Watch Your Step! Excrement and Governmentality in Deuteronomy

In: Biblical Interpretation
Mark K. George Iliff School of Theology, USA

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Governmental action through centralized institutions is widely recognized, whereas how such action is effected in individual’s lives is less so. Effective government depends on the ability to shape the mundane activities of life in ways that serve larger objectives. Scholarship on Deuteronomy attends well to the centralized actions, but not the individual ones. Deuteronomy 23:13-15 (ET 12-14) instructs soldiers how to defecate while serving in ancient Israel’s army, a rather mundane behavior for a book widely recognized as concerned with governing Israel. Governmentality provides a means of understanding how these instructions for defecation become part of the book’s larger objective of creating Israel as a proper vassal.

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