Gary Greenberg was President of the New York Libertarian Alliance and one of the first At-Large Representatives elected to serve on the State Committee of the New York Libertarian Party. For nearly two decades, he has served as President of the Biblical Archaeology Society of New York. Gary Greenberg is a full-time criminal defense lawyer for the Legal Aid Society of New York City. He has published a number of books including "101 Myths of the Bible: How Ancient Scribes Invented Biblical History", "The Moses Mystery: The African Origins of the Jewish People", and "The Judas Brief: Who Really Killed Jesus?".
At the invitation of Dr. Tom Stevens, Political Director of the Libertarian Party of Queens County, he addressed that group on Saturday, December 10, 2011 on the topic of The First Freedom Fighters: Ancient Israel vs. the Empire of David. That lecture addresses the existence of a Hebrew Free State and its libertarian tendencies. His lecture notes (a draft copy subject to future revision) has been re-printed, with his permission, here:
The First Freedom Fighters: Ancient Israel vs. the Empire of David
The Hebrew Free State
In this talk, I want to discuss what I refer to as the Hebrew Free State, a term of my own invention. This Hebrew Free State, I suggest, was history’s first long-lasting wide-spread political enterprise that endorsed the rights of the individual over the State. More specifically, it was militantly anti-state, anti-draft, anti-tax, anti-census, anti-imperialist, pro-democracy, religiously tolerant, decentralist and pro-private property. It lasted more than 200 years, from some time prior to 1220 BCE to approximately 1000BCE, when King David defeated the Hebrew Free State, seized control of the nation, and imposed a centralized political dictatorship that was widely despised by the people of Israel.
The leaders of the Hebrew Free State remained in opposition to David, and to David’s successor, the more brutal tyrant, Solomon. About 80 years after David seized power, at the end of Solomon’s reign, the Hebrew Free State broke free of the Davidic dynasty and established an independent kingdom. The Davidic Dynasty ruled over what would be approximately the southern half of the nation, and the territory was known as the Kingdom of Judah. The breakaway Hebrew Free State, allegedly representing ten or eleven of the original twelve tribes, came to be known as the Kingdom of Israel.
The revived Hebrew Free State, unfortunately lasted only about 25 years, ending with the assassination of the ruling king, and the pro-freedom nature of the Hebrew State began to deteriorate into a standard state-monarchy.
The northern kingdom of Israel lasted for about two hundred years, from the end of Solomon’s reign to 722 BCE, when the Assyrians conquered Israel and dispersed its inhabitants into the outer parts of the Assyrian empire, never to be heard from again. This had given rise to many legends about the ten lost tribes of Israel. Many of the northerners, however, escaped to the southern kingdom of Judah and continued to have some influence on the Judean population.
Let me begin with a brief historical archaeological and biblical overview of the period involved. First, however, I need to explain a little something about the evolution of the biblical histories. What needs to be understood, as acknowledged by all serious biblical historians, in contrast to religious beliefs, all of the books about the history of Israel prior to the time of David and Solomon were actually written long-after the time of David and Solomon, and they were pieced together from various source texts representing a variety of competing viewpoints from different political and religious factions in ancient Israel. The final versions of these texts were pieced together after the destruction of the kingdom of Israel in 722 BCE and written under the guidance of the Kingdom of Judah. Many of the stories in the pre-Davidic history actually reflect the conflicts between the Davidic monarchy and the Hebrew Free State, as well as other factions. And much of that invented history is political polemic, which often distorts and misrepresents opposing views.
One of the nice things about political polemics, however, is that if the opposition is large and influential, the polemic has to acknowledge its existence and offer countervailing evidence. The anti-Davidic northern Kingdom of Israel was extremely powerful and influential during the period in which many of the source texts were written, and these earlier sources were known and had to be responded to.
That said, let me begin by addressing the first major problem in discussing the history of the Hebrew Free State, the so-called Canaanite conquest in which Israel allegedly drove other nations out of their homelands. The story of this conquest appears in the biblical book of Joshua. The story is almost certainly false and contradicted by other biblical evidence, and more importantly, by archaeological evidence.
