Biblical Principles for Government PDF Print E-mail

 Why does Britain have a House of Lords and a House of Commons? Why does the USA separate their government into three branches - Executive, Legislative and Judicial? Why does Switzerland have a citizens army? These and many other questions are answered by seeing the ten principles of freedom modeled in the Bible.

Many people labour under the illusion that the Bible has nothing to say concerning social structures, constitutional models or political affairs. However, while approximately 29% of the Bible deals with our personal lives, 71% deals with social, political and national issues.

God established, as an example, in the government of Israel, ten key principles of freedom:


A written constitution (covenant) based on the revealed Word of God (Exodus 20; Deut 5-8; John 19:11). A Biblical constitution will clearly define and restrict the power of government. It should act as a chain to keep rulers from abusing power. It must be written so that it is specific, clear and permanent.

“The Law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,
making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands
of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever . . .”
Psalm 19:7-10


A separation of powers and functions into three branches of civil government: executive (the King), legislative (the Council and Sanhedrin) and judicial (the elders or judges in each community). These three functions of government are based on how the Lord revealed His government (Isaiah 9:6, 7).

“For the Lord is our Judge, the Lord is our Lawgiver, the Lord is our King.” . . . Isaiah 33:22


An independent judiciary and the right to a fair trial. (Exodus 23:1-3).

“He appointed judges in the land . . . He told them. 'Consider carefully what you do, because you
are not judging for man but for the Lord, Who is with you whenever you give a verdict. Now let
the fear of the Lord be upon you. Judge carefully, for with the Lord our God there is no injustice,
or partiality or bribery.'”
2 Chronicles 19:5-7

In Deuteronomy 19:15-19 the principles for a fair trial are set out: (i) one is innocent until proven guilty, (ii) the right to due process of law, (iii) witnesses must personally confront the accused, (iv) a matter must be established by two or three witnesses, and (v) judges must be impartial.


A national legislature (law- making body) where one house was composed of representative judges or officials elected by the people (Deut 1:13-17).

“But select capable men from all the people men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate
dishonest gain and appoint them as officials . . .”
Exodus 18:21

5. A second house in the legislature was composed of two hereditary elders from each of the 11 tribes (or geographic areas) of Israel, in addition to 24 priests from the tribe of Levi, and 2 lawyers (scribes) from each of the 12 tribes. This unelected (but appointed) body totalled 70 men and became known as the Sanhedrin (Ex. 24:1; Num. 11:16-17).


An executive officer (Judge or King) elected with the guidance of God and the consent of the elders (Deuteronomy 17:16).

“When all the elders of Israel had come to King David at Hebron, he made a compact with them . . .
before the Lord, and they anointed David king over Israel, as the Lord had promised through Samuel.”

1 Chronicles 11:3


A decentralised state with most responsibilities and powers resting on the local government, the family and the individual (Exodus 24:1; Deuteronomy 1:13-17, Acts 17:26). Centralisation of power in a unitary state has always been a pagan tendency as seen in Nineveh and Babel (Genesis 10:11 and 11:1ff). As power corrupts, it is wise to limit and divide the powers of civil government in a system of checks and balances.

A citizens army (militia) made up of trained citizens who have the right and duty to bear arms for the defence of their home and family, community and nation (Numbers 1:2-3; Judges 3:2; Exodus 22:2; Deut. 20:1-4). One of the best safeguards against tyranny is an armed citizenry.

“Don't be afraid of them. Remember the Lord Who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers,
your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.” Nehemiah 4:14

Local militia units elected their own commanders (Deut. 20:9), and each soldier supplied his own basic weapons (Num. 32:20; 1 Sam. 25:13). This was based upon the right of each law-abiding citizen to own and use weapons for defence. Any attempt to prohibit the right of an individual to bear arms was unBiblical and was a pagan attempt to centralise (usurp) excessive power (Judges 5:8;1 Sam. 13:19-22).


A free market economy based on the private ownership of property (Exodus 20:15,17; Deut 19:14) and individual free enterprise (Eccl 5:19; Prov. 10:2-4; 12:24: 13:4,11; 1 Thess 3:10). Any taxation of 10% or higher was defined as oppression (1 Samuel 8:10-18), and any taxation of property, or of inheritance, was strictly forbidden! (1 Kings 21:3). Institutions and individuals involved in the full time service of the Lord were not allowed to be taxed (Ezra 7:23,24). Any unequal or progressive system of taxation was expressly forbidden (Ex. 30:14-15; Leviticus 19:15). Biblical economics also forbids unjust weights (unbacked currency) and measures (inflation) (Leviticus 19:35-36; Prov. 11:1; 20:10; Amos 8:5-7; Micah 6:11,12).

“ . . . proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants . . .” Lev. 25:10


An education programme controlled by the parents, aided by the church, but independent of the state (Deuteronomy 6:7; Hosea 4:6; Matthew 28:19; Ephesians 6:4; Colossians 2:8). One cannot entrust any state with the moulding of the minds of the future voters. The control of education should be in the hands of parents and the content of education must be moral, character developing and Bible based.

“He knows not how to rule a kingdom, that cannot manage a Province; nor can he wield a Province, that cannot order a City; nor he order a City, that knows not how to regulate a Village, nor he a Village, that cannot guide a Family, nor can that man govern well a Family that knows not how to govern himself, neither can any govern himself unless his reason be lord, and his will and appetite her vassals; nor can reason rule unless herself be ruled by God and wholly be obedient to Him.”
Hugo Grotius (17th Century Dutch Theologian)

Dr Peter Hammond is the author of "South Africa - Renaissance or Reformation?"

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