On Royal Navigation of Collective Urban Politics
According to 2 Samuel 15:1–6, Absalom gained support for his bid for the throne by befriending legal claimants seeking justice at Jerusalem’s gates. This chapter shows how 2 Samuel 15:1–6 assumes the civic and judicial function of city gates, well known to scholars, as well as the collective politics of Levantine towns, which has been less studied. The chapter marshals a wide range of archaeological and textual evidence pointing to the town as an independent political unit with traditional structures of collective governance. Ancient Near Eastern kings navigated the collective politics of towns in a variety of ways. The chapter offers a fresh reading of 2 Samuel 15:1–6 in light of the larger political and social world assumed by the text. The passage exemplifies the ambiguity of the larger David story: while Absalom’s actions are portrayed as illegitimate, his rebellion draws attention to David’s shortcomings.
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