MembersHow Ancient Israel Separated the State from Religion

From the beginning Israel understood the dangers in merging government with religion, king with clergy

By David Lazarus | | Topics: Bible
Photo: Hadas Parush/Flash90

Historically, the world’s greatest empires believed that to govern a ruler must have divine attributes.  Except Israel. In Egypt the god Re was manifest in the first pharaoh, and in Mesopotamia the king was regarded as a man made divine, the adopted son reared and educated by the gods. Rulers of Sumerian cities claimed that gods were their parents. For the Hittites, the king was high priest and Parthian monarchs saw themselves as brothers of the moon and sun and were worshipped as gods.

The implication of a divine sovereign is that the king must be obeyed for he “represents the image of god upon the earth.” Nor can he be insulted or defamed, unlike today’s democracies where leaders are under a constant barrage of criticism. Rulers in the ancient world were above the law and held extraordinary powers to establish law and order in a civilization.

These traditions have endured in many cultures right up to modern times. The emperor of Japan is still considered divine and sacred and like the elevation of Roman emperors...

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