Period Described, Written     
Exd & Cnq

The Deuteronomistic History
(or Former Prophets)

  • The Second Division of the Hebrew Bible: The Nevi'im

    • Further subdivided into Former & Latter Prophets

    • The Former Prophets: Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings

      • cover the period from the conquest to the exiles.

        • incl. era of Judges, United & Divided Monarchies

      • [consider Chronicles, priestly history]

    • AKA the "Deuteronomistic History" (DH)

    • written by the same author/redactor/school as the book of Deuteronomy:

      • History in the DH plays by the rules of Deut 28-32

      • When Israel is faithful, it prospers

      • When unfaithful, it is cursed with defeat, disaster, ultimately exile

    • Emphasis on importance of exclusive worship of YHWH:

      • Text is unclear if this is

        • Monotheism, or belief in existence of one God.

        • or Henotheism, worship of one God without disbelieving in the existence of other gods.

          • (also monolatry)

    • Emphasis on the one place of worship

      • ultimately, the temple in Jerusalem, built during the reign of king Solomon

      • therefore, all of the sacred sites are no longer seen as valid places of worship,

      • or places where God will accept sacrifice

        • (i.e. Bethel, Shechem, Hebron, etc.)

    • Emphasis on the Davidic covenant

      • David is idealized as greatest king,

      • God promises that his monarchy will be everlasting...

    • Cyclical view of history,

      • based on assumption that divine justice is demonstrated in this life, not in afterlife:

        • God rewards fidelity with prosperity

        • and punishes disobedience with suffering

        • therefore, one's status indicates one's standing with God.

    • the 'Deuteronomistic Cycle':

      • When tribe/kingdom(s) is faithful to God, it exists in a state of peace

      • But inevitably, the people sin by disobeying God.

        • In DH, usually by worshipping false gods.

        • In Latter Prophets, usually by neglecting social justice (care of poor, widows, orphans)

      • When finally angered, God punishes with disaster, defeat, disease, ultimately exile.

      • The people repent, and cry out for mercy and deliverance

      • when the punishment is sufficient and God deems the repentance sincere, he redeems the tribe/kingdom(s), or frees it from suffering.

        • But this is done through a mediator, an 'anointed'

          • Hebrew 'mashiah' (hence 'messiah,' trans into Gk as 'xristoj,' hence 'Christ')

        • refers to the anointing of judges, kings, priests, (and sometimes prophets) on the head with oil to indicate their vocation

        • the messiah leads the tribe/kingdom(s) back to fidelity and peace.

          • but when he (she?) dies, and time passes, the people return to their sinful ways, and the cycle repeats.

    • positive portrayal of prophecy:

      • Moses as archetype

      • Joshua, Nathan, Elijah, Elisha, all loyal to God, all tried to rally the people together to be faithful followers of God.

    • worth noting: the author of the DH also apparently relies on earlier sources, lost to us now:

      • [Book of Jashar (Joshua 10:13, 2 Sam 1:18)

      • Book of the Acts of Solomon (1 Kings 11:41)

      • Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel (1 Kings 14:19)

      • Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah (1 Kings 14:29)]


  • The DH probably existed in 2 versions:

  • One written prior to the Babylonian exile

    • During the reign of King Josiah (640-609 BC)

    • Seen as one of the greatest kings in Judah's history

    • During his reign, book of the law is 'found' in the temple (deut)

  • Optimistic outlook about Judah's future prosperity,

    • seen esp in the early version of the Messianic Promise to David (2 Sam)

    • compares Josiah to both David and Joshua

  • A revision during/after the exile (revised promise in 1 Kings)

    • the redactor accounts for history in light of theology:

      • assumption was that the righteous prospered in this life, and the wicked suffered.

    • But historically, opposite had happened:

      • Manasseh, one of the most wicked kings in Judah's history, had a long and peaceful reign, dying in prosperity

      • Josiah, one of his successors, had been faithful to Yahweh but died in battle at Har Megiddo

    • How to explain?

      • Manasseh's wickedness was so great,

      • that God punished the kingdom with exile,

        • but withheld the punishment to the time of Josiah.

      • the monarchy ended.


