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date: 09 May 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Assuming that politics cannot be separated from economics, this chapter begins by outlining a framework for understanding the economic politics of ancient Israel within the context of the ancient Near East. Overwhelmingly agrarian, these economies functioned in terms of a primary tension between palatine estates and village communities. The estates (also of temples) were intended to supply the small ruling class with its everyday and luxury needs. By contrast, the village communities operated on their own terms, although when under the wavering sway of rulers, they were forced to pay taxes and provide labor for the estates. In this context, the chapter interprets three biblical accounts. The first concerns the “estate of Eden,” and it argues that the underlying perspective is one of palatine estates. Second, the chapter focuses on the narrative tension between Joseph and Moses, which is the real tension of the story of Egypt and the Exodus. While Joseph represents an estate system and the cause of Israelite enslavement, Moses represents the constitutive resistance to that situation. Third, the texts of Job and Proverbs may be seen in this light, with Job criticized for his holding of estates and Proverbs presenting a subtle ruling-class perspective on the tension traced throughout the chapter.

Keywords: politics, palatine estates, village communities, labor, agriculture, Eden, Joseph, Moses, Job, Proverbs

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