The Dispensation Of Human Government
Dr. Joe Temple


Open your Bibles, please, to the book of Genesis, chapter 8. We will not be reading a specific passage of Scripture for our introduction, but we ask you to turn to this portion of the Word of God because the subject which we will be discussing will be included in the passage of Scripture beginning with chapter 8 of the book of Genesis and continuing through chapter 11. We are discussing dispensations because we believe it is the only proper way of rightly dividing the Word of Truth. Only as we have an understanding of the ages which God has framed by His own Word will we be able to rightly divide His Word.

We have suggested to you the definition given by Dr. C. I. Scofield, found in the Scofield Reference Bible, which we do not believe can be improved upon: A dispensation is a period of time in which man is tested in respect to obedience to some specific revelation of the will of God.

We have discussed the Dispensation of Innocence. We have discussed the Dispensation of Conscience. In this lesson, we want to consider the Dispensation of Human Government.

The Dispensation of Innocence began when Adam was placed in the Garden of Eden. It ended when he was expelled from the Garden of Eden, and cherubim were placed at the gate of the garden to keep him from reentering. We do not know how long the Dispensation of Innocence lasted because there is nothing to indicate it in the Word of God.

The Dispensation of Conscience began as soon as Adam was expelled from the Garden of Eden, and it continued until God wiped the earth clean with the Flood. The Dispensation of Conscience, when man did that which was right in his own eyes as his conscience guided and directed him, lasted over sixteen hundred years.

The dispensation which we will discuss in this lesson began as soon as the Flood ended. As we shall see, it ended with the Tower of Babel, and it lasted a little less than five hundred years. We are emphasizing the length of time involved in these dispensations so you can see that God is indeed dealing with men according to certain revelations in specific periods of time.

Mental Pegs

You will recall that when we began this study of dispensations, we gave you six words which we would use as mental pegs upon which to hang the thoughts which we want to leave with you - guidelines for our discussion, so to speak. We said that we would not always use these words in the same order, but we would consider all of them. The words are: circumstance, covenant, characters, course, climax, and compassion.

Circumstances Of The Dispensation

What are the circumstances of the Dispensation of Human Government? Look, please, at chapter 8 of the book of Genesis and notice verse 20:

Genesis 8:

20 And Noah builded an altar unto the Lord; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar.
21 And the Lord smelled a sweet savour; and the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done.
22 While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.

This brief paragraph describes the circumstances under which the Dispensation of Human Government began. The first thing I would like for you to notice is that it began with an altar. The Dispensation of Innocence began with man created in the image of God, but man failed. From the time of his fall, when God made provision for a substitute for Him, man can only begin with a sacrifice that speaks of his salvation. When we find the earth condemned at the time of the Flood, washed clean with the flood waters, wickedness and evil destroyed, a new age began with an altar upon which was sacrificed a substitute for the sins of mankind.

I want to emphasize that because we who believe in dispensationalism are often accused of having more than one plan of salvation. We are said to believe in more than one way of gaining eternal life, but that is not true. Those who correctly teach dispensationalism, and those who correctly understand it, know that there is but one way for eternal life and that is through God's appointed substitute, represented by the animal sacrifice in the Old Testament, fulfilled in the living Christ of the New Testament.

Characterized By A Promise

The circumstances under which the Age of Human Government began was characterized by a promise from God that He would never again destroy the earth because of the wickedness of men for a very simple reason. There wouldn't be any point in it, for man was going to be wicked in spite of anything anyone could do. The imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth.

Let us recognize that there will be no way of changing the earth so that man will live as he ought to live—no way at all! The thing we must recognize is that the earth cannot be changed, but the hearts of man can be. Man left to himself will live wickedly, so there is no point in bringing a cataclysmic thing such as a flood upon the earth. The earth during the Dispensation of Human Government began in what we might call a state of rest. That is indicated to us by what we find in the first phrase of verse 21:

Genesis 8:

21 And the Lord smelled a sweet savour;…

Very literally, the Lord smelled, or recognized, or detected a sense of rest. It would have been wonderful if this Dispensation of Human Government had continued in that state of rest, but we will find, when we look at the course of this dispensation, such was not the case.

