Bible Answers 05-20-11

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“All the coverage of the royal wedding made me wonder what the Bible says about kings and monarchies.” — Mary

In the history of Israel covered by the Bible, several forms of government appear. In its earliest “pre-nation” existence (patriarchs, exodus from Egypt and wilderness wandering), Israel was essentially a form of theocracy. After the conquest of Canaan, “the nation” was at best a loose federation of tribes. The tribes came together in times of threat or distress, led by a charismatic leader (known as a “judge”; Judg. 4:10-19ff; I Sam. 7:15-17).  
Around a thousand years BC, the Israelites desired a king such as those who ruled the nations around them. Samuel the prophet warned against this (I Sam. 8). This passage may well stand alone as an indicator of what God thinks of kings. It also, however, reveals that what God really wanted was for His people to trust Him over any kind of human government.  
A succession of kings (a few good ones, mostly bad ones) chart the decline and fall of Israel, until the early sixth century when the last of the southern kingdom was overrun by the Babylonians.
The monarchial system, per se, is not really maligned in the biblical narrative but its story is not stellar.
Palestine was later ruled by Greeks, briefly gained independence and finally was dominated by the Roman Empire, under which the New Testament was written.  
No particular form of government appears to be clearly recommended by the Scripture.  
Though both Paul and Peter counseled respect and prayer for the rulers (Rom. 13:1ff; I Tim. 2:2; I Pet. 2:17), they give no indication that a monarchy was either more or less useful than“libertarian” tribalism.
Indeed, with its emphasis on the value of the individual and freedom of conscience, the New Testament might be construed to support a representative democracy.