Israel went down into Egypt as seventy persons from the extended family of Jacob (Ex 1:5) and in Egypt they multiplied into hundreds of thousands.
Biblically within a family the parents rule and maintain order with the father being the ultimate family authority. Once a father’s children have their own children the original father becomes a grandfather and the grandfather continues to maintain order and rules his sons while the new fathers rule their own families under the eyes of the grandfather.
Then in the course of time the grandfathers will pass on, and then who can the various families look for stability and order between the them?
In the tribal or patriarchal system, the firstborn son of the passing grandfather takes over as tribal Patriarch. From there, the firstborn son of the firstborn son [and so on] of the founder of the tribe inherits the mantle of Tribal Patriarch and is assisted by his immediate family as the immediate patriarchal family and therefore the elders of the tribe.
These tribal Patriarchs who went down into Egypt and their surviving first born descendants with their immediate families, were the elders of the tribes [leading by the right of the first born] and were the “first families” in the tribes; leading and maintaining peace within their families [their own tribes], leading their tribe and handling all matters affecting the tribe as a whole.
It was to these tribal elders of Israel that Moses was sent.
Exodus 3:16 Go, and gather the elders of Israel together, and say unto them, The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, appeared unto me, saying, I have surely visited you, and seen that which is done to you in Egypt:
When God sent Moses there were tribal elders leading each tribe by right of inheritance, but God had called Moses to be not only a Prophet, but to be the Judge or leader [ruler] of all the tribes of Israel.
Until Moses, the first born son of Jacob [and his firstborn son after him], Reuben [later Joseph], would have been patriarch of all Israel, but God determined that he would symbolically marry Israel (Is 54:5) and that he would personally choose a man to be his personal physical representative as Judge or ruler of Israel from Moses onward.
After Moses, God chose Joshua and others through the period of the Judges until Israel tired of being oppressed because for their own sins, decided that the issue of their oppression was the lack of an hereditary king. They blamed God’s system for their trials instead of accepting the fact that it was their own repeated falling away that brought the correction of oppression on them, but that is another story.
Now we know that at Sinai God called the sons of Aaron to be priests of God and that these priests were to judge Israel concerning the Word of God. Nevertheless God also had made Moses a Judge or ruler over all Israel.
To differentiate this authority of tribal elders and judges from the Aaronic Priesthood authority; I am using the term Civil Administration for the authority of the Judges and elders.
When Israel left Egypt the tribal elders accepted him as their overall Judge and leader. Yet Moses continued to rule all the tribes through the tribal elders. Then God established the Aaronic Priesthood and commanded that the Priests were to judge in all matters of God’s Word in the nation.
Deuteronomy 17:8 If there arise a matter too hard for thee in judgment, between blood and blood, between plea and plea, and between stroke and stroke, being matters of controversy within thy gates: then shalt thou arise, and get thee up into the place which the Lord thy God shall choose; 17:9 And thou shalt come unto the priests the [the preists are also Levites] Levites, and unto the judge that shall be in those days, and enquire; and they shall shew thee the sentence of judgment:
Did the power of the priesthood to judge, abrogate the authority of the tribal elders and national Judge? No!
The Priests were to judge in matters of God’s Word.
The Civil Administration of Elders were to judge and lead the people, they were to maintain order in the communities by judging disputes between people and were to take care of civil matters, they were to handle all matters involving the whole tribe or nation; for example relations with other nations, and they were to execute the instructions and sentence penalties ruled by the priests.
Handling of these leadership matters by the Civil Administration of Elders, freed the priest to concentrate on the Word of God and on matters of judgment too difficult for the Civil Administration to resolve.
When Israel arrived at Mt Sinai and Moses went to ascend the Mount, seventy patriarchal elders of Israel accompanied Moses to the base of the mount. This seventy consisted of the tribal leaders and their first born male descendants, this seventy would have also included the oldest surviving males of those tribes [IE the elders of the tribes; including the still living first born descendants of the tribal progenitors and their oldest surviving brothers; being the eldest males in each tribe]. For example the elders of a tribe would be the oldest surviving descendant of the founder along with his surviving brothers.
There they heard the voice of God speaking with Moses and saw a vague form in the cloud on the mount, acting as seventy witnesses for the people of their tribes who were further away.