The biblical book of Judges tells of events that occurred in the period that I describe as dominated by the Hebrew Free State. It begins with a claim that the only nation that successfully conquered non-Hebrew nations was Judah. The other tribes conquered nothing. Now, this book was written several hundred years after the events described within, mostly likely after the disappearance of the northern kingdom of Israel. Its claims about the relevant roles of Judah versus the remaining tribes suggest a propaganda point to indicate that the god of Israel favored the more militant Judeans. But, as propaganda, we can’t be sure of it historical value as a factual account. Archaeology gives us a very different picture.
The earliest mention of Israel in the historical record occurs on an Egyptian monument dating to about 1220 BCE. It describes an alleged Egyptian military campaign into Canaan in which Egypt defeated several Canaanite nations, one of which was Israel. But there is one unusual feature of this Egyptian inscription that is of interest to us. While it makes reference to several allegedly defeated nations, the Egyptian grammar describes only Israel as a people without a particular territory of their own. Clearly, then, this is not a nation that has established rule over other nations, and the other nations in Canaan seem to exist without any form of Israeli domination.
There is more evidence, at about the time of this inscription or not long after, the archaeological evidence shows that a wave of immigrants moved into the central highlands that form the heart of ancient Israel, approximately what we refer to as the West Bank today. These immigrants moved into previously uninhabited sites in these hills and established numerous small villages. An unusual feature of these many villages is the absence of pig bone. While we have no direct inscription referring to these immigrants as Israel, the circumstantial evidence is quite strong that we are dealing here with early stages of the Hebrew nation.
One more remarkable piece of archaeological evidence: After the appearance of this Egyptian inscription, we have no other direct reference to Israel or any of its tribes for another four hundred years, completely by-passing the monarchies of David and Solomon. If Israel had forcibly ruled over the Canaanite nations as alleged in Joshua, how come we have not a shred of evidence for this conquest? Sherlock Holmes might have remarked, “Curious Watson, the dog didn’t bark.” How likely is it that a Kingdom as allegedly powerful as David and Solomon ruled over leaves no archaeological or inscriptional traces contemporaneous with these two monarchs or their predecessors.
There was no Israelite conquest of Canaan. They arrived in peaceful waves into uninhabited areas and established no political states or domination over foreign territories. As to David and Solomon, whatever territories they ruled over, if these two existed at all, must have been small and local in nature, far from what is described in the bible.
On the other hand, at about the same time that Israel allegedly went around attacking other nations, we have evidence of a different invasion of Canaan by outside groups, probably Greeks from Mycenaean territories, one of which was the Philistines. The invasions are noted on Egyptian monuments and the pictorial evidence shows that these were full-scale invasions designed to settle into these new territories, with families and cattle being brought along. The Egyptian records describing the invasion, possibly inaccurately, say none of the Canaanite nations could stand up to the invaders. No mention of Israel exists in these Egyptian accounts, on one side or the other.
In the second century, after the third major Jewish revolt against Rome in a sixty year span, the Romans renamed the territory of Judea as Palestine. For modern context, the area now known as the Palestinian West Bank, was the Jewish heartland, peacefully settled. The western coast of what is now known as Israel, was Palestinian territory.
Back to our story.
The Book of Judges, is a biblical account of the period that falls somewhere between the Egyptian reference to ancient Israel and the years leading up to the Davidic monarchy.
It is mostly a collection of legends about various Canaanite heroes, allegedly Israelites, who “Judged” Israel. It presents some intriguing images if you read between the lines. There are no Israelite conquests in this account. Instead, it depicts various occasions when Israel comes under attack by powerful neighbors and suffers oppression at their hands. During these various oppressions in various locales, a charismatic hero rises up, some male and some female, and they administer stinging defeats to the oppressors. The text then says these heroes judged Israel for some lengths of time and Israel had peace during these periods.
