Disobedience and Exile

One of the supposed indicators in the Hebrew Bible for a Deuteronomistic passage is that of a threat of exile as punishment for disobeying the will of God, seeing this as specifically relating to the Babylonian exile of Judahites after 586 B.C. But such a consideration of exile as punishment is not something that need necessarily only have appeared in so late a period among the Judahites as King Josiah’s time or later. In fact, for more than a thousand of years before, exile, as part and the process of a city’s falling to an enemy, had been viewed among Israel’s neighbors as a result of punishment for having displeased the divine, as we’ll see in some examples below. Yet, even within the Hebrew Bible itself, cutting across the boundaries of centuries and/or hypothetical source-critical strands, are earlier descriptions of exile as a result of displeasing God (Adam and Eve, Cain, the people of Babel), usually, one way or another attributed to Deuteronomistic influence. However, the wider motif of threat/promise of the divine in response to dis/obedience on the part of the worshipper(s) is, in fact, an integral part of prophecy itself, even outside of Israel, as we’ll also see below, and can even be said to be at the heart of any religious system utilizing divination of any kind (either inductive, like haruspicy and astrology, or non-inductive, like dreams and ecstatic utterance) to determine the divine will. In this regard, the similarity of the Israelite prophetic approach to that of other foreign prophets, some much earlier, is important to the Prophetic Perspective I mentioned in an earlier post, proposing particularly the Israelite prophetic guild and its supporters as the origin for the Old Testament writings as a whole. This essentially eliminates the need for attributing such passages reflecting threats of disasters (inter alia, exile) for disobedience or promises of blessings for obedience to either Deuteronomistic influence or directly to the Deuteronomist.

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