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Session 6: Deuteronomistic History Part 2

Aims

By the end of this session you should be able to: 

  • intelligently discuss a range of texts preserving different views of Ancient Israelite kingship

  • demonstrate a clear knowledge of different biblical understandings of monarchy and how they relate to wider themes and traditions within the Bible and to different periods of Israelite history

  • demonstrate an understanding of the main themes of the books of Judges through to the end of 2 Kings.

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Prayer

Blessed are you Lord our God,

for you come to us and seek to make your home in us.

As we study now, let our eyes and our ears be open to you

let our hearts find their rest and their joy in you

that we may grow in grace and live to your glory.

Blessed are you, Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer.

Amen.

Introduction

In this session we will begin to explore some of the most violent books of the Old Testament, Judges and 1 and 2 Samuel. The Deuteronomistic History is replete with wars and bloodshed as the Israelites struggle to forge their identity and keep the land they have conquered. We begin with a look at the tribal system of Judges which will eventually give rise to the idea of monarchy as a means of stability. Watch the "Why Study Violence in the Hebrew Bible" clip then click to watch Hayes Lecture 13.

Judges

The book of Judges is replete with terrible deeds that are carried out in the name of God by some very dubious characters. The Judges are not 'heroes' in the way we would use the term. Jephthah sacrifices his daughter, Samson is deceived by a prostitute – the list goes on. The stories have all the components of a lurid TV drama – we might be forgiven for thinking the writers of 'East Enders' have used Judges as an inspiration for their story lines! So where does all this fit into the story of a people who have a Covenant with a loving God?

 

Exercise

 

There is a repeating pattern to the stories in the book of Judges:

- Israel disobeys God

- Israel falls to enemies

- Israel cries out to God

- God raises up a Judge

- Israel defeats the Canaanites.

 

What do you think this pattern is emphasizing? Do you think all the violence in these stories is necessary?

 

Post some of your thoughts on the discussion Forum.

Hagiographic Hyperbole

Violence in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament is one of the things modern readers find very difficult so it is necessary to consider why it is there. One explanation for this is known as Hagiographic (the writing of history) Hyperbole (exaggeration):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Download a summary of the theology of the book of Judges from the Resources section below.

1 & 2 Samuel

The two books of 1 and 2 Samuel cover a lot of history and introduce some more of the main characters of the Old Testament: Samuel the prophet, and kings Saul and David. The characters of Samuel and David are portrayed in an interesting way by the Deuteronomist and deserve attention. Download a short summary in the Resources section.

 

Exercise

 

It is a little known fact that there are actually two contradictory stories of the anointing of David. The first is found here in the book of 1 Samuel 16: 1-13 and the second is found in the book of 1 Chronicles 11:1-3. What do you make of the differences between these two stories? There will be some explanation of this in a later session but  for now take some time to reflect on what you think about it.

 

Make notes of your thoughts for discussion on the Study Day.


 

The monarchy in Israel was the cause of a great deal of trouble for the nation. This stemmed from the tension between Covenant theology and royal ideology, in other words the differences between serving God and serving the King, God's anointed. Throughout the Deuteronomistic History there are descriptions of different kings and their attitudes to the law of Yahweh. This is important because the Mosaic Covenant (Sinai) is between God and the people, the Davidic covenant is between God and the King, so how kings behave affects the whole nation. Particularly problematic for both kingdoms are those kings who fail to ‘act with justice and righteousness’, not obeying the command to ‘do no wrong or violence to the alien, the orphan and the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place’ (Jeremiah 22:3).

Monarchy in Ancient Israel

Monarchy in Ancient Israel cont....

Instead they allow worship of false gods, ‘Ba’als’, setting up high places, and they accumulate wealth at the expense of their people. This is clearly in direct contravention of Yahweh’s laws and will result in the downfall of the kingdoms (Jeremiah 22:5). It all started with Solomon whose multitudinous foreign wives led him to apostasy and this is given as the reason for the kingdom being taken away from Solomon’s son which ultimately resulted in the divided kingdom (1 Kings 11:1-12).

 

An interesting contradiction is found in the story of Solomon: in 1 Kings 5:13 it states that Solomon “conscripted forced labour out of all of Israel” yet in 1 Kings 9:20-22 the narrator emphatically states that “of the Israelites Solomon made no slaves”. The Deuteronomic redactor (editor) allows this contradiction to stand.

 

Exercise

 

Hayes states that ”Monarchy is at best unnecessary and at worst a rejection of Yahweh” (2012, p216). What do you think about this. Make notes on your thoughts for discussion in your learning journal.

The kings of Israel and Judah, whether good or bad (download a chart in the Resources section) in the end do not bring prosperity, peace and stability to the nation as it had hoped. Rather, as Hayes notes, the Deuteronomistic Historian seems to be at pains to point out that they “are thoroughly human and in no way divine, subject to sin and error. This will be important in establishing the Deuteronomistic claim that the nation's kings were responsible for bringing down Yahweh's punishment upon the nation.” (2012, p215).

The theology of the Deuteronomistic Historian is summed up in 1 Kings 9:8-9 : “Why has the Lord done such a thing to this house and this land?” the reply gets to the point quickly “Because they have forsaken the Lord their God … and embraced other gods, worshipping them and serving them.” (Birch et al, 2006, p258)

Spotlight on Doctrine

At the beginning of the Nicene Creed is the phrase 'God the Father Almighty'.  This is a statement declaring that God is the absolute ruler, above and beyond any and all earthly rulers.  This idea is prevalent in today's session, along with the clear statement that earthly rulers will always cause problems.  We will explore this further in the sessions on Prophecy next.

Spotlight on Spirituality

For some Christians, and indeed people of other faiths, the idea that God is 'supreme ruler' and 'wrathful King' is repugnant. Often, in such spiritulaties, God is described as 'Ground of all being' rather than 'Lord' or 'King' or even 'Almighty'. Why do you think this is and what implications does it have for their spirituality and yours?

Reflect

Spend some time prayerfully thinking about what you have discovered in this session. What are the most significant things for you? How might you use what you have learned in your own faith journey? Write this down in your learning journal and be prepared to share it at the next Study Day.

Prayer

Blessed are you, Lord our God, all things come from you:

from you come our life, this world and all that we have and are.

Teach us to love and respect your creation and give glory to you.

Blessed are you, Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer.  Amen

To Do in Church This Week

Listen to the words of the bible readings in particular this week.  Is there any hagiographic hyperbole present?  Is the recurring motif of Judges evident in any of them, even in part?

Share some of what you have found on the discussion board in the Forum.

Resources

Theology of Judges

Samuel & David

Chart of Kings