The covenant reading ceremonies in Joshua 8:30-35, 2 Kings 22-23, and Nehemiah 7:72b-8:18 betray a developing interplay between the people of Israel and the book of the law. These narratives are unique in the Hebrew Bible in presenting the oralization of a covenant document to a specific audience. Previous scholarship on these narratives has focused on reconstructing the source-critical history of each account and the historicity of the reported events. For the following study, Joshua 8:30-35 and 2 Kings 22-23 represent earlier pre-exilic and exilic traditions, while 2 Chronicles 34-35 and Nehemiah 8 illustrate later post-exilic perspectives. However, supplementing source-critical scholarship, narrative criticism is used to contribute a fresh view of the relationship that the narratives construct between the community of Israel and their authoritative text. This study analyzes the characterization of the people and the characterization of the book of the law, both within the broader context of ancient Near Eastern loyalty oaths and within the immediate context of the corpus of the Hebrew Bible. The sensory descriptions of the book of the law especially highlight how the textual artifact connects the particularized community of each respective narrative to the covenantal past of the Israelite people, while effectually executing that connection through differing loci of authority. This literary analysis reveals that each reading ceremony narrative manipulates the material functions of the text and its locus of authority according to its own ideology. The historical trajectory presented by these narratives portrays the people of Israel as progressively more exclusive, while portraying the book of the law as increasingly more written and less oral. Joshua 8:30-35 and 2 Kings 22-23 demonstrate that during the exilic period, the book of the law could be authorized either as Mosaic tradition or as a prophetic word from God. By the post-exilic period, authorization through Mosaic discourse became pervasive. 2 Chronicles 34-35 and Nehemiah 8 illustrate this well-documented post-exilic phenomenon. In these narratives, by providing continuity between a particularized community and the Mosaic covenant, the book of the law stakes a claim that the true people of Yahweh are limited to the covenant reading ceremony participants.
Cleath, Lisa Joann, "Reading Ceremonies in the Hebrew Bible: Ideologies of Textual Authority in Joshua 8, 2 Kings 22-23, and Nehemiah 8" (2016). Faculty Publications - George Fox School of Theology. 393.