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The Idea of Covenant

Covenant & Polity in Biblical Israel: Biblical Foundations & Jewish Expressions

The Covenant Tradition in Politics, Volume 1, Introduction

Daniel J. Elazar


No one seriously immersed in the Jewish and Christian traditions has escaped the theological impact of the covenant idea. Covenant was once the subject of so many theological treatises that at times it seems as if there is little new to be said about it. On the other hand, covenant is less a theological concept than a theo-political one. The word itself is used so frequently in the English language that it has become a mere commonplace term, if not quite like freedom and democracy, then certainly like republic and constitution. Even so, far too little has been written about covenant as a factor in political affairs.

Politically, a covenant involves a coming together (con-gregation) of basically equal humans who consent with one other through a morally binding pact supported by a transcendent power, establishing with the partners a new framework or setting them on the road to a new task, that can only be dissolved by mutual agreement of all the parties to it.

The covenants of the Bible are the founding covenants of Western civilization. Perforce, they have to do with God. They have their beginnings in the need to establish clear and binding relationships between God and humans and among humans, relationships which must be understood as being political far more than theological in character, designed to establish lines of authority, distributions of power, bodies politic, and systems of law. It is indeed the genius of the idea and its biblical source that it seeks to both legitimize political life and to direct it into the right paths; to use theo-political relationships to build a bridge between heaven and earth -- and there is nothing more earthly than politics even in its highest form -- without letting either swallow up the other.

The covenant idea has within it the seeds of modern constitutionalism in that it emphasizes the mutually accepted limitations on the power of all parties to it, a limitation not inherent in nature but involving willed concessions. This idea of limiting power is of first importance in the biblical worldview and for humanity as a whole since it helps explain why an omnipotent God does not exercise His omnipotence in the affairs of humans. In covenanting with humans, God at least partially withdraws from controlling their lives. He offers humans freedom under the terms of the covenant, retaining the covenantal authority to reward or punish the consequences of that freedom at some future date. By the same token, the humans who bind themselves through the covenant accept its limits in Puritan terms, abandoning natural for federal liberty -- to live up to the terms of their covenants. Beyond that, the leaders of the people are limited in their governmental powers to serving the people under the terms of the covenant. Thus the idea of constitutional or limited government is derived from the idea of covenant.

Covenant as a theo-political concept is characterized by a very strong measure of realism. This recognition of the need to limit the exercise of power is one example of this. It also recognizes the distinction between those who are bound by the covenant and those who are not. At the same time it makes provisions for appropriate linkages between those so bound and others, granted of a different order, but designed to keep the peace in the world in the face of the realities of conflicting human interests, needs and demands. In this book we are concerned with the political use of the idea of covenant, the tradition that has adhered to that idea, and the political arrangements that flow from it.

In more secular terms, the task of politics is not simply to construct civil societies compatible with human nature, but to help people make the most of their potential by creating conditions and opportunities for leading the best possible lives. As Aristotle observed: people form political associations, not only to maintain life, but to achieve the good life.


Politics has two faces. One is the face of power; the other is the face of justice. Politics, as the pursuit and organization of power, is concerned (in the words of Harold Lasswell) with "who gets what, when and how." However, politics is equally a matter of justice, or the determination of who should get what, when and how -- and why. Power is the means by which people organize themselves and shape their environment in order to live. Justice offers the guidelines for using power in order to live well.

Politics cannot be understood without reference to both faces. Without understanding a polity's conception of justice, or who should have power, one cannot understand clearly why certain people or groups get certain rewards, at certain times, in certain ways. On the other hand, one cannot focus properly on the pursuit of justice without also understanding the realities of the distribution of power. Both elements are present in all political questions, mutually influencing each other.

