The Nathan Narratives (JSOT Supplement)

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    EditorsDavid J A ClinesPhilip R Davies

    JSOT PressSheffield

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  • The NathanNarratives

    Gwilym H. Jones

    Journal for the Study of the Old TestamentSupplement Series 80

  • Copyright 1990 Sheffield Academic Press

    Published by JSOT PressJSOT Press is an imprint ofSheffield Academic Press LtdThe University of Sheffield

    343 Fulwood RoadSheffield S10 3BP


    Printed in Great Britainby Billing & Sons Ltd


    British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data

    Jones, Gwilym H. (Gwilym Henry), 1930-The NaJian narratives.1. Bible. O.T. Historical criticismI. Title II. Series221.67

    ISSN 0309-0787ISBN 1-85075-225-7


    Preface 7Abbreviations 9

    Chapter 1INTRODUCTION 13

    Chapter 2NATHAN THE PROPHET 19





    Chapter 7CONCLUSION 143

    Notes 149Bibliography 179Index of Biblical References 187Index of Authors 193

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    My interest in the Nathan traditions was aroused when I wasworking through 1 Kings 1-2 for a commentary on 1 & 2 Kings in theNew Century Bible series. Support from the University College ofNorth Wales and from the British Academy enabled me to pursue myinterest and to bring this study to conclusion. The Senate of theUniversity at Bangor granted me a Study Leave to work on theproject, and with the help of a Research Award in Humanities fromthe Academy I was able to spend time in the University Library,Cambridge and in the British Library, London.

    My colleague, the Revd B. A. Mastin, gave of his time to read anearlier draft of this book. I am grateful to him for his advice; hismany suggestions saved me from infelicities of expression. Onceagain I must acknowledge my debt to Mrs Beti Llewellyn, whovaliantly tackled my untidily handwritten manuscript and with skilland great patience prepared successive drafts of this work for thepress.

    Finally, I thank the editors for accepting this book for publicationin the Supplement Series of the Journal for the Study of the OldTestament and for their helpful comments and assistance.

    Gwilym H. JonesUniversity College of North Wales

    BangorApril 1988

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    AASOR Annual of the American Schools of Oriental Research,New Haven

    AB Anchor Bible, New YorkAJSL American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures,

    ChicagoAnBib Analecta Biblica, RomeARW ASTI Annual of the Swedish Theological Institute in Jerusalem,

    LeidenATD Das Alte Testament Deutsch, GottingenAThD Acta Theologica Danica, CopenhagenBBB Bonner Biblische Beitrage, BonnBHH Biblisch-historisches Handworterbuch, 3 volumes, Gottingen,

    1962-66BBS Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, 1976BHTh Beitrage zur Historischen Theologie, TubingenBJRL Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, ManchesterBK Biblischer Kommentar, Neukirchen-VluynBWANT Beitrage zur Wissenschaft vom Alien und Neuen

    Testament, StuttgartBZ Biblische Zeitschrift, PaderbornBZAW Beihefte zur Zeitschrift fur die alttestamentliche Wissen-

    schaft, BerlinCBC Cambridge Bible Commentary, CambridgeCBQ Catholic Biblical Quarterly, WashingtonCBOTS Coniectanea Biblica, Old Testament Series, LundChQR Church Quarterly Review, LondonEThL Ephemerides Theologicae Lovanienses, LouvainFRLANT Forschung zur Religion und Literatur des Alten und

    Neuen Testaments, GottingenHUCA Hebrew Union College Annual, CincinnatiICC The International Critical Commentary, Edinburgh

    Archiv fur Religionswissenschaft, Berlin

  • 10 The Nathan Narratives

    JAOS Journal of the American Oriental Society, New HavenJBL Journal of Biblical Literature, PhiladelphiaJBR Journal of Bible and Religion, BostonJNES Journal of Near Eastern Studies, ChicagoJPOS Journal of the Palestine Oriental Society, JerusalemJQR Jewish Quarterly Review, PhiladelphiaJSOTS Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement

