As I’ve been lecturing this winter semester (Providence University College) for my course “The Former Prophets” (i.e., Joshua, Judges, 1-2 Samuel, and 1-2 Kings) we’ve had some wonderful discussions about what it means for this portion of Scripture to offer a “history” of Israel.
Part of the reason for the course not being called “The History Books” (besides that term being used to refer to other books as well: Ruth, Chronicles, Ezra-Nehemiah, Esther) is that the point of these books is not simply to offer a “history” of Israel, but a theological “history” of God’s dealings with Israel, and thus a theological explanation for where Israel finds themselves at the conclusion of this literary unit (in Babylon, no Davidic heir on the throne, with Jerusalem, the land, and the temple destroyed). The focus on these books as belonging to (what the Hebrew canon calls) “The Prophets” (נְבִיאִים nevi’im) is to emphasize their theological intent. This distinction gives emphasis to the presence and work of God. A distinction I find far more satisfactory than simply a discussion of these books as “history” (or even as contemporary scholarship refers to them following the work of Martin Noth: “Deuteronomistic History“). None of this is to deny the historical claims of the text (when such claims are actually present), but simply to recognize the work of the LORD throughout.
I was just wondering if others have found such a distinction helpful themselves in studying these books?