The need to pursue justice through a politics set on the right path is as real in a secular age as in a religious one. The true essence of realpolitik is the understanding that just as politics cannot avoid the realities of human relationships and power, it cannot be detached from the pursuit of justice and the paths of morality either. Machiavellian methods are effective only in the short run simply because in the long run, everyone involved in political affairs comes to understand the use of those methods. Those who cannot use them, leave the political arena, turning it over to those who can, who then proceed to transform that arena into a jungle, in which every man's hand is raised against every other man's as each tries to use the political methods which the master suggested to his prince -- returning to what seventeenth and eighteenth century political theorists referred to as the state of nature with the chaos and insecurity that entails. Realistically, Machiavellian methods work best in situations where they are unexpected, that is to say, where there already exists a connection between politics and a sense of morally obligatory limitations on political behavior, which, of course, those methods then subvert.

The collapse of a shared moral understanding inevitably leads to a collapse of the rules of the game. We are witness to just such a collapse in many polities in our time, for precisely that reason, a collapse which has brought in its train the present crisis of humankind. It is the discovery of a proper moral base or foundation, and its pursuit in such a way that recognizes the realities of power that is essential for a good politics. That is what the conceptual system rooted in covenant is all about. The rules of the game for some may have emerged originally through an evolutionary process to be accepted by those bound by them as a matter of course. Once disrupted, however, they can only be restored by consent, that is to say, through covenanting.

Through covenant, the two faces of politics, power and justice, are linked to become effective both morally and operationally. In the course of this book, I will suggest that covenant is by far the best source for developing a proper moral understanding and proper moral path in politics, that it is, indeed, the way to achieve a general public commitment to the political institutions required for the good life and to emerge from the Machiavellian jungle as free, morally responsible people. Perhaps such covenants may be civil rather than theo-political in character; that is still a question facing humanity. The idea of a civil covenant is one of the most important contributions of the last previous great revival of the covenant idea, the period from the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries, the crucible that led to the emergence of modern democracy. The range of its possibilities was tested in the modern epoch and, by itself, found very useful but wanting. So, too, with the theo-political covenants of the past.

The genius of the covenant idea does not rest upon its philosophic explication although such explication has much to contribute for a finer understanding of it. While ideas have their own subtle influence on people, their influence grows exponentially if they are embodied in a tradition -- in the case of the covenant idea, a political tradition which continues from generation to generation. Such a tradition has both visible and invisible, conscious and subconscious manifestations. Its visible ones are easily traced, but the greatest part of its impact is in its invisible ones, those that are part of the substructure of the society, that constitute its culture, in this case political culture. To the extent that the covenant idea is mediated through certain political traditions, to become part of the political culture, it has become second nature to those peoples influenced by it.


What are the components of a political tradition? First of all, it is a mode of thinking and body of thoughts shared by members of a particular body politic, especially those in any way involved in politics. In order to think about political things, they must have a political vocabulary -- a set of terms which individually and in relation to one another offer ways to delineate and express political meaning. Such terms constitute a political vocabulary which represents the "program" through which people consider political things. The key words in any political vocabulary are what Kadushin has referred to as value concepts, that is to say, terms whose precise definition may be difficult or well nigh impossible, but which are understood to have a common core meaning within a particular culture.1

A political tradition begins with the founding of the body politic and revolves around certain fundamental principles and the relations -- including the tensions -- between them which already are part of the founding. Every body politic is founded on its own principles of organization, power and authority relationships, and fundamental tensions, explicit or implicit. The latter are those which are "present at the creation" of the body politic and which have to be bridged in order for the body politic to come into existence. Because they are only bridged but not resolved, they are built into the very fabric of the body politic which must reconcile them anew in every generation as long as the body politic exists in the same form. It is a task of the political tradition to keep those principles, relationships, and tensions alive and operational as the body politic confronts changing situations and circumstances.

The political tradition is kept alive by the chain of political leaders and thinkers who utilize that vocabulary to undertake or explain the political acts that shape and direct the body politic. In the course of time, a tradition becomes embodied in certain basic texts that reflect the political ideas of a particular body politic, its political vocabulary, and celebrate the figures, events, and concepts that most embody the tradition. In that sense, the visible dimensions of a tradition sooner or later come to involve the interaction of texts and behavior in dealing with the internal and external influences on the body politic.

In sum, a tradition is a major integrative force within the body politic. Some polities rely on tradition more than others for integration. Covenanted polities are particularly in need of an appropriate political tradition for their integration. In every case they are covenanted polities because their political tradition rests upon the covenant idea and a covenantal political culture.

