In God's Shadow: Politics in the Hebrew Bible

Hardcover | June 5, 2012

byMichael Walzer

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In this eagerly awaited book, political theorist Michael Walzer reports his findings after decades of thinking about the politics of the Hebrew Bible. Attentive to nuance while engagingly straightforward, Walzer examines the laws, the histories, the prophecies, and the wisdom of the ancient biblical writers and discusses their views on such central political questions as justice, hierarchy, war, the authority of kings and priests, and the experience of exile.

Because there are many biblical writers with differing views, pluralism is a central feature of biblical politics. Yet pluralism, Walzer observes, is never explicitly defended in the Bible; indeed, it couldn’t be defended since God’s word had to be as singular as God himself. Yet different political regimes are described in the biblical texts, and there are conflicting political arguments—and also a recurrent anti-political argument: if you have faith in God, you have no need for strong institutions, prudent leaders, or reformist policies. At the same time, however, in the books of law and prophecy, the people of Israel are called upon to overcome oppression and “let justice well up like water, righteousness like an unfailing stream.”

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In this eagerly awaited book, political theorist Michael Walzer reports his findings after decades of thinking about the politics of the Hebrew Bible. Attentive to nuance while engagingly straightforward, Walzer examines the laws, the histories, the prophecies, and the wisdom of the ancient biblical writers and discusses their views on...

Michael Walzer is professor (emeritus) of social science, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, NJ. He is the author of twenty-seven books and more than three hundred articles on political theory and moral philosophy, and he has served as coeditor of the journal Dissent for some fifty years. He lives in Princeton.

other books by Michael Walzer

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On Toleration

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:256 pages, 9.25 × 6.13 × 0.98 inPublished:June 5, 2012Publisher:Yale University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0300180446

ISBN - 13:9780300180442

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From the Author

A Conversation with Michael WalzerQ:  Why did you write this book?A:  I think about politics all the time when I read, and I've been reading the Bible all my life. So why should this book be different from any other book? There is a politics in the Bible, and sometimes an anti-politics, and the stories and arguments are gripping. They cry out for our engagement.Q:  What did you find most surprising in the Bible?A:  The many voices, the radical pluralism of the Bible, which is really an anthology, a book of books. The last editors would never have called themselves pluralists or articulated a doctrine of pluralism, but they were remarkably inclusive. They brought together radically contradictory views, without seeking to harmonize the contradictions.Q:  So, is there a biblical political doctrine, a single teaching, a lesson to be learned?A:  No. Biblical fundamentalists will have a hard time finding the foundations. There is a biblical doctrine about religion and one about justice, but there is radical disagreement among the Bible's authors about politics. Some are actively hostile: when God is king, what need is there for human politics?Praise for Michael Walzer’s Arguing about War:“Walzer has moved the concerns over just war from the periphery of political theory to the very center of our democratic dilemma.”—Garry Wills, New York Review of BooksPraise for Michael Walzer’s On Toleration:"The genius of Walzer's little book . . . is how realistic it is about the contradictions confronting those who would create an open society."—E. J. Dionne, Jr., Washington Post

Editorial Reviews

“Walzer has written a lucid, probing, and broad-minded study that will enrich each reader's understanding of the great architectonic text of Western civilization. We are in his debt.”—Eric Nelson, Jewish Review of Books