ORIGIN OF CIVIL GOVERNMENT
(A Biblical Examination of Its Origin and Jurisdiction)
by Kerry Lee Morgan*
“This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. Genesis 2:23-24.
The ancient origins of marriage confirm its centrality, but it has not stood in isolation from developments in law and society. The history of marriage is one of both continuity and change. That institution even as confined to opposite-sex relations has evolved over time. United States Supreme Court, Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. 644 (2015).
Family Yes, Civil Government No
In the preceding chapter we learned that the world God created which was populated by his command consisted of between 750 million to possibly 4 billion people spanning approximately 1,656 years or 27.5% of human history. We have no instance of any civil government being established or authorized to act by God. We have no indication that God established nations. We have no indication that God established offices, agencies, or departments. There was no Garden of Eden Heights Police Department and Adam ruled no one, except his own family over whom he only governed as a husband and father, not as a king. Can we honestly absorb the implications of this?
Such a review should lay to rest any claim that God created civil government at the beginning, or that civil government arises from the laws of nature or will of God from the beginning. What we do find instead, is that God created the family, defined its members and authorized it to govern itself. We do not find that God authorized “Family A,” to govern “Family B.” We do not read that God authorized any person to govern any other person without his consent other than within that person’s family. God took care to define how a family was created, with the authority to create it and that He charged it with specific functions and duties — have children, multiply, take authority over the earth, maintain it and use it for food and for the advancement of familial society. Nowhere within this mandate is the authority granted to any person to wage war, enslave others, or take prisoners of war. No person may impose any tax, impose zoning requirements, compel public school attendance, impose legal tender or establish a global empire. Nor does this mandate authorize the use of force or violence, except in a purely defensive posture.
Adam never said to Eve: “As the first man and woman, we are a natural king and queen let’s take booty, pillage and plunder in God’s name.” And when their children were married, they created their own separate families and became accountable only to God and not their parents. They left their mother and father’s authority as a parent to a child. This was the way of all family government.
Consent The Cornerstone of Marriage
Let us pause here to clearly recognize that when Adam and Eve became husband and wife, that it was by their mutual consent. They both agreed to the proposition. Well you say, “There was no one else, so what else could they do?” Yes, they were the only people, but their consent to the arrangement was necessary. Adam sought a woman by asking God. Genesis 2:18 & 20. God delivered. It’s the same today for those who ask. When a man and woman are united in marriage, they do so by their common consent. Genesis 2:24. Marriage was not founded on coercion. Consent is a necessary element for entering into the preexisting institution of marriage and enjoying its benefits and performing its duties. As we will see, the authority of a human being to consent or withhold consent embedded into each of us by God, is the cornerstone of individual self-government and marriage.
Murder Without Capital Punishment by Man
We also read that God entrusted no family member or any person with the authority to punish murderers. God reserved that power to Himself alone. For whatever reason, it does not appear to have been immediately exercised by God. Thus, when Adam’s son Cain murdered his brother Abel, Adam was without jurisdiction to punish Cain by putting him to death. Adam could not establish the Garden of Eden Heights Police Force and arrest Cain. Adam could discipline his son as a father, but could impose no death sentence, physical pains or penalties as Cain’s king, because Adam was no king at all. Nor could Cain’s mother impose any penalties as a queen, because she was no queen herself.
God was content with this situation at least for the time being. His justice and punishment of Cain after His investigation and trial involved exile and dispossession from the land itself. Cain was adjudged a fugitive. He was under God’s protection and curse simultaneously. What mercy was shown by God! Cain’s situation prevented him from fulfilling that aspect of the mandate to take dominion over the earth. If he worked the soil to feed himself, it would not produce food easily. He thus was condemned to wander from place to place dependent on others for survival as his just punishment. He was a wanderer without dominion the exact opposite of Adam’s charge.
God’s judgment, however, did not pass to Cain’s children. They were under no such legal disability. There was no “corruption of blood.” God clarified that no person had the right to take Cain’s life under any theory of right or wrong, guilt or innocence. Thus, Cain could fulfill the command to marry and produce children. No human authority could ever interfere with that liberty, because that liberty was not within any human jurisdiction to compel or forbid, to authorize or license, or to regulate or control. Nor is it today.
