Biblical Origins of Human Government

This entry is part 3 of 18 in the series The Church of Christ and World-Powers

This article continues a series of weekly posts originally authored by David Lipscomb, an important figure in the Churches of Christ in the 1800s. Learn more about Lipscomb’s background here and here, and see other references to him on LCI here. The series is titled “The Church of Christ and World-Powers”, and it was also originally published as a series of 18 articles in The Gospel Advocate in 1866. (To read from the beginning of the series, start here.)

Lipscomb continues here building a biblical case against “human governments”, which we at LCI would term “the state.” Many of my own observations about the origin of the state are inspired by Lipscomb’s explanation of Babel and Babylon. Lipscomb makes a particularly interesting point about the allure of power using the example of Solomon. Israel had been commanded since the Judges not to ally themselves with other human governments. God was to be their protector. But Solomon, whom scripture describes as the wisest king of Israel, did not follow this command, and it corrupted him and the people of Israel. Lipscomb writes: “If Solomon could not withstand the influence of such associations, who can?” He is arguing that even the best of us are susceptible to the temptations of power.

The Church of Christ and World-Powers (3) — David Lipscomb in The Gospel Advocate, Feb. 13, 1866, pp. 102-105.

God has always provided an institution of his own in which he pro­posed to govern man, into which he has invited man to enter and put himself under God’s guidance and rule. But at a very early age in the history of man, we find other institutions in existence—governments of man. Whence did they originate? What their character and mission, and what their destiny, are important questions in our investigation. In the first place, in following the history of God’s government, and the subjects of these, we have found not only that they did not originate among the subjects of these, but from the nature of the Divine govern­ment, it was impossible for them so to do. Whenever human laws and institutions were interpolated into his government, it was regarded as an infringement of his prerogative, and caused him to cease to recognize such as his own. They must then have originated among that portion of the human family who refused to submit to the government of God— those who were in rebellion against God. In tracing back the history of these governments to their origin, we find this to be true. The first in­timation in history, sacred or profane, that we have of human, govern­ment, is presented in Genesis 10:10. “And the beginning of his (Nim­rod’s) kingdom was Babel, and Eroch, and Accad, and Calnah, in the land of Shinar.”

Thus we find it originated amongst those in rebellion against God, in the accursed family of Ham. It must have had its origin in the dissatisfaction of these people with God’s government. Indeed, Josephus, with whatever of authority he may be entitled to, tells us that Nimrod, the leader and founder, appealed to them, that it was too humbling and degrading for wise human beings, capable of forming governments of their own to submit to the government of another. We see from this the origin of human or civil government. In its beginning it was the embodiment of man’s effort to throw off the rule of his Maker. This beginning at Babel soon grew into the mighty, hectoring Babylon. In its beginning God stamped it with the seal of his estimation when he named it Babel, or “confusion,” indicating that the result of this combina­tion of man to live independent of the control of his maker, would result in confusion and strife.

The same thing was more palpably manifested at the building of the first monument to their independent nationality, when their language was confounded and confused, and they became strangers and enemies to one another, of different tribes and tongues. See Gen. 11. Consult the history of these different efforts of man to form for himself a government, and learn that they have all resulted in strife; continual, bloody, destructive confusion and strife from the beginning until the present time. If the past be a criterion for the future, or the prophecies of the Sacred Scriptures have any meaning at all, this charac­ter will increase in intensity, and they will become fiercer and more bloody in their strife until the end. They were then properly christened at their birth “Confusion.” Divine foresight did it.

We propose examining, for a short time, the contact of these with God’s people and institutions. We find, Gen. 14, five of these kings at war with Abraham, in opposition to and enmity with those who submit to God’s law, without referring to special instances we call attention to the fact, that a general spirit of antagonism and enmity is presented in every occasion of contact with the human institutions throughout the patriarchal dispensation. When the Mosaic or Jewish institution was established, the spirit that God inspires and nurtures in his children with reference to these human institutions is more fully developed, and the instruction given through this institution of God, is the more significant, inasmuch as it was the perfect God-made earthly type of the Church of Christ. This Jewish nation was born in the travail and sorrow of Egyptian bondage, it reached its land of promise, through the “lying in wait,” ambushes and fightings of the worldly governments through which it passed, its dwelling in the land of Canaan, and its dealings and conflicts with the nations that disputed its right of territorial possession, can be none other than the type of the trials and conflicts of the spiritual Israel with the world-powers, in its work of rescuing the world from their dominion, and bringing it under the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ. The one is an earthly kingdom, with carnal weapons typifying a heavenly kingdom with spiritual weapons.

