MembersSeparation of “Church” and State in Israel

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

By David Lazarus | | Topics: Bible
Despite being considered a friend of God, even David was forbidden to wield religious power in Israel. Photo: Shutterstock/ChameleonsEye

Historically, the world’s greatest empires believed that to govern a ruler must have divine attributes. Except Israel. In Egypt, the god Ra 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 the 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. The ruler was above the law and held extraordinary powers to establish law and order in a civilization. The emperor of Japan is still considered divine and sacred, and like the elevation of Roman emperors to Dominus et Deus it was said that Henry VIII had “a sun-like nature whole flaming beams the lowly subject can in no wise steadfastly behold.”

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