Academic journal article Journal of Biblical Literature

Succession Narrative: A "Document" or a Phantom?

Academic journal article Journal of Biblical Literature

Succession Narrative: A "Document" or a Phantom?

Article excerpt

Proquest Information and Learning: Foreign text omitted.

In recent decades, an important shift has taken place in the study of the account of David's reign in 2 Samuel and 1 Kings. There are two major tendencies, both leading away from the Thronfolgegeschichte hypothesis as it was formulated in 1926 by Leonhard Rost.1 One of them is to retain Rost's key postulate that much of 2 Samuel and 1 Kgs 1-2 is a self-contained "Succession Narrative" or "Court History" that was included in the history of the Israelite monarchy as a unit, but to reappraise this unit's extent, genre, theme, message, and dating.2 Another tendency, represented by a very small but steadily growing minority of exegetes, is to deny its existence. Thus, already in 1964 R. A. Carlson presented tradition-historical arguments in favor of viewing the whole history of David's reign in 2 Sam 2-24 as an integral Deuteronomistic composition tracing the king's fate first under the blessing (chs. 2-7) and then under the curse (chs. 9-24).3 Almost two decades later, in 1981, Jan Fokkelman published the first volume of his grand literary interpretation of Samuel.4 Although the scope of this volume, analyzing 2 Sam 9-20 and 1 Kgs 1-2, almost exactly coincides with the limits of Rost's Thronfolgegeschichte, Fokkelman summarily dismissed the idea of treating these texts as a separate entity and declared that "the Thronfolgegeschichte theory... [had] crippled OT science for almost 50 years."5 In the same year, Peter Ackroyd issued a terse and forceful warning: in the texts pertaining to David's reign, "there are so many uncertainties-uncertainties of chronology, uncertainties about the nature of the narratives, uncertainties about their proper order-that any attempt at mere historical reconstruction is out."6 In 1993 Robert Polzin published a commentary on 2 Samuel that completely ignored both the Thronfolgegeschichte concept and the hypothetical literary boundaries associated with it, and in 2000 Steven McKenzie concluded that "there [had been] no S[uccession] N[arrative]."7

This significant shift notwithstanding, the core of Rost's hypothesis, namely, the notion of a large, continuous, self-contained, and distinctive "document" (henceforth D) underlying a large part of 2 Samuel and perhaps the first two chapters of 1 Kings, remains largely intact. Most scholars invest their efforts in modifying and refining it; others, with the notable exception of McKenzie, seem to take issue primarily with the diachronic mode of interpretation in general, not with specific redaction-critical presuppositions that can be traced back to Rost.8 As a result, these presuppositions still dominate the field and shape it. Perhaps nothing illustrates this more graphically than Fokkelman's strategic decision not only to include 1 Kgs 1-2 in his reading of the books of Samuel but to treat these chapters together with 2 Sam 9-20, ignoring the fact that in the received Hebrew Bible the two units are not contiguous. Likewise, McKenzie limits his discussion of literary connections between Davidic narratives to the texts included by some of his predecessors in D (2 Sam 2:8-4:12; 9:1-13; 13:1-21:14; 1 Kgs 1-2) and concedes that these texts may be based on earlier sources, thereby assigning them a special status.9

This article is an attempt to challenge the concept of D per se by demonstrating that the received MT of Samuel and Kings does not offer any evidence of its existence. I will examine 2 Sam 1-1 Kgs 2 in synchronic and diachronic perspectives and suggest that from both points of view it is preferable to regard it as an integral composition tracing David's biography after Saul's death and as an integral element of the history of the Israelite monarchy. I will also argue that the concept of kingship in general and Davidic monarchy in particular that found its expression in 2 Sam 1-1 Kgs 2 broadly matches the outlook of Deuteronomy and Deuteronomistic passages in Former Prophets. …

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