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There seems to be a fine line within the Torah Observant community regarding how Scripture defines proper leadership. On the one hand, we find the example that the Christian Church has followed for centuries: pastor / priest / minister, elders / bishops, and deacons. On the other hand, we also sometimes see a chaotic mess of no leadership at all, where no one knows what's going on or what to do. Surely we know that YHWH is an El of Order, is He not? It is true, proper leadership is always necessary in our lives. As Believers, it is our responsibility to recognize the authority that YHWH has placed in our lives. As children we obey and submit to our parents. In school we answer to our teacher(s). Once we come of age and begin working in a career, we then answer to our boss. All throughout life, we seem to find a certain structure. To be sure, YHWH designed this structure. Children are commanded to honor and obey their parents (Exo. 20:12; Eph. 6:1). Servants are commanded to obey their masters (Eph. 6:5-8; 1 Tim. 6:2). Surely with all the many examples we have we can find the proper way to structure our weekly gatherings, right? If the Assembly is the Body of Messiah, there MUST be instructions on how to conduct ourselves, right? That is what we're going to look at in this study. As always, we'll consider a logical approach in light of a number of Scriptures. We'll look at the example given to us through Moses, Joshua, and Saul, as well as the words of Yeshua and Paul. You may be surprised by what we'll uncover.
First, let us take a look at the pattern of leadership in the Torah. After all, all other Scripture revolves around the Torah (See article "The Tree of Life")
We find little evidence in regards to a corporate body prior to the Israelite captivity in Egypt. Instead, we find that Scripture tends to follow just a handful of people. More specifically, these people are the patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Though we do see some instances of larger groups, such as Abraham's 318 men in Genesis 14 and Jacob's 70 (or 75, depending on translation) persons that came into Egypt. For the most part, though, we find the Torah only follows the individual up to the point of the Exodus. THEN it becomes more concerned with the corporate nation of Israel. So the first real taste of corporate leadership we find is in Moses.
Moses led the Israelites out of captivity in Egypt. Moses was the spokesman of YHWH. Moses was a judge and intercessor. We also find that Aaron, the brother of Moses, was a leader of sorts. Aaron was priest, and leader (head) of the priests. He also acted as judge and intercessor of sorts. Most churches/assemblies today operate on the model of leadership that is usually dubbed "The Moses Model." That is, Moses acted as head, then the leaders of thousands, leaders of hundreds, leaders of fifties and leaders of tens. (For more on this, read Deuteronomy 1 and Exodus 18). It is believed that this "model" was a hierarchy, almost like a Military. Moses would be the General, the leaders of thousands would be his Colonels, the leaders of hundreds would be his Captains, the leaders of fifties his Second Lieutenants, and the leaders of tens his Lieutenants. It is this model, they say, that Paul refers to in 1 Timothy and Titus when he writes about elders (aka "overseers") and deacons (aka "attendants"). The elders submit to the pastor/rabbi/priest, and the deacons submit to the elders (and the pastor/rabbi/priest), and the rest of the body submit to all of them. That's the hierarchy, they say. That is the "Moses Model." But is this really what was intended? Well continuing along this line of thinking, we come to our next example: Joshua.
Coming into the book of Joshua, we find something that looks pretty similar. Joshua leads the people in their conquest of the land. There were a number of hiccups along the way, but for the most part, they conquered a good bit of the land. (Note: The Israelites have never, in all our past history, conquered and controlled ALL of the land we were promised. Not yet, anyway).
So what happened after Joshua? After Joshua we find a series of judges. After many different judges, we then go into the time of Samuel. Samuel was a prophet AND a judge, and he anointed the first king of Israel: Saul.
It would appear that, throughout the history of Israel, there has been a whole slew of "leaders" that have led, each in turn. But, is this really the way it was, and is it the way it was supposed to be?
Let's take a look at some things in regards to these types of leadership in context, and examine them a little closer. Then we'll see if this "Moses Model" is really the way we should be conducting, leading and submitting ourselves.
Moses was appointed to his position by YHWH. This appointment was accompanied by miraculous signs (see Ex. 4), and it was clear that this position was ordained by YHWH. Same with Aaron's position as temporary spokesman for Moses, and for the office of high priest. Not the same "signs" mind you, but the fact that YHWH spoke clearly and it is clearly recorded in the Torah regarding these appointments shows that Aaron was appointed. The same can be said for Joshua, as it was by the word of YHWH that Joshua was appointed.
