Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XL.: of the rights of the kingdom of god, in abraham, moses, the high-priests, and the kings of judah. - The English Works, vol. III (Leviathan)
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CHAPTER XL.: of the rights of the kingdom of god, in abraham, moses, the high-priests, and the kings of judah. - Thomas Hobbes, The English Works, vol. III (Leviathan) 
The English Works of Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury; Now First Collected and Edited by Sir William Molesworth, Bart., (London: Bohn, 1839-45). 11 vols. Vol. 3.
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of the rights of the kingdom of god, in abraham, moses, the high-priests, and the kings of judah.
The sovereign right of Abraham.
The father of the faithful, and first in the kingdom of God by covenant, was Abraham. For with him was the covenant first made; wherein he obliged himself, and his seed after him, to acknowledge and obey the commands of God; not only such, as he could take notice of, (as moral laws,) by the light of nature; but also such, as God should in special manner deliver to him by dreams and visions. For as to the moral law, they were already obliged, and needed not have been contracted withal, by promise of the land of Canaan. Nor was there any contract, that could add to, or strengthen the obligation, by which both they, and all men else were bound naturally to obey God Almighty: and therefore the covenant which Abraham made with God, was to take for the commandment of God, that which in the name of God was commanded him in a dream, or vision; and to deliver it to his family, and cause them to observe the same.
Abraham had the sole power of ordering the religion of his own people.
In this contract of God with Abraham, we may observe three points of important consequence in the government of God’s people. First, that at the making of this covenant, God spake only to Abraham; and therefore contracted not with any of his family, or seed, otherwise than as their wills, which make the essence of all covenants, were before the contract involved in the will of Abraham; who was therefore supposed to have had a lawful power, to make them perform all that he covenanted for them. According whereunto (Gen. xviii. 18, 19) God saith, All the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him; for I know him that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord. From whence may be concluded this first point, that they to whom God hath not spoken immediately, are to receive the positive commandments of God, from their sovereign; as the family and seed of Abraham did from Abraham their father, and Lord, and civil sovereign. And consequently in every commonwealth, they who have no supernatural revelation to the contrary, ought to obey the laws of their own sovereign, in the external acts and profession of religion. As for the inward thought, and belief of men, which human governors can take no notice of, (for God only knoweth the heart), they are not voluntary, nor the effect of the laws, but of the unrevealed will and of the power of God; and consequently fall not under obligation.
No pretence of private spirit against the religion of Abraham.
From whence proceedeth another point, that it was not unlawful for Abraham, when any of his subjects should pretend private vision or spirit, or other revelation from God, for the countenancing of any doctrine which Abraham should forbid, or when they followed or adhered to any such pretender, to punish them; and consequently that it is lawful now for the sovereign to punish any man that shall oppose his private spirit against the laws: for he hath the same place in the commonwealth, that Abraham had in his own family.
Abraham sole judge and interpreter of what God spake.
There ariseth also from the same, a third point; that as none but Abraham in his family, so none but the sovereign in a Christian commonwealth, can take notice what is, or what is not the word of God. For God spake only to Abraham; and it was he only, that was able to know what God said, and to interpret the same to his family: and therefore also, they that have the place of Abraham in a commonwealth, are the only interpreters of what God hath spoken.
The authority of Moses whereon grounded.
The same covenant was renewed with Isaac; and afterwards with Jacob; but afterwards no more, till the Israelites were freed from the Egyptians, and arrived at the foot of Mount Sinai: and then it was renewed by Moses, (as I have said before, chap. xxxv.) in such manner, as they became from that time forward the peculiar kingdom of God; whose lieutenant was Moses, for his own time: and the succession to that office was settled upon Aaron, and his heirs after him, to be to God a a sacerdotal kingdom for ever.
