Continuing My Way Through Lemche’s Early Israel

For my write-up today of Niels Peter Lemche’s Early Israel, I have three items:

1.  Lemche talks at length about whether ancient Israel consisted primarily of nuclear families, or extended families.  On the basis of archaeology and the Hebrew Bible, he tends to go with nuclear families—which could be headed by a father, or could include other units, such as the woman of Tekoa and her son, or Tamar and her son.  From archaeology, Lemche observes that ancient Israelite houses are not that big and thus could not contain multitudes of family members.  And, in the Hebrew Bible, Lemche notices that sons stay with their fathers and take care of the herds until they marry and start their own houses.  A possible counter-example is Jacob and his sons, but Lemche argues that these stories present the sons of Jacob as heading their own nuclear families, even though they maintain a social connection with Jacob.  Lemche also says that, in the current Near East, there is a preference for the extended family, but that usually isn’t realizable.  I don’t know what Lemche’s point is in all of this, but I liked this discussion because it illustrated Genesis 2:24, which says that a man shall leave his parents and cling to his wife.

2.  Lemche talks about the dating of three things: tribal shifts, Joshua 13-19, and the incorporation of local stories into a pan-Israelite context.

On pages 283-285, Lemche refers to tribal shifts: Reuben moving from Benjamin and becoming absorbed into the Gadites (Lemche thinks that Reuben’s territory in the Hebrew Bible is ideal rather than historical, for that was Moabite territory, and the ninth century Mesha Stele from Moab mentions Gad, but not Reuben); Manasseh’s absorption of Gilead and Machir in such a manner that Gilead is subordinated to Machir; the fusion of Ephraim and Manasseh into “Joseph”; the assimilation of Caleb, Jerahmeel, and Othniel into Judah; and “Ephraimite expansion into Manassite territory”.  Many have argued that such shifts were pre-monarchical because “they do not believe the Israelite tribes continued to exist after the formation of the state”, but Lemche thinks that they could have occurred under the monarchy, for “a central authority will not have been overly concerned with whether Israelite NN belonged to tribe A or to tribe B, as long as he paid his taxes and did not exploit his tribal affiliations to undertake political activities detrimental to the state.”

On pages 286-288, Lemche discusses the dating of Joshua 13-19, which concerns the territory of the twelve tribes of Israel.  Some have dated Joshua 13-19 to the time of the United Monarchy, which is when “such a description of the territory of the twelve tribes of Israel would have been topical.”  Lemche thinks that this proposal is better than dating it to the time of the Judges, when Israel did not even possess all of the territory that Joshua 13-19 enumerates.  But Lemche believes that there are three problems with a United Monarchy date: Joshua 13-19 assumes that Israel possessed Philistine territory, which was not the case during the United Monarchy; Joshua 13-19 is not precise about “the borders of Ephraim and Manasseh towards the coast”, which, for Lemche, wouldn’t have been the case had it been composed in the time of David; and Joshua 13-19 lacks information on Issachar.  Lemche says that the boundaries appear to be ideal, and so Joshua 13-19 may reflect the time of Josiah, with his program of national renewal.  Lemche thinks that P could have later appropriated the list, but he doubts that Joshua 13-19 was post-exilic, for there were no tribes in that period.  Lemche also refers to other possible authors of Joshua 13-19 whom scholars have proposed: the Deuteronomist (Noth); the Q aspect of the P source (Wellhausen); P, or a writer imitating P; P, J, and E.

On page 293, Lemche talks about the incorporation of local traditions into a pan-Israelite context.  Many assumed that this took place in Israel’s pre-monarchical period, when (according to them) the twelve tribes of Israel were combined into an amphictyony that was organized around a central sanctuary (or, for Gottwald, they were united in a confederation that was more formative for Israelite identity than the amphictyony was for Greek identity in ancient Greece).  But Lemche offers other possibilities: It could have happened under the United Monarchy, or it could have been done by Judah after the collapse of the United Monarchy, as Judah sought to promote a united Israel under the Davidic ruler.  Or it could have occurred under Josiah, who expanded into the North, or during the exile, for a pan-Israelite view of history “gave rise to expectations of the reestablishment of the Israelite kingdom after the end of the exile.”

