Consent of the Governed in the Hebrew Bible

26 Pages Posted: 22 Aug 2010 Last revised: 24 Aug 2011

Date Written: August 20, 2010


This article analyzes the concept of consent of the governed in the Hebrew Bible with special reference to the covenant on Mount Sinai. The author recognizes consent as a source of legitimate authority and deals in a sophisticated way with problems that have troubled later consent theories: whether parties actually consent; whether consent is voluntary; the information needed for informed consent; the issue of framing the issue so as to present the subjects with fair options; the problem of dissent; the impact of a social compact on non-participants and future generations; and the question of whether the compact is conditional or absolute. A remarkable feature of the Sinai episode is its similarity to the original position in Rawls’ Theory of Justice: the Israelites in the wilderness at Sinai, like Rawlsian subjects behind the veil of ignorance, make fundamental choices while shielded from knowledge as to their future positions or endowments.

Suggested Citation

Miller, Geoffrey P., Consent of the Governed in the Hebrew Bible (August 20, 2010). NYU School of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 10-56, Available at SSRN: or

Geoffrey P. Miller (Contact Author)

New York University School of Law ( email )

Center for the Study of Central Banks
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