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Full Access Elijah and the ‘Voice’ at Horeb (1 Kings 19): Narrative Sequence in the Masoretic Text and Josephus

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Elijah and the ‘Voice’ at Horeb (1 Kings 19): Narrative Sequence in the Masoretic Text and Josephus

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AbstractThis study examines the peculiar narrative sequence in the Masoretic Text of 1 Kgs 19.11-13, in which Elijah appears to delay obeying the “still small voice”. It examines Josephus’ version of the account, which presents a different narrative sequence, arguing that it represents a reading of the Hebrew text that is grammatically and exegetically superior to the common interpretation.

1. FN11) This is certainly implicit in the Hebrew text and is made explicit in some LXX manuscripts which add kakei kyrios “and the Lord was there” at the end of v.12; cf. also Targum Jonathan. However, one should take note of R. Nelson, First and Second Kings (IBC; Atlanta, 1987) 124-125, who argues vigorously against this view, claiming that the “voice” is “nothing more than a signal that the theophanic excitement is over”. The meaning of the expression qôl dĕmāmâ daqqâ has often been discussed; in addition to the commentaries, see J. Lust, “A Gentle Breeze or a Roaring Thunderous Sound?” VT 25 (1975) 110-15 and B. Robinson, “Elijah at Horeb, 1 Kings 19:1-18: A Coherent Narrative?” RB 98.4 (1991) 513-36, esp. 522-27.
2. FN22) The RSV says that Elijah exited the cave “when he heard it”, which would refer to his hearing the qôl dĕmāmâ daqqâ of v.12. The Hebrew text is less specific, however (vayhi kišmoa‘ ’ēlîyāhû), and could refer to the prior phenomena or to the directive to exit the cave (tsē’ vĕ‘āmadtā “go forth and stand!”). In any event, it should be noted that the noun qôl in v.13 is indefinite, suggesting that it is distinct from the qôl of v.12; if they were intended to be the same then one could have reasonably expected at the very least an anaphoric definite article in v.13. See J. Walsh, 1 Kings (Berit Olam; Collegeville, 1996) 276.
3. FN33) Cf. C. Begg, Josephus’ Account of the Early Divided Monarchy (AJ 8,212-420): Rewriting the Bible (BETL 108; Leuven, 1993) 193 and W. Brueggeman, 1 & 2 Kings (Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary; Macon, 2000) 235.
4. FN44) See 1 Kgs 17.2-5, 8-10; 18.1-2; 19.5-8, 15-19; 21.17-20; 2 Kgs 1.3-4, 15.
5. FN55) Cf. S. DeVries, 1 Kings2 (WBC; Nashville, 2003) 236.
6. FN66) See e.g. J. Olley, “YHWH and His Zealous Prophet: The Presentation of Elijah in 1 and 2 Kings”, JSOT 80 (1998) 25-51, esp. 40, I. Provan, 1 and 2 Kings (NIBC; Peabody, 1995) 146, Nelson, First and Second Kings, 122-27, G. Hens-Piazza, 1-2 Kings (Abingdon Old Testament Commentary; Nashville, 2006) 190-91; cf. Robinson, “Elijah at Horeb”, 517.
7. FN77) See e.g. J. Wellhausen, Die Composition des Hextateuchs und der Historischen Bücher des Alten Testaments2 (Berlin, 1889) 282-83 n.1, I. Benzinger, Die Bücher der Könige (KHC; Freiburg, 1899) 112, J. Montgomery, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Books of Kings (ICC; Edinburgh, 1951) 313, J. Gray, I & II Kings: A Commentary2 (OTL; London, 1970) 410, E. Würthwein, Die Bücher der Könige: 1. Kön. 17-2. Kön. 25 (ATD; Göttingen, 1984) 223-32, S. MacKenzie, The Trouble with Kings (VTSup 42; Leiden, 1991) 83, V. Fritz, 1 & 2 Kings (CC; Minneapolis, 2003) 196-98, J. Keinanen, Traditions in Collision: A Literary and Redaction-Critical Study on the Elijah Narratives 1 Kings 17-19 (Publications of the Finnish Exegetical Society 80; Göttingen, 2001) 142.
8. FN88) Cf. Würthwein (Die Bücher der Könige, 229) and Walsh (1 Kings, 276).
9. FN99) See especially Keinanen, Traditions in Collision, 142-82.
10. FN1010) Translation by C. Begg and P. Spilsbury, Judean Antiquities 8-10 (Flavius Josephus: Translation and Commentary 5; Leiden, 2005) 98-99.
11. FN1111) Cf. the literature cited in n.6 above.
12. FN1212) So e.g. Olley, “YHWH and His Zealous Prophet”, 40 n.54. L. Feldman, in contrast, sees Josephus as crafting his narrative with his Roman readership in mind, as his presentation displays a “de-theologizing” tendency which downplays the miraculous element in the narrative, along with an avoidance of features that would associate Elijah with the Zealot movement; see L. Feldman, “Josephus’ Portrait of Elijah”, SJOT 8.1 (1994) 61-86, esp. 77, 81-82.
13. FN1313) Similarly KJV, NKJV, NJPS, etc.
14. FN1414) Cf. C. Burney, Notes on the Hebrew Text of the Book of Kings (Oxford, 1903) 231, GKC § 116 o, P. Joüon and T. Muraoka, A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew2 (SubBi 27; Rome, 2006) § 121 f, etc.
15. FN1515) GKC § 116 p, Joüon and Muraoka, Grammar § 121 e, etc.
16. FN1616) Note also that, in contrast to the Vg’s transit, the VL renders transiet; cf. Robinson, “Elijah at Horeb”, 521.
17. FN1717) Similarly NIV, Traduction Oecuménique, etc.
18. FN1818) I.e., the participial and nominal clauses.
19. FN1919) Walsh, 1 Kings, 275.
20. FN2020) Strangely, Robinson (“Elijah at Horeb”, 520) claims that there is only one verbal form in vv.11-12 (viz., the participle ‘ōvēr).
21. FN2121) Cf. T. Zewi, “Time in Nominal Sentences in the Semitic Languages”, JSS 44.2 (1999) 195-214.
22. FN2222) Walsh (1 Kings, 274–75) discusses both readings and in the end suggests—somewhat implausibly, I would argue—that both should be maintained.
23. FN2323) A similar analysis is proposed by Robinson (“Elijah at Horeb”, 521) and M. Cogan (1 Kings [AB; New York, 2001] 449, 453); P. Hugo suggests that this is the intent of the LXX as well; see “Text and Literary History: The Case of 1 Kings 19 (MT and LXX)”, in M. Leuchter and K.-P. Adam (eds.), Soundings in Kings: Perspectives and Methods in Contemporary Scholarship (Minneapolis, 2010) 15-34, esp. 26-27.
24. FN2424) Cf. Cogan, 1 Kings, 453.
25. FN2525) This is not to suggest that the textual basis of Josephus’ account consisted exclusively of the MT; see C. Begg, Josephus’ Account of the Early Divided Monarchy, 2-5, 271-76, and Josephus’ Story of the Later Monarchy (BETL 145; Leuven, 2000) 625-32.
26. FN2626) See especially the studies by Begg and Feldman cited above.

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