יום חמישי, 14 בפברואר 2008

Rise and Fall of Bibleic Anarchy

To FSK for the intelectual strife.


It is commonly cosidered that kingdom is the political regime endorsed by The Bible. But carefull reading shows that kingdom is merely a compromise to State-wise social movement in originally anarchic society of Son's of Israel.

Methodological Note:

Because this article is in English, I used the KJV Bible. I do recomend to get more updated translation for further inquiry, or better yet to study Hebrew to read the original texts.

In conversations with representatives from fundamentalistic religion congression it is common to hear that people should have some sort of "kingdom" because "The Holy Book says so"( apparently that was their case for slavery few hundred years ago). But where does it say so?
First we must locate relevant parts of the Bible. In order to do so lets divide the Scriptures chronologicaly:
First generations up to Abraham; The Patriachs - Abraham to Josef; Egypt and Moses; The Judges – Joshua to Samuel; Kings – Saul and David to Zedekiah; Bablon and the Leaders of the rebuilding of Jeusalem; Here Ends the Old Testament. Between the Testaments goes Persian and Early Helenistic Period; The Hasmonean Kingdom which ended with Herod, and the Roman rule.
The first generations are useless for us, because there were no righteous rulers , only Nimrods and Pharaohs. The New Testament too is writen under Roman ruke, and its descriptins of kings are mostly parables and metaphores for the Kingdom of Heaven. Hasmoneans are aso of no use, for the righteous ones of the mimicked David, and less righteous – the Romans. The leader of Babylonian-Persian exile, Mordecai, Zerubbabel, Ezra, Nehemiah, despite their charisma, were completely dependant of Persian kings (see Ezra 5:3). So , we have to seek between the second half of Genesis, starting with Abraham, to king Zedekiah in the end of Kings.

The Patriarchs.

The patriarchs were not only head of the clan, but also diplomats (Gen 26:10), warlords (Gen 14:14), and supreme judges, with right of death sentence (Gen 38:24). Yet we face here a stage ofsmall clan, not real nation. We'd have to procede to Egypt for that.


Moses was quite a unique character , for the multitude of tasks and missions. Both leader, diplomat, warlord, prophet, priest (later delegated to Aaron), and the supreme judge. But when times co e to shoose the next leader, the chosen one, Joshua, is not granted all the authority! Instead, the Almighty decrees a double rule with Joshua as military leader, and Eleazar as the high priest and spiritual leader(Num 27:15). This is would be the model for David's kingdom. In Deutronomy, this model of constitutional monarchy(with the Holy Book as the contitution), is presented, but before furter discusion about it I'd like to pose a question. In the beginin of King's commanments in Deutronomy, the Bible says:

{17:14} When thou art come unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, and shalt possess it, and shalt.dwell therein, and shalt say, I will set a king over me, like as all the nations that [are] about me.

Here is the question: "Shalt say" stand for "you should" or for "shlould you"? KJV makes the most definite translation of "you should", yet how comes that for more than 300 years leaders, even the most righeous ones from Joshua to Samuel didn't obide such explicit commandment?

The Judges

The best description of the period is given by the Book itself:

{21:25} In those days [there was] no king in Israel: every man did [that which was] right in his own eyes.

The only institution close to political one was the Judge, but he/she didn't coerse or inforce laws, but rather were used as highest authority in quarrels or arguments. (for that reason some judges had desribed as judging in certain place, comp Jud 4:4). The Judge enforced no taxation, as Samuel testifies:

{12:1} And Samuel said unto all Israel, Behold, I have hearkened unto your voice in all that ye said unto me, and have made a king over you. {12:2} And now, behold, the king walketh before you: and I am old and grayheaded; and,behold, my sons [are] with you: and I have walked before you from my childhood unto this day. {12:3} Behold, here I [am:] witness against me before the LORD, and before his anointed: whose ox have I taken? or whose ass have I taken? or whom have I defrauded? whom have I oppressed? or of whose hand have I received [any] bribe to blind mine eyes therewith? and I will restore it you. {12:4} And they said, Thou hast not defrauded us, nor oppressed us, neither hast thou taken ought of any man’s hand.

The Bible uses the verb "judged" for all judges but one Abimeleh, who "reigned" (Jud 9:22). But Abimeleh cannlot be an example beacause he wasn't righeous, and gained his reign by murder (Jud 9:5). On contrary, when Gideon is offered to "rule" he refused:

{8:22} Then the men of Israel said unto Gideon, Rule thou over us, both thou, and thy son, and thy son’s son also: for thou hast delivered us from the hand of Midian. {8:23} And Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the LORD shall rule over you.

The only periods when the Judges possesed more power was durig the wars. But their power didn't extend this way after the war. For instance Jepithah had to negotiate after-war rights( Jud 11:9).
This ear-time unification was quite natural, because most of those war were wars waged by KINGS who installed taxes and levies over free society of Sons of Israel.
Now, it is true that the expresion we persened earlier,"In those days [there was] no king in
Israel: every man did [that which was] right in his own eyes." was used in the Bible to mark a serious problems of the period, such as Micah's cult and Civil war of Gibeah. But was the King the remedy? Were there no sinners through the period of kings?


The last of the Judges, Samuel was the one responsible for installing the first of Kings, Saul. Reading the Scripture reveals, tha the demand for king came after unsucsessful aptemt to apoint his own sons as Judges. The elders come to Samuel with request for king to "judge us like all the nations." (Sam I 8:5).
Latter the people will present a broader demand:

{8:19} Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay; but we will have a king over
us; {8:20} That we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our

We can see, that first of all, there are no new political functions – the Judges did both Judgement and Warfare. The only difference here is stabilty brought by reigning dynasty of kings, like those of surrounding nations. We waould call this – minacrhy.
Samuel is displeased. He prays,and from his dialog with the Almighty we can understand taht "stalt" of Deuteremony was actually "slould you":

{8:6} But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the LORD. {8:7} And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me,that I should not reign over them. {8:8} According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even unto this day, wherewith they have forsaken me, and served other gods, so do they alsounto thee. {8:9} Now therefore hearken unto their voice: howbeit yet protest solemnly unto them, and shew them the manner of the king that shall reign over them.

Here is how the Almighty describes this cry for stability — moral degradation, lack of faith! People who carry God in their hearts need not some external king. Samuel is ordered therforeb to present political changes that installing the king would cause, maybe to reppel the demand for king. If people are weak in moral sence, maybe the political economy arguments wil affect them.
Here they are:

{8:10} And Samuel told all the words of the LORD unto the people that asked of him a king. {8:11} And he said, This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and appoint [them] for himself,for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and [some] shall run before his chariots. {8:12} And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and [will set them] to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots. {8:13} And he will take your daughters [to be]
confectionaries, and [to be] cooks, and [to be] bakers. {8:14} And he will take your fields, and your vineyards,and your oliveyards, [even] the best [of them,] and give [them] to his servants. {8:15} And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants. {8:16} And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put [them] to his work.{8:17} He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants. {8:18} And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the LORD will not hear you in that day.

Samuel warns the Sons of Israel , that their minarchy will end with all the "benefits" of centralised state: Taxes, Beurocracy and Draft.
But as we already mentioned, the people chose to exersice the option in Deuteremony and to install a king. And the rest is history.

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