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CHAPTER II.

THE BOOKS OF KINGS.

The "Two Books of Kings," as we call them, are only one book (Sepher Melakîm), and were so regarded not only in the days of Origen (ap. Euseb., H. E., vi. 25) and of Jerome (a.d. 420), but by the Jews even down to Bomberg's Hebrew Bible of 1518. They are treated as one book in the Talmud and the Peshito. The Western Bibles followed the Alexandrian division into two books (called the third and fourth of Kings), and Jerome adopted this division in the Vulgate (Regum, iii. et iv.). But if this separation into two books was due to the LXX. translators, they should have made a less awkward and artificial division than the one which breaks off the first book in the middle of the brief reign of Ahaziah. Jerome's version of the Books of Samuel and Kings appeared first of his translations, and in his famous Prologus Galeatus he mentions these facts.

The History was intended to be a continuation of the Books of Samuel. Some critics, and among them Ewald, assign them to the same author, but closer examination of the Book of Kings renders this more than doubtful. The incessant use of the prefix "King," the extreme frequency of the description "Man of God," the references to the law, and above all the15 constant condemnation of high places, counterbalance the minor resemblance of style, and prove a difference of authorship.

What has the Higher Criticism, as represented in historic sequence by such writers as Vatke, de Wette, Reuss, Graf, Ewald, Kuenen, Bleek, Wellhausen, Stade, Kittel, Renan, Klostermann, Cheyne, Driver, Robertson Smith, and others, to tell us about the structure and historic credibility of the Books of Kings? Has it in any way shaken their value, while it has undoubtedly added to their intelligibility and interest?

1. It emphasises the fact that they are a compilation. In this there is nothing either new or startling, for the fact is plainly and repeatedly acknowledged in the page of the sacred narrative. The sources utilised are:—

(1) The Book of the Acts of Solomon (1 Kings xi. 41).

(2) The Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah (referred to fifteen times).

(3) The Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel (referred to seventeen times).44   How closely these documents are transcribed is shown by the recurrence of "unto this day," though the phrase had long ceased to be true when the book appeared.

By comparing the authority referred to in 1 Kings xi. 41 with those quoted in 2 Chron. ix. 29, we see that "the Book of the Acts of Solomon" must have been to a large extent identical with the annals of that king's reign contained in "the Book (R.V., Histories) of Nathan the Prophet," the prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite, and "the story (R.V., commentary) or visions of Iddo the Seer."55   It is inferred from 1 Kings viii. 12, 13, which have a poetic tinge, and to which the LXX. add "Behold they are written in the Book of the Song," that in this section the "Book of Jashar" has been utilised, and that the reading הישר has been confused with השיר (Driver, p. 182). Similarly it appears that16 the Acts of Rehoboam, Abijam, Jehoshaphat, Uzziah, were compiled, at any rate in part, from the histories of Shemaiah, Jehu the son of Hanani,66   2 Chron. xx. 34, R.V., "The history of Jehu, the son of Hanani, which is inserted in the Book of the Kings of Israel" (not "who is mentioned," A.V., which, however, gives in the margin the literal meaning "was made to ascend"). Isaiah the son of Amoz, Hozai (2 Chron. xxxiii. 18, R.V.), and other seers. In the narrative of a history of 450 years (from b.c. 1016 to 562) the writer was of course compelled to rely for his facts upon more ancient authorities. Whether he consulted the original documents in the archives of Jerusalem, or whether he utilised some outline of them which had previously been drawn up, cannot easily be determined. The work would have been impossible but for the existence of the officials known as recorders and historiographers (Mazkirim, Sopherim), who first make their appearance in the court of David. But the original documents could hardly have survived the ravages of Shalmanezer in Samaria and of Nebuchadnezzar in Jerusalem, so that Movers is probably right in the conjecture that the author's extracts were made, not immediately, but from the epitome of an earlier compiler.77   Movers, Krit. Untersuch., p. 185 (Bonn, 1836). The use of older documents explains the phrase "till this day," and the passages which speak of the Temple as still standing (1 Kings viii. 8, ix. 21, xii. 19; 2 Kings x. 27, xiii. 23). Sometimes the traces of earlier and later date are curiously juxtaposed, as in 2 Kings xvii. 18, 21 and 19, 20.