The remarkable thing about these so-called Judges, is that they don’t do any actual judging, at least in the stories. They just go on with their lives. Samson, the most famous of the judges, for all practical purposes, lived among the Philistines, hung out with the Philistines, married a Philistine, and was not particularly well-liked by the Hebrews. These Judges appeared to have no ecclesiastical role in formulating God’s law.
The Book of Judges describes this period as one in which “In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes (Ju 17:6).” In this description we can see some evidence of a philosophical hostility to the state. In context, the biblical author of this book, from the Davidic side of the picture, doesn’t see this as a good thing.
In Judges we also have some more specific evidence of an anti-state philosophy. It is in the story of Gideon, who is also known as Jerubbaal. Because the story uses two different names for Gideon, it is thought that there were separate stories that merged together. The last part of Jerubbaal’s name, B-A-A-L, is that of a Canaanite deity other than that of the God of Israel. Several other Israelites had Baal names and it proved to be an embarrassment to later biblical writers, who sometimes changed the Baal name to Bosheth, meaning shame.
Gideon’s clan actually appears to be actively worshipping Canaanite deities and has a shrine dedicated to one of them. In any event, Gideon’s clan and many others, we are told was being menaced by a war-like nomad group known as the Midianites, who swooped in on their camels, the high-tech tanks of their time, and seized the property of the various Israeli villages.
Gideon is depicted as receiving God’s call to fight back against these enemies, but we can probably safely assume that he just wasn’t going to take it anymore. He put out a call for volunteers to join with him. The story says that he attracted 30,000 volunteers but made a speech saying this was going to be a tough ride and if you want to back out it’s okay. Allegedly 10,000 remained. He winnowed these down to 300 and launched a counter-attack. Biblical numbers can rarely be trusted and here we should probably assume that 300 men was all he could raise.
In any event, he defeated the Midianites and his military success led to appeals to him to become king. He explicitly rejected this petition, saying “I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you; the LORD shall rule over you.” This strikes me as quite a libertarian point of view, and an explicit rejection of statism and authoritarianism. Remember, it was a time in which each man did that which was right in his own eyes.
Gideon that went back to his village and fashioned a Canaanite idol that he worshipped. Think about what this means for religious tolerance. He rejected monarchy, told the people that only God could rule them, and worshipped a Canaanite deity. The final biblical author/editor was somewhat distressed by this point and wrote, “and all Israel went thither a whoring after it: which became a snare unto Gideon and to his house.” Well, maybe all of Israel didn’t worship at this alter, but many appear to have. Nevertheless, God allowed Gideon to guide Israel for 40 years and bring peace to the nation.
Gideon had 71 sons and one of them, Abimelech had monarchist ambitions. He was from the major Israelite city of Shechem, modern Nablus on the West Bank, and he went to the people of Shechem and convinced them that it was better for them to be ruled by one person, namely him, rather than having the 70 sons of Gideon judge them. Upon being granted the throne, he set out to kill all of Gideon’s sons. But one of them escaped, a man named Jotham, who issued an intriguing curse on the Shechemites. It is known as the Parable of the Trees. (Ju 9:7-15.)
When it was told to Jotham, he went and stood on the top of Mount Gerizim, and cried aloud and said to them, “Listen to me, you lords of Shechem, so that God may listen to you.
8 The trees once went out to anoint a king over themselves. So they said to the olive tree, ‘Reign over us.’
9 The olive tree answered them, ‘Shall I stop producing my rich oil by which gods and mortals are honored, and go to sway over the trees?’
10 Then the trees said to the fig tree, ‘You come and reign over us.’
11 But the fig tree answered them, ‘Shall I stop producing my sweetness and my delicious fruit, and go to sway over the trees?’
12 Then the trees said to the vine, ‘You come and reign over us.’
13 But the vine said to them, ‘Shall I stop producing my wine that cheers gods and mortals, and go to sway over the trees?’
14 So all the trees said to the bramble, ‘You come and reign over us.’
15 And the bramble said to the trees, ‘If in good faith you are anointing me king over you, then come and take refuge in my shade; but if not, let fire come out of the bramble and devour the cedars of Lebanon.’
