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09/30/2022 03:26:05 PM

Sep30

When did the individual Hebrew tribal identities become secondary to a common Israelite identity?

In our tour of Jewish history this year we have reached the establishment of the first Jewish state, ca. 3000 years ago. A question: At what point did the United States of America go from a motley collection of colonies to a nation. (The old usage was “The United States of America are….” Only later did it become, “The United States of America is….”). Another question: When did the individual Hebrew tribal identities become secondary to a common Israelite identity? In the book of Joshua, it seems the nation is unified. In the following book of Judges, the divisions are sharp and in focus. Even the dialects differ between the tribes. (Cf. Judges 12 and the inability of some to pronounce the letter “shin”.)

The people are opposed to a monarchy. A central government reeks to them of inequality and high taxation, not to mention a standing army of their sons. Eventually, the monarchy comes into being, not because of a change in Israelite attitude but an outside threat from the Philistines. It will be a short unification, only lasting from 1020 to 920 BCE, with kings Saul, David, and Solomon. In retrospect, it is a Camelot that is now forever lost. Such is the power of nostalgia.

Next time: Who are these Philistines and what do they want?

Sun, February 5 2023 14 Sh'vat 5783