Ancient Judaism by Max Weber

By Max Weber

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The debt slaves, especially, are typical phenomena. They are found in the tradition as the soldiers of fortune following all charismatic leaders from Jephthah (Jud. 11:8), Saul (I. Sam. 18:6, Hebrews enslaved by the Philistines), particularly David (I. Sam. 22:2) to Judas Maccabeus (1. Maccabees 8:9). Once the kernel of the army of the Israelite confederacy in the battle against the Canaanite chariot-fighting city patriciate, the free peasant with the increasing urbanization of the great Israelite sibs and the change-over to the chariot fighting technique was increasingly reduced to a plebeian within his own people.

The Song of Deborah indicates that the ancient Israelite confederacy was, indeed, largely a peasant organization. " That the confederacy in historical times has at no time been only a peasant organization has also been established. Later, in the time of Kings, there is no more talk of "peasants" in the armies, at least, they are no longer the backbone of the army. It is highly probable that economic and technical military changes here played the same role as elsewhere. The transition to costly armor under the rule of principled self-equipment of the army always excludes the economically disqualified small holder from the fully equipped army.

The power situation was unstable. In an emergency, a king could dare tax the gibbore chayil, as Menahem did for the Assyrian tribute. And it is noticeable, 20 too, that in contrast to all other epochs, the city elders in the period between Solomon and Josiah recede more into the background in the sources. Indeed, the stewards and officials of the kings possibly displaced the elders completely, taking over their position as judges, at least in the royal residences which, after all, were fortresses.

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