Organs of Statecraft in the Israelite Monarchy
The main burden of my remarks will concern the specific aspects of the political apparatus and organs of statecraft as they emerge from the first half of I Kings 12. 1 This section deals with King Rehoboam and the circumstances surrounding the split within the United Monarchy, i.e. the kingdoms of David and Solomon.
The reference here is twofold: (1) the demand of the northern tribes to alleviate the burden of taxes and corvée imposed upon them by Solomon, Rehoboam's father, this being a prior condition to their acquiescence in Rehoboam's election; (2) Rehoboam's consultation with the "elders" and "young men" before replying to the tribes' ultimatum. The uncompromising attitude adopted by Rehoboam on this matter brought about the end of the United Kingdom of Israel and determined the course of Jewish history for generations to come.
As a starting point, I should like to dwell upon the question of Rehoboam's enthronement or rather lack of enthronement, at Shechem which, in fact, serves as the framework for the events described in the chapter under discussion. The opening phrase refers to Rehoboam's arrival in Shechem, "For all Israel were come to Shechem to make him king." I accept the assumption of some scholars that we are
confronted here with a second enthronement or, put somewhat differently, that Rehoboam had been automatically acclaimed previously as king in Judah, where the Davidide House had taken root. This was not the case, however, as regards the northern Israelite tribes, where it was by no means taken for granted that Solomon's offspring ought to rule over them. For it must be borne in mind that those tribes had attached themselves to the House of David by a covenantal act (II Sam. 5:1-3).
As prelude to the covenant we read in II Samuel 3 of the negotiations between David and Abner, intended to bring the northern tribes under David's sway. In verse 12, it is stated: "Make thy league with me and my hand shall be with thee to bring over all Israel unto thee." Verse 17 then relates that Abner has urged the elders (sic!) of Israel to enter into a treaty with David. Note how the institution of the elders is still playing an authoritative role in covenant-making and the election of kings. Abner then goes to meet David in Hebron, taking along twenty men to conduct the negotiations. David greets them with a feast, a ceremony which has, at times, been associated with the covenantal act, according to the Bible and ancient Near Eastern sources.
Further on in the same chapter (v. 21) we hear Abner saying to David: "I will arise and will gather all Israel unto my lord the king, that they may make a covenant with thee, and that thou mayest reign over all that thy soul desireth." In other words, preparations are afoot to conclude a treaty in Hebron with the northern tribes. Typologically speaking, we are confronted with an exact parallel to the Rehoboam incident. Rehoboam has come to Shechem where the northern tribes have convened for the____________________