This book is an exploration of the original covenant tradition, explicating its idea through living examples of their application, examining the ways in which that idea and its derivatives penetrated and permeated, shaped or gave rise to particular political systems, institutions, and behavior. These indeed are the elements of politics that count, through which ideas are made meaningful and real. Thus it is simultaneously the statement of a thesis, its documentation through case studies and something of a guide for those who would learn how to conduct political life according to the covenant tradition.

Understanding covenant as a seminal political concept offers us a way to better understand politics as a whole. Indeed, through the covenant idea we can begin to develop a field theory of political science. Let us begin by defining the subject matter of political science, namely the relationship between power and justice in organized human relationships, particularly those of civil society or the polity. The elements of such a field theory include the foundations of political life which are a) biological, b) psychological, and c) cultural. All human life, including its political dimension, somehow is anchored in the biological basis of the human species, which, in turn, has various manifestations, psychological and cultural. The former is individual and the latter, collective. Culture is the second nature of humanity, as it were -- so much so that the line between biology and culture is indistinct. The two flow into one another to create what the Bible very accurately describes as derekh or way. All things and creatures, including humans, have their own respective ways. In humans, these ways represent syntheses of nature and culture. Both nature and culture exist without the need to be consciously understood, but humans are self-conscious about them and so, seek to understand and interpret them through ideas, hence the foundation of human understanding in its various branches and disciplines. In our case, we seek political understanding which, when systematized, leads to political science.

More than anything else, cultures, systems, and humans informed by the covenantal perspective are committed to a way of thinking and conduct which enable them to live free while being bound together in appropriate relationships, to preserve their own integrities while sharing in a common whole, and to pursue both the necessities of human existence and the desiderata of moral response in some reasonable balance. There is a dialectic tension between each of these dualities which adds the requisite dynamic dimension to covenant-based societies, one which makes such societies covenant-informed as well as covenant-based. This dialectic tension is an integral element in covenantal systems, one which provides such systems with the necessary self-corrective mechanisms to keep them in reasonable balance over the long haul, at least so long as covenantal principles continue to inform and shape the polities concerned.

This is not to suggest that all of human life is informed by covenant. As we will discuss below, there are hierarchical and organic ideas and systems that compete with covenantal ones and which have shaped very substantial segments of the human race. Presumably, they, too, can be penetrated to achieve better understanding of human behavior.

At the same time, the extent to which covenantal relationships are spread among humans is an open question. It is possible to understand covenantal relationships as the property of a rather exclusive segment of the human race, those who have achieved that level of equality and social cooperation through some measure of conscious understanding and semi or subconscious behavior. It is also possible to see covenantal behavior as a human psychological necessity and, hence, extremely widespread, even within otherwise hierarchical and organic systems, at least in certain respects. Of course there are positions between these two extremes.

We must approach the subject aware of two realities: one, that partisans of each worldview, such as the Bible in the matter of covenant or Greek philosophy in the matter of organic development, will claim that it is the most natural and that where it does not exist, it is being artificially prevented from being. On the other hand, reality suggests that there are hierarchical, organic, and covenantal socio-political arrangements in the world, and combinations of the three. This writer takes a moderate position, holding that there is a somewhat exclusive club of those peoples and polities consisting of that segment of the human race that is truly immersed in the covenantal way of life, that in some ways all human beings have some psychological propensity to contractual relationships, that is to say, transactional ones based upon mutual agreement, which can include a covenantal dimension, and that there are gradations of covenantalism to be found in between.


Since covenants are grounded in moral commitment, they also provide a basis and a means for placing all of us under judgment. That is to say, a proper covenant not only offers humans the right path or way but provides means for the self-same humans to judge and be judged as to how well they stay on that path or maintain that way. Given human propensities to stray from the right path, no human system and especially no political system can afford not to be under judgment.

