Deuteronomistic History and Purpose


Deuteronomistic History

The discovery of the “book of law” by Hilkiah the priest in the Jerusalem temple in 622 BCE resulted in the social and religious reforms by King Josiah (2 Kings 22:8-23:25). These reforms were interrupted by the premature death of the king Josiah in the battle at Megiddo pass with the army of Pharaoh Neco of Egypt in 609 BCE. The Deuteronomists who were associated with the king in the reforms turned their interest to another project known as writing the former prophets or the Deuteronomistic History in view of writing the national history of Israel. They worked out the principles of book of Deuteronomy in the history of Israel. Deuteronomistic History extends from the Book of Deuteronomy to 2 kings (7 books). The methodology the Deuteronomists use is not to alter the original source but use the method of reflective speeches or essays as key points in the history. E.g., speeches of Moses (Deut 31) Joshua (Josh 1 & 23), (1 Sam 12) etc. it is more of why of things and events rather than what or how of the same.

Purpose of Deuteronomistic History

After the death of King Josiah (609 BCE), the Deuteronomistic Historians took up the responsibility of writing the history of Israel starting from the pre- settlement era right up to the period of kings. The Purpose of their writing can be enlisted as following.

i) One of the primary aims is to provide answer to the question why did the Northern Kingdom fall to Assyrian in 722 BCE. Their answer was centered on the Mosaic laws. “Only the loyalty and fidelity to the covenant of Yahweh can save the people” is their proposition. This is the consistent message of the Deuteronomistic History.

ii) It is to claim Judah as represented by Israel as the whole and to press the claims of Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel and the Davidic king to be the king of Israel. The fact that Judah had been insignificant in the history of Israel and for most of 9th and 8th C BCE had been a vassal state of Israel ruled from Samaria and now the written history presents Judah as the centre of the history of Israel.

iii) Deuteronomistic Historians collected all the traditions and chose from them that are appropriate to them and added them into their history so as to present their theological concern and thus to instruct the people to live as covenantal community.

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