By this constitution, a kingdom is acquired to God. But seeing Moses had no authority to govern the Israelites, as a successor to the right of Abraham, because he could not claim it by inheritance; it appeareth not as yet, that the people were obliged to take him for God’s lieutenant, longer than they believed that God spake unto him. And therefore his authority, notwithstanding the covenant they made with God, depended yet merely upon the opinion they had of his sanctity, and of the reality of his conferences with God, and the verity of his miracles; which opinion coming to change, they were no more obliged to take anything for the law of God, which he propounded to them in God’s name. We are therefore to consider, what other ground there was, of their obligation to obey him. For it could not be the commandment of God that could oblige them; because God spake not to them immediately, but by the mediation of Moses himself: and our Saviour saith of himself, (John v. 31) If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true; much less if Moses bear witness of himself, especially in a claim of kingly power over God’s people, ought his testimony to be received. His authority therefore, as the authority of all other princes, must be grounded on the consent of the people, and their promise to obey him. And so it was: for the people (Exod. xx. 18, 19) when they saw the thunderings, and the lightenings, and the noise of the trumpets, and the mountain smoking, removed, and stood afar off. And they said unto Moses, speak thou with us, and we will hear, but let not God speak with us lest we die. Here was their promise of obedience; and by this it was they obliged themselves to obey whatsoever he should deliver unto them for the commandment of God.
Moses was, under God, sovereign of the Jews all his own time, though Aaron had the priesthood.
And notwithstanding the covenant constituted a sacerdotal kingdom, that is to say, a kingdom hereditary to Aaron; yet that is to be understood of the succession after Moses should be dead. For whosoever ordereth and establisheth the policy, as first founder of a commonwealth, be it monarchy, aristocracy, or democracy, must needs have sovereign power over the people all the while he is doing of it. And that Moses had that power all his own time, is evidently affirmed in the Scripture. First, in the text last before cited, because the people promised obedience, not to Aaron, but to him. Secondly, (Exod. xxiv. 1, 2) And God said unto Moses, Come up unto the Lord, thou and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the Elders of Israel. And Moses alone shall come near the Lord, but they shall not come nigh, neither shall the people go up with him. By which it is plain, that Moses, who was alone called up to God, (and not Aaron, nor the other priests, nor the seventy elders, nor the people who were forbidden to come up,) was alone he, that represented to the Israelites the person of God, that is to say, was their sole sovereign under God. And though afterwards it be said (verses 9, 10) Then went up Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and they saw the God of Israel, and there was under his feet, as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone &c; yet this was not till after Moses had been with God before, and had brought to the people the words which God had said to him. He only went for the business of the people; the others, as the nobles of his retinue, were admitted for honour to that special grace, which was not allowed to the people; which was, as in the verse after appeareth, to see God and live, God laid not his hand upon them, they saw God and did eat and drink, that is, did live: but did not carry any commandment from him to the people. Again, it is everywhere said, the Lord spake unto Moses, as in all other occasions of government, so also in the ordering of the ceremonies of religion, contained in chapters xxv. xxvi. xxvii. xxviii. xxix. xxx. and xxxi. of Exodus, and throughout Leviticus: to Aaron seldom. The calf that Aaron made, Moses threw into the fire. Lastly, the question of the authority of Aaron, by occasion of his and Miriam’s mutiny against Moses, was (Numb.xii.) judged by God himself for Moses. So also in the question between Moses and the people, who had the right of governing the people, when Corah, Dathan, and Abiram, and two hundred and fifty princes of the assembly, gathered themselves together (Numb.xvi.3) against Moses, and against Aaron, and said unto them, ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is amongst them, why lift you up yourselves above the congregation of the Lord? God caused the earth to swallow Corah, Dathan, and Abiram, with their wives and children, alive, and consumed those two hundred and fifty princes with fire. Therefore neither Aaron, nor the people, nor any aristocracy of the chief princes of the people, but Moses alone had next under God the sovereignty over the Israelites: and that not only in causes of civil policy, but also of religion: for Moses only spake with God, and therefore only could tell the people what it was that God required at their hands. No man upon pain of death might be so presumptuous as to approach the mountain where God talked with Moses. Thou shalt set bounds (saith the Lord, Exod. xix. 12) to the people round about, and say, Take heed to yourselves that you go not up into the Mount, or touch the border of it; whosoever toucheth the Mount shall surely be put to death. And again (verse 21) Go down, charge the people, lest they break through unto the Lord to gaze. Out of which we may conclude, that whosoever in a Christian commonwealth holdeth the place of Moses, is the sole messenger of God, and interpreter of his commandments. And according hereunto, no man ought in the interpretation of the Scripture to proceed further than the bounds which are set by their several sovereigns. For the Scriptures, since God now speaketh in them, are the Mount Sinai; the bounds whereof are the laws of them that represent God’s person on earth. To look upon them, and therein to behold the wondrous works of God, and learn to fear him, is allowed; but to interpret them, that is, to pry into what God saith to him whom he appointeth to govern under him, and make themselves judges whether he govern as God commandeth him, or not, is to transgress the bounds God hath set us, and to gaze upon God irreverently.
