Unity And Diversity In Early Israel Before Samuel -- By: Alan J. Hauser

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 22:4 (Dec 1979)
Article: Unity And Diversity In Early Israel Before Samuel
Author: Alan J. Hauser


Unity And Diversity In Early Israel Before Samuel

Alan J. Hauser*

The period of the judges needs to be opened for a thorough re-examination of its form and structure. This applies not only to the so-called “office” of the judge1 and to the theory of a tribal confederation, two ideas that have been in the forefront during recent discussions of this period; it applies even more basically to the presupposition that the period must of necessity have had some organizational focus giving coherence and unity to Israel as a whole made up of numerous constituent elements. This latter idea is of crucial import for the study of this period since, if the need for a structured religious and/or political relationship is taken for granted, it predisposes scholars to search and interpret the literature along certain lines—namely, those that lead to “organizational” theories. Martin Noth’s proposed amphictyony,2 and the theory of George Mendenhall and Nor-

*Alan Hauser is associate professor of philosophy and religion at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina.

man Gottwald that claims Israel came into existence as an alliance against the oppressive political dynasties of the Canaanite city-states,3 are examples of such “organizational” theories. Such thinking, however, precludes examination of the possibility that “Israelite society” during this era may have been radically decentralized, constituting little more than a multifaceted category of peoples all of whom had some form of allegiance to the God Yahweh. When I turn to an analysis of specific traditions in the book of Judges, I will argue in favor of this latter theory by demonstrating that these traditions point to a diversified group of leaders, none of whom fit into the mold of an established office or give evidence that they operated by means of any kind of established relationship that encompassed all Israelite tribes.4

First, however, I want to examine the factors that have led OT scholars to seek an organizational focus for Israel during this era. The most obvious factor, yet ironically the one most easily overlooked, is the rampant proclivity on the part of

twentieth-century man to form an office or bureau for almost anything that needs to be done. One only needs to look at the sprawling bureaucracy of the United States government, or the extent to which professors get dragged onto an endless number of com...

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