Portrait of the Kings

Portrait of the Kings: The Davidic Prototype in Deuteronomistic Poetics

Alison L. Joseph
Copyright Date: 2015
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    Portrait of the Kings
    Book Description:

    Much of the scholarship on the book of Kings has focused on questions of the historicity of the events described. Alison L. Joseph turns her attention instead to the literary characterization of Israel’s kings. By examining the narrative techniques used in the Deuteronomistic History to portray Israel’s kings, Joseph shows that the Deuteronomist in the days of the Josianic Reform constructed David as a model of adherence to the covenant, and Jeroboam, conversely, as the ideal opposite of David. The redactor further characterized other kings along one or the other of these two models. The resulting narrative functions didactically, as if instructing kings and the people of Judah regarding the consequences of disobedience. Attention to characterization through prototype also allows Joseph to identify differences between pre-exilic and exilic redactions in the Deuteronomistic History, bolstering and also revising the view advanced by Frank Moore Cross. The result is a deepened understanding of the worldview and theology of the Deuteronomistic historians.

    eISBN: 978-1-4514-6958-5
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. 1 The Davidic Prototype in Deuteronomistic Poetics
    (pp. 1-32)

    So begins Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s mythic poem “Paul Revere’s Ride.”¹ Writing in 1860, on the eve of the Civil War, Longfellow attempts to evoke a shared sense of cultural and moral values among Americans. Longfellow’s now famous poem has come to replace the historical account of that important night in the common American memory, demonstrating how the author’s ideology and intentions in a literary text can reshape the common conception of history. It also testifies to the blurry line between the genres of literature and historiography.

    Historians have long criticized Longfellow’s loose portrayal of historical detail, which exaggerates Revere’s singular...

  6. 2 The Historiographical Poetics of the Preexilic Deuteronomist
    (pp. 33-76)

    Since the work of Benedict Spinoza in the late seventeenth century,¹ biblical critics have discussed the connection between the book of Deuteronomy and the historical books of the Former Prophets. For almost four centuries, scholars have considered the issues relating to the Deuteronomistic History along the lines of three topics: the identity and dating of the author(s), the process and date of the formation of the books, and the coherence of the books to each other and their connection with Deuteronomy.² Depending where scholars fall on the first two sets of issues usually determines how they view the unity of...

  7. 3 David, “Who Observed My Commandments and Who Followed Me with All His Heart, Doing Only What Was Right in My Eyes”
    (pp. 77-106)

    The historiographical poetics as laid out in chapter 2 demonstrate that the preexilic Deuteronomist maintained specific selectional and compositional priorities in constructing his history. The most prominent of them is the use of a prototype strategy based on the literary portrait of David in Kings. Throughout the history of the monarchy, kings are evaluated in two ways; the bad kings are said to do what is “evil in the eyes of Yahweh,” and are compared to Jeroboam and Ahab, and often to each king’s father if his father acted similarly. The good kings are those who do what is “right...

  8. 4 Jeroboam “Who Caused Israel to Sin”
    (pp. 107-146)

    Jeroboam is introduced as a second David, the first king presented to match the wholehearted devotion of Dtr’s literary David. Jeroboam is constructed using the Davidic prototype strategy, but he is unable to live up to the literary expectations. He is depicted as deliberately rejecting his Davidic potential and then is established as the anti-David, the prototype of the evil king, based on an oppositional portrait to the Davidic prototype. Not only does Jeroboam come to embody the evil king, the standard against which the subsequent bad kings of Israel are measured, but also his blatant disregard for his literary...

  9. 5 Josiah: “No One Arose Like Him”
    (pp. 147-186)

    “Josiah appears to be the climactic figure of the DtrH who sees the realization of YHWH’s promise to the house of David.” So says Marvin Sweeney.¹ Statements such as this have long confused the readers of the account of Josiah’s reign. Much ink has been spilled on acclaiming Josiah as the great hero of the Deuteronomistic History, but it is somewhat surprising that the two-chapter account of Josiah’s reign (2 Kings 22– 23) pays little attention to the person of Josiah, and has more to do with the book finding and the reform report.

    The book of Kings chronicles the...

  10. 6 Manasseh, “Who Did More Evil than All . . . Who Were Before Him”: A Counterexample
    (pp. 187-224)

    This chapter, in its treatment of the portrait of King Manasseh, will deal primarily with the exilic perspectives addressed in the text, contrasting them with the preexilic historiographical style. Through this analysis, it will be possible to see that the historiographical poetics in the Manasseh account are somewhat different, but it is not entirely disparate. The specific thematic concerns may be altered, but much of the methodological process is similar. In this way, it is possible to see that both Dtr¹ and Dtr² were part of the same scribal school with a similar method and poetics, but the historical circumstances...

  11. 7 Conclusion: “There Shall Be a King over Us”
    (pp. 225-238)

    Throughout the Deuteronomistic History the issue of kingship is a prominent theme, dealt with in comparison to other forms of leadership. The book of Joshua presents Joshua as a protomonarch. Parts of Judges are redacted to express an opinion that the charismatic leadership of the judges is not sufficient to govern Israel, as they sin when there is no king over them. Similarly, 1 Samuel 8 expresses the people’s desire and demand for a king. Yahweh’s and Samuel’s responses are a hesitant acquiescence. By the time the reader reaches the book of Kings, one is already mired in the dilemma...

  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 239-256)
  13. Index of Authors and Subjects
    (pp. 257-264)
  14. Index of Scriptural References
    (pp. 265-272)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 273-273)