We may dwell more closely on the Exodus narrative as a model for Israel's political theology. At the outset Pharaoh is the defining political reference in the narrative. The emergence of YHWH in the drama of Pharaoh is an immense interruption, so that politics informed by YHWH may be understood as inter-ruptive politics, the emergence of a political agent who characteristically disrupts Pharaoh's "politics as usual." Israel always knows about "politics as usual," that is, the deployment of social power without reference to the subversive, detotal-

izing power of YHWH. But Israel also makes room, characteristically, for the disruptive enactment of YHWH in the midst of "the usual" that keeps the political process endlessly open and capable of fresh, neighborly initiatives.

In the Exodus narrative itself, we may identify six elements that become characteristic of Israel's self-discernment as a peculiar political enterprise.

First, Israel is attentive to social pain as a datum of the politics that is evoked in the public process of power. Israel is not so committed to orderly management that it fails to notice and take seriously social pain, because it refuses to regard such pain as a bearable cost of order. Thus already in Exodus 1: 13-14, the pain comes to articulation in the narrative: "The Egyptians became ruthless in imposing tasks on the Israelites, and made their lives bitter with hard service in mortar and bricks and in every kind of field labor. They were ruthless in all the tasks that they imposed on them" (Exod. 1: 13-14).

Second, Israel develops, early on, shrewd modes of defiance that were understood as methods that did not invite the wrath of the overlords (see Scott 1985, 1990). Thus the cunning midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, in pretended innocence but in fact in deeply committed piety defy pharaoh's decree in the service of their own community: "But the midwives feared God; they did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but they let the boys live . . . The midwives said to Pharaoh, 'Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them'" (Exod. 1: 17, 19).

Third, while resistance to abusive totalism may take the form of cunning, surreptitious defiance, it can also, however, be enacted as violence, as in the case of Moses' murder of an Egyptian. Moses does not quibble about any theoretical right to revolt, but that right is clearly implied in the narrative of Exod. 2: 11-15. Israel's political tradition is developed in the face of oppressive overlords, and Moses embodies the implied obligation of resistance to brutalizing authority.

Fourth, the convergence of pain noticed, defiance practiced, and violence perpetrated occurs in Exod. 2: 23-5, wherein Israel brings its pain to speech and issues a shrill cry of self-announcement that refuses the politics of silent submis-siveness: "After a long time the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned under their slavery, and cried out. Out of the slavery their cry for help rose up to God" (Exod. 2: 23).

These verses are important for the narrative because they include the first reference to YHWH in this account. It is noteworthy that the cry of the Israelites was not addressed to YHWH. This is, rather, a raw political act of giving voice to the irreducible political datum of suffering at the hands of coercive power. The cry cannot in any direct sense be understood as a theological act.

It is equally important, however, that the cry that was raw pain not addressed to anyone "rose up to God." In this peculiar, quite deliberate phrasing Israel's politics of protest is transposed by the magnetism of YHWH into a political theology. In its cry Israel does not know any transcendent assurance or even seek a theological reference. Rather, in Israel's telling, YHWH is simply "there" and draws the cry of pain to YHWH's own self, not because of who Israel is, but because of who YHWH is: an attentive listener to pain from below in a revolutionary mobilization of transformative energy against abusive power.

Fifth, after the evocation of YHWH, the account turns from the wretchedness of Israel in bondage to the odd hovering of YHWH's holiness at the edge of the slave camp. Moses, now a political fugitive, summoned and confronted by YHWH, who calls his name (Exod. 3: 4). This enigmatic, theophanic report functions in the larger narrative to intrude YHWH's inscrutable holy purpose and presence into Israel's political vision. This intrusion assures that Israel now has an advocate who more than equalizes Israel's chances against Pharaoh. As a result, Israel can now voice its characteristically distinctive political claim of a theological dimension to its political vision, a convergence that recurs in Israel's life in "turns" that have "abiding astonishment" (Buber 1946: 75-6; Brueggemann 1991). Indeed, Israel's retelling of its public life is a narrative beyond common explanation, surely with abiding astonishment.

Sixth, the political process of Israel, as narrated in the Exodus story, is grounded in YHWH's holy response to pain. In the end, however, that process requires human initiative, so that Moses and his cohorts become "actors in their own history." That is, "salvation history" is not simply YHWH's action, as might be implied by Exod. 14: 13-14; it depends, finally, upon human risk-taking. After YHWH has declared intentionality about the emancipation of the slaves in a series of first-person verbs (Exod. 3: 7-9), the sentence turns to human mandate: "So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt" (3: 10).

