Ancient Israel: Its Life and Institutions

By Roland De Vaux ; John McHugh | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SEVEN
THE PRINCIPAL OFFICIALS OF THE KING

THE king was assisted in the administration of the kingdom by a number of high-ranking officials who lived close by and formed his govern, ment; they were his ministers. They are called the king s servants', but in relation to the people they are 'chiefs', śarÎm1 ( I K 4:1); they are referred to by their office, or by the tide 'set over' such and such a charge. As with other Eastern courts, their functions are sometimes difficult to define, and the Bible does not give a complete picture of this central administration.


1. The ministers of David and Solomon

We possess two lists of David's senior officials and one of Solomon's. They are certainly derived from documents preserved in archives, but they have been re-edited and their text has suffered to some extent.

The first list ( 2 S 8:16-18= I Ch 18: 14-17) is given after Nathan's prophecy and the summary of David's victories, and before the long story about the succession to the throne. Consequently, it represents the final and definitive arrangement after the foundation of the kingdom. The military command was shared between Joab, commander of the army, and Benayahu, commander of the guard. Yehoshaphat was herald, Serayah (or Shawsha in Ch) was secretary. Sadoq and Ebyathar were the priests, but at the end of the list is added: 'the sons of David were priests'. The order as we have it seems haphazard: commander of the army, heralds, priests, commander of the guard and finally the sons of David. Joab and Benayahu, Sadoq and Ebyathar, all figure in the same offices in the history of the reign. Neither Yehoshaphat the herald nor the sons of David play any part in it.

The mention of the latter is strange: their names, which one would think essential in a document of this kind, are not given, and their status as 'priests' is enigmatic. The most we can presume is that they assisted or did duty for their father in those sacerdotal functions which were occasionally performed by the king.2 The parallel in I Ch 18: I7 has:' and the sons of David held the first rank next to the king', which is proof of a Levite's scruple, but it does not clarify matters. The text about the two legitimate priests is doubtful The Hebrew reading is ' Sadoq son of Ahitub and Ahimelek son of Ebyathar'; this must be corrected at least to 'and Ebyathar son of Ahimelek', according

____________________
1
Cf. p. 69.
2
Cf. p. 114.

-127-

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