The Biblical Monarch as Anarchy Personified: Narrative Configuring Law

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Abstract: Bracketed as they are by the bleak and terse “In those days there was no king in Israel” (Judges 19:1, 21:25), the final horrific events of the book of Judges appear to be the consequence of the absence of a king—the lawless chaos of a society in desperate need of an alternative form of government. A close reading of various incidents in Saul’s downfall and David’s rise to power reveals a similarly negative perspective on what the monarchy holds in store for Israel. The narratives portray each leader as personifying the very political malaise that the institution of monarchy was ostensibly called on to correct. Once it is understood that the narratives of the founding of the Israelite monarchy preclude monarchy as a viable political alternative, the king’s law in Deuteronomy can be seen as a juridical expression of those narratives.

Biography: James A. Diamond is the Joseph and Wolf Lebovic Chair of Jewish Studies at the University of Waterloo and director of the university’s Friedberg Genizah Project.  His principle areas of study include biblical exegesis and hermeneutics, medieval Jewish thought, and Maimonides.  He is the author of Maimonides and the Hermeneutics of Concealment (SUNY Press, 2002) which was awarded the Canadian Jewish Book Award and the forthcoming Converts, Heretics and Lepers: Maimonides and the Outsider (University of Notre Dame Press, expected Fall 2007).  He has published articles in many journals, including Vestus Testamentum; Journal of Jewish Thought and Philosophy; Association of Jewish Studies
Review; Jewish Studies Quarterly; Jewish History; Philosophy and Literature; Medieval Philosophy and Theology
; and Jewish Quarterly Review.

Volume 2, Number 1 (Winter 2007) pp. 20-45