Elders in the Old Testament

Text: Job 29

 

I.         While we don’t live under the laws of the Old Testament, there are things to be learned from its pages - Romans 15:4

            A.        Sometimes we forget that elders have been used long before the church

            B.        It would be useful to learn some of the history of elders

            C.        The word translated as elders is zeqen in Hebrew. It derives from the word for beard and means someone who is old or aged

            D.        The first mention of elders wasn’t even in connection with Israel

                        1.         Genesis 50:7 - Elders both in Joseph’s household and in Egypt

                        2.         Midian and Moab had elders - Numbers 22:7

                        3.         Gibeon had elders - Joshua 9:11

II.        Three classes of elders

            A.        City - Ezra 10:14

                        1.         Every city had elders

            B.        Tribal - Deuteronomy 31:28; I Samuel 30:26

                        1.         Could be a gathering of all elders in the tribe or a representative portion

                        2.         The priests (the Levites) had elders - Isaiah 37:2

            C.        National

                        1.         I Samuel 4:3 - Elders of Israel

                        2.         I Kings 20:7 - Elders of the land

                        3.         Judges 21:16 - Elders of the congregation

                        4.         Ezra 6:7 - Elders of the Jews

                        5.         Isaiah 3:14 - Elders of His people

                        6.         Jeremiah 19:1 - Elders of the people

            D.        The national elders were seventy in number - Exodus 24:1, 9-11

                        1.         These men became the chief judges - Numbers 11:16-17, 24-25

                        2.         Recounting the event - Deuteronomy 1:9-18

                                    a.         Qualifications - Deuteronomy 1:13

                                    b.         More than just the national 70 - Deuteronomy 1:15

                                    c.         They worked as judges - Deuteronomy 1:16-17

                                    d.         But they were also leaders - Deuteronomy 1:15

                        3.         This is where the Sanhedrin in the New Testament came from

III.       What did these men do?

            A.        They were the judges in law - Deuteronomy 16:18-19; 19:11-12; 22:13-21

            B.        They also were witnesses in legal matters - Deuteronomy 25:8-9; Ruth 4:1-12

            C.        These men were found at city gates to render service - Proverbs 31:23

            D.        It was these men who were expected to teach the law

                        1.         Deuteronomy 31:9; 32:7

                        2.         Deuteronomy 31:28-29 - fearsome responsibility

                                    a.         Sound similar to Paul’s warnings to the Ephesian elders

            E.        Have you ever wondered how Moses and other leaders spoke to Israel prior to megaphones and other communication media?

                        1.         Exodus 19:7-8 - The elders were gathered and the people heard through them

                        2.         Exodus 3:16-17

            F.        The elders then represented the people

                        1.         Elders delivered messages from the king - II Samuel 3:17

                        2.         They spoke on behalf of the people - I Samuel 16:4

                        3.         They even over saw distributions - I Samuel 30:26

                        4.         They represented the people at events - I Kings 8:1

                        5.         They represented the people when covenants were made - II Samuel 5:3

                        6.         Represented the people at sacrifices - Leviticus 4:15

                                    a.         Interesting law for how to pick who represents a murdered man of an unknown assailant - Deuteronomy 21:1-9

            G.        The national elders were used as advisors to the king - I Kings 12:6-8, 13

            H.        Job’s description of when he served as an elder - Job 39:7-17

                        1.         Note all the traits: advisor to kings, judge, protector of the downtrodden

IV.      God expected the elders to keep the people faithful

            A.        Managed to do it for one generation - Joshua 24:31; Judges 2:7, 10

            B.        The problem in sinning they led the people into sin

                        1.         They didn’t care for the poor as they were supposed to - Isaiah 3:14-15

                        2.         Taught falsely - Isaiah 9:13-16

                        3.         Sinned secretly - Ezekiel 8:12; 14:1-6

            C.        Gave bad advice - I Samuel 4:3; 8:4

V.        Instead of elders of a city, the New Testament has elders of a congregation

            A.        They help form the church into a community of believers

            B.        Many of the qualifications for elders can be seen in the role they fulfill for the community