The Secret Things and the Things Revealed: Reactions to the Exile in the Deuteronomistic History

From Israel in Exile, by Ralph W. Klein

The Deuteronomistic History (Dtr) is the name given to the Books of Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, I and 2 Samuel, and 1 and 2 Kings. The classic description of this work was made by Martin Noth in 1943.1 Noth proposed that the Deuteronomistic historian (DtrH) composed his work in Palestine about the middle of the sixth century B.C., using numerous old traditions or sources. DtrH interpreted the history of Israel from the conquest to the fall of the southern kingdom on the basis of Deuteronomic theology. For this historian the tragic end of the people Israel was the fully justified and unavoidable consequence of their rejection of Yahweh during their entire stay in Palestine. Dtr, therefore, was a kind of confession of Israel's sin. Its purpose was overwhelmingly didactic and theological; the author was not trying to present an objective narrative of the facts of history. DtrH's analyses of Israel's history are scattered throughout the work in specially composed speeches or prayers put into the mouths of leading figures (Moses, Deut. 1-3 [4], cf. 29-31; Joshua, Josh. 1 and 23; Samuel, 1 Sam. 12; and Solomon, 1 Kings 8). At times DtrH presented his analysis without putting it into an-

  1. Martin Noth, Übertieferungsgeschichtliche Studien I, 3d ed. (Halle [Saale]:M. Niemeyer, 1967). Subsequent research has been analyzed, with extensive bibliographic references, by Arnold Nicolaas Radjawane, "Das deuteronomistische Geschichtswerk," TRu 38 (1974): 177-216.
  2. other's mouth (Josh. 12; Judg. 2:llff.; 2 Kings 17:7ff.). In recent years the oracle of Nathan and David's prayer in response to it, both in 2 Samuel 7, have also been viewed as examples of these interpretive keys.2

    Whatever the redactional history of Dtr (preexilic and exilic editions3 or a series of exilic redactions),4 it seems to have achieved a nearly final form during the Exile. Dennis McCarthy has recently suggested that the final form of Dtr be interpreted as a rhetorical whole, as a unified structure of effective verbal expression. He notes that the essential meaning of a text grows out of its structure as a present (synchronic) whole.!-, Our question then in this chapter is, What does a reading of this final form of Dtr offer to exilic theology?

    ACCOUNTING FOR ISRAEL'S EXILE IN THE TIME OF MOSES Although the speaker in the parts of Deuteronomy assigned to Dtr is alleged to be Moses, the exilic author has left behind numerous clues that the real audience and the real time of com- position are in the sixth century. In chap. 29, for example, reference is made to a coming generation that will experience afflictions and sicknesses and ask Yahweh why he has done this (vv. 22 and 24), but the writer is surely speaking about the circumstances of his own day, not about those of a future generation

  3. See Frank M. Cross, Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1973), pp. 274-89, especially p. 275; and Dennis J. McCarthy, "II Samuel 7 and the Structure of the Deuteronomic History," JBL 84 (1965): 131-38.
  4. Cross, Canaanite Mvth, pp. 284, 287-88.
  5. Rudolf Smend, "Das Gesetz und die Vö1ker, Ein Beitrag zur deuteronomistischen Redaktionsgeschichte," in Probleme Biblischer Theologie, ed. Hans Walter Wolff (Munich: Christian Kaiser, 1971), pp. 494-509; idem, Die Entstehung des Alten Testaments (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1978), pp. 110- 25; Walter Dietrich, Prophetie und Geschichte, Eine redaktionsgeschichtliche Untersuchung zum deuteronomistischen Geschtichtswerk, FRLANT 108 (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1972); Timo Veijola, Die ewige Dynastie: David und die Entstehung seiner Dynastie nach der deuteronomistischen Darstellung (Helsinki: Suomalainen Tiedeakatemia, 1975); idem, Das Königtum in der Beurteilung der deuteronomistichen Historioriographie (Helsinki: Suomalainen Tiedeakatemia, 1977).
  6. Dennis McCarthy, "The Wrath of Yahweh and the Structural Unity of the Deuteronomistic History," Essays in Old Testament Ethics, ed. J. L. Crenshaw, and J. T. Willis (New York: KTAV, 1974), p. 99.


(cf. vv. 14-15, 27). The writer knew firsthand what exile meant.

Why has Yahweh destroyed his land (v. 24)?" DtrH answers his own question: because "they" forsook the covenant of Yahweh, the God of their fathers, and served other gods (vv. 25-26). Elsewhere he speaks of frustrating (prr Hiphil), transgressing (`br), not keeping (1' smr), rejecting (m's), or forgetting (skh) the covenant.7 The verbs are interchangeable synonyms; the real offense is the serving of other gods., The result of these transgressions is an outbreak of God's anger and wrath (Deut. 29:20, 24, 27, 28; cf. 2 Kings 24:3, 20), his refusal to forgive (v. 20; cf. 2 Kings 24:4), and an unleashing of the curses of the covenant (vv. 20 and 27) recorded in Deuteronomy 28.

"Moses"' message for the exilic generation gains special poignancy and theological power precisely because it is delivered to Israel while it is on the verge of the land. Israel really received two gifts at that time: the land and the law. Both law and land are gifts of the promising and fulfilling God whose name is Yahweh.

Moses extends the land promise in Dtr by commanding Joshua to conquer and divide the land (Deut. 31:7; cf. Josh. 1:6), and his commands are executed to a T by Joshua. In Joshua 2-12 the Israelites carry out a lightning-quick takeover of Palestine, and Dtr concludes, "So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that Yahweh had spoken to Moses" Josh. 11:23). Or even more exuberantly, "Not one of all the good promises which Yahweh had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass" (Josh. 21:45).

