Garrett GALVIN.  David’s Successors. Kingship in the Old Testament. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press (Michael Glazier Book), 2016. Pp 160, $24.95. pb. ISBN 9780814682517. Reviewed by James ZEITZ, Our Lady of the Lake University, San Antonio, Texas 78207.


  In this important book on kingship in the Old Testament, Garrett Galvin begins (Chapter One) by listing the New Insights (Chapter One) he will use to understand Kingship (Chapter Two). He then applies these insights to five major kings: Jeroboam, Ahab, Hezekiah, Manasseh, and Josiah. To correctly understand kingship in Israel, he argues, we need to examine the institution of kingship in the ancient Near East—using archeology and the social sciences.

An important method Gavin uses in analyzing the biblical depiction of kings in the Old Testament is narrative analysis, since the manner of depicting the history of the monarchy in Kings and Chronicles is not purely historical. In fact, Gavin claims, the Royal Psalms (along with Sirach and the prophets), enable a more nuanced and positive view of kingship that may better reflect historical Middle East culture and social reality. This reconceptualization of kingship alters many traditional ideas. Gavin claims the “narrative ark” of the Deuteronomist—from Jeroboam to Josiah, the ideal king—has in the past influenced not only historians but Egyptologists in assessing Israel’s kings. The negative portrait of Manasseh by DH (but not the Chronicler) may be omitting much about seventh century Judah.

In presenting Jeroboam (Chapter three), Galvin counteracts 1 Kings’ negative portrait by comparing him to David. using seven connections that bind the two. He gives the reader historical evidence of Near Eastern “royal apologies” that help understand both David and Jeroboam. He points out that Kings and Chronicles start out with differing portraits of kingship: Kings emphasizes the role of the prophet Ahijah in explaining the breakup of the kingdom, which corresponds to Kings’ consistent subordination of kings to prophets. For Chronicles, however, the prophet Ahijah is peripheral and the CH narrator continues with Rehoboam, king of Judah—because he portrays kings as less independent on prophets and more in union with groups of people.

A couple demonstrations (in chapters on Ahab, Hezekiah, Manasseh, and Josiah) that may correct our ideas about the kings of Israel and Judah: First, on the relative importance of Hezekiah in relation to Josiah: the historical evidence, Galvin shows, may reverse the relationship DH presents—based on its narrative “ark” from Jeroboam to Josiah. The Chronicler’s History. which adds three chapters on Hezekiah is probably closer to historical reality. Josiah is most important for DH because of his reform, based on the discovery of the Book of the Law in his renovation of the temple. But this importance may be due to DH’s narrative purpose to explain the destruction of the Temple. In fact both DH and CH are later writings and their portrayals of kingship need to take into account ancient “historiography.”  

King Manasseh—worst of all the kings of Judah according to DH—is portrayed differently in CH. Galvin elaborates on Manasseh’s long reign of 55 years in terms of the institution of kingship in the ancient Middle East and his ‘realpolitik,’ as well as historical evidence of DH’s narrative of his ‘sins.’  CH adds material on Yahweh’s punishment of Manasseh and his repentance and later building of an outer wall for the temple and removal of foreign gods from the temple! Once again the narrator’s viewpoint is important. Galvin suspects CH is closer to the reality of the kings of Judah.

My only critique of Galvin’s use of the Chronicler is his lack of mention that CH, as literature from the Second Temple period, which generally emphasizes the temple, worship and the kings of Judah. The Writings are a dialogue with the past: Torah and Prophets (Former and Latter in Tanak).