Government--Where did it come from?

© Fernando Caracena, 2016

Origins of Government

In the ancient time of Abraham, there were already various forms of government among people, which are mentioned in the Old Testament of the Bible. Ancient towns that had existed for many generations had some form of government, which were different from that of Abraham's clan.

The Old Testament of the Bible describes the evolution of government following the thread of development of the ancient Israelites. Abraham was a tribal chief, and so was his nephew, Lot. They were both descendants of Terah who lived in Ur of Chaldees, which is an ancient city in Mesopotamia. Terah actually initiated the move from Ur to Haran on the way to the land of Canaan. [See here for more information.] Apparently Abraham' s clan were sojourners in the land, not ancestrally connected with the cities of Mesopotamia through many generations.

Epic of Gilgamesh

What can we draw from ancient stories about the origin or development of city government? We can say that government was more ancient than Abraham. It existed in Mesopotamia, where where it predated cuneiform tablets that go back thousands of years. Also, Abraham through Isaac and subsequent descendants trace the evolution of Western government and religion. A different path in evolution of these is through Abraham' s first born through Hagar, Ishmael.

The patterns here, suggest that government came into existence with cities. Each city was a separate government, ruled by a king.

The epic of Gilgamesh, an oppressive king of Uruk, is written  in a set of cunieform tablets that have been found in archaeological digs in the Tigris Euphrates river valley. These tablets are thought have been inscribed in the 18th Century BC.

So What is the Origin of Government?

An examination of history shows that government originated with civilization itself. Government is not civilization, nor is it the originator of civilization, rather civilization has fostered government. At first, civilization originated in city states. Perhaps the relation between the latter pair is symbiotic. The city, its government and protective walls kept out the toxic elements that would destroy civilizations. The strong walls defended the precious contents of the city: the happy citizens that engaged in free associations and productive efforts. But of course, humans are corruptible without limits. Tyrants came along, who claimed that they ruled by Divine right.

People suffered within city walls under the heavy weight of a tyrant; bu then there was always the wilderness, the land beyond the wall where you took your chances and assumed responsibility for your own defences. That is the path that Abraham took and through those means his tribe maintained its independence; but, it took a lot of fighting.  Meanwhile, within city walls, as Jefferson said, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” In some city state, internal conflicts became so crippling that barbarians outside the walls gained advantage and destroyed its inhabitants. This recalls the biblical saying:

" And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand."--Mark 3:25.

Lessons of History

It is a good thing to look at the history of ancient civilization as experiments by societies in trying to form the perfect society. They did no succeed, but in their efforts, there are many lessons to be learned. And these lessons should be applied to contemporary life.



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