What is the best form of government? This is a really important question. I believe the answer to this question is in the Bible. The Bible describes a number of different systems and most are condemned. We need to dig deeply in the scriptures to find God's optimal form of civil government.
In the beginning
There was no need for government in the Garden of Eden. Everyone obeyed God, so there was no conflict. Sin had not yet entered, so there was no theft or violence. Human government was needed at all.
Once Adam and Eve sinned, crime and violence became a problem. Initially these problems were dealt with by families. Fathers were required to teach their children to obey God and live in harmony with each other. They had to provide for their children and resolve disputes between them.
The first human civil government to emerge was established by a man called Nimrod.
Cush begot Nimrod; he began to be a mighty one on the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the LORD; therefore it is said, "Like Nimrod the mighty hunter before the LORD." And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. From that land he went to Assyria and built Nineveh, Rehoboth Ir, Calah, and Resen between Nineveh and Calah (that is the principal city) (Gen 10:8-12 NKJV).
Nimrod became the most powerful warrior on the earth. He established his kingdom in Babel and the surrounding towns. This is the first mention of a "kingdom" in the Bible. The name Nimrod comes from the expression "we will rebel". So when the Bible refers to Nimrod "before the Lord" it means in opposition to the Lord.
Nimrod extended his kingdom to Babylon and Nineveh. This makes Nimrod the grandfather of all the first kingdoms and empires on earth. They were started by a rebel against God.
The fruit of this rebellion was the tower of Babel.
Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth" (Gen 11:4).
Nimrod's followers hoped to build a tower to heavens and make a name for themselves apart from God. This was the ultimate rebellion against their creator. God had no choice but to destroy this human government.
So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city (Gen 11:8).
Human government started in rebellion against God. We must be very careful about human government, because it has its roots in rebellion against God.
God's law produces Justice
Man's law leads to Tyranny
Abraham introduced family government for his extended family. This included providing work and income. He had an obligation to defend his family if they were attacked. When Lot and his possessions were captured, Abraham organised his servants into an army and rescued Lot.
When Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he called out the 318 trained men born in his household and went in pursuit as far as Dan. 15 During the night Abram divided his men to attack them and he routed them (Gen 14:14-15).
Abraham would settle disputes between different members of his family. When quarrelling arose between Lot's and his herdsmen, Abraham had to work out a solution (Gen 13:5-9).
Abraham provided tribal government. He was an effective leader of his tribe, but even he got it wrong at times. Family/tribal government has never been nullified by God. Families should still be providing protection and resolving disputes between their members.
Tribalism tends to get a bad press in the modern world. We forget that God established a tribal system and gave it his blessing. When the children of Israel went into the promised land, the entered as tribes. The tribes were allocated separate areas in Canaan.
Many Christians love this promise.
The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms (Deut 33:27).
Few notice that Deuteronomy 33 records God's blessing on the tribes of Israel. God has promised to bless a tribal system. He has never promised to bless democracy. That should set us thinking
A new role of military leader emerged with Moses. During 400 years of slavery in Egypt, Israel has developed into a nation comprising several tribes. God chose Moses to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt into the promised land. This would not be easy, because the Egyptians did not want to lose their slaves, the Canaanites did not want to lose their land and the nations in between were afraid of the nation on the move. The tribes of Israel responded to these threats by coming together to form a combined army. This was the first time one person has acted as a military leader of the entire nation. (Abraham had been a military leader for his family)
Moses was primarily a military leader. He had been trained to lead in Egypt, but after a false start had escaped to wilderness, where he was called by God. The calling was clear.
The LORD said, "I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey... So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt" (Ex 3:7-10).
God appointed Moses as a military leader to bring the nation out of Egypt into the Promised Land. He was not called to be a king and his position was not permanent. Moses died when he had led Israel up to the edge of the promised land. Joshua was anointed to take Moses' place and finish the task (Deut 31:1-8). With God's help, Joshua conquered the promised land by defeating the kings in the South and then the kings of the North. He then divided the land among the tribes and families. The completed the task that Moses had begun.
