Reviews Of Books -- By: Anonymous
WTJ 70:2 (Fall 2008) p. 379
Reviews Of Books
Marvin A. Sweeney, 1 and 2 Kings: A Commentary. OTL. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2007. Pp. xxxi + 476. $49.95, cloth.
In his recently published commentary on 1 and 2 Kings, Marvin A. Sweeney has given readers a fine contribution to the Old Testament Library series and a beneficial scholarly tool for use in studying the books of Kings. Though written with the scholar in mind, the material covered is especially appropriate for clergy and should not be dismissed as being overly technical. Due to Sweeney’s interest in the synchronic relationship of the units as they occur in the final form of the text, pastors will not be forced to wander aimlessly through the woods of diachronic analysis so common in many critical works. Though Sweeney is concerned with diachronic questions, his approach to both textual development and editorial activity does not cause him to neglect the important synchronic considerations that are part and parcel of good literary analysis.
In the introduction, Sweeney makes clear his goals. He begins with his working definition of history writing: “History is not simply a recounting of the events or facts of the past. History is written to address the needs of the present and future by studying and learning from past experience to aid in charting a course for present and future action” (p. 1). In light of this understanding, Sweeney analyzes 1 and 2 Kings as writing that speaks to matters contemporary with the writers and editors themselves. In terms of the final form of the text, dated to the exilic period, Sweeney notes that 1 and 2 Kings is not simply history writing but is “a work of theodicy as well, insofar as it defends the notion of divine righteousness by arguing that the people and especially its kings—and not YHWH—were at fault for the destruction and exiles of Israel and Judah” (p. 3). What is significant about Sweeney’s contribution is his concern to interact with earlier editions of the text. Rather than understanding 1 and 2 Kings as merely the product of an exilic writer, he sees remnants of earlier editions that can be attributed to the periods of Josiah, Hezekiah, Jehu, and Solomon respectively. The commentary, as it is structured around the regnal formulae of 1 and 2 Kings (see pp. 8-10), thus addresses how each textual unit functions in relation to the various editorial layers.
A number of qualities commend this commentary to readers of this journal. Sweeney is, as mentioned above, truly interested in a synchronic reading of the final form of the text. Using methodologies like those of Jan Fokkelman, Robert Alter, and Tremper Longman, Sweeney does not underestimate the intentionality of the editors/authors in their decision to juxtapose individual units. Pastors will especi...
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