Judah and Israel as dual kingdoms before Saul’s death

I have only a few days before we leave for a winter vacation. Then I won’t be blogging again until February.

Meanwhile, I have a few notes from some things I worked on last year.

Joel Baden’s work on the historical David has a sequence of David’s rise that mostly makes sense. David served Saul as a mercenary, then led a failed rebellion. This forced David into the Judean back country as leader of a gang of outlaws. There he barely survived until he made an alliance with the Philistine king of Gath. Then, after Saul was killed in battle, David created the state of Judah and had himself declared king at Hebron.

But I see some evidence that David may have started his kingdom at Hebron while Saul remained king of Israel.

In 2 Samuel 2:10 we learn that Saul’s son, Ishbaal, reigned over Israel for two years before his assassination The next verse says that David reigned over the house of Judah for seven and a half years from Hebron. Most people reading this probably jump to the conclusion that David was recognized as king of Israel right after Saul’s death and continued to stay at Hebron for another five and a half years before he moved his capital to Jerusalem.

But that is not what the text says. For seven and a half years David was only ruling over Judah. 2 Samuel 5 makes it sound as though soon after Ishbaal’s death the elders of Israel anointed David king over all Israel and he began his thirty-three year reign over Israel.

“At Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months; and at Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years” (v. 5 NRSV emphasis added).

So it seems David’s reign over Judah (and not all Israel) extended for five and a half years after Ishbaal’s death.

One way around this would be to say that Ishbaal did not take power for some years after Saul’s death. General Abner was the king-maker and might have had to take territory back from the Philistines before Ishbaal even had a kingdom.

Another solution, toward which I presently incline, is that the Bible obscures the fact that David was proclaimed king at Hebron several years before the battle of Aphek and Saul’s death. In other words, Judah was already a separate Hebron-based kingdom.

The narrative in the primary history of Israel adhered to the idea that all twelve tribes had existed since Jacob and that they were always associated with “all Israel”. But there is a lot of evidence that the tribe of Judah came into existence by bringing together several groups like Calebites and remnants of Simeon and Reuben at the time of David. So the editors of the primary history made Judah a part of Israel even under Saul. This fit their 12-tribes narrative, but it probably doctors history.

In my view both 2 Samuel 2:10 and 2:11 come from accurate sources concerning Ishbaal and David. But putting them together gave a distorted sequence as though Ishbaal’s death took place two years into David’s reign. Instead, it may be that the accounts of Saul making expeditions into the wilderness to capture David reflect his attempt to deal with a rival who had already established a separate kingdom and made alliances with his enemies.


About theoutwardquest

I have many interests, but will blog mostly about what I read in the fields of Bible and religion.
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