The Early Monarchy in Israel: The Tenth Century B.C.E

Article excerpt

The Early Monarchy in Israel: The Tenth Century B.C.E. By Walter Dietrich. Translated by Joachim Vette. SBL Biblical Encyclopedia 3. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2007, 396 pp., $47.95 paper.

Walter Dietrich's study is divided into four parts: Part I, "The Biblical Account of the Time Period"; Part II, "The History of the Early Monarchy"; Part III, "The Literature of the Time Period"; and Part IV, "Theological Conclusions." Each division includes a comprehensive bibliography. Sixteen maps, diagrams, and illustrations are included in the work, which concludes with two indices.

In Part I, Dietrich reviews the biblical account of the early monarchy in two stages. First, he reviews how the Deuteronomistic redaction, which he dates to the exile, adapted the history of the early monarchy for its literary opus by expanding and modifying the material (pp. 8-26), and then he seeks to reconstruct the account from what he identifies as a pre-exilic textual layer that was known to and used by the Deuteronomistic redaction (pp. 26-98). Dietrich does regard some of the material he attributes to the Deuteronomist as "fictional" (e.g. Moses' proclamation of the Torah, in his 120th year, in a single day) or otherwise retrojecting exilic or postexilic ideologies (e.g. regulations for kingship, Deut 17:14-20). Exilic or post-exilic materials are also added onto the preexilic materials by the Deuteronomist in order to create special relevance for Israel's postexilic concerns. For example, Solomon's entire prayer for the dedication of the temple (1 Kgs 8:22-53) and the subsequent theophany (1 Kgs 9:1-9) are either Deuteronomistic or post-Deuteronomistic (p. 97). However, while Dietrich does make these distinctions, the text is not focused on source critical analysis, but instead on the narrative, and especially on the characters who inhabit that narrative.

In Part II, Dietrich first explores basic historiographie issues and concludes that while the authors of the books of Samuel and Kings undoubtedly intend to write history (p. 106), "the description of history in the Bible followed different dictums than those governing modern historiography" (p. 103). Accordingly, Dietrich discusses the relationship between history and faith (pp. 106-9) and the basics of historical reconstruction (pp. 109-10). He then proceeds to review three lines of evidence for the early monarchy. First, Dietrich reviews the indirect witnesses to the formation of the state, which include comparisons to earlier and later periods (pp. 112-16) and analogies (pp. 116-20). Second, he reviews material witnesses from Iron Age HA, including city architecture and administrative buildings (pp. 122-37) and settlement structures in the country and their relationship to the formation of the state (pp. …