The Noahaic Covenant

Before we consider the course, we will notice the covenant which is related to this particular dispensation because every dispensation is characterized by a covenant which determines its course. Notice, please, chapter 9 of the book of Genesis. Verses 1 through 17 of this chapter contain what we refer to as the Noahaic Covenant. We call it the Noahaic Covenant because it was the covenant that God made with Noah.

Here again, we have an unconditional covenant. We told you when we first began the discussion of these covenants that some of them are conditional and some are unconditional. When they are unconditional, God simply lays down certain rules and regulations and says, “This is it.” And when they are conditional, God says, “If you will do so-and-so, I will do so-and-so.”

Replenish The Earth

There are four principle divisions of the Noahaic Covenant emphasized in these seventeen verses. Notice verse 1:

Genesis 9:

1 And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.

This was the first part of the Noahaic Covenant. God placed upon man the responsibility of multiplying and replenishing the earth. This, He said, was man's responsibility. I want you to fix that firmly in your mind because it was in this respect that man's failure first made itself known.

Authority Over Animal Kingdom

The second part of this covenant was related to man's connection with animal life. Notice, please, verses 2 through 4:

Genesis 9:

2 And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered.
3 Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.
4 But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat.

Notice the phrases in this paragraph, “into your hand are they delivered,” and also the phrase, “Every moving [living] thing have I given you.” These two phrases suggest to us the name of this dispensation—the Dispensation of Human Government or the Dispensation of Human Authority—- because God placed into the hands of men authority over all of the animal kingdom. That authority was going to be carried out because God placed in the hearts of all animal life a fear of man.

During the Dispensation of Innocence, when God placed man in the Garden of Eden, there was no need for such authority because animals were as docile and as calm and quiet as they could be. But after the Fall, when man was cursed, when the ground was cursed, when the animal kingdom was cursed, men had to protect themselves from wild, ferocious animals. They were no match for them. In this new dispensation, God gave into the hands of man the authority over the animal kingdom.

Authority Over Human Life

The real reason this dispensation is called the Dispensation of Human Government is found in the next paragraph, if you will look at verse 5, for there we read:

Genesis 9:

5 And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man's brother will I require the life of man.
6 Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.

In this paragraph, God placed into the hands of man the supreme authority, the authority over human life. This is the principle reason that this dispensation is referred to as the Dispensation of Human Government, because government is only as strong as its enforceable laws. If government did not have the right to take human life in response to disobedience of its laws, it would not be a strong government. God ordained it in the very beginning. The Dispensation of Human Government is based upon the right of the state to exercise capital punishment. As government weakens, this right is relinquished, and if this right is relinquished, lawlessness increases. All statistics to the contrary, just give it time to work.

Promise Related To The Covenant

The fourth thing that is mentioned in relation to the Noahic Covenant is a word of encouragement, a promise related to the security of man as he placed his confidence in God. Notice verse 8 of Genesis, chapter 9:

Genesis 9:

8 And God spake unto Noah, and to his sons with him, saying,
9 And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you;
10 And with every living creature that is with you, of the fowl, of the cattle, and of every beast of the earth with you; from all that go out of the ark, to every beast of the earth.
11 And I will establish my covenant with you, neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth.
12 And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations:
13 I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth.
14 And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud:
15 And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh.

“Never again,” God said, “will I send a flood upon the earth, and the security which your heart needs will be found in the bow in the clouds” - a rainbow. Every time you see a rainbow, remember that God keeps His Word. There never was a rainbow before God placed one there after He made the covenant with Noah.

An Everlasting Covenant

The fact that the rainbow is still seen by men emphasizes another truth that we must not neglect if we are to understand this Dispensation of Human Government. This covenant was not only made with Noah; it was made with Noah's seed. It was made not only with Noah's direct descendants, but it was made with perpetual generations forever. As long as time shall last, this covenant is binding.

We pointed out to you when we were studying the Dispensation of Conscience that, though we spoke of a beginning and an end, certain things related to the Dispensation of Conscience will continue until the end of time. Men still have a conscience today. Men move according to their consciences today, and we are living in the Dispensation of Grace. This element of the Dispensation of Human Government continues down to this present hour because God has made this covenant binding upon all generations that lived after Noah, that live now, and will live until the end of time.

