Biblical Presbyterian Eldership

After the establishment of all these Christ-centred Presbuteeria — both smaller and broader — Moses continued to communicate the Word of God to the Elders.   At Mt. Sinai, a special delegation — consisting of Moses and Aaron and of seventy of the Elders or "Nobles" of Israel — drew near to God in order to worship Him.  Then and thereafter, the Elders continued to adjudicate and to arbitrate and to reconcile grievances between various squabbling members of God's people.   However, they also exercised their solidarity with (and represented God's people before) the Lord.   Indeed, they even helped bring the people's offerings to Jehovah.18

In the book of Numbers, again seventy of the Elders of Israel were specially commissioned and equipped with the power of the Holy Spirit to rebuke the murmuring people of the Lord. These seventy may well have been unusually godly, knowledgeable and communicative Elders — especially set aside (just like Moses had been) as

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"prophesying elders" (or preachers).    At any rate, those seventy were demarcated from the broader mass of the Ruling Elders who then "ruled well."19   For the seventy were known to be godly Elders who could powerfully prophesy  (viz.declare God's Word to the people).

In the book of Deuteronomy, it is emphasised how the Elders represent the people as a whole.   For there, the Elders of one city extradite murderers fleeing from their own flock — and bring them back for appropriate punishment at the hands of the local Judges.20    Thus arose the popularly-appointed political Judges — originally selected probably from the ranks of the Eldership itself.   The Elders too initially co-operated in the juridical execution of the various kinds of judgment — even when appealed from local to broader Courts.21   Yet later, with the growing specialisation of the political functions of the Judges, the Elders apparently began to centre their rule on more specifically ecclesiastical matters.   Yet no time did they withdraw their influence from the extra-ecclesiastical areas of life.22

In the Pentateuch, then, it is clear that Israel's ecclesiastical Eldership rooted in the family and fruited in religio-socio-political action to the glory of God.   That action was later executed first by the Judges and ultimately also by Kings.  Moses the prophetic Preacher often convened the Elders together, as a Senate-in-session.23    The Elders would usually, though not invariably, support Moses'leadership.   Indeed, those Elders were the "aristocracy" — the "Senators" or non-hereditary "Nobility" of the people.24

For the Ruling Elders were appointed from the choicest heads of families — whom they represented, and to whom they frequently reported.  They governed covenantally, as a united Council — rather than individualistically, as independent persons.25   All the Ruling Elders did not — like the Prophets or the Teaching Elders — "preach" in the technical sense of the word. Yet they all indeed taught and gave general instruction to God's people.   Indeed, while not themselves initiating the administration, the Elders nevertheless usually helped the Prophet in the distribution of the element(s) of the Sacrament(s).26

Even way back in Pre-Mosaic and Mosaic times, then, also the Ruling Elders thus had not only socio-political but also ecclesiastical tasks.   Their specifically-cultic or peculiarly-liturgical tasks had a fourfold focus.   1st, praying and oathing.   2nd, entering into and reconfirming Covenants.  3rd, aiding the Prophet or the Preaching Elder — by the Ruling Elders themselves distributing the elements of the Sacrament(s) which the Prophet or the Preaching Elder himself initiated and administered.   4th, ruling over the members of the cultic community — by not only witnessing and testifying to them but also admonishing them.27

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