The biblical History of Israel presents the political order as oscillating between the imperial state, as represented by Egypt of the Pharaohs; and anarchy, as represented by Israel in the period of the judges. The first road leads to bondage; the second to dissolution and civil war. Neither, the narrative seeks to impress upon us, can serve as the basis for the freedom of a people.
The History wrestles with the question of whether there is a third option, which can secure a life of freedom for Israel, and for other nations as well. It teaches that there is such an option: A state that is not unlimited in principle, like the states of “all the nations” in the ancient Near East, but that seeks “the good and the right” by means of a system of dual legitimacy and a constitutional regime of restraint. This state must have rulers who understand that virtue emerges from limitation of the state’s borders, the size of its armies, its investment in foreign alliances, and its income. Only within these constraints will both the people and their king find a space in which the love of justice and of God that characterized the shepherds who were their forefathers can be rebuilt.
It’s an entrancing read, I highly recommend it.