Moses on the Ethics of Civil Authority

Progressive revelation (see previous post) is not always sequential, at least as recorded in scripture.  The organization of the books within the canon, as well as the various presumptive dates for editing, make the process of studying scripture an adventure in wallowing about in a sea of words, sifting them for the fullness of understanding revealed in Jesus Christ. 

If a few chapters ago the deuteronomic Moses called for the killing of apostates, in the 16th and 17th chapters he took a dramatic turn toward an ethic of power and authority that we have not yet achieved.  Those called to governmental authority, said Moses, were to judge with righteousness, neither perverting justice nor showing partiality.  Kings were not to lead the people back into slavery, nor multiply their own wealth too much, nor exalt themselves above other members of the community, and they were to be guided by God’s most generous law in the writing of civil laws. 

If the killing of apostates cannot be reconciled with the teachings of Jesus, these words of guidance not only resonate with the Sermon on the Mount and Christ’s commandment to love one another, but they set a moral standard for governance not yet met in most communities, and egregiously violated in some.  Moreover, the communities in question cannot be understood only as units of civil government, but also as any community governed by hierarchical authority, and that most certainly includes the modern corporation. 

In one form or another, these are truths that have been understood and taught by scholars of management and leadership for at least sixty years.  Sadly, there is little evidence to show that much learning has taken place or success achieved.  The myth of rugged individualism, along with the motivating power of greed and fear, rebel against such new fangled namby-pamby ideas that first saw the light of day over three thousand years ago through the hand of the prophets who penned the words in Deuteronomy and were ratified by Jesus Christ over two thousand years ago.  The “let’s stone them” approach seems so much more direct and practical than anything God might have in mind.

5 thoughts on “Moses on the Ethics of Civil Authority”

  1. I do benefit from your exegeses of the Bible. My son expressed concern about the Old Testement I told him about progresive revelation. I have been reading ancient Greek tragedy. At its most shocking advice The Duteronomy could give in light of present day humanistic evaluation is eons more enlightened than anywhere else. When did budhism appear? Anyway you are a worthy preacher.

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