No successor was appointed for Joshua (Jos 23). The reason is that the task that Moses started was now completed. Israel no longer needed a military leader. God had promised that if Israel obeyed him, he would keep them safe from their enemies (Deut 28:1-7). The Moses/Joshua model was not the optimal form of government. It was a temporarily leadership model for a unique situation that has not occurred again.
Moses was not a law maker. Moses had a prophetic role in the giving of the law. He received the law from God and passed it on to the people. His skill was in hearing God, not in making laws.
Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, 11 who did all those miraculous signs and wonders the LORD sent him to do in Egypt-to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land (Deut 34:10,11).
The prophetic role included signs and wonders when confronting Pharaoh with God's words. The most important aspect of this prophetic ministry was hearing God speak and the most important message that Moses received was God's law.
This is another role that was completed with Moses. God's law is perfect, so he only had to give it once. Jesus said
I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished (Matt 5:18).
Many men and women succeed Moses in the office of prophet, but they did not have the role of law giving. That was task was completed with Moses. Even Jesus did not have to change the law; he simply fulfilled some of it on our behalf. The role of law-giver finished with Moses, and even his role was not one of law making. His task was to pass God's law on to the people.
The role of law maker does not exist in the scriptures. All that is needed is judges to apply the law that God has given.
Moses and Judges
Moses brought about another important innovation in government. He established a system of honest judges to apply God's law. Previously all disputes had been settled by tribal leaders.
Once Moses was established as a prophet, responsibility for hearing all cases fell to him. He was challenged by his father-in-law Jethro, who could see that Moses would become exhausted this huge responsibility. Moses needed a wake up call because he had missed God's purpose (Ex 18).
The Bible is very precise about what Moses did.
So I took the leading men of your tribes, wise and respected men, and appointed them to have authority over you-as commanders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens and as tribal officials (Deut 1:15).
Moses organised the nation into an army structure with units of tens, hundreds and thousands, based on family and tribal affiliations. This military style organisation was essential, while the nation was marching to the promised land. He took wise and respected tribal leaders and made the commanders over the tens, hundreds and thousands. The word commander is a military term. The word for official means scribe or magistrate.
These military commanders were the wisest people in their families and tribes, so they also served as judges.
They served as judges for the people at all times. The difficult cases they brought to Moses, but the simple ones they decided themselves (Ex 18:26).
The important innovation that Moses made was to introduce performance standards to role of judging.
And I charged your judges at that time: Hear the disputes between your brothers and judge fairly, whether the case is between brother Israelites or between one of them and an alien. Do not show partiality in judging; hear both small and great alike. Do not be afraid of any man, for judgment belongs to God. (Deut 1:16-17).
Judges are acting for God, the perfect judge (Jud 11:27), so they must demonstrate wisdom and integrity. They must not be motivated by the fear of men. This standard gave the people the freedom to take their cases to the judges with the greatest wisdom. If a judge made a bad decision, they could appeal to a judge with greater reputation for wisdom. This standard ensured that the best judges would be recognised and widely used.
The earliest judges functioned within a tribal environment. They would start off as leaders in their families and sub-tribes. The wisest of these local leaders would become judges. The best judges would rise to be appeal judges for their entire tribe.
This aspect of God's government has never been revoked. The heart of godly government is wise judges applying God's law.
A new stage of human government began with the book of judges, but this was also a temporary solution to a perennial problem. When the people turned away from God, they lost God's protection and were invaded by enemy nations.
Then the LORD raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of these raiders (Jud 2:16).
They needed a military leader to deliver them from these attacks. God took a recognised judge and turned him into a temporary military leader.
Unlike their fathers, they quickly turned from the way in which their fathers had walked, the way of obedience to the LORD's commands. Whenever the LORD raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the LORD had compassion on them as they groaned under those who oppressed and afflicted them (Jud 2:17-18).
Once delivered, the people would become complacent and stop trusting in God. He would withdraw their protection and they would be invaded. When the nation repented, God would turn a judge into a military leader to rescue them from the invaders.
These fighting judges were not an ideal form of government. They were the response of a compassionate God to a people groaning under oppression and affliction. God only raised up a judge to lead the nation, when the nation was in trouble. The military judge was a temporary solution to a serious problem, but not the ideal form of government.
