Invoking YHWH in 1 Kings 1–2

by Maryann Amor (Author)
©2019 Monographs XVIII, 232 Pages
Series: Studies in Biblical Literature, Volume 170


Invoking YHWH in 1 Kings 1–2 argues that invocations of YHWH have a number of functions in 1 Kings 1–2, dependent on the identities of the characters speaking, their relationships, and the narrative contexts in which they participate. This book adopts narrative criticism to undertake a close reading of 1 Kings 1–2 that pays particular attention to how the characters and the narrator use invocations of YHWH and the events in the plot that prompt or result from this language. Invoking YHWH in 1 Kings 1–2 highlights the exegetical importance of invocations of YHWH, which have yet to be engaged thoroughly in the field. Aimed at students and those with an interest in the academic study of the Bible, this book’s focus on invocations of YHWH raises new interpretations of 1 Kings 1–2. This study seeks to encourage scholarly attention toward invocations of YHWH that appear outside of these chapters, with the hope that such research will generate new ways of understanding the function of this language in the Bible.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Acknowledgments
  • List of Abbreviations
  • Preface
  • Introduction
  • Studying the Narrative of 1 Kings 1–2
  • The Argument
  • Notes
  • Chapter 1. A Narrative Critical Method for Interpreting 1 Kings 1–2
  • Narrative Criticism: Interpretive Assumptions
  • Narrative Criticism and Interpretation: Narrative Voice, Plot Development, and Characterization Through Dialogue
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Chapter 2. David’s Health and Adonijah’s Plan for the Throne (1 Kgs 1:1–10)
  • 1 Kgs 1:1–4, King David and Abishag
  • 1 Kgs 1:5–10, Division in the Kingdom
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Chapter 3. Nathan, Bathsheba, and David Speak (1 Kgs 1:11–31)
  • 1 Kgs 1:11–14, Nathan’s Words to Bathsheba
  • 1 Kgs 1:15–21, Bathsheba’s Words to David
  • 1 Kgs 1:22–27, Nathan’s Words to David
  • 1 Kgs 1:28–31, David’s Words to Bathsheba
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Chapter 4. Solomon’s Coronation and Adonijah’s Response (1 Kgs 1:32–53)
  • 1 Kgs 1:32–35, David’s Commands for Solomon’s Anointing
  • 1 Kgs 1:36–37, Benaiah Invokes YHWH
  • 1 Kgs 1:38–40, The Anointing of Solomon
  • 1 Kgs 1:41–53, Adonijah and Solomon
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Chapter 5. King David’s Last Words (1 Kgs 2:1–12)
  • 1 Kgs 2:1–4, David’s Instructions for Solomon: YHWH
  • 1 Kgs 2:5–9, David’s Instructions for Solomon: Other Characters
  • 1 Kgs 2:10–12, The Death of David and the Rise of Solomon
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Chapter 6. Adonijah’s Request for Abishag (1 Kgs 2:13–25)
  • 1 Kgs 2:13–18, Adonijah and Bathsheba Speak
  • 1 Kgs 2:19–25, Bathsheba and Solomon Speak
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Chapter 7. Solomon Establishes His Kingdom (1 Kgs 2:26–46)
  • 1 Kgs 2:26–27, Solomon Banishes Abiathar
  • 1 Kgs 2:28–34, The Death of Joab
  • 1 Kgs 2:36–46, The Death of Shimei
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Conclusion
  • Functions of Invocations of YHWH in 1 Kings 1–2
  • Reflecting on YHWH’s Name in 1 Kings 1–2
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Index
  • Index of Hebrew Terms
  • Series index

| xi →


I am extremely grateful to the many people who journeyed with me as I developed this book, which is a slightly revised version of my PhD thesis.

Foremost, is my PhD supervisor, Dr. David Reimer. There were some complications early in my PhD and David helped me to keep going, even when I felt like the only thing I wanted to do was to give up. David was always there for me when I was struggling and I know that this study would never have been completed without his help.

I would also like to thank Professor Timothy Lim and Professor Hugh Pyper for reading and examining this thesis.