To be sure, Moses resists and offers a series of excuses (Exod. 3: 11-4: 17). In the end, however, Moses (and Aaron) go to Pharaoh, equipped with a divine commission (5: 1). It is their readiness to confront Pharaoh that sets the narrative in motion and eventuates in the changed circumstances of the slave community.

The rest is "history": there follows the contestation between Pharaoh and the God of Israel (Exod. 7-11), the departure of the slaves from Egypt (Exod. 14), and the peasant dance of freedom (Exod. 15: 20-1). Israel is on its way to Sinai, where it will commit to an alternative form of public power that embraces the holiness of YHWH as a detotalizing reality and the legitimacy of the neighbor as a clue to public practice.

I have taken this long with the Exodus narrative and its plot of "YHWH versus Pharaoh" because in this memory (enacted as liturgy) Israel constructs and offers its primal model of the political process that includes acute social analysis, the legitimacy of protest, Holy Presence as a defining factor, human initiative as indispensable, and an alternative (covenantal) mode of public power entertained as a legitimate practical possibility (Buber 1990; Mendenhall 2001:

73-100). On the basis of this model Israel narrates its political life through an intensely committed interpretive process. The narrative accounts in the books of Kings and Chronicles evidence a concern, in the telling of public history, for continuity in the flow of public, institutional power; it is clear, however, that the narrative is characteristically focused on certain key episodes of encounter and disruption that in a variety of ways replicate the paradigmatic encounter of YHWH and Pharaoh. Thus the primal claims on Israel's political horizon become most clearly visible at the stress points at which Israel's key interpreters and shapers of tradition have the most powerful interpretive say.

The decisive "episode" in this telling is the narrative of Solomon in 1 Kgs. 3-11. Solomon's considerable political-economic achievement is a point of great pride in Israel; he replicated the great empires of his time and is remembered as having brought great wealth and prestige to what had been - only two generations before - a simple hill-country people. Solomon is, in the Old Testament, a metaphor for power politics of the most effective kind: he managed a great trade apparatus, an effective governing bureaucracy, a rational tax-collection plan, a developed military security system, an ambitious building program, and an extensive network of political marriage alliances, all of which were given dramatic legitimacy by his central achievement, the Jerusalem temple (1 Kgs. 6-8).

The narrative report on Solomon, however, claims for the monarchy less than meets the eye. It cannot be mere reportage that Solomon's marriage to "Pharaoh's daughter" pervades the narrative (1 Kgs. 3: 1; 7: 8; 9: 16, 24; 11: 10). This apparently incidental reference may provide a clue to the ironic dimension of the whole of the narrative. Solomon is not only connected to Pharaoh, but replicates Pharaoh and in fact becomes "Israel's Pharaoh," with a highly centralized economy and an ideology of totalism generated by the legitimacy associated with the temple. This totalism inevitably put Israelite peasants back into economic bondage and brought the covenantal practice of public power to a complete shut-down. It is for that reason that the harsh theological judgment on Solomon (1 Kgs. 11: 1-8), the prophetic intrusion against Solomon (11: 26-40), and the political refusal of Northern Israel (1 Kgs. 12: 1-19) altogether stand as a harsh judgment upon Solomon's experiment. The materials of 1 Kgs. 11-12 indicate the reassertion and recovery of covenantal politics that are always vulnerable to exploitative totalism but characteristically find ways of resistance, rearticulation, and re-emergence.

We may mention four other encounters that bespeak the same reassertion of covenantalism in the face of totalism. In each case it is to be noticed that it is an assumption about YHWH, the guarantor of deabsolutizing of every claim but YHWH's own claim, that becomes the ground for resisting political absolutism.

