Archaeology of the Bible

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Chapter 8 of 1 Samuel marks an important shift in Israelite governmental style. Up until this point, the not-yet-officially-named ‘Israelites’ were governed by a succession of divinely appointed judges, such as Samson and Gideon. These men were military leaders that arose from varying backgrounds in order to protect the 12 tribes from whoever wished to rob the Israelites of their land, produce or belongings (Chilton, 127). However, these tribes had not yet united under a single banner competently enough in order to make efficient use of their combined military power. So enters Saul, who is to be anointed King over all of Israel. Yet, the story of Saul’s election highlights conflicting ideologies that are expressed subliminally in the text. These overt events and underhand machinations also embolden an important literary and historical feature of the Bible- it’s tendency for politically biased, retrojective retelling of events-mostly in favor of the Davidic lineage. The chapter opens with Samuel’s sons being described as amoral men that “took bribes and perverted justice” (1 Samuel, 8:3). Interestingly enough though, the reader is not told what these bribes and perversions of justice are exactly. Instead we are forced to assume that Samuel’s sons were unequivocally evil, to the degree that the elders are somewhat justified in requesting a new leader. Next, despite being only 2 Judges, this chapter seems to state that Joel and Abijah have total control over all twelve Israelite tribes. This idea however contradicts the fact that, “from the close inspection of the narratives in Joshua and Judges… [We can see that although] they cooperated loosely and sporadically, for the most part in the fact of military threats, thes... ... middle of paper ... ...simply too insufficient in completing the task (Chilton, 138). Thus, the soon-to-be-named Israelites commit to a governmental change that will allow them to settle down in a conquered area, advance their science and culture, and begin historical documentation. However, in my opinion, one contradiction within the books of Samuel seems to stand out more than the others. And that is, that despite all this anti-monarchial posturing, by both man and God, the Davidic line is endorsed by both, whereas Saul is simply cast to the wayside by the same two parties. Yes, he does conduct unlawful sacrifice (1 Samuel, 13), but this is merely the icing on the cake that was already Yahweh’s grudge already held against him. But perhaps, when one calls the ultimate fate of the Davidic line to mind, this conundrum seems less like a contradiction, and more like a fortelling.
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