The Covenant relationship is to social and political life what the I-Thou relationship is to personal life. Through covenants humans are enabled to enter into dialogue and are given (or themselves create) a framework for dialogue. The ties of covenant are the concretization of the I-Thou relationship which, when addressed to God, makes man holy and, when addressed to one's fellows, makes men human. As the Bible itself makes clear, the covenantal bonds transform a mystical union into a real one, making life possible in an all-too-real world and, at the same time, creating the possibilities for a whole new realm of what has been called "normal mysticism," or the fusion of the highest goals of the mystics' quest with the demands of everyday living. The progress of civilization can be traced as corresponding to the periods in human history when the historical vanguard has recognized the covenant idea and sought to concretely apply it to the building of human, social and political relationships.

We shall see that in its biblical origins, covenant (brit in Hebrew) is related to the way or path, that is to say to the bio-cultural basis of behavior, both concretizing and modifying it. The Bible emphasizes their interaction and that it is the task of both to bound, channel and modify derekh. Modern secularism has come to emphasize path over covenant. It has gone even further to abandon path for nature (as understood by moderns), implying that what is biological is all, and that what is cultural -- not to speak of covenantal -- while "real" is usually an interference with natural processes unless it is constantly reformed to be brought into harmony with nature as humans understand it at any particular time. Even in considering nature, it has rejected higher nature on behalf of lower. The result, as any one who understands the teachings of covenant in relation to human experience would have forecast, opens the door to the return of the human race to the Hobbesian state of nature, different only in that it is not simply the war of all against all but the exploitation of all by all -- Buber's jungle alongside that of Hobbes. Even as the world community of states moves toward some kind of order, the social fabric of those states is being rent by an unrestrained self-centeredness that is the antithesis of the covenantal way. Restoration of the covenant tradition in an appropriately contemporary way may help serve as a means of rescuing humankind from what is rapidly becoming its most desperate predicament, namely the inability to escape the egoism of the Hobbesian jungle.


This study is divided into three volumes. The first, The Covenant of Abraham or Covenant and Polity in Biblical Israel: Biblical Foundations and Jewish Expressions, consists of an in-depth, if necessarily selective, exploration of the biblical sources of the covenant tradition, its development in Scripture, and subsequently in Jewish history and thought. Volume Two, The Covenant of Noah: Western Covenantal Tradition from Christian Separation to Protestant Reformation, examines the Christian adaptation of the biblical tradition, its integration with the traditions of the tribal oath societies of Northern Europe, the perforce limited medieval expressions of that synthesis, and the revival of covenant as the architectonic principle of the Protestant Reformation. It also examines covenant and hierarchy in Islam and other pre-modern polities. Volume Three, The Covenant of Adam: Modern Covenants and the New Science of Politics, examines the progressive secularization of the covenant idea in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and its application through principles of constitutionalism and federalism to the building of new societies in the New World and the efforts to reconstitute old societies in Europe, and concludes with a general analysis of the dynamics of covenant and the possible future role of the covenant tradition in the post-modern world.

This work, despite its scope, cannot trace all the human connections that show the transmission of covenant ideas and ways. Consequently, it seeks to highlight those critical elements that shaped history and civilization, particularly in the Western world. In a sense it is also a history of, first, the "westering" (an American pioneer term for moving westward until the frontier) of covenant and then its universalization in the politics of constitutional democratic republicanism.

Ideally, it is the aim of this work not only to trace the interconnections between ideas, culture and behavior, but between peoples and generations as well, to follow the path of the covenant idea and covenantal cultures and behavior in time and space. This is a daunting task requiring dozens of monographic studies not yet undertaken and probably can never be done because of the great gaps in the historical data available. For example, in the history of the ancient Southwest Asia and adjacent regions, by far the most substantial record we have is the Bible, much of which is not corroborated by any other source in regard to the matters under discussion here.

The scriptural account, while full of fascinating behavioral details which gives us great insight into covenantal ideas, culture and behavior, useful in fostering our understanding of other covenantal situations in other times and climes, is not comprehensive history but rather a series of moral case studies designed for purposes other than illustrating the issues under consideration here.