These seventy were the same elders and patriarchal leaders of the tribes whom Moses met and dealt with in Egypt and through whom Moses led the tribes. They were the individual tribal governments, under Moses who was the national governor or Judge [ruler] under God.
Exodus 24:1 And he said unto Moses, Come up unto the Lord, thou, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel; and worship ye afar off.
Exodus 24:9 Then went up Moses [the national leader] , and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu [representing the priesthood], and seventy of the elders of Israel [the leaders of the individual tribes]: 24:10 And they [all 74 elders, Moses and the designated top priests] saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness [the stone was as transparent as the clear atmosphere] . 24:11 And upon the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand: also they saw God, and did eat and drink. 24:12 And the Lord said unto Moses, Come up to me into the mount, and be there: and I will give thee tables of stone, and a law, and commandments which I have written; that thou mayest teach them.
The Mosaic Civil Administration
Once the Mosaic Covenant began, Moses began to personally teach the whole people every Word that God had given him on Sinai. He tried to do this by himself while also judging the people without the aid of others.
At this point Jethro, Moses father in law, saw that Moses was exhausting himself in teaching the Word of God as well as judging the people. Jethro therefore advised him to set up an administrative system with captains [officials] over thousands and over hundreds in addition to and under the Seventy leaders of the individual tribes, who would in turn be under him as the national leader, as he was under God.
Exodus 18:13 And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses sat to judge the people: and the people stood by Moses from the morning unto the evening. 18:14 And when Moses’ father in law saw all that he did to the people, he said, What is this thing that thou doest to the people? why sittest thou thyself alone, and all the people stand by thee from morning unto even?
18:15 And Moses said unto his father in law, Because the people come unto me to enquire of God: 18:16 When they have a matter, they come unto me; and I judge between one and another, and I do make them know the statutes of God, and his laws.
18:17 And Moses’ father in law said unto him, The thing that thou doest is not good. 18:18 Thou wilt surely wear away, both thou, and this people that is with thee: for this thing is too heavy for thee; thou art not able to perform it thyself alone.
18:19 Hearken now unto my voice, I will give thee counsel, and God shall be with thee: Be thou for the people to God-ward, that thou mayest bring the causes unto God: 18:20 And thou shalt teach them ordinances and laws, and shalt shew them the way wherein they must walk, and the work that they must do.
18:21 Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens:
18:22 And let them judge the people at all seasons: and it shall be, that every great matter they shall bring unto thee, but every small matter they shall judge: so shall it be easier for thyself, and they shall bear the burden with thee.
18:23 If thou shalt do this thing, and God command thee so, then thou shalt be able to endure, and all this people shall also go to their place in peace.
18:24 So Moses hearkened to the voice of his father in law, and did all that he had said. 18:25 And Moses chose able men out of all Israel, and made them heads over the people, rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens.
18:26 And they judged the people at all seasons: the hard causes they brought unto Moses, but every small matter they judged themselves.
18:27 And Moses let his father in law depart; and he went his way into his own land.
The Seventy were the tribal authorities by inheritance from each tribal progenitor, while the officials over thousands and hundreds etc were appointed officials.
The Seventy Elders Given God’s Spirit
The administrative system set up by Moses in response to Jethro’s advice did not work well because neither the Seventy elders or the appointed officials had God’s Spirit. These leaders and elders not understanding much themselves, did not properly judge or teach the people the Word of God and the people began to blame God for their difficulties instead of asking God for his help.
God responded to Moses during the incident leading to the blessing of the quails and decided to give his Holy Spirit to the Seventy tribal elders of Israel, so that they could better help Moses to govern through the officers over thousands and hundreds.
Numbers 11:4 And the mixt multitude that was among them [equivelant to the tares in the assemblies today] fell a lusting: and the children of Israel also wept again, and said, Who shall give us flesh to eat?
They were tired of the bread from heaven and lusted for flesh. This is an allegory that we are not to tire of the unleavened bread of every Word of God to turn up our noises at it and lust after the ways of the flesh.
11:5 We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick: 11:6 But now our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all, beside this manna, before our eyes.
The manna representing the Word of God was good and was given to them freely so that they had little work to acquire it.
