The Elders of the Tribes of Israel

Discussion in 'General Baptist Discussions' started by drfuss, Jan 12, 2011.

  1. drfuss

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    Who had the most actual (not in theroy) power in Israel and Judah, the King or the Elders of the Tribes?

    Who had the most cultural influence in Israel and Judah, the King or the Elders of the Tribes?

    I know that the Kings were anointed; but in everyday practice, who had the influence and actual power?
     
  2. BobinKy

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    Good question.

    What do you mean by "Elders of the Tribes?"

    ...Bob
     
  3. freeatlast

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    It really depended on the time period. I would change the word elders to priests however. The Priests had the responsibility and when they did not do as they were suppose to they lost the influence to the kings who most of the time led the people even further astray then they were. The same is today. The church has the responsibility to be salt and light to the world and now that we have not done our job by living godly we have lost that influence to the governments and are being led even further away from the truth.
     
  4. drfuss

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    The Elders of the Tribes are referred to in a number of places.

    I Samuel 8 - All the Elders of Israel asked for a king.

    II Samuel 5 -All the Elders of Israel came.....made a cavenant with David..... and anointed David king.

    II Samuel 19:11 - After the death of Absalom, the priest asked the Elders of Judah why they had not brought back David as king. Note that David did not come back on his own, he had to ask.

    I Kings 12 - When Rehoboam rejected the request of "Jeroboam and all Israel", the ten tribes rebelled and made Jeroboam king. All Israel could not have meant everyone, but had to mean the elders of all Israel because there would have been too many to gather to meet King Reboboam at one place. Also, when the elders decided to leave, the was no revolt within their tribes because the elders had control within the tribe.

    Jermiah 38:5 - King Zedekiah admitted that he could do nothing against the princes (elders).


    Of course God is all powerful, but it seems to me that the elders were the earthly power behind the throne.
     
    #4 drfuss, Jan 12, 2011
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  5. drfuss

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    Assuming the elders were, at least in part, the earthly power behind the throne, then the elders played a role in whether the king was evil or followed the Lord. History generally only lists the heads of the government in describing what happened during their reign.

    For example in US history, what happened over the years is connected to who was president at that time. In the last two years, the power of the speaker of the house and the majority leader of the senate, has been demonstrated since they set the agenda in those bodies. Yet, who held these two offices are hardly every mentioned in our history books. For instance, Wodrow Wilson was president from 1913-1921 and tried unsuccessfully to get the League of Nations treaty approved by the senate. However, it would take some effort to find out who was the marjority leader of the senate that blocked the treaty.

    In the same way, the kings are discussed in the Bible whith no information about the elders of the tribes whose earthly support the king had to have to govern. I think that the elders were much more powerful in determining good or evil, than most people realize. Therefore the elders were also rexponsible for the good or evil in the kingdom.

    What do you think?
     
  6. BobinKy

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    drfuss...

    Thank you for asking the question.

    I did a little count of the occurrences of the English word elders in the Old Testament. Here are the results.

    Old Testament

    NIV 1984: 127 occurrences of the word elders
    First occurrence: Exodus 3:16
    Last occurrence: Joel 2:16

    NRSV: 143 occurrences of the word elders
    First occurrence: Genesis 50:7
    Last occurrence: Joel 1:14

    KJB: 115 occurrences of the word elders
    First occurrence: Genesis 50:7
    Last occurrence: Joel 2:16

    . . .

    I was surprised by the frequency of the word elders in the Old Testament. The role of elders of the tribes must have been very important.

    Here is a short article from the online Smiths Bible Names Dictionary that sheds some light on your question.

    Elder
    The term elder, or old man as the Hebrew literally imports, was one of extensive use, as an official title, among the Hebrews and the surrounding nations, because the heads of tribes and the leading people who had acquired influence were naturally the older people of the nation. It had reference to various offices. (Genesis 24:2;50:7; 2 Samuel 12:17; Ezekiel 27:9) As betokening a political office, it applied not only to the Hebrews, but also to the Egyptians, (Genesis 50:7) the Moabites and the Midianites. (Numbers 22:7) The earliest notice of the elders acting in concert as a political body is at the time of the Exodus. They were the representatives of the people, so much so that elders and people are occasionally used as equivalent terms; comp. (Joshua 24:1) with (Joshua 24:2,19,21) and (1 Samuel 8:4) with (1 Samuel 8:7,10,19) Their authority was undefined, and extended to all matters concerning the public weal. Their number and influence may be inferred from (1 Samuel 30:26)ff. They retained their position under all the political changes which the Jews underwent. The seventy elders mentioned in Exodus and Numbers were a sort of governing body, a parliament, and the origin of the tribunal of seventy elders called the Sanhedrin or Council. In the New Testament Church the elders or presbyters were the same as the bishops. It was an office derived from the Jewish usage of elders or rulers of the synagogues. [Bishop]​

    . . .

