I’m continuing my way through Brian Peckham’s History and Prophecy. In this post, I’ll talk about Peckham’s summary on pages 254-255 of the Priestly writer, the Elohist, Micah, Jeremiah, and the Deuteronomistic History. (Unless indicated otherwise, the quotes are from pages 254-255.)
I’ll start with a quote from page 254, to set the stage for the discussion:
“Under the impetus of prophecy the Priestly writer and the Elohist set about revising the historical documents that were the foundation of Israelite faith. With these revisions in hand Micah and Jeremiah urged specific reforms in Judah and Jerusalem and extended the menacing oracles of their predecessors beyond the time of divine discipline to repentance and forgiveness and national reunification.”
My understanding thus far of Peckham’s scenario is this: We have the Epic, which talked about a covenant, in which God was committed to Israel, and Israel worshiped God. Then there’s the prophet Isaiah, who did not believe that Israel should place her faith in a covenant, and who faulted the covenant for elevating worship above ethics. Isaiah chided Hezekiah for not having faith, and he also predicted that Judah would fall, just as Northern Israel recently did. Then there’s the Sequel, which defends the covenant against Isaiah, and ends with God’s defeat of the Assyrian king Sennacherib, which (in the eyes of the Sequel’s author) affirmed the efficacy of the covenant.
But not everyone was on board with the Sequel, for the message of destruction by Isaiah and other prophets (such as Amos and Hosea) was influential. Micah and Jeremiah preached repentance, forgiveness, and national reunification, so as to prevent disaster.
Now let’s look at specific authors:
According to Peckham, the Priestly writer sought to rewrite the Epic. He humbled the Epic’s heroes and “demystified their myths”, as well as “replaced the covenant that the sequel supposed with the creation of an ordered world”. The Priestly writer abandoned annual pilgrimages to Jerusalem and said that God’s glory was in a moveable shrine. I don’t think this means that he believed there was a literal, moveable tabernacle in his day, but rather that God could be honored anywhere, for Peckham affirms that the Priestly writer favored “natural and familial celebrations”. Elsewhere in the book, Peckham mentions the Sabbath and the family Passover as examples of what the Priestly writer advocated. The Priestly writer viewed Israel as devoted to a transcendent God, who created an orderly world.
The Elohist had a Northern point of view. He embraced a God of consolation and traced the Bethel sanctuary back to Jacob, and the Golden Calves back to Aaron. On page 280, Peckham states that E viewed the calves as an indication of Israel’s lack of faith and a contributing factor to the fall of Samaria, but, unlike the Sequel, he did not see it as a major crime, for, in E’s story of the Golden Calf, Israel still had a future after the Golden Calf incident. E also highlighted the importance of Joseph, and he “responded to the prophetic critique of contemporary Israelite society by incorporating a codified law into the revelation of the past.” For Peckham, E was the author of the Covenant Code, which was about justice and ethics. The prophets did not believe that the Epic and the Sequel emphasized ethics enough, and so E added a code.
Micah criticized the injustice of prophets, priests, and leaders who were supposed to enforce the law, but were not doing so. He encouraged Judah to repent. And Jeremiah predicted that repentance and restoration would occur. But, after Josiah’s reform failed, with the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians, the Deuteronomistic Historian criticized the prophets for their optimism about the efficacy of the Judahites’ “partial repentance and reform”. At the same time, he agreed with the prophets “that the covenant did not work without the law and could not overcome the history of sin.” The covenant could not be a blanket for sin, DtrH and the prophets agreed!