meaning. Baring-Gould (Orig. and Devel. of Relig. Belief, p. 134) correctly gives the meaning, when he says that “Jehovah, the Most High, was the Sovereign of the race, reigning directly by Himself, and indirectly through Prophet, Levites, Judges, Kings, and the Law;” but he fails in two points: (1) when he makes the Theocratic form to have already existed in the days of the Patriarchs, and (2) when he remarks: “the apostolic and sub-apostolic age was one of pure divine theocracy. To this succeeded the sacerdotal theocracy of the Middle Ages, gradually tending toward the regal theocracy, exhibiting itself in the consecration of kings and resignation to their hands of the appointment of prelates and the regulation of ecclesiastical discipline.” The simple fact is, that since the overthrow of the Hebrew Theocracy, God has not acted in the capacity of earthly Ruler, with a set form of government, for any nation or people on earth; and the application of the word to any nation or people, or organization since then, is a perversion and prostitution of its plain meaning. Rogers (Superh. Orig. of the Bible, p. 77) justly observes: “The Jewish system of government was a genuine Theocracy. God was presumed to have constituted Himself Monarch of the State, and hence its contrast with every other form of government in the ancient world. It was an anomaly. Politics were identified with religion, the sacred and civil codes were essentially one, and the priestly functions assumed a paramount importance. God was the invisible but real Sovereign. Moses himself was merely His servant and administrator: he did not affect to be, like the Grand Lama, or even the Pope, the visible representative and vicegerent of God.” As this Theocratic idea will form an important element in our argument as it advances, a few more references may be in place. The Ancient His. of the East, p. 99, says: “The fundamental principle of this legislation is the supreme authority of God over the people of Israel (1 Sam. 8:7; 12:12). He was in the literal sense of the word their Sovereign; and all other authority, both in political and civil affairs, was subordinate to the continual acknowledgment of His own.” Wines (Com. Heb. Laws, p. 48–9) says that Jehovah was “the Civil Head of the State”; “God was, by the compact which we have been considering, constituted King of the Hebrews, a defection from Him was a defection from their rightful sovereign.” And (p. 268) “God was the temporal Sovereign of the Israelites;” (p. 456), “Jehovah was the Civil Head of the Hebrew state,” “the law-making power and the sovereignty of the state were vested in Him”; (p. 481), “God condescended to assume the title and relation to the Hebrew people of chief Civil Ruler. He established a Civil Sovereignty over them;” (p. 538), “The supreme authority of the Hebrew state was in Jehovah—God Himself was properly King of Israel.” But Wines makes it “a restricted Theocracy” and no “pure Theocracy,” because it had other “civil rulers, men who exercised authority over other men, and were acknowledged and obeyed as lawful magistrates.” But the institution of such subordinate rulers is an integral part of a pure Theocracy (as evidenced in the re-establishment), leaving the Supremacy untouched and fully acknowledged. The purest Theocracy, adapted to the government of nations, that reason can suggest, must necessarily, as a means of honoring the Supreme Ruler and advancing His authority, etc., have its subordinate rulers.

Obs. 2. The Theocracy, as once established, is only the earnest, or initiatory or introductory form, giving the grand outlines or fundamental principles, because it still lacked some features to perfect it, that God intended (as will be shown hereafter) to develop afterward. Typical observances were to give place to the antitype; religious ceremonials were to be superseded by others. The King, too, was invisible; His majesty could not be revealed because a perfect Mediator was lacking—a satisfactory atonement of sin was wanting. But when the Redeemer appointed has come, when the atonement is made, when the Mediator is God manifested in humanity, then provision is made to insure, when the time arrives, the visibility of the Theocratic King Himself. Briefly, turn to the Theocracy as it existed, and then read what the Prophets declare of this same Theocracy as it shall be manifested under the reign of the Messiah, and it will be seen that, while the fundamentals which constitute it a Theocracy remain intact, yet glorious additions productive of happiness and blessing are incorporated with it at its future re-establishment.

