Fortress Press

Portrait of the Kings: The Davidic Prototype in Deuteronomistic Poetics

Portrait of the Kings

The Davidic Prototype in Deuteronomistic Poetics

Alison L. Joseph (Author)


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Much of the scholarship on the book of Kings has focused on questions of the historicity of the events described. Alison L. Joseph turns her attention instead to the literary characterization of Israel’s kings. By examining the narrative techniques used in the Deuteronomistic History to portray Israel’s kings, Joseph shows that the Deuteronomist in the days of the Josianic Reform constructed David as a model of adherence to the covenant, and Jeroboam, conversely, as the ideal opposite of David. The redactor further characterized other kings along one or the other of these two models.

The resulting narrative functions didactically, as if instructing kings and the people of Judah regarding the consequences of disobedience. Attention to characterization through prototype also allows Joseph to identify differences between pre-exilic and exilic redactions in the Deuteronomistic History, bolstering and also revising the view advanced by Frank Moore Cross. The result is a deepened understanding of the worldview and theology of the Deuteronomistic Historians.
  • Publisher Fortress Press
  • Format Paperback
  • ISBN 9781451465662
  • eBook ISBN 9781451469585
  • Dimensions 6 x 9
  • Pages 284
  • Publication Date March 1, 2015


"Alison Joseph has produced a learned, imaginative, and thought-provoking work that is an important step forward in contemporary scholarship on the Deuteronomistic History and the world of its authors. Her insights into the intricacies and subtleties of the historiographic craft is a very welcome contribution to our understanding of how Israelite scribes conceived of the past and sought to represent it in literary form."
—Mark Leuchter
Temple University

“Through her insightful literary analysis of the characterization of rulers in the book of Kings, leavened with historical-critical scholarship, Alison Joseph shows how and why the Deuteronomist turned David and Jeroboam into prototypes of good and bad kings and how these prototypes were mapped onto other kings. This book is a welcome contribution to the study of the Deuteronomist’s compositional art and theological agenda.”
Adele Berlin
Emerita, University of Maryland

Portrait of the Kings is a well-researched and clearly written work on the oft neglected book of Kings. Joseph argues compellingly that its authors used sources which they reordered, and composed new material, to highlight David as an ideal king, presenting him as a prototype culminating in King Josiah, while depicting Jeroboam and others as antitypes of David. Joseph brings an important contribution to the historiographical poetics of the Deuteronomistic Historian, with significant implications for how Kings should and should not be used by the modern historian to reconstruct the history of Ancient Israel.”
Marc Brettler
Brandeis University 

“This highly readable volume is written within the parameters of Cross’s well-known approach to the Deuteronomistic History (i.e., Dtr1 and Dtr2). Instructors who teach top-undergraduate courses that emphasize this approach will find this book particularly useful, and the same holds true for the educated reader who would like to know more about this approach to the Deuteronomistic History.”
Ehud Ben Zvi
University of Alberta