    What do I think? I think the position of king may have wielded more power. However, kingly power was temporary, probably changed quite suddenly with the political climate, and may have been far removed from the average sheep herder or town dweller. On the other hand, the position of elder probably carried a considerable influence upon the people in his respective tribe or town. The problem being his power was limited by the size of his tribe or town, whereas the king probably exerted influence upon a number of elders. There may be a few passages where the king (or his queen) and the elders confronted each other. These would be worth reviewing.

    I wish I had more time to study this very interesting question.

    ...Bob
     
    #6 BobinKy, Jan 13, 2011
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  7. BobinKy

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    drfuss...

    This morning I thought about your question and did some more research on the elders of the tribes. I discovered some neat resources. I find myself edging closer to your thinking on this issue. Please give me a few hours (hopefully) or days (more like it) to post a bibliography of sorts.

    ...Bob
     
  8. Dr. Bob

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    Think of Israel more as a Confederacy than a Federal Republic (like the South, not the North in US history analogy)

    God anointed a man (Saul) to be king over the tribes. Noiminal allegiance from the tribes. Elders leading the tribes/clans had much greater sway.

    On his defeat/death, Saul's heir Ishbosheth is the man of choice of the 10 northern tribes; David of the 2 southern tribes. This continues for seven years!

    David finally wrestles all 12 tribes into a loose confederation. His sons, knowing how the "system" worked, had themselves anointed and proclaimed king over tribes in rebellion to David.

    Solomon bound them together in building projects/empire for another generation. Then his heirs again saw a split.

    All of this shows the REAL power, influence and even supply of money/army/workers was on the tribal (state) level.

    And destruction of the federal union inevitable. Lots of parallels, but all show the "king" was a titular head and not the real power.
     
  9. drfuss

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    I tend to agree with the above. Yet in the Books of Kings, only the actions (good or bad) of each king is addressed. The general spiritual condition of the tribes or elders is not addressed. Wouldn't there be a connection?

    Hezekiah was a good king, yet his son Manasseh was the most evil king. Since Manasseh was young when he bacame king, do you think the elders were somewhat responsible for his evil actions?
     
  10. BobinKy

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    My intent is to post (in several parts over several days) an annotated bibliography of scholars who have discussed the influence and power of the elders of Israel during the monarchic period.

    This is a difficult subject to research for two reasons: (a) Hebrew word זקן (zqn) G/K 2416 (S 2204) and זָקֵן (zaqan) GK 2418 (S 2205) are used in two related concepts, but different concepts, old (moral or ethical discussion) and elders (technical discussion of the office of elder in both OT and NT); and (b) concept of old age (knowledge and wisdom) has changed so much from OT Hebrew culture and Scripture to the concept of old age (fear and worthlessness) prevalent today in contemporary America.

    I do not plan to support any particular interpretation, but present a bibliography of scholars that should be sought out and studied by those interested in this topic.

    Nor do I plan to respond to any "debate" comments, until all of the parts of this annotated bibliography have been posted (several days or week). If you have a specific question, I suggest you send me a personal message.

    Finally, I apologize for my inadequate attempt at presenting the Hebrew letters in my posts.

    . . .

    Abbreviations

    GK = Goodrick/Kohlenberg numbers (Greek in italics, Hebrew in roman)
    S = Strong numbers (Greek in italics, Hebrew in roman)

    . . .

    Annotated Bibliography (Part 1)

    Mounce, W. D. (gen. ed.), Smith, M., & Van Pelt, M.V. (assoc. eds). (2006). Elder. In Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words, p. 208-209. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

    Short article on Hebrew זָקֵן (zaqen) GK 2416, 2418 (S 2204, 2205), appearing 206x in OT; and Greek πρεσβύτερος (presbyteros) GK 4565 (S 4245), appearing 66x in NT. Briefly summarizes concepts of old and elders (leaders); concepts of elders span Scripture from Mosaic, monarchic, prophetic, post exilic, new testament, and book of Revelation (i.e., 24 elders in heaven); lists references. This is an interesting article, but fails to discuss influence and power of elders during the monarchic period (perhaps due to brevity of article).