In addition to this promise with its fulfillment, however, Dtr cites another word of Yahweh, foretelling that because the people would serve other gods and break the covenant, Yahweh would be angry and forsake them (Deut. 31:16-17, 20). This word not only explains the disaster of 587 as the result of the broken

6. Note the similar question in I Kings 9:8. The answer in I Kings 9:9 is similar to Deut. 29:25-26. Cf. also Jer. 5:19; 9:11-15; 16:10-13; 22:8-9.

7. For the references see Lothar Perlitt, Bundestheologie im Alten Testament, WMANT 36 (Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 1969), p. 36, n. 1.

8. Dtr describes the service of these gods in rows of verbs consisting of various combinations of "go after," "bow down to," "turn to," "fear," or "sacrifice to." For references see ibid., p. 36, n. 2.

covenant (cf. chap. 29), but it also makes that event a consequence of God's reliable word. Whereas Yahweh had proven faithful to the land promise and to his word that foretold Israel's fate, Israel had not kept the covenant at all despite the commands of Yahweh (Deut. 4:13, 14) and the warnings of Moses (Deut. 4:23- 24). Failure to do what is right in Yahweh's eyes, Moses thundered, would lead to the loss of the land (4:26) and to a scattering among the nations (4:27). Despite such warnings, according to Dtr, north Israel went into Assyrian exile, because they "transgressed his covenant, even all that Moses the servant of Yahweh commanded" (2 Kings 18:12). This falling away began as soon as the conquest was completed. Immediately after Joshua's distribution of the land (Judg. 2:6), that is, precisely when the promise to the fathers had been dramatically fulfilled, DtrH reports, "The anger of Yahweh was kindled against Israel; and he said, 'Because this people have transgressed my covenant . . ."' (Judg. 2:20).

Thus from the beginning of Israel's history in the land until its end, the people's behavior could be characterized as a non- fulfilling of the covenant. And over against this infidelity stands the promising and fulfilling Yahweh, who added the gift of the law to the gift of the land and who had even announced with tragic accuracy on the verge of the land, "They will break my covenant" (Deut. 31:20).

With the loss of its land, exilic Israel could have been tempted to say, "Since we have lost the land, Yahweh, the one who promised the land, has become unreliable and untrustworthy." DtrH insists however on the unfailing connection between God's promise and its fulfillment. Israel's fate therefore stems from her own guilt, her unfaithfulness, her failure to keep the covenant--from the first to the last.


During the lifetime of Joshua all the promises about the land and its distribution were perfectly fulfilled Josh. 21:43-45). Before his death, according to Dtr, Joshua assembled the people and rehearsed for them the great events of the conquest (23:3-5and/or 24:8-13)." He urged them to avoid the worship of other gods (23:16; 24:14, 20, 23). Joshua's lifetime was a time of completely faithful Yahweh worship (Josh. 24:31 and Judg. 2:7).

For the period of the Judges DtrH redacted a previously existing "Book of Saviors" (Retterbuch)10 in order to make it contribute to his analysis of Israel's history, The Book of Saviors had structured the period of the Judges in a repetitive pattern: Israel sinned, was handed over to an enemy, and cried to Yahweh. Then Yahweh raised up a saving hero, the enemy was subdued, and the land again had rest. DtrH inserted interpretive passages in 2:6- 3:6 and 10:6-16 and more minor additions elsewhere. He thereby made clear that the sin in the period of the Judges was precisely that against which Joshua-and Moses-had warned, and which was to be the downfall of the northern and southern kingdoms, namely, the worship of other gods (2:12-13; 10:6, 10, 13-14). Such idolatrous worship inevitably called forth the wrath of Yahweh (2:14, 20; 10:7). He expanded the Retterbuch's cry to Yahweh in chap. 10 by turning it into an appropriate confession of sin: "And the people of Israel cried to Yahweh, saying, 'We have sinned against thee, because we have forsaken our God and have served the Baals' " (v. 1O; cf. I Sam. 12:10).

DtrH indicated that the sin-punishment-deliverance cycle would not go on forever. Yahweh once refused to deliver Israel in the time of the Judges (10: 13) and was moved to act only when the people's confession was followed by an actual removal of the foreign gods (IO: 16). Only then, DtrH observes, did God become indignant over the misery of Israel.11

9. Noth, Überlieferungsgeschichtliche Studien, pp. 5 and 9, held chap. 23 to be original in Dtr and 24 to be a secondary addition; Smend, "Das Gesetz und die Völker," p. 501, holds the opposite to be true. In any case, Dtr always seems to have contained at least one of these speeches.

10. See the thorough analysis of Wolfgang Richter, Die Bearbeitungen des "Retterbuches " in der deuteronomischen Epoche, BBB 21 (Bonn: Peter Hanstein, 1964). Richter's book and some additional studies are conveniently summarized by I. Schlauri, "Wolfgang Richter's Beitrag zur Redaktionsgeschichte des Richterbuches," Bib 54 (1973): 367-403.

11. Similarly, Yahweh turned from his burning anger over Achan's stealing of the "devoted things" onlv when Israel had stoned the offender and buried him under a heap of stones, thus decisively rejecting his sin (Josh. 7:26; cf. Deut. 13:17-18).