The title of these judges is a bit confusing. They started their careers as judges applying the law amongst the people, when God turned them into military leaders to deliver the people. A temporary military leader has a different role to a judge.
The people of Israel became dissatisfied with judge/leaders. The judge/leader was supposed to be a temporary solution. When the people went Back to serving God, the judge/leader would no longer be needed. The problem was that the people did not want to serve God.
But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their fathers, following other gods and serving and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways (Jud 2:19).
The natural inclination of Israel was towards corruption and following other Gods. They refused to give up evil and their stubborn ways, so temporary judges did not work for them.
Israel lost God's protection so frequently, that they needed permanent military protection. So they asked for a king like the nations around them.
We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles (1 Sam 8:19,20).
The king was not a totally new role, but a permanent form of the judge/leader/military commander. Israel wanted a king, so they could live in permanent disobedience to God without threat of invasion. A military nation is not a godly nation.
The other problem with kingship was that it was not God's idea. It was copied from the heathen nations around Israel. That was never going to be a good place to find good government.
Samuel warned the people that a king was not part of God's plan for them.
Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking him for a king. He said, "This is what the king who will reign over you will do: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. Your menservants and maidservants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves (1 Sam 8:10-17).
These are shocking words. The nation that chooses a human king will end up in slavery. The young men will be forced to serve in the king's army. The young women will forced to serve in the king's palace. The king will take the best of the land for himself. He will tax all their income and make them poor.
Samuel was adamant that the king would not be "God's servant to do you good" (Rom 13:4). The people hoped that the king would deliver them from the surrounding nations. Instead of setting them free, the king would make them his slaves. The worst thing was that Israel's kings constantly provoked the nations, or joined in unholy alliances with them. This resulted in even more wars. The history of Israel is the history of wars, where the people had to fight for the king. This produced a great deal of suffering for the nation.
The history of Israel proves that good kings are usually succeeded by bad kings. Because princes grow up in a privileged world, they generally do not have the character required by such a powerful position. The trouble is that once power has been given to a king, the people can never get it back, even if his sons turn bad.
Where is your king, that he may save you?
Where are your rulers in all your towns,
of whom you said,
Give me a king and princes'?
So in my anger I gave you a king,
and in my wrath I took him away. (Hos 13:10,11).
God gave Israel a king as punishment for disobedience, not for blessing.
Many Christians believe that human kingship is a good form of government. This is not true. God never blessed human kingship as an optimal form of government.
A King in heaven is great.
A king on earth is dangerous.
David as Military Leader
The Lord told Nathan his purpose for David.
Now then, tell my servant David, 'This is what the LORD Almighty says: I took you from the pasture and from following the flock to be ruler over my people Israel. I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you. Now I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men of the earth. And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. Wicked people will not oppress them anymore, as they did at the beginning and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders [over my people Israel. I will also give you rest from all your enemies (2 Sam 7:8-11).
The word translated as ruler is "nagiyd", which is a military term. It mean commander, not ruler. God did not appoint David to be a ruler or king, but as a temporary military commander to deal to the nations enemies. Israel had never fully taken the land of Canaan, so it was surrounded by enemies.
David was a very effective military leader. He demonstrated his military skills in the defeat of Goliath. He defeated the Jebusites and drove them out of Jerusalem. He destroyed all the enemies that threatened Israel. God was with David while he acted as military leader, so he was successful in war and established peace for his people.
Once David had established peace, Israel did not require a military commander any more. God would protect them, if they trusted in him. They would only need a military commander, if they turned away from God. This meant that David did not need a successor. Provided the people remained faithful to God, there was no task for David to do, because Israel was at peace. David did not understand this and started to act as a permanent king. David failed as a king, because he was going beyond his calling from God. While he stuck to his calling as a military leaser, he was successful.
David as King
The Jewish people tended to look upon David as the perfect king and the ideal government. David was a great person with a good heart. His Psalms are a testimony to his good relationship with God, but despite having a good heart, David was not a good ruler of the people. He did not handle justice well. Absalom rose to power, because David did not provide judges to resolve claims. He was able to make a place for himself, by getting justice for people who did not believe they would get justice from King David (2 Sam 15:2-4).
