Judah Bookends

The Priority of Israel and Literary Revision in the David Narrative

in Vetus Testamentum
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The story of David as king in 1-2 Samuel is defined by rule of Israel. In contrast, Judah’s centrality in the David narrative is limited to two sections: David’s anointing over Judah in 2 Sam 2:4a (part of a larger unit in vv. 1-4a) and the end of the Absalom lore in 19:9bβ-15, 16b-18a; and 19:41-20:5. These Judah additions or “bookends” interrupt the flow of the narrative, shifting and reorienting the reader’s direction in favor of Judah. Considered as a whole, the secondary nature of Judah in the David narrative invites us to reconsider the political and social landscape of the early monarchy. For the majority of its textual growth, the David material is defined not by a United Monarchy, nor by a clear political division between Israel and Judah, but by one important entity: Israel.

Vetus Testamentum

A Quarterly Published by the International Organization for the Study of the Old Testament




Fischer, Von Hebron nach Jerusalem, pp. 1-12, 49, 209-201 and 275; Wright, David, King of Israel, p. 47.


See Fleming, The Legacy of Israel, pp. 106-107, for a discussion on 2 Sam 20:1-13 as a bridge text from the Absalom material into the older, self-standing narrative of Sheba’s rebellion.


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