Consider the point made. Productive people take pride in their achievements and wouldn’t want to rule over other people. But if you appoint a ruler not out of justice, but out of power lust, may you burn up. Seems like quite a strong Randian-Libertarian sentiment.
Abimelechy’s reign lasted about three years and then there was a struggle for power between Abimelech and other ambitious leaders in Shechem. War broke out between the opposing sides, Abimelech crushed the rebellion but died in battle when a woman on a tower dropped a rock on his head. The experiment with monarchy then ended.
When we come to the end of the Book of Judges, we have the following indications of political attitudes among the Israelites. Israel was militantly opposed to political states. They had no king and every man did that which was right in his own eyes. In times of peril, the leaders resisted military conscription, relying on a volunteer army. Religious tolerance was wide spread and many Israelite leaders even worshipped deities other than the Hebrew God.
The chronological narrative picks up again in the First Book of Samuel. We are still in the pre-monarchal period and, as we shall see, there is a strong philosophical opposition to a state and strong support for individual freedom. But there appears to have been some sort of evolutionary shift in the nature of the political structure.
We have Judges in leadership positions, and these Judges are also military leaders, but they also appear to be aligned with a particular priesthood centered in the city of Shiloh. The Shiloh priesthood appears to have become deeply influential among the ancient Israelites and there is a Shilohite thread running through much of the following history. Being priests, they position themselves much more closely in touch with God and his word then that of the earlier Judges. They make pronouncements as if they were coming directly from God. They act as if God is working through them at times. Sometimes miracles occur. Israel is embarking on a slippery slope.
Israel is still decentralized and anti-state. These Judges appear to ride a circuit and get a fee for their services. Whether they were the only judges or one group among many others we don’t know. But corruption has set in to the Shiloh priesthood and it leads to significant problems.
The first of these judges that we encounter is Eli, who is now very old, and his sons are perceived as corrupt and God is angry with them. We are told about these sons of Eli that, (I Sam 2:12-17) the sons of Eli were scoundrels; they had no regard for the LORD (13) or for the duties of the priests to the people. When anyone offered sacrifice, the priest’s servant would come, while the meat was boiling, with a three-pronged fork in his hand, (14) and he would thrust it into the pan, or kettle, or cauldron, or pot; all that the fork brought up the priest would take for himself. This is what they did at Shiloh to all the Israelites who came there. (15) Moreover, before the fat was burned, the priest’s servant would come and say to the one who was sacrificing, “Give meat for the priest to roast; for he will not accept boiled meat from you, but only raw.” (16) And if the man said to him, “Let them burn the fat first, and then take whatever you wish,” he would say, “No, you must give it now; if not, I will take it by force.” (17) Thus the sin of the young men was very great in the sight of the LORD; for they treated the offerings of the LORD with contempt.
Samuels two sons soon die in battle, allegedly as a punishment for their deeds, and the Ark of the Covenant is lost to the Philistines.
When Eli hears the news he keels over and his protege, Samuel, takes his place as chief priest in Israel and Judge. According to the text, “He went on a circuit year by year to Bethel, Gilgal, and Mizpah; and he judged Israel in all these places. (17) Then he would come back to Ramah, for his home was there; he administered justice there to Israel, and built there an altar to the LORD.”
But in Samuel’s old age, his sons also became corrupt. We are told that they took bribes and perverted justice. So the Israelite’s came to Samuel, and said in essence, “get rid of the kids and appoint us a king, like the other nations have.”
This greatly distressed Samuel, who took this request as a rejection of his leadership and he went out to commiserate with God. But God said to Samuel, they didn’t reject you, they rejected me. Go back and tell them what it will be like if they have a king. This leads Samuel to deliver what I believe to be the first great Libertarian political speech in history.
“These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen, and to run before his chariots; (12) and he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. (13) He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. (14) He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his courtiers. (15) He will take one-tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and his courtiers. (16) He will take your male and female slaves, and the best of your cattle and donkeys, and put them to his work. (17) He will take one-tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. (18) And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves; but the LORD will not answer you in that day.” (1 s 8:11-18.)
