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The Portrait of the Kings and the Historiographical Poetics of the Deuteronomistic Historian

  • Author(s): Joseph, Alison Lori
  • Advisor(s): Hendel, Ronald S
  • et al.

This dissertation explores the historiographical style and method of the Deuteronomist (Dtr) in the book of Kings, with particular attention to what I call the prototype strategy in the portrayal of the Israelite kings. It lays out a systematic analysis of Dtr's historiographical composition and the ways he includes and reshapes his inherited sources to suit his purposes. This work offers a framework for the selectional and compositional method that Dtr employs in the construction of his history, and especially in crafting the portrait of the kings. This analysis suggests that Dtr has a specific set of historiographical priorities to which he adheres in order to interpret the history of the monarchy in light of deuteronomistic theology. This is done through crafting a comprehensive narrative that functions didactically, instructing the kings and the people of Judah how to behave through illustrating the consequences of disobedience.

A key element to Dtr's historiographical process is the use of a prototype strategy. Dtr focuses on the royal portrait as a literary tool to convey his theological message. This prototype is based on a literary picture of David as the exemplum of covenant fidelity. Dtr uses David as the royal comparative to construct the portrait of both good and bad kings. He is the model of the deuteronomistically adherent king, the one whom all subsequent kings are required to emulate. Only those kings who contribute to Dtr's meta-narrative are constructed using this prototype.

The analysis of the portraits of David, Solomon, Jeroboam, Manasseh, and Josiah highlights the historiographical poetics at play in the construction of the accounts and the expression of Dtr's theological concerns. Each example demonstrates how the selectional and compositional strategies are used by Dtr to create an effective account of the king's reign and to promote deuteronomistic theology. This work contributes important perspectives to the study of Kings and the Deuteronomistic History as a whole. Greater understanding of Dtr's historiographical method results in a greater understanding of the book of Kings. Also, by indentifying Dtr's literary and historiographical style, it is possible to see the differences between the method of the pre-exilic and exilic Dtr, contributing to redactional decisions, on grounds beyond thematic justifications.

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