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King, Kingship


KING, KINGSHIP (Heb. מלֶךְ, מַלְכוּת).

In the Bible

The term "king" in the biblical frame of reference and that of the Ancient Near East generally designates a governor and ruler, usually the sole authority over his subjects. This term is used to designate the rulers of great empires such as Egypt, Assyria, and Persia; rulers of nation-kingdoms such as Moab, Edom, and Israel; and the rulers of city-states, such as Tyre, Hazor, and Jericho. Occasionally the term "king" is used to designate a tribal chief, or the chief of a group of tribes, e.g., "The kings of Midian" (Num. 31:8), and "the king of Kedar," mentioned in an Aramaic inscription of the Persian era.

Concept of Monarchy

The status of the monarchy and the concept of monarchy are not identical in the various cultures of the Ancient Near East. The distinctions in the concept of monarchy are sometimes the differences between the ruler of a vast empire, and a city-state king who is in effect a vassal, and sometimes the differences among the cultures. The status of monarchy in Egypt is not the same as in Mesopotamia, and it differs again from its status in the Hittite and the Canaanite cultural spheres. Nevertheless, the general notions of the nature of monarchy and of the figure of the king in the various cultures of the Ancient Near East have much in common. All shared the view that there was a direct relationship between the king and the deity – whether the king was actually considered divine or son of a god, or the god's representative on earth who makes known the god's will, or as the god's chosen servant. The king's power over his subjects – which was usually supreme and absolute – was not regarded as arbitrarily arrogated but as an embodiment of the god's will and as a gracious gift of the god to humanity. In many of the Ancient Near Eastern cultures the monarch was seen as part of the eternal order. In Egypt the monarchy was regarded as an essential element in the order of creation. The monarchy was divine, as the natural order of things is divine. In Mesopotamia, in the view that finds expression in the Sumerian kings list, the monarchy was introduced from heaven, although the Sumerian kings themselves were generally not divine. There are few sources concerning the character of monarchy in Canaan and the immediate vicinity, but there too it appears to have been considered elemental.

Origins of Kingship in Israel

The kingdom of Israel, both in the features it shared with other Ancient Near Eastern cultures and in its unique features, was affected by the circumstances in which the monarchy was established. Unlike the situation in Mesopotamia and Egypt, we have no royal inscriptions or surviving royal annals from ancient Israel or Judah. Much of our information must be gleaned from the Bible. The Torah, which reached its final form in the post-exilic period, ignores the king almost entirely, referring to him in only two passages; the law of the king in Deuteronomy 17:14–20 and the mention of the king going into exile along with the people who set him on the throne in the curses section of Deuteronomy 28 (v. 36). The law of the king treats kingship as an initiative of the people motivated by the desire to act "like all the nations" (ke-kol ha-goyim; Deut. 17:14), a term with distinctly negative overtones (cf. i Sam. 8:5–6, 20). The law says nothing about the obligation of the people to obey the king in contrast to the laws about obeying the priests and judges immediately preceding (Deut. 17: 8–13), or the laws about obeying the prophet (Deut. 18:15, 19). Instead, the law emphasizes the king's limitations. He is to be chosen by God, i.e., a priest or prophet, and he must not be a foreigner, e.g., the leader of a military coup, or an adventurer (Tigay, 167). He should not have too many horses or wives or silver and gold. He is commanded to write, or have written for him, a copy of the Torah, which he is to read all the days of his life so that he may be pious, god-fearing, and humble. Within the biblical narrative, the monarchy was not regarded as a fixed feature of creation but rather as a later development in the history of the nation. In Israelite tradition the earliest era of the people's history, namely, the period of the desert wanderings, and the conquest of Canaan, was regarded as the period of a superior social order and of the Lord's rule through his servants Moses and Joshua. The Book of Judges vests authority in the non-dynastic leaders upon whom God calls to rescue his people in times of trouble. Indeed, the clan and tribal society persisted in Israel for a long time after the rise of the nation, in contrast to the biblical account that the kindred peoples Edom, Moab, and Ammon had established monarchies shortly after settling in their lands (Gen. 36:31ff.; Num. 21:26 et al.). The persistence of the tribal order in Israel was no doubt due to an opposition to the idea of a monarchy, which was part of the tribal tradition and had assumed a religious significance. (Among modern scholars, Mendenhall goes so far as to characterize the monarchy as a reversion "to the Old Bronze age paganism.") In practical terms, the Israelite tribal system was not sufficiently strong to withstand the growing strength of the national kingdoms of Moab and Ammon, and the increasing pressure of these and of the cities of the Philistine league of city-states, with its feudal-military organization. And, indeed, in the beginning an Israelite monarchy originated as a conferral of hereditary authority upon a judge who had successfully delivered the people from their enemies. Such was the case of *Gideon (Judg. 8:22), and his son *Abimelech, and according to the tradition recounted in ii Samuel, Saul was made king under similar conditions.

