Footsteps of the Founders, Part 2

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Tuesday, January 17, 2017 0 comments

by Bill Fortenberry

“The Constitution was inspired by Solon, not Moses—nor Jesus … Solon gave us elections, and trials by a jury of our peers, two concepts never found in the Bible, Old Testament or New.”

This emphatic claim by historian Richard Carrier is one that is often repeated by atheists and Christians alike. How many times have you heard someone say that the government promoted by the Bible was either a monarchy or a theocracy? Now compare that with how many times you’ve heard someone say that the Bible promotes a representative government in which the rulers are elected by the people. Have you ever heard anyone make this second claim?

Carrier claims that our Constitution was inspired by Solon, and I’ve previously written on my own blog about the falsity of that claim, but what about his claim that the concept of election is not found in Scripture?

According to the Bible, God delivered the first part of the Mosaic Covenant directly to the assembly of the people of Israel in an audible voice. This part of the covenant has become known as the Ten Commandments, and we read about God delivering them to the people in the twentieth chapter of Exodus and the fifth chapter of Deuteronomy. In the account from Deuteronomy 5:4-29 we read: “The Lord spoke to you face to face out of the fire on the mountain…
These are the commandments the Lord proclaimed in a loud voice to your whole assembly there on the mountain from out of the fire, the cloud and the deep darkness; and he added nothing more. Then he wrote them on two stone tablets and gave them to me.
When you heard the voice out of the darkness, while the mountain was ablaze with fire, all the leaders of your tribes and your elders came to me. And you said, … ‘Go near and listen to all that the Lord our God says. Then tell us whatever the Lord our God tells you. We will listen and obey.’
The Lord heard you when you spoke to me, and the Lord said to me, “I have heard what this people said to you. Everything they said was good. Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever!”

In the above passage, we discover a remarkable series of events. When God established the Mosaic Covenant with the nation of Israel, He did not choose to speak to Moses alone. Rather, God descended upon the mountain in the sight of all the people, and began presenting the terms of the covenant directly to the body of the people. The people heard the Ten Commandments, which formed the foundation of the covenant, and then they became afraid.

When God stopped speaking in order to record the Ten Commandments in writing, the people took advantage of the pause to approach Moses and ask him to be their representative before the Lord. According to the parallel passage in Exodus, Moses actually pleaded with the people that they not succumb to their fears (Exodus 20:20), but they refused his pleas.

Then, the Bible records for us that God heard the decision of the people to elect Moses to be their representative. He not only approved of their decision but He also wished for them to always display such wisdom. Here we have a record of the God of the universe rejoicing because the nation of Israel decided on their own to elect a representative to stand before Him in their place.

This is just one of many, many elections that are recorded in Scripture. The Bible also tells us in Deuteronomy 1 and in Numbers 11 that the Jews chose their elders by election. The elders comprised one of the two bodies of Israel’s bicameral legislature. They were equivalent to our House of Representatives.

Many think that they are familiar with the account of Israel’s first monarch, King Saul, but did you know that they had to hold two separate elections before Saul could be crowned? The first election is recorded in 1 Samuel 10, and it ended with enough people being unwilling to accept Saul that Samuel just sent everyone home without any king being crowned. It was not until another election after a successful military campaign that the people agreed to have Saul as their king.

David also went through two elections before he was crowned king over Israel. In 2 Samuel 2:4, David was elected to be king over just his own tribe Judah. Then, after the death of Ishbosheth, the rest of the tribes of Israel came to David and chose him as their king (2 Samuel 5:1-3).

This practice of election was prevalent throughout all of Israel’s history and was even carried into the New Testament, where we read of the first deacons being chosen by a popular vote of the people (Acts 6:2-6).

Atheists like Richard Carrier are quick to claim that the Bible never speaks of anything resembling the principles laid out in the Constitution, but they make this claim without ever putting forth the effort to system of government that God established for the nation of Israel. The founders of our nation, on the other hand, were very familiar with the fact that the Jews elected their own leaders.

One of the leading influences on our founders can be found in the works of James Harrington. That’s not a name that we are familiar with today, but if you read the various listings that our founders gave of their study material, you will find the name of Harrington mentioned very frequently. John Adams, for example, once wrote that the principles of the American Revolution were “the principles of Aristotle and Plato, of Livy and Cicero, and Sidney, Harrington, and Locke.” You can even read a scan of Adams’ own copy of Harrington’s Oceana at the Internet Archive. In that book, Harrington wrote that: “Janotti, the most excellent describer of the Commonwealth of Venice, divides the whole series of government into two times or periods: the one ending with the liberty of Rome, which was the course or empire, as I may call it, of ancient prudence, first discovered to mankind by God himself in the fabric of the commonwealth of Israel, and afterward picked out of his footsteps in nature, and unanimously followed by the Greeks and Romans.”

This idea that the republics of Greece and Rome were predated by the Republic of Israel was the prevalent teaching regarding the history of republican government during the founding of our nation. Our Constitution was not founded on the philosophies of Greece and Rome but rather on the doctrines of Scripture.

If you would like to study this issue more, check out my comparison of 48 clauses in the Constitution with specific passages of Scripture.

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