The old Israelite community and the rise of the monarchy

McKane, William (1956) The old Israelite community and the rise of the monarchy. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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The egalitarian instincts of Israel, the emphasis on the rights of the individual, and the loose organisation of corporate life owed something to the background of nomadic existence prior to the settlement in Canaan. Tribalism continued as a factor in the Israelite community after the settlement, and there was the consciousness of a tension between the wider loyalty required by an inter-tribal society, and the old and narrower loyalties focused intensely on tribal prestige, and unable to transcend tribal boundaries. These centrifugal tendencies were counteracted by the functioning of amphictyony as a cement. The organs of amphictyony were the central sanctuary with its covenant cult and covenant law to which all the tribes subscribed. Thereby it was possible to frame such legislation as would, secure the coherence of the wider society and determine the essential characteristics of its corporate life, because the authority of Yahweh, which was behind the operation of the amphictyonic machinery, was acceptable to all. Amphictyony knew of no division between sacred and secular, since it endeavoured to bring the sum total of corporate relationships under the aegis of Yahweh, With the advent of the monarchy the preservation of this unity was no longer possible. Partly this was the to the unwillingness of kings to subordinate themselves to the policies and goals of amphictyony and partly, to the incompatibility between the ideals of amphictyony and the survival of Israel as a nation among the nations. The Icings resolved to organise Israel in accordance with accepted worldly standards of strength and fitness for survival. The emergence of mercenaries may have been partly a consequence of this, although it was also connected with the failure of David and Solomon to retain the sympathy of their people, and the consequent necessity to rule tyrannically through power elements in their personal employ. David and Solomon lost the support and confidence of their people because, in creating a centralised kingdom, they invaded the liberties of the individual Israelite, wounded tribal susceptibilities, and destroyed the corporate values of amphictyony which was ideally a religious brotherhood. Great social and economic equalities were created by the development of trade and commerce. The concentration of wealth in the hands of the few marched with excessive poverty amount the many. In particular the peasant's plot, which was in the gift of Yahweh and inalienable from its ancestral owner, ceased to be the subject of religious demand. Instead it was exposed to the market and treated as an article of commerce, so that the plight of the pleasantly was desperate and a fundamental social sanction subverted. Solomon ruled as an absolute monarch and used his people as means to his own personal ends. They paid for his pretensions to greatness and his attachment to the pattern of oriental monarchy in the grand style in forced labour, crushing taxation and reduced living standards. The Jerusalem cult of the king which flourished under Solomon, was a device to invest his despotism with a Divine Right by declaring him to be a Son of Yahweh, and by asserting that the well-being of the people depended absolutely on his effective fulfillment of his unique mediatorial role. The offices of prophet and priest are grounded in the unity of the araphictyonic community, and both ministered to its wholeness by performing complementary functions. The great debate between the canonical prophets and the cult was directly associated with the effects on the latter of the rise of the monarchy. It was the policy of the monarchy to maintain the fiction of Yahweh's continued sway over the life of His community. The canonical prophets saw that in this the kings wore using Yahweh's cult as a tool for the securing of the own contrary ends, and that, while Yahweh was honoured in the cult, with festival and sacrifice, large sectors of the corporate life of Israel had been wrested from His control, and ordered so as to repudiate the corporate values of amphictyony.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Religious history
Date of Award: 1956
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1956-73946
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 14 Jun 2019 08:56
Last Modified: 14 Jun 2019 08:56

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