In the biblical stories regarding the early attempts made in the age of Gideon and his son Abimelech to establish hereditary rule, and in the stories about the crowning of Saul, there is evidence that the establishment of a monarchy was regarded by some as a contradiction of the idea of the direct rule of the Lord over His people (Judg. 8:22–23; i Sam. 8:7 et al.). These references appear to represent an actual opposition to monarchy on the part of segments who were particularly attached to the traditions of the tribal society. Needless to say, within the tribal society those who advocated direct divine rule would have been those who claimed direct access to the divine ruler, among them judges, prophets, and priests at local or tribal shrines. This opposition has left some traces in the later Israelite attitude toward the monarchy (Machinist). Monarchy in Israel combined the tribal tradition with the influence of the general political environment. Israel adopted not merely the royal trappings, the institutions of authority, of its Canaanite environment, but also certain of the traits of the Canaanite monarchy which, in turn, reflected the influence of the great civilizations of Egypt and Mesopotamia. As can be seen from i Samuel 8, the Israelites acquired their conception of monarchy from their neighbors in Canaan. The rule of the king, as described in this text, closely resembles the forms of rule in Canaan, and Ugarit in Syria, in the period prior to the settlement. This close resemblance suggests that this description of monarchical rule was well established and was based on a reality with which the Israelites had been acquainted before the establishment of their own monarchy. Royal rule involved the sacrifice of certain personal freedoms, military service, and taxation. Nevertheless, Saul's kingdom and, to some extent, subsequent royal rule in Israel, were based on the Covenant of the Kingship (see below), with the king in the position of national leader, and not upon the hereditary rights of an absolute monarch. In any event, the acceptance of monarchy entailed the transfer of much tribal authority, especially in regard to military decision making, into the hands of the king. Even in Saul's day, there were already certain appurtenances of kingship, with an officialdom owing personal loyalty to the king, but it was only David and Solomon who adopted all the appurtenances of monarchy and established a ramified administrative apparatus.

coronation of the king

The status and the trappings of monarchy and all that they entailed were clearly expressed in the coronation ceremonies which were customary in Israel. Detailed descriptions of two such ceremonies are given in the Bible. The descriptions of the coronations of King *Solomon (i Kings 1:33–48) and of *Joash (ii Kings 11:10–20) were given because of the unusual circumstances surrounding them, but nevertheless they do provide a picture of the ceremony; it seems reasonable to assume that the description of the coronation of Joash reflects the established custom in Judah. The two principal features of the coronation were the anointing of the king with oil by a priest in the Temple, and his seating himself on the throne in the royal palace. The ceremony began in the Temple and was conducted with great pomp, with the royal guard standing around. During this ceremony the future king was given the insignia of the monarchy, i.e., the crown and the edut (ii Kings 11:12). The crown was the symbol of the kingdom and is one of the commonest of royal symbols (ii Sam. 1:10; Ps. 89:40; 132:18). The word edut is used in the Bible to denote covenant, law, and statute (see Ex. 31:18; ii Kings 17:15; Ps. 19:8; 132:12 et al.).Some scholars translate edut as "testimony," which they then posit was a document that listed the conditions of the royal covenant, and by which the king had to abide during his reign. According to Von Rad, the testimony was not a written covenant, but a species of divine authorization, in which were listed the titles of the king as God's son and His anointed, his appointment to be ruler of his people, his royal name, etc. (see below); in effect, a kind of Egyptian nhb.t, namely, the document which listed all of Pharaoh's names and titles. However, it is doubtful if there is much substance to Von Rad's theory of a document of divine authorization of the king. It is possible though that in the course of the coronation the king was handed the covenant of the kingdom, or "the book of the manner of the kingdom" which was kept in the Temple (see i Sam. 10:25). Another possibility is that edut is related to ʿdh, "bedeck," and refers to royal garb (Kimhi a.l.) or jewels associated with the royal office (Cogan and Tadmor, 128). After this the king was anointed with oil by a priest and/or a prophet and thereby became the reigning monarch, YHWH's Anointed (Meshi'ah YHWH). The anointment, which represented the change in status as well as the sanctification and appointment to the post, was a sacral act, not confined to kings. The anointing of kings is mentioned in the descriptions of the coronations of Solomon and Joash, as well as David (ii Sam. 5:1ff.) and Jehoahaz (ii Kings 23:30). The sacral character of the anointment is seen in the stories of the secret anointing of the future kings Saul (i Sam. 9:1ff.) and David (i Sam. 16:13). They were, according to these stories, secretly anointed by Samuel and were immediately inspired by the spirit of God. Something of that nature is also related in the story about Jehu (ii Kings 9:1ff.). The anointment bestowed upon the king the status "yhwh's anointed," the ruler chosen by yhwh.