We also can benefit from the documents from other ancient West Asian civilizations discovered since the last century.2 In recent years archeologists have discovered records from various ancient Southwest Asian archives that testify to the existence of vassal treaties in one form or another and modified covenantal elements among peoples adjacent to ancient Israel, but the only record we have of a fully covenantal civilization is that of ancient Israel as portrayed in Scripture.

History in the more conventional sense begins with the Greeks, more or less at the end of the First Jewish Commonwealth in the fifth and sixth centuries BCE. Greek histories focus on heroic actions and events. They give us the political and military histories of the Greek Leagues, the most important of which were in Asia Minor, also a part of Southwest Asia -- a point often ignored or forgotten. But again, their purpose is not to trace connections. There, too, we have only those limited written records. Documentation is lacking and not likely to be found. Not only that but the survival of Greek philosophic works which are emphatically non-covenantal has strongly influenced our understanding of Greek political life.3

There is a greater variety of sources from the Hellenistic and Roman periods where a particular brand of political compacting was developed. Careful study of those materials in light of the prior Greek and biblical sources helps to reveal which cultures were more covenantally oriented and which not, and helps us begin to trace the macro connections, but we are still at a loss when it comes to the micro. We can continue that kind of tracing through medieval Europe. The situation improves considerably with the coming of the Renaissance and the Reformation, which created more awareness of issues of ideas, culture and behavior. Indeed this was one of their great contributions to the forging of the modern epoch. They also opened an era of better and more comprehensive record-keeping. Indeed, it can be said that those two great historical events brought a sea-change to historiography, for the first time making it possible to trace historical connections in a more comprehensive manner.

From that point on the problem is increasingly one of information overload, replacing the fragmented nature of available information in earlier epochs. So, for example, we can trace lines of intellectual influence in the Reformation, that is to say, who studied with whom and where, a very important addition to understanding the flow of ideas and even culture, but more limited on the behavioral side. It has been too easy for historians to treat the great chain of thought as if it were equally a chain of action. That is a pitfall that must be avoided.

Thus, for example, the seventeenth century European political philosophers were given much more credit for shaping the British colonies in North America and subsequently the United States of America, than they deserved. We now know that, having explored the less philosophically glitzy manifestations of Reformed Protestant, especially Puritan, patterns of thought and behavior as manifested in British North America most especially as a result of the Puritan Great Awakening in England of 1610 to 1640. The recovery of the true character of that line of development over the last forty years or so has not only much enriched our understanding of American beginnings but also has demonstrated what it is possible to do when the records are available for study. But what has been done for American history has not been done for any other.4

It seems that the only possibilities for tracing a set of connections from the ancient world to the present lies within those religious, philosophic, and legal writings that refer to prior sources or where prior sources can be identified. Jewish texts, in particular, provide sufficient records to trace intellectual connections rather fully for 2,000 years, partially for another 500, and then another 500 to 1,000 years before that. The Hebrew multi-volume study, Etz Haim (the Tree of Life), prepared in our times by Rafael Halperin, traces the line of teaching and halakhic authority from the earliest times to the present through the generations.5 It is an amazing feat that is extremely valuable in the study of the history of Jewish ideas including constitutional matters. It may be possible to do similar tracings in philosophy. In these volumes, while we have to rely upon work already done in most cases, we will do the best we can to trace these patterns with all due awareness of the limitations of our data.


The biblical discussion of the government of ancient Israel stands at the very beginning of Western political life and thought just as the political experience of ancient Israel as recounted in the Bible laid the foundations of the Jewish political tradition in all its aspects. The Bible's concern with teaching humans the right way to live in this world gives its political dimension particular importance. The highly social character of biblical concern with achieving the good life leads to its emphasis on the good commonwealth. The biblical account of the history of the Israelites can be seen in that light.6

The biblical account of the origins of the Jewish people reflects a blend of kinship and consent that generates a special political culture and a variety of institutions at home in it. A family of tribes becomes a nation by consenting to a common covenant with God and with each other, out of which flow the principles and practices of religious life and political organization that have animated the Jews as a corporate entity ever since.7