    For those not proficient in biblical Hebrew and Greek (and that includes BobinKy) Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words is a good word study resource.​

    . . .

    Next

    Part 2 will introduce some scholars who have written on the influence and power of elders in monarchic-period OT Scripture.

    ...Bob
     
    #10 BobinKy, Jan 17, 2011
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  11. BobinKy

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    Annotated Bibliography Part 2

    New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology & Exegesis (NIDOTTE) represents the cream of research for those not proficient in biblical Hebrew. Here are two articles relating to the elders of Israel.

    Wegner, P. D. (1997). זקן (G/K 2416). In VanGemeren, W. A. (gen. ed.), New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology & Exegesis, vol. 1, 1134-1137. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

    Article on Hebrew זקן (zqn) G/K 2416 (S 2204) and זָקֵן (zaqan) GK 2418 (S 2205) that covers the concepts of age and elders in both Ancient Near Eastern texts and Old Testament. Here is Wegner’s text relating to the influence and power of the elders.

    “. . . by the time of the settling of the Promised Land, there also appears to have been a group of elders who were influential on a national level, though it is unclear how these two groups of elders were related. Were the city leaders also national leaders, or were leaders selected to handle national interests? Elders pleaded with Samuel for the appointment of a king (1 Sam. 8:4-5). Saul recognized their importance when he begged Samuel to continue to honor him before the elders of the land (15:30). After the death of Saul, the elders of Israel came to David to accept him as their king (2 Sam. 5:3). By currying their favor and help, Absalom was nearly successful in conducting a coup d’ état (17:4, 15), and David did not return to the throne until he had the permission of the 'elders of Judah' (19:11[12]). Their importance appears to have continued throughout the period of the monarchy (Solomon—1 Kings 8:1-3; Ahab—20:7; Jezebel—21:8; Jehu—2 Kings 10:1; Hezekiah—19:2; Josiah—23:1), the captivity (Ezek. 8:1; 14:1; 20:1), and the postexilic period (Ezra 10:8, 14). The job of these elders was to adjudicate any breach of covenantal stipulations and to maintain social justice and order” (Wegner, 1997, p. 1135).

    Aitken, K. T. (1997). זָקֵן (G/K 2418). In VanGemeren, W. A. (gen. ed.), New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology & Exegesis, vol. 1, 1137-1139. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

    Article on Hebrew זָקֵן (zaqan) GK 2418 (S 2205) that covers the concepts of age and elders in both Ancient Near Eastern texts and Old Testament. Here is Aitken’s text relating to the influence and power of the elders.

    “During the monarchic period, elders chiefly appear as leaders of their local communities. They are commonly referred to as 'the elders of the town' (1 Sam. 16:4; cf. Lam. 2:10). . . . The 'counsel of the elders' is set alongside the teaching of the priests and the vision of the prophets as sources of direction within the life of the community and for the maintenance of its well-being (Ezek. 7:26). In this context, the parallel in Jer. 18:18 equates the elders with the wise (cf. Deut 1:13; Ps. 105:22). Sayings in Proverbs dealing with community concerns such as caring for the poor (Prov. 21:13; 22:9) and avoiding strife (10:12; 17:14) may well reflect the counsel of the elders” (Aitken, 1997, p. 1338).

    “In Prov. 31:23 the city elders are referred to as 'the elders of the land.' If the text of 1 Kings 20:7 is correct, this expression apparently could also refer to a more or less ad hoc consultative body representing the interests of the local communities at the royal court (cf. Jer. 26:17). At all events, the story of Naboth’s vineyard suggests elders readily abdicated their traditional obligations and became identified with the interests of the monarchy and its ruling elite (1 Kings 21:1-14). Isaiah places their perversion of justice within the context of their responsibilities as 'the elders of his [God’s] people' (Isa. 3:14). Those who should have been a 'support' and a 'guide' to the people have led them astray and will be 'cut off from Israel' (3:1-3; 9:14-16; cf. Ezek. 8:11-12). Isaiah, however, looks forward to the prospect of a cleansed and renewed Jerusalem, when God will reign on Mt. Zion 'and before its elders, gloriously' (24:23; cf. 1:26; Exod 24:9-11; Rev 4)” (Aitken, 1997, p. 1138-1139).​

    Wegner and Aitken provide the following bibliographic sources at the end of their articles. I have not reviewed these sources, with the exception of Reviv (1989) that will appear in a future post of this thread.

    Botterweck, G. J., Ringgren, H., & Fabry, H. –J. (1974-). Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, vol. 4, p. 122-31. [Tr. J. T. Willis.]. [English translation of Theologisches Wörterbuch zum Alten Testament.]. Grand Rapids.