Obs. 3. Here is where eminent writers fall into a mistake, that greatly influences subsequent interpretation of Scripture. Thus, e.g. Lange (Com. Matt. 3:2) calls the Theocracy the Kingdom of God in its typical form. (So Fairbairn, Typology, vol. 2, ch. 4; Neander Pl. Ch. Church, vol. 1, p. 499.) What, perhaps, leads to such an error, is the fact that typical rites and temporary observances were connected with the Theocracy. But while this is so, the Theocratic ordering or government, which for the time adopted these rites and observances, is never represented as a type. This is utterly opposed by covenant, and prophecy, and fact. The Theocracy did not adumbrate something else, but was itself the Kingdom of God in its initiatory form—a commencement of that rule of God’s as earthly King, which, if the Jews had rendered the obedience required, would have extended and widened itself until all nations had been brought under its influence and subjection. This is seen in various promises to the Jews. The real existence of the Kingdom as something that existed and shall, although now set aside for a time on account of the sinfulness of nations, exist hereafter, is seen, e.g. (1) in the actual exercise of Sovereignty by God, which is no type, but a reality; (2) in its acceptance by the nation in its associated capacity (Deut. 5, etc.), which was no type; (3) in the realization of such rule, and in God calling them (Deut. 26:18) “His peculiar people,” etc., which was no type; (4) for when this Theocracy was overthrown, all the prophets, with one mind and voice, proclaim that the same identical Theocracy shall be restored again with increased splendor and glory; (5) it is covenanted to the Christ as David’s Son, and is, therefore, His real inheritance.[*]

Note. Reuss (His. Ch. Theol., p. 29) forcibly says: “The fundamental and formative idea of the prophetic teaching was that of the Theocracy.” The restoration of the Theocracy is the key note of prophecy. Well may it be asked, why change all this by spiritualizing the prophecies to make them applicable to a Church-Kingdom theory, which, against the plainest predictions taken in their grammatical sense, is supposed to fill out the measure of the Theocracy under the Messiah. The reader is exhorted to notice that, as the nature of the case absolutely demands, every prophet unites the restoration of the Theocracy with the Jewish nation. It is assuming quite a responsibility to deny this, and thus pave the way for confusion and misconception of the Kingdom of God. But we let Reuss tell us: “The prophets set forth as the end or the law of that national life, a state of society in which all the citizens should be brought into a direct relation with Jehovah, accepting His will as the sole rule of their actions, whether collective or individual, and receiving in return for this unbounded obedience, the promise of peculiar divine protection. Israel, according to this ideal conception of it, was to be a people of saints and priests.” Precisely so; and this divine portraiture of the future will, most certainly, be realized in all its fulness and preciousness, for God’s words are faithful and true. It is indicative of great weakness that many professed treatises of Theology have much to say about the Universal Divine Sovereignty, the Attributes of God, but absolutely nothing respecting the only form of government in which He condescends to manifest Himself, unless it be in the way of typical application. In this connection the critical student is reminded that our position is fortified by the very account given by Moses; for the Theocratic ordering and its laws are contained in, and enveloped by, a regular historical narration, or as a writer (Bib. Repos., Jan., 1848) phrases it: “It is a code of laws in a frame of history.”

Obs. 4. The Theocracy has been a matter of ridicule to unbelievers, who, unable to see in it a far-reaching and most merciful Divine Purpose, reject it as utterly unworthy of the Almighty. It is impossible, in the very nature of the case, for any man to appreciate a Theocratic ordering, whose heart rebels against the demands of obedience necessitated by such a form of government. This is the source of the attempted witticisms in this direction, so dishonorable to the persons indulging in them, to the dearest feelings of believers, to the dignity of mere history, and to God. It is the beginning of just such an infallible rule as humanity needs; and in its permanent distinctive features is indicative of wisdom transcendently superior to that exhibited in all other forms of government. This has been noticed by various writers, and will be referred to hereafter.[*]

