The Necessary King: A Postcolonial Reading of the Deuteronomistic Portrait of the Monarchy
The Necessary King explains why Israel needed a king according to the Deuteronomistic History, and why its exilic readers can expect no future except under Davidic rule.
The Necessary King explains why Israel needed a king according to the Deuteronomistic History, and why its exilic readers can expect no future except under Davidic rule. Given Israel’s tendency to rebellion against its divine suzerain, the king is the necessary agent of God’s colonization of Israel, making and keeping it a loyal subject.
The Deuteronomistic History with its pro-Davidic narrative has three prongs, each of which relies on an imitation of the imperial ideology of Judah’s colonial masters. First, Dtr imitates the discourse of Neo-Assyrian treaties and Mesopotamian royal inscriptions, replacing the imperial suzerain with God.
Second, having established this client —suzerain relationship in Deuteronomy, Dtr then goes on to imitate imperial portrayals of the disloyal and wicked foreign enemies whom the Mesopotamian king colonizes. Israel is a foreign enemy in God’s eyes, repetitively proving their disloyalty to their divine suzerain and so demonstrating the need for an Israelite king who will colonize them —for their own good.
Third, Dtr imitates the ideology of the Mesopotamian powers in its portrayal of the monarchy. Dtr presents the Davidides’ relation to Judah/Israel just as the Mesopotamian colonial powers present their kings’ relation to the foreign peoples they have conquered: their colonial rule is necessary, and actually benefits the peoples whom they colonize.
Disqualifying prophets, priests, and judges as potential leaders of Israel, and presenting the people as far too sinful to live without leadership, the Deuteronomistic History portrays the Davidic monarchy as a necessity.
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1. Introduction: A Postcolonial Reading of the Deuteronomistic History