    Bromiley, G. W. (1979-1988). International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, vol. 2, p. 53-54. Grand Rapids.

    de Vaux, R. (1961, 1965). Ancient Israel: Its Life and Institutions, vol. 1, p. 8, 69, 98. [Tr. J. McHugh.]. New York.

    Douglas, J. D., & Hillyer, N. (1980). The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, vol. 2, p. 72-73. Leicester.

    Harris, J. G. (1987). Biblical Perspectives on Aging: God and the Elderly.

    Harris, R. L., & et al. (1980). Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, vol. 1, p. 249-50. Chicago.

    Klengel, H. (1960). Zu den šbutum in altbabylonischer Zeit. Orientalia (29), p. 357-75.

    Matthews, V. H., & Benjamin, D. C. (1993). Social World of Ancient Israel 1250-587 BCE, p. 121-31.

    McKenzie, J. L. (1959). The elders in the Old Testament. Biblica (40), p. 522-40.

    McKenzie, D. A. (1964). Judicial procedure at the Town Gate. Vetus Testamentum (14), p. 100-4.

    Noth, M. (1958). The History of Israel, p. 107-8.

    Reviv, H. (1989). The Elders in Ancient Israel.​

    Next

    Part 3 will continue to explore scholars who have published articles or books on the influence and power of the elders of Israel during the monarchic period.

    ...Bob
     
    #11 BobinKy, Jan 18, 2011
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  12. BobinKy

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    Annotated Bibliography Part 3

    Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary (ZIBBCOT, 5 vols.—OT; ZIBBCNT, 4 vols.—NT) is a new Bible commentary series that looks at the social, cultural, geographical, and archaeological environment of the Bible. We will resume our study of the elders of Israel with Philips' text and notes on 2 Samuel 5:3.

    Long, V. Philips. (2009). 1 and 2 Samuel. In John H. Walton (gen. ed.), Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary, vol. 2, p. 266-491. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

    When all the elders of Israel had come (2 Samuel 5:3). ‘The elders constituted a leadership institution within societies in the ancient Near East, in all the countries and during all periods’ (note 73). As a tribal and patriarchal society, ancient Israel looked to the collective leadership of ‘elders,’ drawn from ‘the fathers of the basic family units’ called fathers’, or ancestral, houses (note 74). Mothers also participated in some judicial proceedings, as in those involving children (e.g., Deut. 21:18-20; 22:15) (note 75), and occasionally assumed leadership on an ad hoc basis in times of crisis (e.g., 2 Sam. 20:16), but in general the elders comprised the male heads of the household (note 76). In short, ‘the elders were the governing body of the clan by virtue of being its leading householders’ (note 77). As military and judicial leaders in village society, the elders were viewed as the accepted representatives of their respective families, clans, and tribes; thus David’s acceptance as king by the northern tribes of Israel is dependent on his endorsement by the ‘elders of Israel.’” (Philips, 2009, vol. 2, p. 428).

    “The compact/covenant David makes with the elders of the northern tribes probably contains regulations for the kingship, including the duties and responsibilities of the respective parties to one another and to the Lord (cf. 2 Kings 11:17, where Jehoida makes a three-way covenant between Yahweh, the king, and the people)” (Philips, 2009, vol. 2, p. 428)​

    Notes
    73. So R. Reviv, The Elders in Ancient Israel: A Study of a Biblical Institution, trans. L. Plitmann (Jerusalem: Magnes, 1989), p.187.

    74. Ibid., p. 187.

    75. See H. Avalos, “Legal and Social Institutions Canaan and Ancient Israel,” In J. Sasson (gen. ed.), Civilizations of the Ancient Near East. (New York, 1995), p. 615-31, esp. 622-23.

    76. For a concise description of ancient Israelite social structure based on family and kinship, see King and Stager, Life in Biblical Israel, p. 36-39.

    77. J. D. Schloen, House of the Father as Fact and Symbol: Patrimonialism in Ugarit and the ANE, ed. I. E. Stager and M. D. Coogan (Studies in the Archaeology and History of the Levant; Winona Lake, IND: Eisenbrauns, 2001), p. 159.
    Next

    We will continue our study of the elders of Israel in ZIBBCOT with 1 Kings.