DtrH further modified the Retterbuch in that he omitted its "rest formula" in his own interpretive insertions in chaps. 2 and 10. This means that the story of Jephthah in particular does not end in a period of rest, but the story moves on into the disturbed times of Samson, Samuel, and Saul. The addition of the word "again" (wayyosipu) to the sin formula (3:12; 4:1; 10:6; 13:1; cf. 8:33) pushes his interpretation another step farther. The sins of Israel consequently are not just a series of independent fallings- away from Yahweh, but they are continuous and indeed growing. The climax of Israel's sin in the period of the Judges comes with the desire for a king (I Sam. 12: 19).12 While the following verses provide forgiveness for the people, the kingship of Saul ("the king whom you have chosen," I Sam. 12:13) is never really accepted in Dtr. In chap. 13 Samuel delivers an emphatic rejection of Saul and his kingship (vv. 13-15).

Israel sinned in the period of the Judges by choosing other gods and by demanding a king like the nations. It did this in spite of God's total keeping of the land promise; in fact, it did this as soon as the land promise had been fulfilled (cf. Judg. 2:6). Even during this period Israel did not lack new evidences of God's goodness. DtrH notes that the Judges were raised up by God and accompanied by him through all their days (2:18). Israel's salvation did not come merely from the heroic acts of ancient saviors. Rather, "He [that is, Yahweh] saved them from the hand of their enemies" (2:18).

The nature of the people's sin in this period is specified by a series of passages that find Israel's guilt in the transgression of the law of Moses and in its mixing with the nations and the following of their gods (Josh. 1:7-9; 13:lb-6; and chap. 23). In Judg. 2:20-21, 23 the people's service of the nations' gods led to an appropriate and ominous punishment. Yahweh ceased to expel the nations left after Joshua's initial battles (Josh. 23:4, 7, 12). Instead these nations-and their idolatrous temptations- were left as a snare, a trap, a scourge, and thorns in the people's eyes until Israel perished from the good land (Josh. 23:13).

This motif serves at least two functions: (a) It wards off any

12. Cf. I Sam. 8:7, where Yahweh says that in asking for a king the people have not rejected Samuel but Yahweh himself.

attempt by Israel to excuse its idolatrous actions by blaming them on the non-Yahwistic nations in their land; Israel's own sins in its early days were responsible for the presence of these deadly tempters. Secondly, (b) it warned the remnant left in Palestine after 587 not to become involved in syncretistic alliances with other peoples in the land, following the pattern of north Israel after 721 (cf. 2 Kings 17:24-40). The threats in Josh. 23:13 and 16 may mean that Yahweh could wipe even the survivors of 587 off the land.


The United Monarchy

The first kingship under Saul is Judged negatively in Dtr because it arose from the people's own choice (cf. I Sam. 12:19) and because of the behavior of Saul himself. Despite Israel's sin in choosing Saul, Yahweh would have established a dynasty for him, according to Dtr, but Saul erred in performing a sacrifice in the place of Samuel (I Sam. 13:8-14) and in not carrying out the ban in a war against Amalek (I Sam. 15).

Saul serves as a foil to David, whom God chose, and whose behavior was considered perfect by DtrH. God's choice of David as king of Israel instead of Saul, his dynastic promise to him, and his care for him are frequently attested (by Samuel, I Sam. 13:13-14 and 28:17; by Jonathan, I Sam. 20:15 and 23:17; by Saul, I Sam. 24:20-21; by Abigail, I Sam. 25:28, 30; by Abner, 2 Sam. 3:9-10, 18; by the tribes of Israel, 2 Sam. 5:1-2; and by David himself, 2 Sam. 6:21; cf. 5:12). But it is in 2 Samuel 7 that the promise to David receives its most thorough expression, both in the oracle of Nathan (vv. 8-17) and in David's prayer (vv. 18-29). Six times we are told that David's kingship, his house, or his throne will last forever (vv. 13, 16, 25, 29). This unconditional promise to David required correction by DtrH to explain Jerusalem's eventual fall, but it also offered some hope as the historian turned toward the future.

Dtr presents David as a perfect man in spite of the murder and adultery ascribed to him in the pre-Deuteronomistic sources. Only Moses, Joshua, and David are designated as Yahweh's servants in Dtr. David stands out because he captured Jerusalem and cared for the ark (2 Sam. 5 and 6), and because of his prayers (2 Sam. 7:18-29 and I Kings 1:47-48). Though his plan to build a temple was postponed to the time of his son because of his wars (I Kings 5:3-5), his pious intention is given full praise (I Kings 8:17-19). We are told that David administered justice and equity to all the people (2 Sam. 8:15), walked before Yahweh in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart (I Kings 3:6) and in Yahweh's ways (I Kings 11:33), and kept Yahweh's statutes and commandments (I Kings 3:14). His heart was "wholly true to Yahweh" (I Kings 15:3), and he did what was right in the eyes of Yahweh and did not turn aside from anything that he commanded him all the days of his life (I Kings 15:5).13

Because of the promises to David and because of David's perfect obedience (cf. 2 Sam. 22:22-25), Yahweh postponed the punishment merited by later kings, or he did not fully carry it out. The division of the kingdom, accordingly, did not take place in Solomon's lifetime because of David (I Kings 11: 12; cf. v. 32), and the southern dynasty retained one tribe even after the split be- cause of God's choice of David and Jerusalem (I Kings 11: 13, 32, 36). Yahweh gave Abijam dominion (a lamp) in Jerusalem because David did what was right (I Kings 15:4), and the promise of dominion to David forestalled total destruction during the reign of wicked Jehoram (2 Kings 8:19). Yahweh's choice of David and Jerusalem also led to his defense of the city during the days of Hezekiah (2 Kings 19:39; 20:6).