Note. Thus e.g. Milman (His. Jews, Ap. vol. 3, p. 44) observes that “a great step in civil improvement was made in the Hebrew polity;” and adduces it as an evidence of the overruling goodness of God, that—in opposition to the Oriental despotism, the abuse of patriarchal rule, and the tyranny of aristocratical castes—the welfare of the whole community was assumed as the great end in view. This is true, for the lowest as well as the highest, the poorest as well as the richest, was protected in his rights, and oppression, tyranny, etc. was impossible (Deut. 16:18–20, etc.) under its constitution. But it was far more than a mere “step” in the right direction—it was the form of government, given with broad outlines, which God—who knows best—regards as most desirable for man, indicated (1) by its first establishment, and (2) by its final re-establishment. To have God directly for a Ruler, is both an unspeakable honor and inestimable blessing.
    The “Oracular Response” is especially the subject of unbelieving ridicule, pretending it to be on a level with pagan oracles. For a discussion of the same see e.g. Wines’ Com. and the ch. entitled “The Hebrew Oracle,” and other works devoted to the Hebrew Commonwealth; Bib. Diets., Arts. “Urim and Thummim,” etc. For the student two remarks suggest themselves. 1. The “Urim and Thummim,” and the mode of oracular response is unknown, as also the manner of response in the Holy of Holies, by which the Theocratic orders and will were communicated. This lack of knowledge is providential and designed. These things foreshadowed the Theocratic ordering in the Person of the God-man—whose union is undescribed—and this total silence of description, as well as overruling any description to be given by participants, is purposely intended in order to prevent its being claimed, perverted, and abused, as it inevitably would have been in the history of the past. It is something so high, and personally related to God, that a judicious silence preserves it from blasphemous use and being made the engine of ecclesiastical tyranny. 2. The replies usually given to infidels by Apologists to defend these Oracular Responses from being classed with the Delphic Oracles, etc., are sufficiently ample to cover the ground, although the main, essential reason for distinguishing between the two is either ignored or indirectly touched. The King being, from the nature of the case, invisible, and yet, as the occasions of the state required, accessible, some mode of communication between the King and nation was demanded. The Divine Oracle is, therefore, a necessary part of a Theocratic government; its absence would at once, and justly too, lead the infidel to reject its Theocratic nature. Now the manner in which this oracle was presented in the magnificent and typical Holy of Holies and the breastplate of the High-Priest (accessible at all times as the exigencies required, and that without making it—as heathen oracles—a source of revenue to the priests), accords fully with the Theocratic idea, and without it a Theocracy could not possibly exist. It is customary for some writers to say that this form of communication was adapted to the infancy or childhood of the nation and race, calling it a “condescending method” of instruction and discipline, but the student will find that immensely higher considerations—which do not lower the intelligence and understanding of the ancients, in order to flatter our superiority—influenced its adoption, viz.: the Theocratic ordering.

Obs. 5. The blessings annexed to the Theocracy are numerous, and precisely such (e.g. Levit. ch. 26, Deut. chs. 28, 30, etc.) as a people here on the earth earnestly desire to attain. They culminate in the expression (Levit. 26:12): “I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be my people,” which is again reiterated (Rev. 21:3) at the restoration of the Theocracy.[*]

