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

Authorship and Sources.

1.

Since the verdict on the kings was rigidly integrated into the king-frames which form the skeletal structure of Kings, the latter cannot have been written before the time of Josiah. Whilst researchers agree on this basic point, variations have been discussed. Was there in fact one single author who described the history of the kings (and beyond this a greater work about the history of Israel from the time of Moses) during the period of exile under the influence of the catastrophe in 587 BCE (as in Noth 1991; Hoffmann 1980 )? Or did an underlying text with an optimistic tendency already exist at the time of Josiah which was reworked during the period of exile, giving it a basic tone of pessimism (as in Cross 1973; Nelson 1981 )? Or was an underlying text mainly confined to historiographical aims reworked at the end of and after the period of exile, from the perspective of prophecy and the Torah (as in Smend 1989; Veijola 1982; Dietrich 1972 )?

2.

In each case, the authors of the entire text of 1 and 2 Kings are Deuteronomists in so far as they are marked by Deuteronomy and Deuteronomic thought, especially by the basic Deuteronomic creed that ‘The LORD is our God, the LORD alone’ (Deut 6:4 ). Their way of thinking and working, their comments, and their written texts can therefore be called Deuteronomistic. They wrote the history of Israel with the intention of making it transparent and understandable to themselves and their contemporaries and to declare it meaningful and guided by God. The internal motivation driving all external events is Israel and Judah's relationship to their God who chose his people, leading them strictly and lovingly through the ages and demanding to be their one single God, worthy of all respect and love. In this Commentary the Deuteronomistic theologians of history, to whom we owe the books of Kings, are often simply referred to as ‘the editors’ for the sake of brevity.

3.

The Deuteronomists used specific sources, by no means merely writing Kings as they felt appropriate, let alone freely inventing it. In this way they were true historians whose work is not an original essay or fiction, but a work of tradition (Noth 1991 ). The authors took older, historically orientated extant sources, checked them, noted excerpts, sorted them, commented on and added to them, and thus created a running chronology of events from the tenth century BCE (or the thirteenth, if one includes Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, and Samuel) up to the sixth century BCE, i.e. from the beginning of the state (from the occupation of the land) to its collapse (or to the loss of the land).

4.

One especially important source was the ‘Books of the Annals of the Kings of Israel/Judah’, which were referred to in the concluding formula of almost every king. The historical information for the framing formula is taken from these books. These Annals seem to have been kept in both royal courts (by the end, naturally, only in Judah), and contained the names and dates of each king as well as short reports of important events occurring during the time of his reign. The authors of Kings chose sections of the Annals which seemed to them to be of especial importance. Such reports remained partly in the concluding formulae of a frame, were also placed into the corresponding narrative about that king, or were enhanced with other, primarily prophetic sources. It is possible that the Judean Annals also included reports from the temple at Jerusalem, which after all stood on the palace grounds, though perhaps temple registers were used as a separate source. These known sources seem to have been written in a rather sober style and are likely to be historically reliable—individual mistakes, a certain pro-palace slant, or an occasional erroneous transcript by the Deuteronomists excepted.

5.

Another much more clearly biased source is the obviously pro-Solomon ‘Book of the Acts of Solomon’, named in 1 Kings 11:41 . A large number of the reports in 1 Kings 3–11 seem to have stemmed from it. Besides pure information (e.g. about the districts of government in 1 Kings 4:7–20 ), it also included elaborate and colourful narrative (e.g. Solomon's dream revelation and wise verdict in 1 Kings 3 ). It should perhaps be placed in the eighth century (Wälchli 1996), although older material was also used. The report of Solomon's accession to power (1 Kings 1–2 ) seems to have been taken from another source which was already used in Samuel: a longer narrative of the transition of power from Saul to David and then from David to Solomon. This narrative is outstanding literature, but paints a much less glowing picture of the kingdom than the story of Solomon that followed it.

6.

The Deuteronomists could also draw from a wealth of prophetic tradition. There were first the stories of Elijah (1 Kings 17–19 ) and Elisha (2 Kings 2–8 ), which were probably bound together with other stories of prophets (1 Kings 20; 22 ), and the story of the coup d'état of Jehu (2 Kings 9–10 ) in a larger narrative about the struggle of the prophets of Israel and Judah against Baal (1 Kings 17–2 Kings 10, cf. Dietrich 1998 ). This may have been produced in the seventh century, although the collected stories within it partly go back as far as the eighth and even ninth centuries. Beyond this there was a collection of legends concerning the prophet Isaiah and King Hezekiah during the Assyrian crisis around 701 BCE (2 Kings 18:17–20:19 ). This collection, which was entirely transcribed from Kings into Isa 36–9 , was probably written in stages and not integrated into the Deuteronomistic History text at a single point in time (Camp 1990 ). Its oldest part is the underlying story, 2 Kings 18:17–19:9, 36–7 , which, according to a plausible theory, was produced during the period of crisis shortly before 587 BCE (Hardmeier 1990 ). Beyond this is a series of individual prophetic stories scattered across the entire Deuteronomistic work which repeatedly contain conflicts between prophets and kings (e.g. 1 Kings 14; 21; 2 Kings 1 ). These may have been taken from a collection of prophet stories which were quite critical of the kings and were written in the late pre-exilic period (Dietrich 1992 ) in order to serve as a less pro-monarchical reworking of the historical text. A number of speeches by the prophets (e.g. 1 Kings 16:1–4; 2 Kings 9:7–10a ; 21:10–15 ) were probably written in a prophetic-Deuteronomistic style with this in mind.

7.

All the prophetic material is without exception written in a narrative style. Collections of words and speeches attributed to individual prophets did not find their way into the Deuteronomistic History, but were put together into books of their own. Thus the absence of Amos, Hosea, Micah, and Jeremiah in the Deuteronomistic narrative is not surprising and does not point to a tendency against prophecies of woe (as suggested by Albertz 1992 ). What the prophets said and experienced had been documented elsewhere. This did not need to be duplicated in a historical work and would in any case have been too extensive to do so. The tone of the Deuteronomistic History (as well as Deuteronomy itself) is deeply influenced by prophecy, as can be seen throughout the historical narrative. On the other hand there are dates quoted from the Deuteronomistic History and there is a Deuteronomistic slant noticeable in the subsequent editing of many books of prophets, and indeed the entire prophet-canon.

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