The truth is that David did all the things that Samuel warned against. Samuel warned that the king would take the best property for himself. David had such great wealth and property that he needed twelve overseers to organize the people who worked it (1 Chron 27:25-31). This property was within Israel, so it would have been assigned to one of the families of the tribes of Israel. Under the Law of Moses, David was not entitled to this land.
Samuel warned that a King would take their daughters. David did worse; he took the wife of one of his soldiers, Uriah the Hittite, and then had him murdered. Samuel warned that the king would take all the young men for his army. David's worst decision was taking a census of the people to find out how many soldiers he could include in his army (2 Sam 24). This sin brought judgement on the nation, as the king was their representative.
So the LORD sent a plague on Israel from that morning until the end of the time designated, and seventy thousand of the people from Dan to Beersheba died (1 Sam 24:15).
King David was just doing what kings do, but his mistake cost 70,000 lives.
David's activities prove that kingship is not an ideal form of government. David was a good man with a good heart, but even he could not make kingship work. He proved that Samuel had been right to warn of the dangers of kingship. A human king can never escape the traps of pride and hubris.
David knew that he was not the ideal king. He honoured the true king.
The LORD is King for ever and ever (Ps 10:16).
For the kingdom is the LORD's (Ps 22:28)
For God is the King of all the earth (Ps 47:7).
For the LORD is the great God, the great King above all gods (Ps 95:3).
Shout for joy before the LORD, the King (Ps 98:6).
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom (Ps 145:13).
David and the Temple
When David had defeated all the enemies around Israel he decided to build a house for God. That night the word of the Lord came to Nathan and he "reported to David all the words of this entire revelation" (2 Sam 7:17). God said that he did not want a king to build him a house.
Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, "Why have you not built me a house of cedar?" (2 Sam 7:7).
God did not want a dwelling place built for him, because unlike the god's of the nations, he is not confined to once place. No human-built temple could be an adequate dwelling place for God.
David told the people that could not build a temple because he had blood on his hands (1 Chron 22:8; 28:3). I think this was David's idea, because there is no record in the scripture of God saying this to David. The idea does not make any sense, because Solomon had just as much blood on his hands as David.
Then the king gave the order to Benaiah son of Jehoiada, and he went out and struck Shimei down and killed him. The kingdom was now firmly established in Solomon's hands (1 Kings 2:46).
Solomon's actions made him unfit to build a temple for God. The truth is that every king has blood on his hands, because that is how they maintain their power. Therefore no human king can ever build a dwelling place fit for God.
Although God had said he was not to build a temple, David carried on gathering material, giving instructions and making plans (1 Chron 28,29). This was presumption. God gave exact plans to Moses for the tabernacle (Ex 26-30), but there is no record of God giving plans for a temple. David was attempting to duplicate the kind of temples built in other nations. His kingship was copied from the nations, so the design of his temple came from the same place. He did not understand that God did not need a physical temple.
God never asked Solomon to build him a house. Solomon built a temple because David had filled his head with the same obsession. God referred to it as "this temple, which you have built" (1 Kings 9:3). God responded graciously, because he loved Solomon, but a temple of cedar and stone was not his will. Solomon was wrong to build a temple of stone, because this promise was not for him to fulfil. That is why the stone temple eventually had to be destroyed. God would not have allowed the destruction of the temple, if it really was him home.
Jesus would fill the promise made through Nathan that one of David's offspring would build a temple.
He is the one who will build a house for my Name (2 Sam 7:13).
Jesus built a house for God to dwell in. By dying and ascending, he opened up the way for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Every believer would be a temple of the Holy Spirit. The entire body of Christ would be a dwelling place for the Holy Spirit. The body of Christ is the only temple fit for the living God.
God made a promise to David through Nathan the prophet that has been widely misunderstood.
The LORD declares to you that the LORD himself will establish a house for you: When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with the rod of men, with floggings inflicted by men. Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever (2 Sam 7:11-14,16).
This passage was misunderstood by David. He assumed that God's promise would be fulfilled through Solomon. When quoting what Nathan had said, David distored God's promise.