    …Bob
     
    #12 BobinKy, Jan 21, 2011
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  13. BobinKy

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    Annotated Bibliography Part 4

    Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary (ZIBBCOT, 5 vols.—OT; ZIBBCNT, 4 vols.—NT) is a new Bible commentary series that looks at the social, cultural, geographical, and archaeological environment of the Bible. We will resume our study of the elders of Israel with Monson's text and notes on 1 Kings 8:1.

    Monson, John. (2009). 1 Kings. In John H. Walton (gen. ed.), Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary, vol. 3, p. 2-109. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

    The elders of Israel, all the heads of the tribes and the chiefs of the Israelite families (1 Kings 8:1). The largest political unit in ancient Israel was the tribe. It was comprised of clans and families, each headed by a patriarchal male (note 147). This kin-based system of polities has parallels in the ancient kingdoms such as Mari and Ammon, but also in modern Near Eastern societies (note 148). The tribal gathering, complete with heads of tribes and families, signaled tribal support of Solomon’s religious centralization in Jerusalem” (Monson, 2009, vol. 3, p. 40).

    The elders and the people all answered, ‘Don’t listen to him or agree to his demands’ (1 Kings 20:8). This verse runs against common practice in the ancient world. Public outcry was seldom an option in the theocracies and monarchies of the ancient world. Most likely ‘the people’ in this verse are the elders and clan leaders of the northern kingdom, who represent the views of the people. The semantic range of the Hebrew word ‘people’ is broad enough to comprise military commanders and advisors, which may be the intent here (cf. 12:8)” (Monson, 2009, vol. 3, p. 86).

    Society and Balance of Power (1 Kings 21) [sidebar]. The core unit of Israelite society was the family as can be seen in many biblical stories (e.g., Ruth; 1 Kings 8:1) and in the villages and family compounds preserved in the archaeological record. Beyond this core unit, a person’s status and role in society were determined by tribal and clan organization, a natural division of labor, and proximity to the power elites in the society (note A-56).

    The influence of family and tribe persevered despite dramatic political and economic change (note A-57). For generations the tribes gathered at Shiloh, the religious center of the tribal league. But David and Solomon’s centralization of political and economic power threatened to move the locus to the palace. Scholars debate the degree to which the Israelites abandoned the tribal organization and traditional structures of their society (note A-58). But there is clear evidence of centralized control in the urbanization of major centers such as Megiddo, Hazor, and Samaria, where large fortifications, storage structures, and military facilities were built in the tenth through seventh centuries B.C.

    Inevitably the erosion of tribal power led to specialization in the urban centers and an increasingly commercialized society. These processes led to the social and economic disparity that the prophets condemned. Even the united monarchy’s balance of power between prophet, priest, and king came under threat as the royal bureaucracy grew (note A-59). Non-Israelite societies such as the kingdoms of Ugarit and Phoenicia had no such ethical system as biblical law or phophetic admonition to aid the sojourner and orphan. Jezebel’s behavior in the Naboth affair indicates that the despotism of ancient Near Eastern city-states by and large displaced Israel’s traditional institutions and societal ethos.

    With the eight-century proliferation of writing and the return of imperial power to the Levant, the bureaucratizing and centralizing momentum increased, and with it the shrillness of prophetic rebuke. It was only the annihilation of Israel and the exile and return of Judah that restored the family and tribe to a more prominent role, and with it the ethical principles of biblical law (Monson, 2009, vol. 3, p. 91).
    Notes

    147. J. Blenkinsopp, “The Family in First Temple Israel,” in Families in Ancient Israel, ed. L. Perdue (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1997), p. 48-104.

    148. O. LaBianca, “Salient Features of Iron Age Tribal Kingdoms,” in Ancient Ammon, ed. B. McDonald and R. Younker (Leiden: Brill, 1999), p. 19-23. ​

    Sidebar Notes

    A-56. P. McNutt, Reconstructing the Society of Ancient Israel (London: SPCK, 1999), p. 167.

    A-57. Modern tribal structure demonstrates the same resilience as seen in modern-day Iraq and Jordan. See O. LaBiance, “Salient Features of Iron Age Tribal Kingdoms, in Ancient Ammon, ed. B. McDonald and R. Younker (Leiden: Brill, 1999), p. 19-29.

    A-58. See Master, “State Formation Theory”; Frick, The Formation of the State.

    A-59. See, e.g., Jer. 18:18 and P. McNutt, Reconstructing the Society of Ancient Israel (London: SPCK, 1999), p. 164-81.​

    Next

    We will continue our study of the elders of Israel in ZIBBCOT with the book of the prophet Ezekiel.

    …Bob
     
    #13 BobinKy, Jan 22, 2011
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