Fleming, Daniel E., The Legacy of Israel in Judah's Bible: History, Politics, and the Reinscribing of Tradition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012). Pp. xxii + 385. Paperback. CAD$33.99. ISBN 978-1-107-66999-4.

Daniel E. Fleming's The Legacy of Israel in Judah's Bible is an interdisciplinary study that draws together the fruits of diligent engagement with the fields of biblical studies, anthropology, archeology, and historiography. Fleming's brief preface clearly sets forth the starting problems and goals of the book. The Enneateuch, or Primary History of the Hebrew Bible, was clearly composed (or assembled into its final shape) by those who identified as Judahites. However, its large-scale story arc describes a single “people of Israel” that divided into the separate kingdoms of Israel and Judah during the monarchial period. Additionally, the available inscriptional evidence only reflects the existence of the separate kingdoms. Therefore, significant amounts of the pre-monarchic material in the Enneateuch must have been traditions that originated in Israel before being incorporated into Judah's larger body of historical writings. Fleming argues that when one isolates these “Israelite” narratives, one discovers a host of assumptions regarding political practice and social organization that are vastly different from those expressed in texts penned in Judah. Thus, Fleming's study contributes to two different fields. In biblical studies, a source analysis based primarily on political grounds is quite novel. Also, historical studies based on archeology have yet to interact with such a reconstruction of the composition of the Primary History.

Part 1, “Introduction: Israel and Judah” contains two chapters. Chapter 1, “Why Israel?” reiterates in greater detail the starting problems laid out in the preface and offers a history of research on the reconstructions of the provenances of the writing and transmission of Israel's origins traditions. In brief, scholars of the Noth/von Rad era generally assumed that the united monarchy was responsible for the writing of the origins accounts, but recent scholars working both in the United States (Van Seters) and Europe (Schmid) have tended towards pushing the dates for these materials further forward into the Persian period.[1] Fleming surveys other specialized studies that address similar questions, but he notes a general tendency towards narrowly relying on geographical criteria. Chapter 2, “Israel without Judah,” lays out the criteria for the textual analysis, which is the means of answering the question, “how do the contrasting social and political characters of Israel and Judah help distinguish material from each domain, and then help judge the implications of such distinctions?” (p. 16). The political assumptions which highlight Judahite material are said to be the centralization of both king and temple in Jerusalem, a leadership legitimated by continuity with the line of David, and the lack within Judah of subgroups with their own substantial political clout. Israelite material, on the other hand, can be distinguished by traditions focusing on separate locations for the palace and cult, replacement of leadership not needing justification by lineage, as well as by the smaller divisions of tribes having the rights to make their own decisions (pp. 25–27). Fleming then lays out two hypotheses regarding this mixture of Israelite and Judahite traditions in the Enneateuch: “Only in Israel was there a perceived need to explain this people's existence before and apart from kings,” and, “All primary phases of the Bible's account of the past before David originate in Israel and reflect Israel's political perspective” (p. 28).

Part 2, “Israelite Content in the Bible,” is the core exegetical section of the book, exploring the placement and use of texts with an Israelite origin in the Primary History. Chapter 3, “Writing from Judah,” notes the centrality of Jerusalem assumed throughout the Samuel-Kings narrative and draws a contrast between this portrayal and that of the Chronicler, who clearly sought to appropriate Israelite identity for the house of David. Chapter 4 covers the book of Judges, which Fleming views as largely Israelite material framed by a later Judahite introduction and conclusion. Chapter 5, “The Family of Jacob,” attempts to reconstruct an original eight-tribe group that comprised Israel, isolating certain “sons” of Jacob as later additions for the purpose of legitimating political power during the monarchic period. Chapter 6 isolates passages betraying Israelite political assumptions from the Omri and David narratives. Chapter 7, “Moses and the Conquest of Eastern Israel,” begins from the intriguing premise that separate sources can be posited for the exodus tradition (and its recounting in Hosea and Amos) and the wilderness tradition, on the bases of both Moses's style of leadership and the geographical foci of the narratives. Fleming further analyzes Deut 2–3 as offering a conquest account independent of Num 20–21. These accounts reflect separate western and eastern Israelite traditions that illustrate the decentralized, variegated nature of Israel. Chapter 8 argues that Joshua is an originally Israelite tradition thoroughly reworked by Judahite editing until the only recognizably Israelite content is the conquest of Ai in ch. 8. Chapter 9 explores the problematic place of the seemingly independent Benjaminites. Chapter 10, “Israelite Writers on Early Israel,” briefly surveys the pastoralist tradition typical of descriptions of early Israelite life before offering some reflections on what the purely Israelite accounts of Israel's origins looked like as a whole.

Part 3, “Collaborative Politics,” examines other cultures for evidence of comparable models of loose tribal alliances that could illuminate the nature of Israel's organizational structure. Chapter 11 lays out several theoretical models and taxonomies that have been used to classify different varieties of decentralized power structures. Chapter 12, “Outside the Near East,” surveys specific examples of people groups operating with decentralized structures, some of which eventually transitioned into monarchies. Chapters 13 and 14 analyze the organizational models of the Amorites (drawing from Fleming's expertise on the Mari archives)[2] and Arameans.

Part 4, “Israel in History,” begins with Chapter 15, which analyzes the name “Israel” archeologically and concludes that the title serves as a political, not an ethnic, signifier. Chapter 16 reviews the evidence surrounding the “Hapiru” people and compares them to the pastoralist tradition in Genesis and Exodus. Chapters 17 and 18 analyze Israel in the historical periods of the co-existence with Canaan and the time of Samuel-Kings. Finally, Chapter 19, “Genuine (versus invented) Tradition in the Bible,” reflects on how to make historical use of the Israelite traditions that have been reworked into Judahite texts.

Obviously, a book of this depth deserves a far more thorough critical engagement than can be offered here. Nevertheless, several broad tendencies throughout the exegetical sections need to be noted. While none of these hermeneutical moves are patently indefensible, Fleming's case would have been much more solid if he had more thoroughly developed a defense for them. In several places throughout, the mere fact that a narrative describes a certain region is taken as a virtual guarantee that it was written from that region and was crafted to serve its political interests (an example would be the treatment of the narratives of eastern Israel, p. 117). Similarly, the fact that a character is from a given region or tribe is often considered sufficient evidence that the character's story was written to support the political interests of that region or tribe (one example being the Benjaminite interests said to underlie portions of the Saul narrative, p. 151). Finally, the conclusions of the wooden literary aesthetic of much critical scholarship are sometimes treated far too generously (as in the assumption of different underlying sources for the Jericho and Ai narratives based on differing modes of military engagement, pp. 138–39). However, none of these observations detract from the fact that The Legacy of Israel in Judah's Bible is a highly insightful volume, which makes suggestions and raises questions that no Hebrew Bible specialist should ignore.

David J. Fuller, McMaster Divinity College

[1] John Van Seters, Abraham in History and Tradition (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1975); idem, In Search of History: Historiography in the Ancient World and the Origins of Biblical History (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1983); Konrad Schmid, Genesis and the Moses Story: Israel's Dual Origins in the Hebrew Bible (Siphrut: Literature and Theology of the Hebrew Scriptures, 3; Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2010). reference

[2] Daniel E. Fleming, Democracy's Ancient Ancestors: Mari and Early Collective Governance (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004). reference