Polygamy Without Civil Punishment by Man
As we have seen, Marriage was not created by mankind. It was created by God as recorded in Genesis 2:23-24. As such it is set in stone for all human history. It cannot be redefined by any person, priest or judge. The Supreme Court’s declaration to the contrary in Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S.644 (2015), is not merely unconstitutional; it is an arrogant declaration that God’s statement in Genesis 2:23-24, is false. The legal issue before the Court was whether a state could constitutionally declare that “the union of one man and one woman in marriage shall be the only agreement recognized as a marriage or similar union for any purpose.” Mich. Const., Art. I, sec. 25. This definition affirmed the Genesis account. The Court rejected that account. Its statement that the marriage “institution even as confined to opposite-sex relations has evolved over time” is pure drivel. Why have our representative in Congress not rejected the Court’s decision through impeachment of these Justices? Perhaps nothing in our left-right thinking has told us to tell them to do so?
The Supreme Court is not the first to say God is a liar about marriage. In a different context we read that the murderer Lamech took two wives. See Genesis 4:19-24. Taking two wives is against the law of marriage which God had clearly laid down when He declared that the “two shall be one flesh” as stated in Genesis 2:23-24. Lamech thus acted lawlessly. Who did God appoint to punish Lamech for this lawless act? Nobody. The Old Testament is filled with examples of “saints of old” taking more than one wife simultaneously. God did not punish them either. Such conduct was lawless but there was no civil government to punish it. The only government was the family. The only government with authority to punish was God’s direct government of every man and woman.
Some have speculated that polygamy must have been acceptable and that only later in history did God come out against it. What nonsense. Polygamy was never acceptable by God. It violates God’s law of marriage. Yet, for whatever reason, God Himself did not punish polygamy since creation. Or perhaps the better way of saying it, is a man with multiple wives punishment enough? Is that not judgment enough? See Genesis 16:1-6; 30:1-13. So here we have cases of murder and polygamy documented. Yet, God gives no human authority any right to do anything about it.
Make Noah King?
What to do? Wouldn’t this be the perfect time for God to Institute civil government? It could then punish those murderers and polygamists? I hear the demand even now. Who should God appoint as king? We read that Noah was the only person on the entire planet to find favor with God. Assume the population was 2.5 to 3 billion persons at that time and Noah was the only one who found favor with God. Wouldn’t Noah be the best choice for God to appoint as ruler, king, prime minister or president? Even a dictator would do. Desperate times call for desperate measures we are lectured. Emergency creates necessity we are told. We are lectured and told these things by those who want power the lusty stallions of the state. God could have established the government of “United Eden” and Noah could rule it and as a matter of efficiency, also judicially try the accused and punish them too.
God, however, did not appoint Noah to rule, or judge 1 to 3 billion persons. The extent of Noah’s rule did not differ from the head of any other household. That authority extended only to his immediate family as a father.
Did God miss an opportunity? Many today conjecture the earth was corrupt in the days of Noah because there was no civil government to restrain evil and lawlessness. They argue that had a civil government been instituted, the corruption of the world would have been restrained and this is why God changed the rules of the game after the flood. The change we are told was the implementation of civil government with the exclusive power to punish wrongdoing including murderers by capital punishment. There is no support for this speculation. Where do people come up with this stuff?
God’s One Regret Was Not About the Lack of Civil Government
This populist blather does not square with what God says. They say these things because they do not know the Scriptures. Genesis 6:5 states that: “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” We also learn that “the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.”
But what did He regret? God did not say, “I regret I made the family as it obviously did not work out.” He did not say, “I regret that I did not create civil government to punish wrongdoers and evil.” He did not say, “You know, the one thing I regret is that I did not kill Cain right off the bat. That would have sent a message.” God regretted none of these. He regretted He made mankind. That is a deep and profound regret. He said nothing about the family or civil government. God was thinking, “You know, I could just kill everybody and be within my rights.” He had no regrets about the family or civil government and why should He. He is king of the entire earth.
