Kenites in the White Hats, Except…; Literary Simultaneity

1.  In Bringing the Hidden to Light, I read Diane Sharon’s “Choreography of an Intertextual Allusion to Rape in Judges 5:24-27”.  What stood out to me was something that Dr. Sharon said on page 251:

Several commentators read Jael as being Israelite herself or the Kenites as being allies of Judah, ignoring the explicit mention in Judg 4:17 that there is peace between (Israel’s enemy) Jabin, king of Hazor, and the house of Heber, the Kenite…

Commentators probably believe that the Kenites were the allies of Judah (and that’s why Jael helped them out) because the Kenites are so often the good guys in the Hebrew Bible: Jethro assists Moses, Saul spares the Kenites when he slaughters the Amalekites (I Samuel 15), and Jehonadab the Rechabite helps Jehu overthrow Baalism in Northern Israel (II Kings 10).  Perhaps Heber was a renegade Kenite—see my post from a while back, Location in Judges 4.

So the Kenites were good, except when it came to Heber, and also Cain.  The Anchor Bible Dictionary article on the Kenites points out that Cain’s descendants, like the Kenites, lived in tents and were involved in metallurgy (Genesis 4).  Was Cain the ancestor of the Kenites?  Of course, they would be destroyed in the flood, but is something going on here?

2.  On pages 85-86 of A Prophet Reads Scripture: Allusion in Isaiah 40-66, Benjamin Sommer says that Second Isaiah does not envision the restoration of the Davidic monarchy, although the line still existed in exilic and post-exilic times, and exilic and post-exilic texts envisioned and hoped for its re-enthronement.  While Sommer acknowledges that the Servant Song in Isaiah 42:1-9 draws from Isaiah 11, he notes that the “Davidic elements from Isaiah 11 are consistently removed in the allusion.”  Isaiah 11 and 42 both “look forward to an era of justice, of freedom for Israel, and of knowledge of YHWH among the nations, who recognize the greatness of an ideal figure”.  But Isaiah 11 explicitly discusses a king, whereas Isaiah 42 does not.  Isaiah 42 may be arguing that God’s restoration of Israel and enlightenment of the Gentiles will occur through the Servant’s meekness, not through a royal power-play.

There are biblical scholars who have argued that Second-Third Isaiah are not big on institutions.  They don’t mention a Davidic monarch ruling the earth, nor do they really discuss the Zadokite priesthood.  Maybe the community that produced these texts was disenfranchised within the larger Jewish people-group, in some manner.

When I wrote my senior thesis at Harvard Divinity School, my argument (or one of them) was that the Book of Isaiah (as a whole) has two pictures: a Servant who would suffer, restore Israel, and enlighten the Gentiles, and a Davidic king who would rule in justice.  For me, that was consistent with Christianity’s belief that the Messiah would have a first and a second coming: in the first coming, he would suffer; in the second, he would rule in power.  My point was that Jews should embrace Jesus as the Messiah, since their own tradition is consistent with what Christianity says about the Messiah.

In part, I was relying on Brevard Child’s canonical criticism, as well as an article that Jon Levenson wrote on the “literary simultaneity of all Scripture”.  The Bible contains several motifs, and so, as these thinkers talked about, we should embrace all of those motifs as they fit together, or as they stand in tension with one another.  So my thinking went at the time.  That’s different from how some approach the text: pick-and-choose one motif against the other.

Paul Hanson raised concerns about a “harmonizing” approach to Scripture because it undermined the unique voices of the different texts.  Second-Third Isaiah was anti-institution, and so trying to harmonize it with pro-institution texts squelched its unique perspective.

Also, Dr. Hanson asked me if there could be another way to read Isaiah from a canonical perspective.  Perhaps Second-Third Isaiah’s vision of a paradise without institutional leaders superceded the vision of First Isaiah, of a Davidic line ruling in power.  After all, did not Jesus’ words supercede parts of the Old Testament, in many Christian perspectives (not that Dr. Hanson was a supersessionist—far from it!)?

But, then, what about the texts that are contemporaneous with Second-Third Isaiah, and yet believe in the restoration of the Davidic monarchy and the Zadokite priesthood?  Can these texts co-exist with Second-Third Isaiah?  Can we draw lessons from all of them?  Do they all present a picture that comes together?  After all, Second-Third Isaiah doesn’t really talk about the Davidic monarchy and the Zadokite priesthood, but they don’t explicitly state that they won’t be restored.  I’m not saying that they believe they would be, but the texts as they stand—apart from the motives of the authors—may not contradict, at least not in a “big picture” sense.

But can we divorce the text from the authors?

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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