Characters Of The Dispensation

Who are the main characters in this Dispensation of Human Government? You have already recognized Noah as the first individual with whom God spoke when the Dispensation of Human Government began. There are three others related to this dispensation: Shem, Ham, and Japheth, who were of Noah's generation. Another individual whose name should be familiar to you in relation to the Dispensation of Human Government is a man by the name of Nimrod.

Course Illustrated By Characters

The course of this dispensation is determined by the covenant, and it is illustrated in the lives of the men whose names we have just mentioned. Let me suggest to you that this dispensation began with an agricultural society. Notice chapter 9 of the book of Genesis, verse 20:

Genesis 9:

20 And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard:

In the next verse, we find that Noah drank of the wine that he made from the grapes. Remember, quite a bit of time elapsed between the time that he planted the vineyard and the time that he reaped the harvest. It would have been a good thing if this age could have continued as an agricultural age because, if you are a careful student of the Bible, you will recognize that wickedness is always related to urbanization. There is some indication in the Bible that if God had had His way - and I'm speaking very generally now - an agricultural, agrarian society would have been the order of the day, and the mechanization of modern society would not have occurred.

Influence Of Nimrod

We point out to you that this agricultural society did not continue as it was. Turn, please, to chapter 10 of the book of Genesis and notice that, some time after Noah's children began to populate the earth, something definitely happened to change the order of the day. Look at verse 8 of chapter 10:

Genesis 10:

8 And Cush begat Nimrod: he began to be a mighty one in the earth.
9 He was a mighty hunter before the Lord: wherefore it is said, Even as Nimrod the mighty hunter before the Lord.
10 And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.

If you read this passage of Scripture without due thought, you might get the idea that Nimrod was a hunter, that he liked to go deer hunting or elk hunting. That wasn't the case at all. The first thing you notice about him in verse 8 is that he was a mighty one. That means that he was a giant in size. His personality matched his physical stature because when you read twice that he was a mighty hunter before the Lord, the word hunter does not refer to an individual who hunts animals, but it refers to an individual who conquers men.

You could say that Nimrod was a powerful potentate, and there is every reason to believe that he was the first crowned king that the world knew. He established his kingdom in the city of Babel, which later became the empire of Babylon, which God Himself had to destroy because of its rebellion against Him.

This indicates the trend that the course of the Dispensation of Human Government would take. Whether it was an agricultural society or an urbanized society, the course was the same as every other—rebellion which resulted in failure and condemnation.

The Sin Of Noah

Notice the statement concerning Noah's sin in chapter 9 of the book of Genesis:

Genesis 9:

20 And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard:
21 And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent.
22 And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without.
23 And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father's nakedness.
24 And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him.

Noah was guilty of a three-fold sin. He was guilty of drunkenness. Drunkenness is a sin. Alcohol can have such an effect upon the mind and the body that the effects may have to be treated as a disease, but drunkenness is a sin, and there is no deliverance from it until it is recognized that it is sin. I emphasize that so I will not be misunderstood on this subject. After you realize that drunkenness displeases the Lord, then you should begin to pray and work for the healing of the individual involved because, certainly, the sin of drunkenness becomes a destructive disease.

There was another sin of which Noah was guilty and it is very often related to the sin of drunkenness. It is the sin of immorality. The construction of the phraseology of this chapter does not suggest that Noah got drunk and fell asleep and kicked the covers off. His nakedness was related to the sin of immorality, and immorality and drunkenness often go hand in hand.

The third sin was, for our immediate discussion, far more serious sin. Noah's drunkenness incapacitated him to discharge the obligation which God placed upon him. God had placed upon him the responsibility of human government, and when he was drunk, he was utterly incapable of exercising the responsibility which God gave him.

Attitude of Noah's Sons

There is just a brief mention of this in the Word of God, and it might lead you to believe it was something that just happened and may never happen again. But I believe the course was set, and I believe that what you see here in this chapter is just the fruit of the spirit that began in the heart of Noah long before this particular thing occurred.

