We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out more
Select Bible Use this Lookup to open a specific Bible and passage. Start here to select a Bible.
Make selected Bible the default for Lookup tool.
Book: Ch.V. Select book from A-Z list, enter chapter and verse number, and click "Go."
:
OR
  • Previous Result
  • Results
  • Look It Up Highlight any word or phrase, then click the button to begin a new search.
  • Highlight On / Off
  • Next Result

The Oxford History of the Biblical World An in-depth chaptered work by leading scholars providing a chronological overview of the history of biblical times.

Interpretive Theories and Models

Especially since the 1960s, as a rich array of new data has become known about precolonial African sociopolitical systems, anthropologists' ethnographically based models have become highly relevant to the question of Israelite monarchic beginnings. Although there are pitfalls in the anthropological discussions of state formation, such as the way ideas about the early state are colored by the familiarity of theorists with precapitalist, occidental (European) nation-states, the heuristic value of models that generalize behaviors and structures across cultures is considerable. These models authenticate the biblical presentation of an emergent monarchy, and they correct the traditional historical-critical tendency to see the monarchy as both a foreign institution and yet one that became uniquely Israelite. The anthropological work that has most influenced assessments of the early monarchy sees an evolutionary development of societies: from simple bands and/or tribes, to chiefdoms, and ultimately to states. In this scheme, Saul's rise to power and David's early reign constitute the chiefdom stage. Thus, the fact that the texts designate both Saul and David with the Hebrew term nāgîd (1 Sam. 9.16; 10.1; 13.14; 25.30; 2 Sam. 5.2; 6.21; 7.8 ), translated “prince” or “ruler,” may characterize each man as a charismatic premonarchic or protomonarchic military leader, that is, as the head of a chiefdom—rather than as a dynastic melek, or “king,” as head of a state.

We may not, however, be entirely justified in associating Saul, and to some extent David, with chiefly office. Part of the problem lies in the difficulty of precisely dating the archaeological evidence for a chiefdom. Similarly, material evidence suggestive of Solomon and a full-fledged state may well originate in Davidic planning. Correlating different terminology—nāgîd and melek—with different kinds of sociopolitical leadership is also problematic, coming as it does from the much reworked Deuteronomic History of 1 and 2 Samuel. Furthermore, the critical aspect in identifying a chiefdom seems to be the number of levels of bureaucratic or administrative organization—in other words, how far the chief is structurally removed from the common folk. No means have yet been discovered to assess those levels in either the archaeological or the textual record. Finally, anthropologists themselves, in critiquing the evolutionary model, suggest that a chiefdom may be an alternative to a state system rather than precursor of it. Hence the question remains open whether we are justified in seeing the first two Israelite kings as chiefs. Fortunately, the answer does not seem to have serious consequences in assessing ancient Israel's path to statehood.

Perhaps the most important aspect of anthropological discussions of state systems is captured in the second of those two terms, systems. The state emerges as both an adaptive response to changes in a society and its environment and a formalization of those changes. Once formalized, the centralized control of human and economic resources itself creates demands and accommodations. The initial shift to a state structure in effect sets off a chain reaction of other changes that mark the ongoing development of the system.

The systemic nature of the state, or for that matter any political community, poses a problem for the examination of an ancient state, particularly one such as Israel, for which archaeological evidence is an essential source of information. States by nature have more complex, hierarchical organizational structures than do nonstate systems. Yet it is not clear how or where in the transition from pre-state to state the visible correlates of differentiated social, economic, and political groups emerge. For example, the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few may cause the appearance of new and more differentiated sociopolitical structures—or it may result from such forms. Or again, such concentration may be both cause and effect. To take another example, an increase in population can signal a change in sociopolitical structure with a concomitant ability to support more people, or it can reflect a need for adaptive change in order to accommodate a larger community. If archaeological remains of the late Iron I and the Iron IIA periods could be dated with more precision, some of these issues might be resolved.

  • Previous Result
  • Results
  • Look It Up Highlight any word or phrase, then click the button to begin a new search.
  • Highlight On / Off
  • Next Result
Oxford University Press

© 2021. All Rights Reserved. Cookie Policy | Privacy Policy | Legal Notice