FANDOM


30. Did the traditional clan structures survive the transition to monarchy? Did clan heads continue to exercise influence locally and/or nationally? Cite biblical evidence and refer where relevant to scholarly studies.Edit

Definition and description of clan based social organization

  • ·         Main features of the biblical family, from which derive the internal logic of the Israelites’ clan social structure:

o   endogamous (marriage); patrilineal (descent and inheritance); patriarchal (authority); patrilocal (residence); joint (cohabitation of several generations and attached persons); polygynous.

  • ·         Joshua 7:14-18 reveals the “nested” nature of the extended families within clans, themselves within tribes, themselves part of a more or less constant “tribal league”

o   determination of Achan’s guilt, moving down the hierarchy of tribe/shebeṭ, clan/mishpaḥah, lineage/bayit, individual

o   Another significant example is that of Samuel designating Saul as Israel’s king by lot in a similar fashion in 1 Sam 10:20-21.

  • ·         It appears that in the Israelite case we are dealing with a social system whose fundamental units are extended families/clans, with associations at the tribal level being more flexible.

o   The strength of the social ties are directly proportional to the strength of the blood kinship – thus loyalty is strongest between members of the same lineage and clan, somewhat weaker between members of the same tribe, yet weaker between members of a tribal league, and weakest with “outsiders.”

Survival into the monarchic period?

  • ·         These structures certainly survived the transition to the united monarchy, and were at least partially responsible for the schism that led to the divided monarchies.

o   It is likely that the clans survived into the exilic and post-exilic periods.

  • ·         The operation of the traditional clan structures are most visible in Genesis-2 Samuel, after which the focus of the Deuteronomistic History moves to a national/international level.

o   This could explain the assumption that these structures disappeared under the monarchies.

  • ·         The united and divided monarchies appear to have been “patrimonial kingdoms” not only allowing that persistence of traditional clan structures, but depending on those structures for both administrative purposes and legitimacy. If anything, the transition to monarchy strengthens traditional structures by institutionalizing them.

o   David’s accession is approved by tribal elders, in tribal terms (2 Sam 5:1, 3).

o   Josiah summons the Elders when instituting his reforms (2 Kgs 23:1).

o   Albright (contra, later, Wright; Master 2001 supports Albright’s interpretation) notes that Solomon’s districts (1 Kgs 4) reflect, with minor variations, the tribal landscape of the period of the Judges.

§  This is confirmed by what Stager calls “the L-men” in the 8th century Samaria ostraca, which appear to list rations sent to for clan heads living at the Israelite royal court.

  • ·         The account of the events at the assembly at Shechem (1 Kgs 12:1-17) is replete with the language of the traditional kin-based social structures. 

o   The schism underscores the fissile nature of associations beyond the clan.

  • ·         That the Northern Kingdom was made up of so many tribes offers a plausible (partial) explanation for the frequency of usurpations and general dynastic instability that characterized its history – in vivid contrast to the stable reign of one lineage over the single tribe of Judah, to the south.
  • ·         The traditional laws forbidding alienation of one’s ancestral lands (naḥalah) in the story of Naboth’s vineyard in 1 Kgs 21 reveals that in the north traditional structures were still present. (Stager, 1985)
  • ·         The persistence of the four-roomed house throughout the Iron Age II in Israel and Judah suggests that the basic units of social association – extended households, and clans – remained stable.
  • ·         Finally, the resurgence of tribal language in exilic and post-exilic texts strongly argues for the survival of tribal/clan structures through the Iron Age II. (noted by Stager 1985)

o   see Ezra 8:1 and Nehemiah 8:13

o   However, the forms aren’t exactly similar to what we’d expect to see.

Counter-argument from Baruch Halpern


  •  According to Halpern, Hezekiah’s policies, particularly the centralization of the cult (amounting to a termination of rural, clan cults), combined with a drop in rural populations in the aftermath of Sennacherib’s 701 campaign, and a later repopulation of the countryside from a swollen Jerusalem in the 7th century, all contributed to the break-up of the traditional clan structure of Judean society.

o   Halpern’s argument is backed up, to a certain degree, by material remains:

§  the claim of generally reduced cooking pot and bread oven sizes in the 7th century countryside

§  increased ratio of non-domesticates (esp. deer) in faunal remains from 7th century Tel Batashi suggests decreased population (because lower population would result in lower competition for game)

§  (strong) evidence of greatly increased population of Jerusalem in 7th century

  • ·      A main counterargument to this remains the resurgence noted above of tribal language in the exilic/post-exilic period. However, see above.

Halpern, Baruch. “Jerusalem and the Lineages in the Seventh Century BCE: Kinship and the Rise of Individual Moral Liability.” In Law and Ideology in monarchic Israel, edited by Baruch Halpern and Deborah W. Hobson, 11-91. JSOT supplement series 124. Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic Press, 1991.

King, Philip J., and Lawrence E. Stager. Life in Biblical Israel. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001.

Master, Daniel M. “State formation theory and the kingdom of ancient Israel.” Journal of Near Eastern Studies 60, no. 2 (April 2001): 117.

Stager, Lawrence E. “The Archaeology of the Family in Ancient Israel.” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, no. 260 (Autumn 1985): 1-35.