Voting: A Sacred Civil Right?

Where did the concept of elections and of a people voting for their civil leaders first appear in history? It did not originate with Nimrod, the tyrant of Babylon. It did not originate with the Pharaohs, who created a nation of slaves to build their tombs. The concept that rulers should be elected by the ruled came from the loving mind and heart of God Almighty and is first recorded in human history in the book of Exodus. Inspired by God, Moses' father-in-law, Jethro, said to Moses, "You shall choose able men from all the people – God-fearing men of truth who hate unjust gain – and place them over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens, to be their rulers" (Ex. 18:21).

These magistrates (civil servants) were to be taken "out of all the people," and not from any privileged class. The only qualifications for office required were, that they should be "able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness, wise men, and understanding, and known among their tribes [known and trusted at the local level]."

As the ancient Hebrew Republic developed and prospered over the next 400 years, elections with local accountability restrained the human tendency toward despotism which dominated all other nations of the era.

The New Testament confirms the accountability of leaders to the people both in church and state. In the church, elders are chosen and are subject to specific character qualifications. Civil rulers are not exempt from this accountability Romans 13 teaches that they are "ministers of God" and as such are to be servants of the people to punish evil doers and reward the righteous. In the ensuing centuries, biblical principles of local accountability of magistrates and equality under the law began to permeate Ireland, Scotland, England and parts of Europe. As the Bible was unleashed into the hands of the people during the Reformation honest elections to determine civil leaders began to be promoted in the English Bill of Rights and Scottish National Covenant etc. The biblical concept of a government of the people, elected by the people would mature in the New World, 3,000 miles from the tyrants who clung to their unelected power in Europe.

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