All spirits were subordinate to the spirit of Moses.
There was no prophet in the time of Moses, nor pretender to the spirit of God, but such as Moses had approved and authorized. For there were in his time but seventy men, that are said to prophecy by the spirit of God, and these were all of Moses his election; concerning whom God said to Moses, (Numb. xi. 16) Gather to me seventy of the eldersof Israel, whom thou knowest to be the elders of the people. To these God imparted his spirit; but it was not a different spirit from that of Moses; for it is said (verse 25) God came down in a cloud, and took of the spirit that was upon Moses, and gave it to the seventy elders. But as I have shown before (chap. XXXVI.) by spirit, is understood the mind; so that the sense of the place is no other than this, that God endued them with a mind conformable and subordinate to that of Moses, that they might prophecy, that is to say, speak to the people in God’s name, in such manner, as to set forward, as ministers of Moses and by his authority, such doctrine as was agreeable to Moses his doctrine. For they were but ministers; and when two of them prophecied in the camp, it was thought a new and unlawful thing; and as it is in verses 27 and 28 of the same chapter, they were accused of it, and Joshua advised Moses to forbid them, as not knowing that it was by Moses his spirit that they prophecied. By which it is manifest, that no subject ought to pretend to prophecy, or to the spirit, in opposition to the doctrine established by him whom God hath set in the place of Moses.
After Moses the sovereignty was in the high priest.
Aaron being dead, and after him also Moses, the kingdom, as being a sacerdotal kingdom, descended by virtue of the covenant, to Aaron’s son Eleazar the high-priest: and God declared him, next under himself, for sovereign, at the same time that he appointed Joshua for the General of their army. For thus God saith expressly (Numb. xxvii. 21) concerning Joshua: He shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall ask counsel for him before the Lord; at his word shall they go out, and athis word they shall come in, both he, and all the children of Israel with him. Therefore the supreme power of making war and peace, was in the priest. The supreme power of judicature belonged also to the high-priest: for the book of the law was in their keeping; and the priests and Levites only were the subordinate judges in causes civil, as appears in Deut. xvii. 8, 9, 10. And for the manner of God’s worship, there was never doubt made, but that the high-priest till the time of Saul, had the supreme authority. Therefore the civil and ecclesiastical power were both joined together in one and the same person, the high-priest; and ought to be so, in whosoever governeth by divine right, that is, by authority immediate from God.
Of the sovereign power between the time of Joshua and of Saul.
After the death of Joshua, till the time of Saul, the time between is noted frequently in the Book of Judges, That there was in those days no king in Israel; and sometimes with this addition, that every man did that which was right in his own eyes. By which is to be understood, that where it is said, there was no king, is meant, there was no sovereign power in Israel. And so it was, if we consider the act and exercise of such power. For after the death of Joshua and Eleazar, there arose another generation (Judges ii. 10, 11) that knew not the Lord, nor the works which he had done for Israel, but did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served Baalim. And the Jews had that quality which St. Paul noteth, to look for a sign, not only before they would submit themselves to the government of Moses, but also after they had obliged themselves by their submission. Whereas signs and miracles had for end to procure faith, not to keep men from violating it, when they have once given it; for to that men are obliged by the law of nature. But if we consider not the exercise, but the right of governing, the sovereign power was still in the high-priest. Therefore whatsoever obedience was yielded to any of the judges, who were men chosen by God extraordinarily to save his rebellious subjects out of the hands of the enemy, it cannot be drawn into argument against the right the high-priest had to the sovereign power, in all matters both of policy and religion. And neither the judges nor Samuel himself had an ordinary, but an extraordinary calling to the government; and were obeyed by the Israelites, not out of duty, but out of reverence to their favour with God, appearing in their wisdom, courage, or felicity. Hitherto therefore the right of regulating both the policy, and the religion, were inseparable.
