THEOCRACY (Greek, Θεοκρατία):
System of state organization and government in which God is recognized as the ruler in whose name authority is exercised by His chosen agents, the Priests or the Prophets. The word in its technical meaning seems to have been first used by Josephus, to describe the peculiar nature of the Jewish government as devised under divine direction by Moses: "Our legislator . . . ordained our government to be what, by a strained expression, may be termed a theocracy, by ascribing the authority and the power to God" ("Contra Ap." ii., § 17).
The term expresses most succinctly the conception of the Old Testament historiographers, and more especially that of the books which are written from a priestly-Levitical point of view (e.g., Chronicles, the Levitical code P). Basic to the notion is the relation of Israel to God as His peculiar people (comp. Ex. xix. 5), which therefore is to constitute "a kingdom of priests and an holy nation" (ib. xix. 6). By redeeming Israel from Egyptian bondage God has acquired this people for Himself (ib. xv. 16). The wonderful manifestations of divine power at the Red Sea proclaim God the Ruler forever (ib. xv. 18). Moses is only God's man, bringing the people's concerns before
The visible king—originally not known and recognized in Israel—is seated on God's throne (I Chron. xxix. 23; comp. ib. xxviii. 5). His authority is derived from that of the real ruler, God: hence the prophet's prerogative to dethrone even the king (comp. Samuel; see I Sam. xv. 26, xvi. 1 et seq.; I Kings xi. 29, xiv. 10, xvi. 1 et seq., xxi. 21). The king represents before the people the reflected majesty of God (Ps. xlv. 7). The king's enemies are God's enemies (Ps. ii. 1 et seq., xxi. 10): hence the Messianic visions are organically interwoven with the restoration of the kingdom in the dynasty of David (see Messiah). But the rerise of this theocratic kingdom in Israel will coincide with the acknowledgment of God as the ruler over the whole earth (see 'Alenu; Rosh ha-Shanah; Shofar).
It is certain that in antiquity every people felt itself to be under the direct tutelage and government of its ancestral god: all government in ancient days was theocratic; and the conception that Israel is bound to be loyal to
An original theocratic republicanism of Israel can not be admitted. The tribal organization of Israel was none other than that obtaining among its cognates. The restrictions placed upon royal authority (Deut. xvii. 14-20) by the Deuteronomist reflect on the practises prevailing at court, as the strictures placed on the lips of Samuel (I Sam. viii. 6 et seq.) describe actual conditions that prevailed in pre-Deuteronomic times and that were, of course, condemned by the Prophets. The hereditary kingdom was probably an adopted foreign (Canaanitish) institution; the Israelitish tribes, jealous of their independence, being ruled by elders (sheiks) or judges, possibly by elective monarchs. But even these sheiks were only in so far agents of theocracy as the "oracles" of the tribal deity were consulted and obeyed. The dominance of the Law is as clearly recognized in Islam as it ever was in post-exilic Judaism. In fact, Islam is even to-day a theocracy (comp. Juynboll, "Handleiding der Mohammedaansch Wetenschap," Leyden, 1903).