This idealized picture of David serves too as a model for evaluating succeeding kings. So the wicked behavior of Solomon (I Kings I 1: 4, 6, 33), Jeroboam I (I Kings 14:8; cf. I 1: 38), Abijam (I Kings 15:30), and Ahaz (2 Kings 16:2) stands in bold and explicit contrast to that of David. Even a good king like Amaziah (2 Kings 14:3) did not fully live up to the standards of David his father. Only Asa (I Kings 5: 11) and the great reformers, Hezekiah and Josiah, are held to be his equal (2 Kings 18:3 and 22:2).

13. Apparently this was too much for a later redactor who added the words "except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite," but this phrase is lacking in the LXX and surely secondary.

In Dtr's account of David's son, Solomon, we find much about his role as temple builder. He built the house for Yahweh's name in exact fulfillment of the promise to David (2 Sam. 7:13; 1 Kings 5:5; 8:20). But two other factors are also of great importance in the Solomon accounts. First, Dtr here makes the promise to David conditional, that is, the Davidic dynasty will be permanent only if the sons of David walk before Yahweh in faithfulness, with all their heart and with all their soul (I Kings 2:3-4; 8:25; 9:4-5; cf. 6:12-13). This addition made clear why, despite the great promises to David, Yahweh was justified in sending the terrible events of 587. Secondly, DtrH begins his accounting of royal unfaithfulness with Solomon. We are told in I Kings 11:4-8, 33 that Solomon's wives turned away his heart after other gods when he was old (cf. Deut. 7:4). Solomon also went after Ashtoreth of the Sidonians, Milcom of the Ammonites, and Chemosh of the Moabites, and built high places for these gods in the vicinity of Jerusalem (cf. 2 Kings 23:13). Solomon's (cf. BHS) forsaking of Yahweh and worship of other gods had the division of the kingdom as its ultimate consequence (I Kings 11:33). Each kingdom henceforth had its special sins and its special history of judgment.

North Israel

DtrH accounts for the fall of the northern kingdom primarily by his comments on

Jeroboam and the dynasty of Omri and by his concluding summary in 2 Kings 17:7ff.

Jeroboam's sins consisted in his erecting sanctuaries at Bethel and Dan (I Kings 12:30; 13:34). Whatever Jeroboam's own intentions were, DtrH viewed these sanctuaries as violations of the law of the single sanctuary (e.g. Deut. 12) and as centers of idolatry (I Kings 12:28). By this evil Jeroboam threw away a chance to have as sure a dynasty as David's (I Kings 11:38). High places and Asherim existed in Jeroboam's time (I Kings 12:31, 32; 13:2, 32-33; 14:15), and his sins led the whole people Israel to sin (I Kings 14:16) .14 just as David was the standard of comparison in the south, so

14. Almost all the succeeding kings are said to have caused Israel to sin (Shallum and Hoshea are the only exceptions) . In the south only Manasseh "caused Judah to sin."

Jeroboam played this role in the north, though his was a completely negative example. His son, Nadab, continued in the sin of Jeroboam (I Kings 15:26), as did Baasha, the founder of the next dynasty (I Kings 15:34; 16:2; cf. 16:12), and Zimri of the third northern house (I Kings 16:19). Omri, Ahab, and Ahaziah had their own grievous faults, but Dtr reports that they also walked in the way of Jeroboam (I Kings 16:25-26, 30; 22:52-53). Ten of the final twelve kings are Judged in a stereotyped formula that adds no new information: "He also did evil in the eyes of Yahweh; he did not depart from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin."15 The Jeroboam theme receives its final statement in 2 Kings 17:21-22, where both king and people are made to share in guilt.16

Omri was surely one of the most important kings in north Israel's history. He founded the new capital at Samaria, and Israel was known in Assyrian records as the house of Omri even after his dynasty was overthrown. Yet Dtr treats him in a scant thirteen verses (I Kings 16:16-28) and notes laconically that he did more evil than all who were before him (I Kings 16:25). Dtr pauses at length, however, over Omri's son Ahab (I Kings 16:28--22:40). He too did evil in the sight of Yahweh more than all who were before him (I Kings 16:30; cf. v. 33). Not only did he follow all the sins of Jeroboam, but he married a Tyrian princess, Jezebel, who brought four hundred fifty prophets of Baal and four hundred prophets of Asherah to eat at her table (1 Kings 18:19), and he built a temple for Baal in Samaria (I Kings 16:32). His struggles with the prophet Elijah were epic, and the issues involved included Yahweh's claims over against Baal's (cf. the scene at Mt. Carmel, I Kings 18) and the sanctity of land tenure by private citizens (cf. Naboth's vineyard, I Kings 21). Ahab's oldest son, Ahaziah, scarcely fared better in Dtr. He walked in the way of his father, and in the way of his mother, and in the way

15. Cf. 2 Kings 3:2-3; 10:29; 13:2, 1 I; 14:24; 15:9, 18, 24, 28. See the "Tabelle zum Schema IN" in Helga Weippert, "Die 'deuteronomistischen' Beurteilungen der Könige von Israel und Juda und das Problem der Redaktion der Königsbücher," Bib 53 (1972): 309,

16. In the passages listed in n. 15 weare told only that the king himself did not depart from these sins. Though DtrH judged the nation by its kings, he also asserts that the people shared in this guilt. Cf. 2 Kings 13:6.

of Jeroboam. He provoked Yahweh to anger in every way that his father had done (I Kings 22:52-53). Interestingly, the phrase "provoke to anger" is only used in the north for the kings from Jeroboam to Ahaziah-by the time the history of these kings has been told, DtrH has fully necessitated the fall of Samaria. Ahaziah's brother, Jehoram, who succeeded him on the throne, did evil too, though not like his father and mother (2 Kings 3:2). DtrH tells us that he actually removed the pillar of Baal which his father had made. From Jehoram on Dtr dismisses the remaining kings as mere copies of Jeroboam the son of Nebat.