At present there is only indirect evidence regarding this custom in coronation ceremonies in the Ancient Near East. A Hittite account of a mock coronation, which seems to be a close imitation of a real induction ceremony, lists the following features: anointment with the royal oil, bestowal of a royal name, and investment with the royal robes and crown. In Assyria the king would place anointing oil before the deity in the course of the ceremony. In Egypt anointment was an important part of the ritual, and it is known that vassal kings were anointed. It appears, therefore, that this was not specifically an Israelite custom, but was prevalent in the Ancient Near East. It is possible that the Israelites adopted this custom along with other ceremonies of king inductions from their neighbors. Indeed, *Jotham's fable, which is apparently based on Canaanite custom, opens with the words: "The trees went forth on a time to anoint a king over them…" (Judg. 9:8). Once the king was anointed the people present shouted "Long live the king!" (i Sam. 10:24; ii Sam. 15:10; i Kings 1:39; ii Kings 9:13, 11:12). This acclamation was part of the ceremony and expressed the recognition of the new monarch and the acceptance of his rule (cf. ii Sam. 16:16). In the description of the induction of Joash there is also a mention of a covenant between God, the king, and the people (ii Kings 11:17); but there is no way of determining whether such a covenant was made every time a new king was crowned, or whether this was a renewal of the covenant because of the special circumstances of Joash's induction. After the anointing of the king before God, he was led ceremoniously to the royal palace, followed by the people, and there he sat on the throne (i Kings 1:45–46; ii Kings 11:19), which was the symbol of kingly authority. The words of Pharaoh to Joseph in Genesis express the import of this concept: "Only in the throne will i be greater than you" (Gen. 41:40). Phrases such as "as soon as he sat on his throne" (i Kings 16:11) mean, when he became king (cf. ii Sam. 3:10; i Kings 2:4; Ps. 132:12 et al.). The Book of Psalms contains much more material about royalty than does the Torah. Many scholars accept Gunkel's theory that Psalms 20, 101, and 110 are hymns which were traditionally sung at the investiture of the king, and some scholars have even attempted to learn something about the nature of the ceremony of induction from these texts. But in all probability these and other hymns, such as Psalms 18, 72, 89, and 132 were royal hymns which were sung at various ceremonies on various royal occasions. It is not possible to isolate with any degree of certainty those hymns which were sung at the induction, much less learn about the nature of that ceremony from cryptic references in the hymns. It is known that in Egypt there was a practice of giving a royal name to the new monarch, and by indirect evidence (see above) also in the Hittite kingdom. In Israel the changing of a monarch's name on his accession is attested only toward the end of the kingdom of Judah (ii Kings 23:34; 24:17), and there under special circumstances; but some writers believe it was the regular practice in Judah. Also, although it is not recorded that any other kings were given new names when they were crowned, there were kings who apparently had two names: Abijam (i Kings 15:1) was also known as Abijah (i Chron. 3:10); Jehoahaz (ii Kings 23:30) was also called Shallum (Jer. 22:11), etc.; possibly this also accounts for the two names of Solomon-Jedidiah (ii Sam. 12:24–25). But these few cases are not sufficient evidence that it was customary to change the king's name upon his accession, certainly not as a matter of practice.

succession of kings

The Israelite monarchy was, from its inception, hereditary in principle.

