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date: 29 July 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Six biblical books deal with the early monarchy in Israel. All of them show a mixture of fact and fiction. Most fictitious is the description in Chronicles, written about seven hundred years post festum. Judges is partly anti-monarchic and partly pro-monarchic, reflecting divergent positions within the deuteronomistic movement. Samuel contains the most factual presentation, but not without fictional elements. The most influential literary stratum in Samuel stems from a “court narrator” near the end of the eighth century bce. This narrator combined and enriched several older sources resulting in a multiperspectival picture of the early kingdom. The portrait of Solomon in 1 Kings fluctuates between admiration and critique. As for the actual history of the tenth century bce, portions of Samuel and Kings contain reliable information that can be used through critical analysis. The role of Saul may have been more important than depicted in the texts, and the rise of David less marvelous, his reign less glorious, and his realm less expansive. These observations are applicable to Solomon, as well. Nonetheless, these three kings laid the foundation for a period of nearly half a millennium of Israelite and Judahite statehood that was formative for the people and for the world of the Bible.

Keywords: biblical historiography, kingship, united monarchy, state formation, Saul, David, Solomon

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