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The Oxford Bible Commentary Line-by-line commentary for the New Revised Standard Version Bible.

A Prophetic History.

1.

It cannot be denied that the history given in 1–2 Samuel, especially in the sections relating to the foundation of the monarchy, is prophetic in perspective and therefore very critical of the monarchy. In these sections the figure of Samuel dominates. He appears in 1 Sam 1–7 as an ideal prophetic leader, and for that reason the move towards a kingship is presented as an act of folly and of unfaithfulness to God. Even after the founding of the monarchy, the prophet still had a role; Samuel remained as an intercessor between God and people and had the task of condemning Saul's kingship because of his disobedience. As the narrative proceeds, David is presented as the man chosen by YHWH. This is established as the ideal of Israelite kingship—the king was YHWH's chosen, but he was subject to prophetic authority, for the prophet had a hand in choosing, anointing, and instructing the king. This prophetic perspective cannot be ignored.

2.

One approach to this question is to argue that at a pre-Deuteronomistic stage of the tradition the narratives were placed together to form a ‘prophetic history’. Noth's (1981 ) idea of a Deuteronomistic editor, who for the first time brought all this material together by means of redactional links and editorial expansions, and gave the material an antimonarchial slant, has been challenged. Weiser (1962 ) saw in this antimonarchial stratum an earlier, pre-Deuteronomistic, prophetic layer. Although Weiser refused to think of this layer as a literary unit, others have seen in it evidence of a complete pre-Deuteronomistic edition of Samuel which had originated in prophetic circles (cf. Birch 1976 ). McCarter (1980 ) has accepted that there was a pre-Deuteronomistic structure belonging to a middle or penultimate stage of tradition and having its own characteristics or slant. It is further claimed that it was this prophetic history that gave the first edition of Samuel its basic shape; beyond the negative portrayal of kingship as a concession, it sought to set out the essential elements of the new institution from a prophetic perspective. Its point of view was distinctly northern. McCarter accepted too that the origin of Deuteronomic law and theology was to be found in northern prophetic circles (cf. Nicholson 1967 ) and that the intermediate prophetic stratum can therefore quite easily be called ‘proto-Deuteronomic’.

3.

Another approach associates the prophetic viewpoint with a later rather than earlier stage in the history of tradition. The view taken by Dietrich (1972) and Veijola (1975; 1977 ) is that three layers of Deuteronomistic tradition succeeded one another in the following order. First of all came a basic historical work (DtrH), whose intention was to present one great history of God's dealings with his people. It was composed soon after 587 BCE, possibly at Mizpah, and probably knew nothing of the fate of king Zedekiah after his transportation to Babylon. Secondly came a redaction which included prophetical texts (DtrP) and sought to emphasize the importance of the prophetic role and the function of the divine word in history. It has been dated between 580 and 560 BCE and connected with Judah, probably Jerusalem. Finally came a nomistic redaction (DtrN) containing law-oriented additions which brought out more clearly the place of the law. It has been ascribed to the period immediately after the rehabilitation of Jehoiachin in 561 BCE. Admittedly, the views of Dietrich and Veijola have not been generally or enthusiastically received, and they have been accused of classifying texts according to subject-matter rather than producing firm evidence of redactional activity. Nevertheless, it is an interpretation that has the advantage of being able to hold together two different emphases: on the one hand it gives full recognition to the unified theological outlook of the history, and on the other it allows for the various emphases being brought out in different redactions. The idea of continuous activity by a ‘Deuteronomic school’ gives room for unity and diversity.

4.

Whichever of these approaches finds favour, it is accepted without question that at some stage or other prophetical interests and emphases found expression in the Deuteronomistic History. The work cannot be read without observation of a very pronounced prophetic slant in many of its narratives.

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