In the Northern Kingdom there were frequent changes of dynasty, brought about by rebellion. In Judah, in contrast, the monarchy remained in the House of David, and although there were frequent regicides, when a monarch was killed his heir ascended the throne (see ii Kings 11:4ff.; 12:21ff.; 14:5–6; 21:23ff.). Some scholars have theorized that there was, to begin with, an element of election in transferring authority from king to king, and that he was elected who was considered favored by God. Indeed, Saul was elected before God at Mizpah (i Sam. 10:17ff.). The elders of Israel accepted David's reign in Hebron (ii Sam. 5:1–3) and even Rehoboam went to Shechem in order to be crowned by all of Israel (i Kings 12:1ff.). A. Alt maintained that the principle of the divine choice of kings persisted in the Northern Kingdom and accounts for the frequent changes of dynasty; but this theory presents problems. The monarchy throughout the Ancient Near East was based on the hereditary principle: in Egypt, Babylon, Assyria, the Hittite kingdom, at Ugarit in Phoenicia, the Aramean kingdom in Syria, and even southern Arabia. All these kingdoms experienced revolts and changes in succession, but the general concept remained hereditary. It is therefore unlikely that the dynastic principle was not accepted in Israel, when the very concept of monarchical rule is that of hereditary rule. During Saul's reign his son Jonathan was regarded as the heir to the throne (i Sam. 20:30–31). After Solomon's death the people did not question Rehoboam's right to reign, but wished to be rid of his tyranny. In the Kingdom of Israel, too, the monarchy passed from father to son, unless there was a revolt which brought about a change of dynasty. The confirmation of the king in his kingship was an act of religious significance and did not imply a renewed popular election. In Mesopotamia, Canaan, and the Aramean kingdoms the hereditary principle of the monarchy was highly regarded. (Compare Kulamūwa (Kilamuwa in earlier publications) inscription (COS ii, 147–48); Bar- Rakib inscription (COS ii, 160–61).) Nevertheless, a king could boast of having attained the throne by his own efforts – not by hereditary privilege, but by divine grace. This was especially the case if the king was a usurper, or of non-royal lineage. Thus Zakkur, king of Hamath and Lʿsh, boasted that he was a poor man but the god Baalshamain loved him and made him king (Inscription of Zakkur (COS ii, 155), lines 2–3). The situation in Israel was similar. On the one hand there was the principle of legitimacy, i.e., a monarch occupying his father's throne (see i Kings 2:12; ii Kings 10:3; Isa. 9:6; et al.), and on the other hand, the kingship was by God's choice. This view also manifested itself in dynastic changes in the kingdom of Israel (i Kings 16:1ff.; ii Kings 9:1ff.), and as a general principle of all monarchies, including non-Israelite ones (Hazael – ii Kings 8:7ff.; Cyrus – Isa. 45:1ff.). The succession in Israel was generally from father to son, but sometimes special circumstances such as the death of a king who left no sons, or the intervention of a foreign ruler, a brother of the king (e.g., Jehoram son of Ahab; Jehoiakim) or his uncle (Zedekiah) succeeded him. The daughters of a king did not succeed him. Athaliah, the dowager queen who reigned in Judah after her son Ahaziah's death, seized the throne by force. Normally the eldest son was expected to succeed, but the king had the right to choose his heir. Solomon was crowned by his father David in preference to his elder brothers, and Abijah was chosen by Rehoboam to succeed him, although he had older sons (ii Chron. 11:18ff.). Similarly, one finds that in Assyria in the seventh century b.c.e. neither Esarhaddon nor Asurbanipal were eldest sons, but were both chosen by their fathers to be king. The passing of a king and the transfer of power to his son always entailed danger to the dynasty. In Egypt at certain periods the succession was assured by co-regency, namely, the heir to the throne shared the rule and the regal status with his father. The same method was regularly used in the kingdoms of Sheba and Maan in southern Arabia. In Assyria and the kingdom of the Chaldeans in Babylon, the continuity of the dynasty was assured by giving the heir a special status and his own palace – bît riduti. In the Hittite kingdom, too, the heir to the throne had a special status. This concern for the continuity of the succession was also expressed in a special clause which was introduced into international agreements, in which it was stated that members of the pact, or the vassal, were obliged to come to the aid of the heir in the event of revolt. Such clauses were incorporated into Hittite pacts with Egypt and with vassal states, and at a later period also in an Aramean pact and in Esarhaddon's treaties with vassal kings.

In Israel the heir to the throne seems to have held a special position among his brothers. Rehoboam made Abijah "the chief, to be ruler among his brethren, for he thought to make him king" (ii Chron. 11:22). Jotham ruled in his father's lifetime (ii Kings 15:5); the regal trappings displayed by Absalom and Adonijah (ii Sam. 15:1ff.; i Kings 1:5–6) were, no doubt, privileges of the heir to the throne, even though they behaved in this manner without David's consent. Solomon was anointed in his father's lifetime in order to ensure his succession. It can be assumed that the method of co-regency was also used by other kings of Judah, as becomes evident from a study of the figures for the lengths of the reigns; they cannot be made to tally unless it is assumed that the reigns of some kings overlapped those of their predecessors, namely, that they ruled as co-regents (see *Chronology).

