Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAP. III.: Shewing the Anarchy, or State of the Israelits under their Judges. - The Oceana and Other Works
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CHAP. III.: Shewing the Anarchy, or State of the Israelits under their Judges. - James Harrington, The Oceana and Other Works 
The Oceana and Other Works of James Harrington, with an Account of His Life by John Toland (London: Becket and Cadell, 1771).
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Shewing the Anarchy, or State of the Israelits under their Judges.
Sect. 1. A full description of the representative of the people of Israel.THE frame of that which I take to have bin the ordinary congregation or representative of the people of Israel, is not perfectly shewn in Scripture, till the time of David; when, tho it has nothing in it of a monarchical institution, it is found intirely remaining, and perfectly describ’d in these words: Now the children of Israel after their number, to wit, the chief fathers, and captains of thousands and hundreds, and their officers that serv’d the king in any matter of the courses, which came in, and went out month by month, throout all the months in the year;1 Chr. 27.of every course were twenty and four thousand men. The polls of the people, as they have bin hitherto shewn, were taken before their plantation in Canaan, where before they had kings, they had grown (according to the account of Paul) four hundred and fifty years;Acts 13. 20. during which time, that they were excedingly increas’d, appears by the poll of military age taken by David, and amounting to one million three hundred thousand:2 Sam. 24. 9. yet could this assembly of the children of Israel after their number, in one year, by monthly rotation, take in the whole body of them. How these, being a representative of the people, and thus changeable, could be otherwise collected than by the monthly election of two thousand in each tribe, is not imaginable. And that both a representative of the people they were, and thus changeable, is by the clear words of Scripture, and the nature of the business upon which occasion they are describ’d, undeniably evinc’d: for David proposing, and the people resolving, they make Solomon king, and Zadoc priest.1 Chr. 29. 22. This assembly (besides the military disciplin thereof, in which it differ’d little from the customs of such other commonwealths as have bin great and martial) had not only a civil, but a military office or function, as the standing guard or army of this country; which, tho small, and lying in the very teeth of its enemys, could thus, by taking in every man but for one month in a whole year, so equally distribute a burden, to have bin otherwise intolerable to all, that it might be born by a few, and scarce felt by any. This epitome of that body (already describ’d under the leading of the several princes of the tribes, with their staves, and standards of the camp) seems to have bin commanded by lieutenants of the princes, or tribuns of the respective tribes:Ver. 2, 3. for, over the first course for the first month, wasJashobeamthe son ofZabdiel (of the children of Perez, or of the family of the Pharzits, in the catalog of Judah) and of his course were four and twenty thousand.
In this case the princes did not lead in person, but resided in their tribes for the government of the same; whence, upon extraordinary occasions, they sent extraordinary recruits: or in case of solemn war, or som weighty affair, as the trial of a tribe or the like, led up in person, with their staves and standards; an ordinance, whether we regard the military or civil use of it, never enough to be admir’d.
Chap. III.It is true, while, the whole people being an army, Moses could propose to them in body, or under their staves and standards of the camp; as he needed not, so he us’d not any representative.Sect. 2. That this representative was us’d in the time of the judges. But when Joshuahad let the people go, and the children of Israel went every man to his inheritance, to possess the land; how was it possible they should possess any thing (while the five lords of the Philistins, and all the Canaanits and the Sidonians, and the Hivits, remain’d yet among them unconquer’d) without the wing of som such guard or army as this,Judg. 2. 6. under which to shelter themselves?Judg. 3. 3. How was it equal, or possible, that a few of the people upon the guard of the whole should be without relief, or sustain all the burden? Or how could every man be said to go to his inheritance to possess it, unless they persorm’d this or the like duty, by turns or courses? These things consider’d, there is little doubt but this congregation was, according to the institution of Moses, put in practice by Joshua.