18 YHWH said to Moshe, "Take Yehoshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Ruach, and lay your hand on him; 19 and set him before Elazar the priest, and before all the congregation; and commission him in their sight. 20 You shall put of your honor on him, that all the congregation of the children of Yisrael may obey. 21 He shall stand before Elazar the priest, who shall inquire for him by the judgment of the Urim before YHWH: at his word shall they go out, and at his word they shall come in, both he, and all the children of Yisrael with him, even all the congregation." 22 Moshe did as YHWH commanded him; and he took Yehoshua, and set him before Elazar the priest, and before all the congregation: 23 and he laid his hands on him, and commissioned him, as YHWH spoke by Moshe. – Bemidbar / Numbers 27:18-23 (SQV)
7 Moshe called to Yehoshua, and said to him in the sight of all Yisrael, "Be strong and courageous: for you shall go with this people into the land which YHWH has sworn to their fathers to give them; and you shall cause them to inherit it. 8 YHWH, He it is who does go before you; He will be with you, He will not fail you, neither forsake you: do not be afraid, neither be dismayed." – Devarim / Deuteronomy 31:7,8 (SQV)
So Joshua was just as clearly ordained as Moses was. But examining Moses a little closer, we find his position was a little bit different. For starters, there has never been anyone like Moses, aside from Yeshua. We know this, because Deuteronomy 18 tells us that The Prophet that would be raised up (who was Yeshua) was likened UNTO MOSES. YHWH said in Numbers 12:8 that He spoke to Moses "face to face, clearly and not in riddles." This shows that Moses was definitely a "special case." But what is more, is that Moses himself did not decide to lead the people, but rather he was commissioned for the role. Same goes for Joshua.
And just as Moses had help (the leaders of thousands, hundreds, etc.), so did Joshua.
1 Yehoshua gathered all the tribes of Yisrael to Shekem, and called for the elders and heads of Yisrael, for their judges, and for their officers; and they presented themselves before Elohim. – Yehoshua / Joshua 24:1 (SQV)
There were elders, judges, officers, etc. And just like Moses, Yeshua is also typified in Joshua.
While Yeshua is the Lawgiver and Prophet (like unto Moses), He will also lead His people back into the Promised Land of our inheritance at the start of the Millennial Reign. Just as Joshua destroyed the enemy from the Land, and cleansed it of idolatry during his time as leader, so Yeshua will do likewise (as the last 10 chapters of Ezekiel, Isaiah 66, a good portion of Revelation and parts of Jeremiah and others prophesy He will).
What should be gleaned from this example is that with Yeshua as our head (leader), we are to have "elders, judges, and officers." Let's look into the example that Paul gave now, as that seems to be the most oft-quoted source when discussing this topic.
As mentioned above, the most often looked-at sections regarding this topic are from two letters of Paul: Titus, and 1 Timothy. So let's look at those now. It should be noted before we begin that Paul uses two separate words to describe "elders." We'll look at both of these words.
5 I left you in Crete for this reason, that you would set in order the things that were lacking, and appoint elders in every city, as I directed you; 6 if anyone is blameless, the husband of one wife, having children who are firm, who are not accused of loose or unruly behavior. 7 For the overseer must be blameless, as the steward of Elohim; not self-pleasing, not easily angered, not drunken, not violent, not greedy for dishonest gain; 8 but given to hospitality, a lover of good, sober minded, fair, set-apart, self-controlled; 9 holding to the firm word which is according to the teaching, that he may be able to exhort in the sound doctrine, and to convict those who contradict him. – Titus 1:5-9 (SQV)
1 This is a firm saying: if a man seeks the office of an overseer, he desires a good work. 2 The overseer therefore must be without reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, sensible, modest, hospitable, able to teach; 3 not drunken , not violent, [not greedy for money], but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; 4 one who rules his own house well, having children in subjection with all reverence; 5 (but if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the assembly of Elohim?) 6 not a new convert, lest being puffed up he fall into the same judgment as the devil. 7 Moreover he must have good witness from those who are outside, to avoid falling into reproach and the snare of the devil. – Timotheos Alpha / 1 Timothy 3:1-7 (SQV)
First, let's define some of the terms we're looking at. Primarily, the terms "overseer" and "elder."