2. Although no direct quotations are referred to other documents, it seems certain from the style, and from various minor touches, that the compiler also utilised17 detailed accounts of great prophets like Elijah, Elisha, and Micaiah son of Imlah, which had been drawn up by literary students in the Schools of the Prophets. The stories of prophets and men of God who are left unnamed were derived from oral traditions so old that the names had been forgotten before they had been committed to writing.88   Difference of sources is marked by the different designations of the months, which are called sometimes by their numbers, as in the Priestly Codex (1 Kings xii. 32, 33), sometimes by the old Hebrew names Zif ("blossom," April, May, 1 Kings vi. 1), Ethanim ("fruit," Sept., Oct., 1 Kings viii. 2), and Bul ("rain," 1 Kings vi. 38).

3. The work of the compiler himself is easily traceable. It is seen in the constantly recurring formulæ, which come almost like the refrain of an epic poem, at the accession and close of every reign.

They run normally as follows. For the Kings of Judah:—

"And in the ... year of ... King of Israel reigned ... over Judah." "And ... years he reigned in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was ... the daughter of.... And ... did that which was {right/evil} in the sight of the Lord."

"And ... slept with his fathers, and was buried with his fathers in the City of David his father. And ... his son reigned in his stead." In the formulæ for the Kings of Israel "slept with his fathers" is omitted when the king was murdered; and "was buried with his fathers" is omitted because there was no unbroken dynasty and no royal burial-place. The prominent and frequent mention of the queen-mother is due to the fact that as Gebira she held a far higher rank than the favourite wife.

4. To the compiler is also due the moral aspect given18 to the annals and other documents which he utilised. Something of this religious colouring he doubtless found in the prophetic histories which he consulted; and the unity of aim visible throughout the book is due to the fact that his standpoint is identical with theirs. Thus, in spite of its compilation from different sources, the book bears the impress of one hand and of one mind. Sometimes a passing touch in an earlier narrative shows the work of an editor after the Exile, as when in the story of Solomon (1 Kings iv. 20-26) we read, "And he had dominion over all the region on the other side of the river," i.e., west of the Euphrates, exactly as in Ezra iv. 10. Here the rendering of the A.V., "on this side the river," is certainly inaccurate, and is surprisingly retained in the R.V. also.99   מִז־הַנָּהָר (compare עֲבַר־נַהֲרָה). Lit., "Beyond the river," i.e., from the Persian standpoint. It becomes a fixed geographical phrase. Traces of the editor's hand occur in 1 Kings xiii. 32 ("the cities of Samaria"); 2 Kings xiii. 23 ("as yet").

5. To this high moral purpose everything else is subordinated. Like all his Jewish contemporaries, the writer attaches small importance to accurate chronological data. He pays little attention to discrepancies, and does not care in every instance to harmonise his own authorities.1010   Comp. 2 Kings viii. 25 with ix. 29. Some contradictions may be due to additions made in a later recension,1111   See 2 Kings xv. 30 and 33, viii. 25 and ix. 29. and some may have arisen from the introduction of marginal glosses,1212   As, perhaps, the clause "In the thirty and first year of Asa king of Judah" in 1 Kings xvi. 23; and the much more serious "in the 480th year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt," which are omitted by Origen (comm. in Johannem, ii. 20), and create many difficulties. The only narratives which critics have suggested as possible interpolations, from the occurrence of unusual grammatical forms, are 2 Kings viii. 1-6 and iv. 1-37 (in the story of Elisha); but these forms are perhaps northern provincialisms. or from corruptions of the text which (apart from a miraculous supervision such as was not exercised)19 might easily, and indeed would inevitably, occur in the constant transcription of numerical letters closely resembling each other. "The numbers as they have come down to us in the Book of Kings," says Canon Rawlinson, "are untrustworthy, being in part self-contradictory, in part opposed to other Scriptural notices, in part improbable, if not impossible."1313   Speaker's Commentary, ii. 475. Instances will be found in 1 Kings xiv. 21, xvi. 23, 29; 2 Kings iii. 1, xiii. 10, xv. 1, 30, 33, xiv. 23, xvi. 2, xvii. 1, xviii. 2.

