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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6 JOHN VAN SETERS
it to include the period of the wilderness wanderings as a time of
Israel’s disobedience from the very beginning of its origins. Only
in the later Dtr expansion of D does one find two instances of dis-
obedience or rebellion by the people: the molten calf episode at
Sinai (Deuteronomy 9) and the refusal to invade the land from the
south (Deut 1,19-46).
What we have in the Yahwist is the complete integration of sep-
arate and somewhat conflicting ancestral traditions with that of the
people’s origins in Egypt. This is done by giving the patriarchs,
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the sons of Jacob, a genealogical
continuity, with a land promise made first to Abraham, and then re-
peated to the rest of the patriarchs, but a promise that will only be
realized after a period of sojourn in Egypt. Within this historical
framework the Yahwist is able to embody a wide range of ancestral
stories: the Joseph story, the trials and deliverance from Egypt, the
wilderness period, and conquest of the land east of the Jordan 12.
3. The Yahwist and Second Isaiah
When was such an elaborate historiographic work produced? I
think it is safe to say that it must have been later than either Ezekiel
or Deuteronomy. It has been demonstrated that Deuteronomy ori-
ginally knew nothing of any promises to the patriarchs, which are
all secondary additions to the text, based on J 13. However, we can
also say that it must have been earlier than Second Isaiah, because
this prophet assumes the complete integration of the patriarchal tra-
dition with the exodus tradition and the fundamental importance of
the unconditional promises to the patriarchs as the basis of hope
for a new future for the people. Nowhere in all the rest of the
prophetic literature is this connection with the Yahwist narrative as
close as it is in Second Isaiah.
The integration of many diverse and conflicting origin traditions of an-
cestors and heroes into a unified national history was one of the major preoccu-
pations of Greek and Roman historians. See J. VAN SETERS, “Is There any Histo-
riography in the Hebrew Bible? A Hebrew-Greek Comparison”, ID., The Yahwist.
A Historian of Israelite Origins (Winona Lake, IN 2013) 143-163, esp. 157-163.
See n. 11 above.