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Reference: Government Of The Hebrews


GOVERNMENT OF THE HEBREWS. The posterity of Jacob, while remaining in Egypt, maintained, notwithstanding the augmentation of their numbers, that patriarchal form of government which is so prevalent among the nomades. Every father of a family exercised a father's authority over those of his own household. Every tribe obeyed its own prince, ????, who was originally the first-born of the founder of the tribe, but who, in process of time, appears to have been elected. As the people increased in numbers, various heads of families united together, and selected some individual from their own body, who was somewhat distinguished, for their leader. Perhaps the choice was made merely by tacit consent; and, without giving him the title of ruler in form, they were willing, while convinced of his virtues, to render submission to his will. Such a union of families was denominated "the house of the father;" and "the house of the father of the families," Nu 3:24,30,35. In other instances, although the number varied, being sometimes more and sometimes less than a thousand, it was denominated, ???? ?????, a thousand. "Now therefore present yourselves before the Lord by your tribes, and by your thousands;" "the thousands of Judah;" "the thousands of Israel," &c, 1Sa 10:19; 23:23; Jg 6:15; Nu 26:5-50. The heads of these united families were designated "heads of thousands," Nu 1:16; 10:4. They held themselves in subjection to the "princes of the tribes." Both the princes and heads of families are mentioned under the common names of ?????, seniors or senators, and ????? ???? heads of tribes. Following the law of reason, and the rules established by custom, they governed with a paternal authority the tribes and united families; and, while they left the minor concerns to the heads of individual families, aimed to superintend and promote the best interests of the community generally. Originally, it fell to the princes of the tribes themselves to keep genealogical tables: subsequently, they employed scribes especially for this purpose, who, in the progress of time, acquired so great authority, that under the name of ??????, translated, in the English version, officers, they were permitted to exercise a share in the government of the nation. It was by magistrates of this description that the Hebrews were governed while they remained in Egypt; and the Egyptian kings made no objection to it, Ex 3:16; 5:1,14-15,19.

2. The posterity of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were set apart and destined to the great object of preserving and transmitting the true religion, Ge 18:16-20; 17:9-14; 12:3; 22:18; 28:14. Having increased in numbers, it appeared very evident that they could not live among nations given to idolatry without running the hazard of becoming infected with the same evil. They were, therefore, in the providence of God, assigned to a particular country, the extent of which was so small, that they were obliged, if they would live independently of other nations, to give up in a great measure the life of shepherds, and devote themselves to agriculture. Farther: very many of the Hebrews during their residence in Egypt had fallen into idolatrous habits. These were to be brought back again to the knowledge of the true God, and all were to be excited to engage in those undertakings which should be found necessary for the support of the true religion. All the Mosaic institutions aim at the accomplishment of these objects. The fundamental principle, therefore, of those institutions was this,

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