3.  On pages 308-328, Lemche discusses the question of how much the prophets knew about Israel’s traditions, as they are manifested in the Pentateuch.  His conclusion is that the eighth century Northern prophets (Hosea and Amos) know about some version of the traditions, whereas the eighth century Southern prophets (i.e., Isaiah) do not.  In past posts, I’ve wondered how scholars who make this claim deal with Isaiah 10:23-26 and 11:15-16, which reveal a clear knowledge of the Exodus.  Lemche says that there is “general agreement” that these passages “are late and inauthentic; they may even be of postexilic date” (page 314).

In the seventh century, according to Lemche, Jeremiah manifests knowledge of traditions, but he appears to rely on Hosea, and his view of the Exodus and Settlement is unlike what is in the Pentateuch and the Book of Joshua.  For the sixth century, “Ezekiel’s use of early history is concentrated in his preaching in Ezek. 20”, and this resembles P.  The exilic Second Isaiah knows of the Exodus, but he does not talk about it much, but rather uses it to promote a new Exodus.  And the post-exilic prophets don’t talk much about Israel’s early history.  Lemche says that the Deuteronomists were concerned about the lacunae in the prophets concerning Israel’s early history, and so they added things to Amos and Jeremiah.

I’d like to refer to two examples in Lemche’s discussion in order to illustrate some source critical-techniques, as well as to remind myself of scholarly views on certain issues.

First, on pages 310-311, Lemche talks about Amos 5:25 and Jeremiah 7:21ff.  Both of these are passages that deny that Israel offered sacrifices to God in the wilderness.  Wellhausen argued that these passages were prophetic and pre-dated P, who held that there indeed were sacrifices in the wilderness.  Lemche attributes these passages to the Deuteronomist—and says that they’re similar to the Deuteronomist’s argument in II Samuel 7:6 against David building the Temple.  (For Amos 5:25, Lemche says that this verse doesn’t fit in with its context.  And, on page 318, Lemche says that Jeremiah did not write Jeremiah 7:21ff. because Jeremiah ordinarily doesn’t denounce the Yahwist cult, and, when he does, he depends on the “far more pronounced criticisms of Isaiah”, such as Isaiah 1:11f.)  Lemche’s discussion reminded me of what John Hobbins said in his post on Jeremiah 7:

“Weinfeld points out that Jeremiah belonged to a current which objected to attributing any instruction whatsoever about whole-offering and sacrifice to ‘the day,’ broadly understood, in which God brought the Israelites out of Egypt. Thus, in the book of Deuteronomy, the Ten Words alone are reported to have been given at Sinai/Horeb (Deut 5). Subsidiary instruction is given a generation hence, in the plains of Moab (Deut 6-30). The legal corpus proper, including instruction about whole-offerings and sacrifice, is found at a significant remove from the Ten Words (Deut 5), in Deut 12-26.”

For Weinfeld, Deuteronomy says that there were no sacrifices in the wilderness, for Israel received instructions about them after their wilderness experience—when they were on the plains of Moab.  Is that the sort of view that we encounter in Amos 5:25 and Jeremiah 7:21ff.?  And would such a similarity support these passages being Deuteronomistic additions?

I’d like to note, though, that Lemche does not regard the wilderness tradition in Jeremiah 2:2-3—which romanticizes Israel’s wilderness experience—as Deuteronomistic, for it “displays no signs of Deuteronomistic influence” (page 317).  But Lemche does think that this passage is referring to Hosea 2:17.

Second, on pages 315-316, Lemche asks if Micah 6:4-5 is Deuteronomistic or by a “postexilic redactor who wrote in Deuteronomistic style.”  An argument for the latter is “The positive evaluation of Miriam and Aaron in v 4b, that is, as being on a par with Moses, is not fully congruent with the descriptions of Miriam and Aaron in Deuteronomy.”  And yet, the passage uses clearly Deuteronomistic terminology, such as the word p-d-h and beyt avadim, plus v 5 appears to presuppose “the Deuteronomistic edition of Jos 3-5” regarding Balaam and the Jordan.  Micah 6:4-5 overlaps with Deuteronomy, and yet differs from it, which is why some have argued that it is a post-Deuteronomistic addition that imitates Deuteronomistic style.

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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1 Response to Continuing My Way Through Lemche’s Early Israel

  1. Pingback: Ramblings on Jeremiah 31:29-30 and People Being Punished for Their Own (Not Their Ancestors’) Sins | James’ Ramblings

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