In the Bible God is regarded as the supreme governor of the world and those who execute authority on earth are said to hold it in trust from him (Ps. 72: 1–4; Rom. 13: 1–2; John 19: 11) to ensure that justice is done (1 Kgs. 10: 9). It may be desirable to delegate judicial functions, as Moses did (Exod. 18: 17–23), and it is held that, although Israel was a theocracy rather than a democracy, the people as well as the king shared in the rights and responsibilities of the covenant with God (2 Kgs. 11: 17).

Even when the Jews were a subject people, it was expected by the Sadducees that obedience should be given to the government; and in the NT Christians are warned against subversion or defiance (1 Pet. 2: 13–17), though this attitude of submissive acceptance of the government was abandoned under the fire of persecution (Rev. 17 and 18).