Note. It has been maintained that all the blessings were of a purely earthly nature, promises of abundance, peace, etc., but this is not correct, since spiritual blessings, such as the forgiveness of sin, the consciousness of faith, hope, love, adoption, etc., were pre-eminently enjoyed, as the experience of Moses and the ancient worthies testifies. Exception is taken by some because nothing is directly (as in the New Test.) said concerning the resurrection or the future life; and from this unbelief, unable to discern the consistent policy of God in such reticence, has charged the record with inconsistency. But an exact and beautiful consistency is strictly observed. The reason why these things, alluded to, could not be directly revealed is this: the Kingdom is established in its initiatory form, and under the blessings received through it, God wishes His people to attain unto Abrahamic faith (in the case of Isaac), and trust that the blessings of the future—for the resurrection and future life are included in them—shall, in God’s way and time, be realized. Faith in the King is to be developed. The test applied to Abraham is continued, viz.: to secure an unbounded confidence in God that His covenant promises to Abraham would be fulfilled, even if they required (as is the case) a resurrection from the dead. The resurrection and the future life (as will be shown under the covenant) is most strongly implied, and, indeed, without them it is impossible to see how the promises can be realized. But as this Kingdom was tendered to those then living, it would have been incongruous to have told them at that period, before the unbelief of the nation and the downfall of the kingdom made it necessary to particularize God’s purposes and to explain more in detail the manner of accomplishment, that they could only inherit the Kingdom at the period of the resurrection. It would have been inconsistent (for they, the future not known, could not have understood it), as they already enjoyed the earnest form of the Kingdom. This, however, did not prevent Moses from giving intimations in his last addresses, that the faithful of all ages—without entering into particulars how God will accomplish it, after great evils had befallen the nation, after the calling of others, after a period of terrible vengeance—would enjoy God’s special favor with the nation itself restored. After the Kingdom was overthrown, then circumstances, to encourage the believing, called for a more extended statement of the resurrection, which received its fullest need of being plainly taught when the Messiah came, tendered the Kingdom and was rejected. But these subjects were not ignored in the first place, as will be shown when we come to them in regular order. The objection that all the blessings, in some way, related to this earth, has no force, because the Kingdom of God is a Kingdom here on the earth, and in its final re-establishment is still on the earth, but an earth redeemed from the curse.

Obs. 6. Briefly, attention is directed to the fact that while this Theocracy was a Kingdom on or in the earth, it cannot be strictly called an earthly kingdom. Many writers (e.g. Barrow’s Works. vol. 2, p. 705) pronounce it an “earthly kingdom,” which is a mistake, made and indulged to exalt the church by way of comparison. The Theocracy is from God; it was not of earthly or human origin, for it was divine, directly instituted by God, and having God for its Ruler. The Bible, through the prophets, insists upon this point, which a believer in the Word, seeing its foundation and superstructure, must concede. Hence Jesus, who is the promised King of this re-established Theocracy, well says that His Kingdom is not of this world, etc.[*]

Note. It may be suitable to remark that some writers (e.g. Castelar, The Republican Movement in Europe, p. 98, Harper’s Mag., Dec. 1874) endeavor to make the Theocracy a Republic, but the Theocracy, in the nature of the case, is not a Republic. While it is not a monarchy in the sense adverted to by Samuel, viz.: of purely human origin, yet it is a monarchy in the highest sense. It is not a Republic, for the legislative, executive, and judicial power is not potentially lodged in the people, but in God the King; and yet it embraces in itself the elements both of a Monarchy and of a Republic;—a Monarchy in that the absolute Sovereignty is lodged in the person of the One great King, to which all the rest are subordinated, but Republican in this, that it embraces a Republican element in preserving the rights of every individual, from the lowest to the highest, and in bringing the people, in their individuality, to participate in the government by the nation, as such, originally choosing the form of government, showing themselves to be “a willing people,” and aiding in electing the subordinate rulers. In other words, by a happy combination, Monarchy under divine direction, hence infallible, brings in the blessings that would result from a well-directed ideally Republican form of government, but which the latter can never fully, of itself, realize, owing to the depravity and diversity of man. Baldwin (Armageddon, p. 47), to make out his parallel between the Hebrew Theocracy and American Republicanism, declares: “Church and State were disunited by the Hebrew Constitution, and placed in the relation of associates.” This is totally incorrect, as any work on the Theocracy shows by reference to the laws and their practical workings. Such a notion is directly opposed to the meaning of a Theocracy.