Richard Elliott Friedman tries to buttress his belief that the first edition of the Deuteronomistic History (which he calls Dtr1) ended with the account of Josiah by presenting three related arguments, all of which have to do with how the History treats the four kings who came after Josiah, the last four kings to rule over Judah. The first argument is the high places are mentioned in the accounts of every king of Judah except the last four. The majority of the kings of Judah through Josiah are also compared to David, but not the last four. The Historian also invoked God’s covenant with David to explain why the bad Judean kings who came before Josiah did not lose the throne (for example, see 1 Kings 11:35-36; 15:3-4; 2 Kings 8:18-19). The very last king was bad and he, of course, did lose the throne, but the three kings who preceded him were also bad, and the Historian did not invoke the covenant to explain why they did not lose the throne. Friedman believes that this difference in the treatment of the last four kings represents “a different point of view” from that presented in the accounts of the other kings (see Who Wrote the Bible? (1997), pp. 114-15).
However, every one of these arguments is fallacious. What he has said about the last four kings is true, but what he has said about the kings who came before them is not, as this chart demonstrates:
|The Kings of Judah up to Josiah and their ratings:||1||2||3|
|Solomon (good, then evil)|
|Jehoash (good, then evil)||x|
The accounts in which:
1 – the high places are not mentioned
2 – the king is not compared to David
3 – the covenant is not mentioned (for evil kings only)
The accounts of the Judean kings do not always mention the high places. The criterion is conspicuously absent from the accounts of four kings who came before Josiah. Like the four kings who came after Josiah, these rulers are judged to have been evil, yet the high places are not mentioned.
The majority of kings are not compared to David. Of the sixteen kings in the chart, nine, some good and some evil, are not compared to David. He is sometimes mentioned in the stories of these kings, but he is not the standard by which they are judged.
In the accounts of four kings who came before Josiah, the author of First and Second Kings does not use the covenant to explain why these kings did not lose the throne. In fact, the examples cited by Friedman, the examples given above, are the only times he refers to the covenant in this manner.
Perhaps Friedman could argue that these three arguments, taken separately, do not prove anything, but taken together, they support and verify his theory. Does it not seem unusual that all three converge in the accounts of the last four kings? But a study of the chart reveals that all three arguments also converge in the accounts of two other kings: Ahaziah and Amon. Both of these kings came before Josiah and both were evil. Yet in their accounts, the high places are not mentioned, they are not compared to David, and the covenant is not used to explain why they did not lose the throne. And Friedman says their stories were part of the first edition.
These three arguments, therefore, do not buttress his belief that the first edition of the History ended with the account of Josiah.