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The Nathan-David Confrontation (2 Sam 12:1-15a)

A slap in the face of the Deuteronomistic hero?

James Donkor Afoakwah

The study discusses the Old Testament's parable of Nathan and the subsequent condemnation of King David. The intriguing episode of the Prophet Nathan pronouncing judgment on the erring King David has always attracted the interest of the exegete and various researchers have used different methods to separate the condemnation of King David from the ancient author. This study presents a synchronic reading of the canonical text that reveals the episode as the mirror image of the oracle of eternal dynasty pronounced to David by the same prophet in the Second Book of Samuel 7. It is indeed the work of the deuteronomistic writer who has adapted an oracle against the dynasty of David and trimmed it to the advantage of his hero in the unfolding of history.
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Chapter 6. The prophet Nathan in the dtr corpus


Among all the prophets of the Old Testament, the abrupt appearance or introduction of Nathan into the narrative limelight is out of the ordinary and looks as if the prophet is simply smuggled into the narrative. Perhaps the only other comparable character to Nathan in the Biblical tradition as a whole is Melchizedek, king of Salem, “who is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither a beginning of days nor an end of life”.322 Nathan is an elusive and yet very important character in the narrative about David and his house or dynasty. He appears only three times in the narrative and disappears almost in the same way as he has appeared, namely, without a trace. Unlike Samuel before him or the later prophets, Nathan is not introduced in the normal sense of the word so that his parentage and origin are shrouded in a mystery. The one thing that the narratives bring across is that he was active only in Jerusalem and at the court of David and even there, he appears only three times each of which appearances constitutes a very important moment and a turning point in the narrative.

In his first appearance, Nathan plays a double role as a confidant or councillor to David and, as a prophet proclaims the word of Yahweh to the king who plans to build a temple for his God (2 Sam 7:1-17). As confidant and councillor, Nathan endorses the king’s desire to build...

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