John Van Seters, «Dating the Yahwist’s History: Principles and Perspectives.», Vol. 96 (2015) 1-25
In order to date the Yahwist, understood as the history of Israelite origins in Genesis to Numbers, comparison is made between J and the treatment of the patriarchs and the exodus-wilderness traditions in the pre-exilic prophets and Ezekiel, all of which prove to be earlier than J. By contrast, Second Isaiah reveals a close verbal association with J’s treatments of creation, the Abraham story and the exodus from Egypt. This suggests that they were contemporaries in Babylon in the late exilic period, which is confirmed by clear allusions in both authors to Babylonian sources dealing with the time of Nabonidus.
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DATING THE YAHWIST’S HISTORY: PRINCIPLES AND PERSPECTIVES 5
“house of Jacob” in Egypt and promised them that he would bring
them out of Egypt and give to them “a land flowing with milk and
honey” if they would give up their worship of the idols of Egypt
(Ezek 20,7). At the same time Ezekiel disparages the rival tradition
about Abraham the forefather of the people having already inherited
the land in which they are now located (Ezek 33,24) 10. There is no
suggestion anywhere in Ezekiel that a prior promise was made by
the deity to the patriarchs about some future inheritance, only that
a conditional promise of a new land that God had chosen for them
was made to the Israelites in Egypt for the first time, quite distinct
from the Abraham tradition. By contrast, in the Yahwist the promise
of land that is made to Abraham and repeated to Isaac and Jacob is
presented as being the same promise that is made to Moses and the
Israelites in Egypt, so that it is most unlikely that Ezekiel was aware
of this later revised version of the land promise theme.
Moreover, we may compare Ezekiel with Deut 26,5-9, which
suggests that Jacob was a landless “Aramean” nomad who went to
Egypt where the family sojourned until they became a large group
which was subsequently used by the Egyptians as a labour force.
When subjected to hard labour, they appealed to YHWH, the God
of their forefathers, who rescued them and gave them a land flow-
ing with milk and honey. This bears a close resemblance to the
Ezekiel version in what it includes and what it omits. It begins by
accounting for how the Israelites got into Egypt in the first place,
which is omitted in Ezekiel but perhaps implied by his reference
to the “house of Jacob” in Egypt, but Deuteronomy shares with
Ezekiel the promise of the “land flowing with milk and honey”.
Deuteronomy, in this “credo”, says nothing about the role of Moses
or the disobedience of the people, and nothing about any prior prom-
ise of land to Jacob, the landless Aramean 11. It seems to me that
Ezekiel has made use of the D tradition in this form and expanded
See also the remarks about Jerusalem’s origins in Ezekiel 16 as derived
from the aboriginal population of the region, the “Amorites” and the “Hittites”.
The references to the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, in conjunc-
tion with the gift of the land are entirely secondary in Deuteronomy. See J.
VAN SETERS, “Confessional Reformulation in the Exilic Period”, VT 22
(1972) 182-197; T. RÖMER, Israels Väter. Untersuchungen zur Väterthematik
im Deuteronomium und in der deuteronomistischen Tradition (OBO 99; Fri-
bourg, CH – Göttingen 1990).