Serge Frolov, «Evil-Merodach and the Deuteronomist: The Sociohistorical
Setting of Dtr in the Light of 2 Kgs 25,27-30», Vol. 88 (2007) 174-190
The article demonstrates that four concluding verses of the Former Prophets (2 Kgs 25,27-30) militate against the recent tendency to view Deuteronomism as a lasting phenomenon, especially against its extension into the late exilic and postexilic periods. Because Evil-Merodach proved an ephemeral and insignificant ruler, the account of Jehoiachin’s release and exaltation under his auspices could be reasonably expected to shore up the notion of an eternal Davidic dynasty only
as long as the Babylonian king remained on the throne (562-560 BCE). Since the dynastic promise to David and associated concepts rank high on Dtr’s agenda, it means that the Former Prophets was not updated along Deuteronomistic lines to
reflect the shift in the audience’s perspective on Evil-Merodach caused by his downfall. If so, there was no Deuteronomistic literary activity in the corpus after
Evil-Merodach and the Deuteronomist 183
four verses of the Former Prophets would thus buttress a major plank of
the Deuteronomistic agenda before August 560 BCE and undermine
this plank at any point thereafter, especially subsequent to the Persian
takeover in 539 BCE. This conclusion has two important corollaries
that I will discuss in the concluding part of the article.
III. Who was the Deuteronomist?
With the preceding considerations in mind, it appears that if 2 Kgs
25,27-30 is a Deuteronomistic contribution it must have been
composed in 562-560 BCE (26). Within this narrow time frame, the
most probable social setting for the fragment would be Jehoiachinâ€™s
retinue. Since no king could possibly conduct the internal and external
affairs of his realm without at least a few scribes, it is safe to assume
that these professionals were among Jehoiachinâ€™s courtiers who
according to 2 Kgs 24,15 were exiled together with him. At their
master â€™s behest, or even out of sheer elation over the recent
improvement of his (and, by implication, their own) status, they were
certainly capable of producing a text that celebrates the event â€” and
implicitly demonstrates that Jehoiachinâ€™s surrender to Nebuchadnezzar
back in 597 BCE was, after all, a smart move (27).
The statements of 2 Kgs 25,29-30 about Jehoiachin dining in Evil-
Merodachâ€™s presence and receiving his daily rations wyj ymy lk â€˜all his
lifeâ€™ would seem to militate against the dating suggested above. If the
(26) In principle, it is possible that 2 Kgs 25,27-30 was composed by a post-
and anti-Deuteronomistic hand with a view to reminding a post-560 BCE
audience that the hopes for a Davidic restoration under Evil-Merodach had come
to naught and thus exposing them as futile. In such a case, the fragment would
have no bearing on the dating of Dtr; however, two related considerations make
this possibility remote. First, Dtr was unlikely to conclude his or her composition
with the catastrophe of 586 BCE that left Davidâ€™s dynasty in shambles, at least
not without explaining how such an outcome fits in with the promises of 2 Samuel
7, which even the doomsday prophecy of 2 Kgs 21,11-15 does not seem to
revoke. Second, this ending would be perfectly consistent with the anti-monarchic
perspective generated by such putatively anti-Deuteronomistic texts as 1 Samuel
8 and 2 Samuel 10-12; if so, it would be redundant, if not counterproductive, for
post-Dtr to engage in a highly sophisticated ruse, pretending to celebrate release
and exaltation of a Davidide, in other words, assuming the opponentâ€™s identity.
The rule of parsimony thus clearly favors the attribution of 2 Kgs 25,27-30 to Dtr
working before Evil-Merodachâ€™s deposition.
(27) W. SCHNIEDEWIND, How the Bible Became a Book. The Textualization of
Ancient Israel (New York â€“ Oxford 2004) 152-153.