biblical views of king and kingship

As has been seen, the biblical concept of the monarchy was based upon the monarchical concept of the Ancient Near East, which was the cultural environment in which Israel developed from a tribal society into a kingdom. Nevertheless, in view of the fact that the monarchy was established in Israel in historical times, kingship was not in itself regarded as a gift of God to humankind, and was not regarded as a permanent feature of human life (this is especially noticeable in the books of the early prophets and in the "King Law," Deut. 17:14ff, above). Nevertheless, the monarchy was not entirely an earthly institution. The king was the Lord's chosen and anointed and carried a certain sanctity in virtue of this status. The concept of divine choice was expressed even when the attitude toward monarchy was reserved, e.g., in Deuteronomy (17:15) and in the story of Saul's ascension. The king, the Lord's "prince over His inheritance" (i Sam. 10:1), was chosen to be prince over Israel (ii Sam. 7:8); he is the shepherd (ii Sam. 5:2; Ezek. 34:23; Micah 5:3; Ps. 78:71). The title "The Shepherd" or "The Faithful Shepherd" is one of the commonest titles of the sovereigns of Mesopotamia. The king is God's anointed, and God's spirit is upon him, and he is therefore sanctified, so that whoever harms him shall be punished (i Sam. 24:7; ii Sam. 7:14; 19:20–25 et al.). This status of the king as the Lord's anointed is evidenced also in the oath sworn "before the Lord, and before His anointed" (i Sam. 12:3). The idea that the king, the Lord's Anointed, protects the people and that their fate is part of his fate, is expressed in Lamentations 4:20, which transfers the ancient Egyptian concept that the breath of the Pharaoh is life-giving (EA 147) as well as that of the Mesopotamian notion of the protective shadow of the king (Oppenheim) to the king of Judah: "The breath of our nostrils, the anointed of the Lord,… of whom we said: 'Under his shadow we shall live among the nations…'" Whereas the anointing of kings was an accepted practice among the Ancient Near Eastern civilizations, there seems to be no other culture in which the term mashi'ah ("anointed," "Messiah") is used to describe the king, with all the implications of the term, except in Israel.

One of the chief traits of the king in the biblical view is his capacity to judge justly. The list of David's ministers opens with the words "… and David executed justice and righteousness unto all his people" (ii Sam. 8:15). And Solomon asks God to "Give Thy servant… an understanding heart to judge Thy people…" (i Kings 3:9). The idea that the king was endowed with the ability to do justice is common to all Ancient Near Eastern cultures. In Mesopotamia the king was regarded as the judge who convicts the evildoers and protects the weak (see Code of Hammurapi, prologue, 1, lines 27ff.; 5, line 15ff.). In Canaan the good king is the just and honest one, who does justice unto the widows and the orphans (Kirta [Keret in earlier publications], Tablet 2, lines 39–54 (COS i, 342); and acts as father and mother to all (Kulamuwa lines 10–13 (COS ii, 148)). And indeed, in the story of the beginning of the monarchy in Israel, the people ask Samuel to "make us a king to judge us like all the nations" (i Sam. 8:5). This is clearly an essential element of the monarchical concept. The king is the supreme judge in the land, and the people come to him in search of justice (see ii Sam. 15:2, etc.). At the same time, the Bible does not view the king as the source of the law, and law and justice are not regarded as royal edicts. The source of the law is the Law of the Lord, which was given to Moses. The "King Law" of Deuteronomy 17 does not entitle the king to pass new laws; on the contrary the kingship obligates the king to observe the laws and rules of the Lord.

In Ancient Near Eastern kingdoms the kings were usually also priests of the deities. In Egypt the king was "the priest," and all the priests served in the king's name. In the Hittite kingdom the sovereign was the "high priest." In Mesopotamia the kings referred to themselves as priests from the earliest days of the monarchy, and in theory were supposed to perform various priestly duties. A priestly dynasty ruled in Sidon. And, in a story set in the days of Abraham, the Bible mentions a king of Jerusalem in the era prior to the settlement who was "Priest of God the Most High" (Gen. 14:18). In Psalms 110:4 it says, "Thou art a priest for ever, after the manner of Melchizedek"; this early hymn probably refers to the tradition of the sovereign-priest of Jerusalem, the psalmist associating the kingdom of David in Jerusalem with the tradition of Melchizedek king of Shalem, priest of God the Most High. The king had certain sacral privileges in the Temple and in the ritual, and often played various priestly roles. David "offered burnt offerings" dressed in a linen ephod, which was a priestly garment, when the Ark was brought up to Jerusalem (ii Sam. 6:14–18). David's sons were priests (ii Sam. 8:18). Solomon offered burnt offerings and burned incense before God when worship began in the Temple (i Kings 9:25 et al.). The king blessed the people both in the tent and in the Temple (David – ii Sam. 6:18; Solomon – i Kings 8:55ff.), a function which, according to Numbers 6:23–27, is reserved for Aaron and his sons. There is no protest against this royal custom of offering sacrifices, burning incense, and blessing the people in the books of the prophets, which antedate the Aaronide priestly legislation of the Torah. The temples in Jerusalem and Beth-El (and apparently also the temple in Dan), in the Northern Kingdom, were considered to be royal temples. The Torah's depiction of a priesthood that was well defined and completely apart from the monarchy is a product of the post-exilic period.