What remedy did God proposed for this situation that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually? He actually reaffirmed the family. He instituted no civil government. What would you have done? Do you have a better plan to judge a few billion people for a thousand years of evildoing?
But God has standards. He said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” The remedy was that: “everything that is on the earth shall die.” But God said to Noah, “I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you.” God also has mercy for those who seek Him.
God Is the Exclusive King, Lawgiver and Judge
If you are looking for punishment by death for wickedness and evil this is it. If you are looking for justice, the flood is it. If you think God should dispense His justice on your timetable, think again. If you think God was sorry He did not punish evil sooner, then you do not understand God’s mercy and grace. Psalm 145:9. Adam as king could not have been this perfect. Noah as king could not have struck the right balance between justice, mercy and good faith. God was a better King than any man ever could be or has been. Jeremiah 10:7 states: “Who would not fear you, O King of the nations? For this is your due; for among all the wise ones of the nations and in all their kingdoms there is none like you.” God will bring every deed into judgment in His time. Every secret thing, whether good or evil will be revealed and judged. Ecclesiastics 12:13. The pretended glories and shining justice of a government of men are dim lights by comparison.
John Locke recognized this situation where God alone is the judge and no human judge on earth is present to resolve disputes. He goes on further, however, to conclude that such a situation must render the world to exist in a state of war. “To avoid this state of war (wherein there is no appeal but to heaven, and wherein every the least difference is apt to end, where there is no authority to decide between the contenders) is one great reason of men’s putting themselves into society, and quitting the state of nature: for where there is an authority, a power on earth, from which relief can be had by appeal, there the continuance of the state of war is excluded, and the controversy is decided by that power.” John Locke, Second Treatise of Civil Government, Ch. 3, sec. 21 (1690). (Yet now we have thousands of governments and war aplenty. We have civil governments warring against their own people’s freedoms. People have placed themselves into a state of society but it has not worked out the way they thought.)
At least when considering the period from creation to the flood there was an appeal to God to judge human conduct on earth. He did so with Cain. He did not do so with others. During this time people began to call upon the name of the Lord. Genesis 4:26. But near the end the water rose. God finally judged all flesh with death except Noah and his family. Locke’s “state of nature” existed here, between the creation and the flood. But God does not say that man lived in a state of war. He merely says in Genesis 6:5 that “the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Perhaps this means families were continually at war with one another. Perhaps not.
Let us not also forget that after death, there is another judgment by the Supreme Judge. Revelation 20:12 tells us what it looks like when God judges all mankind. “And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.”
God knows how to govern and judge. You bet He knows. He did not forget to institute civil government at creation. It was neither necessary, nor desirable. He was the civil government. He was and is the king. No need for Adam, no need for Enoch or Noah to stand in His shoes. “For kingship belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations.” Psalm 22:28. Let us hear no more of the inherent glory of man to rule. Let us hear no more of the divine right to rule according to nature. Let us hear no more of rule by a favored enlighten few as something God Himself originated.
Family Authority After the Flood
Return to the chronology. The flood has come and gone. It was not only a worldwide event. It was a worldwide judgment. The judgment of God for evildoing has come and gone. The flood is not a story about the environment only. It is not only an account of God destroying what He has made. It is a story of God as the Supreme and Great Judge taking his seat and executing Justice in His own time. Saying it that way “in his own time,” is really for our benefit as we live in time and He does not.
After this judgment, some things remained the same, but a few things were changed. God did not change the family. He reiterated the same authority of the family as He had before the flood with two exceptions. Adam’s Covenant was restated to Noah. Two things in Noah’s covenant changed, however, which were different after the flood. First, the fear and dread of humans came upon animals. People could eat animals for food, provided the blood was first drained from the carcass.
Second, after restating the authority of the family, God expanded its authority. This is critical. God is not laying down a new rule for the nations as nations did not then even exist. He is laying down a new authority for the family. This context is ignored by cheerleaders for civil government as an exclusive monopoly on force. They do not talk about what God actually said and did here. In Genesis 9:6 God says specifically to Noah and his sons that: “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.”