  • Key issues with the books of the DH:

  • Joshua & Judges-

    • In outline:

      • Josh 1-12: three major campaigns led by Joshua into the PL to conquer it.

      • Josh 13-22: Joshua apportions the land among the tribes.

      • Josh 23-24: Joshua's farewell address to the tribes.

      • Judg 1: Explains why Israel's infidelity made the conquest unsuccessful.

      • Judg 2: Intro to the stories about the Judges

      • Judg 3-16: Narratives about individual judges

      • Judg 17-21: Stories about the problems w/the tribes that necessitated the monarchy.

    • their content is obscure today, but...

      • seriously debated, because

      • the conquest is the first event in Jewish history that should offer archaeological evidence:

        • the book of Joshua describes the demolition of entire cities (16 in total)...shouldn't there be evidence of late 13th century destruction?

          • there is, and there isn't.

    • Proposed models for how Israel came to possess the land of the Canaanites:

      • Immigration model:

        • Geographically, Canaanite population was in the plains, not the highlands.

        • Archaeology suggests that at the time of the conquest, settlements in the highlands increased.

        • this model assumes Israelites first took the highlands, only gradually took the plains.

        • explains persistent conflicts in Judges.

      • Conquest Model:

        • Assoc. w/ William Foxwell Albright.

        • The region is dotted with tells-

          • flat-topped mounds that are the remains of ancient cities.

        • mounds grew b/c ancient cities were frequently destroyed.

        • the ruins would be leveled off and a new city built on them.

        • tells have discreet 'destruction layers' of debris trapped under the foundations of newer buildings.

        • Albright sought to validate the Biblical account by dating the destruction layers of relevant tells.

        • But it backfired, sort of:

        • [of the 16 sites:

          • only 3 sites support the Biblical account
            (Bethel, Lachish, Hazor)

          • 7 either show no signs of destruction or were not occupied at the time. (Includes Jericho, Ai, Gibeon)

          • 6 have not been identified.

        • the Bible also mentions 12 other cities that were not destroyed:

          • 5 have been identified and show no signs of destruction.

          • Others have not been found or have produced no conclusive evidence.

        • There are also 12 other sites from the same period that:

          • are either not yet identified, or not mentioned by name in the Bible.

            • 6 destroyed by 'Sea Peoples' or Egyptians

            • 6 destroyed by unknown forces.]

      • One interesting result of this approach:

        • material remains found in cities considered to be Israelite settlements are virtually indistinguishable from remains from Canaanite sites.

          • might the Israelites have been Canaanites?

      • Revolt Model:

        • Based primarily on the evidence of the references to 'Apiru in the Amarna Letters.

        • The 'Apiru were not an ethnic group

          • the term refers to the marginalized, and is used for slaves, troublemakers, mercenaries...

        • This model assumes they were Canaanites,

        • and that the Israelites who escaped from Egypt banded together with them and revolted against their Egyptian oppressors.

        • Largely rejected, esp. because a scholar who developed the theory was himself a Marxist

          • and interpreted the data through the lens of his own ideology.

      • The Gradual Emergence Model

        • Views the Israelites as Canaanites who gradually developed a distinct identity,

        • maybe for reason above (Revolt Model)

        • they fled the plains and settled in the highlands,

          • then presumably came to dominate the region.


    • A final point:

      • 'Biblical' archaeology was once used as a means to validate the Biblical account,

        • then in an attempt to disprove it

        • Now most scholars have realized that it can do neither:

          • methods change and develop,

          • results are open to new interpretation,

          • reconstructions are often incomplete and speculative.

      • but there is still a value to archaeology-

        • it helps to reconstruct the material culture and sociology of the land of the Bible, which aids interpretation.



  • the Books of Samuel

  • deal with the development of two major institutions in Israel's history:

    • The Monarchy: (kings who acted on God's behalf.)

      • necessary because of the failure of the tribal alliance.

      • idea of a king was difficult for Israel to accept,

        • kings of neighboring countries were often worshipped as gods,

        • and Israel feared offending Yahweh.

    • The Prophet: (who spoke on God's behalf.)

      • the prophet, rather than the king, became the voice of God, calling Israel to remain faithful to its covenant.

    • 1 Samuel is divided according to the following outline:

      • Chs 1-12 =the career of Samuel,

        • the last Israelite judge and a “righteous” man.

