Mark W. Hamilton

in Biblical Studies

ISBN: 9780195393361
Published online January 2012 | | DOI:

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Kingship is an ancient institution, originating in the 4th millennium bce (or perhaps even slightly earlier) as small-scale societies developed into states capable of monopolizing violence and resource collection for the purpose of building large-scale public works (canals, temples, palaces, tombs) that united peoples in unprecedented ways. Kings in many ancient cultures bore superhuman (and occasionally divine) reputations. Although the institution of monarchy exists today in a much reduced (and primarily ritualized) form, one should not underestimate its importance as the locus of reflection on the meaning and purpose of society. Political thinking began at least as early as the 3rd millennium bce as a reflection on the rights and duties of kings, and religious and literary texts about kings have been among the most influential in human history. This bibliography focuses on ancient kingship in the Near East and western Mediterranean, though other areas of the world have also contributed to the ongoing reflection on monarchy. Israelite kingship began in approximately 1000 bce (just when is debated), likely as a mechanism for defending the previously loose collection of tribes from foreign (especially Philistine) incursions. The Bible reports a 10th-century United Monarchy, though the stories about that period (the reigns of Saul and especially David and Solomon) contain significant embellishments. By the 9th century, Israel consisted of two kingdoms, a northern one called Israel and a smaller and less developed southern one called Judah. The first lasted until annexed by Assyria in 722 bce, while the second was conquered by the Babylonians in 586 bce. The texts about these kingdoms and their rulers have been among the most influential in human history and have formed the basis for political reflection among Jews, Christians, and Muslims for more than twenty-five centuries.

Article.  14274 words. 

Subjects: Biblical Studies

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