6. The date of the book as it stands was after b.c. 542, for the last event mentioned in it is the mercy extended by Evil-merodach, King of Babylon, to his unfortunate prisoner Jehoiachin (2 Kings xxv. 27) in the thirty-seventh year of his captivity. The language—later than that of Isaiah, and earlier than that of Ezra—confirms this conclusion. That the book appeared before b.c. 536 is clear from the fact that the compiler makes no allusion to Zerubbabel, Jeshua, or the first exiles who returned to Jerusalem after the decree of Cyrus. But it is generally agreed that the book was substantially complete before the Exile (about b.c. 600), though some exilic additions may have been made by a later editor.1414   Stade, p. 79; Kalisch, Exodus, p. 495. "The writer was already removed by at least six hundred years from the days of Samuel, a space of time as long as that which separates us from the first Parliament of Edward I."

This date of the book—which cannot but have some bearing on its historic value—is admitted by all, since the peculiarities of the language from the beginning to20 the end are marked by the usages of later Hebrew.1515   See Keil, pp. 9, 10. The chronicler lived some two centuries later "in about the same chronological relation to David as Professor Freeman stands to William Rufus."1616   R. F. Horton, Inspiration, p. 843.

7. Criticism cannot furnish us with the name of this great compiler.1717   He was not the author of the Book of Samuel, for the standpoint and style are quite different. In the First and Second Books of Samuel the high places are never condemned, as they are incessantly in Kings (1 Kings iii. 2, xiii. 32, xiv. 23, xv. 14, xxii. 43, etc.). Jewish tradition, as preserved in the Talmud,1818   Baba Bathra, 15 a. assigned the Books of Kings to the prophet Jeremiah, and in the Jewish canon they are reckoned among "the earlier prophets." This would account for the strange silence about Jeremiah in the Second Book of Kings, whereas he is prominently mentioned in the Book of Chronicles, in the Apocrypha, and in Josephus. But unless we accept the late and worthless Jewish assertion that, after being carried to Egypt by Johanan, son of Kareah (Jer. xlii. 6, 7), Jeremiah escaped to Babylon,1919   Seder Olam Rabba, 20. he could not have been the author of the last section of the book (2 Kings xxv. 27-30).2020   Even then he would have been ninety years old. Yet it is precisely in the closing chapters of the second book (in and after chap. xvii.) that the resemblances to the style of Jeremiah are most marked.2121   There are, however, some differences between 2 Kings xxv. and Jer. lii. (see Keil, p. 12), though the manner is the same, Carpzov, Introd., i. 262-64 (Hävernick, Einleit., ii. 171). Jer. li. (verse 64) ends with "Thus far are the words of Jeremiah," excluding him from the authorship of chap. lii. (Driver, Introd., p. 109). The last chapter of Jeremiah was perhaps added to his volume by a later editor. That the writer was a contemporary of that prophet, was closely21 akin to him in his religious attitude, and was filled with the same melancholy feelings, is plain; but this, as recent critics have pointed out, is due to the fact that both writers reflect the opinions and the phraseology which we find in the Book of Deuteronomy.

8. The critics who are so often charged with rash assumptions have been led to the conclusions which they adopt by intense and infinite labour, including the examination of various books of Scripture phrase by phrase, and even word by word. The sum total of their most important results as regards the Books of Kings is as follows:—

i. The books are composed of older materials, retouched, sometimes expanded, and set in a suitable framework, mostly by a single author who writes throughout in the same characteristic phraseology, and judges the actions and characters of the kings from the standpoint of later centuries. The annals which he consulted, and in part incorporated, were twofold—prophetic and political. The latter were probably drawn up for each reign by the official recorder (מַזְכִּיר), who held an important place in the courts of all the greatest kings (2 Sam. viii. 16, xx. 24; 1 Kings iv. 3; 2 Kings xviii. 18), and whose duty it was to write the "acts" or "words" of the "days" of his sovereign (דברי הימים).

ii. The compiler's work is partly of the nature of an epitome,2222   "The Old Testament does not furnish a history of Israel, though it supplies the materials from which such a history can be constructed. For example, the narrative of Kings gives but the merest outline of the events that preceded the fall of Samaria. To understand the inner history of the time we must fill up this outline with the aid of the prophets Amos and Hoshea."—Robertson Smith's Preface to translation of Wellhausen, p. vii. and partly consists of longer narratives, of22 which we can sometimes trace the Northern Israelitish origin by peculiarities of form and expression.