The road from Jeroboam's sin to the defeat of 721 is almost straight downhill in Dtr, but small acts of piety are able to effect delays, as did David's election and piety in the south. Because Ahab repented after Elijah's blistering word of Judgment in the Naboth incident, the end of his dynasty was postponed to the era of his sons (I Kings 21:27-29). Jehu did not turn aside from the sins of Jeroboam (2 Kings 10:29), but he did execute God's judgment on Joram, the last of Ahab's sons to reign in the north (2 Kings 9:24), and on Ahaziah in the south, "who walked in the ways of the house of Ahab" (2 Kings 8:22 and 9:27). Moreover, he executed Jezebel in fulfillment of the word of Yahweh (2 Kings 9:36; cf. I Kings 21:23). Whatever we think of Jehu's slaughter of Ahab's seventy sons, the kinsmen of Ahaziah, the remnant of Ahab in Samaria, and the worshipers of Baal (2 Kings 10: 1-25), DtrH himself clearly approves Jehu's burning of Baal's pillar and his turning the temple of Baal into a latrine (2 Kings 10:26-27). Jehu wiped out Baal from Israel (2 Kings 10:28)1 Despite Jehu's maintenance of the calves of Bethel and Dan, his line was extended for four more generations (2 Kings 10:30), making his the longest dynasty in north Israel's history (cf. 2 Kings 13:4-6, 23; 14:26-27; and 15:12).

But with Jeroboam and Ahab things had already gone too far, and at least ten of the last twelve kings of the north are said to have merely repeated Jeroboam's mistakes. No particular guilt is attributed to Hoshea, the last king; he was not even considered as evil as the kings who were before him (2 Kings 17:2). His infidelity to his Assyrian suzerain, to be sure, was the proximate cause of Assyria's final attack (2 Kings 17:3-6), but the ultimate cause was the people's sins against Yahweh (v. 7). In his final, sermonic summation DtrH documents how the people had feared other gods. They had been just like the nations despite the explicit command of God and his repeated warnings through the prophets. The people repeated the sins of their fathers and participated in all kinds of idolatry. They, like the kings from Jeroboam to Ahaziah, aye, like their fathers in the days of Moses (Deut. 29:20, 24, 27, 28) and in the days of the judges (Judg. 2:14, 20; 3:8), had provoked Yahweh to anger (2 Kings 17:7-17).

Now Yahweh's anger knew no constraint; he removed them out of his presence in fulfillment of his word via the prophets (2 Kings 17:18, 23). The sum of this history is fully right to DtrH: "Israel was exiled from their own land to Assyria until this day" (2 Kings 17:23).

The Southern Kingdom

Dtr's accounting for the fall of the southern kingdom can be sampled in his discussion of the time of Rehoboam, the first king in the south, and of the time of Manasseh, one of the last southern kings.

Rehoboam l7 did what was evil in the sight of Yahweh and provoked Yahweh to jealousy more than his fathers had done by all their sins (I Kings 14:22). The crucial role of this paragraph on Rehoboam is shown by the mention of his provoking Yahweh to jealousy (qn' Piel). DtrH uses another term for provocation (k's Hiphil) in his discussion of Manasseh (2 Kings 21:6; 23:26) and of the sins of the people at his time (2 Kings 21:16), as well as in the climactic oracle of Huldah, where the people's worship of other gods is said to be the provocation for God's unquenchable wrath (2 Kings 22:17).

Rehoboam did "more" provocations than his fathers. We have seen this "more than" comparison used for Omri and Ahab in the north,,, and it is used also for Manasseh: he did things "more evil" than the Amorites (2 Kings 21:11), the pre-Israelite inhabi-

17. So LXX; cf. BHS.

18. Each generation in the period of the judges also behaved worse than their fathers (Judg. 2:19).


tants of Palestine. Manasseh, in fact, seduced the people "to do more evil than the nations had done whom Yahweh destroyed before the people of Israel" (2 Kings 21:9; cf. v. 2 and I Kings 14:24; 2 Kings 16:3; 17:8, 11, 15).

The people at Rehoboam's time sinned by building high places (I Kings 14:23). Whatever the actual function of these sanctuaries had been in Israel, for DtrH they are clearly idolatrous (cf. Deut. 12:2-3 and I Kings 12:31-32). Manasseh later rebuilt the high places (2 Kings 21:3) after Hezekiah had torn them down, only to have Josiah abolish them once and for all in his great reform (2 Kings 23:5-20). Outside of these notices at the beginning and end of the southern kingdom, DtrH cites the high places only in a clich6 qualifying his good evaluation of five kings (Jehoshaphat, Joash, Amaziah, Azariah, and Jotham): "yet they did not take away the high places,' 19 and the people sacrificed and burned incense on the high places." We note that DtrH does not limit his condemnation here to the kings; from the very start of the southern kingdom, and repeatedly throughout its history, the people matched the kings in apostasy. The people set up pillars in Rehoboam's day (I Kings 14:23; cf. 2 Kings 18:4 and 23:14) and erected Asherim (I Kings 14:23; cf. Asa's mother, I Kings 15:13, and Manasseh, 2 Kings 21:3, 7). The emergence of cult prostitutes in Rehoboam's days (I Kings 14:24) was directly contrary to Deuteronomic law (Dent. 23:18), though its abiding power among the people is attested by Dtr in the accounts of Asa's (I Kings 15:12), Jehoshaphat's (I Kings 22:46), and Josiah's (2 Kings 23:7) attempts to eradicate it.