But you will have a son who will be a man of peace and rest, and I will give him rest from all his enemies on every side. His name will be Solomon. He is the one who will build a house for my Name. He will be my son, and I will be his father. And I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel forever (1 Chron 22:9,10).
When God gave the promise he did not mention the name of Solomon. David claimed this promise to Solomon, because he incorrectly assumed that he was starting a dynasty like the kings in other nations. David also twisted a negative into a positive. He said that his son would have rest, whereas God had said that the son would experience floggings and beatings. The irony is that Solomon was undone by the comfort that David has prophesied.
David's misunderstanding has been copied by most commentators. Christians tend to assume that God was giving the big tick to kingship, by establishing David's descendents as kings over Israel.
God promised to love one of David's sons and that his kingdom would last forever. This promise was not fulfilled through Solomon, because his kingdom did not last forever. . He turned to foreign women and he lost the blessing of God. Half of the kingdom was wrested away by Jeroboam soon after Solomon died and his dynasty was totally broken when the Babylonians invaded Israel.
God did not establish a kingly dynasty through Solomon. This is confirmed in God's answer to Solomon's prayer.
And if you walk in my ways and obey my statutes and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life (1 Kings 3:14).
God did not promise that his family line would continue as kings of Israel. He only promised long life to Solomon.
A Davidic dynasty was not God's will for Israel. God actually promised that one of David's descendents would establish his kingdom.
When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body (2 Sam 7:12).
The descendent would be raised up after he had died. Solomon came to power while David was still alive, so this rules him out. The reason is that Nathan's promise is to Jesus, not Solomon.
David and Jesus
Nathan's promise to David was fulfilled by Jesus. He descended from David through Mary. Gabriel's prophecy to Mary was similar to God's promise to David through Nathan.
You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end (Luke 1:31-33).
Jesus would establish the Kingdom that was promised to David. He established the kingdom of God that will last forever.
God was Jesus father and Jesus was the father's son, just as Nathan prophesied
I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with the rod of men, with floggings inflicted by men (2 Sam 7:14).
Solomon was not the son of God, so this promise was not fulfilled in him. However, because bible translators have assumed that this applied to Solomon, they have translated it in correctly. This was actually a messianic promise. This son would do no wrong, but he would be punished with the rod that should be born by all men. He would be inflicted with the flogging that all men deserve. This promise was fulfilled by Jesus before he went to the cross.
The kingship claimed by David's descendents was actually promised to Jesus.
Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever (2 Sam 7:16).
This promise was not fulfilled through Solomon and his descendents. Nathan was looking forward to the kingdom that Jesus would establish. It will endure for ever.
David had a good heart and good used him to accomplish his purposes, but he did not intend to establish a dynasty of kings through him. This was confirmed when his descendents led Israel away from God. Government by kings was not God's plan for Israel. He used some kings, because he is gracious, but they were not his ideal government.
The Jews have never fully understood David's calling. He was a military commander raised up to lead the nation in battle against their enemies. This was temporary role only needed when the people had repented and God had thrown of the shackles of their oppressors (see Judges 2:10-19).
In Jesus time, the people of Israel responded to their oppression by the Romans by looking for a king in David's line. They wanted a military leader to set them free, but they were still hardened against God, so a military leader could not free them from bondage. This is why Jesus came into Jerusalem riding on a donkey.
This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:
"Say to the Daughter of Zion,
'See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey'" (Matt 21:4,5).
Jesus was explaining that he had changed the ministry of David. He would not be a military leader, so he would not defend his people using military force. Rather he would defeat their enemies through the work of the Holy Spirit and proclamation of the gospel. Gentleness was replacing military courage. Jesus would be a totally different king. His kingdom will not be established by military force, but through his death on the cross. Like David, Jesus would deliver his people, but he would do it in a different way.
Solomon was succeeded by his son Rehoboam. He was a foolish king. When challenged by the people, he responded with harsh words.
My little finger is thicker than my father's waist.
My father laid on you a heavy yoke;
I will make it even heavier.
My father scourged you with whips;
I will scourge you with scorpions.
This statement proves two things. Firstly, it shows that despite his wisdom, the people suffered under Solomon. Secondly, king's sons might be poetic, but they are dangerous for their people.
