Holman Bible Dictionary


(thee ah' cra cee) Term not found in the Hebrew Bible, yet descriptive of a type of government in which Yahweh was king over Israel. In Israel, Yahweh was viewed as the sole Sovereign from which other authorities derived legitimacy. Passages of hope envision God's rule as one outcome in the consummation of history. See Eschatology; Final Hope.

Such a rule could be unmediated or mediated through a messianic ruler. Theocracy is shown in action as Yahweh is portrayed as the Heavenly King in His divine council, as He governs the affairs of humanity and His court. The divine will is expressed in decrees that are implemented by members of Yahweh's court (see 1 Kings 22:1; Isaiah 6:1; Job 1-2; Zechariah 3:1). Typically, three kinds of theocracy have been outlined.

1. A premonarchic form was based on the Sinaitic covenant (Exodus 19:1) and on the charismatic leadership of the judges and the prophets. The experience was more religious, less political.

2. The monarchic form brought a compromise between anti- and pro-monarchic forces in Israel. The king was Yahweh's representative and was called Yahweh's anointed or prince. He was a king, yet he was Yahweh's subordinate. God worked or ruled through the monarchy.

3. A postexilic priestly form saw both the prince and the priest as Yahweh's representative. This move reflected the rising political importance of the priest. In postexilic Israel, theocracy becomes more idealized and future looking. Throughout Israel's history theocracy was often more an ideal God's messengers proclaimed rather than a reality Israel lived out.

David M. Fleming

Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor.. "Entry for 'THEOCRACY'". "Holman Bible Dictionary".
<>. 1991.