My current reading project is David M. Carr’s Holy Resilience. His intention is to apply modern trauma studies to the Bible in the hope of shedding new light on how these scriptures came about and how they provide help to those who have dealt with trauma.
He starts by talking about pretraumatic Hebrew material. The traumas he will take up start with the Assyrian conquest of Samaria. But he believes scriptural material or sources existed before that.
First of all there is the Song of Deborah in Judges 5. This goes back to the oral stage of tradition. The tribes mentioned in this victory song are early, northern Israel. While Egypt and Hazor, among other neighbors, had scribes producing literature; Israel probably did not. They passed down songs like this one. They probably told stories about Jacob and about a time of slavery in Egypt and their deliverance. But they would have had no use for written literature.
Written literature developed when Israel became a monarchy. The way Carr tells the story is that the northern tribes tried to fend off the Philistine menace, but when Saul was killed they accepted a non-Israelite–David–as their monarch and developed a state similar to others around them. David and Solomon seemed to use Egyptian or Egyptian trained scribes.
The literature they produced was remarkably secular. It included adaptations of the Mesopotamian creation and flood stories, royal psalms, and wisdom literature. He thinks even the Song of Solomon and Ecclesiastes may have roots in this period. He is aware that this is open to challenge. But he is especially certain that parts of Proverbs contain adaptations of Egyptian wisdom of the type used for training royal officials.
The kingdom that Jeroboam founded when the northern tribes reverted to their national identity also had a literature. Carr sees this most clearly in two elements of the Pentateuch.
First, there was the condemnation of the religious program of Jeroboam in the story of Aaron and the golden calf. It is hard to know the precise relationship of 1 Kings 12 and Exodus 32. He thinks it is probable that the sanctuary at Bethel had an Aaronic priesthood. So the story in Exodus 32 retrojected the story of Aaron making a calf back into the exodus story. If I understand him right, he thinks there was a document that supported Jeroboam’s policy and claimed Aaron’s authority for the calf cult. Opponents of his policy then rewrote the story. Eventually this story got incorporated into Judah’s scripture.
Second, the Jacob stories that we now find in Genesis were northern stories making Bethel a cult center and Penuel a political center. Apparently he interprets 1 Kings 12:25 to mean that Samaria and Penuel were co-capitals for Jeroboam.
Carr’s story of this period is based on work he has done more extensively elsewhere, especially in his The Formation of the Hebrew Bible: A New Reconstruction (2011). For a useful review of that work, see here.
Carr calls these early Judean and Israelite writings pretraumatic. He does not mean that there was not trauma and suffering in this period. But these scriptures originally stem from scribes who supported the royal houses. If they had remained at this stage, they would have been lost to history, just as the work of many royal scribes in city states in the Ancient Near East have been lost. The states that sponsored them suffered destruction. Their literature was preserved only through trauma.
The obvious problem with this is the golden calf story, which does not support the royal claims. So, although he doesn’t spell it out, I am assuming that he thinks our story is the original story turned on its head.