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2 0 . HISTORY VIEWED IN DEUTERONOMISTIC PERSPECTIVE JUSt CIS the Priestly perspective is dominant in the final form of the Torah, so the canonical unit known as the Former Prophets is governed by the theology of the Mosaic covenant, set forth preeminently in the book of Deuteronomy. Indeed, the book of Deuteronomy has a pivotal position in the canon. On the one hand, it is the conclusion of the Pentateuch, where it has affinities with parts of Old Epic tradition (especially northern or Elohist epic); on the other hand, it pro­ vides the theological preface to the Former Prophets Ooshua through 2 Kings), a historical work that extends from the time of Israel's occupation of Canaan to the exile. When these two works, the Pentateuch and the Former Prophets, are linked together, the result is a huge story or macrohistory that begins with creation and traces the story of Israel to the tragedy of the fall of the nation in 587 B.C. and its immediate sequel. The Deuteronomistic History This historical work is often called the Deuteronomistic history, because it is gov­ erned by the theological perspective set forth in the book of Deuteronomy. The core of the book of Deuteronomy was probably the Torah scroll that, according to the account in 2 Kings 22-23, was found in the temple in about 621 B.C. When validated by the prophetess Huldah, this "book of the covenant" became the basis of the great reform of King Josiah reported near the end of the books of Kings. The Deuteronomistic history, with the book of Deuteronomy as an introduc­ tion, runs into some 280 pages of Scripture (counting in the NRSV)—that is almost one-quarter of the Old Testament. Proportionately, it is as extensive as the Johannine corpus in the New Testament. In addition, one of the major prophetic books—the book of Jeremiah—in its final form comes from the hand of Deu­ teronomistic editors. This quantitative analysis gives some idea of the influence of the Deuteronomistic school of theology.1 In its final form the Deuteronomistic history was composed in the period of the exile, for the last event reported is the release of King Jehoiachin from impris­ onment in 561 B.C. (2 Kgs. 25:27ff.). This history does not refer to the rise of Cyrus of Persia or his conquest of Babylon (539 B.C.) and the return of Jews to Palestine to restore their community, matters that are dealt with in another his­ torical work, that of the Chronicler (Ezra, Nehemiah, 1-2 Chronicles), to which we will turn our attention later. Some scholars maintain that this history was com1 . The adjective "Deuteronomic" refers to the book of Deuteronomy, or better the original core of the book, "Deuteronomistic" refers to the work of editors influenced by the Deuteronomic theological perspective. 165 166 Contours of Old Testament Theology posed in two editions: a first edition dating from Josiah's reign, before the king was killed at Megiddo in 609 B.C. while attempting to intercept Egyptian armies (2 Kgs. 23:28-30),- and a second updated edition after Josiah's death and the exile of the people.2 The Rise and Fall of Israel The question that Deuteronomistic historians raise, as they survey Israel's history from the occupation of Canaan to the end of the monarchy, is: Why was Israel's covenant history a history of failure? We can ascertain their answer to this exis­ tential question in two ways: (1) by considering how they use their sources (for instance, the Elijah narratives), that is, the way these materials function in the total narrative context,- and (2) by considering their composition of key passages that serve as interpretive links. Among the latter are: A. Highlighted divine addresses to Joshua (Josh. 1:1-9) to Samuel (1 Sam. 8:7-9) to David (2 Sam. 7:5-17) to Solomon (1 Kgs. 9:1-9) B. Climactic speeches or prayers equivalent to speeches by Joshua (Josh. 23) by Samuel (1 Sam. 12) by David (2 Sam. 7:18-29) by Solomon (1 Kgs. 8:12-53) C. Interpretive summaries epitomes of the cycles of apostasy and return in the period of the judges Oudg. 2:6—3:6) epitome of the Northern Kingdom's history of failure (2 Kgs. 17:7-23) In these passages we find the key to the message of Deuteronomistic historians presented in the situation of the exile when an uprooted...


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