The relationship between the king and the deity is expressed in various biblical texts as that of father and son. In Nathan's vision concerning David and his dynasty, the prophet, speaking in the name of the Lord, says about each of the future kings of David's line, "I will be to him for a father, and he shall be to me for a son" (ii Sam. 7:14; and similarly in Psalms 89:27–28, and in other texts based on Nathan's vision). This idea is expressed with great clarity in Psalms 2:7–8: "Thou art my son, this day have i begotten thee," etc. In line with this are Psalms 110:1, "The Lord saith unto my Lord, Sit thou at My right hand," and Psalms 45:7, "Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever; a scepter of equity is the scepter of thy kingdom." It is on the basis of these texts that scholars of the myth and ritual school maintain that the religious concept in biblical Israel regarded the king as a son of God, as a divine figure; and some have gone so far as to state that the king participated inritual acts which reflected his divine status.

These scholars base their theory upon a "cultic pattern" of this type, which allegedly prevailed in the Ancient Near East, and of which biblical literature deliberately suppressed all evidence. But this assumption rests on false premises. In Egypt the monarch had divine status and in the Hittite kingdom the king became a god after his death. But in Mesopotamia the kings were not regarded as divine beings, and only at a certain period (particularly that of the Eridu dynasty and the Ur iii dynasty) did they add divine epithets to their names, and this was an isolated phenomenon and was not constant, even in this period. In an Ugaritic text Kirta/Keret is indeed described as son of El, but he is nevertheless a mortal. There is nothing in Babylonian ritual or the Ugarit texts, upon which these scholars have attempted to base their cultic pattern of the divinity of the monarch, to substantiate this theory; all attempts to prove the divine status of the king and the existence of such ritual are based upon an improper interpretation of the texts. Accordingly, the concept of the divinity of kings is absent not only from the Bible, but from the Canaanite and the Mesopotamian cultural spheres. Even the few texts in which the king is called son of God, etc., do not prove the king's supposed divinity, but rather the courtly style of hyperbolizing the sovereign's glory, which the Israelite poet shared with his cultural environment. Thus, the poet's words in Psalms 45:7 are no more than a concise simile to suggest "Your throne is like that of God" (compare i Chron. 29:23), meaning, a throne founded upon law and justice (see Ps. 89:15; and others). Even the poetic image of the king as God's son does not imply more than God's protection of the king, and the particular relationship between monarch and God. This poetic image can be found in Mesopotamia and in the Ugaritic texts, and here, too, the king is not viewed as a divinity, but as a mortal. It is possible that this term suggests that God adopts the king on the day of his anointing and crowning, as suggested by Gunkel, and that the phrase in Psalms 2:7 "Thou art My son, this day have I begotten thee" was a formula for adoption.

A detailed description of the king's prerogatives over his subjects is given in Samuel's speech concerning the "manner of the King" (i Sam. 8:11–17). These are based essentially upon the general practice of monarchy in Canaan, and were no doubt also accepted in Israel.

In the story of the choosing of Saul for the kingship before God, it is stated that Samuel wrote "the manner of the kingdom" in a book and deposited it before the Lord (i Sam. 10:25). This "manner of the kingdom" is perhaps not equivalent to the "manner of the king" presented in i Samuel 8:11ff. Instead, Samuel's "manner of the kingdom" may have embodied certain limitations concerning the king's privileges, and in particular, stressed the king's duty to follow the Lord and obey His laws, as the Lord's chosen and anointed and as prince of His people.