In Greek, the word rendered as "elder" here is πρεσβυτερος (presbuteros). It is where we etymologically derive words such as "presbyter" and "Presbyterian." It is strictly defined as an "elder, one who is aged: mature." This word has both a masculine form and a feminine form, therefore implying both "elder men" as well as "elder women." Simply put, it shows the age and maturity of the individual. In Syriac Aramaic (for the Aramaic Primacists out there), we have the word קשישא (qa'shiy'she), which means the same as its Greek counterpart: an "older male."
Next, we have the word for "overseer" which is επισκοπος (episkopos) in Greek. This is formed from two words: epi meaning "on" and skopos meaning "look intently." Literally, an episkopos is one who "looks on intently," or more commonly, "oversees" things. In Aramaic, it merely uses the same word as it does for "elder": qa'shiy'she, and does not supply a word for "overseers" at all. But regardless of which is more accurate, the context, usage, and implication is clear: these are mature men, who are required to fit certain specific guidelines.
Now if you're like me, you had to stop and wonder…what (or who) gave Paul the authority to decide the structure of the Assembly? Simply put, the Torah. All Paul was doing was instructing Titus and Timothy on how to elect "elders" and "deacons" (servants) in the local assemblies. This is the same thing Moses told the Israelites to do for themselves.
12 How can I myself alone bear your encumbrance, and your burden, and your strife? 13 Take wise men of understanding and well known according to your tribes, and I will make them heads over you.' 14 You answered me, and said, 'The thing which you have spoken is good to do.' 15 So I took the heads of your tribes, wise men, and known, and made them heads over you, captains of thousands, and captains of hundreds, and captains of fifties, and captains of tens, and officers, according to your tribes.
16 I commanded your judges at that time, saying, "Hear the cases between your brothers, and judge righteously between a man and his brother, and the sojourner who dwells with him. 17 You shall not respect persons in judgment; you shall hear the small and the great alike; you shall not be afraid of the face of man; for the judgment belongs to Elohim: and the cause that is too hard for you, you shall bring to me, and I will hear it." 18 I commanded you at that time all the things which you should do. – Devarim / Deuteronomy 1:12-18 (SQV)
21 "Furthermore, you shall select out of all the people able men who fear Elohim, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain; and you shall place these over them as leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens. 22 Let them judge the people at all times; and let it be that every major dispute they will bring to you, but every minor dispute they themselves will judge. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. 23 If you do this thing and Elohim so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all these people also will go to their place in peace." – Shemoth / Exodus 18:21-23 (SQV)
The passage here from Exodus 18 is Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, giving him advice. Moses then took his advice, and did just that. The account from Deuteronomy 1 further explains this "election" process. But some key things stick out here. First of all, Moses himself did not decide upon who would be elders. Rather, the PEOPLE selected elders from their own tribes: Moses merely appointed them. Deuteronomy 1 clearly shows that Moses told the people to "take wise men of understanding" that were "well known" and he would appoint them. The people did just that. We find strikingly similar remarks from Paul in the passages in Titus and 1 Timothy, don't we? Paul's instructions seem to be merely a reiteration of Torah instruction, along with some useful instruction from Proverbs and other Scriptures. We won't take the time to go through it all, but I believe you can find Scriptural instruction regarding pretty much all of the requirements Paul gave to Titus and Timothy (as stated, mostly in Proverbs).
We also have instruction for deacons (servants / attendants) in 1 Tim. 3:8-13, with similar requirements to that of the elders.
Notice, though, from Paul's descriptions as well as from the Torah instruction from Moses, that never is it stated that these "elders" should have singular rule over the people. Rather, they are appointed to teach, to keep order, and to judge cases between brother and brother, and sojourner. They are to "lead" by serving. Never are they told (anywhere) that any individual has authority over everyone else in other matters.
Notice, also, that Paul never once gives instructions for someone to be a "head pastor" or a "rabbi." In the Scriptural example, only those that are "stand-ins" or "shadow pictures" for Yeshua are shown to be over the people. Again: only those that represent Yeshua Himself are ever shown to be singular "rulers" over the people (such as David). Along with this, we also have ALL of the other epistles. Notice that between ALL of the Pauline letters, as well as those from James, John, Jude and Peter, not even one of them is addressed to a "head pastor" or "rabbi." Not even one.
