The Word Of The Lord To The Ruling Houses In Samuel And Kings -- By: Kenneth E. Guenter

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 62:2 (Jun 2019)
Article: The Word Of The Lord To The Ruling Houses In Samuel And Kings
Author: Kenneth E. Guenter

The Word Of The Lord To The Ruling Houses
In Samuel And Kings

Kenneth E. Guenter*

* Kenneth Guenter is Associate Professor of Old Testament and Ancient Near Eastern History at Briercrest College, 510 College Drive, Caronport, SK, Canada S0H 0S0. He may be contacted at [email protected]

Abstract: There is a collection of speeches that indict or reward eight of Israel’s leaders: the high priest Eli and Israel’s kings Saul, David, Solomon, Jeroboam, Baasha, Ahab, and Jehu. These speeches share a common form and respond to something significant the leader has just done. In most cases, this action was evil, and so the speech predicts dire consequences for his house. However, in two speeches the leader is rewarded for doing good. Each speech plays a pivotal role in the narrative’s structure, initiating a transition from the ruler being addressed to his successor. This pattern—an evil or good deed, followed by a speech predicting the rise or fall of the ruling house, and the accounts of how those predictions are fulfilled—unifies the narrative of Samuel and Kings. But it is precisely this pattern that has been eliminated from the parallel passages in Chronicles.

Key words: narrative, structure, form, speeches, leaders, prophets, house

Like a series of ancient fortresses whose scattered stones call out along an abandoned Roman road, a chain of speeches running through the heart of Samuel and Kings needs to be heard for its strategic role in the narrative. Like the forts, the speeches are tactically positioned, with similar plans, but their matching forms and functions along the Via Militaris1 of Samuel and Kings2 have yet to be described.

Perhaps the terrain is too varied and vast. Though Israel’s narrative is built upon the successive lives of its leaders, it does digress or even reverse.3 It is also overgrown with stories of judges and prophets that obscure its rhythms and structures. The actions of Eli, Samuel, Elijah, and Elisha intermittently lead the narrative’s focus away from the kings. Furthermore, the prophets’ predictions and notices of fulfillment are so pervasive that, if they were dropped from the narrative, much of it would disappear.4 Indeed, the account of Israel’s dynasties is so paved with deeds and thoughts of prophets as to justify calling it the “Former Prophets.”

Within the apparent tangle of this narrative, the forms of eleven carefully craf...

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