Journal of Hebrew Scriptures - Volume 18 (2018) - Review

Galvin, Garrett, David's Successors: Kingship in the Old Testament (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2016). Pp. xii + 173. Paperback. US$15.34. ISBN 978-0-8146-8251-7.

Garrett Galvin attempts to provide a more nuanced view of kingship by reading the Israelite kings freshly and considering all sources, including biblical texts (Kings, Chronicles, and even Psalms) and the apocrypha (Sirach). His assumption is based on the fact that human beings, including Israelite kings, were made in God's image. The OT depiction of kings is far from the whole story of kings. Thus, the OT description of kings should be regarded as a partial one and the concept of kingship should also be considered in the context of the ancient Near East. In particular, Galvin believes that sacral kingship was stronger after Deut 17 than it was at the first reference to kingship in Israel. This idea is “minimal in 1 Samuel, a little stronger in 1–2 Kings, stronger still in 1–2 Chronicles, and robust in the Psalms” (p. 5). In this study, Galvin carries out an interdisciplinary study by eclectically using the methods of intertextuality, the social sciences, and narrative criticism. To provide an expansive view of kingship in Israel, Galvin notes the institution of kingship in the context of the ancient Near East, especially focusing on archaeological data and the social sciences. In particular, he emphasizes the method of narrative criticism since it points out “the artificial nature of oppositions” (p. 16). For instance, according to narratology, some opposition to prophets in Kings is the idea of postbiblical scholars, not of the text itself.[1] Furthermore, Royal Psalms give us a more nuanced view of kingship. This sort of reconceptualization of kingship challenges many traditional views.

While viewing kingship as an institution, Galvin indicates that kingship in Israel has not only its own characteristics but also similar elements to other ancient Near Eastern peoples (ch. 2). He defines Israel and Judah as entities employing three types of polities, including the tribal society, the class-divided society, and the class society. Both Israel and Judah showcase the significance of both tribe and religion, categorized as a class-divided society that is characterized by “the interaction of multiple social systems” (p. 20). Galvin traces the changes from “a tribal or multipolity decentralized land to a class-divided society headed by a king” (p. 22). Galvin then briefly provides a case study of David's successors (Jeroboam, Ahab, Hezekiah, Manasseh, and Josiah), the focus of chapters 3–7. In particular, it is noticeable that Galvin discusses kingship in Royal Psalms, which gives us the opportunity to construct a more balanced view of kingship.

In the description of Jeroboam (ch. 3), Galvin argues that Jeroboam and David appear to be Weberian charismatic figures. Galvin neutralizes the negative portrait of Jeroboam by employing seven specific connections (flight, forced labor, men of valor, prophetic links, priestly links, loss of child, and moving capital) in relation to David. Jeroboam provides the ordinary customs of “Royal Apologies” (pp. 52–54), viewing Jeroboam in the context of the ancient Near East. Archaeology has revealed that biblical texts do not closely portray the reality of the Northern Kingdom. Galvin refers to the differences between the depictions of kingship in Kings and Chronicles. The books of Kings emphasize that the prophets play important roles. For example, Ahijah in Kings played an important role in the breakup of the United Monarchy. Yet, Chronicles simply alludes to Abijah. Instead, the books of Chronicles describe kings as more dependent on the people of Israel. Overall, Jeroboam presents “a tradition that cannot be cleaned up as easily as David's and leads to a number of Northern dynasties that appear to have greater influence and wealth than can be seen in the South” (p. 61).

According to Galvin, the account of Ahab (ch. 4) in Kings and Chronicles is very different. In Kings, Ahab is described as both positive and negative, while in Chronicles his kingship is depicted more positively. Kings primarily depicts the character, Ahab, as the worshiper of Baal in “the wrong places, with the wrong symbols, and most dangerously, with the wrong gods” (p. 148), while Chronicles describes Ahab as linked with Jehoshaphat, who had a chance to repent after his sinful act of marriage alliance with Israel. Galvin then recounts the role of dynasties, queen, prophets, and archaeology in the time of Ahab's reign. The new city Samaria was established by the Omride dynasty. Jezebel as the wife of Ahab played a key role in the apostasy of Israel. Elijah, Micaiah, and the unnamed prophets in Ahab's reign revealed the importance of prophecy in kingship. In particular, Chronicles emphasizes more the role of prophets with an intensive pattern of activity. Interestingly, Ahab was the first king who was acknowledged in the archaeological data. Ahab supported anti-Assyrians alliances. Both Judah and Moab would be vassal states of Israel. Yet, Ahab was the greatest threat to the religion of YHWH and went to the opposite end in political reform and centralization.

In the account of Hezekiah (ch. 5), Galvin discusses the role of historiography, temple and restoration, archaeology, and the role of Egypt and Assyria in the reign of Hezekiah. He first of all recounts the differences in Kings and Chronicles. In Kings the description of Hezekiah appears to “favor idealistic religious reform and complicated political centralization over political survival” (p. 84) while in Chronicles it is focused on religious worship. Hezekiah's reign is reinforced by the archaeological record, which testifies to his tendency to centralize. Kings depicts Hezekiah as interacting more with prophets, primarily Isaiah, while Chronicles describes him as more integrated with the people, emphasizing repeatedly the joy of worship, which is very rare in Kings. Interestingly, Hezekiah prays directly to God in Chronicles, not through the prophet. In relation to historiography, it is emphasized that the powerful trio of kinship, creation, and temple in Jerusalem existed in comparison with Dan or Bethel in northern Israel. The concentration of worship sometimes accompanied temple restoration. Furthermore, according to the archaeological data, Hezekiah appears to have paid tribute to Assyria for the actual survival of Judah, not simply for the ideals of Deuteronomy. Two superpowers in the ancient Near East, Egypt and Assyria had significant effects on Hezekiah's Judah.

