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Review of Biblical Literature Blog

Reconciling Violence and Kingship: A Study of Judges and 1 Samuel
Michelson, Marty Alan

Cambridge: James Clarke, 2012 pp. x + 230. £20.00

Description: In Reconciling Violence and Kingship, Michelson argues that a literary reading of Judges to 1 Samuel reveals a deep rooted and intentional ambivalence towards kingship, due to its intimate connection with socially permissible violence. Michelson expertly constructs a picture of the difficult emergence of the concept of Kingship in ancient Israel, culminating in its establishment as a sacred institution with the anointing of Saul. Michelson uses a literary method to examine the use of civil and institutionalized violence in the biblical narratives of Abimelech, the Levite and the concubine, and Saul. This reveals a society in which institutionalized violence is permissible in order to curb the ‘chaotic’ social violence which threatens the survival of communities. The ‘chaos’ is quelled with the reconciling establishment of kingship. The work of the French critic René Girard allows Michelson to shed light on the fact that institutionalized violence does not lead to social dissolution, but to social tension. A fascinating literary and anthropological study of one of the bloodier sections of the Bible, this work will enhance the understanding of theologians and historians concerned with kingship and violence in the Israeli narrative in this refreshing analysis.

Subjects: Bible, Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, Historical Books, Judges, 1-2 Samuel, Literature

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Review by Gregory Mobley
Published 8/10/2013
Citation: Gregory Mobley, review of Marty Alan Michelson, Reconciling Violence and Kingship: A Study of Judges and 1 Samuel, Review of Biblical Literature [http://www.bookreviews.org] (2013).


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