The paragraphs above have already indicated how frequently the sins of Rehoboam's days were repeated by Manasseh, and these references need not be repeated here. What makes Manasseh worse in DtrH's eyes is that he restored these idolatrous practices after Hezekiah's reform. Moreover, he erected an altar for Baal and Asherah as Ahab, king of Israel, had done (2 Kings 21:3). Such comparison with the northern kings is a frequent part of DtrH's polemic. Not only does he castigate the southern kings

19. Translation RWK. This first half of the formula is also used of Asa.

Jehoram and Ahaziah for walking in the way of the house of Ahab (2 Kings 8:18, 27), but he scores the Southerner Ahaz for performing child sacrifice as he walked in the ways of the kings of north Israel (2 Kings 16:3; cf. 2 Kings 21:6).

Because of all Manasseh's sins itemized above and more,20 and because he made Judah to sin with his idols (2 Kings 21:11), Yahweh announced through his prophets: "I will stretch over Jerusalem the measuring line of Samaria, and the plummet of the house of Ahab; and I will wipe Jerusalem as one wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down. And I will cast off the remnant of my heritage" (2 Kings 21:13-14; cf. 23:26-27; 24:3-4).

The final blow came later in Judah than in Israel. This delay resulted in part from God's choice of David and his promise to give him dominion in Jerusalem; partly, this resulted from David's own behavior. Partly, it came from the merits of the three kings discussed below of whom DtrH reported, "They did what was right in Yahweh's eyes like David their father." Such behavior was the necessary prerequisite if Yahweh were to establish David's royal throne over Israel forever (I Kings 2:4; 8:25; 9:4-5).

Asa showed David-like piety by ridding the land of cult prostitutes and removing all the idols his fathers had made. He deposed the idol-worshiping queen another and burned her Asherah. His heart was wholly true to Yahweh all his days (I Kings 15:11-14).

Hezekiah, too, followed David in all things. He sacked the high places, pillars, and Asherah; he even destroyed the bronze serpent Nehushtan, before which Israel burned incense (cf. Num. 21:6-9). His trust in Yahweh was without equal among the kings of Judah, and lie kept all the commandments of Moses. Not surprisingly lie gained a series of military victories (2 Kings 18-1-8; cf. I Kings 15:16-22).

No one was more like David, however, than Josiah: he did not

20. He worshiped the host of heaven, constructed altars for them in the temple, practiced soothsaying and augury, used mediums and wizards, and shed innocent blood (2 Kings 21:3-5, 16; cf. 2 Kings 24:4). Amon, Manasseh's son, was just as evil as his father (2 Kings 21:19-26).

turn aside to the right hand or to the left (2 Kings 22:2). His every action was designed to implement the provisions of the book of the law (= Deuteronomy) found in the temple (2 Kings 22:8-13). He and the people made a covenant to keep Yahweh's commandments. He cleansed the temple of all paraphernalia of Baal, Asherah, and the host of heaven, destroyed the high places, broke down the houses of the cult prostitutes, wrecked the child sacrifice installations in Hinnom, and pulled down the altar at Bethel. He celebrated a Passover just like it had been celebrated in the days of the Judges (2 Kings 23:1-23). In sum: "Before him there was no king like him, who turned to Yahweh with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses" (2 Kings 23:25).

Still, after Manasseh, even a Josiah could no longer stem the tide of judgment (2 Kings 23:26-27; 24:3-4). DtrH records two oracles of Huldah, to whom the book of the law found in the temple was taken. In the first (2 Kings 22:16-17), Huldah announced that all the curses found in the book (presumably an early form of Deut. 28) would come on Jerusalem, because the people had forsaken Yahweh and burned incense to other gods to provoke Yahweh to unquenchable wrath. In the second (2 Kings 22:18-20), Huldah promised the king a peaceful end. By putting the two oracles side by side and by dutifully reporting Josiah's tragic death at the hands of Neco (2 Kings 23:28-30), DtrH indicates that the king's exemplary behavior was only able to benefit himself; it was not able to save the people. Presumably, the second. oracle of Huldah in its Dtr context is understood to mean that Josiah would die prior to the dread events of 597 and 587, and hence lie died "in peace. "21

In his description of the sins of Manasseh and his predecessors, DtrH had fully justified the events of 587. The last four southern kings are referred to almost in passing. Each did whit was evil in the eyes of Yahweh either (a) according to all which his fathers had done (Jehoahaz and Jehoiakim) or (b) according to all which

21. For the devastating effect of Josiah's death on Hebrew historiography, see Stanley Brice Frost, "The Death of Josiah: A Conspiracy of Silence," JBL 87 (1968): 369-82.

Jehoiakim did Jehoiachin and Zedekiah). Dtr's bottom line on the south echoes his treatment of the north: "So Judah was taken into exile out of its land" (2 Kings 25:21; cf. 17:23).


According to Martin Noth, DtrH intended to show only that God's punishment was justified.22 From conquest to 587, God had accompanied the ever increasing apostasy with warnings and punishments. When these proved fruitless, he sent complete destruction. Dtr, in Noth's view, explained the past history but promised nothing for the future. We read in Deut. 29:29, "The secret things belong to Yahweh our God; but the things that are revealed belong to us and our children for ever, that we may do all the works of this law." What has been revealed is the Decalogue and its official explication in Deuteronomy. Doing this law should be the preoccupation of Israel. But the future is veiled, hidden, unrevealed-hence DtrH's reticence to speak about it. But is Noth right that the book has only a pessimistic, backward- looking aim?