Parenthetically, I should note that this prophecy comes true during the reign of Solomon, which we will get to shortly.
What actions follow from having a king, according to this speech?
• Military Conscription
• Forced labor for the king’s benefit
• War machines and militarism
• Taxation at the then alarming rate of 10% of all your property
• Eminent Domain for the king’s benefit
• Utter misery
Samuel’s speech gives quite a good description of the guiding principles of the Hebrew Free State. But the corruption of his sons and other priests were more than the Israelites were prepared to tolerate. And they turned to another military hero to be their king and they asked Samuel to consecrate him. This hero was named Saul, and when he heard that the Israelites wanted him to be king he went into hiding, thinking this was a terrible idea.
But the people insisted and he was elevated to the kingship, but this wasn’t quite your traditional kingship. It was more like a limited constitutional state where the king was subject to removal and had to follow guidelines. We are told that Samuel actual wrote about a book of rules for the king to follow. Israelite society changed very little under his guidance. It remained pretty much as it had been under the priesthood. There is no evidence that Saul engaged in any confiscation of wealth or great monumental building programs. He appears to have lived in the family home and lived off the family farming business. And circumstantial evidence suggests he remained popular and widely loved by the people. In fact, only three main charges were raised against him by the biblical editors of the various books in the bible.
• He didn’t consult the Ark of the Covenant for guidance,
• He didn’t follow Samuel’s instructions to murder all the men, women, children, and cattle belonging to the Amalekites,
• He had a paranoid and erroneous fear that David wanted to usurp his throne.
The first two issues reflect political and religious differences between the theocratic Samuel and the democratic Saul as to the source of authority over the people of Israel, priestly direction or democratic vote. As to the third charge, paranoia with regard to David’s ambitions, Saul was right on the money. David clearly sought to displace Saul as king, and, in fact, actually pulled Judah out of union with Israel while Saul was on the throne, made himself king of Judah, and allied himself with the Philistines against Saul and Israel.
Nowhere is there any biblical evidence that Saul was unpopular with the people, or that he was an unjust or oppressive ruler, or that he did anything to infringe upon the doctrines of the Hebrew Free State.
The corrupt Shiloh priesthood became quite concerned over the loss of their perks and prestigious status and sought an ally against Saul. No longer worried about allowing a king to rule, they were more concerned with having a king who would take direction from them. They formed an alliance with the charismatic David and sought to replace the house of Saul with the House of David.
On Saul’s death, which may have been arranged by David, but we won’t go into that here, civil war broke out between David’s allies and the Israelites, the latter led by Saul’s uncle, Abner, who placed Saul’s son, Eshbaal on the throne of Israel.
The civil war lasted two years and ended with the assassinations of Abner and Eshbaal.
Defeated, the Israelites surrendered to David and he became king over Israel. David immediately began to consolidate power, centralizing authority under his reign, hiring two mercenary armies to keep him in power, instituting forced labor, collecting taxes, waging war, and engaging in monumental building programs. He appointed a Shiloh priest to be one of two chief priests in Israel.
The biblical editors acknowledge two great sins by David. One was the murder of Bathsheba’s husband in order to cover up the fact that David got her pregnant while her husband was away fighting for Israel, surely a universal sin in all societies. The other was the conducting of a compulsory census, a sin so venal that one biblical author said the devil seized control of David, and the bible even quotes David’s homicidal henchman, Joab, as saying David takes too much pleasure in this trespass against Israel. The census appears to have triggered a brief civil war that left portions of Israel uncounted. That a compulsory census was sinful, the devil’s work, was a message unique to the ancient Israelites among the ancient Near Eastern neighbors, and reflects a truly libertarian viewpoint. After all, the purpose of a census was to arrange for taxes and the confiscation of the people’s property. The opposition to a census was based on the idea that a king had no need to know what taxable resources there were as God would provide the people with what was necessary. A census, then, was an insult to God.
