Two Nations under God: The Deuteronomistic History of Solomon and the Dual Monarchies

By DeVries, Simon J. | Interpretation, July 1996 | Go to article overview

Two Nations under God: The Deuteronomistic History of Solomon and the Dual Monarchies


DeVries, Simon J., Interpretation


THE AUTHOR OF THIS WORK addresses one of the major problems concerning a centrally important biblical composition, the deuteronomistic history. He perceives its scope, design, and interconnectedness in terms of proleptic and retrospective design. The deuteronomist sets up a model of perfection in the first part of his account of the reign of Solomon (1 Kings 1-10), seen as an ideal realization of the divine promise to David and his dynasty, allowing for one king under a single deity. Then in his narrative of Jeroboam's reign the deuteronomist presents the paradoxical structure in which two separate political administrations profess to follow one and the same deity. The eventual narrative of Josiah's reign resolves this anomaly in a program of return to primitive religious and political unity.

As Knoppers understands deuteronomistic ideology, Jeroboam and Josiah serve as a pair of brackets before and following the tragic history of the northern kingdom, first creating the anomaly and then resolving it. Following Solomon's eventual apostasy in allowing heathen shrines outside Jerusalem, Yahweh turns to Jeroboam (1 Kings 11), offering him a fair chance to carry forward the dynastic promise under a different arrangement; but Jeroboam's heteropraxis in setting up a rival Yahweh shrine at Bethel dooms the experiment from the very beginning. Jeroboam's cult violates the deuteronomic principle of a single shrine for Yahweh, the temple in Jerusalem. Josiah's action following the recovery of the law code, enforcing the temple's monopoly far beyond the Judean frontier, restores in principle the Solomonic ideal.

It is this conception of the deuteronomist's design that leads Knoppers to settle upon Frank Moore Cross's hypothesis regarding the composition of the deuteronomistic history. The reign of Josiah is the time when the first edition of this history was composed. In this composition a wide variety of traditional materials were drawn into a unitive account culminating in Josiah's brilliant success in bringing the vagaries of Israelite history to a grand and happy resolution. The account of Josiah's reform is intended as climax and conclusion to the entire work; everything is resolved in this king's reinstitution of Mosaic law. Knoppers agrees that there was an eventual exilic edition, which brought the history of Judah to an end and also included various minor revisions, followed by other minor additions.

Knoppers follows the accepted view that the first edition of the deuteronomistic history reaches back as far as the framework of Deuteronomy and incorporates the whole of Joshua through Samuel as an introduction to its story of Israel's kings. His hypothesis regarding the special function of the Jeroboam account as a foil to the story of Josiah deserves assent, as does the claim that a first edition was most probably composed during Josiah's reign rather than during the Babylonian exile. …

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