Peterson-1 and 2 Kings, Abiathar and Jeremiah

Brian Peterson, in his next-to-last chapter of The Authors of the Deuteronomistic History deals with 1 and 2 Kings.  Here he comes closest to agreeing with other scholars who see the Deuteronomistic History as being finally edited around the time of the Babylonian Conquest.

This is pretty apparent in 1 and 2 Kings.  Here we see most strongly the idea that God finally gave Judah up because they broke the laws of Deuteronomy. Nearly every  king has an evaluation at the end of his life that judges him good, bad , or middling based on whether he stood up for the Deuteronomistic idea of a jealous God who demanded allegiance.  This was the perspective of someone like Jeremiah or his scribe, Baruch.

However in the conclusion chapter Peterson says,

There can be little doubt that portions of the DtrH had a prehistory and purpose far beyond what they now present as a unified whole.  And some of those rhetorical agendas noted in the previous chapters reveal concepts and themes that push against an exilic context.–agendas best assigned to Abiathar, his sons, and the priests of Anathoth.

It is in this argument that Peterson’s significance lies.  Today some scholars talk as though the history was largely fabricated around or after the time of the exile.  But it is clear that the final editor/author/compiler used sources and traditions.

The author used a variety of sources.  He uses books which were probably lost when the Babylonians came: The Book of Jasher (Joshua 10:13 and 2 Samuel 1:18), the Book of the Acts of Solomon (1 Kings 11:41), the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel (1 Kings 14:19 and several other verses) and the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah (1 Kings 14:29) and several other verses).

Also Peterson suspects that there were oral or written sources from the “sons of the prophets”.  In the stories about Elisha, the sons of the prophets from Jericho may have been a source (note 2 Kings 2:18-22, in particular verse 22 which says that the waters at Jericho were purified “to this day.”

For 1 Kings 18-20 and the time of  Hezekiah, Isaiah 36-39 was a source.

I was especially interested in Peterson’s take on the reports about Solomon.  Abiathar was deposed and banished by Solomon, yet 1 Kings approves of the conspiracy to make Solomon king and incorporates some very pro-Solomon material.  Because he believes Deuteronomy existed already in Solomon’s time, Peterson has no problem with someone in that era evaluating Solomon’s reign by its conformity to Deuteronomy.  It may have been Abiathar’s son, Jonathan or his son, Abiathar’s grandson.

Peterson speculates that Jonathan remained friends with Zadok’s son, Ahimaaz.  He also thinks that, even in the positive parts of the story about Solomon, there are hints that Solomon’s reign will end badly.  I would really expect more anti-Solomon polemic to come out of Anathoth.  Abiathar, from the beginning, thought Solomon a usurper.

I find it more understandable that later people at Anathoth, who supported David’s line, would have come to terms with the reality of Solomon’s succession.

Peterson thinks that for the sake of the Temple and their priestly commitment to it, the Anathoth priests had to go easy on Solomon. So the line they adopt is that his reign only went bad toward the end. But it seems that the priests of Anathoth had no role or else a lowly and humiliating one at Solomon’s Temple.

To assail Solomon’s reputation, 1 Kings uses the oracle of the prophet, Ahijah (1:29-39), which blasts Solomon.  Peterson considers it possible that Ahijah actually was a refugee from one of the northern Levitical cities Solomon had given to the Phoenicians. This is why he hated Solomon.  However, Abiathar already had reason to hate Solomon.  So this other reason, although it could be true, seems unnecessary to me.

Overall, I respect Peterson’s position and partly agree with it.  The priests at Anathoth, during the centuries between Abiathar and Jeremiah, passed on a Yahwistic tradition.

A version Deuteronomy existed early, but not as early as Peterson thinks.  I take Amos 5:25 to mean that Amos shared with Jeremiah (7:22-23) the idea from Deuteronomy that Moses only gave the sacrificial laws after the wilderness period (contrary to the Priestly narrative).  So Deuteronomy existed and was known to Amos in the 8th century.

But there were many people, known and unknown who could have had a hand in this.

The one compelling argument for Abiathar’s involvement is with the Book of Judges.  The theology behind Judges is different than that behind 1 and 2 Kings.  They both see Israel’s idolatry leading to judgment.  But Judges views history as cycles of falling away, judgment, and salvation.  The later books see the people’s sin as leading to one final catastrophe.  1 and 2 Kings end up much more pessimistic than Judges.  Salvation becomes a far future hope.

My point here is that theology at Anathoth must have gone through quite a development over a long time.

About theoutwardquest

I have many interests, but will blog mostly about what I read in the fields of Bible and religion.
This entry was posted in Ancient Israel, Bible, Deuteronomy and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Peterson-1 and 2 Kings, Abiathar and Jeremiah

  1. jamesbradfordpate says:

    Reblogged this on James' Ramblings.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.