Dtr makes frequent references to the oath Yahweh made to the fathers to give them the land (Dent. 1:8, 35, etc.). When Yahweh established Israel as his people and became their God, he was keeping the promise made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Deut. 29:13). That promise to the fathers formed the basis for God's mercy when north Israel underwent severe oppression by the Arameans: "Yahweh was gracious to them and had compassion on them, and he turned toward them, because of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob" (2 Kings 13:23). This promise to the fathers also provided hope for a return to Yahweh in present and future times of trouble: "For Yahweh your God is a merciful God; he will not fail you or destroy you or forget the

22. Noth, Überlieferungsgeschichtliche Studien, P. 100. Cf. also idem, "Zur Ge- schichtsauffassung des Deuteronomisten," in Proceedings of the Twenty-Second Congress of Orientalists Held in Istanbul, 1951 (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1957) 2: 558-66.

covenant with your fathers which he swore to them" (Dent. 4:31). One strong ray of hope in Dtr, then, stems from God's oath or promise, yes, his covenant with the Patriarchs.


Gerhard von Rad suggested that two words of Yahweh perimeated Dtr. On the one hand there was the word of Moses and the prophets, whose laws and threats were ignored, leading to the events of 721 and 587. But on the other hand there was the promise to David in 2 Samuel 7 that led to reprieves for Judah's kings and that had had a recent fulfillment, that was itself full of hope and promise, in the release of Jehoiachin from prison .23 Von Rad called attention to the numerous prophetic words of Yahweh which received explicit fulfillment in Dtr (e.g. I Kings 11:29ff. in 12:15), and he interpreted the promise to David in 2 Samuel 7 as one of these creative words of Yahweh active in history. Hans Walter Wolff criticized Von Rad's thesis, arguing that the promise in 2 Samuel 7 was always conditioned in Dtr (cf. I Kings 2:3-4 and 9:5-6; cf. Dent. 17:18-19) and that 2 Kings 25:27-30 makes no reference to the oracle of Nathan.24

Yet the issue is not yet settled. Von Rad may have erred in terming the Jehoiachin incident messianic and in making its promise virtually equivalent to the other, Judgmental word. Veijola's recent study, however, has called renewed attention to the unconditional character of 2 Samuel 7 even in the final form of Dtr .25 The repeated stress on the permanence of the Davidic house seems to be most appropriate precisely when this notion was under greatest suspicion, that is, during the Exile.

Erich Zenger has advanced the discussion by clarifying the structure of 2 Kings 25 and by explicating the significance of

23. Gerhard von Rad, Studies in Deuteronomy (London: SCM Press, 1953), chap. 7; idem, Old Testament Theology (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1962) 1:334ff. 24. Hans Walter Wolff, "The Kerygma of the Deuteronomic Historical Work," The Vitality of Old Testament Traditions (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1975), pp. 85-86.

25. Veijola, Die ewige Dynastie, pp. 68-79.

vv. 27-30 on the basis of Assyrian parallels.26 According to the latter verses, Amel Marduk gave public and official recognition to the exiled king as a royal vassal. He summoned him to an audience, repeated the treaty between Babylon and Jehoiachin ("he spoke good with him," v. 28), and assigned him to a particularly high rank among the vassals. Jehoiachin received clothes appropriate to this new station and shared a meal with the king at the conclusion of the audience.27 Finally, Jehoiachin was given on- going financial support from the royal budget.

Second Kings 25:1-26, on the other hand, shows how Judah had reached an absolute nadir. Zedekiah was exiled in fetters to Babylon having witnessed the murder of his sons shortly before he was blinded. Nebuzaradan burned the temple and the palace and exiled some of the remaining populace, taking whatever was of value from the temple to Babylon. Top temple officials, various members of the royal administration, and sixty of the people of the land were then transported to Riblah-just like Zedekiah -where they were executed, perhaps as an example to the others. Judah was thus taken into exile out of its lands. Finally, Ishmael and his associates assassinated Gedaliah (cf. Jer. 40 and 41). As a result of this murder, the last remaining hope in Palestine was gone. When the remnant of the people fled to Egypt, they fulfilled, at least approximately, the final curse of Deuteronomy 28: "Yahweh will bring you back in ships (= as slaves) to Egypt" (v. 68).

After the depths of this end point had been noted, DtrH included the account of Jehoiachin's rehabilitation. In this event he may have seen the beginning of a new era of blessing, though it would be going much too far to call it messianic. No acts of deliverance are predicated of Jehoiachin. The secret things-the future-still belong to Yahweh (Deut. 29:29). By including both conditional (I Kings 2:3-4; 9:5-6) and unconditional (2 Sam. 7) forms of the Davidic promise, DtrH was able to make room for the final humiliation of the Davidic line (in Zedekiah) and for a continuing positive effect of the promise to David (in Jehoiachin).

26. Erich Zenger, "Die deuteronomische Interpretation der Rehabilitierting Jojachins," BZ 12 (1968): 16-30.

27. Zenger has argued convincingly that the words "every day of his life" and "regularly" in v. 29 are secondary additions from v. 30.

God is still acting for his people; his good word can still be trusted when the land is lost.


Throughout the present form of Dtr, Israel is urged to turn or repent. Samuel urged turning and the removal of foreign gods at the time of the Philistine crisis (I Sam. 7:3), and DtrH noted that every prophet urged repentance though their words fell on deaf ears (2 Kings 17:13). Sermons on repentance by Moses ring the core of Deuteronomy (4:29-31 and 30:1-10), and Solomon laced his prayer at the temple dedication with references to repentance at time of military defeat, drought, famine, and even exile (I Kings 8:33-53). The cyclic history in the time of the Judges proceeds from (a) sin to (b) punishment, but this is followed by (c) crying to Yahweh and then (d) deliverance. Dtr's history of the monarchy in a sense stops at the second stage of this cycle, perhaps implying that Israel's sin and punishment once more should be followed by a cry to Yahweh for help even now.29 Josiah, who in so many ways is Dtr's ideal king, turned to Yahweh with all his heart, soul, and might; no king before him could match his example (2 Kings 23:25). In the following paragraphs we will discuss this repentance motif in three crucial passages that deal directly with the situation of exile, namely, two sermons of Moses and the prayer of Solomon.

