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date: 14 May 2021

Abstract and Keywords

A number of social theorists have recently expressed doubts about the possibility of political deliberation in ancient Israel on the grounds that divine initiative in biblical narrative ultimately tends to overwhelm merely human action. Michael Walzer, for example, suggests that debates among tribal elders might provide evidence of political deliberation, but the absence of such debate in biblical narrative leads him to think that elders came to have a “secular and non-covenantal character” in the eyes of biblical narrators. This chapter argues that the arrival of kingship in Israel was forged through the deliberations of tribal elders, rather than through the application of Deuteronomy’s law of kingship, and that this is briefly, but quite explicitly, depicted in a number of narratives. The biblical texts then reveal an ongoing process of reflection on the performance of kings, with northern tribal elders and southern “people of the land” taking decisive political initiatives.

Keywords: deliberation, elders, politics, kingship, legal tradition, people of the land, justice, social contract

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