the covenant of monarchy

An important element in the concept of monarchy in Israel was the covenant of monarchy. One learns about the covenant between the king and the people, who accept the king's authority, in the account of David being made king of Israel. A pact between the elders of Israel and David before the Lord preceded the anointing of David as king over all Israel (ii Sam. 5:3). A more detailed description of the covenant of the kingship is found in the story of the proclamation of Joash as king of Judah. The covenant was made "between the Lord (on the one hand) and the king and the people (on the other); and also between the king and the people." This covenant does not represent an election of the king, nor a limitation of his rule by the elders and captains of the people. It is essentially a religious covenant, and the limitation of the king's authority consists of the king's duty to observe the Law of the Lord (Deut. 17:19ff.; cf. i Kings 3:14, etc.). The king is not responsible to the people and does not have to account for his actions – he is responsible only to God. Only God can punish for breaking the covenant, by removing the king from his favor and by ending the dynasty, though not necessarily the rule of the king himself (i Sam. 13:13; i Kings 14:7ff., etc.).

The concept of a covenant of kingship is clearly expressed in Psalms 132: "The Lord swore unto David in truth; He will not turn back from it: 'Of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne. If thy children keep My covenant and My testimony that I shall teach them, their children also forever shall sit upon thy throne'" (Ps. 132:11–12). This is an eternal covenant which is undoubtedly based on Nathan's vision in ii Samuel 7:8–9, which is in the nature of a promise that the kingship will remain in the House of David forever. And indeed the monarchy in Israel is essentially a dynastic one, and the divine choice lay in appointing the king and his descendants to sit on God's throne in Israel (i Chron. 28:5; 29:23; ii Chron. 9:8). The concept of a commitment to a dynasty is not exclusive to Judah and the House of David. Only circumstances caused the fall of the House of Saul and the change in succession (cf. the commitment to Jeroboam in i Kings 11:38: "… if thou wilt hearken unto all that I command thee… and do that which is right in Mine eyes, to keep My statutes and My commandments… that I will be with thee and will build a sure house…"). This principle was kept in practice in Judah, where the throne remained in the House of David until the end of the kingdom. Prophecies of the future declare that "in the last days" it will again be a descendant of David who will reign (Isa. 11:1ff.; Jer. 23:5; Ezek. 37:24, etc.). This stems from the association between the image of the future king and the concept and symbols which prevailed during the monarchy of the First Temple era, namely, the House of David. These prophecies describe the ideal future king as a shepherd whom God will send to lead Israel (Micah 5:3; Jer. 23:4; Ezek. 37:24; cf. ii Sam. 5:2). The future king or the ideal ruler, as seen in biblical writings, would be a king of justice, a suppressor of iniquity (Isa. 9:6; 11:3–5; Jer. 23:5); "His dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth" (Zech. 9:10). This simile is also a regular element in the description of the ideal king (Ps. 72:8ff. et al.), as well as the peace and abundance of the future kingdom (Isa. 9:5–6; Zech. 9:10; cf. i Kings 5:5; Ps. 72:2ff. et al.).

[Jacob Liver /

S. David Sperling (2nd ed.)]

In Rabbinic Literature

Two problems faced the talmudic sages with regard to the institution of monarchy. The first was the apparent contradiction between the positive command to establish the monarchy (Deut. 17:14–20) and the opposition by Samuel to the demand of the people to appoint a king (i Sam. 8:4–22). The second was the legitimacy of the kings of the seceded Northern Kingdom of Israel. On the one hand the monarchy was regarded as belonging solely to the House of David and on the other many of the kings of the Northern Kingdom were appointed by a prophet (cf. the appointment of Jeroboam by Ahijah the Shilonite: i Kings 11:29–39). Since the restoration of Jewish monarchy – which in Jewish tradition will apply only to the Davidic dynasty – is regarded as belonging to the "messianic age," the laws appertaining to the monarchy are not found in the majority of the codes, since they limit themselves to laws which had a practical application in their times. The only exception is Maimonides, whose code embraces the whole of Jewish law, and the pertinent laws are fully detailed there (see bibl.). The following details are substantially taken from it.

It is a positive divine commandment to appoint a king; the opposition of Samuel was due to the fact that the people asked for it "in a querulous spirit" and their main purpose was to rid themselves of the authority of Samuel. The monarchy was to be hereditary in the House of David, and it was confined to males. Even where the possibility of a king of non-Davidic descent was envisaged (e.g., the Hasmonean kings) he had to be of pure Jewish descent. The greatest respect had to be shown to the king, and it was forbidden to marry his widow or divorced wife. He had the power of inflicting the death penalty, of confiscating the property of rebellious subjects which accrued to his estate, of imposing taxes, of conscripting for the army, and of imposing forced labor both on men and women, providing he paid them their wages. He had the power to declare a "religious war" (milhemet mitzvah), which Maimonides defines as "the war against the seven nations, that against Amalek, and a war to deliver Israel from the enemy atacking him" (Yad, Melakhim 5:1) without obtaining the previous sanction of the Sanhedrin. For an optional war, however ("to extend the borders of Israel and to enhance his glory and prestige," ibid.), the decision of the Great Sanhedrin of 71 was necessary.

