View Chapters

Book: Deuteronomy

Chapter: Ethnic Israel and Power in Deuteronomy

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.44277


In the “frames” of Deuteronomy (chs. 1–11 and 27–34), “Israel” is portrayed as an ethnic entity. What do we mean when we characterize Israel in this way, and why might the scribe(s) who created the book have chosen this strategy for conceiving Israel? This article argues that different aspects of what may be called “ethnicity” first and foremost serve the social power and the exclusive position of an elite group of literati standing behind this biblical book. The ethnic ideology of the book is part of a utopian vision that primarily is concerned with Israel as a religious, learning community. It makes sense to regard Deuteronomy as an attempt to present “Israel” as an “ethnic” entity in order to situate themselves vis-à-vis the Achaemenid imperial administration or at least to serve an “internal-Israelite” purpose. The vision serves to establish and legitimate the informal authority of the authorial group, which probably belonged to Deuteronomy’s “Levitical priests.”

Chapter Contributors

  • Kåre Berge ( - kberge) 'Faculty of Theology, University of Oslo'