iii. The synchronisms which he gives between the reigns of the kings of Israel and Judah are computed by himself, or by some redactor, and only in round numbers.

iv. The speeches, prayers, and prophecies introduced are perhaps based on tradition, but, since they reflect all the peculiarities of the compiler, must owe their ultimate form to him. This accounts for the fact that the earlier prophecies recorded in these books resemble the tone and style of Jeremiah, but do not resemble such ancient prophecies as those of Amos and Hoshea.

v. The numbers which he adopts are sometimes so enormous as to be grossly improbable; and in these, as in some of the dates, allowance must be made for possible errors of tradition and transcription.

vi. "Deuteronomy," says Professor Driver, "is the standard by which the compiler judges both men and actions; and the history from the beginning of Solomon's reign is presented, not in a purely 'objective' form (as e.g. in 2 Sam. ix.-xx.), but from the point of view of the Deuteronomic code.2323   "In der Chronik," on the other hand, "ist es der Pentateuch, d.h. vor Allem der Priestercodex, nach dessen Muster die Geschichte des alten Israels dargestellt wird" (Wellhausen, Prolegom., p. 309). It has been said that the Book of Kings reflects the political and prophetic view, and the Book of Chronicles the priestly view of Jewish history. It is about the Pentateuch, its date and composition, that the battle of the Higher Criticism chiefly rages. With that we are but indirectly concerned in considering the Book of Kings; but it is noticeable that the ablest and most competent defender of the more conservative criticism, Professor James Robertson, D.D., both in his contribution to Book by Book and in his Early Religion of Israel, makes large concessions. Thus he says, "It is particularly to be noticed that in the Book of the Pentateuch itself the Mosaic origin is not claimed" (Book by Book, p. 5). "The anonymous character of all the historical writings of the Old Testament would lead us to conclude that the ancient Hebrews had not the idea of literary property which we attach to authorship" (p. 8). "It is long since the composite character of the Pentateuch was observed" (p. 9). "There may remain doubts as to when the various parts of the Pentateuch were actually written down; it may be admitted that the later writers wrote in the light of the events and circumstances of their own times" (p. 16).... The principles which, in his view, the history as a whole is to exemplify, are already expressed succinctly in the23 charge which he represents David as giving to his son Solomon (1 Kings ii. 3, 4); they are stated by him again in chap. iii. 14, and more distinctly in chap. ix. 1-9. Obedience to the Deuteronomic law is the qualification for an approving verdict; deviation from it is the source of ill success (1 Kings xi. 9-13, xiv. 7-11, xvi. 2; 2 Kings xvii. 7-18), and the sure prelude to condemnation. Every king of the Northern Kingdom is characterised as doing 'that which was evil in the eyes of Jehovah.' In the Southern Kingdom the exceptions are Asa, Jehoshaphat, Jehoash, Amaziah, Uzziah, Jotham, Hezekiah, Josiah—usually, however, with the limitation that 'the high places were not removed' as demanded by the Deuteronomic law.2424   Driver, p. 189. Comp. Professor Robertson Smith: "The most notable feature in the extant redactions of the book is the strong interest shown in the Deuteronomic law of Moses, and especially in the centralisation of worship in the Temple on Zion, as pre-supposed in Deuteronomy and enforced by Josiah. This interest did not exist in ancient Israel, and is quite foreign to the older memories incorporated in the book." The constantly recurring Deuteronomic phrases which most directly illustrate the point of view from which the history is regarded are, 'To keep the charge of Jehovah'; 'to walk in the ways of Jehovah'; 'to keep (or execute) His commandments, or statutes, and judgments'; 'to do24 that which is right in the eyes of Jehovah'; 'to provoke Jehovah to anger'; 'to cleave to Jehovah.' If the reader will be at the pains of underlining in his text the phrases here cited" (and many others of which Professor Driver gives a list), "he will not only realise how numerous they are, but also perceive how they seldom occur indiscriminately in the narrative as such, but are generally aggregated in particular passages (mostly comments on the history, or speeches) which are thereby distinguished from their context, and shown to be presumably the work of a different hand."2525   Driver, p. 192.