    Series, SheffieldJThS Journal of Theological Studies, OxfordKAT Kommentar zum Alien Testament, GiiterslohKHC Kurzer Hand-Commentar zum Alien Tesiament, TubingenLXX The Greek Septuagint VersionMS(S) manuscript(s)MT The Massoretic Text of the Old TestamentNEB New English BibleNCB New Century Bible Commentary, London, MichiganNIV New International VersionNRTh Nouvelle Revue Theologique, LouvainOr Ant Oriens Antiquus, RomeOSt Oudtestamentische Studien, LeidenOTL Old Testament Library, LondonPEQ Palestine Exploration Quarterly, LondonRB Revue Biblique, ParisRHPhR Revue d'Histoire et de Philosophic Religieuses, ParisRHR Revue de I'Histoire des Religions, ParisRSV Revised Standard VersionSANT Studien zum Alien und Neuen Testameni, MunichSAT Die Schriften des Allen Tesiamenls, GfillingenSBM Stuttgarier Biblische Monographien, SlullgartSBTh Studies in Biblical Theology, LondonSEA Svensk Exegetisk Arsbok, LundStTh Studia Theologica, Scandinavian Journal of Theology,

    OsloThB Theologische Bucherei, MunichThWNT Theologisches Worterbuch zum Neuen Testament, StuttgartThS Theologische Studien, ZurichThSl Theological Sludies, BaltimoreThZ Theologische Zeitschrift, BaselVT Vetus Testamentum, LeidenVTS Supplements to Vetus Testamentum, Leiden

  • Abbreviations 11

    WMANT Wissenschaftliche Monographien zum Alien und NeuenTestament, Neukirchen

    ZAS Zeitschrift fur Agyptische Sprache und Altertumskunde,BerUn

    TAW ZDMG Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenlandischen Gesellschaft,

    WiesbadenZDPV Zeitschrift des Deutschen Paldstina-Vereins, WiesbadenZThK Zeitschrift fur Theologie und Kirche, Tubingen

    Zeitschrift fur die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft, Berlin

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  • Chapter 1


    The sections of the Old Testament with which this study isconcerned, the traditions about Nathan the Prophet, appear in theso-called 'Deuteronomistic History', that complex of historicaltraditions extending from the death of Moses in Deuteronomy 34 tothe favourable treatment of Jehoiachin by the Babylonian king in 561BC (2 Kgs 25.27-30). A period of about twelve hundred years isdivided into four parts, and the three narratives under considerationin this study belong to the last two parts covering the period fromSamuel to the last days of David (the books of Samuel) and the yearsfrom the rise of Solomon to the last days of Jehoiachin in theBabylonian Exile (the books of Kings).

    It is the dominant influence of Deuteronomy on the work as awhole that has given it the designation 'deuteronomistic' (orsometimes 'deuteronomic'). Links of language and thought betweenthe Deuteronomistic History and the book of Deuteronomy areeasily established. However, in noting the many similarities oflanguage and phraseology, account has to be taken of M. Weinfeld'swarning that not all the phrases and expressions found inDeuteronomy are significant; only those which express the essence ofdeuteronomic thought and theology deserve serious consideration.1

    After presenting a detailed analysis of deuteronomic linkages, withcomparisons of both phraseology and theological tenets, Weinfeldfinds ample confirmation for the usage of the term 'deuteronomic' inconnection with the historical narrative in Joshua-Kings.2 Althoughthere is evidence of some development in the use of deuteronomicterminology, with sufficient grounds perhaps for reconstructing thehistorical development of the deuteronomic school between thecomposition of Deuteronomy in the 7th century BC and thedeuteronomic prose sermons of Jeremiah in the second half of the 6th

  • 14 The Nathan Narratives

    century BC, the Deuteronomistic History presents the course ofIsrael's history according to a single line of interpretation.3 This hasled to the claim that the concept of a single work cannot beprecluded.4

    Several major issues arising in connection with the DeuteronomisticHistory need not be listed and discussed in detail in this work.5 It willsuffice to note briefly the main trends of current thinking about a fewof the most basic of these issues. After a recent shift of scholarlyopinion there seems to be support for designating Palestine, inpreference to Babylon, as the place from which the DeuteronomisticHistory originated. Among the reasons given in support are: theaccessibility of sources in Palestine, the importance of the Bethel-Mizpah traditions in the history, the attention given to Canaaniterather than Babylonian cults, and the work's focus on the destructionof Judah and not on the exile in Babylon. Although some scholarsfind the evidence inconclusive and fail to come to a decision on thematter, increasing support is found for a Palestinian origin, and morespecifically for the Bethel-Mizpah area.6

    Another shift of emphasis can be seen in recent discussions of theidentity of the deuteronomistic group responsible for the history.This group has in turn been described as country Levites or a sectionof the Jerusalem priesthood, and in support reference is made to thework's emphasis on the centralisation of the cult and purity inworship. Others have found in the prominence given to thefulfilment of prophecy theme and to prophetic personalities evidencethat the deuteronomists were prophets. Another possibility is toidentify the authors as the wise men of Jerusalem, the official scribes,who had access to material relating to the monarchy which was onrecord in court, public and temple archives. Various objections tothese three possible identifications have recently led to the opinionthat the group responsible for the Deuteronomistic History was notconstituted exclusively of members from any one of these threegroups, but that it originated from a comprehensive group to whichmembers from the three traditions belonged.7