A special thanks to Dr. Alison Jack (my PhD mentor), Dr. Anja Klein (my second supervisor), Elizabeth Corsar, the Hildebrandt family, Chelsea Masterman, and Julie Lees for all of their encouragement and friendship during my time writing my PhD in Edinburgh.

Thank you to everyone at the Vancouver School of Theology for their support over the many years that I have studied and worked at the school. I am especially grateful for the help of Dr. Patricia Dutcher-Walls and Dr. Harry Maier, who took the time to read and comment on parts of my thesis, as I prepared it for publication.

Without receiving financial aid, I would never have been able to complete a PhD in Edinburgh. Thank you to New College, University of Edinburgh, ← xi | xii → for awarding me the Principal’s Career Development PhD Scholarship; the Anglican Diocese of New Westminster (Vancouver, Canada) for the yearly postulant book grant; the Anglican Foundation of Canada for the two bursaries; and both the congregation of St. Philip’s Anglican Church (Vancouver, Canada) and the Vancouver School of Theology for contributing to my “moving to Edinburgh fund.”

Finally, thank you to everyone at Peter Lang for helping me to turn my PhD thesis into an actual book.

Maryann Amor
Vancouver, Canada

| xiii →


AB Anchor Bible

ABRL Anchor Bible Reference Library

AOTC Abingdon Old Testament Commentaries

ATD Das Alte Testament Deutsch

BASOR Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research

BBR Bulletin for Biblical Research

BCOT Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament

BDB F. Brown, S. Driver, C. Briggs, The New Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon With an Appendix Containing the Biblical Aramaic

BibInt Biblical Interpretation

Bib Biblica

BKAT Biblischer Kommentar Altes Testament

BOSHNP Berit Olam Studies in Hebrew Narrative and Poetry

BSacr Bibliotheca Sacra

BWANT Beiträge zur Wissenschaft vom Alten und Neuwen Testament

BZ Biblische Zeitschrift

BZAW Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für alttestamentliche Wissenschaft

CBQ The Catholic Biblical Quarterly ← xiii | xiv →

CQR Church Quarterly Review

CUP Cambridge University Press

ExpTim Expository Times

FOTL Forms of Old Testament Literature

HS Hebrew Studies

HUCA Hebrew Union College Annual

IBC Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching

ICC International Critical Commentary

IEJ Israel Exploration Journal

Int Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology

ITC International Theological Commentary

ITL International Theological Library

JAAR Journal of the American Academy of Religion

JANES Journal of the Ancient Near Eastern Society

JBL Journal of Biblical Literature

JETS Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society

JLT Journal of Literature and Theology

JNES Journal of Near Eastern Studies

JNSL Journal of Northwest Semitic Languages

JSOT Journal for the Study of the Old Testament

JSOTPress Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Press

JSOTSup Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series

JTI Journal of Theological Interpretation

JSS Journal of Semitic Studies

NAC The New American Commentary

NCBC The New Century Bible Commentary

NIBC New International Biblical Commentary

OTL Old Testament Library

OUP Oxford University Press

RB Revue Biblique

ResQ Restoration Quarterly

SBL Society of Biblical Literature

SBLDS Society of Biblical Literature Dissertation Series

SBLPress Society of Biblical Literature Press

SBLSS Society of Biblical Literature Semeia Studies

SewRev Sewanee Review

SHBC Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary

SJOT Scandinavian Journal of the Old Testament ← xiv | xv →

ST Studia Theologica: Nordic Journal of Theology

TDOTG. Johannes Botterweck, Helmer Ringgren, Heinz-Josef Fabry (eds.), Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament

ThTo Theology Today

TLOT Ernst Jenni, Claus Westermann (eds.), and Mark E. Biddle (trans.), Theological Lexicon of the Old Testament

TynBul Tyndale Bulletin

VT Vetus Testamentum

WBC Word Biblical Commentary

WestBC Westminster Biblical Commentary

WJK Westminster John Knox Press

ZAW Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft

| xvii →


More than ever the horizons in biblical literature are being expanded beyond that which is immediately imagined; important new methodological, theological, and hermeneutical directions are being explored, often resulting in significant contributions to the world of biblical scholarship. It is an exciting time for the academy as engagement in biblical studies continues to be heightened.

