Political Sociology: A Reader

By S. N. Eisenstadt | Go to book overview
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Within the framework of the section on tribal federations, we have presented analyses of some of the aspects and problems of kingship among the ancient Semitic monarchies, monarchies that developed from within such federations and that often continued to function within such federative frameworks.

J. Gray analyzes the place of the Cana'anite kingship in the cosmological and social order. He bases his argument mainly on texts found in the Ugarit and Amarna excavations but also uses some Hebrew texts. His article tries to differentiate between the theoretical premises of the functions and structure of the political center as embodied in Cana'anite kingship and their modifications in reality.

In "Organs of Statecraft in the Israelite Monarchy," Abraham Malamat analyzes the tribal structure's impingement on the monarchical center. He shows how, throughout the period of Hebrew monarchy in Judah and Israel, the representative body of the people played an important role in the coronation of kings and in decision making about crucial political issues. He suggests that according to the Old Testament the Hebrew kingship was never fully legitimized as an independent and autonomous body and that the elders of the tribes could accept or reject the authority of certain kings. The rule of the monarch was based on his charismatic qualities rather than on traditional legitimation. Hence the political center was not fully differentiated and independent.

Cana'anite Kingship in Theory and Practice

J. Gray

The principle of hereditary kingship and the stability of the royal line may well have had a religious sanction in ancient Canaan until the Amarna Age, when as yet the cultural and political equilibrium of the ancient Near East was not upset by the irruptions of barbarians and tribesmen of the Iron Age. It was an accepted fact in Mesopotamia that "kingship came down from the gods." The king, then, stood in a special relation to god, which is expressed in the Krt saga by the father-son relationship of El and the king. El, the senior god of the pantheon of Ugarit, asks:

Who is Krt that he weepeth?
Does he desire the kingship of the Bull his father?
Or sovereignty as the Father of men? 1

Here kingship, mlk, is the peculiar property of El. This in itself constitutes an essential link between

the god and the earthly king. Much has been written in support of the theory of divine kingship among the Western Semites to demonstrate that the king was the earthly representative of god, particularly of the dying and rising god, in the seasonal festivals. 2 Here, however, it should be noted that El, with whom Krt is so closely related, is not a dying and rising deity whose cult is associated with the alternation of the seasons, but is a god concerned with moral issues.

The corner-stone of the theory that the king in ancient Canaan was the incarnation of the dying and rising god is the role that the king played in the Horus-Osiris ritual in Egypt and in the Babylonian Akitu festival, which is attested in its most complete form in a text from the time of Nebuchadrezzar. 3 This view assumes that Canaan, lying as it did, between the two great seats of civilization and empire in Egypt and Mesopotamia, was bound to reflect the culture of both. This view does not strictly accord with facts determined by archaeology in Canaan. We do not deny certain cultural influences in the ma

From J. Gray, "Cana'anite Kingship in Theory and Practice," Vetus Testamentum (Leiden: E. J. Brill, Ltd., 1952), II, 198‐ 200, 203, 216-220. Reprinted by permission of E. J. Brill, Ltd.


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