The Case for Kingship in Deuteronomy and the Former Prophets -- By: David M. Howard, Jr.

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 52:1 (Spring 1990)
Article: The Case for Kingship in Deuteronomy and the Former Prophets
Author: David M. Howard, Jr.

The Case for Kingship in Deuteronomy and the Former Prophets*

David M. Howard, Jr.

* Gerald Eddie Gerbrandt, Kingship According to the Deuteronomistic History (SBLDS 87; Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1986. xv, 229. $17.95, paper $12.95). Portions of this paper were read at the Midwestern Regional Meetings of the Evangelical Theological Society, Upland, Indiana, April 8, 1988.

The question of whether God was originally in favor of the institution of kingship in Israel has received much attention among biblical scholars, but often the conclusions reached are less than satisfactory. This is at least partly because the biblical texts themselves would seem to point in opposite directions on the issue. On the one hand, a large body of texts portrays the Davidic kingship in very positive terms and a significant biblical theology arises around it. On the other hand, several texts, particularly in 1 Samuel, appear to be against the institution.

The conclusion usually reached concerning this state of affairs is that God was not in favor of this institution, and that whatever positive pictures of the monarchy be found in Scripture represent either his gracious accommodation to an inferior ideal or opposing (usually minority) viewpoints within Israel. Neither of these solutions is entirely satisfactory, however. This is particularly so in view of the predominantly positive view of the monarchy in most of the OT.1

Recently, Gerald Gerbrandt has produced a significant work2 that goes further than any treatment prior to his in resolving the tension found in the texts. He argues that the texts of the “Deuteronomistic History”3 reflect “a unified concept of king-

ship” (p. 192), one that is essentially pro-kingship. More precisely, he states that “the correct question with which to confront the Deuteronomist…is not whether he was anti-kingship or pro-kingship. Rather, we need to ask what kind of kingship he saw as ideal for Israel, or what role kingship was expected to play for Israel” (p. 41, emphasis added).

Gerbrandt’s major contribution in this book is in detailing what type of kingship the Deuteronomist favored. He shows that the function of the God-fearing king was to lead Israel in keeping covenant and to trust God for deliverance. Israel’s sin was in asking for a king who would be like those of the other nations, leading it in battle. As Gerbrandt states, the king was “to lead Israel by being the covenant administrator; then he could trust Yahweh to deliver. At the h...

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