Abstract of Shedletsky, Lauren. “Josiah’s Reform and the Dynamics of Defilement: A Phenomenological Approach to II Kings 23.”

Shedletsky, Lauren.  “Josiah’s Reform and the Dynamics of Defilement: A Phenomenological Approach to II Kings 23.”  PhD diss., New York University, 2004. [Israel/Solomon]

Abstract:  2 Kings 22 and 23 narrate a story of the discovery, during the reign of the Judean king Josiah, of a lost law book in the Jerusalem temple and Josiah’s consequent ordering of the destruction of Israelite cult places, installations and personnel in and around Jerusalem and Bethel in an effort to purify and presumably to centralize Israelite worship at the one temple in Jerusalem. These chapters represent one of the clearest expressions in narrative terms of the idea found in Deuteronomy of the worship of one God in one place. The focus of this dissertation is on the specific acts of defilement attributed to Josiah in the Kings account and their resonance within the larger framework of Israelite ritual. Primarily through philological analysis I have identified two types of ritual that provide a context for understanding Josiah’s actions: apotropaic rites of riddance; and herem, a form of consecration to a patron deity. Each of these represents a particular model for conceptualizing ritualized destruction, the former more strongly reflected in pentateuchal priestly texts, and the latter more consistent with Deuteronom(ist)ic ideology. By separating out these two types of ritual language, a priestly core emerges in II Kings 23. Evidence of strong priestly interests in a text that could be described as the foundation myth of the Deuteronomistic movement is somewhat unexpected. Identifying this aspect of the text may illuminate the compositional history of these chapters and shape our understanding of the relationship between the proponents of Deuteronomism, and the circle of the late 7th century Jerusalem temple priesthood.

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