R. Jesse Pruett successfully defends dissertation, “A King after the Prophet’s Own Heart: The Prophetic Redaction of the David Narratives”

R. Jesse Pruett has successfully defended his dissertation, “A King after the Prophet’s Own Heart: The Prophetic Redaction of the David Narratives.”

Members of the committee were:

Prof. Jeremy Hutton (director)
Prof. Jeff Beneker
Prof. Alex Dressler
Dr. Jeff Blakely
Prof. Sara Kipfer (TU-Dortmund)

Dissertation abstract:

My dissertation is a composition-historical study of the narratives of David’s rise. Over the course of this material, which roughly encompasses 1 Samuel 16–2 Samuel 5, David rises from relative obscurity to his final position as the founder of a dynasty in Jerusalem that would rule the region of Judah for several centuries. From his initial entrance into the court of Saul to his eventual succession of his former master, these narratives track the highs and lows of David’s circuitous and prolonged royal ascent. Like many biblical documents, this material reflects a multi-staged process of textual development that results from the adaptation and appropriation of the Davidic traditions by various editors with distinct and perhaps even conflicting ideological purposes. In this study, I attempt to isolate and historically situate one such adaptation, termed the Prophetic History, that was responsible for much of the current form of 1–2 Samuel as well as the introduction of one of its key political/theological themes.

To explore the question of the Prophetic History’s involvement in the section, I apply source- and redaction-critical methods to four narrative units from the material of David’s rise, which serve as case studies for my compositional hypothesis. These include the narrative hinge between the account of Saul’s reign and the rise of David (1 Sam 15:1–16:13), the Endor séance account (1 Sam 28:3–25), the triptych of bloodguilt episodes located during David’s flight from Saul (1 Sam 24–26), and the contrasting versions of Saul’s death (1 Sam 31–2 Sam 1). In each case study, I argue that narrative unit has been substantially reworked by the editor(s) responsible for the Prophetic History. This larger revision transformed material that was initially intended to defend the legitimacy of David’s rise into a stage of a lengthier history of the Israelite monarchy. Specifically, it introduced and placed David’s rise under the paradigm of divinely designated and prophetically mediated kingship.

This study contributes to the debate surrounding the composition history of the Davidic material. It identifies a significant pre-Deuteronomistic edition of the narratives of David’s rise in which pre-existing royal traditions were revised to serve as a paradigm for and ultimately support the rise of a later king, Jehu. It also comments on the origin of a significant theological concept, the notion of Yahweh’s anointed, and possibly on the political relationship between Israel and Judah during the-late ninth and early-eighth centuries BCE.