Biblical Interpretation in Ancient Israel

By Michael Fishbane | Go to book overview

13 Aggadic Exegesis in the Historiographical Literature

A Introduction

In the preceding chapters, the phenomenon of aggadic exegesis was traced through a variety of genres: Pentateuchal narratives and sermons; legal teachings; liturgical expressions; prayers and psalms; and prophecy. The one significant genre that was not considered was the historiographical literature—whose aggadic exegesis introduces distinct considerations and features. Some of those considerations, in so far as they bear decisively on the methodological reappropriation of the phenomenon as a species of inner-biblical interpretation, must be noted at the outset.

An important initial distinction that must be drawn in the treatment of aggadic exegesis within historiographical literature is that between historiography per se and aggadic exegesis within it. Strictly speaking, this distinction seeks formally to separate the tendentiousness of a historian in his writing—or revision—of history and the exegetical transformation of specific texts or traditions. Indeed, with respect to the first half of this differentiation, it will readily be granted that historiography may reconceive a distinct approach to the past as previously known and understood: certain sources may be selected or emphasized, while others are deleted; certain ideological themes may be highlighted or elaborated, while others are pushed to the background; and certain values may be sponsored or propagated, while others are variously obscured or criticized. Broadly viewed, such historiographical matters are exemplified by the Books of Samuel-Kings and Chronicles—separately and in juxtaposition. For example, as is well known, Samuel-Kings tends to emphasize a fatalistic historical dimension in which negative prophecies are fulfilled and royal sins lead to the punishment of exile. It is also a historiography in which Solomon's role in establishing the Temple is emphasized and due weight is given to events in the northern kingdom. By contrast, the Chronicler is less fatalistic in his conception of historical causality, and frequently introduces examples which dramatize the fact that human repentance could halt a cycle of divine punishments. 1 In addition, the Chronicler gives new

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