Sect. 3. The dissolution of the Mosaical commonwealth.Thus stood both the sanhedrim and the congregation, with the inferior courts, and all the superstructures of the Mosaical commonwealth, during the life of Joshua, and the elders of the sanhedrim that outliv’d him; but without any sufficient root for the possible support of it (the Canaanits not being destroy’d) or with such roots only as were full of worms.Judg. 2. 7, 11. Wherfore, tho the people serv’d the Lord all the days ofJoshua,and all the days of the elders that outliv’dJoshua; yet after the death of these, they did evil in the sight of the Lord.Judg. 2. 1, 2.And an angel (a messenger or prophet) of the Lord came up from Gilgal to Bochim,Deut. 7. 2. ch. 12. 2.and said, I made you go up out of the land of Egypt, and have brought you into the land which I swore to your fathers; and I said, I will never break my covenant with you: and ye shall make no league with the inhabitants of this land, ye shall throw down their altars:Josh. 23. 3.but ye have not obey’d my voice: Why have you don this? Wherfore I also said, I will not drive them out from before you:Exod. 23. 33. ch. 34. 12.but they shall be as thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare to you. Upon the several contents of which places, says Josephus,The Israelits (after the death of Joshua, and the elders that outliv’d him) neglecting their arms, betook themselves to tillage;Antiq. l. 5. c. 2.and effeminated with peace, gave their minds rather to what was easy and pleasing, than what was secure or honourable: forgetful of the laws of God, and of their disciplin. Wherupon God being mov’d to anger, admonish’d them by a prophet, that in sparing the Canaanits, they had disobey’d him; and that in case they persisted, for his mercys neglected they should tast of his justice. But they, tho terrify’d with the oracle, were altogether averse to the war; both because they were brib’d by the Canaanits, and thro luxury were becom unapt for labor: the form of their commonwealth being now deprav’d, and the aristocratical part therof invalid; while neither the senat was elected, nor the solemn magistrats created as formerly. In which words, the not electing of the senat as formerly, being laid as a crime by Josephus to the people; he is first clear enough, for his part, that the senat was formerly elected by the people, and ought to have bin so still: and secondly, that henceforth the election of the senat, or sanhedrim, was neglected by the people. So this commonwealth, which, thro the not rooting out of the Canaanits, had never any foundation, came now to fail also in her superstructures; for proof wherof, the testimony of Scripture is no less pregnant in divers places.Judg. 1. 3. 27, 29, &c. As where Judahsaid toSimeonhis brother, Com up with me into my lot, that we may fight against the Canaanits, and I likewise will go with thee into thy lot: soSimeonwent with him. In which words you have a league made by two tribes, and a war manag’d by them, while other tribes, that is, Ephraim, Manasseh, with the rest, sat still: wheras, if there had bin now any common ligament, as while the sanhedrim was in being, such leaguing, and such warring by particular tribes at their own discretion, could not have bin.Judg. 20. Again, wheras to judg a tribe pertain’d to the sanhedrim; in the judgment given against Benjamin, by the congregation of four hundred thousand, there is no mention of the sanhedrim at all.
Sect. 4. No king, som senat; no senat, som king.Now government is of such a nature, that where there is no senat, there must be som king, or somwhat like a king, and such was the judg of Israel; yet is not their reckoning valid, who from hence compute the monarchy of the Hebrews. First, because Paul distinguishes between the kings and the judges.Calav. ap. Secondly, because Gideon, when he was a judg, in refusing to be a king, dos the like.Liv. Acts 13. Thirdly, because the judges in Israel (as dictators in other commonwealths) were not of constant election, but upon emergencys only.Judg. 7. 23. Fourthly, because complaint being made to the men of Judah of their judg Samson, they deliver’d him to the Philistins bound;Judg. 15. 13. no less than did the Romans their consuls to the Samnits. And lastly, because Samuel, distinguishing to perfection between dictatorian and royal power, or between the magistracy of the judg and of the king, shews plainly (in that he hearken’d to the voice of the people) that the one being without any balance at all, was at the discretion of the people; and that the other (not to be founded but upon property in himself, to which end he must take the best of their fields, and give them to his servants) could no otherwise subsist than by having the people at the discretion of the king. This difference (being no small one) excepted, the office of the king and of the judg was much the same; each consisting in judging the people, and going forth with their armys.
Sect. 5. Besognia vezzaro spegnere.But whatever be the difference between these magistracys, the state of the Israelitish commonwealth under the judges was both void of natural superstructures, and of the necessary foundation; so the Israelits, when they were weak, serv’d the Philistins, as is imply’d in the speech of the men of Judah to their judg: Knowest thou not that the Philistins are rulers over us?—And it came to pass when Israel was strong, that they put the Canaanits to tribute, and did not utterly drive them out.Judg. 15. 11. Which, as it was contrary to the command of God, so was it pointblank against all prudence; for thus neither made they to themselves friends, nor did they ruin their enemys:Livy. which proceding, as it far’d with this commonwealth, and was observ’d by Herennius in that of the Samnits, is the certain perdition of a people.
Sect. 6. The anarchy of Israel.Of the disorder of this people upon the dissolution of the Mosaical commonwealth, it is often said that there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eys. That is, at the times related to by these expressions, there was neither sanhedrim, nor judg, in Israel:Judg. 17. 6. 18. 1. 19. 1. 21. 25. so every man, or at least every tribe, govern’d it self as it pleas’d. Which, nevertheless, is not so generally to be understood, but that the tribes (without either judg or sanhedrim) marching up with their standards and staves of the camp,Judg. 20. not only assembl’d the congregation in the usual place at Mizpeh, but there condemn’d Benjamin for the rape of the Levit’s concubine; and marching thence to put their decree in execution, reduc’d that obstinat tribe, or rather destroy’d it by a civil war.
Sect. 7. The rise of the Hebrew monarchy.When in this, and divers other ways, they had pamper’d their enemys, and exhausted themselves, they grew (as well they might) out of love with their policy; especially when after impious expostulation (Wherfore has the Lord smitten us this day before the Philistins?) they had,1 Sam. 4. 3. as it were, stak’d their God (let us fetch the ark—that it may save us) and the ark being taken by the enemy,1 Sam. 7. 3. they fell to idolatry. To this it happen’d, that tho upon repentance success was better,Chap. IV. God having miraculously discomfited the Philistins before them; yet Samuel their judg was old, and had made his two sons (being takers of bribes, and perverters of justice) judges over Israel. Wherupon, there was no gainsaying, but a king they must and would have.