vii. It must not be imagined that the late compilation of the book, or its subsequent recensions, or the dogmatic colouring which it may have insensibly derived from the religious systems and organisations of days subsequent to the Exile, have in the least affected the main historic veracity of the kingly annals. They may have influenced the omissions and the moral estimates, but the events themselves are in every case confirmed when we are able to compare them with any records and monuments of Phœnicia, Moab, Egypt, Assyria, or Babylon. The discovery and deciphering of the Moabite stone, and of the painted vaunts of Shishak at Karnak, and of the cuneiform inscriptions, confirm in every case the general truth, in some cases the minute details, of the sacred historian. In so passing an allusion as that in 2 Kings iii. 16, 17 the accuracy of the narrative is confirmed by the fact that (as Delitzsch has shown) the method of obtaining water is that which is to this day employed in the Wady el-Hasa at the southern end of the Dead Sea.2626   Delitzsch, Genesis, 6th ed., p. 567.

viii. The Book of Kings consists, according to25 Stade,2727   Geschichte des Volkes Israel, i. 73. of, (a) 1 Kings i., ii., the close of a history of David, in continuation of 1 and 2 Samuel. The continuity of the Scriptures is marked in an interesting way by the word "and," with which so many of the books begin. The Jews, devout believers in the work of a Divine Providence, saw no discontinuities in the course of national events.2828   Even the First Book of Maccabees begins with καὶ ἐγένετο.2929   Stade thinks that this is confirmed by viii. 46-49.

(b) 1 Kings iii.-xi., a conglomerate of notices about Solomon, grouped round chaps. vi., vii., which narrate the building of the Temple. They are arranged by the præ-exilic compiler, but not without later touches from the Deuteronomic standpoint of a later editor (e.g., iii. 2, 3). Chap. viii. 14-ix. 9 also belong to the later editor.

(c) 1 Kings xi.-2 Kings xxiii. 29, an epitome of the entire regal period of Judah and Israel, after the three first reigns over the undivided kingdom, compiled mainly before the Exile.

(d) 2 Kings xxiii. 30-xxv. 30, a conclusion, added, in its present form, after the Exile.

Two positions are maintained (A) as regards the text, and (B) as regards the chronology.

A. As regards the text no one will maintain the old false assertion that it has come down to us in a perfect condition. There are in the history of the text three epochs: 1, The Præ-Talmudic; 2, The Talmudic-Massoretic up to the time when vowel-points were introduced; 3, The Massoretic traditions of a later period. The marginal annotations known as Q'ri, "read" (plural, Qarjan), consist of glosses and euphemisms which were used in the service of the26 synagogue in place of the written text (K'tib); the oral tradition of these variations was known as the Massora (i.e., tradition). The Greek version (Septuagint, LXX.), which is of immense importance for the history of the text, was begun in Alexandria under Ptolemy Philadelphus (b.c. 283-247). It presents many additions and variations in the Books of Kings.3030   Stade, pp. 32 ff. Thus, in 1 Kings viii. 14-53, verses 12, 13 are in the Septuagint placed after verse 53, are incomplete in the Hebrew text, and have a remarkable reading in the Targum. Professor Robertson Smith infers that a Deuteronomic insertion has misplaced them in one text, and mutilated them in another. The order of the LXX. differs in 1 Kings iv. 19-27; and it omits 1 Kings vi. 11-14; ix. 15-26. It transposes the story of Naboth, and omits the story of Ahijah and Abijah, which is added from Aquila's version to the Alexandrian MS. See Wellhausen-Bleek, Einleitung, §§ 114, 134.

All Hebrew manuscripts, as is well known, are of comparatively recent date, owing to the strict rule of the Jewish Schools that any manuscript which had in the slightest degree suffered from time or use was to be instantly destroyed. The oldest Hebrew manuscript is supposed to be the Codex Babylonicus at St. Petersburg (a.d. 916), unless one recently discovered by Dr. Ginsburg in the British Museum be older. Most Hebrew manuscripts are later than the twelfth century.