First, from the perspective of the narrative in 1 Kgs. 16-II Kgs. 10, the Omri dynasty in the north is the greatest challenge to the theological-political claims of Yahwism (876-842 bce). That theological challenge is most explicit in the contest at Mt. Carmel in 1 Kgs. 18. The political-economic dimension of the dispute, however, is most dramatically voiced in 1 Kgs. 21, in the tale of Naboth's vineyard that features the manipulative royal practices of Jezebel and Ahab, son of Omri. It is clear that the narrative exhibits a dispute between two theories of public power that in turn yield two notions of land possession. Naboth - and eventually Elijah and the narrator - champion an old tribal notion of an inalienable connection between land and landowner in an undeniable entitlement. Conversely, the royal family holds to a notion of royal prerogative in which land is simply a commodity for commercial transaction. The violent termination of the House of Omri indicates the force and the resolve that belonged to the covenantal theory and the readiness of its proponents to resist the conventional alternative, resistance undertaken at great cost (II Kgs. 9-10).

Second, the parallel reigns of Jeroboam II in Northern Israel and Uzziah (Azariah) in Judah constituted a time of immense prosperity in the eighth century (approximately 785-745 bce). That prosperity was achieved, however, by disregard of the claims of Yahwism, both religious claims and economic claims that were grounded theologically (see II Chron. 26: 16-21). Thus the same social "development" "enjoyed" under Solomon seems to have re-emerged in the midst of the eighth century.

It was in this period that the first of the great "classic prophets," Amos, emerged, though he had Elijah and Elisha as antecedents a century earlier. Amos' remarkable strictures against the economic practices of the dominant society are something of a novum in Israel (see 3: 13-15; 4: 1-3; 6: 1-7; 8: 4-6) (Premnath 1988). Perhaps inescapably, such a voice is bound to come face to face with the powers of the dominant regime, an encounter narrated in Amos 7: 10-17. In that encounter, Amaziah, priest at Bethel, speaks for the royal apparatus, rebukes the prophet as a political subversive, and banishes him from the realm. Totalizing systems, of course, by definition must preclude voices of dissent. Before he finishes, however, Amos manages to deliver to the royal-priestly establishment one last poetic utterance that anticipates exile for the royal house, thus foreshadowing the Assyrian termination of the Northern Kingdom in 721 (Amos 7: 16-17). It is, however, not the "prediction" that interests us, but the fact that Israel's political discourse is characteristically a disputatious one between a covenantalism that precludes absolutism and advocates a neighborly economic fabric and a totalism that absolutizes itself at the expense of God and neighbor.

Third, in Jeremiah 26 the prophet is on trial for his life because he has spoken of the impending destruction of Jerusalem (605 bce). The religious leaders insist on his execution (v. 11), an insistence that is resisted by the state officials (v. 16). There is more than a little irony in the fact that it is the religious leaders who want Jeremiah silenced, no doubt indicating that they are the ones most deeply inured in the absolute ideology of the temple, thus a parallel to the priest at Bethel in our preceding case.

What particularly interests us, however, is the intervention of "elders of the land" who speak on behalf of Jeremiah by appeal to the words a century earlier (perhaps about 715 bce) of the prophet Micah, who also had anticipated the destruction of Jerusalem (see Micah 3: 12) (Wolff 1987). This exchange among power factions features a characteristic tension between centralized urban authority and the voice of an outlying village (Seitz 1989). What matters most is that the village elders insist that even Jerusalem is not immune to criticism or, in this interpretation, to the judgment of YHWH and its consequent destruction. This exchange is a dramatic example of the way in which the political process is kept open against the ideological fears that seek to silence all dissent.

The fourth case I cite is the dramatic exchange initiated by Nehemiah in the process of reconstituting post-exilic Judaism (Neh. 5) (perhaps about 444 bce). It is the premise of the narrative account that the economy is operated by those who practice unrestrained acquisitiveness, even at the expense of their poor neighbors who are fellow Jews. As always, the problem is taxes, mortgages, and interest arrangements through which the acquisitive ones eventually usurp the property of the economically vulnerable ones. Nehemiah's intervention serves to effect an act of solidarity between creditors and debtors in the matter of interest payments: "Let us stop this taking of interest. Restore to them, this very day, their fields, their vineyards, their olive orchards, and their houses, and the interest on money, grain, wine, and oil that you have been exacting from them (vv. 10-11)."

The appeal of Nehemiah may be to old laws precluding the levying of interest in the community (Deut. 23: 19-20). The larger appeal, however, is to the solidarity of all Jews, thus an insistence that normal economic transactions must be curbed and reshaped in the interest of community solidarity and mutual obligation. Thus Nehemiah champions a covenantal economy and takes steps to enact it, a proposal accepted even by those of his own interest-charging class.

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