Manasseh is a complicated character (ch. 6). He has no chance to repent as the worst king in Kings, while the chance to repent is given in Chronicles. This shows the possibility that anyone, even if he is the worst king, can repent and experience God working on his behalf. There is a contrast between the portrayal of Manasseh in Kings and Chronicles. Galvin specifies Manasseh's reign by means of the institution of kingship, geopolitics, archaeological data, and theology and ideology. Interestingly, Chronicles contains Yahweh's punishment, Manasseh's repentance, his building of the temple-wall, and removal of foreign gods from the temple. As for kingship as institution, fortified cities are a clear expression of successful kingship and the kings play significant roles as builder. In relation to geopolitics, the fall of Jerusalem appears to be underscored in Kings, while the realpolitik of the Chronicler's time was reflected in Chronicles. Recent archaeological data regarding Manasseh's time indicates that Manasseh would be one of most successful kings of Judah.[2] The contrasting narratives of Manasseh in Kings and Chronicles show the differences in theology and ideology. The books of Kings represent “the more normative sacralized history” that accords with the prophets, while the books of Chronicles probably propose “a sacralized history more consistent with the Psalms” (p. 120).

Josiah embodies the ideal king in Israel (Deut 17:14–20). The discovery of the Law book occupies the central place in the Josiah narrative. Josiah is most significant in the Kings' accounts due to his religious reform, based on the discovery of the Law book during his repairing of the temple. Galvin's depiction of Josiah takes into account archaeology, theology, and historiography, focusing on differences in the Josiah narrative between Kings and Chronicles. For instance, Josiah was described as a reformer after the discovery of the Law book in Kings, while in Chronicles his religious reforms begin prior to the discovery of the Law book. Furthermore, Kings reserves the celebration of Passover for Josiah while Chronicles depicts the reinstitution of Passover initiated by Hezekiah, not Josiah. Interestingly, no archaeological evidence of Josiah's reform has been recognized up until now. Egyptian sources are silent on Josiah's encounter with Pharaoh Neco. As for the role of historiography, there is a common consensus among scholars that the demise of Jerusalem influenced both Kings (probably pessimistic) and Chronicles (more hopeful) (p. 141).[3]

In conclusion, Galvin contends that Kings and Chronicles show “a reconceptualization and recontextualization of kingship” (p. 143). He has also examined Royal Psalms for the purpose of considering “the original concept and contextualization of kingship” (p. 143). According to Galvin, a positive view of kingship stems from the Royal Psalms, which testify to common attitudes about kingship within the ancient Near East and revolve around the theme of the autumn New Year's Festival. Not a few Royal Psalms emphasize the role of deity in the king's enthronement, reinforcing the primary legitimation of the king's deity. Yet, some Royal Psalms partly degrade this sort of kingship. As a case study, Galvin has concentrated on the five successors of David, that is, Jeroboam and Ahab from the North (Israel), and Hezekiah, Manasseh and Josiah from the South (Judah). Thus, Galvin's argument can be summarized as follows: 1) Deut 17:14–20 plays a significant role in the recontextualization of kingship in the books of Kings and Chronicles; Josh 14, 1 Sam 8 and 12 also provide the reconceptualization of kingship—kingship is restricted and conditioned in terms of these texts; 2) archaeology as a branch of the social sciences contributes to the study of kingship in Israel; 3) the narrative itself addresses the significance of kingship. Even though the prophets often spoke against kings in the narrative, some of the kings are surely main characters and others are minor characters.

In my view, Galvin's book provides a more nuanced view of kingship in the OT by means of an elaborate interdisciplinary study, followed by case-studies of David's successors. One shortcoming of this book would be the fewer references to recent studies on Chronicles when compared with those on Kings.[4] Still, this book has clear merit in that it incorporates analysis of biblical texts in conversation with recent studies on kingship in the OT, as well as insights drawn from the sources of the ancient Near East and archaeology. This book also provides a good comparative description of five kings in the books of Kings and Chronicles. This book should be read by those who have interests in the theme of kingship in the OT.

Suk-il Ahn, Chongshin University, Seoul, South Korea

[1] M. Bal, Narratology: Introduction to the Theory of Narrative, 3rd ed. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2009), 222. Bal believes that opposition is a sort of construction. reference

[2] F. Stavrakopoulou, “The Blackballing of Manasseh,” in L. L. Grabbe (ed.), Good Kings and Bad Kings: The Kingdom of Judah in the Seventh Century BCE (JSOTSup, 393; London/New York: T & T Clark, 2005), 248–63 (248); E. A. Knauf, “The Glorious Days of Manasseh,” in L. L. Grabbe (ed.), Good Kings and Bad Kings: The Kingdom of Judah in the Seventh Century BCE (JSOTSup, 393; London/New York: T & T Clark, 2005), 164–88 (168). reference

[3] See A. de Pury, T. Römer, and J-D. Macchi (eds.), Israel Constructs Its History: Deuteronomistic Historiography in Recent Research (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2000); J. M. Miller and J. H. Hayes, A History of Ancient Israel and Judah (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2006); M. B. Moore and B. E. Kelle, Biblical History and Israel's Past: The Changing Study of the Bible and History (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2011). reference

[4] For instance, I. Kalimi, The Retelling of Chronicles in Jewish Tradition and Literature: A Historical Journey (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2009); R. F. Person Jr., The Deuteronomic History and the Book of Chronicles: Scribal Works in an Oral World (Atlanta: SBL, 2010): L. Jonker (ed.), Historiography and Identity (Re) Formation in Second Temple Historiographical Literature (LHB/OTS, 534; London/New York: T & T Clark, 2010). reference