This series seeks to make available to scholars and institutions, scholarship of a high order, and which will make a significant contribution to the ongoing biblical discourse. This series includes established and innovative directions, covering general and particular areas in biblical study. For every volume considered for this series, we explore the question as to whether the study will push the horizons of biblical scholarship. The answer must be yes for inclusion.

In this volume, Maryann Amor examines the role of the name YHWH in I Kings 1−2. The author argues that the common idea among scholars regarding the many references of YHWH in this text suggests God’s activity, even with the conspicuous absence of God’s presence. Amor suggests that the nature of the scholarship to this point has focused on historical critical arguments, and only a cursory examination of the literary features. The author seeks to assess the language of this text to provide a more complete understanding and ← xvii | xviii → employs narrative criticism in order to accomplish this undertaking. Amor specifically examines the various invocations of YHWH in this text and the characters behind these invocations, and what might be their motivations.

This study is certain to generate ongoing discourse, particularly given the evidence of the manner in which the text is understood and attended to. This study will certainly invite further conversation.

The horizon has been expanded.

Hemchand Gossai
Series Editor

| 1 →


YHWH’s involvement in the monarchy is clear right from the beginning. When the people ask Samuel to give them a king (1 Samuel 8), YHWH tells him to anoint Saul to this role (1 Samuel 9). When Saul goes against YHWH’s commands (1 Sam 15:1–9), YHWH is the one who rejects him (1 Sam 15:10–35) and chooses David as the new king (1 Samuel 16). Although these narratives concern the human political structure, it is clear that YHWH is in charge—choosing kings, deposing kings, shaping the monarchy as he intends.

However, YHWH’s role is very different in 1 Kings 1–2. An unspecified amount of time has passed since the end of 2 Samuel and David is no longer the spry man that he once was, able to build altars to YHWH and make sacrifices (2 Sam 24:24–25), but he is elderly, shivering, and bedridden (1 Kgs 1:1–4). The change in David is drastic and signals that he is nearing the end of his life and the kingdom will soon have to face a future without its king.

The prospect of David’s death adds a sense of uncertainty to the narrative because it is not clear who is going to rule after him. This issue prompts Adonijah to proclaim his intention to take the throne (1:5). Nathan and Bathsheba also make their desires known, as they work to lead David to name Solomon as his successor (1:11–31). It is at this point that the reader likely expects YHWH to follow precedent and pick the man to rule them all, but nothing happens—no word from YHWH, no appointed monarch, nothing.1 ← 1 | 2 →

The narrative of the transition of the monarchy from David to Solomon does not characterize YHWH as active and involved, but YHWH is silent, not making “himself known in dramatic, perceptible ways.”2 This characteristic contrasts the chapters both with the scenes where YHWH chooses Saul and David (1 Sam 9:1–10:1; 16:1–3) and with the surrounding narrative where YHWH is interacting with the characters (e.g., in 2 Sam 24:15–16, YHWH sends pestilence and relents; in 1 Kgs 3:5, 10–11, YHWH appears to Solomon in a dream and speaks to Solomon).

While the “divine silence”3 of 1 Kings 1–2 is interesting in itself, it also brings to light another noteworthy feature of the chapters—YHWH’s name. As the narrative unfolds, YHWH’s name appears a remarkable 24 times. The characters and the narrator keep speaking YHWH’s name, but YHWH is nowhere to be found. This observation raises two questions: what is the function of this language? Why are the characters and the narrator invoking YHWH in 1 Kings 1–2, chapters where YHWH’s character is absent?

Scholars have offered interpretations of the appearances of the holy name in 1 Kings 1–2, but their arguments are lacking. Taking a theological approach, some scholars propose that invocations of YHWH’s name reveal YHWH’s intervention in the plot. For Gerhard von Rad, in 2 Samuel and 1 Kings 1–2, “the activity of God [… is] hidden, and certainly not confined to sensational events which stand out from all other occurrences.”4 Gene Rice reflects this position when he comments, “the real locus of God’s activity is the human heart. It is there, in the decisions men and women make as they deal with the demands of life, that God is present and his purposes are realized.”5 On this basis, YHWH does not require an obvious role to be considered a participant in 1 Kings 1–2 because YHWH works through everything that the human characters do.6 When the divine name appears it reminds readers that YHWH remains an active force in the characters’ world, even if readers might not see or hear YHWH. In other words, the divine name brings YHWH’s covert activity to the surface of the narrative.7

