David in Love and War

  • Title: David in Love and War; The Pursuit of Power in 2 Samuel 10-12
  • Author: Randall C. Bailey
  • Series: Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series 75
  • ISSN: 03090787
  • ISBN 10: 1850752095
  • Publisher: Sheffield Academic Press
  • Published: January 1990
  • Pages: 214
  • Format: PDF




1986 marked the sixtieth anniversary of the appearance of Leonhard Rost’s monumental work on the material from 2 Samuel 6,7,9-20; 1 Kings 1-2 in which he advocated his theory of a throne succession narrative (TSN). Since that publication an enormous amount of literature has been produced to either support, expand, modify or replace his theory.

Given the broad appeal and simplicity of Rost’s presentation, most challenges to the theory have not received very serious consideration. Similarly, most modifications, with the exception of the question of 2 Samuel 9 as the beginning of the work, have attracted little attention. For the most part challenges culminated in long survey notes reviewing the literature, accompanied by the notation that, given the mass of literature, only a few ‘major pieces’ will be examined.

In this chapter we shall review the literature to examine the entire range of arguments related to the issue of a TSN and to assess the viability of Rost’s theory.

1. Rost’s Theory of a TSN

In 1926, Leonhard Rost published his Die Uberlieferung von der Thronnachfolge Davids? initially submitted to the University of Erlangen as a Habilitationsschrift. In this work, Rost argued for the existence of a unified document now found in 2 Sam 6.16, 20-23; 7.1 Ib, 16; 9-20; 1 Kings 1-2. He sought to demonstrate the unity of these materials by concentrating not only on vocabulary and the ‘use of traditional forms and formulas’,2 but also more importantly on the matter of style. He emphasized the latter, since he felt Rost’s work is divided into four parts, with the first three being geared toward clearly delimiting the bounds of three narrative complexes and establishing their original independence from the Succession Narrative. First, he seeks to demonstrate the unity of the ‘Ark Narrative’ (2 Sam 4.1b-7.1; 2 Sam 6.1-20a) and argues for the exclusion of the David-Michal materials (2 Sam 6.16, 20-23) from consideration as part of this source.

With regard to the Ark Narrative, Rost reaches the following conclusions:

  1. The ark narrative comprises: 1 Sam 4.1b-18a, 19-21; 5.1-llba, 12; 6.1-3ba, 4, 10-14, 16; 6.19-7.1; 2 Sam 6.1-15, 17-20a.
  2. Through its vocabulary and style it can be shown over against its context to be independent and uniform, and through its structure to be self-contained and complete.
  3. The narrative is to be regarded as the hieros logos of the sanctuary of the ark in Jerusalem, its author a member of the community of priests who took care of the ark during the latter part of David’s reign or at the beginning of Solomon’s reign.
  4. As a cult legend it has only a limited interest in political events. It can lay a certain claim to historical reliability as regards the broad relationships and many of the individuals, but does not represent historical reality in every detail.
  5. Yahweh appears as the all-powerful—but not arbitrary-God who normally brings ill fortune, but also salvation; accordingly, religious devotion is characterized by fear, but also by joyful adoration.
  6. Yahweh’s interventions are partly related by the narrator himself and partly placed as comment in the mouths of the active or passive participants.

Secondly, he examines the prayer of David and the prophecy of Nathan in 2 Samuel 7. He argues that there was an early version of the prophecy of Nathan that the seed, zr\ of David would be great and that vv. lib and 16 belong to a separate stratum from the other materials as their concern for the dynasty of David, byt dwd, indicates.

Thirdly, he considers the material on the Ammonite War and reaches the following conclusions:

  1. The account of the Ammonite wars is shown to be an independent source incorporating 10.6-11.1 and 12.26-31.
  2. The beginning of the account has been replaced by a more detailed introduction coming from the author of the interpolated passage 11.2fF., the same person who wrote the succession source.
  3. Apart from this the source has been preserved in full.
  4. The style is simple, concise and terse; the action pushes continually forward; there are speeches only at decisive points.
  5. The account is entitled to be treated as trustworthy and is very close to the events; it seems to have been a war report intended for the state archives.
  6. Its contribution to a description of the theological climate of the early monarchic period is me agree; however, the figure of Joab provides us with an interesting picture of a devout person.

The Ammonite War Story was utilized to provide a setting for the killing of Uriah in ch. 11, and into it the David-Bathsheba-Nathan complex and the narratives about the birth of Solomon have been interpolated.

In all of these instances his methodology is to follow the same five step procedure. First, he examines each of the specific blocks of materials in Samuel in terms of traditional source critical criteria. In so doing he reviews the literature and presents the various scholarly positions on dividing each block into sources. He then discusses the inadequacies of these criteria for solving the problems of authorship and date. Secondly, he examines the block of material to ‘establish the text’ by removing what he deems to be later additions to the ‘story’. Thirdly, he argues for the unity of the remaining materials in the block based upon stylistic variables, such as the use of dialogue, syntactical similarities, affinities of phrases and the like. Fourthly, he then speculates on the identification of the probable author and date of the remaining block. All this leads him to his main concern, the formulation of the ‘religious ideas’ promoted by the writer.

After the treatment of these three literary complexes, Rost begins his examination of the Succession Narrative proper. He first seeks to establish the limits of the text, which he does in three major stages.

In the first stage his concern is the beginning and end of the block in 2 Samuel 9-20. According to him, the differences in theological outlook between 2 Sam 21.1-14 and 2 Samuel 9f. are obvious, the former presenting a more focused role for Yahweh in the course of the events than the latter. Thus, he argues for a break in the material between 2 Samuel 20 and 21.

He next briefly touches on the internal unity of chs. 9-20. After arguing against the views of Caspari and Gressmann who postulated different Novellen in chs. 13ff.,12 he posits his thesis that just one look at the uniform style or the structure of the succession story proves that there is a unifying plan underlying the whole text which does not owe its origins to the industrious hands of some editor. To pursue this point somewhat further will be our next task.

For then we can work backwards to reach some conclusion about the extent of the source, which, if it is to be properly established, must be supported finally by the investigation of the stylistic characteristics and religious conceptions. (emphasis added) Rost then proceeds to the second stage in establishing the text of his Succession Narrative, namely, the coherence of 1 Kings 1 with 2 Samuel 9-20. He justifies the turn of attention to 1 Kings 1 to find ‘information about the writer’s wishes and intentions’, since this chapter ‘is the key to understanding the whole work’. His focus in this section concerns two issues. First he asks where we find the antecedents to the events and personalities introduced in this chapter. Secondly he asks where we find the logical conclusion to the narrative in 1 Kings 1. He answers the latter question first by positing 1 Kings 2.13-25 as the continuation of 1 Kings I. Rost maintains that the central question in 1 Kings 1 is, ‘Who will sit on the throne of my lord’, which is finally answered in 2.46 with the affirmation that Solomon is secure on the throne. Having reached this conclusion he moves to the designation of the Deuteronomistic additions to the text of 1 Kings 2.

There are three major phases in his attempt to answer the question of the antecedents to the events described in 1 Kings 1 and, thereby ‘pursue the source in 1 Kings 1 back to its beginning’. Rost first turns to the David-Bathsheba story in 2 Samuel llf. His argument is that ‘II Samuel 13-20 tells a story of the background to the succession, while II Samuel 11 and 12 tell such a story of the one who was to succeed’.

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