The variations in the Samaritan Pentateuch, and in the Septuagint version—the latter of which are often specially valuable as indications of the original text—furnish abundant proof that no miracle has been wrought to preserve the text of Scripture from the changes and corruptions which always arise in the course of constant transcriptions.

A further and serious difficulty in the reproduction of events in their historic exactitude is introduced by the certainty that many books of the Bible, in their27 present form, represent the results arrived at after their recension by successive editors, some of whom lived many centuries after the events recorded. In the Books of Kings we probably see many nuances which were not introduced till after the epoch-making discovery of the Book of the Law (perhaps the essential parts of the Book of Deuteronomy) in the reign of Josiah, b.c. 621 (2 Kings xxii. 8-14). It is, for instance, impossible to declare with certainty what parts of the Temple service were really coæval with David and Solomon, and what parts had arisen in later days. There appear to be liturgical touches, or alterations as indicated by the variations of the text in 1 Kings viii. 4, 12, 13. In xviii. 29-36 the allusion to the Minchah is absent from the LXX. in verse 36, and in 2 Kings iii. 20 another reading is suggested.

B. As regards the difficult question of Chronology we need add but little to what has been elsewhere said.3131   See Appendix on the Chronology. Even the most conservative critics admit that (1) the numbers of the Biblical text have often become corrupt or uncertain; and (2) that the ancient Hebrews were careless on the subject of exact chronology. The Chronology of the Kings, as it now stands, is historically true in its general outlines, but in its details presents us with data which are mutually irreconcilable. It is obviously artificial, and is dominated by slight modifications of the round number 40.3232   See Wellhausen, Prolegomena, pp. 285-87; Robertson Smith, Journ. of Philology, x. 209-13. Thus from the Exodus to the Building of the Temple is stated at 480 years, and from that period to the fiftieth year of the Exile also at 480 years. In the Chronicles there are eleven high priests from Azariah ben-Ahimaaz to the Exile of28 Jozadak, which, with the Exile period, gives twelve generations of 40 years each. Again, from Rehoboam to the Fall of Samaria in the sixth year of Hezekiah, following the 40 years' reign of Saul, of David, and of Solomon, we have:—

Rehoboam, Abijah 20 years.
Asa 41 "
Jehoshaphat, Jehoram 40 "
Ahaziah, Athaliah
Joash 40 "
Amaziah, Uzziah 81 "
Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah 38 "
 
After the Fall of Samaria we have:—
 
Hezekiah, Manasseh, Amon 80 "

and it can hardly be a mere accident that in these lists the number 40 is only modified by slight necessary details.

The history of the Northern Kingdom seems to be roughly trisected into 80 years before Benhadad's first invasion, 80 years of Syrian war, 40 years of prosperity under Jeroboam II., and 40 years of decline.3333   Encycl. Brit., s.v. Kings (W.R.S.). This is probably a result of chronological system, not uninfluenced by mystical considerations. For 480 = 40 × 12. Forty is repeatedly used as a sacred number in connexion with epochs of penitence and punishment. Twelve (4 × 3) is, according to Bähr (the chief student of numerical and other symbolism), "the signature of the people of Israel"—as a whole (4), in the midst of which God (3) resides. Similarly Stade thinks that29 16 is the basal number for the reigns of kings from Jehu to Hoshea, and 12 from Jeroboam to Jehu.3434   See Stade, i. 88-99; W. R. Smith, l. c.; Kreuz, Zeitschr. f. Wiss. Theol., 1877, p. 404. Some of the dates, as Dr. W. R. Smith shows, are "traditional," and are probably taken from Temple records (e.g., the invasion of Shishak, and the change of the revenue system in the twenty-third year of Joash). Taking these as data, we have (roughly) 160 years to the twenty-third year of Joash, + 160 to the death of Hezekiah, + 160 years to the return from the Exile = 480. He infers that "the existing scheme was obtained by setting down a few fixed dates, and filling up the intervals with figures in which 20 and 40 were the main units."

It is possible that the synchronistic data did not proceed from the compiler of the Book of Kings, but were added by the last redactor.

Are these critical conclusions so formidable? Are they fraught with disastrous consequences? Which is really dangerous—truth laboriously sought for, or error accepted with unreasoning blindness and maintained with invincible prejudice?


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