    Another question which has received a variety of answers is that ofthe compilation of the Deuteronomistic History. The simplestanswer of all is that a single historian was responsible for the entirehistory;8 it was careful planning on the part of this one author thatgave the work its unified and self-contained character. Despite themany features that give the history an unmistakable impression ofunity, there is also within it some variety which has not been totally

  • 1. Introduction 15

    suppressed. This would suggest that the author was dependent on anumber of sources, to which he showed respect by allowing them tospeak for themselves. Nevertheless, it has been claimed thatlinguistic characteristics, together with the unity of concept, methodand theology, furnish an impressive accumulation of evidence tosupport the case for a single author. A criticism that has been levelledagainst this concept, and which is taken to give support to a differentapproach, is that it produces too simple a view of the DeuteronomisticHistory. Consequently there has been support over the years for thesuggestion that the stages behind the present work are to be found intwo redactions of the history, one soon after the Josianic reform in621 BC and the other after 587 BC, or possibly after 561 BC. A numberof different forms of the double redaction theory have been proposed,but they are agreed in their distinction between a pre-exiHc and anexilic redaction.9 Even the suggestion of a double redaction presentedtoo simplistic a view of the history according to those who find in it amore prolonged and complex development. Again several attemptshave been made to trace various stages in the gradual growth of thework. Despite the difficulties encountered by some of the earlierexponents of this approach, some support has been found for themore recent version which finds three successive layers of deutero-nomistic tradition:10 the basic historical work (DtrH), a redactionintroducing prophetical texts (DtrP) and a law-oriented final version(DtrN).

    Although agreement on the compilation of the DeuteronomisticHistory has for a long time eluded biblical scholars, it is agreed thatthe historians depended heavily on sources and selected from themthe material that they considered relevant to their purpose. Inaddition to named sources, such as 'the Chronicles of the kings',which were records of reigns, it is obvious that un-named annals andlists, as well as narratives and legends, had been used. Material wastaken from multifarious sources, many of them independent unitsrather than continuous strands. Of particular significance for thisstudy is the so-called 'Succession Narrative' found in 2 Samuel 9-20and 1 Kings 1-2; this is not a collection of short stories, but acontinuous narrative that was constructed as a unit.11 The title'Succession Narrative' has been given to this complex because itsvarious parts contribute to one unifying theme, which was Solomon'slegitimate succession to his father's throne. Because the othercandidates for the throne, Absalom, Amnon and Adonijah, wereeliminated one by one, the only legitimate heir was Solomon. The

  • 16 The Nathan Narratives

    purpose of the whole complex is clearly indicated by its climax in 1Kgs 2.46b, 'So the kingdom was established in the hand of Solomon'.Obviously, therefore, the attempts to separate 1 Kings 1-2 from themain body of the complex in 2 Samuel 9-20 are refuted. The claimthat the first two chapters of 1 Kings belong to what follows ratherthan to what precedes, and the suggestion that they have superimposedthe theme of succession on the Court History of David in 2 Samuel9-20, are not as convincing as the interpretation that finds the themeof succession running through the whole complex to its climax in 1Kgs 2.46. But the suggestion to read 2 Samuel 7 as part of theSuccession Narrative is more acceptable, for the promise of aneverlasting dynasty to David by Nathan forms an appropriateintroduction to the narrative complex in 2 Samuel 9-20 and 1 Kings1-2. The concern of the complex with the succession to David'sthrone is a natural development from the promise of a dynasty in 2Samuel 7. For the purpose of this study it is also to be noted that thethree Nathan episodes fall within the Succession Narrative, two ofthem significantly providing the introductory and concludingsections of the narrative.

    One of the most significant developments in recent study of theSuccession Narrative is the recognition that it was the subject ofsome editing by the deuteronomists before it was incorporated in theDeuteronomistic History. For some time scholars had becomeattached to the view that it was a completely independent and unifiedcorpus that was accepted and inserted in the deuteronomistic workwithout change; redaction was considered to have been minimal.There was, according to some,12 a deuteronomistic retouching of thenarrative as far as 2 Samuel 12, but at that point it was completelyabandoned. Others, who found some deuteronomistic interference inthe latter chapters of the narrative, took the cautious view that it wasrestricted to very few and easily recognised accretions.13 Among thereasons given for such a cautious attit...


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