The record of that experience represents the oldest stratum in Western political thought and, since the record is derived very directly from the Israelites' experience, the latter is in itself an important factor in the development of Western political institutions.8 If this is more difficult to perceive today than it was in Hobbes', Spinoza's and Locke's time, it is because the study of the political experience of ancient Israel has been generally neglected in the centuries since the Reformed Protestant theologians and state-builders and the political philosophers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries paid serious attention to it in shaping the political views of the moderns who were to reject Scripture as authoritative.9

Biblical political ideas are expressed through the description of the institutions, events, and prophesies connected with the government of ancient Israel. Less formally articulated than Greek political thought, the biblical political teaching must be discovered in the same manner that all biblical knowledge must emerge, by careful examination and analysis of the text with careful attention to recurring words and patterns and the reconciliation of apparent contradictions.

The Bible understands that in order to impart moral lessons, empathy must be generated in the reader. Some people are able to learn moral lessons from more abstract writing but most must identify with and feel the human dimension. This is, of course, the rationale for good history or good fiction as against philosophy and social science which lack that dimension. Empathy is gained by telling a good story; hence the moral case studies in the Bible consist of a series of very good tales which draw people in to identify with the characters.10 Understanding the method necessary to approach the subject, it is indeed possible to learn much about the theory and practice of government in ancient Israel both in terms of the way in which the Israelites governed themselves and in terms of their response to the great questions of politics which they confronted in their unique way, as every people must.

As in the case with other biblical teachings, the Bible does not offer us a philosophically systematic presentation of its political theory or of the workings of particular political institutions. Rather, the theory must be derived inductively from the biblical discussion of the political history and hopes of the Israelites and from biblical critiques of institutions not fully described. Contemporary understanding of biblical political ideas and institutions rests in great measure on our expanded understanding of the political institutions in the ancient Near East as a whole, particularly those of the civilizations of the Fertile Crescent.

Despite all that we have learned about the biblical period in the past century from extra-biblical sources, principally archeological, we still must rely on the Bible for almost all of what we know about human behavior in ancient Israel, especially political behavior. Archeology corroborates aspects of the biblical account but can do no more. Thus we cannot say with certainty how the Israelites acquired a covenantal political culture, the institutions to accompany it, and the patterns of behavior that made those institutions work except through what is available in the biblical account.11

Given the problematics of the biblical account for historians, this means we can say very little about what came first and what came last, what was Divine and what was human, but the Bible does give us a rather complete sense of the covenantal dimension of Israelite life -- cultural, ideological, institutional, and behavioral -- and makes a very convincing case for the extraordinary degree in which the Israelite polity and the society it shaped was thoroughly covenantal. Moreover, the subsequent behavior of Jews as a people and as individuals very much reenforce what we learn from the Bible. Some powerful agency had worked to form a thoroughly covenantal people and thoroughly covenantal individuals who have persisted in their culture and ways throughout an extraordinarily story history under the most adverse conditions. The Bible offers us a set of perceptions and examples of how a covenantal people should act. That, too, is evidence that speaks for itself.

Advances in the study of the history and life of the ancient Near East made during the past two generations have enabled us to better understand the Bible in its political dimension as well as in so many others. Modern biblical scholarship has drawn on that knowledge to raise many questions about the authorship of the Bible and compilation of the biblical text. Approaching Scripture for contemporary scholars cannot be a matter of simple faith in the text as received. With that in mind, here we will look at the Bible as a whole -- a comprehensive political teaching, however formed, written, edited or compiled, one which deserves careful, indeed the most careful, consideration.


1. Max Kadushin, Organic Thinking (New York: Jewish Theological Seminary, 1938) and The Rabbinic Mind (New York: Jewish Theological Seminary, 1952).

2. Chaim I. Bermant, Ebla: A Revelation in Archaeology (New York: Times Books, 1979); Herbert B. Huffmon, "Prophecy in the Mari Latters," and Anson F. Rainey, "The Kingdom of Ugarit," in Edward F. Campbell, Jr. and David Noel Friedman, eds., The Biblical Archaeologist Reader, Vol. Three (New York: Doubleday, 1970); Harry M. Orlinsky, Understanding the Bible Through History and Archaeology (New York: Ktav, 1972).