The second sermon of Moses makes God's deliverance conditional upon Israel's repentance (Deut. 30:1-2, 9-10), but the first seems to promise that Israel will repent (Dent. 4:29-30). All three of our texts declare that such repentance will occur among those who are exiled from the land (Deut. 4:29; 30:1; 1 Kings 8:46-48).Turning to Yahweh, according to Dtr, should happen whole-heartedly (Deut. 30:2; 1 Kings 8:48), and it is to be followed by

28. The significance of this motif has been explicated by Wolff, "The Kerygma," pp. 83-100. Wolff argues that Deut. 4:29-31 and 30:1-10 are late strata in Dtr, showing a relationship to parts of Jeremiah. Walter Brueggemann, "The Kerygma of the Deuteronomistic Historian," Int 22 (1968): 387-402, supplements Wolff's work by demonstrating how Dtr urged Israel to repent on the basis of Yahweh's continuing "goodness."

29. McCarthy, "The Wrath of Yahweh," p. 106.

listening to the voice of Yahweh (Dent. 4:30; 30:2, 8) and keeping all the commandments mediated by Moses (Dent. 30:8, 10). Turning also should involve a confession of Israel's guilt (I Kings 8:47). In other words, the recognition and acknowledgment of the justice of God's actions in 721 and 587, which Noth made the chief burden of Dtr's message, is really only one part of the called-for repentance or turning. The year 587 is not a dead end, just as God's refusal to deliver in the time of the Judges was not his last word (Judg. 10:13). Faced with God's "no" in those early days, Israel confessed her sins and amended her life by putting away the foreign gods (10: 15-16), and-as a result- Yahweh became indignant once more over the misery of Israel (10:16). Solomon laid special stress on Israel's supplication to Yahweh in time of distress as a part of her turning (I Kings 8:47-49, 52; cf. vv. 33, 35, 38-39).

Israel is urged by Dtr to repent and to expect a positive response. God's character and past history with Israel both provide adequate motivation for turning and justify positive expectations. Yahweh is a merciful God, who will not fail or destroy Israel; he will not forget the covenant with the patriarchs even in exile (Dent. 4:31). Armed with similar assurances (Deut. 31:6, 8), Joshua was equipped to begin the task of conquest.

Solomon-and therefore really DtrH-urged prayer toward the land which Yahweh gave to the fathers, toward the city which Yahweh had chosen, and to the house lie built for his name. Israel's own status as Yahweh's people was forged in the Exodus from Egypt and communicated through Moses. Israel had been selected from all the peoples of the earth (I Kings 8:51-53). These traditions of promise and election, or better, the God who stands behind these promises, is a resource for hope, a refuge for those banished to exile.

What will result from this turning? Repentant Israel can expect Yahweh to hear and do justice for them (I Kings 8:49; cf. 8:45). Solomon, in addition, pleads with Yahweh to forgive them (I Kings 8:50; cf. vv. 34, 36, 39). To be sure, Yahweh had refused to forgive the sins of Manasseh (2 Kings 24:4; cf. Deut. 29:20) as he had refused at least temporarily to deliver Israel in the time of the Judges (Judg. 10: 13). A repentant Israel can hope for a different answer. Perhaps Yahweh will have compassion on such an Israel (Deut. 30:3) and will move their captor nations also to treat them with compassion (I Kings 8:50).

In Dent. 30:1-10 DtrH goes farther than anywhere else in lifting the veil on the secret things of God's future. Israel's turning will be mirrored by Yahweh's turning (Dent. 30:3). Dtr seems to refer to a new exodus and a new gift of the land in vv. 3-5 (cf. I Kings 8:34). Yahweh's future goodness in fact will outstrip his kindness in the past. He will make Israel more prosperous and more numerous than their fathers (v. 5). His blessing will lead to fertility in man and beast, and to abundant crops (v. 9). He will circumcise their hearts (v. 6) so that they can love God with all their heart and soul. God will lift the richly deserved curses from Israel and will place them on their enemies (v. 7), a theme adumbrated at a number of points in Lamentations.

DtrH's urging of Israel to repent on the basis of God's character and past history with Israel, and his limited spelling out of God's response, must not be exaggerated. Some or most of these materials may not have been part of Dtr's original message, and even in the final redaction of Dtr they occupy a tiny portion of this rather lengthy historical work. The quantitative and emotional impact of the work centers on Israel's faithless response to Yahweh's many gifts, especially his gift of the land and the law.

The consequences of this infidelity in the defeats of 721 and 587 were wholly justified and should not have been unexpected- prophets and seers had warned Israel of God's onrushing Judgment throughout its history. But however justified this word was, however devastating the effect of this wrath and of Yahweh's refusal to forgive, however much Yahweh was acquitted of all the charges against him, this word was not, finally, the last word of Yahweh, and 587 was not the end of Israel. The promise to the patriarchs still endured. Midway through the Exile God was still acting for Israel as exemplified by the rehabilitation of Jehoaichin. The task of the hour was for Israel, as part of her turning to Yahweh, to acknowledge God's justice, to listen to his voice, and to do his law. And then, though Dtr even in its final form is short on details, Israel could hope that Yahweh, in his unpredictable freedom, would act as Savior once more.