What set of circumstances finally served to unite the Israelite tribes?

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The period of disunity of the biblical Israelite tribes is known as that of the Judges (ca. 15-11 centuries BCE). This prolonged time is characterized by the absence of a territorial unity, a centralized government, and a unified religious worship. It is considered to be a turbulent time when outbursts of violence caused by tribalism and external aggression were common. In the Book of Judges, a frequent refrain is this, “In those days there was no king in Israel.” (Judges 17:6; 18:1; 19:1) The book, repeating this refrain, ends with the sad verdict, “every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 21:25)

The Israelite tribes at the times of the Judges formed a loose confederation which showed itself weak in the face of the frictions between the competing tribes and the enemies’ attacks. The tribes had their own portions of the land allotted to them at the...

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