3. Leo Strauss and Joseph Cropsey, eds., History of Political Philosophy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987).

4. Andrew McLaughlin, The Foundations of American Constitutionalism (Greenwich, CT: Fawcett, 1961); , Perry Miller, ed., The American Puritans (New York: Doubleday Anchor Books, 1956, and The New England Mind: The Seventeenth Century (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1963); Donald Lutz, "From Covenant to Constitution," Publius, Vol. 10, No. 4 (Fall 1980), and "The Theory of Consent in the Early State Constitutions," Publius, Vol. 9, No. 2 (Spring 1979).

5. Rafael Halperin, Etz Haim, 7 vols. (Tel Aviv: Hekdesh Ruah Ya'akov, 1978).

6. See, for example, Robert Gordis, "Democratic Origins in Ancient Israel -- The Biblical Edah," in The Alexander Marx Jubilee Volume (New York, 1967); Martin Noth, The History of Israel (New York: Harper and Row, 1958); G.E. Mendenhall, "Ancient Oriental and Biblical Law," Biblical Archeologist 17 (2) (1954), pp. 26-46; C. Umhau Wolf, "Terminology of Israel's Tribal Organization," Journal of Biblical Literature 65 (1946); Norman Gottwald, All the Kingdoms of the Earth (New York: Harper and Row, 1964); N.H. Snaith, "The Covenant-Love of God," in The Distinctive Ideas of the Old Testament (New York, 1964), pp. 94-127.

7. See Daniel J. Elazar, "Kinship and Consent in the Jewish Community: Patterns of Continuity in Jewish Communal Life," Tradition, Vol. 14, No. 4 (Fall 1974), pp. 63-79; "Covenant as the Basis of the Jewish Political Tradition," in Kinship and Consent: The Jewish Political Tradition and its Contemporary Uses, Daniel J. Elazar, ed. (Ramat Gan: Turtledove, 1981); and Daniel J. Elazar and Stuart A. Cohen, The Jewish Polity: Jewish Political Organizations from Biblical Times to the Present (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1985).

8. For an overview of the contribution of the Israelite experience in the development of Western political institutions, see, inter alia, G.H. Dodge, The Political Theory of the Huguenots of the Dispersion (New York, 1947); Harold Fisch, Jerusalem and Albion (New York: Schocken, 1964); Christopher Hill, Intellectual Origins of the English Revolution (Oxford, 1965); Hans Kohn, The Idea of Nationalism (New York: Macmillan, 1961); Zacharas P. Thundyil, Covenant in Anglo-Saxon Thought (Madras: Macmillan of India, 1972); Eric Voegelin, Israel and Revelation (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1957); Michael Walzer, Exodus and Revolution (New York: Basic Books, 1985) and The Revolution of the Saints (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1965).

9. Johannes Althusius, Politics, trans. Frederick Carney (Boston: Beacon Press, 1964); Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1958), p. 143; Benedict Spinoza, Political-Theological Tractate (Italian translation by C. Sarchi, 1875 [1670]); John Locke, First and Second Treatises on Government, ed. Peter Laslett (New York: Mentor, 1965); Daniel J. Elazar and John Kincaid, eds., The Covenant Connection (Grenshaw: Carolina Academic Press, 1990).

10. I am indebted to Catherine H. Zuckert for emphasizing this point on the relationship of political philosophy, history, and story-telling in her book Natural Right in the American Imagination (Lanham, Md.: Rowland and Mitchell, 1990).

11. See, for example, Albrecht Alt, Essays on Old Testament and Religion (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1968), pp. 173-222; H. Tadmor, "'The People and the Kingship in Ancient Israel: The Role of Political Institutions in the Biblical Period," Journal of World History 11 (1968), pp. 46-68; Martin Noth, History of Israel; W.F. Albright, "Tribal Rule and Charismatic Leaders," in The Biblical Period from Abraham to Ezra (New York, 1968), pp. 35-52; Yehezkel Kaufmann, The Biblical Account of the Conquest of Palestine (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1953) and The Book of Joshua: A Commentary (Jerusalem: Kiryat Sepher, 1963).

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