Royal Ideology In Ancient Israel Essay

1335 words - 5 pages

The ongoing threat of invasion from the Philistines to some extent brought about the conditions for a monarchy within Israel. A line of charismatic Judges protected Israel before the adoption of the kingship. Thus it is evident that the change from a patriarchal, loosely-knit tribal rule to a centralised government with a monarch required much self understanding, a strong stance against anti-monarchical views and tolerance of royal ideology, which had in part to be appropriated from neighbouring monarchies.

Saul bridged that chasm well as he was chosen by Yahweh primarily as a defender of his nation against continual threat from invasion. Nevertheless the introduction of the monarchy did not occur without criticism despite the subtle transition due to Saul's previous charismatic status. Incredible tension formed as underlined in I Samuel 7-15, stemming between early pro-monarchic sources and a later anti-monarchic one. The anti-monarchic sentiments (I Sam 8:7) revealed a reflective criticism of the monarchy, which is probably exilic in origin. I Sam 8:11-18 revealed the root of the criticism and the nature of the kingship in the ancient world. The pious were not the dissenters rather the rich farmers who did not wish to pay taxes to the centralised government. In Marx's ideology it is the Base economic loss which caused the religious or Super Structure criticism of the monarchy.

Obviously if monarchy underwent criticism from conception there was some ideological justification for this. Whitelam notes "The dissemination of a royal ideology containing important images, attitudes, and ideals associated with kingship was carried out by a centralised bureaucracy and specialists." Textual form, expressing legitimacy and righteousness of the regal reign appeared in the monarchic symbolism of sceptre (Psalm 45:6), throne (2 Sam 14:9, 1 Kings 2:12) and crown (2 Sam 1:10, 1 Kings 11:12, Psalm 89:39; 132:18). Equally disseminating propaganda of the wisdom (1 Kings 4:29~) and hence justness of the king was done through symbols and building projects and to a lesser degree in literature.

The centralisation of the government from Hebron to Jerusalem helped to cement the legitimacy of the kingship and guarantee "order, security, prosperity, fertility etc..." Central location, division into tax regions and territorial expansion were all seen as pluses of the new monarchic style. Some rulers, less capable in military manoeuvres, justified vast building projects to boast Israel's growing power and prosperity.

Perhaps the establishment of an Official State Religion was the most crucial reinforcement and legitimisation of the monarchy. David made a clever move in bringing a High Priest from Judah and also one from Israel. Establishing Jerusalem as not just the House of David but also Zion, the House of God (in the Arch of the Covenant), defined the characteristics of a monarchic state-the professional priesthood and temples walking hand in hand...

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