Tribal Kingdoms and the Tribal Element in Southern Levantine Iron Age Polities

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Contribution to Book

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tribal kingdoms, tribal elements, Southern Levantine iron age


To what extent did tribal sentiments of belonging, loyalty and duty impact and shape the social life and political order of the Israelites and their neighbors, the Ammonites, Moabites and Edomites, during the Iron Age? This is an old question that recent research by numerous ANE scholars has again brought to the fore. A major reason for this renewed interest is the growing infusion into biblical studies of social science perspectives and research findings that are opening new windows on efforts to comprehend and describe the social world in which the various writings that make up the Hebrew Bible came into being. Was this social world one in which top-down systems of administration by imperial and monarchical bureaucrats prevailed—as was more often than not the case in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia—or was it a bottom-up social world in which agency and autonomy at the local level was sustained by the sorts of fluid notions of belonging and duty that are the norm for kin-based or tribally organized societies? Or was it perhaps a social world in which these opposite systems of social organization were blended in some way—with some periods trending toward a top-down order and other periods trending downward? With this chapter our goal is to open for discussion and further research on these questions, drawing on pertinent ethnographic, textual and archaeological lines of inquiry from the Southern Levant and adjacent areas. Our aim is not to offer a definitive final answer, but to offer a way forward for future, more in-depth, consideration of these questions.

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Book Title

The Ancient Israelite World


Kyle H. Keimer and George A. Pierce




Abingdon, Oxon, UK and New York, NY




First Department

Behavioral Sciences

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