The theological revolution that is reflected in the fifth book of the Pentateuch (Deuteronomy) and in what scholars call the Deuteronomic History, which consists of the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings. To emphasize the differences heralded in the Deuteronomic literature, I contrast the concepts found in this literature with other books of the Bible, especially Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers. The reader will notice that sometimes I also contrast the Deuteronomic outlook with other passages in the Former Prophets (Joshua-Kings) that I call pre-Deuteronomic. How do I know that these passages are pre-Deuteronomic? This is a complicated, technical subject, but a brief explanation follows.
An older stratum of tradition is embedded in the Former Prophets. The Deuteronomic author had this earlier tradition before him as he fashioned the Former Prophets. He used this older tradition as a source. He supplemented this with a framework and with speeches that reflected his ideology and his stereotypical phraseology. Thus, for example, the Book of Joshua contains old conquest narratives to which the Deuteronomist added a Deuteronomic framework, including two programmatic speeches. One of these speeches—by God to Joshua—opens the Book of Joshua. The second is Joshua’s valedictory speech in Joshua 23, which abounds in Deuteronomic theology—no anthropomorphisms, no allusions to the Ark leading the Israelites in battle.
Elsewhere in the book (Joshua 10:28–43, 11:11–23, 22:41–43), editorial supplements summarize the author’s views. These editorial supplements can be easily discerned by their phraseology and by dogma based on the concept of a total ban of the Canaanites and a total conquest of the land. This in fact contradicts the older sources that present only a partial conquest (see Joshua 15:63, 16:10, 17:12–13, 14–18). These cited passages clearly reflect the fact that the Israelites were initially unable to conquer all the land:
One or another of the tribes could not disposess the Jebusites in Jerusalem or the Canaanites who dwelled in Gezer or the Canaanites who remained in the midst of Ephraim, etc., and who remain there “to this day.” Especially significant is Joshua 17:16, which explains why the Israelites were not able to conquer all the land: “The Canaanites have chariots of iron.”
All this belongs to an older layer of tradition used by the Deuteronomist as a source.
The Book of Kings was composed in the same way as the Book of Joshua. The Deuteronomic additions consist of speeches and evaluations of the kings in the form of frameworks (1 Kings 8:14–61, 9:2–9, 11:1–13, 31–39, 14:21–24 et al.). The ideology of the book is based on the centralization of the cult, which, however, is not reflected in the older sources. On the contrary, this ideology is contradicted by the older sources. For example, in 1 Kings 19:10 Elijah complains to the Lord that the people have “destroyed your altars.” This directly contradicts the Deuteronomic ideology, according to which the destruction of altars is considered a duty, the only legitimate place for sacrifice being the altar at the Temple in Jerusalem. However, here the Deuteronomist did not dare intervene and change the source that lay before him.
Another telltale method of separating the Deuteronomist’s work from his sources is by style, or, more specifically, phraseology. Deuteronomic phraseology constitutes a specific jargon reflecting the religious upheaval of that period. It is not attested before the seventh century BCE This phraseology revolves around basic Deuteronomic theological tenets, such as (1) the struggle against idolatry and syncretism; (2) the centralization of the cult; (3) the covenant and election of Israel; (4) the monotheistic creed; (5) the observance of the law; (6) the inheritance of the land; (7) retribution; (8) the fulfillment of prophecy; and (9) the Davidic dynasty.