Michael D. Coogan: The Deuteronomic School

Michael D. Coogan, The Old Testament: A Historical and Literary Introduction to the Hebrew Scriptures, third edition (OUP, 2014), 186.

The Deuteronomic school, as we have seen, had connections with both the Levitical priesthood and the prophets. It continued to revise its core text, the book of Deuteronomy, as Israel’s circumstances changed from autonomous nation to people in exile. It also produced the Deuteronomistic History, the interpretive narrative of Israel’s history in the Promised Land based on the ideals of the book of Deuteronomy, an extended work covering the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings. The Deuteronomistic History was itself revised several times, much like the book of Deuteronomy….

Michael D. Coogan: Deuteronomy and the Law of the King

Michael D. Coogan, The Old Testament: A Historical and Literary Introduction to the Hebrew Scriptures, third edition (OUP, 2014), 183-184.

The “law of the king” [Deuteronomy 17:14-20] seems to have been written with specific kings in mind, especially as they are described in the book of Kings. The extravagant acquisition of horses and gold and an enormous harem especially coincides with the description of Solomon’s reign (see 1 Kings 3.1; 4.26; 9.28; 10.14-11.8), but trade and alliances with Egypt are mentioned of other kings, and a harem was an ordinary part of the royal establishment.

The Deuteronomic “law of the king” thus critiques the extravagances of the kings belonging to the dynasty established by David, and also by the ideology attached to that dynasty, in which the king was the adopted son of God and the essential intermediary between God and the people, and in which God had made an unconditional covenant guaranteeing the dynasty in perpetuity….

For the authors of Deuteronomy, writing during the period of the monarchy, although kingship was a divinely sanctioned institution, it was to be severely limited. God’s blessing for the people depended not on the king but on the entire nation’s observance of its covenant with God. The Deuteronomists, in other words, advocated a reform in which the ideals of the premonarchic period would be combined with the realities of the monarchy. Like many of the prophets, they were reactionaries, but their nostalgia for the past was translated into a detailed program for the present and future.

Michael D. Coogan: The Problem of Kadesh

Micheal D. Coogan, The Old Testament: A Historical and Literary Introduction to the Hebrew Scriptures, third edition (OUP, 2014), 165-166.

Identification of most of the places named [the Priestly portions of Numbers] is very difficult, however; to some extent they are locations that were familiar to P in the mid-first millennium BCE. Moreover, P’s itinerary is not entirely consistent with that found in J or in the book of Deuteronomy.

The location of Kadesh is a good example of the problems. Scholars generally agree that Kadesh, also called Kadesh-barnea, was thought by J to be the impressive site of Tell el-Qudeirat at an oasis in the northern Sinai Peninsula. Excavations at that site have shown that it was a major fortification from the tenth to the sixth centuries BCE, but that there was no settlement prior to that….Obviously this creates problems for any association of Moses and the Exodus generation with the site, no matter when the Exodus is dated.

Michael D. Coogan: The Most Complicated Book of the Pentateuch

Michael D. Coogan, The Old Testament: A Historical and Literary Introduction to the Hebrew Scriptures, third edition (OUP, 2014), 160.

Numbers is the most complicated book of the entire Pentateuch, in terms of both its content and its sources. It takes its name from the census at its beginning (chaps. 1; 3-4) and near its end (chap. 26); its Hebrew title is taken from one of its opening words, bemidbar, meaning “in the wilderness,” an accurate designation of the book’s narrative setting. After the census and other preparations, in Numbers 10.10 the Israelites leave Mount Sinai and head toward the Promised Land. The central portion of the book, chapters 11-25, describes incidents on their journey, and finally a series of appendixes gives final instructions by Moses and by Yahweh for the imminent entry into the land.

