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The Tent and the Temple: The Tension between Confederation and Kingship in Ancient Israel

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Abstract:

Although neglected in the annals of political theory, the struggle between decentralized government and monarchy in the Hebrew scriptures parallels the tensions inherent in classic works of Western political theory from Plato to the American founders. The biblical authors provided lessons beyond the religious sphere, addressing the shared duties of religion and state in developing human virtue, the proper relationships between God, government and the people, and the best forms of government to achieve these objectives. This essay analyses the debate over kingship in ancient Israel as presented in the biblical narratives, demonstrating that the Israelites’ story is important not only as a religious text, but as political theory, and that the questions asked in these texts have retained their relevance.

Keywords: Israelites; Judaism; Old Testament; ancient Israel; bible or biblical text; charismatic leadership; covenant; kingship; monarchy; religious law; republican government

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Dept of Political Science, Northwest Missouri State University, 800 University Drive, Maryville MO 64468, USA., Email: desmith@mail.nwmissouri.edu

Publication date: January 1, 2003

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