This semester in one class we have been reading Genesis through Kings. Another context has focused on the formation of literacy and the formation of the Hebrew Bible. These two contexts came together in an interesting way. The Genesis through Kings class observed that one finds an anti-institutional undercurrent in the text. Judges 9 Jotham’s fable makes clear the problems with a monarchy. However, the editors of the book that eventually became Judges consistently bring the reader back to the phrase “because there was no king in Israel.” Such a reference indicates that there is a lackluster apology for the monarchy in the present form of the book of Judges. Juan Valdez captures some of the sense that every polity found in the Hebrew Bible is de-constructed.
The social and historical background for this de-construction of power seems to be the colonial status of the editors of the Hebrew Bible in the Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian periods to some degree but more manifestly in the Persian and Hellenistic periods. This is a fundamental shift in biblical studies in the last fifty years. The mid-twenteth century biblical studies construed the biblical material as the product of a national default with an extended exile. Today the colonial context dominates with a sense of a short monarchial experiment.
Correlation is not always causation but it is interesting that this turn of mind coincides with the declining of Christendom.