Jeroboam had been an overseer in Solomon's work force (1 Kings 11:28). He led a rebellion against Rehoboam. He gained control of ten of the twelve tribes, but he proved to be an evil man. He became the benchmark for evil among kings of Israel. Many kings were given the following label.
He did evil in the eyes of the LORD by following the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit, and he did not turn away from them (2 Kings 13:2).
Rehoboam and Jeroboam were a disaster for Israel.
The successors of Rehoboam and Jeroboam followed their example. Josiah and Hezekiah were quite good, but even they frequently fell short. Most of the kings of Israel and Judah were mediocre; some were really evil like Manasseh and Jeroboam.
Virtually all the kings of Israel and Judah led their people into evil, and eventually both kingdoms came under the judgment of God. According to the prophets, these kings never really enforced justice. Israel and Judah were frequently invaded by other nations and their kings failed to protect the people from harm. These kings were a failure in every way. Kingship is a very unsatisfactory form of government.
After successive kings had led the people of Judah into evil, God sent judgment. Babylon invaded the nation and carried the people into exile. While living in Babylon, they gained a taste of life under empire. This was not a pleasant experience.
Young men are compelled to grind at the mill,
and boys stagger under loads of wood.
The old men have left the city gate,
the young men their music.
The joy of our hearts has ceased;
our dancing has been turned to mourning (Lam 5:13-14).
Judah went from kingship to empire; out of the frying pan into the fire.
Once we understand that kingship is a suboptimal form of government, we have to look for a different model. We know that democracy is contrary to God's will. We need to find the optimal form of government.
As with most things, we find that God gets things right first time. He gave Adam the responsibility for self government. As the population of the world grew, God established family government through men like Noah and Abraham. While there was plenty of room on the earth and families were spreading out, so there was no need for civil government. However, by the time of Isaac and Jacob, people were beginning to clash with each other (Jacob and Esau, Jacob and Laban), so a better form of civil government was needed. The need was postponed when Israel went to Egypt and became slaves in the Egyptian system.
While Moses was leading the children of Israel out of Egypt towards the promised land, they had a military style government. They were under constant threat of attack, so they travelled in a military formation. However, once they entered the new land, military government was not appropriate, so they needed a system civil government. Just before the need arose, God came through with a new system of government that would enable them to live peacefully in close proximity in Canaan. God's perfect model of government was law and judges.
God's perfect government has two aspects. The first is and most important aspect of God's government is the law. Every civilised society needs law to function well. However, the problem is that most use human laws. God's law is holy and good (Rom 7:12). The basis for perfect government is the God's law.
The second prong of perfect government is wise judges. Law cannot function on its own, but has to be applied. Good law needs wise judges to apply it. At the same time as God gave Israel the laws they needed, he also gave them a system of judges.
The God of the people of Israel chose our fathers; he made the people prosper during their stay in Egypt, with mighty power he led them out of that country, he endured their conduct for about forty years in the desert, he overthrew seven nations in Canaan and gave their land to his people as their inheritance. All this took about 450 years. After this, God gave them judges until the time of Samuel the prophet. Then the people asked for a king, and he gave them Saul son of Kish (Acts 13:17-21).
God gave judges to Israel as they were going into the promised land. This was the second part aspect of God's ideal government.
They served as judges for the people at all times. The difficult cases they brought to Moses, but the simple ones they decided themselves (Ex 18:26).
When the children of Israel entered the promised land, they had judges to apply God's law. This makes sense, as God would not give the law, without raising up judges to implement it. Moses gave the judges a "head start" by helping with the difficult cases.
God gave Israel a system of law and judges. This system of government has never been abolished. Jesus death on the cross ended the temple sacrifices. When he ascended as the great high priest, he ended the role of the priesthood. The role of judges administering God's law has never been abolished or replaced. Jesus will return as judge at the end of the age. That will be the point at which the role of godly human judges comes to an end.
God's ideal government is a system of law and judges. The law should be God's law. Excellent judges will emerge as we submit our cases to wisest people. This is the best system of government. Because it was given by God, a better system will never be found. Human wisdom can never match God's wisdom.