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during their bondage, in Egypt (t). These patriarchal laws and customs, therefore, being already established, no particular direction respecting subordination was necessary.
Antient institutions, which harmonized with the Mosaic dispensation were continued, and others were added, to complete a system for the peculiar government of this peculiar people; and I think it will be found, that Scripture affords more information upon this subject than is generally imagined
Three degrees of judges or judicatures are distinctly mentioned in the 24th chapter of Joshua : “And Joshua called (first) for the elders of Israel;" these were the “ elders of the whole people,"
“ of the congregation.”—the great national council (u) established by Moses, and in after times called the great Sanhedrim, consisting of seventy persons, both priests and laymen, besides the president, who, after the time of Moses, was usually the high priest ; " and (secondly) for their heads,” these were the heads or’“ princes of the twelve tribes,” in whom was vested a peculiar and supreme authority over each tribe, as their chief magistrate and leader in time of war, subject however to the control of the
great (t) Exod. c. 3. v. 16. c. 24. v. I and 11. -(u) Numbers, c.11. V. 16. C. 34. V. 16 and 17.
great council, of which they formed a part(w); “ and (thirdly) for their judges ;” these were the " elders or rulers of cities (x),” whose jurisdiction was confined to the limits and liberties of their respective cities, and was subject to the great council. The Jewish writers say, that in
every city, which had six score families in it, there was a less sanhedrim, or court of judicature, consisting of twenty-three judges ;” and our Saviour is supposed to allude to these two courts in his Sermon upon the Mount (y). Many examples of these and other inferior distinctions are to be found in Scripture. The “ rulers of the thousands of Israel," the rulers of hundreds—of fifties—and of tens," appear to have been military distinctions; but besides the princes of the twelve tribes, who were the eldest branch by lineal descent, there were “ heads of families,” who represented the other sons
and (w) Deut. c. 17. v. 8-14. Numb. c. 1. v. 4 and 16. Josh. c. 23. v. 1 and 2. C. 24. v. 1. Numb. c. 30. v. I. C. 31. v. 13. c. 7. v. 1, 2 and 3. C. 10. v. 14. Josh. C. 9. V. 15. C. 22. 14. C. 19. V. 47. Jer. c. 36. V. II. C. 37. V. 14 and 15. c. 38. v. 4
Matt. c. 19. v. 28.
(x) Deut. c. 16. v. 18. c. 21. v. 1, &c. c. 19. v. 12. C. 21. v. 3. and 19. 2 Kings, c. 10. v. 1 and 5. Acts, c. 17. v.8. Ruth, c. 4. V. II. 1 Chron. c. 26. v. 29.
(y) Matt. c.5. v.22. Vide also Deut. c. 16. v. 18. c. 17. v. 8, 10, 11, 12. Ezra, c. 10. v. 8 and 14.
and grandsons of the twelve sons of Jacob, and were next to the princes of the tribes in rank and importance(2). These seem to have had a superintending, but not a judiciary, power(a). It is supposed that these “ heads of families,” or “chiefs of the fathers of Israel,” preserved their authority during the Babylonian captivity, when the dispersion of the people into so many different parts of that empire naturally increased their importance; and we find them afterwards very active in assisting Ezra and Nehemiah in the settlement of the people in Judæa. These families were again subdivided into “ households (b);" so that there evidently appears to have been a regular subordination established in their civil and religious polity, all the degrees of which were alike subject to a code of divine laws, and to the especial government of “ God their King.
When it is said in the book of Judges, “at that time there was no king in Israel (c),” we are to understand, there was no chief ruler or magistrate, like Moses or Joshua; there was indeed a high priest (d), and there were also
(2) Josh. c. 21. V, 1. 1 Chron. c. 8. v. 28.Numb. c. 26.
(a) 2 Chr. C. 19. v. 8. Ezra, c. 1. v.5.
(d) Judges, C. 20. V. 28.
elders (e); but there was not then a sufficient power lodged in any one person to control and keep the people in order, by punishing public offences and private wrongs, so that“
every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” The great council had hitherto acted as assistants to Moses and Joshua, and probably was not yet considered as designed to be the supreme authority under God their King. We have indeed reason to suppose that the general depravity which prevailed in the nation, after the death of the generation contemporary with Joshua (f), had tainted the council itself, and had deprived its members of the gift of inspiration, with which the elders had been favoured on its first establishment (g); and from the address of Abimelech to the people (h), and from some other passages, we may even suppose that the institution itself was perverted, for the council seems to have been then made up wholly of the family of Gideon, instead of the representatives of the twelve tribes, and members chosen according to the directions originally given. The people themselves appear to have been very sensible of the miseries arising from such a state of anarchy; for when God was pleased to raise up Judges to
(e) Judges, c. 21. v.16. f) Judges, c. 2. v.7-13. (8) Numb. c.II. v. 16–30. (h) Judges, c.9. v. 2.
deliver them from the power of the neighbouring nations, to which they were subjected as punishments for their wickedness, we find them desirous of inaking them kings (i) to secure a succession of chief civil magistrates as well as military leaders. As the functions of all ordinary magistrates among the Romans were superseded by the authority of a dictator, so were all Hebrew magistrates subject to the control of a judge, who was specially appointed by God (k); and in the time of the Jewish kings this whole system of administrative justice was frequently interrupted; but it cannot escape the observation of the attentive reader of the Jewish history, that the periods most marked by violence and crimes were precisely those, when these constituted authorities were from various causes suffered to sink into inaction. We find, however, that Jehosaphat was anxious to revive the power of the inferior courts of judicature (1), and the council seems to have possessed great influence in the time of Jeremiah (m). After the return from the Babylonian captivity, when “ the people were settled as of old (n),” the
supreme (i) Judges, c.8. v.22 & 23. c. 9. v.2.6-57. C. 10. II. -(k) 1 Sam. c. 7. v.16. (l) 2 Chr. c. 19. v. 5 and 6, &c. (m) Jer. c. 36, 37, and 38.
(n) Isaiah, c. 1. V. 26. Ezra, c. 7. v. 25. C. 10.