We find that before they entered into the land of Canaan, God, through Moses, tells them, “I will deliver the inhabitants into your hands, and thou shalt drive them out before thee. Thou shalt make no covenant with them nor with their gods. They shall not dwell in thy land, lest they make thee sin against me, for if thou serve their gods it will surely be a snare unto thee.” Ex. 23:31-32. The same admonition is repeated in almost every occasion of instruction presented. See Ex. 34:12, 16. Deut’y 7:2. “Thou shalt smite them and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them; neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughters thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shall thou take unto thy son. For they will turn away thy heart from following me, that they may serve other gods; so will the anger of the Lord be kindled against you and destroy thee suddenly.”

When those nations had been destroyed, save a remnant, who had been spared and were acting as servants among the Jews, God said, “Else if you do in anywise go back and cleave unto the remnant of these nations, even these that remain among you, and shall make mar­riages with them and go in unto them, and they to yon; know for a certainty that the Lord your God will no more drive out any of these nations before you, but they shall be snares and traps in the midst of you, and scourges in your sides, and thorns in your eyes, until ye perish from off goodly land which the Lord thy God hath give you.” Josh. 13:12. In other words, the alliance of the people of God, with those living under institutions of man’s make, must result in the rejection and destruction of the professed followers of God.

Solomon violated these laws, and the violation of them, on his part, notwithstanding his wisdom and greatness and favor with God, turned his heart away from God, and resulted in the rending of the kingdom from his family. “Wherefore, the Lord said unto Solomon, forasmuch as this is done of thee, and thou hast not kept my covenant and my statutes which I have commanded thee, I will surely rend the kingdom from thee, and will give it to thy servant.” 1 Kings 11:2. If Solomon could not withstand the influence of such associations, who can? The Jews failed to be admonished by God, and still sinned by illicit alliances and associations with the world institutions and their subjects.

When Hezekiah had been sick, and recovered from his sickness, the King of Babylon, the head of the first of these world-institutions, sent messengers with presents to congratulate Hezekiah upon his recovery. He received them in a friendly spirit, and in turn for the kindness shown, showed to them all the wealth of the king’s house, and the wealth and sanctity of the Lord’s house. For this, God said, “Be­hold the days come, that all that is in thine house, and that which thy fathers have laid up in store, until this day, shall be carried to Babylon; nothing shall be left, saith the Lord; and of thy sons that shall issue from thee, which thou shalt beget, shall they take away, and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the King of Babylon. Isaiah 39:6. They were carried captive, as thus foretold, alter a long period of punishment for their violation of God’s law—they are disposed to return and seek God’s help. So inexhorable [sic] was his law, that husband and wife, parent and child, must separate, in obedience to its behest before God can deliver them.

“Now, therefore, let us make a covenant with our God, to put away all wives, and such as are born of them, according to the counsel of my Lord, and of those that tremble at the commandment of our God, and let it be done according to the law.” Ezra 10:3. God could not bless them while in alliances with those not submitting to His government. They must be a separate people from those who undertake to govern themselves. We pass over many instructive passages of Scripture, on these subjects, and direct attention to the 30th chapter of Isaiah. “Wo to the rebellions children, saith the Lord, that take counsel, but not of me; and that cover with a covering, but not of my spirit, that they may add sin to sin: that walk to go down into Egypt, and have not asked at my mouth: to strengthen themselves in the strength of Pharaoh, and to trust, in the shadow of Egypt! Therefore shall the strength of Pharaoh be your shame, and the trust in the shadow of Egypt your confusion.”

In the 31st chap­ter, he repeats the warnings; “Wo to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many and in horsemen, because they are very strong; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the Lord! Yet he also is wise, and will bring evil, and will not call back his words: but will arise against the house of the evil-doers, and against the help of them that work in­iquity,” and much more to the same effect. In which he distinctly an­nounced that when his children sought aid and help from the world insti­tutions, by that act, they placed themselves beyond the pale of his protection, and that his face was sternly set against all such, so that their confusion was sure.

These alliances with the human government, on the part of Jews, ever brought confusion and woe. The contact between the two, was ever one of persecution or corruption, the friendship of the world-governments were always more fatal to the people of God than their enmity. There is not a principle of God’s dealings with his people, under the Jewish dispensation more clearly marked, more deeply stamped upon every page of the Old Testament Scriptures, than that of total, entire and perpetual separation from all associations, alliances and affiliations with those choosing to govern themselves, rather than let God govern them. The alliances were ever the cause of their perpetual weakness and sore afflictions. This principle of God’s dealings with his people, was revealed in a solemn law by Moses, was repeated by every prophet that spake to them in the name of God—was written in their divisions, strifes and bloody conflicts one with another, and in their fierce battles, total over­throws, and long, sorrowful captivities in foreign lands. But these things happened, not alone for the Jews, but were written for our admonition and instruction. Let us be wise and hearken. (Feb. 13, 1866, pp. 102-105)

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