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The Untold Story of the Kingdom of Judah

(D5) The story that was Told of the Kings of Israel and Judah

Prof. Oded Lipschits

In this chapter of the podcast, I examine the stories about the first kings of Israel and the royal houses that rose and fell in Israel before the establishment of the Omride Dynasty in the early ninth century BCE: the house of Jeroboam, the house of Baasha and King Zimri, who reigned over Israel for only a few days until he was murdered by Omri, who founded a dynasty that succeeded for the first time in stabilizing the situation and reigned in Israel for several decades. I try to show that the biblical historiographer had only limited information about these four kings, who reigned between Jeroboam and Omri: Nadab, the son of Jeroboam, Baasha, the son of Ahijah, Elah, the son of Baasha, and Zimri the commander of half the chariotry – which stemmed from the lists of kings that were available to them, and they incorporated this information mainly in the opening and closing formulas. The additional information that was incorporated into the description concerned the murders of the kings, the rebellions and the changes of dynasties. These issues were central to each of the kingdoms in the Ancient Near East, and they were remembered, counted and recorded.
It is also possible that their main details were added to the kings lists, along with the years of each king’s reign. The historiographer integrated the information they had into their general historical framework, and therefore the description of all the first kings of Israel is very short, and hardly includes any additional details beyond the opening and closing formulae, in addition to the information about the murders, rebellions and changes of dynasties. If there were a few additional details, such as about wars between Israel and Judah, they stemmed from the information the historiographer had about the ancient kings of Judah, who reigned at the same time as the first kings of Israel.
In addition to all these, a later editor added to this brief historical description prophecies that herald the end of the dynasties. These prophecies were planted in such a way that God’s control over history is demonstrated and illustrated through the literary medium of the prophecy and its fulfillment. In order to achieve the goal of this literary device, the prophecies of prophets, mostly unknown prophets, were added to an early stage of the story, and to emphasize their fulfillment, a note was added to the description, always next to the description of the prophecy’s fulfillment, and which connects the destruction of the dynasty to the prophecy “according to the word of YHWH”.

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