Restoration: Old Testament, Jewish, and Christian Perspectives

By James M. Scott | Go to book overview

RESTORATION IN DEUTERONOMY AND THE
DEUTERONOMIC LITERATURE

J. G. McConville
Cheltenham & Gloucester College of Higher Education


DEFINITION

The present paper aims to identify the idea or ideas of restoration in Deuteronomy and the books that follow it in the Hebrew Bible, namely Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings (the siglum DtrH will be used to designate these latter books). “Restoration” may be understood for our purposes as a renewal or restitution following a trauma, which means in practice the fall of the kingdom of Judah and the dismantling of the apparatus of the Davidic state. Restoration in this context refers to any amelioration of the damage done by these events to the self-understanding of the people of Judah as heirs to the ancient covenant and promises of Yahweh. It cannot be prescribed in advance what ought to be constituted by such restoration. This must rather emerge from our enquiry into the works in question.

These works present a certain challenge to the undertaking at the outset. First, questions of setting and composition are far from settled. This is true of Deuteronomy and DtrH as individual entities, and of the nature of the relationship between them. Any study of them as a corpus, therefore, is in some sense provisional. (For example, such a study is hardly separable from that of Deuteronomy's place in the Pentateuch, a topic that we can do no more than broach here).

Secondly, Deuteronomy is by its nature opaque as regards its specific period and purpose. (It is significant that the traditional view of its historical setting depends heavily on data found not in the book itself but in the Books of Kings.) Its setting in Mosaic times outside the land deliberately places it in relation to Israel's history on the broadest canvas. It purports to provide a foundation for the occupation of Israel's land in the first place, with the explicit topic of restoration beyond the exile occupying only a few texts. DtrH, too, though it is on the surface quite different in this respect, since it describes a specific history including datable events and its finishing-point offers a clear occasion for writing it, presents a similar problem in principle,

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