      • Chs 13-31 =the careers of Israel's first two kings:

        • Saul, Israel’s first king,

        • and David, Israel's greatest king.

      • David is the pivotal character in the DH:

        • Joshua and Judges serve as a prologue,

          • explaining why a king is necessary.

        • 1 & 2 Kings evaluate David’s successors,

          • with David as archetype- the ideal king.

          • Only Hezekiah & Josiah live up to his example.

    • 1 Samuel also notes a significant moment:

      • Ark of the Covenant is lost in battle to the Philistines.

        • biblical author claims: "Gone is the glory from Israel."

      • Ark was originally stored at Shiloh, but when returned, it was stored in Jerusalem by David-

        • signaling the beginning of a new era.

    • 2 Samuel deals primarily with the reign of David.

    • significant achievements:

      • He unites Israel.

        • takes control of Jerusalem (in neutral territory)

          • makes it his capital,

          • Moves Ark of the Covenant there to unite the tribes.

      • Makes Israel a state with a complex government rivaling its neighbors.

        • Takes over Canaanite power structure in Jerusalem, uses it to rule Israel.

      • Subdues Israel's enemies on all sides,

        • esp. the Philistines (Nephilim?)

        • begins period of relative peace in Israel's history.

      • Traditionally the author of many of the Psalms.

        • See Mk 12:35-37

      • Considered the most successful of all Israel's kings.

        • His kingdom stretched from Euphrates River in the N.E. to the borders of Egypt in the south.

        • Corresponds exactly to the promise to Abraham by Yahweh in Gen 15:18.

      • Remembered for his fidelity to God, and the covenant he makes with God:

        • God's promises are almost unconditional and will be upheld regardless of what David does:

          • David's dynasty will endure (which it does for almost 400 years)

          • and the "Messianic Promise." (7:12-14)

        • How does the Messianic promise shape the theology of the gospel authors?

          • Read the following: 2 Sam 7:12-14; Psalm 110; Mt 1:1-17; Mt 22:41-46.

        • MT makes Jesus an 'adopted' son of David through Joseph, but at the same time he claims that Jesus' status as son of God is more important.

        • When David's dynasty finally does end, Jews wait and pray for a new king from the 'house of David' to deliver them from their oppressors.

          • A new "anointed one," or messiah.

  • the Books of Kings

    • A Basic Outline:

      • 1 Kings 1-11= Reign of Solomon

        • Building of 1st temple and palace

        • Solomon's increasing idolatry

      • 1 Kings 12- 2 Kings 17= Reigns of kings in North & South

        • Prophetic ministries of Elijah & Elisha

        • Fall of Israel to Assyria

      • 2 Kings 18-25= Reigns of Judahite kings

        • Hezekiah, Manasseh, Josiah

        • Discovery of book of the law

        • Babylonian conquest & exile

    • What we learn about the history of Israel from 1 & 2 Kings:

      • All of Israel's kings, even when the kingdom is divided, are hopelessly flawed.

      • Deuteronomistic cycle was re-enacted with each individual judge, here it is re-enacted with each king,

        • with prophets bringing Israel back to redemption.

      • 1 Kings, the reign of Solomon:

        • Building of the Temple and Palace

        • Reputation for great wisdom- reflected in the wisdom trad. of the OT, esp. Proverbs (Look at 1 Kings 3)

        • traditions regarding Solomon's wives mean he was involved in international politics-leads to his kingdom's downfall.

      • Why the kingdom divides-

        • Religious- Solomon has failed to keep the covenant by worshipping the gods of his foreign wives, God curses his dynasty (11:8-12)

        • Political- Solomon angers the tribes by dividing the kingdom into territories that do not follow traditional tribal lines, offending the northern tribes (4:7ff).

          • Solomon's new boundaries create twelve tribes not including Judah- All of the tax burden winds up falling on Israel. Rehoboam only increases this (12:12ff).

      • Division:

        • Jeroboam in Israel (or Ephraim, Northern Kingdom)-ten tribes

        • Rehoboam, Solomon's son in Judah (Southern Kingdom)-Judah & Benjamin

      • irony of Solomon's reign: king that makes the greatest contribution to the worship of Yahweh (the Temple) winds up losing his father's dynasty because he worships foreign gods.