David had a widespread reputation as a murderer and for lacking justice in his reign. This led to two almost successful revolutions that nearly toppled him from power. One came from the house of Saul, which believed David responsible for murdering Saul, Abner, and Eshbaal. The other was led by David’s son Absalom, who appealed to the people’s sense of justice for support and who managed to chase David from Jerusalem. Absalom raised his support among the Israelies by sitting in front of the Jerusalem gate and telling people coming to David to resolve legal disputes that if he Absalom, were king, there would be justice in the country. David backed by a Philistine army and his two mercenary armies eventually defeated Absalom and retained the throne. Although David was driven out of Jerusalem by Absalom, David considered the revolt by Saul’s house to be far more dangerous to him. Nevertheless, he contained that revolt also.
Upon David’s death, the palace guard, led by Solomon and the two mercenary armies, staged a military coup against the legitimate heir to the throne. Solomon subsequently murdered the heir and several of his allies. Unfortunately, for the Shiloh priesthood, they backed the legitimate heir and when Solomon won out he kicked the Shilohites out of office and unified the religious leadership under the other chief priest, who had backed Solomon against the legitimate heir.
Solomon was a far more brutal thug than David and far more oppressive. He escalated the degree of forced labor and taxation and lived a luxurious lifestyle. Despite his reputation for wisdom, he appears to have been pretty much of a vainglorious jerk, whose self-centered extravagance plowed the way for the collapse of the United Monarchy. The biblical editors and theologians were hard-pressed to make a case for him as the legitimate leader of Israel and relied primarily on David’s reputation to justify continuing the Davidic line in power after Solomon died.
During Solomon’s reign, the Shiloh priesthood sought new allies and formed an alliance with Jeroboam, a popular leader who had been appointed to head the labor force in the Joseph tribes. He staged an initial rebellion against Solomon but lost and fled to Egypt for protection when Solomon sought to kill him. On Solomon’s death, Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, claimed the throne but Jeroboam returned to lead the Israelites in negotiations with the House of Judah over a successor to Solomon. Although, the biblical editors tried to cover up Solomon’s oppression of Israel, the true story seeped through the editorial committees. Portions of the negotiations were preserved in the biblical text.
The Israelites said to Rehoboam: “Thy father [that is, Solomon] made our yoke grievous: now therefore make thou the grievous service of thy father, and his heavy yoke which he put upon us, lighter, and we will serve thee.”
Rehoboam asked for some time to consider their offer. He went to the older advisors, and they said, “tell them what they want to hear and they’ll be loyal to you.” (Clintonistas)
Then he went to his young buddies, and they said “crush the bastards” or at least words to that effect. (Team Obama.) Rehoboam liked what the second group had to say and returned to the negotiations and made the following suggestion:
"My father made your yoke heavy, and I will add to your yoke: my father also chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions."
This wasn’t quite the deal-maker he thought it would be. And the Israelites replied:
"What portion have we in David? Neither have we inheritance in the son of Jesse: To your tents, O Israel: now see to thine own house, David. So Israel departed unto their tents."
And the Israelites chose Jeroboam as their leader. This cry of the Israelites, by the way, about no share in David, is the same battle cry used when the House of Saul revolted against King David.
Rehoboam responded by sending a tax collector into Israel and the Israelites replied by promptly stoning him to death. (Rehobam was heard to remark “Those tea party bastards refuse to compromise, they want to see the people’s government fail.)
When Jeroboam became king over Israel, allied with the Shilohites, he faced a number of problems. For one, the Judahite kingdom had a large professional standing army while the Israelites had a decentralized volunteer muster. Still, they continuously held off the Judahite army and never succumbed, despite Rehoboam’s continuous wars against Israel.
In addition, the centralization of religion in Jerusalem at Solomon’s temple created a major difficulty. Despite corruption in the Shilohite priesthood, the general religious principles held great sway, even if not scrupulously adhered to by all. Jeroboam feared that once the Israelites made their journey to Jerusalem for the annual religious festivals and obligations, they would fall back under the sway of the non-Shilohite Temple priesthood. So, Jeroboam built two new temples, one in the south of Israel and one in the north of Israel. And he changed the dates of the festivals via calendar reform. And, ever the free-thinker, he placed a golden calf at each of the temples and said “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.” Note the plural form here, as well as the subtle challenge to the monotheistic deity of the Israelites.
