Authority and Violence in the Gideon and Abimelech Narratives: A Sociological and Literary Exploration of Judges 6-9
Authority and violence exhibit a close and complex relationship in the social worlds depicted in biblical narratives as well as in ancient and modern societies.
Authority and violence exhibit a close and complex relationship in the social worlds depicted in biblical narratives as well as in ancient and modern societies. The perceived legitimacy or illegitimacy of authority and violence can hinge upon a number of factors. In the stories of Gideon and Abimelech in Judges 6 —9, lethal actions are depicted as justified, regrettable, or reproachful based, in part, on assumptions regarding kinship, honor, and justice. These narratives form an intriguing interlude within Judges as they directly broach, for the first time in the flow of biblical history, the ‘reality’ of dynastic kingship within Israel while telling a tale of deadly and divinely motivated reversals of power.
An interdisciplinary approach that blends social-scientific analysis driven by Pierre Bourdieu’s concepts of social field, habitus, capital, and doxa with a close narrative analysis recommends new ways of understanding the biblical characters’ motivations, skills, and social capital; the linguistic capital of the text’s creators; and the social worlds from which the narratives emerged. By examining the narrated relations of power through a sociological lens, the study discerns and describes how political and religious power is attained, preserved, transmitted, resisted, endorsed, disguised, or divinized. Building upon this basis, concentration on narrated violence suggests how the stories might be purposed to endorse, legitimate, or resist authority in the ancient context. The study concludes with a synthesis of its results and a survey of scribalism in order to recommend historical settings for the origination of the narratives. The study demonstrates how the biblical text, as a cultural product, can both knowingly and unknowingly communicate information about a society’s social relations, values, and concerns.
This is the second volume in the sub-series The Bible and Social Science.
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1. INTRODUCTION TO THE TEXT AND RELEVANT BIBLICAL SCHOLARSHIP Review of Relevant Scholarship Distinctive Features of Judges 6–9 Sociology and Media 2. DESCRIPTION OF INTERDISCIPLINARY METHODOLOGY Harnessing the Potential of Two Fields Fields and Power Language and Symbolic Power Legitimate Violence Setting the Agenda 3. FIELDS AND POWER IN THE GIDEON NARRATIVE Context and Crisis Gideon’s Legitimation The Midianite Defeat Gideon’s Rule The Field of Power Capital in Conflict Summary and Synthesis: Converging and Diverging Perspectives 4. FIELDS AND POWER IN THE ABIMELECH NARRATIVE Context and Crisis Abimelech’s Legitimation Abimelech’s Rule The Field of Power Summary and Synthesis: Converging and Diverging Perspectives 5. THE AUTHORITY OF VIOLENCE AND THE QUESTION OF ETHICS Terminology in Retrospect and Prospect The Authority of Violence in the Gideon Narrative The Authority of Violence in the Abimelech Narrative Summary and Synthesis: Converging and Diverging Perspectives 6. JUDGES 6–9 AND THE FIELD OF CULTURAL PRODUCTION Ideology, Doxa, and the Text Learning from a Modern Example of Cultural Production Opinions, Propaganda, and Implied Authors Linguistic Competency, Competition, and Real and Implied Authors Bridging the Gap between Implied and Real Authors
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