After the conquest of Canaan, the first threat to the stability of the Twelve Tribes of Israel came during a period of semi-collectivist government that was, according to Dr. Anthony Silvestri, headed by a council of elders.
Large bands of warriors bearing iron weapons emerged from the Mediterranean Sea near 1100 BC, overrunning both Egypt and Palestine (the new name of the region stemming from the name of the invaders, the Philistines) and establishing rule by systematic coercion and tribute extraction.
For the purpose of resisting the tide of “Sea Peoples,” every tribe appointed temporary political and military leaders, or Judges, who headed the Hebrew armies. Following a defeat at the Battle of Aphek (around the year 1040 BC), however, many Hebrews realized that a nationally unified force would be the only means of driving back the occupants.
Silvestri writes that “the Israelites decided that the old system of government by council was no longer viable, and they adopted the tried and true near-eastern monarchy. Their first king, Saul, began as a success against the Philistines, but then became mentally deranged.”
Helen Chapin Metz describes the brevity of Saul’s regime, “To unify the people in the face of the Philistine threat, the prophet Samuel anointed the guerilla captain Saul as the first king of the Israelites. Only one year after his coronation, however, the Philistines destroyed the new royal army at Mount Gilboa, near Bet Shean, southeast of the Plain of Jezreel, killing Saul and his son Jonathan.”
The actual length of Saul’s reign is disputed, and The Cultural Atlas of the Bible exposes varying estimates, ranging from two years to thirty-two. Helen Chapin Metz seems to be an advocate of the lesser extreme.
It was then that the figure of David entered the historical spotlight. David, a former shepherd who had served as a mercenary for the Philistines and was well aware of their attributes and tactics, had been selected, due to his previous contributions to the armies of Saul, which included his triumph in a duel against Goliath, a renowned Philistine warrior. The Cultural Atlas of the Bible states that “at the time of Saul’s death (with whom David had quarreled as a result of Saul’s suspicions of David’s designs toward kingship) David was spared from having to fight against the Israelites, and in the period that followed Saul’s death he became king of Judah, ruling from Hebron presumably with Philistine approval.”
Arkenberg, J.S., ed. “Ancient History Sourcebook: Kurash (Cyrus) the Great: The Decree of Return for the Jews, 539 BCE.” Ezra. The Hebrew Bible. “Book of Ezra 1:1-8” Available: http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/ancient/539cyrus1.html. February 6, 2002.
Arkenberg, J.S., ed. “Ancient History Sourcebook: Kurash (Cyrus) the Great: The Decree of Return for the Jews, 539 BCE.” The Great, Cyrus. The Kurash Prism. Available: http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/ancient/539cyrus1.html. February 6, 2002.
CenturyOne. “THE GIFTS OF THE JEWS: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels (Hinges of History Series Volume 2).” (A book review of Thomas Cahill’s work.) Available: http://www.centuryone.com/8249-3.html. February 6, 2002.
Helen Chapin Metz, ed. “EARLY ISRAEL.[Excerpted from Israel: A Country Study.Helen Chapin Metz, ed. Washington, DC: Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress, 1988].” Available: http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/iltoc.html. February 6, 2002.
Kamm, Josephine. The Hebrew People: A History of the Jews. New York: McGraw-Hill: 1967.
Lipman, David E. “Gates to Jewish Heritage. Bar Kochba: The Bar Kochba Revolt.”Available: http://www.jewishgates.org/personalities/bar.stm. February 6, 2002.
Silvestri, Anthony. “Dr. Silvestri’s WWW Ancient World History Resource. III. The Hebrews.” Available: http://www.drhistory.org/main.html. January 27, 2001.
Speake, Graham, ed. The Cultural Atlas of the World: The Bible.Alexandria, Va., Stonehenge Press, 1992.
West, Jim. “Ancient Israelite Marriage Customs.” Available: http://www.theology.edu/marriage.htm. February 6, 2002.