Christian Origins #20 - Thessalonians
Sometimes catchwords can be revealing, if we just understand what they mean. One I hear often is the word theocracy. We need to talk about this idea, because theocracy may well be the solution to the problems that plague us. But before we can understand this, we have to understand what a theocracy is not.
Through all of the history of Israel in the Old Testament—Saul, David, Solomon, and beyond—Israel was a monarchy, not a theocracy. They had a king, theoretically governing under God’s guidance. Theocracy is often confused with ecclesiocracy which means rule by a religious leader or body. But theocracy means rule by God. How can that be a bad thing?
The best way for me to explain the difference is to go the only known example of a true theocracy. And perhaps the best place to start is with the pivotal moment when theocracy was abandoned in favor of monarchy. The often-misunderstood description of the time between the conquest of the land and the monarchy that began with Saul is found in Judges, chapter 21.
"And the children of Israel departed from there at that time, every man to his tribe and to his family, and they went out from there every man to his inheritance. In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes" (Judges 21:24–25 KJ2000).