    • Who were Elijah and Elisha?

      • Prophets who try to bring the people of Israel back to the worship of Yahweh

      • Two of the most important prophets in Israel's tradition, even though they do not have books named after them.

      • In Malachi 3:23, Yahweh claims that he will send Elijah back before the “great and terrible day of the Lord.”

      • In NT times, many will see the Messiah as a prophet like Elijah or Elisha. Consider:

        • First, Elijah/Elisha compared to Moses/Joshua. Where? 2 Kings 2, when Elijah and Elisha cross the Jordan together on their way to Jericho.

        • Now consider Luke 4:24-27

        • See also the following passages in Luke and the Books of Kings:

    Healing the Widow's Child

    1 Kings 17:17-24

    Luke 7:11-17

    Fire consuming men

    1 Kings 18:36-40,
    2 Kings 1:9-12

    Luke 9:51-56,

    "I will follow, but first..."

    1 Kings 19:19-20

    Luke 9:61-62

    “taken up”/ascension

    2 Kings 2:1-14

    Luke 24:51-53

    40 Days without food

    1 Kings 19:8

    Luke 4:1-13


    • What is Luke saying about Jesus, through the Elijah and Elisha tradition?

      • Jesus fits the description of the great prophet many expect.

      • But at the same time, Jesus is greater than any prophet.

        • ex. Elijah asks God to heal the widow's son, while Jesus performs the healing himself).

        • and Jesus' way is not Elijah's way (Jesus does not call down the fire from heaven).


  • Important figures/themes/concepts in these books:

    • Joshua,

      • successor to Moses, and prophet like him

      • a model example of fidelity to God

      • undefeatable as a military leader

      • fulfills God's covenant w/Abraham by taking possession of the PL

    • Rahab

      • though not Jewish, she recognizes God's power, and that the Hebrews are his people.

      • a model of Gentile piety, and God's ability to work through whomever he chooses to accomplish his will.

      • 1 of 5 women mentioned in MT's (patrilineal) genealogy of Jesus' ancestry...why?

    • the 'ban'

      • a controversial concept, but-

      • typical of ANE cultures,

        • and even some modern cultures,

      • and probably not an accurate description of the conquest.

      • a conquered people and their city were wiped out and burned as a holocaust to (a) God.

      • but the idea is criticized even in the Bible itself, esp. in the Latter Prophets.

    • Samuel

      • Dedicated to God as a Nazirite from birth

      • his parents are righteous and devout

        • his mother, Hannah (previously barren), sings a canticle to God of thanksgiving

      • anoints David as king

    • David (revisited)

      • takes bread consecrated for priests (from Ahimelech) to give to his men (1 Sam 21:2-8)

        • see Mk 2:23-28

      • when his son Absalom seeks to overthrow him, he is betrayed by his advisor Ahithophel

        • when David realizes that Absalom is a threat, he leaves Jerusalem, passing through the Kidron Valley towards the Mount of Olives.

        • he arrives at the Mount of Olives, and there he 'wept without ceasing,' and was informed that he had been betrayed by Ahithophel...

        • Ahithophel realizes that his betrayal has been revealed, returns home and hangs himself in shame.

    • The Priesthood

      • 2 priests who served David are important:

        • Abiathar, who does not remain loyal to David.

          • He is banished by Solomon to serve as priest only in his hometown of Anathoth.

        • Zadok, who stays loyal to David and is chosen by Solomon to replace Abiathar as high priest.

          • Subsequent high priests must be descended from him,

          • the word 'Sadducee' is probably derived from his name.

    • Exile

      • There are 2, the Assyrian & Babylonian.

      • The Assyrians (722 BC) exile the population of the Northern kingdom-

        • See 2 Kings 17 & John 4:4-42 (metaphor from Hosea)

      • The Babylonians exile the Southern kingdom (actually twice, 596 and 587 BC)

        • In the first, approx. 10k people are exiled, the elite, important, wealthy.

        • about a decade later, another exile removes most of the population, leaving only a 'remnant' of the poor and 'irrelevant' behind,

        • and destroying the city of Jerusalem & the temple of God.