The kings of non-Davidic descent were deemed legitimate monarchs provided they were appointed by a prophet, fought the battles of the land, and conducted themselves in accordance with the precepts of the Torah. Whereas kings of Davidic descent were anointed (where their right to succession was in dispute) with olive oil, the others were *anointed with balsam oil, and there are various other distinctions. The extensive and almost standard parables based upon the difference between the mortal "king of flesh and blood" and the "Supreme King of Kings, the Holy One blessed be He," with which the Talmud, and especially the Midrash are replete (cf. especially Ber. 28b where Johanan b. Zakkai appears to refer to the feelings which filled him when he appeared before Vespasian), as well as such injunctions as that "to pray for the welfare of the monarchy" (Avot 3:2) are in the main directed against Roman rule, and to this certainly belongs the phrase shi'bud malkhut ("subjection to monarchy"), the removal of which the amora Samuel declares as marking the advent of the messianic age (Sanh. 91b).

The constant emphasis in the liturgy and in Jewish thought on the restoration of the Davidic dynasty (see *David in Liturgy) and the conception of God as king, which is central to that liturgy, has resulted in a strong monarchical tradition in Judaism, and in both talmudic and medieval literature the institution and legitimacy of the monarchy is generally accepted as a halakhic norm. However, there is also an ongoing uneasiness among medieval scholars concerning monarchy, which echoed Rav Nehorai's saying that monarchy is a disgrace to Israel. This tendency can be found in *Saadiah Gaon, *Samuel ben Hophni, *Samuel ben Ali, *Rashi, *Bahya ben Asher, Joseph ibn *Kaspi, and others. It culminated with Isaac *Abrabanel, who although, or because, he spent his life in royal service, came out strongly in favor of republicanism, both for the Jewish people and for other nations. Abrabanel was influenced here by his experience with some republican city-states of the Italian Renaissance. Mostly, however, he viewed human monarchy as a revolt against the kingdom of heaven.

[Louis Isaac Rabinowitz /

Avraham Melamed (2nd ed.)]


Y. Kaufmann, Toledot, 2 (1947), 178ff., 214ff.; S. Talmon, in: Sefer Biram (1956), 45–56; J. Liver, Toledot Beit David (1959), 51–77, 95–116; S. Yeivin, Mehkarim be-Toledot Yisrael ve-Arzo (1960), 196–207, 227–31, 250–5; M. Buber, Darko shel Mikra (1964), 164–269; idem, Königtum Gottes, 2 (1937), passim; C.J. Gadd, Ideas of Divine Rule in the Ancient East (1948); W. Beyerlin, in: ZAW, 73 (1961), 186–201; K.H. Bernhardt, in: VTS, 8 (1961); G. von Rad, in: Theologische Literaturzeitung, 72 (1947), 211–6; Alt, Kl Schr, 2 (1953), 1–65, 116–34; de Vaux, Anc Isr, 1 (1958), 91–132 (incl. bibl.). IN RABBINIC LITERATURE: L. Rabinowitz, in: Isaac Abravanel, Six Lectures (1937), 88f.; A.M. Hershman (tr.), Code of Maimonides, 14 (1949), 205–43; B.Z. Netanyahu, Don Isaac Abravanel (Eng., 1968), 178–80. add. bibliography: A.L. Oppenheim, in: JNES, 54 (1947), 7–11; H. Frankfort, Kingship and the Gods (1948); G. Mendenhall, in: Interpretation, 29 (1975), 155–70; G. Gerbrandt, Kingship According to the Deuteronomistic History (1986); M. Cogan and H. Tadmor, ii Kings (AB; 1988); H.Cazelles, in: ABD, 5:863–66, incl. bibl.; D. Goodblatt, The Monarchic Principle (1994); J. Tigay, JPS Torah Commentary (1996); J. Roberts, The Bible and the Ancient Near East (2002), 313–89; P. Machinist, in: Constituting the Community Studies …McBride (2005), 153–81. in rabbinic literature: J. Blidstein, "The Monarchic Imperative in Rabbinic Literature," in: AJS Review, 7–8 (1982–83), 15–39.

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