The reason I say that is that it is shown in the attitude of one of his sons. It is a well known fact that when men become careless in their responsibilities in public government, it has been preceded by a breakdown of discipline in the home. Discipline, as far as public responsibilities are concerned, will be no stronger than discipline represented in the family itself.

The sin of Ham was not just seeing his father naked, as some folk would have you believe, but the sin of Ham was making fun of his father, saying in so many words, “Look at the old fool. He tried to tell us what to do, but look at what he does when he gets the chance.” There was evidence of an absolute lack of parental respect in relation to the sad condition in which Noah was found. The only redeeming thing about the situation is that two brothers refused to participate in the sin of Ham and, out of respect for their father, put a cloak behind them and backed up toward him and covered his nakedness with a cloak in order that they might not enter into this disrespect. This was the course of the Dispensation of Human Government from an individual standpoint.

Tower of Babel

If you will turn to chapter 11 of the book of Genesis, you will find the course of this age related to the corporate standpoint. One was related to Noah, and the other was related to Nimrod because we read in Genesis, chapter 11, verse 1:

Genesis 11:

1 And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.
2 And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there.

If you will glance back at chapter 11, you will understand that they did so at the instigation of Nimrod, with his suggestion that he be made king. Now there in the plain of Shinar, they said one to another:

Genesis 11:

3 … Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for mortar.
4 And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.

You understand that the words may reach in verse 4 are in italics. That suggests that they are not in the original text, which means that, actually, literally, they were not trying to build a tower that would reach to the skies. They were not trying to build a great skyscraper building, but they were going to build a tower, the top of which would be related to heavenly bodies, which heavenly bodies would become the object of their worship. Though this building did tower into the skies over the plains of Shinar, it was never meant to be a skyscraper or a tall building such as we might think of today.

Why did they build this tower? In order that they might stay together. Was there anything wrong with that? Only one thing; it was open rebellion against God's revealed will. God had said, “Your responsibility in this dispensation is to scatter abroad over all the earth.” Remember, the ark landed on Mount Ararat, and they had journeyed only a few miles to the plan of Shinar when they decided they would settle there. But God had said, “I want you to scatter over the whole earth. Multiply, replenish, fill it up; that's your responsibility in this dispensation.” And they said, “We're not going to do it. We're going to stay right here.”

Climax of the Dispensation

If you've been thinking, you realize that the course of this dispensation was like the course of the Dispensation of Conscience and like the course of the Dispensation of Innocence. It was a downward course which ended in failure. What was the climax? Each one of these dispensations ended in a climax. The climax in relation to the Dispensation of Human Government is found in chapter 11, beginning with verse 6 where we read:

Genesis 11:

6 And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.
7 Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech.
8 So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city.
9 Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.

This was the climax; God did what they refused to do. He said, “Scatter, multiply, and replenish the earth.” They said, “No.” God said, “I'll do it for you.” The manner in which He did it was to confuse their language so that they could not understand one another save as they came in contact with other individuals who spoke the same language which they spoke. As they came in contact with those individuals, they formed groups. Some went in this direction; some went in another direction, and God's purpose and plan was fulfilled.

Beginning of Nations

If you want a detailed discussion as to where the people went, read chapter 10 of the book of Genesis. This is a judgment of God, for every dispensation ends in judgment. If you are a student of world history, you know that the reason there are wars on the earth is the strong feeling of nationalism which creates in the hearts of some unprincipled individuals a desire to conquer the world. That in itself represents a curse because, from the time that God confused the languages of men and scattered the nations abroad into their respective places, this world has been rocked by war. And it will be rocked by war until once again the world speaks the same language.

Men realize that, and that's the reason they are making efforts in such organizations as the United Nations. They long for the day to come when there will be one world and one government. I can tell you that the efforts of men are not smiled upon by God because that is not His plan and that is not His purpose. Just as certainly as He tangled the thinking of men and twisted their tongues so that they could speak different languages at His appointed time in another dispensation, which we will be considering before we are through with this series, God will untangle the tongues and God will break down boundaries and men will speak one language and men will dwell together in peace. Until God brings that about, any effort that man makes is not only futile, but represents a lack of understanding in relation to the plan of God or a deliberate disregard for what God has already planned.

