Reconciling Violence and Kingship: A Study of Judges and 1 Samuel

By Marty Alan Michelson

An original contribution to Old Testament studies exploring the connection between socially sanctioned violence and the emergence of kingship in ancient Israel.

ISBN: 9780227680131


In Reconciling Violence and Kingship, Michelson argues that a literary reading of Judges to 1 Samuel reveals a deep rooted and intentional ambivalence towards kingship, due to its intimate connection with socially permissible violence. Michelson expertly constructs a picture of the difficult emergence of the concept of Kingship in ancient Israel, culminating in its establishment as a sacred institution with the anointing of Saul.

Michelson uses a literary method to examine the use of civil and institutionalized violence in the biblical narratives of Abimelech, the Levite and the concubine, and Saul. This reveals a society in which institutionalized violence is permissible in order to curb the ‘chaotic’ social violence which threatens the survival of communities. The ‘chaos’ is quelled with the reconciling establishment of kingship. The work of the French critic René Girard allows Michelson to shed light on the fact that institutionalized violence does not lead to social dissolution, but to social tension.

A fascinating literary and anthropological study of one of the bloodier sections of the Bible, this work will enhance the understanding of theologians and historians concerned with kingship and violence in the Israeli narrative in this refreshing analysis.

Additional information

Dimensions229 × 153 mm


Trade InformationJPOD

About the Author

Marty Alan Michelson is Professor of Old Testament at Southern Nazarene University. Michelson earned his PhD in Ancient Jewish History and Literature at the University of Manchester. Michelson teaches integrative courses that deal with issues of peacemaking, ecological and global stewardship, and Shoah/genocide studies. He founded and directs the Eupan Global Initiative and has worked as a pastor for inner-city congregations.



1. Thesis and Scope of Study
2. Composition and Kingship in the Deuteronomistic History
3. Abimelech
4. Micah, the Levite, and the Concubine
5. Saul and Kingship
6. Assessing a Girardian Hermeneutic within This Study
7. Summary and Conclusions

Subject Index
Scripture Index


Endorsements and Reviews

In this bracing study of the Deuteronomistic History, Marty A. Michelson combines a careful literary reading of key texts with René Girard’s theory of mimetic violence, sacrifice, and the scapegoat mechanism to offer a fresh explanation of the emergence of kingship in Israel. Michelson’s innovative study not only unsettles common historical assumptions but challenges readers to think in new ways, including positive ways, about violence and kingship, and the relation between the two. Girardian theory is here put to constructive historical use.
Ben C. Ollenburger, Professor of Biblical Theology, Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary

The foremost attribute of Reconciling Violence and Kingship is the literary analysis of the three narratives presented in Chapters 3-5: it is thorough, engaging, and illuminating.
Jessiah Nickel, in Reviews in Religion and Theology, Vol 20, No 3

Michelson’s study shines brightest in chapters three through five. Here he reads his texts carefully, identifying common motifs and plot patterns among them, and he does this well. … his study makes some very interesting observations.
Kerry Lee, in The Expository Times, Vol 124, No 12

Michelson’s original and stimulating contribution … contains many fine insights … Michelson is to be commended for experimenting with a cross-disciplinary approach to texts where literary and historical readings have too often been done without reference to each other.
Barry G. Webb, in Journal for the Evangelical Studies of the Old Testament, 2013

The strength of this work is the literary reading that shows the importance of violence and sacrifice in the interconnected narratives under examination. Anyone interested in a literary reading of these difficult narratives will find much insight into them. … the present work is a helpful advance on understanding the way narratives of 1 Samuel are interconnected with and depend upon the stories in Judges.
Benjamin J.M. Johnson, Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, in Theological Book Review, Vol 25, No 2