שמואל Sh’muel (Samuel)

By Levi Clancy for לוי on
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The Book of Samuel highlights the lack of social order.

Depictions of anomie are a literary tool to lay the groundwork and press the case for kingship based on how bad things were in those days, when there was no king in Israel (Judges 19:1). At the end of Judges, the Israelites decide they need a king to permanently defeat the Philistines. The last two former prophets, in the books of Samuel and Kings, tell of the rise of kingship, and the fall of monarchic Israel under Assyrian and Persian attack.

The book of Samuel chronicles the rise of kingship in Israel.

The rise of kingship is a drawn-out process due to the tribal nature of Israel being decentralized across a hilly terrain. Also, the Israelites had proclaimed God as their king, who resides in the tabernacle. But consistent military defeats at the hands of the Philistines prompted the Israelites to tell God via Samuel that they want a king; via Samuel.

God responds that they may have a king but will also endure the downsides such as taxation and other impositions. This ambivalent critique of kingship does not deter the Israelites, and God via Samuel appoints Saul as the first king of Israel. Despite being a good warrior, the book of Samuel portrays him as a failed king.

The book of Samuel depicts Saul as a failed king whose kingship in the end is taken away by god. This is really a literary foil for David, the successor of Saul who usurps the throne.

David embarks on a radical program: he seizes Jerusalem, the last vestige of Jebusite (an enemy) power; he eradicates the Philistines so they are no longer a threat; and he takes the tabernacle with the ark of the covenant within it to Jerusalem to permanently reside there. 2 Samuel describes the tabernacle as travelling from tribe to tribe, but David gives it permanent residence in Jerusalem and want to build a temple for God.

However, God tells David via the prophet Nathan that God prefers the tabernacle, not a permanent structure, but that David will have a successful dynasty and that one of his successors will be chosen to build a temple.

Thus, God makes David's bloodline the legitimate ruler of Israel forever and gives rise to Davidic kingship.

David builds a great kingdom, and a palace for himself. The state of Israel is thus a politically, militarily and religiously centralized state.

David's son Solomon builds the temple in Jerusalem, but overreaches his royal power and Israel fractures.

Solomon imposes burdensome taxes, and ten of the twelve tribes pull away from Solomon and Jerusalem. These ten tribes found their own state in the northern part of Israel, thus forming the Northern Kingdom of Israel (or simply Israel) with a capital at Shechem, and alter Samaria; two tribes remain loyal to Solomon and his heirs and they make up the Southern Kingdom of Judah (or simply Judah) with its capital at Jerusalem. Each state has its own line of kings and its own capital.