Compassion of God Revealed

We have one more word to consider in our discussion of this dispensation, and that is the word compassion. I said that there is in every dispensation a manifestation of the compassion of God, and I see several hints of His compassion in the midst of His judgment. Turn back to chapter 9 of the book of Genesis, where judgment was pronounced upon Noah and his family because of Noah's sin. Notice a ray of hope in verse 25 where we read:

Genesis 9:

25 And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.
26 And he said, Blessed be the Lord God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.
27 God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.

Notice the last part of that statement: “God shall dwell in the tents of Shem.” This, I say, is a ray of God's compassion. Look at verse 21 of chapter 10.

Genesis 10:

21 Unto Shem also, the father of all the children of Eber, the brother of Japheth the elder, even to him were children born.

Notice the word Eber. It is the contracted form of the word Hebrew . What we are reading here is that God chose Shem to be the progenitor of Abraham and his descendants who became the Hebrew race through whom came the revelation of God in its pure form. God did not select the descendants of Abraham as His chosen people because He thought any more of them than He thinks of you. He chose them for one purpose, and one purpose only, and that was that He might have a clear channel through which to bring the revelation of God. Even in this dispensation there was a manifestation of God's compassion in relation to His judgment because of Noah's sin.

We pointed out to you there was the individual disobedience and the corporate disobedience. Is there any ray of compassion related to God's judgment on Nimrod representative of corporate disobedience? I will have to answer that in the affirmative and suggest to you that the very scattering of the nations is an indication of the compassion of God.

Purpose of Scattering of Nations

Turn, please, to the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 17, as I remind you that, though I have used the term scattering and though the manner in which the Scripture is presented would lead you to believe that God looked down and saw what was happening and in anger just scattered the nations as you might scatter a basket of fruit that you've turned over, when you compare Scripture with Scripture, which is always the proper method of studying, you'll see that this was not a haphazard thing. You will see that it was very deliberate on the part of God, that He just didn't scatter the nations and say, “Land where you will.” He put within their hearts a desire to go in the direction that He intended them to go. God very carefully placed all the nations of the world where He wanted them for one expressed purpose, and that was that they might come to know Him without any natural obstacles at all. This is brought to our attention in chapter 17 of the Acts of the Apostles. Notice, please, verse 22:

Acts 17:

22 Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars' hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious.

Literally, “I perceive that in all things you are very religious.”

Acts 17:

23 For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, To The Unknown God…

“You were so anxious to please all the gods; you thought you might leave one out, so you thought you would build an altar to a god and say, 'This is to the god that we might not even know about.'” Then Paul said, “I've come to talk to you about Him.”

Acts 17:

23 … Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.
24 God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands;
25 Neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things;
26 And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation;

“In ancient times,” Paul said, “God determined the bounds of the habitation of the nations. He determined the boundaries of all the nations of the world.” When did He do it? There is only one record in the Scriptures, and that's in Genesis, chapter 11. Paul tells us why He did it then. Look at verse 27:

Acts 17:

27 That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us:

If we had maps available, and time, we might notice all of the different places where the descendants settled as they populated the world. I would like to emphasize that the descendants of Shem settled in the very center of the earth, the geographical center of the earth. All the other nations settled round about them that they might know God. So you see, God in His wisdom, knowing that He was going to choose the descendants of Shem as the channel through which He would bring His Word to the earth, put them right in the middle and then put all the other nations around like spokes in a wheel so that anyone who wants to know the Lord can know Him. This is God's compassion.


Once again, as we bring a discussion of a dispensation to a close, we are reminded that man is bent on failure. Here was a nation beginning anew and afresh on an earth that was cleansed, on an earth that was fresh, and continued a little less than five hundred years and messed it up again. All of this brings us to a realization that our hope lies in the Lord Jesus Christ and in no other. That's the only reason I don't labor for a better world. There won't be one, but I do labor that men might know the Lord Who can make them better, and that makes a difference.

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