Israel, Kingship, and Violence—1 Samuel 8; Deuteronomy 17

Here is the tenth in a series of Bible studies that present the Bible as being in the side of pacifism. In this essay, “Israel, Kingship, and Violence,”  I look at the emergence of the institution of kingship in ancient Israel and its consequences. When we take into account the conclusion to the book of Judges and the early chapters of 1 Samuel, it is understandable how this move toward kingship would have been attractive to Israel’s elders. However, Samuel challenges this move, predicting dire consequences centering on the likely transformation of Israel toward social injustices characteristic of the nations. Deuteronomy gives us a glimpse at a theologically acceptable form of kingship–however, as the story makes clear, the guidelines in Deuteronomy primarily serve as criteria for judging Israel’s kings as failures.

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