Within this framework, however, the book is a hodgepodge of disparate, sometimes contradictory material, only loosely held together by narrative and by chronology. Besides the censuses that give it its name, Numbers includes other lists, itineraries, folklore, etiologies, ritual regulations, battle accounts, laws, geographical descriptions, and genealogies. In addition to the sources, J, E, and P, it also has material from other sources, such as independent poems that in some cases at least are very ancient.

Michal D. Coogan: Dating the “Holiness Code” of Leviticus

Michael D. Coogan, The Old Testament: A Historical and Literary Introduction to the Hebrew Scriptures, third edition (OUP, 2014), 153.

Since the late nineteenth century, scholars have identified chapters 17-26 of Leviticus as a separate source, named the Holiness Code because of its repeated use of words having to do with holiness…. This source (often abbreviated as “H”) is comparable to other collections of biblical law, especially the Covenant Code…and the Deuteronomic Code…. In some details, it also overlaps with these collections, for example, the ritual calendar (Lev 23) and the obligations to the land concerning its sabbath or fallow period (Lev 25).

Until the late twentieth century, the scholarly consensus was that the Holiness Code, while later than the other two collections, is earlier than P, which included it in its final edition of the Pentateuch; a generally accepted date is sometime in the seventh century BCE. It is, however, from the same larger priestly school as P, and thus presumably originated among priests in the Temple in Jerusalem. More recently, some scholars have argued that the Holiness Code is later than most of the rest of P in the Pentateuch and that the editors of the Holiness Code may have been responsible for a revision of P and thus for the final formation of the Pentateuch itself. Agreement remains, however, that the two sources (P and H) are distinct, in part because they are not entirely consistent.

Important evidence for the date of the Holiness Code is the close parallels in vocabulary and theme between it and the book of Ezekiel, named for the prophet Ezekiel who was also a priest in the Jerusalem Temple before his exile to Babylonia in 597 BCE. These parallels have led many scholars to conclude that the Holiness Code in some form preceded Ezekiel, although it is also possible that both were independently drawing on established priestly traditions.

Michael D. Coogan: Leviticus and P

Michael D. Coogan, The Old Testament: A Historical and Literary Introduction to the Hebrew Scriptures, third edition (OUP, 2014), 146-147.

[T]he book of Leviticus is a composite work. This is confirmed by the many editorial notes inserted throughout the text. The phrase “The LORD spoke to Moses” occurs over thirty times (and “to Moses and Aaron” another four times, in 11.1; 13.1; 14.33; 15.1; and once in 10.8, “to Aaron” alone). These variations may indicate originally distinct sources, as does the presence of several concluding statements (see 7.37; 26.46; 27.34).

It was P who preserved and edited the disparate traditions that comprise the composite work. As with the descriptions of the tabernacle and the ark in Exodus, P inserts into the sojourn at Sinai the rituals and practices of later times. P thus both preserves traditions from the Temple liturgies and also establishes a program for their restoration by the postexilic community in the late sixth century BCE and beyond. At the same time, however, Leviticus is not a consistent work, and it likely preserves traditions not just from the Jerusalem Temple but also from other sanctuaries throughout the land, as does the book of Psalms…even at the cost of some redundancy and inconsistency.

Michael D. Coogan: The Golden Calf Incident

Michael D. Coogan, The Old Testament: A Historical and Literary Introduction to the Hebrew Scriptures, third edition (OUP, 2014), 138.

Closer examination of the narrative in Exodus 32, however, reveals much complexity. First, despite the ancient interpretation found in Psalm 106, the calf is apparently not a symbol of another deity, a false god as it were. The people proclaim that it is the gods who brought Israel out of Egypt, but there is only one calf and Aaron proclaims a “festival to Yahweh” (32.4-5), who was the god who did bring Israel out of Egypt. Moroever, while it is clear that for the final editors of the Pentateuch, as for other biblical writers (for example, Hos 8:4-5; 13.2), the making of the calf was a violation of the aniconic principle of the Second Commandment, the prohibition against making graven images, in the chronology of the narrative the Ten Commandments had not yet been delivered to the people, at least in written form.