The above interpretation of the holy name infers YHWH’s activity in the plot even without YHWH’s physical intervention; however, this position crumbles when the focus shifts to the narrative. YHWH’s active role in choosing Saul and David (1 Sam 9:1–10:1; 16:1–3) easily allows for the conclusion that YHWH was involved in each man’s ascent to the throne; the absence of YHWH’s character in 1 Kings 1–2 does not easily allow for the conclusion that YHWH played a part in Solomon’s ascent to the throne. Thus, Martin Noth’s assumption that the humans are solely responsible for Solomon’s ← 2 | 3 → kingship because there is no indication “daß Jahwe die Thronnachfolge Salomos bewirkt habe,” “that YHWH had brought about the succession of Solomon,” is correct.8

Alternatively, scholars suggest that invocations of YHWH in 1 Kings 1–2 add divine support to the characters’ actions. According to Simon J. DeVries, “[in 1 Kings 1–2 there is] no hint of motivating divine revelation; Yahweh is named, but only to sanction oaths and receive credit for a fait accompli [… YHWH] is not directing Israel’s destiny, but is simply being used to sanction deeds of naked power.”9 Gina Hens-Piazza, writing in reference to 1 Kgs 2:23–24, 27, 32, and 44, similarly contends that Solomon’s invocations of YHWH, “justify murder, sanction oaths, underwrite political ideology, and rubber-stamp a new sovereign and his despotic tactics [thereby adding] theological validation [to the new king’s] personal and political agendas.”10

While characters do, as will be discussed in later chapters, use YHWH’s name to legitimate their actions, this argument only holds in some situations. What scholars have not taken into account is the fact that of the 24 invocations, 18 are spoken by characters in conversation11 and six are spoken by the narrator.12 Focusing on the 18 character invocations, they are not spoken by the same character in the same context, but by different characters, speaking to different characters, in different contexts. Thus, it is reasonable to conclude that the function of the language must change, as the characters who use it and the situations in which they use it change.

Therefore, the current proposals concerning the function of invocations of YHWH in 1 Kings 1–2 are inadequate. The goal of this book is to assess this language closely to offer a more complete understanding of what it is doing in the two chapters. To accomplish this goal, I will adopt narrative criticism to interpret 1 Kings 1–2 in its entirety,13 paying particular attention to how the characters and the narrator use YHWH’s name and how this language relates to the events in the plot. I will demonstrate that invocations of YHWH have a number of functions in 1 Kings 1–2, with the function of characters’ invocations being particularly dependent on their identities, their relationships, and the narrative contexts in which they participate.

Studying the Narrative of 1 Kings 1–2

This book is primarily interested in the narrative of 1 Kings 1–2, looking at why the characters and the narrator might be using YHWH’s name in the ← 3 | 4 → story. It is important to note that, aside from the brief comments above, nothing else has been said about YHWH’s name in the chapters, which is surprising given how often it appears. This gap in the field is due to the fact that both historical critical and narrative critical scholars have not focused on the literary features of 1 Kings 1–2, asking how specific forms of language work within the unfolding plot. Those writing before the advent of narrative criticism pursued historical critical arguments that prompted them to take a more general approach to the literary features of 1 Kings 1–2 and other verses in the Hebrew Bible. Narrative criticism brought specificity to the analysis of the literary features; however, scholars’ own research questions understandably determined how they engaged with the features, which features they emphasized, and which features they dealt with only tangentially. Thus, invocations of YHWH were ignored—they were subsumed within the studies of historical critics and they were not probed by the questions asked by narrative critics.


XVIII, 232
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2019 (May)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2019. XVIII, 232 pp.

Biographical notes

Maryann Amor (Author)

Maryann Amor received her PhD in Hebrew and Old Testament studies from New College, University of Edinburgh (2017). She is a research associate and a sessional lecturer in biblical languages at the Vancouver School of Theology, where she also works in the library.


Title: Invoking YHWH in 1 Kings 1–2
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