Rather, they are addressed to the people, and to the "elders" of the people (such as the Johannine letters), to specific individuals and even the "elect lady" (who was most likely Mary, the mother of Yeshua).
This is crucial here: the only Scriptural specification for structure in the assembly is for overseers (elders) and attendants (deacons). There is no instruction that shows a single person over the body, or a single person over the elders.
Modern churches today tend to have a "head pastor" and then a "board of elders" yet only the concept of a "board of elders" is Scriptural. When we begin to lift a single person up on a level above elders (and subsequently the laypeople), we begin to lift that person into the position that only Yeshua occupies.
But there IS an example of having a single man above everyone else in Scripture: the kings. Having a man (or woman) with singular authority over a body is no different than having a king. Even Moses himself did not have singular rule over the people. Moses simply had a larger role, for he was the mouthpiece that YHWH chose to speak through, and he knew the Torah better, and could therefore judge cases better. But the "heads over the people" were the elders that the people themselves elected.
But now let's look at the example of having a singular authority over the body. Let's examine the first time Israel demanded such a person: King Saul.
1 It happened, when Shemuel was old, that he made his sons judges over Yisrael. 2 Now the name of his firstborn was Yoel; and the name of his second, Aviyah: they were judges in Beersheva. 3 His sons did not walk in his ways, but turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, and perverted judgment. – Shemuel Alef / 1 Samuel 8:1-3 (SQV)
Notice that Samuel had appointed judges over Israel: his sons. However, they were corrupt. Their job was to "oversee" and to "judge between brothers and the sojourner" but according to verse 3, they perverted that judgment. Because of this, the elders of Israel gathered together.
4 Then all the elders of Yisrael gathered themselves together, and came to Shemuel to Ramah; 5 and they said to him, "Behold, you are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations." – Shemuel Alef /1 Samuel 8:4,5 (SQV)
What happened here in verse 5 was actually a fulfillment of prophecy.
14When you are come to the land which YHWH your Elohim gives you, and shall possess it, and shall dwell therein, and shall say, "I will set a king over me, like all the nations that are around me;" – Devarim / Deuteronomy 17:14 (SQV)
They did exactly as Moses prophesied they would. They not only desired a king, but they desired a king "like all the nations." The problem here is that, as happened time and time again, they began to emulate the nations. They saw what the heathens did, and wanted to do likewise. So Samuel then had to deal with the problem.
6 But the thing displeased Shemuel, when they said, "Give us a king to judge us." Shemuel prayed to YHWH. 7 YHWH said to Shemuel, "Listen to the voice of the people in all that they tell you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not be king over them. 8 According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Mitsrayim even to this day, in that they have forsaken Me, and served other elohim, so do they also to you. 9 Now therefore listen to their voice: however you shall protest solemnly to them, and shall show them the judgment of the king who shall reign over them." – Shemuel Alef / 1 Samuel 8:6-9 (SQV)
Because they would not accept the Yah-ordained structure of leadership, and because they much preferred to "forsake" Him, and "go after other elohim and serve them" they desired a king. YHWH then told Samuel to go ahead and give them a king, but FIRST to "protest solemnly to them" and warn them about how bad it will be if they have a king.
10 Shemuel told all the words of YHWH to the people who asked of him a king. 11 He said, "This will be the judgment of the king who shall reign over you: he will take your sons, and appoint them to him, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and they shall run before his chariots; 12 and he will appoint them to him for captains of thousands, and captains of fifties; and he will set some to plow his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and the instruments of his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers, and to be cooks, and to be bakers. 14 He will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your olive groves, even the best of them, and give them to his servants. 15 He will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants. 16 He will take your male servants, and your female servants, and your best young men, and your donkeys, and put them to his work. 17 He will take the tenth of your flocks: and you shall be his servants. 18 You shall cry out in that day because of your king whom you shall have chosen you; and YHWH will not answer you in that day." – Shemuel Alef / 1 Samuel 8:10-18 (SQV)
Clearly, what Samuel was trying to convey to the people is that they would LOSE freedoms if they had a king. Not only this, but the king would delegate their jobs, the king would divide up their produce, and the king would divvy out their labors.
