New York University Public Law and Legal Theory Working Papers

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This article extends prior work on the political theory of the Hebrew Bible. Previous papers presented the Garden of Eden story as a prolegomenon outlining concepts of legitimate authority; the stories of the Dark Age and the Flood as justifying the role of government and law in human society; the accounts of the Patriarchs as an exploration of patriarchal organization; and the early chapters of the book of Exodus as comparing and contrasting nomadism, dependency, slavery and nationhood as models of political organization. The present paper examines the biblical author’s ideas about selfgovernances as a step towards the achievement of nationhood. Key elements of selfgovernance are a population to be organized, a need for organization, a leader capable of performing the organizing task, and political action to establish the group’s autonomy. The author provides a remarkably sophisticated treatment of charismatic leadership and the tension between the leader’s personal and political identities.

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