11:7 And the manna was as coriander seed, and the colour thereof as the colour of bdellium. 11:8 And the people went about, and gathered it, and ground it in mills, or beat it in a mortar, and baked it in pans, and made cakes of it: and the taste of it was as the taste of fresh oil. 11:9 And when the dew fell upon the camp in the night, the manna fell upon it.
Moses exhausted from trying to teach and judge the people with an unconverted administration, finally breaks down and complains about the hardheartedness of the people.
11:10 Then Moses heard the people weep throughout their families, every man in the door of his tent: and the anger of the Lord was kindled greatly; Moses also was displeased.
11:11 And Moses said unto the Lord, Wherefore hast thou afflicted thy servant? and wherefore have I not found favour in thy sight, that thou layest the burden of all this people upon me? 11:12 Have I conceived all this people? have I begotten them, that thou shouldest say unto me, Carry them in thy bosom, as a nursing father beareth the sucking child, unto the land which thou swarest unto their fathers?
11:13 Whence should I have flesh to give unto all this people? for they weep unto me, saying, Give us flesh, that we may eat. 11:14 I am not able to bear all this people alone, because it is too heavy for me. 11:15 And if thou deal thus with me, kill me, I pray thee, out of hand, if I have found favour in thy sight; and let me not see my wretchedness.
Then God responds to Moses and gives his Holy Spirit of understanding to the Seventy Elders enabling them to better assist Moses in ruling the people.
11:16 And the Lord said unto Moses, Gather unto me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom thou knowest to be the elders of the people, and officers over them; and bring them unto the tabernacle of the congregation, that they may stand there with thee. 11:17 And I will come down and talk with thee there: and I will take of the spirit which is upon thee, and will put it upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with thee, that thou bear it not thyself alone.
Numbers 11:24 And Moses went out, and told the people the words of the Lord, and gathered the seventy men of the elders of the people, and set them round about the tabernacle.
11:25 And the Lord came down in a cloud, and spake unto him, and took of the spirit that was upon him, and gave it unto the seventy elders: and it came to pass, that, when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied, and did not cease.
The Civil Administration of Mosaic Israel with its Seventy leaders of the individual tribes helped by the officials over thousands, hundreds etc; was separate from the religious establishment of the Priests and Levites.
- The administrative establishment in Moses’ days was headed by God in the person of Melchizedek who was the Spirit High Priest of God the Father and the allegorical Husband of Israel.
- Immediately under God was the physical Chief Judge and national leader Moses, and his God chosen successors; and under Moses,
- The Seventy Elders [given God’s Holy Spirit in Moses day, but the Spirit was not necessarily given to their descendants] as the leaders of the various individual tribes.
- Then under the Seventy were officials over thousands, hundreds, etc.
This Civil Administrative system worked only partially because the masses of people did not have God’s Spirit, and were resistant to any zeal to live by every Word of God. The strong godly leadership of Moses and Joshua coupled with support from the Seventy elders who were given God’s Spirit mostly kept the unruly under control with a few exceptions until after the death of Joshua.
Indeed it is not enough to have God’s Holy Spirit; we must use and follow the Spirit through diligent study and through faithfully living by every Word of God [See the Holy Spirit studies]. When we begin to go our own ways, away from the Word of God, and make decisions based on our own ideas instead of on the Word of God, we quench God’s Holy Spirit and we will reach a point where God’s Spirit will no longer dwell in us. This is the situation in today’s corporate Ekklesia.
Over time, the Seventy and the officials over thousands and hundreds etc, and the Priests and Levites; repeatedly strayed very far from God and led the people to follow themselves away from God and God allowed the people to be afflicted until they repented and cried out for deliverance.
This process was repeated throughout the time of the book of Judges and each time the people repented, God sent them a new Judge [national ruler] to deliver them.
The people then demanded a hereditary king, but the same repeated process of rebellion and correction, repentance and restoration continued.
During this period and the time of the Kings; the Priests and Levites on many repeated occasions, fell astray and taught the people to follow them in their errors, and as the elders died and were replaced and the Kings did as they wanted administratively; the Seventy and the administrative system fell into disarray.
Israel rebelled against Rehoboam of Judah and against God, and for her wickedness was removed from Samaria, while Judah rebelled again and again until God sent her into captivity in Babylon.
Then came the restoration under Ezra