In God’s Shadow: Politics in the Hebrew Bible

Michael Walzer. Yale Univ., $28 (256p) ISBN 978-0-300-18044-2
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The Hebrew Bible, a multifaceted, nuanced, and often confusing document, ostensibly relays the unitary and definitive word of God, while compiling the contributions of dozens of authors with strikingly different viewpoints. Walzer (Just and Unjust Wars), a prominent social scientist who notably has little background in biblical languages or archeology, sets out to determine the political theory embedded in the text, “reading the Bible in much the same way as [he] read[s] John Locke, or The Federalist Papers, or Rousseau, or Hegel.” His slim volume posits many compelling theories and raises interesting questions, but is forever circling back on itself as its source text offers contradictory evidence. From the nature of political authority—the Israelites petitioned the prophet Samuel to establish a kingship for them so they would be like the other nations, an act of volition which, Walzer points out, makes them very different from the other nations—to the establishment of a common national identity or just-war theory, he mines the scriptures for their insight on subjects that continue to vex world leaders today. If there is a common thread, it is perhaps that great power inevitably “tempts kings and emperors to put themselves in God’s place,” while blinding them to the fact that, often, “human beings are better off not doing what God does.” (June)
Reviewed on: 04/30/2012
Release date: 06/01/2012
Ebook - 257 pages - 978-0-300-18251-4
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