Whence the Constitution?
By Jim Huskins
Certain activists who grew up enjoying the protections of the United States Constitution seem bent on discrediting and destroying everything that makes America unique. Others among us are determined to highlight and celebrate those delightful peculiarities of our government and culture which have made our system the envy of most of the world for generations. At the top of this list of oddities stand two documents that have been precious to true Americans for nearly 250 years: The Declaration of Independence and The United States Constitution. Apparently, reverence for these foundational expressions of what it means to be an American is no longer taught at any level of our education system. I view this as a fundamental failure and a threat to everything good about Western Civilization in general and the American Experiment in particular. I have lately been curious about the sources of the Declaration and the Constitution. Were our Founding Fathers so smart that they were able to craft radical departure from established governance through mere imagination, or were they able to draw from some pattern or guide? The surprising answer is that Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Madison, et al. read the Bible.
Fortunately for the diverse population of those Thirteen Colonies and related territories, our Founders did not view Bible study in the manner prescribed by almost every modern church faction. My understanding of their specific religious convictions is not clear, but I see evidence that they did not approach Scripture from the perspective that the “meat” of God’s Word begins with the book of Matthew. They apparently understood that the inescapable context for the final one-fourth of the Bible—that portion that begins with Matthew and ends with Revelation—is the first three-fourths of the book. They began at the beginning. Otherwise, they might never have been exposed to the concept of God-given, unalienable rights. They read in the Torah—the books of Genesis through Deuteronomy—God’s guidelines for living with each other and for approaching an unapproachably holy Creator. Jefferson and his compadres recognized that procedures that enable people to “love God and their neighbor as their self” represent an ideal framework for personal and civic life. They did not have to invent some remarkable pattern for human interaction and governance. That work had been done. God revealed through Moses that His systems are both perfect and permanent. All the Founders had to do was distill God’s instructions for living into some format that could be embraced by people of every religion and no religion. They performed that task with remarkable grace and clarity.
Early Americans including the Pilgrims, legislatures of most of the New England colonies, and the founders of every Ivy League university held up the Torah and the rest of the Hebrew Scriptures as a divine pattern for life and liberty. Many of those once-revered institutions of higher learning adopted a Hebrew phrase as part of their official seal. The website, aish.com, points out that Yale’s seal includes the inscription “URIM V’TUMMIM.” This was taken from the description found in the book of Exodus of the breastplate worn by the Levitical High Priest. Historian Abraham Katsch says that interest in the Hebrew Language was widespread at the time of the American Revolution. Several of the Founders were aided in their exposure to Torah by having a working knowledge of Hebrew. The Liberty Bell inscription, “Proclaim Liberty Throughout the Land unto all the inhabitants thereof” is taken from Leviticus 25:10. If Ben Franklin and John Adams had gotten their way, the Great Seal of the United States would have presented Moses parting the Red Sea. The inscription on that seal would have read, “Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God.”
Though many have tried, it is impossible to deny that the foundational principles undergirding American Democracy are taken directly from Torah. I cite aish.com for three unmistakable Hebrew contributions to America’s founding.
First is the aforementioned recognition that human rights are God-given and, therefore, immune to human revocation. The rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” are enshrined in Torah. Those are the conditions described in Deuteronomy 28:1-14. Such “rights” under the Sinai Covenant are contingent on obedience to God’s instructions. The Constitution includes similar strictures regarding our Civil Legal Code.
The second tenet adopted from Torah is the still-radical concept of limited government. One of the core threads of the Hebrew Exodus is that God hates tyranny. He wants all His children to live in freedom and enjoy the fruits of their labor. Thomas Paine quoted the Hebrew Prophet, Samuel, when claiming that God opposes governments based on the monarchy. Hebrew history affirms that humans are not capable of wielding unlimited power. Torah teaches that if the members of a society will conduct their lives in the manner taught by God, then their nation will require little that could be described as “government intervention.”
The third Torah-inspired tenet is the notion of a social contract. The Mosaic Covenant only works when both God and Humankind hold up their respective sides of the arrangement. God promises blessings and protection; but in return, He expects obedience to His moral code. John Locke articulated the idea of a “social contract” as an agreement of the populace to grant limited, government power in exchange for a guarantee that government will protect certain rights.
We owe a national debt to the Hebrew Scriptures. Our second president, John Adams, claimed that the Hebrews have contributed more to human civilization than any other nation. The American Revolution and the establishment of our Constitutional-based Democratic Republic represent the second-most-radical departure from the status quo in all of history. I am grateful that those who shepherded the establishment of our Great Nation were wise enough to find inspiration and guidance in that most blessed redirection of the course of human events which is detailed in the first five books of the Bible.
Jim & Beverly Huskins are members of Obedient Heart Fellowship in McDowell County. Beginning July 2, 2022 Obedient Heart Fellowship will meet at 10:00 Each Sabbath (Seventh Day) in space graciously shared by New Covenant Church in Christ. 2460 US 221 Business N. In Marion, NC. Call for info. 828-460-7913You can read more good Christian news from Jim HERE.