Studies in the Bible and Jewish Thought

By Moshe Greenberg | Go to book overview

Religion: Stability and Ferment
1979

THE SOURCES

The biblical sources of our knowledge of Israelite religion during the monarchy may be divided into two classes: those whose pertinence to the period may be assumed more or less confidently -- such as the primary materials of the Book of Kings and several of the Prophets, and those of dubious pertinence, such as the Psalms, in which materials from the monarchic and other periods are combined -- often, one suspects, indistinguishably.

The Book of Kings draws upon the chronicles of the kings of Israel and Judah; it also contains stories emanating from prophetic circles; the whole is set in a framework that connects and passes judgment upon kings and reigns. The final editing occurred between the latest historical datum in the book -- the release of King Jehoiachin from prison in the accession year of Evil-Merodach of Babylon ( 561 B.C.E.) -- and the Restoration, which is beyond its horizon ( 538). The hybrid religion ascribed to the Samaritans in 2 Kings 17:24-41 also indicates a period anterior to the building of the Second Temple, since at that time the Samaritans were irreproachably YHWH-fearing (otherwise their idolatry would have been cited in the Jews' rebuff of their bid to participate in the building of the Temple).

The contemporary material in the Book of Kings is of the first importance for describing the religion of the age. What makes the book problematic is its tendentious character: it judges the monarchies of Israel and Judah by a late, absolute standard throughout the history. The editor condemns Judah's worship at bāmōt from the reign of

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