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1620s, "sacerdotal government under divine inspiration" (as that of Israel before the rise of kings), from Greek theokratia "the rule of God" (Josephus), from theos "god" (see Thea) + kratos "a rule, regime, strength" (see -cracy). Meaning "priestly or religious body wielding political and civil power" is recorded from 1825.
a word first used by Josephus to denote that the Jews were under the direct government of God himself. The nation was in all things subject to the will of their invisible King. All the people were the servants of Jehovah, who ruled over their public and private affairs, communicating to them his will through the medium of the prophets. They were the subjects of a heavenly, not of an earthly, king. They were Jehovah's own subjects, ruled directly by him (comp. 1 Sam. 8:6-9).