Here God calls man “mankind,” of which there are two types equally made in his image, male and female. God’s use of the word “man” is not a reference to gender. It is a reference to the authority of a human being. You won’t hear that in your diversity classes. What is critical to note is that this authorization, indeed this mandate, authorized a person to take the life of a murderer. But what person? Any person? Just Noah? Just his sons?
The authority in Genesis 9:6 comes after and as part of the Noahic covenant regarding the purpose of the individual and family. God is not so naïve to believe that a single entity in future nations and peoples called “civil government” can be trusted with the exclusive use of force to execute punishment. He knows what men are made of. He just annihilated the population of the earth. Do you remember that? He regretted he made mankind. Do you remember that? Do you think after annihilation and regret, God is going to actually give humans a divine right to rule the rest of us? Don’t confuse His mercy with sharing His power. He empowered no one to rule by divine right neither civil government nor His church composed of the body of believers. This can’t be good news for those civil officials or clergy under the opposite impression. God may have called you to serve, but He did not call you absent the consent of the people or a body of believers.
Does it make sense to you for Him to vest in an exclusive set of human beings the sole power to rule all others and put to death murderers? Or does it make sense to decentralize the power to punish murders among offended families and next of kin?
Nevertheless, nothing in the text regarding the post-flood authorization in Genesis 9:6, authorized or created civil government. Not a syllable exists to that effect. He did not create kings or kingdoms. He did not yet create nations. Genesis 9:6 serves as no basis for an entire system of civil government that may self-declare any exclusive power to punish murderers. The authorization was given to Noah and his sons as part of God’s covenant with mankind, not just Noah’s family. It was not given to Noah and his sons as kings. It was not given to Noah and his sons as rulers of all men upon the face of the earth that should follow. It was given to them as family members.
Don’t be among those that simply jump from the passage in Genesis regarding capital punishment to the proud boast that any and every civil government today has by the will of God Almighty, the sole monopoly to take life for murder, and any other crime it wants to add to the capital list. For example, the Southern Baptist Convention in 2000 stated that: “The right to exercise capital punishment is reserved for the state, not the individual. There is no place for personal revenge in the administration of this punishment (Rom. 12:19). It is the state’s responsibility, as God’s civil servant on earth, to protect its citizens and to punish those who harm them (Rom. 13:4, 6). Capital punishment provides the state the means to apply the appropriate punishment to the crime (Deuteronomy 19:21).”
The SBC cannot conceive of God actually establishing a system of punishing murders by offended family members which He actually did establish in Genesis 9:6. That would be un-American! The SBC does not pause to inquire how murders were punished before nations or civil government even existed. Likewise, the true admonition by God against revenge is noted, but unto whom is it applied? It is applied exclusively to individuals and families on the assumption that only they would punish murderers motivated solely by blood-lust or revenge. This assertion assumes that Noah and his family and all human families that followed at least till the days of the early Hebrew Republic must have been motivated by vengeance. The family feud is a departure from God’s authorization, not its fulfillment.
Are you fearful of the family feud-of the Hatfield’s and the McCoy’s? Good, but do you also fear the local, county and state police unto whom the law has given absolute and qualified immunity for the death of others? Are you aware of covert operations doing the same thing worldwide? Only the naïve assume civil government never punishes from ill motives! Did you ever hear of police brutality, false flag operations or governmental cover-ups?
Thus, at the beginning of the second life of mankind upon the earth after the flood, we find no evidence God instituted any civil government. We only find He reauthorized the family to continue its purpose. He also added to their authority the punishment of a murderer, and perhaps only by the family of the victim. Our search for the origins of civil government must go further if we are to think about where civil government comes from, how it is formed or may be formed and what is the legitimate scope of its authority. But we have managed along the way to affirm the importance and centrality of family government. We have also identified the cornerstone of modern idolatry which says that when God imposed the duty to punish murders, He did so through the exclusive agency of the civil government.
Family government alone was a good and sufficient means to organize society during 1,656 years or for over 27% of all the years of human history, affecting between 750 million to 4 billion people. During this time we have no record of any civil government. God did not originate it, institute it or create it. If there was judging to be done or crime to be punished, God handled it His own way directly, sooner sometimes, sometimes later.