In the Service of the King

In the Service of the King: Officialdom in Ancient Israel and Judah

Nili Sacher Fox
Volume: 23
Copyright Date: 2000
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 384
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  • Book Info
    In the Service of the King
    Book Description:

    Titles have always been conferred on persons both to identify their functions in society and to assign honorary status. In Egypt even more than in Mesopotamia, function-related and honorary titles were so valued that officials and functionaries of varying stations collected the titles accrued in their lifetime and preserved them in a titulary, the ancient equivalent of a resume. Israelites serving at the royal courts in Jerusalem and Samaria or in local administrations also held title, but the sources suggest far fewer of them than their neighbors. Nili Fox analyzes the titles and roles of civil officials and functionaries in Israel and Judah during the monarchy, including key ministers of the central government, regional administrators, and palace attendants. The nineteen titles fall into three categories: status-related titles, function-related titles, and miscellaneous designations that could be held by a variety of officials. Fox sets these Israelite and Judahite titles in their ancient context through extensive study of Egyptian, Akkadian, and Ugaritic records. She also draws upon the corpus of Hebrew epigraphic material, which allows her to explore economic components of state organization such as royal land grants, supply networks, and systems of accounting, which would be impossible to understand on the basis of the Hebrew Bible alone. Fox also treats the widely debated issue of whether Israelite state organization was influenced by foreign models and, if so, how much. The evidence of non-Hebrew sources offers little concrete material to substantiate theories that Israel modeled its government after a foreign prototype, and Fox offers a more finessed approach. Many features of Israelite administration are best explained as basic elements of any monarchic structure in the ancient Near East that developed to satisfy the needs of an evolving local system. Other seemingly foreign features have a long tradition in Canaan and probably were naturally assimilated. Fox recognizes the interconnections between the cultures in the region but emphasizes the need to closely examine the Israelite system with internal evidence.

    eISBN: 978-0-87820-096-2
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xi)
    Nili S. Fox
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xii-xvi)
  5. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    The monarchs of antiquity, like modern heads of nations, were dependent on their circle of ministers, clerks, and attendants to carry out the affairs of state. Loyalty, as well as wisdom and efficiency, were essential for a secure throne and a smooth running government machinery. This study deals with various aspects of the administrative systems of Israel and Judah in the first Temple period. Its scope is limited to civil government, for which nineteen titles are examined, divided into three categories: status-related titles; function-related titles; and miscellaneous designations. The status-related titles are associated with rank derived from genealogy or membership...

  6. 2 Questions of Methodology
    (pp. 9-42)

    In studies on Israelite officialdom, as in queries on a number of other biblical topics, the comparative method is commonly employed, elucidating the Hebrew sources by drawing on analogues from other ancient Near Eastern cultures. Modern comparative approaches to the study of the Hebrew Bible span nearly two centuries. The comparative method was adopted in earnest in the nineteenth century as a result of major archaeological discoveries in Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Syria-Palestine. Previously unknown epigraphic material, consisting of hieroglyphic and cuneiform texts, provided Bible scholars with literary, historical, and legal documents comparable to the biblical testimonies. The vast collection of...

  7. 3 Status Related Titles
    (pp. 43-80)

    A title clearly associated with rank derived from genealogy is התםלד (bn hmlk), “son of the king.” This appellation is included in the present study for two reasons: (1) The title is borne by biblical characters who are involved in administrative roles. (2) Scholars remain divided on the definition of the title, most accepting a literal interpretation but a few still perceiving it as a functional rather than a genealogical designation.

    In the biblical text התםלד is attested in reference to nine men; similarly התםלד (bt hmlk), “daughter of the king,” alludes to two women. Often this title refers explicitly...

  8. 4 Function-Related Titles
    (pp. 81-177)

    Probably the most prestigious title specifying a position in the state organization is that of אשר על הבית (’sr ‘l hbyt), “the one who is over the house.” Seven royal officials, six named and one unnamed, holding this title are mentioned in the Bible. An eighth court functionary is called נגיד תיבה (ngyd hbyt), “ruler of the house.” Ahishar, who is the first Israelite official entitled אשר על הבית, appears in the register of Solomonic appointees (1 Kgs 4:6).¹ For the period of the Divided Monarchy, the bible records three such officials from Israel: Arza, who served under King Elah...

  9. 5 Miscellaneous Designations
    (pp. 178-203)

    A few general designations that do not seem to fit the classification “official title” appear in connection with courtiers or other persons involved in the monarchic organization. The terms סכן and סכנת fall into this category. The participle סכן, feminine סכנת, is attested in the Bible twice as an appellation for persons connected to the king: Shebnah, the minister over the royal house, is referred to as a סכן by Isaiah (Isa 22:15); Abishag, David’s personal attendant, is called a סכנת a(1 Kgs 1:2, 4). These substantives are derived from the verb סכן, “give or derive benefit.”¹ As noted in...

  10. 6 Aspects of Administration Revealed in Inscriptions
    (pp. 204-268)

    In addition to the corpus of seals engraved with short texts of mostly PNs and a few titles, the epigraphic remains from Israel include ostraca displaying longer texts, often on administrative matters. The collection of ostraca from Samaria, which fits this category, was the first archive of Hebrew inscriptions to be uncovered in an archaeological excavation. Since its discovery in 1910 in what was once a storehouse in the palace complex at Samaria, this corpus of inscribed pottery sherds has been the topic of much scholarly discussion. Various issues relating to the data contained in the texts have been and...

  11. 7 Conclusions
    (pp. 269-280)

    A key objective of this study was to refine current definitions of titles of royal functionaries and their roles in the monarchic state-organization and to create a tentative reconstruction of the government structure. Central to this reconstruction is an understanding of the composition of the bureaucracy, its hierarchal organization, and the interrelationships between its members. The following summary observations are built on a combination of factors: a reevaluation of comparative data, especially Egyptian sources; a reexamination of the biblical evidence; utilization of recent epigraphic and other archaeological discoveries; and, not insignificantly, on previous research.

    A few remarks are warranted in...

  12. Tables
    (pp. 281-311)
  13. Map Distribution Map of LMLK and Rosette Impressed Handles
    (pp. 312-312)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 313-343)
  15. Index of Biblical Sources Cited
    (pp. 344-351)
  16. General Index
    (pp. 352-362)
  17. Index of Foreign Terms
    (pp. 363-367)