Here, you might be reminded of the story about Aaron and the Golden calf during the Exodus and think that Jeroboam must have been pretty foolish to go up against that biblical injunction. However, when the Aaron story is read more carefully, it is evident that the Aaron story is based on Jeroboam’s actions rather than the other way around. Aaron says in that story, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” Note the problem here. Aaron uses the same words as Jeroboam, using the plural form “gods”, but he has only one calf.
But Jeroboam didn’t stop there. Despite his support from the Shilohite priesthood, he opposed their religious monopoly and decreed that anyone who wanted to be a priest could be one, and he, himself, engaged in priestly duties. This, of course, once again ticked off the Shilohites. They denounced Jeroboam as wicked despite his apparent popular and lengthy reign of 22 years.
After Jeroboam successfully split the ten tribes away from Judah, Israel became the more financially successful, powerful and dominant of the two kingdoms for about two centuries. Jeroboam was succeeded by his son, Nadab, who ruled only about two years. Interestingly, some dictionaries translate the name Nadab as “liberal”, I prefer to think that refers to classical liberalism. Make what you will out of it.
Nadab’s reign came to an end when he was assassinated by his successor. The assassin also killed off all the remnant of Jeroboam’s family. I suggest, admittedly on only a small amount of very inconclusive evidence, that the Shilohite priesthood was behind the assassination.
The Shilohite priesthood remained influential and their writings appear to have played a key role as source material for the later biblical writers who condemned Jeroboam for his wickedness, and who measured the wickedness of other kings against Jeroboam, the man who most directly challenged the priestly monopoly on religious thought.
Not long after the fall of the House of Jeroboam, the kingdom of Israel became a major military and possibly expansionist power under two of its most famous kings, Omri and Ahab, both of whose names appear in extra-biblical contemporaneous records. The kings ruling after Jeroboam’s brief dynasty appear to have reverted to traditional forms of monarchy, undermining Jeroboam’s legacy, although Jerobaom appears to have remained a popular northern hero as one of the later kings took Jerobaom as his throne name. From the time of Omri, mid 800s, to the destruction of Israel in 722 BC, the kingdom of Israel was known in foreign records as the House of Omri, even after Omri’s dynasty ended.
This leaves us with very little time to discuss a very big question, how did things go wrong for the Hebrew Free State. To give only an initial simple explanation, I suggest that the corruption of the Shiloh priesthood, and the concomitant loss of power, led the Shiloh priests to an abandonment of principle. They tried to form coalitions with unprincipled allies. (A message here for modern libertarians, hint, hint.) They gave in to the idea of kingship in the hope that they would be able to control the king. When that didn’t work, they sought to find a king who would take religious guidance from them rather than a leader who would maintain the political principles of the Hebrew Free State.
Had the Shiloh priesthood remained loyal to Saul and to their opposition to the principle of formal kingship, the history of the last fifteen hundred years may have been radically different.
David would have been thought of as a monarchist thug. A decentralized but unified libertarian-oriented Hebrew kingdom may have lasted in office through the centuries, the idea of a Davidic messiah may never have arisen, Christianity may have never infected western civilization, and Judaism might have taken a radically different historical turn.
In the days of the Alexandrian and early Roman empires, Judaism served as the primary and somewhat influential intellectual opposition to the Hellenistic world. Imagine what might have been if that intellectual model had remained libertarian instead of theocratic.
Interestingly, in the time frame surrounding Jesus, the Pharisees were one of the most influential forces in ancient Israel, champions of the poor and opponents of monarchy. A militant faction of the Pharisees, known as the Fourth Way, waged guerrilla war against Rome under the slogan “No King but God.” Josephus, the Jewish historian , wrote that they were extremists on the issue of freedom (Extremism in defense of liberty, etc..) and draws a direct line between their guerrilla activities and the first great Jewish revolt against Rome in the year 66.