19 But the people refused to listen to the voice of Shemuel; and they said, "No; but we will have a king over us, 20 that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles." 21 Shemuel heard all the words of the people, and he rehearsed them in the ears of YHWH. 22 YHWH said to Shemuel, "Listen to their voice, and make them a king." Shemuel said to the men of Yisrael, "Every man go to his city." – Shemuel Alef / 1 Samuel 8:19-22 (SQV)
So we know the rest of the story: Samuel goes out and anoints Saul as king. However, we also know that Saul failed in many ways, and led not only himself astray but also the people of Israel.
But back to what we read a moment ago, notice how the king controls everything himself. He chooses people to elevate, he dictates what needs to be done and how. This is no different from these "head pastors" or "rabbis" of today. And, as we see Scripturally, there is no instruction for "head pastors" or "rabbis" anywhere in Scripture. The only "example" that we can borrow from is that of the kings, which is not a good example to follow at all.
Unless of course, these pastors and rabbis believe themselves to be in the role of Moses, as so many of them do. Which, again, I believe it should be stated that there is only one person currently in the role of Moses: that is Yeshua.
3 But I would have you know that the head of every man is Mashiach, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Mashiach is Elohim. – Korinthios Alpha / 1 Corinthians 11:3 (SQV).
Paul tells us who our "head" is, and it is not another man. I strongly urge you to click here and check out the "Shared Videos" tab. There is a video there by 119 Ministries that describes the "model" for the assembly (they use the word "church" which I tend to avoid, but the concept is clearly conveyed). I highly recommend it. It also goes hand-in-hand with another video on the page about "head-coverings."
I know this goes against the grain for the VAST majority of believers out there. However, I simply want to issue this challenge: show me Scriptural support for having a "head pastor" or "head rabbi."
I also want to make it clear that I do not condemn having a single teacher in a local assembly. Not by any means. The instructions for overseers states that they are required to be able to teach, but it does not require that you do not have the same person teaching consistently. In fact, not everyone in an assembly will have the gift of teaching, though elders are required to be ABLE to teach. Especially in a small assembly, it is common that there is only one or two individuals that "teach" regularly. Paul advises in 1 Cor. 12, 13, and 14 that there are different gifts to different individuals. I am not saying that there should not be a teacher in an assembly. I am rather saying that any and all teachers (even if it is just one person) are in no way "over" the rest of the body.
My personal advice for assemblies is to have an established "elder-hood" or "council" of sorts. This is how Scripture outlines the hierarchy of leadership within the Body: not with just one single person. The only time "one-man shows" were ever appointed is when YHWH Himself appointed people, and all the people knew that the appointment was from YHWH.
There are so-called "leaders" out there now that claim to be the "anointed and appointed" by YHWH as singular "heads" (or pastors, or rabbis), yet how are we supposed to know they are truly "anointed and appointed"? Simply put, they aren't. Only Yeshua is to have the headship position over another man.
1 Then Yeshua spoke to the crowds and to His Talmidim, 2 saying: "The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the seat of Moshe; 3 therefore all that they tell you, do and guard, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them. 4 They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men's shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with a finger. 5 But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tsitsiyot of their garments. 6 They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, 7 and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called 'Rabbi' by men. 8 But you are not to be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is heavenly. 10 Do not be called guides; for One is your Guide: Mashiach. 11 But the greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted. – Mattithyahu / Matthew 23:1-12 (SQV)
Never in any Scriptural example from the Gospels does Yeshua ever tell us that a man is to have authority over another man. Rather, he continually tells us to humble (lower) ourselves, and not to exalt ourselves. But beyond that, Yeshua also tells us not to call anyone "Father" (there you go, Catholics) and not to be called "Rabbi."
Again, I am only trying to point out that the Scriptural example is to have overseers (elders) and attendants (deacons), not a head pastor. Not a head rabbi. Not a singular human authority over the rest of the assembly. Anyone who claims to have that position of authority over the body, even in a local assembly, is attempting to fill the position of Moses, and that position is already filled by our only true Rabbi and King: Yeshua Mashiach!
I pray this study has blessed you, and at the very least caused you to examine the issues. Please also see the videos I mentioned above.
Be Berean. Shalom.