Journal of Hebrew Scriptures - Volume 17 (2017) - Review

Lemaire, André and Baruch Halpern (eds.), The Books of Kings: Sources, Composition, Historiography and Reception (VTSup, 129; Leiden: Brill, 2010). Pp. 710. Hardcover. US$261.00. ISBN 978-9-004-17729-1.

The 29 essays found in this edited volume are an impressive collection of scholarly research that offers wide-ranging engagement with the books of Kings. Indeed the subtitle is à propos for the contents of this book. This collection of articles is divided into six parts: “Textual Tradition of the Book of Kings,” “Kings as a Literary Work,” “Kings and its Near Eastern Milieu,” “The People of Kings,” “Detailed Issues of Kings,” and finally, “Reception in Judaism and Christianity.” In what follows, I would like to offer a sample of the kinds of works that readers will find within these pages. It is impossible within the confines of this review to appraise each article. My selection below is therefore somewhat arbitrary and my hope is to give readers a general sense of the contents of this volume.

In the first section, entitled “Textual Tradition of the Book of Kings,” one finds three articles by Adrian Schenker, Julio Trebolle, and Étienne Nodet. In different ways each looks at the textual origins of Kings. Schenker, for example, draws upon the four distinct text forms of the guilt of Manasseh narrative in 2 Kgs 21:2–9 (LXX, Vetus Latina, 2 Chr 33 [MT, LXX]) to demonstrate that the MT of 2 Kgs 21 is a revised edition of the Hebrew Vorlage of the original LXX. Based on this conclusion, Schenker identifies three stages in the text history of 1–2 Kings. Julio Trebolle's article analyzes biblical and parabiblical texts from Qumran to show how each of these texts sheds light on the textual history of the books of Kings (e.g. 4QKgs, 5QKgs, Isaiah scrolls, 4Q382, etc).

The second section, entitled “Kings as a Literary Work,” contains five articles of varied topics. Gary N. Knoppers' article, for example, offers a valuable analysis of the compositional/redactional history of the books of Kings. He begins by surveying those who have argued for Kings as a part of a Deuteronomistic History, including those who have found different redactional strata within the book. He then turns his attention to a number of scholars who have expressed concern about whether or not the books of Deuteronomy through Kings constitute a connected story and thereby suggest that we should begin by viewing these books as discrete literary units. Following Knoppers, two articles by Robert Cohn give attention to issues of poetics and the literary structure of the books of Kings. In Cohn's first essay, for example, he attempts to identify the different ways that the author of Kings characterizes or portrays the characters within the book. Cohn argues for the distinct nature of how Israel's kings and prophets are characterized in the book given such things as the great number of characters about which it narrates, the varied explicit moral judgments and intertextual characterization. Two further articles by Halpern and Lemaire and Alan Millard focus on the textual history of the book of Kings by means of analyzing possible source texts and books and how these were incorporated into the final document.

The next two sections (“Kings and its Near Eastern Milieu,” “The People of Kings”) contain a series of 11 articles that analyze how the books of Kings add to our understanding of ANE historiography and vice versa. Millard, for example, analyzes Assyrian and Babylonian inscriptions and texts to show the value of these sources for establishing Israel's history. He finds numerous points of contact between the books of Kings and these sources and further shows how Kings remains unique among them. He suggests that the mixture of military, political, legal, and social affairs in Kings is unrivalled and its uniqueness stems from the writers' theology. The section entitled “The People of Kings” for the most part is concerned with furthering our understanding of various people groups mentioned within the books of Kings such as: the Moabites (Paul-Eugène Dion and P. M. Michèle Daviau), the Edomites (Lemaire), the Ammonites (Walter E. Aufrecht), Hiram and Tyre (Edward Lipiński), the Aramaeans (Hélène Sader), the Philistines (Seymour Gitin), the Neo-Hittites (Kenneth A. Kitchen), Egypt (Kitchen), and Early Arabia (Kitchen). Each of these articles to varying degrees draws upon evidence within the books of Kings and its awareness of each people group (sometimes there is little evidence found, such as in the case of the Arameans) while also drawing upon external sources of different kinds. The central focus of these studies is not the text of Kings itself, but rather the people groups in question.

The fifth section contains an assortment of essays on various topics found within or related to the books of Kings. Topics include: the prophets (Ehud Ben Zvi), priesthood and the cult (Wolfgang Zwickel), dates and calendars in Kings (Gershon Galil), law (Raymond Westbook), officialdom and society (Izabela Eph'al-Jaruzelska), trade (Daniel M. Master) and archaeology (William G. Dever). Among these informative essays, Galil's work, for example, attempts to reconstruct the systematic set of principles employed by the Deuteronomist with respect to his use of chronology and argues that the Deuteronomist made a great effort to preserve the dates he found in his sources. He is well aware that the Deuteronomist had to calculate several of his data, but for the most part, Galil suggests that the chronology found within Kings is trustworthy and reflects reality.

The final section of this volume looks at the reception history of the books of Kings in Josephus (Silvia Castelli), the New Testament and Apostolic Fathers (Magnus Zetterholm), and finally in Rabbinic literature (Karin Hedner-Zetterholm). These works are indeed valuables resources.

This volume presents a fairly well balanced group of essays. As the editors of this volume suggest, readers will indeed find the information included in the text of great value. From the reviewer's perspective this value is seen on at least two levels. First, these essays reveal that the book of Kings is an important and necessary text to be considered for a broad range of historical inquiry. For example, this is readily apparent in parts 3 and 4 (“Kings and its Near Eastern Milieu,” “The People of Kings”) of the book. The book's strong focus on historiography in turn reveals what I perceive to be lacking within its pages. With respect to the composition of the book, we find a wide range of essays on its historical/literary development (Schenker, Trebolle, Nodet, Knoppers, Halpern and Lemaire, Millard), but we only find one essay (Robert L. Cohn) that engages with the literary prowess of the author of Kings with respect to the text in its final form (e.g. poetics or intertextuality). This comment is offered in full knowledge that a collection of essays such as this cannot be all things to all people. Second, and as our editors also suggest, many if not most of these works will also serve as a point of reference for future thought and study. This is seen not only in each author's command of his/her material, but also in how many of the essays include vast and useful footnotes. This is certainly one of the great strengths of this book.

Sean E. Cook, Mount Royal University