Of the rights of the kings of Israel.
To the judges succeeded kings: and whereas before, all authority, both in religion and policy, was in the high-priest; so now it was all in the king. For the sovereignty over the people, which was before, not only by virtue of the divine power, but also by a particular pact of the Israelites, in God, and next under him, in the high-priest, as his vicegerent on earth, was cast off by the people, with the consent of God himself. For when they said to Samuel (1 Sam. viii. 5) Make us a king to judge us like all the nations, they signified that they would no more be governed by the commands that should be laid upon them by the priest, in the name of God; but by one that should command them in the same manner that all other nations were commanded; and consequently in deposing the high-priest of royal authority, they deposed that peculiar government of God. And yet God consented to it, saying to Samuel (1 Sam. vii. 7) Hearken unto the voice of the people, in all that they shall say unto thee; for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them. Having therefore rejected God, in whose right the priests governed, there was no authority left to the priests, but such as the king was pleased to allow them; which was more or less, according as the kings were good or evil. And for the government of civil affairs, it is manifest, it was all in the hands of the king. For in the same chapter, (verse 20), they say they will be like all the nations; that their king shall be their judge, and go before them, and fight their battles; that is, he shall have the whole authority, both in peace and war. In which is contained also the ordering of religion: for there was no other word of God in that time, by which to regulate religion, but the law of Moses, which was their civil law. Besides, we read (1 Kings ii. 27) that Solomon thrust out Abiathar from being priest before the Lord: he had therefore authority over the high-priest, as over any other subject; which is a great mark of supremacy in religion. And we read also, (1 Kings viii.) that he dedicated the Temple; that he blessed the people; and that he himself in person made that excellent prayer, used in the consecration of all churches and houses of prayer; which is another great mark of supremacy in religion. Again, we read (2 Kings xxii.) that when there was question concerning the Book of the Law found in the Temple, the same was not decided by the high-priest, but Josiah sent both him and others to enquire concerning it, of Huldah, the prophetess; which is another mark of supremacy in religion. Lastly, we read (1 Chron. xxvi. 30) that David made Hashabiah and his brethren, Hebronites, officers of Israel among them westward, in all their business of the Lord, and in the service of the king. Likewise (verse 32) that he made other Hebronites, rulers over the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half tribe of Manasseh (these were the rest of Israel that dwelt beyond Jordan) for every matter pertaining to God, and affairs of the king. Is not this full power, both temporal and spiritual, as they call it that would divide it? To conclude; from the first institution of God’s kingdom, to the captivity, the supremacy of religion was in the same hand with that of the civil sovereignty; and the priest’s office after the election of Saul, was not magisterial, but ministerial.
The practice of supremacy in religion was not, in the time of the kings, according to the right thereof.
Notwithstanding the government both in policy and religion, were joined, first in the high-priests, and afterwards in the kings, so far forth as concerned the right; yet it appeareth by the same holy history, that the people understood it not: but there being amongst them a great part, and probably the greatest part, that no longer than they saw great miracles, or, what is equivalent to a miracle, great abilities, or great felicity in the enterprises of their governors, gave sufficient credit either to the fame of Moses or to the colloquies between God and the priests; they took occasion, as oft as their governors displeased them, by blaming sometimes the policy, sometimes the religion, to change the government or revolt from their obedience at their pleasure: and from thence proceeded from time to time the civil troubles, divisions, and calamities of the nation. As for example, after the death of Eleazar and Joshua, the next generation which had not seen the wonders of God, but were left to their own weak reason, not knowing themselves obliged by the covenant of a sacerdotal kingdom, regarded no more the commandment of the priest nor any law of Moses, but did every man that which was right in his own eyes, and obeyed in civil affairs such men, as from time to time they thought able to deliver them from the neighbour nations that oppressed them; and consulted not with God, as they ought to do, but with such men or women, as they guessed to be prophets by their predictions of things to come; and though they had an idol in their chapel, yet if they had a Levite for their chaplain, they made account they worshipped the God of Israel.