A State Is Born
the Old Testament, before the Book of Joshua, devotes much space. Freedom is not license.
Nor was there lack of leadership before the coming of the kings. Someone had to plan strategy and improvise tactics for the wars the tribesmen engaged in during their march to the Promised Land, and someone had to adjudicate disputes so as to prevent the chaos of internecine struggles. So came the Judges, men esteemed for their wisdom and integrity, the "sports" provided by nature for the instruction of the rank and file. The evidence leads to the conclusion that these Judges ruled by natural selection and common consent, much like the chiefs of American Indian tribes. It was agreed that the authority of the Judges was sanctified by God, but the proof of their anointment was the manner in which they exercised authority. They were leaders by virtue of their proven gift of leadership.
The significant feature of the rule of the Judges is that it lacked the power of coercion. "Every man did that which was right in his own eyes" meant that no man was compelled to do otherwise; and since "in those days there was no king in Israel" it must be presumed that there was no constabulary to enforce rules of behavior. The sole enforcement agency upon which the authority of the Judges rested was public opinion. "So said Yahweh" had the force of "so say we all."
According to one computation this kind of Government lasted about four centuries—a period, incidentally, comparable to the duration of the Roman republic. The manner of its termination is recorded in the Book of Samuel, where it is told that the elders of the tribes came to the last of the Judges and demanded that he set a king over them.
The background of this agitation for a basic constitutional